Chapter 33

“Thou whose spell can raise the dead,
Bid the prophet’s form appear.
“Samuel, raise thy buried head!
“King, behold the phantom seer!”
Earth yawn’d; he stood the centre of a cloud:
Light changed its hue, retiring from his shroud.
Death stood all glassy in the fixed eye:
His hand was withered, and his veins were dry;
His foot, in bony whiteness, glitterd there,
Shrunken and sinewless, and ghastly bare;
From lips that moved not and unbreathing frame,
Like cavern’d winds the hollow acccents came.
Saul saw, and fell to earth, as falls the oak,
At once, and blasted by the thunder-stroke. “
~Lord Byron

Sullivan Island Safe Zone.

Sharon slid out of bed careful not to wake Bridget. she walked quietly over to the cribs and checked on the babies, who were still sleeping soundly. She stood there for a while just watching them sleep, praying they could grow up safe.

Steve and Mark would both have made excellent fathers she thought fondly, missing both of the men she had loved. Wiping a tear from her cheek, she dressed quietly then headed downstairs.

She and Bridget had chosen the old three-story house, for the simple fact it had been built before electricity had been common. it was better built and better insulated than the new homes around the island that were almost impossible to keep warm or cool, with all the windows and crappy insulation. Steve had loved the old place when he saw it, joking he would have to find a pipe, smoking jacket, and a hound to bask at his feet.

They had thought they would need the room, for the children. And the work Steve had planned on doing once He and Jared had gotten back from their outing. Her smile faded slightly, Steve had at least come back, and died of his wounds in the house they had chosen. She wanted to hold a grudge against Jared, but she knew that was just a need to blame some one for what had happened.

The truth was, the man or woman who had shot Steve was living on borrowed time, Jared would hunt them down and kill them, it was the only justice left to them in what the world had become.

She heard voices in the kitchen and smiled a bit brighter, she and Bridget had decided to open the house, to many of the single women who had survived and made it to the island. Giving them a place to live and safety in numbers. In a month or two many of them would be moving into other quarters but for now they had a place that wasn’t the old fortress that about half the residents of the island lived in of the Reception building.

“….I don’t know what to think” Susan Wilmont was saying as Sharon entered the room. Susan, a dark haired woman with a wide expressive eyes set in an oval face. She had been one of the first that Sharon and Bridget had taken in, she had barely survived a year in Fort Moultrie, the only thing she was thankful for about that ordeal was she was no longer the pudgy, woman that men liked to be friends with and nothing else.

“how can you deny that there’s a spirit world, now, I mean before no one really knew, ghosts and all that may have been real. but now… not only are the dead getting up and killing, but ghosts of our loved ones come back to us in dreams” Luzanne Pelt said, smiling at Sharon who walked across the kitchen and fixed her self of cup of pseudo coffee, one tenth coffee bean, nine tenths Chickory.

“I think if we could find a way to contact them outside of dreams, we could learn how to defeat the undead” Kelly Sterns, the newest and youngest woman in the house, said rubbing the pentagram she wore around her neck with the thumb and forefinger of her right hand.

Sharon didn’t say anything just listened to the talk, as she sipped on her coffee. She had wondered what others thought about the supernatural aspects of the zombie plague, to be honest she kept hoping some one would have a semi rational explanation, but so far that hadn’t happened.

“I think doing anything like that would be crazy, you don’t know what you might call up” Jeanne Norman commented. “I never believed in that stuff before but now. Now, I have to wonder, what if that bowler hat thing is a spirit, do you really want to call that up in here, and if it is, where did it come from and what else might be out there that would just love to show up and kill a few of us, all of us even.”

“Spirits cant hurt us” Kelly said smiling like she was talking to idiots.

“sure they cant, I remember watching one of those ghost hunting shows, and they were always saying that, then talked about how this ghost or what ever was throwing things around. well if a ghost can throw a book it can damn well throw a knife or Knives at you too. Or push you down stairs. Id rather not test the idea they cant hurt you.”

“ I’m a professional psychic and medium I know what I’m doing” Kelly told them all beaming proudly.

Sharon chuckled drawing all eyes to her. “sorry, just struck me as funny.”
She said then shrugged. “I think if you had been psychic and talked to the dead before all this, you might have seen it coming, the churches damn sure didn’t, the psychic hotlines didn’t or jean Dixon. What ever might be true now, I don’t think it was true before the dead rose.”

Kelly bristled at that, but the smile only dimmed a few watts. “I know how to cast the spells of protection, and the charms of binding.” She explained, Sharon only chuckled again.

“I only have a few firearms, I know they work, is this what weve come to, spells, and ouji boards, divinations and portents.” Sharon asked the room at large. “ maybe we can start reading tea leaves or goats entrails to find out the future.”

She started to laugh again, then stopped, Steve and mark both had come back to talk and say goodbye, they had warned of attacks, and dangers. What ever Bowler hat was, he wasn’t human, and what ever set the undead back on their feet, wasn’t a virus either.

She didn’t know what it might be, or what to call it, but maybe magic, Portents and Divinations were the correct terms

And to be honest she didn’t want to be anywhere near where some one tried to find out if magic really worked, or the devil was really walking the world. There was no reason to take the risk, if there was any risk to be had. And honestly she didn’t want to know.

Kelly was silent for a moment, she was looking at Sharon like she knew exactly what the older woman was thinking.

“I think a séance would be much more effective than a ouji board.” Kelly finally said.

“not in our house” Sharon said, determined not to allow it any near the kids, or herself just in case something actually did happen. As stupid as she felt for thinking that way. .

“Sharon, I know you don’t understand but…” Kelly began.

“No!” Sharon said once more, and there was no mistaking she wasn’t going to give on the topic. “we all know the dead have sometimes come back in our dreams, don’t you think if there was another way to make a call to them any time we wanted they would have told us. No, I think its best left alone” Sharon said then downed her coffee. “ I need to get to the new reception center, we have a lot to do before this one is opened up” she said turning to the sink she rinsed her cup out in a bowl of water than placed it on the window sill to dry.

“you folks have a good day” she said heading up stairs to grab her gear and kiss the babies goodbye and wake Bridget who was due at the new center in a couple of hours..

**************************

The plane banked then leveled off, before beginning to descend for a landing, it had been a long day already, Jared thought, rescuing Mary, retrieving the dog from the Boat, and then flying here to Holden Beach where Their Vehicles were supposed to be waiting.

As the plane landed and taxied towards the pier, Jared could see no vehicles waiting, which wasn’t a good sign. There was a gray washed out feel to the everything he could see.

“They should have been here before we landed” Ori said as Ronny guided the UV up to pier and brought the plane to a stop. “ Eric contacted them before we took off at least that was the plan”

“Should have, but they aren’t here so nothing we can about it, but make do” Jared replied, as he moved to the door and slid it open. The warm sea breeze flowed into the stifling cabin. “looks clear” Jared said as he grabbed his pack and leaped out onto the pier.

Nibbler joined him, a second later, not wanting to let him out of her sight, the dog lifted her muzzle and sniffed delicately then looked south and growled for a second.

“you smell them don’t you” Jared asked squatting beside the dog and rubbing it on the head. as the rest of his people joined him on the pier.

Ronny stood in the door of the plane, frowning. He wasn’t happy about Jared’s decision, to go find Simms, instead of returning to Sullivan and coming back loaded for bear, but Ronny also knew he couldn’t talk Jared out of it either not that he wasn’t above pushing one last time.

“You sure you want change your mind?” Ronny asked.

“not a chance, Ronny, We have to meet up with Simms and get our people back, to be honest I don’t really trust him and I cant leave people who followed me, behind. So you get Hannah back to Sullivan, report to Ashton and tell him what has happened and about the saboteurs that are on the island. That’s the only job you have left in this game.” Jared said, smiling sadly.

“Oh sure you guys get to go hauling ass off……” he fell silent as Mary laid a hand on his shoulder.

“lets Go Ronny, Hannah needs our help” she said, then turned her gaze on Jared. “ and we will be back Jared. your going to need us.” Mary said. Jared only gazed at her for a moment.

“we will keep the radios on, but I think your going to be needed on Sullivan more than we will need you.” Jared said then, surprisingly he snapped to attention and Saluted. “ God Speed, Brother.”

Ronny nodded and returned the salute, it might seem odd even stupid to others, but it was a Gesture of Respect, and the only one that meant much to either of them.. Which was a lot more respectful than ‘ say bro, have a bitching good day’ Ronny thought

Jared turned on his heel and strode down the pier, not even turning to look as the plane pulled away, and headed out to for take off.

At the end of the pier was a single story red painted wooden building, the front door faced the water, a faded illegible sign hung over the door. the side walk split one path leading to the front door, another ran to a set of steps and the parking lot beyond.

Jared approached the steps cautiously, even though he had faith in the dog picking up the scent of undead before Jared saw them, he wasn’t going to take chances, a slight wind shift could keep the dog from smelling a zombie till it was close by.

He brought his rifle up to High ready, and advanced up the steps in a crouch to survey the parking lot, giving the silent signal for the team to wait in position and be on guard. He ignored the pain from his leg and various other areas of his body.

Two cars and a truck sat under the late afternoon sun, the paint had faded on them, and the vehicles were coated in dirt and salt.

Beyond that he could see a road, full of abandoned vehicles as far as the eye could see. “I think I know why they aren’t here yet” Jared said as he moved up into the parking lot.

They did a quick sweep around the parking lot and found no undead. “ Ori guard duty, watch the road.” Jared said as he walked over to the z71 and moved the tarp that covered the bed aside.

“gas can, tools, and assorted crap” Jared muttered, as he drew his Tomahawk and walked over to one of the cars and used the weapon, to cut out the lock on the truck, opening the lid, he saw several small back packs, like those used as book bags in school. He opened one up and found some bottles of water, dehydrated food packages, a first aid kit, complete with happy face band aids, a multi tool, a small survival kit in a tin, and at the very bottom of the pack a Glock .40 Sw

he opened the second pack, and found the dried out and moldy remaints of sandwiches in baggies, juice boxes, coloring books, and crayons. Finger paintings, and paint, small kids clothing and other stuff for a small child. He zipped the pack closed and place it back in the trunk, eyeing the third pack,not sure if he wanted to open it. after a second he unzipped the pack and looked inside, this one held more bottled water, and dehydrated foods, a stuffed bear, and a picture albumn, he opened it, knowing he shouldn’t, and then stared for a moment at the first picture, a family with their arms around each others shoulders in front of some amusement park, a little girl beside her father, giving a gap toothed smile into the camera, while her baby brother all of five maybe six, stood shyly before his mother.

He stared at that picture, for far to long, feeling a loss he couldn’t explain to any one, as he thought about the pain and terror those kids must have suffered there at the end. He didn’t curse God, or anything else, The innocent had died with the guilty, it wasn’t fair and it damn sure wasn’t just. But that was the way it was, and he couldn’t change it.

No matter what had happened to those two children, Jared had other kids, to protect and maybe get a little pay back along the way for what had happened to the two kids in the picture and all the other kids who had died too. He gently returned the album to the pack and placed it back in the trunk. Taking only the first pack he had opened.

“your going to leave the water and stuff in that other one” Nial’s asked.

“yes” Jared replied, shutting the trunk and using the tomahawk to crush the metal on the rim of the truck lid to keep it closed.

“why” Nial’s asked.

“Don’t know, just didn’t seem right” Jared said not really explaining anything, images of the two kids kept being interposed over his memories of Billie Thornton, the one child whose death truly haunted him. “call it Grave goods, or a moment of respect to the dead. I don’t have an answer other than it just seemed right to leave that little girl and her brother’s last possession on this world intact.”

Jared handed Nial’s the pack he had taken, “ here, if you need to head on your way, that should help you out” He said, turning and heading towards the street. Jill followed her husband pausing beside Nial’s for a moment.

“don’t push this one, he takes the deaths of Kids really hard, and don’t take any insult by what he said, he wasn’t hinting you should leave” she said quietly then went to stand by Jared who was staring out over the packed road.

Nial’s watched for a moment not even sure what to think about such a hard case having a major soft spot for kids, other than it spoke well of him with a shrug he started after them.

*****************************

Excited Sharon rushed down the walkway to the dock that jutted out over the harbor, Fort Moultrie loomed at her back. A Plane on floats was just pulling up to the dock, as she arrived, she waved to Linda and her assistant, a former paramedic named Justin, who stood waiting with a Gurney and medical supplies.

Linda was far from what TV Doctors had looked like Sharon thought, oh she had the long legs, the firm flat stomach and the impressive cleavage the job called for, but she was plain faced, neither ugly or pretty. With make up she had probably been cute, but what her face lacked in distinction, her smiled and her eyes more than made up for. She had the most beautiful, warm, expressive eyes Sharon had ever seen.

“are they okay” Sharon asked looking at the medical supplies, worry filled her.

“Ronny is bringing in a wounded soldier, as far as I know of he and Mary are okay.” Linda said soothingly.

“what about Jared and the others” Sharon asked, even though she was sure Linda would have said if any of them were wounded, she had to ask to make sure.

“its only Ronny and Mary onboard, Jared and the others stayed back to try and round up the last of the survivors from Terminal” Linda said as the plane came to a stop, then the door opened and Ronny leaped out and quickly tied the plane up to the dock.

