The zombies are getting smarter, and more determined than ever to feast on Ryan & Co.’s soft, soft giblets…
I know, I know, I’m full of empty promises, but this week has been killer busy. Look for a recap on the filming of “Tar” soon, and then a link to the video a couple weeks later when she posts it.
Also, we’re getting dangerously close to the end. I’m gonna need to get to work on another story before I’m caught with my wordy pants down.
On with the story:
© Copyright 2011
Because I was busy battling the evil swarms of the walking dead, I forgot to text my parents. My mom called around two, in full-blown freak-out mode, despite the fact that I had answered in a calm and, noticeably I felt, living voice:
“Oh my GOD WHAT’S HAPPENED?!?!”
“WHY DIDN”T YOU TEXT US?”
“I was busy Mom. Y’know….zombies.”
“YOU SHOULD HAVE CALLED IF YOU WERE IN TROUBLE.”
“If I was in trouble Mom, how would I call?”
“DON’T TAKE THAT TONE YOUNG MAN! WHY DON’T YOU WANT TO CALL?”
“Mom, I’m fine, okay. Is Dad there? I wanna talk to him before we get back to securing the place.”
“We?” Whew. Her tone was noticeably softer at the idea of people being with me.
“Some of my friends made it, they’re in here with me now. So you don’t have to worry or anything…”
“WHAT IF THEY’RE ROBBERS?!”
Christ, she had her CAPS LOCK voice on again.
“It’s not all ‘Mad Max’ over here, Mom. We’re okay. Is Dad there?”
She called him. In an instant, he was on the line. “Hey, sport. You okay?”
“Hey Pop. Yeah, I’m fine. Any news on your end about any progress on putting these things down? We’re kinda cut off here.”
“No, nothin’ major. More whackjobs are saying they’re using magic to kill the creatures, but that’s probably all horse shit. Your Mom tells me ya got people with ya?”
“A few friends. The band I write for.”
“Ah. Well, that’s good, son. That’s real good. You hear from Mel?”
“Oh.” A pause, not sure how he was going to continue. Then: “I’m sure she’s alright.”
“I am too. She’s in a fortress full of guns. She’s fine.”
“Right. Well…” His only son was trapped and fighting for his life. “I love you, kid.”
Sons never get used to hearing their dad’s voices shake.
“I love you too, Dad.”
“Be safe, kiddo.”
“I will. Take care of Mom.”
“Bye Rye.” Childhood nickname. It quivered in his throat.
I tried calling Mel again, got voicemail and left a message. I told her I loved her. I called my sister.
“Guess what?” she answered.
“My friend Abby told me her coven totally killed a bunch of zombies!”
“Abby. Is she the Goth chick?”
“Wicca, with a little bit of Hoodist. The one whose boobs you always used to stare at.”
“Oh, her.” Abby. I briefly stopped talking, reminisced about a magical evening when I’d drunkenly convinced her to play a round of strip poker with me. She literally beat the pants off me, but not before her tank top fell to my pair of nines. “You say she killed some?”
“Totally. She and her coven looked up some spells for vanquishing the unruly dead and drove up to Nashville to fight the zombies.”
“You sure she didn’t just cast a spell on a dead person who, like, wasn’t going to get back up?”
“You watched the news lately, Ryan?”
“All the news people keep dying.”
“Well, anyway, everything that dies around there gets back up.” Shit, that explained that fucking fly. “They drew a circle of life, and a bunch of zombies walked over it. Then, like, BAM, they’re dead. As in they STOPPED MOVING AND DIDN’T MOVE ANYMORE.” Everyone had their caps lock voice on today.
“That doesn’t make much sense. Wouldn’t a circle of life make ‘em, like, more alive?”
“It doesn’t work that way, Ryan. When the dead walk in defiance of nature, the Spirit of Life revokes their stolen energy upon confrontation.”
“The more you know.”
“Yeah, anyway, she says they’re working with other witches to figure out a way to shut the other zombies down. Like, all at the same time. Fuck, I wish I wasn’t in California. This all sounds so badass.”
“You got school.”
“Fuck school, man! THIS IS ZOMBIES.”
“Well, I gotta go sis. Be safe.”
“You too. Fuck I’m jealous.”
I tried Mel again, got nothing, closed the phone. There was another BANG from the television. Meg Henderson paused for a couple seconds, then kept on with her report. Her voice was chronically shaky lately; at least she wasn’t getting too jaded by the level of suicidal violence around her.
I opened my laptop, checked my Facebook. No responses. I posted another message: “PLEASE HELP. TRAPPED IN NASHVILLE. ADDRESS IN PROFILE.”
