A wise person once told me in order to gain courage in life, you need to face your fears first. Everything you face and conquer gives you confidence, strength, and courage for the things you have not faced yet. Courage is funny like that.
We went into the city yesterday to the other parking garage next to the hospital. I can safely say that I’ve gained a lot of confidence after this trip. Sadly, I’m still a little scared.
We left here in a four vehicle convoy heading straight for Spring Meadows literally at the crack of dawn. By the time we were rolling past MGR the sun had crested, the sky above had turned a lighter shade of blue, and we could see easily. The weather had finally broken, it was dry, and things looked good. It was an auspicious morning.
The ride getting to Spring Meadows was gravy until we reached the primary intersection somewhat near the airport that we’d left a radio hanging at. We had skirted that area on our way here the other day, but this time we decided to check the intersection and see just how successful our radio hanging off the traffic light was.
As it turns out, pretty fucking successful.
We stopped around a hundred fifty yards out when we saw the fucking mob of undead, milling about in the center of the crossroads. I’d guess and say there were between three and four hundred undead wandering to and fro. Of course once they heard our motors running, and saw us pull into view, they started our way. I pulled Kevin up on the comms and told him I wanted to try my M203.
If you’ve never seen one before Mr. Journal, they’re a grenade launcher attachment that sits under your M4. You slide a single 40mm shell in, slide that bitch shut, and seconds later you’re lobbing a fun and exciting explosive towards your enemies. I hadn’t fired mine since Kevin hooked me up with it, so I wanted to. No real reason otherwise. I had a toy, and wanted to use it.
I fired three shells into the mass of undead. I wasn’t sure on the effective range of HE rounds, so I sent them about a hundred yards out, and hoped for the best. The three shells hit and blew with a powerful thump, bringing back memories of hot days in the sandbox. I missed the sensation of hearing and feeling the small projectiles explode at range. It’s strange I know, but true.
When the shells hit they sent multiple walking dead sprawling. The force of the explosion wasn’t tremendous, but their balance is terrible, and even a slight push can topple them. Abby and Caleb were spotting for me, and sadly, almost every one of the knocked down zombies got back up. The 40mm shell doesn’t have enough shrapnel to guarantee a lethal head wound. I hate to say this, but as an anti-zombie weapon, the M203 is lacking oomph.
The SAWs have no such drawback. Ethan and Hal were in the turrets yesterday, and when they opened up on full tilt the bodies started dropping to the pavement faster than we could count. It was disgusting and exciting at the same time. So many shattered heads and skulls, and faces. But, each dead body was one less threat. Sort of the soldier’s conundrum isn’t it? You must kill to save lives.
Once we’d smashed in enough skulls to ensure the vast majority of the dead we’d shot into were down, we hopped back into the vehicles, and using the HRT’s plow blade, we cleared a path through the dead bodies and continued on.
Spring Meadows had a small crowd of undead at the gate. I think ten, maybe twenty. We popped them off from about twenty yards out, dragged their bodies out of the way, and the locals let us in. They were stoked to see us. They’d been laying low, trying to make as little noise as possible hoping the undead would simply leave. It was a decent plan. Unfortunately, they’d made enough noise to keep this little pack of them around.
Not much else to report from them. We dropped off our care package with them, garnering endless glee from the locals, and we shipped out fairly fast. We didn’t want to stay too long after making all that noise, and lead whatever might be following us to them. Always better to have the threat chasing the dudes with the most firepower. When and if they ever catch us, we’re prepared for them.
Our first order of business approaching the hospital where Fitz died was checking on the perimeter radios. We had two radios near our approach to look at, and to a lesser degree they were packed with undead. We knew that any kind of operation at the parking garage with those populations nearby would be met with failure of the higher possible level, so we took the time to smash into them with the HRT and mow them down with fully automatic gunfire. Yay us. It’s amazing how much easier doing this is when you have weapons that fire 800+ rounds per minute and people experienced with shooting them.
I laugh at how hard it was to just drive ten minutes a year ago.
Getting the two intersections cleared was short work. Of course we also knew that our noise clearing the southern two intersections would draw the undead in from the northern two intersections. It was just a matter of time for them to shuffle, feet dragging all the way down to us where we were in the garage.
