Read an Excerpt
I started feeling physically better the day of the twenty-first. The attack from the raiders had really busted me up. I got out of bed, drank a gallon of water (over the course of a few hours) and stretched a bit. I asked John what it looked like topside. He didn’t want to say much of anything so I followed him up to the control room to look for myself. The previous night John had rushed out in the darkness and pulled the bag off one of the cameras and dashed back inside. There were undead about and he didn’t wish to be out for long amongst them.
More undead inhabit the area around where the fence was damaged. They are like water, flowing to the point of least resistance. My painful burns are healing, but they were not that awful to begin with. Just a few blisters on my face and other places. Our victory in the last encounter with the insurgents was largely due to chance. What if they hadn’t been convoying cross-country with a fuel truck? We would have probably been executed, unable to overcome their numbers. Outnumbered not only by the undead but by those who wished us dead. I feared the insurgents nearly as much as the creatures. In theory they could at least outstrategize us by putting their heads together and brainstorming on ways to force us from this compound. We do not know how many tangos remain; however, I am sure they still dwarf our numbers.
• • •
On camera number three I could see the charred bodies of men walking about the wreckage of the diesel truck and trailer . . .
Men that I had killed.
That night we went outside and put them down. To avoid muzzle flash, I snuck up on them from behind in the darkness with NVGs, selected single fire on my carbine and popped them in the back of the head with the barrel almost touching the skull. After every depression of the trigger I saw them react to the noise and start moving toward the sound, blind in the darkness. They could still hear, even though many of them had nothing that resembled ears. I repeated this seventeen times before they were all laid to rest.
We noticed that three vehicles had not been harmed badly in the fuel blast from the other night. There was a Land Rover, a Jeep and a late model Ford Bronco a hundred yards from the charred grass zone. John and I approached with caution. Upon closer inspection I discovered that both of the Jeep’s front tires were blown and the window glass was spiderwebbed and concave.
Fifty meters farther were the Land Rover and the Ford. As I approached the Land Rover, I noticed that it appeared to be in very good condition and had no previous owners inhabiting the interior. Bonus. John and I walked up to the door; I opened it and checked the interior more closely. It smelled like pine, probably from the tree hanging on the rearview mirror. We got in and carefully shut the doors just enough for the latch to catch. I reached down to the ignition and turned. It roared to life. I suppose I would leave the keys in it too in a world like this. I looked down at the flimsy plastic tag on the key. It read: Nelm’s Land Rover of Texas.
I suppose the marauders had acquired this vehicle after everything collapsed. The gas tank was three-quarters of the way full and it had three thousand miles on the odometer. Not even broken in. I put the vehicle in gear and sped off back toward the perimeter fence of the compound. When we neared the raider-covered cameras we got out and took turns pulling the bags off them while the other covered.
The hole in the fence was about the same size as the length of the Land Rover. I didn’t feel like doing any fence repair tonight so I brushed up on my parallel parking skills and maneuvered her in front of the fence gap to discourage any of our cold-blooded amigos from getting inside the perimeter.
John climbed out the passenger side; I climbed over the console and also climbed out the passenger side. I hit the lock in the door and slammed it shut, putting the key in my pocket. Who was I kidding? I’m still not leaving the keys in it.
I woke up a couple of hours ago after another painful, sleepless night. My blisters are starting to pop, causing some respectable pain. I have a few blisters around my eyes where my skin was unprotected by my nomex gear. The lump on the back of my head is starting to shrink, and more recently I am noticeably sorer than I was right after my little incident with the tanker. This is a good sign. I am healing.
I have given up on the internet. It is down for the count. The websites that I had been checking to test things out are down, i.e., military bases in the four corners of the United States. No internet activity. It is probably safe to assume that if anyone is out there to log on to the net, it won’t matter. The backbone is shot and it looks like all the IT guys are out to lunch for the next hundred years. The Land Rover has GPS navigation. I went out to check things over and it appears the GPS is only acquiring three satellites for purposes of position finding. I don’t know how long those satellites will remain in orbit without ground control station support as well as the birds we are using to take photographs. We are fast approaching the Iron Age. I keep fighting off the mental urge of self-destructive behavior. I don’t mean this in a “wrist-slitting” way; I suppose I’m just feeling the need to take more risks because I’m tired of being in this predicament . . . but so is everyone else, so I remain. Heading out in a bit with John to attempt to quietly repair the downed fence.
