The group of us in the stockade all looked at each other. The sound was interior and low, as Jessup didn’t want the sound of giant, building mounted alarm klaxons screaming our location to all the damn zombies in Mississippi. As it turns out, the entire dead population of Biloxi was en route to our position with or without super loud WAH-WAH-WAH sounds.
Apparently, every person that could hold a weapon and didn’t have other orders was ordered to report to the walls, which as we all remember were fences anyway. My guns were handed back to me, and I raced with Ship, Kat, and the sheriff to our bunks. We found Alvarez and Cartier getting in a Hummer, and told him to wait for us while we got our shit. We were about a half mile from the nearest fence.
We got our stuff and the Hummer was still waiting, so we jumped in, the sheriff running off to find someone. We raced to the eastern wall, which was close to the main gate, and joined a whole bunch of other scared people. Some guy I had never seen before was quietly dishing out orders and told us to pick a spot and wait. He tried to send Kat back to be an ammo runner and I told him that not only was she a better shot than anybody else out here, but if he tried to make her move an inch from us Ship would eat him. He took one look at my towering buddy, nodded, and made a hasty escape to dish out more orders.
Then we waited.
Word got around that some satellite imagery had shown a sizeable force of infected on the way to our position, and that had been confirmed via helicopter. The puss-bags were en route.
Quiet settled in and everybody hunkered down behind sandbag emplacements that had been put up for just such an occasion. There was one of those LAVs about fifty or so feet from us, and two of the Army Bradleys which I thought were tanks, but EVERYBODY told me they were fighting vehicles, not tanks. Hey, if it looks like a tank, and acts like a tank, it’s a fucking tank.
The vehicles weren’t running, but each had a bunch of people surrounding them and tending to stuff, and the LAV had an open hatch with a guy sticking out of it. The front gate, which had a bunch of trucks jamming the opening, was about a hundred yards to the left.
Two helicopters flew over us, and moved to the east. Maybe fifteen seconds later they unleashed hell on the ground. Big explosions lifted into the air maybe a mile out in mushroom fire clouds, and those tracer bullet thingies spit from the sky into what I can only assume was a crowd of dead folks. Watching it was sublime. We couldn’t see the helicopters, but we could see the rockets and bullets and shit they were shooting. It looked like the ordnance was just materializing and heading down. Had the approaching force been alive, it wouldn’t have been for long.
The choppers flew back past us toward the base, probably out of ammo. A plane of some kind zoomed low over us, and a bunch of people pointed and said warthog, or just hog . I learned later what that meant, but I didn’t know at the time it was an A10 Thunderbolt. A mean-ass fucking aircraft designed to wreck tanks and other ground forces. The plane made a few passes, and this time the booms and explosions were way bigger, and we could actually feel the ground shake. What sounded like a giant zipper being zipped up came from the plane’s front gun on each pass too. It was beautiful, and when the craft flew back over us, we all cheered.
It was dark, but a full moon gave off tons of light, so we weren’t blind. Fires in front of us from the bombs and rockets illuminated shadows moving in our direction, but they were still far off. Of course everybody was scared shitless, and I thought I could smell the fear. Turns out it wasn’t the fear I smelled, it was the dead.
The stench became palpable. It had been weak, but it didn’t build gradually, it hit us like a wall. Four out of every ten people (not me) began to retch. Nothing came into view though. At least not for us. Then somebody in the makeshift tower shouted, “Contact forward!” Folks in the other towers began shouting the same thing, and the snipers started firing.
“Here they come!” Screamed a woman in the tower closest to us. Somebody fired a flare and then three more, and then the sky was full of them, floating down to the ground. Everyone grew silent as the flares showed us what was coming. The quiet chatter ceased even if the snipers kept up their firing. The first flare drifted down into the midst of the oncoming swarm and lit them up like the proverbial Christmas tree. It didn’t feel like Christmas.
Thousands, tens of thousands of zombies were just outside the fences.
They had been quiet all the way up to us, but apparently the flares or the moon showed us to them as well as them to us, and they began that mournful moan, full of need and iniquity. As I’ve said before, you can’t describe it, you need to hear it for yourself. And we did. We all heard it, and we all knew we were going to die.
I looked at Kat and Ship, “Do either of you have any cookies?”
