Authors: C. Chase Harwood
Tags: #Amazing and unique zombie series.
He didn’t remember much of the initial conversation: small, get to know you talk, but that changed when the subject of Florida came up. She was a scientist after all and was the first person to put the idea in his mind that the violence down there was perhaps disease related. Of course he worked for the CDC and she worked for someone who also worked at the CDC, so there might have been a bit of professional bias, but it sort of made sense. She had convinced Susan of the idea, who then okayed Kimberly to fly down to Miami where several hospitals were reporting severe trauma and rather psychotic behavior. It would be considered research for Kimberly’s thesis. Anyway, they got that nasty subject out of the way and talked about life instead.
Tran found himself having the best intellectual conversation he’d had in months, no, a year, no, more. The dinner was going really well - really, really well. He was fairly familiar with the biological processes that occurred during sexual attraction and he was occasionally distracted with the pondering of it. Thank God his academic mind shut off when they ordered a second bottle of wine. He wasn’t much of a drinker, but she had a third leg hidden somewhere. To his distress, she remained more sober than he, and he found himself getting busted more than once as his eyes drifted down to take in her very fit body. It didn’t help that she was wearing a tight sweater. She smiled inwardly at his unintentional undressing and even sat up straighter, which of course jutted her breasts out even more. Tran couldn’t be positive, but he was getting the feeling that this woman really liked him and then she confirmed it by thanking Susan out loud for introducing them.
By dessert they were “accidentally” brushing their feet against each other. And the conversation drifted improbably to Victoria Secret models and their hot new line of naughty devil girls; bat wings instead of angels, as they’d once done years before.
They finally ended the meal when the frustrated waiter gave up on subtle hints and made it clear that others were waiting for the table. Tran tipped the poor fellow well and they stepped outside. It was cold and Kimberly leaned into his chest as they waited for a cab. With unconscious ease he put his arms around her waist and held her close. He couldn’t be sure, but he thought she might have pressed her buttocks into his crotch a bit. His crotch certainly decided so and he was thankful that the cab pulled up before it started pushing back.
Kimberly invited him to share the cab and he happily hopped in. The driver had seen it a million times before – drunk new couple, gropey, kissey, jeez get a room, not in my cab please, sloppy no, no. They’d started making out the moment they got in the car.
When they arrived at her apartment building she whispered to him an offer to come up. He considered it carefully, decided that he was a gentleman, wanted a second date, wanted more than a second date and was going to do this right so he artfully turned her down. She seemed to be pleased by this choice, but her flushed neck and cheeks betrayed a certain disappointment as well. She would be back in a week from Miami and they would take up where they left off – “well perhaps after having dinner first”. But she didn’t come back. He never heard from her again. Susan spoke to her once when Kimberly called to confirm her suspicions about infection. By then the thing was already getting out of control.
Though he was deep in a military fallout shelter, in his mind, Tran picked up where the cab left off. Then the fantasy fast forwarded to Kimberly in the shower and he was taking her from behind, his fingers hooked into her hips, her head thrust back in pleasure, those perfect breasts pointing up, begging for attention…
He was just about to climax and let the whole thing go down the drain when he was startled by a clanging noise coming through the plumbing in the wall behind him. He turned off the shower and listened – there it was again, it had a pattern - a person was clearly causing it. He threw his towel around his waist and called out to be certain he was alone… Just him in he room. He pressed his ear to the wet wall. It was faint, but in addition to the clanging, he could hear human voices yelling. Unintelligible; the thick wall muffling the sound to bass tones only. A quick search of the hall outside the bathroom confirmed that the sound was coming from a space beyond the bunker he was in. Still wearing only the towel, he ran down the hall and found Sergeant Bullock.
Captain O’Shea was summoned and a quick listen confirmed that it wasn’t a code of any sort, just an attempt to be heard. A few rifle butts on the wall sent a frantic return response.
“Damn,” O’Shea said. “This is the bunker that we’re covering up top.”
“Could we maybe bust through this wall?” asked Corporal Cavanaugh.
O’Shea shook his head, “These places are built to be and stay separate. The whole point of isolating them from one another is so that if one fails the others remain intact. We’re talking very thick walls of concrete with tons of rebar.”
Susan spoke up, “So we have to go topside and enter via the stairs.”
“Ma'am. Again, that's not our mission.”
Susan gave O’Shea her best I'm ashamed of you look. “Captain, I insist that you at least use the intercom system to see if they can communicate with us.”
“Wouldn’t they be doing that already if they could?”
That gave Susan pause. Then she said, “What if they’re injured or trapped?”
Bullock said, “Captain, we are more than experienced in clearing a building full of shitfobs. Our casualty rate is very low.”
O’Shea said, “We have a mission that doesn’t allow for any kind of injury. This bathroom will be made off limits. The science team can use one of the others as necessary, now let’s get back to it.”
Cavanaugh wasn't one to defy orders, yet he found himself blurting, “But, Sir. If there are healthy people trapped in the next bunker – we can’t just eat, get a good night sleep and fly away.”
“That’s exactly what we’ll do. We will make a report about this location and when the invasion gets down here, those people will be rescued. That’s the end of the discussion.”
Up top, darkness had settled in. The rain was heavy, and without lights, stars or a moon, there wasn’t much to see and little for the soldier’s night vision goggles to amplify, leaving them mostly blind.
Despite the rain poncho, PFC Pete Pillsbury was miserable. Not being able to see beyond 30 meters of hazy green through his NVGs (which were even further diminished by looking through a gas mask) was making him sweat with nervous energy. He felt clammy and uncomfortable and to make matters worse, he needed to take a leak.
