Category Archives: Novel

Post Apocalyptic Truck Shopping

I miss the old days of writing a serial. That’s what started my writing career, and I’d like to get back to that.  To that end, I offer up “Hell on Rails.”  An all new zombie-ish series.  It’s a whole new universe, all new rules.

Table of Contents                                                                                       Chapter 2 >>

 

hell_on_rails4“Nyko,” shouted Jonas.  The excitement was palpable in his voice.  “We got it!  Come check it out!”

Nyko limped across the barren landscape, the remains of a junkyard in Fort Mojave, Arizona.  To his left, a lone corpse stood up from behind a rusted out Buick Skylark and stumbled towards him.  It had been a girl in its previous existence, but now it was just a corpse.  Her clothes were torn to shreds; the junkyard was full of sharp pieces of metal.  Her once white, spaghetti strap tank top was torn half off, one strap trying in vain to hold the tattered garment over her breasts.

Normally Nyko would take a second to admire a mostly topless woman, but the pustules on her body leaking greenish goo that covered all of the walking dead reduced her to an object of revulsion, however pretty she must have been in her previous life.  Without missing a step, Nyko drew a wicked looking sawed off shotgun out of a thigh holster, held it out at arms-length and fired.  Nine ball-bearing sized pellets erupted from the gun at supersonic speed, completely eliminating the corpse’s face and sending a spray of greenish zombified brain fluid across the hood of the Buick.

“I’m sure that’ll buff out,” Nyko said, holstering his weapon before calling to his friend.  “Jonas, What ya got?”  Nyko wiped the sweat from his brow with his sleeve and continued towards his friend.

“It’s a Chevy.  Says Union Pacific Rail” on the side,” came the reply from behind a stack of crushed cars.

“How bad is it,” he called, making his way towards his friend.

“Body’s good.  One tire is flat, the others look okay.  Windshield’s in good shape and the doors open and close,” Jonas called as Nyko rounded the stack.

Jonas reached up on his tip-toes to grab the door handle, slammed the door on the pickup, and looked at Nyko.  “Now we just have to figure out if she runs,” he said, drawing his gun and pointing it at Nyko.  In one quick motion, Jonas fired, killing the zombie a few steps behind his friend and holstered his gun.

“Thanks, I just have one more shot in the over under,” Nyko said patting his thigh.  “Pop the hood.”

Jonas was just over three feet tall, and constantly grease covered.  Before the outbreak he’d worn glasses, but they’d long-since broken.  He’d worked the lenses into a pair of copper-clad goggles, which now sat on top of his head, lost in a mass of tightly curled black hair.  He wore the same gray coveralls every day, something he’d recovered from the local juvenile detention center, with a leather tool belt cinched at the waist.  His boots were mismatched, the left was a cowboy boot with a two inch heel on the back, and the right was a red converse high top.  Jonas’ left leg was shorter than his right, and without someone to make him special shoes; he’d figured it out on his own.

On several occasions, he’d shot a man for calling him a little person.

Jonas reached up to open the door and climbed inside the truck in order to reach the hood latch just as Nyko got to the front of the vehicle.  He flipped the hood safety with his finger and raised the hood.  “Looks fine. Everything’s here, no corrosion on the battery.  Fuel’s gonna be shot though.  Get the air filter open, I’ll bring my truck around to jump-start it.”

Jonas climbed up into the engine bay and began disconnecting the air filter to give Nyko access to the fuel injectors.  When he was finished, he scoured the inside the truck, finally locating the keys in the ash-tray.  Junk yards usually left the keys in the vehicle somewhere if they ran.  He took that as a good sign.  He sat in the driver’s seat, moved it all the way forward, and strained to reach the gas pedal.  If he held his leg out straight, he could just barely reach it.

He was back under the hood, checking the oil and dripping with sweat under the noon-time sun when Nyko’s tan Chevy Avalanche rolled up.  The whole crew had been searching for weeks for a Chevy truck with a rail suspension.  All Chevrolet pickups from 2006 on were designed as “flex fuel” vehicles.  That was the lynch-pin to the whole operation.

Nyko ran the Hell on Wheels Saloon, the only fully functioning casino, bar, and brothel left in New Vegas.  He made all his own beer and liquor in the back, and had a special still for making ethanol.  No one had any idea where he got the sugar, it was one of his most closely guarded secrets, but every week Nyko had a fresh five hundred gallons of fuel-grade liquor.   Everyone knew that’s why the Governor of New Vegas left Hell on Wheels alone, Nyko gave him fuel.

This project was the future though, and this truck was the key to it.   “Still look good?” Nyko asked.  Jonas was his chief mechanic.  He could fix anything.

“Yeah, I think it will.  Oil doesn’t look too bad, no gas smell in it.  Corporate trucks usually had good maintenance.  That’ll work out in our favor, it’s getting harder and harder to come by motor oil, and this monster,” Jonas said, patting the eight cylinder engine’s head cover, “Needs six quarts.”

Nyko handed Jonas a small can that said “Pampered Chef” on the side.  Jonas pumped the lid, creating air pressure inside, while Nyko connected jumper cables from his own battery.

“Three years of sitting here.  Hope it’s not seized.  Let me know when you’re ready.”

Jonas held the can down into the air filter bay and pressed the button, spraying aerosol fuel into the air intake.  “Hit it!”

Nyko turned the key.  The engine rolled over twice before roaring to life.  “Ha!  We got it!” he shouted over the engine noise.

“She’s missing on cylinder six,” said Jonas.  “I’ll need to tear it down, probably needs a ring job.”

“Will it make it to the shop?”

“Yeah, I think so.  Don’t get too far behind me though.”  Jonas disconnected the jumper cables and tossed them to the ground while the truck idled.  Nyko busied himself adding a second can of fuel to the truck.  Ten gallons, even with reduced mileage for ethanol should be enough to get the truck back to the shop.  “Oh shit!” exclaimed Jonas.  “The fucking AC works!”  Air conditioning was a thing of the past.  There just wasn’t enough power to run it.  Inside the casinos at night it was over a hundred degrees.  Many inhabitants purposely smashed the windows of their rooms out, just to try and get some air movement.

The heat was one of the reasons Nyko lived above Hell on Wheels.  He had real windows that opened.   He ran his generators for three hours every night, half the patrons only came there to sit in the cool air.  Anyone could sit in the saloon, as long as they could pay the door fee.

The front of the saloon was a store.  People brought whatever they could find or whatever they could spare and traded them for currency that could be spent in the bar, at his gambling tables, on his girls, or for other things in the store.  Nyko printed his own money and set his own prices.  A jar of pickles was worth ten bucks, which would get you in the door with a cool beer.  Five gallons of diesel would get someone a night with one of the girls, and ten gallons would earn the trader a cool shower afterward.

Nyko was the richest man in New Vegas, and for good reason.  It was called Sin City before the apocalypse, and people hadn’t changed.

Once they were both satisfied the truck would make it back to New Vegas, Nyko followed Jonas back.  Jonas was a terrible driver, in part because he couldn’t see over the steering wheel, and in part because he hadn’t ever been taught.

