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A Free Apocalyptic story

This material is copyright protected and is used here with permission.


MY OWN APOCALYPSE Copyright 2021 Lindsey Rivers. All rights reserved

You may not reproduce this written material in any form without written permission. If you would like to share this story, please point them to this link: https://wendellsweet.com/2021/12/06/a-free-short-zombie-story-and-the-zombie-plagues-links-2/


My Own Apocalypse

Dog

Dog pulled Donna’s tattered notebook from his pocket and read it once more in starts and fits as he thought about the last few days. Eyes rising to the factory walls, the entrancement, and then back down to the notebook. Occasionally a fat tear drop rolled down his cheek unseen and fell to the cold concrete floor.

Tarps overhung the shattered factory entrance. The building itself was solid. He had checked it with a flashlight. Why it had survived the earthquakes he did not know, but he was glad it had.

It was even stocked with canned goods. Someone had gone through the trouble of building a fireplace. Rock from the nearby river, most likely, Dog thought. The fireplace occupied a central part of the floor. Wood piled by it. He had almost passed on it, thinking that whoever had set this up would be back, but the fire was cold, the tarp had blown partly off the door too, and there were too many of the dead now, wandering the streets and alleyways. They seemed to shy away from daylight, but at night they roamed freely. He needed the protection of a solid building and a fire.

He had heard the screams of their victims more than once over the last several nights as he huddled in this doorway or that. He had found a second floor factory to call home for two nights, but there were too many ways in to it, too many entrances to guard. The dead had found him on the second night and he had only escaped because they were too slow to chase him. He had found a shallow cave a few days before along the cliffs that faced the river. He had fled to it, hoping that no one or thing else had claimed that small space. It had been empty and he had spent the night snapping awake every time there was a strange sound. The next morning he had found the cave. The windows bricked up long ago, the entrance a crumbled ruin, but that was the only way in. He had learned that first night that the dead were afraid of fire. They would not come near it. He could hear them out in the night, moaning, stumbling from one place to another, but they never approached where he could see them, and in the morning there were none to be seen. They had secreted themselves away in the dark places that they passed away the daylight hours in.

He had built the fire in the pit, and then another outside the entryway that evening and had managed to get his first night of sleep the next night, when it was clear they would not come near the fire under any circumstances.  He paused, thinking back, and then began to write out his own story.

Dog’s Notebook.

 I’ve heard gunshots more than once. And the nights are alive. Screams, the dead walking about, stumbling and crashing. I’ve heard a dog barking too. And I’ve seen a few dogs, cats, squirrels. I’ve also heard what sounded like a car or a truck, but I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Everything is so quiet during the day; it could be anywhere.

The sound of the river drowns things out. I haven’t seen any other live people. None.

I have no idea what has happened, even here in Manhattan. It doesn’t really matter either, except to tell you, whoever you may end up being, what happened from my point of view, I guess. Maybe it’s the same for you. Maybe writing this out is a waste of time. But it keeps my mind off shit.

There were more planes overhead in the night. I know that sounds crazy, but I awoke to hearing them. It took me back to the day in the park when they overflew us and sprayed us.

I’m going to start looking for people. I think there are dozens of people close by but they’re all hiding. I’m going to walk down by the river, all those lofts, warehouses. I figure that if anyone is still alive that is where they would be. Hiding in all of those buildings.

I’m warm. I’m dry. I’m pretty much okay. My fingers are sore and I’m tired, so I’ll pick this up tomorrow.

Dog closed his notebook and slipped it into his shirt pocket. He sat quietly for a few moments and then lifted his eyes looking around the factory floor. The longer he was here the more convinced he was that someone had been here for a length of time directly after everything fell apart. His eyes fell on the three  where they had settled in.

There was some sort of tension there that he couldn’t quite define. For the last few hours it had seemed as though a whispered argument of some sort had transpired between Mandy and John. Dog didn’t think much of John, but he was surprised that Mandy was with him. She seemed too strong to need someone like that. He turned away and shook his head to clear it. People belonged to themselves, maybe more now that they ever had. The wrong thing for John to be thinking is that he could tell a woman like Mandy what she could or couldn’t do. He stared back into the fire for a moment and began to think once more about his own losses, wondering where Donna might be. It was always like that. ‘I need to get some batteries, maybe some more ammo too, and I wonder how Donna is?’ … ‘Looks like rain today, but I can still get some things done, and I wonder if Donna is safe and dry somewhere.’ Her memories kept sneaking up on him. His feelings, his longing for her, something like that, kept it absolutely fresh and ever present. It made his chest ache almost instantly and so he turned his thoughts in a different direction.

