For the next two chapters, the links above are out of order. You have to click forward to chapter 3, and then back to Chapter 2. Sorry for the trouble.
The zombies came in the spring of 2011. In one day a wave of stumbling, rotting, fetid corpses spread over the earth, ending life as we knew it. Some of them were smart, some of them could pass for human, and some of them were super human.
I’ve seen zombies that could fly, teleport over short distances, run with incredible speed, zombies that could lift thousands of pounds, and even zombies that could read the intentions of humans. They didn’t all have the same powers, there seemed to be a hierarchy among them. The more powerful the zombie, the higher it was in their pecking order.
My name is Victor Tookes. I’ve spent the last 12 years of interrogating every smart zombie we can catch, trying to piece together what happened on that day. Here’s what I know: the infection started on a small research ship outside of Baltimore, Maryland. An asteroid landed in the ocean, and the US government had sent a group of deep sea reclamation experts to retrieve it. That asteroid had contained trillions of microscopic parasites; my son Max calls them “bugs”. Those parasites work in groups to take over the brain of the host, which kills off all remnants of the original occupant of that body, and gives the parasite full control the body.
I also know that this is not the first time these parasites have tried to take over the human race. About 30,000 years ago, they came for the first time. A few of us humans developed immunity to them, and we were eventually able to wipe out the infection. Those ancient humans were genetically mutated by the parasites, but were unable to be taken over or controlled. My family is descended from those original humans, and we carry that immunity. Leo and John also carry the gene that makes them able to defeat parasites that invade them. If those few of us who are immune survive the infection process, which invariably involves being bitten by a zombie, those of us with immunity sometimes gain special abilities. I believe, although I don’t know this for sure, that the parasites reconnect pathways in our brains to areas that our species doesn’t normally have access to. I also believe that the stronger the infection or the more parasites an immune person receives, the more of those pathways are reconnected before our bodies kill off the bugs. I don’t know if the corpses of the parasites themselves act as the pathways, or if they just ‘turn those areas on’ before they die, but I hope it’s the latter. I don’t particularly like the thought of parasitic corpses living in my brain. What I don’t know is why they want my son Max so badly, but I will find out.
All of my ‘team’ have some special abilities. John never misses. Whether its thrown, shot, fired, catapulted, lobbed or any other manner of projectile weapon, I’ve never seen him miss. One time I watched him kill a zombie with a rock from 200 feet away, and he routinely takes the wings off flies with stones. I guess it’s more of a challenge than just killing them. Maybe he’s trying to invent a whole new race of flightless flies.
My brother Marshall is astoundingly strong, and never gets tired. I’ve seen him pick up a car and throw it at a zombie like it was a baseball. When we’re fighting zombies, he favors 20 lb sledge hammers, and almost always has a pair of them with him, strapped in an X on his back. Woe unto the zed that comes into Marshall’s circle of death, for their un-death shall be ended quickly and violently. Despite his huge size, standing at almost seven feet tall, Marshall might be the nicest guy left on the planet. Unless you cross him; 40 pounds of hardened steel on the end of a pair of hickory shafts will give you an extreme headache.
Leo, is fast. She can move faster than the human eye can follow, and even claims, although I’ve never seen it, to be able to outrun a bullet. Everything about her is fast; she heals extreme wounds in hours, and minor ones in seconds. She is the deadliest hand to hand fighter I’ve ever seen. She moves like flowing water, gracefully ending the miserable existence of anything that dares to stand in her way.
My name is Victor Tookes. I suppose I’m the leader of this community of around 350 people, probably because I can read people. I see colorful auras surrounding them. Those colors give me clues about the mood or intentions of the person. I can see those colors from very far off, farther than my normal vision would allow, sometimes as much as 100 miles. I’m the only one I know who can definitively tell a living person from a smart zombie, because zombies don’t have auras. I can also see the effects of my decisions, and the decisions of others. If I’m thinking of two possibilities, I can literally watch the outcome of those decisions. I can follow decision trees infinitely or at least several years into the future, but every time I look at the next step, the number of possibilities is exponentially more complex. Missing one small piece of information can lead to disastrous results, so in actuality I’m seldom able to go more than two or three decisions forward with any reliability.
And then there is my son Max. Max was three and a half years old at the time of the outbreak. Or invasion, however you choose to look at it. He has abilities that none of us can fully comprehend, and he’s never been able to explain them. He can sense zombies from vast distances. He can hide our presence from them. He can kill zombies with a thought. That ability is the conundrum of my life. You would think it would be easy to parade a huge group of zombies in front of him and ask him to kill them. It would be easy to ask him where they are and how many of them there are. But as a father, my goal is to protect him, to shelter him, and to provide a safe place for him to be an innocent child. I would die myself before asking him to kill a horde of zombies. It is true that he is the one that ended the battle on our doorstep, but as far as he was concerned, he was just saving me.
No one else knows it was Max that killed all those zombies. Without being able to see auras the way I can, they couldn’t see that wave of Max’s energy killed every parasite it encountered, they just know that the zombies that were eating me flew off of me, and every other zombie within 2 miles fell down, never to move again. I have managed to convince them that since I was busy being eaten alive at the time, and have no idea how or what I did.
