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July 04, 2022

All-Nighter 03

By Lydia Manx

Episode Three

Lindy

I had just got to sleep when I heard voices in the hallway. The door was barred from my side, so I let myself relax and sat up slowly. Next to the door was a panel with buttons, and an inset screen that showed me who or what was outside. To my stunned eyes I saw that fucking weasel Sammy walking behind Grant, with an odd shuffling footstep. It looked like someone had goosed him and he was having trouble following Grant. God, that kid nearly got me killed. All because of a damn girl.

I sat back against the padded backboard of the queen-sized bed and shook my head. How did Sammy end up in Florida? I mean, last time I saw him was almost dozen years ago, and he was a scrawny teenager with a punk attitude. He'd been running from Dean and me when the invasion had begun to pick up steam and take out towns literally overnight. Nobody was willing to call the creatures what they were, and instead all blamed the miners for releasing a toxic hypnotic chemical when they were digging up the earth.

The 'creatures' were humans at one time. They didn't stay that way once bitten by the infected. Nope, they started chowing on anything with a pulse, including each other. Dean kept babbling on about how it was a misunderstanding and the government would figure it out. Yeah, that wasn't what I saw. I saw men and probably women covered head to toe in hazmat suits, with flame throwers, taking the creatures out with a flick of their fingers and no apparent concern for collateral damage. Dean was really not with the program. And funny me, I didn't have any desire to be damaged on purpose or accident -- of which there seemed to be more than a few.

Back then...

Once we'd collected all the guns and assorted weapons that the rich guy had in his home, we got our act together. The utterly dead rich guy and his equally stiff wife had been into legal pharmaceuticals in record amounts. I found the initial stash in their master bathroom, but once I got a chance to go through their castle, I discovered not only was the papa bear a tad nervous about protection, but his wife had four or five different names on her various drugs. Without letting Dean see, I dry swallowed a few oxy, since the damn over-the-counter pain killers were less than useful. I still wasn't sure if my ankle was broken or sprained, but the tightly wrapped foot along with the meds allowed me to move without making pain noises that would be attracting any more zombies.

There, I admitted it. The small West Virginia town I'd been stranded in while heading to another dismally small town had been overrun by hungry zombies. Health challenged? Formerly humans working out anger issues? No matter what words used, I figured with their propensity for gobbling up others either living or dead made them zombies. They didn't seem to talk much or even converse, other than what sounded like misfiring synapses with mumbling utterances that could be taken for words. That is if you were a new parent listening to your baby babble out sounds while filling their diapers -- not words in my book, but tons of videos out there to argue that point and the ones who claim their dogs say, "I love you." Any way I sliced it, I found the words spit out by the crazed zombies less discernible than either babies or puppies.

When I stumbled into that cursed town I found that Dean was slinging heavily medicated pizza drenched in red meat of questionable origins to the zombies nightly and then hauling them down to the local bus station for convenient discovery by their loved ones, or to rot if they didn't wake up. At first he thought I was one of the zombies and named me Carol Sue, I think.

Once I spoke in full sentences and pushed away his questionably-topped pie he tried to foist on me, he realized his mistake. And then down at the old bus station, I'd seen for myself quite a few of the ex-citizens in the plastic bucket seats not moving and decaying. Dean had been living in hope that his girlfriend or fiancée would miraculously be cured by some government discovery. I had my doubts, but hadn't seen the girl so I was just taking a wild guess.

Shelly had been noticeably absent during the time I'd spent battling the zombies in Dean's little town. That's not precisely true -- Dean told me he wasn't from the town, but instead, he and his gal had been wandering through, much like me, when he got forced into feeding the masses by Gus the Innkeeper From Hell's Doorstep. We both had met Grumpy Gus separately, and neither of us had a kind word for the man. He ran the only hotel in town -- which was how both of us had chanced on his doorstep -- to be rebuffed with a bible and some serious anger issues. (It was more a motel but location and signage tended to disagree. Branding mattered even nearly a dozen years ago up in West Virginia.)

Dean never explained to me how it was that Shelly was bitten by the creatures I called zombies. But despite the overwhelming evidence I'd seen, he continued to think that she'd be perfectly fine once given the cure. I hadn't heard of a cure but then I'd only been in the Zombie Zone for a few days, and he'd been playing with the walking corpses for what I gathered was a week at the least, and maybe more than that was likely. Dean wasn't good at over-sharing, and I just filled in the blanks as I could. And while I was more into killing the zombies than feeding and putting them at the bus station to catch up on their coma state of sleep, I didn't try to challenge Dean's world view for the most part. Partially it was because I thought that he'd spent too much time alone in zombie town before I'd arrived and probably he hadn't been tightly wrapped to start.

