Authors: Robert Schobernd
Tags: #Zombie Apoclypse
OUTNUMBERED vol. 5
A Zombie Apocalypse Series
Published by Robert Schobernd at Amazon
Copyright 2015 by Robert Schobernd
Cover Art by Katrina Joyner Belcher
A good and caring friend of ours recently passed on in a disturbing manner. Elsie Talbot was a human resources manager at an international company before the Zombie Apocalypse. She was vastly overqualified to manage the small office for our survivor group at Deliverance. For more than a year she'd been despondent; several of us attempted to help her cope and adjust to our darkening prospects. But we failed.
One bright, beautiful, morning two months ago, Elsie rose, showered, primped to look her best, had coffee and a muffin, and strolled outside. She sat on a wood bench facing the warmth of the rising sun. The guard in the watchtower said Elsie smiled and waved at her. Then without hesitation, Elsie raised her .40 caliber handgun to her chest and pulled the trigger.
Elsie was an indirect victim of the Zombie Apocalypse. She was a product of the technical world they destroyed. Her life revolved around her work, friends, and the hubbub of the modern, technological world we lost. She clung to memories of a life zombies wrenched away from her. The anticipated decline of the remnants of our society to the lifestyles and hardships of the fifteenth century frightened her more than death, so she chose death on her terms.
Ultimately, those of us who remain must continue to struggle, no matter the hardships, or humanity will cease to exist.
Tom Jacobs – 2028, the tenth year of the Zombie Apocalypse.
ira and I scurried away from the safety of our truck. We carefully made our way along the deeply rutted dirt road and walked up the slight incline toward the farmstead two hundred yards ahead. Traces of gravel littered the edge of the straight trail, but none had been spread in at least a decade. Tall, uncut weeds bordered the road on each side of us with rows of hedge trees fifty feet farther out. A pack of barking and growling dogs charged us to announce intruders were on the property. We ignored them as they scampered, snarled, and snapped at our heels. The temperature was in the upper forties but would rise by mid-morning. Kira turned her head and smiled. Her short auburn hair framed the deeply tanned, delicate features of the woman I adored. We advanced with our handguns holstered against our thighs; our long guns lay on the bed of the truck. We each wore hiking boots, US Army camouflage pants and long sleeved, cotton camo t-shirts.
Behind us, our pickup sat crossways on the dirt trail. Jesse Pitchford and Rick Jones stood behind it, covering us. Both were excellent long range shooters. If they'd been in Delta Force with me, we would have been rated as nearly equal in sniper skills.
A hundred feet from the nearest building, I called out, "Tim Masters, we want to talk." We knew the occupants of the three buildings saw us approach, because rifle barrels poked toward us from several raised windows.
On each side of the large two-story brick and vinyl covered house, a smaller vinyl sided house had been built. Behind them sat a large, metal-covered pole barn and several small wood outbuildings. A sparse line of leafless deciduous trees partially circled the compound, and fields lay behind them. Some showed signs of crops from last year, but most of the acreage had been overgrown by tall weeds and saplings during a decade as they lay fallow. Even before the zombies descended on us, the line of trees near the house provided shade and a windbreak. Since then, they provided cover for the undead to approach and, in my opinion, should have been razed.
"Tim, we want to talk. There are four of us, two stayed at the truck."
The sun rose behind us, barely above the tree tops. We'd planned it that way so Tim's group stared into the bright orange ball. It wasn't much of an advantage, but it was well worth having. I felt we should be on good terms with Tim's group after two previous visits, but why take chances? I still had lingering doubts about Masters, but it was a gut feeling with nothing tangible to back it up. When we first approached his group, they were adamantly opposed to joining us. On the second contact they had softened, somewhat.
A tall, thin man stepped from the house onto the wood porch that stretched across the front. He hobbled down two steps on a gimpy leg as we walked to him. Tim's face was gaunt. Several days of facial hair sat under a receding hairline. The rifles swiveled to bear on us as we got closer. The dogs drifted away from us as Tim approached, but they continued to dance and bark loudly. The dogs ran between the houses to the back, still barking. Something more interesting had caught their attention.
"What the hell do you want this early in the morning, Jacobs? It's not a normal time to come calling." He briefly turned his back to us. "Y'all in the house put those guns down. It's Tom Jacobs and his wife." He smiled thinly as he extended his right hand to shake mine. He turned to Kira; she acknowledged his attention with a grin and a slight nod. As Tim and I spoke, I watched two women and a man move from the house to the porch. They were armed. Two wore heavy flannel shirts and long jeans. The dogs barking in the distance grew more raucous.
