Authors: J.D. Demers
The Hunt Chronicles
Volume 1: Awakening
By J. D. Demers
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Text Copyright © 2015, by J.D. Demers
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected by International and Federal copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized print or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author.
This book is the work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, places or events is coincidental.
Edited by: Ryan Therriault, Ruth Clack, and Julia Tripp
I’ve worked with JD Demers for many years on different projects but this one is by far my favorite. When I first heard he was writing a book about a zombie apocalypse, I was intrigued. After I read it, I was a fan. I’ve always enjoyed the undead genre of books, movies, TV shows and gaming avenues but this novel takes the concept to a new level that will make people think about zombies in a whole new way. And if you like ride you experienced with this book, let me leave you with a tidbit about the next book in the series – be ready to have your mind blown (like a 5.56 mm through a deadhead’s skull) because you will never think of zombies in the same way again!
– One year, four months and seventeen days after the Awakening
For two days, I have been trapped here in this two story office building. If you’re reading this and happen upon my dead body, please see that my writings find their way back to The Hoover Dam, or anywhere else civilization has started to rebuild itself.
It was probably a mistake running into this building. There is no way out except through the mass of zombies waiting below, but it seemed the best way to save my life from the thousand or so that are surrounding it right now.
This morning I awoke to see that, despite the bright sun, they’re still outside and on the first floor. The smell from these zombies is not nearly as bad as what I have encountered in the past. Most are dried out husks of their former living selves. The desert takes a much different toll on the walking dead here than the ones in Florida.
The desert is barren. Even the landscaping that was transplanted here
to make the area feel more livable is gone. All that remains is a wasteland full of death, just like the way most of the world is now. I must be the only living creature for a hundred miles and these zombies seem to know it. They’re hungry, and it is doubtful they will leave anytime soon. They know I’m here, and they will not stop until they have the chance to feed.
I've found nothing in this small office except for a couple of useless computers and printers, a shit load of staples, and this paper. My supplies have dwindled down to half a canteen of water and a sleeve of saltine crackers. I only have three rounds left in my Glock, which I’m saving for either a scab or myself, depending on the situation.
The thought of a scab coming to join this mixture of walking corpses turns my stomach. As if I don’t have enough problems…
I seem to have nothing but time while I wait for dehydration to set in. That’s why I’m writing this. I want the world to know the truth about me. The truth about who the real heroes were. Believe me, I’m not one of them. But the ones that helped me? The ones that died trying to save my life? They are the heroes and deserve to be recognized and honored.
I guess I’ll start by telling you a little about myself. I’ll try not to bore you too much with my past, but I think it’s important you know who I am and where I come from.
My name is Christian Shae Hunt. Something inside me makes me invulnerable to the death that covers the earth. I originally thought it could have been my diet, but I know better now. Mountain Dew and beer, along with fast food and chips doesn’t seem like the right cocktail to make someone immune from turning into a flesh eating corpse. Besides, if that were true, half of America would have been safe.
Just a few days ago they were able to produce the first vaccine from my blood. Dr. Tripp said I was a hero and that the survivors of the pandemic owed their lives to me. Funny, I don’t feel like a hero. That’s probably because I’m not one. Sure, I may be the “savior of humanity”, but that’s just because I’m lucky.
I come from a military family. My father was a colonel in the Air Force and my mother, Ruth, was a stay-at-home mom who raised my younger sister Trinity and me. All in all, I grew up in a pretty good home.
When I was fifteen we moved to The Sunshine State. My dad was stationed at Patrick Air Force Base, which was just south of Cape Canaveral. That was where they use to launch the space shuttle. We moved to a nice house in the City of Melbourne, which wasn’t far away from the Air Base.
Like always, it was hard starting off in a new area. Luckily, I met David Kavanagh just a few months after we planted roots. It didn’t take long before Dave and I became best friends. Over the next few years we were inseparable.
