Dear Diary (in mocking fashion of course),
The air was gradually getting colder now causing the morning frosts to last a little longer. And by this time the trees had shed their leaves almost completely. At least that was one predictable thing that never changed. The nights grew longer, just like the shadows, during the scarcely sunny days. And the northern winds were picking up making it difficult to get out of bed and making the outside patrolling sessions not last long. But we did not mind.
We did not mind at all. Routine was pretty much stable at this point. Callous as we may be, it did not worry us too much. We all knew the winter months were within reach and we prepared for the most part. Our shelter was pretty warm and kept the elements out. Even our secondary and alternate fall-back positions were stocked and secure from the coming cold months.
I have to admit though; the last few weeks had been rough. New England weather made it pretty difficult to predict what gear to bring while on ‘the hunt.’ The hunt for supplies or those rot-fucks. Sometimes the early mornings would just be cold enough to slow down (or even stop) the zomboys. But when (and if) the sun started to warm things up that is when we had to really move. Because hunting assholes is one thing, hunting supplies is another. Your SOP* changes; the equipment you bring…vehicles, weapons, supplies (if you need any), the whole lot. So you never know what you may run into.
The hunt for supplies during the late months of autumn would start before the sun catches the horizon. Preferably hovering around 32 degrees F. That was the ideal time. Whoever was on that detail would tail it back before 8am. Usually.
There were never any real serious problems. Actually the growing colder weather made it to our favor. We could destroy many of the freakos before sunrise and after sunset. Pretty intense shit! But also a psychological mind fuck. But we managed. Even the girls would go out in the early am past the parameter and bash the heads of those that got too close. The adrenaline kept their cold weather complaints to a minimum. And yeah, boredom was still there but during the ‘down’ times we all bonded pretty close like a new dysfunctional family.
Family. That was also on our all of minds. Nobody would mention it now-a-days. But back when the shit hit the fan 5 months ago, or so, our families- our real families- where lost in the mix: dead, killed, missing, displaced…or worse…turned into one of ‘them’. So we never really talked too much about it. But it always left a dark spot in our minds
“what are we doing”?
Anyway, I couldn’t sleep this evening, so I grabbed the “community smokes”, my NVGs** (just in case I wanted to see a bunch of nothin’) and a can of un-refrigerated Coke. I didn’t grab my primary weapon, but it was within reach.
There was nothing to worry about anyway. The UCONN facility had been sealed at ground level months ago and it took a brain surgeon rocket scientist to figure out how to negotiate the maze of crap to even reach the stairwells. So no dumb fuck goulies would ever be seeing the pretty view from up here. Plus, Jim and Dee were pulling an all night watch. They were to have the next two days off with no duties. Good for em’. It was getting cold anyway and nobody wanted to go hunting or wander around after dark or early morning much. Everything was pretty much secure at rooftop anyway.
They didn’t notice me sneak out to the roof and hunker down behind the parapet though. I just remained in the shadows under the cold moonlight and gazed out toward Hartford. Everything was dark and quiet with the exceptional flickering of a still-working street light here and there in the distance.
There were many nights (and days) I would have “me time” to inhale the events of that day and soak it all in. But this particular evening just hit me. It was ALL finally starting to catch up now. Sleep was non-existent. My moral was rock bottom. Even my socks were all worn out. Nothing to do now but think…and light up a butt.
Many things entered my mind. Things that had to spill out because of being crammed deep into the back of my head with no place left to go. The darkness had to finally come to light.
I’ll save the details of my emotional bout. But after about an hour, what I had unscrambled and put into question left me with a minor sense of ease….but with no understanding. I decided to write down the things that bothered me and then discuss them with the rest of the crew to make it a collective resolve. Of course it would be a community “pow-wow” for everyone to discuss what should be our purpose at this point. After all, 5 months later, what was our purpose? What do we know of what happened here or anywhere else in the U.S.? What about the rest of the world? We still had no contact with ANYONE outside of UCONN perimeters. What in the world happened?
I was already on my 5th cigarette. Fuck, those things were harsh. Some generic brand from a bodega we hocked from our travels. Anywho, the issues that I had written down to “share” with the rest were as follows: (in no particular order but definitely important)
What the fuck is going on?
When did this shit actually happen?
Where did it start?
Who is affected?
How many are infected?
What are symptoms?
How is it contracted?
Is the shit curable?
Where are the safe zones?
Are there other safe zones?
