Authors: R.J. Spears
Tags: #Zombie Apocalypse
Dead Man’s Land
Books of the Dead 3
By R.J. Spears
Edited by: J. Ellington Ashton Press Staff
Cover Art by: R.J. Spears
©2014, R.J. Spears
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book, including the cover and photos, may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher. All rights reserved.
Any resemblance to persons, places living or dead is purely coincidental. This is a work of fiction.
Undead Rising: A Tragedy in One Terrible Act
The zombie snarled at me, blood and gore hanging in long stringy pieces from its mouth. It snapped its teeth shut, sending a spray of blood onto the floor; the teeth clacking loudly together filled the quiet room. I felt a cool numbness flow through my body and a tremor through my legs.
It took a step my way, I broke from my trance, and my hand went for my gun, but shooting it was the last thing I wanted to do. The cost to keep this particular zombie from becoming a zombie was high. Too damn high, but that’s not how things worked anymore. There was no balancing between what was fair and unfair. It was all just the cold cruel world taking a piece of us at a time.
It had just taken a bite out of my friend, but wanted some more meat. They always wanted more. That kicked my morbid sense of humor into high gear as I remembered a potato chip commercial that stated that you could never just eat just one chip. Zombies seemed that way when it came to human flesh. One bite was never enough.
That sense of humor is what carried me through much of this zombie apocalypse, but it seemed that my well of laughs was running dry, because the zombie was a dear friend and the person that it had just taken a bite out of could very well be the salvation of humankind. So I didn’t even come close to chuckling.
But I’m getting ahead myself by a couple minutes. Just moments before I stumbled on this scene, I had been walking, nearly ready to collapse from exhaustion after a day of making sure that the complex and its people were safe. It was a big job, and someone had to do it. For some reason, the people of the complex thought taking care of them and the complex was just the job for me. Oh boy.
Staying alive in the land of the dead was a precarious tightrope walk. Keeping a group of eighty or so people alive in this world was a tightrope walk over a pit of crocodiles while someone shot rabid pit bulls at you with a cannon. The blindfold they threw in was just the icing on the cake.
There were guard rosters to set. Security details had to be monitored and checked and then double-checked. Minor squabbles between group members required delicate arbitrations. The list was endless. I ended each day with a To-Do list that was longer than what I started with and stretched off into infinity.
It was death by an expanding list of a thousand cuts, and the only thing at risk was our very existence. For whatever that was worth. In a world where the dead roamed the earth, sometimes it seemed as if life were a bargain basement commodity.
It had only been a week since Greg died, and I don’t know how he did it. At the end of each night, I fell into bed completely exhausted. Those nights were rarely restful as I fretted about what hadn’t been completed the day before or what we would face the next day. Any one of those missed details could bite me in the ass and could possibly mean someone’s death. No pressure there. None at all.
Uninterrupted rest was nearly impossible since the middle of the night interruptions were the norm, as some minor disaster had to be brought to my attention. I began to wonder if I could die from lack of sleep. Or, at least, go insane. (Some of our group already had me in that camp.)
To make matters worse, I hadn’t been able to spend a minute alone with Kara in over a week. While neither of us was feeling all that romantic after Greg’s death, it still would have been nice to be able to comfort each other. But, as they say, there is no rest for the wicked.
On that particular night, I was about to head back to my room after a nearly twenty-hour day when things went awry. I had checked in with all the guard stations and had one more stop to make, before it would be time to collapse into bed again. Or so I hoped.
I stumbled sleepily along the dimly lit basement corridor that led to Doc Wilson’s infirmary when I heard the first sign of trouble. The sound of something metal slamming down on the ground. The booming clang resounded off the concrete walls like a cymbal. The clattering noise of small metal and plastic instruments spilling across the floor came next. In my exhausted state, I took a few seconds to even recognize that there might be trouble brewing.
My goal had been to check in on Jason and Hub before heading off to bed. Hub was our elder statesman, a man as competent and kind as any I had ever met in my life. Jason was a mute young man I had seen in a vision.
Oh, yes, I had visions, ergo why some people in our merry little band probably thought I was a little bit crazy. These little visions came from above, like some sort of extra special on-demand programming directly from God. And there was nothing warm or fuzzy about them. Why God couldn’t just send me a re-run of a bad sitcom was beyond me. His idea of programming looked like a cross between Chiller Theater and the imagination of some demented mystery writer. Most of my visions were cryptic, and nearly all them frightened the shit out of me.
My meeting with Jason was foretold in a vision. I had found him stumbling along in a field just as my vision had prescribed. And oh yeah, he was immune to the zombie virus. Plus we suspected that the military was searching for him. He was a real catch for us, only adding to the dangers we faced, but what was one more enemy when we were having so much fun?
The big problem was, on an ill-fated foraging run to a local farm, Hub had been bitten by a zombie. In the past, a zombie bite meant death, but in a real Hail Mary scheme, Doc Wilson tried a wild-ass experiment to save Hub’s life. This experiment consisted of small transfusions of Jason’s blood into Hub in hopes of transferring some of Jason’s immunity.
