The First Day

They came without warning, a never-ending tide of the undead. The military was unable to contain the explosion of the disease. The government packed up and headed west. They told us to evacuate the cities and wished us luck. The military was too busy trying to defeat the enemy to help with evacuations.

Flights and buses were few and far between, but that didn’t stop people from trying to catch a ride. Even if you caught a flight, there weren’t many safe zones left in the world. Jack Walker was one of the lucky ones. He had a seat on the last flight out of Syracuse. It was headed for rural Montana.

Another passenger, Bruce Schick, tried selling his seat to the highest bidder in the crowd that had gathered. He was betting that this wouldn’t be the last flight out of Hancock.

“How can you think of making money at a time like this?” Walker asked the man while simultaneously grabbing the ticket from his hand. “You don’t deserve to make the flight.”

“What do you think you’re doing? That’s my ticket, and I have every right to do with it as I see fit.”

“Not anymore, you don’t.” Walker noticed a young mother in the crowd. She was holding a toddler in her arms, and was rocking an infant in a stroller. “Neither of us are getting on that flight. They are.” He called the young family over, and handed them the tickets. The woman was in tears.

“You’ll pay for this! You don’t know who you’re messing with! I’m a lawyer!”

An uproar came from the crowd that had gathered in the terminal. Jack smiled politely and tried to make my way through the crowd, back towards the parking garage. The crowd followed. At first, he figured they were heading back to their vehicles, but when he tried to pull out of his parking spot, they were there, blocking his path.

“You can’t leave us!” was yelled out from the crowd. Along with, “Please, help us!”

“A simple act of kindness and they chose me as their leader,” Jack thought to himself as he stepped out of the car. The crowd surrounded him, “All right, I’ll stay. I probably wasn’t going to get very far on 81 anyway.”

“So, what do we do now?” a voice called up.

“First of all, we stay here. We should be safe from the ghouls as long as we work together. It looks like we have a few options. We could either stay here in the garage or go back to the terminal. I think for now, we’re safest right where we are. If we stick to the top levels, we’ll only need to guard the ramps. The terminal’s too big. Too many rooms and corridors.”

“That’s your plan? Just to sit and wait for ‘em to come get us?”

“Mr. Schick, was it? You’re free to leave if you choose, but I wouldn’t advise it.”

“I tried to, but you stole my ticket…”

“Before I was interrupted, I was going to say that we should sweep the garage in groups. Gather anything useful, food, blankets, weapons, but be careful. There could be victims trapped in the cars. Use your brain. It’s what separates us from them. If anyone wants to volunteer their vehicle, we should block the ramps as best as we can.”

The crowd started to disperse, fanning out through the garage looking for supplies. Walker was approached by a middle-aged man who gave him some good advice. “Hi. Name’s Bob McCarthy, I appreciate all that you’re doing for everyone here. They need someone to look up to. I didn’t want to bring this up with everyone around, but we could be in trouble if anyone here has been bitten. We should make sure that we don’t have any infected in our ranks. I’m no doctor, but I can tell what a bite mark looks like.”

“I like the sound of that. Let’s set up a private area for checking. While you’re at it, how about compiling a list of everyone here so we can keep track of who’s who?”

“I’ll get right on it.”

By mid-afternoon, everyone had been checked for bites. There were none. The crowd numbered 218. Eighty-six men, ninety-seven women, and thirty-five children. Most of the crowd stayed on the top deck of the parking structure, staring towards the west. They could hear the panic on the highway. The creatures were moaning, the people were screaming. There was gunfire, and smoke was rising above the tree line. The children had been put into cars to quiet the noise, but they could still hear the screams.

“Just think, if all of those people turn to zombies, we’ve got no shot. They’re blocking the only road out of here.”

“You’re still here, Schick?”

“Look, all I’m saying is that we can sit here and wait for them to come get us…”

“Or we can take the fight to them!” a woman called out from behind them, wielding a pipe wrench. “We’ve got limited food, no water, and we’re sitting ducks. Our only hope for survival is to find others, to find help.”

“Alright, but we’re not all going. We’ll only send a dozen or so. We’ll save some, hopefully kill some of the undead, and pray that the military comes back. We need weapons, guns, and lots of ammo,” Walker couldn’t believe what he had gotten himself into.

“Guns won’t help us much, or else the military would’ve had no trouble. Let’s get anything that can crack a skull. And let’s do this quick before we lose the sun!” the woman called out.

Fourteen made their way west along Eileen Collins Boulevard, knowing that it was likely they wouldn’t all return. This morning, they were strangers. The group included plumbers and lawyers, not trained soldiers, and they looked to Jack for guidance. They managed to find a duffel bag of baseball equipment in a van, some tire irons, and a few crowbars. The mission was to get help. When the creatures killed a human, their numbers grew. They wanted to do the same. They hoped that when they got to 81 that their numbers would grow. They hoped that the zombies hadn’t devoured everyone.