Is anyone in control?
Where are our families?
Are they dead?
Are they alive?
Are they undead?
How long will this last?
Where will we be in the next month? 2 years? 10 years?
I then stopped for a moment and observed the quietness. The wind was the only noticeable sound. It was dark, but not that dark. The moon light kept everything illuminated up here. That is when I noticed “IT.”
About 30 feet off to my left I noticed a rope secured to an air conditioning unit strung tight and cascading over the edge on the parapet into the night. ‘Wholly fuck’ I said to myself. I just looked at it for what seemed like a millennium…but was actually 15 seconds or some shit like that. I didn’t move though. My gut just sank lower than what it was. Now I remember.
Some weeks back ‘da boys’ (Keith, Dan, Jim) and I were on the outskirts of West Farms Mall scavenging for some supplies. It was a mediocre day with just a slight cold rain for now. It did not stop us from our mission though. Anyway, we tallied up about 15 confirmed dead freaks that morning before we even reached Corbin’s Corner. It was all textbook shooting. Long distance head shots and shit like that. I only whacked three, I think Jim and Dan did most of the head blastin’. Anyway, we breached the east part of the mall (Macy’s) and just started to grab what was available. Most of the fuckin’ place was cleaned out.
What a shit hole. From what it looked like there had been some sort of crazy ass chaos going on there that happened a long time ago…more than a month anyway. There were a bunch of stripped skeletons and bones everywhere, bullet holes, broken glass, dried up gut stains and burned up vehicles all over the place. It stunk like shit and, like I mentioned, was cleaned out…most of Macy’s anyway. Looked like someone else had the same idea.
We set up parameter and took a visual recon of the mess. It was a clear view into the mall itself but was obliterated with flipped over clothes racks, missing ceiling tiles, scattered display units…there was even a city bus that must have crammed through the vestibule and was hung up on the 2nd floor balcony railing. The bus was ripped to shit with stains of oil or blood all over the sides. Body remains littered all around it. We heard some moaning coming from inside the bus but it was way off toward “The Rainforest Restaurant”. We did not want to risk getting to it just yet. Must have been some ‘unlucky’ ass toads that got pinned inside and ‘turned goulie’. Weren’t smart enough to get themselves out. Fuck em’.
Clothing was our main goal. But not just yet. Jim was our point guy with his Benelli. Dan followed with a drawn .50 AE. Keith and I then followed, in that order. We both were sporting .12 gauge Mossberg pumps (we did not bring the big boy toys into the mall). We ventured to the second floor and found it completely empty.
It appeared someone (or a group “someones”) tried to barricade themselves up here at one point but to no avail. It just looked like those people had a bad day once the freakos overwhelmed that area. What a fuckin’ loss. Shit scattered everywhere. Bones and bone fragments where everywhere. Even imbedded into the sheetrock walls. Some kinda desperate last stand. Looked as if they didn’t want to be taken dead or eaten alive.
Well, it was quite a loss for those poor bastards but not for us. We actually made out pretty good that day. Among the junk strewn about there was plenty of sealed non-perishable food items and containers. Plenty of ammo crates and boxes unopened…but also plenty of empty ones.
Jesus Christ, there must have been some real crazy fighting going on up here.
We pretty much ignored the carnage and looted what we can. No time was wasted throwing what we can into a pile. It became quite evident this was going to be more than one trip. Our vehicle could not hump all that loot we acquired.
Along with the jackpot of equipment and clothing “inherited” there was also a cache of weapons that every gun freak would blow his load over. Let’s just say it was WAY better than the arsenal we had at the safe zone. Some amazing shit. We found three crates of frag, smoke and flash-bang grenades, two SAWs (one was missing the bipod and stock), eight .556 railed M4s (without any dressings), 3 Remington 12 gauge pumps, three Glock 17s, and four MP5s with fixed stocks. As da boys and I were creaming our pants, I realized that the poor fucks that died here must have been a part of a police unit or the military. The weapons we found here could not have been from “Johnny Citizen”.
Once everything was organized in a quick and orderly fashion, Dan was in the far corner of the destroyed barricade. “Oh FUCK!” is all the rest of us heard from his direction. I looked over to see him pulling frantically a tarpaulin away just as a child would do when that fat bastard in the red suit leaves a much desired toy wrapped in paper under the tree. Keith was shaking his head in confusion, as we the rest of us were, wondering what the fuck did he find?
