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Amateur Hour


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Posted 23 October 2013 - 09:37 PM ( #1 )

still haven't cleaned out all the errors

 

but

if you get the reference

it's huge--couldn't possibly miss it if you've read it before

props to you

 

Teen rating because teen struggle. THE V-WORD; OMG, VIOLENCE <------you

I doubt anybody's gonna read the whole thing

the theme isn't so graphic as to be unreadable for you guys, anyway

 

besides

the thirty-first is coming up, isn't it?

 

Amateur Hour

            It didn't matter how fast you could run, or how good a fighter you were. Your sharpshooting skills meant absolutely nothing and the fact you could drive better than a wheelman for the mafia was meaningless. In the end, they always got you. The dead.

            No one knows how it started. It could’ve been a chemical accident, or maybe a radioactive meteorite. Someone suggested infected monkeys, but we all knew that was a steaming load. Maybe it was one of those government experiments gone horribly wrong, like in the X-Files. You know, the ones where Mulder spends hours combing through government archives searching for "the truth" as he calls it, while Scully just rolls her eyes and wonders what she could have done that was so horrible as to deserve this loony toon for a sidekick. Anyhow, no one knew how it started. But they all knew how it ended. With teeth.

            It originated in Maine, of all places. I mean, what's in Maine, besides deer and maple syrup? Apparently the cause of this waking nightmare, because all experts agree that was Ground Zero.

            At first, people attributed the attacks to wild animals, despite the accounts the assailants were noticeably furless. Any reports it was people doing the biting were dismissed as shock or hysteria. I guess I can forgive people their initial speculation. Think about it, if someone told you the dead had arisen and were eating the flesh of the living, would you immediately trust them and grab a shotgun, or politely give them directions to the nearest asylum? Even with all the weird stuff we see on television, people are still naturally skeptical, even when the truth rises up and bites them in the rear (so to speak). By the time the truth came out, it was too late. These things spread like a plague. Anyone they bit but didn't eat (it was weird, like they knew they had to propagate the species) became a zombie, and what started with a single sick hiker in Brownfield exploded into a shambling horde of millions.

            Eleven days, and the president was declaring a state of emergency and advising people to head for the mountains or barricade themselves in a place with a decent food supply. These things, they were mindless. All they wanted to do was eat. Begging didn't help. How could you reason with something that for all intents and purposes was an eating machine? Short answer was, you couldn't. That left only one option: killing them. Yeah, good luck with that.

            Ironically, though these things were mindless, destroying the brain was the only way to stop them for good. Anything else, it would only slow them down at best. You might think making a head shot is easy, especially when these things move so slowly and don't have the presence of mind to duck. But when you're an untrained civilian with a gun you're never even held before let alone fired, you have a better chance of hitting the moon than the head, but I digress. The police, the first line of defense, fell pretty fast. For people used to dealing with skateboard punks, low-level drug dealers and abusive spouses, an army of walking corpses was a little out of their jurisdiction. Help wasn't coming. We were on our own. The National Guard and the Army were next, but all their combat experience and high-tech weapons just meant they took longer to die. Conventional tactics were useless against this enemy; they didn't come in waves, or squads, or battalions. It was like an endless flood of zombies. No strategy, no fear, no surrender, just rotted teeth and desire. Within a few days, all of New England was taken.

            The rest of the world, our "allies," swooped in with bombers to level any airfield we didn't. Gunships and subs were stationed with orders to sink any U.S. vessel that tried to make a break for it. They apologized and said their prayers were with us, but they had to protect themselves first and foremost. Frankly, I can't say as I blame them. Which doesn't mean I had any pity for the immigrants who were beaten to death in the Foreigner Riots after their homelands wrote us off. With the undead doing their best to wipe us out inside, and the rest of the world hoping to lock the cure firmly within our borders, it wasn't long before almost the entire population of America, now known as the Graveyard, was nothing but a statistic. But there were those like me, people who didn't fancy the idea of turning into some zombie's bowel movements or becoming a mindless demon. We were going to survive, and if we had to bust the brainpan of every walking coffin stuffer to do it, so much the better.


 

            "Is this all?" he asked.

            "Afraid so," replied Griff. "We looked everywhere, got a few bags of candy out of the ad department desks, but that's it."

            Steve pounded the wall in frustration.

            "We've got enough for a few days, maybe four," said Jennifer, trying to sound encouraging. "We could stretch into a week if we try."

            "And then what?" Steve asked with a hint of derision in his voice. "We eat each other? I'm thinking that gimmick's taken."

            "Well, maybe we should try and make a break for it," suggested Evan Marshall, the buff guy in the group.

            Steve rolled his eyes. "Oh, come on, not that old song. We've been through this--there's too many of them. Even if we got to our cars, they'd bury us alive."

            "So, what are we supposed to do? Just wait here and starve to death? I'm surprised we've lasted this long on nachos and Coke," shouted Evan, a large man who looked as if he could easily snap Steve in half.

            "Well, we'll last a whole lot less if we leave," responded Steve. "But fine, if you wanna go so badly, go! I hope you enjoy your new career as an entree."

            "Hey, staying here was your idea," joined James Cater, the last remaining photographer in the office, if not the nation. "We shoulda tried to run when we had the chance. We might have made it then!"

            "Oh, like Sandra? She just had to leave, and we all saw how well that worked," said Steve, tightening his grip on a thick table leg he used as a weapon. "You might want to ask her for some advice on how not to get torn to shreds."

            Griff stepped between the two, trying to settle the argument before teeth were lost. "Guys, guys, calm down. We don't accomplish anything by fighting each other."

            James responded by knocking Griff flat. "Oh, you can just go straight to heck, Mr. Positive! I hear one more worked about 'keeping our spirits high,' I'm gonna feed you to those things myself!"

            Now it was Evan's turn to step in the way. "If you want to try it, pal, you've got to go through me first."

            Brandishing a section of pipe, James eagerly took a step towards the same man he had given a toast to at his wedding. "Gladly, fat man."

            Jennifer could only watch. She wanted to scream, to do something to stop this fight, but she was scared stiff.

            It seemed she wouldn't have to.

            A soft moan cut through the air, not much above a whisper. A slight scratching sound, like a cat trying to open a door, followed it. All eyes went to one of a closet. The door was padlocked and a heavy desk sat in its way. No one ever slept near it, despite Steve's guarantee that whatever was inside would stay inside.

            "Heck," whispered Evan. "He's awake."

            The person in question was Chris Macabee, a photographer turned victim. Three days ago he had been bitten by a small zombie child that had snuck inside after the last break-in. The wound was small, but after only a few hours, Chris began to show signs of infection. His pulse was rapid, and he sweated, though it was late November. After the second day he became delirious and barely had the energy to breathe. A vote was taken, and the decision was made to barricade their friend in the closet.

            The only thing they hadn't settled on was what to do with him. The group stood outside the door, weapons at the ready, tensed as though ready to fight. The only problem was not one of them wanted to move.

            "We should just leave him. He's our friend, we can't just kill him," said Griff.

            "He's already dead," said James. "We'd be doing him a favor by bashing his head in."

            Suddenly there was a banging on the door, so hard the thin wooden barrier shook on its hinges. While they possessed no superhuman strength, zombies had a ferocity unmatched by beast or man. When they smelled food, only death, true death, would stop them.