The drive back to New Vegas was harrowing in a couple of places, but Jonas managed to keep the truck off the guard rails and out of the ditch all the way back.  Just before the steel gates of New Vegas, Jonas turned off and headed out across East Flamingo, now mostly covered in sand.  The desert was reclaiming what remained of the city.  A short way down the sandy street and the two men were at the shop.

The wall around New Vegas was impressive.  Built in the first year after the apocalypse, it started off as the demolished remains of several of the big casinos.   Anyone approaching the city could see the sign for the MGM Grand, upside down against a huge pile of scrap off to the side of the road.  The scrap pile was the first line of defense.  When the outbreak first happened, the day the White House declared martial law across the United States, the day of the last television broadcasts, Las Vegas acted extraordinarily quickly.  They conscripted every man, woman, and child over age eight to work on the wall.  The city demolished four casinos along the strip and the citizens dragged the scrap to form a circle around the city.

The day the scrap wall was finished was a day of celebration; people caroused in the streets, drinking and laughing, confident in their safety from the pus covered hordes trying to pick their way through the scrap heap.  The very next day, work resumed, only now the residents of New Vegas were building a permanent wall.  Anyone who came into contact with the infected ran a significant risk of infection themselves.  If any of the pus that filled the blisters on the walking corpses got in their mouth, eyes, nose or an open wound would almost guaranteed infection, and a bite was a sure thing.  Whatever the infection was, it most preferred the mouth of the host, that’s where it replicated the fastest.

Forty feet tall, made of steel reinforced concrete poured eighteen inches thick, the safety wall went all the way around the strip.  City engineers designed a steel gate system at either end of Las Vegas Boulevard, the first just north of the iconic ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign, the second just south of East Flamingo.

If a person didn’t work, they didn’t eat.  Every living soul was given a room in one of the remaining casinos.  Every night and every morning, people were checked for signs of infection.  Anyone who turned in an infected person got a week’s vacation in a Bellagio penthouse for their whole family or themselves and three friends.

Hell on Wheels was a mile outside of the wall, down Flamingo in an old warehouse, chosen specifically because of the railroad tracks that ran directly behind it.  In the old days, goods for the casinos came in on the train.  The train was unloaded into this warehouse, where it was then re-loaded onto trucks to be delivered to the hotels.  After the end of the world, Nyko owned all of it, including the train he’d found still on the tracks in the back.  Thirty-five pallets of liquor, among other hotel foods came with the location.

Nyko and his crew worked on the train all day, until the saloon opened at six. Just before the doors opened, his whole crew changed clothes and worked the saloon.  The warehouse was a gigantic half-million square foot “L” shaped facility.  The railroad ran along the long side.  They’d built a wall separating the short side from the warehouse, and finished the first half of the short side into living quarters for his crew, and the girls who worked in the saloon, twenty six people in all.  The rest of the short side was the saloon.

He hated being cooped up, the idea of living inside the walls was ludicrous to him; Nyko was a man of the open road.  The governor of New Vegas, Jim Ratton hated that Nyko was outside, but couldn’t do anything about it.  One day, Nyko would be the first man to run the rails.  He’d be free to cross the wasteland as he chose.  Hell, maybe one day he’d find a nice little train station in the middle of nowhere and take up residence.  But for now, he had too many people depending on him.

Jonas pulled the truck up over the curb and around behind the warehouse.  Nyko hit the button on a remote inside his truck and watched the garage door roll up.  He’d have to remember to charge the warehouse batteries tonight.  The patrons would complain about warm beer, but fuck them; he had a train to build.

The warehouse was buzzing with activity.  Brian and Andy were in the corner welding on a dune buggy they’d been building out of scrap car parts.

Derrick and Terrell were sitting at a table on the side, over by the door to the saloon.  The parts of four different guns were laid out in front of them in orderly rows.  The two men were scrubbing parts with tooth brushes.

At the back, near the rear door, the final two men were operating reloading equipment, pressing bullets into used shell casings.

Brian looked up from his welding.  “You hear that?”

Nyko looked over at him.  “Hear what?”

“I’d swear I heard someone…” Brian was cut off.

Everyone heard it this time.  Outside, still a few hundred feet away.  Someone yelled, “Buzzing a likes he for making a last day! Poop!”

“Stations!” Nyko yelled.  The men in the warehouse all scattered.  Andy climbed a long ladder to the roof.  Jonas bolted to a door on the far side of the warehouse.

Terrell tossed Nyko a long, black rifle and a radio with two feet on the front as the pair of them ran out the side door.  Derrick hit the door between the two roll ups, clipping his own radio to his shirt pocket.

“A tablespooonful of pizza, femur to eat!”  The marauder appeared.  He was wearing an old torn speedo, that once upon a time had been red, one sock, and a tattered “Hard Rock Las Vegas” tee shirt.  His skin was horribly sunburned, everywhere except where his matted hair hung down around his shoulders.

As if his gibbrish was a call to charge, three dozen more, all in similar shape ran out from behind the neighboring building, straight for Nyko.

The big man jumped up on top of a trash dumpster, and then to a platform he’d added to the outside of the building specifically for this purpose.

His radio chirped.  “All clear front,” Derrick checked in.

“In position,” Jonas said, closing the roof hatch and walking towards the edge of the gravel warehouse roof, holding a bag full of radio control car controllers.  His goggles were down over his eyes as he peered into the setting sun.

“Wait for them to hit the line,” Nyko said, unfolding the bipod on his rifle.  He laid down behind the rifle and flicked the covers off the scope.  “How long has it been since the last attack?”

“Fourteen days,” said Brian from the rear corner of the warehouse, right at the edge of the railroad tracks.

“You’d think they’d learn to duck.”

As Nyko spoke, the first marauder ran over the words written in chalk-dust on the ground, ignoring their warning.  He collided at full-speed with a thin piano wire stretched between the telephone poles at either end of the dry, rock-strewn field between Nyko’s warehouse and the abandoned one next door.

As the marauder’s legs flew forward, the wire bit into his neck, opening a huge cut across his windpipe.  Seconds later, thirty marauders hit the same wire, all suffering the same fate.

“Fourteen,” said Brian into the radio.  It never occurred to him that that was the same number he’d said a couple minutes before.

“Sixty one,” said Jonas.

“Seventy-two,” guessed Derrick.  Andy and Terrell both followed suit.

Nyko spoke into his radio.  “Today’s number was seventy-seven.  Jonas and Derrick, you two were closest. Cold beer on me.  The rest of you, clean this mess up.”

He was halfway down from his platform when he heard gunfire from the front.

Derrick called, “They’re hitting the front! Trucks!”  Then more gunfire.  Nyko recognized the sound of Derrick’s favorite assault rifle firing quickly.

Table of Contents                                                                                       Chapter 2 >>

 

I hope you enjoy this story!

 

-Kirk

 

 

If you’re a new reader and would like to read some of my other work, here is my Amazon Author Page.  You can also find most of my work on NOOK, at Smashwords, and other retailers.

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The Evolution of Vaughn

I’m really happy to announce the release of my newest book “The Evolution of Vaughn”.   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H377GRI

This book takes place in the same universe as What Zombies Fear, except that it’s WAY in the future.  This is much more sci-fi.  While Vaughn is fighting the E’Clei (Yes, that battle is still going), there is no mention of zombies.  Those of you who have read What Zombies Fear will recognize names, The Maxists (yes, they’re still around too!), The E’Clei, and several others.

