Read Chapter 1 here
The change was very gradual. I almost didn't notice when I was the only car on the freeway. I had passed into San Diego county a while back, and was making good time toward my goal. I was about 15 minutes from Josh's place when I saw the first one. She had been kneeling over a person in the middle of the freeway, and began walking toward me when she saw me approach. I knew she was one of... whatever they were. I wanted eyes-on, now I have them. It was time to see what this was all about. I stopped the car in the middle of the freeway, about 200 yards from her, and stepped out of my insulated shell, into the strange place.
The empty sound of what should have been a roaring freeway chilled me to my core. The wind barely blew, and the homes and neighborhoods visible from the freeway looked frozen. I grabbed the pistol holster I had brought, and I fitted it onto my belt, sliding my .45 into place with a reassuring snick. I stood behind my opened door, and grabbed the 10 power Nikons I had ready. I looked through the binoculars and zoomed in on the distant person she had been kneeling over. It looked like a man, but I couldn't tell because the face was eaten down to the skull. Ugh. No more "eyes-on" jokes.
"Oi! That's far enough! What happened to your friend back there?" Her legs quickened slightly. "Stop there, or I'll shoot! I just want to talk!" Heavy, short grunting was now audible. I could see she had blood on her hands and teeth, but no visible wounds. "OK, stop where you are, or you're dead!" I stifled an involuntary laugh at what I'd just said. Is she dead already? These couldn't really be zombies. I drew my pistol, and lined up the sights on her chest. I swallowed hard. What if I was wrong? What if she's concussed or mentally disabled... I aimed about two feet over her head, and fired. The bang was somewhat lessened by the open space around me, and didn't hurt my ears. She didn't miss a beat. Ok. She's starting to get close. If she can run, I need to be ready. I began to take a step back, but stopped myself. Relax. Think clearly. "Last warning, lady! I'm not fucking around!" She increased her pace at the sound of my voice so near. Stomach. I aimed for her stomach, low, and a little to the right. Stomach wounds are supposed to hurt, but not kill for a long time, and I didn't want to paralyze her by chancing a hit on her spine. I inhaled uneasily and held my breath. I squeezed the trigger on another human being. Jesus. What the fuck am I doing?! I took my finger off the trigger. I could feel my heart pounding in my ears. My breathing was ragged. Think clearly. I took a slow, deep breath. She ate... his face... OK. I lined up the sights, and squeezed the trigger.
*POP* I let the breath out in short puffs, and felt the adrenaline shake me slightly. Through the light smoke I could see she was unaffected. Did I miss? I eyed the spot where I aimed, and spotted a hole in the button-down shirt she was wearing. No reaction at all? There's no way. I aimed again, this time for the center of her chest. *POP* No effect. Hole right where it wanted to put it, right where her heart would be. A .45 in the chest, and nothing? Impossible. She's not... It's not... human. I looked around for validation of my conclusion, imagining a companion urging me to end it's misery. There was only wind. I raised my weapon again, centered the front sight post on the head, and squeezed the trigger once more.
The corpse fell to the ground with a wet kind of slap.
Well, shit. Goddamn zombies.
I got back into the car and unburied my AR. It's time to get serious. I walked back to my trunk, and put the AR within reach while I changed. I took off my button-down shirt, and pulled my bulletproof vest out of the trunk. The vest slid on easily over the undershirt, and concealed under the button down shirt pretty well. I didn't expect zombies to shoot back, I was more concerned about rioters, looters, and assholes thinking that since civilization was taking a break, they could act like animals. At least those kinds of idiots seemed to prefer pistols to rifles. The vest would stop any regular pistol round or shotgun load, but even a mid-power rifle would go right through. I reached into the trunk and pulled a loose panel down revealing a hidden compartment packed with newspaper. I pulled the long bundle of newspaper free, and pushed the panel back into place. If I'm going to keep going I need to be more ready. They're not going to come at me one at a time like that. I tore through the tape, and pulled the bundle apart, revealing something I wasn't supposed to have.
It was a replacement upper half for my AR, but this one had a 10 inch barrel. Attaching it to a working firearm would make a short-barreled rifle, making it very illegal to own without federal approval (which the state of California blocks). While there was only 6 inches of difference between it and my carbine-length upper half, it made it much more handy to maneuver and use while getting in and out of a car or driving. Of course, it would get me more time in federal prison than all the "unsafely" transported guns, the illegally configured AR-15, and all the explosives in the back seat put together. But I just shot a fucking zombie, so I think the feds have bigger problems on their hands. I pulled out the two take-down pins on the bottom half of the AR, removed the carbine upper half, and put the 10 inch upper on, pushing the pins back into place. Look ma, I'm a felon! I shortened the collapsible stock, and noticed the neatly folded satchel bag under some ammo cans. I'm already a felon, I might as well go for broke. I took the empty satchel bag to my back seat, and opened the padded boxes.
