Clay lies still, but blood’s a rover;
Breath’s a ware that will not keep.
Up, lad: when the journey’s over
There’ll be time enough to sleep.”
The city looked faded somehow, the buildings pale almost colorless as if infected like its population. Jorge thought as he gazed out the window. The street below was almost empty today, something that he hadn’t seen for a month. So empty they might be able to slip out and get some things done. Jorge knew from experience that the undead wouldn’t stay away for long. They never did, it was almost like they knew that the living were hiding in the building. Maybe they left hoping Jorge and the others would venture out and fall into their hands.
And of course down below a group of twenty undead rounded a corner and stumbled past the building of survivors with out a second look. He watched till they vanished from sight, heading north like they were on some kind of patrol.
“Adios mio” He muttered, for some reason the memory of the first time he had seen the undead flashed into his mind unbidden. It had been just a normal day of building homes, he had been roofing when the screams and shouts had started and the blood had started flowing. Four of them had escaped the construction site that day, thanks to their Nail guns and being able to run faster than the crowd of undead. He still kept a nail gun close at hand with the safety disabled. Nothing put a zombie down faster than a 16 penny nail to the forehead.
Jorge stood just a hair over five nine, with the athletic build that only a lifetimes worth of hard work could provide. He kept his jet black hair cut short with a pair of scissors and a knife. he wasn’t as dark as most Mexican Americans, a fact that had helped him out on more than one occasion in the past. Somewhere in his family tree were Castillians, which also explained how his sister had been born with blond hair and blue eyes, another Castillian trait. Considered cute by some, handsome by others he had never lacked in female company till the dead had risen.
Hearing the door open he turned and saw Alexi Nikolaevich entering the room. Alexi had been doing inventory, and from the looks on his face the news wasn’t good.
“we don’t have much fuel, water or food left” Alexi said as he brushed a bit of to long hair out of his eyes. Alexi had been a sailor on a Russian Merchant ship in port when the world coughed up the undead. Medium height with a stocky build and a shock of pale blond hair there was no missing Alexi was foreign to the US. Not that it mattered anymore, there was no US, no Country left any where in the world.
Jorge shrugged, he had hoped the fuel would last longer “ not much we can do about it, now is there” he said jerking a thumb towards the city beyond the window. “ a few thousand undead own the gas stations these days”
Not to mention he had been warning them for two months that they were either going to have to get brave and go out and gather more supplies or sit here in the dark and starve, his personal preference was to leave the city and head across the harbor to Sullivan island.
Back when they actually left the building to scavenge, Jorge and others had many times gotten as close to the harbor as possible climbing up to the roofs of some of the taller buildings and seen planes and helicopters coming and going from the island. Alexi had even seen fishing boats leaving there one morning.
Only a handful of people here in the building knew about the Plan Jorge and Alexi had concocted to get the small group out that wanted to leave. Those in the know had a gut feeling things were about to go to hell here, and they wanted to be gone before it did.
Jorge wanted to give every one the chance to leave, before supplies became so critical they started to starve. No matter how the world was now, Jorge had been raised a good catholic and couldn’t just leave every one here to die with out at least offering them a chance to live.
“I know, I know, we could have filled up the tanks a month ago.” Alexi admitted, falling silent as Zoe Cramer walked into the room. Shoulder length dark hair, that framed a triangular face, she had classical good looks and was the kind of woman that in the past most men would have been following around just praying she said yes to a date.
She was also about the most untouchable woman in the world these days. Jorge had learned little about the woman, like every one here she had lost loved ones and seen horrors, but what ever she had seen or experienced had hit her hard, she rarely smiled or talked. And took intense pleasure in killing the undead when the situation presented itself.
“David, spotted three men down the street, looks like they were scouting out our position.” Zoe said as she took a bottle of water and opened it, she took a drink her eyes never leaving Jorge’s face.
“Probably the same bastards that raided us two months ago.” Jorge commented glancing side long at Alexi. That raid was one of the reasons they were so short on supplies at this moment. Damn Harold and Bill for insisting on letting the so called Desperate refugees inside. Three people had died, and months worth of food had been taken. Who ever those folks had been they had planned their Trojan horse attack well, up to how stupid some of the buildings residents were.
“Do we get to kill them this time? she asked, after taking a drink of water.
“Yes, as many as you want” Jorge said, she nodded then walked from the room.
Alexi watched her leave then sighed, “ she is very pretty” he commented.
“The word your looking for Jefi is Hot, she is hot” Jorge said with a half smile.
Alexi shrugged, then walked over and shut the door. “have you decided yet?” he asked. “there isn’t a lot of them outside right now, we could get out with out a problem” Alexi pointed out.
Jorge nodded “ Yes Ive decided, pick the people, go find a boat and get it ready. Ill try to talk the rest into leaving here. But if they wont it doesn’t matter, the last of our group will head out in a week. Sooner if more undead show up” Jorge said feeling it in his gut that they might not have a week, but it would take Alexi two days of slow and careful travel to reach the harbor, another two days to find a boat, and then two days to get back here. On second thought “ take one of the radios, it should reach here, report in as often as possible, Ill have the other one so you don’t have to worry about Harold or bill calling you to ask questions when your sneaking past hordes of undead. And more importantly you wont have to come back here to find out whats going on”
“thank you for that” Alexi said, the last time Alexi had left to scout around, he had been hiding from about sixty smelly’s, when Harold on a whim called to ask him to check out a coffee shop for coffee beans, the sudden sound had drawn the group down on Alexi and Garret. Alexi had barely escaped with his life, Garrett had been torn apart.
“I’m not holding my breath that the idiots will want to go, but as hungry as they are getting, they might see reason.” Jorge said then paused as he heard the crack of gunfire from the roof. “ I guess Zoe must have gotten a target.”
Harold sat behind the old Apartment manager’s desk, staring out the window at the dead city beyond. There had been One hundred and fifteen people sheltering here in the beginning, forty eight had died over the months they had been hiding here from the undead.
