To Stay Dead
The cold frozen earth crunches under my boots as I cross the abandoned landscape of my upbringing. Flat fields full of dead crops lay flat. Harvest didn't happen this year for reasons ever survivor knows about. As I cross the road I can hear my pursuer mumble his lunacy.
It can't be hard to track me. Red drops trail the lightly snow crusted ground now. The wound doesn't run deep, but it does set wide on my arm. Across the eagle that bares our old nations flag. To stop and dress the wound would obviously be certain death as the gap between me and my hunter grows smaller.
I clear the field and enter a patch of woods I remember dearly. I played here as a child with old friends. Some living and some not. I hump it past the largest oak and down into the overhang it creates next to the creak. I pull out my wallet and fumble for my ID. William Perry it reads. I slid it into my thermal sock on my right foot. I have seen what this man has done to his victims, to people I love. If anyone ever finds my body I want them to be able to identify me and possibly get me back to what family I have left. More importantly I want them to realize who I was. I was a man born of this land. Taught to love my family, neighbors, and believe in God, maybe not love him as how could anyone love him after what he has done. More importantly I was taught to live this land, hunt the wildlife, forage, and survive. I am a survivor. I ready myself. I pull the one bullet I always save for myself out of my pocket and load it straight into the chamber of my Hi-Point and I pull out the hunting knife given to my father from his father and solely in my possession through circumstances that only drive my anger and thirst to survive. I will not die here without a fight, but I can't help but think back to when this all began, the months ago when I had a promising future and an easy life. As I think back to how it all started I hear him.
"Please stop the screaming."
Part 1: Man I Love College
It all started for me 5 months ago on September 25th. It was a notoriously dry and hot summer that year and it was trying its hardest to carry on for as long as possible. While the farmers struggled I had few worries. I was getting ready to finish my final year attending school at Rock Bluff College in Ohio. I had plans to be a teacher. My real worries at the time were finishing my classes, getting a student teaching placement, and possibly cutting of those final pesky 10 to 20 pounds in order to get a hot date to make the bitter ex real jealous.
The last part wasn't a real worry. I had been told my past squeezes that I was fairly attractive. Short blonde crew cut, fairly muscular build, and taller than most at just over 6'0 tall. I had also been told by my ex that I had blue eyes a girl could get lost in for days when I wanted to make my woman happy, but also eyes that could cut into her soul if I was in a fowl mood. I think I get the former from my mother and later from my father. A enticing combination of sweet and sour.
No it wasn't my looks that lost me my woman, it was my general goals in life, or lack there of to be more exact. I wanted to teach, I wanted to live in my old small town of General Crossing, and I wanted to live a simple life. Well good luck finding a college girl who wants too many of those things in life. I tend to find that most want to live in the cities and travel the world. The damn good few like me that I have found in my 3 years at school always talked about living in their specific corners of the country. Well honey tough luck. It doesn't help that I couldn't honestly say that I loved any of the girls I have been with, but I would also be lying if I said I didn't hold a grudge if I wasn't the one handing out the pink slip.
I don't like the unexpected. That to me is an oddity because there is no way in the world I could have predicted what was going to happen. Every year some new strain of something or another comes out and scares the general public crazy. The media gets a hold of it and throws gas on the fire. I never gave any of that hype news much thought and honestly this time around with news not knowing what to make of what was happening and everyone focusing on that weeks super bogus cold 2012 they didn't pay attention. It literally went from aggravated homeless people in Toledo, extra gang violence, and full on 99% riots before the media actually reported what was really happening. The dead were walking.
Containment. That was what the stations were saying was happening. I could hear bomber jets flying over my second floor apartment every 10 minutes from Wright Patterson down in Dayton, so I felt comfortable in what the news was feeding me. So did everyone. We were only 20 miles away from a full on walking dead outbreak but we all walked around like there was no chance for us to get hit.
