Alone in the World – Part I
“And not one beam of hope breaks through,
To cheer my old and aching eyes,
T’ illume my night of wretchedness
My age of anguish and distress.
If I am damn’d, why find I not
some comfort in this earthly spot?
But no! This world and that to come
Are both to me one scene of gloom!
Lest aught of solace I should see”
The sun had only been up an hour by the time Lee Boyden emerged from the tree line and started pushing his way through the tangle of weeds with care towards the dilapidated house across the overgrown field. It had been days since he had seen one of the undead, but he wasn’t taking chances either, there could be any number of them laying unseen around him.
He moved cautiously through the waist high weeds, watching and listening as pollen puffed up with every step. A familiar fragrance suddenly reached him, his nose twitched in recognition, it was onion. Up ahead he could see a tangle of greenery lay to one side of the old home and a smile spread across his face.
He forced himself to keep slow as he approached what had been a large garden that had gone wild. He could see bean plants, tomatoes, a variety of pepper plants and lettuce. Under the tangle he saw a familiar red shape and dropped to his knees and began plucking the strawberries, shoving one into his mouth he almost moaned with pleasure as the cool sweet taste flowed over his tongue.
After eating a few strawberries he sat back and looked around, wiping the juice from his face, he turned his focus to the house. There was no movement beyond the windows that he could see but he knew that didn’t mean a thing. Last winter he had slipped into a house and found a zombie standing in the living room watching a dead TV set. It only moved when it heard him coming up behind it.
He rose to his feet and started towards the backdoor only to stop dead when he saw someone come around the small building behind the house that he had decided was a storage shed or work shop. The zombie had been an elderly man, dressed in a denim work shirt and Carhart pants. The shirt front was stained with old blood and it moved with a jerky motion that was disturbing.
“Hang on just a second and I will be right with you” Lee muttered as he reached down and pulled the sling from his belt then dug a lug nut out of the pouch on his belt. With practiced ease, he placed the lug in the leather cup and started twirling the sling.
“Gotcha” he said releasing. The lug shot across the open space, flashing in the sunlight and hit the silver haired old man’s skull with a crack. The zombie pitched over into the deep weeds and lay still.
He stood waiting for a few minutes to see if any more zombies appeared, When nothing else appeared he started cautiously for the back door of the house again.
Climbing the cement steps he peered through the window set in the weathered door with its old fashioned crystal door knob.
Inside was an old fashioned looking kitchen with two doors leading out that fortunately were closed. He twisted the knob and found the door to be unlocked.
With a shove the door opened with a squeal that set the hair on the back of his neck standing upright. Well any zombie in the house had to have heard that, he thought as he tucked the sling back in his belt and drew the pistol that had been holstered on his right hip. He didn’t like to use firearms, the noise they made would draw every undead for a mile around.
He stepped into the kitchen listening closely but heard nothing. He moved slowly across the room, past the kitchen table, to a folding door set in the wall. Bingo, the pantry he thought as he pulled it open and found cans and jars stacked neatly inside. Jackpot, he thought excitedly.
He needed to clear the rest of the house before he started rummaging through all the cupboards so he moved to the doors that led out of the kitchen, cracking first one then the other. The door to the left of the back door opened into a laundry room, the other led to a dining room. Since there was no place for a zombie to hide in the laundry room he stepped quietly into the dining room.
An old China sat in a hutch to one side of the restored antique dining table that was surrounded by four chairs; straight across the dining room through the arch he could see a living room with a small couch, a recliner and a console TV. Seriously a console TV he thought, making a mental bet with himself that the zombie he had killed outside had lived here. It looked and smelled like an old person’s house to him. Not to mention he hadn’t seen a console TV since he was a little kid.
Entering the living room, he saw a narrow hallway that ran to the right; he could make out four doors in the dimly lit hallway. All but one stood open.
Cautiously he approached the first door and peered inside. It was a small bathroom with a claw foot tub. Towels still hung neatly on the towel bar. The small rug around the base of the toilet looked like mice had been chewing on it. There was a folding door that might be a linen closet and a medicine cabinet over the sink.
The next room was a bedroom with almost bare walls, a chest of drawers and a nightstand by the twin bed. The closet door stood open and the only things he could see inside were stacked blankets and empty clothes hangers. Lee looked out the window, checking the front yard, which was really a large overgrown field, with a line of trees at its edge where the road was. Probably two or three acres he thought. Satisfied that there were no zombies out there he headed to the next open door and found a large bedroom with a king sized bed.
There was a vanity table with a chair, and judging by the makeup, hair brushes and curling irons, there had been a woman of the house. A picture of a man and woman on their wedding day sat on side of the vanity. It was an old picture showing a handsome couple smiling happily into the camera. He wondered if they had still been happy when the end of the world had rolled around.
There were several other large pieces of furniture inside the room, but he didn’t bother with it, instead he opened the closet door, prepared for a zombie but found nothing but men’s clothes inside. I guess his wife must have passed before the day, lucky her. Lee thought.
He returned to the hallway and stood outside the closed door for what seemed like an hour then finally knocked on the door. He waited a moment then knocked twice more.
Usually if there were undead inside a room or building and you knocked, they would be drawn to the noise and start clawing at the door or bumping against it, giving you warning before entering. Hearing nothing he finally opened the door, ready to shoot anything on the other side just in case.
Sunlight streamed in through the windows in the room, which held a desk, a workbench along one wall and a variety of hand tools used for carving. A half-finished carved bear stood on a pedestal. Several small statues of women, Indians and even a cowboy sat on a shelf over the desk. The man who had lived here had some talent Lee decided, picking up the statue of a young woman in a flowing dress. First woman I’ve seen in a while and she is made of wood and ten inches high.