Dave’s parents were off and on in their relationship his whole life. This made him the dependent sort of guy that I could convince to do anything. When we graduated high school, I convinced him to join the Army with me. I only joined because when I told my father I wanted to take a break from school, he all but made me join the service. Thanks Dad.
Dave and I had different jobs in the Army. I was a supply clerk, and he was combat infantry. Both of us, however, were stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC. I only got deployed once to Afghanistan whereas Dave went multiple times.
Now, in the military, you’re either a combat class, like infantry or Special Forces, or a pogue, like supply or a cook. I was considered a pogue, and I was perfectly fine with that, except that it adversely affected me and Dave’s relationship. Pogues didn’t have too much in common with the grunts of the infantry. The few times I saw him at Bragg, he was with his comrades and I was definitely the odd man out.
My tour in Afghanistan was pretty boring. I never left the camp I was stationed in. In the beginning I would get anxious and have dreams of grandeur. I had this idea that they might need my help outside the wire. Those thoughts quickly dissipated when I saw the first bodies come through the gate. Killed and wounded soldiers, blood, body parts… Those types of things tend to turn you off from combat.
There were no glorious engagements or battles for me to write home about. My job was to sort through the gear of the wounded or deceased and ship it back to the families of the victims. If anything, I became depressed while I was there.
I witnessed a couple of rocket attacks and a few locals firing off their AK-47’s at our perimeter, but overall, I was only in real danger once. It was a horrid memory I will never forget, even after the Awakening.
One day a suicide bomber made it to the last checkpoint into our camp and detonated a bomb hidden in an old, tattered car. I was only about two hundred feet away when it happened. I won’t lie, after I shook the concussion off, I hid. Only for a minute, but still, I was a coward. I could hear other people running to the gate, soldiers shouting for medics, and screams of pain. Meanwhile I was ducking behind a generator, shaking in my boots. Finally, I sucked in my gut and left my hiding spot.
Once the smell hits you, you can instantly recognize burnt flesh. Something in your mind tells you, “That’s burnt hair, or skin, or muscle”, even though you have never smelled it before.
There was too much going on to really pay attention, so my clumsy ass tripped. I spun around to see what had caused me to fall, only to look away and pretend I didn’t see the horror I was witnessing. I had tripped over a bloody arm that was still connected to a partial torso of a fellow soldier. I couldn’t make out the face because half of the man’s head was gone. I never found out who the partial body belonged to, and I never wanted to.
That memory has been burned into my mind. More than once, I would dream of that dreadful day.
Dave and I reconnected near the end of our service. He was happy to be getting out as was I. College seemed more appealing than when I had just graduated high school.
Dave was different, though. He was no longer the weak and dependent kid I grew up with. He was both mentally and physically stronger. The days of me manipulating him were over.
I had even heard that he was being put up for a Bronze Star for an engagement he had in Afghanistan. He never told me if he got it, though, nor did he talk about what happened in that battle.
By the time we got out of the Army, my dad had retired to the northern Panhandle of Florida. Dave’s grandmother had passed away and left her house to his dad, who told us we could use it as long as we were in school. So Dave and I moved back to our hometown and settled in his late grandmother’s house. It was in Palm Bay, Florida, a couple of miles south of where he and I grew up.
Dave was taking anywhere from three to five classes a semester, while I was dropping classes like bad habits. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life and, as time went on, I seemed to be getting lazier and lazier.
Like I said before, Dave had changed over the time he spent in the service. By the second year of college, he had a host of weapons and survival equipment. Now, I was no anti-gun fanatic or anything, but I thought this was a bit extreme. It was almost like he was expecting the war to follow us home. And no matter what, he always had his 9mm Glock, with a round in the chamber, ready to go at his bedside. He didn’t even bother putting it in the drawer of his nightstand unless he was leaving the house. Occasionally, he would holster it and walk around the house while he did chores or made lunch.
Personally, he scared me sometimes. I would come home from the bar and catch him geared up in full battle rattle and all his ridiculous survival gear, staring in the mirror and checking himself over. It freaked me out.