John and I repaired the fence with the scrap metal and parts left over from the debris from the raider attack. We also retrieved the Ford Bronco. It had four full gas cans in the back. I filled the Land Rover up with one of the gas cans in the event we would be using it in the future. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before but I had totally forgotten about the aircraft throughout all of this. I remembered just as John was pulling up in the Bronco. John and I went to the tree line to see if it had been tampered with or possibly damaged by stray fire. It was just as I left it. The foliage I had placed on the plane to hide it was withered and brown, making it stand out a little. John and I gathered more branches, improving the overall camouflage of the aircraft before we left it to its solitude.
The undead in this area have been scattered. The marauders neutralized many of them as they herded them back and forth around the compound. The cameras only show a few stragglers at the front blast door. The rock-bearing freak is still shambling about there and has been for over a month. It is banging on the blast door, marching to the beat of its own drum. The empty missile silo is a mess; John and I don’t even want to bother with it. I don’t know what is causing these things to get up and walk around after death and I don’t wish to be shuffling around down there and accidentally cut myself on an infected jawbone. If I had a cement truck, I would fill up the fucking hole and just forget about it.
We are still alive, but our scenario echoes of those that were in the hospital on life support before all of this happened. They were living on borrowed time, doomed to die. We are one and the same. Eventually the averages will catch me. It’s the when that is the real clincher.
I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on another fuel tanker (and not blowing it up) so that we would have fuel for any expeditions we may need to undertake. I could park it a safe distance from the compound, learning from the raiders’ mistake. It would definitely be worth the risk to have an overabundant source of gasoline. I am not sure how much those tankers hold; however, I am sure one of them would supply enough fuel for our two vehicles here for an extended period. Finding one should not be that difficult, as we could cherry-pick one from the interstate up north a few miles.
More code language on the radios. This time they are switching the frequency every minute to what I assume is a planned order. Good COMSEC.
I cannot sleep. Tara and I talked for a few hours today. I feel like I have no more purpose, and I’m not alone in this. Many of us miss normal, we miss when punching a clock and doing a job was boring. At least before all of this happened I had a job and goals. My only goal now is to stay alive. The adults got together today in the recreation room and drank some rum and had a good old time. I almost forgot about our situation in my alcohol-induced euphoria. I needed the release. We have been eating the compound’s packaged meals since our arrival here. I would like some variety in my diet but shopping is getting more dangerous by the day.
It has been Memorial Day for an hour and a half. Tara and I went outside yesterday to pick some wild Texas flowers as sort of a memorial to everyone we have lost. I personally don’t think there are enough flowers in the world. It pains me to no end to think of my mother and father walking the hills of our land like those creatures. I’m almost tempted to go home, just to see for myself and put them to rest like a decent son should.
Laura’s schooling is coming along. Jan asked me to teach Laura some world history since I enjoyed it in my former life as an officer. Laura’s eyes grew wide when I told her the stories of how the United States came about and how men walked on the moon and such. She has never known a world without smart phones, HDTV or the internet and she’s far too young to have ever seen Schoolhouse Rock. I’d give just about anything to be sitting in my living room on an early 1980s Saturday morning singing about being just a bill, sittin’ on Capitol Hill. I feel a bit of guilt that she has no peers and that there is no little boy to pull her pigtails in school.
I really need my sleep as John and I have a little trip planned in the aircraft tomorrow. We are going out to find some fuel for the plane and do some reconnaissance. This time we won’t be flying so low as to invite small-arms fire. I have my charts from our trip to Matagorda Island that cover this area’s airports. I would also like to find some sort of synthetic camouflage netting to better disguise the aircraft.
© 2010 J. L. Bourne