There’s always drama when people collect together. Always. Sometimes the drama is good, and other times the drama is bad. Right now, we’re teeter-tottering back and forth between the two. Good drama: Gavin and Abby are getting along well, and they seem to be very mature, and level headed about their relationship. Also good is Ollie and Melissa. They are clearly awesome together, and both are workaholics here on campus. They’re machines that are happy to do their work.
Bad drama: arguing over plans. Everything was going great until we met Blake. Not that he himself has been a problem. He’s pretty good all things considered, especially when there’s food involved for him. What’s been shitty, is the information he’s revealed to us.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss. I’ll get to that in a bit.
We returned back to the cul de sac yesterday with the HRT, Gavin’s truck, and the plow. Obviously, Gilbert’s vehicle was abandoned on the side of the road, but when we approached the cul de sac for our prescheduled noon meeting, we noticed the truck was gone from the spot where it died. It seemed unlikely that the police had it towed too, which boded well for us.
Parked in the middle of Walt’s road was Gilbert’s truck. Blake was sitting on the hood, patiently waiting for us with a smile on his face a yard wide. All I could think of was the guilty cat with the feather in his mouth. He looked like he’d gotten his cake, and it was delicious.
We parked at the end of the road, and as agreed, I walked towards him alone. We thought it best not to scare him by showing up with a bunch of folks right off the bat. He slid off the hood of the truck as I approached.
We said our hellos, and right off the bat you could tell he was far more prepared for this. He almost seemed, well, like his dialogue was scripted.
“Mr. Adrian, pleasure to see you again.” Was the first thing he said. I was reminded of when Gavin was all nervous to talk to Patty. It felt like he was a little nervous, as well as a little excited.
“Nice to see you as well Blake. Hope all is well with you.” I smiled at him, and noticed his color was better than the day before. He didn’t look fatter or anything, but he looked, I dunno, healthier?
“I’m great. Eating pretty good, had a safe night last night, and I got your truck working too. Feeling like I earned all that food from the house over there.” He thumbed at the beige cape we let him get all the food out of.
I nodded at him in agreement and thanked him. We made idle chat about the truck, then the weather for a bit, and he pointed at the plow truck as well as Gavin’s Dodge, and mentioned some neat facts about the vehicles that I think were supposed to highlight his usefulness and intelligence. He obviously liked vehicles, and knew quite a bit about them. I was secretly hoping that he could be our Hector. He didn’t look Mexican though. We would have to make do.
Blake explained the gas tank of the trunk was almost a third water. He siphoned the tank dry, emptied the fuel lines, found some usable gas somewhere, added in a thing of fuel additive, and he said it turned right over. He could not have looked happier.
He also told us our vehicles were probably all going to shit the bed in a similar fashion sooner or later. I’m not an expert, please keep that in mind Mr. Journal, but he seems pretty bright on the subject. Our fuel will be accumulating moisture even if stored in drums, and sealed. As the moisture content rises, the fuel loses potency, and eventually, it becomes inert. We need to maintain our fuel, removing the water every so often, or it’ll go bad. Even the diesel.
As he explained it all right over my head I kept a close watch on our surroundings. We didn’t hot key this conversation over the walkie in the event something happened, and mid stream he was interrupted by Abby calling out the presence of a zombie on Route 18, slowly shuffling our way.
Blake’s face straight up went stiff as a board when he heard the radio crackle with her voice. His response after hearing her over the radio was, “holy shit a girl? How old is she?”
I grinned, and before I responded to Abby’s radio call, I said to him, “she’s younger than you, prettier than me, and more dangerous than the both of us.” He looked defeated.
I radioed back for her and Gavin to deal with it preferably without a gun involved, and after a minute or so of nervous waiting, they gave the all clear. Blake looked more relieved than I felt.
I changed the subject, “so Blake. We’ve got an offer for you. I’d like to hear your opinion on it, and if you’re game, I’d like to get started on it immediately.”
“Let’s hear it.” He licked his lips again. I vowed to find him some Chapstick.
“You know more about downtown than any of us do at the moment, and like I said the other day, that information is valuable to us. We’ve got ammunition for the guns you’re using, as well as spare food and clean water we can trade you for that information, and other help down the line.”
He chewed on that thought for a few seconds, and came back with, “I’ll tell you where the zombies are. I’ll tell you where I think food is. I can also tell you where some of the asshole survivors are too. I mean, there are a few groups out there that are pretty nasty people. I don’t care what happens to them. I won’t tell you where the good people are yet. I need to know you’re all good folks first.”
I nodded, understanding most of what he meant, “asshole survivors?”
He looked very displeased having to talk about it. But the tale he told… explained why. Here’s as much of his tale as I can recall;
“When things first went bad, everyone in town scrambled to get everything they could. The grocery store had a gun battle, Moore’s got all shot up, the used car dealership across town got robbed, and even the damn gas stations got ugly. After a few weeks though, everyone kinda settled in, and the haves ate well, and the have nots starved, or had to come out with all the fresh dead wandering. Those folks usually died. Those that made it out and back from my trailer park before they died too told me about this huge house south of town where you could get some food and water for a price.
You had to bring bullets, or something of value to trade for it, but they had a lot of food I guess, so I went to check it out one day about three months after everything happened, just as the cool weather hit, and the leaves started to turn.
The house had a huge reinforced metal fence around it, one built originally because it was a small farm. I saw a few cows inside the fence, and at the gate they’d built some kind of guard shack or gatehouse or whatever out of plywood, and corrugated metal roofing. The house was a big white farm sat about a hundred yards back at the end of a long dirt driveway. They hollered out to me to stop moving when I got to within maybe fifty feet of the shack, and they asked what I was there for.