Kat looked at me, terrified, but the big guy dug into his vest and pulled out one of those little packages of three cookies, the chocolate chip ones with the yellow stripe on it. As he was opening the pack with his knife, gunfire erupted from the front gate area, and then it was chaos.
Some kind of heavy machine gun opened up from one of the towers, and then from another and another. People near us began to shoot, and the soldiers started screaming for them to hold their fire. I thought the soldiers were crazy, but with everybody shooting through the fence, eventually the rounds would tear it open.
I heard FOOM! FOOM!, and about another fifty FOOMs, and shit on the other side of the fence, maybe a hundred yards out started blowing up. Mortars somebody yelled.
Some kind of officer was standing on bunch of stacked pallets, and he was yelling over the moans, “Hold your fire! The mortars and heavy guns will take care of them! Hold your fire or you’ll take the fence down!” He was talking to the civilians and mixed military that were with us.
A huge boom sounded off to the left, and fire spewed from some kind of armored vehicle. The dead were swarming the gate.
They had also reached our section of fence, and still that guy on the pallet was screaming for us to hold our fire. The zombies at the front of the horde reached their fingers through the chain link, and many tried to bite it, breaking their teeth, but that didn’t last. All their buddies behind them were pushing, and the combined weight turned the vanguard into something resembling strawberry jam. Hundreds of faces and arms were diced into little cubes as their rotten flesh was pushed through the links. The fence, which had already been reinforced, buckled and collapsed in a half mile section almost immediately.
The Bradleys and the LAV raced forward, firing their guns. Body parts and goo flew into the air, and long swaths of infected simply ceased to exist as the guns turned them into a disgusting spray.
The douche on the pallets now screamed at us to fire at will.
And we did. We shot the fuck out of those puss bags, for all the good it did. We fired and fired. I had my M4, Kat had her hunting rifle, and Ship had his HK417. Several thousand other humans threw lead down range with anything that would throw it. My .223 put holes in heads, and I’m happy to say I got my fair share to drop. Ship’s big .308 rounds disintegrated heads with a splash. There was nothing left from the upper lip up. A guy in a red Mississippi State ball cap with a bulldog on it ran over to me and handed me several magazines for my M4 and then moved on down the line. Kat ran out of ammo for her rifle, and I noticed that others were calling for ammo too. People were running back and forth distributing magazines, then it turned to ammo cans, and eventually handfuls of rounds. When it got to the cans, the dead surged forward as people reloaded their magazines. Several people picked up mags from the dirt and refilled them. These were the folks whose weapons jammed first.
I heard a guy say “Fuck this,” and he chucked something into the dead ranks about a hundred feet away. It blew, and it took out several puss bags, but in the grand scheme it was useless. The LAV and one of the Bradleys ran out of ammo, and they began running into the walls of dead that were approaching. The other Bradley turned on its tracks and zoomed off back toward the base.
It was so incredibly loud with the weapons fire and the moans and the roaring in my ears, that I either didn’t hear the screams, or didn’t process what they were right away. Ship did. He grabbed me by the shoulder and I looked up at him. Way up. He spun me like a little girl would spin a doll (an exceptionally manly doll, with cut abs), and I could see that while we were dealing with our little portion of fence, the gate section had been totally overrun.
The dead had moved into our ranks from the left flank and were beginning to snack on the unfortunates that hadn’t moved with adequate speed. A wall of rot was coming at us from two directions, and that was enough for most of the defenders. In a nanosecond, ninety percent of the living humans, both military and civilian, turned and headed for the hills. Except we were in Mississippi, and there wasn’t a God damned hill to be had. It was a slaughter. We couldn’t move out fast enough. The guy on the pallets was screaming for us to hold the line, but there was no line to hold. He went down screaming, firing his pistol as his rifle ammo had been expended.
The ammo runners tried to supply us, but they ran into our retreat and then the dead that were hot on our heels, when the runners wouldn’t listen to us about what was behind.
I was holding Kat’s hand as I didn’t want to get separated in the bedlam. You can basically see the Shipster from space, so all I had to do was turn my head to find him. The three of us got to our Hummer and Cartier got there too, but the crowd tore him apart to get the truck. Not the dead, the living. They literally broke him into pieces as they trampled and kicked him when they threw him to the ground. There was so much fighting for the vehicle that it never got the chance to move before the swarm of dead got to it. Most of the dickheads that killed Cartier followed suit quickly. I hope it hurt.