Had a response on my Tumblr, however. “Ey mate. Been watchin ur shit on tha news, shit is CRAZZYYYYyyyy. Zombies man, fuckingg zombies ahhhhhhh. Nothing inetresting like that happens down ere. Cheers mate.”
I closed my computer. I was shaky, badly craving either coffee or smokes. We needed to get out of here, like fast. Make a break for it. At least as far as the nearest Circle K.
Rick was sprawled out on the floor. “Anybody feel like burnin’ some blunt?”
It didn’t sound like a bad idea, though something was telling me that it wasn’t too responsible to…
There was a loud, scraping WHUMP at the cheap aluminum door. In the far corner we all saw what looked like the curve of a broadside pickaxe blade. The blade wiggled, pulled out with an ear-splitting SKREEK!
Another WHUMP, another awful SKREEK!
Great. They were trying to chop through the door again. Luckily it was barricaded pretty well.
Unfortunately, it was barricaded pretty well. That annoying shit was going to go on for hours.
“Light ‘er up,” I sighed.
The weed softened the annoying SKREEK a bit, but it was a problem we wouldn’t be able to stand for long. The zombie was infuriatingly persistent. It would take him less than a day to tear down the whole door, but he wasn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
The dead have all the time in the world.
“Fuck, man,” Steve groaned. “We gotta waste that dude soon.”
“Can’t,” I remind him, hefting the shotgun over my shoulder. “We’re down to, like, ten shells. We can’t just unload on ‘em forever.”
“Then let’s use this.” Steve held the stolen .44, looked it over, no doubt envisioned himself with the last name Callahan. “That big-ass zombie had like a hundred rounds on him.”
“Let’s just be careful how many times we open that door, okay?”
“Sure thing, man.”
Then, a miracle. The awful, metallic grinding stopped. We heard steps thump down the apartment stairs, like the chopper had suddenly lost interest.
“Ah, Jesus,” Rick said, his bloodshot eyes not blinking a bit as he spoke. “Thank Christ for that.”
“Fuckin’-A,” I responded.
Something small and thick was pushed through the hole. It was wrapped in grey strips of fabric, and hit the floor with a wet thud. It just sat there while we stared.
“Did they just throw a meatloaf in here?” Steve asked.
Jerome got up from his spot by the window, stepped over to the wad. He nudged it with the tip of his shoe, at which point the bundle gurgled. Then the wrap flared open, and something small scurried out. Whatever it was, it made a raspy, hissing noise as it moved.
“Holy shit!” Jerome stumbled back as whatever-it-was ran for the kitchen, zipping under Steve’s seat. Steve leaped up, withdrawing the .44 and waving it at the grey-green blur.
It climbed up the handles of the cabinets, using them as a ladder, then scrambled over the countertop and onto the stove. It rose up on its knees, stretched its chubby wittle-bitty arms, and wailed in a horrifying parody of a child’s crying.
A baby. A fucking zombie baby. Bits of broken glass lined its gums like transparent fangs.
Steve fired, missed, blew away the oven timer. The baby dived off the stove top, skittered across the linoleum.
“Ah, look out! Fuckin’ creepy baby!” Steve fired again, blowing a hole straight through the floor. The creature feinted right, avoiding Steve’s aim to attack his ankle. The thin slivers of glass sank deep into the cartilage of his joint. He screamed, pointed, fired. Missed the baby, hit his foot.
He screamed louder at that. The baby took off, leaving him to collapse on the floor, and went right for Jerome. Jerome shrieked, swung his axe, missed. Too quick for Rick, the baby just barely missed his machete and scrambled up Jerome’s leg.
“SHIT!” He panicked, flailing at himself as the baby made for his face, chubby baby fingers going for his eyes. Jerome grabbed the kid, hurled it against the wall. It bounced off the drywall lile a sloshy basketball. A green stain was left behind.
It recovered instantly, and was on the move again, all of us back-stepping to avoid it. Steve recovered enough to take aim, barely missed me with a shot to my right.
“Watch where you’re shooting Steve!” I screamed. Steve fired again, his shot blowing out a chunk of drywall between me and Pete.
“Steve, watch it!” Pete shouted, swinging my Louisville slugger at the savage infant.
He fired again, barely missed Pete. The baby skittered behind Jerome, who swung wildly with his axe.
“Steve man, be careful!” Rick screamed.
Steve fired again. He was aiming for the baby. The baby was ducking behind Jerome.