Dog had been sitting out front of the factory building a few days back when he had met a guy that said he had worked at the Army base over in Jersey. He said he knew what it was. He said the planes came from somewhere down south, but stopped there on the way back to re-fuel. What he had said was that the blue stuff was designed to strengthen the survivors, keep them alive a little longer, make them stronger somehow. Some dip shit scientist’s idea.

Dog supposed it was meant as a boost for human kind, a help. The world had fallen apart; everything stopped working. They knew the government couldn’t get to the survivors to help them. They would die. So they sprayed the blue shit on everyone, and Dog supposed further that some of them had survived the first few months because of it. He couldn’t prove it, but he suspected it did help them evolve into…

He didn’t know. Whatever the hell they were now. He knew they we’re alive. He knew his heart beat. He still felt human, and he truly thought he was still human. If it made changes to the living, they are very small changes… at least so far.

But the dead – oh, the dead. That was a different story. It did something else to the dead.

He sat now thinking his thoughts. He was lost in them for a few seconds. But he came back fast when he caught a disturbance across the factory floor.

Mandy had been watching him from across the factory floor where she had made a clearly defined space for herself and Alice a few feet away from John. John hadn’t liked it at all. But she didn’t really care too much about what John thought. He was all right, but he was not her leader… She wasn’t sure what kind of a leader she needed, but not a leader that didn’t respect the boundary lines of a relationship. She looked over at Dog where he sat close to the fire. Maybe she had found her leader, or at least someone she was willing to follow. She hadn’t wanted to interrupt him while he was writing, but now that he seemed finished. She got to her feet, dusted her palms.

“Baby?” Alice asked.

Mandy squatted back down beside her. She smiled and then leaned forward and kissed her lightly. “You know I love you, right?”

Alice smiled back. “I do…” Her smile slipped. “But?”

“Just got to have a conversation…. See if this is someone we can travel with… I’ll be right back.” She leaned forward and kissed her quickly, and then stood. She caught Johns eyes as she straightened.

“Him?” John asked. He shook his head and turned away. Mandy shook her own head and then walked over to where Dog sat.

“This was really nice of you,” she said as she walked up. “We were staying in that old school building. None too stable. Last night was the best sleep I’ve had in awhile.”

“Funny,” Dog replied, “I was thinking the same thing. For me it was just having companionship.”

Mandy smiled. She caught his eyes and smiled again.

“Mind?” She asked, gesturing at the ground beside him.

“Not at all,” Dog smiled.

The silence stretched out for a few seconds, each of them looking around the factory floor waiting for the other to begin.

Mandy fixed her eyes on him. “I was just wondering what you were planning on doing. I mean, have you thought about leaving? I know you spoke a little bit about it yesterday when you were talking to John. Seemed like you two don’t really see things the same way.” She let the last words rise like a question.

Dog looked at her levelly. “Yeah… I guess it does show. We just don’t click. I wondered if you were coming over to tell me that the three of you might light out… I guess it’s obvious we don’t see things the same. I guess I also wondered what you thought as an individual… You don’t seem like the kind of woman that follows.” Dog shrugged. “I know I can’t be nobodies soldier.”

Mandy nodded. “It’s the same with me. I do my own thinking.”

“Exactly,” Dog agreed.

Mandy nodded. She fixed him with her serious eyes once more. “So what will you do?”

“Probably like I said, like everyone else is doing. I don’t see them but I can feel it… It’s like a drain on the city… The living moving out, the dead moving in. So I guess that’s me too… I’ll leave. Get out of this city… That’s first. It’s bad here.” He raised his arms to encompass the factory. “I’ve been here few a days… False security. They won’t come near this place, but that isn’t getting me out of the city either. I have got to quit procrastinating.”

“What’s next do you think?” Mandy asked.

“As this goes on?” Dog shook his head “I guess I’m just waiting to see how this goes too… Like everyone. But…. I think the dead are getting smarter… Faster too. I know that sounds like bullshit, maybe even paranoia, but I’ve been paying attention. I saw three the other day that seemed to be working together to break a door down to a building.” He nodded when Mandy raised her eyebrows. “Back on Park Avenue with my woman, Donna? …” He blinked and stumbled with his words. “It was after she was gone.”

