Laurens story

 

Laurens story

“Lord of the winds! I feel thee nigh,
I know thy breath in the burning sky!
And I wait, with a thrill in every vein,
For the coming of the hurricane!

And lo! on the wing of the heavy gales,
Through the boundless arch of heaven he sails;
Silent and slow, and terribly strong,
The mighty shadow is borne along,
Like the dark eternity to come;
While the world below, dismayed and dumb,
Through the calm of the thick hot atmosphere
Looks up at its gloomy folds with fear.

They darken fast; and the golden blaze
Of the sun is quenched in the lurid haze,
And he sends through the shade a funeral ray—
A glare that is neither night nor day,
A beam that touches, with hues of death,
The clouds above and the earth beneath.
To its covert glides the silent bird,
While the hurricane’s distant voice is heard,
Uplifted among the mountains round,
And the forests hear and answer the sound.

He is come! he is come! do ye not behold
His ample robes on the wind unrolled?
Giant of air! we bid thee hail!—
How his gray skirts toss in the whirling gale;
How his huge and writhing arms are bent,
To clasp the zone of the firmament,
And fold at length, in their dark embrace,
From mountain to mountain the visible space.

Darker—still darker! the whirlwinds bear
The dust of the plains to the middle air:
And hark to the crashing, long and loud,
Of the chariot of God in the thunder-cloud!
You may trace its path by the flashes that start
From the rapid wheels where’er they dart,
As the fire-bolts leap to the world below,
And flood the skies with a lurid glow.”
~ William Cullen Bryant

 

Lauren sat on the exercise bike pedaling slowly as she stared out the upstairs window to the ocean beyond. Finally, the wind up timer on the antique dresser went off. She slipped off the bike and grabbed a towel. It was a long ride to get the batteries charged, but since it kept the LED lights burning and a few other electrical devices operating, she didn’t mind the every other day two hour bike ride. She tried hard not to skip a charging session but occasionally circumstances didn’t allow her to get back in time.

She stripped off the shorts and sports bra and tossed them in the corner with the other dirty clothes. She really needed to locate a hamper today and at some point she needed to finish, the bicycle powered washing machine she had been working on.

Last fall she had hidden in the local library to get out of sight of a few undead and had stumbled across several books of science projects, do it yourself projects, and survival items. They had included plans for among other things the charging bike and the washing machine. Those books had changed her life.

The one good thing about the end of the world was I’m in the best shape of my life, she thought as she stopped and admired herself in the mirror, long trim legs, narrow waist, a flat ripped stomach, a natural C cup, not to large and not to small, just perfect, as her last boyfriend had put it.

Her long dark hair when not pull up was pulled back into ponytail that dangled down her back. She had always been critical of her face, considering herself wide-eyed and doe looking, she had never realized, or really never believed, that men found her face to be captivating. Light brown, almost golden eyes with green and blue flecks, high cheekbones, full lips, not the bloated, smashed in the mouth botox look that most men hated with a passion.

Now at age 25 she was in the prime of her physical appearance and had no one to take advantage of that fact. God how she wanted someone to take advantage of it, before she got so old she forgot what Tab A was used for.

Time to get dressed she told herself sternly, maybe today I’ll find a man. Well at least a living one, she amended silently.

Men weren’t the problem, their being undead was the problem. In some ways they were much like they had been in life, they were still pushy and only wanted one thing, in this case it was to eat her, and not in the fun way.

She dressed slowly still not liking the motorcycle armor with its plastic plates that made her think of a high tech medieval armor in a movie, or really like the Batman suit in the latest, no last movie she corrected herself. The armor covered almost all the right spots, and had saved her more than once.

Once she had every strap tightened and buckled, she picked up the gun she had taken from a police car last fall, she had found plenty of ammo for it around the island since then, she was ammunition rich as the saying went. Food wise she wasn’t bad off, the traps she had put out supplied her with a decent amount of fish and crab. As long as she could get to the traps at any rate, occasionally there were so many zombies she couldn’t reach them.

She strapped on the pistol belt making sure the collapsible batons were easy to withdraw. She had gotten damn good at using them to silently drop zombies since she had found them at a police supply store.

As far as she knew of, she was one of the last people on the island, or the last one. which probably explained the small number of undead on the island.

In the first, few days of the crisis people had fled their homes for evacuation centers or for the rumored safe zones on the main land. They had never come back so she could only assume they had died over there on the mainland.

The old mansion had always been one of her favorite places and when she’d found it empty of both the living and the dead she had moved in.   It had taken a while to pack up her things and move them here. All the traveling back and forth had stirred up the undead but eventually she had gotten it done with only few real hair raising moments.

Grabbing her motorcycle helmet she headed downstairs, hating the fact that she had to have plywood installed over every window on the ground floor, but the view had far too many dead people in it these days than she wanted to see.

She peered thru the peephole she had installed and saw nothing on the porch in front of the door or on the street, which was a good; she opened the door and slipped outside, closing and locking the front door behind her.

First she had to check the traps, after that scavenge a home or two, she wanted to wax tonight, there wasn’t a lot of warm weather left and she wanted to make sure she had an all over tan before winter set in. A girl has priorities even at the end of the world. At least the old mansion had a widow walk on the roof that she could tan on without having to worry about zombies sneaking up on her.

Taking one more look around to be sure she hadn’t missed anything, she made her way cautiously down to the Jeep, stopping she looked around once more, but saw nothing. It seemed that many of the undead that had been on the island had wandered across to the mainland at some point. The only time the numbers seemed to increase was when she took trips up to the towns on the north end of the island; she knew it was the sound of the motor that drew them. She wasn’t about to put that to the test and be caught on foot trying hike from town to town on the island.

But here in her home town she walked most places she needed to go for several reasons, one gas was scarce, two motors drew the undead, it was like ringing the dinner bell, and three it gave her time to look around. She didn’t know what it was like on the mainland, but there were rarely large groups of undead out here on the outer banks. At least she had never seen a group larger than twenty and the last time she had seen that had been months ago.

Today she had so much to do and so much to gather, taking the Jeep was the only real option if she were going to get it all done and get safely back here.

Dark clouds covered the sky and the smell of rain was in the air, it was a bit chilly out especially for this time of year but in her zombie suit as she called it, she was nice and warm. She climbed into the Jeep and a moment later was rolling down the street.

The wind started gusting fitfully around noon as she finished carrying the last boxes of supplies she had gathered from Standard Brother’s Grocery and Supply. A banner on wall of Gracie’s Seafood across the street snapped with every gust, brochures and flyers from a tourist information center blew across the road. One brochure, with a picture of an incredible sunrise listing the hot spots of the Outer Banks landed on her boot. She refused to think about it. Every time she let herself stop and think about her old life, she found herself mired in self-pity and depression. If that happened to often she would end up eating a bullet.

She placed the box of batteries in the back of the Jeep looking around as she did so, wanting to make sure no undead were sneaking up on her. The street had been empty for almost two hours, but now five zombies were making their slow staggering way down the road towards her. They were still far enough away she could escape with no problems. She stood there for a moment watching.

She recognized two of them, Officer Jason Timins, who had been her age. She had dated him in high school for a short time; he had been a jerk, but not all that bad in hindsight. His pant leg looked ripped and torn and he walked with a limp. Mrs. Gladys Helms, still wearing the bloody sun dress she had died in, looked like half her hair had been ripped out, her left arm was gone, the once lovely older woman, who had been married and mother to two, stumbled towards Lauren hand outstretched.

Lauren closed the back of the Jeep then walked around and climbed into the driver’s seat, a moment later she was heading down the island to the secluded beach where the first of her traps had been placed. It began to rain as she drove into the dunes.

Towards sunset the wind had begun to blow heavily, Lauren quickly loaded the coolers full of fish and Crab into the Jeep shoving them in beside the two hundred pound bags of rice she had taken from a store earlier.

She glanced up at the sky where the dark clouds hung low and ominous. It had rain hard off and on for most of the day and it looked like it wasn’t finished yet.

It had been a good day all in all, a decent haul for food, she had found clothes, lingerie and even a toy or two in the last beach house she had searched, the couple that lived there had either evacuated or not been home when the undead rolled over the island and the world.

The water was white capped and looked rough as it rolled up onto the beach. She hoped the storm would pass pretty quickly. At least she knew the old mansion she was living in had withstood a lot of severe weather over the years, including two really bad hurricanes, so she wasn’t too worried about it.

She started the Jeep and pulled out the tires kicking up sand as she drove back up to the road. Turning onto the blacktop, she was humming as she drove. Drawing closer to town the rain began to fall in heavy sheets again and she had to fight to keep the Jeep under control as the wind battered it around making her grip the wheel tightly. She had to lean forward trying to see through the rain the wipers were not really doing their job. The trees whipped in the wind and she even saw a few shingles go spirally through the beam of the headlights.

Finally, after fifteen long tense moments, she passed the swaying welcome to town sign, buildings appeared out of the rain, sliding past slowly like dark ships on a foggy night. She drove slowly; the buildings loomed over the street, dark and dead. In between gusts of wind and driving rain she could see that many of the store windows along the street were broken out. Everything seemed grey, washed out, the buildings looked like what being near death must feel like, she thought.

