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Authors: Jon Schafer

Tags: #apocalypse, #zombie, #series, #dead, #cruise, #walking dead, #undead apocalypse

Dead Calm (3 page)

BOOK: Dead Calm
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'The storm blew us that far?” Steve asked in
disbelief.

“We were riding a wind out of the east for two days.
I’m surprised we didn't land in Mexico. I tried to keep us as close
to Florida as I could, but without anything to navigate with,
except a compass, it was hit or miss.” Pointing off to their left,
he said, “If we were to power out of this current and head due west
or northwest, we’d hit Mexico or Texas in two to three days. Maybe
less. The wind can't stay down forever. I’d feel more confident
trying something like that now that I have a general idea of where
we are.”

“So are you saying you want to skip this and head for
land?” Steve asked incredulously as he pointed to the cruise ship.
He thought Tick-Tock would be the last person on the face of the
Earth to miss an adventure like boarding a ship full of unknowns on
the high seas.

“I just want everyone to know all the options,” he
replied.

Steve gave him an odd look before asking, “Don’t you
want to check it out?”

A broad grin split Tick-Tock's face as he said, “More
than anything else in the world. If you all decide to head for
land, I’m going to swim for that ship.”

“I’m not too worried about anyone wanting to skip
getting supplies, a hot meal of real food and showers,” Steve said.
And then, considering what Tick-Tock said, he added, “Besides, we
don't know what we’ll find when we hit land. We could make it to a
coastal city, but as far as we know the dead have overrun them all.
We could end up being in an even worse situation then we are now.
HWNW was worldwide so we can't count on Mexico being safe.”

Switching subjects, Tick-Tock said, “Law states that
if you find an abandoned boat at sea, you're entitled to the
salvage rights.”

Steve laughed. “I just want what's on it. What in the
hell would we do with something that big?”

Tick-Tock shrugged, “Might be a good place to hole up
for a while. That ship's got stronger radios than we have on the
sailboat. If they're working, we might be able to contact the
military and let them know we found someone who's immune to the
virus. They could come and pull us off by helicopter.”

“A lot of ifs in that statement,” Steve pointed out.
“Let's just get aboard her first.”

Turning to go below, he added, “I’ll let Heather know
about being able to make land in a few days, but I think she's
looking forward to a shower.”

Steve found her in their cabin cleaning her CAR-15.
After he let her know what Tick-Tock had told him, he watched for
her reaction.

She frowned before saying, “I’ll go along with what
everyone decides, but I say we check the ship out first. It’s a
floating hotel with enough supplies on it that we don't have to
head for Mexico or Texas. We can make it to Key West like we
planned.” She took a breath to continue but Steve cut her off by
saying, “That's what Tick-Tock and I decided too. I just wanted to
see how you felt about it.”

“I want a shower, preferably a hot one, but I'd
settle for a cold one,” Heather said stubbornly. “I'd also like to
eat something besides MRE's, and I want to shave my legs. I’m
starting to look like a Sasquatch. That's how I feel about it.”

Steve held up his hands in surrender and said, “Then
we act like pirates. But if we hit any serious resistance, we back
off and head for land.”

With a half smile that had come to be familiar to
him, Heather said, “A pirate? You'd look cute with a cutlass and an
eye patch.”

Taking her in his arms, Steve reached around and gave
her butt a squeeze while saying, “I'm only here for the booty,
baby.”

 

Chapter Two

 

The Dead Calm:

Brain throttled back to just above idle as they
pulled broadside to the cruise liner.

“Keep this distance while we check it out,” Tick-Tock
ordered him. “I want to stay out of the range of any small arms
fire.”

Brain nodded as he concentrated on the sailboat's
controls. At first, he'd been disappointed to find he was being
left behind when they boarded the cruise ship. Now that they were
near enough to see the tremendous size of the Calm of the Seas
though, he found himself a little relieved. He had been on numerous
cruises and had always stayed close to his mother, who always
stayed close to the casino, so he had only seen the outside of the
ships when he was embarking and disembarking. Those ships had
seemed gigantic, but as he approached one from the water, he was
amazed at how it absolutely dwarfed their little 48-foot sailboat.
The idea of searching a vessel that size made his stomach knot up
in fear.