Low and behold. A twitching gleam of twinkling sparkle came from his eyes and a radiant grin that could cast shadows came forth. This is the first time since society “took a shit” that Dan was truly happy.
What a surreal sight: I was hunched over loading a nap sack with cans of beans, Jim was sorting and consolidating ammo in boxes, Keith was tossing “usable” clothing into duffle bags….there was a shit storm of a mess everywhere…the lighting was somewhat to our favor…moaning could be heard in the mall distance…and there was Dan, holding the best thing he ever held in his life, to this point (…penis excluded of course), a Barrett M82-A1 .50 cal. sniper rifle complete with a cool-as-fuck scope. Only problem- no rounds for the damn thing. Didn’t matter though. This would be the day Dan started to be unfaithful to his girlfriend, the M1-A, left back in the Hummer.
This beaute piece of well crafted artwork was still fresh in the box and never been used. It looked like Dan would be the first lucky bastard to pop its cherry. Once we found some rounds for the beast that is.
Oh, back to my point.
We stayed within the Macy’s section of the mall for a few more minutes. The rain was starting to get relentless and we decided to wait till it let up. Jim scrounged up a stereo CD player that happened to work. Problem was there was limited power and no radio stations in service (radio stations sucked ass anyway), so he managed to find a “Best of The 80s Dance Tunes” and a Bossa Nova CD. Eh, I guess Cindy Lauper is better than nothing.
We all sat in a defensive position and smoked and joked in a quiet tone. I started to nod off. I think Keith did the same. It seemed pretty safe. Nothing really threatening was happening and we had every avenue of approach secure. But then we started to get lazy.
That was when Dan noticed “IT.”
“IT” managed to come roaming into our setting at the far edge of the large room, by the shoe section. I think it used to be the shoe section? Anyway, the “IT” was a boy, maybe ten or twelve (before it turned meat muncher) bobbing its way in a slow zig-zag motion that would eventually lead to us. I guess Cindy Lauper was attracting unwanted attention. We all were pretty much aware of the moving dead kid by now but nobody made a move. We all just watched in amusement. Clutching our shotguns at the ready of course.
“What a fuck tard”, mumbled Dan exhaling a fresh spark from a butt. “Where the fuck does he think he’s going?” I just sat quietly observing this freak. The freak's silhouette was coming into better view. Macy's hadn't paid the electric bill for a while so things were pretty dim in there.
“I’m looking for mummy” replied Jim in his “Ronald Reagan” impersonation. We laughed. Jim and his timing.
Keith sat up and winged a piece of floor tile at the bastard. He seemed to be pissed that one of “them” was close enough to disturb his beauty rest. Keith had a look of disgust and anger actually. Not like Jim and Dan who already mustered up a bunch of one-liners to ease the eerie and strange setting.
“OK, boy. I’m gonna have to ask you to leave the store”, said Jim. Then he shouted, “See this? This is my BOOM STICK!” The “IT” paid no mind; of course, it only jerked its way toward us giving little vague-ass moans. We all busted out laughing. What? Hey, it was a funny sound. Maybe it was a dead boy f**?
“Fuckin’ brat-bastard. Look his face is half burnt” blasted Dan in an English brogue. I let out a little laugh, but still felt weird about the situation.
Actually, couldn’t tell if the little live-dead fuck was a kid or not. “IT’s" skin was gray in color with matted dark hair and sunken eyes. “IT” was wearing baggy jeans with no shoes, an oversized hooded sweatshirt that must have been light blue at one time and what looked like nap-sack looped around his right side. What a mess. What a pity. I wondered, at that moment, what the “IT’s” mom would say if she could see him now.
We kept watchin’. It was starting to get alarming. Dead boy was close now, I could see the rot in his teeth. “IT” was closer to Keith, although Keith showed no concern. He just eyed him and got his primary ready. Dan and Jim started to back up some. But they too seemed to not panic. I’ll be honest; my heart was racing at this moment. Why? It was only a slow moving little fuck. Didn’t even seem to be all that aggressive. I had the upper hand here and I was pumped. So was I losing the edge? What the fuck was wrong with me?
“Move, I’m gonna blast it!” Jim said in a commanding voice. You knew it was serious because the last time I heard Jim talk like that was back at the siege on the Plainville line some months ago. Those were the days we all broke our cherry. But that is another story.