Jerome took the round right in the chest. Pulpy bits of his lung spattered the wall behind him. The slug threw him off his feet.
Everyone was still for a second. Then the creature screeched in vicious glee.
Steve popped off his last round. The baby’s chest popped like a watermelon thrown from a roof. The disembodied head went spinning through the air. The arms landed beside the legs in a disjointed pile.
The legs continued to twitch, and the jaw worked in impotent frustration. The fingers were too chubby to send the arms scuttling away. It was down.
So was Jerome. He made retching sounds as he tried to breathe. There were two valiant attempts at air, and then his whole body spasmed.
Jerome didn’t move anymore after that.
“GODDAMNIT, STEVE!” Rick whirled on him, taking massive, thundering stomps until he was close enough to slap the gun out of Steve’s hand. Steve just kept staring at the exploded baby, his face completely hollow even when Rick lifted him against the wall. “You stupid fuckin’ idiot! You killed him!”
He thumped him against the wall once, then let go, and Steve just sat on the floor in a daze.
We all heard something that sounded like a cantaloupe being stuck with a kitchen knife, and turned to see Pete staring at us in wide-eyed shock. Which was understandable, considering that Jerome had just split his head down the middle with his axe. His skull opened against the pressure of the wedge, like the wings of a particularly disgusting moth.
He dropped my baseball bat, fell to his knees, slid off the blade with a queasy sucking sound, and spilled his split brains onto the carpet.
Shit. They only needed one of their own in here. With each death, their numbers grew. The realization was like a punch in the balls: the zombies had now completely infiltrated our defenses.
Jerome wasn’t home anymore. The shell he left behind was just another armed and dangerous corpse, ready to fuck some shit up for the living. He lifted his axe and charged.
Rick was quick, damn quick, fucking quick, swinging the machete and parlaying Jerome’s swing. He elbowed the smaller man…uh, thing…zombie, and sent it stumbling backward. For a dude who looked like Marcellus Wallace’s pudgy brother, Rick was a spry guy.
Shit. I looked over to see Pete start to push his way off the floor. Something thick and gray hung between his eyes and over his nose, dripping yellow liquid that looked like egg yolk. He hoisted the slugger, and shambled toward me. Not wanting to waste any shells, I stopped his swing with the butt of my gun, braced the barrel against his chest, and shoved. It felt like knocking over a really, really shaky lamp.
Jerome swung at Rick again, but Rick ducked so that only a few of his dreads were mussed. He sprung like a coiled cheetah, lopping off Jerome’s head with a clean blow that didn’t even seem to slow when it hit the neck.
The body didn’t slow either. Despite being short one neck, it swung back along the same parabolic arc, catching Rick under the arm. He winced, grunted, but didn’t scream.
He didn’t really seem wounded, just more pissed off than anything else.
“Fuck you, motherfucker!” he shouted, knowing full well he was fighting the exact thing that had killed his friend. He dropped the machete and yanked the axe out of the zombie’s hands. The blade didn’t look like it had caused anything more than superficial damage when Rick yanked the blade out, and Rick swung high and heavy, splintering the collarbone with his swing and throwing the headless monster to the ground.
Pete came at me again. I grabbed Rick’s dropped machete, blocked the slugger as he swung it at me. Wrenching it free of the wood, I chopped through both of Pete’s tiny, mouse-like wrists. The bat bounced around on the floor, and I kicked it away to keep from tripping over it.
The machete cut through Pete pretty quick. I thought there’d be more…resistance to dismembering somebody. I was wrong. Part of me understood how serial killers could be so prolific. Destroying a human body is a lot easier than one would think.
When we were done, Pete and Jerome were nothing more than smelly, wiggling zombie bits. We sat on either side of Steve, who was now holding his blasted foot.
We rested for a long while. Somewhere at the news station, someone else committed suicide. It must have been significantly more dramatic than the previous ones; there were screams and everything. Steve grew pale and got a cold sweat, so we splinted him up as best we could. Rick tore one of Mel’s favorite towels into thin strips and bandaged his ribs. I wondered how long it would be before my whole apartment was full of diced up zombies and people juice.
Steve was out of commission, crippled and now higher than the fuckin’ Hubble to get his mind off the pain. Rick and I gathered the squirming pieces of zombie and stuffed them into a makeshift hobo bindle. I was pretty sure Mel wouldn’t miss the Playboy bedspread of mine that we used.
We needed to get it outside before putrification made it a sanitation issue. Well, a bigger one, at least. The bindle was about three hundred pounds total, and getting it outside was gonna be a bitch. We had maybe two seconds to pull the barricade down and fling this putrid mess out before the swarm, well, swarmed us.