 

From Amazon:

Vaughn, a human born on a distant planet long after earth has been destroyed, is the first of his race to be invited to the prestigious Fogerian War Institute. After glory in the Fogerian War with the parasitic E’Clei, Vaughn is raised to the rank of Captain, and given command of The Reetus for the duration of the conflict.
Long after the war, Vaughn is married and lives a simple life, mining his remote moon for a precious mineral and raising his son. He arrives home from a routine business trip to find dead members of an ancient human cult called The Maxists littering his moon. Vaughn goes on a quest to find out what happened.
The action heats up when he discovers his son is still alive, and has being held heart of E’Clei territory.
Going to get his son could disrupt the shaky cease-fire between the Fogerians and the E’Clei, igniting an all new war. Leaving his son in the hands of the parasites he spent so much of his life fighting is not an option.
How far will he go to retrieve his son and exact justice from those responsible?

Go check it out!
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H377GRI

6.04 Restoration

Along the length of the wall, a multi-colored shield rose up, slowly at first, then faster, until it met in the middle directly over the manor house, two miles inside the wall.

“What the hell is that, Max?” asked Marshall.

“I learned it from Miss Kris.  I thought the people would feel better if they could see the shield.  I’ve been keeping it over the town since I was a kid, I just figured out how to make it visible to everyone.”

Renee looked up over her head, then towards the middle of town, before asking, “Can the zombies see it?”

“They could always see it.  Well, they could feel it.  It sends them away, makes them not want to come here,” said Max.  “The visible part is the only difference.  I thought it might give the supers something to think about.”

“Does your Dad know about it?” Renee asked.

“No,” said Max.  “You know Dad.  Better to ask forgiveness than permission, right?”

Renee grinned.  Her nephew sounded exactly like his father.  “Let’s get back to the house.”  She was down the ladder in a flash.  Marshall and Max watched the grass sway as Renee ran through the waist-high field on the inside of the wall.

“Reggie? You coming?” Max asked, holding his hand out.  Reggie took one hand, and Marshall the other.  Milliseconds later they appeared on the lawn of the house.

Something’s not right,” Steve said inside Max’s head.

I know.  I think it might be the dome,” thought Max.  “It’s like the world outside doesn’t exist.  I kind of like it.

Renee was there seconds later, having run the two miles from the wall.  “I didn’t see anything on my way here,” she said when she came to a stop.  Whenever Renee stopped from top speed, there was always a backlash, as if she was outrunning the wind.  When she finally stopped it caught up to her, blowing her hair forward.  She calmly smoothed her short hair back down before continuing, “Let’s get inside and check on Mom.”

Inside the house was utter chaos.  Men were running back and forth between rooms, guns held low, making sure that each room was safe.  Shouts of  “Clear!” came from everywhere.  Max went straight for the library, where two men stood on either side of the door with assault rifles pointed down.

“What’s the code, Max?” The first one asked.

“Alpha six four two…” His voice dropped and then reluctantly added, “Maxmonster,” said Max, turning red.  His father would embarrass him to death one day.

The two men stepped aside, “Glad to see you’re okay, Max.  Did you make this dome? Everyone’s freaking out.”

“Yeah.  I wanted people to see that they were safe.  Is the house clear?” replied the boy.

The man who asked for the code nodded to Max as he spoke into the radio on his shoulder.  “All clear.  The dome is friendly, repeat dome created by Paladin.”

Max turned eighteen more shades of red hearing his radio nickname.  That one had been created by Jimmy, the head of house security.  Max’s father was Renegade, and his grandmother was Evergreen.  He opened the door to the library and stepped inside.  His grandmother was reading a book, when she looked up and saw her grandson a single tear fell from her eye.  Sharon quickly hid it with a scratch of her face as Max stepped towards her and hugged her.  “I’m glad you’re okay, Gramma.  The house is clear and we’re mopping up the grounds.  We held them off.  Have you seen Dad?”

“Last report was that he was passed out in the barn.  I’m sure people are starving,” she said.  “Children, lets go finish making supper.  By the time we’re finished they’ll have all this mess cleared up and we can eat supper!  Who’s hungry?”

All the kids let out a unanimous “Me!” as they raised their hands.

“I’m going to the barn then.  I need to find Dad.”

“Max, wait.” said Sharon, causing Max to turn back around.  “Use the door.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” said Max sheepishly.  He stepped through the door of the library, down the short hall and out into the back garden before he disappeared.

Sharon took the two youngest children by the hand, looked down at them and said “Let’s go make something yummy.  We’ll show those meanies out there that we’re not afraid.  We’re going right back to our life, because they can’t hurt us, can they?”

“Not wif Max watching us,” said the little girl plainly.  It was clearly a line little Jane Thomas had heard her parents say a number of times.

“That’s right.  We have so many people keeping us safe.  And now we need to go show them that we love them, and we are grateful for their hard work keeping us safe.”  She shepherded all the children into the kitchen, where they finished up the evening meal.  Sharon put the older children in charge of the younger ones, and gave them all a dozen cupcakes to decorate.

Inside the barn, Max appeared in the loft.  “Your Dad just left,” three people said from all around him in unison.

He grimaced.  “Any idea where he went?”

“He took Kris.  Said he had to get her away from the farm.  He didn’t say where he was going, or how he was gong to get there.  He looked pretty rough,” said Addy Madison, Max’s old teacher.  Miss Madison taught fifth through twelfth grades at the school.

“Thanks, I’ll see if I can find him.  It’s a little weird that I can’t.”

Thousands of miles away, Kris was vaguely aware that time had passed. There was soft, warm sand between her fingertips. Just outside her consciousness, she heard the familiar sound of crashing waves and the sharp cries of distant seagulls. Jeff would be walking down the dune at any moment with a cooler full of Sam Adam’s Summer Ale in his hand. Kris hit the beach early that day and had every intention of taking full advantage of her day off. She sighed lightly and moved her arm to rest under her neck. The sun felt good on her skin and she realized it had been a long time since she was at the beach. She had been working so hard lately she just hadn’t had the time…

In the back of her mind, there was a nagging feeling that something wasn’t right – something had changed.  But she was absolutely on a beach.  She was certain of that.

Keeping her eyes closed in the sunlight, she pursed her lips together and tried to recall the last time she had been on a beach.  After all, Tennessee didn’t have beaches and Gander Acres was always so busy, she and Alicia never had the time to…

Alicia.

She remembered Alicia laying on the ground, her body limp, her face bruised and bloody with a bullet through her skull.  Lifeless.  Never to look at her and whisper “I love you.”  Her eyes snapped open and she sat up with a start as the memory returned to her.  Fresh tears were rolling down her cheeks and she wrapped her arms around herself and began to sob.

“Kris,” began Victor.

“Stop, Vic.  Just…stop,” she whispered through tears. “Why did you stop me?  I didn’t want this.  I didn’t want–” Tears took her again and she buried her face back into her arms.

“I had no right.  I just had need, Kris.  These fucking zombies have to pay.  Then you can die.  But not until you’ve extracted every ounce of vengeance from them.  Not until they pay, Kris.”

She was quiet for a long time, thinking carefully about his words.  “Haven’t I already paid enough?”