Satisfied the house was empty, he returned to the master bedroom, and searched through the clothes. The man had been a little bigger than Lee in the waist but that was okay, he didn’t mind. He started to strip down, then thought about how filthy he was.
He decided he needed to clean up and headed to the bathroom. A quick search through the closet inside produced a wash cloth, soap and miracle of miracles a package of wet wipes.
It took him only a few minutes to locate a mug in the kitchen and return to the bathroom where he took the top off the toilet tank and using the mug he transferred the water in the tank to the sink. He tossed his dirty clothes into the tub and started scrubbing off as much of the dirt as he could. Soon the water in the sink was a muddy brown. He pulled the plug and finished up by using the wet wipes.
Feeling human again, he padded naked to the master bedroom, and dressed quickly. A pair of old hiking boots in the closet actually fit him pretty well.
Dressed and feeling pretty good, he strapped on his pistol belt and then decided to check out the small building out back.
The shed as it turned out was a storage shed, more or less. A rack with fishing poles was mounted to one wall. A shelf held tackle boxes and other fishing supplies. Lee eagerly dove into the small amount of camping gear he found. Apparently the man who had lived here had been a bird watcher and had enjoyed a little camping as well as a wood carving.
Lee eagerly went through the backpack he had found grinning like he had just discovered Jennifer Love Hewitt in his bed. He added a hammock tent, a small tackle box and two spools of line to the pack. By its appearances it was an old style pack, not that he knew much about back packs, but it didn’t look like the new packs he had seen in magazines and on TV. It was green nylon, with various size pockets mounted on a metal frame. It was loaded with all sorts of stuff like matches, a small first aid kit and other goodies. Better than anything he had had since the world went crazy and the dead rose.
He added a long machete from a peg on the wall, strapping it to the pack with some Para cord he found. He dug around some more but found very little else he thought might be handy.
He longingly eyed the chain saw, but in the real world he suspected that trying to use a chainsaw as a weapon wouldn’t work out very well. As an afterthought he grabbed the small hatchet off a peg, and then taking the pack, he headed back to the house.
Inside the house he dug around till he found a nearly full bag of gallon freezer bags. With those in hand he went to the overgrown garden and collected bean pods, carrots, lettuce, peppers and every other vegetable he could find, sealed them up and placed them in the pack.
Towards sunset he returned to the shed and gathered up a staple gun, two boxes of staples, a Coleman lantern and fuel. Lee then spent the last hour of the day stapling blankets over the window in the master bedroom. He made sure all the doors were locked then grabbed a handful of books from the book shelf and retired to the master bedroom, where he sat in the closet reading by the light of the lantern and jumping at every creak and pop of the old house.
He woke sometime during the night hearing the rustle of cloth in the room. He lay there in the closet shaking, knowing it was her, would she ever leave him alone. He could have opened the door to look, but he didn’t. That would lead to insanity.
“Leeee” the voice whispered like a soft wind that dwindled away to a breathy moan. He pushed his fingers into his ears and refused to listen. His heart was beating like a trip hammer as he waited for the closet door to silently open, revealing something looming in the darkness. Something that was hungry and evil. He lay there in the darkness, trying to ignore the voice. Insisting that it was all in his head but no matter how hard he tried to convince himself he knew better. At some point, exhausted by fear he fell asLeep without realizing it.
He woke instantly around sunrise, a shadow of the fear from the night before still clung about him like a lodestone, pistol in hand he slipped out of the closet and checked the room again. There was no sign of her, but there never was. She came and went with darkness; she haunted the deep shadows or maybe just his mind. God he hoped he was going insane, he liked that option far better than the idea that she really existed.
He looked out the window relieved to see the yard was still clear of the undead. Sometimes he woke up in what ever hiding place he had discovered and found zombies had wandered up during the night and were just waiting for him to step outside.
Satisfied he was safe for the moment; he entered the kitchen, grabbed a mug and the plastic jar of instant coffee then returned to the bedroom. He fired up the small camp stove and heated up the cup full of water and fixed himself some coffee. This was almost better tasting than the strawberries had been. Slowly the terror of last night faded, as it always did when she found him.
He decided what he need were some wheels. Something that might get him far, far away from her and a vehicle was the one thing he hadn’t seen on the property. Maybe he’ll find one at a neighbor’s house.
With decision made he packed up the few items he had removed the backpack, adding the instant coffee, and then headed for the door. The keys hanging on the peg by the back door held a key for the lock so he pocketed them and locked the back door behind him.
His plan was simple, acquire a vehicle, something like a truck or SUV, return to the house and load up the food in the pantry and anything he thought he could use. After that he’d try and figure out exactly where he was and then head someplace different, hopefully with a map this time.
When he had fled his home last year he had been ill prepared, twice now he had gathered up weapons and supplies only to have fLee again and leave them behind, not this time, this time he planned on keeping what he found. No more starving for Mrs. Boyden’s little boy.
The nearest house was a doublewide in the middle of two acres of field. Behind the doublewide was the burned out shell of a house and a barn sat maybe a hundred feet to the north. An old pick up with a camper shell was parked beside the house as well as two cars.
Vehicles probably meant undead inside, but it was possible that someone could be alive there too. Okay, living people would be keeping an eye out for the undead, so wave and shit as I approach the house. Hopefully if there are people inside, they won’t just start shooting like that farm house he had run across last Thanksgiving. Bastards had chased him until he had dropped what little gear and supplies he carried. That had almost cost him his life over the winter.
He walked quickly across the field to the house, waving his arms but there was no response from the doublewide.
Uneasy now, he walked across the front yard and openly approached the vehicle that was more like a boxy Suburban. It was painted an OD Green, with wide and tall tires, like he had seen on off road vehicles. It had big solid metal bumpers, and a winch mounted on the front. Just looking at the thing made his testosterone levels rise, it was what his long dead friends would have called a real man’s vehicle.