The engine shut down and silence descended over the area, as Ronny smiled at Sharon moving aside so Linda and Justin could enter the plane. where they quickly gathered up the wounded soldier and carried her out on the stretcher where, then transferred her to the waiting gurney. Working quickly they set her up with an IV and

While they were busy Ronny walked up and wrapped his arms around Sharon in a tight hug.. “ god it is good to see you again” he said, she briefly hugged him back, feeling him wince, she stepped back she saw the blood stain on his shirt.

“Your wounded” she exclaimed loud enough to draw Linda’s attention.

“Ronny, get to the infirmary and let me check it out” Linda ordered. Ronny shook his head, not wanting to waste time, he had to get back. “trust me Ronny, the last thing you want is to get an infection and die.”

“go” Mary ordered as she climbed out of the plane. Glancing up to see people line the wall of the fortress watching the dock and the new arrivals. “ I don’t need a dead husband, and besides I’m not leaving till I know Hannah is going to be all right”

Ronny sighed “ all right let me get my gear” he said then climbed back into the plane and passed Mary her rifle and pack, before emerging with his own kit.

Mary and Sharon hugged, and then the three of them walked up the path, Mary and Ronny filling Sharon in on what had been going on. They passed through the small door into the fort, and were met by Kevin, who was beaming with pleasure at seeing Ronny and Mary again. behind him were a few dozen others , who all began asking questions, wanting to know what was happening with the rest of the group.

“All right folks you can wait till I check them out, before wanting public speeches” Linda said loudly making a shooing motion with her hands. “ come on you two, the sooner we get this over with, the sooner you can go get on with what ever you need to.”

Two hours later, and multiple visitors, Ronny and Mary both had been checked out and declared fit. “fit doesn’t mean you should go back out there and go running around, but I know you. you’re an idiot Ronny your going to go out there and play super soldier to help Jared so just be damn careful or youll end up either bleeding to death, or getting an infection.” She paused and lowered her voice, glancing at Sharon who stood by the door talking quietly with Mary. “that’s what ended up killing Steve.” She said sadly.

Ronny nodded, as he slipped off the examination table, and reached for the filthy shirt he had worn in. then shook his head. “Burn that Ill get a clean one” he said, as he gathered up his gear and strode over to Mary and Sharon.. he kissed Mary on the cheek, then smiled at Sharon. “you two go do what ever, I need to do a few things before we head out.” he said then stepped past them and out the door.

Spotting Kevin, he asked him to find Ashton and tell him that Ronny had a message for him. with that done he headed across the quad to where the RV’s that had brought them here originally were parked out by the road, he gathered up clean clothes then walked to the showers.

Privacy was a thing of the past, he thought. seeing six others in the process of showering in the open air. the showers set out in the yard in front of the fortress, were nothing more than a platform twelve feet tall, with fifty gallon drums of water placed on top of the platform, a spigot set in the barrels emptied water into pipes that carried it to the shower heads installed around the base of the platform.

He kicked off his boots, stripped off his pants and socks, he was going to have those burned as well. blood, and zombie goo had soaked them. he knew he stank but hadn’t really noticed it till he was around people who were clean.

He stepped under a shower head, turned it on and sighed with pleasure as sun warmed water sluiced over his skin. He grabbed a bar of Lye soap, made by one of the older residents of the fortress island, and began to scrub the harsh soap over his skin.

His skin felt raw by the time he finished, but god it felt good to be clean. He wondered how many people were dying of disease out there right now because they weren’t staying clean enough. He wouldn’t ever know for sure, but he guessed about half of the survivors out there were dying of disease and infections caused by being filthy.

*****************************

They had been working their way west and south for over an hour, passing storm damaged buildings, though here it wasn’t as bad as further north, but there were still plenty of windows shattered and roofs that had collapsed

where ever the undead where they were not here, so far they had only seen a handful, and quickly put them down.

Jared limped slowly down the side of the road, running on pure willpower. His eyes sweeping side to side in search of threats. They all knew they were on borrowed time, on foot in zombie infested America was suicide.

“we need to find a vehicle soon” Jill finally said, as Jared knelt on one knee, his rifle to his shoulder, he panned it slowly using the optics to get a better look at the intersection up ahead.

“We need to find a place to rest” he said quietly, as the rest of the group hunkered down with him each facing a different direction so that all 360 degrees were covered.

“Any ideas” Jill asked.

“Assuming we don’t run into more than a couple of undead, I saw a place just past the intersection where, I might want to spend the night” Jared replied. Jill pulled out her binoculars and looked for herself.

“All I see, is a Bank, a Gas station and a four wheeler sales and repair place,” she said, “ I guess you mean the bank.”

“No, the repair place.” Jared said with a tired grin.

“Lets move out, been here too long” Jared said rising to his feet. He slung his rifle and drew his Tomahawks.

The Intersection was a snarl of wrecked cars, some of the wrecks still held their dead, strapped into their seats, or car seats. They tried to reach out of the tangled wreckage to grasp the living, but the range was just to far for them.

Jill ignored the half eaten child in the car seat who stared at her, with dead cloudy eyes, its toothless mouth opening and closing. Suddenly she snapped, she couldn’t take it, couldn’t look at it, and couldn’t leave that poor tiny body like that.

The Katana hissed from its sheathed and she thrust it in through the window and into the little head, the body went limp and Jill dropped to her knees and began to heave, tears streaming down her face.

Jared knelt beside her and placed an arm across her shoulders, “youll be okay” he whispered, as the rest of the group formed a circle around them. he didn’t know she would, he didn’t know any of them would. Even if the zombies dropped over en masse tomorrow, they were all mentally scarred, who knew if they would ever recover from it.

She nodded, wanting to tell him, how horrible it was to see that, and how all she could think of was having a baby herself and then seeing it turned into that, that monstrosity, that perversion of life. She slowly got control again, knowing that one day, she would finally break down and cry, cry for every lost soul, for all those who had died. Cry for the damn world. but not today, not now. She smiled thankfully at Jared, who nodded back at her, then silently helped her to her feet.

The ATV dealer and repair shop, was a long single story building with a plate glass window that spanned almost the entire front wall of the place. Walking around the side of the building, they found a zombie sitting against a wall, missing its right leg, and left foot, it rolled over onto its side and began to crawl towards them. Dragging itself over the broken pavement, its mouth working slowly, hungrily.

Nial’s stepped past Jared and slammed a foot down on its neck pinning it in place, He drew the long knife on his side and drove it into the things brain just where the brainstem entered the skull.

“Thanks” Jared said softly. Eyeing the fence that ran ten feet out from the wall then ran straight back past a parked truck then turned left and continued on It appeared the entire rear of the place was fenced in.

“Any one got bolt cutters” Jill asked, noting the chain and padlock that held the gate closed.

“sorry left mine in my other pants” Ori whispered, Jared shook his head and jerked a thumb upwards, then cupped his hands.

Ori nodded, then quickly removed his pack, tucked some gear into a belt pouch before slinging a coil of rope over his shoulder.

“ Ready” Jared asked. Ori nodded and ran and leaped up slamming a foot down into Jardes hands, even as Jared pistoned Ori straight up to grab the edge of the roof, and scrambled over. As soon as Ori had a rope secured , he lowered it down the wall.

Jared removed the small rope harness from his pack, he had made it for nibbler a short while back, and strapped it onto the dog, and had Ori pull her up first. As soon as Ori had the dog free he dropped the rope, and one by one they made their way up to the flat roof top.

Jared rolled over the edge and onto the tar and gravel roof and sighed in actual pleasure, “I think I can lay here for a few days” he muttered, then had to yank his head to one side, as Nibbler started licking his face.

Finally he levered himself up onto his elbows, and eyed his small group. “Ori see if you can raise Jeb. And then try Chad, who knows they might not have left the College campus yet, and we might be able to get a signal to them. every one else, get comfy, and lets try to keep the noise down.” he said, as he got up and walked to a A/C Condenser unit, then spread his Sleeping bag out in its shadow.

Nial’s sat quietly by himself as the others clustered together, till Jill waved him over. “ take my sleeping bag since you don’t have one” she said, as she sat beside Jared on his. “I can share with my husband.”

Nial’s started to refuse, then decided what the hell it was better than sleeping on Gravel, he thanked her and lay back on the bag and tried hard not to notice her scent on the material.

Ori regularly repeated his messages on two channels then finally gave up, and pulled out an MRE and began to eat. Finally Chris broke the silence,

“How exactly are we going to get out of here.” He asked quietly. Jared half asleep muttered something, then opened his eyes, and the exhaustion in their depths was apparent.

“We are going to take four wheelers” he said, his voice ragged.

“your crazy” Nial’s said then fell silent.

“I would be yes, if there were streets full of those things out there. But at the moment theres not a zombie in sight..” Jared said as he pulled his pack over and pulled out a battered map case.

He looked through the case for a moment then pulled out a Topo map. Which he proceeded to spread out on the rooftop. “this is where we are, near Holden beach, when we left on the boat Jeb and the soldiers took the vehicles back to the house or football field near Boiling Springs,” Jared said tapping a spot on the map then slid his finger back to where they were on the map “ about fifteen miles from here. The college is about here.” he said tapping another spot, about ten miles away. But to the west. that’s also cross country.” He paused raising an eyebrow. “ and Shallotte, where Chad is supposed to meet up with Simms, is damn near a straight shot from here with lots of country to go off road. in fact we can avoid the majority of Holden Beach that way.” He said thoughtfully. Then shrugged. “ either way, we need transport, and I think four wheelers are the best bet for now.
as long as they have ones in there that still have pull start in addition to the electronic ignition.

Face it every vehicle out there has a dead battery, probably spoiled fuel, and no stick shifts. With a stick we could push start one, with out having to worry about a dead battery. Honestly I don’t feel like wandering down the road trying to find a stick shift, only to find we have to work on the damn thing too, and all the while out in the open.

We can try to raise Jeb and Chad while we travel, but our radios only have about a three mile range in excellent conditions. And this isn’t excellent conditions there are trees, buildings, lots of metal all around us and that interferes and cuts down on the signal.

If you want we can wait too make a decision on Shallotte or Boiling Springs tomorrow morning, I’m to damn tired to even care right at the moment.” Jared said, yawning.

“ and if we cant raise them” Chris asked, still believing this whole thing was a bad idea, but at least he knew Shelley was safe. .

:”that’s why we are spending the night right here. I don’t mind them being late , but if they are not here by morning they are beyond late, and are probably not going to show up.” Jared replied. “and then we still have to secure transportation, and figure out what to do, which really points to hooking up with Simms and getting our people back, finding something big enough to carry all of us and head to Sullivan, with the threat we know about heading to Sullivan, I don’t want to hang around out here to long. Besides when Ronny comes back, and you know he will, we can use him to scout for Jeb and the vehicles”

Jared folded the map back up, and placed it back in the case. then lay back down, and close his eyes, Jill snuggled up against him, then sighed in frustration as Nibbler shoved her way between Jared’s legs and curled up and closed her eyes.

“you have thumbs, Jill you are the superior being” Ori whispered, as he rapidly disassembled his rifle to clean before the sun set..

“tell that to the dog” she replied as she rested her head on Jared’s shoulder.

Jared woke at sunrise, every inch of his body aching, he sat up, his eyes gritty and itchy. He gazed at Jill who still slept beside him, and smiled gently.

He looked around and saw Ori laying near the edge of the roof overlooking the street. Quietly Jared crawled up beside Ori and looked out. the empty street was awash with the light of the rising sun. and no sign of zombies.

“I tried raising Jeb and Chad every two hours last night and again a few minutes ago, but nothing.” Ori said quietly. “you think Jeb and the others are Dead?”

“no, holed up somewhere probably,” Jared said determined to be optimistic. “have you checked out back “

“Yeah, didn’t see a single zombie,” Ori said, sliding back from the edge of the roof.
“You really need more sleep, if you don’t mind my saying so. You look like shit.”

“thanks, Appreciate it, Kiss my ass” Jared said with a still too tired smile as he moved away from the lip of the roof and out of sight of anything that might be below. “wish I could, but we cant stay here another night”

Ori nodded, the risk of attracting any of the undead and becoming trapped here, to slowly starve to death was to high. That was one of the reasons they had kept moving like some Neo Nomadic tribe.

“lets get some breakfast, then we clear the Shop, see what’s available to use inside. I also want you to check out that truck back there, since the rear is fenced off we can actually look it over with out worrying to much.” Jared said.

************************

“Your kidding right,” Susan asked Kelly who had brought the topic of Séance’s up again after Sharon and Bridget were both gone from the house. Susan was worried since the stupid bitch just couldn’t leave it alone and was slowly convincing some of the other to women it might be a good idea. “a Séance, are you insane, have you even noticed whats out there, why would you want to try and call up the dead,” Susan said.

“Because the spirits might be able to tell us how to defeat the undead” Kelly said matter of factly. “Obviously the veil between worlds is really weak these days, so I should be able to contact someone who wants to help us.”

“Assuming a Séance could actually work, what makes you think anything you contact is going to be friendly to us. don’t do this” Susan asked, almost begging almost pointing out that Sharon had forbidden it, but the one time that had been tossed out, Kelly had dismissed with it, no one really owned this house, and so Sharon couldn’t be tossing out orders like a queen bee. .