We stood in front of the door, counting down together. “3, 2, 1…”
A horn blared outside, followed by a repeated series of thumps and zombie screams, and the squeal of brakes tryinga little too hard to stop something that’s a little too big.
Rick and I gave each other confused looks, looked out the corner of the door.
A Lowes truck started beeping, and its diesel engine revved. Zombies were turned to oatmeal under the back tires as it reversed.
The truck was coming faster than we would have assumed it was able to. The wooden steps splintered against the bumper, the porch started to break apart.
Rick and I bolted, leaping away like our heels had rockets.
Something heavy hit the door. The bookcases flew, clattered to the floor. Books launched like they’d been fired from a bazooka. The drywall around the door frame cracked, bulged, and the door flew open.
“WHAT THE FUCK?!” I screamed, at the exact same pitch as a teenage girl would have.
I brushed drywall dust off my face. Rick struggled to his feet, helped me up. Behind the door, we heard the sound of a delivery truck’s hatch door opening. A familiar face peeked in. “Hey, Ryan! What’s up?”
Zach. My sister Lyndi’s fuck buddy / not boyfriend. A Lowes driver. Shit, was he really delivering weapons?
“What the fuck are you doing here, Zach?”
“I got weapons man.” A pickaxe poked a hole through the steel wall of the cargo bed, but it had trouble getting back out. The truck perfectly sealed the door, so no chance of them sneaking inside. “I got, like, eight chainsaws and a fuckton of machetes.”
It was a lot to take in, but eventually I was able to ask: “No guns?”
“Can’t really get very many guns on short notice, man. But I got this.” He pulled a double barrel out from the back of his belt. “Kinda like to hold onto it, if that’s cool.” He looked past me, saw Steve with his shot foot. “Only three of you?”
“Only three left, yeah.”
“Cool. I brought some spare fuel so we can get out of here, man. Enough to get you out of Nashville easy, probably all the way to Atlanta even.”
There was a loud, roaring hiss, and the truck started to buckle violently. Zach had to hold his arms out to balance himself.
“Shit,” he muttered when it stopped. “What was that?”
Rick listened to the receding hiss. “They slashed the fuckin’ tires.”
I sighed. “Goddamnit.”
The truck bed rocked side to side. The zombies were trying to tip it over. Hopefully it was too heavy to move. It’d better be; Zach had effectively busted all my goddamn locks.
We moved the “weapons” inside, used the cache of particle wood Zach had brought to reinforce the windows. For a stoner, the guy was a pretty forward thinker.
A very forward thinker, it turned out. Dude had a whole ounce in his glove box, and we burned our way through it while we watched the news.
Things had gotten weird over at Channel 43. Reports of people using magic against the zombies were flooding the station. It seemed like it was getting harder for Meg Henderson to downplay the reports. Twice she forgot to include the phrase “allegedly” when referring to reports of zombies being magically shut down. Once our high got good and mellow she started reporting on claims purporting to build a “networked paragon” to combat the dead. I overlooked most of the details, admittedly a little too stoned to make much of what she was saying.
She looked tired. Dark circles under her eyes, hair matted with sweat. I guess the A.C. was out at WKRP. Occasionally Meg broke down mid-sentence with sobbing exclamations of “Oh, God,” but she rather admirably composed herself, usually in under a minute, wiped her eyes, and went back to the report.
She was pretty professional, despite the unusually high number of suicides at the station. “WKRP will continue to report these events, as they happen.”
“Fuck man,” Zach said, his voice hoarse from smoke. “She’s hot.”
“Aren’t you dating my sister?”
“Yeeeah, well, not exclusively, man. It’s an…an understanding thing.”
“I bet.” I fired my pipe, took a drag.
It was getting late. I got up, staggered into the living room, looked over our fortified defenses. Everything was tightened pretty well; Zach worked part-time at Lowes, and had lifted close to two-hundred pounds of prime Yellawood. It wouldn’t hold forever, but it would keep ‘em back for a while. A damn sight better than the rickety mess my fortifications had become.
I checked my phone. 10:49 p.m. I tried calling Mel, didn’t get an answer.
This was becoming too much. I sighed, called 911. No answer there, either.
I stumbled back into the bedroom, but Zach and Rick had already passed out. I made my way back to the kitchen, used up the last of the turkey, tomatoes and cheese on a single, over ambitious sandwich. I ate the entire thing before I even had a chance to breathe, then sat down against the fridge and listened to the night.
The night sounded a lot like zombies.