“I see that… Sorry,” Mandy said softly.

“So I had to leave… Couldn’t stay there…” Dog swiped at his eyes, embarrassed at the instant tears that had appeared. He cleared his throat. “The dead… The dead had been attacking every night. It’s like they knew I was there. At first they just stumbled against the stuff I had piled up in the stairwell to keep them out, made a racket all night long, but after a while it was like they saw it for what it was and began to work to remove it. The morning I left they had nearly made their way through overnight.” Dog raised his hands, palms out and shrugged his massive shoulders.

Mandy hung her head and shook it slightly. “That’s the last thing we need,” She said as she scrubbed at her face with her palms.

Dog nodded. “So, what happens next? I’ll probably leave,” He smiled. “I guess that was a long drawn out answer.”

“No. Not really,” Mandy answered. “I’m in the same place.” She looked around.

Dog shrugged his shoulders. “Jersey’s looking better and better, huh?” He laughed a little.

Mandy looked up from her contemplation of the floor. The laughter had caught her by surprise. She laughed too. “It is starting to look better.” She smiled at Dog.

“Been over there,” Dog told her. “Wandered all over for a few days. It’s not so bad. Thinking it might be time to at least spread out a little. I thought that was what John was suggesting at first. Get a truck and get out, but then he wants to come right back. I don’t really get that.”

She nodded and then continued. “Me either… Anyway, I…” She raised her head level with his and locked her eyes on his own. “I just wanted you to know I’m seeing it the same way as you. I mean… I mean I want to be on your side of it… Me and Alice both” She gave a nod, then firmed her mouth, set her jaw and spoke once more. “I have Alice to think of,” She blushed and turned away, and then turned right back.

“I see,” Dog said.

She nodded and smiled carefully, “Didn’t know what side of this you might fall on… John is against it… Thinks I need a man. I’m taking you at face value, I guess.” She smiled.

Dog laughed. “What a dick.”

“I just wanted you to know the deal… I don’t want to mess this up.,” she said quietly, her eyes serious.

“So we’ll go looking tomorrow,” Dog said. “We’ll decide things between us.” He turned toward John “Him too if he wants.”

“I don’t see that working for him, but it works for me, Dog” Mandy said.

“Okay Mandy,” Dog agreed. Tomorrow it is.”

“Mandy,” Mandy told him. “We’ll be with you tomorrow.”

Dog nodded, “Mandy it is,” which caused a huge smile to spread across her face. His own smile answered it. But he thought, did she really mean it? He didn’t complete the thought as she stood and walked across the factory floor to where she had put her things and spent her first night. Alice followed her and then her eyes came up and seemed to question Dog. She turned and looked back at Mandy. Dog stood and walked over to help them move their things to their own area. Dog saw the tension in John’s shoulders as he helped them move, but John said nothing.

John watched as Dog helped the girls  move their sleeping bags and back packs over to a clear space on the factory floor. He didn’t see what Mandy saw in Alice, but it was her choice, and she wouldn’t get a second chance with him. He came close to slamming his fist into the cement floor. Not frustrated at all, he told himself. Not even a little.

He was about to roll out his sleeping bag and go to sleep, maybe tomorrow would have a different spin, he thought briefly, when Dog walked over and dropped down in a squat next to him. He moved so fast and easy for a big man. “Hey,” John was startled into saying.

Dog smiled. “Didn’t mean to startle you… Thought you saw me coming.”

“No… No, you didn’t startle me at all,” John lied.

Dog nodded. He cleared his throat a little. “Mandy and I talked a little… This place is safe, but it isn’t where we need to be, so we thought we’d light out… Maybe tomorrow… Jersey, maybe further, either way, out of the city is the goal.”

“Mandy?” John asked. “So it’s like that.”

Dog kept the smile on his face. “Listen,” he leaned close, too close, but it was a tactic he reserved for situations just like this back in the old world. “She wants to go… With Alice,” he spread his hands, huge hands, “It is what it is, man.”

John shook his head. “I don’t see it. It’s a new world… Who knows how many of us may have died off… If you look at New York alone it’s got to be millions.”

Dog nodded, not really sure where John was going.

John leaned close. “So how do you build a population back up if the women are only fucking the women?”

Dog shook his head. “You know what I said to Mandy a few moments ago?” He didn’t wait for John to answer. “She said something about the way you have a tried to impose upon her that she needs a man, and I said, ‘What a dick.’ That’s what I said, ‘What a dick.”

