It’s been three days since I got to Tryon. Other than the one zombie, ghoul, fucking dead piece of shit, I’ve been alone. I found where it got in. A tree fell and broke part of the fence. I spent the better part of a day cutting it up and repairing the chain link. I haven’t found any ammunition here, but there are plenty of building supplies, fifty-five gallon drums of water, clothing. A lot of it is old, but serviceable. I know that the chain link fence won’t do much against a lot of them, but it will stop them in small groups. I spent some time outside the grounds, setting some simple booby traps. Fishing wire hung with cans filled with a few pebbles. I tested them and the sound carries pretty far. There are at least seven bunkers in the area, so far I’ve explored two. I’m alone, as if I were the last person on earth. Was I? Had the dead taken over? Would I ever know? So far, I hadn’t looked beyond the next day of survival.
Some of my questions have been answered. In the vehicle bunker, where I had my living quarters, in one of the three offices, I found a gigantic shortwave set. It looked to be of Viet Nam vintage, but I didn’t care. I poked around until I found the manual and spent some time learning about the set. It was with more than a bit of trepidation that I turned it on.
The first frequency has this message, on a loop. “This is Conelrad. All civilians are ordered to stay off this frequency. Remain in your homes. Make no attempt to travel or visit loved ones. Any civilians found looting will be subject to summary execution. Military forces are containing the situation. Civilians are ordered to remain in their homes. For rescue, use Channel 9 on Citizen Band. Any civilians firing on rescue forces will be met with deadly force.”
This message went on and one, with little variation. Turning the dial, I heard some foreign language. It sounded like it might be Russian, but since I don’t speak it - it held no interest for me. I kept searching and heard:
“This is the judgment of the Lord! All will be consumed by his dark angels. Do not fight. Give yourselves to the dark angels and enter heaven.” I turned the dial, leaving this bullshit behind. Sitting back, I rubbed my eyes. The world had gone insane, but there were still living people out there. I wanted to transmit, but I also didn’t want any unwanted visitors. I decided to shut the set down, get some food and try again later.
I didn’t get back on the set for a few days. That night, while trying to sleep, I heard a scratching at the main door. Grabbing my AK and an axe, I climbed out the roof entrance. I’d cleared it a bit earlier, making the walkway up there a bit safer. It had been covered with moss and leaves. Likely, they had sat there for decades, piling up. I was hoping that standing water hadn’t rotted a hole in the roof. Creeping toward the entrance of the bunker, I lay on my belly and peered over. The sun was starting to rise so I could make out four figures. One appeared to be fighting the others off. I heard a muffled cry of pain, and the one figure went down. Free to fire, I aimed and pulled the trigger. One of the attackers went down, head shattered. The other two looked up and I stitched them, blowing them off their feet. But I knew they weren’t dead. How the fuck did they get in? Sliding down the side of the bunker, I hit the ground hard, nearly losing my weapon. Slinging it, I drew the axe and before one of the creatures could rise to its feet, I split its skull. As the other started to rise, I kicked it in its hideous, rotting face and bashed its skull in. Once it lay still, I brought the axe up and turned. There, crumpled against the doors, was Gemma.
I dragged the bodies away, planning to burn them later, then looked back toward the main gate. An SUV, the rear window shattered, was parked there. The gate was open. Quickly I shut it and relocked it, pocketing the keys that were still in the lock. I made a careful circle, and then ran back to the bunker. I’d take care of the SUV later. Gemma lay where I left her, eyes shut, face covered in sweat… and a large bite to her cheek. Unlocking the door I pushed it open, lifted Gemma, and carried her inside. I knew she was as good as dead, but I couldn’t simply leave her outside to die like an abandoned animal.
Laying her on a cot, I tied her down, then cleaned, and dressed her wounds. One, in her shoulder was from a gun. This wound was puckered where the bullet passed through, the exit wound small, showing it was a steel jacketed round. She didn’t cry out as I poured alcohol on her wounds, and dressed them. It was difficult since her cheek was missing a huge piece of flesh. I could feel tears well out of my eyes, as she lay there, unmoving. I wanted her to wake up more than anything, just to talk to her before she died. Before I had to kill her.
I sat back, weapons close by, wondering if this was it. Should I simply kill her, then myself? Is this all that was left? To live alone until I either get taken by them, or by other feral humans, or die? What the fuck was the use of surviving? What?
Gemma woke up while I was wondering what to do. In a raspy voice, she said, “I’m so thirsty.” I’d anticipated this, since her eyes were sunken – from hunger and thirst, or the infection, I didn’t know. Taking a large plastic squeeze bottle, I held the straw to her lips, careful not to get my hands to close to her teeth. She drank deeply, nearly draining the bottle without stopping before she pulled her head away.
“It’s good to see you, Len. I was sure you’d be dead or…”
“Gemma, what happened?”
Gemma’s story made me both frightened and angry. She’d done like I did and got going as soon as she got a text from Ted, who, we were both sure now, was dead. She’d stayed to back roads, looting what she needed carefully and quietly, avoiding the creatures and what now passed for law. She’d lay low during the same time I did, living in an abandoned fishing camp. She’d always loved fish – me, if it wasn’t tuna loaded with mayo, I didn’t want to know about it. Finally, she decided to make the run for Tryon, hoping that me, or one of the others who knew about it, would show up. Things were going smoothly for her when she ran across some of those crazy state troopers. That was how her back window was shot out. She’d taken out two on motorcycles, before a bullet hit her. She’d barely made it here, but driving here attracted the creeps who attacked her as soon as she got out to open the gate, her bloody wound attracting them like flies.
I held her hand as she started to shiver, telling me not to blame myself. This damned plague had hit so quickly, she wondered if the fucking government deliberately released the infected. She spasmed a bit then really started to shiver. I piled blankets on her, but both of us knew it was too late. Eyes rolling back, she pleaded with me. “Please, Len. Please don’t let me come back. I don’t want to be one of them. Pl…”
Those were her last words, as she lost consciousness. I sat there in semi-darkness, wondering if I had the strength to do what would come next. I couldn’t just kill her. Not yet. She had to come back.
I buried Gemma at the base of a row of hedges. There were no trees within the boundaries of Tryon, and I didn’t feel secure enough to dig a grave and carry her outside. I’m glad I haven’t found any liquor yet, or I’d have drunk myself to insensibility after she came back. I was sitting there, hoping against all odds that she would be ok. When her eyes snapped open, a glaze over those beautiful brown orbs, I nearly jumped. Her face was drawn and weathered, as if she’d aged an eternity in a night. She began thrashing and moaning, licking her dry lips, a kind of black ooze coming out of her mouth. I stared at it realizing that was her blood. It was as dead as she was. Rising, I pulled on rubber gloves, then holding her head down, I shushed her and shoved a screwdriver in through her nose, up into her brain. I could feel cartilage crunch as I shoved and then twisted the tool. I could have gone through an eye, or simply shot her, but I couldn’t do that, not to Ted’s sister. That would haunt me. It took a minute to destroy enough of her brain before she stopped moving. Then I pulled the screwdriver out and screaming at the universe, threw it across the bunker. Burying my face in my hands, I cried until I had no tears. Then I started sewing the blankets Gemma lay on, fouled with her fluids, into a shroud.
“I’m sorry Gemma,” I said to her grave as I patted down the dirt. “I’m so sorry.”
What was I going to do now? I had to find some other survivors. We had to take care of those fucking troopers before they built their own empire. But how? For now, I was alone, with who knew how many creatures between myself and any survivors.
Turning from the grave, I knew I needed sleep. For now I was all alone.