Authors: Eric A. Shelman
Tags: #zombie apocalypse
As they crossed the short bridge back into
proper, they saw men with guns running along the roadways. Flex recognized many of them from the regular meetings that Kev held to keep everyone updated. He saw Lisa, and he honked his horn. She looked, and came running toward them.
He lowered his window as she approached the truck.
“Hey, guys.” Her eyes went to the zombie in the back seat and she pulled back when
the zombie with the intense, blue-red eyes
bared her brown
, her mouth gnashing side to side.
,” she said. “I knew you were going for one, but I didn’t expect her to be right there.”
“How do they growl when they don’t breathe?” asked Dave. Nobody answered.
Flex adjusted his rear view mirror and looked behind him. “You’ve set her off a bit there,
” he said. “We’re all on WAT-6. She’s pretty calm, considering, right Hemp?”
Hemp studied her. “A bit, yes. Surprisingly so, considering
she literally has to
Lisa shrugged. “Whatever. You know this I guess, but we were at the range – and it was going very well, Davey – when Gem looked up and saw a whole line of the sick ones coming out of the woods.”
“How many?” asked Dave.
“I’d put it at hundreds,” said Lisa. “Beyond that, I don’t know. But there are ratz, too.” She held up a spray bottle of urushiol blend. “Serena and I are staying back from wherever the front lines are, but we’re going to take out our share. Gem and Charlie took the girls home.”
“Have you talked to them recently?” asked Flex.
“Ten minutes ago. They’re good. Hunkered down and armed.”
“We’re going to drop her off, check on the ladies, and we’ll be back. We’ll radio Kev on the way to the house.”
Dave, you coming out?”
“Yep. Gotta take a quick dump and load up on ammo. I’ll find out where you are on the radio.”
“TMI,” said Lisa.
“But I’ll alert the media. See you in a bit.”
Flex hit the gas and five minutes later they were at the house.
It had not been hard to get the zombie out of the cell. When they approached her, she stood with her arms down by her sides, and when she raised her head, she never met anyone’s eyes. When pulled, she followed.
It was the same now. They had about an hour left for the WAT-6 scent-masking abilities, and would need to take more and bring a lot with them to ensure the safety of the defense team.
The three men got her inside the mobile lab and onto a gurney with a two-inch thick pad on top and a tiny pillow. She fully cooperated and as she rested her head on
small pillow, Flex swore he saw her close her eyes
as though she were relieved to be lying on something soft.
,” he said. “She almost looks comfortable.”
Hemp looked at him. “I’m not sure she’s not,” he said. “Something is different about her, guys. I don’t know what yet. She seems more . . . I hate to say it. I hate to give her credit.”
“More what?” asked Dave.
“Less affected?” asked Flex.
“Exactly. Affected, but not to the extreme as is typical.”
“I gotta get into the house,” said Flex.
“Me, too,” said Hemp. “Help me with these straps.”
Dave and Flex helped Hemp strap her waist, wrists and ankles. They turned out the light and closed and locked the door once outside.
going to have to beg off most of your hunts
,” said Hemp. “
a lot of simple observation
with her, and
it won’t do to have too many interruptions.
I have a feeling what I learn from
that creature out there is going to help all of us. I’m certain she’s the
key to some important answers.”
“I believe you,” said Dave, opening the front door. Gem and Charlie rushed forward and immediately scooped up Flex and Hemp, squeezing them hard.
“Uncle Davey!” said Trina, her arms open wide. “Hugs!”
“I knew there was gonna be a beautiful girl to greet me, too!” said Dave, lifting Trina into his arms and spinning her around.
“It’s me!” she said.
“It is!” he said in response.
“In the potty,” whispered Trina. “Shh. Don’t tell.”
“Zipped,” said Dave.
As everyone was breaking their embraces,
came in and the welcomes started over.
They all sat down and Gem produced hot cups of coffee for everyone except the girls. For them, there were ice cold sodas.
liked Sprite, and Trina liked Pepsi.
All was in order.
“Hemp says we’re a beacon,” said Gem. “So we’re the steak cooking while you’re walking th
ough the campground. The one that makes you want to go toward it.”
“Essentially, yes,” said Hemp. “We are the largest concentration of food source for them, and their sense of smell is greatly enhanced. They smell us for miles. It could be up to a hundred miles or greater.”
“Like a dog’s?” asked Dave. “Is their sense of smell that good?”
“I have a sneaking suspicion it is better,” said Hemp. “Perhaps like a bear or shark. You know the old saying, if a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is there to hear it? The bear will smell it.”
“I had no idea,” said Charlie. “Wow.”
“The ratz are number five without any enhanced abilities,” said Hemp.
has improved, they might now have the best sense of smell of any creature on Earth.”
