Authors: John L. Davis IV
By John L. Davis IV
© John L. Davis IV
All rights reserved.
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The information in
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the information contained in this book.
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the
product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely
To Erica, for…well…
To Barry, Cole and Jim,
for support, title ideas, and beer.
“We have to get to the river, it’s
our only chance.”
“Getting to the river is one thing. What
are we going to do when we get there? Stand at the riverbank and wait for the
Freak Squad to get us?”
The six people seated around the table
looked back and forth between the two speakers. For the past few days these
same people had listened to and participated in the same debate. ‘Where to
go?’ The same passionate words and heated responses used over and over to
little effect. The group still stood at a stalemate.
“Listen, we’ve all said the same damn things
so many times none of it matters. Only thing that matters now is that we get
away from town.” Mike Phillips stated what most were thinking. Time was being
wasted on so much discussion. “Tam is right, getting to and on the river would
be a great way to be safe, at least for a while. Jack is also right. We have
no idea what to do once we get to the river. We have twenty people here and
only one of us actually owns a boat. My sixteen-foot jon-boat isn’t going to
hold even half that. So, get to the river, then what? We get some plan, and
then move on it. Either way, we have to get out of town, and in a hurry.”
Everyone sat in silence for a moment,
looking around the table, from face to face, hoping someone had the idea that
would fix their current dilemma.
“Steal some boats,” Rick Tillerman said.
Rick suddenly felt very uncomfortable when
all eyes looked to him. Everyone had an opinion, some for, others against
stealing boats. The main argument against being, “Hell no, we aren’t going to
“Listen guys,” Rick began, “it may seem
illegal and immoral or whatever case you want to make against it, but stealing
has already become a viable way to survive. I’m not saying we go in and take
something someone is using. But if we can find some boats, preferably a couple
of pontoon boats that no one has laid claim to, then we take them and push out
on the river that way.”
In less than two weeks the entire world had
gone crazy. A sudden and unexpected plague of unknown origin had killed off
hundreds of thousands of people. Every nation had to decide what to do with
the dead and a sickness that had no cure. The CDC was overwhelmed within days
of the first outbreak. Cities began to burn as panic spread just as fast as
the sickness. Violence and fear spread to suburban areas and small towns. In
less than one week anarchy ruled over most of the United States.
Every nation around the world was affected
just as severely. The fear that controlled the hearts of men also controlled
nuclear arsenals. When it was evident that each nation was brutally affected
by the sickness world leaders began to point fingers at one another. It was
not long before someone reached for “the button” that would send nuclear
devices around the world.
Whether through intent or accident a nuclear
weapon was detonated above the U.S. The explosion sent out a massive
Electromagnetic Pulse that destroyed virtually all but the most heavily
shielded electronic devices.
A diseased world had suddenly become a dark
This is the world that for two weeks the
group of people seated around the table had been living in. Some of these
people would have been called “preppers” or “survivalists” at one time. Now
they were the few that had a chance of fighting back against a world that
actively wanted them dead.
Not one of these survival oriented
people would have ever seriously entertained the idea that out of the drifts of
bodies would the dead come walking. But come they did, in singles and pairs,
in groups of ten or more, entire massive herds.
Hearth and home had taken on a new
meaning for this small and not so merry band of survivors. They had taken
refuge in an abandoned school building that had been slated for demolition.
The large rooms and three floors allowed plenty of room for everyone to move
about freely. It was something they thought would work well for the long term,
as it was easily defensible against the shambling, shuffling hordes of
face-biting, neck-chewing, gut-sucking dead.
They quickly realized that the
“freaks”, as one of their group so fondly called them, were not the biggest
threat to safety and survival. People, the kind that are hungry and heavily
armed, (or even lightly armed) and more than willing to violate all moral codes
to get what they wanted posed the greatest threat to them all. It was the
violent death of two of theirs that brought this into blood red contrast with
the morose gray ideal of safety they all shared.
Two days after the EMP three
members of the group had decided to see if they could find four people that
were missing. Many members of the group had agreed years ago that should an
event of a catastrophic nature occur, or should there ever be a time when the
government either broke down or took the country down a horrible road to
destruction, they would all meet up at the old school within forty-eight hours.
If someone did not show up, and should the situation permit, three people would
go out and search for the missing group member at one of six pre-determined
The three members of the group left
just at sunrise, hoping to make the searches quick, and get back to the safety
of the school. They moved quickly, searching two checkpoints before noon.
A small, inconspicuous brick shed
that sat on the north-west corner of an abandoned lot served as the third
designated meeting-place. The lot was overgrown with weeds that were nearly
chest high, and the shed itself was covered in thick green ivy. If someone
didn’t know it was there it would be easy to overlook.
The rescuers were still a block
away when they heard shouting voices and the revving of a tired old engine, a
gunshot, and then a loud scream. Quietly placing their bicycles in a shallow
ditch, the group quickly moved toward the shed, and the sounds.
The rendezvous shed was surrounded
by six very rough looking men, all carrying a weapon of some type. A beat up
rust-bucket pickup truck that had to have been made sometime in the 1950’s sat
about ten feet from the shed door, a crusty looking cretin wearing a dark grin
behind the wheel. The hard case crew looked back and forth from the door of
the tiny shed to a large greasy-bearded man standing next to the truck.
It was this clue the rescuers
needed. After a brief and whispered discussion two of the men readied a
pistol, the third lay prone with the cold red eye of his carbine’s sight
centered on the head of Greasy Beard. The pistol-bearers took careful aim at
the two closest men and waited for the whispered call of death.
Three shots cracked, two men died
instantly, one man lay on the ground screaming and holding his stomach. Greasy
Beard’s gray matter splattered the side of the old truck, and the driver as
well. In the moment it took for the driver to realize what had happened, the
three gunmen came up from the bushes about twenty feet away.