John just glared from under his lowered brows.

“Grow the fuck up, John, or go your own way. But as for those two?” He looked over at Mandy and Alice. “Don’t fuck with them anymore… I understand your thoughts might have gotten fucked up… It’s tough times like this that can do that. But they are their own, not your own.” He patted one huge hand against John’s shoulder, smiled and then stood and walked away.

Dog

They had risen early and made the trek out to the strip area where car lots and small business dotted the sides of the feeder roads for what seemed like miles.

They had met no one along the way. Before nightfall, they had been driving a pair of new pickup trucks. John and Dog in one, Mandy and Alice in the other, weaving in and out of traffic heading back into the city.

They had ended up in a house over in Harlem, with gas lanterns for light, the windows boarded up. They had decided it was too late in the day to head out so a place in the city would be safer. The house was close. The factory was out of the question, too deep in the city and it’s clogged streets to get to.

They had been sitting around. Spirits raised, talking easily, but sometimes seriously about the world and the changes they had encountered. What it meant to them as individuals, as a society.

“I can’t help but wonder what it feels like,” John said. “To be dead, I mean.”

“Fuck that,” Dog said. “Feels like dead. Look at those fuckers. I mean you can see it… Listen…” They all fell silent. The windows were solidly boarded over. The dead scratched and cried and pleaded, but they could not get in.

Mandy shuddered. “It fucks me up… It really does.” Alice’s head lay against her breast, her arms around her holding her.

“Yeah,” Alice agreed I do not want to be dead.” She raised her head from Mandy’s breast. “If…”

“Go on, baby,” Mandy said after a few moments of silence.

“Well if we have to we should have a pact. I mean… I mean I know you wouldn’t let that happen to me,” She looked at Mandy with wide eyes, “But,” she raised her head. “We should have a pact to not let that sort of thing happen to any of us, right?”

“Right,” Dog agreed. “Right.”

“Oh bullshit,” John said.

“If I ever have to, I won’t hesitate,” Mandy had said, “Once I’m dead, I don’t want to come back.” She had shuddered and grimaced at the same time. “I’ll do it myself, but it would be nice to know if I couldn’t one of you would.”

“Absolutely,” Dog agreed. “Same as I would expect one of you to do it for me.”

“In a minute,” Mandy agreed.

“I would,” Alice agreed. I wouldn’t like it but I would.”

“In-fucking-credible,” John said.

“Dude,” Dog said. “Why in fuck is it that you have to always be on the disagreement side of shit every time?”

“Oh, I didn’t know black men used dude like that.” John shot back.

Dog’s tongue came out and licked at his lips. He spun the cap slowly from a pint of whiskey he carried, and took a drink. “You got that one. One is what you get. Don’t forget I said that.”

John’s mouth opened and then snapped shut.

Silence held momentarily and then the conversation restarted between Alice and Mandy and soon John and Dog were drawn back into it.

They passed the small bottle back and forth. Nobody wanted to really get wasted, it was too important to have your wits about you, but the constant scrabbling of the dead against the boards was enough to make anyone crazy.

“Gotta piss… Has to be a bathroom here somewhere,” John said as he got up from the kitchen floor.

“Thanks for sharing,” Alice said from beside Mandy.

“Any ti…”

The sound of splintering wood and a heavy crash came, cutting off his words, as he fell through a rotted section of floor in the house, impaling himself on a pipe in the basement.

They had all scrambled quickly to their feet and then slowed down as they came to the hole. Holding the lanterns over the abyss to see better.

There were a half dozen dead in the basement, one by one they had shot them. There seemed to be no way in.

“More?” Alice asked.

“I doubt it,” Dog answered. “Probably been there from the start.”

“What about, John?” Alice asked.

Dog looked him over. His eyes were shut, his chest rose and fell, but the blood was leaving his body at an alarming rate. He had stopped moving, probably passed into unconsciousness. Death had to be close. Even if they could get him off the pipe without killing him or he himself dying from the shock and blood loss, he would die from massive infection at the least.

“Think any of them bit him before we got them?” Mandy asked.

“Just was,” Dog agreed. “What about his arm… See his arm?”

“Could have been from the fall,” Alice said.

“Maybe,” Mandy agreed. But his pants are also ripped… That could have been them too.”

“Yeah… Yeah,” Dog agreed.