I told them I needed food, and water if they had it, and the older man’s voice from inside the shack asked me what I had to trade for it. Back then I had little to nothing, and I said just that. He said to get moving then, because all I’d be was a burden. I tried to say I could work for them, but he said I couldn’t be trusted, and to go my way.
When I left, I looped around wide, and came back to a good hide in the woods where I could see the gatehouse, and I hid there, watching for a few days to see what happened. I watched all day, every day. I saw about ten or twelve folks, all over the farm, working. There were maybe five men, and each had a rifle, one just like the one you have Adrian, and they came out at night to farm, to harvest the back garden they had. After the first day I recognized the old man as the husband of the family that ran the big farm stand on the south end of town. You know the one right? They just built an ice cream window on it? They used to make their own ice cream?
So anyway, the people on that farm run that farm stand. Well, used to run it. During the time I watched, I saw them trade with people several times. Once, the last trade I saw before I took off, I watched the old man and his wife come out of the shack to look at two kids that had come with two parents.
Now I can’t read lips, and I can’t say for certain what they were saying, but I think they traded for those two kids. I mean yeah it’s possible that they just took them in, but Adrian I tell you, they were looking at them like sides of beef. You know, looking at their arms and legs and seeing if they were strong? Making sure they were healthy and shit?
I ran off after that, because I had a bad feeling. About when the snow started to fall, I was hunting down in that area there trying to get a deer or some rabbits or something, and I realized that I was near the farm. I figured I should look back into it to see what’d happened there, and wouldn’t you know, they were still there. I even saw the two kids they’d traded for out on the land inside the fence, working the few cows they had. After a few hours, I could just tell those kids were miserable. I mean Adrian, they looked like death warmed over. They looked like me for cripe’s sake.
Someone yelled from the farm after awhile, and the kids went inside. I went to leave, but I noticed outside on the road, there were a lot of bodies. I mean a lot man. Looked like they’d been shooting zombies a lot lately. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those bodies belonged to living, breathing people though.
I don’t know man, maybe they’re good, maybe they’re shit, either way, I don’t trust em.”
Yeah not cool Mr. Journal. His story gave me the creeps.
He told me exactly where to find that farm. He also told me about six or seven concentrated spots of undead around town. He didn’t know why those spots were heavily overrun with the dead. I guess it could mean that there are survivors there, or maybe there is something making noise there, or maybe, just maybe, it’s utterly fucking random.
On principle Blake agreed that he would look at our vehicles when he could. He said the fuel line douche and fuel tank emptying wasn’t that big of a deal on normal cars, and he thought it’d be a good idea in the long run. Of course by long run, we’re talking about maybe having our gas powered vehicles last until the end of the year. Hopefully we’ll last as long as them.
Blake ssaid that in order for him to do the work, we’d need to get him parts and tools. He said Mike’s garage was largely clear of the dead, but there weren’t sufficient parts there. There was an auto parts store just on the other side of downtown though, and he said it was fairly clear. Based on what he said, I got the impression we could roll in, empty the area of zombies, and gather up the parts he needs to do whatever it is he needs to do.
In exchange for his information, and the repair work on the vehicle, I fetched two gallon jugs of water for him, and a half gallon of the milk we had on campus. It was a lot of our milk, but I kinda promised it to him, and I try to keep my word as best I can. I also grabbed a few cans of spaghetti type stuff, as well as two containers of cup o’ noodles, a can of Dinty Moore, and a small container of concentrated OJ. I also gave him 20 rounds of the .303 British for his Enfield rifle, and a small box of 18 .38 caliber shells.
He was so happy. He was happier when I asked him if he was up for meeting someone new. He asked who, and I said it was Gilbert, our elder statesman, and owner of the truck he’d fixed. He seemed nervous, but was willing to meet him.
Gilbert hopped out of the HRT and shuffled his way to us and stuck out his hand for Blake to shake. Blake took it, and Gilbert pumped his hand vigorously, not saying a word. Gilbert sized him up good and plenty.
“You fixed my truck. Fine work son.” Gilbert adjusted the AK on his back as he said it. The handshake had slid it to a funny angle on the sling.
Blake smiled shyly, “yeah I sure did, it was an easy fix.”
“Yeah, maybe so, but I’m sure you did it where there was danger, and performance under dangerous conditions warrants extreme merit son. You deserve more than that food. I’d like for you to keep that truck, that way you’ve got a means to get around should shit get thick for ya.” Gilbert assessed the truck behind the boy and nodded, confirming the wisdom of his own statement.
Blake looked back at the truck himself and shook his head, he was about to say no to Gilbert, but the old man cut his ass off at the pass, “don’t say a word to me Blake. I’ve made up my mind, and at my age, if I can’t have my way on some things, I might as well check out. And I ain’t checking out today.”
Blake smiled thankfully. The two had already bonded.
With Gilbert there, we explained to Blake that we had radios that we communicated with, but until we knew him more, we weren’t quite comfortable with giving him one of ours. He said that was fair, and that we could always set up regular meeting times and places. Gilbert suggested that we meet again right here in four day’s time on the 13th. Blake had no idea what the date was, and was fairly surprised when we told him it was the 9th of April yesterday. Time flies when you’re running away from undead cannibals.
Our meeting was concluded after everything was exchanged, and he got into his new truck and sped off. I don’t know where he’s going to get fuel for it, but if he refilled the gas tank after draining it, he’s got a source somewhere. We’ll see him on the 13th at noon.
After that, we decided we would roll on some neighborhoods to scout them for undead contents. Our new plan was sticking with the recon to contact idea. Literally, we find trouble, and then kill it. Killing every single zombie in town is a goal, and we put a decent dent in the populace yesterday and today. Most of it was stopping just on the fringe of a large pack of them and popping them off with the .22 rifles. Once the crowd had been thinned to just one or two, we waded in with the halligans, or bats, or whatever, and we went to town face to face. We really need to conserve ammo as much as possible. Especially in light of Blake’s conservative estimate of 25 survivors in town. Could mean there are a lot of undead out there.