Occasionally she saw a zombie stumble out of a doorway as it sought the source of the light that set the rain to glowing. After a while she was barely able to see even with the wipers going full bore, it was an hour until sunset and it was already pitch black with lightening flickering in sheets across the sky. A trash can flew past taking her by surprise, she yanked the wheel and the Jeep slid on the sheet of water that covered the streets, shaking badly, she managed to get it back under control and kept going.

For a moment her mind went back to that day, the final day of civilization really. The infection had been slow to spread out here on the outer banks, but everyone had panicked all the same. When the government had announced the creation of safe zones and shelters, people had begun to pack up and leave. It had been a trickle at first; the native islanders were determined to wait out the storm of the infected like they weathered the storms the ocean threw at them.

At first it had been a steady stream of tourists who feared for their families still on the mainland, who left. The local PD had been happy to see them leave, it lessened the danger here on the island and law enforcement truly thought they could take care of the problem here on the outer banks with only the local population to protect.

But all too soon the locals began to be spooked by the news on Tv and started to leave as well, determined to reach the evacuation centers that were guarded by the US military and the protection the military offered. She’d stayed because this was her home, her family had been here and her boyfriend Kyle and because this was an island that had weathered storms in the past and she believed it would weather this one too.

Lauren had no idea how many had left; the traffic hadn’t been bad at first. She thought she remembered a radio broadcast asking utility employees to stay, as well as first responders, due to the high number of residents that were staying. Not all of them had stayed of course.

Four days after it had started on the mainland, the few outbreaks of infection on the island had been put down or so it had been reported. But as the sun set on the fourth night the power failed, and the undead finally came for the town. The police, the few that remained, had tried to cover the people who tried to fleeing to the ferry on the south end of the island, desperate to escape to the mainland. She gave them that, they had tried and they had died as they fell back fighting and killing with each step. But there had been too many of the undead.

There had been fires, screams, and shooting everywhere. The long lines of cars that had fled for the mainland had never made it; she had seen their rusting shells still sitting on the bridge, where they had been abandoned.

The survivors, the few who had stayed hunkered down, hiding, discovered that the undead had just kept going following the people who had fled the town. What few zombies remained were scattered about, occasionally they seemed to gather into groups, and that was when it got dangerous. She hadn’t seen a really large group in months, but she never let herself forget it could happen if she made too much noise, or went out too often.

She turned onto her street and could see the old mansion that she called home now, backlit by lightening. The wind was already beginning to grow stronger making it harder to steer. By the time she reached her home, the wind was really howling, she backed up into the yard, parking so that the back end of the Jeep was over the steps.

Leaping out into the rain, she staggered as the wind slammed into her. Steadying herself she turned and grabbed her rifle. As she straightened back up she saw several undead trying to walk towards her, they seemed to have a hard time with the wind and were not moving too quickly because of it. Many of them had been blown off their feet but began to crawl forward through the soggy grass. She checked the porch making sure it was clear before she leaped the rail landing on the steps, and then rushed as fast as she could and unlocked the front door.

Once a while back she had returned home and been surprised when a zombie had come around the corner of the wrap around porch taking her by surprise and had managed to bite down on her shoulder, the motorcycle armor had saved her life that day.

By the time she got back down the steps and opened the back of the Jeep two zombies had managed to reach the side of the Jeep. She ignored them as she dragged out the coolers. Grasping a handle on each cooler she pulled them up the steps and into the foyer of the old home.

Leaving the door open she rushed back to the Jeep and saw the zombies were pressed against the railing on the left side of the steps trying to grab her as soon as they saw her at the top of the steps. She was glad she couldn’t see them clearly, too many times in the past she had recognized the undead she had put down.

She drew one of her pistols, she had no clue what kind it was, it was blocky looking, flat black and seemed to be made out of plastic. She had gotten both from dead police officer, she stepped up, letting the closest zombie grab her shoulders and rammed the barrel of her pistol against its head and pulled the trigger.

The zombie fell away from her and landed in the rain soaked grass, the remaining zombie, a nude male, it had to be a man, one with a hell of a body, she thought, lunged at her, she stepped back and cursed as it toppled over the railing and landed on the steps before her.

She darted forward and slammed a boot down on its neck holding it in place; she really hated this, she place the pistol against its skull and fired. She struggled to pick up the body and toss it over the rail to join the other zombie in the rain soaked grass.

She looked around making sure there were no other threats close by then finished unloading the Jeep. As soon as the last box was inside, she climbed thru the back of the Jeep and into the driver’s seat, shutting down the motor and killing the lights.

Locking up the Jeep from the inside, she climbed out thru the back, locked the hatch and then ran inside the mansion slamming the door behind her. Hopefully without the lights and with the noise of the storm covering her, the zombies would lose interest and be gone by morning.

Leaning against the door she pulled off her helmet letting her hair tumble free. Tucking the helmet under her arm, she left the supplies in the foyer and ran upstairs where she stripped off the armored top and placed it on the rack she had made for it. I think I’m going to have to break out real tops in another month or two, wearing a sports bra all winter will get chilly.

She headed back down stairs and transferred all her new supplies upstairs to the small kitchen she had set up in one of the large upstairs room, which at some point had been a nursery. The main reason she had created a whole new kitchen was for defense, if somehow the undead or anyone else got in downstairs, she could block off the stairs and still have access to the majority of her supplies.

Around her the house creaked as the storm battered at it. Beginning to get worried, she went around and closed the shutters on the second and third floors then debated on getting out the precut plywood and covering the windows.

Of course if the shutters were torn away, the glass would still be shattered, since she could only mount the plywood on the inside of the frame it would only hopefully keep the debris from getting inside.

If the glass survived this storm she was going to have to devise a way to quickly cover the windows to protect the glass. Maybe a sturdier solid shutter which could be bolted closed. This place has been through more hurricanes over the last century and survived than I can count, she thought deciding she had no choice at the moment but to let fate have its way.

She still needed to bar the front door and secure the doors from the main hall into the foyer. Exhausted after her long day, she headed downstairs carrying a candle and placed the crossbar into the brackets, barring the front door then closed the foyer doors and locked them as well, then headed back upstairs.

In her bedroom, she made sure the heavy blanket was over the windows to block any light, and then turned on the LED lights, setting the timer so they would turn off in an hour and not waste battery juice, with that done she locked and barred the bedroom door before stripping off her clothes.

Most people probably wouldn’t want to be locked in a room these days, it limited the options if the undead got in, but she had taken precautions, in every room of the house, she had stashed two weeks’ worth of food and water, several changes of clothes, and other supplies. If she got trapped in a room she had enough to survive for a while, if she ran low on supplies, she could always slip out a window onto the roof and walk around to the next window. Or jump down and escape if possible.

But more importantly, with the door barred, she could sleep the way she liked, and not have to worry about leaping up naked and having to fight in the middle of the night. She picked up a mystery novel and slipped into the bed. And for a little while found herself back in a world where cities held people and rugged good looking detectives were seduced by beautiful women with suspect motives.

She woke in darkness the storm had grown stronger while she slept. The wind battered at the walls of the old home moaning like a woman in pain. The pounding of the rain against the walls and roof was unbelievable. Quickly she rose and dressed in the dark. Downstairs something was slamming against a wall, or maybe at the door.

Her mind conjured the image of a something huge and shadowy, red eyes glowing like lanterns of hell fire, its massive fist pounding on the door, which shuddered and bulged inwards with each blow. Behind it, rank upon rank of undead stood poised to rush into the house when the door went down.

She tried her best to push aside the terror that image inspired, but it she couldn’t, she pulled on the motorcycle body armor, strapped on her weapons. Then stood there staring at the bedroom door, hesitating at opening it into the darkness beyond where anything might wait. Her heart beat faster, her breathing was almost ragged.

The nightmare image just wouldn’t go away, a cold sweat broke out on her brow, she lifted a trembling hand to lift the crossbar as another boom echoed thru the house.

She flinched, at the sound, then made herself pull the cross bar up and away, then opened the bedroom door slowly.

Using one of the precious battery operated lanterns she stepped into the hall, the old faded wooden floor creaked under her feet as she moved past the ornate Victorian style decorative tables scattered down the hall. At the head of the stairs, she placed the lantern on a table before peering down into the darkness of the first floor.

With a deep breath and rifle in hand she made her way slowly down to the main hall and stared at the doors that led to the foyer. She took two nervous steps towards the acid etched glass and wood doors of the foyer, finally summoning enough courage she cautiously unlocked the foyer doors and swung them open and looked inside.

She almost screamed as something hit the front door. Steeling her nerves she crossed the foyer and looked thru the peephole and felt the tension run out of her. In a flash of lightening she could see that some kind of debris was wedged onto the porch, part of it was slamming against the door driven by the wind.

Thank god she thought as she stepped out of the foyer then locked the second set of doors again and headed upstairs. She sat down fully dressed on her bed and listened to the house groan in agony at the assault it endured under the lash of the storm.

