“Let’s head out of here, James. Shut the door,” said Victor. “It would be a waste of ammunition to shoot them all.” Victor was fighting the urge to open fire. He knew they didn’t have much in the way of ammunition, but these things, these particular zombies were an affront to him. It felt like a personal insult, and it worked. He was angry.
James paused for a second after closing the door, and then asked, “What do you think that note meant?”
“It’s kind of a long story. It’s a crazy cult,” Victor said, waving his hand dismissively.
“Mate, the note had ya name on it,” said James, stepping forward towards Victor. “How do you explain that?”
Victor took a deep breath, obviously annoyed at the insinuation. “Alright, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version. A while ago, my son was kidnapped. He escaped his original kidnappers on his own, but another group of survivors found him. Max has some…unique talents. For one, he can make the zombies follow his orders. He can also kill all the E’Clei in them. Somewhere along the way, that second set of kidnappers decided Max was Christ reborn, and it started a whole cult. When we rescued Max, apparently I became the devil.”
“Wait, wait, wait.” Jame’s hands went up and he shook his head. “You’re saying Max can kill zombies? By lookin’ at ‘em? What the fuck are we doing then? If the boy can kill them all, why the blue fuck are we going house to house?”
“Do not raise your voice to me,” said Victor. He was an inch shorter than the Australian, but he brought himself to his full height and looked James straight in the eye. “Because I won’t send a four year old boy into a house full of zombies,” Victor said firmly. “I won’t endanger a child, any child. Our job, our only purpose is to provide them with love, safety, security, and knowledge.”
James looked furious. He turned on his heel and strode out of the house, followed quickly by Victor. Out on the lawn, James turned to face Victor again. “You know, Sean said you were a fuckin’ drongo, but I had no idea you were risking everyone’s life for nothing.”
Tookes already felt himself standing on edge; this man he just met was getting close to pushing him over that edge. “Nothing? It’s not nothing. It’s my son. There’s no way of knowing what using these abilities does to us,” he said, gesturing with his hands. “There’s no way of knowing what the super zombies are capable of.” Vic paused and lowered his voice. “He’s four years old, James. If he were sixteen, it would be a little different.”
“It’s no different. We have to use every weapon at our disposal,” James said.
“My son is not a weapon. He’s a little boy.” Victor was overcome with anger. He was angry at the insinuation that he was holding something back, and he was angry that these kidnappers of his child were spreading their lies this far across the country. Without warning, he shot his fist upward into James’s jaw. “He’s MY son. I will be the one to decide,” Victor yelled, throwing a left across the stunned Aussie’s face. Victor followed with a third punch, straight with his right arm into James’ nose. The bigger man went down on his back, blood running down his face.
James lept up off the ground. Victor watched a punch to the abdomen form, the only option James considered. Victor stepped back and to the side, dodging the punch, and snapped a low front-kick, knocking the wind out of his opponent.
James aura solidified around him, and he stepped towards Victor. He was wary this time, considering his options as he said “You’re fuckin’ crazy.” He settled on a feint with his left hand, and a strong kick towards Victor’s thigh. Tookes completely ignored the punch, knowing it was just intended to distract. Instead, he raised his foot and kicked James other leg out from under him.
“Stay down, James,” said Victor.
James jumped up again and lunged at Tookes, wrapping him in a bear hug. Tookes expanded his aura outward, enveloping James, and then parted the bubble, pushing the man off of him, leaving James stuck inside the shield Victor had learned from Lightfoot’s men.
“You can’t win this, James. I’m stronger than you.”
John and Sean were standing a couple feet behind Victor. Sean spoke first, “Easy James. This is over.”
“He fuckin’ sucker punched me,” said James, his voice muted by the shield around him. The sharp glare he was carrying never left as he wiped a hand across his nose.
“Tookes, You have him in one of those shields we were in?”
“What’s this all about,” asked Sean.
Victor repeated the story of Max’s kidnapping, and of the note inside the door to the house, and then added James’ insistence that he put Max in harm’s way, just to make this easier.
“James, no one’s gonna put their kids at risk here. Without the kids, what do we have?” asked John. ”Tookes, please let him out.
Victor paused for a second and then released the shield holding James in place.
“There’s a note on the door, John. From a Maxist,” said Victor. “They said they intentionally infected themselves thinking Max would save them, instead of leaving to go find food and water.”
“Fuckin’ lazy Americans. Waiting on someone to save them, rather than saving themselves,” said Sean.
Victor cocked an eyebrow at Sean and said, “Really?”
“You’re nothing like normal, Mate. I reckon’ that’s why John hasn’t shot you yet,” he replied. Sean quickly changed the subject before Vic could respond. “ Can Max do that? Can he turn someone back?”
“When he was kidnapped, he took over a zombie. Before Steve died–”
“Who the hell is that?” Sean interrupted.
“The zombie Max took over,” he replied, losing patience. “Anyway, Max wanted me to build him a house because, he said, “zombies are people too.” If he could have turned him back, he would have.”