What we now know is that it only takes one. Some poor bastard sneaking his family out of the city with an infected person. They turn and bite someone, who bites someone, so on and so forth. The defensive line eventually gets hit from the rear and the flanks by escaped dead and the next thing you know you have 10,000 strong shambling down I-75 straight for us, just as the sun goes down, just as people are getting settled in their homes for the night, and just as most people are getting ready for bed. Full on massacre.
To say that morning was nerve racking holds both truth and falsehood. The best way I can describe it is this. It was like a day at work where your quota was doubled but you were given a half day for a holiday.
I woke up and hit the snooze like usual. I took care of something that was at attention as usual and I walked into the small living room/kitchen area and poured a bowl of cereal as usual. It wasn't until I turned on the news that I understood the gravity of what was happening. Quarantine had broken, the highway was a long undead snake and the head of it was already at the towns corporation limits. The exit to the Interstate was packed with folks who had gotten the news last night and it was already over ran with ghouls. The two way state road on the other side of town was packed solid and hadn't moved more than 100 feet in the past hour.
I quickly checked my stores of food and realized that I had to go and get what I could. I was running out of the apartment in boxers, slippers, and a hoodie to the carry out a block away from my house. I wasn't thinking. Something that every survivor should do is think first. I was acting on pure instinct. They were coming, I needed to hold up in my place to survive, to do that I needed food, stop thinking and get food. I hadn't analyzed the situation. I was trying to be the action star but instead I was the funny guy who usually dies first in a slasher film.
The carry out had been about picked bare. I grabbed the last basket and filled it with what I could of canned goods, jerky, and protein bars. I didn't notice the bodies on the ground, or even the blood I slid in. I was almost to the door when I heard the hammer pull back on a pistol. I turned to see Terry the Indian clerk. I knew him well enough since I was in his story at least every other day to buy a pack of cigarettes or a 6 pack of beers. I talked to him all the time and joked with him fairly often unlike some of the other stuck up prissy pricks that populate this city.
I put my arms up with the basket in my hand.
"Damn Terry, you know me. If it's about money you can have my card and charge me what ever you want."
He looked at me and a glaze seemed to come out of his eyes. I saw a fleck of recognition in his face. "My store is ruined and those things are only minutes away from here. Your money isn't going to help me. I've lost everything regardless of what happens now."
I saw a tear roll down his face as he slowly pulled the gun up under his chin. Without even seeing my first walker yet I had seen my first death. A man that I had been sharing raunchy jokes with just a day earlier had blown his brains out of the back of his head. I couldn't even tell that I pissed myself. All I could think about was what I had done to be thrown into this hell.
How did I not die that day? I stood frozen while a full on panic riot rocked the city around me. Why hadn't anyone come into the store while I stared blankly? They could have easily taken the basket right out of my hand without me even noticing. A ghoul, as Terry had called them, could have walked in and taken a bite right out of my neck. The first random of them were already on my street, but I stood there untouched by the living or the dead for those 5 minutes frozen in fear of what I had seen and the future I knew I would be forced to live through.
I shook myself out of my stupor and for the first time I focused. Focusing and analyzing situations is something I attribute my current survival to, but those first few weeks it was something I had trouble doing. Everything seems to slow and the world moves by at a snails pace. I notice the bodies on the ground with bullets to their chest. Obviously looters that Terry had tried to stop at the beginning, before his store was destroyed and stripped nearly bear. I see the large blood pool from one I had clearly skidded through. I can feel every small pebble and piece of broken glass that had worked their way between my slipper and my foot and then into my skin. Pieces of Terry's brain and skull are plastered to the wall behind him, glued there by his blood.
I walked behind the counter to see. Terry looked mostly normal laying on his back. I assume most of the back of his skull was missing but I couldn't and didn't want to see. I reached down and pulled his .38 special from his stiff hand and looked it over. Nickel plated, black stock, 6 round cylinder. A nice piece. I stuffed it in with my food stuff alone with the half box of shells I found behind the counter. To top it off I grabbed 2 cartons of Reds and dumped what lighters I could in as well.