Tim turned toward the house. "Linda, go see what the hell's got those crazy dogs so riled up. Sounds like they're ripping each other apart."
A young, short, plump blonde wearing jeans shorts and a lightweight, pink, nylon sports jacket stomped dejectedly to the right side of the house and disappeared. She wore a holster on her right hip with a revolver in it. The jacket extended downward over the pistol's grip. Her arms hugged her body across her chest in an attempt to stay warm in her skimpy outfit until the sun was higher overhead.
I said, "I wish you'd reconsider joining us. There's safety in having larger numbers of people, and we would both benefit from a merger. If there—"
A shrill scream emanated from behind the houses. The man and woman on the porch carried rifles, and both sprinted around the corner as Kira, Tim and I charged after them. Additional screams were loud, high pitched, and long. Abruptly, a chilling scream stopped in mid-breath. The snarling dogs overrode the sounds of our boots pounding on sparse grass and weed covered hard ground as we ran flat out.
Behind the house, spatters of blood spotted the ground. Two gaunt, naked zombies ran for the cover of the trees with their strange uneven gait; the blonde was draped over the shoulder of a tall male monster on the left. A stream of blood flowed from her neck down his back in thick rivulets. Several shots were fired. A large dog lay broken and crumpled on the grass near us; it whined as its front legs clawed the ground spasmodically in the throes of imminent death.
I aimed my Glock and yelled, "Shoot their legs out from under them, target their knees." Rifle and pistol fire exploded across the space. The zombie on the right rocketed ahead of her partner, blocking our shots at her limbs. She carried a large dog's carcass under her left arm. The male staggered as bullets tore tissue and shattered its left knee and thigh bones. The left leg collapsed and the monster stumbled and fell hard. The blonde's mutilated body flopped like a battered doll as she hit the ground and rolled.
The female zombie bled from multiple bites and tears on her legs and gunshot wounds to her thighs. She shrieked loudly as she flung herself around and past mature trees. In seconds, she'd stooped and disappeared into the shoulder-high weeds and saplings.
I gripped Kira's arm and held her back as other family members rushed from the house to join Tim's group. The male zombie ignored the approaching defenders and fed greedily on the blonde's left thigh. It slurped blood and raised its head to swallow chunks of flesh as if starving and oblivious to the humans. It mostly ignored the attacking dogs but reached to grab a large mastiff's jaws that suddenly clamped onto its forearm. Only then did I notice the full-bodied zombie had begun to rot. We'd not seen that in over two years. I stepped closer but stayed behind the Masters family.
A single deafening blast from Tim's .50 caliber revolver exploded the zombie's brain. The sudden sharp noise caused birds that had just settled in the trees to again squawk and flap their wings in flight. Seconds later, another blast from his stainless steel mini-cannon stifled the blonde as she transitioned to the red-eyed undead and rose from the blood-soaked ground to snarl at him. The male zombie had fallen on its left side. Its skin was shriveled, and the face looked old. I thought of an eighty or ninety-year-old human. The long, silver-gray hair surrounding a bald spot was dirty and matted worse than any homeless human I'd seen.
Tim straightened, turned, and marched to face me. Kira and I were changing magazines. "That was my daughter-in-law we just lost. I'm going to ask you to leave, so my family can give her a proper burial and grieve in peace." He turned away to join his family. Loudly he said, "You'll have an answer within five days."
Kira stepped away, then stopped and waited. "You've done all you can. It's up to them now; they know they're welcome."
Side by side, we took our time getting back to the truck. Our right hands hovered near our sidearms as we glanced to the road's edges to spot zombies lurking in the tall weeds. Caution was a constant fact of life since the evolution of birth zombies. The damned things were mostly silent, fast, super strong, and exhibited a measure of cunning. Ambushing humans and other mammals occurred far too often. Wariness had become a way of life for all who chose to go on living. Tim's blonde in-law got complacent and paid a terrible price for her carelessness.
At the truck, Rick and Jesse both threw questions, wanting to know what happened. Kira told them about the attack by the birth zombies. They shook their heads showing compassion, and we climbed into the truck without further talk.
We drove the first leg of the one hundred fifty miles from Nebraska to Deliverance in silence. It still struck me as bizarre to see mile after mile of fertile farm land covered with weeds and young trees. Nature had started the process of reverting the land back to its natural state. In a hundred years, most of the signs of human encroachment would be rotted away or covered by weeds and vines.
After twenty minutes, Rick said, "I haven't heard anyone speak of seeing the original slow zombies in... I guess over two years. Do you think they may have died out all across the country and not just here?"
Kira drove. Jesse dozed in the back of the crew cab alongside Rick.
