THE SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER Book 1: Bleeding Kansas: A Novel Of The Zombie Apocalypse (8 page)

BOOK: THE SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER Book 1: Bleeding Kansas: A Novel Of The Zombie Apocalypse
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“It doesn’t occur to you that trust might have gone out the window when you let that zombie cougar have at me last night?”

“What?
You’re going to hold
that
against me?”

“Unreasonable as it sounds to a
n arrogant, sociopathic fuck like you, Tanner, yes.”

“Okay, okay! Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about but I obviously crossed a line somewhere. I’m sorry! It won’t happen again. Will you accept my apology?”

“No.”

“You’re not accepting my apology, then.”

“I just said I wasn’t. That you don’t know what you’re apologizing for renders it invalid.”

“All I heard was cursing and my name.”

“Then we’re done! Look, this might be the last time any of us will see eggs, bread, and fried cheese sticks, and I’d like to say a proper goodbye! So—” I jerk my head in the direction of the door.

Tanner opens his mouth to say something but shuts up. He turns and leaves the kitchen. I hear the TV come on in the lobby.

I’ll give him credit. He could have pulled his gun. And the more I think about it—goddamnit, he’s right. We both need a wingman. The hell of it is someone like him won’t entirely have my back. And you could fill a fleet of Luxury Tanks with the fucks I don’t give for him.

Which brings home how long it might be until I have eggs again.
The monsters were eating the family dogs at the mass burial; will chickens survive this? Cows?

All of a sudden I flash on my wife.
My son and daughter. Our cats.

I feel the heaviness upon me. Just a
s it was when I woke up, writhing within the constricting black coils of an anxious pre-dawn hour before I managed to fling my legs over the edge of the mattress. I try telling myself I would have left my wife well cared for before I began furnishing my new house in Kansas City.

Right.
I was still leaving her to grow old and die in that crumbling little starter cottage in that crumbling old neighborhood in crumbling north Colorado Springs.

Which she did anyway.

My wife of 22 years.

My son.
My daughter.

Goddamn,
and those poor fucking cats! (Yes, the cats!)

The timer beeps over the fry vat. I pull up the basket, bang it to the side to knock the oil off,
and hook it to drain. The snap-clicks as I shut off the fryer and the grill—I wish I had something less trite than “sounds like the slamming of coffin lids” but it’s all I got.

I hear the TV outside in the bar. I look around the kitchen. The bright overhead lights. The fry vats and electric grills.
Humming. Buzzing. Functioning.

Like regular TV programming, this is all going away.

I doubt there was even an evening shift to relieve at the power plants this a.m. How about the water and sewage treatment plants? How many of those workers were straining against the yellow tape when the dead kicked out of their winding sheets and clambered out of the trenches on each other’s backs?

I pull up a stool. I could sit outside
at the bar but I need to take all this in without the distractions of Tanner, the TV, and whatever might be pawing at the front plate glass in the lobby.

I’m working the knife and fork when I realize what I’ve been missing. Good Lord, the PTSD must be making me lose my mind already….

I go to the fridge and bring out all the bacon that will fit on the grills. Breakfast tastes so much better as I take my bites in between laying out the strips and cleaning as I go. I use the time before the first turning of the meat to secure the insulated bags used to carry up room service dinners. Once the bacon is turned it’s less than a minute before they’re draining on a bed of paper towels.

I’m laying out the rest of the bacon along and a box of sausage patties when Tanner comes through the door. He’s a smidge paler than when I last saw him. “There’s nothing on the TV but pre-recorded loops,” he says.
“Nothing. Not even local stuff.”

“It was like that since before dawn,” I say.

“It’s just—well, this was to be expected.” Tanner pulls himself up a little. He chuckles nervously. “Crazy as it sounds I half-expected someone to pop in with a weather report.”

“Weather’s
gonna be what it’s gonna be,” I say, breaking down the boxes the bacon and sausage patties came in. I put them in the lined trash barrel behind me. “Hot, with a chance of afternoon thundershowers. What about it?”