His expensive suit was getting a bit threadbare, but he refused to show up to his office as building leader with out being dressed for the occasion. He knew his hair was perfectly coifed and he still kept his nails clean and neatly trimmed. It might seem stupid to some, but putting out the right appearance was important to leadership.
His stomach rumbled, reminding him that the community pantry was almost empty, Jorge had been right, Again, he thought almost angrily. Knowing his anger stemmed more from his own failures than the fact the Latino had been right.
“we could ask him to find volunteers, and try to find more food” Bill suggested from where he sat in a chair near the door.
“I doubt he would.” Harold said, turning back to the window. Once he had been a city councilman, a very big fish in a small pond, and for a while he had been an even bigger fish in the very small pond of the building. But Jorge had definitely cut into his authority over the last year. Becoming the leader of the opposition group who had time and again left the building to bring back medicines, food and fuel as well as other items they needed usually with out Harold’s permission, making themselves heroes in the building, yet no one realized the amount of danger it placed them in every time someone left the building.
I was an ass at times Harold conceded to himself, which didn’t help and being scared 24/7 didn’t help me make the right decisions. Decisions like sending four men out to find and secure coffee and other items that he thought would raise the moral. Jorge had warned him it was a stupid thing to do, and again he had been right. All four men had been killed, worse their animated corpses had returned to the building and in plain sight of their former lovers and wives, had pawed mindless at the doors trying to get back inside.
Jorge and his friends had put them down with the modified paintball guns, and when it was over Jorge had only given Harold a hard look but never said the dreaded I told you so.
Harold had been humbled at the knowledge people had died because of his decisions. It was a sobering thought when one realized that the consequences for being wrong was death for not just himself but others. After that he had refused to make any decisions on leaving the building as if hiding from the world outside would keep them alive. Which is what had led to Jorge ignoring him and sending out people to get supplies when they needed them.
Bill opened his mouth, Harold never knew what he was going to say, the knock at the door interrupted bill, and then the door flew open and Katherine Teague, once his aide, and mistress burst into the room “ Jorge is holding a meeting, he is talking about leaving”
“a meeting with out me” Harold said rising, he couldn’t help but feel angry, but at the same time his stomach sank, he had been expecting this for a while now, and the fear at competent men and women leaving them was almost as strong as the fear he felt about stepping outside into a world ruled by the dead.
“he actually asked me to come get you” Katherine said, Bill looked surprised, but Harold wasn’t, that was just like Jorge, state his intentions to the people, and then make sure Harold and any others not present were asked to attend.
By the time he reached the Apartment that they used for a meeting hall, Jorge was fielding questions from the others who were already there. Most looked scared, Behind Jorge, Zoe leaned against a wall, her arms cross under her breasts, and Miguel, Jorges best friend looked relaxed but his eyes were sweeping the room, and then stopped and fixed on Harold, who despite himself knew he looked angry.
“What this about Montoya,” Bill demanded “ every one has to attend for any decision to be valid” Bill said, ignoring Harold’s gesture to be quiet.
“I’m not sure where you get the impression that what I or any one else decides to do with their life is up for a vote Bill. But Ill give you the long and short of it.” Jorge said, then smiled coldly at the former political toady. “Im leaving as are a few others, we are short on food, water and fuel. What we have left wont last more than a month. David and Zoe spotted men scouting our place out probably for another raid, and we all know how well the last one went. So my plan is simple. We are going to head to Sullivan island across the harbor, were we have seen planes, helicopters and lights off an on for months now. Hell earlier this year it sounded like a war zone over there, so we know there are people living there. And every one that leaves, means the food that’s left will go further as a result.”
“you cant leave with out a vote” Bill insisted.
“So your going to try to restrain us, is that it Bill” Jorge asked. Bill shook his head, at a loss on how to reply. He just knew they had to stop any one from leaving.
“be quiet Bill, Jorge is right” Harold said loudly, Bills mouth fell open in surprise
“But Harold, we have to have a vote” Bill said, absolutely terrified that he would end up left alone in the building surrounded by undead. Or even worse be on the street where the thousands of undead in the city could drag him down and rip him apart.
“not this time Bill” Harold said again Gently, understanding exactly how Bill felt. Both men had lived in a world, where words were their weapons, with the only war they fought was to see who could out spin their opponents, neither of them had ever really ever been in a fight, or served in the military.
They had strutted around bravely secure in their power and knew they were protected by the LEO’s. they had never had a real fight, or really even gotten dirty unless it was for a photo op. Public servants never got dirty, but then the undead had come and that world was gone, now rednecks, blue collar workers, hell even garbage collectors ruled, men who had grown up having fist fights, who had actually lived in a world where police protection was thirty minutes to hours away when needed, and had been prepared to defend themselves and their families.
“But Harold….. “ Bills voice faded into silence as Harold glared at him.
“There’s no way a large group is going to get out of here and sneak across the city to the harbor Jorge” Harold said slowly and clearly ignoring Bill.
“Your right, not on foot we cant. Zoe and Miguel are going to secure a Bus, theres one a block from here that the raiders used, it was running two months ago, the only thing it might need is fuel.” Jorge replied.
“and then your going to need a boat to cross the harbor, or you need to cross most of the city to cross the bridge to mount pleasant, then cross over onto Sullivan” Harold pointed out.
“Alexi and two others left an hour ago, to secure a boat. Ten of us are leaving as soon as they have a boat ready.” Jorge said calmly. “Im not debating whether I am staying or going, I only wanted to make the offer to get as many out as wanted to go. When the food is gone, we die Harold, soon we are going to be too weak to scavenge, some of us are already too weak. Yes my group could bring back food, but not enough to make a difference, to do that would draw the attention of the undead, and some of my group would die, and then the next trip is more dangerous and more die, and soon you people are stuck in here with no food again.” He paused and looked around at the assembled survivors, who sat quietly listening and thinking, there was more than a few looks of fear, only a fool would think it would be a cake walk.
“the truth is, we need to get somewhere where there are not thousands of undead just outside the door, some where we stand a chance going outside to scavenge for food, Hell some where we could find a place to grow food. And none of those places are here. its your choice leave or stay.”
