They’re all dead. Ship, Kat, Alvarez, all the people we picked up at Keesler, all dead and they want me, I can hear them banging at the door in the darkness. The Sarge, Ernie, tons of rednecks, Jessup, the old man, Cartier, everybody from my cell block. Even Lynch. I turn around and that damn dead spook is in the room with me. He reaches his rotting hands toward me, smiling, as the door gives way, “Come with us, it’s soooo easy…”
“Wake the fuck up,” the old timer said and gave me a shove.
Jesus, that damn dream still gives me nightmares. Yes, you can have nightmares of a nightmare, I’m living proof. I remember it like it was last night. Probably because I had it again last night. Fucking vivid, and not the porn.
The first time I had that dream was in the back of the Deuce. Ship, the old timer, and a couple of Alvarez’s new pals all staring at me as I woke up from my cat nap. I felt like I was fifteen and my mom had caught me rubbing one out.
“You was screamin’,” the white haired guy said.
I muttered a sorry, and hunkered down, trying to forget about it, but everybody was still staring at me. Like, really staring. Staring hard.
“You were saying some weird shit,” one of the soldiers said.
“Big shocker there Audie fucking Murphy, there are dead people trying to eat us. I’m sure your dreams are full of roses and unicorns.”
The guy was taken aback but his buddy moved up the bench toward me. He looked familiar but I couldn’t place him, “Who’s Lynch?”
Ship and I looked at each other, then I looked back at the guy, “Nobody.”
Guy didn’t miss a trick, “Didn’t sound like nobody.”
“Mind your own fucking busine…”
He interrupted me mid pissy-tirade, “I only ask because there was a guy named Lynch being escorted to the stockade when the base got overrun. I escorted him to Colonel Jessup the day before when he showed up at the front gate.” That’s where I remembered this guy from, he was one of the guards in Jessup’s office when we first showed up.
“Coincidence,” my turn to not miss a beat, “what did he want at the jail?”
“Above my pay grade, and I wasn’t dumb enough to press, but it wasn’t a what, it was a who. Don’t know who, but I do know a Company man when I see one.” He cocked his head, “I just don’t know which company.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t know who he is.”
Guy shifted his gaze and became thoughtful. I didn’t like thoughtful, but he didn’t say anything else.
We had picked up two other vehicles when we left Keesler, and they were following us. We hadn’t seen anything other than single zombies, or twos and threes on the road since Keesler, and we traveled until about one in the afternoon.
Swamp. Swamp on both sides of the road, but I’ll tell you something for nothing: it was damn beautiful. Big white birds were trying to catch fish or frogs or something, and I distinctly remember they didn’t look like they had a care in the world.
Of course they didn’t. Damn infected comes to eat it and it can just fly away. I must admit a certain amount of jealousy. Wings might look stupid on me, but if they were functional, I could suffer. Course then I got thinking about Victoria’s Secret models with angel wings and acquired a monumental stiffy. Those models are probably trying to eat each other right now, and not in the good way.
We got out of the Deuce and stretched. I moved to the two vehicles behind us, another camo Chevy Blazer, and a Humvee. The fifty cal on top of the Hummer was manned and the guy was swiveling his head constantly, checking the swamp. So were two of his friends with their rifles.
I extended my hand to the driver, who had gotten out when he saw me, and he shook it. “Babe.”
“You’re not that cute,” I answered.
Guy actually guffawed. Laughed his ass off so hard he was crying, “My name is Brian Abrams, but everybody calls me Babe,” he said as he wiped his eyes.
I shook his hand again, I was smiling too. It was the first time I had smiled in a while. It didn’t last.
“Contact, hundred meters left!”
Three stumblers were wading through the knee deep water toward us. “Glad you’re with us Babe.” I walked back to the Deuce, Ship, Kat, Alvarez, and his three soldiers were looking at a map. The old timer was picking his nails with a Swiss Army knife and staring at me.
Ship pointed to something on the map, and the soldiers nodded in the negative, “No, we have to assume that airfield is overrun, it’s too close to this town.” He pointed at the map, “But I have another idea.”
Everybody looked at him, so did I, and suddenly I really wanted a beer. Not mass-produced fizzy beer, but something heavier, like a Sam Adams, or a Harpoon.
“We’ve got company,” I said and pointed to the waders.