“And if the zombies could strategize, they’d just follow the ratz, since they can find us with those great noses,” said Dave.
Hemp stared at Gammon, his eyes intense.
Dave looked at him. “What? You’re freakin ‘me out, dude.”
hat you just said,” said Hemp. “About the zombies following the ratz.”
that, are they?”
“I’ve got some ideas, but I don’t want to say until I’ve tested the one outside.”
“Is she special?” asked Gem. “What’s different
“She was . . . kind of resting,” said Hemp. “In her cell. Sitting.”
“I’ve never seen them sit for no reason,” said Gem.
“Exactly,” said Flex.
“They don’t get tired.”
“Not to mention how she responded to the weapons. Immediately backing away. Coming back when the weapon was away.”
“Like Jamie,” said Gem. “Flex, you told me
Jamie did at the pool
Hemp, you tied it together later. She knew her arm was broken, so she didn’t follow you into the pool that day. Knew she couldn’t tread water.
And in the mobile lab, her brain scan
when she saw the weapon.”
These creatures are incapable of drowning, so in retrospect, what Flex’s sister did doesn’t make much sense,” said Hemp. “And while perhaps some particle of remaining instinct guided her actions, having only been infected for a very short time, what’s going on now seems more specific.”
He paced back and forth as the thoughts flooded into his brain. “
I can’t put my finger on it, but
seems more . . . aware. I’m going to
down all behavior that I’ve witnessed in a notebook. One page. Everything I’ve seen them do that flies in the face of logic. Then
I’ll mull it over and
see if I don’t find a pattern of some sort.”
“No time like the present,” said Charlie, getting up. She retrieved a note pad and pen from a kitchen drawer. She handed it to Hemp. “Start writing, professor.”
Three weeks passed, and the zo
mbies kept pouring into Concord. From the looks of their bare feet and tattered clothing, many had quite possibly staggered for hundreds of miles to reach the city.
While large groups went out on regular zombie kills,
Hemp had stayed true to his promise; he’d spent a lot of time observing the one he’d come to know as Blue Eyes.
She was interesting on her own, but he was beginning to feel he would learn more if she had another one like herself with which to interact.
It was just after
o’clock in the
, in what
watch said was the latter half of February. He sat at the kitchen table taking notes on his last session with
Flex and Dave walked in the room and gave him a wave.
Blue Eyes keeping you busy, buddy?” asked Flex.
“Entirely. Sorry I can’t go along with you. I could use a break.”
“Next time. Dave, w
e need to get changed in
head on over to your house and I’ll swing by to get you when we’re ready.”
“Dude, that’s fine if my battle gear is a tee shirt and jeans. Pretty much all I got.”
“It’ll do,” said Flex, spreading his arms. He was wearing the same thing.
put a hand on Hemp’s shoulder
Sure you don’t want to go with?
was pretty sure
you’d change your mind
“It’s not a matter of changing my mind,
I feel a sense of urgency regarding this female
in the lab
. I need to structure
tests and find out if there’s more to this behavior than we’ve thought heretofore.”
“Good luck then,” Dave said.
“And stop saying heretofore,” said Flex.
“Good luck to you gentlemen, and please, b
e careful,” said Hemp.
,” said Dave.
Always.” He closed the door.
e’ll catch up later, Hemp,” said Flex, jogging up the stairs. “Learn stuff!” he called down, now out of view.
Charlie walked out, having chosen her shirt for the day. This one had a picture of Jesus Christ on the front and said, “Jesus is Coming … Look Busy.”
“Odd shirt,” said Hemp.
“Here to what?” asked Charlie.
rolled his eyes, and laughed
Heretofore. It means u
p until this time.”
“Good. I get that
works, too, and so does
up until now
. Sorry, baby, but the guys I was with – the one or two, that is – before I met you didn’t use four syllable words.”
it was only three syllables, but
you’re not the
to express frustration at my
word choices, believe me
. Regardless, I’m going to utilize the EEG the way I did
, I believe.
There my be enough actual observable mannerism and response tests that it won’t even be necessary.”
I won’t have any concern about
“You need to take more, sweetie,” said Gem, looking at her watch.
about an hour overdue
“Thanks, Gem, but I intended to.
And remind Flex to take some with him, too. I’
ve got a whole freezer bag full.”
“Does Kev have much at the state house?” asked Gem.
“Plenty. I showed them the ratios, so they’ve been using the base mixture and adding urushiol to it to make a good supply.”
“Beautiful,” said Gem.
Flex trotted down the stairs and came to give Gem a long kiss on the mouth. “Take care, babycakes,” he said. “And keep your gun ready and the blinds cracked.”