James spoke up then, “Maybe he didn’t think of it,” the man looked to his Australian friend and said, “I think we should ask him.”
Victor shook his head and said, “No. In fact, none of the children should know about this. I think we should knock the house down and burn it.” The sudden appearance of the Maxists created an odd resurgence of emotion and Tookes didn’t like it. The one thing he’d been sure of was his ability to keep Max safe, but this cult had shaken that belief. Even the suggestion of putting his son, his little boy, all he had left in the world, into the middle of his mess had been enough to coax him to violence. He wouldn’t even entertain the idea of including Max in this so he decided right then that he would ignore any further suggestion about involving his son.
“Flaming zombies? Do you think it’s a good idea to have flaming zombies walking around? They’d catch everything on fire,” said John.
“They’re all contained in the basement. The stairs have been removed. If we’re careful, we can collapse the house in on itself,” said Victor.
“We’d need a fire truck full of water,” said John.
“You’re going to need that anyway if you’re going to make a life here, John. We need to get ya well working. Jo and Renee went to have a go at that. Let’s go see what they found,” said Sean.
Renee showed them the well and the pumps. As they figured, the wooden water cistern was empty, the townspeople had drained it before turning themselves into zombies.
They talked about what they’d need, and how to start the plan. Ultimately, it was decided that Vic and Sean would go get generators and fuel.
About twenty minutes later, the two men entered Yuma in Sean’s truck. The drive to Yuma was largely through barren desert, nothing but sand dunes as far as they could see on either side of the highway. It wasn’t until they got to the outskirts of town that the first bushes and shrubs started to appear. The houses along the road were all southwestern in style, ranging from small adobo ranch houses to large spanish influenced two stories. Every house, no matter how small had a swimming pool, and there wasn’t a blade of grass anywhere within two hundred miles. Yards were landscaped with stone, the occasional Yucca tree or Saguaro cactus. Yuma wasn’t a ghost town, but it wasn’t a booming city either. The cars on the side of the road were average sedans, this had been a town full of working people.
Victor remembered from history classes in school that Yuma was a railroad town. From the coast of California, it was the last stop before the full desert, and from the east it was the first stop after a long, hot trip through the arid plains of Arizona and west Texas. There were train tracks everywhere, and huge metal warehouses dotted the landscape.
Victor led them to the a Sears store. The front doors were ripped from their hinges, shattered and bent in the parking lot. The two men decided to check it out anyway. Inside, the place was completely wrecked. Most of the hand tools were gone, although Sean did manage to put a couple tool bags together. All the battery operated tools were gone, and there were no generators. In the back of the store, there were three badly decomposed men in sears uniforms laying dead on the floor, black dried blood surrounding them. The two men returned to the truck with the few things of value they found and pulled out of the lot.
“Where to next?”
“I have no idea, I’ve never been here before, I saw the Sears sign while we were heading to the airport,” said Victor. “I guess we should try to find a phone book. Keep an eye out for a pay phone.”
“You reckon’ the hospital would have a gennie? In Townsville, the hospital always had a couple of trailer mounted units in case the power went out.”
“Usually here in US they’re built as part of the hospital, on huge concrete pads. We can take a look though,” said Victor.
“What about schools?”
Sean drove along in silence for a few minutes. “I can’t imagine being able to go this far in a city in Oz and not see one of them walkers. Where’d they all go?”
Victor had been wondering the same thing. There were some stragglers at the airport when they left, and this was a pretty sizable city.
“Maybe they went to the airport? That plane was loud. That may have drawn them all out to the edge of town.
“Hey, over there. What ya think about a vet’s office?”
“That might work, at worst we might be able to pick up some medications and other supplies.”
Inside the vet’s office, they found the first of the three generators they needed, plus they were able to find a huge haul of medications and other first aid supplies. Sean grabbed several drawers full of surgical tools, and all the saline bags in the office. In just under an hour, they had the truck loaded and were back on the road.
“I think we’re going to have to go house to house,” said Victor as Sean pulled the truck out onto the main road through Yuma. “Somewhere in this town a group of people survived, or is surviving. I’m worried that they’ve hit all the stores in town. That’s going to cause a little trouble for you guys, if you’re staying that close to town.”
Sean turned left off the main road, down a residential street, to start the house-to-house search. As he pulled the truck into the driveway of the first house, the two men looked at each other.
Victor spoke first, “Have you ever seen that?” he asked pointing to stacks of corpses. Sean backed the truck up a little bit, and turned the wheel. As he did, the headlights lit up six piles of bodies, each perfectly stacked.
Victor jumped out of the truck and walked over to the first pile, his gun in one hand and hatchet in the other. Each pile had twelve corpses face down along the bottom, then eleven in the next row, then ten, all the way up to just one body on the top, forming a perfect pyramid. The corpses were clearly zombies before they died, bits of rotten flesh were torn off and blackened from time and the elements. Each corpse had a fresh looking bite mark right at the base of the neck.
“What the fuck is this? Why would someone take the time to stack them? And what the fuck bites a zombie?”
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