I shrugged as I looked out the side window. "It's hard to know for certain, but I can't see why the undead here would be any different from all the rest of them. If I'm right in that they originated from a curse and not a virus, then I see no reason why these would be any different from others." I made a quarter turn in the seat. "If you recall, it was three years ago when Dean and Rhonda Thibodaux came to us from Louisiana. That area had experienced the same mutation or evolution we saw from the original stumbling, maggot-infested zombies to the faster moving full-bodied ones that didn't rot. The Thibodauxes weren't aware of the creatures giving birth until we mentioned seeing it. Then past events clicked and they remembered whole-bodied zombies, even young ones, running around naked like they'd been since birth." I turned to the front and focused through the windshield.
Rick nodded thoughtfully and closed his eyes. In ten minutes, he snored as loud as Jessie. I turned the music up a notch, ignored them, and stared glumly out the side window. I concentrated on a conversation I'd had with Doc Sparrow several years before. It was right after we'd found an infant zombie birthed by one of the early full-bodied mutations. The baby was hours old but crawled, had a full set of teeth, and ate raw meat. Human flesh. Doc had speculated that if the growth rate was that fast, it might compress the lifespan to a much shorter period. Over the past five years we had shot many naked, full-bodied undead ranging from children to adolescents to adults. This was the first rotting geriatric I'd seen. Maybe Doc's speculation was right on. Maybe the damned things were in the process of dying out due to old age. At our next group meeting, I'd ask everyone to watch carefully to see if the old zombies might die on their own without our help. A sudden scorching thought evolved. What if the damned things were reverting back to being human? How many of their generations would it take for them to look like us and learn to dress to blend in with us? Could the original curse be weakening, maybe wearing off?
That evening, Shane Holescheck and Ed Jarnigan sought me out shortly before supper. We grabbed our rifles as we headed outdoors to a patio table and chairs. After sitting in the shade of an umbrella, Shane said, "This morning before dawn, Dean Thibodeaux, Barlow Jones, Morgan Halcom and I were in the deer blinds down by the lake. By ten we hadn't seen a single deer, buck or doe. We left the blinds and walked around the shoreline of the entire lake. There wasn't a deer or small mammal track near the water. The deer have always hung out around the lake. I think the damned zombies have killed all the deer and small game in this area. We don't see pheasants or rabbits, and squirrels have even become scarce. Even the animals we don't eat, like groundhogs, opossums, and raccoons haven't been seen in the same numbers as a couple of years ago. Although, we've made our livestock pens and barns more secure, we still lose an animal occasionally when the damned zombies break into the pens or the buildings."
Ed leaned forward across the plastic table. "While they were at the lake, I took a crew over to Hatcher's Point to that spot in the bottoms where we could always count on finding several sounders of feral pigs. This morning we found one, and it only had nine head. We got four of them that averaged about a hundred-forty pounds apiece. Last year we could get ten or twelve on any given day. The zombies are competing with us for food, and they're winning because they hunt twenty-four hours a day."
I glanced at each of them. "Do you have a solution?"
Ed drummed his fingers on the table before he looked up. "Build hunting blinds and make injured animal sounds to draw the zombies within shooting range. I've asked around and some of the hunters in our group brought injured animal distress calls with them; they say they know how to use them. Others have duck and goose calls that may work as well."
Four days later, Kira and I; our daughter, Paige; her husband, Mitch; and our granddaughter, Sarah; sat outside in the midafternoon sun under an umbrella. Kira nursed our two-year-old daughter, Katherine, as the five-year-old twins, Tom Jr. and Dominique, yelled and played with several others near their age. Other families took advantage of the warm late April weather to relax and mingle within Deliverance's tall, protective, chainlink fence.
I withheld a frown as Nate Robard stepped outside with his worn and ever present Bible clasped in his righteous hand. From a lazy, obnoxious drunk to a holier than thou preacher in four short years. His hypocrisy overwhelmed me. Kira saw my stern gaze, placed her hand on mine and gently squeezed it. She'd seen my reaction enough times to know my opinion of the phony preacher.
The outside speakers shattered the peacefulness and pulled my attention away from Nate. The guard in the southeast tower alerted us, "A pickup pulling a trailer turned off the blacktop road and is coming up the lane. It's alone." Kira pulled Kat's lips away from a teat and patted her to stop the cries before she corralled our other children and took them inside. My rifle sat behind me against the building. Paige ran into door nine and returned with rifles for her and Mitch. Everyone but us, Ed Jarnigan and Nate Robard hurried inside. I pulled a pair of binoculars from the weatherproof phone box beside the door. I kept adjusting the focus as the truck approached until it stopped twenty feet from the gate. Tim Masters stepped from the lone truck and waved.