John’s eyes suddenly fluttered open and he turned his head slightly to stare at Mandy. His jaw worked, but he said nothing. His eyes slipped closed and he let his last breath out in a shuddering groan.

“Oh my, God,” Alice sobbed. She lowered her head into her hands.

 Mandy leaned forward and shot him in the head nearly as soon as he stopped his struggles. Alice bent double and vomited.

Dog held it in, but barely – John had been alive, he had still been with them as they listened to the sounds of the dead that were trying to get to them. To kill them. To eat them. To satisfy their ceaseless hunger: Earlier that night in the flickering light from the gas lanterns, when Mandy had said what she would do, and John had disagreed. And Dog had not. To Dog it had been a real thing because of what he had already gone through on his own. To John it hadn’t been real until now, a few hours later when he had found himself dying and she had wasted no time. None. Dog had seen his eyes fall on Mandy as the life flowed out of him. He couldn’t speak, but it was obvious he was trying to make her understand something. Whether it was a last plea not to kill him or a first plea to make sure she did, his eyes slipped shut with it unspoken

“He would have expected it,” Mandy said later as they all sat silently waiting for morning. Dog had the small bottle of whiskey out again and they were passing around. Trying to numb themselves more completely.

“I swear, if they come for me, if they get me? I’ll put a bullet in my own head. I will. I swear I will. If I ever fuckin’ have to, I won’t hesitate,” Mandy said, “Once I’m dead, I don’t want to come back.”

Alice began to cry. “Don’t say it, Mandy. Don’t say it.” And she didn’t say it again, but it didn’t matter. She had already spoke it into truth. Dog heard it. He heard it, and he knew she meant it.

In the morning Dog had packed up the truck he and John had been using. He intended to go whether Mandy and Alice came with him or not. But there was only follow in Mandy in the morning.

They headed back out of Jersey. Mandy knew the area.

Near nightfall, they had found another old factory, and they had settled in once more. Dog had begun to feel as though a cloud were hovering over them… maybe even just him.

New Jersey: Dog and Alice

May 2nd

They had settled into the factory and within a few days others had joined them. At first Dog had done his best to dissuade them, silence and moodiness seemed to be his only persona for most of that time, but Mandy and Alice welcomed newcomers and got them set up with sleeping areas inside the factory. They also organize daily outings for supplies, and that enabled Dog to get a better idea of the area they were in.

They left in the early morning, Dog and Alice on foot, Mandy and Rob, one of the newcomers, in a truck to cruise the fields looking for deer or cows which seemed to be everywhere you looked, at least until you wanted one Mandy had joked. Gina stayed to keep things going at the factory which was close to fifty people now. Gina had been one of the first to come along. Tall, young, a shock of red hair that hung well below her waist, but was usually tied back into a ponytail and wrapped around her forehead. “Happy hunting,” Gina had called as they left.

Dog remembered that aloud as they walked, startling a small herd of goats that had been browsing the inside of a gas station as they passed. They let them go without a shot. Shots sometimes bought the dead. For some reason they didn’t understand, the dead seemed to be changing. Less fearful of humans. Faster, out in the daylight. And their use of tools was becoming alarming. More than once they had seen evidence of tool usage by the dead. Here were some they couldn’t hunt. He only hoped things were better for Mandy. There was a police precinct seven blocks over where they hoped there would be a stash of weapons and ammunition. No way to know until they got there, but they had passed it a few times and it appeared closed up. Like the cops had seen the end coming and locked it all up before they had left. Dog hoped so. They had plenty of ammunition but more was a no-brainer.

The Police station took half the day to break into. The cops had never left, they had simply become the dead in a prison of their own making. It had been close at first. They had expected a few dead, but not dozens. They had all seemed to be blind though, as if the months in absolute darkness had stolen sight from their arsenal. They more than made up for that with speed and ferocity though. It was late afternoon before they had what they had come for, which turned out to be no more than a few hundred rounds of ammunition Dog wasn’t even sure they could use.

They had gone floor to floor, window to window, and it was the same story at every stop. Brass casings piled in mounds. They had fought until they could no longer fight and then they had starved to death or succumbed to their wounds. Something. It was hard to tell. The basement level showed the end results of some sort of huge gun fight. There were blocks of cells down here, Dog saw. All standing open and shell casings everywhere. Maybe that was their answer. At least the only answer they were likely to get.

