Down The Ol’ Fishing Hole

This image is currently in the infirmary being evaluated for bites.

Let that lonesome whistle blow my blues awaay. Marty, grab me another beer, hot today.”
“You’ve got it, John.”
“Not a single bite today,” John sighed, drained the last stale drops from the can he’d been nursing, and wiped the sweat from his brow.

Marty tripped up the bank, catching himself on the cooler. “It’s just the heat,” he muttered to himself, tossing his empty can onto the collection they’d been forming that morning. He reached into the cooler for a fresh round and wiped a cold can across his forehead. The cool water running down his face felt divine. A branch snapping in the woods brought him crashing back to reality where he realized that his bladder was suddenly on the brink of exploding. He stumbled off the path to relieve himself, “It’s just the heat. Haven’t had that much to drink yet…”

John reeled his line in. The minnow was still intact. Where the hell are the fish? Where the hell is Marty? “Marty, I can feel myself getting sober down here!” He cast his line back into the creek, pushed the butt of the rod into the clay, and made his way to the cooler. At least he set a beer out for me, John thought. On his way back down the bank, he tripped on a root and rolled his way back to the creek, cursing the scrape on his elbow. He wiped the scrape clean with his handkerchief just as his reel began to click. Finally, some action, he thought as he looked up to his rod.

He looked up and saw, standing in the middle of the creek, holding the minnow on his hook, a haggard man. “The hell do you think you’re doing?” he shouted to the vagrant who looked up from the lazily flopping minnow, tilted his head, and let out a groan. “You can’t just go ‘round grabbing up people’s fishing lines. It’s just… it’s just fugging rude!” The man dropped the minnow and lunged at John.

Marty laid on the ground, convulsing as the blood drained from his neck, mixing with the beer draining from the can. The air smelled like iron, cream ale, and piss. I thought there’d be a light. I thought there’d be a song. I thought…

John ran through the woods, digging for his keys. Just get to the truck. Marty’s a tough son-of-a. He can handle himself. It had been years since John had run, about 30 since he’d done so in earnest but he was still the same guy who had felt more akin to a whitetail than his classmates. He crashed through the underbrush as if he had been born for it. He came out on the dirt road, still a couple hundred yards from his truck. He didn’t hear his pursuer anymore but wasn’t willing to risk slowing down now. He broke into a full-sprint, kicking a cloud of dust up behind him. As he started his truck, he prayed that he’d have a chance to apologize to Marty.

Hide and Seek

As a child playing hide and seek, Rhine never could have known.

That one day the prize at stake would be a life, his very own.

You need a spot, a hidden spot, quickly it must be found.

It must be perfect, it must be right, the hunters will be around.

They have arrived; they know you’re close, because they can smell your fear.

Don’t make a noise, don’t you dare breathe, for they will surely hear.

But you must breathe, and so you inhale the slowest breath you’ll ever take.

Breathe in deep and slowly let go, because the silence mustn’t break.

So long ago, you played this game, some fun to pass the day.

Not knowing that, this very day, death is hunting you, so pray.

They are at the door, your spot is found, their moans convey their hate.

For Rhine’s small squad, five men in all, death was at the gate.

The door caves in, splintered wood and nails, there is no place else to hide.

Rifle muzzles flash, the message is clear, “Sorry Zack, we won’t abide”.

A Little Gershwin

And the livin’ ain’t easy
Z’s are prowlin’
And the threat level’s high

Your daddy was rich
And your mamma was good lookin’
So hush little baby
Don’t you cry

One of these mornings
You’re going to rise up moaning
Then you’ll spread your jaws
And you’ll take your first bite

But till that morning
There’s a’nothing can harm you
With daddy and mamma standing by

And the livin’ ain’t easy
Zack is growlin’
And the danger is nigh

Your daddy was rich
And your mamma was good lookin’
So hush little baby
Zack is around, so please…
Don’t you cry

Highway to Hell

Rhine was sitting on another rooftop just outside a town called Rawlins, Wyoming. While taking a deep yawn, he adjusted the cheap plastic beach chair beneath him. Everywhere they went it was the same story over and over. Direct refugees and then fall back once Zack showed up. Every single time, just as he thought they were going to be allowed to give Zack a taste of his own medicine, the order came down to pack up and run away. It was frustrating as hell and he wondered if ever they would ever make a serious stand.

Rhine listened to reports from his small teams of Rangers who had established checkpoints along I-80. They were supposed to prevent infected civilians from penetrating the secure zone the government was establishing West of the Rockies. With him sat a new squad of National Guardsmen fresh out of basic training. They had been attached to his unit to help fill the gaps in his ranks but he would rather have left the gaps empty. These kids had been pushed through “basic” and put into service whether they had passed or not. Combat operations took their toll; a broken ankle here, a Zach victim there, every casualty degrading the platoon’s combat strength. Unfortunately while he would have been given fresh Ranger replacements before the war had broken out, now the best he was going to get were snot nosed kids who pissed themselves every time the wind kicked up. One of these kids was his new radio operator; a fresh faced 19 year old girl who should have been rushing a sorority, not carrying an assault rifle.