Shortly after we arrived at my family’s farm near Culpeper Virginia, a massive horde of zombies attacked us. All told, we killed 12,653 zombies that day. We kept count to honor them, the people that they were before. We kept count to remember who we are, and what we’re doing this for. We used pickups and tractors to dig a massive pit in the middle of the field where we’d killed the largest part of them. We piled the bodies in that pit, and used the last of our diesel to light it. It takes a lot of fuel and a lot of time to burn human bodies. We used 4 full trees over 6 days to fully cremate the dead. Many of the survivors in our camp knew these people. It was a very hard time.
The days immediately after that fight were both a celebration of our victory over the horde, and a period of mourning for the dead, for the friends and family members who were taken from us, perverted to serve as mindless rotting instruments of death.
The morning after the fight, we received a visit from Colonel Joshua Frye. He showed up that morning in force, rolling with six military Humvees, two of which had very intimidating .50 caliber cannons mounted in an armored gunner’s turret on the roof. He had 12 soldiers with him, and they were armed for conflict. Four of them were flanking Frye, lined up in an arc behind him, the four were in the driver’s seat of their Humvees, and the last two standing up in the gunner’s turrets of those two desert sand colored trucks.
The gate guard radioed up to the house to let us know something was coming down the road. There was never any traffic on the road these days, so we all got up from the breakfast table and headed down to the end of the driveway. By the time I got down to the front gates with John and Marshall, Frye was standing at the gate with his men behind him. It did not feel like a friendly visit. Leo had beaten us down there by several minutes.
“Colonel Frye, you look, surprised to see us.” I said, noting the flashes of yellow in his aura.
“Not at all, I’m surprised at the mess though. What are you hiding in there? How did you kill that many zombies?” His tone reminded me of law enforcement. It carried an expectation of answer. These days, the law was what you could defend. This was my land, and these were my people. His tone was the final straw in a long series of short straws.
I opened the gate down at the end of the half-mile driveway and stepped out in front of Frye. He was a head taller than me, easily six and a half feet tall. I had considered all of my options on where to punch him. Walking through the gate, shadows shot out of me, each one landing a blow. The gut punch ended with me breaking a bone in my hand, hitting body armor with a bare fist is never a good idea. The shot to the nose was the least damaging to me, and was the option I chose. It ended with him shouldering the rifle hanging from his chest rig. The shadow fist that punched him in the nose solidified, shortly before my flesh and bone fist connected with his nose.
I felt a satisfying crunch as my middle knuckle broke the cartilage in the bridge of his nose. Frye staggered back a couple of steps and drew his weapon, blood running down his face and dripping off his chin. I knew he was going to draw down on me. Immediately after hitting him I stepped inside his range and put my favorite pistol, my Sig Saur .40 caliber, to his head. John and Marshall both shouldered weapons. John had an H&K short barreled fully automatic carbine pointed at the farthest man in a gun turret, and Marshall sighted down the barrel of a 12 gauge shotgun at the other. Those two men operating huge chain guns were clearly the largest threat. At my first move towards Frye, his men shouldered their weapons, standard combat issue M-16’s.
“Colonel Frye,” I said, ice running through my voice. “You have not been honest with me. You have tried to play me from the minute you found out there were survivors here. You have acted magnanimous. You acted like you wanted to help, but you with held vital intelligence until it suited your own purpose. I will not allow you to continue to be a threat to me or my family.”
“Victor, I did not…” He started. The red slashes in his aura already indicating that he was going to lie to me.
“Frye. I don’t know what you’re about to say, but it’s a lie. I strongly advise you against testing me. You will lose that test, I promise you that.”
“Mr. Tookes, We did…”
“Josh.” I said as I pulled the hammer back on my pistol. It was an unnecessary step in a double action pistol, but significant in its message. “Josh, this is your last chance. If John sees my finger even quiver on this trigger, all of your men will die and we will gain several nice rifles, some functional body armor and 6 well outfitted Humvees. There really is no drawback to this for me.”
Frye stood up straight. “This conversation is over.” He said flatly as he started walking back to his truck.
“That’s the first honest thing you’ve ever said to me, Frye. To all you men,” I said gesturing to the men in the trucks. “You are following a man who has lied to me, who has endangered my family and the lives of everyone living here. You are not welcome on my property as long as you follow him.” I added a pause, letting the idea of not following him sink in.
“If you continue to work towards the Colonel’s interests, you are not welcome to within 1 mile of my property line. I claim the full area within 6 miles of where we stand. If I catch you within 7 miles of this house neither I nor my men will not hesitate.”
Frye was the only one who spoke. “Tookes, you do not have domain, or the right to claim that much land.”
“Frye, you keep operating under the assumption that the United States Government still exists, or that you have some authority because you’re wearing a uniform. I can claim that land because I can defend that land. I can claim it because that’s the amount of land required to feed the number of people in my care, and I can claim it because there’s nothing you and your 12 soldiers can do about it.”
With that, Frye got in his truck and they all drove off, bouncing and hopping over the piles of rotten zombie corpses lying in the road. Each time a tire crossed a new zombie; they burst open like over-full bags of meat, exploding gore and bits of rotten flesh all over the trucks. The popping sound was enough to turn my stomach, and the smell of fetid corpse was overwhelming. We needed to get this mess cleaned up quickly.
“Holy shit Tookes!” said John. “You really pissed him off this time. What was all that cock swinging about?”
“Every word he’s ever said to me was a lie or a manipulation. I’m not afraid of him, but I’m tired of playing the game by his rules. I thought I’d try my hand at changing the game.”
“We need to have a staff meeting,” I said, “We’re low on supplies. We need ammunition, fuel, and food, and I have some ideas.”