Sarah tries to make it a game, but I must say I’m sick of the road. Ever since the zombie outbreak in Seattle over six months ago, ever since we killed our therapist, we’ve been running. Fighting. Scrambling for every scrap of food, every drop of water, every bullet for every gun. The zombies don’t stop, so we can’t stop either. But I’m not tired.
In truth, I’m never tired. And the reason is one that if I say out loud, people will probably come after me with pitchforks all Mary Shelley like. But I guess once you start, you have to finish.
I don’t get tired because there’s a zombie in my head.
Sarah’s voice came from in the other room of the cabin we had stumbled upon a few days before. It was a pretty little place, situated on a half-frozen lake in the corner of Wyoming. Probably before the outbreak, this had been a vacation home for someone. They’d probably looked forward to coming up here, fishing in the lake that was currently frozen half a mile away through a snowy woods.
Now it was abandoned. The owners likely dead… or living dead (which was worse).
Sarah and I been able to shoot a deer the first night we stumbled upon the place. A fire had been easy, too, thanks to the wood stacked up on the side of the house. There were pots and pans and dishes aplenty, as well as a nice stock of dried goods in the cupboards.
We’d been living like kings ever since. You just don’t appreciate fresh meat until you live on jerky and stale protein bars for a few months.
“Dave?” she repeated and now she stuck her head into the bedroom and gave me a questioning look. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail and her face was pink and freshly washed. She looked younger than she had half a year before. She smiled more, too, despite the circumstances.
“Sorry,” I said and shut the notebook I’d been sketching my thoughts in since this craziness had started. “What’s up?”
She grinned and I have to admit, my heart still skipped a beat. Sarah, Sarah. She was the love of my life, my college sweetheart. We’d gotten married too young and almost lost everything… until we did lose everything thanks to the zombies and found each other again. Now we were closer than ever.
She’d saved my life too many times to count. She’d say I had too. But with me, it was different. We both knew why.
“What’s up?” I asked. “Need something?”
“Wellll,” she said, dragging out the word. “We have a teensie weensie problem.”
I shut my eyes. Shit, there was only one teensie weensie problem left in the world. Only one big, fat fucker of a problem, too.
“How many?” I asked as I got up and started toward the doorway.
She shrugged. “A lot. More than I can handle. So I think we might need your thing.” She laughed. “With the thing.”
That’s what she’d started calling my zombie problem. A few months before, I’d been bitten by a zombie. Now wait, before you pull out the shotgun, the thing is, I’m not actually a zombie. I’d been bitten in the lab of a crazy-ass doctor who had been testing on zombies for a cure. He’d found one and Sarah risked her life to get it to me.
So I ended up zombie free. Sort of. I still have some, um, side effects.
We moved out into the main room of the cabin. Sarah had closed the blinds when we arrived so we wouldn’t draw attention to ourselves from either crazy-ass survivors or hungry zombies. It was old habit now, we always did it. She let out a long sigh before she reached out and tugged the blind pull.
The shade lifted and outside there were ten or more zombies standing on the porch. A few pressed against the glass, growling and groaning, leaving trails of drool and blood and black sludge on the glass.
“Aw, fuck,” I grunted and motioned for her to lower the shade. “Ok. Yeah. This is too much for you.”
She folded her arms. “Hey!”
I put my arm around her and squeezed. “Aw, you know what I mean, babe. You’re the toughest dude in the whole damn town.”
“I’m bad Leroy Brown?” she asked with a laugh.
“Sure. Girl Leroy Brown. And I know you can kick ass and take names with the best of them. But when there are ten zombies outside-”
She cleared her throat. “Twenty. There are a bunch more on the other side.”
I sighed again. “When there are twenty zombies outside, there’s only one man to call.”
“My Zombie Whisperer,” she said, leaning up to kiss my cheek, but I could see the fear in her eyes. The hesitation. It didn’t matter how long we’d been doing this or that she knew how safe I would be, she didn’t like it.