The trip back to the factory where they had been staying was tough. The light was seeping from the sky and Dog had opted for a small pawn shop they had passed a few times before to spend the night. The shutters were intact. They had shot the lock off the outside, but there were hooks on the inside to lock it from there. He and Alice fit snugly inside. They pulled down the shutters and ran a padlock Dog carried in his pocket for just that purpose through the latches.

The panels where heavy stainless steel. It would take more than a few dead to get through them. They had sat out the long night, listening to the dead smash and beat themselves against the panels, waiting for sunrise, and it had taken Dog once again back to the night a few weeks before when Mandy had killed John and they had waited silently for dawn to arrive. They sat silent waiting for dawn. Talk was impossible. Somewhere in the night Dog pulled Alice close to him and they both drifted off into sleep despite the racket and stench from the dead.

Home Again

The factory was silent as they approached it, but at first it didn’t register for Dog. His mind was on Alice and her silence. She had awakened silent and she had said little.

He had stepped into a browned smear of blood, and printed his boot track across the concrete entryway before it dawned on him that something wasn’t right. His boot made an odd sucking sound as it came up from the concrete and Dog looked at it. A sound like tape pulling away from your skin, something like that, he thought. The coppery smell of blood hit him, and something else. The stench of death floated out of the factory, slipping under the canvas. He had back tracked a hundred feet in what seemed like seconds, coming to stop next to one of the trucks, leaning against the fender, his breath ragged and rushed.

“Alice… Alice.” Dog raised his eyes to the front seat of the pickup truck, and then across the open bed. Empty. His eyes shot back to the bed. Wet, pink puddles. A familiar smell he didn’t have time to place. It didn’t matter though, the cab was empty, safety for Alice while he figured out what had happened. He levered the door open and Alice jumped willingly inside with no resistance.

“Honey… Listen… Alice… If you can’t see me, don’t open the door… Don’t open it… Stay in there.” She nodded, her eyes frightened.

He wore a pair of 9 mm guns with over-sized clips. He had taken them from a dead man a few weeks back and replaced the heavier .45’s he carried with them. That man had been shot through the head. He had wondered about that, but not for long. There were a lot of ways to get dead in this world, he didn’t need to think about that, it was a fact. Whatever this man had done had been bad enough that another living being had decided to end his life. Or maybe he had been just another guy trying to survive and some bad men had found him. He doubted that though. They would have taken the guns had that been the case. What really bothered him was the way he began to work the explanation over in his head. No thought for the body that lay in the street. The violence no longer seemed to bother him. How long before he too was just another statistic? Or an anti statistic? One of the ones who simply shot first and never bothered to ask questions? He didn’t know the answer. And although that should have bothered him as well it didn’t.

The ammunition had been getting harder to find for the .45, but the 9 mm stuff was everywhere it seemed. He supposed some day that would run out too, but for now it was plentiful and he did not relish running out of ammunition. He took both guns out, flicked off the safeties and walked slowly to the factory entrance.

The stench was nearly overpowering as he toed the canvas aside and stepped partly inside. The fire was out, and with the windows boarded up there was little light to see by. Even so he could see the remains of two bodies that lay close by the entrance way. He stood for what seemed like minutes looking down at the bodies, but there was no way to know who they had been. He might have gone on staring, lost in thought, but the nearest one lifted her upper body from the floor with her arms. Gina, Dog saw. The eyes were not the same, but there was something in the face that was still her own.

The eyes were red chips set in a sea of black. Her legs were gone, ripped from the hip sockets it seemed to Dog, yet she struggled to lift her entire body, her stomach convulsing, the muscles contracting, trying to lift her. Her mouth opened and clumps of black blood fell as her teeth gnashed. Dog lowered one gun and shot her between the eyes. Jelled brain splattered to the floor behind her and she lost her animation, slowly sagging back down to the floor.

The sound of the gunshot woke up something or someone else in the farther reaches of the factory. The odd whining sounds the dead produced leapt out at him and the sound of feet dragging against the concrete. Dog stepped back and let the curtain of canvas fall back in place. A second later he was back at the truck where he had left Alice. She reached over and unlocked the door, Dog ripped the door open, glancing at the ignition as he did. No keys.

He shut the door and ran for the other truck. The keys dangled from the ignition through the glass. He turned and raced around the edge of the first truck and yanked the door open. A second later he had pulled Alice out when she had seemed to be hesitating, looking toward the factory.

