Authors: Norman Christof
Same Old Shit
Chaz was interrupted by the unmistakable sound of gunshots. He turned and looked in the direction of the shots, but saw only farmers' fields. Off in the distance, but hard to see clearly, there were some wooded areas. Chaz grabbed Private Jones' pack from the Humvee. Like the good soldier he was, Jones had packed a pair of field binoculars. Scanning the tree line, Chaz saw motion. Freaks! It was a big herd. He estimated over a hundred, with more pouring out of the woods.
We couldn't go for a single day without visiting my favorite zoo animals
, Chaz thought.
What the hell are they up to? Looks like they're chasing something. Or someone.
A hundred yards in front of the herd were two guys running and gunning. They were taking turns. One would run past the other, then stop, turn and start firing, while the other ran past him. Then the runner would start firing while the other ran ahead. The herd was closing fast.
Hawaii will just have to wait. Those two aren't going to make it on their own. Time to earn that hero moniker.
Chaz revved up the Humvee, and went tearing through the field. Mud flew from the tires and covered the Humvee. Thanks to his two elderly sniper friends and flying mud, Chaz found visibility difficult. The two humans were losing a war of attrition with the advancing herd. The shooter couldn't knock enough of the freaks down fast enough. Neither one of them could aim worth a damn. They weren't going to make it at this rate.
Chaz sounded the horn to draw their attention. The men were moving as fast as they could from the herd, but away from Chaz. Once they heard the horn and saw the Humvee, they changed direction, and started drawing the herd towards Chaz. The herd gained ground on the men, but Chaz gained even faster on the herd. Impaired visibility caused Chaz to narrowly miss hitting one of the men, but he still managed to place himself between them and the herd. The Humvee took a few errant bullets. Chaz quickly manned the turret and opened fire. Both men ducked behind the Humvee and resumed firing.
The herd thinned quickly, but more kept coming. With Chaz's help, the tide was starting to turn. The carnage of freaks was piling up. They were advancing slower, hampered by having to climb over the bodies of their dead vanguard. Just then, Chaz's gun began sputtering. He stopped firing, and checked the belt of bullets feeding from the hopper. He adjusted it to make sure things were aligned. The herd got closer. Chaz started firing again. The gun partly, then totally jammed. Chaz pulled the belt of bullets out, and found a new one. By the time he got the second belt loaded, the herd had come dangerously close.
If those two idiots had better aim
, thought Chaz,
this would be over.
Chaz pulled the trigger, and the turret fell silent. Nothing fired. "Shit! Looks like I'm gonna have to finish this the old-fashioned way."
Chaz dropped back in the Humvee and grabbed his semi-automatic. He popped back up behind the turret, and opened fire. For every three freaks that Chaz dropped, his two comrades were lucky to get one. The herd would have been cleared by now if the turret had continued to function. Chaz was grateful he'd left the engine running. If those two misfits couldn't hold their ground, he still had an exit.
Fortunately for the two men on the ground, that never happened. It took longer than it should have, but eventually, the herd was down to a half dozen very slow freaks. Chaz stopped firing, and exited the vehicle. The other two kept firing, and missing. "Stop firing!" Chaz ordered.
"They're still coming at us," one of the men replied, and kept firing. The second man stopped and lowered his weapon.
Chaz walked towards the man still firing, the shorter of the two. In the time it took Chaz to walk over and yank his weapon from him, not a single freak fell.
"Hey, what the hell are you doing! They're still coming."
Chaz towered over the brown-haired boy. "And they're going to keep coming if we have to wait for you to take them out. This the first time you've ever fired a weapon, kid?"
"Gimme that back, I know what I'm doing," he snarled, reaching to grab the weapon out of Chaz's hand.
Chaz delivered an open-palmed blow to his chest, knocking him into the mud. "I believe what you meant to say was, ‘thanks for saving me and my buddy here. Those freaks would have made appetizers out of us if you hadn't showed up, mister.'" Chaz smiled.
The kid didn't reply. Chaz looked over at the other guy. "What's your name, kid?"
"I'm Alex. My buddy down there is Brock."
"I didn't ask you his name," Chaz said, looking down at Brock. "What were you two trying to do exactly?"
Brock looked down, and spoke quickly. "I was with a unit from Atlanta, making our way north. I got separated from the group during a skirmish with another herd. That was a few days ago. I think my unit headed back to Atlanta. I helped get Brock out of a tight fix with a small group of freaks earlier, and he offered to help me find my unit."
Chaz looked down again at Brock, and offered him a hand up. Brock refused, and pulled himself back up. "So, Brock, looks like you've had to be rescued twice in the last few days. You're quite the victim. How about I give you a lesson in killing freaks?"
"I can take care of myself," Brock blurted out while dusting himself off.
"Perfect, then, let's see you take care of the stragglers here." Chaz motioned to the remaining freaks still climbing over bodies. "Alex, you stay here and watch the truck. Wouldn't want anyone to sneak up on us and steal our ride. Let's go, Brock. You lead the way."