My granddad had a blasting license, and taught me to make homemade explosives on his ranch in Arizona. Some of my best memories are of us blowing stuff up in the desert. Good clean fun, and I never lost so much as a finger. Heaven knows I came close a few times. When he died everyone wanted a piece of his estate, so while the family fought, I didn't have a place to set off my explosives. When I got the bad news I made one last batch in his memory, but without a place to set them off, they just sat in their padded boxes, waiting for an opportunity to celebrate Granddad's memory. I guess I'm going to put them to good use now. Granddad would have gotten a kick out of blowing up zombies. I'm sure he would approve.
I opened the satchel Granddad custom made for our trips into the desert. It was made to sort and fit the various types of pipebombs, silly putty thermite, plastique blocks, small shape charges, fuses, magnesium strips, torches, and a padded spot for detonators. I got a little choked up when I saw the words of wisdom he had embroidered on the inside of the flap, "5 minute fuses last 3 minutes. Haste makes paste out of sappers." and his favorite; "There is no problem that cannot be solved by the application of more explosives." After the satchel was loaded up, I armed the pipebombs with 10 and 30 second fuses, and clipped my favorite torch to the outside pocket. I filled the front pocket with the claymore wraps Granddad taught me to make, but told me never to use. Wood screws, ball bearings, and flechette wraps were ready to be added to light pipebombs or plastique charges to make devastating weapons. Desperate times, I suppose. I put the satchel in the passenger seat where I'd be able to grab it if I needed to flee.
I dropped back in the driver's seat with my AR and prepared myself to continue further. "Well," I said to myself and the short black rifle on my lap, "The goddamn zombies ain't gonna kill themselves!" I revved my engine, and skipped the CD ahead two tracks to the "Black" half of my "White and Black" CD. German heavy metal pounded out of the speakers. I rolled down all the windows, sharing my fight music with the silence, and dropped the clutch.
Time to fly that black flag.
The going got hard fast. For the first few miles it was pretty easy, a zed-head here, a stopped car there, but things were going smoothly. If it stays like this, I'll be there in no time. No sooner had I finished the thought when I swerved to miss a zombie, and spun out harmlessly. Wait a minute. Why am I dodging them? I spun the wheel around, and got back up to speed. The first two zombies were easily avoided, but the third was the lucky one. He was a 20-something hippie kind of guy, who seemed to be partially eaten. I was a 20-something speeding kind of guy, singing along to German heavy metal. Excuse me for saying this, but it was just like a movie. The low bumper of my car knocked the zed into my hood with a hilarious *THUD*BANG*, then he almost cleared my windshield as he bounced. His head left a perfect splatter of red right in front of me. I turned on the windshield wipers, and turned up the volume. This went on for about 5 minutes. I'm not ashamed to say I kind of enjoyed myself. Nor am I ashamed to say I got about 40 points.
The disabled car traffic became heavier, and I had to take the shoulder a few times, slowing me to speeds I wasn't exactly comfortable with considering the hungry zombies longing for the flesh of the living, and all. I had just returned from a jaunt on the shoulder when I came to the crest of a small hill, still screaming lyrics in broken German, and generally trying not to think about the end of the world. Somehow, I still managed a thought. That smoke rising beyond the hill looks a lot closer than it did back there... Then I sat dumbly processing that thought for a wasteful half-second, sealing my fate. SHIT! STOP! I slammed on the brakes, but had no chance of stopping before I made it over the hill. I had all the tires locked up, and began to turn sideways as I went over the hill. Boy am I gonna feel stupid if there's nothing there. But there was something there. Many things. A solid wall of cars came into view, extending over the shoulder, and down the freeway long enough to go over the next hill. My sideways rear tires caught enough friction that they began to swing me straight as I slammed into an ugly green minivan. A boom, then pain, then white, then heat.
My hands were burning, like they were on fire, but there was no fire. Only white. I regained my composure as the white airbag deflated, expelling its hot gas and white powder into my lap and my arms. The AR had struck my chest when the airbag hit it at 200 MPH, the body armor probably saved me a few broken ribs. The satchel had been caught by the airbag, and after I checked it, every detonator had blown from the impact, causing minor damage to the separate padded compartment they were in. Glad I didn't arm anything! Since I was checking myself and my equipment, I thought I had recovered from the accident, but I was still in some kind of shock because I didn't notice the 8 zeds shambling up to my broken car.
How many magazines do I have in this mag pouch? One... No, wait. Yeah; one... two... My kindergarten counting lesson was interrupted when someone grabbed my left arm. I turned to see a ugly woman with both hands on my forearm, pulling her head back with her mouth open. What the fuck is this?! I yanked my arm free just as she snapped her mouth shut inches from my arm. That crazy bitch just tried to bite me!! What the fuck is this?! Oh yeah, she's a zombie! OH SHIT! SHE'S A ZOMBIE! I fumbled for my 1911 as I struggled to get away, but I was still seatbelted in place. I jabbed the seatbelt open, and pulled my 1911 free as I climbed over the center console, and turned to escape out the passenger door. But as soon as I was facing the passenger side I could see a pale, bloodied zombie in a suit reaching into the car, jaws inescapably close. I'm dead. But my hand was already moving the 1911 to the zombie's face. The dead hand grabbed a fistful of my hair, and it lunged forward to sink its teeth into my face. I flinched...