At any other time, the damage from a storm like this would have been limited, homes would have been boarded up, road crews would have been ready to leap into action and emergency services would have been ready to dive in and help at a moment’s notice. Not this year and not ever again.

In the final days of civilization, homes and businesses had been damaged in the violence and the looting, left open to the elements. Abandoned vehicles were everywhere and bridges had spent over a year steadily bearing the weight of the vehicles left abandoned on them. Everywhere were things that normally would have been packed up at the approach of such a storm. Now they were just waiting to be snatched up by the wind and driven like battering rams against anything in their paths.

The hurricane, which would in another reality be called Irene, struck at 0700. Barreling across the outer bank islands, wiping away roads and many buildings as the tidal surge washed over the islands, sweeping the undead and the debris into the intercostal water ways.

The mansion, built on a small hill, was better protected from the sea than most of the buildings and homes around it. Within half an hour it was an island in a storm tossed sea.

Lauren woke; surprised, she hadn’t even realized she had fallen asleep. From the sound of it, the storm was still raging outside, she could hear the crash of surf and that bothered her, she wasn’t that close to the beach.

She lay there listening to the wind howling around the house, the thunder of the rain, and the creaking of the old house, trying to get back to sleep. Her eyes closing slowly, her mind was starting to drift, when she heard a noise that was almost lost in the storm. She came fully awake, listening, and heard it twice more rapidly.

For a moment she was confused, and then she realized she was hearing gunshots. She leaped from the bed and strapped on her weapons. She hesitated at the door, then slid the cross bar up. I wish I had some of those night vision thingies the military used to have she thought as she picked up a lantern and headed for the stairs.

She moved slowly and quietly down the stairs, she didn’t care what was going on outside she wasn’t just going to go barreling around in the dark. She placed the lantern in a alcove next to the foot of the stairs then opened the foyer doors. She walked across the foyer and peered out the peephole but couldn’t see anything in the darkness. Suddenly she heard gunfire again and could actually see muzzle flashes as lightening flickered across the sky distorted by the fish eye lens.

She stood there debating, there were people out there that she might be able to help, but did she dare, they could be rapists and murders or not she thought. She knew she couldn’t just stand here, but the thought of opening the door and stepping into that howling wind and driving rain was more nightmarish than she had previously thought.

It was like she was trapped in an old black and white horror movie, or a Victorian novel, except she refused to swoon. No case of the vapors here, or swooning. There were more shots, and she thought she heard someone shouting.

She had to do something, and she did. She unlocked the door and threw it open before she could stop herself. The wind roared into the foyer, knocking over the umbrella stand, and tore the coat of the coat rack and sent it sailing into the main hall. A hundred twenty year old painting was torn free and sent flying until it smashed down by the stair case.

She winced, then pulled on her helmet, secured the visor and stepped out onto the porch. A quick look to either side showed no zombies, but they could be on the other side of the house. But the chances were slim to nil for that, the jeep still blocked the steps, and so far zombies couldn’t climb over the rails. But one did fall over the rail on the steps earlier remember, she reminded herself.

She stepped to the porch rail, and then stopped in shock as lightning flickered and she saw the ocean. The ocean was flowing through the streets, in the quick glimpse she had gotten before the light had faded from the sky, she had seen several house down the street were gone, washed away, another home was half collapsed, but what really surprised her was the boat.

The mansion she had moved into was on a slight rise, placing it higher than the other homes in the old historic area, surrounded by a scattering of trees and once well-manicured hedges. It now stood like an island in the ocean, and the boat looked like it was grounded about half way up the rise, stopped by a light pole.

She made her way down the steps and climbed over the rail using the Jeep to keep her balance and for some protection against the wind, then in a moment of inspiration pulled the flash light from its pouch on her belt and turned it on. At least she wouldn’t be shot as a zombie that way.

The wind made it hard to walk, and a couple of times the gusts literally blew her off her feet. This had to be a hurricane she thought. She could see the boat clearly now, it looked like a 45 foot sailboat, its sails shredded and snapping in the wind. The rigging hummed loudly as the wind blew over it. The sail boat was lay canted on the ground, trapped against a leaning light pole. Zombies clustered around it pawing at its sides, the furious surf that rolled up the rise and broke around the stern of the sailboat knocking many off their feet.

She walked closer waving the light and thought she heard a shout.   Of course her light had drawn the attention of the undead, who had probably been pushed up onto the property by the water just like the boat had been. She tossed the flashlight to the grass and ran to the Jeep. She cursed herself for fumbling her keys, but a second later she had the door open. A quick glanced showed her the zombies fighting against the wind, most were slipping and sliding on the water logged ground. A few went down, but more than half kept on their feet, and were drawn to the flashlight.

She leaned in, put the key into the ignition and started the Jeep, then turned on the headlights and the fog lights. She needed light to shoot by, and so did whoever was on the sailboat. She shut the door then scrambled over the rail on the steps and retreated to the porch.

Steady now she told herself lifting her rifle and putting it to her shoulder, she couldn’t really see through sight, so she removed her helmet, and tried again. She aimed for the zombie closest to the Jeep, only half aware of the now steady shooting from the sailboat.

In the light from the Jeep, she could see the zombies face clearly through the scope, she didn’t really know his name but she had seen him around town often. She fired once, hitting it in the shoulder, the zombie jerked and stumbled, she tried again, adjusting her aim and fired once more. The heavy caliber bullet tore through the zombie’s throat and shattered the spine; its head tilted backwards then was pushed to the side by the wind as the body collapsed to the ground.

She felt her gorge rise, but managed to hold it back. The next zombie, looked like it had been thru a meat grinder, it wore no clothes, the body was so mangled she couldn’t tell what sex it had once been, it took her four shots to put it down.

It was like a nightmare, watching them advance thru the fury of the storm, falling one by one, she had to reload, and the last six were clustered along the porch rail, drawn by the muzzle flash. She doubted they could hear the gunfire, she couldn’t, but that’s because her ears were ringing.

With the zombies out of the headlights, she couldn’t really see well enough to shoot. She slung the rifle over her back and retrieved the axe she kept beside the door in the foyer. The zombies were pawing at the railing, hands reaching thru trying to grasp her legs. She picked up her helmet and slipped it on then walked down the steps drawing the zombies towards her.

The first one to die was a skinny guy who wore glasses held in place by an elastic strap, the lenses were cracked, his left arm was bone and tendon, but that didn’t slow him down. She lifted the axe bracing against the wind and swung, putting all her strength and weight behind it.

The axe head smashed into the skull, shattering the plates and deep into the brain. The zombie stopped moving, and then fell forward smacking into the rail. The next was a dark haired woman in a bra and panties, huge chunks missing from her torso and thighs.

For some reason that made her start crying, seeing that zombie upset her. She sobbed angrily as she wacked the zombie as hard as she could, but this time it took two strikes before the poor woman died a second time.

She had no idea how long it took to finish off the last of the zombies, it was all lightening lit pallid faces, gaping maws, and grasping hands. And through it all the wind howled and the rain slashed down out of the boiling black sky. All she knew was that suddenly there were no more, and she was shuddering and crying.

She climbed over the opposite rail, not wanting to step on the bodies. Still sniffling, she walked around and picked up her flashlight. Zombies were splayed in the grass around the sail boat.

She approached cautiously, fighting the wind, thankful she wore the helmet, which kept the rain from hammering her eyes, she walked down to the stern of the sail boat where she could see up onto the canted deck and into the door of the cabin. Even with the lightening to for fitful illumination she saw no one aboard.

Nervously she swung her light around and played it across the swift moving water, down along where the street had been, but saw no undead, or people, she did see plenty of other things carried by the current. She looked towards the ocean, and during a flash of lightening saw what appeared to be dark cruise ship just barely visible far out on the water. She shivered at the thought of all the undead that must be shuffling silently along through its dark corridors, in a constant search for the living. It never even struck her that the houses that had lined the beach road before the storm were gone.

Returning her attention to the sailboat she called out, but the sound of her voice was lost and buried under the fury of the storm. She couldn’t see a way to climb up on deck since the sail boat was on its side, just then a duffel bag was pushed out of the hatch and fell to the ground with a splash.

a man emerged, balancing on the hatch, before leaping out to drop to the ground, he didn’t quite make it, the wind caught him sending him flying, his head smacked the boom. He spun off into the air and hit the ground.

Lauren rushed forward, first living man I’ve seen in a year, and he had to kill himself she thought. She knelt by the man, who wore only a pair of ragged shorts, in the light of the headlights he looked athletic and tanned, with a shock of sandy blonde hair that was plastered to his head. Stripping off a glove she checked his pulse and felt a surge of relief at finding one. She hadn’t really realized until this moment just how much she really craved human company.

She didn’t have a lot of time either, the wind seemed to be growing stronger, and the eastern skyline was growing a brighter. Can’t just leave him here she decided and bent to try and pick him up.