Don’t get me wrong, he was my best friend and a great guy. I guess he just had his own way of dealing with whatever he was going through. I’m not saying he had PTSD, which I would hear other people talk about like it was some disease all soldiers got after war. I mean, you can’t go through some of that shit without changing how you view the world. It doesn’t mean you’re crazy or psychologically screwed, it just means you’ve been exposed to the horrors that many in our country had never seen.
I never told any of our friends about the episodes Dave would go through. I mean, I didn’t experience what Dave did, but I did understand. I guess if you have never served or faced some traumatic situation, you never would get it.
But unfortunately, times were changing. Soon, those who would survive would get “it” all too well…
The Calm before the Storm
Palm Bay is located just south of Melbourne. The two cities were literally separated by one road. You could compare the area to any suburb outside of a major metropolitan area, with well over three hundred thousand residents between them. The house Dave and I shared was located on the north side of Palm Bay, near the city boundary.
I had just celebrated my twenty-fifth birthday. It was March 19
and a beautiful, sunny Thursday afternoon in Palm Bay, except for the fact that I had been sick for the last three days. It was horrible. Three days of coughing and choking. My joints were achy, and my head felt like it weighed an extra twenty pounds. But it had finally started to clear up.
While I was ill, I spent my time camped out on the couch watching everything from the entire series of The Matrix to random documentaries. I had this strange obsession with the Discovery and Science channels. I had given up any attempt at online gaming, considering I couldn’t focus long enough to actually turn on the game and get past the login screen. So I laid there like a sack of rotten potatoes, nursing myself with flu medicine and orange juice.
Dave had been in and out while I was sick. He tried talking to me a few times, but I barely made out what he was saying. I think he said something about how everyone was getting sick. A lot of classes were canceled too, which I was happy about. I was supposed to have a test that Friday.
Around five in the afternoon I was feeling a lot better. I took a quick shower and then searched the fridge for some food. We never really had much, like most college kids, so I settled for some chicken flavored noodles and a sandwich. The meal gave me some energy and I started to get antsy. Lying near death in the house the previous few days had given me a case of cabin fever. I was a pretty social guy and enjoyed going out for a few drinks when I wasn’t engrossed in the latest warfare video game.
I sent a few friends text messages, but didn’t get any replies right away. That was expected, I guess. Dave did say almost everyone he knew was sick. Finally, around seven or so, my phone chimed. It was Michelle. She was a girl I had been trying to hook up with for months now. I wasn’t really a ladies’ man, but like most twenty-five year-olds who were single, I was looking for at least a temporary companion and Michelle was the best looking girl in town. Well, the best looking girl that fell for one of my corny lines.
We sent messages back and forth for a little while. She wasn’t feeling well either, but after some prodding, I convinced her to meet me out for a drink. She said she couldn’t stay long because she had to use her dad’s truck. I was fine with that, though. I was tired of being cooped up. I told her I was going to wait for Dave and meet her up at The Barrel around ten.
Dave also was ignoring my messages. I finally decided to call him, but he didn’t answer. Around nine thirty he finally barged through the front door. He tossed a bag aside to the floor and stumbled down on the couch.
“Hey man, you’re lying in my sickness,” I told him. He was sitting right on my blanket that I had been curled up in the last few days.
“I don’t care,” he grumbled. “You’re an asshole.”
“Hey, I haven’t done anything,” I said. “I’ve been passed out for the last few days.”
“Yeah,” he returned, and then coughed, “passed out in the living room, spreading your disease throughout the house.”
“Sorry man,” I said sincerely. “I didn’t mean to get you sick.”
“Bah,” he croaked as he snuggled onto the couch and wrapped my blanket over him. “Probably got it from school. It’s pretty bad out there.”
“Man, don’t lie down. I’m finally feeling better. I told Michelle we would meet her up at The Barrel soon.” I was half joking with him and half serious. I don’t think either one of us had missed Liter Night at the Barrel in months.
