Authors: Ben S Reeder
Zompoc Survivor: Exodus
Copyright © 2014 Ben Reeder
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons or entities is strictly coincidental.
Cover design by Angela Gulick| Angela Gulick Design |
Other books by this author:
The Zompoc Survivor Series:
Zompoc Survivor: Exodus
The Demon’s Apprentice series:
Vision Quest (September 2015)
Other books available from Irrational Worlds:
The Wormwood Event
The Dossiers of Asset 108
Table of Contents:
This book came about largely because of a casual comment from my long-time friend DA Roberts, who told me I ought to write a zombie story of my own. Thanks, DA. I took your advice. Also, thanks for helping me make sure I got the law enforcement and military stuff right. Any mistakes there are mine entirely.
Of course, no book that I write is ever done without the love and support of the love of my life, Randi. I couldn’t have done this without your indulgence, your endless patience and your sympathetic ear. You gave me the core of Maya. Even a zombie apocalypse couldn’t keep me from you.
Special thanks goes out to fellow writer Tony Baker as well, for pointing some damn fine beta readers my way. Linda Tooch, who went over it with a fine tooth comb in record time, Lee Close and Joel Obertance for your technical input, and Julie Brown for reminding me what my focus was with this project. Because of you, Zompoc: Exodus is much better than it was when you first got it.
To the great guys over at Zombie Tools, thank you for your blessing in letting me use your awesome blades by name. Most importantly, thanks for making such great swords and knives. I’d trust the lives of any of my characters to your craftsmanship…and mine, too.
Be sure to check out the websites listed at the end of the book as well.
Dave’s Rules of Survival
1. 98% of survival is mental. Attitude, knowledge and planning ahead will keep you alive when shit hits the fan.
2. Only 2% of survival is physical, but it’s an important 2%.
3. Rule of three: 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food.
4. Plan ahead.
5. Always have a back up for everything. Have a Plan B, because Plan A almost never works.
6. Keep the basics for survival with you at all times.
7. Know your terrain.
8. Always carry a sharp knife.
9. Always know where the exits are and know how to get to them in a hurry and in the dark.
10. Always make sure you know where your clothes and your gear are, and be able to get to them in the dark.
11. Have at least two sources of light at all times.
12. Assume that people suck after shit hits the fan, and that they’re after your stuff.
13. Don’t be one of the people who suck after shit hits the fan.
14. Guns are not magic wands. If you point one at someone, don’t assume they’re going to automatically do what you tell them to. Be ready to pull the trigger if they don’t.
15. Assume every gun is loaded if you’re not in a fight. Don’t point a gun at anything you want to keep.
16. Don’t count on any gun you might pick up during a fight. There might be a very good reason it’s on the ground.
17. Never put your finger on the trigger until you’re ready to pull it. Be sure of your target and what’s behind it if you do.
18. Know how shit works.
19. Never assume you know enough. Assume you always need to learn more.
20. If shit hasn’t hit the fan, it isn’t too late to prepare.
21. Always try your plan and gear out before you rely on it to keep you alive.
22. Watch out for your friends and family. No part of your survival prep is more important.
No one is so brave that he is not disturbed by something unexpected.
Julius Ceasar ~
The zombie apocalypse occurred right on schedule. Some of the dead walked, but most of them drove, all trying to feed their incessant hunger. These zombies weren’t trying to eat brains, though. No one ran in fear, and, much to my personal disappointment, no one started shooting the shambling hordes en masse. People just called it Monday and joined their ranks. This was normal, and I walked among them.
For me, the beginning of my Monday came at a more reasonable time: noon. My shift at Provident-American Bank’s credit card customer service call center started at one-thirty in the afternoon. And, of course, I was running late. With my car in the shop, my girlfriend Maya was giving me a ride to work. My reflection in the passenger side rearview mirror showed a slightly disheveled man with shoulder length brown hair and dark stubble on his slightly pointed chin. I wasn’t exactly model material, not with hazel eyes that were a little too close together and deep set, but Maya thought I was hot. I tucked my green Polo shirt into the waistband of my khaki cargo pants as the big gray building loomed into sight ahead of us. Maya drove up to the entry gate as fast as she could safely, and I handed her my ID badge to wave at the little sensor box. It beeped, and she handed it back to me as she gunned the engine on her little Cavalier and sent the vehicle under the rising bar. The roadway up to the rear entrance rolled past, and she braked to a hard stop in front of the doors as the blue numbers on her dashboard clock changed to read “1:29”. I leaned across and gave her a kiss before grabbing my backpack and sliding out of the passenger seat.
“I love you, baby,” I said as I closed the door.
