“Did you have the same dream?” Slater said while sitting next to him. Both had a heavy coating of mud on their uniforms, the retreat from Yonkers had gone bad resulting in the two cut off from the rest of the unit.,All of whom were now dead or dying.
“No, this one was different.” He got up and slapped the bolt release on his M-4 after loading a fresh mag.
“Meaker, last night I caught someone trying to steal the sraps from our MRE’s.”Slater said.
“What do you want me to execute him?” Meaker said rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
“No, but he looks like you so I thought you would like to see.”
Meaker stood ad brought himself to the locked closet at the far side of the room, as meaker walked into the room he looked at the man sitting in the corner of the room.
He walked into the small room, lit up only by a lantern on a small bathroom matt. Meaker stared at the man for a moment before his eyes widened.
“You really think he is a bad man Father? The way I remember it, the Soldiers helped us during the panic.”
“Trust me, I’ve met this man before, He is as evil as sin itself. I could never forget his face.”
Two dark figures spoke quietly, the only light was that from an old light bulb hanging from a wire above them, it fluttered every so often, the only electricity was coming from an old gas generator. The two were in a basement, dark, dank, and as gloomy as the world outside.
“No, I’m absolutely sure of this one. He is the source of the dead rising, the outbreak, the deaths of millions of people. There is a reason he is here, God lead him to us, so we may purge the world of his evil.” Said the taller of the two figures before stepping towards the darkness of an adjacent wall.
The tall gray haired priest walked more into the light, his left eye had been badly damaged and was no longer able to see more than shadows, the eyelids were split, a long scar traveled from his brow to his cheek. The wound had long healed, leaving nothing but an unsightly reminder of the damage done. Next to him was a young blond girl, aside from the dirt and ragged clothes she could have been mistaken for an angel.
“Why would god want us to kill him? hasn’t enough blood been shed?” The girls voice was that of a siren, a haunting beauty.The man turned and placed a hand on her shoulder.
“I know how you feel child, you just need to trust me on this… He is a bad man, and if we let him go, he will hunt us down and kill everyone here.” Said the priest, trying to assure her that they were not about to end the life of an innocent.
“You don’t have to let me go Marcus.” came a voice from the darkness.
Both the priest and the girl looked to where the voice came from, the lights fluttered brighter for a second. Against the wall was a man, his arms were pinned to the far cement wall. His shirt had been removed, and all across his sculpted and defined body were bruises and cuts clogged with dirt. He was wearing Multicam pants and Military boots. The man spat blood out onto the dirt floor before smiling and almost cheerfully exclaiming.
Characters: Lt. Meaker, Anthony Rodriguez, David Johnson, Jacob Smith, and Charlie Agotti
Place: Mattydale, Salina, New York.
Time: 2347 Hours 12/24/20–
Christmas in Syracuse. Normally a festive setting rests upon the city; now only the light snowfall and dim moonlight show any sign that time has not frozen along with the undead on the streets now devoid of life. The only vehicles that remain on the empty roads are long abandoned; most were used in attempts to gather loads of supplies for the nearby Blue Zone or to save some conglomeration of survivors who had put out distress signals. Sometimes the rescue team would arrive too late, after the survivors who had barricaded themselves turned on each other and then on the rescue team. The few U-Hauls and up-armored buses were heaps of junk on the roads, occupied by rodents or the dead.
The inevitable Christmas thaw had been approaching. The occupants of Blue Zone knew it, yet none ever mentioned it. Slater saw it fit to give the Corpse Corps a Christmas break. None were allowed outside of the safe zone, and everyone attempted as normal a holiday as they could. No one had much to give, upsetting many parents since they had little to surprise their children with other than socks and ZEDs, crudely put together toys made of kitchenware or tattered clothing that barely fit. The day off raised morale, but also discouraged many. In the attempt to spread Christmas cheer all that was accomplished was forcing the inhabitants of the Blue Zone to remember the situation they were all forced into. Even so, families prepared to make the best of it.
Meaker withdrew his blade from the temple of what was once a middle aged Businessman. The wet thud of the final Z hitting the road seemed deafening, only to be drowned out by the cheers of the Survivors behind him. Crowbars and lead pipes were thrust into the air in sync with the victory cries of those left standing. Meaker checked himself over to make sure he had not been bitten, his Kevlar plates were scratched and bitten but held up more than sufficiently. He wore a Black balaclava to ensure no Ghoul blood sprayed into his mouth, although most of his uniform was covered in the substance including his Balaclava, he managed to avoid infection again. The Sergeant, or more recent Lieutenant looked to the survivors left, More had survived the onslaught than he had expected, They had won the Battle of Mattydale. A small victory in a war that most of those cheering wouldn’t live to see the end of.
Slater and Meaker were sitting on top of an overheated M113. It was dripping something yellow from underneath its shell. The men inside had already found another ride. Like them it would sit there until it rusted. The trip from Albany had been quick but loud. The guys up front had plowed an awful lot of cars off the road to allow the army west. Like the steaming Abrams, they both knew this was the end of the line for them.
“This is a Marine Corps base? And Air National Guard? Maybe those guys aren’t such pussies after all…”
The world outside was eerily quiet. Dead silence rang through John’s ears. His wife and two children were lying on his bed before him, the fresh blood still pooling on the surface mixing with the gasoline he had poured under a minute ago.