            Steve eyed the door nervously. "It's not gonna hold for long. We gotta put him down."

            The others, save Griff, nodded quickly. Even if the door did hold, the prospect of sleeping in the same building as one of those things was not a sunny one. They quickly moved the desk blocking the door. The banging increased, as if the recently-deceased Chris knew his meals were getting closer. Table legs and pipes at the ready, the group stood before the door, Jennifer's shaking hand on the knob. She looked to the others, making sure they were ready, and seeing their trembling hands and nervous eyes, could clearly see they were not. For that matter, neither was she. But it had to be done. Their years of friendship with Chris couldn't be considered now. This was about survival.

            Gritting her teeth, Jennifer pulled open the door, and with a howl, Macabee rushed out, bowling over the others and tackling James to the ground. The photographer tried to hold the zombie back with his pipe as the creature's jaws snapped shut again and again, desperate for food. The first to his feet, Evan grabbed the undead and threw him off James, slamming him into wall. Chris slumped to the ground but was quickly on his feet, snarling, blood foaming at his mouth. With a snarl of his own, Evan swung with a piece of wood, but his aim was off, the weapon shattering as it collided with Chris' shoulder.

            He seemed to smile at his friend's ineffectual assault, then lunged at him, sinking his teeth deep into Evan's shoulder. The larger man screamed in agony as hot blood ran soaked his shirt. Suddenly Chris's body grew still, and he slumped to the ground. Steve stood over him, the thick table leg in his hand, one whole side covered in coagulated blood. The others looked on in horror as Evan pressed one hand to his wound in an attempt to stem the bleeding. Jennifer hurried over with a first aid kit taken from the break room and applied some antiseptic, but they all knew it was futile. Bites from the undead were highly toxic, and if the best doctors in the world were unable to prevent the disease from spreading, what hope did a person with no medical knowledge and bargain basement equipment have?

            Steve watched as his wife did her best to patch up the wound. Griff turned away, tears in his eyes. Though an eternal optimist, he knew he was watching yet another friend die. James could only shake his head, not wanting to believe what was happening. Evan had saved his life, and this was his reward? To suffer the same fate as Chris, the same fate they were all certain to suffer?

            Evan looked up at his friends, trying his best to smile.

            "It's all right, guys. Wound's not too deep. Bet you anything I'll be all better by morning."

            Steve could only nod in agreement as he planned the most painless way to end his friend's life.


 

            The night was silent as the former journalists left their dead office. Not just silent-no cars driving down the road-silent, but completely silent. Not a sound could be heard as they walked down the asphalt road they had driven down countless times each day as they went to work, a road which now seemed strange and alien. No dogs barked, no birds chirped, although given that the undead ate animals as readily as people this came as no real surprise. The wind itself was silent, as if afraid to shatter the quiet. Most notably, there were no moans.

            Though their voices were barely above a whisper, the man before them, clad head to toe in bite-proof body armor, stopped in his tracks and looked directly at Steve and Jennifer, the red, tinted eyepieces of his mask giving him an otherworldly appearance. He put a finger to his lips, indicating silence, then pointed to the woods around them. Eyes darting back and forth, the party made their way to a sight they had not expected. Not that anyone doubted the stranger had some sort of transportation, but this, well, this was a little left of center. It was a school bus, painted black. Not that colors mattered to the dead, but there were those still alive who would not hesitate at stealing to survive, and such a prize must be hidden.

            Atop the vehicle were two more figures, also clad in body armor. A pair of searchlights clicked on, immediately sighting the group. The sharp click of safeties being disengaged told the group that guns were trained on them as well.

            "What?" asked Steve, afraid, almost angry that their deliverance might be nothing more than a cruel joke.

            One by one, the five armored figures removed their helmets and masks, revealing faces as human as theirs, but with one crucial differences. These were veterans, people who had seen the face of Death and spit in His eye. The female appeared to be in her mid-twenties, while one of the men had to be at least sixty. Steve turned back to their leader and saw a face as familiar as his own, a face he thought he would never see again.

            Brian Arundel.

            "Holy crap," breathed Steve.

            "We thought you were dead."

            Brian could only smile. A true feat of strength, given their surroundings.

            "Sorry to disappoint."


 

            "No," was all Jennifer would say as she watched her children eat for the first time in days. "I don't believe it."

            Arundel said nothing as he loaded a pistol.

            "Marie doesn't make mistakes. If she says the kids are infected, they're infected. End of story," someone said with a sigh.

            "I could be wrong," said Marie, her voice unsteady.

            "Maybe I should check them again, just to be sure."

            A look from Brian, even a look hidden behind a mask, silenced any further objections.

            "I'm sorry, I truly am. It's not fair after all this death and suffering, all the friends you've lost, to have to bury your own children," he said as he loaded the last round and fit the clip into the gun.

            "But it's better this way. Better it come from your hands then to lose them to the plague." He handed the gun to Jennifer, who backed away, terrified.

            "No. I won't do it. We'll find a way to cure them. I won't kill them." Steve laid his hands on his wife's shoulders.

            "None of us will." Though his face was hidden, Steve knew there was no fear in his former friend's eyes.

            "You know what will happen if we don't," Brian pointed out, as one who has done this sort of thing before. "They'll turn. They'll kill. They'll feast. I won't let that happen."

            Tears rolled down Jennifer's face, thought she made no sound. As much as she wished it were not so, she knew Brian spoke the truth. But why did it have to be her children? Why now, just when she got them back, did she have to lose them again?


 

            The boy ran.

            Not that he wanted to, mind you. His father had always taught him to face his problems head-on, no matter what the risk, and for his entire nineteen years of life, he'd tried his best to follow that mantra. When he received a failing grade in his algebra class, he doubled his study time, often falling asleep while reading his textbook. When the time came to buy a car, he worked two jobs to be able to afford it, so he wouldn't have to beg his parents for money. All his life, this young man'd fought for what he had, never giving up. While running through the forest near his family's home, he tried not to imagine what his father would say of his cowardice.

            It had happened two nights ago. A man had washed up on the beaches near the family beach house. He was American, and everyone knew that American citizens were banned from Norway, from every country on the face of the planet. Ever since the Great Exhumation had started, every nation, friendly or not, closed their borders, prohibiting any and all United States citizens from entering. They had seen how quickly the U.S. had been overrun, the horrors inflicted on its people as the dead devoured them. Many news networks filtered out the more graphic footage, but the stories got through all the same.

            The risk of contamination was too great. Any Americans who managed to get through the air and sea patrols were to be turned over to the proper authorities for 'quarantine.'

            Well, he knew what that meant. A bullet in the head, and then right into the incinerator. It was sadistic and cruel, to treat a person only trying to escape the undead like this, but if it kept the country safe, how could it be so wrong?

            As he ran through the forest, the sharp stones piercing the soles of his feet, brambles tearing at his clothes, the young mister Wrede wished for the thousandth time that he had followed the government's orders instead of trying to help. Even laying face-down, the American was obviously infected. His skin was pale, almost ashen, and the wound on his arm was oozing pus, a clear sign that he was no longer human. His initial reaction was to follow those government mandates, alert the authorities, and let the poor bastard be put out of his misery. But if he was nothing else, he was a kind person, and he couldn't turn his back on someone so desperately in need.

            He still couldn't help but feel like such an imbecile.

            You know the old saying. No good deed goes unpunished.