While Brock headed towards the remaining freaks, Chaz reached into Jones' pack, and found his bayonet. He clipped it onto the end of his semi-automatic and marched through the mud, following Brock. The remaining freaks were either old, feeble, or injured. No wonder they were bringing up the rear of the herd. Brock open fire on the closest freak. One shot to the shoulder, and one shot into its chest. The freak kept advancing. Frantically, Brock fired another into its throat. He fired again, but totally missed the target and hit another freak instead. The second freak's head shattered, but the first was within a few feet of Brock. "Nice shot, kid," Chaz remarked. "Let's see ya actually do that on purpose before this fella rips your throat out. I think he might be close enough now."
Brock closed his eyes, and pulled the trigger once more, just beyond the freak's reach. The bullet ripped through its right eyeball and dropped it in its tracks.
"Great job, kid. You're two for two. Only four more of these bastards to go."
Brock didn't respond. "What's the matter there, Brock? Freaks got your tongue? They will soon if you don't hurry." Brock still didn't respond, but instead lowered his weapon. Chaz walked around to the front of Brock. Brock just stared blankly past him. He was pale as a ghost, and muttering unintelligibly. "Jesus. Looks like I'm going to have to finish this party off on my own."
Chaz calmly walked to each of the remaining freaks, and put his bayonet to good use. He slid the blade up under the chin of the first. The blade jammed on the lower mandible, but a few good yanks dislodged it. The second took it through one ear, and out the other. Chaz dodged the third freak's slow and feeble attempt to go for his throat, then cleanly decapitated it. The final one he dropped by slicing its Achilles and crushing its skull with his rifle butt. Turning to a still catatonic Brock, Chaz explained, "And that, son, is how you kill freaks."
Heat Of The Battle
After scraping the brain and skull fragments off the bayonet with his boot, Chaz headed back towards the Humvee. As he opened the driver's door, the engine sputtered, then stalled.
"What the hell?"
Chaz tried restarting it. The engine turned, but never started. Several more tries got the same results. Surveying the instrument panel, he realized he was out of gas.
That makes no sense
, he thought
. I had plenty of gas.
Walking around the side of the vehicle, he saw a few bullet holes near the gas cap. Kneeling and checking the ground under the gas tank confirmed his suspicions.
"Alright, which one of you jackasses managed to miss every freak, but still hit my gas tank?"
No one answered. Chaz just shook his head. He stuffed medical supplies and weapons into his pack. He headed for the small highway just past the woods.
"Get your asses out of the muck and move it, boys! You don't want to be sitting on your butts when more of those freaks show up."
Chaz's voice startled Alex as if from a dream. Picking up his rifle, he looked around for Brock. He spotted him pacing back and forth between the bodies, recklessly waving his semi-automatic around. Alex walked towards him. Every once in a while Brock would stop, mumble something incoherent, then fire a few rounds into a corpse. The corpses' only responses were to leak a few bodily fluids, and splatter what remaining body organs and bone fragments they had left back at him. Alex stopped and waited.
From the distance, Chaz lost patience, swung his pack onto his back and headed for the highway.
Brock's semi finally clicked empty. Undeterred, he kept pacing, firing. Sighing, Alex walked up to Brock, and grabbed his arm to stop him. Brock recoiled and swung at Alex with the butt of his semi, narrowly missing Alex's face.
"Shit, sorry Alex," Brock whispered. "I thought you were one of them. Is that bastard gone yet?"
Alex tilted his head in Chaz's direction. "Not yet. I think we should follow him. We'd both be vulture feed in this field if it wasn't for him."
"Yeah, I know. He's still an ass. Someone needs to teach him some manners."
Half smiling, Alex handed Brock some ammo, and said, "C'mon, we gotta pick up the pace if we're gonna catch up and give your newest friend another chance to save your sorry ass. Don't forget to reload."
"I'm not sure. I don't trust him."
"Neither do I right now, but at the moment, he's our best bet for staying alive. He might even be able to help us get the package delivered."
"I wouldn't say anything about that, Alex. Not till we've found out more about him."
They both grabbed their gear and headed towards Chaz in a haphazard path, avoiding the corpses. Most were recently human, and getting too close meant risking infection or worse, recognizing someone you knew. The road would be a much easier hike than slogging through this farmer's field turned graveyard.
A few hundred yards down the highway, but still a distance from Chaz, Alex yelled up, "Where exactly did you say you were heading, Colonel?"
Chaz didn't answer. Alex didn't really expect him to, he just wanted to make sure Chaz heard them catching up.
Alex looked at Brock "It's never good to sneak up on anyone that's well armed these days. Unless, of course, you intend to whack them before they whack you."
"And you just assume that I have no intention of whacking our fearless new leader?" Brock smirked.
"You're all talk, buddy, but I understand. It's not like he makes a great first impression."
"Yeah, no kidding. I know I may be green at this, but it's not like I've never shot anything before."
"Hmmm ... hunting squirrels and possums is a little different than killing freaks. These buggers don't know enough to lie down when they're hit, and squirrels won't eat your brains."