The survivors fanned out and ran to wherever they thought they might be safe. I saw a helicopter take off, then another, then another. Planes were taking off from multiple runways too, until two of them collided and a huge fireball leapt into the sky. I guess nobody was manning the towers to tell them they were going to crash.
We got to the barracks and it was bedlam. Just like the last fenced in place we were at where zombies invaded, people were tear-assing around gathering ridiculous items, kids, old folks, and supplies. Several fights broke out, and by the time the three of us had our shit and were out the door, gunshots were coming from inside behind us.
We ran into Alvarez, and he didn’t seem to have anything better to do than come with us. He also had a ton of .223 ammo and an extra M4, which he passed to Kat. We ran toward the motor pool, as Ship’s plane was in the hangar, and the hangar was on fire.
I saw my first zombie since the fence, and it was pretty gruesome. It was beating the shit out of a very dead man in woodland fatigues on the ground, biting and punching, and you guessed it; it was a Runner. He heard us try to run by and decided that the dead guy wasn’t any more fun and gave chase. We ran, but before we turned the corner around a row of housing, I dared glance back to see our pursuer, it was the guy who had given me ammo a couple hours before. He still had his ball cap on.
“Wait,” I hissed. The Runner came around the corner too fast and slid a little further than he wanted to going on his ass. I used the time he was taking to right himself, and fire a round into his side. He clutched at it, but when he looked at me I could tell he was more pissed than hurt. It certainly wasn’t my intent to anger him, so I shot him in the face as he tried to stand.
Kid was like, twenty two.
Darkness would only be around for another hour or so, and we really liked the cover. We saw several zombies on the way to the motor pool, and when we got there, there were three vehicles left. Two Hummers and a big troop truck. Deuce and a Half I believe, the kind with that canvas cover in the back, except this didn’t have one, just the little frame for it. One of the Hummers was on blocks, and the other was claimed as the woman who was getting her kids into it pointed a rifle at us when we approached. Apparently she didn’t want to share the ride. Kat and I put our hands up in submission, but Alvarez and Ship wouldn’t do it. She aimed at Ship and Alvarez told her she could only get off one shot and she would be dead.
That seemed to fuel her and she tossed her rifle into the vehicle and got in. She sped off, her kids crying. She banged a left, and headed directly toward the front gate and ten thousand dead cannibals. We didn’t even have time to tell her before she was gone. I hope they made it.
“We’ve got to find Reynolds,” Alvarez said, and two dead folks sauntered into the vehicle bay. He drilled both of them, and the noise reverberated through the garage resoundingly.
“I like the Sarge too,” I said, “But how the hell are we going to find him?”
Ship looked about for something, then walked to a small room and kicked open a big door like it was made out of hay, a bullet whizzing past his head fired from within. With a melon the size of a wide screen TV, I have no idea how the person in that room missed him.
Someone screamed in a scared voice, “Say something or I’ll fucking shoot you!”
I don’t know, dear reader, if you’ve picked up on this during your enthralling read of this riveting account of the apocalypse, but Ship can’t talk. He can’t say anything. At all. Bupkis, nada, niente. Silent as the grave as one might ironically mention.
The person on the other side of the door, the one with the weapon, was not privy to the aforementioned information, and as such was expecting a live person to say something such as Don’t shoot, or I’m human, but no such statements would, or could be issued.
Consequently, in the following nanosecond, even with all or our shouting, the person behind the door shot Ship in the chest. Now we all know that the big guy is just that; big. The shooter couldn’t have missed, it wasn’t possible. Ship took two rounds in the chest and staggered backwards. This alone would have surprised the average person about six months ago, but today it was commonplace to shoot someone center mass, and not have it affect them in the negative. It was quite obvious to the shooter, that my buddy was, in fact, dead and looking for chow.
Ship fell to one knee, and for a second I thought he was done for, then I remembered his body armor.
“He’s human,” screamed Kat, which probably saved us a sasquatch.
“Who is it? Who’s out there?”
“We’re looking for keys to the truck,” Alvarez shouted, I’m coming to check on my friend.”
Ship was sitting up and that scared the shit out of Alvarez, who stopped mid stride and raised his rifle, business end toward my colossal comrade.
Jesus, this was fucked up.