“But… Dog, Mandy…., Dog,” she said as he propelled her toward the other truck.

He pushed her into the other truck. “Alice…” Nothing is alive in there… Nothing. Alice don’t leave… Give me a few seconds… Stay put,” Dog told her.

There was no movement of the canvas cover, Dog saw. He had been watching it from the corner of one eye, expecting it to move and the dead to come pouring out into the sunlight. He had seen some who seemed to be unaffected by sunlight, but those seem to be the newly made. After they had been around for a while they adapted, changed, moved themselves away from that limitation. These had not come running. It didn’t mean that they couldn’t. He was taking nothing for granted.

He walked back to the first truck. A few seconds under the dashboard and he had ripped away the ignition wires. He twisted two of the wires together for the circuit that needed constant power, and then touched another wire to same hot wire for a moment. The starter spun, caught and then the motor began to turn over. A second later it coughed to life. He dropped it into drive and then backed it around until it lined up with the factory doors about eighty feet away.

He had kept his eyes on the factory entrance. Sounds caused the dead to become even more active. They liked the silence, even so nothing came from the draped canvas. He watched for a few seconds longer. The canvas moved again and a rotting face slipped from inside, hissing as the sun touched it, quickly allowing the draped canvas to fall closed once more. Dog walked down along the pickup bed to the gas cap door. He opened the door, spun the cap from the tank and the fumes rushed up to meet him. He had no idea how much was in the tank, but they filled them at every chance, so it should be close to full. He let the cap fall from his hand as he drew his pocket knife, snapped it open, and then leaned back inside the cab. A second late he was slicing through the seat cover, cutting long foam backed pieces from it. He took four of the longest pieces, wound them together and then walked back to the tank.

He studied it for a moment, pushed some wound up rag down into the tank, but he knew that wasn’t going to cut it. He returned to the cab and came back a few seconds later with a tire iron. He hooked the cloth with it and shoved it down into the tank. Once nearly all of it was in, he slowly pulled it out. It came out soaked with gas after the first few feet. He turned it around and stuffed the dry end back down into the tank. A second later he bent and drove his knife into the gas tank where it rested below the body panel for the pickup box. Gas began to splatter to the ground as he withdrew the knife.

He stood, looked over the factory entrance once more and then picked up the gas soaked end of the cloth he had wound together where it had pooled onto the blacktop. The puddle of gas was growing quickly, rolling toward the factory. He probably could depend on that alone to get the job done, but he hated to leave things to chance. He reached into his pocket, liberated his lighter: Spun the wheel and lit it, then dropped the shift lever into drive. In one quick movement he lit the tail of the cloth and then dropped it into the gas that was spreading across the blacktop. The truck lurched as he quickly stepped back, and then crept slowly across the cracked pavement at idle, dragging a trail of fire as it went.

The cloth had set the pooled gas on fire and it raced just behind the truck as it rolled across the lot. The fire ate its way upward on the cloth, reaching for the tank opening at the same time. The truck slammed into the entrance way, seemed to hang up for a second, and then broke through partway into the interior. Dog caught just a glimpse of dead scattering from the heat and flame before the gas tank blew up: By then he was in the other truck, passing by the front of the factory as he sped away. He could see the flames running into the factory. A few blocks away he turned back and saw red flames creeping from the roof. A few miles later the flames had been eating through the old roof, another fire in a city full of fires.

~

Mandy had found them later that afternoon as Dog drove aimlessly through the streets that were cleared, following the routes they often took for supplies. He had seen a shadow by the mouth of an alleyway and slowed the truck a block away, unwilling to get ambushed. He sent Alice around the city block so she could come up on the other side of the alleyway on foot, leaving the truck somewhere out of site.

He had made the slow walk to the alleyway alone, both pistols drawn, ready. He had nearly shot her when she leapt out of the alleyway. Torn, bloodied, desperation in her eyes. Alice had screamed from somewhere behind her and they had both avoided the mistake their nerves could have cost them. Alice ran to her and they both collapsed to the ground in tears.

Rob was in the alleyway dying. Mandy told the story once Alice had got some liquid into her and they had all calmed down for a few moments.

She spoke with a voice heavy with emotion, her eyes leaking slowly.

