Things have become… A little more interesting here at Auburn Lake. I tracked down the source of the gunfire the other day, and you’re gonna shit a brick when you hear what it was.
I sincerely apologize to you Mr. Journal for not putting in an entry last night. I didn’t really get back here until late, and I was exhausted so I crashed. Yesterday I decided that I’d do some long(ish) distance recon with the Savage’s scope. I got my leg dressing on good and proper and geared up for a gun battle. I took the Tundra out at about 10am and headed to the crossing of Auburn Lake Road and Prospect Circle. I parked the truck out of the sight of the houses on the road, and walked the 15 yards or so into the tree line where I could set up a good spot to observe Prospect with the rifle.
One of the things they teach you in sniper school is the observation power of the sniper team. Frequently shooter-spotter teams would be sent out just to observe the enemy. Watch, learn, and take detailed notes. Never underestimate the power of information they used to tell us. I found a good flat spot just inside the tree line and got myself into a good prone position. Lying on my belly I could see in all directions and with the crunching of the snow a zombie couldn’t sneak up on me. Thank God for that I guess.
I stayed there for about 2 hours, freezing my ever loving junk solid. But, I didn’t see shit. I observed all of the visible houses for a good amount of time and didn’t see any movement, living or otherwise. I also noticed that there were no tracks in the snow on the road. We haven’t had any accumulation in a couple days, so if there were people moving around up there on Prospect, they didn’t drive in, or out. That told me the shooter either entered on foot, came from off the road, or they arrived before the last snowfall, and had stayed on the street somewhere ever since.
I wasn’t sure that was good news or bad news at the time. I exfil’d back to the truck after getting to my feet, and drove halfway down Prospect to the beginning of the cul de sac. In all due honesty, getting up off the ground nearly broke me. My leg had gone stiff as a board and just would NOT bend. I had to do this awkward push up slash limbo slash situp thing to get on my feet. Sucks to be me.
I parked the truck right in the road and used the hood to set the rifle up so I could observe. I watched the remaining houses on the loop for about 15 minutes before I saw evidence of the shooting. There was one house at the bottom of the loop that was a pre-fab home, but it had some extra work done on it. There was a very well done wraparound porch, as well as some extra dormers on the roof for windows to the upstairs.
In the yard, at the bottom of the half dozen steps leading up to the porch screen door there were three dead bodies. Up close later I saw it was two adults and a young teenager. The dead bodies were lying on their backs, all feet first toward the house steps. There were large swaths of ichors behind their bodies, and a few small frozen over puddles near their heads. When I took a damn close look at the house, I saw that the porch door had been barricaded from the inside with some boards. It was done very geometrically, and I wouldn’t have noticed it if I wasn’t looking for it.
In fact, all along the screened in porch there were 2x4’s nailed or screwed up. They were pretty strategically placed at about hip level, and with the fact that the porch was raised up, they were at just the right level to prevent the undead from getting up on the porch. Someone had gone to great lengths to secure that house in an unassuming manner, and whoever it was knew a good deal about carpentry. I secretly hoped it was either Bob Villa, or Jesus. Both would be useful carpenters to have in the neighborhood.
The dead giveaway for signs of life was the chimney slowly seeping some smoke out. Not a lot mind you, just a trickle. I watched the frigid winter breeze gently blow it directly away from campus, which explains why I’d never smelled it. The wind coming across the lake cuts right through campus, and was taking the smoke directly away from Hall E. I should’ve known.
I couldn’t see any lights inside the house, but it was about noon or so, so that made sense. I wasn’t sure what to do. Obviously whoever was in the house had shot those people or zombies in the yard. Judging by how they were dressed, I was pretty sure they were zombies. T-shirts and shorts for the most part, which fits for when the shit hit the fan. Likely they were remnants either in a house that got out of the house, or they’d wandered over here since June. Wonder why they weren’t frozen solid?
It does basically prove that something inside the zombie bodies is generating some kind of warmth if that’s the case. Otherwise, they’d be fucking undead popsicles. ZomPops!