Anyway, before Jim could pull a bead; Keith stood up, grabbed a clothes rack leg thingy and smashed the dead kid in the side of the head sending “IT” in a flipping motion across the floor. The smack across the head just sounded like a dull thud. And when the kid hit the floor the same sound was made. It all happened so fast, plus it was very unusual that Keith would take an action like that without giving word. Something was bothering him that day I guess.
Without a flinch Jim raised his Benelli and blasted one shot towards the “then again” advancing dead boy. Jesus Christ that scared the shit outta us! We were not prepared to break the silence just yet but that 12 gauge BOOMING at six feet away shook the dust out of the rafters. And in a split second the left foot of the freako shattered into a mess of gray shit leaving nothing but a stump. “It” paid no mind but only fell forward on its face letting out a bellowing moan.
“IT” just flopped around trying to get back up. “That was cool!” Dan started to laugh but the rest of us looked serious. Something wasn’t right. We were all on our feet now. The rain outside wasn’t letting up yet and the air had that eerie feeling about it. Jim, with a god-awful butt dangling from his mouth, had the “all business” look. Keith started to approach the zomboy and when he stood over him, he shot both of the hands off. I stood back with a nervous look. I was thinking that Jim’s Benelli blast probably attracted unwanted attention. And Keith’s encore pinpointed our location. I really did not see what was going on at this point. My focus was toward the mall. Keeping watch. Keeping alert. The hair started to stand on the back of my neck.
....Then I looked back at the crew. Keith was standing on top of the "zomboy" like a hunter with his trophy. Dan was up close to him with his .50AE jammed into the base of zombie boy’s skull ready to shoot. Where was Jim? Ah, he poked his head up from behind a pile of store stuff…
I took a break from the writing. A sound of gunfire was out in the distant. Not too alarming. It had been a frequent noise back in the first months then gradually tapered off to once every two weeks or so. Just gives reassurance that someone else was alive and facing the same shit we were. It also gave us the reality check that those things were still out there. Uggg, my can of un-refrigerated Coke was tasting like cat piss but I finished it anyway. I looked over at the Jim-Dee position. Not sure what they were doing. Doing the nasty probably. It was quiet whatever the case. Sleeping? I didn’t care. So I did not bother to make a presence. Didn’t have to- Dan had been standing there to my right. Didn’t even hear em’ all this time. He just stood there with his “girlfriend” slung across his back, hands in his pockets and puffin’ on a smoke. As he gazed into the darkness toward that gunfire, I noticed also he was still sportin’ his Oakleys. It was 2:42 am for Christ’s sakes. Well, back to my story…
What Jim pulled out from behind the pile of store stuff was a body bag. Actually he pulled if from under the stock pile that belonged to the poor bastards that were here before us. A body bag? Another odd moment for our brains to compute.
Jim threw down the bag towards Keithy. Keith asked what the hell is he going to do with that. I think I questioned similar. And just as quick as we asked, we understood: let’s package this piece of bad meat and bring it home. Ah, don’t ask why we decided to do another stupid stunt like this. Hey, human kind has just “bellied up”…all rules and logic were out the window at this point.
Dan still held his .50 AE point blank from “IT’s” skull. His biker’s gloves and rain soaked leather coat was more than enough to protect him from any backsplash if he decided let loose a full metal jacket. He restrained the zombie fuck using a clothes rack with his other hand. At the same time Jim produced the almighty duct tape (a couple rolls he found near by) and handed me a roll. We both started wrapping the shit outta “IT” from head to toe…opps, I mean from head to stump. It only took a few minutes with this action. Keith kept over-watch the whole time. He still had that “grumpy-need-to-sleep” look on his face. Jim and I used both rolls of the almighty duct tape on this poor sap. It looked like a silver mummy when we were done. Or better yet: a giant shiny bug cocoon thingy from outer space. Complete with wiggling motion and (awful) sounds!
In a group sharing moment we then wrapped a rope around its ankles and dragged his ass out toward the Hummer. Oh, of course we took our newly acquired loot as well.
We were all moving methodologically. No one was even speaking. Keith fired up the vehicle and started tossing shit into the back hatch. Jim was doing same. Dan kept over watch this time and let out a deep gutted burp. And me? I removed the mud caked on the back tow hitch and tied the rope end to it, leaving about 20’ distance between the Hummer and “freak-zombie-kid with no hands wrapped in 100 mph tape squirming in a body bag”. Eh, no room for him in the Hummer…what were we supposed to do?
To Be Continued……