Before the zombies she had been a total unbeliever in things like this, but now, now she didn’t know and she damn well didn’t want this girl calling up anything in the house that she shared with Susan and nine other single women here on Sullivan.

“Because I’m a powerful psychic, always have been” Kelly said, Susan gawked at her, surely Kelly couldn’t be serious. That was just plain crazy. “of course you can run to Col. Ashton, and tattle on us. but I don’t think that a séance is against the rules” Kelly said nastily, then smirked like a little brat.

Susan angry, started to say something but finally shook her head and stalked out of the room, she was going to find Bridget and Sharon and put a stop this. She couldn’t wait to see Sharon plant a boot in that twits ass.

Kelly hid a grin, as she watched the older woman leave, Susan was just to old and not bright enough to understand that kelly could control anything that happened during a séance. Probably had been a Christian before the world had collapsed, while Susan and her ilk had pretended that ghosts and the supernatural didn’t exist Kelly had been cutting her teeth on Ghost hunting and séances, she was as close to a professional as some one could be. Her spirit guide had told her in dreams that this was the best Chance humanity had to learn how to defeat the undead and Kelly never doubted her spirit guide.

“all right, lets get the candles set up, while I draw a circle of protection around the table” she said, smiling brightly as she dug a piece of white chalk out of her pocket. .

Susan rushed outside and started down the tree lined street intent on reaching the new reception building and bring back Bridget or Sharon, before that idiot could create any major trouble for them.

*******************************

“cuse me, are you pappy” hearing a kids voice Pappy didn’t snap off with the usual stream of invective at being disturbed in his surveillance of Jack Strider.

He manipulated the joystick and turned his Hover around to face the boy, who shifted from foot to foot nervously. “yeah I’m pappy, and who are you boy?” he said to the boy, who was dressed in overalls, and a plaid shirt. His hair might have once been dark, but had been bleached a dirty blond by the sunlight. Pappy didn’t recognize him, which was odd, but with all the people that had recently been arriving seeking shelter, it wasn’t a surprise either.

“I was told to tell you, that you have to go to Sharon’s house, there’s trouble brewing” the boy said, his bright blue eyes drifting up towards the window that Pappy had been watching, then slowly lowered again to fix on pappy, there was something odd about the boys gaze, something intense, almost like some one else, some one older was looking out of those eyes.

“What kind of trouble?” Pappy asked, hating that his voice was slurred from the damn stroke, and though he had never admitted it, the women he loved to call a pill pushing, needle shoving Lesbian, had done a damn fine job in rough conditions and saved his life in the process.

“The kind that might leave people dead” the boy said, those eerie eyes fixed on Pappy’s pale old eyes, eyes that had seen far to much death and destruction in their existence.

Pappy met that gaze, and held it. “ who are you” he asked again, a chill settled on his spine as something like a smile flickered on the boys lips.

“some one that wants to help you Mister. You might want to hurry “ The boy replied as he turned and started down the empty street. stray leaves blowing around his small frame.

********************************

Bridget worked her way through the bedroom dusting carefully, they had to have the new Reception building ready in two days, there were so many new people arriving that they needed a new place to put them the current house they were using as a reception building was almost full, with twenty people. She wasn’t sure she was thrilled by the danger all the new arrivals could pose, but she was happy to see more survivors.

Bridget, lifted the duster she held up to the light, and frowned, the last thing she had expected to do after the world ended, was to dust rooms. Steve would love her in one of those French maid…… her thoughts stumbled to a stop, and she felt the tears threatening to spill out again. She was having a hard time dealing with Steve’s loss. But she at least didn’t have to deal with it alone. one of the great and surprising things about the relationship she and Steve had, had with Sharon was having another person to share the emotional burdens with.

And Sharon seemed to be taking it harder in a lot of ways, having lost Mark last year and now Steve, and of course only Linda knew at the moment that Sharon was Pregnant with Steve’s child. He would have loved to know that he had a second kid on the way. There were times she really hated the fact that he had been so dedicated, or maybe committed was a better word, to Jared and his other friends that he had left here to help and protect them. if he hadn’t he would still be alive.

She didn’t blame Jared, thought at times she wanted too, but she knew how hard Steve’s Death would have hit Jared. why couldn’t Jared have just stayed here, then Steve would have been here and not in the cross hairs of the sniper that had shot him. she asked herself almost angrily. She lowered the duster, and turned to the window, looking out over the harbor.

She heard the front door to the Reception building banged open as some one entered the house calling hers and Sharon’s name.

Setting the duster aside, Bridget walked out into the Hallway, and headed to the Living room, where she found Susan talking excitedly to Sharon who looked furious..

“What’s going one” Bridget asked, for a moment worried that some one had died and come back attacking others, creating more undead. Sharon looked furious.

“You need to come back to the house, that idiot Kelly is going to hold a séance, and ask the dear dead and departed how to beat the undead!” Susan exclaimed before Sharon could respond.

Bridget raised an eyebrow, a Séance, she had never really believed in that kind of stuff, only gullible fools went to mediums, but now, she thought, with the dead coming back, both as zombies and in their dreams. Who the hell knows if that kind of thing worked or not. And to be honest if it did work, she wasn’t real sure it was a smart move to be messing with the other side, right now.

“I never liked that bitch” Sharon said, already feeling a migraine coming on. “ reminded me of how Stephanie was when we first met. But stupid.”

Bridget nodded in agreement, “Nancy, Sharon and I have a problem we are going to deal with, we will back in a little bit” Bridget called out to woman who was in the kitchen with two others fixing dinner for the people working to get the Reception building ready.

“All right, is it anything that needs reporting” Nancy asked appearing in the kitchen doorway, wiping her hands off with a towel. At forty eight she was still a nice looking woman, but the worry lines were a bit deeper than she would have liked, but most people that had survived could say the same thing.

“No, I don’t think so, but Ill make sure I have a radio, we havent had a phone installed yet” Bridget said, a phone, god that was such an improvement, made possible only by the old 1930’s switchboard that had been in the Museum in the Fort, and the old crank phones they had found, some in the museum, others in a phone company display, or the towns museum. Only a few homes and buildings outside the fort had them yet, but sooner or later they would have every occupied home set up with a phone.

“Okay, be careful” Nancy said, turning and vanishing back into the kitchen.

Sharon wasn’t happy, she had told that little bitch Kelly, not to hold a séance in her and Bridgets home, and the thought of their babies being upstairs, while that idiot purposely tried to talk to the dead, made her furious.

Who knew what could happen if some one could actually contract the other side with a seance assuming that one could, and frankly Sharon wasn’t willing to find out the answer to the question.

The three women left the Reception building, and headed west, as a gently wind stirred their hair and set the leaves rustling in the trees. A few early fall leaves skittered across the road, and the cry of gulls seemed hollow and distant.

Their house was a turn of the century, three story home, with a small garret room, it resembled a queen anne style Victorian in passing, especially with the large open rooms, and wide staircases. The yard was shaded by the two old Oaks on either side of the front steps. A fountain long broken sat in the middle of a flower bed gone wild.

As they walked up the walkway to the front door of the home they had opened up to single women who had no one and no where to go, they could feel a change in the air, the bright sun light seemed dimmer somehow, the cool wind off the water, seemed warmer, and carried a hint of corruption under the smell of brine.

Bridget resisted the urge to draw her pistol, a premonition filled her that something bad was about to happen. “Susan, head to the fort and find Ashton, if he isn’t there, find Jeff Sloan and Kevin, and tell them what’s going on here. and get them here fast, okay”

Susan nodded slowly, staring at the front door, relieved that she didn’t have to enter the place. she wasn’t sure what she felt in the air around the old house, but it wasn’t good. She turned and raced for the fort, hoping that nothing bad would happen.

Bridget entered the house, pausing in the entry way, normally it would have seemed bright and cheery, not today. There was a heavy presence in the air, something electric and predatory, shadows lay thick in the hallway before her. She found herself getting angry, she and Sharon had let these women stay here, and they were fools enough to do this, with the baby’s in the house.

She and Sharon climbed the stairs quickly and found the babies, gone from their cribs, along with the two nursemaids who were taking care of them. Furious now, they returned downstairs, and followed the sounds of Kelly’s voice imploring the spirits to come and guide them, to the old study.

The shadows seemed thicker, like some viscous dark fluid that lapped at their legs as if to slow them, the closer they got to the study. the Tension grew stronger as they approached the study doors, doors that seemed to fill their vision, growing larger more ominous with each step.

One of the tiffany lamps suddenly slid and fell from the ornate end table in the hallway, the multicolored glass lamp shade shattering on the floor, the hanging light fixture in the hallway swayed back and forth as pictures rattled against the wall as if a wind had blown through the hallway. .

“what the hell” Sharon muttered, feeling fear at what had just happened, the hair on her neck stood up. it seemed colder in the house now and there was the hint of something foul in the air.

Bridget angrily slid the heavy wooden doors of the study open and stepped into the room ready to lay waste, she stopped letting her eyes adjust to the dimness in the room

Some one had closed the heavy drapes. The only light was that cast by all the candles that flickered around the room, casting pools of golden light, that tried to keep the shadows at bay. Only a fool would waste candles during the day, Bridget thought.

The women sat around the table, holding hands, Kelly sat with her back to the old bay windows, staring into a crystal ball that gleamed in the candle light. Bridget had no idea where it had come from and didn’t care as her eyes swept the room, looking for her children. She felt a bit of relief at not finding them in the room. Hopefully their nursemaids had taken them from the house. .

Ready to put an instant stop to the whole thing, she opened her mouth to shout at them only to stop as a sudden feeling swept over her that it would be a mistake to interrupt what was going on. She stood there listening, not sure what to do, as the air in the room seemed to grow thicker, and pressed down on her.

“…… Lacy, its me Daniel, honey I miss you” The voice that came out of Kellys mouth was hers, but not, it was like there was a second voice under the first, a deep male voice, that reverberated slightly, just off enough to send chills up Bridgest spine. Lacy, a mousy looking dishwater blond, began to sob heavily. “ I miss you too Danniel, god I miss you.”

Kelly still staring down, her long hair hanging over her face, twitched suddenly. “ there is another spirit here that has a message for some one in this room.” she said, her voice ringing into the silence. The women at the table looked nervously at each other.

Bridget heard the front door open, but didn’t bother too look and see who it was. She could feel there was something building in the room, that caused the hair on the back of her neck to rise. The room seemed to grow darker, but no one else seemed to notice it.

“Bridget” Sharon gasped reaching out she grasped Bridget’s arm as Steve’s voice came out of Kelly. “Baby, I want you to be happy,” the voice said. don’t listen to it she heard a small voice in her mind say. “I’m, sorry I had to die, but it was part of the plan.”

Plan what plan, there was no plan that killed her husband, what ever fear she felt was buried under the avalanche of anger that swept through her.

“Bullshit” the word exploded out of her mouth before she could stop it, shattering the stillness that gripped the other women. “your not Steve,” she snarled so angry she felt like she was going to explode.

Sharon felt the same way, she was so furious; she wanted to kick the other womans ass. As she started to move past Bridget, Pappy’s voice came from behind her, stopping her cold.

“don’t, let it be for a moment” the old man said gently, which was even more of a surprise than the fact not a single cuss word had accompanied the sentence. Sharon had no idea where Pappy had come from, or even how he had gotten that hover around up the steps. But she couldn’t deny he was there and couldn’t deny she felt just a bit safer with his presence, crippled or not. She stopped in her tracks trusting the old man.

“Bridget you know its me, the dark has been visiting people, pretending to be loved ones, to twist and warp them, to turn them into tools. I’m sorry I couldn’t come back to you till now. but honey, its really me, don’t trust the dreams, Jared has ands its led to so many deaths, including mine” The voice said, seemingly deeper, but there was something else in that tone, something cold and alien. And she thought she was the only one that noticed it. her nose wrinkled as the reek of rotted meat came to her.

“your not Steve, your some foul slimy bastard from hell, insulting the memory of the man I love. Fuck you” she shouted, stepping forward and slamming her hands down on the table so hard all the women but Kelly jumped in surprise at the sound.

Kelly never looked up at her, just continued to stare at the crystal ball, her face hidden by the fall of hair. The other women, shocked started to rise. Kelly held tight to the hands of the women to either side of her, refusing to let go.

“Don’t break the circle” Kelly snapped, with that weird voice. it was a command that was expected to be obeyed. The women at the table froze, still holding hands, too scared to move, so far outside their normal world, they had no idea what to do, and scared they could make it worse if they didn’t listen.. “ to break the circle could allow unbound spirits to enter at will. And the result would be…unpleasant” Kelly said, her voice was soft but Bridget thought she detected just a trace of amusement in it.

“Look at me” Bridget demanded angrily, determined to end this travesty.

“Bridget, if she does the connection will break and Ill have to leave” the voice that was both Kellys and Steve but wasn’t replied.

“I said Look at me” Bridget repeated angrily, trying not to completely lose her tempter, but if she didn’t let the anger take her, the fear she felt damn sure would.

This wasn’t Steve; she knew it in her heart. What ever was in this room, was cold, almost emotionless, almost being the word, there was a mocking cruelty and a dark amusement to its words and actions.

She stared at the top of Kelly’s head, which was slowly starting to rise, and Bridget suddenly thought that if she saw the face hidden by that hair she might go mad. Terror bubbled in her heart, threatening to drown her.