So someone was inside, and I kinda wanted to say hi. I got off the hood and pulled the truck forward into the cul de sac, stopping opposite the house with the dead people in the yard. I’d guess at about 75 feet away. I left the truck running, and just like all of my house clearings, I honked the horn repeatedly while standing outside. I held the rifle in my left hand, clearly showing I wasn’t a threat, and I stood there. I think I hit the horn four times, waited a few seconds, then four times again. Just as I was about to hit the horn for the third cycle I saw the house door open, and a dark figure shuffle out onto the porch.
As unthreateningly as possible, I waved at whoever it was and hollered out a hello. I could see they had a handgun of some form, but they weren’t pointing it at me, and I could pretty clearly see they were trying to get a look at me. The way the sun was hitting the house combined with the darkness of the porch I couldn’t make out a ton, but you can ready body language pretty good. That’s when he yelled at me.
“Cut the shit with the horn you fucking idiot!” It was an old man’s voice. Strong, a little haggard though.
I walked in front of the truck and cut the gap between the two of by about a third before I yelled back. I think I said. “Hey, sorry, just wanted you to know I was alive and wasn’t trying to shoot you.” Or something like that.
He yelled back, “People who aren’t trying to shoot people don’t carry guns with them!”
Okay that’s valid. Good point right? My witty response was this, “I expected you to try and shoot me. You’ve got some evidence that you like shooting people in your yard here.” And I pointed over at the dead bodies I thought he’d shot.
“They were dead already. I just reminded them of it.” And he wagged the pistol in his hand at the bodies. It looked like another Colt M1911 like the .45 I’ve got. I later found out I was right.
“Seems reasonable. Hey I’m Adrian. I live over at the school. I heard your shooting yesterday and wanted to make sure everything was okay over here. Wish I’d known you were here before.” Pretty sure that’s what I said.
‘Yeah I heard ya over there, hammering nails and shit all summer. Shooting more of the dead folk, right?” I still couldn’t see him all that good. I could tell he was about five and a half feet tall. A little hunched, but he looked spry. Plus he’d been standing all this time on the porch in what looked like just a flannel shirt, so he seemed pretty tough for an old guy.
“Yeah, trying to get the place safe. It’s rugged now. I’ve got power and heat, plenty of food to trade too if you’ve got barter. I can always use a hand too if you’re interested in moving over.” That was probably retarded to say right? I haven’t even shook hands with this guy and I’m asking him to move in. I’m a hopeless romantic. An eternal optimist.
“What kind of food you got?” That piqued his interest. He came right up to the screen finally and I got a good look at him. He was about five and a half feet, skinny. His skin was leathery and covered in scattered dark liver spots, but his eyes were bright, and he was totally with it. His head was almost completely bald aside from a white streak going around the back from ear to ear. I could almost make out a gleam off the top through the screen. He looked mid seventies probably. I instantly wanted to call him grampa.
I rattled off four or five different kinds of food I knew I had a lot of. Green beans, corn, peas, and for some reason canned beats. God I have a ton of those. No one took any from the grocery store apparently and on my trip back I got a shitload. I think I heard his drool plopping on the porch when I said I’d gotten a deer and still had cured venison.
“Well young man, my name is Gilbert. And if you would be willing to trade for some of your food, I’d be interested in doing business.” He was happy to see me. I could hear it in his voice. I was so happy to see him too. This was the longest I’d spoken to anyone in months. Longest I’d been around someone without gunfire in months. To be honest I was waiting for his head to blow up. Seems to be a catchy condition around me.
“Well, what’ve you got?” I asked him. That stumped him. I could see him thinking long and hard about it and eventually his response was this:
“Shoot, I don’t have hardly nothing.”
I cried on the inside. I really was hoping this guy had something I could get off of him. I finally asked him this, “Is that a Colt .45 you got there?”
“Ayup.” And he looked at it pretty lovingly.