 

            Steve and Jennifer Matthews were put on twenty-four hour suicide watch after the deaths of their children. Their guns were taken away, and every ten minutes they were searched for string, blades or needles. Brian suspected that after having to kill their infected children, they were ready to take their own lives. He expected it, and had done everything he could to prepare for it--which was why he was completely shocked when the bodies of Marie Nordin and Marcus Flatt were discovered the next day, each with a fresh bullet wound in their heads.

            Silencers had been attached to the guns, and the bodies weren't found until the next morning. Each had a small note crumpled in their hands, explaining that the world was a place they wanted nothing to do with if small children had to be killed by their parents.

            "I should have seen this coming," said Brian, as the bodies of their friends were quickly burned. Graves took time to dig, and if they weren't deep enough, the undead would find them, and rip the flesh from their bones.

            Brian sat at the open rear door watching the ashes drift away on the breeze, tears rolling unchecked down his face. His longtime friend Michael Rayanson sat down beside him.

            "I made her a promise that day," said Brian, his voice choked with sobs. "I told her I'd keep her safe."

            Michael only nodded, knowing there was nothing to say that would comfort him. It was Brian that found Marie when he came to Boston to get his friends, Michael and John. She had been in the subway when the undead made their way into the city, and a particularly large number were in the tunnels. The train she was on derailed when it slammed into the mass of walking corpses, and when she came to, those not reduced to paste were pressed up against the glass, eager to crack the lid and feast on the tender meat inside. It was surreal, watching those bloody, torn and rotten faces push against the windows. Their howls filled her every waking moment, and at times she found herself screaming back, screaming until her throat went raw. But their was no reaction, other than more moaning, more pushing to get in, more bloody hand prints on the glass.

            Rob Burn came to stand beside the two, his eyes on the rising sun.

            "She was never right for this world," he said.

            Brian looked up. "What?"

            "This world," Ron said as he watched the rotted remains an elementary school vanish into the distance. "It's a cruel world. You have to do so many terrible things just to survive. You have to kill innocent strangers, your friends, even kids, just so you'll live to see the another day. Only terrible people, horrible people that don't have a place in proper society can make it here. That wasn't her. She was a good person. She had a good heart.            She couldn't be cruel if she wanted to. She just...didn't belong here."

            Brian only nodded. "I know. Maybe it would have been better if I had let her kill herself."

            Ron shook his head. "Now, don't go thinking like that, son. You saved her, gave her a reason to keep on going. If she had killed herself, her soul would have been lost to the fires of Hell, no doubt."

            "Ron, she did kill herself," said Michael.

            "Oh. Yeah. Well, I'm sure God'll understand. You know, make an exception," Ron said with a bit of unfitting surprise, taking a moment to light a cigarette. "Given the circumstances, I don't think he'd hold it against her."


 

            "So where are we going?" Steve asked.

            "Martha's Vineyard. It's isolated, and there's plenty of food on account of all those tourists that go there this time of year."

            James chimed in. "Are there people there?"

            Brian smiled. "I certainly hope not. I'm not big on sharing."

            "So for all we know it could be crawling with undead," James said, frustration in his voice.

            Brian nodded. "Sure, but unlikely. When people fled, they didn't make for their summer homes. Most tried to cross the ocean, find help with our allies. Lot of good it did them. And even if there are some deadheads there, we can clear them out in a few days."

            "I can tell you right now what's out there," said Michael. "Death. Lots of it."

            "Well, we should at least look," said Steve, growing more agitated. "How long can we last on the island anyway? We'll be screwed when the winter comes."

            The click of a pistol cut off all further argument. "Screwed can come a lot sooner than winter if you'd like. Now we've made our choice. If you don't wanna come, fine. Go on your little road trip," said Brian, opening the rear door.

            The undead howled as they approached the bus, arms outstretched, mouths open in grimaces of hunger, a hunger that could never be sated. They began to crawl inside, slowly shambling towards the group. A few tried to gnaw on the armor-clad survivors, who mere stood there as if nothing were amiss. Their meal denied, the zombies moved on to less thoroughly wrapped morsels.

            Steve and the others quickly backed up, eyes searching for a weapon.

            Brian grinned and snapped his fingers.

            Without a word Ron and Michael attacked the undead with axe and sword, decapitating the creature with practiced ease. As John put the vehicle into gear, the dispatched ghouls were tossed onto the road, where limbs shattered and coagulated blood soaked into the asphalt.

            "Relax," said Brian as he casually sat down. "You're in better hands than you should be."


 

            "The Infected are wonderful, simply wonderful. Perfect efficiency, ruthless determination. They say sharks are the perfect killing machines. Sharks wish they were this perfect.

            "They have no minds. This is obvious upon seeing them in action. But no one appreciates the beautiful simplicity of it all. All they think about is eating. Nothing deters them. They feel no pain, no fear. They don't long for friendship or love. They never tire, never give up.

            "Nothing stops them. With the exception of a bullet to the head, of course, but how easy is that? Either you have to shoot them from far off, and I can you tell from seeing it myself, even the hardiest soldiers have difficulty remaining calm enough in the face of a horde of Infected to shoot one in the head. I can only imagine how an untrained citizen would fare. Actually, I don't have to imagine it. I saw plenty of citizens fall to the Infected army. Like waves crashing against a dam of toothpicks, they swept over any defense, any obstacle. They don't attack in squads or battalions. They move as one. A ruthless flood of Infected. Like a swarm of locusts.

            "The Infected also have little in the way of motor skills. They cannot run, though when a meal is close at hand, they move with surprising speed. The rest of the time they move at a shambling gait, and are easy to outpace.

            "An ignorant layman would construe this as a weakness, but a genius of my caliber recognizes it for the strength it is. The Infected are infinitely patient, willing to wait days, weeks, even months to get their meat."Still, I wonder if it's possible to correct this...

            "I have learned that while the Infected cannot open doors, they can climb stairs, though ladders are an insurmountable obstacle. As long as a person had their wits about them, evading the Infected should prove easy.

            "I wonder, can this be overcome as well...

            "When I began my research, I wanted to crack the code to the Infection, to find a cure. How could I be so blind, so arrogant? The Infection is a gift, a way to eradicate the true infectio-, humanity. We have become selfish pigs, more concerned with acquiring wealth or status. When was the last time we truly had to work for our daily bread? When was the last time we had to fight to survive? Humanity has become corrupt, and so it must be purged. The same is true with infected crops. The rotten, diseased plants must be destroyed, so that the fit may rise and claim what is rightfully theirs.

            "But they are disorganized. They seek only to eat, when they are capable of so much more. They need purpose, desire.

            "I wonder..."



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Posted 23 October 2013 - 09:38 PM ( #2 )

            Dawn broke over the low gray clouds. There was a heavy mist in the air, and it took some time for the sun's rays to break through, as if they were slogging through a thick, muddy field.

            Brian awoke with a start, fumbling for his guns and blades before realizing there were no zombies to kill, no imminent threat. It had been decided, at least as far as Brian was concerned, that they should take turns on watch, and he cursed himself for falling asleep.

            He exited the front door of the small suburban home that had been offered to them, still wearing the bomb squad armor he had found months ago; the officer that had worn it was long dead. Brian had seen to that personally. Twice.

            Even in the early hour, people were up and moving. Down the road, he saw a large garden being tended to. Without regular deliveries from the supermarkets, produce was harder to come by, and the people of Martha's Vineyard were growing their own.