“None of us has paid more than you, except maybe John. He lost his wife, brother, friends, and five of his seven kids. I lost a wife, but have been very very lucky.  Max, Marshall, Renee, and my mom are still with me.  How much more are any of us going to pay?”

She shook her head but avoided the question.  “We planned the farm so perfectly.  I mean…it wasn’t flawless but it was damn near.”  Kris looked over to him finally.  “I never thought that other humans would have been our downfall.  What kind of sick fuck betrays humanity to the zeds?”  Kris trailed off, like she wasn’t talking to anyone in particular.  Or maybe she was just talking to herself.  Victor sat quietly and let her get it out.  “And then they just…killed them like they were nothing.  Stole Alicia from under me and I missed it.  Missed it all.  I didn’t even get to tell her I loved her.”  She choked back another sob and then glanced over to Victor with big, tearful eyes.

“Everyone who ever saw you two knew you loved her.  Just as we all know how much she loved you.  You know in your heart she loved you, right?”

Kris nodded but didn’t reply, as Victor continued, “She died knowing how much you loved her.  I know we’d all like to tell our loved ones how much we love them one last time, but she knew, Kris.”

“I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do.  I’m so fucking angry.  I don’t know if I’m safe to be around.  I can barely handle my shit right now.”

“That’s why we’re on a deserted island somewhere in the Florida Keys.  That’s why I’m here.”

“Was punching me out self serving?  Because it hurt like some bitch.  Hope it was worth it.”

“I couldn’t think of any other way to make you stop.  You were beyond words.  Kris, I’ve always been straight with you.  I may not have always fully explained myself, but I never lied.  I need you.  I need what you can do, and I need your anger.  I need your power.  But I waded into that inferno you created, because I care about you.”

“My power?” She scoffed.  “My…insanity?” Kris was standing now and her voice was hollow like before.  “You mean this?” She shouted the last word and immediately threw a shield around herself and rapidly pushed it outward.  It caught her voice and magnified it over and over again until the entire island was covered.  The strength and force of the trapped vibrations was stirring up the island.  The sand was pressing down against the ground and all of the palm trees seemed to shrink under the weight.  As she pinched the sound, she felt the vibrations permeate the trees, the sand and the ocean and fill all of the open gaps in their structural makeup.  All of the palm trees began to shiver and then abruptly explode and break apart, throwing ash into the swirling air.  The ocean was boiling 100 feet away from the shore and Victor could see the bodies of a few fish floating belly-up in the water.

Kris only saw red no matter where she looked and screamed until her throat gave out.  And she cried.  “I amplify everything, Vic.”  She wailed.  “When things are good, it’s amazing but when things are bad, everything is so much worse.  I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore.  I’m not safe.  I just–”

Victor drew her in close, hugging her tightly.  He pushed his aura around her, enveloping her in his calm.  He sealed everything out, all the noise he could.  It had a much more profound effect than he anticipated.  She slumped against him, sobbing.

“Oh my god,” she said between sobs. “It’s all gone.  It’s normal again.  Quiet like before I got bit.  I can…breathe.” Kris pulled back from Victor and locked eyes with him. “Why did you do that?”

“Friends help each other, Kris.  It’s the best part of humanity.  It’s why we deserve to live, and they need to die.”

Her eyes narrowed and then she nodded slowly. “You’re right.  Fuck them all.”

“When I let go it’s going to come roaring back, are you ready?”

“Can it last another minute,” she asked. “I forgot how silence feels.”

Victor pressed his palms to his temples and said, “I’ll hold it as long as I can, but I haven’t stopped in days.  My head feels like it’s in a vice.  It took me three stops to get here.”

“I hope I’ll be less weight this round.” She took a deep breath. “Okay – I’m ready.”

Victor held the shield for several minutes longer, giving her as much peace as he could.  His vision started to blur.  “I have to let go now.”

She nodded. “Okay. Do it,” She said, but it was already gone.  The sound of the surf was roaring in her brain, she could hear crabs scraping along the rocks on the reef, and the ash from exploded palm trees hitting the sand.  His heartbeat was slow, but the sound was intense and strong.  It was the sound of humanity and of life.  It gave her new focus, keeping the fiery rage at bay. “Let’s go fuck ‘em up.”

“I love the attitude, but I haven’t really slept in three days.  Mentally, I’m toast.  I don’t think I could teleport myself to the bathroom.”

Declaration of War is live on Amazon

Book 5 of the What Zombies Fear Series Declaration of War by Kirk Allmond and Laura Bretz
Declaration of War by Kirk Allmond and Laura Bretz

It’s finally live!  You can find Book 5 “Declaration of War” of the What Zombies Fear series on Amazon.  Still waiting on Barnes and Noble and other retailers.

This is a really exciting time, a new novel published, and the start of the new series “Will of the Dead” launched a couple of days ago.

We’ve started work on the sixth and final book  in What Zombies Fear, called The Incarnation, it’ll likely be published this summer.  I have a little bit more to write in the 2nd episode of Will of the Dead, and then focus returns to WZF 6.  Stay tuned!

I’m feeling pretty good about making it as a writer today.   If I work hard enough, if I want it bad enough, it can happen, right?

6.02 Sharon

Charlie drew his pistol and looked out over the farm.  He was on a ridge, about three hundred yards from the wall Victor had built.  It was impressive.  Victor, unlike his friends, had never given up, never stopped believing that one day the zombies would come.  And he was right.  That day was today.  The day he got Victor Tookes.  Bookbinder had memories of Tookes, and of Max.

The E’Clei queen attached directly to Charlie’s brain stem bristled at the thought of the child.  Bookbinder shivered, and went over the plan in his mind.  They had tens of thousands of soldiers just over the rise outside of the hourly patrols.  Tookes had six teams patrolling the wall every hour.  Four separate squads ran scouting routes every four hours, but after nearly six months of sending soldiers in ones or twos at the house, those routes were never the same.  Leave it to Victor to plan chaos.

The soldiers were grouped into five battalions of two-thousand.  For each fifty soldiers, there was a Lieutenant, and for each twenty Lieutenants  was a Councilman.  “Ten thousand zombies, two hundred supers, and ten Councilmen,” said Charlie to himself, reverting back to the human terms for E’Clei.  “It’ll be enough.”

“We hope so,” droned the ten councilmen standing behind him in unison.  “The child cannot be allowed to escape this time.”

They waited throughout the cool, drizzly afternoon, until the appointed time.  At exactly six o’clock in the evening, eastern standard time, twelve attacks would be carried out simultaneously.   Six here in what was The United States, three in China.  Tookes and his friends were the primary targets, but there were groups like this throughout the world, immunes that had come together to protect small communities of humans.  Bookbinder had planned this night for twelve years.  Tonight he solidified his position as Queen, tonight he would take control of this world as his predecessors had failed to do.

Inside the house, Sharon was busy supervising the kitchen crew.  These days not everyone ate in the dining hall, having built houses of their own.  Many people ate in their own house with their family these days, but everyone came to the hall several times per week.  It was what drew the community together.  Sharon’s dining hall, a remodeled, refurbished indoor riding ring, embodied the spirit of the town.  Everyone worked together, for the common good.  No one was paid a wage or a salary, everyone split the fruits of their labor evenly.  The town lived or died together.