Harold stood there, looking pale and scared and Jorge actually felt sorry for the man, stubborn yes, and an idiot sometimes. But the arrogance that had once oozed from the man had been absent for a while now. In fact Harold had become withdrawn and rarely made any real decisions other than day to day things that were so mundane and stupid, Jorge got the impression Harold did it because that’s what politicians had always done, avoid the problem and pass law after mindless unneeded law to look busy.
“We are going to step out into the hall” Jorge said, indicating Zoe and Miguel. “and those already leaving with us, will do so as well, the rest of you can make your own decisions with out feeling coerced by us. Or you can do it Bills way and vote on going or staying, I would recommend not voting as group for individual decisions. But its your choice.” Jorge said then strode from the room, followed silently by the men and women who had already made up their minds leaving the rest to make a decision that could mean death either way.
Leaving a man in the hallway to bring word when a decision had been reached, Jorge and the others went to the roof, where Jorge paced slowly back and forth.
“I think most of them will go” Miguel commented after awhile.
“I hope so” Jorge said, knowing that many of those leaving would probably die, but most if not all of them would be dead in a month or two from starvation if they stayed. It was just far to dangerous to scavenge for food that would only get them through another week or two. When there might be a whole town across the harbor that was safe.
He paced ignoring the conversations around him, wondering how many of them would die before reaching the island, and found he hated the thought, they might bicker and argue half the time, but they were all good people.
“they’ve reached a decision” Jorge turned towards the roof door at the sound of Rosario’s voice, a whole new tension filling him. Rosario looked excited and sick, almost bouncing on his toes, eager to get the hell out of the building that had saved them and become a virtual prison.
“all right, Ill go down and talk with them” Jorge said, heading for the stairs, Zoe and Miguel following.
The Apartment was still full of people, but this time a small group, six in number, huddled together on one side of the room, Bill and Harold were part of that group and looked scared and worried.
As soon as they saw him, silence spread over the room. Kelly Stephens, blond, leggy and mid 40’s stepped out of the larger group. “ we are going with you” she said indicating the people behind her.
Jorge smiled in relief, and then turned in surprise as some one shouted “NO, you cant leave us here alone”
Jorge wheeled around, to see Bill, red faced his mouth working as if words had escaped him. “we will die, if you leave” he finally shouted.
“we will all die if we stay” Jorge said meeting the older mans eyes steadily.
“you cant have our food” Bill shouted, “ none of you, its ours, you want to leave, go, now, but you aren’t taking our food.”
He has gone mad Jorge realized, the man has completely lost it. even as that thought ran through his mind, Bill drew a pistol his eyes glittering dangerously. Miguel leaped slamming into Jorge knocking him out of the way even as Bill fired, Jorge hit the floor banging his head. He heard three maybe four rapid shots and Bill shouting madly, then two loud booms as the Zoe fired the sawed off shotgun she carried. Bill fell backwards in a spray of blood, the pistol flying from his hands as he slammed against the wall and slid down leaving a smear of red blood on the white wall.
Jorge struggled to get up only then realizing that Miguel wasn’t moving. Jorge kicked free of the corpse of his oldest friend, and drew his pistol. “I am sorry, Vaya Con Dios Mi Amigo” he said and put a round into Miquel’s head. They had been friends since childhood, and it had come to this.
He rose slowly to his feet, spatters of Miguel’s grey matter and blood speckling his arms and chest and glared at Bills corpse that was already beginning to twitch, Harold and the others who had stood there in shock at Bills break down and the eruption of violence, scrambled away terrified at being so close to a body about to rise.
Jorge walked over to the corpse, and put his foot in the center of its chest pinning it against the wall. “ He was a good man Puta, “ He waited till the eyes snapped open, and he could stare into the cloudy dead eyes before he shot it in the head.
He holstered the pistol, and turned to face the group, “I know your going to want to haul stuff you’ve collected, but don’t, take a few clothes. All your ammo and weapons, that’s it. if we have to run, you are going to want to be as light as possible.” Jorge said, his accent thicker than usual.
The group rushed out of the apartment, eager to get away from the bodies. Harold stopped at the door, then turned to face Jorge. “Im sorry, I had no idea Bill was…. Was about to snap. I never wanted this Jorge.” Harold said, sorrow hung from his every word. Harold was a man who was misplaced in this world Jorge realized. Try as he might Harold just wasn’t able to adapt to the reality outside. Maybe it was from being safe in here from the beginning. Maybe he just wasn’t capable of the change. What ever it was, it kept him from seeing the violence and insanity lurking just below the surface of all of them Jorge thought.
“I don’t blame you Harold, if I had you would be dead too.” Jorge said flatly. Harold stepped back with out thinking, chilled at Jorges tone of voice. “I wish things were different, but they aren’t. and I tell you now, even with food, if we stayed in here, we would all end up committing suicide or killing each other as we snapped one by one.”
Harold didn’t say another word, he couldn’t argue with that he suspected Jorge was right yet again instead he just turned and stumbled out of the room.
The next couple of days passed slowly every one was feeling apprehensive at actually leaving the building that had sheltered them for a year and some odd months. They ate as a group trying to gain strength and courage from each, conversations were few and far between. And more than one of them were worried about those who refused to leave.
Harold and the hold outs kept to themselves, trying not to mingle to much with the people who were leaving. Who knew why, Jorge suspected they were afraid there would be another shooting or two if they mingled to much. But he didn’t really know if they really felt that way or not.
Jorge looked up, as the sound of an airplane echoed off the buildings around them, he sat aside the air gun and rose his feet, shading his eyes as he looked skyward trying to spot the plane but saw nothing.
“god I love that sound” Kelly said from the stairwell door, stepping out onto the roof, she too looked towards the sky, hoping to see the plane but saw nothing but blue sky and scattered clouds. “I’ve only heard it twice now” She said as the sound faded away into the distance. “ I cant help but hope that one day it will fly over and be a rescue plane that will take us to some safe zone where life still goes on.”