Yesterday we cleared zero homes, but put down about thirty undead, and formulated our plan for today.
Now as for last night… It got ugly when we got back. Maybe ugly isn’t the right word. Animated. Spirited even.
I want to check out that farm, as does Patty and Abby. Gavin wants whatever Abby wants, but Gilbert is adamantly opposed to the idea of checking it out now. I’m concerned that we’ll leave them alone long enough to establish a strong enough powerbase that if they are indeed doing what we think they’re doing (trafficking in humans for food or slavery or whatever) when we finally go at them, they’ll be dug in like an Alabama tick. (awesome movie reference for you Mr. Journal)
Gilbert is fully confident that when we decide to visit them, we can handle them, but we need to think on it for a few weeks, and let the idea percolate. More of town needs to be cleared out before we can just saunter over and start an intel gathering operation on what seems to be a fairly heavily armed group of people.
Now during the heat of the moment, I disagreed…. Rather adamantly with him, and the girls joined in. We got pretty nasty and mean to each other, and at one point I walked the fuck out. Ollie and Melissa were clearly uncomfortable. I was sitting on an old plastic lawn chair on the side deck of Hall E pissed at the world when Ollie came out to visit me.
He patted me on the shoulder, said one sentence, then went back inside.
“Adrian, this isn’t Westfield. This town is still overflowing with the dead. For all we know, they took those children in to shelter them, and we can’t change all our plans based on what some young man saw through a rifle scope six months ago. You’ve got a responsibility to us, and gathering food and supplies, and cutting down the number of dead is the real priority for this family.”
I can’t argue with that. I just can’t.
I went back inside, apologized to everyone, quickly finalized our plans for today, and went to bed. I didn’t want my shitty attitude to be a cancer anymore that night.
Today was very awkward. Gilbert didn’t say shit to me all morning, and finally he only spoke to me after I approached him and apologized. I told him I was an ass, and he was right, and I was being hasty because I wanted to fly right over there and rescue those kids. I guess I really want to be a hero.
Gilbert nodded, and said he understood. After that, things were better.
We started on some houses nearing the more industrial area of Main Street. There are a lot of loop side streets to do, as well as some dead end streets, and a couple general neighborhoods that are somewhat isolated. I figure we’ve got the remainder of the entire month of April before we actually reach the area where the grocery store and the pharmacy are.
I will post updates as necessary, but frankly, I am guessing most of it will be the same old, same old. After we clear for a few weeks, maybe we can reassess the farm idea, or maybe I can talk Blake into sneaking over there for us, and gathering information for us.
We have a meeting with Mike and the Westfield folks on the 15th as well. Hopefully we’ve got some things for them, and I hope they have some neat things for us.
What a bizarre day. Genuinely fucking strange. Twilight Zone-esque even.
Mr. Journal have you ever had that feeling right after a few things occur that there had to have been something at work for it to fall into place just so? Too many coincidences involved for it to be a random event? You know, like, you leave your apartment to go out with some friends, but just as you walk away, you realize you didn’t brush your teeth, so you go back and do it. You leave again, and because of the unexpected delay you wind up meeting glances with someone who you would not have had you just soldiered on without brushing your teeth? And that was like the ONLY day you didn’t brush teeth like that?
Or like you notice your shoelaces are untied, so you bend down to tie them, and just as you do, something passes through the space your head was just in? One of those… wow. That was lucky moments.
I have that feeling right now. The past few days things have been like that. Today especially.
Remember back in the day when the first plow truck I took off campus shit the bed on me? I wound up leaving it on the side of Auburn Lake Road, and walked back until I saw the Tundra? Then I took that and used it for some time. Eventually I put dry gas in the tank of the plow when I drove by it later kinda randomly, and after some time, Charles, Patty, and the rest of the Williams people found the truck after their car died, and it started right up?
That’s pertinent for two reasons. One; mysterious fucking circumstance that it all came together like that over time, and; Two; Gilbert’s Chevy died the same exact way today when we headed out to finish off that last house on ole Walt’s cul de sac. That was the start of our day.
I should rewind a bit. Gavin is getting a cold or allergies. When he was making breakfast, he was sneezing and sniffling and had a runny nose that was pretty epic. Patty took his temp, said he was a little warm, and promptly sent him off to bed for the day. Because of that, Abby bailed on today’s recon mission, and Patty had a sudden surge of paranoia that Abby and Gavin would make a baby at precisely that moment, so she opted to stay home and mother them both.
Gilbert and I left with the HRT and his truck at about 11am and figured we’d hit the one house left near Walter’s place, take our sweet ass time if it went well, and call it a day. About a half mile from Walt’s street Gilbert radioed that his truck was sputtering, and about two second after that, it died, and he drifted over into the half inch of slush in the breakdown lane.
We couldn’t start it. Both of us are largely mechanically disinclined though, so that’s not a surprise. I immediately thought of “sweet ass Hector” and wished he was nearby. We gotta get him back here for sure to check out our vehicles.
So as we are looking under Gilbert’s hood, trying to make heads or tails of our mechanical failures as human beings, we hear a gunshot. Loud. As. Hell. It couldn’t have come from more than a mile away in the general direction of Walt’s place. Sounded pretty damn heavy, almost like a M107 going off. Not quite that heavy, but you get the idea Mr. Journal. It was a big gun. The shots weren’t fired directly at us, but that didn’t mean they weren’t just bad shots and they were sighting in on us.
We had a live one.
Gilbert and I ate pavement and we took cover behind the HRT. I got my rifle down from the truck cabin as Gilbert covered me. We heard two more shots spaced out over about a minute. Once it fell silent, we went over a plan, and I infil’d towards the area on foot, and Gilbert got up and into the HRT to drive slowly.