“Love you, too. Have a good day. I’ll see you tonight!” she smiled at me through the open passenger side window before she drove off. No matter how late I was, I always made time for that. My loafers slapped against the concrete as I bounded to the glass doors and pulled the middle set open to get into the vestibule. It took me three steps to cross to the inner doors and swipe my ID badge against the little black box on the wall, then I was inside the massive lobby and jogging past the pair of blank eyed security guards. Instead of waiting for the elevator, I took the stairs to the second floor and headed through cubicle country to my own personal slice of drudgery. Already the murmur of voices was threatening to lull me into a trance. For the moment, my primary goal was to make it to my cubicle without being seen by a manager. As I slid into my chair and dropped my backpack next to the cubicle wall, I thought I’d made it.
“Hi, Dave. I noticed you were running a little late. Is everything alright?” a cheerful voice came from over my right shoulder as I was logging myself into my station. I gave a silent plea to whatever cubicle gods there might be for patience and stopped entering my password, then turned to face my tormentor. Carol Naismith wasn’t even my manager, but she still had the power to make my life difficult. In the rigid environment at P-A Bank, ignoring a manager was considered insubordination, which could mean disciplinary action. Carol was one of that special breed that delighted in using the rules to disadvantage those she felt had an attitude problem. For some reason, the more I tried to toe the line with her, the more certain she was that I had an attitude and needed to be reminded of the error of my ways.
“Everything is fine, Carol. I need to finish logging in so I’m not late.” I turned back to my keyboard and waited for her to move on, but she stayed planted where she was. Until she stopped shoulder surfing, I couldn’t enter any passwords, which left me stuck between security protocols, which I took seriously, and Carol, who didn’t think I took her seriously enough. If I ignored her, she’d write me up for a security violation. If I waited for her to go away, I would end up being late, reinforcing her need to lecture me on the importance of time management even as she prevented me from doing what she was telling me I wasn’t doing. Insanity in action.
“I just noticed that you’ve arrived after your shift starts twice this quarter. What can I do to help you make it to work on time?” Her voice dripped with solicitous concern, every word straight from the manager’s playbook. My lips pressed together in a thin line as I fought back the biting remark that was fighting to escape. After a couple of years of corporate double-talk, I was fluent in bullshit, but speaking it still left a bad taste in my mouth. Still, it was the
as it were, and I had to use it to keep my job.
“As long as I’m logged on within five minutes after my shift starts, I’m on time, Carol. But as long as you’re standing behind me, I’m not supposed to enter my password. So, the biggest thing you can do to help me be on time is to let me finish logging in.”
“My job is to help you improve,” Carol started. She stopped as I stood up and faced her.
“Carol if we’re going to have this conversation right now, I need to either let Sue know so she can code me out for the time, or have you do it and
tell her why you’re keeping me off the phone.” I said it all with a smile that promised she wasn’t going to like either option. Dropping my manager’s name into the conversation changed the tone completely. I didn’t always like how my boss did things, and she was as demanding as they came, but when it came to other people interfering with her team getting the job done, she and I saw eye to eye. Carol’s smile didn’t falter a bit, but she shook her head slightly and took a step back.
“I’ll see if I can schedule you some OTP time a little later on and we can have a one-to-one meeting. Go ahead and get on the phone. Our customers need you,” she finished with a smile that wouldn’t have melted butter. It only took me a couple of minutes to finish logging on to my workstation.
“Way to shut Carol down,” Porsche said quietly from her cubicle across the aisle. She had one of those voices that reminded me of smoky rooms and slow jazz. Barely past drinking age, she was more willowy than skinny, and just fashionable enough to avoid being trendy. I turned my head to give her a lopsided grin. Brown hair and bangs that she could have stolen from Bettie Page framed her face as she leaned out in her chair to flash her infectious smile at me. Today, she had on a long tunic in blue with a wide belt around her waist and thin stretch pants in gray. She wore a pair of flat-soled ankle boots that zipped up the side.
“Yeah, I wish I could take the credit for that,” I said. A cough broke the gentle chatter of other reps. “How’s our call volume today?”
“Pretty slow,” she said. She sounded a little surprised, and for good reason. A lot of people thought we were closed during the weekend, so if they had a problem, they waited until Monday to swamp us with calls about how we’d ruined their weekend instead of letting us fix the problem right then. It was a pet peeve of mine, and one of the reasons I disliked Mondays. I finished getting myself set up to take calls and plugged my headset into the phone. It was time to make the donuts.
The first couple of hours were filled with a combination of mind-numbing boredom broken up by inane idiocy. Most of our calls were pretty basic stuff, people calling in with questions about charges they didn’t recognize on their bill, disputes with merchants and the occasional plea for us to take a fee off their bill. Most times, we could help them and all was right with their world. Then, there were the idiots. People who didn’t think they should pay for the ton of perks their cards gave them, or who thought we were ripping them off because they couldn’t grasp how compound interest worked. And as if my day weren’t filled with enough Monday goodness, I ended up my first two hours with a call from a guy who threatened to have me fired if I didn’t get him a card design in gray instead of blue so it matched all the other cards in his wallet. It was the kind of first world whining that made me sympathize with homicidal maniacs and serial killers sometimes.