He walked around it noting the International Harvester and 1300A emblem mounted behind the front wheel well and just before the driver’s door. Not being a car nut he had no clue what 1300A meant but he had heard of International Harvesters.
A friend of his had talked about International as a good brand, heavy duty and made for off road. That would be perfect for his needs. He tried the vehicle door and found it was unlocked. But of course there were no keys in the cab and he had no idea how to hot wire a vehicle, assuming of course it could be started.
Glancing back at the doublewide he wondered how many zombies could be inside. One? Three? A dozen? His testicles were already drawing up close as he thought about going inside. Okay, there’s a way to do this. Just open the front door, call inside then ran back a ways and use the sling to take them out as they exit the trailer. Easy peasy
Let’s get to it, he thought, if I can’t get this thing to start I need to move on without wasting too much of the day.
He climbed the wooden steps to the covered front porch and tried the door, which of course was locked. Thinking quickly he returned to the yard, found a large stone and broke out the driver’s window of the nearest car, then reached inside and pulled the trunk release handle. Taking the tire iron from the truck he returned to the porch and pried the door enough that the latch popped out of the receiver. The door flew open; a zombie drawn by the noise was pushing against it. Lee turned and leaped for the ground as a rotting hand almost snagging the collar of his shirt.
He landed off balance and almost fell, recovering he raced about sixty feet away, took out his sling and a lug nut and began to spin the weapon.
On the porch the old lady, fell down the steps out of sight for the moment. A shirtless potbellied man stepped onto the porch, his right side had been chewed down to the ribs and a chunk had been taken out of the double chin. Lee sent the lug nut winging as the man turned towards the steps. The lug nut missed by a hair, shattering the light fixture beside the door.
Lee didn’t curse; he just took out another lug and spun the sling again. This time the lug flew straight and true, putting a dent in the man’s head the size of Lee’s fist. The zombie tumbled down the steps, landing on the old woman pushing her down to the ground once more.
The next zombie out the door was a slender woman, whose face had been stripped of flesh; he almost threw up when he saw the bone shatter as the lug punched through it. A chubby boy of 12 or 13 with a blood smeared face followed the woman. Lee, put that one down as well.
Nothing else emerged from the doorway, so he waited watching the elderly zombie struggle to get out from under the body of the large man on top of her. Finally Lee hooked the sling to his belt then drew the machete and strode to the steps. He stood for a moment watching the old lady, whose head turned towards him, her one free hand reaching out trying to grasp him. Her bloodied mouth snapping open and closed.
He raised the machete then hesitated; he really didn’t want to do this. Long distance was one thing, but this… He braced himself, and as he swung the machete down, he closed his eyes. He felt the bone breaking through the machete as it slammed into the skull of the old lady.
He would never really know what told him to open his eyes and turn, but when he did he found a zombie coming down the steps its hands reaching for him. He jumped in surprise almost screaming and brought machete around like he swinging for a home run, burying it into the neck of neck of the muscular man. Goo oozed out of the gash and coated the blade as he wrenched it free. The zombies head was already moving towards him the mouth yawning open. Lee, took a step back, and then thrust the machete into the things mouth, the teeth scraping on the metal with an odd shrieking noise that made him wince and want to throw up.
Twisting and yanking the blade he threw the zombie off balance. The machete slipped from its mouth as it tumbled to the ground. Lee leaped on it, striking repeatedly, fear and adrenalin giving him strength. Finally he realized it wasn’t moving and managed to get control of himself, then threw up beside the corpse.
Check the pockets, he hated the thought of touching the corpses, but chances were high the keys to the truck would be in the pockets of one of the two men.
He knelt beside the corpse, ignoring the smell of his own vomit and shoved his hand into one pocket then the other, nothing but change, and some paper. He moved to the heavyset man and repeated the process but again found nothing.
With the machete in hand he climbed the steps crossed the hand built porch and looked inside. The living room walls were smeared with old dried blood, furniture had been overturned and broken, and a shotgun lay on the floor in the middle of the trailer almost into the small dining room.
The kitchen looked like a fight had occurred in it as well, Ceramic decorations lay scattered and broken across the floor a drawer had been dumped out the old silverware scattered across the floor.
Spotting keys hanging from hooks next to the back door, he eagerly took them. He noticed the logos on the keys matched the cars out front but nothing that looked like it belonged to the IH. He pocketed them anyway, just in case.
The pantry was almost empty, with only a few cans of peas and some soups which contained broccoli, he hated broccoli, but he hated starving even more. He added those to his pack then searched the rest of the house. In the back bedroom there was a corpse, its head had been splattered across the wall. It had lain here for a long while he thought seeing the advanced state of decay.
With a grimace of distaste he checked the pockets, and almost shouted with happiness as he found a key ring. Pulling out the key ring, he checked them over but found only a Ford and Dodge vehicle keys. He kept those as well, who knew maybe they fit a car or truck at the next house.
In the closet he found a large dark green plastic box with a carry handle on top and a hinged lid. Popping the catch, he found three boxes of 12ga. shells, a cleaning kit and a box of extra patches. He wasn’t the world’s best shot with firearms, and had never even fired a shotgun before but it would be nice to have just in case.
Closing the case he picked it up and noticed a black cloth zipper case on the top shelf that he had previously overlooked, pulling it down he noted it was heavy. Placing it on the bed, he opened it finding a pistol, and four loaded magazines. He shoved the pistol into his belt, and pocketed the magazines. Finished, he headed to the living room where he retrieved the shotgun.
Now all I need is some leather, waxed thread, needles, punches and a few other tools and I will be set. He thought as he headed out the door.