            Some of the gardeners looked toward Brian and waved cheerfully, as if he had been a neighbor of theirs for years. Brian waved back, though nervous. He kept looking around for zombies as he had done in the past, his hand never straying too far from his weapons. It was October, and the first signs of fall were starting to show; leaves were turning color, and Brian heard the soft chitter of birds, the wind blowing through the trees. Soon winter would be here, and with it the cold. A part of his mind wondered how the group would survive without heat.

            As he walked down the street, he saw more signs of life. At one home a woman was doing laundry on an old-fashioned washboard. At another a family loaded movies, video games and other examples of humanity's greatest achievements into a wheelbarrow that was brought down the street and dumped into a small pit.

            Oskar Hall, the former police officer, was walking down the street, checking in with the residents. He spotted Brian and gave him a wave, the gesture not exactly overflowing with friendship. "Sleep well? he asked.

            "Not used to being able to sleep," Brian responded.

            Oskar gestured to the bomb squad armor Brian still wore. In this quiet suburban community, he looked incredibly out of place. "You don't have to keep wearing that, you know. Haven't had a single undead sighting since we cleaned this place out. It can't be comfortable wearing it all the time."

            Brian shrugged. "You get used to it," he replied.

            Hall's mouth tightened into a line. "Look, that question wasn't out of concern for your comfort. People are starting to get worried seeing you and your friends all dolled up like that. They think something bad's going to happen. Do you know how good it feels to see your children sleep at night without giving them a gun in case a zombie comes in through the window? This place is peaceful, and while the Governor may be okay with you being here, I'm not so keen on the idea, not if it means we go back to dying of fear one by one or eating our guns."

            Brian laughed, the sound hollow coming through his mask. "Well don't you worry. Soon as we resupply, we'll be gone, and you can go back to living in your little bubble. Being in one place for any length of time is suicide when zombies are involved, and you'll learn that real soon, I bet."

            Oskar's hand drifted down to the police-issue 9-millimeter at his belt. "Trust me, we've had plenty of experience dealing with zombies. Just because we've been fortunate to go a few months without doesn't mean we've forgotten how."

            For a moment neither man said a word, and onlookers began to worry that a fight might break out. But Brian only laughed and turned away, walking down towards the docks.

            The sight that greeted him was a shock to say the least. As Brian rounded a corner, he saw teams of men tearing the boats to pieces, hacking at them with axes or shattering the planks with sledgehammers. The wood was being piled up and carted back into town. Brian saw a team of four people advance toward the boat he and his group had taken from the Cape. Before he could overtake the group, no doubt with a good amount of bloodletting and a noticeable lack of explanation, Joseph Corin laid his hand on the young man's shoulder.

            "Don't worry, son, you're boat's not on the kindling list today," he said.

            "Just what's going on here?" Brian asked.

            "Well, winter's not too far off, and we'll need firewood to keep warm," Corin replied. "Unless you happened to bring a power plant with you."

            Brian watched as the team moved past his boat and began work on another, shattering the hull and slicing the timbers. He looked on with wry amusement, his lip curling in a sarcastic sneer. "You realize cars can't drive underwater."

            "Last time I checked,' replied the old man.

            "So how do you propose we get out of here if the undead decide to pay us a visit. Swim?"

            The Governor smiled. "You now what your problem is?"

            "I'm the one here with an ounce of sense?" Brian retorted.

            The Governor laughed. "Your problem is you're too used to being afraid," he said. "You've been on the run for so long that the thought of finding a safe place to live scares the hell out of you."

            "That might be because there's no such thing," Brian said. "You've been lucky: you managed to find a place where the zombie don't outnumber you ten million to one, and you've allowed yourselves to get fat and complacent. When those things realize where you are, they'll be here in force, and while you're dying by the truckload me and mine will be long gone, safe in our fear. You say I'm too used to being afraid, but the fact is that's the safest way to operate."

            "Look around you," Brian continued, spreading his hands to encompass the area. "This is as good as it's gonna get, and even this won't last forever. You think things are ever going to go back to the way they were? You think those creatures are just going to disappear some day and the lights will go back on? Not gonna happen old man. This is The Graveyard, and people like me are the ones who'll survive."

            Joseph hanged his hand, as if he felt sad for the young man. "Son, let me tell you something, and I mean it from the bottom of my heart. If being like you is what it takes to survive, then I'd like you to bury that axe of yours in my heart right now, 'cause I can't live like that. There has to be hope, or else where does that leave us?"

            Brian smiled inside his mask. He pointed to the ground. "Right here."

            With that he turned and left the docks, left the men and women working happily, singing songs as they turned their only means of escape into kindling. As he returned to his home, he passed Officer Hall, who smiled at the young man.

            Brian flipped him off, not breaking stride for a second.

            Inside their new home, Kaitlin Comeau and Jennifer Kern were hard at work cleaning up. The house had not been used in some time, and was in need of some industrial-strength elbow grease. As she shook dust from the sheets, Kaitlin stopped folding shirts and began laughing to herself.

            Jennifer looked up. "Something amusing about the laundry?"

            "No, it's not that," Kaitlin said, pausing to wipe a tear from her eye. "I just can't remember the last time I did this domestic s**t. Cleaning clothes, getting the beds made. Isn't that stuff reserved for places not overrun by the living dead?"

            "Like Joseph told us, this isn't one of those places," Jennifer said. "I can't believe we have clean clothes for once. Those rags I was wearing were smelling so bad I thought they were going to stand up on their own."

            No one spoke as they continued going trough the clothing. It was Kaitlin that broke the silence, although both would have preferred to remain quiet.

            "So, are we staying here or not?"

            Jennifer frowned, and Kaitlin could see the indecision on her face, the two arguments warring for supremacy in her mind. Apparently they struck a truce, for when she spoke, her words were a mix of possibilities.

            "To be honest, I'm not sure, honey," she said. "Steve and I want to stay, that's for sure. We just can't stay on the road anymore. It's been too hard for us. Roger, Marcus, the girls..." she stopped, choking back a sob.

            Kaitlin laid a hand on her shoulder. "I know, I know. I'm looking forward to sleeping on a real bed, myself. There's a lot of good people here. Especially that cop, Oskar."

            Jennifer smiled. Kaitlin was known for almost always having someone to hold hands with. It was natural she'd be looking for someone now that there was someone to look for.

            "But what about Brian and the others?" Kaitlin asked.

            "That's the whole point," Jennifer replied. "We won't need them here. Even if the zombies do come, we'll have all these people here to protect us."

            "Fat lot of good they'll do."

            The two women turned to see Brian standing in the doorway. In any other time, the sight of someone in a uniform like his would imply arrests were soon to follow, or at the least some broken bones.

            "It won't come to that," Jennifer said. "Don't you get it? We've been here for a week and not one zombie has been seen. The dead can't get us here. For the first time since we started this trip we've found a place that is completely safe."

            "Death can get you anywhere you go," Brian said. "And this tourist trap will be no different."

            Jennifer raised her hands in mock surrender. "Fine, fine, whatever you say. If this place pisses you off so much, then leave. No one's forcing you to stay, but I gotta tell you, if you do leave, you'll be traveling alone."

