Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Walking Dead - Chapter 3 - Friends at 300 yards

Read Chapter 2 here.

I was careful of my footing as I navigated the mangled cars. Blood, dust, and... fluids were everywhere. The fact that I had bags and guns hanging off of me didn't help my balance. There were about 50 more zombies among the twisted cars, fortunately, almost half were pinned between cars. After crashing, drivers and passengers were torn to pieces where they sat, leaving horrifying scenes. That was almost me... As the road got steeper I had to be more careful. Cars weren't made for climbing, and the jagged metal of impacts meant losing my footing now would be a death sentence. I was relieved to make it to the top of the hill, and was eager to check for zombies, and spot my next vehicle. I climbed on top of a smashed truck, and looked over the hill. My jaw dropped. Oh my god. My stomach twisted and the wind disappeared from my lungs. I'm not going to make it.

Beyond this hill, I could see for about three miles. The freeway dipped down into a valley, crossed a low bridge over a wide river, climbed back up the other side, and disappeared. The entire length of visible highway was filled with cars and zombies. The cars weren't as tightly packed as the ones I had just climbed over, but many were burning, and where there weren't cars, there were zombies. I'm not going to make it. I couldn't count them. I couldn't even estimate. I'm going to get stuck in this hell. The car fires billowed black smoke into the air. I spotted two fire trucks among the disabled vehicles. I'm not going to make it. A sound floated by on the wind. I'm not going to make it. The direction of the sound was clearer. I looked for the source, and saw a SUV stuck between two cars on an offramp, rocking back an forth. I refocused my eyes. A group of zombies were shaking the SUV, trying to get in, and in the back window I saw a woman, and two small girls screaming. They're not going to make it either. Some harder part of me slapped the despair from my spirit. Unless you do something!

I jumped off the truck, and ran down the freeway dodging cars and zombies. There were too many between me and the SUV, but I had an idea. "HEEEEEYYYYY!" I somehow found the breath to yell as I ran. "FRESH MEAT OVER HEEEEERE!" Zombies I hadn't seen before stood up among the cars, and began after me. "COME ON! EASY MEAL!" I was closer to the SUV, and the zombies rocking the car started to hear me. I ran on, stopping only to shoot a clear a path, I was rushed, and not every shot put them down permanently. I jumped and dodged among the cars ignoring the grasping hands and snapping jaws, I didn't feel pain in my legs, I just ran. "OVER HEEEERE!" I made it to a point on the freeway about 300 yards directly behind the SUV on the offramp where I'd have the best angle to shoot without hitting the people inside. I climbed on top of a pick-up truck with a camper shell on the back, and looked around. Most of the zombies around the SUV had turned their attention to me, but as I scanned, I saw I was attracting more attention than I had expected. How can there be this many?! I realized they must have been drawn from the surrounding areas by the sound of the car crashes. There were a lot on their way, enough to surround me when they got close enough, far more than I could shoot. Panic struck me as they moved in from all directions.
Stop. Think straight.

Ok. I did this so I could save that SUV. There are five zombies still trying to get in. I need to stop them or this was for nothing. #1: Save the SUV. #2: Save myself. If I get rid of the... 9 zombies within 100 yards, I should have about 90 seconds to take the SUV zombies out at long range. I loaded a fresh mag, shot the 9, taking the time to make sure they stayed down, and took another look around. 70 seconds? I need a shooting rest. I stripped off my satchel, mag pouch, and backpack and laid down in a prone shooting position. I rested the AR on the backpack, extended the buttstock, and set the rear sight to the smaller long-distance circle. 60 seconds from certain zombie death, I just ran 400 yards, my heart is pounding, and now I have to shoot at 300 yards at 10 inch targets two feet from the people I'm saving... What's life without challenges?

My first instinct was to shoot quickly, but I admonished myself for such a stupid thought. If I'm not calm, I'll miss, or hit one of them. I suppressed every instinct that told me death was near, and I needed to run for my life. Calm. I took a deep breath. Focus. I took another breath. Relax. I took another breath, and began to feel myself calm. Breathe slowly. I took slow breath. You can do this. I took a slow, deep breath. Just like at the shooting range. 300 yards, perfect zero, aim dead center. I reseated my cheek against the stock, resting my head against the stock instead of holding my head against it. Just another weekend at the range, hitting the 300 yard gong. I pressed the rifle into the backpack, giving it a groove to sit in. You can hit the 300 yard gong every time if you take your time. I moved my support hand to the the underside of the stock at my shoulder. You've done this before. This is easy. I took a breath in, and let it out slowly, changing the elevation of the sights until they centered on the head of one of the zombies rocking the SUV. Easy. My finger found the trigger, and my eye shifted focus between the front sight post, and the target; checking alignment. Perfect. I squeezed the trigger with constant pressure, trying not to think of when it would go off, but thinking instead of keeping my sights aligned. A moment hung in the air. *BANG*

Gong. It went down, 300 yards was right on, but I didn't think to celebrate. I was back at the range, impressing my friends with a five out of five on the 300 yard gong, with a carbine, and no scope. My sights shifted to the next target, my eye shifted focus, my finger squeezed. *BANG* Gong. Again. *BANG* Gong. You got this. *BANG* Gong! Don't get cocky, still gotta hit this one just like the last four. I took another breath, and adjusted elevation again. My eye shifted focus to check alignment on the last one pushing on the right side of the SUV. My finger squeezed, not anticipating the break. My hair blew in a sudden gust of wind. *BANG* Fuck.