He sniveled and coughed again.
“Don’t think I’m making it tonight, bro.” He sounded like death. I wondered if I sounded that bad while I was sick. I could see sweat running down the side of his face, and his complexion was pale.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he replied as he wrapped himself up in my blanket. “Wake me when you…get back,” he said between coughs.
“Alright,” I said as I looked for my keys. “Do you need anything?”
“Naw. But hey,” he called as he squirmed on the couch to get more comfortable, “be careful out there.”
“Come on man, you know I’ll take a cab if I have too much to drink.” I reached for the door knob.
“I mean… watch out. People… are going crazy.”
I was going to ask him what he meant by that but could already hear him breathing heavily. I decided just to let him rest. Maybe the sickness was making him delirious.
On my way to my car, I became acutely aware of the sound of helicopters. Clouds had moved in that evening and I couldn’t see anything flying, but I heard them. Patrick Air Force Base wasn’t that far away. It wasn’t uncommon to see jets or cargo aircraft flying over the town on approach to the airfield, so I figured it was just another routine exercise. Sirens were also going off in the distance, accompanied by the noise of traffic. It was almost ten p.m. on a Thursday, yet it sounded like Monday morning rush hour. I wasn’t far off from a major intersection, and I could hear horns blaring. I was pretty sure I heard some shouting too.
I settled into my little Honda Civic and turned the key. It wasn’t the best of cars. I had owned it since before I joined the military and it was slowly starting to fall apart. Procrastination was my specialty and I hadn’t had it looked at since my return from the service. Working on cars wasn’t really my thing either.
I sent Michelle another text to tell her I was on my way and noticed I had a missed call and a text from my sister. Smart phones were not always that smart. My volume had a bad habit of turning itself down every time I put it in my pocket, which would result in many missed calls and unheard messages.
I took a quick peek at the text as I pulled out of my driveway, barely missing Dave’s motorcycle. It said my dad had taken my mom to the hospital. Mom had caught the flu too and I guess she was pretty bad off.
At the time, I was kind of happy they were living far away. I’m sure if I had lived there, I would have had to join them at the hospital at some point. Remember, I had no idea how bad this outbreak really was. In my head, my mom was going to be okay and I would rather have been doing anything else than sitting in the hospital while they pumped her full of antibiotics for a simple cold or flu. Either way, I had to at least pretend I cared so I decided to respond and send my father a text afterwards.
I was in the middle of texting Trinity back when a horn blared to my left. I had just run a stop sign and nearly hit another car. I waved an apology, but couldn’t see if the guy accepted it or was cursing my name. Up ahead at the main road, I could see traffic was backed up.
This wasn’t the time to be texting, I thought to myself. I was the hypocritical sort. You know, I’d yell at people that were driving stupid and talking or texting on their phones but then check mine if I got a beep. Traffic looked pretty hectic this evening and I wasn’t willing to risk a fender bender, so I put my phone down on the center console.
What was normally a ten minute drive across town became an annoying forty minute excursion. People were driving like idiots, too. Most were heading toward supermarkets or Interstate 95. I considered that this might be what Dave was talking about when he said people were going crazy.
I could still hear helicopters over the traffic, and even caught a glimpse of one flying low over the road. I couldn’t tell if it was the Sheriff’s, military, or civilian, but it definitely wasn’t normal for them to do that.
After I crossed the highway, I could see police and fire truck lights at the intersection leading into the parking lot of one of the many Walmarts in our city. Car accidents were not uncommon at that junction. I could see that other cars were racing around the officers and totally ignoring traffic directives.
I started to get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. This wasn’t normal. I mean, people in my town could be assholes, but this was way out of the norm for them.
Luckily, I could cut through a gas station and take some back roads to the bar. As I neared the intersection, I saw two cars in the middle of the road. Neither seemed to be damaged but there was a shit load of police around them. A couple of the cops seemed to be holding shotguns. That made me curious, but it didn’t freak me out. Remember, I was lying near death while the world watched the infection spread.