            Brian turned to see Steve, Michael, Ron and Jon on the steps leading to the second floor of the house. His friends had taken off their armor, and now wore the clothing of civilians. If Brian didn't know any better, he'd swear they were ordinary people.

            "What the heck are you doing? Put your armor back on, now!" he shouted, a part of his mind aware of how foolish he sounded.

            He ran through the house, searching for the bomb squad gear that had become so saturated with gore that the stains refused to be washed out. The others watched him, looks of concern and fear on their faces.

            "The zombies could be here at any time!" he screamed, looking out the window as if the undead were on the front porch. "Get your weapons!"

            Michael grabbed his old friend by the shoulders to stop him. "It's over, man. We've been traveling for a long time and we're all tired. Tired of running, tired of killing, tired of never knowing if this sunrise will be the last ones we see as human beings."

            "Ron, please tell me you're not buying into this paradise s**t," Brian said, his voice almost breaking.

            "Michael's right, son. We've been on the road for a while, and I've been proud to travel with you, and prouder still to fight by your side. But we all knew this would end sooner or later. Hell, you know the only reason Marie went with us was because of our promise to find a safe place. She was scared of us, of the paranoia we represented. That dang armor, it's become our coffin. I just want a place where I can rest my tired bones without having to keep a gun under the pillow."

            Brian looked to Jon. "C'mon man, don't tell me they got you fooled too."

            "Fooled with what? Fresh food, a real bed, safety we can't find anywhere else? Brian, this place is the real deal, why can't you see it?"

            Brian stared at his gloved hands, turned and saw his reflection in a hallway mirror. Among the others, he saw how alien he looked. Out there, in the Graveyard, he was a soldier, an eternal sentry against the undead. Here, he was a relic an example of the fear and paranoia that had become so essential to survive, that which people wanted more than anything to escape.

            Brian looked around at the others, and saw pity in all their eyes.

            "We've talked it over, and we've decided to take the Governor up on his offer," said Steve, the words sounding like a death knell to Brian's ears. "We're going to stay. You're more than welcome to stay with us. If you want to leave, we won't stop you, and we'll get you all the supplies you need. But make no mistake, you will leave alone. There's nothing for us back there."

            Brian thought back to the time he left the others back at the office in Marshfield. He remembered the night like it was yesterday. It took him eight tries to go out the window, he was so scared, and when he started the car, the engine's quiet sound was like an cannon salvo in his ears. He sped down the suburban roads, dodging wrecked cars and running over wrecked bodies, his hands gripping the steering wheel so tightly he thought he would snap the bones.

            Now, here he was, back in the same position; he wanted nothing more than to leave, and once more fear kept him rooted to the spot. Fear of what lay out there beyond the safety of the waves. Fear of moans, fear of teeth.

            Brian looked out the door, toward the docks, where the sounds of boats being demolished could still be heard. The setting sun cast an orange glow on the clouds, and the sounds of birds could be heard as twilight approached. He looked back at his friends and sighed.

            "Screw it," he said. "I don't even know how to pilot a boat, so I guess I'm screwed either way."

            That night was a night of firsts for the refugees from the Graveyard. It was their first night in their new homes, the first night they spent feeling like everything was going to work out for the best.

            It was also the first night Brian took off his armor.

            He looked at it, a black Kevlar suit stained with blood, entrails and brains. The others had stowed theirs in the attic, and as Brian closed the door, he felt a weight come off his shoulders.

            Michael smiled as he watched his friend descend the stairs to the attic. "Feel better?"

            Brian stared at Michael as if he had just grown a third head. "Are you kidding me? I'm scared out of my mind. I'm guessing we're not boarding up the doors or the windows."

            "Afraid not."

            "Aw. Well, I guess when the undead rip our throats out, we won't have to wonder how it happened."

            "You can go ahead and say I told you so," said Michael. "Good night, man."

            "Who's standing watch tonight?" Brian asked.

            Michael stopped and turned, a smile on his face.

            "Oh, right. Safe. I forgot," said Brian. "See you in the morning."

            Brian stood by the window in his room, his eyes on the town. Candle and firelight shone out of several windows, and a few electric lights lit up the night, courtesy of the island's generator. Brian was gratified to see some guards on patrol, but it was the other sights that had his undivided attention. Children played tag in the moonlight, and in the nearby homes, Brian could see young couples making love. He heard laughter, and for the first time, he could see why his friends wanted so little to return to the hell that the United States had become.

            So content was Brian as he got into bed that he didn't notice the slight stink in the air, or the fact that the closet door was open when he knew for a fact he had shut it.

            "How proper," Brian thought as he tied a rag over the bleeding bite wound on his arm. Steve and Jennifer were right behind him, bringing as m uninfected any people as they could find. "Safe, my a**."

            The ghouls had come during the night, traveling under the waves and emerging on the beach like a twisted, undead version of Normandy. They rose from the water without a sound, save for some moans and hungry growls that were easily drowned out by the waves and wind. Those unfortunate enough to be on the beaches and docks were the first killed, dragged under a swarming mass of zombies so quickly they barely had time to scream. The patrols, though high in number, had grown lazy and complacent after so many nights without a zombie, and often spent their time joking, playing cards or visiting their lovers.

            So much for eternal vigilance.


 

            "We have to go back, we have to get them," said Kaitlin, as she prepared to jump off the boat.

            Ron tackled her to the deck and pulled back as she screamed and kicked.

            "Let me go! we can't just leave them!" she shrieked.

            "It's too late, darlin'," Ron said.

            As the flames ate the timber of the home, it began to sway and crumble. James barely made it off the roof over the front deck before it caved in, the rubble burying several undead. The two looked towards their friends, and in their eyes they told them not to blame themselves.

            The house collapsed, and as it did, a pair of gunshots rang out.

            Though the air was thick with the sounds of fighting and dying, the group heard nothing as they watched the zombies surge forward through the flames to ravage the bodies of their friends. The creature's flesh sizzled and melted off as the fire claimed them, yet still they went after the succulent morsels, the agony of the flames lost to their bestial minds. Though the din the survivors heard the sound of tearing meat and snapping bones.

            Kaitlin sank to the floor, her body shaking with sobs.

            A thump turned their attention to the other side of the boat, where they saw Officer Steve Rankin lying on the deck. He was covered in blood and his clothes were torn. A quick check revealed he had not been bitten, however. His breath came in heavy gasps.

            "The Governor...he's dead..."

            "What?" asked Michael.

            "We got separated, when I came back to get him he was surrounded. He told me to run, and before I could do anything he pulled out that detonator he carries and blew himself to kingdom come. Musta had four pounds of C-4 strapped to him."

            "Christ," said Steve.

            Brian holstered his gun and made his way to the pilot house. "Anybody know how to work this thing?"

            Ron nodded and took the wheel, breathing a heavy sigh of relief when the engine roared to life.

            Steve got to his feet, "Wait, what are you doing?" he asked.

            "Oh, I thought we'd take a little cruise, maybe head down to the Cape, do a little fishing," said Brian sarcastically.

            "They're still survivors there," said Steve. "We need to get them."

            Brian put a hand to his chin in an expression of deep thought. "Hmmm, let's see, ummm, no," he said as he released the mooring lines.

            Steve got to his feet, hatred burning in his eyes. "You son of a..."