 

Casey woke and found himself laying in a bed. Lights glowed from a fixture in the ceiling. Confused he sat up slowly, his shoulders and arms aching from the hours he had spent fighting the helm of his boat trying to run before the storm. He remembered the wheel being ripped from his hands, the boat swinging and then it was picked up by a wave and he could only hang on for dear life as it spun, dropped, listed and rose again. He had somehow gotten his hands back on the wheel and brought her around but it was too late.   The sails ripped apart, shredded by the massive wind. After that it was a nightmare ride. He had clung to out of control boat praying for his life for what seemed like hours.

In a flash of lightening he saw a house to starboard there had been a horrible grinding noise and the old boat shook and shivered as she began to list crazily to starboard and then the boat had slammed against something and only his harness had kept him from being thrown overboard.

… Lights, electric lights, the reality smashed into him suddenly. He sat up and looked around. The bedroom was full of old fashioned furniture, but there were boxes piled up against two walls, and more modern gear could be seen stacked on top of the boxes. A heavy blanket covered the window.

From the sound, the storm was still blowing outside, the whole incident came back, he had been pushed by the storm surge onto an island, and had beached on a rise with an old house sitting on it. There had been a fight and then he must have been knocked out when he jumped out of the boat.

He realized he was also naked, he wasn’t sure what to make of that but, he would really feel better with something covering his junk. Pulling the top sheet off, he wrapped it around his waist and then walked across the room to look at the stuff against the wall.

He could see radios, cans of food, tools, wire, and a wide variety of other things. But no clothes he noted and no sign of his gear bag or rifle. Don’t panic, if they wanted to kill you they would have already done it, he told himself.

He rummaged thru drawers looking for something to wear when the smell of eggs, and biscuits suddenly filled the room. Casey looked up just as the door opened, and a woman stepped in carrying plate. His mouth was already watering at the smell.

She was pretty he decided, naturally pretty, the kind of face that had never really needed make up, she was lean and fit, and armed he noted, not that he blamed her, for half a second he wondered if he had been taken captive by some modern amazon who would keep him locked up for breeding purposes.

Oh stop dreaming idiot, he chided himself, then his eyes fastened on the plate she carried. The plate loaded with steaming food.

She saw him standing there and her eyes widened slightly, lingering on his chest before sliding up to his face, if anything her smile grew wider. “Glad to see you awake” she said her voice husky, her eyes shyly slid away from his own as she held out the plate. He had only had crap to eat for months, the sight of what looked like mostly real food was too much to resist. She might be a danger to him, but he doubted she would go to all the trouble to feed him just to kill him. Even if he was wrong, at least he would die with a full stomach.

He took the plate and headed back to the bed to sit down and eat, somehow losing the sheet in the process, he tried to grab it, but it was either let it fall or drop the plate and there was no way he was going to let scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy spill onto the floor. She laughed brightly, causing him to blush, and could feel her eyes fixed on his butt.

“Sit down” She said as she walked over and picked up the sheet, she waited until he sat on the edge of the bed and held up the plate so she could drape the sheet over his crotch.

“sorry, your shorts were a complete wreck,” She said her cheeks blooming with rose.“I’ve got some sweat pants that might fit you, but the only guy pants I have belonged to my ex-boyfriend, but I have to look for them.” She added, “Eat and I’ll go get the sweats” She said turning and walking out of the room. It wasn’t until she was gone that he realized they hadn’t even exchanged names.

By the time she returned he had finished off the food and was feeling pretty good, good enough that his body responded nicely when he saw her walk back in. She tossed him the sweat pants, which thankfully were black, not pink or some other bright color.

She turned her back, giving him privacy as he stood up and pulled them on quickly and sat back down. “I hope the eggs were okay, they were powdered, but the gravy and biscuits were fresh.” She said still not looking. “Well sort of, the milk was that canned condensed stuff, it’s all I have.”

He was thankful she gave him the time to get his lower half to finally behave. She wasn’t the first woman he had been around, well she was the first woman he had been around since the world ended, and she was by far the prettiest he had met before or after the apocalypse.

“I’m dressed” he said finally, she nodded and turned around a wicked twinkle in her eye. “Good, I figured you would need a bit longer to get rid of the erection.” She said with a laugh.

He blushed “Are you always this blunt?” He asked.

“Usually yes, I’m told its annoying so I try to keep it under control.” She commented. “I’m Lauren” She added, her smile faltered.

“Um… I don’t mind blunt, just not used to it from a woman. And my name is Casey, Casey Langford. I’d like to know where I’m at.” He said.

“Nice to meet you, you’re on Hatteras Island on the outer banks. Your sailboat is stuck in my front yard.” She replied, absently twisting a lock of hair around her finger. “What were you doing in a sailboat in the middle of a hurricane?” She asked. “And where did you come from?”

“I was trying to get away from the hurricane, as to where, well see, last year me and my buddies left Miami for the Bahama’s. Then the zombies showed up.” He sat there for a moment his mind replaying the last year. “We had given up hope to be honest, we sailed between small islands that had little to no people on them, and occasionally sailing up to more built up areas to do snatch and grabs from homes and businesses along the water front. God it was a nightmare, the only time we could actually land was when the homes were outside population areas, usually on remote beaches or small islands.” He fell silent for a moment. “Or when we thought we could see enough of the area to be safe.”

“That’s how three of my friends died, we landed on a dock on a part of Andros Island that we thought might be safe, Tom, Larry, and Craig went into a shop right off the docks to look for canned food. One moment it was clear and the next thing we knew those things were everywhere, Tommy and Larry died in the store, Craig got out and was bit before he reached the end of the dock, he ate a bullet right there. We backed away and headed back out to open water, and those things were just spilling off the dock trying to reach us. Just me and Joe, that was about two months ago.” Casey said, his eyes kept moving to the door, as if he expected someone else to come in at any moment.

Lauren suspected he was wondering where everyone else was, but it could be after so long being on the water and reasonably safe from the undead he was worried that zombies could burst in at any second.

“Don’t worry, you’re safe enough in here, and any zombies that are outside right now are getting blown all over, or washed away by the storm surge.” She said, as she picked up a small LED flashlight from a tray and slipped it into her pocket.

“Are you alone here?” He asked, deciding to just get to the point.

Her smile faltered, pain and loneliness shown in her eyes and for half a moment she debated on lying. He could be dangerous. But if I lie about it, I can’t let him out of this room where he will find out the truth. And that’s just not something I can do. Besides, I’ve been alone for so long that it’s worth the risk to just have someone else I can talk to. Not hold as a prisoner, with that settled she nodded.

“I’ve been alone for a year at least” She finally replied, she started to ask him a question, when the house shook violently as something struck it with a dull boom, dust fell from the ceiling hovering in a band in the middle of the room for a moment.

“What the hell was that?” Casey asked springing to his feet, looking around for a weapon.

“I don’t know” Lauren said striding to the door; she had almost forgotten about the storm while she listened to Casey talk, it was incredible to actually hear another human being talk, she cursed herself for inattention.

“Hey how about a weapon here, I mean you have seen me naked” Casey called out. “Where’s my rifle and gear?” He asked.

She watched him silently for a second, and then seemed to reach a silent decision with herself. “Follow me” Lauren replied as she stepped into the dark hall. She moved quietly, as she reached the stair case she realized the noise of the storm was louder here. She paused and looked downstairs, then around trying to pinpoint where the sound seemed loudest.

“What is it?” Casey asked quietly.

“Not sure, come on if you want your weapon” She whispered, reaching back until she found his hand and then led him towards her bedroom. Inside, she closed the door, and turned on the light, then barred the door.

“Shit” He exclaimed looking around at the work bench, the recharging bike, and battery packs. Boxes and other items were stacked neatly along the walls. From the looks of it she had been damn busy since June 23rd.

She was almost sick to her stomach at what she might find downstairs and didn’t really notice how impressed he was with what he saw. “Here” she said, scooping up his weapon and holding it out to him.

“Sorry, I’m…” She hesitated then started again. “I wasn’t sure if I could trust you.” She admitted.

He took it with a smile of thanks that looked more like a grimace. “Don’t worry about it, I understand. I would have done the same thing, except the stripping you naked part.” He said then looked around “Where’s my bag, I have more ammo in there.” He said as he checked over the nasty looking military style rifle.

“What is that?” She asked curious, retrieving his bag and setting it on the bed. Then she stripped down to her under clothes then pulled on her armored motorcycle outfit. Casey tried not to oogle, but it was hard not to, especially when he hadn’t seen a live woman in over a year.

“I don’t know, found it on a boat that was grounded on a reef. Craig thought it was a Remington 7615” He told her, as he stepped past her opened his bag and pulled a holstered pistol out and extra ammunition for his rifle. “It’s a standard .223 round and its pump action instead of semi auto.” He told her as she slung her rifle then clipped a web belt covered in ammo pouches around her narrow waist, then draped a bandolier of shotgun shells across her chest before she picked up the shotgun she had found in a police car.

Casey watched her for a moment, thinking she looked hot like that but didn’t say what he was thinking, safer that way until he knew her better. And to be honest, as much as the thought of sex interested him, he had no idea if she was sane or safe. And she had to have reservations about him as well.

“You might want to put on boots” She said, pointing to the boots he had pulled out of the bag.