Tick-Tock tried to hail the cruise liner on the radio
but received no answer. Everyone crowded the port rail to help scan
the decks and numerous balconies for any signs of the living or the
dead. Tick-Tock took up a position behind Brain and raised his
binoculars. The white painted hull reflected on the still water as
the sun bounced off it to create a dazzling double image of the
Calm of the Seas.

“Holy shit that thing's huge,” Heather said with awe.
“My eyes keep losing track of where I’m looking.” Lowering her
binoculars, she scanned the huge hull floating six hundred feet
away before again finding the area she had been assigned to
search.

With only three pair of binoculars, Steve had split
the ship into sections so that he, Tick-Tock and Heather could give
it a good once over before deciding on their next course of action.
With nine decks visible and what seemed like hundreds of individual
balconies, theirs was a daunting task. After letting everyone get
their bearings, Steve turned to Susan who had been given the job of
taking notes and said, “A few of the lifeboats are missing.”

“I can see a lot of the balcony doors are open,”
Heather noted.

“Looks like an open hatch down near the water line,”
Steve added.

“Oh, this is too wild,” Tick-Tock exclaimed. Leaning
forward as if to get a better look at something, he was silent for
so long that Susan finally asked, “What do you see?”

“A rock climbing wall, I’ve got to try that. Those
things are cool as shit.”

Susan smiled and punched him on the arm. “Be
serious.”

“I am serious, those things are a blast.” Tick-Tock
fell silent as he scanned the upper decks. Finally he said, “The
Bridge has tinted windows so I can't see in. If anyone's up there,
I'm sure they've seen us by now.”

“Shit,” Heather suddenly exclaimed. “I’ve got a
couple of Z's.”

“Where?” Steve asked.

“Go out to the bow, and then pan back along that
first deck. When you come to the superstructure, go up two decks.
They're on the tenth balcony back,” she replied.

Steve followed her directions and quickly found what
he was looking for.

Focusing in on the balcony containing the zombies,
what struck him first was that one of the dead was completely naked
except for a baseball cap. Normally, this nudity wouldn’t have
bothered him, as the dead were unaware of what they wore or didn’t
wear. What caught his attention was that the man easily tipped the
scales at three hundred plus pounds. It didn't help that the dead
thing’s stomach had been ripped open and it had looped strings of
ropy intestines over its shoulder so that it didn't trip over them
as it staggered around.

Switching his view to the second walking nightmare on
the balcony, Steve decided that it was no prize either. Clad in the
remnants of an evening gown that had once been white but was now
rust colored with dried bloodstains, fat man's companion was
missing its arm from the elbow down and had part of its face ripped
away to reveal gray bone around an empty eye socket.

Steve thought he had grown indifferent to the various
sights of the tattered and ripped apart bodies of the dead, but
after the brief respite of being away from them while on the
sailboat, he found himself revolted anew.

The two living dead stood staring hungrily while the
people on the sailboat glided past out of their reach. As Steve
watched, fat man extended his arms, reaching out as if to give a
welcoming hug to the visitors. He leaned too far across the top of
the balcony railing and overbalanced. Gravity did its job and he
fell about eight stories to hit the water with a huge splash.

Tick-Tock laughed, “That was one hell of a
cannonball. Now we'll get to see if dead fat floats.”

“It doesn't,” Heather said. “Right before everything
went to hell in St. Pete, we got a call that someone fell off a
dock and didn't surface. A road unit went out but couldn't find
anything, so they called in the divers. Two of them went down a few
hours later to see if it was a false alarm or to recover the body
if it wasn't. It was a Z and it killed one of them. The other got
away and reported that it was tangled up in a net, just hanging out
there on the bottom. As far as anyone knows, it's still down
there.”

To prove Heather's point, fat man's body went under
and didn't resurface.

“Too bad they're not like lemmings,” Steve commented.
“Get the leader to jump and the rest will follow.”

“Maybe we could try something to encourage them,”
Tick-Tock said.

