Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Walking Dead - Chapter 1 - What am I going to do today?

Josh has been developing The Walking Dead for a while now, and asked me to pickup one of the characters and run a concurrent storyline. What follows is the beginning of that story.

Belly to the dirt, I inched up the incline behind a thick bush, dragging my rifle to the side. The air was different here, not stale like everywhere else. No wonder they liked it here. As I broke the crest of the hill, I realized my prisoner wasn't lying. Damn. He wasn't lying about the propane truck; they had it, and another. He wasn't lying about the fencing and the tight perimeter security. He wasn't lying about the gang being mostly military. One look at them told me they knew how to handle themselves, and their weapons. He wasn't lying about the Hummers with the machine guns. He wasn't lying about the tanks. I figured I had about three days to get this together before things got really bad. Good thing I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

CHAPTER 1 - What am I going to do today?

What am I going to do today? Cathy was gone for the week visiting her parents in Kentucky and I called in sick to take the edge of what last week promised would be a hell of a Monday. But what was I going to do with my free-time? Fritter it away like all my other sick days. I felt like I should be out doing exciting things. I know I don't live in a Gatorade commercial, but sitting in bed, laptop humming away, hitting refresh on my favorite internet forum? Just sad. I could be down in San Diego where... well... SOMETHING is happening. Earlier my news reader alerted me to a chemical spill in San Diego, then later it was rioting, then it was a strange story that everything was fine, then another about a curfew. I hit the forum to see if anyone down there posted about what was going on, since I couldn't seem to find a straight story anywhere. There were multiple threads full of people freaking out about riots, chemicals and (unsurprisingly) zombies. Hilarious. Anything strange happens and there will always be someone screaming about the "Zombpocalypse." The zombies are coming! The zombies are coming! Gotta love the internet. If I wanted a straight story I'd have to call my friend on the inside. Josh lives down there, and his head is screwed on straighter than most, so he'd know what was really going on. I called and got no answer, so I left a message. Well, if I can't know for sure, I should probably just not worry about it then. I extracted myself from bed and got started on more pressing matters; like what cereal I was going to have. Apple Jacks. It's going to be a good day.

As I sat on the couch working on my second bowl, I couldn't resist checking the news. Almost every news station was covering the... thing... in San Diego, and it wasn't until I flipped around for half an hour that I realized the damn reporters didn't even know what was going on! Panic, crazy people, riots, fires, martial law, curfews, and all reports completely unconfirmed. I finally find a station that's actually down there, and all they can show me is some previously-recorded footage of some vehicle fires, and a thick haze of smoke. Over and over. Great. No current info, and with the chemical spill keeping people indoors I'm not going to get any real idea of what's going on. What the hell happened to the reporter hanging onto a tree in the middle of a hurricane? I want eyes-on!

I flipped around angrily until I saw a shot of that thick haze from a different angle. I was shot from a window on a second or third floor looking down at the street, and panned across the smoke uneasily as the anchorman talked over the video, "Once again, we want to warn you this raw footage is very graphic, and should not be watched by children. We are still unsure what is happening on the streets of downtown San Diego, but--" He cut off as a woman entered the shot from the bottom of the screen. She was bleeding from the head, and dragging her left leg. She looks dazed, probably from a concussion judging by that head wound. As she hobbled down the street she suddenly whipped her head around like she heard something, lost her balance, and fell to the ground. As she struggled to get back up, two people came into view, and walked up to her. I sat there, waiting for something to explode, or a car to streak across the shot and hit the woman and the two guys going to help her, but nothing happened. Then I saw the terror in her eyes when she saw them. They knelt down on top of her, obscuring her, and looked like they were undressing her. Fucking rapist sons of bitches. I wish I was there with my .45 to put those fuckers-- HOLY SHIT! I jumped back in my seat, and sent my cereal arcing through the air before it splashed to the floor. One of the rapists had leaned back and turned to the camera, uncovering the woman, who was now a mess of blood and guts. The motionless arms and legs the only hint that the red mess in the middle was once a human torso. The camera jarred away and dropped on the carpet as the camera man fell to his knees and retched.

The scene returned to the anchor, who's face looked like mine must have. "Oh god-- we-- we apologize for that-- We were supposed to cut away earlier. Uh, we-- oh god." Suddenly the TV turned off. The power's out?! What the fuck? I looked down and saw that I had turned off the TV. It was quiet. Shit... Shit shit shit. Fuck. Shit. What the fuck? What the fuck was that?! I've seen some fucked up shit on the internet, but... what the fuck? Shit. Man. How the fuck can people be such fucking animals? What the fuck should I do? The answer was somehow clear. Load magazines.

After half an hour my thumbs had surpassed pain and entered numbness. The world hadn't changed, but at least I felt a better. I was almost done when the phone rang. It was Josh. Finally.
"Bish, you watchin' the news?"
"Dude, what the fuck is going on down there?"
"I don't know exactly, but you need to grab what you can and get down here ASAP." Shit.
"Is it as bad as it looks from up here?"
"Well... without knowing what you've seen..." He paused a moment. "Worse."
The 16, 30-round AR-15 magazines, stacked high and filled with lead, brass, and gunpowder somehow demanded my attention. Josh broke the silence. "Bishop... Perry," I winced, but I knew why he used my first name. "Be careful."
And I thought I was going to be bored today.