Things started to speed back up for me as I walked out the store. Smoke was already billowing up from campus and the small air port. People ran everywhere and drove recklessly. People with a goal in mind but no plan to accomplish it. I booked it as fast as I could back to my apartment, limping on the foot filled with glass, slipper full of blood. I hear a scream and a moan about 50 feet to my left, but I keep moving.
In the small parking lot behind my place was my car. I popped the trunk and pulled out the crow bar I leave back there and head up my stairs. I literally throw everything I have but the crow bar into the apartment and head back down the wooden stairs that lead up to my place. Just a simple shitty two story house, one apartment down stairs and one on top only accessible by the outside stair case.
I started pulling off the steps one by one all the way to the first landing. After about 10 minutes of work there was a 5x5 base and then a 7 foot drop off. Just enough to keep those things from getting up. By this time I was tired. 1 hour into my day and I was ready to sleep. I stumbled back up my remaining steps and sat in my fold out chair. I was asleep within seconds.
I woke back up sometime around 4 or 5 in the afternoon. I had been asleep for close to 8 hours. By now the sky was dark with smoke and the setting sun made it look like I had just walked into Mordor. I looked down at my feet and could see that my whole right slipper was dark red. The smell of blood and something else filled my nostrils. I had forgotten that I pissed myself. I stepped inside and stripped down while I walked to the bathroom. I started the shower and warmed the water while I sat on the toilet with a pair of tweezers. All in all 7 pieces of glass were in my foot. Most only the size of a pebble but all were deep under the skin. After digging all the pieces out, and helping the pain with some swigs of Turkey, I stepped into the shower to clean off. I stood until the water running into the drain wasn't pink and I dried off.
After dressing I got out some beef and started frying it on the stove top. Figured I might as well start on the stuff that will go bad if the power goes out. Produce and meat first, then bread stuff. I had about 2 pounds of ground beef and steaks and 3 pounds of chicken to go through. I could drag that out as long as the power was on. In the cabinets I had enough stuff that I figured I could make it by myself in the apartment for 1 ½ months, 2 at the most.
Before my steak was done I filled the tub up as far as I could and started filling every sealable container that I could find. I knew that after the power went the water pressure would slowly start to die across town. Food didn't mean a thing without water to live on. If that meant that I just took my last shower for a while so be it.
I took my steak out on the porch with what was left of a bag of potato chips and a beer. I would end up losing those 10 - 20 pounds over the next few weeks regardless of what my diet was like so who cares. After my meal I sipped at my Turkey and lit a cigarette while I watched.
I could see my drug dealing neighbors had bolted and the Frat houses around me, including those fratties down stairs, had most likely tried to bolt as well. Doors were all wide open, windows were not knocked in, and cars were all gone. I held no belief that any of them were still alive. If they left on wheels they were stuck and by that point in the day they had to be dead. Even though they were gone I did see the random person every now and then running, but all were far off. Honestly I was happy they were. If I was lucky I could hold out long enough with what I have and maybe make it out. Add another person to this scenario and I might have to jump down from this tree house fort I call my college home and go looking for food.
During this time I constantly tried to call my parents. There was no signal and I could only assume the local tower had gone down. I got my laptop and I tried sending them an email, but something was weird with the internet. My computer was connected, and I could get on certain sites, such as government, news, heck even some sports sites, but all the social networking, email, and video sites had been shut down. After several tries I closed it and sat back. I couldn't tell my family that I was alright, regardless how much I wanted to tell them. Thinking about how much I didn't talk to them while at school at that point made me feel like shit. The kind of depressed feeling when you know the girl left because of something you did that was legitimately stupid. Even though that rarely happened to me, I know what to do when it did.
After about a quarter of a bottle and 4 smokes I was feeling all right. Tipped the see saw of depression back to equal levels. With the day I had though the drink made me tired quicker than usual. I had decided to get up and hit the hay early when I heard stumbling. It was coming from behind the building and walking up from under my stair case. The girl walked right through where I had cut down the stairs only hours before and kept on going. As I moved to step into my place she twitched. Slowly she began to turn and look up. As our eyes met I had one thought. Lets keep from pissing yourself twice in one day.