He stood silently smoking his fourth cigar, his stomach heaving from the adrenaline, the smell of the corpses, the gasoline fumes, and the nicotine. The first cigar was for his wife, the next two were for each of his children, and the last was for the part of him that had died with his loved ones. He finished the Hampton Court, dropped the butt at his feet and said his final I love you as he lit the bodies of his family aflame with his Army insignia Zippo that his wife had gotten him off of eBay for Christmas the first year they were married. He never went on a mission without it.
Slater stood outside of the command tent. He had just debriefed his battalion on the mission and was taking in the sunset. The cool May breeze washed over him; it was relaxing. The stress of late was taking its toll. The never ending headaches and late nights were prying at his willpower, but he remained resilient.
His peace was disturbed by the smell of smoke. He turned to see Sgt. Meaker smoking a cigar, admiring the sunset about ten feet away.
Meaker took a long, slow draw on the cigar. The orange end lit up slightly in the dying sunlight, reflecting off the water in front of the two. Slater wasn’t too bothered by the smoke: It was better than the spitting.
“Nice evening we got here,” Slater said, looking away from the Sergeant.
“Yes sir. Yes, it is,” replied Meaker after blowing a breath of smoke out into the ocean breeze.
The two stood next to one another, not speaking for a good five minutes before Slater turned to the Sergeant once more.
“You know, you don’t have to do this. You can go west with the others. I wouldn’t think any less of you. No one would.” Slater spoke solemly. He was hoping to convince the Sergeant to leave with the rest of America’s military in the push west. He knew they would need Meaker’s help.
Meaker took another slow draw on the cigar.
“I know. Sir, But I’m staying. I told my team to go with the others. They didnt want to, but they are good soldiers. They will get the job done.”
A convoy of Chinooks flew overhead. Meaker’s cigar smoke was blown away by the rotor wash. The Chinooks were hauling off the last of the survivors, the last buses out of New York.
The Sergeant pulled the one-inch cigar butt out of his mouth and closed his eyes before taking in a long breath. “Im sure gonna miss these things.” He flicked the butt out into the Atlantic ocean.
“Why are you staying, Meaker? What’s your motive?”
“I’ve got my reasons, Sir.”
Meaker turned around and began to walk off when the radio silence was broken. The outposts were under attack, and soon New York would fall like the rest of the east coast had. Slater watched the Sergeant march off to fight his enemy, the new blade attatched to his right hand extended out where his missing finger had been. Slater was uneasy letting him be. He had been bitten. Why hadn’t he turned yet?
Slater turned to look at the sun as it finally dipped below the horizon behind him before taking in a deep breath and following.
John sprinted down the street of a once quiet suburban town. Now all hell was unleashing around him. He ran past a white station wagon that had been pinned between a red truck and a Pontiac Grand Prix. The two children in the back pressed themselves against the seat as hard as they could, just out of reach of their undead parents’ fingers. The two Z’s in the front of the car remained buckled. His neighbor’s house was up in flames. Out of the inferno stumbled two figures burning wildly yet only concerned with John as he ran past them down the street.
His footfalls fell hard on the pavement below. Pushing himself as hard as he could, sweat pouring down his face, legs burning, he had been running for ten miles as fast as he could, The infection had reached American soil.
John grunted and cursed at himself not to stop until he had reached his destination. He lunged over the body of a dead police officer as it began to push itself to its feet. He was off and running without hesitation as soon as his feet hit the pavement again. Straight ahead of him was a school bus. The inside of the windows were plastered with blood. The bloodcurdling screams from within would never leave him.
As John turned to run down his driveway he noticed the doll being awkwardly held by the five year old walking corpse that was once his daughter. He stopped dead in his tracks, breathless, speechless. Like a twig his mind snapped out of reality to protect him from the horror he knew he was about to witness. His world came crashing down on the asphalt before him.
He stared into the empty eyes of his dead daughter, and she stared back. Her left arm was missing, the wound that had killed her. Her right hand loosely clenched the rag doll she had carried with her since her infant years, the torn and dirt stained rag doll had a few droplets of blood on the head. It swayed in a gentle breeze, the only false sign that there was anything left of his child.
“Abbie? Abbie Baby, are you alright?” He said aloud to the ghoul standing in the doorway of his home. His bottom lip was quivering, a clean trail cut through the soot and dirt on his face where tears were trailing downward with his life. As if in slow motion the doll fell, and she reached outwards for her father, before letting out a sickening moan.
John fell to his knees and wept. By the time he opened his eyes the blurry outline of his daughter was within arm’s reach. He gently placed his hands on her side, her cold fingertips brushed against his tear soaked cheeks. He held her close enough, yet she was so far away.
The end of Winter was official. The entrance into spring was a bittersweet fact that stuck in the minds of everyone in the Zone.
The first sunrise of spring would not cause a stir of emotions among the populous, only a select few took time out of their surviving time to notice the date. Even still the emergence of spring wasn’t warranted as a serious threat, the undeniable fact that the undead would again rise didn’t strike fear into the populous like it had in earlier year, Citizens became comfortable with the Idea that the enemy’s numbers had dwindled from the winter onslaughts by the Corpse corps, even if it was only an idea.
The bright sunrise caste a curtain of light across the runway, reflecting off the windows in the observation tower. Zyracuse slept peacefully during the earliest sunrise since the snow fell like ashes during a volcanic eruption, heavy and never ceasing. Mornings first light crept into the homes of those still sleeping, till finally the light found its way onto Meaker’s boot.