Victor Tookes trudged up the beach feeling very alone. It had been a long time since he’d been out on his own, with no backup anywhere. “She’s just mad, she probably went off somewhere to think and to prove a point,” he thought as he struggled through the deep, loose sand. Just in case she came back he dug out a large deep arrow in the sand, piling sticks and trash in the trench to indicate his direction of travel. The rain made the surface of the sand seem much more firm than it was. Months of wind and rain and lack of maintenance had left the resort beach in its natural state, covered in seaweed and debris from the ocean. Trash was piled up at the high water line. Since there was no one working at the resort to remove the dead sea life that washed ashore it smelled of rotting fish. Not that it really mattered what it looked or smelled like. There wasn’t anyone left alive who would enjoy a lazy day laying out at the beach. Victor thought to himself, “There weren’t any lazy days for those of us who are left, either.” Today was not the kind of day anyone would be on the beach anyway. The cold rain was picking up; now it was a steady downpour. The wind was bringing cold air in, the temperature felt like it had dropped ten degrees while he was standing there. At this rate it would turn to snow by nightfall.
Victor was pretty sure he could see a few human corpses along the beach too, but it was hard to tell from a distance, between the bloat and discoloration caused by months at sea and the subsequent rot from laying in the sun. It wasn’t unlikely that six months after a sentient parasite that turned humans into zombies invaded the planet a few corpses would wash ashore. Seeing corpses laying around was the least of Victor’s worries, it was the ones that stood up and walked that he had to be concerned about. Victor was one of the lucky ones. A genetic marker passed from parent to child for thousands of years made Victor immune to the parasite. It gave him abilities far beyond what he’d had as a normal human before he’d been infected, but he was still human. He still felt pain, although physical pain was something he was much more adept at dealing with. He seldom allowed himself time to reflect on the emotional toll this had taken on him, out of fear of completely breaking down. A mental breakdown was something he didn’t have time for. There was so much to do and no one else to do it.
Every single human he’d encountered outside of his own group of survivors were barely able to keep themselves alive. It was only due to luck and timing that he and Max made it to the relative safety of his mother’s house before the worst of the apocalypse. Victor, his brother, and his friends John and Leo and a few survivors had spent the first two months fortifying their property. While the rest of the world was dying, they were building a safe place. Victor’s son Max had the ability to shield the house from the eyes of the zombie lieutenants. Max’s abilities were the reason the zombie leadership wanted to get their hands on him.
When a normal immune person was bitten by a zombie, their body fought off the E’Clai. The chemistry of their brain was altered by the invading creatures, causing the parasite to die. Whatever pathways in the brain the ‘bugs’ connected stayed connected, even after the parasites were dead. Those pathways, those parts of the brain that were disconnected in normal humans were what allowed Victor to see people’s auras, to see what action a person was going to take before it happened, and to talk to his friends over vast distances. They’re what gave his brother Marshall super human strength. They’re what gave Leo the ability to teleport herself and others over vast distances, and they’re what gave John his uncanny abilities with weapons. They’d learned the hard way that use of those abilities drew zombies to them like moths to a flame. Victor thought it was probably an innate response to draw the slow, stupid zombies towards the more powerful lieutenants.
They’d recently found out that Victor’s half-sister Renee was also immune, which meant the immunity was handed down through his mother. Renee was still learning to control her abilities. So far she had the ability to make herself invisible, even to Victor, and she was fast. She could outrun most cars, and while Leo was faster than Renee, Leo had had much more experience and exposure to zombies. Victor wasn’t sure what caused the gradual enhancement of abilities he and his friends had experienced. He’d spent weeks trying to puzzle out if use made one stronger, or if it was continued exposure to the parasites. Each person seemed to have gifts in specific areas, although he wasn’t sure how each ability was assigned. They’d each met others with their exact abilities. Everyone, regardless of specific ability seemed to gain enhanced healing to some degree or another. Victor and Leo both healed very quickly. Victor’s nearly severed arm healed in minutes.