I called the shot at the side of the head, an inch high on the frontal lobe, but the wind pushed it left about a foot through the top of the rear window. The window shattered, and the three shapes huddled together in the middle of the car jumped, but didn't move. I didn't hit them. I refocused myself for the next shot, and saw the last zombie moving to the rear window I had just opened for him. If it gets to the back he'll be right in front of them and I won't be able to shoot! I took a quick shot at his head. Miss! I took another shot. Shit! Come on! I took another quick breath, and tried to calm down for the last shot I would get. *BANG* I called it a miss again. The zombie lurched behind the SUV right in front of the three people I had just doomed, and reached in the back window at them.

I didn't have time to settle again, I had to force it. I lined up my sights again, and aimed at the zombie's right leg, a tiny target at 300 yards, but if the shot went straight through, it would skip harmlessly under the car. I held as still as I could and squeezed the trigger. Hold still! Please! Every synapse in my head was firing, my muscles strained to hold perfectly still, and my vision kept going in and out of focus. *BANG* The zombie's knee exploded, dropping it to the ground, and clearing a shot at its head. One more! Gotta hold it for one more! The sights felt aligned when I shot. I say "felt" because my unblinking eye blurred and teared up just before the shot. I jumped to my knees as soon as I fired, and rubbed my eyes so I could see. Hit! I got 'em! I did it! I stood up, triumphant, and pumped my fist into the air, "YEAH!" Suddenly the camper rocked, dropping me to my knees. Oh yeah, #2...

I returned to my situation and saw the loose circle of zombies at 100 yards was now a thick wall of undead at 30 yards. There were about 5 on the truck now, rocking the camper, and trying to climb up. One made it to the hood where it could easily get up on the camper shell; I shot it in the head without even thinking. How do I get out of this? Where will go even if I do? The bridge is blocked. There's no way I'll get through it. Wonder how many zeds I can take with me... At least I saved those girls in the SUV. I looked over at the SUV, and saw the brake lights on, the woman back in the driver's seat, and the two girls hanging out the broken back window waving me to come with them. Sure beats blowing myself up! I put everything I was carrying back on in record time, and opened the satchel. I hesitated, then unsheathed my largest pipebomb. Lets make a hole. The fuse lit with the same dazzle of sparks I was used to, and I pitched it at the concentration of zombies between me and the SUV. A perfect pitch. It fell right in front of the slowly approaching line, and was engulfed as they step over it. I knelt on the rocking camper and covered my ears... *POP*

"Pop?" I looked up and saw white smoke clearing, and a small gap of maimed zombies that quickly closed. Idiot! It's too open! There's no area to contain the explosion! I swallowed hard. Shit. I need to use the plastique. Plastique is basically C4, a very stable heavy explosive. This is a bad idea. I needed to work fast, so I could blow it up as far away as I could manage. If they got too close, I'd either blow myself up, or not be able to use enough to clear them. This is a bad idea. I pulled the small brick from the satchel, and grabbed a detonator. Wait, I can't even blow this up! All my detonators are electric! I'd have to wire it up, and I don't have enough wire! Then I remembered how to switch an electronic detonator to a fused one. This is a VERY bad idea! But it was the only idea I had. I put the detonator in my left hand, and pulled my multi-tool out. I'm actually about to dissect a detonator in my bare hand, using some pliers, on top of a shaking camper surrounded by zombies... At least I'm right-handed. I spread my feet apart so I could maintain my balance as much as possible, and flipped the pliers open. The detonator body was surprisingly easy to pull back; so surprising I thought the fast motion was going to set it off. I removed the filament, and carefully inserted a 10 second fuse into the opening, knowing that the moment the fuse body touched the volatile detonator, the chemicals of the two could interact badly, and blow my fingers off. The camper's regular rocking motion was interrupted with sharper push than I had expected. I lost my balance, and jammed the fuse hard against the sensitive detonator.

...One, two, three, four, five! I still have all my fingers! My rejoicing was cut short as a zombie successfully climbed the side of the rocking camper shell. I didn't have time for it, so I just kicked it in the head, sending it flying back into the growing number of zombies trying to get me. I picked up the small brick of plastique, and forced the detonator in place, pinching the detonator around the fuse with the pliers. More were climbing up the side, I could hear them. I grabbed the torch, lit it, and drew it slowly toward the fuse. If I go too fast, I'll burn too much at once and shorten my 10 seconds down to an eternity in the great beyond. This is SUCH a bad idea! The fuse sparked to life, and I cocked it back for the throw. For a sick moment I thought of what an early detonation would do to me. I drew it forward and threw it as hard as I could. Wait! I was supposed to figure out the best distance to throw! The plastique flew through the air awkwardly, just barely flying over the heads of my target zombies, bounced off the roof of a car, and fell behind it. I tried to think of the bomb's effects on the car and zombies, and wanted to extrapolate the physics that were about to come into play, so I could give myself some rough percentage of my likelihood of surviving the events I had just set into motion. I wanted to do those things; but I just hit the deck.