I opened my eyes to see I had managed to put my 1911 into the zombie's mouth. The 5 inch barrel kept the deadly teeth just short of my vulnerable hand as my finger repeatedly pulled the trigger to no effect. The zombie made a funny noise as it both choked and tried to eat my gun. Safety! I clicked the thumb safety off and pulled the trigger again. *BOOM* The zombie fell backwards, and clear of my exit. I scrambled out the passenger window onto the hot asphalt, jumped to my feet, and shot everything that moved within 30 feet.
After I regained normal thought I had 8 dead (deader?) zombies and an empty gun. Empty gun? Reload! I reached for my mags and found one where two had been. Wait. 8 dead zombies, 7 shots per mag? I must have reloaded without even noticing. I looked around for the missing mag, and found it near a zombie with three holes in its head. Guess I went a bit postal there. I looked around again and saw about 15 more zeds working their way up the twisted blanket of cars, I could see some moved faster than others. That's worrisome. I returned to the car and grabbed the AR from the driver-side floor, shaking the airbag powder off of it as it brought it to bear on the approaching zed-heads. I aimed for the nearest one, and pulled the trigger quickly three times. Miss, miss, and miss. Stop. Think straight, shoot straight. I took a quick breath, and centered the front sight post in the circular rear sight, then aligned it on the zombie's head. Breathe, and squeeze. *BOOM* I called the shot a hit, slightly above the left eye. As I pulled the gun quickly out of recoil, I could see first hand what a high velocity rifle did to a human skull; it blew it the fuck up. The headless zombie was only half way to the ground when I started tracking on the next closest target, a zombie climbing through a car. He bent forward as his feet found the ground, and his head raised as he stood up. I figured his head's next position, and fired. Perfect trigger pull. I moved to the next zed without examining the last, and caught the shape fall to the ground in my peripheral vision. My shots were quick, my recovery fast, and accuracy deadly. The world melted away, I was an eye, a finger, and a rifle. I was in the zone.
I was down to the last zombie close enough to worry me, and kept missing. Then realized it was about 200 yards away, and I was still shooting my shorty upper. I need more gun. I went to the back seat of my car and switched to my carbine upper half. I had more experience shooting it, and knew the sights were very precisely set. I returned to my shooting position, and steadied the end of my rifle against that damned green minivan, aimed half-a-head low, and took the shot. With the longer, heavier carbine, I didn't have to fight the recoil as much, so I clearly saw the impact on its neck, destroying it, and dropping the zombie. I corrected myself, "260 yards." I noticed the ringing in my ears as I spoke, and knew it would die down as my hearing dulled. Damn. Why didn't I get those electronic earmuffs? I grabbed the satchel, and replaced the blown detonators with the ones safe in the padded case. I returned to my trunk, and dug through the jumbled mess to find the .45 and 5.56 ammo, and topped off my mags. The weight on my belt, and mag pouch felt good. My car was trashed, and my way was blocked. I need to get over that next hill, and clear of this mess, then find another car and get to Josh before he leaves without me. I looked at my car, and realized I was about to leave my only island in this whole mess.
I put on the three-day backpack I made for earthquakes, and reshouldered the satchel and mag pouch. I added the sling to the AR, and added its strap to the many others hanging on my shoulders. Everything felt cumbersome and heavy. Not good for walking. I realized I could take more ammo since I'd be using it on the way. I had 9 30-round AR mags, and 8 7-round pistol mags, 326 rounds in all, and I felt very underarmed. I just have to make it over this hill, out of this jumbled mess, and get another car. I looked in my trunk again, knowing I'd probably never see any of my things again. Then I saw the weapon I had felt so silly bringing. That felt like ages ago. So much had changed since then. I picked it up with a newfound reverence for its utility in this unthinkable situation. I had to bring it. I thumbed the hand guard back, exposing a bit of shimmering metal to the sun. I pulled the sword from its sheath, and eyed it. The sword was not a "display only" ebay special; it was a Criswell. Quality tool steel, cord-wrapped handle, impossibly sharp. It really was a working sword. I bought it about a year ago because I just thought it was cool. When it arrived, I swung it around a little, and hung it up on the wall where it sat for a year. When Cathy first saw it she joked, "In case of zombies, break glass?" I sheathed the sword, and put it behind my back, under the backpack, tying the ends of the sheath to the straps on my backpack. The handle extended over my right shoulder, and seemed secure enough. On no cue in particular, I reached my hand to it, drew it up and forward, and slashed down at an invisible zombie. What an odd day this is.
Read Chapter 3 here