It only took four tries to find the right key, then he gathered up some containers, climbed under the cars and using his knife punched holes in the plastic gas tanks, then shoved containers under the tank to catch the gas that poured out.
Thank you for making gas tanks out of plastic, the thought was fleeting. Over the last few months every vehicle he had come across had been deader than a doornail, definitely deader than the majority of the people who still walked the streets and roads. This is why he was going to do all that he could to help the ignition process before he even turned the key.
Using some of the recovered fuel he primed the carb, and then using a piece of waxed cardboard as a funnel he poured all but one half gallon container into the trucks fuel tank. With that done he removed the batteries and jumper cables from the cars, and hooked those batteries up in parallel to the truck. Hopefully if there was any juice in those batteries it would help the truck start. He had no idea if it would help or not but it was worth the effort just in case.
This is what you get for doing all those mountain man and civil war reenactments, you don’t know crap about modern vehicles or most anything else that might help right now. He wasn’t being fair with himself either, the skills he had learned as a mountain man reenactor had helped him survive the winter and the undead. But only barely, which of course beat the alternative. Nonetheless he would like to know more about motors and mechanical work.
At least he had seen signs of game recently, which was good news, animal life had weirdly vanished after the dead started rising. He suspected they sensed it coming and went into hiding.
He looked around once more making sure no zombies were heading across the fields towards him, and then climbed in, the hand holding the keys shaking slightly. Please let this one start God, he prayed silently. This would be the twenty second vehicle he had tried in the last two months; if this one didn’t start he wasn’t sure he could take another month of searching. God knew when he would find another place this empty of zombies. Which had been the biggest problem in locating vehicles he had to hunt for places like this out of the way with few undead so he could safely try. Stop delaying and turn the key, before he could talk himself out of it, he twisted the key.
The motor turned over sounding like it wanted to start, “yes!” he said aloud, his voice hoarse and far from clear after months of not speaking. From the sound, there wasn’t a lot of battery juice, so he might not have more than one or two more cranks. He got out and added a bit more fuel, then turned the butterfly valve by hand having seen it in a movie.
He got back in and twisted the key again, and this time the motor coughed, belching smoke out the tail pipe, and started running roughly. He beat on the steering wheel out of pure joy. Then caution took over and he looked around again. He thought he saw something across the field near the tree line down by the road. Don’t die on me; please don’t die on me he prayed silently.
After a couple of minutes the motor smoothed out, and by now he could make out four zombies across the field staggering towards the house. He got out and unhooked the car batteries, closed the hood, then tossed the pack into the passenger side along with the shotgun and the other things he had picked up inside the trailer. With that done, he climbed in, put the vehicle into gear and drove down the overgrown gravel driveway and the road behind the tree line.
He parked the truck right by the back door of the house he had spent last night in. leaping out, he left the truck running while he cleared out all the food in the pantry. Loading it into the back of the truck as quickly as he could while keeping an eye out of for the undead. With the food loaded he added two fishing poles from the shed and a shoulder bag the old man had used to carry stuff while bird watching.
Almost as an afterthought he grabbed the carving tools from the house and the statue of the cowboy to go along with the statue of the woman he had taken earlier. He almost wished he could stay here it was a nice place.
But the undead could hear the motor and were on the way and more importantly she had found him last night and there was no way that he was going to spend another night here. She would find him again, she always did but he wasn’t going to make it easy for her either.
He ran through his mental list to make sure he hadn’t left anything, satisfied he hadn’t he climbed into the truck and minutes after that he was on the road.
It was heavily wooded to either side of the curvy road and occasionally the road would hug the side of cliff or steep hillside. Down below he could see creeks glittering through the trees on the bottoms. It would have been a nice drive back before the dead, now it was just nerve wracking as he worried about encountering rock slides or wrecks that might block his path and stop his escape.
Towards sunset he reached a four way intersection, and came to a stop. There were a few buildings around the intersection, all old and long abandoned. In front of the old Shell station a Honda Accord was parked, its doors closed, and there appeared to be no one inside. He pulled up close to the car then parked again.
He pumped a round into the chamber of the shotgun, then climbed out of the truck and walked cautiously to the car. There was plenty of leaves under the car but none on the car, which told him that it hadn’t been here before last fall. Way to narrow it down Tonto, maybe if I put my ear to the road I can hear a car in Kentucky, he told himself as he looked at the old store, debating on whether to check it out or not. No point in it he decided, not wanting to admit that it was thought of the darkness and shadows inside where she might lurk that kept him out, not that the store might have been stripped bare long before now.
He looked into the car and saw nothing worth taking, figures, he thought regretting the fuel he was wasting just letting the truck idle. He returned to the truck and pulled out hitting the road again. It felt good to be driving once more.
The tires hummed on the now rough asphalt, taking him further and further away from the intersection, and as the last of the light fled the world, the store vanished from sight.
The moon rode higher into the sky, under a ribbon of the Milky Way and a million stars glittered down. Lee was beginning to tire and knew he needed to find a place to sLeep for the night. He had driven long enough to charge the battery, if the battery would hold a charge; he thought and was willing to risk not being able to start the engine later. He just needed to find a spot and stop.
He had passed out of the woods, and to either side of the road fields sloped up the sides of steep hills, occasionally he could see farm houses high up over the road. Spotting a barn in a pasture maybe two hundred yards from a house, he slowed searching for a driveway.
Spotting it he took the turn and rolled up the drive that was deeply rutted from rain runoff, before he reached the house he turned off the drive and headed across the pasture, worrying constantly that the truck would get stuck.
Five nerve wracking minutes later he stopped in front of the old barn. He sat there for a moment, then gathered his courage and climbed out, shotgun in hand.