He nodded in agreement and quickly pulled on the boots, then kitted himself out. Lauren waited by the bedroom door, when he was ready, she lifted the bar, and cracked the door open, and took a deep breath. The undead stank and it was usually easy to smell them coming. Satisfied there were no undead outside the bedroom door, she opened the door and waved him out. Once they were both in the hallway, she closed the door.

“If something happens, each bedroom has a cross bar and a couple of weeks’ worth of food.” She whispered, and then led him towards the stairs. God she was totally prepared, he bet most survivors, assuming there were more than just the two of them, were probably huddled anywhere they could find and just waited to die. Instead of being surrounded by this much food and supplies.

 

They made their way down the dark staircase, on the landing she decided to risk a light. She turned on the Mini-Maglite and flashed it around the main hallway, but saw nothing. As she started down the last steps to the hall, the foyer doors rattled hard, she could see water spreading out under those doors. She left the doors alone as they checked each room, but finally found themselves at the foyer doors. Lauren hesitated, but after a moment forced herself to open the foyer doors. She breathed sigh of relief to see the front doors were still closed, but the fan shaped glass over the doors that she had forgotten to cover had shattered, allowing the wind to blow into the foyer.

The foyer floor was covered in water that was being forced under the door by the wind.

“Should we look outside?” Casey asked quietly.

“I don’t think that would be wise” Lauren said, as if to underscore her point the whole house shook under a brutal gust of wind.

“Okay, then can we find me a real pair of pants to wear then” Casey asked, tugging at the sweat pants, a pained look on his face.

Half an hour later, now dressed in jeans and a t-shirt that Lauren had dug out of a box, Casey felt a little safer. It felt odd wearing pants after a year of nothing but shorts, or occasionally nothing at all. “You know I didn’t think that I’d ever hate anything worse than zombies, but I think this hurricane is moving into first place.” He muttered, Lauren laughed lightly. A laugh that he found he really enjoyed.

“Want some hot chocolate?” She asked. “I found a box of Swiss Miss, a few days ago.”

“Hell yes, I’m about sick of plain water, and hot beer” He said excitedly. Watching as she got a camp stove going. Ten minutes later she handed him a cup, complete with little marshmallows floating on top.

They sat in silence enjoying the rich flavor of the drink listening to the storm outside. Lauren watched Casey over the rim of her cup, enjoying having a man around, actually just having anyone around was an incredibly uplifting thing. She smiled at her choice of words. Whoa girl, he might turn out to be some freaking nut job, don’t let your guard down, just because God dropped a hot guy in your lap.

They talked quietly about the past, things they had enjoyed and missed now. People they had known. Casey had never felt this comfortable with a woman, especially a woman who had carried him into her house, stripped him down and essentially saved his life. He felt a bit odd at being the damsel in distress in this particular scene, but he wasn’t going to complain about it either.

He looked around her bedroom as she talked about her life on the island since the undead had shown up. It was like a catharsis for her, he realized, she had held all this inside, with no one else to share it with for so long that now it just poured out. It made him realize just how lucky he had been to have friends with him for as long as he had. It was amazing that she hadn’t gone insane he decided.

She had set all this up on her own, learning how to set up the lights, water purification systems, the recharging system, and many other things from books she had found in the library and an old book store downtown.

He was impressed to be honest; she had to be one of the bravest, smartest women he had ever met, from a waitress to a zombie survival expert. It was really amazing how she had come into her own once the world had ended, which really made him wonder just how many peoples talent and skills had been wasted or unused in the old world.

Lauren woke where she had fallen asleep sitting on the floor her back against the side of bed, not sure what was going on, not remembering falling asleep. Casey was asleep next to her, his head resting on her shoulder. She grinned slightly, at least he didn’t snore she thought as she gently adjusted him so she could stand.

She rose to her feet and went to check the battery charge meter, since they had fallen asleep with the light on and she hadn’t set the timer to shut the system down. Satisfied there was enough juice to last another day, she started for the door, only to stop in surprise as she realized the noise of the storm was gone.

They had made it thru the hurricane she thought excitedly. She walked to the bedroom door and lifted the crossbar, then cracked the door open slowly half expecting a rotting hand to reach thru and grab at her but there was only darkness beyond, and no smell of the undead.

Closing the door, she went and woke Casey, not willing to leave him asleep and unaware while she walked the house, just in case something happened to her and he woke up with no clue there was danger. If she was going to be honest, she didn’t want to be alone again, maybe in a few days when the novelty wore off and they began to get on each other’s nerves. Or he turned out to be a handsome psycho murdering rapist. But for now, knowing there was another human being to share the day with to keep the crushing loneliness at bay, she wanted take full advantage of his presence.

“Wake up, its over” She said tapping Casey on the shoulder.

“What, who…” He muttered jerking upright, and then his eyes fully cleared. “What’s going on?” he asked his voice still thick with sleep.

“The storms over and I’m going to check the house out” She told him.

“Okay, I’ll come with you” He said, then climbed slowly to his feet, stifling a yawn with the back of his hand, his hair stuck up in different directions. He stretched making a deep satisfied sound that made her think of a tiger purring. As soon as he had gotten his weapon and gear together, he waved a hand at the door “Your house, you take the lead” He said.

They searched the top floor first there were no holes in the walls, and the windows were still covered. Only one window had broken during the storm when something had smashed through it and knocked the plywood cover out. Casey stood there in the broken glass, and splintered wood of the window frame and stared at the line of red and gold on the eastern horizon, where the sun was starting to rise over the Atlantic, taking in the cool salt smell carried on the gentle wind.

She walked up and looked down into the yard and saw that a few of the trees had been blown over. What really stunned her was the street that had ran along the property to the east and the line of old homes that had sat on the other side overlooking the beach were gone, she could see a beam here and there sticking up out of the water, but the homes were gone.

There were also a few zombies down there on the soaking wet grass, five of them, naked, bloated corpses shambling around absently. Stepping back, she looked at Casey, “Let’s check out the first floor then get something to eat, after that we need to go clear the undead off the property.” She said.

Half an hour later, with a cup of instant coffee and breakfast that was better than he had had for a year in his belly. They stepped thru the front doors and stopped in stunned surprise.

The door faced south and the view this morning was unreal. Where the road had been was water. The drive way was really a boat ramp now. Where the intersection had been, slabs of roadway pitched at odd angles jutted up out of the water and the homes and shops that had existed around the intersection before the storm were gone. The pounding waves had created a whole new inlet that covered an area the size of a football field or more, to the west the water seemed to curve around the rise the mansion sat on. She could see beams and the occasional roof sticking up out of the water, but nothing else.

She remembered the last time a hurricane had struck here, it had actually cut the island in half, trapping the residents on the south side, who had to take a ferry or personal boats for over a year to work and school until the government had filled in the new inlet.

There wouldn’t be any one filling it in this time, she thought, staring across the open water to the heavily damaged houses and buildings a hundred yards away across the gently lapping waves of the new inlet.

“We need to deal with the undead” Casey said after a moment pointing to a waterlogged corpse that had appeared around the corner of the house. He lifted his rifle and fired three times, dropping the corpse to the ground.

Lauren waved at him to follow and headed down the wrap around porch to the east side, where she discovered what the boom that had shaken the house had been. A skiff, lay half on the porch, the wind must have picked it up and carried it across the ground until it crashed thru the porch railing and slammed it against the wall.

She noted a mounted orange case inside the skiff, an emergency supply kit, she decided.
She wondered if the zombies had been on a boat that had finally capsized and sank during the storm. She lifted her rifle and she and Casey put the four down. “Help me” she said, between them the got the skiff pushed up against the railing to block the hole that it had made.

With that done she moved to the north end of the porch and found water on that side as well. The Mansion was truly an Island now she thought, wondering how deep the new inlet was.

After they had cleared the undead out, Casey examined the skiff for damage. Finding none, which was surprising, got it free of the porch and dragged it down to the water. Casey retrieved a set of paddles from his sailboat that were there for the inflatable small boat he had carried on board. While Casey was retrieving the paddles and whatever gear and food that was aboard the sailboat, Lauren got a day pack together, with enough food for two days, plus extra ammo and other supplies.

The sun was now well clear of the horizon and it looked like it was going to end up a beautiful day. The first in a long time Lauren thought glancing at Casey. She couldn’t describe how great it was to know she wasn’t alone, wasn’t going to have to deal with all this by herself; her greatest fear was that Casey would want to leave. Tossing the pack into the skiff, she climbed in and Casey shoved them off.

“First thing we do is find a good electric outboard for this thing” Casey told her. “Nice and quiet, the undead probably won’t be able to hear it. How far is the nearest marina?”

“Not real far, a few blocks to the south” Lauren said, they rowed across the new inlet, she looked over the side of the skiff into the water and saw DVDs, ornaments, and other junk that had once decorated homes. They glided past the slabs of fractured roadway, and Lauren realized that water was much deeper than she would have thought when she saw a truck sitting on the bottom of the new inlet.

Finally the skiff scraped bottom and she leaped out together they dragged it up onto the pavement of a store parking lot of what had been an old pharmacy built in 1924, it had been an antique shop before the zombies had arrived.

