Authors: Joseph Talluto
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America the Dead
By Joseph Talluto
Copyright 2011 Joseph Talluto
Copyright 2011 Severed Press
Edition, License Notes
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Copyright © 2011 by Joseph Talluto
Copyright © 2011 by Severed Press
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any
electronic or mechanical means, including
photocopying, recording or by any information and
retrieval system, without the written permission of
the publisher and author, except where permitted by
This novel is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places and incidents are the product of
the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously.
Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons,
living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
America the Dead
America the Dead
I used to enjoy spring. The warm days, the cool nights; it was a great time to think about all the things you wanted to do outside, and all the things you should have gotten done over the winter but didn’t want to because it was too cold.
That was the spring of the past. Spring these days meant the dead were shaking off the rigidity of the cold weather and headed out hungrier than ever. Being dead, they were not bound by the same rules regarding the human body. They never tired, didn’t feel pain, and existed to feed and spread the infection that caused them to exist in the first place.
Such was my world, two years after the Upheaval, the name we called the end of our world when the dead rose and devoured the living. Some of us managed to survive the overturning of society and in the following years established places of relative safety—places where we could live, places where we could strike back at the undead hordes that still roamed the land. By my estimation, there were probably one or two hundred million zombies out there in our country alone. We couldn’t kill them all, but we sure could try to outlive them and take the ones who threatened our new way of life.
We had managed to save a number of communities and we had set up trade routes and lines of communication among the communities. Each community was responsible for itself in terms of basic needs, but we all relied on each other when the zombies came calling. I had just returned from a brief jaunt to Morris where a large crowd of roving zombies had attacked the town’s defenses.
I stood at the stone wall that surrounded my patio, overlooking the river and forest I now called my home. When I had come to this place originally, I was looking for my brother. But I came back, realizing it was the best place for me. I had been part of a community, but the isolation of this resort appealed to me on a deeper sense than I had thought and I found myself back here, claiming it as my own. To me, it was perfect. We had water, we had a forest for game, we had isolated land for livestock and crops, and we had peace of mind. I had no fear when I was here and I allowed myself to live, not just be alive.
A touch on my leg caused me to break out of my reverie and smile down at my son Jake. He had managed to sneak up on me and was now asking to be picked up in the timeless “hands up” fashion of three-year olds.
“Hey, Buddy,” I said as I swung him up to my left hip. My right side still carried my battle-proven SIG P226 in its scratched and dinged holster. I put that gun on before I headed to the bathroom in the morning and took it off at night only just before I hit the sheets.
“Hey da,” Jake said in his limited vocabulary. Jake turned his head and looked out over the forest we called home. In another world it was a state park, covering two thousand, six hundred acres. We had eighteen waterfalls and canyons, giving us water and shelter if need be.
Jake pointed to the north. “Pretty reevah.”
“River,” I corrected automatically. I looked out at the Illinois River which formed our northern border and once again was amazed at how we managed to get to this place.
“Kitty,” Jake said and this time I looked hard. Sure enough, a large tawny paw was hanging down from a branch near the Visitor Center. Looking closely, I could see a large tail twitching slightly as flies irritated its owner.
Welcome back, old son
, I thought as I watched the cougar who shared our forest lounge in the morning breeze. We discovered the cougar on our first trip out here and the best I could figure was it had escaped from a zoo or private pen. Either way, it had killed several zombies in the area and as long as it left me and mine alone, I was okay with it.
As Jake looked out over the land, I studied him. He was getting to be such a big boy, but he still retained those adorable big cheeks and little pug nose. His eyes were what got me, they were big liquid pools of chocolate that were used to good effect in getting what he wanted. I didn’t know how I managed to be so lucky and get us both to survive the Upheaval, but I promised to keep doing whatever it was I was doing. Jake was my world and without him I wouldn’t have much left to go on living for.
He grinned as I gave him a hug and kiss, then kicked his legs, signaling to me he wanted to get down. I put him on the ground and watched as he ran over to his toy chest. I smiled and waved at Sarah, who was walking out onto the patio.
“Hey you,” I said, shifting to the wall again. “What’s up?” Sarah and I had married in the middle of this mess after what had to be the strangest courtship ever. We both had lost our spouses to the disease and managed to survive numerous encounters with the dead. We realized we needed each other on several levels after Sarah had been kidnapped and subsequently rescued by yours truly.
“Not much,” Sarah said, sidling up and giving me a quick kiss. “Charlie radioed in and wants you out on the farm. He says he thinks someone is out there”
That made it news. We didn’t get many visitors by land and ninety-nine percent of the time they were roaming ghouls looking for a meal. We had built up an earthen wall to keep out the odd zombie from the forest, using a borrowed back hoe from a local farm. We had a hell of a time finding gas for it, but eventually we did manage to dig a trench and use the dirt to create a five foot wall around the park. We piled the dirt up on the inside of the trench, making the actual height ten feet. Unless we got swarmed by thousands of zombies which filled the trench, we were pretty good to go.