“Yeah, we heard,” said Alvarez, “we’ll be out of here soon.” He looked at the other kid, “What idea?”
“My brother in law works on an oil rig in the gulf. I was thinking we go here,” he pointed to a spot on the coast, “appropriate a boat, and head for one of the rigs.”
Best fucking idea I’d heard since this shit started. Genius. Food for months, maybe years, we could fish, and most of those rigs have desalination plants for fresh water. Plus the best part of them were that they were not in any way connected to the mainland.
I clapped the kid on the shoulder, “That’s a great idea!”
Ship looked at me. Stinkeye.
WTF? It was a great idea! I told the yeti as much.
He shook his head and stormed off, and let me tell you, when this motherfucker storms, the earth shakes. That was just about the time the first shot fired from the truck behind us.
Everybody raised their weapons, but Babe yelled over to us that he had taken care of the situation and all was well. Alvarez packed up the map, and told us to saddle up. He was going to talk to the folks in the trucks behind us and see if they wanted to come.
We left a few minutes after that. Ship shuffled down the bench and passed me his book.
Oil rig could be a deathtrap. Trapped if something happens to the boat.
“Yeah, but it’s away from all this death, and from them,” I pointed to a few of the infected kneeling on the road and hoarking down something that had been wearing boots, “I really don’t want to be that guy.”
Ship harrumphed and wrote something, Do you really think we will end up any differently? My estimates are that there are probably almost one hundred of them for each one of us.
I handed the book back to him, “All the more reason to bug the fuck out yeah?”
We were in New Hampshire. This is Mississippi. It took a month to get here. Do you really think nobody else thought of heading out to an oil rig? Are we going to have to fight off the living as well as the dead? And what if we do secure it? Then we will have to fight off whoever else wants to take it from us.
Damn smarty pants. “So what do we do?”
Stick to the plan. Get away from people. As far away as possible.
“Yeah, I get that, but where do we go? Where can we go that isn’t cold and has no people?”
The old guy shifted in his seat. He must have had the dirtiest fingernails on earth, because he was still cleaning them, “The desert,” he said without looking away from his hands.
“What’s your name young fella,” I asked him.
“Don.” He extended his hand to me, then to Ship, “Sorry I shot you, I was scared.”
“Bullets bounce off this giant of a man. He’s second cousin is a bigfoot.”
The old timer thought that was hilarious, as did the two soldiers that had been eavesdropping on our conversation. Even Ship smiled, as previously stated, a rare occurrence.
I was killing it today.
So it had to go to shit.
You know, sometimes I think that I’m the plague. I realize that there are dead cannibals trying to munch on humanity, but everywhere I go, there’s a nice little bastion or enclave of survivors, and then I show up. Within a few days: boom. Everybody is dead and shit is on fire. Am I a beacon for the undead? Do I light up like a Christmas tree for zombies? Is it fate, luck, or does God just fucking hate me?
Anyway, we’re driving along and laughing. Heading, against Ship’s wishes, to a boat yard or something to steal somebody’s toy or a fishing boat or a God damned overturned cooler to get us to an oil rig.
So what happened?
One moment we’re laughing in this post-apocalyptic undead world and the next we’re ducking for cover as a hail of bullets comes our way. One of Alvarez’s buddies didn’t duck fast enough, and he went tumbling out of the truck. I had never learned his name. The rest of us got down behind the truck slats, under the benches, and shit our collective pants.
We couldn’t see our attackers, but apparently they were to our right and in front of us. The Deuce stopped, the riders in the cab exiting through the driver’s side. The shots coming at us were from hunting rifles I thought, because there was no automatic fire.
Until we shot back.
I crawled down to the back of the truck, and Alvarez’s other pal, Mr Thoughtful, was calmly pulling something from his load bearing vest. It was a mirror. “Go when I tell you. Get to the other side of the truck, and stand behind the tires, not in the middle or they’ll shoot out your knees.” Guy had said it like he was ordering his morning coffee. Either this dude was crazy, stupid, or an utter badass.
Redneck dickweeds either hadn’t seen or didn’t care about the Hummer either, and our guys opened up with the .50 cal. It was loud, so I barely heard Thoughtful yell, “Go! Now!”
He leaned over and began firing at the swamp trees, and I went. When I got down behind the truck I could see that Alvarez, his buddy, and Kat were already shooting as well, they were shooting forward. I moved to the left and splashed into the stinky water.