Shouldering her pack, she waited for Casey to join her, and then the two of them started walking thru the debris that had been left behind by the storm. Telephone and power poles leaned drunkenly along the street, windows had been shattered, the stench of rotting kelp and fish was starting to blanket the area.

“I had a truck I used occasionally, before I found the Jeep, parked just over there” She said pointing west beyond a row of old homes and businesses.

“That would help, so we don’t have to carry stuff slung over our shoulders” Casey said, nervously as his eyes darted from side to side looking for any threat. “You were really all alone on this island?” he asked.

“After a few months yeah, I don’t know if people starved to death, left, or got overrun, but after about the fourth month I stopped seeing other people, my boyfriend left about a month after all this started, he wanted to go to an evacuation center, so I haven’t had any one with me since then.”

Casey looked at her out of the corner of his eye for a second, the more he looked at her the prettier she was, he thought, and without make up.

The truck, a GM he noted, had been pushed up against a building by the storm surge. Lauren tried to get it started but it had been submerged at some point and wasn’t going anywhere.

“Guess we walk” Casey said after an hour, surprised they hadn’t seen a single zombie. Maybe they had all been swept out to sea.

“It’s usually safe to walk, not always though” She told him. “Sometimes they get stirred up and start moving around, I don’t really know why, there are times I think they are looking for me, but that’s me being paranoid. But head up island and the closer you get to the bridge to the mainland you start seeing them more and more.” Lauren told him as she led him down the road, past a nail salon, and a quaint white painted old building that was called the Seacoast Inn. Both had been badly damaged during the storm, their windows shattered and their contents swept away by storm surge.

They walked in silence, both of them aware that zombies could still be lurking in the battered and flooded buildings. The streets were covered in sand, kelp, tree limbs, and items washed out of buildings.

Something crunched under Casey’s boot, he looked down and saw a broken snow globe, next to that laid a gold wedding band with a large Diamond. Without thinking he picked up the ring and slipped it into his pocket. It would easily have been worth ten grand or more back when money meant something, he thought. Now it was just a bauble, a pretty one but a bauble none the less.

He imagined that sooner or later enough hurricanes would strike here, or pass close enough to wipe away all evidence of the town and man and for some reason that depressed him a lot.

They spotted the boats before they spotted the Marina sign. At least twelve boats, from Chris Craft cruisers to a fishing boat, were scattered across the street, some rested halfway inside buildings, where the storm had used them like battering rams.

“Son of a bitch” He muttered shocked, he wasn’t a stranger to hurricanes and the damage they left behind, but he was always surprised to see the results of Mother Nature’s wrath. Like zombies weren’t enough.

The Hatteras Marina was one of the newest marinas on the island. And had been touted as the most modern marina on the outer banks, today, it was a ruin. More than half the slips were gone, flying bridges and masts stuck out of the water. Weather and neglect had sunk almost half of the boats. Even the large building that had been the office and store for the marina was in ruins, a boat rested in the debris. To the south side, the building that had been the hotel and monthly apartments for the marina was open to the weather all its windows gone, the deck over the water on the ground floor was gone along with half the wall.

The only access to the remaining boats was to climb down a stair case to the main dock, where the 12 floating piers had been attached. The first nine piers held ten slips each, able to dock up to 60ft boats. The last three piers held four slips to each pier, able to dock up to 110ft boats.

What was amazing was the number of boats that remained, how they had ridden out the storm and its attendant storm surge he didn’t know but a quarter of the vessels still remained down there.

After the hurricane, pier three, five and nine were gone; the floatation devices in pier two had been damaged and taken on water, listing to one side. The dry storage area to the north of the office building and parking lot was destroyed; it was now just a twisted mass of metal building and broken boats.

The only security for the docks was the still standing forty foot fence with a gate that gave access to the stairs down to the main dock. Anyone that tried to walk around the fence would fall ten feet into the water on either side of the main dock.

“Well at least it now looks like the end of the world movie.” He muttered seeing the damage. He wondered how the Bahama’s had fared when the storm rolled across the islands. His own boat had ridden the edges of the hurricane, running before the storm until the sheets had shredded, leaving him at the mercy of the ocean, which had eventually landed him on Lauren’s front lawn.

They picked thru the debris of the office and shop for two hours before finally finding a trolling motor, Casey pulled a marine battery from a wrecked boat, and sat it beside the motor, then looked around at the remaining boats. Actually he was only interested in one, a hundred foot black hulled, luxury sail boat. With that baby he could sail around the world. Not be bound to one spot, or worry about waking up to the undead beating and pawing at his front door.

Lauren stood watching him study the sail boat, wondering if he was thinking about leaving. She didn’t know what she would do if he did. In a way, she felt stupid, they had known each other maybe a grand total of 24 hours. But having just found how much she missed human company, she dreaded going back to being alone.

He turned suddenly and smiled at her, he had a dazzling smile she realized. “Let’s find us a ride and then see what else we can find.” He said, then motioned with an arm “Your town you lead the way” he said.

By sunset they had not only found a running Jeep, but had managed to score several cases of canned goods, twenty one gallon bottles of water and a new micro plush blanket.

The sun was sinking rapidly as Lauren came to a stop in the middle of the washed out street. Just two blocks up was where they had left the skiff, and now there were undead in the road. All of which turned at the sound of the motor and began to stumble towards the idling Jeep.

“Where did they come from?” Casey asked staring at the shadowy shapes, as the horizon flared with crimson, orange and gold light.

“That happens off and one, at a guess, I’d say they were inside some of the buildings that had doors and windows broken out by the storm, and probably wandered out during the day.” Lauren said, trying not to shiver at the thought. She had to wonder how many buildings had they walked past today that might have been filled with zombies.

She backed up and turned around heading back the way they had come with no real idea where to go, if it wasn’t for the new inlet she would have just driven straight to the old mansion. But the water was too deep around the mansion to get through with the Jeep.

“I have a suggestion” Casey said suddenly, “Head back to the marina.”

Lauren looked at him out of the corner of her eye, she hated being scared of the idea of being alone again, but she was and it wasn’t just the fact that Casey was male, and cute. She would have felt the same way if Casey had been an ugly overweight woman.

Until Casey had washed up, she had never really faced the crushing loneliness, or the despair at the utter ruination of the world. She had stayed far too busy to spend much time dwelling on it, or maybe she had just blanked it out to stay sane and survive. But if she found herself alone again, she didn’t know if she could take it again.

“Sounds like a plan” She replied without any sign of dread her thoughts filled her.

The sun slid below the horizon as they pulled back into the marina parking lot and found at least ten zombies stumbling around, Lauren frowned, they hadn’t been here when she had left earlier. She drove past them, opening her door once to hit a zombie and sent it flying. Casey chuckled, and then looked ashamed for a second, but only for a second then he was grinning.

Lauren pulled up to the dock entrance and parked the Jeep broadside to the open gate. Thankful that the fence was still intact after the storm and it kept the undead off docks.

Casey opened the passenger door and climbed out, resting his rifle across the roof of the Jeep aiming at the nearest zombie, he almost fired, then changed his mind there was no point in wasting a bullet.

Lauren grabbed her pack, and climbed out past him. There was little chance a zombie could get around the jeep to the dock, but a little chance wasn’t no chance she thought. They headed down the steps, and onto the floating dock, that creaked softly as it almost imperceptibly rose and fell with the waves.

She looked back once, and saw that the zombies had reached the Jeep, and were pressed around it, pushing at the fence on either side of the jeep.

Reaching the sailboat on Pier 10, Casey spent a few minutes examining the sail boat, satisfied with what he saw he slipped over the rail and onto the rear deck, which to her surprise looked a lot like an outdoor living room, complete with furniture that looked like it was made of leather.

Casey moved to the sliding doors that led into the pilot house, he peered through the windows but saw nothing inside but shadows. “Okay move slowly until your used to it, some people have trouble walking on a sailboat at first” he warned, he gripped the handle and watched her for a moment. “Ready?”

She nodded slowly not sure, but not about to admit it. Casey slid the door open and stepped inside the salon. Lauren followed, her skin prickling with fear. The pilot house as he called it, looked a lot like a living room, except for the big ship’s wheel mounted on a console in front of the sweeping curved windows. “Why are there two steering wheels?” She asked her voice barely above a whisper.

“So in bad weather they can be inside where it’s nice” Casey replied as he moved to a set of steps that led down. “You good for this?” he asked giving Lauren a chance to back out.

“Yes” She replied, gritting her teeth and keeping her opinions about the whole thing private as he led her down the steps and into a large room, large for a sailboat at any rate.

Casey swept the beam of his flashlight around the room, which looked a living room and party area combined. There was lots of polished wood and brass, and expensive looking furniture and decorative items that were nautically based. Some of the decorations had come loose during the storm and lay scattered over the carpet. The oblong windows or portholes, she didn’t know what to call them, that lined the walls to either side were at head height.