When break time rolled around, I grabbed my phone and headed for one of the unused conference rooms in the middle of the building. It gave me the dual advantage of being away from the mass of cubicles and in one of the few quiet places where I had a view of the outside world. I had two texts waiting. The first one was from a phone number with a 307 area code, the sole area code for the entire state of Wyoming. I only knew one person who lived there voluntarily: Nate Reid. He was a former Delta Force operator, and the man scared me the way reading HP Lovecraft’s stories alone on a dark and stormy night did. Talking to him was like listening to the audio version of the Necronomicon: something that came out of his mouth was bound to fall into the category of “things mortal men were not meant to know.” A year ago, he’d opened my eyes to some of the scariest shit I’d ever heard, and ever since then I’d felt like I was one of those bit players in a spy novel the dashing lead characters consults for important bits of information but who’s never in any danger of doing something cool. His text was short and to the point:
Call me. Re: Zoroaster
. I shivered for a second at the code word at the end and checked the next message. It was from Maya.
Going to Mother Murphy’s. Want anything?
it read. I thought for a moment before sending my response. Mother Murphy’s was our favorite natural foods store, and I was jealous that she was going without me.
LaraBars, the usual, cashews & jerky spices
, I texted her back. With my metaphorical feet as firmly planted in the arid mental soil of normal as I could manage, I went back to Nate’s text and called the number.
“This is Nate,” he answered cheerfully on the third ring.
“Hey Nate, it’s Dave Stewart,” I said. “I got your message. What’s up?”
“Have you checked the news today?” he asked.
“No, I haven’t had time yet.”
“Take a look at what’s happening on the east and west coasts today. Go as far in either direction as you can.”
“Okay,” I said dubiously. “Anything I need to be looking for? Is it something for the book?”
“You know how they say no news is good news? Not today. I gotta go. Remember our deal.” He hung up. I was left with a lot of questions and very little time to answer them before I was supposed to start dealing with first world problems of the affluent and clueless. There wasn’t a line straight enough to get back to my desk. Porsche came back as I pulled up an internet browser and started looking for news on the coasts. CNN was my first choice, since it posted links to local news outlets. I followed a link about a missing girl in Lake Tahoe being found safe, and it came up with the previous day’s date.
“Researching your next book?” Porsche asked as I started sifting through the website for something more recent.
“Not exactly,” I said. After I hit another link, I turned to her while the page loaded. “Working on a ghost writing project,” I said after a few moments.
“I so don’t get that,” she said as she tucked her cell phone into her purse. “You’ve got like six books published and this ghost writing thing. Why are you still working here?”
“Don’t let the writing career fool you. On my best day, I’m barely a midlist author. P-A pays the bills so I can keep trying to make it as a writer. The books pay for other things I want to do. Okay, this is officially weird,” I said as the page popped up. She came across the aisle and looked over my shoulder at the screen.
“What am I looking at?”
“Notice anything odd?” She shook her head. “Look at the dates. Notice anything out of the ordinary?”
“Everything looks like it’s from yesterday,” she said after she looked at the list. “What is the page?”
“Breaking news for Channel Nine in Lake Tahoe.” She stared at me as I switched to the screen I’d had up before. “And this is for Channel Seven in San Diego. Nothing fresher than Friday. And then for L.A., I got this,” I said as I pulled the last page up. The screen showed the news station’s logo and banners, but the content showed “Sorry, this page no longer exists.”
“That is weird,” she admitted. “Wonder what’s going on?” I shrugged and gave her a noncommittal sound. She went back to her desk and we both logged back in to take calls. Now that I knew something odd was going on, I started checking peoples’ addresses when they called in. The first three were in Iowa, Colorado and Oklahoma. Then I hit paydirt. The address that came up on the account was for Los Angeles, right in the middle of the 90210 zip code.
“How’s the weather in L.A. today?” I asked while I was looking through his statement for a set of golf clubs he’d purchased back in July.
“No clue!” he said enthusiastically. “I’m on Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman, enjoying rum and reggae. The only reason I’m calling you is because I was supposed to have these damn clubs sent to me here, and now the dealer’s saying he never got paid for the god damn things. I need you to help me find out which one of us screwed up!” I assured him that he’d paid the golf club dealer back in July while a feeling of dread crept down my spine. I had no idea why the exception seemed to be proving the theory in my head, but now I was certain that no info was coming out of Los Angeles, San Diego or Lake Tahoe. No calls were coming on from farther west than Colorado, or east of Tennessee. Between calls I went back to checking local TV station and newspaper websites, and kept hitting old news or error pages as far west as Wichita, where the latest update had been posted nearly six hours before. On the one hand, I had to grant that it
Wichita. I figured nothing of interest had happened there since Prohibition. But realistically, almost no station or newspaper would go six hours during the day without posting something, even if it wasn’t local news. Seeing Wichita going silent worried me more than any major city could. It was only two hundred and fifty miles away from Springfield.