We got to work, as best we could. Sadly, that wasn’t all that well. The parking garage at the hospital was far different than the one at the apartment buildings. The ceiling clearance that allowed us to drive our trucks in at the other place was sadly missing here. When we started down the slight dip to go into the parking garage it was immediately apparent we would never get either the HRT or the deuce to the top floor, let alone just inside the damn garage.
We started to think of scrapping the plan. We knew we’d have undead on us sooner rather than later, and with no ability to drive our wood to the top floor, we’d take hours longer than the last time to get anything done. That’s when Blake’s eyes lit up like Christmas trees.
Blake saw that the Deuce was almost perfectly the right size to plug the vehicle entrance to the parking garage. The concrete barriers and fences would make for a pretty flush plug on the garage. If we shut a few of the doors and barred them, we’d be in business for keeping things shut out. We could easily transfer all the wood to the backs of the two humvees, drive that stuff upstairs, set the fires up, and lo and behold, we’d be done.
We elected to move forward.
Caleb parked the HRT in the street, well out of the line of fire should we need to open up on the encroaching undead. Martin pretty expertly parked the deuce across the entrance, ensuring that only undead that were smart enough to crawl under the deuce could get through. We solved that riddle after we took all the wood out of the deuce. One of the humvees pushed a pair of cars behind the deuce, more or less blocking the path through entirely. For better or for worse, we were trapped in the garage.
Yesterday’s work was back breaking. Unload all the wood from the deuce, drive it up to the top deck, unload it, stack it on the vehicles we wanted to set on fire, get fuel from the gas tanks we could, and all the while, shoot and take down the undead that were trapped inside the garage with us. Which, I might add, was not an inconsiderable amount.
We had to stop on every single level to get out and take down walkers. It was something else. The second level of the garage, which was just above ground level was the deck that fed into the main level of the hospital. It had nearly three dozen zombies wandering about, and it took us the better part of an hour to find them all and kill them. Unlike last time, we took the few extra minutes to check underneath all the vehicles. Yeah, it was a pain in the ass, but it was damn better than getting our ankles bitten.
We split up the groups into pairs, Ranger buddy style. One shooter/worker, one spotter. Four of us worked on the fire building, six of us worked on the drilling and explosives, and the remainder of us took firing positions from the middle levels, taking down anything walking in our direction. We actually elected to use our suppressed weapons for this task. Despite wanting to make noise, that exact moment we kind of wanted to be a little off the radar.
Quan did not approve of the garage here. The floors were much more densely made, and because the garage was linked to the side of the hospital, he felt collapsing the space was going to be a far more difficult project. It took a full hour longer than we anticipated to get the extra explosives put in. I mean shit, more or less Quan put enough Semtex into that fucking place to level it twice over.
Of course in order to drop as many floors as possible, he put the explosives on the second level, and not the first. The entry level was sunk into the ground a bit, as well as attached to the hospital, so planting the shit to blow that floor was a bad idea he said. He opted for the next deck up, which appears to him to be the way to go. I have absolutely no idea how to do anything related to explosives, or building demolition, so… gonna go with him and hope he’s right.
Our exit from the garage was a bitch. Despite posting shooters and having them be fairly busy the entire time we were there, a disturbingly large amount of undead had made their way to the base of the garage. After discussing logistics, Kevin and I made the call to shoot them. The basic problem was getting over the cars parked behind the Deuce, then INTO the Deuce itself, all without causing any excess danger to whoever took one for the team to do that.
So all of us piled into the middle level, and opened fire on the mass of undead down near the Deuce. We didn’t all have suppressors though, so we raised a hell of a racket. Not SAW kind of racket, we left those on the turret mounts. Just M4s and AR15 noise. Not that those weapons are particularly quiet. We’ve also been trying to rotate our suppressors out. They don’t last forever, and if we don’t take them off and maintain them, they blow out early and become useless. We remembered to take them off the weapons before opening up.
After the first massive burst of fire we sent a team running in the humvee down. A chain hooked to the tow hook of the humvee yanked the two cars out from behind the Deuce, and the spare shooters popped off the zombies that had fallen or crawled underneath the Deuce. Within just a minute we’d gone from surrounded, to smashing our way out of the downtown area.
The population had started to encircle us pretty good, and that was no more apparent than during the drive out of town. Undead had managed to crawl their way into the streets and they made our trip out a little more frightening than the trip in. Fortunately they were spread out enough that the HRT was simply able to ram them over and out of the way. We hauled major ass through a totally new route to get back. It was sort of the same way as towards Spring Meadow, but also far enough out that it wouldn’t draw any attention to them.