It had been somewhat effective in keeping him alive and staving off Hub’s transformation from the living to the undead, but it only worked for short periods of time. Hub teetered on the edge of death and then un-death as the virus started ravaging his immune system as the positive effects of Jason’s blood wore down. It was a terrible and taxing balancing act that took its toll on both Hub and Jason.
Since a total transfusion was impossible because it would mean the end of Jason’s life, only small amounts of Jason’s blood could be transferred. This left Hub in a state of near delirium on most days, as his fever bounced between 101 and 105 while the zombie virus tried to fight its way past Jason’s transferred immunity.
This process literally chained Hub and Jason together 24/7/365 since the transfusions had to be made every four to six hours or the virus would take Hub down. Three sixty-five might be an exaggeration, but they had been at it for weeks. Doc Wilson felt it was a small miracle that it was still working at all and feared the wheels could come off our little scheme at any moment.
We walked on this thin ice each day, the small cracks like spider webs expanding out to encircle our little ship afloat on the sea of a zombie apocalypse. Each day we witnessed more evidence of Hub’s deterioration but denied it. We packed this reality down deep where dark and necessary lies were kept. Hub hadn’t spoken a lucid word in a couple days and had rarely been awake. Some days he muttered unintelligible words, and other days he moaned. The moans put us on edge because that’s what the undead did all the time.
The veins around his bite wound had started to blacken again and spread up his arm like little rivers of death, carrying the dark virus deeper into Hub’s body. Doc confided to me that the immunity of Jason’s blood was starting to lessen, but we kept that from Hub’s son, Travis, since he was nearly out of his mind with worry.
The virus was on the move and winning the war. There was no denying it anymore, but we did deny it, because facing the reality was just too hard to take. Then it slapped us in the face.
“Hey, hey,” a voice, rising in pitch and tone, said from inside the infirmary just after the metal crashing sound. It was Kara. She followed it by saying, “Oh no!”
Where I had been groggy before, adrenaline now shot into my veins, shocking me fully awake, and almost before I knew it, I was running. My feet echoed like gunshots in the dim corridor as I sprinted towards the door.
I burst into the room in time to see Kara falling backwards across the floor and away from Hub’s bed. Her head hit the floor with an ugly hollow thud. I saw the whites of her eyes. She was out cold.
In any normal circumstance, I would have been by her side in an instant, but this wasn’t any normal situation. There were few normal situations in a world filled with zombies, but this certainly wasn’t ordinary. Not by a long stretch.
Hub rose off his bed, his blackened lips pulled back to expose his teeth, and his face devoid of any emotion. His eyes gray and lifeless.
He snarled like an animal, and a thick trail of drool hung from his mouth. He stumbled the short distance between his bed and Jason’s and fell onto Jason’s prone body. Jason, barely awake, flung up his arms up just enough to deflect Hub’s outstretched hands. Hub had the advantage of gravity and descended onto Jason. Jason fought with all his strength, but he didn’t have much of it after days of transfusions.
I only had to cross twenty feet, but it might as well have been a mile.
The next thing I heard was Jason’s scream, a startled and horrible keening cry. Hub sunk his teeth deeply into Jason’s forearm, and Jason howled again as Hub tore into him.
I was too late. Again.
Just as I made it to within ten feet of Hub and Jason, a figure moved out of the shadows like fast moving wraith and grabbed Hub. The figure yanked Hub off of Jason, flinging him back and into the center of the room. Hub lost his balance and tumbled onto the floor. Like all zombies, he seemed unfazed and quickly sprang back to his feet, snarling. Jason’s blood hung off Hubs’s chin like an ugly red bib, dripping onto the floor, and his eyes were as empty and gray as any of the undead.
And that took me back to where we started just a little bit ago.
Hub snapped his mouth open and closed, biting the open air, his teeth clacking together like marbles. I could see his body tense for a charge at me, and I gripped the gun in my holster, ready to draw and shoot, but not really sure if I could. After all Hub had done for us, it seemed incomprehensible that I would have to shoot him, but the zombie apocalypse was all about the cold equation.
The shadowy figure moved into the light just off to my right, and I saw that it was Travis. His face was a terrible mix of grief, shock, and horror. He had known that there was a high probability this would be the eventual outcome, but he had hoped against all the odds that his father would beat this virus. But it was not to be, and we were faced with the reality of putting Hub down before he caused any more damage.
I started to pull my gun from its holster, but Travis had his gun out and aimed at Hub.
Hub grunted and took a step toward Travis, thus putting into a motion a tragic play none of us wanted to attend -- a son having to kill his father. Zombies didn’t feel threatened by guns. I doubted that in whatever rudimentary intelligence it had left in his shriveled brain, it could even recognize what a gun was. He
know that thing holding the gun was food and that he had to have another bite of flesh. And another and another. Hunger was what drove them on, and their appetite was insatiable.
Hub took another step, blood dripping off his mouth and onto the floor. The dim light in the room made the blood look black, but it didn’t make it any less terrible. Travis steadied his aim. His face twisted into a grimace, and he said in a choking voice, “I’m sorry, Dad.” Then he pulled the trigger, and the gunshot sounded like a nuclear bomb going off.