“Well, I’ve got one myself here, but I’m just about on E with the ammo for it. If you’ve got spare, I’d be pretty happy with that.” Man I was reaching. Really hoped that guy had some ammunition for me.
“Well hell, I have some spare for this thing. I don’t think I’ll be needing a lot of bullets in the near future if I starve to death will I?” This guy was filled with valid points. He was a font of common sense for chrissakes.
“Well, I think I got a box of 50 I can trade ya. What’ll you pony up for that?”
I could’ve thrown him to the ground and made sweet love to him on the spot. Is that technically necrophilia? I mean, at what point are you so old having sex with you is like fucking a dead body? There has to be a standard somewhere. I restrained myself and tried to hide my enthusiasm. My my my my my pokerface. Muh muh muh muh. (Mr. Journal if you get the reference, please forgive me.)
I chewed my lip some and figured on a counter offer. Here’s what I came back at him with, “Alright Gilbert how does this sound? In the interest of opening up a new friendship, and to show you my appreciation and to do right by you, I will give you 2 cans each of corn, green beans, beets, baked beans, plus a can of peaches, and a can of asparagus. Plus, because I’m a nice guy, I’ll toss you a quarter rack of venison ribs?” Seemed generous to me.
His reply confused me, “What do you do for a living?”
Uh what? Like, what the fuck kind of question is that? I told him this, “I don’t really have a job at the moment. I guess you could call me an exterminator at the moment. But before all this bullshit happened I worked at the school as a dorm supervisor. Before that I was Army. Infantry.”
Get this, he says this back, “I knew it. You got soldier on your face. How’s this for an offer, you bring all that back here, plus another quarter rack of ribs, and a few extra cans of stuff, and I’ll cook us a dinner?”
I don’t know why, but I didn’t even think about it. I think my well thought out response was, “Alright, be right back.” We waved, I got in the truck, and headed back to the campus to gather up his food. Guess what I put it in?
A banana box. The banana box. I still have it though, I didn’t let him keep it.
It took me the better part of an hour to get everything packed up. I grabbed all I offered to him plus the extra stuff. I grabbed a can of cranberry relish too, mostly because I was craving something tart. I love tart things. Like sour patch kids, shit I would chop them up and snort them if I didn’t think it’d melt my fucking brain.
Anyway, I think I got back to the cul de sac around 1:30 or so. I parked in his driveway and headed over to the porch. I left the shotgun in the truck. I had dropped the Savage off in Hall E when I got the food. No sense dragging it around if I didn’t need it. When I got to the steps, he came out and undid his barricade. It was pretty ingenious actually. He had these metal L brackets set up to hold the 2x4’s and some nifty wooden shims to hold the boards from falling out or getting dislodged. Took him maybe 20 seconds to undo, and half that to get set back up. Over his windows he had sheets of heavy duty plexiglass. I’d seen it on a lot of farm windows up here and had totally forgotten about it. Clever old dude. The sheets were screwed in securely, and even if undead got on the porch, it’d take a dozen of em to smash the plexiglass.
He let me in and immediately I knew we were gonna get along. His house was new, obviously, but it had a sweet old people’s house feel. His walls were covered with old pictures. Lots of them were of him in uniform, old Army pictures. It looked like early Vietnam War era. That put him at about 70. I could see from a few pictures that he’d gotten to the rank of Captain, which I thought was pretty damn cool. I’m sure he was filled with neat Army stories.
His house was remarkably warm. Just off the kitchen was the dining room very open concept with vaulted ceilings. The back of the house must’ve had a huge sloped roof because there were four huge skylights in the angled ceiling. Squat in the center of the two rooms was a giant woodstove, obviously taken from an older house. He pointed at me and said it’d come from his first home, just outside the city.
I won’t type everything he said, or we did. It’d take me ten pages at least. I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version. His name was Gilbert Donohue. He was ex Army, apparently was one of the first Green Berets, and was a widower. Well, he was a widower before the end. His wife had died unexpectedly of lymphoma about 12 years ago and he’d used some of the money from her life insurance to move out here. This was supposed to be their dream home.