As they came around the bend and the highway came into their sights, reality smacked them in the face. The group immediately shrunk in size. The sight of the crowd being ripped apart by the living dead casued three members of group to turn and ran back to the garage. Walker was sure they all wanted to join them.

“Let’s do this! Stay close to each other. Remember, use your brain!” he yelled out to the group. He hesitated before dropping the first ghoul. It was a fresh convert and still looked human, except for the chunk of forearm that was missing. Walker raised a tire iron and began to beat it in the chest.

“Aim for the head,” a familiar voice called out. “Don’t waste your energy on the body.”

For the next hour, they worked at reducing the population of those creatures, but it was an impossible task. They hadn’t even made it 500 feet down the highway, and the ghouls just kept coming. Some of the stranded motorists fled back towards the city, some stayed to help their fight. They had tripled their numbers, but the creatures still vastly outnumbered them and they continued to grow.

Walker bashed the face of one of the ghouls, spinning it into the side of one of the cars. Inside, the driver started poking at it with a snow brush. He swung his tire iron, cracking its skull, and then yelled to the driver, “If you want to live, run!”

As the sun was setting, lifeless bodies littered the highway, but it didn’t seem as if they had made a dent. They knew that they had saved some, but didn’t know how many had made it back to the airport.

The original plan was to return by sunset, but the headlights and fires gave enough light to continue the mission into the night. They were hungry. They were tired. They continued to fight.

Walker saw the lawyer of the group cornered by several hungry ghouls. He ran to help Schick, sliding across the hood of one of the cars, right into three of the creatures.

“Nice entrance, but I think I could have taken them,” Schick said with a smile while he bashed one backhanded. “I always was pretty good at the firm’s softball game at the annual picnic.”

“I’m sure that you could, but I just thought I’d lend a hand.”

Just then, one of the creatures Walker had knocked over grabbed hold of his leg, and took a bite out of his calf.

“Oh, God, no!” Schick screamed, driving his bat through the skull of the creature.

“I guess we should have just stayed on that plane, huh?” Walker asked him, trying to mask the pain. “Get the others back to the garage. We don’t need to lose any more tonight.”

“I can carry you, get on my back.”

“No, I can’t go with you. I’ve only got a little time left. I’m going to take as many of them out as I can. Get out of here!”

Schick handed him a handgun that he had found dropped along the highway. He didn’t have to say anything. Walker knew what it was for.

After returning to the parking garage, Schick slumped against the side of a Honda Civic, exhausted physically and mentally from the battle.

“You did well out there today.” Bob McCarthy said, trying to console him.

“We didn’t even make a dent. They just kept coming. We were out there for hours, and what do we have to show for it? Nothing, we lost our leader, and gained nothing.”

“Look around. You’ve saved all of these people, hundreds of them, today.”

“No, he saved them.  He’s the hero.”

In the distance, the only sounds that could be heard were the moans of the undead, and then a lone gunshot.

5 responses to “The First Day”

  1. So this is the beginning of the Zone? Bravo! The site’s been desperately needing some in-zone stories (not that I’ve contributed much). Things like this can serve as a reference and make it easier to write stories occurring in the airport. When does Brooks come into the story or do we not know yet? I thought maybe the woman who spoke in the story would turn out to be her.

  2. Chris has done a great thing with this story. It opens up a whole lot of writing because the setting is so bare. Immediately, I wonder what it was that made Schick into such a wanker in later stories (Spanked/Court Martial) when he looks okay here. And a deeper mystery: Is Bob McCarthy the character who we will all come to know later as Clipboard?

    Brooks is present in Double Eagles, which takes place slightly later on the south side of the airport and also introduces Meaker and Slater. This story takes place in the airport center. Take a look at the map using the link that says “MAP” above.

  3. Great hook back to the audio files with that opening line. Tallon (may he rest in peace) would be proud.

    This is the sort of positive plagiarism that I’d like to encourage around here because it is really good for continuity. I know that sends a mixed message (plagiarism is bad) but figure it out–cross-referencing other events, using allusions, different points of view–is frakking cool.

  4. I finally caught the Brooks reference. Cool and obscure.

    I have put this up to edited, but I want you to go over the numbers. There would be many more than 67 stranded people in the airport and I don’t like the “they lost a few so three wanted to turn back” section. It’d be better to describe one person’s gory demise while keeping the panic.

  5. I changed the numbers. Too many?

    The few that were lost were the same 3 that turned and ran. I didn’t want to include any deaths of the others in the group. Originally, I had the whole story in Jack’s perspective. He was never named, just took charge, but I couldn’t figure out how to have anything back at the garage once he died, so I changed the whole thing and gave him a name.

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