“Life still goes on here,” Jorge pointed out.
“You now what I mean” Kelly said, “ power, grocery stores, people every where.”
Jorge was quiet for a moment. “Americans were spoiled” he said after a moment. “don’t get me wrong, I loved this country, My family immigrated here when I was 12, but I remember what home was like in old Mexico. Homes made out of tin and broken bricks, with dirt floors. There was dust every where, and it was hot. Most of the little kids played naked in the streets that were made of dirt too, no one washed a car because it was a waste of water. Even our church was made out of discarded and broken crap, but it never bothered our Priest, he acted like it was St. Peters, and to him it might have been. We ate stuff that would turn have turned your stomach, but its all we had.” Jorge said.
“I always heard Mexicans ate dogs” Kelly said.
Jorge laughed. “not all Mexicans, maybe not even most. I don’t know. My village was poor, on the edge of a desert. Cattle didn’t do well, and dogs and cats bred fast and were large. I know that I never met any one in Mexico City that ate Dog. But my point is, life sucks, always had sucked but Americans were blessed, and I loved the time I got to share in that blessing, but its over now. and its not coming back Kelly. Life isn’t gathering useless stuff, or electricity. Its surviving and enjoying what we do have.” Jorge said softly kneeling beside the air gun and checked to see if the Epoxy had set yet.
“I take it you have a reason to come up here and its not to hear me ramble on about how wonderful America used to be” Jorge asked suddenly as he made the final adjustment on the air gun, bringing the pressure up to a 750FPS when firing.
Kellly nodded slowly, not sure what to think about the side of Jorge she had just seen, who knew he could wax philosophical.
“I think you should talk to Harold and the others with him and convince them to go with us” Kelly said with no hesitation or sign of her thoughts. “if they stay, they will die here.”
“we might all die trying to leave” Jorge pointed out. “they made their choice, all we can do is pray they see reason.”
“As Alexi likes to say Pray all you want, but keep rowing for shore” Zoe interjected. Jorge coughed a laugh then grew serious again.
“I said I would not try to coerce them into going and I meant it Kelly, I cant go back on my word” Jorge said.
Kelly sighed, she had known coming up here it was probably pointless, but no one in the group that had voted to leave with Jorge wanted to see Harold and the others stay behind and die for sure. And they all knew Harold wouldn’t listen to them, but he might listen to Jorge.
“its not going back on your word Jorge, its offering them a chance to live one last time.” Kelly said then turned and walked away.
“are you going to do it” Zoe asked. Jorge didn’t respond at first, he finished attaching a plastic disk to a string attached to the body of the Paintball gun, then pushed the disk down the barrel, before he added a cross bow bolt.
The principal was the same as the PVC paintball grenade launchers, when fired the air pushed the disk out the barrel, what ever was sitting on the disk was pushed along with it. Jorge had years of experience with paintball guns, rebuilding them, and modifying them. After having spent summers working at a paintball field as a ref and a Gun tech.
Over those years Jorge had seen paintball guns spike to incredible FPS levels due to various weather conditions and occasionally because some one had attempted to modify their paintball gun with out really knowing how it worked.
One night last fall he had come up with the idea of using modified paintball guns to take out zombies quietly, or at least much quieter than pistols and rifles, which they had few of and not a lot of ammo. So on a fuel and food run, they had boosted a truck and stopped at the old paintball shop Jorge had worked at as a teen ager and young adult, and taken guns, compressors, tools, parts, air tanks and the compressor tanks and fill stations.
Jorge lifted the old PM model paint ball gun and pulled the trigger, the bolt sped out of the barrel propelled by the plastic disk and smacked into a Duct where it stuck quivering. One shot at a time but shooting this wouldn’t draw half the city towards the sound of gunfire.
“no, Im not going to talk with him, or any of the others that want to stay.” He said finally, as he started working on the second paint ball gun. “I know the others want me to, but if I break my word on this, who will believe me later on when I promise something else. After that it will constantly be, I know you said this, but could you change your mind for this or that. I appreciate it” Jorge told her, he wasn’t happy about Harold and the others staying and had in fact thought that Harold and his cliché would have changed their minds when the rest of the survivors had decided to go, or when Bill had flipped out and Killed Montoya, but they hadn’t. so Harold and the others had only till Jorge and the others left on the bus to change their minds. After that they were going to die slowly.
“…come in Jorge” Alexi said for the final time, then turned off the radio as he watched the odd looking plane vanish into the distance. the radio either didn’t have the range to reach Jorge’s location, or all the buildings and stuff blocked the transmissions Alexi thought as he turned and looked towards the ship that had brought him here last June. He could just barely make her out at this distance. but he knew her too well to ever forget her lines.
The superstructure was scorched from the fire that had broken out, during the chaos of the first few hours . she looked like she was listing to port, but that might just be the angle he was seeing her, and the distances involved. He was glad, he couldn’t make her out any better, or he might see the bodies of his old crew mates and friends wandering around on her deck.
Some day he would take a boat and return to Russia, Maybe many more of his people had survived than Americans had. But that didn’t matter at the moment, at the moment getting this boat ready for the Jorge and the others was priority.
He stepped into the Cabin and slid the door to the deck shut behind him, ignoring the corpse that sat against the wall in a puddle of blackish goo.
Danny Riems, Alexi’s best friend, was just coming up the stairs from below wiping his hands on a rag. He was a large black man. He was American born but his parents had immigrated from Nigeria, the year before his birth. Like Alexi, Danny had spent most of his life at Sea, in Danny’s case in the US Merchant marine. And Like Alexi, Danny spoke several Languages.
“I was just coming to find you my friend” Danny said in Russian. “It will run, but I cant promise it will run well, or even long. It would be better to find a second vessel.”
Alexi looked thoughtful, as he looked out the forward windows, where he could see a few zombies stumbling along the waterfront. They were not much different today than before dying, they were moving but not going anywhere, he thought. “ we would have to wait till nightfall, theres to many of them out there. Yes.” Alexi commented “we have only tonight to find another one, then somehow I have to reach a place to contact Jorge and tell him our location and what boat to look for. If the next one we decide on has problems we can not fix in a short time, we will have to hurry and find yet a third vessel. No, I think tonight we will see if we can find parts on the boats berthed near by and get this one repaired.”