I started to go into the woods, then I realized more than likely, I’d lose a boot in the muck, so I stuck to the very edge of the shoulder. If needed, I could dive down into the ditch there for cover. When we came to the street ole Walt’s place was on (it was on our left), there was one more loud ass shot, and it clearly came from the cul de sac. I hit the dirt and low crawled after telling Gilbert over the radio that something was up.
Right about then Patty came over the radio back on campus and was completely farting out bricks. OMFG.. I should be there. Don’t move, we’re coming, etc etc. Gilbert told her to chill and wait while we figured it out, and I kept crawling through the slush that’d formed from the light snow we had the past few days. God it was cold, and I was soaked right to the bone in just a few seconds. I came to the edge of the trees and stopped. With the ACOG scope I was able to see all the way to the end of the loop easily, and standing sort of near the center was a tall, skinny as rails guy with a ragged black hiking backpack, holding a large hunting rifle.
He was standing at ease, scanning the area for threats, and was about to rotate to my slice of the pie, and for some unfathomable reason, I stood up. I held the M4 low so he hopefully didn’t think I was a threat, and I started to wave at him with my left hand.
As soon as he saw me, he brought his rifle up at me, and I dove behind a tree a few feet to my left. He didn’t fire, and I kept flat, and I brought the M4 up to sight him in to see what he was doing. From behind me Gilbert watched it all play out, and he told Patty and Abby to get their shoes on.
I thought about it for a few seconds as he slowly walked down the street at me. He was wearing a beat to hell winter jacket and dirty jeans. Long dark hair that hadn’t been cut in some time, and he had a five o’ clock shadow that was a few hours past five. He was so skinny. He looked my age, or maybe a year or two older. I started to holler out to him when he got to about 75 yards away.
“Hey, I’m alive, please stop shooting!”
He froze solid. I don’t mean like… he stopped and realized like, holy shit, I’m shooting at a living person. I mean he literally froze completely still. Like when prey knows it is being hunted. The look on his face through the scope was one of restrained panic, and utter confusion.
“You okay? Are you bitten? Do you need medical assistance?” I stayed low.
He turned around and looked behind him, almost as if he was expecting to be snuck up on while I was talking to him. Well, that or he was looking for someone else that he thought I might’ve been yelling to. After he searched the area to his 6 adequately, he turned back and lowered his rifle until it was pointed at the ground. He stood, licked his lips, and responded suddenly with a half hearted wave in my general direction. After a few seconds of that, he finally started yelling back to me.
“Uh, hey, hi! I’m uh, sorry! I’m Blake.”
Much better. I hollered back, “I’m Adrian. Nice to meet you sir!” I saw him smile through the scope in a really odd way. Almost… manic. Not in a scary way, but like a happy way. I think he started to hitch his breath, like he was about to cry. I guess it’s possible he had asthma too. I think he had been alone a very long time.
“Yeah it’s nice to meet you too! Were you the people shooting here yesterday and the day before? I heard you from my hiding spot and came over to see what happened! I haven’t heard guns in a long time!” He looked behind him again. Good survival instincts. Always checking his periphery.
“Yeah that was us. We are clearing houses of the dead, and collecting supplies and stuff.” I hollered back.
“Wow, wait, we? There’s more than one of you? How many people are you?” He looked ecstatic, but also worried at the same time.
I played the honesty card, “seven of us. We live on the outskirts of town in a secure facility. We’re making the town as safe as we can now that spring is coming.”
Again, the look on his face was one of excitement and fear. He looked like he had no idea how to react to that news. Enthusiastic confusion.
I radioed Gilbert. I told him this Blake guy’s description, and that I felt he was alone, and I was gonna try and take it to the next level. Gilbert said he had my back, and do this smart. Right before I stood up, I hot keyed the radio so everyone could hear our conversation.
“Blake, we’ve got a truck nearby, you mind if we drive it to the cul de sac here? I hate to have our people split up for too long.”
Petrified. “You guys have a working truck still? How are you getting fuel? Most of the gas in town is total shit already.”
Interesting eh? I wonder what the exact shelf life of gasoline is? Diesel for that matter? I wonder if all those barrels of fuel we just brought back to campus were worth a piss hole in the snow. “You having trouble with the gas in town Blake?”
“Yeah, it’s all gummed up and has water in it. You need to filter it a bunch to get it to work right again, and there’s no safe place to do that here in town. Not since that massive explosion in the industrial park.”
Apparently news had traveled fast about that. I bet it made a fucking mushroom cloud when it went down.
“You okay with us bringing up the truck?” I hollered again.
“Hell yeah!” He looked excited about the truck. Genuinely so.
I radioed to Gilbert to pull the truck up near the street, and as soon as he did, I stood up, and tried the same slow wave. Blake matched my wave with one of his own, and I slowly walked towards him as Gilbert powered down the window of the truck and readied his AK for fire if it needed to happen. That’s an assumption. I couldn’t actually SEE Gilbert doing that, but I was betting my life on the fact that he was. After awhile, you just KNOW some folks have your back.
Blake and I met in the middle of the street. We stopped about 10 feet apart and hung our weapons low. If something went bad, we could raise them in a hurry, but we weren’t threatening each other. I kept a smile on my face the walk up to him, and as we exchanged hellos. Here is the basic gist of what was said:
“Hi, I’m Adrian. Nice to meet you.”
“You’re all wet man. You fall in the snow?” He pointed his nose at the giant wet spot I had from neck to knees where I face planted in the slush. About then I caught a whiff of his body odor. He smelled sour and funky. He probably hadn’t had a real shower or bath in who knows how long.
“Yeah we hit the deck when we heard you shooting. Didn’t think you were shooting at us, but we couldn’t risk it. Some folks are bad shots.” I smiled again at him.