He opened the doors, letting the light from the headlights spill inside, and then looked inside cautiously. No place to for a zombie to hide in there he decided, returning to the truck he pulled inside and parked. He closed the barn doors. Sliding the latch down and slipping the pin into the hasp to hold it in place.
He quickly shut the truck down then used his flashlight to make sure that no zombies lurked behind the boxes and crates. He didn’t believe they could hide in here. But he wasn’t going to risk being wrong either. Finally satisfied he was alone he returned to the truck, spread his sleeping bag out in the back seat and drifted off to sleep.
He woke just after sunrise, fully rested, thankful not to have had his nocturnal visitor during the night. He climbed out of the truck and did his business in a corner, and then sat down and fixed himself a can of chicken noodle soup for breakfast. With breakfast out of the way, he went and peeked outside through various cracks checking for undead. He saw three, two of them between the barn and the house, just shuffling across the pasture. Occasionally one would trip over something hidden in the deep weeds then climb slowly back to its feet and keep moving towards the road.
Satisfied that so far he was safe he began to look around the barn for anything of use stacking what he found next to the truck.
he collected several hundred large nuts, and about thirty old lug nuts for his sling, a six foot long pole, old rope that might come in handy, a coffee grinder that he might be able to use for something else, and a hand pump that could come in handy for either water or fuel, of course once he used it for fuel he wasn’t going to use it for water again.
Two old Jerry cans were hidden under a tarp, along with a mess kit, a very old military shovel, a canvas rucksack and rusting cans of military rations that had to be from World War II or the Korean War.
Finally he finished, being honest with himself he admitted he just gave up, there was so much stored in the old barn it would take a couple of days, and most of it was only worth melting down for its metal.
He checked outside again and saw there was only one zombie over by the house. He really wanted to get over there and drain the gas out of the car sitting under the carport, and look in the house, farm folk normally did a lot of canning, and there was a chance that there was food inside that he could take.
Slinging on his pack, he took the shotgun, shoving a handful of extra shells into his pocket. He unlatched the door then taking an old tire rim he carried it outside where he shut the door then leaned the rim against the door. There was no way someone could enter the barn without moving the rim out of the way.
He waded through the deep weeds worried about getting snake bit, as he constantly looked around. Halfway to the house, the zombie spotted him and began its slow jog towards him.
He waited till the shambling bag of pu was about eighty feet away then put it down with his sling, enjoying the low whistling sound the lug made as it zipped across the open space and smashed into the things head.
He made his way carefully to the slope the house was built on, the front door was built facing the hillside, the back door and deck faced out away from the slope. He walked carefully around the house looking in windows and under the deck.
It was under the Deck he spotted a cement wall with a dirty window and realized that the house had a basement built into the side of the hill. Either a storage room, man cave, pantry or root cellar down there, he thought. Possibly all of the above.
The front door was closed but unlocked. He knocked on the door then turned to looik around the yard to make sure no undead had somehow appeared behind him, and were sneaking up on him.
Turning back to the door, he peered through the narrow glass window set to the right of the door and recoiled instantly as he found himself staring into the cloudy eyes of one of the undead. Teeth snapped against the glass and a hand missing three fingers slapped against the window.
He felt stupid as his body started shaking, it took a moment to get himself under control. Slinging the shot gun across his back, he drew the machete and knocked on the narrow window on the left hand side of the door. As soon as the zombie appeared in the window, he pushed the door open and against the zombie trapping it between the window and the door.
The door kept moving as the zombie tried to turn around but Lee leaned against it, checking out the small hall to make sure it was clear then raised his machete and brought it smashing down through the gap and into the head of the female zombie. Once, then twice, hair and chunks of scalp flying, a third time, and he got the angle just right and the machete broke through bone and the body went still.
He stepped back, sickened and let the door swing closed as the body slid to the floor. He checked to make sure there was nothing behind him then grabbed the body by the ankles and dragged her away from the door so he could open it wide enough to get her outside. It was stupid of him, but he just didn’t like the idea of her body laying there while he searched the rest of the place.
With a silent apology to the dead woman he dragged the body outside, her dress riding up till it was stopped by her arms, exposing dead white flesh.
He felt sickened at the sight; it wasn’t bad enough she had died and come back as one of those things, but to be humiliated like this, her body treated as just so much rotted meat. He placed the body in an overgrown flower bed and took a moment to pull her dress back down, then without thinking; he reached up and closed her eyes.
I would bury you, but it would take too much time outside and it would draw other undead. I’m sorry he said silently knowing that he could spend the rest of his life killing and burying the undead to give them some dignity in death and he wouldn’t even touch a tenth of the numbers in the world.
He entered the house again shutting the door behind him. He paused taking a deep breath then crept into the living room. The house as silent as a tomb around him.
The living room was neat and clean or had been last year. Now there was dust on everything and the stink of the undead in the air. There was a bloody hand print with only two fingers on the wall beside the entrance to the kitchen, a trail of dried blood went across the living room and down a wide hallway.
He started down the hall then stopped as he heard water dripping somewhere in the house. It could be drinkable; he might be able to fill up a container to take with him.
He didn’t let the excitement get him to hurry, hurrying could get him killed. The blood trail led to a bathroom where he found a towel crusted with blood and a large blood stain on the bathroom counter. A first aid kit was spilled on the floor beside a dead cell phone.
He turned and checked the door across the hall and found a staircase heading down into darkness. He shivered at the thought of going down there. Closing the door he left the basement for when he was finished up here.
On the wall in the hallway were pictures of the woman and a man, he assumed was the dead woman’s husband. Let’s hope he isn’t home Lee thought as he checked the rest of the rooms. One was set up as a study with a desk and bookshelves, nestled between two shelves was a rifle rack. Lee eyed the firearms for a moment, then opened the small cabinet at the base of the rack and found boxes of ammunition, two of the boxes held 12 Ga. shells, the others were 30-30 and 30 06, he scooped the ammunition into the bag he had picked up the at the old guys house yesterday. Then carried two of the rifles to the front door and leaned them against the wall.
