still haven't cleaned out all the errors
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
the thirty-first is coming up, isn't it?
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.
"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.