            His voice trailed off as his eyes sighted something, or rather someone, on land. The others turned and saw what had captured his attention. An Asian girl, at best sixteen years old, running toward the boat, a legion of undead literally nipping at her heels. She looked back at the zombies, her fear so great tears streamed down her face. At one point she tripped and fell, scrambling to her feet just in time to avoid being eaten.

            Steve made to jump of the boat, but Brian stopped him, grabbing his arm. "What're you doing? We can save her."

            Brian shook his head. "No, you can't. Not yet, anyway."

            It was then that he noticed the bloody rag on Brian's arm. "Jesus, you..."

            Brian handed the backpack with his armor to Steven. "They're your responsibility now. Do me proud, officer," he said, and with that, jumped from the boat, running toward the zombies that were chasing the girl. In any other case, one lone human against an army of zombies would be less than nothing. Here, though, the undead broke against Brian's assault like waves on a rocky shore. Wielding two axes, he cut the ghouls down one after another, severing heads and splitting skulls. He moved among them like a ghost, seeming to disappear whenever the undead became too numerous. He screamed like a man possessed, and as Steve watched, he was reminded of the monster Brian had become on the boat when the undead had buried him.

            The girl reached the boat, and Steve threw down a rope to her. She climbed up and into the boat, collapsing on the deck, her fear so great she had passed out. He looked back to the shore. "Brian, she's safe, get back here!"

            On land, though, only heard his blades whistling through the air, the rotted bones splintering like moldy logs, the snarls of the undead that quickly turned to shattered gasps as they were cut down one after another.

"Come on, you stinking lepers, give me something to enjoy here!" he screamed as he littered the ground with bodies.

            Steve grabbed his weapons and prepared to go to the young man's rescue when Michael stopped him. "What are you doing? He can't last much longer!"

            "You saw his arm?"

            Steve nodded, looking back to the battle apprehensively.

            Michael's eyes shone with such sadness as he watched his friend tear through the ranks of zombies. "I want to be out there more than you can know. He's the one who saved me from those things in the first place, gave me a reason to fight when all I wanted was to eat a bullet. If I could choose my death, it would be fighting by his side. But he's doing this so we can survive. I won't waste his sacrifice by doing something stupid and heroic."

            He signaled to Ron, who backed the boat away from the docks. Everyone watched, and Steve could see how badly they wanted to join Brian on the beach. Ron gripped the wheel so hard his knuckles turned white. Kaitlin turned away, her face buried in her hands. Steve and Jennifer watched the shore, not daring to even blink, lest they miss their friend's final moment.

            Despite the ferocity of his attack, despite the rage that drove his moves, Brian was fighting a losing battle. Again and again the teeth of the undead sank into his flesh, tearing and ripping like sharks on a dying porpoise. But the pain was merely an inconvenience, the pinpricks of mosquitoes, insects that could easily be crushed. He swung his axes in a wide arc, decapitating five of the ghouls in one swing. When one got to close, he tore out its throat, grinning, chunks of rotted flesh hanging from his teeth.

            "Just let me know when you guys plan on giving me a decent fight!" he shouted. "You gotta to work for your meal! No free handouts!"

            Soon there were hundreds of undead surrounding Brian, the other inhabitants of Martha's Vineyard having joined their ranks. Some came from the burning houses, their flesh blackened and charred. Some were new recruits to the zombie army, sporting fresh neck wounds that still pulsed red blood. The beach was a maelstrom of blood and slaughter. Soon Brian was knee-deep in corpses, unable to escape.

            Yet the whole time he wore a smile, his voice tinged with excitement. As far as ends go, Brian wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

            Suddenly one of the undead sunk its teeth into Brian's shoulder, and he screamed, dropping one of his weapons. He turned on the creature and snapped its neck like a piece of rotted celery. He turned to those on the boat and waved, a final salute to the soldiers fo the Graveyard. Ron saluted, crisp and sharp, while the others waved or cheered him on. As the battle wore on, Brian's shouts lost some of their fury, and as the boat pulled further away from shore, his solo performance was soon drowned out in an undead a capella chorus.

            But there was one last note to sound. As the boat turned to make for the Graveyard, a single gunshot sounded, cutting through the moans, snarls and howls.

            Brian's last sunrise shone bright and clear, golden rays lighting the clear azure sky.


 

            Addie only felt revulsion when she saw her reflection. The face she saw wasn't that of a mother or wife, but a deceiver and murderer. Every night she heard their screams, those three innocent souls she condemned to death in order to get her, her boyfriend Tyrone, and their companion Joe across the border. Three for three. It had been an even exchange.

            But if that was true, why did she awake every morning crying?

            For Addie, the price to buy her honor back was high, but it was one she had to pay. After what she had heard, she felt the choice unavoidable.

            Her gaze drifted to the ham radio in her room. At night, she scanned the frequencies, searching desperately for signs there was life in the Graveyard. Most nights, she got static, a symphony of despair with brief, second-long intermissions of voices.

            Until three days ago.

            She was scanning the airwaves, listening with half an ear, a part of her mind having given up. Then she had heard it. She had heard him.

            Richard Johansson.


 

            She stopped at a small grocery store, the one ran by the kindly grandfather. She had come to like the elderly gentleman, though he would probably sell her out to the authorities at the drop of a hat. Not that she blamed him. Nothing good came out of the Graveyard.

            She as the proof.

            The old man eyed her bags as she selected a loaf of bread, a few boxes of crackers, and several strips of jerky. "Taking a trip?" he asked, his hands moving automatically to bag her groceries, his eyes meeting hers.

            Addie smiled. "Yeah, I've got some people who might need my help."

            His eyebrows rose. "Might?"

            Addie nodded. "Yeah, I know where they are, but I'm not sure they'll be there when I arrive. Kind of a long trip."

            The old man nodded sagely. "Yes, well, Colorado is a long way from here, that's for sure."

            Addie gasped, and her hand flew to the gun at her hip. The old man raised a hand, silently pleading for her to stop. The woman relaxed, but her hand didn't move away from her waist.

            "Now, now, no need for violence, especially against your own countrymen, eh?"

            Addie looked around the store, expecting to see the customers just before they tackled her to the ground. But the store was empty. She looked back at the elderly clerk, saw him take out a dirty old patch, which read "All Points Bussing, Orlando."

            He smiled. "I hated driving the company, but in the end, it was what saved my life. I was taking an empty one back to the station to pick up some Japanese tourists when everything went to s**t. I got to the station just in time to see those poor bastards get torn to shreds by the other drivers, 'cept they weren't drivers anymore, they were... Well, you know what they are," he said, his eyes misting over at the memory. "Anyway, I kept driving that bus; picked up people when I could, and it made a pretty good battering ram whenever those monsters got in our way. I managed to get across the border before the government set up their blockade, and got myself a fake ID sometime after."

            He smiled at her, like they were a pair of grade school students sharing a secret. "A couple nights ago, I heard the transmissions on my ham radio. Yes, I got one, too," he said. "It helps me fall asleep at night when I can listen to broadcasts from the Graveyard, to know that maybe someone is still alive there."

            Before her brain knew what her body was doing, her hand shot forward and took the old man's. "Come with me," she said, her mouth joining the list of body parts already acting of their own accord. "They'll need help."

            But the old man shook his head. "No, my hero days are over, if they ever really existed. I'm just an old man with a bad ticker. I wouldn't last very long, even if things went smoothly, and they never do," he said with a chuckle.