With no maintenance staff at the fort, the late spring grass had grown to waist high in several spots around the landing area. Pillsbury raised his goggles to increase his depth perception and shuffled over to the edge of the landing area. His bladder was racing to beat his fingers as they fumbled with his fly, and he found himself doing a quick little dance to keep from pissing himself. He’d just gotten himself unzipped when his feet were yanked out from under him. He hit the tarmac hard, knocking the wind from his lungs, his helmeted head smacking the ground with a whipping motion. As he gasped for air, his brain swimming with the suddenness of it all, he was yanked into the grass.
The Fiends cut off his yelp with a quick series of stabs. There were three of them, knives and an ax, gleefully stabbing and chopping into his guts and chest. Pillsbury could only gasp as the first bite took away his manhood, the second bite came at his throat as the gas mask was ripped away. His final thought was that the rain must have washed away the Novichok.
PFC Dick Kantor had watched his squad mate walk over to the grass and had looked away to give the man some privacy. The steady rain had masked the sound of Pillsbury falling to the ground. When a minute went by and Pillsbury wasn’t walking back, Kantor gave another look and could barely make out the grass moving back and forth. He grimaced at the thought of trying to take a shit in tall wet grass, but he understood the need for privacy. When Kantor was a kid, maybe six, his best friend’s mom walked into the bathroom when he was sitting there, trying to go. The woman apologized with a bit of horror on her face, like somehow Kantor had been taking crap on the floor rather than using the john. She had quickly pulled the door shut and not another word was said. Kantor had been embarrassed, but the woman’s reaction had actually made him feel dirty. He couldn’t use a toilet or even undress in front of anybody after that. In his platoon, he was known as Private Dick.
After another couple of minutes he turned again. The grass was still moving. What was the guy doing, jackin’ off? He called out, “Pillboy?”, which got Specialist Jones and PFC Copigliani (Copper to everyone else) to look over from their machine gun position with the M240B still pointed at the bunker with the open door.
“What’s up Kantor?” asked Jones.
Kantor ignored him and stood to look harder at the grass. “Pillsbury, you sleeping? That’s a long shit break.”
Jones said, “Keep it down, Private. Let’s not wake the neighborhood.”
Kantor took a few tentative steps forward, instinctively bringing his HK417 assault rifle closer to a firing position. He felt good about the gun. Their original weapon was the SCAR L, which carried a NATO 5.56X45mm round. It was an amazing weapon, but often as not the 5.56 didn’t even slow a Fiend down. You could make five hits and if you didn’t get a head or heart shot, it could be right on top of you. The NATO 7.62X51mm seemed to do the trick; though occasionally even after a couple of hits with that a lot of them still kept coming. The Army was severely short on SCAR Hs, the US Special Forces version that also carried the 7.62 round. These HKs were a gift from the British SAS and, therefore, in short supply, which for Kantor, reaffirmed the mission’s critical nature.
Ghost Rodriguez and four others were posted on top of the bunkers. Kantor's calls had them turning to see what was up. From up high, they could just make out the shape of dozens of humans crawling forward in the grass. Ghost hit the switch on the series of small spotlights they had set up to flood the perimeter. It was like lighting a beacon for a Fiend charge, but they needed to see what they were up against.
Kantor was about to call out once more when lights came on. His voice froze in his throat as he found himself suddenly standing in front of dozens of charging Fiends. They screamed and howled as one, their highlighted eyes reflecting madness as they ran. He barely got his gun up, firing off a few wild shots before he was overrun, his mask ripped off, his face and his neck shredded by a female in a slip dress.
Jones and Copper got the M240B turned around and fired off a burst of shots, dropping a few ghouls, but had to abandon the position and run.
The bunker housing the rest of the platoon had been resealed as agreed upon until the watch change. There was no time to call and wait for someone to come up and open the door. Jones and Copper had to dash into the open bunker next-door, the one with the dead folks inside, the one that up until a few seconds ago they were guarding against anything coming out.
On top of the mound, Ghost got the Mk 48 turned toward the charging Fiends and lit up the night with it. That’s when another group, maybe a hundred or more, started running at them from behind the airfield control building on the other side of the bunker system. The four riflemen with Ghost turned, firing short controlled bursts at the new enemy, whooping and hollering with adrenaline pumped excitement. They might as well have been the 7
cavalry at Little Big Horn; they were going to be quickly overrun. “Bug out!” screamed Ghost and the five men ran down the domed wall of the bunker system toward the charging Fiends in front of them. Their only hope was to join Jones and Copper who continued to shoot from the bunker door.
Jones was on his headset trying to call inside to O’Shea “or anybody!” to let them know what was up. The radio was useless for penetrating God only knew how much concrete and steel.
Copper stepped out and heaved both of his grenades and Jones’s as well. The fucking monsters spread out instantly like a twisting school of fish, giving the explosives a wide berth. Clearly they had experience with grenades and the explosions only killed or maimed a few. The rest seemed to get even more stoked up by the violence - running harder - their hunting blood in a lather.
Jones saw Ghost and the boys running along the edge of the mound toward them. The Fiends were almost on all of them. It was going to be close. He and Copper yelled, “Come on, Motherfucker’s!” while emptying the drum magazine of the M240 in a blazing storm of light and sound.
Suddenly Ghost and his men stopped dead in their tracks and froze like an invisible hand had grabbed them. They yelped in fear and shook their heads as though trying to get water out of their ears. The Fiends charged right over them. Ghost was tackled, his machine gun skittering across the tarmac. The other four were slammed against the grass and smothered or dragged to the ground right in front of Copper and Jones. Jones made eye contact with Ghost; the man’s horror stricken last moment flashing a permanent image into the Specialist’s retinal memory. As the Fiends tore apart Ghost, Copper felt his senses burst with something other than himself. He screamed out to no one in particular, “IT’S IN MY HEAD! IT’S IN MY HEAD!”