Danny shrugged, “if nothing else, we can cut the ropes and use poles to push out into the water, then use a flare gun . Who ever is flying that plane might see it and come investigate. Or the people on that island will see it and send some one to investigate. And to be honest Alexi, even if we drift on the current for a while, its better than being stuck in that damned building another day” Danny said.
“That my friend is the truth” Alexi said, “ besides you are supposed to be a miracle worker when it comes to marine motors, I trust you will come up with something.”
“Lets hope so.” Danny replied as he turned and headed back below decks where Tom and Ralph were still working. Alexi walked to the wheel, watching the undead walk back and forth, “if I am to die, I will do it on the water, isn’t that so Tovarish” he said turning his head to look at the corpse, “that is how you chose to die”
Alexi turned to look back at the sun drenched scene, studying the buildings making a mental map. Tonight he would have to slip out and find a tall building to radio Jorge from. He would go alone, no sense in risking any one else. And if Jorge didn’t show up in two days, he would send Danny and the others off to the island and Alexi would go find out what had happened.
the street once lit for safety and to give a feeling of security was dark, the only light was what little filtered down from the stars over head, which was none. Zoe lifted the night vision scope to her eyes, glad she had grabbed it from the pawn shop last fall. She could see the bus about two blocks down, still in the middle of the street and between her and the bus, about sixty zombies that wandered around mostly keeping to the middle of the street. Who knew why. Just like the way they clustered together sometimes, like they were buddies just out for a walk. She had even seen a group of a hundred once coming down the street, just stop for no reason and stand there for four hours all of them staring in the same direction. Then like someone had thrown a switch, they had started moving again marching down the street and turning as a group to vanish deeper into the city.
She touched Hector Ramirez on the shoulder, and then moved slowly and quietly down the side of the street, stopping at every twenty feet or so using parked or abandoned cars for cover, using the scope to check out doorways before she passed them. Early on they had lost people to undead standing in dark doorways.
When she stopped, Hector would move up to the cover she had just vacated, it took time but soon they were at the bus. Hector sat the gas cans down and removed the gas cap while Zoe stood guard.
Zoe crouched her back against the side of the bus, her mind completely empty of distractions as her eyes swept the street. The few undead didn’t seem to notice them, which was a blessing, why they didn’t react when the smell of gasoline filled the air puzzled her, unless of course they couldn’t smell. An interesting thought, but it might be that they didn’t associate the smell of fuel with food, like they did with sounds like music and running motors.
Hector finished with the last Can, and the two of them moved around to the back of the bus, Zoe checking the immediate area with the scope before the stepped fully around and stood in front of the open emergency door of the school bus.
It looked clear inside, but there could still be a zombie on the floor under the seats, as far fetched as that might seem, she had seen stranger. Like the Clown zombie in an air duct in the office building they had explored during the spring, it had been crawling from vent to vent peering into rooms. She had looked up to see the dead painted face, with its wild frizzy orange hair staring at her through the grill, its mouth working slowly. How it had gotten in the duct work she never found out. But just seeing that face peering though an air vent had haunted her for weeks.
Once on the bus, she quietly moved down the aisle checking each seat with the night scope while Hector quietly closed the emergency door.
“This had better work” he muttered as she finished checking the seats. “ the moment we try to start the thing, every zombie in ten blocks is going to be heading this way.”
“Then lets hope it starts on the first try” She said, looking out through the dirty windshield where a zombie once a teen age boy, was stumbling towards the bus.
“Want to wait till its gone” hector asked.
“No” She said, Hector shrugged and twisted the key.
Jorge tried hard not to show how nervous he was, but he knew that pacing around the room pretty much gave it away. His relief when Alexi had finally gotten through to him on the radio last night had faded and become a massive knot of tension as the plans they had made were finally put into motion.
He almost wished they had waited till dawn to move out, but to be honest he was afraid most of them would have backed out at the last moment if given more time to stress over the whole plan.
“We are on the way” Zoes voice said over the Radio. “and we have a crowd following along behind us.” The tension levels sky rocketed in the room as Jorge Looked around at the assembled group.
“All right folks, when the bus gets here, you run to the bus, do not stop and do not look around. If you drop something leave it. there is nothing you have that’s worth dying for.” He said, trying to smile at them to keep them calm. It didn’t work, each second that ticked by they grew more nervous.
At the rear of the maintenance and delivery room, there was a burst of surprised conversation. Jorge looked and saw Harold and the other members of the small group that had elected to stay behind entering the room carrying their weapons and nothing else.
“We, we are going with you” Harold called out, white as a sheet and scared as hell.
Jorge nodded not knowing what to say other than “welcome aboard Harold”
Outside the sound of a motor could be heard, then something hit the wall that cuased dust to fall from the ceiling tiles..
“Move your asses” Zoe shouted over the radio.
Jorge threw open the door and stepped out into the delivery area in the alley behind the apartment building. He could see undead entering the far end of the alley following the buss, their pale faces hell fire red from the Brake lights of the bus.
“Move, move, move.” He shouted as the door of the bus opened and then the rear door opened and Zoe was kneeling in the door firing back into the crowd of undead. Jorge added his own fire to her’s, they shot slow making every round count and trying to conserve the limited amount of ammo they had.
People streamed past him, one man was screaming shrilly as he ran for the bus, Jorge doubted the guy even realized he was the one screaming.
Katherine was the last one out the door, driving Harold ahead of her. The poor bastard was scared stiff Jorge realized. “last three” Jorge said as he followed Katherine towards the bus.
“Cutting it close” Hector transmitted. Jorge had to agree, undead were appearing at the other end of the Alley now, a shambling, stumbling horde of dead flesh that had once been men and women with hopes and dreams, now they were filthy rotting corpses whose only hope was to eat the living.
“Lets go” Jorge said as he boarded the bus and closed the door.