He checked the kitchen next and found a few cans of soup, dried soup mixes, bags of dried beans, dried mushrooms and onions and a wide selection of spices. The five cans of stew and three cans of roast beef went into his bag as well. I need boxes he decided, looking back towards the hallway where the basement door was located.
He looked out the windows, checking the fields around the house and saw no undead, okay basement time he told himself as he headed for the door.
Halfway down the basement steps disappeared into inky darkness, the sound of dripping was louder now. Lee pulled out the kerosene lantern and with shaking hands he got it lit. Holding it up with his left hand he drew his pistol and started down the stairs.
The darkness lapped against the pool of light thrown out by the lantern. At the bottom of the stairs was a small laundry room, which was empty. A door at the end of the room let out into the rest of the basement. He hesitated staring at the door, then pushed aside the building fear in the pit of his stomach and opened the door. Beyond he could see shelves full of stuff and a maze of boxes stacked all over.
Clear the room then grab boxes he told himself, though every fiber of his being screamed for him to grab a couple of boxes right then and run back up into the day light. He moved deeper into the basement past old bicycles, play pens, washtubs, an old wardrobe, and the incredible number of boxes. Some new, most darkened with age. All of them had a thin patina of mold from the moisture in the air.
Somewhere he heard the soft scuff of leather on cement then froze listening intently. He stood there head cocked to one side hoping that noise had been his imagination and trying to pin down where it might have come from.
The only thing he could hear now was the steady, slow drip of water somewhere in the darkness. He lifted the lantern higher but it did nothing to push the darkness any further back from him.
“Leeeeeee” Softer than a whisper, thready and almost indistinct. His skin prickled and his blood seemed to turn to ice and congeal in his veins.
No, oh god no, his mind reeled; he wanted to turn and run. But fear held his feet frozen in place.
The rustle of cloth came from somewhere ahead, his skin prickled even tighter, painfully and as the hair on his arms and the back of his neck stiffened. His heart skipped a beat, and sweat broke out on his forehead.
Suddenly he could move again, the fear burning in his chest wouldn’t allow him to stand there and die. No to be honest the fear didn’t want him to face her, not down here surrounded by the dark. He stepped back looking over his shoulder but saw nothing behind him. Something made him look back where the sound of cloth had come from and his blood was no longer cold, but frozen as he saw a shape darker than the darkness, moving slowing towards him.
“Leeeeeeee” the voice was cold as the grave and accusatory.
He stepped backwards and bumped into a pile of boxes that fell around him their contents cascading down around him with a crash.
“Go away” he managed to say unable to drag his eyes away from the hellish vision, his voice rusty and barely loud enough to be heard. He backed into something else, lost his balance, and fell on his butt. He managed to keep the lantern from hitting the floor but dropped the pistol. He scrambled to his feet, his eyes casting about desperately for the firearm. The figure was closer now, its face slowly appearing in the darkness. White as death with black pits for eyes, its cheeks sunken and hollow.
Suddenly he spotted the pistol and scooped it up, then turned and ran for the stairs the stink of fear rolling off him. Behind him something fell to the ground with a clatter. He didn’t look back and he didn’t care. He only wanted to get out of the darkness, get away from her and into the clean light above where she couldn’t go.
The smell of death washed over him then something grasped his shoulder. Lee screamed in panic whirling and struck out with the pistol, using it like a hammer and dropped the lantern. He was distantly aware of the sound of glass shattering. His pistol ripped a gouge across the cheek of the zombie that had grasped him. He pushed away from it tearing his shirt as it fell to the floor. Behind the zombie the same spectral figure came on, a cruel smile on its lips, its hair seeming to float around its head.
He didn’t think he just jammed the pistol forward and pulled the trigger twice, striking the zombie in the chest and neck he turned and ran. Only then noticing the flames that snaked along the lantern fuel that had spilled from the dropped lantern. Flames were already licking up the sides of stacked boxes and a smoke was rising up and pooling across the ceiling.
The zombie was climbing back to its feet the spilled kerosene on its pants legs igniting. It didn’t notice the fire, it didn’t feel any pain. Its cloudy lifeless eyes were fixed on Lee as it came on through the fire.
Lee burst into the laundry room, the light from the fire showing him where the stairs where. He pounded up the stairs gasping in terror hearing his name called out once more.
To hell with what’s left in this house, he thought as he raced down the hall, pausing only long enough to snatch up the two rifles and ran outside.
He ran across the field not even caring if there were any undead about, he was breathing raggedly when he reached the barn and shaking all over. He rolled the rim away and threw the door wide so that sunlight could spill inside. Reaching the IH he tossed the rifles into the back, and then threw his bag into the cab. Sliding in behind the wheel, he gave a short prayer and turned the key and the engine roared to life. Yes, thank you God.
He threw the truck into reverse and backed out of the barn, hitting something. As he turned then put the truck into first gear, he realized that he had hit a zombie. At least ten more of the undead were up slope, having emerged from the trees, and were staggering down towards the barn.
He let off the brake and drove across the field the truck bouncing as he went too fast over ruts and wash outs. He didn’t want to look but he found his gaze drawn to the house, where smoke was beginning to escape. As he turned onto the drive he thought he saw a figure standing at a window, it might only be a shadow or a trick of the light, but he knew it was her watching him drive away.
He reached the road and his breathing began to slow, the shakes beginning to subside. This was the first time she had come to him during the day. What would it take to escape her, what could he do to stop it? I’m not killing myself, I’m not he vowed.
Canada, that’s where I’ll go, then on to Alaska, that should be far enough Lee decided.
