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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Writers Challenge: Zombie Apocalypse Survival Team 6, James


The one problem with living in the same house as a soldier in his early eighties is the fact that four decades of frequent gunfire lays waste to your ear drums, and then once you add old age, you can see why he should have needed hearing aids. Well, okay, he wasn’t a soldier. Not technically, but that’s beside the point.

“Shut the hell up, punk. You’ll alert the Dead, and if we start getting attacked by zombies, I’ll blow your goddamned head off.” Okay, so he was just as cranky as usual. We’d run out of coffee the day before, and I needed some new books anyway, so it was time for me to do my job.

“I just wanted to let you know that I was heading into town for supplies. We ran out of coffee, and I need some new books. I shouldn’t be more than a few hours.” It was true, because comics were deceptively quick, but to be fair, so are most Clancy novels.

“Make sure to minimize noise. If you’re not back by dark, I’m not coming after you.” Of course he wasn’t.

“Fair enough.” Last thing we’d want is to endanger the fort by leaving it completely unmanned, so I went out to the garage and loaded up the truck. It had everything in it, so I put my vest on and hop in the driver’s seat, putting it in reverse and backing it out of the driveway, turning onto the road into town.

The treeline never changed. Like these towns themselves, TEOTWAKI couldn’t get rid of everything. The places were still there, some of the people, though few in number, were still there. For the most part, it was just me and Harry, but until we see fire and brimstone, we’ll have these fuckin’ trees.

Once I’d gotten inside the suburban sprawl part of La Center, so I had to park the truck and dismount. After putting on my bandanna and shades, I grabbed my sidearm (a customized MAC-10, in case you were wondering) before heading to the bed of the truck to get the bag and the bike. It was just a gym bag that I could use as a backpack, and I siphoned the gas for the dirt bike and the truck from the other vehicles. The truck made one hell of a lot more noise than the bike, especially with the chopper muffler on the dirt bike, so I had to park the truck in an area that I’d already salvaged from. I parked the bike in one block, and once I’d filled the bag I used it to get back to the truck. It’s a simple enough system, but I didn’t have a canopy for the bed, so it’s prone to looting. I hadn’t had any run-ins with golden horde yet, but you can never be too careful.

The beauty of small towns is the illusion of security. A fence is extremely easy to climb, and people with enclosed yards rarely lock the back door. You think that you’d see someone in your front yard, or the dog would start barking, or the alarm would get tripped, but what if none of these apply? Most people never think about stuff like that under normal circumstances, but once shit hits the fan, these are matters of survival. Horde comes through and security doesn’t matter, but they’ll sometimes send scouts. Guys like me, except with a larger and meaner group. Heh, meaner than Dirty Harry Callahan, that’s a laugh. It’d take a horde…

After parking the bike in the next block, I checked the first house. Of course it had a white picket fence, La Center never had a crime rate to speak of, which is partially why I didn’t stay home when shit hit the fan. My home town of Woodland was up to its knees in drug addicts, gangbangers (mostly surreños, courtesy of the I-5 corridor), klansmen, racists and rednecks of varying calibers. The police were always busy, be it gang violence, narcotics possession, crazy parties, or general stupidity. The police force simply didn’t have the manpower required to do its job to the extent that it needed. La Center, on the other hand, was the opposite. There were no gangs to speak of, there were hardly any robberies, and you couldn’t so much as speed without seeing flashing lights in your rearview mirror. Get rid of all these and you’re left with a discreet drug trade, but that’s everywhere. It was far from paradise, but it was more or less secure. Until shit hit the fan, that is.

I hopped the fence, slinging my gun in the process. I pulled it back out when I got to the other side and grabbed my knife from the sheath on my vest, placing the knife in the same hand that grabbed the foregrip, so that I could stab with my left hand as a moment’s notice. After checking the corner around the back of the house, I followed it with the rest of the yard. No zombies, no humans. Pleased with that, I kept my weapons raised and checked the windows and doors for any openings. Of course, just my luck, there weren’t any. I hated it, but I had to make some noise.

I figured that minimalizing noise for stealth doesn’t work the same way that shock & awe might on anyone or anything inside the house. So, I front-kicked the door-jam and aimed my gun, sweeping the room from left to right.

I may not have served in the military or police forces, but I did spend six months at a US Army recruiting station. At the time, the Army was doing something called Future Soldier Training (so you can imagine how hard I laughed when Ghost Recon used that as a title). The point was to prepare us for Basic Combat Training, whether we had signed a contract or not. I was denied three consecutive times over a six month period, but it was a great way to fill up my Thursday afternoons. We learned absolute basic infantry tactics, and they pay off. In this case, breaching and clearing. It’s pretty simple. Once you’ve kicked open the door with a well placed front-kick, you sweep in the direction of the door. Since this one opens from left-to-right, I start on the far left corners of the room, moving to the right, checking them for zombies or humans. Still nothing, thank God.

The way these houses are set up, the kitchen was directly to my left, but I had to clear the entire house before I could raid the kitchen for food or supplies. That being said, the first thing I checked was the pantry. I scored a can of coffee and a bag of Pringles. I set them aside so that I could eat them for lunch, then moved on to the next part of the floor. Laundry rooms are easy, as it’s difficult to hide for very long in a cupboard or the dryer, so that one took almost no time at all. The living room was just as easy, as these places almost never had fireplaces. Far from being environmentally healthy.

The upper floor was more of the same. Bedrooms and bathrooms were a piece of cake, not very many supplies left. Most people took the common knowledge stuff, like painkillers and band-aids, not very many allergy meds. When survivors saw Harry’s flags still flying, they tended to stop by and trade. When the world ended, all system of currency went kaput, so whatever economy still existed was based on theft, scavenging and barter. These allergy medications were worth double their weight in bullets and Top Ramen.

Content with that state of things, I went back to the kitchen. I loaded up the bag first, with every non-perishable good that I can find, starting with the coffee. I look into the Pringles, praying that they hadn’t gone bad. These things had so damned many preservatives in ‘em that they didn’t mold, but they did go stale. I got to thinking, and found some Tabasco. You could refrigerate it or keep it out in the pantry, didn’t matter either way. Again, didn’t go bad. Some Tabasco on each chip, I was in heaven. Once I was finally done with the bag, I tossed it in the trash, zipped up my bag and went outside so that I could take the haul back to the truck. That was when I ran into problems.

Getting up, he points his gun at me and yells “drop it motherfucker!” Naturally, I respond by dropping down to use my bike as cover, which is an extremely bad idea, while I set my gun on the seat, telling him to drop his. I yelled back “You shoot me, half my food comes with me!” I got a look at him. Something struck me as odd.

He was using a ski mask, probably for the same reason as my bandanna, but he was dressed in full black,with a thick wool coat, thick as my military field jacket (dad was career military), but a suppressed M9 seemed a tad unnecessary, yet handy. Minimize noise, minimize the zombie’s attention, plus the commonality of the 9mm. Hell, my MAC uses 9mm’s. Then there was his accent- a surprisingly thick Irish accent. Irish. You don’t hear that very often. Around here, if you heard an accent it was most likely Spanish or Russian.

An aspiring filmmaker coming from a military family, my solitary life allowed me to gain an intimate knowledge of geekdom. I specialize on horror and military, but I am also knowledgeable on science fiction, fantasy, comic books and classic cartoons.

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