Thunder. Blackness.

I was lost in space. I tumbled through inky blackness. Or, the inky blackness tumbled around me. Little stars of color were my only reference of my position in space. I became aware that I was running into things; black meteors, completely invisible, pelted me. Though I knew they were hitting me, and I changed directions as they transferred their inertia to me, they didn't hurt. I spun and twisted for an eternity. There was no time here, because there was no reference of time. There was no up or down, because everything was everywhere, and I was nowhere. I had no compulsion to right myself, or desire to stop the barrage; but I did want to figure out how I got here. My mind was bothered that I was somewhere else, and then suddenly here. It didn't make sense. The memory of where I was had faded hundreds of years ago, lost in the blackness that engulfed everything.

Wait... Engulfed? If the black engulfed things, then the things would still be there.
As I thought about this, I stopped spinning, and started moving in one direction. I changed direction, but I felt no inertia. This doesn't make sense. I moved faster in the direction. I looked in the direction I moved, and saw I was moving toward a star that twinkled different colors. Why am I going there? I instantly lost direction, and resumed spinning. No! I want to go there! I was righted, and the stars moved around me, drawing me nearer to the multi-colored star (or moving nearer to me?). Everything accelerated to the speed of light, and the spec of a star slowly began to grow. I need to go there to get out of here. The star grew large, and its light blinded me. I squinted, and strained to see through the brightness. A shape emerged as the star filled my vision, slowly I was able to pick out details, and then there could be no doubt. It was a zombie.

I was sitting up, back against a car, legs in front of me, facing a zombie in front of another car, three feet away. Run! I didn't run. Run! I couldn't move. RUN! I was frozen. I stared at the zombie, wondering why it wasn't eating my flesh, and slowly realized that it was dead. I'm not doing anything. I'm not even breathing! Breathe! A wheezing breath fought oxygen into my lungs. A knife of pain stabbed into my chest. I caught my breath and exhaled sharply in surprise. Breathe! I forced air into my lungs, ignoring the pain that cut through my chest. It was slow and excruciating, and the sound of my labored breath echoed in my damaged ears. My throat strained as I exhaled. I was in slow motion. The world was underwater, and out of focus. I could still feel my fingers, I moved them, and made a fist. The fist was weak, and shaky. I need to get away from here. I willed strength into my muscles, and I realized my arms were tangled in the straps of the things I was carrying. Good thing I hung the straps across my chest. I freed my arms, and braced myself against the car. I stood, and fell. I need to get away from here. I took another labored breath. Pain; but less pain. Less pain is good. I stood.

The damage was incredible. There was a clearing almost the entire width of the freeway, centered on a smashed section of highway. The cracks in the freeway made it look like it was hit with a giant hammer. The cars had been tossed and pushed away, pinning and crushing many zombies. I stood in a tiny triangle of safety. I must have slammed into the car I had my back to, which was next to another car, forming an "L" shape; and when the car in front of me flew back to crush me, it hit both cars instead of just the one I was against. The result was a right triangle, with me safely in the middle. I had no idea why there was a dead zombie with me, or how it got to be leaning against the car that should have knocked it away, but I didn't care to find out. I walked to the lowest car, lifted my left leg to climb out, and felt the pain in my chest. Ribs. At least two. Well, I've got plenty more. I fought through the pain, and lifted my right leg onto the car hood. A sickening pain made itself known. Thigh? I couldn't possibly have broken my femur. I must have bruised it badly. I pulled myself up, and over, into the clearing. The SUV was still there, but now the girls just looked with their mouths agape, then seemed to cheer happily. I still couldn't hear. I gotta get to the SUV.

I began walking. The satchel, and AR bounced against my legs and hips, hurting and annoying me. I had to make it. My hearing slowly returned. I was getting closer. I hurried past dismembered and mangled zombies. The girls beckoned me on, the lady still sat in the driver seat, looking straight. My strength was returning, I could now feel the pain in my arms and legs. I'm almost there. I made it down the offramp, and stepped over the zeds I had destroyed from so far away. I made it. I pulled on the passenger door handle, and it was locked. One of the girls climbed to the front seat, and unlocked it. I glanced left before I entered, and saw the broken zombies limping after us. I pulled my right leg into the seat. "Drive." I told the woman. She stared forward, hands on the wheel, foot on the brake, not moving. I slammed the door shut after my leg and locked it. "Drive!" She did nothing. What the hell? From the back seat came a small voice, "Mommy's scared." I grabbed the woman's arm, and she jerked her head to see me, her face full of fear and surprise. "DRIVE!"

Read Chapter 4 here


Anonymous said...

Impressive. You're on a roll. Don't stop.

Anonymous said...

Excellent work.