“Don’t look” Pappy told Sharon, as he moved his hover around past her. using the foot controls he had insisted on having Gary install. His hand was busy holding a pistol.

Sharon tore her eyes away from the scene, where shadows seemed to dance and twist around the room, long arms of darkness that sent fingers of gloom creeping towards the women only to be stopped by the light of the candles.

There was a feeling of building power in the room, the Rising Darkness , held at bay only by the candles, pressed in as close as it could, as if it wanted to swallow ever one in the room. Shadows reached out intangible hands, like lost souls that would drag the living away with them.

Bridget couldn’t move, she could only stand there watching as Kelley’s head came up, the long blond hair hiding her face, and then the almost primal fear unlocked Bridgets muscles and she stepped away instinctively to place distance between her self and what ever was about to happen. .

A gust of wind from no where set the candles to flickering, and the hair parted. Candles began to go out one by one, as if snuffed by an invisible hand and the darkness advanced, as the women who still stood at the table holding onto each others hands, screamed in terror. .

Bridget’s breath caught in her throat, as she saw the pale twisted face, the eyes nothing but dark pits in the almost skeletal face, the skin drawn tight across the bones, a mocking smile spread slowly. “Gotcha” Jasper Browns voice said as Kelly rose from her seat, flinging away the two women she still held, they slammed against the wall and fell to the ground, the impact sending pictures and books tumbling to the floor around them.

Pappy had never believed in much, but he had always believed in Evil. He had seen a lot of evil in his life, especially during the war. No matter how many brave and honorable men served their countries, there was always a few Evil son of bitches who fought to get their own kicks out of killing and torturing others. And what ever it was sitting there at the table was one EVIL son of a bitch.

“Get out of my house” Bridget snarled, she was shaking from head to toe.

“But Bridget I love you” the voice said, with a cruel cutting laugh. It was Steve’s voice again.

Bridget drew her pistol at last, the comfort the pistol gave her, steadied her aim. She laid her sights on the forehead of the other woman.

“always the answer, kill the messenger” it said, it no longer sounded like Steve, it was cold, and subtly different and still as a dead sea, the presence she had felt was stronger now, like a tide of wildly surging energy, threatening to sweep them away.

“kill the woman, please, one more human that infests the world gone, do what you do best Kill her” it said. “your Husbands dead, your child is dead, the man who leads you is close to death, what is one more Death, Kill her” that dead voice thundered.

“get out” Bridget said, terrified for her baby, and began to recite the Lords prayer, the only thing she could think to do.

It began to recite it right along with her, mockingly, when she reached the end it laughed.

“I’m sure this whole exorcist move scene is vastly entertaining to a small dicked, mental fucking midget like your self. But I’ve seen scarier in whore houses in the pacific.” Pappy said suddenly. His voice cutting across the fear that radiated off the women in the room like a dash of cold water. .

“Not your business old man, unless you’d like me to finish what the stroke started” it said, Kelly’s head whipping around like a striking snake to fix him with those black pits.

“More than welcome to try, you weak chinned, sister humping, lice infested, incest bred, bastard,” Pappy said cackling. “What is it with you scary monster types that you always look like some clap infected, half dead asshole” Pappy might be scared, but he had faced everything in his life as it came, and never shied away from danger or death. he would die on his feet, as it were, not crying and begging to be left alone. Besides, anything that attacked a woman through the man she loved as beyond despicable.

“when the tide comes, it will sweep you away before it, you can not win you could never win. You will die screaming for mercy of a god that has forsaken you and all that you ever hoped for will be like ash in the wind” it said.

“oh fuck off, you dimwitted moron, always with the fancy speeches, what about striking me dead. What’s the matter you pussy, cant even kill a half crippled old man.” Pappy said, the head started to turn back to Bridget who was crying now.

“ don’t look at her, you coward, cant take being talked back to. Well tough fucking titty, you dickless wonder.” Pappy shouted, or tried to shout. It was still louder than usual for him, his words were slurred but clear enough to be understood. The women in the room, felt a shift in the atmosphere, a dark fury, that threatened to crush them.

Shadows reached out towards Pappy, or maybe it was all imagination Bridget thought as she watched the proud old man, who wouldn’t back down.

Pappy had seen the crystal ball, but had paid no attention to it, till the thing in the room had almost begged to have the idiot Medium shot, by then pappy had begun to suspect that shooting the Medium would only make matters worse. For some reason it wanted them to shoot the stupid girl, But maybe it had told them what to do to end this with out killing the girl and it hadn’t realizing it. Pappy made his decision..

“I’m tired of this and I’m tired of you. when you come up with more material, or can actually strike me dead, please drop by and visit” Pappy said and fired.

the women still in the room screamed again, Kelly the loudest of all of them, she slumped over the table, her forehead sliced open by the shards of the crystal ball that Pappy had shot, blood dripped onto the table from the wound, and the presence in the room was gone like a switch had been thrown. A deep silence settled over them

“take that you melodramatic asshat” Pappy said Breaking the silence.. “I like that word Asshat, has a great ring to it. who says the youngins don’t have great cuss words” he said as he looked at Bridget who stood there crying.

“don’t you listen to a damn thing it said., it lied, it wanted to ruin your memories of Steve, Never ever forget who and what he was. He loved you. both. And love is some thing damn rare and worth remembering if you were lucky enough to have it. I should know” he said turning his chair and rolling towards the door, leaving Bridget and Sharon to stare him, shocked beyond words at the new and gentle pappy. “I loved a woman once, greatest woman in the world that ever lived, and she was foolish enough to love me” he said, Memories of a soft smile, and Strawberry blond hair played through his mind, and a sunlit room that smelled of Orchids and oil paints, a room that had become a monument too his love, he had his back to them, then the hover around turned to face them both, and they saw tears glimmering in the old mans eyes. and then reality returned.

“ what the hell are you two split tails gawking at, I’m just hoping once, one or both of you gets past your grief Youll remember what I said and want to bump wrinkled uglies. I like it rough by the way” he said seriously, but there was a twinkle in his eyes.

Sharon surprised her self by laughing. “get the hell out of here you old coot, you have a better chance of having sex with a pissed off bear than with me”

“did a bear once, wasn’t to bad, Snakes though not so fun, all fangs and scales, but a Moose, a moose is where its at.” Pappy said cackling as he turned and rolled out of the room, as Laurie and Kylie entered carrying the babies. The two nursemaids stared at the pictures and books on the floor, the still trembling women, who hadn’t gotten out of the room in time, and were pressed against the walls their eyes fixed on the blond girl sprawled across the table.

Crying with relief the two mothers rushed forward and took their babies back. “ sorry to scare you, but we didn’t think it was good to have them in the house, when Kelly started her stupid séance” Laurie explained, Bridget hooked the other woman into a hug crying with relief..

“Thank you” Bridget said, even as vehicles screeched to a stop outside and then the sound of men running up the walk reached them. “thank you so much” she said again, then carrying her child she walked to the front door.

Ronny, Jeff Sloan and Kevin Leaped from the truck and pounded up the brick sidewalk, Ronny had his rifle up, as he bounded up the sheet of plywood placed on the steps, only to slide to a surprised stop as the front door opened, and Pappy rolled out on a hover around.

“about damn time you worthless assholes showed up, shows over. You three are just like the Cops used to be, a day late, and a small dick and a dollar short” Pappy said rolling out onto the porch and force his way past them rolling over Kevins toes, who squawked in surprise. .

Ronny gaped after the demented mobile nut job, wondering who in the hell had been stupid enough to set Pappy sloan up in a hoveraround to terrorize the island.

He turned back to the door, to see Bridget holding a baby, tears running down her cheeks, but her smile was one of relief as she saw them. “ its over now, what ever ‘it’ was” she said stepping out into the afternoon sunshine, and taking a deep cleansing breath of fresh air.

“what happened?” Ronny asked glancing back at the truck where a woman named Susan waited, to scared to enter the house. Other vehicles screeched to a halt, and armed men and women leaped out weapons in hand, ready to deal with what ever might be going on.

“well it seems that Séances are very bad idea” Sharon said stepping out with her baby onto the porch standing protectively beside Bridget. “ it all started……..”

an hour later Ronny was sitting on a blanket in the yard, holding little mark, with the women who shared the house with Bridget and Sharon, minus Kelly who was packing her things to move back to Reception center, under the watchful eye of Susan who wasn’t going to let her do anything but pack..

Ashton and most of the others had already left, returning to the work they had dropped to come running to the rescue.

Ronny sat and thought about the story that Sharon and Bridget had told and that the other women had confirmed, wondering what in the hell was going on in the world. Jeff , looked dubious at best, but Kevin seemed to be taking the entire tale pretty well.

Especially after seeing the study for them selves, Jeff hadn’t commented on the story, but Ronny got the impression he believed every word of it.

Ronny looked down and smiled at Little Mark who drooled and spit bubbles up at him, clutching Ronnys finger with his chubby baby fingers, Innocent, wonder filled blue eyes stared at up at Ronny. He wondered what the baby was thinking, if it even thought at all. then decided it didn’t matter, “ do not grow up to be like me” he told the baby. “women are fun, trust me, but find one or two good ones and leave it at that.” he said smiling at the little upturned face, Don’t you worry little Mark, I will do my best to protect you and your momma’s from whats out there. I swear it. Ronny vowed silently

Sharon managed a small laugh at that, and took the baby back from Ronny, unbuttoned her shirt one handed, she glared at Ronny daring him to make a comment as she guided the baby to her breast and began to feed him.

Ronny opened his mouth to make a comment when Bridget Gibbs slapped him with her free hand. “ don’t even say it, and no you cant have a drink.”Bridget said. “or I could find Mary”

“no that’s okay, I was just going to say, how domestic you two look” Ronny said with a smile. He turned to Laurie and smiled charmingly “so you’re a nurse maid to the kids. ooow” Ronny said as Bridget Gibbs slapped him again.

“and don’t say it to them either” She said laughing with the other women..

“ you have turned into a prude you know that” Ronny said, then grew serious again. “I don’t know what to tell you about what happened, to be honest the only reason I believe it, outside of knowing you two, and seeing that study, is there has been so much other weird shit that’s supernatural, I cant dismiss it. but my question is, is it safe to stay here, after this?”

“I think so, now that I’m calmer, I can say its not the first time I’ve felt that presence, weve all felt it once or twice during out trip down here.” Bridget said

Ronny had to agree, he remembered several people talking about something similar on occasion, just before some thing really weird happened. “your right, but….”

“no buts Ronny, this is our place, Steve loved it, and We are not moving out” Bridget replied. , “I’m more worried about what it said about Jared than anything else” She added.

Ronny had avoided that particular thought, but now he faced it squarely. “it lied about the babies, I’m pretty sure it lied about Jared too. Remember what Jared keeps saying, this thing what ever it is, wants hope to die, wants us to feel despair, so we give up. So no I don’t think it was telling the truth.” Ronny said, watching the Baby in Bridget’s arms.

“ and now that’s all out of the way, just so I can make sure Jared gets all the latest news, are you two now a lesbian couple’ he asked pulling out of reach of Bridget only to have a woman he didn’t know slap him upside the head. ‘Oooow, damn it I don’t even know you” Ronny complained.

“I warned them all about you when you landed” Bridge said cheerfully.

“you Maam are an evil person” Ronny said, as Jeff and Kevin laughed. He climbed to his feet, and looked at the sky. “ I need to be getting back, Mary is at the infirmary, keeping an eye on that Soldier woman. And I need get some dinner for us. I hear I can now lay my hands on some scallops, crab and shrimp.”

“one of the better things about living here, enough local fisherman survived to run two boats, they are bringing in enough to keep us fed on a daily basis.” Sharon said. “ now we have to find a way to make cocktail sauce and Tarter sauce, so when the bottle stuff runs out, we will be ready.”

Ronny would rather have had steak, but after living on MRE’s and canned food for so long, Sea food was like a miracle. First thing when he was back for good, he was going to go check out a few islands to see if there was any game. Or organize a trip into farm country and see if they couldn’t find living cattle to round up. just the thought of a good steak was enough to set his mouth watering.

Jeff gazed out at the street, frowning, Ronny looked in the direction Jeff was looking and stared as pappy led a gaggle of men on hover arounds past the house. “ what the hell is that, the Cooter scooters club” he asked. “and where did they come from”

“its my dads idea of a volunteer street patrol group. to be honest, I’m glad he is doing it, he isn’t half the shit heel he was before, he feels like he is doing something to help, and so do the others members of the Senior citizen mobile militia” Jeff said laughing softly at the name most of the Survivors had stuck on Pappys group, there were others names to of course, Like the Wrinkled Rangers, but no one ever doubted the Men and one woman in the Pappy’s group were serious about helping out with their patrols. Even thought they were the most surly, cantankerous street patrol to have ever existed. .

“well I think he saved us, and if he wants to prowl out front to make sure we are okay I’m good with that” Bridget said looking down at her Baby. Ronny smiled as he Gazed at little Steven, who even looked like his father, stout, with no hair.

“well If you two are staying Ill walk back” Ronny said. “ sorry hate to leave,”

“we understand, thanks for racing to the rescue even if it was late” Sharon told him.