“That’s just it,” Tanner says as if he’d heard something else entirely. “The sky looked good from the roof but these things can blow in anytime. If nothing else, we need to be in the air well before afternoon.”

I stop and look at Tanner.

“What?” says
Tanner. “I pretty sure these things didn’t eat the Cessnas and Pipers. If we can find one of those and gas it up we’re out of here.”


You can
fly
?”

“Well, it’s something I just thought of, really. I didn’t want to make a big deal of it. It’s been so long….”

“Tanner, you are a piece of work. I swear, if you’re making this up—”

“I’ve only flown these things on the computer, all right?” Tanner says. “Are you willing to take that chance? Because whether or not I want to chance it myself is what’s got me in knots right now!”

“How many hours did you put in on the flight simulator game?”

“Enough for my wife to comment on it.”

“Enough that you’re seriously willing to try it?”


Just haven’t had the time for lessons and licensing. It’s been on my bucket list.”

“He
re’s your chance to prove to your wife you weren’t wasting time.”

“Really?
Are you trying to talk me into this? You didn’t strike me as that desperate to get back!”

“In the best of conditions it takes all day to drive across Kansas. And that’s assuming
we’re starting at dawn, and that nothing and no one stops us.”

“Even without interruptions we’d never get home in time,” Tanner says, as if speaking to himself.

“No interruptions in the air. We’ll be in Colorado well before dark.”

“I don’t have to take it too high.”

“We can just follow I-70.”

“That’ll work until Denver.”

“Where you’ll follow I-25 south towards Highlands Ranch. At least until we’re in the open country outside Lone Tree.”

“Where’ll we land?”

“Any open stretch of Interstate should do.”


Yes. They were actually designed for that.” Tanner pauses. “Thing is, we have to assume Highlands Ranch and Colorado Springs look a lot like this. If they’re not broadcasting out of New York, Atlanta, or Los Angeles, it’s Game Over across the board. Which is why I’d like it if you came along. Safety in numbers.”


We’ll need food.”

“Yes, I understand that better now. You think you could spare me a plate of what you’ve got left?”

“Take the leftover eggs and French toast. The bacon and sausage will keep if I cook it thoroughly.”

“Protein and fat.
Yeah, this might be the last we see of it.”

I hand him an oval plate. “Let’s worry about that when we get to wherever we’re going.”

I expect him to take it outside to the bar but he straddles the stool I was using and eats where I was just minutes before. I’m under the impression that this is all coming home to him, and he’d rather not be left alone with it.

This shit is getting weirder by the minute.

 

I’ve sealed the bacon and sausage,
the chicken tenders, the onion rings and cheese sticks in large freezer bags. I sucked the air out of the bags before sealing them; they’ll have to keep until I can find a cooler. And ice….

I take my vacuum sealed goodies to hide in my luggage. I’ve had my stuff—all of one suitcase and my laptop bag—packed and staged and ready to go since showering this morning. Tanner is so busy tearing into the French toast and scrambled eggs he doesn’t look up as I bang out of the swinging doors.

He’s finished when I get back from bringing my luggage down from my room on the mezzanine. “We ready?” he asks.


Soon as you stage your gear.”

It’s already downstairs, bless his heart.
All we have to do is bring the Luxury Tank around and load out. Tanner insists on going with me. “Just keep that gun holstered unless we have no choice but to blast our way out,” I tell him. I show him the hammer and blade on the belt I’d liberated from Officer Dalton.

“Where’d you get the gun?” If he shows any surprise I miss it. He’s as cool as the other side of the pillow.

“Officer Dalton stopped by while I was cleaning up.”

“He did? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because we have trust issues, Tanner.”

“It—I was mainly curious if he had anything to say.”

“Just, ‘take this, it’s really bad, you’re on your own.’”


Oh.”

We turn the key in the glass door and push it open. Like stepping into the hot beating heart of rotting garbage, the da
mp, parboiled stench fouls our skin and clothes on contact. Just when you think you’ve adjusted to the smell of walking corpses and their shit-soiled legs, a fresh wave of humid stink rolls over like a fat ocean swell. Our mouths are tightly shut; it’s all we can do to keep our eyes open as we cross the brick-paved roundabout the valets used to bring the cars around.