He and Steve exchanged a nod to discuss the idea
later.

They continued to scan the cruise ship for any sign
of life as they paralleled its twisting course. Tick-Tock told
Brain to circle around the massive liner to the port side, but the
only thing there was more of the living dead. When they first
pulled up alongside the ship, only a few zombies came out to look
at them hungrily. As they stayed in view though, more and more
crowded the balconies until there were hundreds of the dead
stretching from bow to stern.

The low angle they were forced to look up restricted
their view, but from what they could see there didn't seem to be
any of the dead crowding the rails on the open decks, just on the
balconies. Eyestrain took its toll so Tick-Tock and Steve handed
their binoculars over to Susan and Brain. Mary said she was bored
and wanted no part of the search.

Heather helped Cindy hold a pair up to her eyes.
Within seconds, she spotted the dead hanging on the balcony rails
and quickly turned her head away. She stood silent for a moment
before going below. Heather had not been trying to scare or shock
her, but in a world mostly populated by the living dead, she needed
to learn to accept their presence no matter how hideous they
were.

After Cindy was gone, Susan gave Heather an
encouraging smile. The two woman had talked earlier about helping
the little girl come to grips with the sight of the dead. They
didn't want her to freeze up if she came face to face with one of
them. They explained to Cindy that she could outrun the creatures
if she stayed calm and didn't let herself get cornered.

Although they had no intention of ever leaving Cindy
alone or in a position where she might come into direct contact
with a zombie, in the new dead world it was better to be prepared.
Cindy might be immune to the HWNW virus, but she could still easily
be killed by one of the flesh eaters.

“She'll get used to the sight of them,” Susan
said.

Heather gave a dry laugh and replied, “I just hope
one day I do. It seems like every time I see one of those things,
it's more horrible than the last one.”

When Brain and Susan tired of scanning the cruise
ship, they sat in the seats lining the cockpit to review what
they'd seen and decide what their next move should be.

“As far as I could tell, the open decks are nearly
empty,” Steve started out. “And I could see on deck seven that most
of the doors leading into the superstructure are wide open. I
didn't see any of the dead using them to come out and look at us
though.”

“And we definitely attracted their attention
everywhere else, so I think it's safe to say that deck seven is
clear,” Heather added.

Susan wrote this down and said, “Deck seven appears
clear,” as a confirmation.

“The open decks on eleven and twelve didn't have any
Z's rubber necking our drive-by,” Tick-Tock said. “I spotted maybe
a hundred on the balconies forward of them, but that was it.”

Susan noted this and said, “The deck below that was
swarming with them. That would be deck ten. The open deck at the
rear of nine looked clear, but the balconies forward of that were
full of the dead.”

“The balconies at the front of deck eight looked like
a Marilyn Manson concert,” Brain said. “But I couldn't see anything
at the rear because it's enclosed. Anyone else catch anything I
might have missed?”

No one did, but before they could move on, Mary said,
“I'm lost. How do you know which deck is which?” This was
accompanied by a vacant look at the cruise ship in the
distance.

Brain explained that they were numbering the decks by
starting at the uppermost level which they designated twelve. From
there, they counted downward to deck four, which was the lowest
visible deck on the hull. He went on to say that, with most of the
cruise ships he'd been on, the bottom three decks that weren't
visible would be used for mechanical equipment, storage and the
crew's quarters. When this was met by a blank look from Mary, he
tried to explain it again, finally giving up in frustration when
she ignored him and asked for someone to point out which deck the
spa was on.

“Like I was saying before,” Steve interrupted her,
“deck seven looks completely deserted. It appears there’s no one on
it at all. Below deck seven, the ship is mostly enclosed, except
for the rooms with balconies. I spotted Z's on almost all of those.
We can't be sure about the areas we can't see, so we have to assume
they're zombified.”

“What about the open hatch on four, right next to the
water line,” Susan asked.

Steve shrugged. They had attempted to try and see
what was inside. Due to distance and the small size of the opening
though, none of them could make out any details. The question on
everyone’s mind was what would they face if they boarded the ship
through that hatch.

BOOK: Dead Calm
5.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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