It took almost nine hours for Thoughtful to die. That was the longest I’ve ever seen anybody hold out, and it was a while ago. In the end it was the same as all the others. He died with all of us, but he was still alone. Horribly sick, terrified, rambling, and alone. Alvarez used Ship’s machete to do the deed before Thoughtful could turn. His name had been Mark something, but it died with him. The last coherent thing he said was to me; “Watch your ass, Lynch means business.”
Again, it’s funny what you remember and what gets lost in your mental files. I can’t for the life of me remember what he looked like, but I remember his name. Usually it’s the other way around.
Before he died, I had taken over driving the Deuce, which Alvarez had told me was not, in fact, a Deuce, but an LMTV. Dunno what that is so F it, I’m calling it a Deuce. Alvarez was tired and needed to plan. He also wanted to ride in the back with his dying pal. We dodged some infected and killed some others, but finally made it to the outskirts of Miramar Park in southern Biloxi where we stopped to let Mark die. We couldn’t take him with us, and we couldn’t leave him, so we waited. It was almost dark by the time we moved into the park
There was a small boat yard to the west, but Interstate ninety was between us and the yard. As you can probably imagine, the Interstates were one of the worst places to be when the plague struck in earnest: Panicked people getting in their vehicles, bound for anyplace but where they were. All of them trying to go at the same time. That turned the highway into two things; a parking lot and a death trap. There was nowhere to run when the infected came.
So that’s what we were looking at. A parking lot full of trapped death. The worse issue was that the road still held the occupants of most of those vehicles. I had thought that all the zombies in Mississippi had attacked Keesler, but I was way wrong. Interstate ninety absolutely crawled with the undead. And walked and stumbled and shuffled and insert any word you can find in Roget’s for weird type of walk.
Point is, there were shit-loads of the ambulatory departed between us and our destination. Ship looked disgusted and pointed.
“Yeah, yeah, Big Guy, but now we’re committed.”
He passed me his book, You ought to be committed!
We had some inquisitive visitors that must have heard the Deuce, but we dealt with them quietly while we waited for Mark to go. When it was over, Alvarez handed Ship’s gigantic machete back to him and dished out the plan. It was simple really, but I smelled a lot of hope coming off of it.
We go over the interstate about two hundred yards to the west. There was a break in the vehicles, a small hundred or so foot stretch of highway without cars, and more importantly, with minimal infected. We run through that stretch of road, dodge the zombies, and run to the boatyard. We could just see the yard through the coming darkness, and there were three boats left: A big blue and white one with nets and shit all over it, a smaller pleasure craft that was undoubtedly someone’s toy, and a fifty foot sail boat.
“So which is it,” I demanded, “Forrest Gump, Miami Vice, or Captain Bligh?”
Alvarez hunkered down and looked at each of us as he spoke, “The motorboats are going to make noise when we start them, and we may be on the run anyway so I think the sailboat is our best bet.” He looked up, “Who knows how to sail?”
Not a single hand lifted.
“So then it’s Miami Vice,” I demanded.
“That will have an electronic ignition with an anti-theft device,” Alvarez said, “and the shrimp boat will fit us better. It’s the Gump.”
Kat piped up, “After we get across the zombie infested interstate, through the boat yard, start the boat, and cast off without getting eaten you mean?”
Alvarez smiled and I wanted to punch him in the face, “Yeah, after all that.”
We prepared to leave, and I looked at my colossal comrade, “You’re the smartest guy alive, you can fly a plane and field strip an M4 blindfolded. You know every computer thing possible. Your name is Ship for fuck’s sake and you can’t sail?” I shook my head in reproach.
He looked at me helplessly and you know what I did?
Stinkeye. I had to turn away so he couldn’t see my shit-eating grin. I smiled so hard my face hurt. Payback’s a bitch.
Once again though, there was a lot of if emanating from our plan. We really didn’t have much else though. The worst if was that if there were thirteen of us, how were we going to sneak anywhere? We had bags of shit, weapons and ammo. We needed to be quiet.
We were. We were like thirteen ninjas, and if there was never a book written with that title, then every now-dead writer can suck it. Thirteen Ninjas is the best title for a book in the history of books. When I’m done with this spellbinding tome, that shit is next.