Clear, so far.
No—in the street. I tap Tanner’s arm with the back of my hand and point. We stop behind the fountain and watch him walk.

He’s a heavyset middle-aged guy, big-shouldered and silver-haired. I’d rather not think about who
was there by the bed when he woke up and whose blood that is down the front of his blue silk pajamas. As for what he’s doing on this street in front of the hotel, I’m guessing he got out of the other major hotel one block over.

The
wet brown stain in the back of his pajamas is one thing but there’s something pale, white, with pink and yellow trailing down his leg. It tumbles out his pants cuff in gloopy, lumpy clumps like some horrible cottage cheese. The stench is beyond mere shit. Tanner and I both have our hands over our mouths. We don’t even wait for this thing to pass, shaking his left leg along the way to let more pale pink-yellow matter loose. We take quick breaths behind our hands and make a run for the garage.

That smell is even worse in the garage. Like it’s been cooking in here.
Our watering eyes aren’t yet adjusted to the dim yellow light when a skinny white wannabe gangbanger rises from the shadows in the near corner behind us. It doesn’t cry out until we turn to face it. If it hadn’t been for all the scraping and shuffling as it got to its feet it might have snuck up on us.

Tanner
reaches for his gun. I hold up my hand and walk towards the boy, the meat tenderizer in one hand, the butcher’s blade in the other. The boy raises his arms to grab at me.

I swing the blade and one hand falls away mid-forearm. He drops his other arm before I can hi
t it. His angry bellow echoes throughout the parking garage. He swings his remaining arm around but I’ve switched out the blade for the meat tenderizer. The boy falls sideways. I step quickly behind his head. I remember something about how some fighters can kill you instantly by shoving your nose bone into your brain and I angle my next blow to do just that.

That should settle it but Tanner and I are in the not-so-sweet spot of surround-sound
hrrrrrrn!
echoing throughout the concrete cave of the garage. The Luxury Tank is just ahead in the first space beyond the handicapped spaces. I click the remote lock and we both run to the vehicle.

I start the engine and as I turn aroun
d to check my rear I see a stocky girl in a gore-blackened XXL sleep-shirt stumbling towards the Tank. I shift into reverse and slam into her. She falls backwards, her skull cracking loudly on the pavement. I hear the snapping of bones as my left rear tire rolls over her.

It’s a short roll out from the garage to the doors of the hotel. I wish it was further. Apparently a bunch of these things have been using the garage to keep out of the sun.
It won’t take them long. I screech to a halt before the glass doors.

A buzzer squawks against my trying to pop the hatch while we’re
still in gear. Tanner takes this as a signal to jump out of the Tank before I can get it stopped. He’s already at the doors, pulling them open as I throw the shifter in park. The hatch opens without complaint, but it’s slow. I open my door and jump out. The walkers from the garage are staggering out into the sunlight and headed our way. I see two more coming across the plaza from the street.

Tann
er puts my luggage out first. I wedge my gear between the rear seats. I turn and Tanner is already handing me his large suitcase. Now his suitbag….

I turn and look up.
“Behind you!”

Tanner has just enough time to duck out under the grasp of the rotund man in the stained gray track suit. This
seems to surprise him. He senses my presence, though. With loud crowing noise, he leans in towards me for the kill. I’m reaching for a hammer I’ll never pull loose in time when there’s a deafening
bang!
and the man in the stained gray tracksuit falls over.

And then
Tanner tosses me his golf clubs.

G
olf clubs?


Goddamnit!”

“Just close the hatch, let’s go!”

For a split second I want to throw them at the family of three, mom, dad and Junior toddling up behind us. Instead I toss the bag of clubs atop Tanner’s other gear, slam the hatch, and run for the driver’s side door—

—where I’m met by a petite, late-middle-aged woman in a pink nightgown.
I see her rage-and-hunger-twisted face and punch her in her gut. She folds. I open the door, throw myself in, slam!