The bus started forward with a lurch, a second later slamming into the crowd of undead, bouncing as it rolled over the corpses, the crunch and snap of bone loud enough to be heard over the engine.
“Oh my god” Katherine moaned throwing up, that noise was more than she could take.
Others were looking green around the gills as well Jorge noted.
Hector turned onto the street, taking out more undead and Katherine found she wasn’t alone in losing what little she had eaten.
The bus rolled down the road, and was soon out of the thick of the undead, but it hadn’t escaped the undead were following along behind, and more were appearing out of every door and alley along the street.
The city was coming to unlife around them as the bus rolled down block after block, weaving between abandoned vehicles. Undead staggered out of every building, alley and opening.
They were close so close to escaping, then luck deserted them, as the motor hitched once then twice and then silence closed over them as the motor finally died. Momentum kept them rolling but the bus was slowing and when it stopped they were doomed.
Jorge cursed steadily and with feeling the damn thing only had to run for another block and they would have reached Alexi and the boat that waited to take them out of the city. Charley tried to get it started again, but the nothing happened, not even the click of the starter.
“ all right folks, leave it all, take only weapons. We have a block to cover and undead on our asses” Jorge shouted, as Zoe and others started dragging people from their seat and sending them towards door of the bus. So many of them were weak with hunger they probably wont make it anyway. But Fear could do a lot to keep a man moving Jorge thought
“Alexi, get that boat started the bus is stalled a block away, we are going to be running your way with a crowd chasing us” Jorge said, then dropped the radio on the seat it wasn’t going to do him any good from this point on anyway. Either they made it or they died.
“Come on Harold” Jorge said to the utterly terrified white faced man who sat frozen in his seat, Katherine his long time Aide didn’t wait she ran for the door leaving Harold alone for the first time in his miserable life, the huge pistol she had found the day the undead had arrived clutched in her hand.
“Harold, I’m not staying to die with you, get up and get moving and you stand a chance to live, stay here and your going to die” Jorge said grabbing the mans arm, but Harold was frozen in place his hands locked tight on the arm rests.
Gunfire erupted outside, and Jorge could hear Zoe shouting for him to hurry. “I’m sorry Harold, But Im not going to die with you.” Jorge said running for the front of the bus. Hating himself with every step. Harold shrieked in fear as Jorge bolted down the steps and outside.
“Where’s Harold?” Zoe asked, she and Hector Ramirez had waited. The undead had reached the back of the bus already, and more were coming out of the buildings on either side of the street. A mob of white skinned dead, in soiled clothes, hunger glittered in their cloudy dead eyes. The stench of rotting meat was strong enough to choke them and growing stronger.
“He wouldn’t get out of the seat” Jorge yelled, trying to shut the door to the bus to at least give Harold a chance to live, but found it was impossible, you had to be inside to operate the mechanism to close the damn thing completely. Angry and ashamed at leaving Harold, he began firing at the closet zombie and then the three of them ran.
Im sorry God, But Im not going to die today if I can help it. Jorge thought. When the screaming started behind him, he refused to look back to see the last moments of Harold’s life, as it was he knew the screams would haunt him for as long as he lived.
The small group ran, firing steadily, here and there some would be dragged down screaming. Any one close enough would put a bullet into the lost, hoping that some one would be close and alive to do the same for them if and when the time came.
The undead were coming from every direction, a city full of the walking dead pouring through the streets, drawn first to the noise of the bus then to the gunfire.
For a year and four months the city had been quiet, Disturbed only by the occasional distant thumb of helicopter blades, or plane engine. In that time the undead had staggered around with out purpose, now they had one, a single purpose to feed on the living who had stumbled into their reach.
The undead were every where, survivors ran around the individual undead, dodged groups, and shot down zombies when they had too. But the survivors never stopped moving for the waterfront where salvation lay.
A zombie lunged up from behind a car, reaching for Zoe, Jorge had to fire three times before he managed to hit it in the head and send it tumbling back behind the car that had hidden it from sight.
Jorge tossed aside his now empty rifle, a cramp developing in his side. Zoe stumbled ahead of him and he barely managed to grab her shirt and yank her out of reach of a zombie. He had lost sight of Hector, who might well be dead by now. Be safe my friend he prayed silently.
They dodged around the undead striking any that to close. The water was just ahead, and by some miracle there were still people ahead of him. Not as many as before but far more than he had dared hope.
A cold rotting hand snagged his shirt collar, Jorge lunged forward, his collar tearing off his shirt, he didn’t care. Strip him naked if that’s what it took to escape. There ahead of him he could see the water, and in the distance across the dark water, lights glittered on the waves. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
Katherine stumbled, and fell a hundred feet from the safety of the boat, Oliver Dayton stopped and helped her up, she started to thank him when something wet and warm splattered across her face, Olivers eyes opened wide, as the zombie bit down on his neck again. More blood sprayed across Katherine who barely clung to her sanity. “run” He gasped somehow gathering the strength to push her forward. Tears rolled down her cheeks but she ran, leaping around the feeding undead. She heard Oliver shout then two gunshots rang out.
She crossed the last hundred feet, her bare feet cut and bleeding. out of breath, and her pistol empty, Katherine tossed the now useless weapon at a zombie that appeared out of no where, and threw her self up the ramp where hands, warm living hands grasped her and pulled her to safety.
She looked back and saw that there were still people out there, including Jorge and Zoe, she prayed for the first time in years, she prayed that they would all make it, but the undead were closing in like a circle of hungry lions.
“Here, start shooting at the ones closet to the boat” Alexi said pressing a pistol into her hands. “clear the way for them.” Katherine was a poor shot, but she didn’t protest, she just lifted the pistol and tried her best.
And so did every one else, but there was too little ammunition left, and far to many undead. Bodies tumbled to ground, some stood back up again.
Davis a former business man ran for his life dodging around outstretched arms, but in the end he wasn’t fast enough and was dragged down as he tried to leap over a zombie that was feeding on the corpse of a woman he had known.