“bla bla bla… you now how you can thank me” Ronny said dancing away from the sudden flailing hands. He laughed for a moment, then turned and started walking quickly back towards the fortress. He wanted to be in the air and heading back soon, but he was positive that wasn’t going to happen today. He only hoped that Jared and the others were safe and already started on their way back to Sullivan.

***********************

Jared dropped lightly to the ground in the rear lot of the ATV shop, his weapon snapping instantly into position, as he swept it across the yard for any threat that appeared, a second later Ori and chris joined him.

For now he ignored the roll up garage door, that he assumed led into the repair shop side of the building, the sound of that door rolling up would be loud and heard for quite a distance. The only door Jared planned on touching was the plate glass door in the middle of the long wall. It was the standard double doors where one side was latched and locked, while the other was used as a normal doorway, but both could be opened to allow for large items, in this case four wheelers and side by side by sides to be moved through it.

“You sure you want Jill and that new guy to wait on the roof” Chris asked, as Jared moved to the rear door and peered thru the glass, he recoiled quickly as a zombie slammed against the door, pawing at the glass. the door started swinging open.

He let his rifle fall to dangle across his chest and drew the his Tomahawks just as the bloated corpse of a once fit Sales man stumbled out into the yard, its arms out stretched to grasp Jared.

Jared hooked one of the zombies forearm with the bearded hook of the blade and threw the zombie off to his left. It stumbled and fell to its knees, before it could rise again, Ori planted his machete into its skull.

“Now that’s team work” Ori said, stepping back as another zombie stumbled out the door. matted blond hair framed a heart shaped face, the once luscious body encased in a ragged bikini that hid even less now than when it had been new, had been ripped and torn, the dead bluish white skin gleamed sickly in the sunlight.

Jared being the closest saw at least two more behind this one, he used a foot sweep to take it down, before leaping over the zombie to push the door closed. Chris stepped forward and used the cut down double bit axe to shatter its skull as it struggled to rise again.

“okay, you two Ready” Jared asked, his back against the door. “looked like two, possibly more.” He said quietly.

“When ever your ready “ Ori replied, brandishing his machete.

Jared let the door open enough for a zombie to squeeze out, giving Ori enough time to kill it, before it got free of the door, the body, wearing board shorts and nothing else fell to the ground, goo oozing from its shattered head.

The next zombie a teen aged boy of around 16, his arms tattooed with skulls and demons, pushed through the gap, one arm slapping at Ori, its teeth gnashing together with a terrible clicking noise.

Chris moved in and with three swings of the double bitted axe, took its head off, he turned pale as the head hit the ground with a thump like a melon and rolled till it bumped up against a tire and blinked at him.

“if that thing Sprouts legs, I’m outta here” Ori remarked glancing at the head then went back to watching the door, he couldn’t see any more undead but that didn’t mean a thing. “well unless you want it to keep staring at you Chris, finish it off” Ori added.

“ we could invite a new game using zombie heads as the balls, the added danger of being bitten during a pass or interception, would make things interesting”: Jared commented.

“Patton makes the pass, Johnson intercepts, wait… theres blood, Johnson is down on the tenth, a moment of silence please while the referees put Johnson down,….. thank you, and now the Walking wounded have been given a nine yard Bite penalty, with only five seconds left on the clock” Ori joked soflty.

Chris grunted as he finished off the head, then turned to Ori, “ was that a joke, man, will you ever give up and stop trying” Chris said shaking his head.

“I thought it was funny” Ori said as he pushed his glasses back on his nose, and grinned.

“your as twisted as he is” Chris said jerking a thumb in Jared’s Direction.

“I’m in good company is what your saying” Ori said with a smile

“and you’re a suck up” Chris added.

Jared ignored them both, he peered into the shop then slowly opened the door. the place was rank with the smell of the undead, as he Stepped he forced himself to breath through his mouth. Not that it helped much, but it was better than nothing.

To his left were racks of riding leathers, motorcycle armor, boots, gloves, and other clothing that had popular ATV brand names on them. just past that were two counters, one was for sales the other was for parts and had a two doors behind it, one leading to the Parts room and the other to the repair shop, at least if the signs above door were correct, Jared thought.

to his right and across the front window, were rows of dirt bikes, Motorcycles, ATV’s and Side by side’s,.

his eyes were drawn to the shelving up front by the windows on the far left end, where all the accessories were on display, including several small trailers two of them were like minature campers.

“okay, we spike the door to the repair shop and parts for now, and lets get ATV’s picked out” Jared said leading the way behind the counters, only to stop as he saw a zombie on the floor, crawling towards them. As soon as it spotted them its mouth yawned open revealing blood stained teeth. Jared stopped his boot down on the things Skull, oblivious to how the sound of a skull breaking sounded to the others.

they had no sooner gotten the repair shop door spiked close when something struck it from the other side. “ Not a moment too soon” Chris remarked.

Keeping on eye on the repair shop door, they picked out four wheelers, Ori being Ori went against the grain and picked himself out a Dirt bike that was set up like a special forces motorcycle, with the jerry can racks, and a place to strap a ruck as well as other gear points.

“why four wheelers any way” Chris asked eyeing the dirt bikes as well.

“because four wheelers can carry cargo, and don’t fall over when stopped if you don’t have your feet on the ground. And you can shoot from a four wheeler. Jared said as he wandered through the accessories aisles and began collecting Items.

“You like that Prairie don’t you” Chris asked as he eyed a Raptor, but decided against it, wanting the four wheel drive capability of a Polaris, instead of the high speed of the Raptor.

“yeah, its what I had at the house. Should have brought them with me” Jared replied. “maybe Ill go back and get them and all the other gear we left behind at some point. Or have Ronny fly there with a few people and collect the gear” Jared said as he began attaching a spot light to the ATV he wanted. Then added gun grips, flat pack fuel cans, and a cargo box on the rear cargo deck.

“I didn’t think we were going to be on it long enough to need all this stuff” Chris commented, watching Jared.

“What I plan for and what actually happens is usually two dramatically different things” Jared pointed out, glancing up at the repair door to make sure it was still closed.

Chris walked past Ori to examine a couple of UTV’s with used signs on them, he had wanted Razor for while, but it was actually cheaper to buy a jeep than a razor, so he had never bothered. It didn’t make sense to pay that much money for something that could only be used on trails and not the road.

Besides he actually like the Polaris UTV, and this one had a custom bed, with was about a foot and half longer than normal he leaned closer and smiled. “ Hey Jared I think we can put two of those ATV’s back” he called out then winced, lowering his voice.

“No UTV’s Chris, we need the pull starts on these Atv’s.”Jared said as resisting the urge to load up spare parts and Tires. Okay maybe a few spart parts, like a belt, oil filter, oil and a few other things but that would be it.

“well Boy wonder, this puppy has a pull start on it, looks like a custom job, and it can damn sure carry more gear then those four wheelers.” Chris said. Jared strode over to the UTV, Curious he had never heard of one having a pull start, and had no idea how common or uncommon it might be. but having a second way to start a ATV or UTV in case of a dead battery was a damn great idea.

Chris pointed out the pull start as Jared bent over and looked. “ see.” He said with a grin.

“lets give it a shot then, if it doesn’t work, we still have the two four wheelers” Jared said,

“ we are going to need fuel” Ori pointed out as he wheeled the dirt bike over and placed it by the ATV’s. while Chris and Jared checked a few of the other UTVs and found two more with pull start backups.

“Should be some in the Repair shop, but I have a plan for that too, combat knives and cans. We go out , slide the pans under a gas tank and punch a hole into it and drain the fuel out. should be able to fill up every one of these and the gas cans.” Jared said. as he considered using the UTVs over the ATVs.

“sounds like a plan, I can stay on the roof and sni…. No guess we need every hand on the ground with hand weapons instead” Ori commented.

Jared nodded in agreement. ATVs could fit through Places that a UTV couldn’t, and go faster as well, but a UTV provide a bit more protection, than an ATV. Plus with the beds on the UTV they would have space to carry packs and gear and anything they might scavenge along the way. So they wouldn’t have to use trailer which would add more noise to the mix..

“Are you sure you want to use that Dirt bike” Jared asked Ori, who nodded. A smile on his face.

“hell yeah. To be honest I’m surprised you didn’t grab one, I’ve see you ride Wildman” Ori said with a grin. “note I didn’t say your good, but you are wild”

Jared managed not to laugh, Ori was right about how wild he was on a dirt bike, if it could go fast, grab air or do jumps, he would do each and evey one. he really didn’t need to be getting wild now, and breaking a bone or bones, not to mention the fact, the less he had to use his leg the better off he would be.

“all right we go with the two UTV’s, Ori and his dirt bike, and Ill take a four wheeler.” Jared said, “now lets check out the repair shop.”

They quickly set up the UTVs with the Flat fuel packs, and other accessories then moved to the Repair shop door,Where the zombie was still slapping at the door.

Jared had Ori remove the spikes, then yank the door open. The smell that flowed out of the shop was the worst he had ever smelled, his eyes widened as he saw ten zombies in the other room. all pushing forward.

“oh fuck” Jared said, leaping forward with a front kick and knocking the Heavy set bald zombie that had been pawing at the door back into the shop. “ Shut the door” he yelled, regretting raising his voice. Ori slammed the door but , a couple of arms that had been reaching for Jared stopped it from closing.

Chris leaped forward and added his weight to the door, to keep it from being pushed back open. Even then the door was inching slowly open as the undead pressed against it.
Jared drew his Tomahawk, and began to hack at arm, trying not to feel ill as chunks of flesh flew and goo oozed out, then bone splintered and flew. He refused to throw up and realized it wasn’t going to do any good, as another arm slipped into the gap and almost grabbed his arm.

Hang on” he called out, looking around, mind racing as he tried to find a way to block or bar the door. the counter was heavy and most likely bolted to the floor but he saw nothing else that could do the job..

“Fuck it, Let em out, make them come to us through that gate” Jared said. Ori and chris, leaped away from the door, both men taking two steps and leaped over the counter. The undead spilling out of the repair shop. A couple of zombies over balanced, fell to the floor, tripping the next one through the door, Jared backed out of the Swinging gate, between the wall and the end of counter, placed there to keep customers from wandering back into the employees only area.

“we could go out the back door and deal with them there, like the others.” Chris suggested.

Jared’s only answer was step forward as the first zombie reached the gate, he swung the Tomahawk straight down splitting the zombies skull, with a twist of his wrist he pulled the Tomahawk free, ignoring the shower of gore that came with it.

The next zombie was a pasty white older woman, whose bluish white hair stuck out all over like a mad hair dresser had designed it. he let her get through the gate, she reached out with both arms and shambled towards him.

Ori started to step forward, only to stop as he saw the look on Jared’s face, pure and simple hatred of the undead, he twisted into a spinning snap kick and sent the old woman flying back over the gate, one orthopedic shoe flying off her foot, she crashed into two more zombies all three tumbling to the ground. He landed lightly and stalked forward like a hunting cat, and crushed the skull of the first zombie to sit up, then danced back from the arms that shot out trying to grasp him as the crowd stumbled over the three zombies on the floor.

the first zombie of the crowd to breach the gate, was a man of about twenty still wearing a pair of slacks and a dirty stained buttoned down shirt. Jared broke his knee with a snap kick, hooked the things neck with the tomahawk and yanked it to one side smashing its head into the side of the counter with a loud crack.

“cover him, but don’t get in the way” Ori said as they moved up, but the three foot wide gap only allowed one zombie at a time to come at Jared and he ruthlessly dispatched them, then finally the days of exhaustion and his wounds caught up with him, he slipped in the spreading gore and dropped to one knee, the zombie, a middle aged man who had once worked here, lunged at Jared only to have machete slam into the side of its head and send it reeling to smack into the wall, Chris, snatched Jared by the collar and yanked him out of the way, letting Ori wade in swinging his Machete taking down the last two zombies, suddenly it was over. Ori sagged against the wall, trying to watch the open door where another zombie might appear and Jared, who looked like shit.

Jared breathing hard, sprawled on the floor, blood leaking from his leg. His wound had torn open again. “I’m really getting to old for this shit” He muttered as he set up, and dug out a new pressure bandage and pulled the small first aid kit from the pouch on his belt. .

“I want you to wait here, Chris with me, lets check out the repair side and see if theres anything we can use inside.” Ori said surprising both Chris and Jared with the sound of command.

“aye aye sir” Chris said with a weak grin.

**********************

it was near noon, when Ori and Chris with Jills help had gathered enough fuel to fill up the collection of recreational vehicles and the spare cans, half that time had been spent hiding from the few undead that wandered through the area.

The truck out back had proven to be beyond help, at least with out a full garage, so they stuck with plan A, loading everything they had gathered from the shop, and the few places they had managed to get in and out of during their search for gas.

While Jared and Nial’s had waited, they had found sets of removable doors for the UTVs and installed them, just for added safety. Not that it would be much help but every little bit that slowed the undead down, increased their odds of survival.

Jared looked pale but otherwise okay as he twisted the key on the ATV, made sure the switch was on, then pulled the starter. It took a couple of tries, but then the motor coughed and came loudly to life.

One by one they got the UTV’s started and then Ori ran with the motorcycle leaped on and popped the clutch, it took two tries but then it started up running rough but would settle down.