Unfortunately, we hadn’t really scouted the route out well enough in advance, and when we ran straight into the road being blocked by a three or four car accident. From memory it was a fire truck that had t-boned a semi, and took out a few cars in the process. Fortunately, there were just a few undead around the accident, and we were able to push the ass end of the semi truck out of the way before the zombies on the surrounding streets were able to close in on us. God bless Martin and his plow welding skills.
The remainder of our trip home was mercifully without incident.
Remember at the beginning of all this, I spoke about courage, and fear, and all that bullshit?
Last night I had a strange dream that wound up with me sitting in a vague white room, at a small round table. The White Room.
It took me a minute or two to remember where I was, and what it meant when I was sitting there. Once I realized where I was, and what was probably coming, I took a few seconds to close my eyes, and soak in the warm glow of the room. It felt physically and emotionally reassuring to be in that space. Sort of like the memory you have of being in a parent’s embrace as a child, or when you’re sitting in the sun on a summer day, next to the girl you have a budding kind of love for.
It felt good. Really good.
When I opened my eyes again I was no longer alone at the table. Arrayed across from me was Gilbert, and Fitz. I was not surprised to see Gilbert, but I was definitely sort of shocked to see Fitz there. He had been a... well, tertiary character in the world of the weird so far, and to have him show up in The White Room of all places was odd to say the least.
Both old warriors sat at the table, smiling at me, waiting for me to talk.
“Hey fellas,” I think I said.
“Son,” Gilbert replied. Fitz simply sat there, watching. He had a strange look on his face, like he was watching and waiting for something to make this all go away, like it was an illusion.
“Another dream eh? Something noteworthy around the corner huh?”
Gilbert chuckled, and Fitz joined him, “you could say that Adrian.”
“What pearls of wisdom are you here to share today?” I asked him. I remember Fitz leaning back in his chair, looking back and forth between the two of us.
“You’re getting ready to go try and find her.”
I thought for a bit, and finally nodded back at him. I didn’t know what else to say.
“You realize this is something that could break you? You know that if you see her dead and broken, eyes as white as sheets your very soul could go rotten from the guilt you carry?”
Again I thought long and hard about this. I knew it would be difficult to face her if I found her, but I wasn’t expecting to lose my soul over it. “Gilbert I need to do this. I need to either see her alive, or see her dead and somehow make amends. I can’t live my life anymore not knowing. I need to move on somehow. Closure man. Closure.”
This time Fitz spoke up, “your bullshit here will get someone killed, you know that right? These trips you’re taking into the city are dangerous. Beyond stupid, and incredibly selfish. There’s no reason to do this other than you cleaning up loose ends in your own goddamn head Adrian.”
Gilbert interrupted me, “Fitzy my boy, that’s what this is all about. It’s about everyone else supporting him. It’s about pulling together to save the soul of all mankind. Can’t you see? That’s what so much of this has been about, all this time?”
I had no idea what he was talking about, so I simply answered Fitz, “man I know this is selfish. I tried hard to get people to not join, I tried hard to do this alone, but they wouldn’t let me. I don’t want anyone to get hurt or die for me.”
Gilbert let Fitz chew on that before starting to talk again, “Adrian this must be done for you to move on. It’s taken all this time for you to get where you need to be. It’s taken this long for you to find a real and true reason to move on Adrian. Promise me one thing son. You lean on your people. You lean HARD on your people. They love you more than you can imagine, and without them by your side, all this is for naught.”
He was talking about Michelle.
I had no good reason to force myself to move on until now. I didn’t have the desire to purge my feelings for Cassie until I found someone I wanted in my heart as much as her. I made excuses, I made up reasons, and I definitely kept myself unhappy, and drowned myself in self pity.
But I see it for what it is now. I see this as the struggle. The whole struggle up until now, from June 23rd 2010 to the moment I write this, the entire struggle was me trying to make myself a better person. All my pain and suffering served as my crucible. My great test to make me the person that deserves to survive this, and deserves not only to love, but BE loved again.
I’m not the piece of shit I think I am. I’m a good person, with a future next to someone that I think is falling in love with me. Someone I think I’m falling in love with too.
There’s just one more hurdle to step over.
Cassie, forgive me, but I’m coming to finally put you to rest.
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