Sharon didn’t do much actual cooking anymore.  After years of working under her watchful eye, the men and women who volunteered to cook with her were well trained.  She always suspected that after her seventy-fifth birthday, Victor had asked people not to let her work so hard anymore.  She was grateful for the rest.  It was harder and harder to get up every day, but she still felt a need to be active and involved.

“Joseph darling, that bechamel is going to break, don’t stop whisking,” she called out to a burly man with a long red beard.  “And make sure not to get any whiskers in it!”

“Yes Ma’am,” he replied, whisking harder than ever, despite the burn in his muscular arm.

“Andrea, how are the torts?”

A tall woman with fine features and close cropped, dark hair checked a timer hanging around her neck.  “Four minutes, Ma’am.”

“Wonderful.  Thank you all for your hard work,” she said, plunging her hands into the dish sink.  She scrubbed a few pans, happily watching the commotion.  Even now, she was the last one to leave the kitchens, never going to bed before every surface was scrubbed, every pot and pan put away, every knife sharpened, and every scrap of left over food either sent to the men on the walls, or to a house with a sick person, or stored away in the deep underground cellar.

She was carrying a large ladle over towards the soup tureens when she heard the bells.  Deep, loud bells ringing, first from the north, soon followed by the rest lining the walls.

“Oh my,” she said to herself, quickening her step.  She moved as quickly as she could, covering all the food before retreating back towards the manor house.  She could hear constant gunfire from the walls all around her.  From all over the farm, children came streaming up into the manor.

“Kaylin, where’s your brother?”

“He’s right behind me.  He was loading magazines for Mr. Davis.”

“Thank you, please go into the library and help keep all the smaller children calm.  I’ll be right in,” Sharon said.

The house shook as the first set of explosives outside the wall were triggered, and then another and another, until all six lines were blown.  Starting twenty yards from the gate, Victor had buried explosives in lines every ten yards.  The blasts were designed to push an attacking force back, if something ever got close enough with enough strength to threaten the iron gate.  The gate itself was twenty feet high, made of two inch steel straps woven together and welded.  Behind the outer gate was a one hundred foot run, wide enough for two cars side by side, ending with a stone portcullis even Marshall couldn’t lift.  It had taken Marshall and Markus, plus a crane to lift it into place, high above the second entrance.  Once it was down, nothing on earth could move it.

As Sharon counted the last child entering the Manor, she saw the house guards streaming up to the manor.  She quietly closed the door and moved into the library.  Some of those children were going to lose someone they cared about tonight.  They needed her more than Victor’s men did.  She sat down in her leather chair and opened up a book.  “The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster,” she read.  “This was Victor’s favorite book when he was a boy.”

“Mrs. Tookes, when will Victor be back?”

“I don’t know, Lydia,” she replied kindly before continuing, “There was a boy named Milo, who didn’t know what to do with himself– not just sometimes, but always.”

Sharon read on, throughout the siege  keeping the children’s minds busy, keeping them from worrying about the gunfire, even when it was right outside the house.  She and her son had chosen this room very deliberately.  The library was lined from floor to ceiling with books, tightly packed into the shelves.  There were no windows in the room, but two doors left them with an exit, in case one of the two steel fire doors was breached.

The battle raged on, outside the house and on the walls.  Sharon knew from the distant gunfire that the zombies hadn’t breached the wall, it was impenetrable.  The force there was just for show, the men up there were firing slowly, and all had small caliber rifles.  Most of the defensive force was around the main house.  Sharon knew Victor’s wall would hold the ocean at bay, but no wall could stop teleporters.  A super could bring a force of twenty five or fifty zombies right up to the house, and she knew that was what they were doing now.

The men on the roof fired bursts down into the crowd of zombies arriving on the lawn with military precision.  As soon as the super appeared with a load of zombies, the squads would mow them down.  The squad leaders were trained not to fire at the zombies, but instead to watch for the super.  On the second trip, all four squad leaders found and opened fire on the super.

All the men’s radios were silent, there wasn’t a need for communication, every single person knew their job.  Victor’s home defense drills had made all of this second nature, even though it hadn’t ever happened before.  There hadn’t been a zombie inside the walls since they were completed, but everyone in town knew it was only a matter of time.  Victor knew that two hundred people couldn’t protect everything, so he’d designed his plans around protecting the most obvious targets, the manor house and the barn.  Everything else could be rebuilt.

Upstairs in the house, six men took positions.  The original antique windows of the house were stored safely in the attic, replaced two years ago by bullet proof glass in custom welded frames.  Each window opened and closed like a normal window, but the center pane also opened to provide a small hole to shoot through.   One man at each window and a sixth, Gerald Moore, standing back watching the room.  His job was to watch the backs of the men shooting out the window.

Gerald never had a chance.  Charlie Bookbinder appeared behind him and immediately put his hand on Gerald’s shoulder.  Thousands of E’Clei poured out of Charlie’s thumb directly into the brain stem.  He was paralyzed before he could even take a breath, and turned in less than a second.

Where are Victor and Max.”

We do not know.  This one says they were not here.

“Not here?  Not fucking here!  Twelve god damned years I planned this and they’re not fucking here?” Charlie yelled.

The five men at the windows turned and opened fire at the sound, but the bullets bounced off, completely ineffective.  Charlie waved his hand at the men.  Each slumped to the ground, blood running from his temples.

Charlie nearly screamed an order to his councilmen.  “Find out where Victor and Max Tookes are.  Now!

Several seconds later one of the councilmen replied, “Lieutenants at the Georgia offensive report that they are there.  And that that offensive has failed.”  There was almost a smirk in the thought.  “But that’s not possible,” Charlie thought to himself.  “That’s a human trait.

Continue the Virginia assault.  Burn the place down.  I’m going to reinforce Georgia,” Charlie ordered, just before disappearing.  Gerald Moore stood perfectly still, waiting for the right time.

Sharon read on.  She recognized Charlie’s voice, but couldn’t place it.   As she read about Milo and the literal Watch Dog, she wished Victor and Max were here.  Her son inspired these people.  Even if things got bad, they knew he would never stop fighting for them.  Her little Victor, that cute little boy had grown up to be the finest man she could have ever hoped for, although she was sorry for the circumstances, she delighted in watching him with the people of the town.  He was their leader.  Fair, clever, and unwavering  he led the people of this town without even knowing he was doing it.  “I love you, Victor.  I hope you and Max are safe, wherever you are,” she thought, hoping it would reach him, and still she read on.

The battle raged on outside for over an hour before Max was in her mind.  “Gramma, I’m home.  Dad went to get Kris and John, they’re under attack too.  Are you okay?

I’m fine Darling Boy, please come in here and be safe,” she thought.

I can’t.  There are too many out here, they need me.

And then he was gone from her mind.  Sharon read on as Max strode down the front walkway of the house.  He called softly to a man in an all black uniform, “Mister Gibson, Dad’s delayed.  Where do we stand?”

“We’re holding.  They sent a ton at the wall.  We blew the gate charges, it took out almost one whole group.  After that they didn’t really bother with the frontal assault.  They knew they weren’t getting through the wall, Max.”

“Why would they waste that many soldiers?” asked Max.  Gibson mused at how much the young boy was like his father.  Always looking past what was in front of you, looking for the hidden agenda.  In times like these, it was an important trait to possess.