They drove out the now open double doors in the back, stopping only long enough to cut the chain on the gate with a pair of lock cutters Ori had scored from small feed store, a little north of the intersection., Ori made sure the gate was shut but that was it, they doubted they would ever be back this way, so let some one else be able to get in if they needed to.

They rolled down the side of the street, passing scattered buildings and parking lots, the sound of the engines drawing out the undead, Jared saw three zombies emerge from a barbershop, and start towards the road. Across the street, a zombie appeared around the side of Mexican food place and staggered towards them.

He signaled at the group to speed up, feeling exposed on the four-wheeler, he was eager to get the hell out of town as fast as possible.

They had three miles before they could turn off into woods, that could hide them as they headed north and west. Nibbler barked a couple of times as if taunting the undead, stupid dog, don’t tempt fate. He thought remembering his dream, Steve had been right, pissing in the devils cheerios was not a smart move.

He glanced back and regretted it, there was a wave of undead, in the distance, stumbling along behind them.

*************************

the sun was sinking slowly towards the west , what wind there had been was gone.
“Well I have to say I wasn’t expecting this” Jared admitted as they pulled into the empty football field.

“no one expects the zombie inquisition” Ori quipped, then looked around, “ what, that was funny”

“okay so what do we do now” She asked, looking around at the field, where she do could see tire tracks.

“what ever happened they had time to clear it all out.” Jared commented, as he swung off the four wheeler. Grabbing a gas can, he filled up his ride while they had the chance. “ Gas em up folks, we are heading for the college next” they had checked the house first and found the Stryker was gone was well, Jared hadn’t expected to find them at the football field but he had hoped they might have gone there.

Ori, climbed off the dirt bike, and stretched. It had been a long while since he had rode a motorcycle, much less rode long distance, about an hour ago, he had lost the feeling in his butt, now he could feel it again, and it hurt like hell.

Jill topped off the tank, watching the fence line, a zombie appeared in the woods behind the field, and wondered up to the fence, its hands grasping the links, then it just stared, as if it were interested in what they were doing. She shivered, feeling totally creeped out. her imagination conjuring up images of the zombie wondering off, gassing up a car and coming after them.

“there’s another one” Nial’s said pointing to another zombie that was approaching the fence line..

“every one filled up?” Jared asked, they all confirmed they were, “ then lets get out of here before there more than two or three” he said starting the four wheeler. A minute later they were pulling out.

Jared glanced back at fire shot smoke that still boiled up from the Terminal, he would send men back before winter fully set in to salvage what they could, and if Bedford sent men to take what Jareds people had bled and died for, they had better be prepared to duck or bleed.

They idled at the gate, while Jared closed it then twisted a piece of wire to hold it closed. who knew. Maybe at some point they would need the field.

They entered the woods, heading west, riding just south of and parallel to George the II highway, occasionally skirting Farms and isolated homes. Reaching Danford road SE, the turned down the road, which would take them straight to the town of Bolivar. All along the road, vehicles were scattered along both lanes, trapped there while fleeing the holocaust that was sweeping over the world. now they sat covered in leaves and limbs, and dust, that showed squirrel and Raccoon tracks across windshields and roofs.

With out the wind, it was hot and oppressive, and they were beginning to see more and more undead. Ori dropped back and rode next Jared, shouting that he was going to run ahead and scout. Jared gave him a thumbs up, Ori grinned and twisted the throttle shooting away, his speed climbing. as the engine whined like a pissed off chainsaw.

Staying in the grass on the side of the road, to avoid having to weave in and out of stalled and abandoned vehicles, Ori raced towards the town. About two miles out from Bolivar, he slowed then stopped. watching the few zombies he could see, stumble towards him.

a man that looked like a banker, who dragged leg behind him, a naked woman, he imagined must have been taking a shower when she was attacked, a Nun, who jerked and twisted as she walked, like some spastic possession victim. He could see a Sheriffs deputy, a toddler, a teen age girl wearing a bikini her father wouldn’t have approved of, and several others. but his eyes kept drifting to the toddler.

“I’m sorry, sorry this happened to you” he said aloud. “you didnt deserved this”

he wheeled the dirt bike around, unable to watch the toddler any longer, if he did he would probably lose it and eat a bullet.

He rejoined the group, telling Jared what he had seen, fifteen minutes later they saw the small group of undead ahead of them, it had grown larger now, with about twenty five zombies.

His eyes scanned over the group and widened slightly as he cut his eyes to Jared, to see if he had spotted it. from the tightening Jaw, and thinned lips, Jared had seen the clown. For once he didn’t go all clown killer on them. but it must have been hard.

“Follow me” Jared called out, turning off into the woods, they rode maybe five minutes deeper into the woods, then Jared slowed long enough get a bearing with his compass, fix a landmark and start riding towards it.

They splashed through Tree shaded creeks, and muddy spots, weaving around dense stands of brush and trees. At least they didn’t have to worry about riding up to a bluff hidden by trees, and falling a hundred feet to the bottom like back home.

It was late afternoon, when they skirted a house, entered the woods across the street from it and found themselves on Highway 17. just on the southern edge of Bolivar.

“I just kicked over to the reserves” Jared said as he set the brake and dismounted, retrieving the last flat pack gas can. it was three quarters full. But should be enough to get him to the college, assuming no more detours.

“Looks like there’s plenty of those things on the road” Ori said pointing south in the direction the college lay.

Jared nodded having spotted the undead scattered along the road, as far as the eye could see he thought, shaking his head. we should have hunted down a real vehicle, hours ago, bit late for that now, he thought.

By the time he had finished emptying the can into his gas tank, about ten zombies were with in twenty feet, more had appeared from the direction of Bolivar. “lets go” he yelled. As he replaced the can then leaped onto the four wheeler and gave it gas, dirt and grass sprayed out behind him, as he tore out, followed by the UTV’s.

He drove around the zombies, keeping as far away as he could from the outstretched arms and grasping hands. The smell was almost overwhelming, making him want to throw up.
They raced down the side of the road, at forty miles an hour, maybe faster, dodging undead. he skirted one zombie a woman who the word fat was being far to nice, she was a mountain of rotting flesh, with blackened rotting teeth. He zigged around her, the back end of the four wheeler hitting something. The four wheelers handling felt different and a odd noise made him look back to see a zombie hanging on to the Rear cargo rack, its legs dragging the ground.

Jared drew his pistol with his right hand, reaching across his chest with his left arm to grasp the right hand handle and keep a thumb on the throttle. it was be hard to drive that way, but totally possible, and this was only for a moment.

Pistol in hand he turned to his right, and pointed the pistol at the zombies head, trying not to see the tufts of hair, that stuck out of the rotting skull, or the thin rotting lips. He pulled the trigger, striking the zombie in the shoulder, he fired again and the round lifted off the top of the zombies head. its hand came free and it tumbled to the ground.

He turned back and saw he was heading straight for another zombie, the four wheeler plowed into the walking corpse, and bounced over it, almost throwing Jared off. he dropped his pistol which went tumbling to the ground behind him. he curse, grabbed the handle bars, snapped them to the left, hit the throttle turning the ATV on its front wheel, in a donut. He shot forward, and then hit the brakes, sliding to a stop beside his pistol. He dropped the wheeler out of gear before leaping off and snatching his pistol off the ground.

A zombie closer than the rest was reaching for him, when the UTV driven by Jill shot past Jared and ran it down, he smiled leaping back onto his four wheeler, snapping off two shots, at the next closest zombie, then holstered his pistol and roared around in a tight turn and shot after the others.

This is not going well Jared thought as he saw the numbers of undead were steadily increasing. They didn’t have the fuel to run into the woods to evade, or to go far around.

Up ahead he saw Ori throw the back end of his bike around with his body weight and gun it, shooting away from two zombies directly ahead of him, then He snapped around again heading south once more but slowed seeing the numbers of undead, just ahead of him. The undead that stretched off into the distance in ever growing numbers.

“ Jared we cant make this with out a real vehicle” Ori called out as the others slowed as they approached.

Ori was right, they would have to slow down driving through that many undead, and that would allow the undead to reach into the cabs of the UTV’s, and any one that tried to ride in the small bed would be pulled out In heartbeat. And the UTVs were not half as dangerous as the ATV and the dirt bike.

“ we go north, that will take us further away from all this then find a vehicle” Jared said, as he gunned the four wheeler and shot across 17 and into the woods on the others side, undead swatting at him as he wove through them. some one was up ahead, of that he was certain of. Unless of course the sound of their motors could be heard much further away than he realized.

************************************

Jeb stood on the roof of the Building looking out over the campus, where undead were as thick as fleas. He shook his head, and stepped away from the edge, turning to look at Sergeant Ty Pierce, one of the surviving Soldiers from the terminal, five out of the ten that had started out to Pick up Jared and the others. two of the six wouldn’t last till sunset, having been bitten, they were under guard, the rest of the men were devastated at how badly they had been mauled.

He shook his head slowly, those guys had been so damn much over the last few days, the battle at the terminal, escaping the ruins of the Terminal, rescuing Jill, only to start getting picked off now.

Jeb had gotten the word to head to Holden Beach, to pick up Jared and they had driven out in the ELSORV, both of the Modfied Tacoma’s and the LAV. The plan had been simple, meet Jared drop off the ELSORV and the Tacoma for them to drive, the soldiers who had driven them would ride back in the LAV, and things would go wonderfully.

Ten minutes out, one of the Tacoma’s had blown a tire. Not a big deal, there were no undead in the town. hadn’t been for three days. they had stopped, set out guards just to be on the safe side. They were parked in the middle of a street full of homes, and abandoned vehicles, which had, broke up sight lines, but it wasn’t a problem.

Two soldiers were changing the tire, and one man, just one, had been more interested in grabbing a smoke, who in the hell smoked these days, he thought, the new tire was on and being tightened down, when there had been a scream from behind the LAV, and then gunfire from inside the LAV.

The Soldiers had reacted as only well trained men do, quickly and decisively, and that might have worked out, but as they reached the LAV, and found six kid zombies inside, as they put down the kindergarten from hell, undead began to stream out from behind the houses. Pierce knew they didn’t have the ammo to hold off or kill the kind of numbers coming at them and had ordered every one back to the vehicles, and they had raced away, leaving the LAV and one Tacoma, its diver and gunner dead behind the LAV.

They had been two miles from the Campus, when the Tire that had just been changed on the Tacoma, went bouncing past the Truck then the ELSORV. The lug nuts had never been fully tightened and had loosed as they drove, till they fell off freeing the tire. The driver of the truck lost control, and men and supplies in the bed were thrown out onto the highway. And every zombie on the road converged on them.

One man had never regained consciousness; he had landed three feet from a zombie and was dead before he could wake. Another broke his leg when he landed, and he and the soldier who tried to help him escape were dragged down with out making it more than twenty feet.

Pierce had ran back to the ELSORV firing, ordering the remaining men into the ELSORV, it had been madness, men had lobbed grenades, the gunfire was a steady roar of noise that battered at their ears.

Jeb had been shouting at them to get inside, but they were furious and heart broken at losing so many men, and they hadn’t finished paying the price yet, Private John Stenis, 20, from Toledo Ohio, was bitten as he tried to climb into the ELSORV, Specialist Nathan Carter was Bitten as he pulled Stenis inside.

As soon as the Stenis was inside, Jeb drove away, with shouts, cursing and blood spraying inside the ELSORV. Needing a place to stop, He had chosen the College where Chad and the others had sheltered before heading out towards Sullivan

“Sounds like a dirt Bike” Pierce said suddenly looking north.

“who would be insane enough to ride a dirt bike” Jeb asked, pulling out his binoculars, he panned across the road, and the trees, but saw nothing. who ever it was, was still to far away to be seen. and if they were smart they wouldn’t try driving through all the undead on a dirt bike to reach the college.

“once Stenis and Carter are dead we can try and get out.” Pierce said quietly. Jeb nodded, no one wanted to leave the two men to die alone and rise again, six billion some odd folks had died alone and screaming already, their corpses wandering around spreading the plague or what ever it was.

“its going to be tough” Jeb said pointing down where a few hundred zombies had gathered and more were appearing on the campus by the minute.

“not really, we can climb over the wall, drop down onto the roof of the ELSORV, enter through the gunners position, and then use grenades to blow holes in the crowd, making it easier to drive through.” Pierce said. “once we are back on the we can either try to catch up with that other group of your folks or head back to where we hid the deuce and the stryker and resupply then make another try at this.”

“Well it’s a plan, at any rate” Jeb replied “ not a good one, but I havent noticed any good plans for dealing with the zombie apocalypse.” He said then paused, “ you know, I remember back in the day, people would laugh and crack jokes, or talk about how stupid this or that was in a zombie movie or book.

no on really thought about the real horror of the shambling dead coming at you, or the crushing loneliness at knowing that your damn near alone in the world, and your not just going to cross a bridge and find the bright lights and law and order of a big city after two and half hours of running around escaping the slow stupid corpses or having to put down friends and family, or the nut shrinking horror at almost being bitten.”

“True or the fact it drags on day after day, month after month. And you cant just walk outside to change oil or…..” Pierces voice trailed off.

“Or a tire” Jeb added for him.

“yeah..that too” Pierce said softly. “You know I didn’t think shit would be able to get to me after Iraq, or a tour in Afghanistan, and then this happened.”

They both fell silent after that they just gazed off into the distance dealing with their own ghosts.