He nodded, “yeah some folks are. I watched quite a few try and shoot the dead people and miss a lot. Waste of ammo.”
“Well, shooting can be nerve wracking, and I’m sure there are a lot of folks using guns lately that have no business doing so. Looks like you’ve got some time with your weapon. What’re you carrying?”
He lifted his rifle out to the side and immediately the pit of my stomach dropped. He had an Enfield .303, almost exactly the same as the one I’d gotten out of Walt’s place. “I’ve got my uncle’s Enfield. It’s a beast, but it’s accurate as all hell and I’ve been shooting it for years now. Running low on ammo though. Tough being alone out here.” Blake looked at his rifle lovingly. I could see he had a history with it just based on his eyes.
I thought it was odd that he had the same gun as the one we’d just found. I thought it was odd he was almost out of ammo, and we’d just found some. I thought it was odd that Gilbert’s truck died just far enough away that we weren’t threatened by him, but could still hear him. I thought it was odd that had it not died this morning, we’d have driven right up on him. I thought it was odd that of all of us, just Gilbert and I were the first to meet him.
We might’ve been shot, shot him, or gotten him bitten if we scared him.
“You’ve been alone all this time?” I was sincerely concerned. The more I observed him up close, the younger he appeared. With the gaunt features and long, scraggly hair, I initially placed him at 30, or even 35, but the more I watched, the more I thought he was 25 or so.
“Yeah.” He looked down at the ground and shuffled his feet. He wasn’t embarrassed, like Gavin was when he talked to Patty and I. Blake was- I dunno. Almost regretful. Guilty.
“Wow. How old are you man? 25?” I cradled the M4 as we settled into the conversation.
“I’m 23. Been alone for awhile. My parent died when I was 17, and I lived with my uncle for a year, but he died too. I used to live in his trailer over in Douglas Park off Route 18. I stay on the move now though. Can’t fortify anything. Takes too long, and makes too much noise.” He put his chin up slightly when he said all that. He was proud he made it this far. Proud that he was a survivor. Rightfully so in my book.
“That’s smart. We’re pretty remote, and we’ve taken down all the undead nearby. We can make a fair amount of noise now so there’s no worry about that. Where are you living now?”
He frowned, “I’d rather not say. I don’t know you.”
I smirked, “that’s also smart.”
“So we had planned on taking the stuff out of that beige cape right there today. It was the last house on this street for us to empty of stuff. Do you need anything? You’re welcome to anything inside.” I gestured at the house as I talked about it.
Blake turned and looked at it. He started to say something then hesitated. Finally he said, “is there food? All I need is food and ammunition.” He looked back vaguely hopeful.
“I’m sure there’s some food in there. You want to go ahead in and check it out yourself? Take whatever you need and check in with us after?” I shrugged at him. I wanted to show him we were generous. Peaceful. Altruistic even.
He turned and looked at the place again, thought about it, and took a few steps directly at the house without saying anything. I started to turn away to walk back to the truck, but I stopped when I heard him stop walking.
“Adrian?” He asked.
“Yeah Blake?” I stopped, half facing him.
“You don’t mind? You guys did all the work inside to make it safe right? I feel like I’m stealing if I just walk in and take stuff. I don’t want to take advantage of you.”
I waited and thought good and plenty about how to answer that, then came up with this, “Blake we have food. We have water, we have soap, and we have guns and ammo. Judging by your general disheveled appearance, your rail thin body, and your stink, you need whatever is in there a lot more than us today. I’d rather you ate, and we made friends. I’m sure you can think of something you can do for us later to square it away.”
Blake lit up when I said the part about how he could do something for us. I don’t think he’s been in a position to do anything for anyone else in a long time, and the thought of being useful to someone definitely appealed to him. He nodded with a slow smile, and trudged off in the thin layer of melting snow.
I listened to the sound of his boots crunching in the slush as I made my way to Gilbert. I killed the hotkey on the walkie and climbed up the gas tank to get to the window of the HRT where he sat. Gilbert nodded slowly, and told me that was, “well played.”
We went over what to do next, and we both agreed that this kid was shaky. Unsocialized in a big, bad way, and he needed to be brought in slow. We went over a few different conversational tactics for when he came out, and just as we wrapped up our last idea, he came walking out of the house. His beat up black backpack was noticeably fuller than when he’d gone in.
I hopped off the gas tank and hot keyed the walkie again. We met at almost the exact same spot in the middle of the street. He had a look on his face of almost joy. Nearly glee I’d say. He started talking at me before I reached him, and I waved for him to stop. When I got closer, he started again.
“Wow man they had a lot of food in there. There was a whole box of dry spaghetti, a jar of sauce, two cans of sauerkraut, whatever that is, and three cans of fruit cocktail. Gonna eat damn good this week.” Blake looked *stoked.*
“You’re gonna make that last all week?” I lifted one eyebrow skeptically.
“Hells yes. That’s a haul man. I owe you guys big time.”
“Nonsense Blake. Mind if I ask you what you did for work before all this shit went down? We’re trying to figure out what everyone can do. I was a… A bouncer, and a soldier.” I didn’t want to tell him right off I worked at the school. He might put two and two together and figure out where our “secure facility” was.
“I worked at Mark’s Garage doing auto body and mechanic work. Mostly auto body. Welding, buffing, painting you know. I liked it. That crazy motherfucker Walter stopped in there sometime in like September and took all the barrels we had. Dude he was loony. He shot so many people here I didn’t dare to come this way. Things went quiet here about two weeks ago, and when I heard you all shooting it up the other day, I decided I’d finally investigate. I’m glad he’s gone. He was fucking dangerous.” Blake looked appreciative.
“Yeah he injured his leg bad and it killed him from the looks of it. We put him down again when we breached his house. He was crazier than you can imagine man. Had his house wired to blow with hotdogs and Twizzlers.” I laughed.