“They came in the late afternoon. I had built a fire by the entrance, we had two deer, fresh blood, I wanted to make sure the dead stayed away, but it didn’t stop them, Mandy said. “They leapt the fire and took us easily, we were completely unprepared. The only reason Rob and I made it out was we were outside when they hit, cleaning the back of the truck, blood…” She took a deep breath and tears began to spill faster from her eyes.

“We went for the entrance, but both of us had left our rifles inside,” She shook her head, “We had…” She shook her head again as if to negate what had happened. “It was only seconds, we thought, maybe minutes, so we left them. We had our pistols, we thought, what else did we need?” She stopped talking and took a few moments to get herself under control.

“It was too late when we got there. They’re strong. Stronger than two men, two strong men, maybe stronger. We killed a half dozen, but it didn’t slow them down, except they were now also thinking of us,” she shrugged. “We spent last night hiding in an old school,” She shrugged nervously, “No ammunition, nothing. I got a piece of pipe, Rob found a fence stake, you know, one of those construction type metal stakes you see all over the city? Sharp, heavy. We huddled together.” She shook her head.

“Maybe just after dawn, it was dirty light through the windows, gray. Makes everything look like it’s black and white… They came out of nowhere. We heard them coming down the street outside, making noise to scare they dead, maybe who knows. Sometimes enough noise scares them, usually attracts them though. They came in and there was nothing we could do. We were right in the entrance-way, both sets of doors shut. They smashed the glass in seconds.” She looked at Alice who kissed her cheek lightly and nodded for her to go on. She sucked in a shuddering breath.

“We killed three guys fast. I got two with that pipe. Just crazy… Just… Crazy. Swinging it for the bleachers, just heads. I don’t think they expected that. The fourth guy Rob got with the stake, but the fifth one shot him before he could get him good enough. I landed that pipe a second later, but it was too late.” She looked at Dog.

“I couldn’t figure where you two got to… I mean we went back to the factory, it was obvious that someone had torched it. I knew it was you. I knew it, but you didn’t come back and I got worried… We’ve been walking it, but Rob couldn’t go any longer.” She held up two flat black, rubber gripped 9 mm guns. Took them from those fuckers back at the school.“ She shook her coat pocket so they could hear the bullets clink together. A few hundred rounds in both pockets. But they would have had us tonight. I can’t carry him.”

Dog bent to look Rob over.

“Careful, Dog. I think he’s bit. He said he wasn’t, but his arm looks bit to me, and when he was on the edge on passing out it was like he was trying to tell me something… Kept lifting the arm, but he couldn’t talk.”

“Think so,” Dog agreed. He looked out the mouth of the alleyway, the shadows were deepening already. Two blocks west he saw a hurried movement , shadows passing behind broken windows. He looked back down at Rob. The bandaging was sections of his shirt, ripped and folded. The blood seeped past it, and occasional bloody bubbles appeared at his lips. A lung shot, Dog knew it. He would die. Maybe soon, maybe later. Moving him would kill him for sure. He sighed.

“Mandy you can travel? I ask because we got to.” Dog shook his head, watching the buildings two blocks down. There were no more movements yet, but he knew there would be, and soon. Mandy followed his eyes as did Alice.

“Yeah, “ she said as she looked back and met his eyes. “Something?”

“Several somethings… May as well go get the truck and get back here fast,” Dog told them. “Don’t waste no time.” Mandy nodded and a few seconds later she and Alice were running down the sidewalk and the truck that was parked a few blocks away in hiding.

Dog turned back to Rob. “Rob… Man… I’m sorry,” Dog told him. He pulled his knife from the sheath at his side and with one quick thrust ran it through his temple and into his brain. A little crunch of bone, but it was thin, the blade passed through easily. Too easily. It made Dog sick, but it wasn’t the first time he’d done it and it wouldn’t be the last, he knew. Rob never moved.

Dog wiped the blade, sheathed it, and then sprinted down the block in the direction Mandy and Alice had taken. He met them part way up the block. Mandy bought the truck to a rubber burning halt and Dog jumped in. He shook his head as her eyes questioned him. Not about Rob, he knew, but about where they were going now.

“I think it’s time to leave New York… Jersey… Head south, maybe,” Dog said. He met each of their eyes looking for dissent, but there was none.

“That factory got us too complacent,” Alice said. Mandy nodded.

“Let’s find us a place for a few days then… Get our shit together… Some gear… Maps… And then we’ll lite out.” Dog leaned back into the seat.

Mandy dropped the gear into drive and the big truck lumbered off down the street searching for ways out of the tangle of streets.


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