She couldn't have been older than 10. Shoulder length dark hair with pick pajamas and a bathrobe while where tennis shoes. She was covered in blood and was missing her left arm. Her eyes were almost completely white similar to a blind person. Judging by her appearance and the shoes she was wearing I was certain that her parents had pulled her out of bed, put her in her shoes, and drove off trying to get away in the middle of the night. There is no doubt in my mind that this is what killed her. Stupidity.
At the time I stood in shock for the second time of the day. I watched this thing move closer and reach up, trying to grab the edge of wooden landing, missing it by at least 2 feet. I sat on a step and smoked another red. I had no idea what to do. Go in and ignore her or deal with it. At the time I had no idea what drew these creatures. The media had yet to report anything other than they were flesh eaters. I went in and looked at the .38 special laying on the table. I thought differently and I went into my room to get my Hi-Point out from under my bed. It was a simple 9mm, steel finish, only one 7 round clip. I bought it for home defense when the crime in town started getting worse. Now I was glad to have it.
I walked out and flipped off the safety and pulled back the slide. The first round popped into place. I looked down over the edge and I pulled the trigger. One round went into her shoulder, knocking her on her ass. She slowly got back up however and started reaching for me with the same determination. This time I got on my knees to get a closer shot. I put the second through her head. This time she fell to the ground, motionless. He dead white eyes stared up at me.
Once against I hadn't thought things through. It's understandable not knowing what draws them. Things hit the news only a few days earlier and no one knew, but to not know that it would take a head shot. That was another piece of information that had yet to be shared with the public, but I should have know by looking at her, at them. Her whole arm was missing and she had walk all the way from the edge of town. She had obviously bleed out hours earlier meaning that if she was still up and walking with no blood then obviously shooting any of her organs the require blood would be worthless. I should have focused on the situation. Thought about it. It was a skill I would learn to use over the coming weeks.
I stood back up and started walking back up to my door. I remember a strange silence. Throughout the day I could hear running, screaming, and other panicked noises. Now I just heard silence and the wind. The thing though is that I remember seeing a near by tree when I walked into my place for the night. The leaves were not moving. I would soon learn that was not wind I heard and making noise is one of the quickest ways to die. I would soon learn that the wind was the collective moan of what would soon become a common site.
That night I slept off and on watching the news on my tv. Rock Bluff was gone and walkers from all of North West Ohio were spreading out in every direction. They were reporting that reservists had been called up and a defensive quarantine line had been drawn up around about fifth of Ohio, and parts of Southern Michigan and North Eastern Indiana. Early reports were saying that the lines were holding strong against the first waves that have hit the lines. I was too tired to think about it at the time but looking back I am certain. The news anchors seemed nervous. They were constantly clearly their throats and peaking off camera. They were not sharing information for reasons I wouldn't find out about for a few weeks yet. At the time though I couldn't see it. I was tired and scared. I finally fell into a deep sleep with the thought that at least my family was safe.
In the moaning I woke to a ray of sun light hitting my in my eyes. The news was still reporting the same thing. After a few seconds I opened my ears more and started to hear several strange moaning sounds. I looked out my window and I noticed that the whole area was dotted with the monsters with a good majority stumbling around the house. None were trying to beat down any doors, but I could tell several were in the house down stairs. It seemed that they migrated from else where in the city once they ran out of food on the highway. Something must have some how drawn them here.
I didn't take anymore chances at that point. I took out hefty bags and covered all the windows so that no light could get out, I turn the tv on the lowest brightness setting and muted it while turning on the closed captioning. It wasn't hard to figure that they used some if not all of their senses and my shots yesterday probably didn't help. While I wasn't the only one popping off rounds inside the city, they were few and fair between. Anyone popping off a round would soon have a group of these things beating at their doors. If I stayed quite and out of site, I was certain that they would soon walk off.
On top of that it wasn't like I had an armory full of ammo anyway. Two pistols, close to 30 rounds for each. If I magically got a kill with each shot, there would still be hundreds to deal with. It was time to try and be smart, and at that time it meant that I had to keep quite.