There were two police cars across the road in front of us. Cops or not, they were shooting at us, so they could suck it. I moved behind a huge mound of earth, I didn’t know what that was doing there, and honestly I didn’t care, it was keeping the holes out of me.
I propped up on the side of the dirt mount, and I had a perfect view of a guy with a sheriff’s hat and a pretty rifle aiming at my friends.
My M4 had this nifty scope thing on it. Ship called it an ACOG, which then I didn’t know meant Advanced Combat Optic Gunsight. It’s the best part of the weapon, seriously. There are these three upside down chevrons in there used for aiming, and four times magnification was plenty for me to see that the sheriff wannabe had a big zit on his neck. It was like a fucking target, so I solved his acne issue.
I would like to say that I blew his head off, but in reality, he clutched his throat as he was thrown back from the cop car. I moved on and shot the next guy in line. He had a hat on too, but it was some shitty ball cap. The top of that prick’s head did come off in a spray of goo, hat and all.
The other rednecks had no idea I was there, so I moved up a little. Picture me, (in all my awesomeness), standing twenty feet the right of three assholes all of whom are shooting at my buddies. I could have told them to freeze. I could have told them to lower their weapons.
What I did was use my left thumb to flip my selector switch to full auto. Then I fucking mowed them down. Honestly, mowed them down is the proper terminology, because they all did a little dance, and then fell to the ground. Mowed.
Sporadic shots were coming weakly from the swamp, but the .50 made them stop in seconds.
I moved to the guys I had shot. I kicked their rifles out of reach. Two were still alive, and I plugged the third in the noggin. “P...please,” one of them said clutching his middle. Had to have four holes in him and he was gonna die.
I was disgusted, “Please? Fuck you.” I raised my rifle and shot his buddy in the face, then turned the live guy over and pulled his pistol. It was chrome and nice looking. He had nice boots too, but they would be too small for my canoes.
I watched the man take his last breath, and I was stunned at my own thoughts. I had thought about taking this dead guy’s boots. A dead guy that I had made dead. Granted he was trying to make me dead, and I won that coin toss. Regardless, it was right then that I knew nothing would ever be the same. I had held out hope that somebody would rescue us and make all the infected and lawlessness go away, but when that guy’s breath let out, so did my hope.
Pretty rich for a guy recently out of prison.
I sighed and drew my knife. I figured I would conserve ammo now that the end of the world was here and hope had abandoned me. Or me it, whatevs.
I dropped to one knee, and drove my knife into that shithead’s…well, head, and it bounced right the F off. More like slid off so I sliced divot in his forehead. I went for a softer target and put it through his eye.
Shooting had stopped, so I took the sheriff’s hat and stuck it up waving it. Alvarez, Kat, and Ship were there in an instant. “Holy shit, you flanked them?”
I guess I had.
“What about the others from the swamp,” I demanded in a dead voice. Both Ship and Kat looked at me.
Alvarez was looking at the bodies, “Drove em off. We were too much for them.”
I spit, my disgust mounting, “Idiots.”
I walked back to the Deuce. Mr. Thoughtful was leaning against the back of the truck speaking to Babe from the Hummer and two guys from the Chevy.
“We got two,” Thoughtful said, “how many did you bag up front?”
It was like he was talking about deer or trout.
Thoughtful nodded and reached into the Deuce for the magazine he had left there. Don grabbed his arm and bit in deeply, pulling his head back and with it a sizable portion of Thoughtful’s forearm. Thoughtful pulled him out of the truck and Don went on his chest with a crack of ancient bones. The white-haired old timer was still chewing as he tried to stand. One of the Chevy guys kicked his hand out from under him and the thing that was wearing Don fell on its back. It looked at us, and we all shot it.
Other than its head being mostly gone, there were no bullet holes. He must have died of natural causes. He was old.
“Fuck,” Thoughtful said, “I’m a damn zombie.”
The hole in his arm looked exactly like an apple with a big bite out of it. Not much blood, but all white and different looking. Then it started to bleed. Not a lot like you would think, but a slow ooze from the ruptured capillaries that pooled slowly as he held his arm.
The two guys from the Chevy took a step back each, but me and Babe just looked at Thoughtful. We were helpless, and so was he.
He had three army guys with him, buddies, but he looked right at me, “And I was looking forward to fishing too.”