He left the army and went to work running his wife’s family restaurant with her. They worked together over the years, and eventually grew the place into a small chain of something like 10 restaurants. They served Italian food. I’d heard of the places, but never eaten at them. He was really proud of what he and his wife had achieved. That’s why he offered to cook. He’d cooked in almost all of the restaurants at one point or another. I tell you what. The food was good, and he had shit to work with.
They never had kids. I got the impression that one of them was unable. It seemed like something he was sad about too, so I didn’t press the issue. He was at his house, this house when the world shit the bed. He was doing what retired military men do; obsess over details that aren’t important. Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, rake the nonexistent leaves etc. He used to listen to NPR constantly like me, and he heard the news, and immediately went into lockdown mode. I guess he had the house already rigged up like this. Something about having his house broken into right before his wife died. Who said paranoia is always a bad thing?
He said the majority of the neighborhood emptied that day, or the day after. Some folks came back, packed up, and took off. He thought only one family tried to stay, and he was pretty sure they starved to death. He claims he offered them food, but the mother in the family was so scared of contamination they spurned him. Those were the bodies in his yard. Apparently every time he went out to cut down a small tree for wood they’d try a jailbreak from inside their house to get at him. The other day they’d succeeded in finally busting a window and falling out. He got himself back into the house as fast as possible but didn’t make it in time. He wound up having to shoot them. Those were the first zombies he’d seen in person, up close.
Gilbert said he stockpiled food up here because that’s just the way he was. He said he still had a decent amount of stuff, mostly spam I guess, so this was a nice slice of variety. I told him if he had more bullets, I had plenty of food to trade. He seemed sorrowful when I said that. I think he’s low on ammo too.
I told him about most of my exploits. The gun store trip, downtown areas, and the grocery store. I told him about the young couple with the kid, and cleaning out the campus. He seemed genuinely impressed by all I’d done. He mentioned he saw my limp and I told him about the dog. He laughed. I laughed too. It was nice to laugh at myself. He even asked to look at the wound, and I showed him. He said he knew good first aid and that it looked good. He even had spare bandages to get it wrapped up again.
I like this guy. He reminds me of my dad.
We had a few cups of instant coffee made on the woodstove, and then he cooked the venison on it too. Pan seared venison ribs that he seasoned with spices he had on hand. Gilbert also warmed up the cans of stuff we had, and even showed me how to make this pretty sweet green bean casserole with simple seasonings and dried milk. Learn something new every day.
We easily sat there bullshitting for about six hours easily. He said his car was functional. (it was a small Dodge pickup) He also said he had plenty of food and water to last, but he could really use some batteries, and more variety of canned stuff. He said he had a handful more bullets he could offer up later on. I told him any would be good.
After me convincing him it was necessary, he agreed that I should clear the other houses on his street. He had left them alone because he wasn’t really able to clear them at his age. He was on the fence about it for two reasons; he felt it was stealing, and he thought it was dangerous. I convinced him that those people (the homeowners) were either dead or never coming back, and that we needed the food and supplies to ensure we’d survive. Plus I told him I’d split any food I found with him 50/50. He conceded to my logic and thanked me for being young. Haha. We agreed that I’d visit him every three or four days and we’d check in with each other. I told him he was welcome do the same. He put the box of shells in my hand and we shook, and I was off.
He looked good. Tired, a little lonely, but really good. It was amazing to talk to someone and not have a weapon pointed at me or them.
I was wiped when I got back. I wound up falling asleep on the recliner. Today I spent lounging around the house, letting my leg healed up some more. Moving around in the woods and heading to the gas station the other day was a little painful, and I didn’t really need to accomplish anything today. I wound up making more of that green bean casserole for myself, and it was good, but not as good as Gilbert’s.
It was nice to get 50 more rounds of ammo.
It’s fucking awesome to find a neighbor.