The road wound around hills, down into the bottoms then back up and along ridge lines, Occasionally he would see isolated homes, set far off the road. One farm sat in the middle of a several acres of cleared ground, field rock had been piled up creating a fence line. A sign at the drive way read, “Rock Farm”.
Around a bend, he found himself driving over a narrow bridge over a swift moving creek, the bridge looked like it had been made from railroad ties but was sturdy enough as he passed over it.
On the other side, beyond a line of trees, he spotted a farm that sat on a wooded rise, a barn sat on another rise about two hundred yards away, he slowed looking at the tank that that sat on a platform beside the barn, and what looked like a gas pump beside it. It was hard to tell at this distance but there was a truck parked near the tank.
Might as well give it a shot he decided as he turned off the road and onto the dirt driveway, passing between two large oaks that flanked the entrance. The drive sloped down then leveled off for about forty feet before it began to climb up the rise. As he drew near the house he saw that the drive formed a circle in front of the house, and another drive way branched off towards the barn.
No more houses today, I’ve already burnt one down. If he was honest with himself, he’d admit that he was terrified she would be waiting inside, in a dark basement or closet. He pulled up to the tank and saw that he had been correct, it was a gas pump.
Wearily he climbed out scanning the area for undead. Not a single stink bag in sight. Just to be cautious he walked around the barn, rolling a barrel in front of the door as he went by. Satisfied that there were no undead within a few hundred yards of the barn he went and examined the tank. Climbing a ladder mounted on the frame he found where the tank was filled up by the fuel company but it was pad locked shut.
Dejected he climbed down and went and leaned against the side of the truck wondering if he had enough fuel to get somewhere safer, if anywhere was safe from her and the undead.
He glanced towards the farm house and froze for a second as he saw a figure coming down the hill. He readied his sling, watching as it drew closer. Something was odd about this one. He couldn’t place it but as it came up the hill he could see it was or had been woman. She wore jeans and a t-shirt and held a pistol. His thoughts stumbled to a halt, his eyes darting from the pistol to the face. She moved to normally that was it, she wasn’t a zombie, she was alive. Oh god another human being, tears came unbidden to his eyes. The sling stopped spinning and dangled from his hand.
He didn’t even mind as she lifted the pistol and pointed it at him, “You got a name?” she asked.
He nodded dumbly, then opened his mouth, what came out was guttural and not understandable in the least.
He tried again, “Lee” he managed somewhat intelligibly.
“Lee” she repeated, making sure she got it right. “You have a speech impediment or something?”
He tried to tell her he hadn’t spoken more than a couple of words in months, but only two or three words were understandable.
She seemed to get the idea though. “You haven’t spoken in a long while, god you poor bastard.” She said then frowned. ”Don’t expect my feeling sorry for you about being alone is going to stop me from shooting your ass if you make one false move.” She said her eyes flitting to the sling. “You actually use that instead of a gun?” she asked almost laughing.
He nodded slowly “silent” he said slowly then turned to the side pointing to a metal bucket down near the end of the barn. He started to spin the sling bringing it up to speed, then released, the lug whistled as it shot through the air and struck the bucket, leaving a large, deep dent and sending it flying.
“Impressive, if you have buckets trying to kill you” she said dryly.
“Cracks skulls” he said as he hung the sling from his belt. Each time he spoke it seemed a little easier and clearer but he suspected he was going to have a sore throat by the end of the day.
“That’s a nice truck, a 66 1300A or that’s what it looks like to me” she said. “Is it yours?”
“Is now” he replied.
“Oh, I guess you’re out of gas” she said, lowering the pistol slightly. He only nodded not even trying to speak. “Well the powers off, so the pump doesn’t work, but I guess you figured that part out on your own” she said laughing.
“Have hand pump and hoses” he said, motioning to the back of the truck.
She stood there for a moment partly watching Lee, but her mind was elsewhere. Finally she spoke again. “I’m Kelly, this is my place, well my families place, but since I’m the only one left I guess it’s mine now” she said, her voice becoming softer.
“Sorry” he said, thinking of his own loss.
“Well aint nothing but a thing, anyone still alive has lost family and friends” she said. Lee nodded in agreement, his excitement at seeing another living soul not dampened by the pistol she kept pointed at him. He supposed he might still be excited even if she shot him.
“Need gas, have to travel north” he said, wanting to explain why he wanted to head north, but even if he could speak that much he would have kept it to himself, just so she wouldn’t think he was insane.
“Nothing north that isn’t east, west and south. The walking dead, dead towns and cities and maybe a few other people.” she said.
It hit him then, she didn’t seem to be surprised at seeing another person, “Other people, visited?” he asked.
Something dark crossed her face for a moment. “Came to loot more like it, just drove up and rushed into the house or up here to the barn and started hauling stuff out.” she said coolly.
Lee felt a twinge of apprehension at that. “Why didn’t you search the barn?” she asked, he had a feeling that if he answered wrong she would shoot him. His excitement finally died as he realized he might be in serious danger.
“Needed gas, have plenty of stuff” he said, “Always wave and knock before I search, case living inside, not thief.” He said.
“You didn’t wave or knock before you checked the tank” she observed. Her mood had swung back to dangerous. He knew.
“I would have checked before I started, I’m not a thief” he said, every word painful but he got out a full sentence and audible too.
She seemed to consider that for a moment and he wondered what she was thinking. “Could have killed you before you even got up here, if I had meant steal your stuff” he said, certain now he wouldn’t be able to speak tomorrow. His voice sounded ragged and speaking was painful.
“True” she admitted, having spotted the rifle propped up in the front seat.
“Got anything to trade?” she asked suddenly.
“Not much” he said, looking around out of habit.
“Who are you looking for, friends?” she asked her suspicions coming back instantly.