Golden stained wood adorned the walls and floors, to either side of the room on the forward side were semi-circular pit groups around low tables, a massive flat screen TV was mounted the same wall as the entrance from the pilot house. Crystal glasses glittered behind glass cabinets doors over the bar, another cabinet, below the TV, contained some kind of electronics. It was like walking into an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous she thought as they moved further into the room. There were too halls, one led forward, the other on the opposite side of the TV from the steps they had climbed down, led to the aft.

“This is the salon, passenger quarters are to the aft, crew quarters to the bow” Casey whispered pointing out each one in turn. Without another word he approached the aft passage shined his light inside then closed the door before heading to the entrance to the forward section.

The hall was narrow and carpeted, oblong skylights in the ceiling would let light in during the day time. In the hall there were doors on the port and starboard sides and at the end was a door to the bow. Casey chose a door to the port door first; it took them only minutes to check the bow of the boat, the crew quarters were thankfully empty. The lockers were fully stocked; it looked like whoever had owned this boat had been prepping for a trip that they had never left on.

“Let’s check aft now” Casey said, the odds of encountering large numbers on board had gone down he realized. But there could still be a few of those things on board he thought as he led Lauren back to the salon or dining room as Lauren thought of it.

Opening the aft door, Casey shined his light down the passage again, then stepped inside. The walls were highly polished wood to the portside, where an open doorway let into a large modern galley, pots and pans covered the floor and there was a dark stain that could possibly be dried blood. He stepped inside and checked the large pantry and found it fully stocked with canned and freeze dried foods, which pointed again to the owner having been preparing for a long trip.

Returning to the passage he gazed down and saw five doors, two to port, two to starboard and one at the end. That would be the master stateroom he thought, the largest room on the boat.

He moved to the first door on the port wall, and tried the handle, it moved easily in his hand. “Ready?” He asked Lauren who nodded nervously; he opened the door and found a small cabin with what would be called a king sized bed on a sailboat, and a small desk mounted to the teakwood walls.

Whoever had owned the boat had paid good money for someone to do interior design work Lauren thought as she followed Casey into the room while he checked the small-attached bathroom. Finding it empty he swept his light around the room once more and saw that it was fully equipped with electronics. Not that any of it was worth a spit now.

“Come on” He said heading towards the door, Lauren followed, weapon held tightly in her hand. He made sure the door was shut, and then moved to the starboard door. He tried the knob and found it locked.

“I think there might be one or more inside” he whispered as he dug a multi tool out of his pocked. “The doors locked” He added as he opened the blade and set to work.

She started to suggest knocking, but the door opened inwards it would be easier if whatever was on the other side wasn’t standing right in front of the door.

Casey grunted with satisfaction as he popped the lock, with his weapon ready he pushed the door open and almost gagged as the smell rolled over them.

In the beam of the flashlight, he saw a middle aged man with sandy hair, wearing a once blue shirt that was now blood stained and torn, and Bermuda shorts. Chunks had been taken out of his legs and one arm. It stood near the bathroom door, where he could see bloodstains on the door, like the zombie had been pawing at it. Not a good sign he thought as it stumbled towards him. He lifted his rifle and rammed the butt into the man’s head sending him tumbling backwards over the bed.

Casey leaped on the bed and clubbed the thing in the head again and again before it could get back to its feet. Once it lay still he turned and eyed the bathroom door, pointing it out to Lauren who looked incredibly in control. That should not be surprising Casey thought, she had kept herself alive on this damn island for over a year.

Casey took hold of the handle and pulled, he was knocked on his butt as the zombie on the other side pushed out. He managed to get his rifle stock up and pushed it into the things mouth, the rotting breasts encased in a torn bikini top swung grotesquely in front of his face, its hands grasping at him, trying to pull him towards its mouth.

Lauren didn’t bother with the shotgun, shooting a hole in the wall was not a bright idea she decided as she dropped it on the bed and drew the large knife she carried. She grasped the zombies long blond hair in her hand and pulled its head back with her left hand; as soon as its eyes were exposed she rammed the knife into the things eye socket with her right hand. She twisted it and pushed it up at an angle until the thing fell unmoving to the deck.

She grimaced in distaste and wiped her knife on her leather clad leg before returning it to its sheath and retrieved the shotgun from the bed. Casey rose slowly feeling stupid, but at least he was still alive. “Thanks” he said as he studied the woman’s body at his feet.

At a guess, the couple had been attacked somewhere else and had fled to the state room and locked themselves in. The man must have died from being bitten and the woman whose body was unmarked must have retreated to the bathroom, believing that sooner or later help would come, instead she had died of thirst locked in a tiny bathroom with the man pawing at the door trying to get to her.

Once He and Lauren had caught their breath, they headed to the next stateroom, which to their relief was empty and looked like it was straight out of some luxury hotel ad.

There were suitcases on the floor and one on the bed, but no sign of what had happened to the people who had started to unpack. Lauren rifled through the clothes, noting the designer dresses, and bikinis, which wouldn’t cover much. Judging by the feel of the fabric and the designer labels had to have cost a fortune, why pay all that money for two strips of cloth that hid nothing when naked was free, she thought with humor that she felt was probably wrong to feel.

With the third stateroom cleared they moved to the fourth and found it empty as well, and just as luxurious as the last three had been.

Finally they stood before the last door, which was locked. Feeling uneasy, Casey used his multi tool to pop the lock and then pushed the door open.

Inside was, by boat standards, a palatial room with deep carpet, polished teak walls, a large bed covered in an expensive comforter, and what looked like ancient relics secured and on display in niches in the wall. When the boat had had power, the track lights would have cast diffused soft light around the room.

Lauren noticed all that in a second, but it was the woman and the two kids that drew her attention. The woman’s face was gone, chewed down the bone, her left hand was missing as well. The kids, a boy and girl whose faces were covered in old dried blood, were already halfway to the door their hands reaching for Casey who stepped back bumping into Lauren.

The teen-aged girl, dressed in a bikini had once been cute, Lauren thought as she moved back to give Casey room. He pushed his rifle straight out and rammed the barrel into the 12 year old boy’s mouth, keeping his finger off the trigger, holding the boy in place which kept the girl from getting past the boy and reaching him. The woman in the rear was trying to push through both kids, her teeth snapping as scraps of flesh moved jerkily on her face.

“Just shoot him!” Lauren cried out, no longer worried about being quiet.

“Can’t, last thing we want is a hole in the hull to let water through.” Casey replied.

“We can patch it, don’t they patch holes or something” Lauren said as Casey took a step back leading the boy forward, his rifle still firmly ensconced in the kid’s mouth.

“Run up on deck and look for a pole with a hook on it, and hurry” Casey said, as he held the boy right in the entrance of the stateroom.

Lauren nodded, then decided to hell with it, she squeezed past Casey, wincing in pain as one of the undead boy’s hands grasped her boob bringing tears to her eyes. “Oh you did not just do that” she snarled as she drew her knife, and rammed it into the kids eyes, throwing up as she heard the soft pop and fluids splattered her hand.

The boy fell, the rifle barrel sliding out of his mouth, Lauren then kicked the girl full in the chest sending her into the adult woman who had probably been her mother. The adult zombie stumbled backwards and Lauren leaped onto the girl driving her to the floor, with a palm against the girls forehead, she held the zombies head in place and used her knife again.

Casey moved up feeling stupid as hell, as Lauren took down the girl the adult zombie was reaching for Lauren’s head. “Hey bitch” Casey said, almost conversationally, the zombie to his surprise looked up just as he drove the butt of his rifle forward, taking it right in the forehead and sending it falling onto its back.

Lauren finished with the girl and rolled to one side letting Casey step forward, where he began to pound his rifle butt into the adult things head, cussing steadily, seemingly unable to stop himself as all fear and rage he had wallowed in for the last year finally poured out.

There wasn’t much left of the woman’s head when Lauren finally placed a hand on his shoulder. “It’s okay, you can stop now” She said softly. Feeling almost numb he stopped and took a shuddering breath ashamed at what he had done, and then rushed to the bathroom, which was thankfully open and clear, and puked into the toilet.

A couple of minutes later he wiped his mouth and turned back to Lauren. “Let’s check out the engine and equipment area and then get everything off the jeep and get the hell out of here. We can clear the bodies once we are out to sea.” Casey said eager to get out of the stateroom.

She said nothing, but at the moment she had no real desire to go to sea unless it was to sail back to her house. Considering the number of undead piling up along the fence and the jeep she didn’t really have a choice but to go with him.

They cleared the rest of the boat without any problems and returned to the Jeep where the crowd of undead had grown. Lauren hated leaning into the Jeep to pull things out, listening to all the hands beating on the windows, hood and sides. She kept expecting the glass to shatter and hands to reach in and grab her by the hair.

Working as quickly as possible, Lauren and Casey stripped everything out of the Jeep and carried it down and placed it in a pile at the foot of the stairs. Once the Jeep was empty they began to carry it in loads to the boat. They just set the boxes and bags in the cockpit, being more concerned with getting it on board than in getting it stowed neatly away, before returning to the dock for another load.

Lauren stooped and picked up a box that held the clothes and such that she had salvaged earlier that day, when she heard a thump and then glass shattering. She looked up to see a zombie had shattered the driver’s side window of the jeep and was now trying to climb through it. Another zombie was actually climbing up onto the hood.