“I don’t know.  Seems like it was a distraction, but your father trained us to trust the walls,” said Gibson, shaking his head.  ” Surely they knew zombies wouldn’t be able to breach them, and surely they knew we knew that.  It makes my head spin.”

Max looked thoughtful for a moment.  “How did the attack happen?”

“It was just like your dad said.  When they come, they’re going to throw everything they have at the walls, and then send ‘porters in with small groups to get us from behind while we focused on the hordes outside.”

‘And we were able to handle the incursions?”

“No problems, Max.  They landed in all the places we thought.  We had guys waiting.  Really, it started off like a well planned attack, then the whole thing just kind of fell apart.”

“Thank you for keeping my grandmother safe, and for defending our home, Mister Gibson.”

“It’s what we all do, Max.  Glad you’re safe, glad our families are safe,” replied Gibson just as Max disappeared.

The view from the top of the north wall was incredible.  Thousands and thousands of zombies, neatly lined up in rows standing perpendicular to the wall, arms length from each other.  They weren’t pushing, snarling, grabbing hungry zombies like a normal horde. They just stood there.   Just over the rise, Max could make out the auras of hundreds of people, running towards the zombies.  Seconds later, like something out of a medieval war movie, a standard bearer cleared the hill carrying a long pole and the flag of the Maxists, followed by rows of people wearing white robes with a giant red “M” on the chest.

He stepped up onto the gravel filled trough to get a better view of the field below him.  The religious nutjobs were about to crash into a full sized horde of undead, in an attempt to save him.  But he didn’t need saving.

“None of this makes any sense.  Those people are going to be destroyed because they believe I’m some kind of savior,” Max said to himself.  “I can’t let that happen.”

He raised his hands up even with his shoulders, palms outward.  As he did, a burst of psychic energy, a rolling blue wave formed at the base of the wall, spreading outward in an ever expanding semicircle.  Nearly a thousand zombies turned to dust as the wave crested over them.  The Maxists charging the horde came to a stunned stop, their battle cries silenced, as the zombies in front of them disintegrated before their eyes.  Looking up at Max on the wall with his arms outstretched, several of them fell to their knees, prostrating themselves in front of the child they worshiped.

“You must be Max.  We’ve been waiting for you,” said two men in unison directly behind Max.

Max realized this was Bookbinder’s plan all along.  He was willing to sacrifice ten thousand of his soldiers just to draw Max out.

With all the confidence of a sixteen year old boy with super powers and a legion of worshipers could possibly have, Max kicked up a bunch of gravel as he lept off the trough.  The rocks were already spinning around his head when he landed.

“Sorry to keep you waiting.  Clearly you’re anxious to die,” he said, crooking his finger at the two zombies who’d spoken in unison.  “Come on.”

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5.07 Victor is Lost

Marshall dove at the zombie, intending to knock it off his brother.  He brought all the force his legs could bear.  As he lept, his feet created waves in the white striped asphalt like a bolder being dropped in a smooth lake. The collision with the super zombie should have been enough to kill it.  Marshall hit with his shoulder.  As his body collided with the zombie, Marshall felt his own collarbone give way.

With a bellow of surprise, he bounced off the super.  Moments later, Renee drove her kitchen knife into the zombie’s neck.  The blade plunged in to the hilt.  She twisted the knife blade a quarter turn inside it’s neck, severing the spinal column, but when she pulled the knife out, the wound sealed immediately.  From the way its skilled ripped, it was as if the zombie was made of water.

Marshall was struggling to get up when the zombie threw one punch, hitting Renee in the abdomen.  The strength of the blow knocking her back almost to the truck.  She hit the gravel shoulder of the road with a grunt, dazed from the force of the punch.

All the while, Max was walking slowly forward with his head tilted to one side.  The look of confusion was plain on his face.  “Stop hurting my family,” he said softly.  As he spoke, a bright blue aura surrounded him, driving away the inky blackness that no one other than he could see or feel.

By now, Marshall had regained his feet and was pulling on his left arm, trying to align the collar bone.  He knew if he didn’t, the bones bones would knit together improperly.  “Max, get back in the truck,” he yelled.

“I can’t, Uncle Marshall.  I have to stop him from hurting my Dad.”  Max said, his face looking confused and almost desperate.

“Max, go now.”  Marshall’s voice was stern.  The older brother was approaching panic as Max continued to walk towards the powerful zombie.  He pushed aside the horrible thought that he may lose his brother and his nephew all in one night.

“But Uncle Marshall!  I can’t!  I really really can’t,” said Max, continuing forward.  He knew he was supposed to do what his elders told him, but he also knew his daddy was in trouble.  He was just three feet from the zombie, and stopped for a second.  ‘Steve.  I’m not supposed to hit people.  Daddy says ‘we don’t hit’ all the time.  But Uncle Marshall and Aunt Renee are hitting him.  He’s hurting them.  I don’t know what to do.

‘Max, I’m not sure we should get involved.  He has many more E’Clei than we do.’

‘But my dad always says we have to take care of those who are weaker than us.’

‘Not if it gets you killed.  We understand you need to help your father, but he would be very cross if you were hurt.’

‘Then I won’t get hurt.  Can we just make him nice? Like I did with you?’

‘He is too strong, Max.  Please listen to us.’

Max stepped forward and put his hand on the zombie’s shoulder.  Blue light shot down into him, freezing him in place, like someone grabbing an electric fence.

Max spoke softly, “Stop hurting my friends.”

“I can not,” said the blonde zombie.

“You have to.  You’re not being nice.”

“I’m trying to save your father.”

“Then stop biting him,” Max said, increasing the pressure on the zombie.  Max felt the man start push back against him.

“I can not.  If I stop, he will die.  There are too many E’Clei in him, and you’re putting him in danger by stopping me.”
Marshall and Renee stood watching, afraid to get involved out of fear of hurting Max, or the zombie hurting Max in retaliation.  Panic was plain on their faces as Victor began to convulse on the ground.  His eyes had rolled back into his head and his body was violently jerking from side to side.

“Max, honey, get away.  We need to get to your Dad,” said Renee.  She was no longer hiding the terror in her voice now.

“I can’t, Aunt Renee,” Max said.  He was desperately trying to work out the right thing to do.  His four year old mind wanted to trust everyone, but the zombies actions didn’t mesh with his words.  Max had never encountered duplicity before.

Steve, I don’t know what to do.

If you won’t run, hit him hard.  With everything you have.  Think about how much you love your dad and hit him.  We can sort this out later.

Max thought of his favorite memory of his father.  He, his mother, and his dad were out on the back deck.  Max was riding his tricycle around the huge table pretending to be the ice cream man.  He had a small bell on the handlebars and was ringing it as he came around one of the corners and stopped.

“Hello, sir,” Max had happily said.  “Would you like some ice cream?”

“Why yes, young man,” his father had said in a funny voice.  “Could I trouble you for a strawberry cone?”

Tears streamed down Max’s face, thinking about that time when everything had been right.  His mother had been laughing.  He fondly remembered the three of them together on the deck on a beautiful summer afternoon.  The thoughts of his mother brought an extra powerful surge of emotion to him, as he hauled back and punched Drake in the side of the head.  Steve channeled all of Max’s E’Clei into protecting the little boys hand from the force of the impact.  Max’s aura solidified around his fist, just as his father had done.  The impact of Max’s energy, powered by his feelings of need for his father launched Drake off of his father and into the oncoming lane of traffic.  The zombie laid still.