We moved like water flowing around rocks; silent and fluid. I should have used some kind of cork to keep my shit in, but we didn’t have any. I was pretty damned scared when we got to within fifty feet of the road or so. There were thousands of these things milling about, and they were damn close. By some miracle none of them were where the gap in the vehicles were. Maybe that was the reason, they were searching for any stray morsels still in the cars.
Suddenly Alvarez stood up and stumbled across the road. He had done it like a zombie would walk, all shuffling and shit, with a fucked up gait, and slow. Not a one of the dead things even glanced at him. A small group of us went next, then Ship and Kat.
I was stunned. I know you want me to tell you that I went last and when I did every single zombie on the entire interstate, not just the ones in Mississippi, but the entire, multi-state length of the road looked at me and chased us. But they didn’t.
They didn’t so much as shift their gaze. They were a fifty feet from me on either side, dozens, hundreds, and they just couldn’t be bothered.
I made it down the embankment to the beach side, and joined my friends. We were all as quiet as Ship, probably all stunned. Didn’t matter, we made it. A small chain link fence was on this side of the highway, and it had gotten dark so we couldn’t see a break in it even with night vision. Alvarez produced a multi-tool and snipped the bottom link. It sounded like a nuclear warhead went off, but still none of the puss bags caught on. He clipped another, and then another and one of his buddies put his hand on Alvarez’s shoulder and pointed back to the road. I glanced back and used the night vision glasses to see that a few of the things had perked up a little, but not enough to come our way. When they went back to not being so perky, Alvarez snipped a couple more links, and his buddy repeated the shoulder touch.
We did this several times, cutting stopping, cutting stopping. We were lined up against the fence, waiting until there was a hole large enough for us to walk through. Alvarez finished, and then motioned us to follow him through.
We never did think to look on the far side of the fence and that was our undoing. A dead man smashed against the other side and began that fucking howl, and it was done. I looked through the night vision back at the highway, and you got your wishes dear reader, every flesh slurping one of them was coming for us.
It suddenly got very loud as well. All the deaders were making like it was Christmas, and they were all caroling. I gotta tell you, that’s some scary shit, when you know they’re right on top of you and it’s dark, and you’re running.
Alvarez was through the fence first and he dealt with the infected on that side. Problem was, he wasn’t alone, and his buddies were coming as fast as they could from all directions. We all hustled through, and for a moment I thought about trying to mend the fence, but I looked at the amount of white figures coming towards my night vision, which was attached to my noggin, and I knew the fence was merely an afterthought to that swarm.
Sneaking is tricky for thirteen people loaded with gear. As I’ve said, I am not a soldier, and never received ninja training, so keeping quiet was tough. We did ok though, and it took at least a solid minute before the shit hit the fan. We were moving past a store with fishing poles in the big glass window when said window crashed outward and two dead dudes grabbed one of the guys from the Chevy. The guy yelped, and fired off a quick round from his Berretta into the throat of the first dead guy. Of course that didn’t do shit, and as the thing tried to bite him I hit it in the side of the head with my M4. It slid to the side, but didn’t let go of the guy, so I shot it. The guy took care of the second one with a better shot from his M9 to the head.
We had slowed a little to deal with the decaying fisherman, and that was enough for several of the things to get close. We shot them and moved on, weaving in and out of abandoned and parked vehicles, moving toward the dock.
We got to within fifty or so feet of our objective before they caught us again. A small group of them appeared from a bait shop and stumbled right into our path, effectively blocking us. There was nothing for it, so we shot them, Ship using that giant machete to hack up any that got close. More came from the sides, and suddenly there were a lot of them. We hacked and slashed and shot our way to the dock. We must have destroyed twenty of them. One of the dead things managed to latch on to Babe, but he did this underhanded knife thrust thing to the underside of its chin, and it dropped like a rock. Now that was cool shit.
Babe slashed the last one across the eyes and it stumbled back a little, blind but in no way less hungry. The others had closed some distance, and I almost shit myself when I saw how many there were. They had been spread out on the highway, but when they funneled in between the cars and little shops by the docks, they concentrated their numbers and it was terrifying. There must have been hundreds.
Alvarez ran down the dock yelling, “Cover us while we cast off!” He, Kat and a couple others jumped on the shrimping boat, and began to load gear while another couple of guys started to remove the lines securing the boat to the pier.