My call to Cathy in Kentucky was short and sweet. She understood the tone of my voice more than the words I spoke. She understood she needed to help her parents prepare for what might happen soon, and to stay safe. She understood everything instantly. That's why I loved her. The car was packed with every weapon I owned, including one I felt a bit silly grabbing, but took nonetheless. My 1911 rode on my hip, and my AR-15 carbine rode shotgun covered by a towel, and camouflaged under the trash and junk that seemed to multiply in my car. Packing the car was quick since I already had most of the useful stuff ready in case of an earthquake. The car drove differently with the weight of all the ammo I owned in the trunk. I wanted to spread it out to the back seat to distribute the weight a bit, but there was no way I was letting my homemade stuff roll around in the trunk. That was a good way to get blown up. I had plenty of rifle ammo, but I needed more handgun ammo, I expected there would be people who needed arming who only owned handguns. I needed to make a run to Walmart. I turned off the radio, and thought about the savagery I'd seen on TV, and how the world somehow managed to looked normal right now. I thought about angry, hate-filled people; people to whom other humans were merely cattle. People who would only be stopped when their bodies lay dead, and broken. Then I thought about good men; men who would stand against them, to protect the weak, and defend civility. Then I thought about the trees and the grass, swaying and growing in peace, as good men fought evil.

By the time I'd made it to walmart I was already rationalizing the situation. Josh is a smart guy, but he's got a soft spot for Shit-Hit-The-Fan what-if scenarios. I can easily see him jumping to one as quickly as the opportunity arose... But that poor woman... I was on auto-pilot, navigating the aisles to the ammo counter, trying to make sense of what little information I had, when I walked into the path of another shopper. *CRASH* I was knocked to the floor. Jesus, that was heavy! Are they having a sale on cinderblocks?! I looked up at the cart and saw it overflowing with canned goods. "Excuse me; I was--" "THESE ARE MINE!" I looked up at the voice, and saw a man with wild eyes. He wore shorts, sandals, a Hawaiian shirt, and a black sleeveless vest. It was immediately obvious to me he was likely armed. His strange eyes looked a little bit behind me, widened, and then they were gone down the main aisle. Looks like someone else got a call too. I stood up and immediately knew something was wrong. What? Did I injure myself? Am I bleeding anywhere? Did I hit my head? My hip hurts a little. Then I realized that my hip was lighter than it was supposed to be. I spun around and saw what scared Wild Eyes away; my .45 lying on the floor 4 feet behind me, knocked loose in the collision. I quickly grabbed and replaced the gun, then looked around for witnesses. None right. None left. Safe... Wait. I looked straight up and was greeted with my warped reflection in the one-way mirror half-globe that housed one of the many cameras in the store. Maybe I was fast enough. Nearby radios crackled in unison, "Security to lighting!"

I walked double speed to sporting goods trying to look nonchalant, but straining to hear the radios nearby. I made it and found an old gentleman behind the counter. "How can I help you?" Obviously he didn't have a radio. "I should like to buy some 9, 45, and 357 ammo, please." The old man looked at me, "Lotta people buying ammo today. 'Specially so early. 'Fraid I haven't got much 9 left, but there a bit of 45 and plenty'a 357." "Fantastic, I'll take it all." I said, trying not to look too nervous as I casually glanced around for security. The old man's previously blank facial expression broke, "All?" "Yes Sir," I fished in my pocket, and set $1000 from my emergency stash onto the counter, "All of it." The man didn't look at the money, he just stared at me like I was from Mars. "Son," He started with a pronounced drawl, "You obviously know something I don't. How about I give you my employee discount on all this in exchange for whatever tip you got?" I heard shuffling to my left. "I can only give you the little information I have." A security guard fumbled into the aisle to my left, and leveled a Tazer at me, the red laser dot glowing on my midsection. I didn't move. "Freeze! Down on the ground!" I looked back at the old man, who had ignored the guard, "The tip! What's the tip?" I leaned forward, pushing my waist against the solid counter. "Head for the hills."

The old man thought briefly about what I said, and began bagging the ammo I'd requested. The guard was unnerved that the regular people weren't reacting as he expected. "Stop that! Down on the ground! NOW!" Still facing the counter, leaning over slightly, I turned my head to look at him more clearly. He had pressure on the trigger of the device, and was obviously flustered. I smiled an evil smile, and he began to shake slightly. I took in a breath, "BOO!" He flinched. The Tazer made a funny sound as it fired, and I snapped my upper body back as I pushed my waist against the counter, flinging my body backwards, out of the line of fire.

I crashed into the display behind me, a little shaken, but upright, lucid, and unelectrocuted. I didn't want to hurt this security guard, and had no intention of shooting anyone, but the model of Tazer he had was a one-shot deal which had just been downgraded to a no-shot deal. I pushed off the display, and rushed the guard as he continued to jerk the trigger of the fired Tazer, trying to repeat the first jolt that shot me backwards. My left hand wrapped around the end of the Tazer, and turned it outward and up, locking his fingers and twisting him backwards. My right hand freed the item from my waistband, gripped it tightly, and swung it at the guard's upturned chin. It struck hard, instantly turning him into dead weight. I regarded the crumpled man with a pang of remorse, and returned to the counter. My bags were ready, and the old man was leaning over the counter to see the guard. "I always knew Carl was a pansy. One hit; out like a light." I smiled. "Don't mind Carl, he's just doing his job. Besides..." I opened my hand, revealing the small aluminum flashlight I had used as a fistload, "I cheated."

Once I was on the freeway things seemed normal again. I kept at the speed limit to avoid attention, and for best gas mileage. I was going to need it with all the extra weight. I became aware of the silence, and grabbed my mix CD, "White and Black," and put it in. Dreamy electronica and ambient music filled my ears, calming me for the storm I was driving into.
Think straight, speak straight, shoot straight. The rest will follow.

Read Chapter 2 here

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