By that point, we really thought that that we were dead when we were caught by a group of zombies while getting the drugs from the rich folks' home. The horde of shambling zombies was groaning its way to the doorstep when I finally found the guns -- I didn't think twice about my idea of using the firepower and mentally noted that I had to make sure to take careful aim for their heads. I figured once you lost your head, the odds of getting up and rambling towards us was severely diminished.

It was the crazy bird that really changed our fate. I had been startled by the feathered menace, but it was the least of my concerns at that point in the day. Braced by a few pain pills, I climbed upstairs to one of the front-facing bedrooms. My ankle hadn't throbbed once, so I was a happy girl. Okay, over-medicated, but by that point I really didn't care. There weren't any bodies in the room so that was a plus. Dean was still arguing about our even attacking the zombies, all the while he was searching the lumbering crowd carefully for any sign of his girl. All I saw were the tattered, blood and gore-stained creatures ambling for us with a mindless determination. I really doubted they were coming over to borrow a cup of sugar.

"Dean, we have to make a stand. Now. If we don't, they will break inside and haul our asses out for an impromptu snack. You know this! Garth is not your buddy, nor are any of the other clowns hanging out there getting ready to claw the front door down." As if they'd heard me, one or three of them began ripping at a zombie in front of it and growling. Their teeth weren't sharp points but I noticed a few of them had cracked teeth in their recent history and jagged points and shards were being used to bite and rip at their cohorts. Lovely crowd.

"But I don't know if Shelly's down there. She's a small blonde and could be getting swept up in the crowd. I don't want her shot." He was pulling at my arm while I was trying to wrestle the window up so I could lay the rifle on the window sill and begin carefully taking off their heads. I shoved Dean off me saying, "Fine, I promise to not shoot any blonde women until you say that they aren't Shelly."

I swear he whimpered his thanks while I waved him off without much thought. I knew now why he'd been content to simply feed them drugged pizza -- there really wasn't much of a back bone to the man. He reluctantly picked up a small hand gun from the various weapons I'd put onto the bed in the room and then he slowly went to the other window facing the front of the house. I wasn't even sure if he knew how to shoot. I did, which was thanks to my misspent summers with my cousins up in the mountains near their town. I'd learned my way around a wide assortment of guns and weapons. I favored swords and blades but they weren't normally seen outside the Renaissance Fairs and martial arts tournaments. Besides, it wasn't exactly something I put on my resume when I started out my career in real estate -- have weapons will travel. Despite that I still headed out every few months to practice on paper targets and tin cans when the stress of the office got to me.

I had just lined up on one of the tall dudes in the front when the bird swooped outside, sliding right out the window and down towards the dark haired man. Maybe his sight was completely gone, but either way it didn't matter, because the zombie didn't seem to notice the bird right until it landed claws first on his unprotected head. The bird's horrifically sharp talons ripped open the zombie's skull, and the little blood in his head gushed out over his face and the parrot screamed, "I am a good bird!"

The horde now had fresh meat ripe for the plucking, and fell as one onto the man who was not quite screaming, but definitely having more than just a bad hair day. With all the groaning and wet smacking noises coming from the street it took me a moment to hear a new sound entering our area. It was a loud rumbling sound from down the block and I hissed out to Dean, "Stop. Don't shoot. Something's happening." The rumbling came closer and I felt something like relief in my heart. Slowly I sucked in air and watched the street.

Being in real estate, I've seen more than my fair share of macho men and their choices of toys. By toys I don't just mean guns but cars, too. And I'd seen a few Humvees during the early nineties, when it was considered cool to drive cars that got single digit gas mileage. The turn of the century brought some conservation awareness of the damage on our oil reserves and the fabric of our very world, so the Hummers started to scale back in size and visibility. The five cars rolling up on the crowd were not at all socially responsible and extremely loud. Loud whooping rolled in with the vehicles and I could see that there were men hanging out of the sides of the car windows with really large guns in their hands. The cars stopped twenty feet from the mob and one guy yelled, "Light 'em up, boys!"

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2016-02-15
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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