            Addie drew her hand back, embarrassed for her actions. The clerk patted her shoulder, then bagged up her groceries. When she reached for her purse, he held up his hand and shook his head. "We Americans got to stick together," he said. "After all, we're a dying breed."

            As Addie turned to leave, the old man called out to her once more. "So just how are you planning to get over the border?"

            She looked back to the clerk. "I'll think of something," she said, her voice not conveying an ounce of confidence.

            The old man smiled. "I may have something that can help you. It'll help you get to Colorado a little faster."


 

            Private Jacob Triam paused in his rounds to light a cigarette. He fumbled in his pockets for a lighter, which was gratefully provided by his fellow soldier, Andrew.

            "Thanks," Jacob said, inhaling the tobacco. "Quiet out there today."

            Andrew looked over at the wall of razor wire and, out toward the land pockmarked with detonated and mines. Much of that was now covered with bones and rotted body parts, a silent testament to the effectiveness of then blockade.

            "Maybe they're all dead," he said.

            Jacob looked up from his cigarette. "Who? The zombies?"

            Andrew shook his head. "No, the Americans. Maybe they're all dead. Maybe we can finally take this stupid thing down."

            Suddenly the blare of a horn cut through the silence. The soldiers looked over to see bus speeding down the road. The words "All Points Bussing" were stenciled on the front in wavy blue letters with a backdrop of a map of the United States. Addie was at the driver's seat, and she motioned the soldiers to move aside as she floored the gas petal.

            Andrew and Jacob dove as the tour bus smashed through the blockade, dragging bits of it behind. Addie sounded the horn and flipped the two bewildered troops off as she crossed back into the Graveyard.

            Jacob watched the bus as is disappeared over the horizon. "Nope, still one left."


 

            Throughout the reclaimed portion of Boulder, chaos reigned, pure and bloody. Ron Bern and the others ran house to house, telling people to arm themselves with whatever was handy and get the hell out. Some didn't believe him, but the sight of a reanimated corpse had a way of convincing even the most cynical among us.

            Still, if common sense were true to its name, then maybe the whole affair would have ended with fewer being added to the ranks of the dead. Arnold Crimmer, a former insurance salesman from North Dakota, was packing a suitcase of clothes, toiletries and family photo albums when seven ghouls broke down his door to get at the meat inside. He managed to brain two before the rest dragged him down, chunks of tender flesh being ripped from his torso and arms, hot blood painting the floor.

            Nearby, the Jansen family refused to leave, secure in the knowledge that Richard Johansson would protect them. Perhaps that confidence helped them through the next five minutes, when more than two dozen undead entered their apartment and reduced the family to meat sauce.

            Ray Hone had lost his home of fifty years when the walking dead invaded his small town of Windsor, Connecticut, and he would be damned if he lost this one. He had managed to sneak in a pair of pistols from his days in the army, weapons he lovingly tended to each and every day. His courage never failed him, and each shot from the reliable weapons dropped another undead.

            He saved the last bullet for himself, and moments before the creatures overran him, he denied them his soul, sending it to whatever world awaited it.


 



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Posted 23 October 2013 - 09:39 PM ( #3 )

            Ron and Steve Zamora took all this in as they watched from an apartment building balcony. With them were about two dozen people, all that remained of a building which once housed more than one hundred. Their plan had seemed simple on paper: take advantage of the insanity caused by the undead's breach of the walls (how they managed to do that was a thought Ron tried to force out of his head) and get everyone they could into the vehicles stored in the warehouse and out of the city. Ron was gambling on the hope that Johansson's forces would be too busy containing the dead to stop them, and while this was probably the first weak link in the plan, at the moment it was all they had to go on.

            The apartment in which they stood had been occupied by a young couple from Boise, Idaho. Steve had the chance to meet them at dinner, and wanted to check and make sure they were all right. However, when they kicked the door in, they found the girl tearing at her late boyfriend's bicep, a look of agony on the man's face as he pleaded with her to stop. Steve had granted both of them a final mercy, and a torn curtain now lay over their corpses. He looked out over the city, and saw a scene of utter hopelessness.

            In the apartment across the street, he watched a young woman try to fight off one zombie with a baseball bat. She succeeded in caving in its skull, only to be set upon by five more. Luckily her throat was torn right out, and death followed soon after, which was also followed by her reanimation. He saw an older man cornered by a dozen of the ghouls. Steve saw the man speaking to them, though he couldn't make out the words. The middle finger he brandished to them, however, was articulate enough, and served as a final epitaph before he jumped off the balcony, dying instantly on the pavement below.

            Oddly enough, the creatures seemed to be acting with a purpose, aside from the usual stuffing of their faces. In the past, he had seen people torn to shreds, making it impossible for them to come back as one of the walking dead. This time, however, everyone who was bitten only sustained enough damage to die, then was reanimated. He had never seen anything like it.

            

            Standing before them was an army of the undead, twenty across and just as many deep, completely blocking the street. "Go back, go back," said Jennifer, but as soon as they turned around, they saw just as many ghouls behind them as well. They were trapped, outnumbered and with no way to call for help.

            No one moved. Jennifer and Steve kept their guns trained on the zombies, while the people in the truck bed held their weapons at the ready. It was hopeless, and they all knew it. At best they could take out a dozen before being torn to shreds, and as crazy as it may sound, Steve really didn't expect to die like this–he always thought he'd kill himself first. He found this change of plans strangely comforting.

            In some corner of their minds, the humans no doubt noticed that the zombies were wearing the same metal collars, all with a glowing red light. What this meant was lost on them, and at the moment, kind of irrelevant. Just then one of the zombies did something Steve swore he'd remember for the rest of his life, even if that life was going to end in three minutes and 17 seconds, as he expected.

            The rotted creature, a woman in her past life, stepped forward with a white flag in one hand, and a cell phone in another. The device was old and battered, but apparently still worked, because the screen glowed and a voice could be heard calling out through it. Carefully, Steve took the phone and held it to his ear.

            "Hello? Is someone there?" the voice said.

            "Yes, who is this?"

            "My name is Dr. Frank Larson. Who are you, sir?"

            "Oskar," he replied. "Oskar Hall."

            "Pleasure to be speaking with you, Oskar. A real pleasure. My associates and I have something we'd like to discuss with you, if you wouldn't mind."

            The whole thing was too surreal. Here he was in a broken-down, burning city, surrounded by an army of zombies, and he was actually talking to another human on a phone. Just another day in The Graveyard.

            "What the hell is going on here? Why have these things stopped? And what is with those collars?"

            "All in good time, Steve, all in good time. For the moment, how about you and your eleven friends all come with me."

            Steve's eyes widened at this. Whoever was talking to him could also see his group. "And if I say no?"

            "The undead turn you all into cat chow. Makes no nevermind to me," said Larson. "So, how about that meeting?"


 

            Michael quickly went back out the window and up the fire escape. The undead began to pursue, but in such close quarters and with the high ground, he had the advantage. He fired again and again, dropping one zombie after another, clogging the narrow stairs and weighing down the rickety iron structure. Michael felt it begin to give, the rusted iron bolts pulled from the brick and mortar by the weight of the bodies. As he vaulted over the rooftop, he hear the shriek of metal as the fire escape broke free and tumbled down to the ground, taking the creatures with it. He turned to see Addie and the survivors, now reduced by two. The group looked shaken, terrified, but at least they were alive. Addie approached him, her face grim, but slightly hopeful. "The distance between the buildings isn't too bad," she said. "I think we can get across easy."