Katherine saw it all, blood sprayed as Davis struggled and screamed and through her tears she saw Jorge Shoot Davis in the head as he ran past, wasting a bullet to put the man out of his pain and terror. Goodbye Davis, she silently told the dead mans spirit, at least you get to see your wife and kids again.
Davis didn’t die alone, not a by a long shot, others were dragged down as well shouting defiance, screaming in pain and fighting to the end.
Zoe clothes lined a zombie, sending it to the ground, dodged another, and was almost yanked off her feet by Jorge who pulled her out of arms reach of yet another zombie she hadn’t seen. Somehow, they broke through the mass of undead, with five other survivors, now there were thousands of undead behind them and only seventy ahead. Jorge tossed aside his now empty pistol and drew the machete he carried, it wasn’t much, but at least he could take out one maybe two before he died.
The ramp to the boat was just up ahead, forty feet and it might as well be a mile. Jorge thought his muscles burning. He didn’t see the long dark shape at the far end of the dock or the movement on its deck.
Jorge only knew he was about to die, with safety so close. But at least he had gotten some of the people out who now stood a chance to survive. it was a cold comfort, but there was nothing he could do to change what was about to happen. he only wished Zoe and Hector hadn’t waited for him, they might be on board by now if they hadn’t.
Suddenly lights blazed on the water, spearing out over the undead, fresh gunfire rang out, some one was shouting orders.
“be careful theres still people on foot in all shit” A man shouted. Undead to Jorges left began to fall as a machine gun opened up the sound of the military weapon hammering at the ears of the living like the blessed thunder of God.
Gore and goo sprayed over Jorge and Zoe, the undead between them and the boarding ramp began to fall as highly accurate gun fire swept them away.
then explosions ripped the night apart with fire as some kind of grenade or bomb fell amongst the remaining undead ahead of Jorge and he could even hear the whine of shrapnel, then explosions erupted behind them as shredding the lead ranks of the undead that chased them “ go, keep Running” A man shouted over the din. Jorge didn’t recognize the voice and to his surprise Jorge could hear his own people cheering him and the others onwards like it was a football game not a life and death race.
He knew they weren’t safe not yet so he ran pushing Zoe ahead of him. “hurry up Amigo” Hector yelled as he passed Jorge who felt a wave of relief, Gracias Jesus, Jorge said tears of relief rolling down his face.
He reached the boarding ramp, as four other survivors including Hector pounded up it and onto the boat, with the last of his strength he pushed zoe up it after them then staggered up the ramp himself. Explosions ripped the night apart again with fire and noise, something hot ripped a burning line across his back, but he didn’t care, he fell onto the deck and the ramp was pushed off into the water with a splash and the night fell silent. Broken only by the shuffling of thousands of feet and the rumble of a ships motor behind them.
“your bleeding” Zoe said gently rolling him over. “you’ll live” she said after examining his back with a flashlight. “your going to live,” she said again sounding almost amazed as she leaned over and hugged him where he lay on the deck.
The boat they were on shuddered and then was moving backwards, Jorge sat up, with Zoes help and headed towards the back of the boat, the stern he thought it was called, and found Alexi, standing there beside a short blonde guy armed to the teeth, that Jorge had never seen before. He vaguely reminded Jorge of some actor but his mind was still reeling from their escape and couldn’t place the face with a name.
Behind them, was the other boat, from the looks of it, it had been a coast guard boat, with a big damn gun on the deck. He realized after a moment that the coast guard boat was pulling the boat he was standing on.
“Jorge, I would like you to meet Ori, he and the boat are from Sullivan island” Alexi said with a huge smile on his face.
Ori held out a hand, and Jorge blinked as a spot light on the coast guard boat lit up the deck around Jorge. “Nice to meet you” Ori said, as Jorge shook his hand.
“how did you get here so quickly” Jorge asked, not even sure why he cared.
“we were just down the way, chccking out loading areas with containtes to see which ones we might safely land and check out, when we heard all the gunfire. I figured some one might need help so here we are. It’s a good thing too. Your boat wasn’t starting, and you folks were pretty much out of ammunition by the time we got into position.”
“you’re a stranger and came to see if we needed help, why?” Jorge asked despite himself.
“Because sooner or later some one has to start the process of being civilized again, and that’s what we do over there on the island, or what we are trying to do at any rate.” Ori said, looking past Jorge where the survivors, far less than had left the building were gathering, drawn by the light, electric light that they had thought to never see again.
Then the Group focused on the heavily armed stranger and the miracle boat that pulled them away from the docks, and Jorge who just kept shaking the mans hand, as if he were stuck to the man.
Ori pulled his hand free, “your man Alexi there, said you were going to try to make for our island. Good thing you didn’t try for Sumter, our people there would have just opened fire, that’s a place we are touchy about” he said as he ran a hand through thick blond hair and grinned boyishly.
“Why?” Jorge asked “ and whats it like over there?, power, hot food, a safe place from the undead on the island.”
Ori gave him a look then smiled. “ why, why are we touchy about Sumter, because we have 26 orphaned kids living there with teachers, guards and supplies to keep them fed and safe if things go bad on Sullivan. As to the rest of your questions, we have limited power, and I mean limited, we have hot food, some of it fresh not canned or dehydrated But caught daily. And its safe, we cleared the last of the undead off the island last week, at least we are pretty sure we have killed all of them.. so yes its safer than any where else that I know of. As long as no on dies with out us knowing about it or one of the undead washing up on the beach, we are pretty damn safe over all.”
“ cleared, no undead” Jorge said in disbelief, from the buzz of voices behind him, the others felt the same way.
“not at the moment.” Ori said, “its taken a lot of work, and some have died along the way, but when we get there, you can see for yourself.” Ori told him, then stepped back giving Jorge and Zoe space as what was left of their people gather around, many were crying and upset that others hadn’t made it.