Blake didn’t. “You know he had real dynamite right? He drove around town a couple times tossing sticks out the window of his truck late in the summer. I heard them go off at least twenty times. He drew so many of those… those things over here it was impossible to move around on foot for a long time.”
That was humbling to hear. We kinda knew Walt had explosives, but hearing it confirmed from someone was a different matter entirely. I nodded at him.
“What’re your plans now Blake? Do you need a place to live? Are you safe?” I wanted to extend a gentle offer of assistance.
“I move around. Only way to stay safe and find food reliably. I’ve been moving around more and more after dark since the snow levels came down. They have a hard time seeing me, but I also have a hard time seeing them. I might start laying low more often though. They’re getting around a lot easier, and I think the rest of us still around are getting nervous.”
“The rest of us? I thought you said you were alone?” I was confused.
“I am alone. But when I move around, I sometimes see other people moving around, or I can see lights at night or smell the smoke coming from their fires. If I can, I watch them with the scope on the Enfield. I kinda know some of the pockets of survivors now.” Blake seemed unfazed by how amazing this information was in the big scope of things.
“Blake that’s outstanding. We can save lives with all that. How many people are still here in town?” I was giddy.
Blake thought hard about it for a minute or two before replying. “I can’t say for sure. I haven’t done a real loop in some time. I know there are two or three houses with folks in them. Maybe two or three people in each house. Plus right near the high school there’s a small apartment building that got secured down early on, and I think there might be five or six folks there. Maybe 25 survivors across town all in all? That I know of at least.”
Mr. Journal, I am not sure how to respond to that. 25 seems absurdly low for a town our size. I guess if you factor in us as well as the people who died at STIG, we might be approaching what I thought was a correct amount. 25 seems like such a small number.
“Well Blake I’m sure that information will be useful later on. Is there any chance you can show me where those houses are? On a map maybe?” Knowing where we might encounter survivors might make things a lot safer for both us and them.
“I would like to get to know you better man. I don’t know you from a hole in the wall, and if I point out where those folks are and you raid them or something, I’d be pretty damn sore about it.” He looked defiant, serious.
I nodded at him in agreement. “Well, can we agree to meet again somewhere and maybe trade for it? After we learn more about each other maybe?”
“Trade for what?” He licked his lips. A little creepy, but I think he just had chapped lips.
“Well you said you need food. And you said you needed ammo right? .303 British if my memory still works in my advanced age?”
“Yeah wow. You have some? I snagged four boxes of shells from Moore’s when everything went to hell last summer. Apparently I was the only person who used it around here. I’d love more. That and .38 shells. I’m getting slim on that too.”
“Blake you’re slim everywhere. Need to fatten you up so the girls will like you.” I winked and grinned.
The joke was entirely lost on him. He looked utterly lost when I said “girls.”
“Anyway man, I’ve got some .303 British I can trade you, as well as some canned food, and if you want, I think I can spare some milk, and a few cans of food.”
I shit you not Mr. Journal, but his mouth slowly opened, and his jaw drifted downward until he looked like he was going into shock. He had no reply for a solid minute. Finally I waved my hands in front of his face and he snapped back to reality.
“Wow totally. What can I do to make it up to you?” It was his turn to be giddy.
“Well, for starters, we had a truck die on the way here, about a half mile maybe up the road. You said you had a little mechanical experience, and if you could, I’d like you to take a look at it. If you can get it running, drive it back here to the cul de sac. And also, if you feel comfortable, anything at all you can tell us about town would be really helpful. I don’t even mean telling us about the survivors. I mean where can we find good stuff, equipment, concentrations of the dead people, whatever. Any intelligence is going to either save our lives, or the lives of other folks.”
Blake nodded emphatically. “I’ll get moving right now. I’ll see you tomorrow at noon right here?”
I checked my watch and agreed with him. He literally jogged away past me, and waved at Gilbert in the HRT as he went. Gilbert smiled in his clever ass old man way and we both knew this could be an important day for us.
When I got into the HRT, all Gilbert said to me was, “and that’s how you develop local allies. Well done kid.”
We cleared the house of remaining goods (marginally worth the time), drove by Blake with his head under the hood of Gilbert’s truck, and made our way home.
We’re meeting him again tomorrow at noon. Hopefully, he’s a little less edgy, and little more trusting.
Please read The Siege of Mildenhall� before progressing to the next entry.
Walter Mayorga was absolutely bat shit crazy. Fuck showing up a sandwich short, he showed up to the fucking picnic with no pik-a-nik basket. Not only was he not the sharpest tool in the shed, he prolly tried to hammer in nails with marshmellows. Wow. Fucking crazy.
I am very, very happy we didn’t run into him before he died, because his home was a goddamn charnel house. His neighborhood was covered with the undead. I drove point in the plow truck and just on the initial drive through the loop I hit at least twenty undead. We wound up dragging them back to the main road where we set up a firing line using the trucks as support. All told our body count was 63 undead just on the cul de sac. Now as far as Walt’s house... Wow.
Let me set the scene for you.
The cul de sac is a straight road in, with the loop at the end. Walt’s grey, piece of shit Victorian was set in the far left hand end of the loop. There were three houses in the loop, and three houses along the straight shot in. Around Walt’s home standing almost 7 feet high (in places) was the remnants of a very sturdy stockade fence. The fence had been smashed apart in what Gilbert supposed was a series of small explosions. He was thinking gas bomb, or perhaps something like a stick of low grade dynamite.
Parked in his driveway was his trademark giant fucking yellow pickup truck, covered in old bloodstains and chunks of gore. The shit was caked on so thick and brown it had lasted through all the snow melt and rain we’ve had. Three of his tires were punctured, but he had runflats, so the vehicle still moved. On the ground in every direction for a solid fifty yards were bodies. It took me the better part of an hour to push the bodies off the road so we could work safely to give you an idea of how thick it was.