Max wasted no time. ‘Daddy.  I punched the bad guy, I’m sorry.

There was no response from his father.  Concerned, Max moved over to his father and rolled him onto his back.  Victor’s eyes were closed as Max gently nudged Victor’s shoulder.  He still did not answer.  With a furrowed brow, Max pushed inside Victor’s head, and saw turmoil.  New E’Clei were fighting for control; there were so many.  Max started squishing them one at the time, as quickly as he could.  Even then, the E’Clei were forming pathways inside Victor’s brain faster than Max could kill them.  He could feel them weakening from the poisonous environment, but they were building up quickly.  As the E’Clei formed large groups around areas of Victor’s brain, the outside bugs died but their corpses shielded the inner ones.

Max pushed into the center of the largest group and started killing the bugs that were in direct contact with his father’s brain.

“Uncle Marshall,” Max said, strain clear in his tiny voice.  “I can’t get them all.  I think there are too many.”

Drake groaned from his position on the opposite side of the road, and started to stir.  Marshall walked over to the zombie and stomped on his femur, smashing it.  He then kicked the blonde zombie’s foot up under his butt, and repeated the same process with the other leg.

The bones in Drakes legs healed quickly, almost as quickly as Marshall was working.  His femurs healed together in the shape of the letter W.

“I was trying to help him!” Drake yelled.  “He ordered me to bite him.  I warned him that this might happen.  I was trying to forcibly remove the extra E’Clei, but they’re determined to beat his immune system and bring down the great Victor Tookes.”

“Fix him!” yelled Renee.

“I can’t.  I was barely keeping up when you three attacked me. If we hadn’t been so busy trying to keep him alive, we would have killed all of you.”

“Why are you trying to save him,” asked Marshall.  “Don’t you want to kill all of us?”

“Victor is our Prime.  He created us.  He told me to collect all the E’Clei.  We were full.  There wasn’t any more room in this host to hold any more of us.  We came to try and talk him out of the order he implanted in us to kill ourselves.  He said he would only remove the order if we gave him the extra E’Clei we carry.  Even with our warning, he said he needed the extras to defeat Laura.”

“But Laura’s dead.  We watched her burn,” said Renee.

“Almost, but not dead.  She will heal eventually and be back.”

“Fuck,” said Marshall.

“Marsh, grab the corpse.  I’ll get Victor.  We need to get out of the open, and back to where it’s safe.  Crookshaks there may come in handy.”

Marshall grabbed the black suited zombie by one arm and dragged him over to the truck like a child carrying a rag doll.  With a flip of his arm, he tossed the zombie up over the side into the back of the truck.

While Marshall was dealing with Drake, Renee had grabbed Victor under the shoulders and was dragging him towards the truck.  Once Drake was securely nestled in, Marshall lept out of the truck.  He met Renee halfway and easily lifted his brother and set him in the back seat of the truck.  Max shadowed them all the way back, squishing bugs inside Victor’s brain as quickly as he could.

The trip back to the compound was a panicked one for Renee and Marshall who spoke in hushed whispers all the way back.  Max largely ignored then, instead focusing on his father’s predicament. He searched through his father’s mind, looking for anything familiar.  He saw a number of memories, and felt the emotions that went along with them.  The memory of the first time his father held him made him feel oddly uncomfortable, experiencing his father’s instant love for him from a different perspective.  ‘Daddy, are you in there?  It’s me, Max.  It’s Max-monster.

He waited while he continued to squish E’Clei with his mind.  He dug deeper, looking for some sign of his father, ‘Dad, it’s your boy, Max.  Remember me?

There was no response.

“Uncle Marshall, I can’t find Daddy,” said Max.

“Mommy.  I think Daddy needs your help,” said Max.

—-

Victor woke up in a familiar feeling white room.  He was in a huge wood bed with crisp white sheets.  The edges of the room were barely visible, the fog surrounding him seemed to get thicker the farther away it got from the bed, obscuring any decoration or anything on the walls.  The light in the room was soft and diffuse.   “The last time I was here you yelled at me,” said Victor.  “Could we skip that part this time? I know what I’m doing.”

“Tookes, you have no idea what you’re doing,” said Candi.  “But yes, I’ll skip the yelling at you.  For now, you need to fight what’s happening to you.  The E’Clei are trying to take over your mind.  The dose you got from Drake was way too strong, even for you.  You’re going to need to look inside your own head, find the parasites and kill them.”

Victor shook his head and asked, “What do you mean look inside my own head?”

“Search your mind, like you did when you first re-programmed Drake,” Candi replied.

“I programmed Drake?”

“Think about his face, Tookes.  Imagine it sagging off the bones.  He was wearing a blue button up shirt and shredded blue jeans.  It’s the zombie you messed with at the airport.”

“Oh, shit.”

“When you went into his mind at the airport, you changed him.  Do the same for yourself.  Find the E’Clei and will them not to exist.”

“I’m not sure I know how i’m supposed to get into my own head.”

“Tookes, you really are dense sometimes.  We’re in your head now.  Just get up and walk through the door.  And hurry, you’re dying.  There isn’t much time.”

As Candi spoke, the fog cleared, revealing a heavy brown steel fire door with a shiny brass deadbolt and knob. At head level there was a slide chain, and just under that a flip bar connected to the door frame.  The entire door had a steel bar crossing it, connected to steel braces on the wall.  Whatever was on the other side of that door was clearly not welcome on this side.

5.05 Darkness

“I don’t know what bites a zombie,” Victor said, “And I’m not sure I want to find out.”  Victor gestured with his hands now as he added,  “Let’s check the garage and move on.  I don’t want to stick around here too long.”

The two men left the perfectly stacked corpses exactly as they found them, and walked over to the garage.  It had a small locking handle in the center.  Victor reached down and gave it a solid twist, breaking the tiny lock and opening the door.

“Not much for security here in America, eh?”  Sean asked from behind him.

Vic decided to brush the obviously condescending comment aside.  He was still annoyed from what happened with James and decided it was going to be easier to ignore the gibe than to acknowledge it.   At this point, he just wanted to get this the hell over with.  “Those locks are for show.  They were mostly to keep honest people out.  A thief would get in whether there was a lock or not,” Victor said.  “Watch out.”  The man took another breath and heaved the garage door open.

The two men backed off, but there were no zombies inside the garage.  A quick glance showed nothing particularly useful to Victor, but Sean started gathering everything he could get his hands on.  Power tools, screws, nails, yard tools, bits of scrap lumber, tool boxes, everything he saw went into the back of the truck.  Tookes stood in the entrance of the garage and watched him with great curiosity.

“Sean, these aren’t nice tools.  We’re going to go through at least a hundred garages before we find the generators we need.  Are you going to grab everything from all of them?”

“Every house in America has this many tools?” Sean asked, clearly surprised.

“No, but seventy-five per-cent of them will have better tools than this.”

“Fuckin’ American excesses,” Sean scoffed.  With a shake of his head, he muttered something under his breath and put the rest of the tools in the back of his truck.