Jorge felt bad in way that not one person even asked about Harold. It was sad that a man though misguided and full of fear, had tried to do what he thought was best, could just vanish from the minds of the people he had tried to help. It was up to me Jorge realized, billions had died and few of their names would ever be remembered, but the few that he had know, good and bad, would be remembered he vowed. They at least deserved to have some trace of having lived be left behind. it was a way to deal with his grief at losing so many, Sixty people had left the Apartment building that had sheltered them for so long and only 36 had survived to reach safety. Far more than any one could have expected to survive, considering the long run on foot in a city full of undead. But so many more had died than Jorge had been wiling to consider.
“Jared I need you and Jill to come down to the dock” Ashton said walking up to where Jared and his wife sat at a table in the Cafeteria. The former Sergeant looked exhausted, he should Jared had dumped a lot of responsibility on Ashton, which Jared should feel guilty about, but when he had time Jared would schedule some guilty time. Till then he was just glad some one was helping take the burden off him, unlike that worthless damn council.
Jared rose smoothly his wounds were healing and his brush with death a thing of the past. he had even found some one to cut his thick red hair into a flat top. “whats up?” Jared asked as he picked up his HK from where it had been leaned against the table and clipped it to the sling on his chest.
“there was a disturbance in Charleston while Ori was over there scouting the docks trying to locate containers we might want to secure and bring back.” Ashton said.
“Is he alright?” Jared asked feeling a stir of worry in his gut.
Beth, Ori’s pregnant wife rose twisting her hands together.
“oh, yeah he is fine, they are all. Its just that they found something, and your going to love this.” Ashton said feeling like an ass for causing Beth any pain or worry.
The small group rose and followed Ashton out of the fort and down to the dock where they could hear the rumble of the cutters motor approaching through the darkness, Jared peered across the water and saw the 47 foot Coast Guard MLB approaching, behind it was the dark shape of another boat.
A few people were pressing to the get 87 foot USCGC YellowFin and the 378 foot USCGC Dallas up and running as well, to patrol the waters around Sullivan, Jared liked the idea, but the fuel those two boats would burn was hideous. Though one or both would be excellent to get a group to DC for the museum raid he was planning.
“Why were they checking the docks at night” Jill asked while they waited.
“ they go in under power, then cut the motors and coast past the docks in silence using NVG’s to check things out. It draws less undead than it would during the day when the undead can still spot the boat and cluster in the area. So night work is better, as long as your not on the ground at any rate” Jared replied.
It was yet another odd fact about zombies, Camouflage worked against them up to a point, and like the living they didn’t seem to do well at night, unless they had noise, lights and or lots of movement to draw them in. move slow and quiet, keep a sharp eye out , use cover and hide a lot, and you could move pretty far at night. Get spotted and you were screwed, they would swamp the area by the thousands.
Finally the Coast guard MLB, Dubbed by the Island as the Sullivan, came along side the docks men on deck tossed lines down. He could hear Ori calling out from the second boat, as more lines were thrown from its deck to men who rushed up to catch the ropes and pull the old boat up and moor it tightly.
Jared approached the new boat, it looked like it had sat empty for a long while. Its hull had streaks of rust and its windows were dirty. He watched as people lined the gunwales, staring at everything they could see, entranced or in shock at all the people, the lights on the dock, the lights burning on the Forts walls.
Finally a ramp was found and put in place, Ori was the first off the boat, followed by the sorriest looking group of people Jared had seen, Dirty, their clothes were ragged, one womans feet were bleeding, Linda was already barking orders to get them taken to the medical shelter for check ups, while Mary was sending people to collect some food for the new arrivals.
“Send you out to check out containers we might recover and you come home with strays” Jared said a smiling despite himself. The ragged group, looked stunned, some smiled with joy at finding themselves on the island, most just looked broken and cried alot. One woman sank to her knees and began to sob heavily.
“you know me always a sucker for a happy ending” Ori said, as a Hispanic man limped up to stand by Ori, followed by a woman, who looked pretty damn good despite the dirt, slime and gore.
Jorge gazed at the muscled, heavily armed red head, and the equally well armed and attractive woman beside him. His mouth worked for a moment but nothing came out, his emotions were all over the place.
“ are we really safe here” Jorge asked finally. Hoping it was true, there wasn’t much that he could about it, if it wasn’t.
his people were being led off by men dressed like soldiers and several island residents had even appeared with wheelchairs and a couple of stretchers.
“Yes” the Red head sad his voice deep, and full of compassion, that surprised Jorge. The man really didn’t look like a very compassionate person. “ Safer than most any where else out here in the world and we do our best to keep that way. Im Jared Stone and this is my wife Jill”
Jorge didn’t answer, at that moment Stella Marrs, started screaming as two men tried to get her to stand. Jorge moved to her side waving the worried men away, then knelt beside the older woman. “ Stella, its okay. Your okay, these are people Stella, not zombies, not the dead. Your safe” he said as gently as possible trying to calm her.
That she had held it together in the run for the docks was as surprising as the fact she had actually made it to the boat. But her boy friend hadn’t, Jorge knew. The names of the dead were burned into his mind. “come on Stella, they have a doctor, who wants to give you a check up” he told her as gently as he could. And check us all for bites too, I bet, not that I blame them.
“Lionel, is dead” she said her eyes almost glazed. “ I got his blood on me” she said wiping at the drying wet spots on her dress. “ dead, and tomorrow would have been his 41st birthday.” She started crying again, but didn’t flinch or scream when Jorge touched her shoulder, he got her to stand just long enough for a wheel chair to be pushed over for her to sit in. He stood there watching as she was wheeled up the path that ran along side the massive old fortress. He turned back to the red head “My name is Jorge,” he said “Thank you for taking us in” his voice laden with a heavy emotional laden tone then turned and followed along behind Stella, wrapped in guilt at all the deaths his folks had suffered tonight. Ori shook his head sadly then followed after the new arrivals wanting to make sure they were all taken care of before he headed off to bed.
Jared watched as the survivors were taken from the docks then turned to look at the dark ruins of Charleston. “ I wonder how many others are still alive and hiding over there?” He asked aloud, behind him the lights were being turned off along the Forts walls plunging the dock and beach area back into darkness. “ or out there across the world” he added quietly, then turned and started for the Fortress.