Kris was the only person he’d met so far that appeared to have unique abilities. Her ability to control and manipulate sound waves was not something he’d encountered in anyone else, nor did Victor believe that was all she was capable of. Just the previous day she created a huge dome covering dozens of acres of land and contained a massive explosion within, amplifying the heat and pressure waves as it bounced off the inside of the dome. Victor had barely been able to hold the heat and pressure off of himself and his friends trapped inside the inferno. All of the skin had been burned off of Victor’s back as he laid on top of his friends trying to protect them. His fleece vest had melted into his skin, and hours ago had to be forcefully ripped from his back. New skin covered his back now, but it was still very raw. The cold wind-driven rain and sand felt like tiny needles driving into his flesh as he reached the road at the top of the beach.
“Prioritize,” he thought to himself. “You gotta get it together.” He’d promised Max he would come home that night. That gave him roughly half the day to look for Kris before he started the trip up to Fort McPherson, where his brother was due to meet them in a few hours. Victor had always worked well under pressure, both in his real life job and in this horror of a world he occupied now. The first concern is always security these days, he needed to find a truck and get moving. “Alright Tookes. Your priorities are security, timing, water, and food. Find a truck, get moving. That’s step one. Step two, follow the coast west looking for Kris. Step three, get back to the train.” He always felt better when he had a plan.
Standing at the edge of the road, movement caught his eye. He immediately switched his eyes to what he called his “aura view”, but saw no sign of life. The rain streamed down his face, chilling him to the bone. “Fucking zombies,” he said out loud. Zombies didn’t have auras. If he looked very closely he could sometimes see something he could only describe as an anti-aura. It was like a hole where some spark should be. He expanded his own aura around himself and solidified it as he drew his gun from its holster and pulled his hatchet from its loop on the right side of his belt. “Come on out,” he said loudly. “Either way I’m going to kill you, so you might as well take it like a man,” he boasted, mostly to help his own self confidence. Trash talking was his version of a Maori Haka, a war dance John had told him about that preceded rugby matches used to hype up the players and get the adrenaline flowing.
A little girl, about seven years old stepped out from between two cars. “Please don’t hurt me,” she said, slowly walking towards him with her hands out. “I’m so hungry, I haven’t eaten in days.” She was absolutely beautiful. Her face was smeared with dirt, the rain water was running down her face washed clean streaks through the grime. her long blonde hair was grungy and stringy. She had huge bright blue eyes, the kind that most children lose when they’re three or four years old. She was wearing a long wet, dirty night-shirt that came to her ankles and clung to her as she walked. Her feet were bare as she splashed through a puddle.
She walked towards Victor very slowly. Victor was sure this trick had worked for her with a lot of survivors. He pulled the trigger on his Sig Saur p226, firing a huge .40 caliber bullet into her tiny skull. “Humans have auras, and a human would have been shivering in this cold.” he said as he passed the tiny corpse bleeding out on the pavement.
“I hope you can find some peace now,” Victor said sadly. Then he added “The peace you stole from us,” as he stepped over the corpse. The instant his foot hit the pavement on the other side of the dead zombie-girl, three more zombies stepped out from behind the cars.
“What the hell did you do that for?” The first one said.
The two zombies standing in front of him were both middle aged men. One was wearing a very new suit; Victor could still see the creases in the shirt from being folded up in the package. His hair was salt and pepper, closely cropped and well styled. The other was wearing khaki pants and a red checked button up shirt, also still creased from sitting on the shelf in the store, and had longer hair parted on the side. Victor wondered what they’d been like when they were alive. Suit-zombie might have been anything. The clothes had obviously been picked out by the parasites in his brain. Picked for a reason, to make him look as human as possible. What they didn’t know, or were unable to comprehend was that no one wore a suit to an apocalypse party.