“Wonder who that was on the dirt bike?” Jeb asked “ hope the stupid ass, made it”

*************************

Jared, ignored the throbbing pain in his leg, as he rode slowly through the trees, where occasionally patches of blue sky could be seen through the holes in the leafy canopy.
Things had gone completely sideways and it was his damn fault. Four wheelers and UTV’s what the hell was he thinking.

At least they hadn’t seen a zombie in the woods for the last hour, which meant they were all probably massing some where just to sweep over them. more and more he was certain that all the undead on Highway 17, were there because some one was still at the College. But the only way to get there was in a real vehicle.

He shook his head, not even bothering to deny his own stupidity. They should have flown back to Sullivan, then come back with enough men and Materials to recover all the people scattered when the Terminal blew up.

But no, he had to rush out and play the white knight again, Dragging his friends right along with him. he was so lost in tearing himself a new ass, that he missed what Ori said twice, before his friend waved at him.

“what…” Jared asked, giving Ori a crooked smile.

“I said look at that” Ori said pointing, ahead of them. Jared looked and could barely make out a roof top.

“lets check it out “ Jared said, hoping that he wasn’t about to get them all killed.

They rolled out of the woods and into a field, behind a single story home. a sagging barn, its roof half collapsed from the recent storm sat behind the house and to the left, casting a long shadow across the weed choked field. As they drew closer the say the windows had been broken out, and anything inside was heavily water damaged.

In the Barn they found an old IH truck, part of the Barns roof rested on the truck, which was rusted, its tires dry rotted and long past any help they could give it. Jared pulled out the GPS unit and locked the coordinates into memory,

“what was that for,” Nials asked “ its not like theres anything worth taking here to come back for”

“We are going to ride up the road a little ways and see how many more houses are along this road, if Ronny shows up while we are in the area, this is a great place to land” Jared explained as he swung away from the barn and followed the Driveway to the edge of the road, that was becoming cracked and pitted for lack of care.

Jared randomly turned right, and sped up slightly, ahead they could see a tan roof looming over the trees.

The first house, a once expensive home, some one long dead’s dream home, sat on a overgrown lawn, a zombie stood on the long porch, as soon as they pulled into the drive way it stumbled down into the yard, heading for the small group. Nial’s lifted his crossbow to his shoulder and, sent a Quarrel hissing across the lawn, into the things head.

“that just never gets old” Chris said, climbing down from the UTV.

“Maybe for you” Jared muttered, as he strode up to the porch and peered inside. “flat screen, computers, expensive furniture, I’m betting very little food in the pantry, and not much else we can use, these kind of people spent a fortune on gadgets and toys, very little on outdoors gear, prepping or gardens of the food variety” Jared said.

“Mercedes in the Garage” Ori said as he peered into a window in the Garage wall.

Jared shook his head. “ lets hit the next one” he said heading back to his four wheeler.

“you sure”: Jill asked, torn between searching for supplies and getting the hell out of here.

“I’m sure, we’ve searched to many places like this. They are always full of Tons of electronic crap and not much else. Guys like this spent their money on crap that made them look successful, not on things that would keep them alive if a disaster happened.” Jared said as he started the four wheeler.

It was an old sore point for him really, he had no problems with buying toys and gadgets, but he had been raised to be prepared, crap happens, and a TV wasn’t edible when your hungry. He idly wondered how many people had died after the zombies came simply because they had more gadgets and games than food, and water. Even after Katrina people hadn’t learned, it always happened to other people, not to them. the hundred dollars to put back a bit of food a month was better spent on a new x box game or to replace a two month old cell phone for the three hundred dollar new cell phone because the new one had a touch screen, or had better wireless.

The next house about a hundred yards down the yard was a gutted ruin, covered in climbing ivy, there was a truck in the drive way, with a limb through the windshield and two zombies in the wreckage of the home.

“now that looks promising” Jared called out to Ori pointing to the Aerials jutting up from the Roof of a house in the distance. One aerial was almost sixty feet high, and Jared would lay good odds it was a HAM antenna.

“why would that look promising” Nial’s asked. “ isn’t that a sign the old owner bought tons of electronic crap, like you said about the first one.”

“maybe, but that’s a HAM antenna, and most of the HAM and Shortwave folks I’ve known where into Prepping for emergencies, some people spent money on gadgets after they spent money on preparations” Jared said. “ and HAM wasn’t on the list of this is cool technology.”

Three minutes later they pulled up in front of the home, the door to the two story Garage was standing open, inside they could see, a black SUV parked inside. the windows were covered in a cage of bars that stuck out two feet from the actual glass.

“Either the crime rate out here in the sticks was really bad, or who ever lived there was Paranoid” chris commented, as they rode into the yard. Ori rode up the garage, dismounting long enough to shut the garage door. riding around back they found that the house backed up onto two acres, and sixty feet of the land directly behind the house was fenced in with a eight foot tall cedar privacy fence.

“Contact” Ori called out. Pointing to the woods a hundred feet west of the house, about twenty zombies were emerging from the shadowy interior. . Jared rolled up to the Double doored gate set into the privacy fence, and tried the latch. It moved easily in his hand. He backed the four wheeler off from the gate, noting that ten zombies had emerged from the woods to the east of the house. “Contact, east, ten more” he said, as he climbed off the four wheeler and opened the gate with his left hand, his right hand hovering over the pistol on his right thigh.

Inside the gate was a gravel path wide enough for a UTV, and on either side were rows and rows of a garden gone wild, he waved every one side, then moved his ATV in last, closing the gate and twisting a piece of wire through the hatch hasp to keep it from moving.

“look tomato’s” Jill said, as she gathered up several large tomato’s into a hat.

“look water collection barrels” Jared said pointing to the platform were plastic fifty gallon barrels had been placed, water ran off the roof, into a gutter system that fed the water into the barrels. Several arbors covered in vines were placed along the narrow paths between rows of vegetables.

“watermelons” Ori exclaimed.

“zombies outside” Chris added pointedly

“fence” Ori responded.

“focus” Jared said as he walked up to the large window that looked into the kitchen beyond, finding a garden like this bode well for what might be inside, and the cinderblock structure at juncture of the west wall of the house and the fence looked interesting to him.

Jared briefly hugged Jill, who looked tired, dead on her feet tired at that. she leaned against an arbor then slid down to sit on the built in bench.

. “ you okay?” Jared asked,

“now that we aren’t running from a horde of undead in vehicles that proved less protection than the lacy thong I’m wearing, why yes I am.”

“Lace, Thong” Ori said perking up, then laughed. “ sorry its what Ronny would have said, and, well don’t tell any one but I miss the asshole”

“me too” Jill said glancing at the gate, as something thumped against it

“your both sad and pathetic” Jared commented as he rose to his feet. “Its like a Vacation with out Ronny, now if I can only make sure you, Ori, don’t get play music again, It will be heaven, now can we get busy clearing this house, and get to work on the SUV in the Garage. Before the sun sets on us”

“I still say we should have tried a different place.” Chris said, “maybe one with a RV.”

“Ori you get the door, I enter first, Chris you follow, then …”

“NO” Ori said.

“what the hell do you mean no” Jared asked surprised.

“look at you Jared, your more fucked up then I am, you can barely walk your limping so badly, your exhausted, hell you didn’t even try to wipe that clown off the face of the planet, and that my brother, is not you.” Ori said. “ you, would have driven over the damn thing a few times, backed up, then got out and crushed its head open, before dropping a grenade into the skull to make sure it never moved again”

“ I am not that bad,” Jared protested.

“bullshit brother you blew up three blocks of a town to make sure you got those undead clowns and the circus they came from. Oh and remember the Clown in germany. That poor bastard retired right after the paramedics let him go.”

“he had very creepy balloon animals” Jared said, with the ghost of a smile. “ besides I only punched him.”

“punched him, swept him off his feet, then tossed him at the stacked milk bottles in the ball toss game.” Ori reminded him.

“They still owe me a stuffed bear” Jared said with a crooked smile.

“Okay that’s decided your waiting out here, Jared, you open the door, Ill go first, Chris will follow and Nial’s will back us up, then you and Jill can enter. Got it…” Ori said arms folded across his chest once more.

“I take it your not going to budge on this are you” Jared asked.

“nope, and Jill is on my side” Ori said as Jill nodded in agreement..

“all right, damn” Jared said, “I’m not sure I like the new Bossy Ori”

“no complaining or its bread and water. for you and solitary.” Ori said with a weak grin. he knew Jared wasn’t thinking as clearly as he usually did, and truth was Ori had no desire to be the one in charge, but he wasn’t going to stand by and watch Jared dive into danger and have his leg collapsed under him at a critical point or pass out, because he had barely slept in almost a week. Or the other wounds he had received got infected.
.
The back door was locked, which posed no problems, two strikes from Jared’s Tomahawk and the door knob and part of the door fell into the house.

As soon as Ori nodded Jared pushed the door open, feeling odd, watching as Ori and the others slipped into the house.

Jared didn’t like it, but he agreed with Ori, his leg was hurting more and more, he had lost a lot of blood, and he was honestly on his last leg, no pun intended, he told himself.
At the moment he needed rest, and this was as close as it got at the moment.

Ori moved slowly through the kitchen, some one had spent a lot of money to renovate this place. Designed to have a wide open floor plan, a large island that also served as a table, the Stove, was Natural gas stove. In front of the fridge, there were broken bottles, and trays from the inside of the fridge.

As he looked at the debris on the floor, he heard something thump inside the fridge, Gesturing at Chris to cover him, Ori motioned for Nial’s to get ready to open the door.

“Now!” he said. Nial’s, yanked the door open and the foulest stench they had ever smelled rolled out, Chris started puking, trying to keep his rifle inline. Nial’s, backed away fast racing around the kitchen island to place its bulk between himself and the fridge.

Ori, managed not to puke, but just barely. A zombie wearing a pair of bloody jeans, staggered out of the fridge, its skin had sloughed off forming a black puddle on the floor of the fridge, leaving behind rotting muscle, bones could be seen through the holes. Its face was more skeletal than anything else, lacking lips, and nose.

Ori fired three times, but his tearing eyes threw his aim off, it came at him, Chris, stepped up, and swung his rifle at the things head like a All star, sending it flying to the floor. Ori rushed forward, and fired into its chest walking bullets up into its head. it stiffened then stopped moving in a pool of spreading dark goo.

Ori promptly threw up, “contact” Chris shouted, pivoting towards the doorway that led to what looked like a dining room. a woman, in much better shape then the Fridge zombie, staggered in, her teeth snapping open and closed as she advanced reaching for Ori.

“Heads up” Nial’s yelled, Ori heard something hiss by his right ear, and then the womans forehead grew a cross bow bolt. She toppled over, and didn’t move.

“you almost fucking shot me” Ori called back, as he moved towards the doorway, and peered out into a living room, where lamps had been knocked over, a few pictures had been knocked from the wall. There were bloody smears on the wall, and some of the furniture.

“almost, doesn’t count.” Nial’s replied as he cocked his crossbow, and loaded another bolt.

They cleared the dining room, and living room quickly finding only a knocked over chair in the living room, and a light fixture that had been pulled from the ceiling.

They moved down the dim hallway, where four out of five doors stood open, there was dried blood all over the bathroom, and a womans shoe on the floor. in one of the bedrooms there were two duffle bags, a suitcase that lay open, and two carry on’s. another bedroom was filled with radio gear, the window covered on the inside..

Finally they grouped before the closed door, Ori reached out, and tried the knob., then knocked. They waited for almost five minutes, but heard noting inside the room. Finally Ori twisted the knob and shoved the door open. He triggered the light on the tac rail of his rifle and moved inside the room, sweeping the light over the metal shelves that lined the walls, and formed two aisles in the center of the room.

“holy shit” Chris said, sweeping his own light over the rows of goods sealed in mason jars, neatly labeled to show, peaches, pears, apples, Soups, stews, and other varieties of foodstuffs. another shelf held boxes of ammo, a large cleaning kit, two green boxes used by hunters to carry ammo and other supplies.

Another rack held black plastic foot lockers, lanterns, 26 pound propane bottles, two camp stoves, cases of bottled water, and other assorted camping and hiking Gear.

Ori stepped around a set of shelves shining his light on the floor, revealing a mostly decomposed corpse that sat with its back against the wall, a revolver in its hand. From the shattered skull, it looked like he had shot himself. beside the body there was the mostly skeletal remains of a dog, who had been shot as well.

A note book lay open beside the body, Ori knelt and picked it up, noting the dried blood on the neatly written note. “poor bastard, let his girlfriend and another guy in after it all went down. he thought the other guy must have been bitten, because he turned three days later and attacked the Girlfriend first, while our guy was out in the back, burying some supplies, in case raiders hit the house. Hearing the screams, he ran inside and saw the neighbor staggering out of the bathroom, covered in blood, and just the foot if his Girlfriend twitching as she changed, our guy there, not able to get past the zombie to reach this room and the weapons inside, panicked ran into the Garage to planning on leaving, he threw open the door, and found a drive way full of undead, and had to return inside.