"I remember squirrel hunting with my dad. I kinda miss that."
"Yeah, me too."
Quickly walking in silence caught them up to Chaz. "About time you slackers caught up," Chaz muttered.
"Just making sure the flank was covered, sir," replied Alex. "More than happy to have you take point."
"If sarcasm were an offense, I'd have you court-martialed for that attitude."
"Yes, sir ... sorry, sir. So where exactly are we heading again?"
"North," replied Chaz.
"Yes, sir, I know that, just wondering if you had some sort of final destination in mind?"
"I might. That doesn't mean I want you two tagging along."
"Well, sir, I was just hoping that maybe you would consider joining us."
"Now why the hell would I want to do that?"
"Well, we were heading north as well, so it's sort of on your way. At least as far north as Fort Knox."
Chaz narrowed his eyes. "Running a little short on cash are we? I suppose you think a few billion in gold is going to win the war against zombies. Did someone tell you gold bullets kill zombies?"
Alex shook his head. "We noticed things weren't going well with the war, and we were thinking ..."
"War's over, son. Didn't anyone tell you ... we lost." Chaz adjusted his pack, and picked up the pace a little.
Before Alex could say another word, three distinct shots rang out from the woods to the north. One hit dead center between Brock's eyes before exiting the back of his skull. The back of his skull split as it struck the pavement. A fracture was visible where the bullet had exited. A thick, clear fluid leaked out of the fracture as Brock twitched his death spasms.
The second shot would have done the same to Chaz, had it not been for his reflex to hit the ground at the sound of gunfire. Alex's right hand was shattered with the third shot, knocking his semi to the ground. He reached for the weapon with his left hand but couldn't steady his grip on it. With his own pain numbed from shock, Alex ran to Brock's still twitching body. Brock's eyes were closed and lifeless. Alex held him for a few seconds, before the twitching stopped and Brock's bowels relieved themselves. The smell was overpowering, but Alex barely noticed.
Alex called to the colonel, who was now on his knees staring blankly up the road. "Colonel, can you hear me? Colonel, are you alright? Chaz! Chaz! Look at me."
But the colonel's eyes weren't looking at Alex. They were focusing past Alex, up the road, in the direction of the shots. Chaz focused on the three figures moving towards them. "Zombies? That can't be." He blinked and looked again, but still couldn't be sure. "Alex, boy, who is that?" He pointed to the figures coming towards them at a slow jog.
Alex turned, and had to squint and refocus to be sure. The markings and disfigured faces and arms left no doubt. Scarred, open sores, dislocated joints, all the markings. "Yes, Colonel, those are zombies. Zombies running? Towards us. Zombies with sniper rifle running towards us. What the ..."
The trio of zombies, two men and a woman, slowed to a walk as they approached Brock's motionless body. The lead zombie, the taller of the two men, gave Brock a good kick, and waited. Then kicked him again. Satisfied he was really dead, they moved to Alex. Alex scrambled back from the trio, but the leader grabbed him by the arm and shoved him towards the woman. Alex tried again to run, but she squeezed his injured hand and brought him closer. He nearly passed out from the pain. All thoughts of flight quickly disappeared. The leader motioned to the other male to take a hold of Chaz. Shorty moved closer.
Chaz remain dazed and on his knees a few moments longer till Shorty got close enough. Chaz took deep breaths, and let a little drool run over his lips and down his chin. Shorty came a little closer still. Then, with one seamless motion, Chaz slid the concealed blade from under his sleeve and up into Shorty's scrotum. That doubled Shorty over as he reached to protect that which was no longer worth protecting. Shorty screamed as Chaz withdrew the blade in a corkscrew motion and swung a second time, plunging the blade between the third and fourth ribs in a sideways tearing motion. The blade sliced through his heart. Shorty collapsed forward, inadvertently driving himself onto the blade. Chaz pushed him off the blade and sprang to his feet, discarding the blade as he backed up with surrendering hands raised high.
The other two were on Chaz in an instant. The leader had him by the throat while the female grabbed the blade and readied herself to perform the same surgery on Chaz that Chaz had just performed on her colleague. Shorty remained motionless, breathless and very dead.
"He can't be dead," said Alex. "His head and brain are still intact. What the hell are you?"
The leader stared straight through Chaz and growled, "That really wasn't necessary."
Alex's jaw dropped. "It spoke?"
Chaz was more than ready for this little encounter to be over. He bit down hard on the pill in his mouth, releasing a colorless gas. Chaz replied, "It was totally necessary, and so is this."
The fumes from the gas were inhaled by the leader and the female. At first, they just looked confused. Then they relaxed, dropped their grip on Chaz, and fell to their knees. Chaz retrieved his blade. "I'll be damned," he said. "It actually worked."
Then, like a batter swinging for the fences, Chaz promptly beheaded both zombies in one sweeping arc. Watching their bodies squirm on the road, he removed bits of spinal cord and connective tissue from the blade with his boot. Then, collecting his things, he said, "Looks like it's just you and me now, son."