“Why didn’t you leave the keys in the vehicle?”
says Tanner.

“Force of habit.”
I’ve got the Luxury Tank in gear. A thump of hands and arms across my driver’s side window tells me the woman has found her feet just before I bolt across the brick plaza.

T
he dead are massing in the street to intercept us. Normally I’d turn left to get to the Interstate but the swarm is too thick. I turn right, hoping I can round the block. Wherever these things were hiding as the sun came up, they’re out, drawn to the hum of our engine, the roar of Tanner’s gunfire, the cries of their fellow walkers. I see them coming out from around the buildings, stumbling down the streets I’m crossing, ambling towards us down the otherwise empty avenues.

I glance over to see Tanner
trying to figure out the GPS over the bouncing and swerving. “Kansas City International Airport!” I say while pulling hard right to avoid a group of three lunging for us. I avoid overcorrecting and hitting the lamp post by jumping the curb at the corner. That was my first right turn. Fortunately this street is clear. I sprint down this block and skid into my next right, knowing full well I won’t be as lucky on this last run.

“Keep straight,” the GPS says
.

All of Kansas City seems to be pouring out of the side s
treets to swarm us. Three or more will be bold enough to punch through the glass to get at us. I imagine the rest tearing at the sheets of safety glass, heedless of injury (hell, it just pisses them off more), reaching in with lacerated hands and pulling us out by whatever those hands grab first. How many mouths, how many sets of teeth will cover our bodies, from our faces, eyes, ears, arms, legs? How much will we actually suffer, our beings torn away a single mouthful at a time, before death takes mercy on us?

“You strapped in?” I ask Tanner.

“I recommend picking up the pace, if you don’t mind,” he says.

“All right, then.
We’re going to hit some people.”

I press hard on the accelerator and I’m good for the first ha
lf of the first block. A man in a suit with his bloodied shirttails hanging comically over his slacks steps out to meet the Tank.  He thumps off the front quarter panel, shaking the frame of the SUV as it rolls along the sunny, stinking street.

“Keep straight,” the GPS reminds us. “Prepare to turn right.”

I swerve left but hit two more with the right quarter panel. One spins away, the other goes under the tire. The moaning of the massing dead is like one long sustained shout we can hear even in the nearly airtight cabin of the luxury SUV. We’re halfway through the second block but the mob is thick in front of us now. I can’t see where to turn.

“Turn right, one hundred yards,” the GPS says.

“Don’t slow down!” Tanner says.

If I hit these things full force I’ll trigger the airbags. I cut my speed just enough to bring the ones in front under. The automatic all-wheel drive kicks in and we’re grinding and squishing and breaking the bodies beneath (God, they’d better be) run-flat tires. We rise up on one corner, then fall. We roll
up, sag down as we pulverize select pockets of flesh and bone, then roll up another, plunging nose down again over the uneven terrain of howling corpses.

The interior of the Luxury Tank is dark for all the diseased once-people slapping and pounding at the glass. I can barely see over the hood for all the angry cadavers clawi
ng at the front of the vehicle. I hear the strain like cracking ice in the driver’s side window in the rear. I press just a little further on the accelerator. We lurch forward. But only a little. Then we’re pushed back again.

The sound of
moaning, snarling dead people grows louder in the near-airtight space of the cab, humming in our very teeth. The side windows are bloody from the fists pounding on them.

I floor it.

They back away at the roar of the engine enough for me to lurch forward again. The nose of the vehicle dips as we clear the latest mound of bodies. One of the tires is spinning but the rest are working. This angles us to the left a little.

“Turn
right
,” scolds the GPS.

I cut the wheels left and right. The snarling once-people back away from either corner. They seem to have thought they were safe where they were but now they can’t predict how I’m going. The ones directly up front are crazed with hunger, rage, God-knows, and still go under—except one
bad boy with a neck tattoo who has thrown himself up on the hood. I brake hard. He slides back but holds on. I throw the shifter into reverse.

BOOK: THE SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER Book 1: Bleeding Kansas: A Novel Of The Zombie Apocalypse
12.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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