“She was a zombie, just like you are,” said Victor feeling rage rise in him. Thoughts of Candi’s dead body in the front seat of his truck danced before his eyes. Her blood on the dashboard and seat was bright red in his memory. His anger felt justified and the idea of dismembering these zombies slowly seemed very satisfying. He squeezed the trigger again. Another corpse hit the ground. “Oh,” Said Victor with mock sadness in his voice. “Only two zombies left, that’s hardly a fair fight for you.” Victor smiled and paused for a second. “Here, I’ll put my gun away,” he said putting his sidearm in its army-green plastic thigh holster.
Suit zombie moved first, running towards Victor’s right side. The second came from the other side just behind. Victor watched the suit decide to try and grab for his arms so the other could bite him. Victor knew they would die the second they touched his aura. Killing zombies with his aura seemed to use up his energy or wear him out somehow. This was just two; not enough to weaken his aura, but he didn’t want this fight to end that quickly. He let his aura dissipate and decided to take these two on without using any abilities. He brought his empty hand in front of him, turned slightly to the right and readied his hatchet.
Suit zombie grabbed Victor’s free forearm. Victor brought the hatchet down in a strong over hand chop, slicing the flesh just above the elbow. The force of the blow shattered the unfortunate zombie’s upper arm bone, completely severing the arm. The hand continued to clutch Victor’s wrist, as blood pumped out of the zombie it had been attached to. The second zombie was coming from his offhand side. Victor moved gracefully to the side and swept his offhand arm upward, smashing suit-zombies severed arm into number two’s jaw. As he moved, his soaking wet hair covered his face. He slung his head to the side whipping his wet hair out of his face, revealing the fury in his eyes.
There was an animal pleasure in beating these two corpses to death. Victor had so much emotion bottled up inside. These creatures had caused so much pain and he had so much hatred and animosity towards them. He expressed all that emotion now through violence. And it felt good. “What are you going to do to me?” he said, smashing one-armed suit zombie in the face with his fist. “You’ve taken my wife, you’ve taken the life I had built for myself, threatened everything I love, and left me with nothing, save my mission to rid the world of every one of you.”
The two attackers had backed off now, waiting for some opportunity to attack. Some opening in the enraged man’s defenses. Victor presented none as he circled with them. He was battle hardened, and had a lot of experience fighting zombies much tougher than these. Tookes drove forward, lunging at the checkered shirt. They grappled, wrapping their arms around each other. Max’s father brought his knee up into the groin of his opponent. He pummeled the zombies face like a heavyweight boxer. Punch after punch landed home. The zombie was stunned by the blows, and Victor took full advantage. Every blow opened the flesh on its face. Both eyes were cutThe suit used that to try and bite the back of Tooke’s neck. Of course, the human fighter knew that was coming, zombies were nothing if not predictable. Present them a target, they always take it. He dropped down and rolled backwards, launching his opponent with his legs into the suit zombie. The two corpses crashed in mid-air, knocking them both to the ground.
Victor feigned exhaustion as he got to his feet, letting his arm and hatchet drop slightly. He pretended to breathe heavily to lure the two of them in, and the plan worked perfectly. Victor swung the hatchet sideways at head level. The blade buried itself in suit-zombie’s skull. “And then there was one!” said Victor as he wrenched the hatchet free.
“You’re one fuckin’ crazy dude,” said the remaining zombie as he turned and ran. Victor slid his bloody hatchet into its ring and drew his gun. He slowly lined up the sights on the barrel and squeezed off one round. The last zombie was fast. In those few seconds he’d managed to make it over a hundred yards. John would have made the shot easily, but Victor watched the zombie twist, then stumble and hit the ground. His aim was true but the bullet was low, hitting the lieutenant in the spine just below the shoulder. Victor closed the distance and fired one more shot. Blood and brains exploded outward creating red and gray rainbow around the remnants of his skull.
He searched all three zombies, but found no keys. He was in the middle of a city, finding a vehicle was going to be hard. He knew he wouldn’t last long out in this weather, especially once the sun was gone. He walked west down the middle of an empty street, through an empty city. Other than the steady drumming of the rain on the asphalt, the only other noise was the occasional zombie pounding on a store or upstairs apartment window. He tried not to think about how it felt to kill those zombies, he needed to get himself back in check.