I gave Sarah a hug and kiss of her own and went inside to put my gear on. Experience had taught me some hard lessons about the world I now lived in. Passing by the huge fireplace of the main hall of the lodge, I threw a wave to Rebecca, Charlie’s wife and Julia, their adopted daughter. Julia was tottering around and getting herself into all kinds of trouble, typical of a two-year-old.
I stopped in the gear room and put on my vest, weighted with AR-15 mags and SIG reloads. I belted on my field knife and tucked my balaclava into my pocket. Last, I shrugged on my backpack which contained non-perishable food, bottled water, a first aid kit, and an extra box of ammo.
I shouldered my rifle, a standard AR-15. I had decided a while ago to forgo my trusted M1 Carbine, given that ammo for it was hard to find. I could reload, since I had the components, but I figured I would do that once I ran out of the factory stuff. Besides, Charlie carried an AR exclusively and being able to share ammo was a plus in the field. More to the point, Sarah had taken a shine to the M1 and since she was better with it than I was, I let her have it.
I climbed the stairs to the second floor and walked through a hotel room to the balcony. From there I climbed down the detachable stairs to the ground outside the lodge. We had long ago sealed up the first floor of the lodge, except the area in the back, walling that part off with brick, rock and mortar. All in all, we could withstand a siege if we had to and we had a fast escape route to the river if the walls were ever breached. In a way, I felt like a feudal lord in his castle. All I needed were a few willing serfs and the world was golden.
I went over to the shed and unlocked the door, pulling a mountain bike out of storage. We tried to save as much gas as possible for emergencies and since Charlie was only a mile or so away, it wasn’t worth driving.
“Charlie, you there? Over,” I called on the radio, a little walkie-talkie that had surprisingly good range.
“I’m here.” Charlie’s voice crackled out of the radio and I quickly tamped down the volume.
“What’s up?” I asked, swinging my leg over the bike and heading down the driveway. I had two choices for exit. Down to the river road or out back to the farm road. Both were going to require some pedaling.
“Need you to see something. I think we have a camper. Over.”
“Roger that. Where are you?” I asked.
“Out on farm two, near the entrance to Matthiessen.”
“Roger. See you in about fifteen minutes. Out.” I had about four miles to go, so it shouldn’t take me too long. I rode up the driveway and headed south, riding up to the south entrance. I saw a lot of new life in the woods and I was glad on a certain level that the earth was taking back what it could, given this limited opportunity. I couldn’t say for certain if humans were going to make a comeback, but for the immediate future, I think we reached an acceptable compromise.
After a mile I cleared the trees and saw our barricade. The grass hadn’t completely covered it yet, but I could see the weeds were making plenty of headway. We made no attempt to fortify the hill. I figured in time it would become brush covered and zombies never fared well in the brush. To my left and right was farmland and we used what we could take care of, growing vegetables and what not. We had planted some apple and pear trees, but they would take a while before they bore fruit. Right now we foraged for our fruits, getting what we could from salvaged cans. There was supposed to be an apple orchard around here somewhere, but I never did find it.
I rode up to our gate and stopped, taking a moment to pass through and re-lock it on my way out. Not that I was worried about anyone coming to steal something. We didn’t have that kind of problem these days. But occasionally a lone ghoul or three wandered around and they needed to be kept out.
I rode west on Route 71, taking in the cool morning air and the quiet countryside. The open fields to my left contrasted nicely with the forested lands to my right and the morning dew was not quite gone, so the world had a pleasant washed look to it. I turned south onto State Road 178 and pedaled quietly for another two miles.
I was nearly at the entrance when a little zombie came tearing out of the roadside ditch, right in front of me. I swerved sharply to avoid it, then looked back as it struggled to chase me down. It was a young boy, probably no older than ten, although it was hard to tell. His skin was badly decayed and great rents in his clothing and tissue told of a tragic, painful end. His face was twisted in a snarl as he pursued me and I had to give him credit, he was far faster than his older contemporaries. The skin around his mouth was torn away, usually an indication that he had been dead for a while and had feasted often.
I pedaled to the entrance to Matthiesson and stopped the bike, hopping off and heading back to the road where the little zombie was slavering away and closing in fast. I stepped onto the road and unslung my rifle. Ordinarily, I would take a lone zombie out with my pickaxe or knife, but I never took chances with the faster ones. Get them down, then finish them off any way you could.
I aimed my rifle at his stomach as he moved towards me, then waited until his head filled my sights. The gun barked once, sending a .223 caliber bullet through the young boy’s face, blasting his head apart and sending him sprawling backwards. I had a brief thought about this boy’s parents, but pushed it away as I thought about Jake.