The gas station was just as hectic as the street, and I narrowly missed two cars and a couple of people as I maneuvered my way through the parking lot and onto the back road.
I regretted not getting my car radio fixed. It had been broken for the last couple of years, but with Internet radio and a USB cord to my phone, I really hadn’t missed it. However, with everything going on outside, a little news would have been nice.
I made my way through the northeast side of Palm Bay until I was able to pull into the large strip mall that held The Broken Barrel Tavern. Dave and I loved this place. Besides offering hundreds of types of beer and ale, they had great food. The smoked wings were my favorite, and I made a mental note to order some as soon as I got inside. The little bit of food I had earlier didn’t make up for three days of not eating.
There were plenty of businesses around in the shopping center, but most were closed this time of night. Thursdays were one of the busiest nights at the bar due to their Liter Special, and the parking lot was usually packed. Even during a hurricane crisis, people would be out partying. Most people didn’t take them seriously before they hit and would take advantage of the couple of days off and go out, packing most of the bars or going to ‘hurricane parties’.
But that night I saw only seven or eight cars in the parking lot. I scanned around and saw Michelle’s truck. She just lived around the corner and probably had been waiting forever for me. The traffic made me over half an hour late.
I noticed that there wasn’t any music playing as I neared the entrance. Usually there were so many people here that the jukebox was blaring non-stop.
I walked in through the double doors and saw only a few people around the bar. A couple was off to my right lazily shooting pool, and another person was playing darts by himself. The televisions were on mute, playing what looked like the local news channel out of Orlando. I wasn’t really paying attention to it though. I scanned the bar to find Michelle, but didn’t see her.
Becky was behind the bar, which was odd. She was married to the owner and usually managed the day shift. She was short and blonde and normally had an inviting smile. That night, though, she seemed irritable as I approached and sat on a stool.
“Where is everyone?” I asked as she came over and slapped a coaster in front of me.
“Not here,” she snapped back, grabbing a liter glass out of the cooler. “What are you having?”
She wasn’t normally like that, and I probably let that show on my face. Her expression softened, and she let her shoulders slump.
“Sorry,” she said. “Everyone, and I mean
, called out today. I’ve been here since we opened.” She went back and poured me a dark beer and put it in front of me. “Kevin called me this morning. He was opening the place even though he was sick as hell. I told him I would come in and next thing I know, everyone was calling out and no one else would answer their phone. He’s home with Brandon,” she said, referring to her and Kevin’s son. “They’re both suffering from this flu going around.”
I could tell her frustration was starting to return, so I tried to change the subject.
“Sorry to hear that,” I said. “Hey, can you put me in for a basket of wings? Smoked and fried, please?” That turned out to be a mistake.
“Sure, let me just go throw on an apron,” she snapped at me. “Sorry,” she said, calming back down. “When I said I was the only one here, I meant it. Kitchen is closed.”
“That sucks.” I looked around the bar. “Hey, do you know Michelle?”
“Isn’t that the girl you’ve been striking out with for the last few weeks?” she said, finally smiling.
“Hey,” I came back with a hurtful look and then smiled, “these things take time.”
“Let’s hope your timing is on,” she said, nodding behind me toward the restrooms.
I turned around and saw Michelle walking my way. She looked like hell.
Normally, she was a five-foot-six skinny blonde with a nice set of everything. She was never unkempt, always dressed to impress, and had the posture of a supermodel. But this blob of a person was wearing an oversized shirt, her hair was in a messy, tangled bun, and she didn’t have a smudge of makeup on. She was meandering her way from the bathroom, slouched, as if someone had punched her in the stomach. It was hard to hide my surprise as she made her way over to me and slumped down on the adjacent stool.
“You look like crap,” I let slip out and then pursed my lips, realizing what I had said. She didn’t seem to take offense, though, as if she didn’t even hear me.