Most, as in 90% of the bodies in the cul de sac were decapitated by head shots, or had clear gunshot trauma to the nugget. Pretty obvious to all of us that these zombies had been put down by a shooter, and over time, the shooter had continued to draw them in, eventually surrounding himself with far too many to deal with effectively.
We honked, yelled, and cleared the interior of Walt’s fenced in yard using extra caution. On one side of his yard there was the burnt out frame of what looked to be a garage, or large workshop. The concrete floor was scorched black as oil in one corner, and we guessed there was some kind of explosion. Later on Abby pointed out there was a giant gas cylinder end down, impaling through a car across the street. The shit was like the Saturday morning ACME Warner Brothers Wile E Coyote bullshit. I was waiting for Walt to come out with a burnt cigar in his mouth and his face covered in black scorch marks, while the “waaa waaa waaa” music played in the background.
We cleared the exterior for danger, set up a perimeter, and Gavin and I breached the home. We entered moving inches at a time, looking for anything dangerous that might blow us up. I desperately wanted silly string to check for tripwires, but in the post apocalyptic environment, silly string’s availability has dropped dramatically.
What we found inside shocked us. For starters, directly inside the door, sitting in the middle of the foyer next to the grand staircase of the old Victorian was poor old fucked up Walt, sitting in an old ass wheelchair. It was one of the old wooden ones with the creepy high back. His left leg was rotted straight off at the ankle, he smelled like fresh gross asshole, and he was dead as disco. When Gavin walked in he froze solid, mouthed a “what the fuck?” at me, and dropped the butt of the M4 right through ole Walt’s temple. Walt went limp right off, crumbled out of the wheelchair and onto the floor with a wet thud, and our town was down one village idiot.
Fortunately, I am still here, carrying the torch.
Walt’s body was still very swollen from decaying, which reminded me of when a body is still fresh. You see, when we rot, there’s a period where we bloat and get all Michelin man meets Freddy Krueger. It’s horrid. After awhile though, the gas dissipates, and we shrink back down to a fairly normal size. Walt couldn’t have been dead more than a week or two at most.
Here’s the real kicker; Gavin and I started to clear the interior of the house, and almost every window on the first floor had Twizzlers taped together with black electrical tape forming some weird ass rope that connected them all together. The rope was stuck into the ends of rotting hot dogs, like a fuse might be stuck into the end of a stick of dynamite.
I think that poor delusional fuck thought hot dogs were dynamite, and the Twizzlers were det cord. How detached from reality do you need to be to make that fucking mistake? Nontheless, I am not detached from reality, and we backed out nice and slow, and I went in solo to clear the house for legitimate booby traps. After seeing the damage done to the fence outside, I didn’t want to run the risk that ole Walt actually had a real stick of TNT mixed in somewhere and we’d trip it.
It took me almost two hours to check every door, every shelf, every step, every drawer, and every knick knack to make sure it was all clear. Once I was confident we were good to go, the place was like Walmart for the apocalypse. I cannot overstate the seriousness of that statement. Walt must’ve had a serious, serious thing about the end of the world, or the impending disaster where food and goods would be unavailable. His house was packed to the gills with awesome shit. In fact, he had so much awesome shit we needed to fetch our other truck to get it out in one day.
For starters, he had food. Lots of food. Good food. Flats and flats of canned goods, as well as prepackaged stuff like ramen, cups of noodles, boxes of pasta, flour, freeze dried fruit, bags and bags of beef jerky, and he even had three cases of MREs packed away in a corner of his basement. Mind you, he’d eaten a lot already, and there was a pile of garbage six feet deep in his backyard outside his kitchen window to prove it, but there was still so much food left. All of the sweets he had were gone though, which was a real bummer. Judging by the plastic wrappings piled up and blown all over his yard, the man had a long term, committed relationship with Hostess cupcakes.
As for other shit.. What’s the phrase I’m looking for? Oh yeah. OPRAH RICH. He had a locked gun case filled with good shit. I had to get the key out of his corpse’s pants pocket though, which was nasty work, but it was well worth it in the end. Anyhoo. Muzzle loaders, rifles, pistols, shotguns, you name it. He had 22 weapons in all, and at least 100 rounds of ammunition or more for each weapon. The man had a fetish for .270 Win. He had 750 rounds or so of it. One of the guns was a bit of a rarity too, an old Enfield .303 rifle. That is an old, and pretty rare gun in these parts. I wonder if it was an heirloom? Grampa’s old gun? He had 80 rounds for it, which is amusing as all hell to me. The rest of the guns were mid to low grade quality. Nothing I was particularly bonered over.
Most of the guns were lever or bolt action, with pumps on the shotguns. His handguns were primarily revolvers, almost all of which were stainless steel, and two of them had pearl inlays on the grips. I don’t know if this motherfucker thought he was General Patton or he was compensating for a very tiny penis or what, but he gets points on style from me. I need to match the pearl handled six shooters up with some holsters here so I can pretend to be a flashy cowboy for Halloween next year.
He had an ammunition reloading bench, and reloading supplies to last… a long time. I haven’t gone through it all yet, but Gilbert and I eyeballed what looked to be something like a thousand rounds or more of supplies. Gilbert says he can run the reloading gear, and show me how to do it again as well, so that’s a huge weight off our shoulders. It won’t last forever, but knowing we’ve got the gear now means if we find more of the supplies, we’ve got a leg up. Gilbert seemed enthused to work a reloading bench into his design for our new armory in the basement of Hall E.