“Zombie” he said growing tired of this. “Never mind I’ll leave, got to be a gas station down the road.”
“wait, sorry, I… it’s just been a long time since someone actually talked to me, instead of shot at me or tried to rape me” she said then stared at him “you’re not gay are you?” she asked.
What? Why in the hell would she ask that, the woman is nuts he thought as he shook his head in denial.
“Good, that would suck if you were” she said but didn’t elaborate any further.” Nearest gas station is in town, about twelve miles up the road and its empty. Ran out long before things got really bad around here. Before all the killing and the dead, or all the dead and the killing” she said giggling.
“Gas please?” he said exasperated.
“I’ll get the key to the tank, it’s in the barn, but you have to fill my truck first.” She said lowering her pistol and heading around to the front of the barn.
He debated on just starting his truck and hauling ass, but she could still shoot him as he drove off, and he really hoped to avoid being shot. He waited but never heard the barrel being moved or the door being opened.
She returned after a few minutes holding a key fob with a key, smiling. “Glad to see you waited” she said as she passed him the key, he only nodded in thanks then climbed up the ladder and unlocked the cap. As soon as the cap was off the strong smell of fuel rose into the air.
Climbing back down, he returned her key, and then got out the hand pump and the hoses from the back of his truck. It took him only minutes to set it up, as he fitted the hose into the spout of her truck; he noticed the gear in the back. He didn’t say anything; in fact he thought if he did, she would shoot him down. She leaned against his truck watching a slight smile on her face.
His mind raced trying to figure out how to diffuse what was coming but he couldn’t think of a thing, as the gas chugged merrily through the lines and into the tank of her truck. She was a nut, and he suspected she didn’t live here, but had killed who ever had, and then killed every one that came by.
She spoke suddenly. “When did you know?” she asked conversationally. Well times up he thought as she stepped away from the truck.
“The key” he replied, which was true, she had never gone into the barn, she had brought the key with her hoping he had a way to transfer the fuel from the tank to a vehicle “You never went in the barn.”
The pistol was pointed at him again. “It’s always the little things” she said. “I hate having to do this, but I wasn’t lying about being tired of being raped, or being shot at. I can’t trust anyone you see”
“So you just shoot everyone you meet?” he asked, watching her over his shoulder, his right side hidden from her view.
“Not everyone” she said breezily, smiling. God she was a bat short of a belfry. He decided.
“Sorry Lee, I just can’t trust you” she said, pulling the trigger.
He was diving out of the way even as she spoke, he hit the ground rolling as something burned his forehead, dirt flew around him. He stuck his pistol out and fired back, pain shot up through his arm. Something slammed against his head, the pain was incredible. Kelly was screaming at him, but he couldn’t hear it over the ringing in his ears. He fired, and then fired again, the pistol bucking in his hand. He kept firing until the slide locked back. Kelly stood there staring at him, and then collapsed to her knees. She looked so lost and scared he thought as she fell over, her shirt soaked in blood.
Lee climbed to his feet, fighting the pain and dizziness, he managed to eject the magazine and insert a new one. Even in this state he wasn’t going to be caught with an empty weapon.
He turned off the valve on the pump so that no more fuel would spill out then turned towards Kelly who lay on her side, her breathing shallow and rapid, blood pooling around her. Her eyes turned to him as he approached. “I knew I couldn’t trust you” She said her voice barely a whisper.
He didn’t answer it took a lot of concentration to stay on his feet, he just pointed his pistol at her, hating himself, all he had wanted was some fuel, not this, never this.
“Do it, please, I don’t want to end up like the others” she pleaded her eyes losing focus as she talked.
He could see another face over hers, a face that he had loved. A face that he had put a bullet through. He felt sick, his arm drooped, he knew he should, but he couldn’t do it.
Her breathing slowed, her lips moved and he knew what she said even though no sound came out. Do it you bastard he told himself, she might be insane but no one deserves this. He leveled the pistol again, his hands shaking. Then found the strength and pulled the trigger knowing he couldn’t miss at this range.
The world seemed to spin for a moment, then settled down again, as he made his way to his truck and pulled out the first aid kit, using the side view mirror he checked his head, and saw a bloody furrow on the right side of his head, his left arm didn’t work right either. He set to cleaning and binding the wounds as best he could, finding two more grazes along his side and the inside of his thigh just below his testicles. He had been shot in the arm, but it was a clean through and through and was now starting to hurt like hell.
Down by the road he saw figures along the fence line, and knew that soon enough they would stumble across a break in the fence or the gate, and would be coming.
He worked as quickly as he could after that, filling up the truck, and both jerry cans, then a quick search of Kelly’s truck gave him another five gallon can, that he filled up as well. As soon as the fuel situation was resolved he shut down the pump and packed it and the hoses away, the pain was almost unbearable as he climbed up and closed then locked the cap on the tank. Coming down was a bit easier and less painful but not by much.
By then he could see about twenty figures down by the gate staggering across the fields towards the barn. He pocketed the key to the tank, thinking he might come back if he could find more gas cans and fill them up as well.
He checked to make sure he had time then dug through the gear in the back of Kelly’s truck and transferred what he thought he might need to his own, which gave him several boxes of canned and dehydrated foods, another kerosene lantern, two oil lanterns, two cans of kerosene, and a case of lamp oil, a large bottle of propane, and various other items that would come in handy. Finished he climbed into the truck, and sat there for a moment gazing at her corpse. “I’m sorry I really am” he whispered then started the truck and drove towards the gate.
The sun was sinking into the west in a haze of red and orange as he passed a sign that leaned cockeyed. “Welcome to Cypress Hill Population 425.” He had no idea what awaited him in town, but he knew what was behind him and he was more scared of it than what might be waiting up ahead.