Somebody else was not going to shoot the Shipster, so I screamed at Alvarez, “Body armor!”
Alvarez lowered his M4 slightly and turned around to face me. His eyes went wild, and suddenly I was looking down the barrel of his rifle. He fired twice, and I heard a thump behind me. An exceptionally torn former human had hit the ground. Sneaky fucker had almost gotten a taste.
“What’s that? Who’s shooting,” came the voice from the small room.
“We’re coming in to get the keys to this truck! There’s ten of us and we will kill you if you try to stop us!”
Ship stood and put his hands on his chest, shaking his head.
Alvarez and Ship moved into the room and came out with the keys and an old timer.
“I’m…I’m sorry, I thought you were one of…”
“Forget it,” I yelled, “we have bigger problems!” I pointed toward the door
A small crowd of infected had found the motor pool and consequently, dinner. Alvarez leapt forward and up into the truck, which thankfully started immediately. Ship helped the older gentleman into the back, and Kat got into the cab with Alvarez.
I had formed a firing line of one, and was dispatching the dead as they stumbled toward me. You know I’ve got to tell you. A month ago I hadn’t really shot any guns. I mean here and there for fun, but never at anyone. Living or unliving. I just plinked with buddies or my dad when I was a kid. Two weeks ago I was shooting at the dead for the first time, and a couple days after that I shot my first live human. Aiming the weapon isn’t difficult, but hitting what you’re aiming at can be frustrating. Two weeks ago I couldn’t hit shit. That night I couldn’t fucking miss. In addition, I wasn’t the least bit frightened. The infected kept coming, and I kept shooting, single shots to the dome each time. Thirty shots, probably thirty kills. I went through the first magazine (they would never be clips again) and performed the tactical magazine (see?) switch that I had been taught in the last few weeks. I felt like a total badass and even began to smile.
Alvarez brought me back to reality when he pulled up next to me and screamed at me to get in. I looked at him, then glanced briefly at the oncoming horde materializing through the smoke outside. Not a small crowd anymore, and then I found out where the fear was stored. My terror storage facility sprung a leak that would make a superfund site jealous. I ran to the back of the truck and Ship helped me in. Alvarez didn’t wait, and he floored it, crunching the already destroyed and thumping into a dozen or so walkers.
Ship, the old guy, and me slid to the back of the truck and for the briefest of moments I teetered on the edge. Ship grabbed me and I looked behind. There had to be a hundred of them right on top of us, all reaching and hungry. Had I fallen out I doubt I would have had time to scream.
We looked out into the base as we drove. I don’t know how the dead bring fire, but they always do. Buildings, vehicles, and even some people were ablaze. Black plumes (it was dark, but it was a greasy smoke) billowed from the control tower. The smoke was thick and choking, and the moans of the dead were grating on my nerves. The old fella had his arm wrapped around one of the canvas frame thingies, but also had his ears covered with his hands and his eyes clamped firmly shut. Everywhere we looked several dead were kneeling and devouring someone.
The truck slid to a stop and began backing up. It whipped to the right, and I saw what Alvarez had seen. A massive swarm of zombies was coming from what had been in front of us. The truck did a three point turn (actually it was like a point and a half), and we booked it out of there to the south. We could hear the thumps as the truck took out stray infected, and they seemed to close in behind us as we passed.
A series of huge explosions lit up the night sky behind us, and I could see that one of the Bradleys was engaging infected, running them over and firing into the crowds. A camo Chevy pickup truck pulled up alongside us, a man in the back battling two infected that had gotten in with him. The truck veered into us with a screech, then pulled away, its driver side door crumpled a little. The man and one of the infected went over the side, bouncing down the road like ragdolls, but the truck didn’t even slow.
Three minutes later, we reached the housing section of the base, and it was chaos as well. The dead hadn’t reached here yet, but dozens of folks were throwing supplies into vehicles and bugging out. Most headed south, and we tagged along. We heard shots as we drove through. Hopefully people were shooting zombies and not each other.
A few streets down, and Alvarez slammed on the brakes and got out, running toward one of the on-base housing units. I screamed at him, but he kept running and didn’t look back. I jumped off the side of the truck and stepped up on the passenger’s runner. Kat gave a little scream before she realized it was me.
“What the fuck is he doing?” I demanded.