Tools, medicine, water, skin care items, Purell, bleach, detergent, Listerine, condoms, Jesus he had it ALL. The true score though, came in the form of a few very awesome barrels in the basement with the reloading shit. He had barrels and barrels of gas and diesel. I think it was 16 barrels of gas, and 5 barrels of diesel or something like that. He had the barrels labeled with when they were filled, where they were filled, and what grade of fuel it was. Half of the barrels were labeled premium grade, so I wonder if they’ll last longer for us because they are higher octane, and still sealed so the air and moisture hasn’t gotten at it. Dunno for sure. It’ll get used eventually.
Get this. He also had a barrel dolly, and a fucking barrel jack! It’s like a pallet jack, but it only picks up barrels. Raises them up about three feet, give or take, which means we can easily lift and move full barrels of fuel. No more of this half barrel back breaking hoopla we’ve been going through. Total home run on that.
In other news… The house smelled like a dirty foot had been rubbed inside a sweaty armpit, then shat on, and thrown in the bottom of a porta potty that was set on fire.
RIIIIIIIIIPPPE. Awful. Patently odiferous. Wretched even. Would’ve gagged a maggot.
It took us every moment of sunlight yesterday to get in there, and get everything out, and then transport it back here to campus. This morning we spent two hours moving the rest of it into shelter in the buildings across campus, and as you can imagine, we lost out on house clearing time today as a result.
We had five houses to clear on the cul de sac, and we only managed to empty four in the time we had. We were also dragging major ass today after all the shit we carted out of ole Walt’s nuthouse. Fucking Bates motel shit there Mr. Journal.
Fair amount of undead trapped in the houses we went into today too. Tells me a lot about Walt’s mental state. He shot everything that moved in his neighborhood, but apparently never stepped foot inside any of their homes to search for food or supplies, or to put the undead to rest. What a weird bastard.
Good news: found more food and supplies. Bad news: had to kill kids in the houses. Several of them. Many of them very small. Patty and Abby drew the short end on that deal. The kids all happened to be inside the houses they cleared. Sometimes that’s the luck of the draw. I’m betting as we move forward here we are going to encounter a lot of days like that, where we have to kill kids. What a morbid task we have on our hands. I don’t envy myself.
When we got back to the campus and got everything unloaded, Patty brought up the issue of sanitation. We are working around dead bodies, and they are just fucking festivals of disease. The cold weather keeps a lot of it in check I’m sure, but once the bodies start to thaw, and the bacteria and viruses flare back up, we are without doubt going to get very ill. It’s not a question of whether or not we’ll get sick, it’s a question of when, and how bad? I mean shit, we’re also seeing toilets overflowing with human waste, and that’s not sanitary either. The world has literally gone to shit.
Starting immediately we are going to go about this with that in mind. We’ve happened across a large supply of latex and nitrile gloves, and we are now going to use them when we go hands on. Don’t laugh, but when I returned to my house, I grabbed my old black baseball gloves to wear. I used to wear these fucking amazing Nomex gloves when I was in Iraq, but I gave them to Kevin forever ago, and it felt weird holding an M4 without some kind of glove on. Plus batting gloves are great for getting a good grip on something. Anyway, I plan on wearing nitrile gloves under them because somewhere along the line I had the school administration order me a case of size XXL gloves. I was worried I’d need to render first aid to a kid that had Hep or HIV or whatever.
Never thought it would come to something like this. I should’ve seen it coming I guess. We’re going to use hand sanitizer when we come back, and we are going to use bleach liberally on surfaces that appear to be contaminated with sickness. Door handles, counters, etc.
Something else we noticed today as we were getting ready to go was the amount of garbage inside some of the houses. We’ve discovered that the houses that sheltered survivors almost always have a huge pile of garbage in a room, or the basement, or in the yard outside a window. Those people that lasted near town here had no place to start burn piles like mine on campus. I never thought of it until now, but any house that has garbage outside it, is much more likely to have survivors or zombies in it. There also seems to be a direct correlation with garbage, and remaining food and supplies. Basically, if they made garbage, they ate the food they had, and wiped their asses with all their toilet paper.
So from now on, garbage piles are red flags for extra caution for us.
Speaking of disease… One thing that I distinctly recall from last summer when this all started, was the lack of maggots and flies on the undead. Being in a warzone, you are inundated with flies and maggots. They go hand in hand like Irish people and puking binges. I’m not judging.
It actually struck me as particularly odd when I was dealing with undead over July and August that they had no maggots, and no flies buzzing around them, almost like they were… I dunno. Not suitable for maggot consumption. Tainted. Already being consumed by something evil or whatever. Now as I recall, the bodies that never animated used to get maggoty, and once I killed a given undead (i.e. blow their brains out), soon after they’d get flies on them, and then maggots would appear shortly thereafter.
I can’t make heads or tails of it. I don’t know how this plays into the whole… mysterious dreams bullshit, and the dead coming back to life bullshit. It’s all bullshit. It makes me bullshit. I don’t have all the pieces to this giant jigsaw puzzle yet. One night I hope to have another dream that’s lucid, and I can talk to Cassie again and ask questions of her.
I bet anything she could answer a lot of my questions about this.
Tomorrow we are returning to the final house on that cul de sac and clearing it of shit. We ran through it and killed the zombies inside, but didn’t bother taking anything out. There was some nice stuff too, so we’re gonna hit it tomorrow. After that I know of a couple houses a few miles away on Route 18 that are rural enough that they were likely left alone. We can do two of those, then call it a day so we can get some rest. Everyone’s surprisingly ragged from this task. It’s a lot like moving out of your house, and NO ONE likes moving.
Oh holy shit. I completely forgot to mention. We heard dogs barking in the far distance as we were leaving today. We thought we heard two dogs barking, but it might’ve been an echo of just one dog, or even more than two. We were very, very pleased when we heard that.
Well. Everyone else was pleased. I was reminded of a large farm house, and a sharp, stabbing pain in my crotch.