Setting up a nest in a tree is really no big trick. Orangutans do it every night. Of course the problem is that if you get a sizable number of Zeke's on the ground around the tree you are stuck. As a young man I had had no problem living in a tree hide for periods of up to a week if a mission had required it, and even if there were Zekes around they spent very little time looking up in the trees. Their focus, according to everything I had heard, was directly to the front and it seemed to take all their sensory powers not to run into shit. Noise discipline was always key. You are always safest when nobody knows you are around and in a wooded area it is always a sound that will give you away the quickest.
Hiding the car, and infiltrating the last mile in on the ground through fairly thick secondary woods, I had gotten to a good tree at the closest wood line to the outskirts of town. It was still well before noon, and I could detect no movement in the town itself although I had limited visibility from the ground. Scaling a big old pin oak with a padded grappling hook and knotted line had been child's play when I was twenty, but that too seemed to have changed at some point, and getting myself with my gear installed into a basic tree blind took the better part of the morning. This provided a good view of the south end of town as far as the court house square. Zippo. No noise, no sign of movement. There were a few bodies visible in the streets, but these appeared to be old and were for the most part intact.
I don't know exactly what I expected, but then again the basis of any recon is to see what is there and not what you expect. Certainly there was no staggering moaning hoard of stinking walking corpses infesting the streets. Take that Hollywood. The overall feeling was one of complete stillness. Inhabited towns always make noise. This one was for the moment silent. The woods behind me had however returned to its usual racket as the birds became used to the idea of sharing their space with me. I was grateful for this as anything moving in the woods should alter the noise level. The spotting scope I was using was an excellent one that I had had for years, and I had very little trouble getting good focus. There just seemed to be very little to focus on. I quickly came to realize that decades without practice had eroded my ability to sit for hours doing nothing. It is a harder skill to master than one might think, but it is absolutely vital if you are to observe an alert target, and I had no idea how alert Zeke's actually were.
I had no idea what I was looking for. The closest structure to me was the big old single story nursing home complex at the edge of town, and at some point during the burn through that had occurred here the front window in what seemed to be the lobby had been broken out. I could see a few chairs, part of a front desk, and what seems to be a piano back in the shadows. It had always been my theory that the Zeke's greatest enemy was dehydration, and that they could only remain viable while there was enough moisture in their muscle tissue to allow the virus to contract them. You can hook up a nuclear reactor to beef jerky, and it won't twitch. Once the muscle tissue is dry they would have to stop moving, and they had no ability to rehydrate. They would, I believed, become immobile virus infested mummies, and pretty much harmless. Part of what I was looking for was an idea of just how long a process that would be.
I had a fairly long history with corpses. Africa, the mid east, and central America, were big corpse producers even during fairly placid times, which I would have to say were not the times that I was there. A human body, left untreated, behaves in fairly predictable ways. Of course back in saner times this had not included getting up and trying to tear the neighbors to pieces with their teeth, but dead is dead. Nothing can expend energy indefinitely if it has no ability to produce it. The Zeke's, or at least the walkers, appeared to be a skeleton, powered completely by muscles, stimulated by the basic parts of an infected brain, and they had no ability to refuel that I could see. It made sense then that the virus, seeking to prolong the viability of the host body, would keep it out of the sunlight and open air whenever possible. I had expected that, and all the anecdotal evidence that had come via the media before everything went dark, seemed to indicate the Zeke's were more active at night, and inside the lower levels of structures. In the cities, in the initial phases of the burn though there would have been considerable numbers of walkers in the streets, actively seeking uninfected people, and thereby spreading the virus. My thought was that several months into the course of the epidemic, as the uninfected became scarce, and developed the ability to hide and defend themselves, the viable number of walkers would begin to dwindle quickly. Certainly there was no zombie horde in Gosport, and if there were any active walkers at all they were keeping out of sight.
It was well along towards dusk when I spotted movement. It was inside the nursing home lobby, back in the shadows, and at first I was convinced I had imagined it. Concentrating my focus there I was rewarded with my first view of a Zeke in it's "natural" surroundings, although in this case it proved to be a Zelda. In life she had clearly been a staff member at the home, and the tattered blue scrubs, with the embroidered name tag might once have appeared professional and comforting. I switched quickly to the Leopold scope which had a greater magnification. The Zelda moved in a slow, but fairly steady gait to the window opening and slowly scanned the area in front of the building. It showed a limited ability to turn it's head but rather moved it's entire upper torso in a slow sweep from right to left and back again. For a moment I felt the hairs on the back of my neck bristle as I had the irrational fear that she could see me and knew exactly where I was. This fear was an old friend and I had felt it before, and I simply froze and breathed slowly until it passed.
The Zelda appeared to have died in early middle age, her matted hair had I suspect once been strawberry blonde, and I suspect her co workers would have described her as "chunky", although probably the object of some considerable lustful fantasy among the young orderlies. "Yes, you were probably quite the cougar in your day," I thought, as a scanned to the embroidered name tag on the scrubs pocket.
"Well, Ms. S. Ruffin RN, if you never had a stalker before, you have one now."