“He’s getting Reynolds! He said he wouldn’t be more than a couple minutes!”
Reynolds got his own damn house and I had to hot bunk with a gaggle of pigs. Yes, I know a gaggle refers to geese, and a group of pigs is a drove or a herd, but fuck you this is my story. Regardless, it’s amazing what you think of in intense pressure situations, and I remember being the slightest bit jealous of the Sarge’s accommodations.
Shots were ringing out steadily around us now. Screams too.
“We’ll be dead in a couple minutes!” I ran back and told Ship what was happening, then moved back to the driver’s side and jumped up into the cab shutting the door.
Kat was instantly on the defensive, “What are you doing?”
Huh. Guess my new kid sister had a thing for the army guy.
“I’m not leaving without him if that’s what you’re asking, but I don’t want to be sitting in the back of the truck with no driver if things go bad.”
Three figures ran across the street between houses about fifty yards away. I realized that I could see them and that the sun would be up shortly. The darkness was being chased away by dawn, and if I could see them, then zombies could see us.
A group of survivors was heading toward us down one of the side streets. They were moving slow but steady. A few of them broke off and moved to one of the houses, but the majority of them came at us. If they tried to take our truck, there would be a gun battle. As it was there were too many for us to give them all a ride.
I beeped the horn, long and loud. Alvarez was nowhere to be seen.
A woman came running from one of the houses. She ran up to the group of people that were advancing on us and stopped dead. She screamed and ran back toward our truck. She ran right past us and kept on going, my head following her as she ran past Reynolds exceptionally nice residence. That’s when Kat screamed.
A dead thing had climbed up on the runner and smacked its hand against the window. Not only that, but the crowd of survivors had not, in fact, survived. They were dead and they were pissed and they were a hundred yards away.
Suddenly the zombie trying to eat Kat through the glass was gone. In two seconds Ship’s gigantic mug was staring through the glass, his eyebrows raised expectantly. I raised my palms up in a helpless gesture.
Several other staggering forms were making their way toward us. It was time to go.
“Alvarez! We are leaving right fucking now!”
He came out of the house carrying a rucksack, with two other people, neither of which was the Sarge. He threw the sack in the back, and his buddies climbed in, as did Ship. Alvarez got in on the driver’s side and I pushed over.
“Reynolds is dead,” was all he said before he threw the big stick shift into first. He let his feet off the clutch and brake, and six of the ten wheels on that truck screeched as we rocketed forward. This truck was in good shape. Gunfire erupted from the rear of the truck and we achieved forty miles per hour in a fifteen mph zone.
“One more stop,” the army kid said.
I looked at him like he was crazy, which seemed to me to be the case, and we moved on. He pulled up in front of an identical housing unit as the last one, and he jumped out again. One of his buddies followed him, and this time so did I. To the curb, and that was far enough. I stood there, pants-shitting fear clenching my scrotum with gnarled hands, my weapon to my shoulder and tracking.
It was quicker this time, and they came back with another guy, but the dead had found us faster too. Alvarez’s other pal shot three of them, and Ship used his machete on the fingers of one who tried to climb up the side of the Deuce. This was getting bad fast. The dead had arrived in force, and they wanted us.
Two more bags got thrown in the back, and I climbed in the back too. Alvarez was about to follow his new buddy into the cab when a bloody hand snaked out from under the truck and grabbed his ankle. He let out a yell, but pulled away and climbed up. We drove off south, five in the back, three in the front, but we had two most unwelcome hitchhikers.
One of them was a putrid, green, very dead, bloated woman with half a face. She growled at me and I kicked the good side of her profile with my boot. The rest of her rotten face scraped away, and I almost went with her when she fell. She slid down the road behind us flopping, grinding her decayed flesh off, and she literally popped with a gooey splash.
The other thing managed to pull itself almost into the truck before one of Alvarez’s newbies gave it one, two, three rifle butts. It too fell and tumbled over and over until it came to a stop, motionless.
The five of us in the back of the truck looked at the base as we drove to the southern fence. The old guy was crying. We reached the southern fence, and it was down, but there were no infected in sight. Alvarez took a right, and we headed off west. We all reloaded our magazines.
I don’t know how many rounds were expended that night, maybe a few million, but ultimately it didn’t do shit and Keesler, just like every place else we’d been, fell to the dead.