Ship, Babe, and I took up firing positions at the head of the dock to repel any invaders. Ship stood and Babe and I went to one knee. Two of the guys behind us were fiddling with something on the pier, when one of the Army guys from the Hummer yelled, Grenade!, and chucked one about fifty feet back behind us into the approaching horde. It almost got me killed. Nobody had taught me not to look at a grenade exploding while wearing night vision goggles. I was totally blinded for a moment, and I stood stumbling sideways, my hand to my eyes. Thank god I didn’t get shot.
Course I fell right the F of the dock and into the water. Ship swears up and down he reached for me so I wouldn’t go in, but in I went. Guy has arms the length and breadth of Redwood trees, but could he catch me? No. My gear was heavy, and if Ship hadn’t grabbed me, I have no doubt I would have drowned. It being dark, and me being all blind and shit, I probably would have swum the wrong way and pounded on the sand until I ran out of breath.
As it was I got my sight back pretty quickly. I felt Ship’s massive mitt on my shoulder, and I looked up and grabbed his hand, feeling wet and embarrassed.
“Get him out, they’re almost on us,” Babe hissed frantically.
Ship started to lift me out, and I just knew I would be fine. There was plenty of time to get on the boat and get away. Plenty of ocean between us and the zombie hordes of North America. Plenty of food and water and beer and tequila and hookers at the paradise we were headed to. Yup, all fantastic, all good. I just needed to get dry and kick my feet up with some of the items I just mentioned. Especially the last one.
If you’ve never seen the movie Jaws, then you are either A. an asshole, or B. a pussy. It is hands down the best movie ever made. The acting, directing, and special effects, are second to none. Hell, even the music is memorable, and it was made in the nineteen seventies. So Quint, the bad-ass shark killer who scraped his fingernails down the chalkboard, and had so many memorable lines? Remember him? Remember the noises he made when he was sliding down the deck toward gigantic toothed maw of the shark? The kicking and screaming and little girl noises he made during the stark raving terror he was feeling as he absolutely knew the jaws of that shark were going to reach him?
Those were the sounds I made, and there was quite a bit of kicking and screaming, not unlike a little girl at all, when the first set of dead hands grabbed my ankle under the water. It wasn’t like I had any notions these were the hands of a porn star pulling me to heaven. These were the claws of a demon dragging me to hell.
So there I was, crying like a girl, while Ship and quite possibly a legion of the undead played tug of war for my soul. Ship dropped his HK417 and it hung on his single point sling over the water as he used two hands to pull me from the inky blackness. Babe noticed my yelping and decided to lend a hand as well. So there they are pulling me, with the dead pulling back, and me screaming, and the horde of dead just about reaching the dock, when my buddies finally get me far enough out of the water that they see slimy alabaster hands gripping my clothes and ankles. Ship told me later, and Babe agreed, that there were eight hands on me. My math tells me that was four bad guys against two of my buddies, and I was kicking like hell. Kat and one of the other guys were suddenly there, and they were hacking ever so close to my feet with machetes. It was enough to sever most of the hands, and the others must have lacked the strength when mostly cut, because the living beat the dead, and they got me out.
I flopped on the dock like a fish, all of us panting, when the first foot stomped on the wood twenty feet away. As one we snapped our heads up and were able to see the things advancing toward us through the darkness. I got up unbelievably fast with the help of Ship, and we all ran. It was maybe two hundred feet to the far end of the dock, and that’s where we headed. I was last, as I was soaking wet and weighed an extra fifty pounds with my gear saturated. Alvarez’s pals were pushing the boat off the dock, and they all jumped in and waited for us. I was about thirty feet behind the other sprinters, and I was tired.
My friends in front of me all jumped for the gunwales and made it easily, but by the time I got there the boat had moved a good ten feet away from the dock. I didn’t even slow down. I sprinted as fast as my soaking wet, gear laden ass would go. I didn’t make it. Let me tell you, having been in the zombie infested water once was scary. Waiting for those hands to reach up and grab me again totally fucked with my sanity. They never came though. Either there weren’t any at this end of the dock, or those dead bastards were reaching and the water was too deep. My friends reached over and pulled my super-heavy ass aboard. Again I flopped like a fish on my back and looked up to the circle of people surrounding me.
“I’m good,” I said.
Babe knelt and immediately rolled up my pant leg, I presume he was looking for bite marks. I let him. He moved to the other leg, and checked that too. Satisfied, he sat on his ass and let out a heavy sigh.
I sat up and looked at him, “Babe?”
“That’ll do pig.”