            Michael nodded, glancing back down the way we came. "That's good, because reversing course isn't going to work."

            Addie glanced down to where Michael was looking and signed in frustration. "I swear to God, I think you're making this tough on purpose."

            With a dark laugh, he walked past Addie to the others.

            Just then he heard the unmistakable sound of a safety being released, followed by a bellow of "Freeze!" He turned to see ten armed men reveal themselves from the pipes and entrance to the roof on the adjacent building.

            Johansson's soldiers. They had been waiting for them this entire time.


 

            "Please, make yourselves comfortable," he said, taking a moment to work a tablet computer. As he did, the undead motioned to the humans to make their way to the furniture.

            Larson and the others sat down beside them. Each of the scientists took out their recorders and set them on the tables. Stephen and Jennifer both looked back forth nervously. The whole scene had a surreal quality—zombies surrounded them, but none made so much as a move in their direction. Jennifer noticed that each one was wearing some kind of collar, with a small device attached. There were hundreds of them, but whatever these things were, they somehow gave those three the power to control the dead. She looked over to Larson and the computer he was using, and he looked right back. Okay, so he was no fool.

            "Whatever you were thinking, forget it," he said, moving the computer away. "Anything happens to this thing, and those undead will be back to normal, which means you can measure the rest of your lives in seconds."

            "OK, fine, I get it," said Jennifer. "What the heck do you want?"

            Larson laughed, taking amusement in Jennifer's indignation. "You, my dear, are part of an experiment, one which is profoundly changing this world," he said. "We're on the cusp of a major evolutionary change. You really should feel honored to witness this."

            Jennifer looked around, at the undead, at the desolated landscape, at the smoke rising from Boulder. "And what exactly, are we witnessing?"

            "Like I said, change. Out with the old, in with the new."

            Yarin stepped forward. "A new species. One that doesn't feel fear, fatigue, or pain. One that is ruthlessly efficient, one that never stops and never gives up."

            Jennifer felt a chill go down her spine. "You mean that these things are replacing the human race."

            "Isn't it obvious?" said Yarin. "The human race is a waste of space. They're greedy, self-centered, bigoted, and incapable of working together for any common goals. The undead are of a single mind, a single purpose. To spread their presence across this planet, wiping out anything and everything that dares to get in their way."

            "But you're all human."

            "Not because we want to be," he shrugged. "Enough about us--it's you we want to know about. How have you managed to survive for so long?"

            "Rock meets head has worked pretty well for us," Steve explained. He made a swinging gesture with his arm.

            "Any other weapons? Knives, guns?"

            "Sometimes, but we tend to be flexible," said Jennifer. "Whatever puts those things in the ground and keeps them there. But there's plenty of guns lying around." Larson raised an eyebrow, then nodded to Yarin, who took down some notes.

            "I see," Larson said. "So where are you going?"

            He nodded in the direction of Boulder, which at the moment had a pall of smoke rising above it. Even from this distance, gunshots, explosions, and distant screams could be heard. Jennifer and Steve both tore their gazes away, as if hoping that removing it from their sight could exercise it from their ears and minds.

            "So, how many people do you think are left there? How did they react to our little friends? Do you think a large army does better, or a number of smaller groups?" asked Yarin.

            Jennifer looked at the other woman, disbelief on her face. "Why do you want to know? What does it matter?"

            Yarin's response was equal disbelief, as if the questions were obvious. "It's all part of the experiment. We need to know the details so we can properly gauge the results."

            Yarin smiled eagerly and gestured to the zombies around them. "That's right. We believe that the undead are the next stage in human evolution, to a form far more efficient than what was before. But we need to test them, see what they can do."

            Jennifer slowly rose, comprehension replacing the disbelief. She looked around at the undead, focusing on the metal collars which each one wore. "You're telling me that these things are here because of you, you're, what, controlling them?"

            Larson clapped his hands slowly, a smug smile beaming.

            "And the last horse crosses the finish line. How do you think we're all still here? These wondrous creatures are under our control, and we've been sweeping across the countryside, testing every fortification and army we can find, to see the limits of their endurance and our control."

            Yarin stepped forward, clearly excited by the discussion. A little too excited, actually.

            "The results have been astonishing. While they require a little control here and there, it's clear that they're the superior species, far and away."

            A moment later, the young scientist was down, her glasses shattered and her right eye swollen shut. "All those people!" Jennifer screamed. "You murdered them all, just for some dinky little experiment! This is all your fault!"

            Yarin began to crawl away, stammering helplessly.

            "We….we didn't make these things, we just found a way to control them, to direct them. This was meant to happen, the undead are the next stage in human evolution!"

            Jennifer screamed and was about to throw herself at the other woman, when suddenly the dead surrounded her, clearly ready to attack. She looked to Larson, whose hand hovered over the computer.

            "As enjoyable as that was, I'm afraid we're on something of a schedule here," said Larson. "How about we all take a deep breath, sit down, and continue our little discussion."

            

            The Armory was hidden in the lowest levels of a small parking garage, a section normally reserved for VIP parking and stretch limos. Johansson had it converted into a storage center for their guns and explosives almost the same day they came to Boulder. What can I say? A man's got to have his priorities.

            It was perfect for his needs: well-shielded with tons of steel and concrete, limited access, so thieves couldn't wander in to filch what they wanted. And best of all, no one but Johansson and his former lieutenant, Frank Tibalt, knew where it was. Frank's current whereabouts were unknown, but Johansson wasn't concerned. The small man was no leader, and without Richard to tell him what to do, he wasn't about to cause any trouble.

            Richard opened the heavy steel doors of the Armory. Within were shelves packed with guns, bombs, and even some rocket-propelled grenades. Alongside these were all sorts of knives, swords, brass knuckles, and large hammers, perfect for decimating zombies when the clips ran empty. He took a moment and breathed deep the smell of oil and gunpowder, familiar scents that took him back to the days of his childhood, when his father used to took him to the gun range to show him how a true soldier lives.

            Over the years, he taught himself how to use more and more weapons, learning how to field strip everything from a revolver to an AK-47. These guns were his toys, his tools, and in the end, the only thing he could truly rely on. And now, with his city on the verge of destruction, he came here, to the one place where he knew the answer could be found.

            Looking over the shelves of weapons, his hands moved of their own accord, grabbing one thing after another. Looking back at the soldiers with him, he pointed to one, a brute named Marcus who was well over six feet tall and spent his spare time lifting car parts to keep his strength up.

            "How much can you carry?" asked Johansson.

            Marcus reply was a sly smile. "How much you got?"

___________________

 I set it to 8pt Tahoma. Why is it not 8pt Tahoma? Have I been living a lie? xD



Eternal Mametchi Fan

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 06:04 AM ( #4 )

You have a very good writing style. I admit I do not enjoy the plot itself because the violence disturbs me but it is still written in a riveting, suspenseful way. I only found two main mistakes but I'm too lazy to find them again. :tarakotchi:



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Posted 06 November 2013 - 05:13 PM ( #5 )

You have a very good writing style. I admit I do not enjoy the plot itself because the violence disturbs me but it is still written in a riveting, suspenseful way. I only found two main mistakes but I'm too lazy to find them again. :tarakotchi:

lmao

there are a lot more than two errors

 

but thanks x)