Victor pursed his lips together and instead of coming back with a prickly response of his own, he stuck with “Whatever,” and tossed a case of bottled water into the bed of the truck.  The corpse piles had him a little on edge.  Vic wasn’t sure if Sean was being intentionally abrasive or if he was just being overly sensitive because his mind was elsewhere but Vic knew he had to concentrate on the job at hand.  He’d done enough of this to know it wasn’t just zombies you had to watch out for.  Victor hadn’t ever seen zombies stacked like that; this was something new.  And these days, “something new” was rarely a good thing.

“I’ll head to the next house.  Just back the truck into the driveway when you’re done,” he said as he walked through the yard.

The two men repeated this process through four houses.  By the time they’d reached the fifth house, the truck bed was full of junk.  Vic walked over to the truck and scanned the truck, trying to keep the frustrated look off of his face.

“Sean, we’re not going to have room for the generators if you keep piling shit in the back of the truck.  Remember, you can come back any time for this stuff,” he said, gesturing to the mound of stuff in the back.

“Not if some Drongo gets it first.  Never know when I might need this,” he said, hefting a wood-stove pipe into the back of the truck.  “Besides, we can always strap the gennies on the roof of the truck.”

There was a moment of awkward silence between them.  “Where the fuck are you from?” asked Victor.  “John never felt like he had to take everything.”

“John has talked non-stop about his ability to live off the shit you throw away, even now,” said Sean.  “He just doesn’t say anything to you.  Not that saying anything to you would have helped.  Fuckin’ Americans.”  Sean shook his head again and then headed back into the house for more trinkets.

Victor worked in silence for the next couple houses while Sean continued to pile every single screw, broken bucket, old mop, and half-empty bottle of cleaner he came across into the back of the truck.  And the higher the pile grew, the more patience Victor lost.

“Sean, at this rate, we’re going to be three days trying to find these generators.  We need to get water on quickly.  I don’t want to delay much longer.  I need to get home.”

“Nothing’s keeping you here, mate.  We can handle the house full of zombies,” said Sean dismissively.

My loyalty to John is keeping me here, Sean.  I don’t know what I did to piss you off, but we need to move.  We’re ten minutes drive from your town.  If you want to stay here all week and loot everything out of every house, that’s fine, but I’m going to grab a truck and find generators.  Surviving in this world means not taking your eyes off the goal,” said Victor, gesturing with his hands.  “You can’t just float along without a care.  You have to make a plan and stick to it.  I’m all for picking up a few things here and there, but this is ridiculous.”

“Alright,” Sean said.  “Next truck we pass, you can take it and go get ya fuckin’ generators.  I’m not passing up an opportunity to gather things that will make our life easier.”

“Fine.  See you back at Hazardville,” said Tookes.

Victor walked away from Sean, who continued loading his truck.  As he walked towards the next house, felt a sudden, small tickle on the back of his head.  As he ran his hand over the sudden itch, he shook his head at the same time.  The amount of bugs here was overwhelming – one of them was bound to be a mosquito.

He opened four different garage doors, never once encountering any undead, before he turned the corner and encountered another set of those unsettling zombie piles.  Just like the first, there were six piles, each with twelve along the bottom row, seventy-two bodies in each corpse-pyramid.  Tookes took a moment to stare at the piles, trying to make sense of it.  There is definitely a pattern, he thought as he walked around and in between the piles.  The corpses on the bottom seemed to be the ones in the best shape.  Those at the top were missing legs or large portions of flesh, while those on the bottom seemed to have all their parts.  In the middle of the piles were a couple missing arms, and several missing part or all of their face.  Every one of them that he could see had the same bite mark on their neck.

Victor, as he often happened when he was alone, was reminded of a movie quote.  “One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach, the damn zombie vampires,” he said to no one.

Twelve piles of seventy-two.  ‘All zombies when they died, that’s like nine hundred dead zombies,‘ thought Victor.  ‘What the fuck killed nine hundred zombies?

After a few minutes inspecting the piles of corpses, Victor walked towards the garage of the next house.

“Thank God,” Victor said aloud, when he opened the garage door and saw the control panel to a whole house generator next to the electrical panel.  One whole house generator would provide a huge amount of power, and would run on either propane or diesel.  Both fuels would still be in abundance long after the gasoline went bad.  There were three major components to it, the part that interfaced with the house wiring, the part that cut off the power grid so the electricity from the generator didn’t flow out and get lost in the grid, and the generator itself, which was probably mounted outside the garage directly behind the panel.

It took him about forty minutes to cut the panel down.  He cut all the wires, leaving the generator connected to the house panel, so that John could see how to wire it when they got where they were going to put it.

The generator itself was bolted to a concrete pad which quickly proved to be the worst job.  It was tucked back into some bushes.  Everything in this god forsaken desert was covered with spines, prickles, thorns or barbs.  These bushes seemed to be completely armored in all four.  Ultimately he threw a tarp from the garage over the abominable shrub, which only slightly diminished the vexation.

Victor had to search six additional garages to find the right tools to unbolt the generator from it’s foundation.  In the fifth garage was a small volkswagen pickup truck, fully restored to all of its mini-sized, 80’s glory.  Shiny chrome wheels, low profile tires, and a huge stereo system completed the build.  It was perfect for John’s group.  It ran on diesel, and probably got forty miles per gallon of fuel.  The truck had the utility of a bed, and easy wiring and mechanicals.  Vic opened the door and say down in the driver’s seat.  He was thrilled to see that the keys were still in the ignition.  It had to have been at least six months since it had been started and yet the truck started with the first crank of the starter.  As the engine came to life, that itch on the back of his head came back, but it was much stronger than it was previously.  Again, he ran his hand over the spot and realized it was much harder to ignore it this time.  That mosquito must have really dug into his skin and he was left wondering when the last time a mosquito drank the blood of a human that was still alive.  With a slight cringe, Victor decided to not continue that line of thought.

It was almost three in the morning by the time Victor had the whole thing loaded into the truck, and was on the road back towards the compound. Victor was not the least bit tired, still feeling unsettled, driving the mini-truck towards his family.  There was something nagging at the back of his head all night, besides Sean being a prick.  It was a little bit like the hairs on the back of his neck  standing up, except inside his head.  It was like something was pulling him, and the more he concentrated on the feeling, the harder it pulled.

The little truck rolled to a stop, and Victor shifted his eyesight, looking for auras, or lack of.  He was oddly reminded of an old spider man comic book, as if his spider senses were tingling.  The minute he re-opened his eyes, his breath caught in his throat.  He was completely surrounded by what he’d always thought of as negative aura, the type of blackness that surrounded zombies.  His own aura seemed stretched away from his body, as if something was trying to suck the colors off of him.

Reflexively, Tookes solidified the outer edge of his aura, and stepped out of the truck.  He left his hatchet and gun sitting on the seat, but had a fleeting wish that he was half a mile away safely behind Sammie’s scope, watching the goings on.  He made a mental note to go by Fort Hood on the way home and recover his weapons.  They wouldn’t do any good here, whatever this was was more powerful than anything he’d ever encountered.

He knew there was no sense in ignoring this, just like he knew that it had waited until he was alone to make it’s presence known.

“The theatrics aren’t necessary,” Victor said. “Show yourself.”