Continue reading ‘Highway to Hell’

March Madness

After the long winter, the zoners needed some excitement.  The teams were divided into four groups. Each group matched up 16 squads according to their rank. The rules were simple. The squad with the most kills wins.   Brackets were filled out. Food rations were wagered. “March Madness” was in full swing.

In the first round, the 12th squad upset the 5th and the 17th shut out the 22nd.

Fun was had by both the Corps and the Zone residents.

The fun didn’t last.

Just like March’s of the past, the tourney was full of surprises. The biggest surprise came when, during the Elite Eight round, the 67th squad failed to return to Hancock.

Instead of Vandross singing “One Shining Moment” at the conclusion of the tourney, it ended with “On Eagle’s Wings” at their memorial service.

Breaking Point

The butterfly walked across the bridge of Rhine’s nose as he fought the urge to shoo it away. The slightest movement or sound would give his position away, but the itching on his face made it hard to concentrate on his surroundings.  He allowed himself the slightest nose twitch to scare the insect away but it did no good.  It was just another annoyance to adding on to a stress level that was close to bringing Rhine to his breaking point. The sound of footsteps moving through the brush to his right caused him to suddenly hold his breath. His hunter was very close and the rise and fall of his chest would be sure to give away his location. The footsteps approached and stopped a mere four feet to his right. Four feet separated him from death and he could feel his heart begin to pump faster as adrenaline dumped into his system. Sweat poured down his face and caused his eyes to burn. The crackle of a radio assured his demise.

“Move four or so feet to your left and that target is toast” came a familiar voice.

The Ranger with the tall spotting stick moved the four feet to Rhine before stopping to poke the bottom of the spotting stick in Rhine’s butt cheek.

“Sorry Sir but he has your ass” The Ranger said while a slight grin while holding up a hand held radio.

Continue reading ‘Breaking Point’


It started as kind of a joke, but by the end it had become much more. She didn’t mean for it to be a big deal. Who knew a sticker could change your world?

In the early days of the Blue Zone, Erin McGraw found herself separated from everything and everyone she had ever cared about. She left Cortland hoping to find safety to the north, but never made it past Syracuse.

Erin joined the Corps’ 17th and was issued her ZED. It was just your basic, everyday, all-purpose zombie bashing crowbar.

It wasn’t easy for Erin to wake up one morning and start killing the undead. She struggled with the “murder” aspect of the whole thing. “Kill or be killed,” Slater would say to her. “You’re really doing ‘em a favor, if you ask me.” Erin couldn’t help but imagine who they were before they became monsters with a taste for flesh. As she would lower her ZED into their skulls, she would picture them in happier times with their family and friends, and she would smile. Some in the Corps thought her smile was sick and that she found pleasure in killing. She didn’t. Erin smiled knowing that their suffering was ending.

Late one afternoon as the Corps was helping in the cleanup of Route 81, Chuck found a child’s backpack in the back of an abandoned minivan. After looking through the bag for anything worth saving Chuck called over to Erin. “Hey, McGraw! Get over here!” Erin ran across the expressway to see what he had found. “Check it out, it looks like you,” Chuck said mockingly as he held up a sheet of smiley face stickers.

Erin tried not to laugh, but couldn’t help it when Chuck placed one of the stickers onto her crowbar, “Just like when you were in school, every good student earns a sticker.” Erin’s face turned as red as the sticker decorating her ZED. She snatched the sheet out of his hand, raised the crowbar as if she would hit Chuck, but instead she then returned to her patrol.

Later that evening, as she warmed herself by the fire, she thought of the dozens of zombies that she had helped out already, and the countless that still remained. She wanted to pay tribute to the people that they had been. Their corpses weren’t buried with markers, they were burned. She wanted to remember the people that they had been, not the monsters they became. As she got up to leave the fire, she felt the pack of stickers in her jacket pocket. She had an idea.

The next morning, Erin found a quiet corner of the zone and applied a sticker for each of her victims to her crowbar. When she was done, she had barely covered any of the handle. She vowed to work to change that.

When the others saw her ZED, they made fun of the colorful zombie killer. The jokes usually stopped when she explained what they meant. As the weeks and years went on, any member of the Corps that came across any sheets of smiley face stickers would bring them back to Erin. Over time, Erin completely covered her crowbar five times.

Long after she was gone, Erin McGraw’s smiley faced ZED stood as an inspiration for all in the fight against Zack.