“We have a problem” She shouted to Casey who was returning for the last two bags of goods.

“I can see that, but its only one” He called out as he broke into a jog and joined her a moment later. He picked up the last two bags and was ready to head back to the sailboat when the zombie on the hood fell off the Jeep on their side and tumbled down the staircase, Casey was just about say they could kill it after they got this stuff loaded when a second zombie followed the first and a third zombie began to emerge from under the Jeep.

“Okay it’s more than one, let’s go, the sooner we cast off the better” Casey said. Lauren completely agreed, she had dealt with enough undead today, she didn’t want to deal with more.

They ran down the creaking dock and scrambled aboard, dropping what they carried onto the pile. “We have a few minutes, get those lines free while I go below and see if I can get the motor started.”

Lauren nodded and quickly freed the lines and tossed them back onto the boat to be coiled later.

She leaped back on board and waited. After a few minutes she heard a motor cough, and dark smoke erupted from the stern. But other than that nothing happened. More minutes winged by, and still nothing. Looking around she saw a long pole held to the side of the cockpit lounge area by clamps.

“Can’t hurt” She muttered as she snatched it out of the clamps. She lifted it over the side and began to push at the dock, trying to get the boat to move away. The stern began to move slowly but the bow moved in the opposite direction and struck the dock.

Frowning she moved to the bow and repeated the process, watching as the stern began to swing back toward the dock. She stopped pushing and realized she had gained a foot. “Duh, push from the middle you idiot” She told herself as she moved to the center of the rail and began to push once more.

Over the lapping of water against the hull, and the sighing of the soft wind, and the occasional cough of the motor, she heard the dock creak and looked up. Her blood ran cold as she saw a zombie at the edge of the dock, staring down the pier.

It took another step; its head lifting almost as if it were sniffing the air, then it began to head towards the sailboat like it had smelled Lauren. Just great, just really great, at least I can leap into the water and swim for it she thought, as she placed the pole on the deck and headed aft.

The motor coughed to life with a roar that got the attention of every zombie in the marina, and then died.

The zombie on the pier was limping towards the boat now, being dead apparently didn’t mean it was deaf, which really sucked in her book. “Jerk” she muttered. Behind the zombie she saw movement at the head of the dock as three more zombies appeared.

“Just gets better and better” She said aloud

“Good idea” Casey said from the rear deck taking her completely by surprise she almost screamed at the sound of the unexpected voice. “Get to the bow, I’ll take the stern if we can push out far enough they can’t get on board” Casey said grabbing another pole and extended it over the rail and began to push against the dock. Lauren used her own pole and the sailboat slowly moved away from the dock.

The undead stumbled closer, the zombie she had first seen, stepped off the edge of the dock and fell across the rail of the sailboat. Casey pulled his pole back in dropping it to the deck, then grabbed his rifle and started striking the zombie on the back of the head.

Lauren unaware of what was going on kept pushing until the stern bumped against the dock again, crushing the legs of the zombie dangling across the rail, while allowing two more zombies to fall into the cockpit. Casey shouted, causing Lauren to look aft. Then back to the head of the dock where more zombies had appeared.

Casey grabbed the first zombie by a flailing arm and pitched it over the side, having to duck the grasping hands of another zombie. He moved out of reach lifted his rifle shoving the barrel into the closest zombies face and fired; the body crumbled and lay still.

The second zombie was a man dressed in jeans and a ripped up t-shirt, half his hair had been pulled out at some point, leaving only tufts of hair, stuck with leaves, sticking up in all directions. He laid the synthetic stock of his rifle across its jaw with all his strength, bone cracked and it was thrown to the side.

Casey lifted his rifle to his shoulder and put three rounds into the zombie about to step down into the sailboat. The zombie staggered back as each bullet struck it, Casey managed to get off one last shot, and whooped as the bullet smacked right between the things eyes.

A hand grasped his shoulder; Casey had spent a little too long trying to keep that zombie off the deck. He started to turn trying to break away from its grip, only to see Lauren come flying off the roof of the cabin, still carrying the long pole, which she brought down on top of the zombies head, the skull cracked like a rifle shot.

“Thanks” Casey said breathing hard, his gaze moving to the head of the dock where more undead were heading their way.

“We are going to have to swim for it” She said, pointing to the water.

“No, we aren’t” Casey said as he grabbed the rope she had tossed on the deck earlier. “Just wait for me” He said as he ran across the deck away from the pier, leaped up on to the rail and jackknifed into the water.

She gaped at him for a moment as he swam across to pier 12, then turned and looked at the crowd of maybe twenty undead, wondering idly if all of them had crawled under the Jeep or come from somewhere else.

She could see more behind them, slowly heading towards the dock. No point in being quiet now she thought as she lifted her rifle and began to fire into the undead, while they were still half way down the dock.

Casey swam into an empty slip and clambered up the ladder onto the dock, dragging the line with him, Lauren was firing steadily as he looped the line around a post and began to pull throwing threw his full weight into it.

Down the pier he was on, he heard something fall to the dock with a clatter and looked up to see a zombie staggering over the side of a tied off boat and fall to the k.

Oh shit, they were in the other boats, he thought, there could be hundred of them in the marina. He pulled hard pushing with his legs and pulling with his back. The stern of the sail boat was starting to pull further away from the slip, he didn’t care if the bow pumped the pier, it was higher and the undead couldn’t just fall on to it.

Lauren stopped firing, realizing after a moment that there was enough space between the rail and the dock and moved forward, where a zombie had managed to grasp the rail on the bow, she rammed the butt of her rifle down on its fingers breaking them, the zombie finally fell into the water.

Casey satisfied that the sailboat was out of immediate danger, tossed the line into the water and leaped in after it, leaving the few undead on his dock stumbling after him.

Lauren watched five zombies tumble into the water off the other dock, as Casey swam strongly back and climbed out of the water on a small platform on the stern of the ship. He stood there soaking wet, and gave her a shaky smile.

“Some of those things were on the other boats in the marina.” He said, as he walked to the wheel and studied the console it was mounted to. He pushed a button and the motor coughed once more, blowing black smoke behind it. “Damn, figured if it sat for a little bit after I primed it, it would fire up” He muttered.

He pushed the button once more and finally the motor came to life, with a sigh he sat down and put the boat in reverse and backed her out from the pier, leaving the growing crowd of undead to stare after the escaping boat. Once clear he brought the bow around and headed out to sea.

The sun rose slowly over the black hulled sailboat that sat at anchor, Casey lay sprawled on the sofa on the lounge deck, his hands behind his head. Lauren lay on the couch across from him sound asleep; it had been a long night of disposing of the bodies on board and cleaning up the mess. He had gotten the genie running and immediately started up the water filter system to top off the water tanks.

He sat watching the water as the sail boat rocked gently in the waves, thinking about the dream he had had after he fell asleep. He and Craig had sat right here and talked about the good times they had once had. At the end Craig had told him to head south, and only smiled refusing to answer any questions. He had only looked at Casey and told him to take care, that it was time for him to go. As Casey had begun to wake up Craig had told him one last time to head south.

He didn’t know how he was going to convince Lauren to go with him, but if she really didn’t want to, he would take her back to the mansion and help her get the place fixed up before he went on his way. As he looked out over the water, he suddenly had no doubt he could convince her to go with him. They could sail south for a week or so, and if they found nothing of interest turnabout and head back to the mansion. Hearing her call his name, he turned towards the door, might as well get right to the point.

“You’re not going to believe this Casey, but I had this weird dream where my best friend came to visit and say goodbye, she kept telling me we needed to go south.” Lauren said, as she stepped out onto the deck. She looked puzzled as he started to laugh.

“Oddly I had a dream where someone told me to head south too” He said, surprised and relieved that he wasn’t going to have to try and talk her into following his own dream based suggestion.

“That’s not possible, is it?” She asked looking confused.

“I guess it is, pigs may not fly yet but the dead are walking, so what makes weird dreams any less believable?” Casey said as he hit a button and began to raise the anchor. “How do you feel about a week long vacation to the south?” He asked.

“I think if it means not having to worry about the undead knocking on my door, I can deal with it” Lauren replied. “But I want to go back at some point”

Casey nodded in agreement. “That’s why I said a week, let’s shake some sail out and get underway. And you might want to go find shorts or a bikini or something, that armor stuff is not the best stuff to be wearing aboard ship, and it will get hot” he said, starting to whistle a lively tune as he got to work. Lauren stared at him like he had gone mad, then nodded, he was right it wasn’t the right clothing for being at sea, she was already getting too warm. She headed below decks, worried and happy at the same time. She didn’t know what they might find, but after so long alone and wondering what the rest of the world was like, she was finally going to find out.

The black hulled sail boat came about under full sail, heading south, her hull knifing through the glittering water, heading towards a new future as her captain whistled happily.

 

2 thoughts on “Laurens story

    • Thank you, and your welcome. Glad you liked. Casey and Lauren make an appearance in Dark Tide Rising. but I have plans for another short story about them, when I get the time to write it.

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