Where he was attacked and bitten, he managed to get the fridge open and throw every thing out onto the floor and then shoved his neighbor inside and slammed the door.

he came back here got his weapon, and was going to put his Girlfriend and his neighbor down, and couldn’t bring himself to kill her. He came back here, sat down with his dog and knew he was dying, described it as like fire flowing slowly through his blood, even as he grew colder, so not willing to let his dog starve to death, once he was dead, and knowing he couldn’t let it outside with it getting killed. He shot the dog, then was going to eat a bullet as he put it, so he wouldn’t come back as one of those things” Ori said giving the other two men the condensed version of the story the dead man had left behind.

“ damn that sucks, and surrounded by all this stuff that was meant to help him survive and he didn’t make past the first week.” Chris muttered.

“we got lucky Chris, we really did” Ori said, flipping through the notebook, reading the passages hating the fact he could no longer feel much sorrow for the pure damned bad luck the man had gone through. He reached the story again, and flipped past the the blank page that followed the story, and stopped his eyes scanning the blood smeared sheet of paper.

“I hope the septic tank doesn’t stink” Ori said suddenly reaching the page after the story of Garret Moores last day. Chris sat down the jar of canned cinnamon peaches and looked at Ori with a puzzled expression.

“why?” Chris asked.

“Because this guy hid all kinds of stuff in the septic tank, believing it was the one spot raiders and thieves wouldn’t think to look in.” Ori said.

“Real bright to write it down.” Chris laughed.

“It was the last thing he wrote, Chris, giving it to who ever finds his body, and this notebook.:” Ori said quietly. He didn’t list what was in there, but what ever he had read, had gotten him excited Chris thought, watching Ori for a moment noting the way Ori bounced up and down on the balls of his feet, like cats tail twitching from side to side.
he smiled and turned back to the shelf, eyeing a mason Jar full of a rich looking Stew.

“all of us are short on gear, and supplies, start going through this stuff and see what we can take,” Ori told Chris, “ I’m going to show this to Jared.”

Jared stepped into the concrete structure attached to the back of the house, and nodded to himself as he saw the generator inside, a large thousand gallon tank mounted beside it. at least if they were trapped here, they would have some power. He looked back at the open door to make sure no one was in sight, then quickly pulled his pants down and checked his leg. He frowned unhappily seeing the deep red and puffy tissue around his wound, and the line of red that was tracing its way up his thigh. The skin felt feverish and hot. He pulled his pants back up, he still had a little time a couple of days at best and maybe he could find some antibiotics in the house.

He couldn’t bring himself to tell Jill, not yet at any rate. God just let me stay coherent long enough to get them home, he prayed silently as he pulled up his pants and strapped his pistol back down to his thigh.. He plastered a smile on his face as Ori entered the room holding a notebook. “here read the last five pages, your going to love it.” Ori said passing him the note book. kneeling he studied the generator control panel for a moment then pushed a button. Nothing happened.

“Ill get tools and get to working on this thing” Ori said looking at Jared who was unusually quiet. “you okay” he asked.

Jared nodded holding up the notebook. “Just thinking about how things work out” Jared replied. “Some times no matter what you do, you fail.” There was an odd tone to his words, but Ori didn’t pursue it.

*************************

Jeb stood looking at the two graves, as Pierce and the other two soldiers filled them up under the light of the setting sun. Finally they were finished, Pierce sat the shovel aside, and wiped his filthy hands on a rag.

“cant even lay them to rest with honors” he said with disgust, as he joined Jeb near the ladder leaning against the tall barricade. “the sound would draw even more undead, and we cant waste the ammo”

“one day we can come back and do it then” Jeb said softly, wondering who would put him down and bury him if the time came, who the hell would even remember him when he was gone. It was a depressing thought, and one that had bugged him a lot lately.

“at least a large chunk of the undead were drawn off by who ever that was earlier” Pierce commented quietly.

“true, that only leaves a couple of hundred spread around this building and the campus” Jeb said dryly.

Pierce only nodded, gazing up at the blue black sky, where a few stars were already twinkling overhead. “if this ends, I am going to find a woman and have sex for a month, then I’m going to go visit all the places I wanted to see before this shit started.”he muttered, patting a pocket,” got the list right here.” he said.

“lets get inside,”Jeb said leading the way.

They sat in the echoing hallway of the empty building, eating MRE’s by the light of emergency candle. They were all lost in their own thoughts, and Jeb suddenly realized how helpful being in a large well equipped group like Jared’s was. Here in the darkness of a hallway on a dead campus surrounded by the ghosts and the walking corpses of the students and facility with only four other people, It was so easy to fall into a spiral of depression.

“you know I miss Corn dogs” Jeb said suddenly. “haven’t eaten one since I was a kid, but now that I cant have one I want one badly”

“know what you mean, there was this place just off post, that had the best steak I’ve ever eaten, I’ve had a craving for one, for over a year now.” Private Dannen commented.

“I miss my Girlfriend” Pierce said suddenly, “she was in Germany TDY when all this, this stuff went down. I was going to propose to her when she got back. I wished I had done it before she had left.”

There was a long silence after that as the men finished eating not sure what to say to that.. As Jeb opened the sweet bread package, Pierces radio erupted in a series of beeps. The conversation faltered as they all started at the unit.

“if any one is listening, Help,. we have naked women here” it was a mans voice, a very familiar mans voice. “ just kidding, Ronny, Jeb, Chad, if you folks can hear us, respond.”

In the back ground Jeb could hear Jared, “ give me the damn mic, you idiot” there were sounds like hands slapping something, and then Jills voice. “Jared put him down”

“Copy help and Naked women,” Pierce said as his surviving men broke out into quiet laughter at the broadcast.

”this is Jared Stone, Identify yourself.”the voice was deep and strong.

“this is Sergeant Ty Pierce,.” Pierce transmitted.

“thank god for that, we were worried about you folks” Jared responded, with relief in his voice. Jeb could see the difference in the Soldiers faces and Bearing as they realized they were not alone now.

“Thanks for the concern, we lost several men, and have holed up in a building on a college campus, its secure, Jeb was the one who suggested it. we do have wheels and can access our ride with out danger.”

“Glad to hear your mobile, we have a slight problem in that regard Sergeant, apparently UTV’s and Four wheelers are not the best way to travel, at least not on Highways, roads and streets. and if your on the campus, then your not all that far from us. coordinates to follow.” Jared said, consulting his maps, then rattled off the details.

Pierce repeated them back to Jared, as Dannen wrote them down on his arm then dug out a map and located the appropriate grids.

“Ten minutes away by road Sergeant” Dannen told Pierce.

“We will link up with you tomorrow, but be advised we only have the ELSORV at this time.” Pierce said.

“we have a vehicle here we are working on getting started, if not, well we can find something else once you get here., Stone out”

Jeb realized he was smiling; he leaned back against the wall, his fingers laced behind his head. “Let me tell you a little story about Jared stone and how he leveled three city blocks to get three undead clowns and a circus. Now this was before I was with them but Ori and Ronny love to tell this story. Sooo… once upon a time there was a solider who really hated clowns, and this soldier …………”

********************************

The night wind off the water was chilly, the old man gazed across the water at the dark skyline of Charleston, where the streets were alive with the undead shuffling aimless about the dark dead streets of a city that had once been vibrant and alive.

Pappy was, embarrassingly wrapped in a snuggie that his daughter inlaw had insisted he wear if he was going to be outside at night, stupid fucking snuggie, some lazy ass liberal hippie had probably designed the thing.

he loved Vickie, enough that he hadn’t argued, she reminded him of his dead wife, and she was as good an influence on Jeff as his own wife had been on himself. And.. well he couldn’t help himself, she had a rack that put Mt. Rushmore to shame.

His thoughts drifted as they did a lot these days, he knew he was getting to old, but he wasn’t quite ready to die just yet. Still had some steel to his bat, and job that needed doing.

After the last few days, he had a lot of question , like who was the kid that had shown up and sent him to Sharon and Bridget’s house, where had the crystal ball come from, and. No one recognized the boy from Pappy’s description, the only Children on Moultrie were well known, the rest lived out on Fort Sumter where it was safer for them.

Who was Jack Strider and why did he set off every internal alarm bell Pappy had. For all his ranting and cussing and acting like a chauvinistic ass, Pappy was actually pretty sharp, and when someone set off his alarm bells he listened.

“It sucks to be crippled doesn’t old man” a voice said out of the darkness. “Anything could happen to an old man alone on a dock. Like falling into the water.”

Pappy turned the hover around and saw a dark man shaped shadow, standing about ten feet from him, under cover of the snuggie Pappie laid his hand on his pistol. “sucks to be a limp dicked, moron, but we both have our cross to bear, you cant get it up, and I get laid every day.” Pappy said chortling softly, he wasn’t going to show fear to this clown no matter what happened.

“such a smart ass, Never met an old fart so nasty mouthed.” Jack strider commented stepping forward, a foot. “it would be a real shame if something happened to you out here, Pappy isn’t it, let me walk you back to the nursing home old man”

“Id rather get the clap again, then have you help me find my pecker if I needed it.” Pappy said, his hand trembling slightly on the butt of his pistol.

Far behind Strider Pappy saw the glow of a flashlight as some one walked out the sally door, and started towards the docks. Please don’t le it be Vickie and the grandkids, Pappy thought.

“so you’re here to kill me” Pappy asked conversationally.

“now what makes you think that” Strider asked, “I was commenting on how dangerous it can be out here, for a crippled old man.” He said smiling in the darkness. “the only thing I wanted to do, was to ask you why your fixated on me, and tell you to get the hell out of my life.”

he knows, Pappy realized he knows someone is approaching, and is saying what he wants them to hear. he couldn’t see any other reason for the man to act the way he was if that wasn’t the case.

“but” Strider said quietly. “ accidents do happen, it would be shame if your grandkids stumbled across your reanimated corpse.”

Pappys hand trembled, at the implied threat. Strider had been digging around for information on Pappy. What Pappy didn’t know, was did Strider have a friend or friends who might act if something happened to the Turd. He kept the pistol lowered, even though he ached to put a bullet into the little bastards head., but he couldn’t till he knew his sons family was safe.

it seemed colder outside now, and something malevolent seemed to hang in the air, unclean, angry and gloating. Something familiar, then it was gone with only the whiff of rotted meat.

“Pappy you okay out here” Ashton asked, drawing close enough to see the two people on the dock.

Strider smiled at Pappy, “ cant wait to talk to you again one night, you need to be careful out here” Strider said then turned and walked away, greeting Ashton as he passed.

Ashton watched the new guy as he walked across the grass and vanished around the side of the fort heading for the Reception building. then knelt beside Pappy. “ you okay, whats going on” Every one here knew that Pappy and his Cadre of wrinkled Rangers had a thing against Strider, though no one knew exactly why.

Pappy sat there for a moment hearing the concern in Ashtons voice, and for the first time, felt to old, and to helpless, he remembered hearing an old vet say when you get older the worst part is men no longer fear you, and that was the damn truth. There was a time a man like Strider would never have taunted him like that. and now all pappy could do was sit there, and pray the pistol he held wouldn’t fly out of his hands if he fired it.

“Ill get Linda” Ashton said really worried know, it was unlike pappy to be so quiet.

“Don’t you dare get the needle pushing, pill shoving Lesbian carpet licker, or Ill pistol whip your ass” Pappy snapped suddenly.

“you do realize she is married to a man right” Ashton asked feeling relieved that pappy was more himself now..

“yeah, so.. it sounds better when I call her a lesbian” Pappy said simply as he got his chair rolling forward. he was going to have to do something about Strider once he knew his sons Family was safe. And some how Strider was tied to what had happened at Bridget and Sharon’s, pappy could feel it, and that meant he was a danger to the community, except only Pappy and his patrol knew and believed it.

“want to tell me what that was all about” Ashton asked as walked beside Pappy.

“no, Ill handle it myself.” Pappy said, even if it kills me, he thought.

***********************

Strider walked into bedroom, thankful that no one else was awake and in the living room he was not in the mood to play nice. These people were dumber than flies on shit, rebuilding, like they could bring back the old world. Humanity was in the crapper and swirling down the drain, and they thought they could save it. well God had spoken, the horsemen had rode across the sky, and the Rider of the Pale horse was out for blood.

sooner or later he was going to have to get rid of the old man and his cronies, before he could do what he came here for, sooner or later some one was going to start thinking that old fuck was on to something. Two more days was all he needed, just two, and then this place was screwed and if he lived he could return home like a hero. He sprawled out on the bed and was asleep in minutes, dreaming of dark roads, burning towns, and a figure that walked through it all, three Ravens circling over head and a smile played across his lips.

*****************************

“You need to wake up for this” Jill said shaking Jared, who felt a bit feverish to the touch, she felt a tremor of fear at that but said nothing, as he woke instantly his eyes fixed on her.

”What is it?” he asked sitting up looking around for danger, he saw the sun was up and from the looks of it had been up for an hour. Which was so totally unlike him to sleep this late, Nibbler stirred by his side, lifting her head and glaring at him for moving.

“the Radio” she said smiling and holding it up “ Ronny is up there” .

“this is apocalypse air, to any one this channel” Ronny’s voice erupted from the speakers..

“This is Jill, we copy, stand by, for directions or coordinates or what ever you folks call them.” Jill transmitted then passed the radio to Jared who smiled Crookedly at her as he took the radio.

“Welcome back” Jared said as he dug out the GPS and called up the marker he had set for their current location. “ Coordinates as follows.”

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