Bullets began to fly, though most
went wild. Grinny the driver lost his grin at about the same moment his foot
slammed the pedal to the floor. The old truck shuddered, nearly dying before
it kicked up dirt and weeds, slewing wildly back and forth as it headed away
from the shed.
The two remaining marauders stopped
their firing to follow the pickup on foot. One screamed when he caught a
bullet in the back and flopped face first into the weeds. The other fell into
a ditch, climbed up the other side and kept running.
Heroes of the moment, the rescuers
went quickly to the shed. “Allen, Mary, if you’re in there don’t shoot. Its
Rick, Jimmy and Calvin are with me. We’ve come to get you.”
Death can become a cold
acquaintance quickly in a dark and diseased world. This rapid adjustment to
the horrors of the flesh can often mean the difference between sanity and the crushing
realization that human life can be very fragile. No matter how comfortable or
numb one becomes with blood and pain, seeing someone you cared deeply about in
a state of gory death will always have a sickening and paralyzing effect.
When they pulled open the shed door
the first sight they saw were the bloody bullet punctured bodies of Mary and
Allen Tanner. All three men felt the rising knot fear and anger in their stomachs,
only one was able to keep that knot from rising up and out. Jimmy stood in
stunned silence while the other two men took a moment to compose themselves.
Standing crowded in the door of the
tiny shed, ears still ringing from the gunfight, the men could not decide what
they should do. Should they find a way to take the bodies back, or bury them
here and now?
Fearing that the marauders would
return with friends they opted to shut the door and return to the school.
They heard the whimper of a tiny voice just as they closed the door.
Inside, lying on the dirt floor
behind the door, covered in their parent’s blood and gore were the two Tanner
children, Trish and Tyler. Trish lay curled tightly around her little
brother. Just a bit over eight years older than her eight year old brother,
Trish had always been fiercely protective of him. Just last year she had been
suspended from school for a week for breaking a boy’s nose when he shoved Tyler
down in front of the school-bus.
Rick stepped into the shed, lightly
touching Trish’s shoulder. “Trish, honey, it’s Rick. Trish?” He gently shook
her and got no response, though Tyler began to cry quietly in her arms. Rick
put his fingers to Trish’s neck, feeling for a pulse. Through the blood and
fear sweat he felt it, strong and steady.
“Guys, Trish and Tyler are alive.
Trish is out of it, she’s got blood all over her, but I don’t see any injuries.
I’ll get Tyler. Cal, can you get Trish? Jimmy,” Rick had to pause for a
breath, his throat tightening, “can you do a quick sweep, please? Don’t leave
anything behind that sick bastards like that can use against us later.”
Rick reached down, gripping the
boy’s arms as gently as possible. His crying began to get louder. “Tyler, its
Rick, I’m here to help.” More tears came, and louder yet. “Tyler. Hey, Tyler.”
Rick paused, then, “Hey Tartar, its Auntie Rick. You hear me Tartar?” Hearing
words that meant something special to him, from a voice he knew, Tyler looked
up at Rick. His eyes unglazed for a moment, he reached up to Rick, allowing
himself to be folded into strong and comforting arms.
“You guys were lucky that the
gut-suckers were still moving pretty damn slow. But that was over a week
ago. There are a lot more of them now and they aren’t quite so sluggish.
Getting twenty people to the river is going to be enough of a challenge, even
though the river is less than a mile away from where we sit, at a straight
“You’re right about that Mike.
That’s why we can’t just gather up and head out to the river. We have to plan,
send out a group or two to find the boats we need, get some kind of transport
to move everyone. We can’t half-ass this.”
After several hours of discussion
with time for something to eat, groups had been formed, and goals set for each
Group one would be Rick, Gordy
Fletcher, his son Calvin, and Jack Addams. They were to look for boats,
preferably larger pontoon style boats that could be used to move twenty people
as well as all they supplies they would need. Four men on this team would help
to ensure safety, while still allowing them to move safely and quickly.
Group two would focus on procuring
transportation and plotting the fastest and safest route to the river. Mike
Phillips, Jimmy Mitchell, and Sam Fletcher would be handling this mission. They
had to take into account the amount of people as well as all supplies and
equipment that would have to be moved. Pontoon boats were the main target of
the first group, and it was with this in mind that Group two had to formulate
Each group had one silenced
weapon. The first group carried the only silenced pistol, the second carried
one of two silenced rifles available to the family of survivors. Always
intending to move with stealth and speed, each person knew that they could only
plan so far. The rest was up to luck.
Both teams were geared up and ready
by dawn. Without electronic communication available to them, it was agreed
that both teams would return by 5 p.m. Each team member wound up and
synchronized their old wrist or pocket watches. Both teams stood at the large
windows on the third floor of the building. From their vantage they could see
much of the town laid out before them.
The men’s wives stood with them,
each having a personal moment looking out over their town, smoke drifting
thickly through the skies. Fires had run unchecked for several days, though it
seemed that most had burned themselves out. They could see bodies lying in the
street just across from the old school building.
All gathered there at the windows
were sober in that moment, their eyes vigilant as they watched the slow
shuffling of a man wearing a bloodstained yellow T-shirt. His pallid face was
framed by a wild mane of hair and thick bushy beard, giving him and odd
lion-like appearance. Occasionally this Lion-man would throw back his head and
roar at the sky, then he would look around, eyes seeking someone to devour.
Both teams slowly made their way down
to a waiting bunch of bicycles. Racks had been mounted on the back of each,
with a large bag inside each rack. This would allow the men to carry food,
ammunition, or any other valuable items they found during their respective