I got that. I wouldn’t like it if the roles were reversed, either. I couldn’t even imagine sending her out there with those horrible things.
She would stay here, freaking out, hoping this time the same thing would happen that happened the last time.
I hugged her tighter. “Load up. Go in the back room. If anything happens, you know what to do.”
She nodded, then leaned up and kissed me. Hard. I cupped the back of her head and kissed her back. Then I turned her, slapped her on her fine ass and sent her into the back bedroom.
Once she shut the door, I sucked in a breath and started loading up my own weapons. 9mm handguns, two loaded to the hilt and with other ammo shoved into every pocket and place I could find.
Once I was loaded for bear… or zombie… I moved to the front door. My heart was pounding. Well, as much as my heart ever pounds anymore. Then I reached out and opened the door.
The zombies growled and grunted as they turned toward the front door of the cabin. I tensed as I stepped outside and closed the door behind me so that none of them would get inside and get to Sarah.
Which left me alone with the zombies out on the porch.
“Hey guys,” I said as they loped toward me in a disorganized group.
After six months, it was hard to tell what they’d been before the outbreak. One was wearing something resembling blue jeans. Another had one earring left in her ear, a nice one. And there was one wearing a prison jumper. Otherwise they were just your average, half-naked zombies.
Still, Sarah would be excited by the inmate. We’d never seen one of those before. She’d probably add it to our running tally of Bingo.
The zombies tilted their heads and snarled at me, but when they edged closer there was no attack. No biting. No tearing. No killing. They looked at me the same way they looked at each other. They showed mild interest and then went back to pacing, sniffing, waiting for Sarah. That was who they could smell. Who they wanted.
And it pissed me off.
“All right, fuckers, here we go.”
I placed my hand on the shoulder of the zombie closest to me and started shoving her toward the steps. She staggered and fell down them, but she soon pulled herself up to start roaming around down on the snowy ground below. I moved to the next, repeating that action until a handful were down on the ground, confused and moaning as they dragged broken limbs around behind them.
I lifted the 9mm and lined it up, then I shot. On the first hit, I took down two zombies and couldn’t help but bark out a shot of glee. Any time you could kill a couple with one bullet, that was good. No use wasting ammo. I shot again, slowly taking down the zombies one by one until they lay in a pile at the foot of the stairs.
I turned. The other zombies didn’t seem to notice, or at least mind, that I was killing their buddies. Only a few had even looked up in my direction while I shot and that was more likely about the loud noise than the fact I was killing anything.
I started my herding again. This time it was slightly more difficult, since the pile at the bottom of the stairs made the zombies fall and stumble. I shot a second time, but there was no satisfaction in the act. Shooting zombies who were coming at you was one thing, shooting them like fish in a barrel almost made me feel sorry for them.
But it didn’t stop me from steering the rest to the bottom of the stairs and firing off a few more rounds to finish them off. Once it was done, I moved to the bottom of the stairs and started kicking around the bodies. We always had to make sure there were really done. After all, Sarah would be helping me with disposal in a minute and I really didn’t want her to get bitten by some stray Z.
Once I was sure it was over, I moved back into the house. At the door, I called out, “Okay, done!”
She cracked the door and peeked out. “Same as before?” she asked.
I nodded. “Same as it ever was. They don’t even see me. And they let me push them around like rag dolls.”
She stepped into the main room and looked at me with a little shiver. “I mean, I appreciate what you can do. It helps. But… it still freaks me out.”
“Come here,” I said, motioning her into my arms.
She hugged me and as I breathed in the smell of her hair, I said, “Did you know brains smell like chicken?”
She yanked back and looked at me with narrowed eyes. “You idiot,” she said with a slap on my arm.
But she smiled. And that made everything worthwhile.
Pre-Order Club Monstrosity (April 30, 2013)
Copyright Jesse Petersen 2012
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