Authors: Macaela Reeves
“Whomever you are, I hope you rest in peace.” I mumbled to it anyway.
Walking over to the side of the boat I let it go. Empty eyes stared back at me until they hit the water with a splash. Then they were gone, sunk into the depths of the lake. Then I went back for the others.
The guys joined me.
In our own little morbid ritual we gave whomever this was our goodbyes and pushed them onto the waters below.
When it was over, Ben plopped his heavy frame down in front of the little steering wheel while Adam and Cole bickered on boat prep. Funny, I didn.t know you had to prep a boat. I thought it just went when you pushed the pedal. In my defense however, I
d never been in a boat
“So this drives just like a car?” Ben asked, turning the key.
“Looks like it.” I shrugged settling into the little couch next to the
The engine didn.t turn over, it just sputtered.
“Well this thing has sat here for a decade. I bet the battery is dead.” Adam plopped his backpack on the bench next to me as he spoke.
“Maybe there are cables in that little shed?” I offered.
“Cables aren.t useful unless we have an actual energy source to work with.” Ben grumbled.
“Could we jump it from the Jeep?” Cole chimed in, to which no one ref
uted. The guys simply shared a ‘
look and called out who was on cable duty, who was bringing the jeep around and who was going to flip the boat ignition.
I stayed on board on deadhead watch.
They worked quickly, locating the item we needed on a shelf in the shed, getting the jeep turned around just right.
The quiet roar of the boat resurrecting from the dead was music to my ears. It had worked. We were still in business. With a high concentration of bro fisting the guys cheered and scrambled aboard.
The river trek was to the city was peaceful and thankfully without debris. When the south side of downtown came into view my eyes about popped out of my skull. The skyline of the capital had never been that impressive. Three or four large buildings standing in the center. Now there as half of one. The tops of what remained were shredded, like they had been hit by a large blast. I wondered what final measures had been tried to contain the outbreak, or if it had been a survivors attempt.
No one said anything about the damage, we just looked on in awe. Perhaps it was all the pre-outbreak movies, perhaps it was the outbreak itself. There just were no words for this.
There were even less for what we saw next.
I suppose the easiest way to explain it was half rolled dough with eyes arms and mouths. Lots of mouths.
There were a few of them on the roads above. A pile of bodies that had either been stacked or fallen at top each other long ago.
Now they moved as one, giant bulbous masses with limbs protruding everywhere, faces melted together.
Adam heaved off the side of the boat until he it
was dry convulses. I’
m ashamed to say, I joined him.
The closer we got to downtown, the worse the water smelled. It was hard to explain, like a moldy mildew fresh rain at the zoo smell. I resisted the urge to breathe through my mouth, remembering all those jokes on how smells were actually small
particles in the air that you
ingested. I did not want to ingest whatever this horrible scent was in any way shape or form.
“Look in the water. Holy crap...they were right.” Adams voice was barely above a whisper. Leaning over the high walls of our number four I didn.t see anything at first. Just the rolling waves kicked up by the boat reflecting in the afternoon sun. Then algae coated sticks peeked through the
surface by the shore.
Not sticks. Hands.
Under the waters serene surface were deadheads. Almost a dozen I could count. They had not succumb to decay in the fresh water rather it appeared as though they had become an extension of the sea floor, arms raised and mouths open like living pl
ants in some sick fish tank. I
wondered how many had tried to make a swim for it...thinking the waters would be safe.
thing go any faster?” Cole growled, his jaw clenching as he stared not at the new found sea life but at his boots on the deck. In all the years I had known him, he
olunteered any details on the death of his family, other than he had witnessed it. I could only imagine the images that were going through his head. I wanted to reach out and reassure him that everything was going to be okay, but I didn.t know that. Instead as much as it pained me to see
him stewing in what I could only assume was his own fears on our little trip, I kept my mouth shut and my eyes forward. Sometimes the ones you care about just have to work through their own personal hells, I was determined to be there if he needed me but he had to reach out.
There could be a fine line between supportive and suffocating, even between good friends.
The boat bumped into the river walk platform with a quiet protest. With Cole eagerly in front, we slowly hopped off the vehicle onto dry land. The river walk had a couple steps up to the main road from where we stopped, then it was just one block north to our destination.
One block could be a lot if the streets were bad.
One block could be a death sentence. Quietly, we crept up the steps to the street, looking in all directions with weapons drawn.
Someone had left a military caravan in the middle of the road, the middle vehicle in the procession turned on its side. There were bones in the street. Half a dozen
skeletons that I could make out. Nothing immediately moving though.
“Clear.” Cole whispered, gesturing for us to move forward. Quickly we moved up the block. My heart was pounding in my chest. The air was vacant of city noises. Only the sound of the wind and crows filled our ears.
Then a familiar slicing sound cut through the air in front of me. Cole beheaded an emaciated crawler.
Reaching the street corner the front doors of our destination were right across the street. So were two walking deadheads and something stuck in a car. Further down the block there were more.
A lot more.
We had come too far to turn back. Our only exit was on the roof of this building at nightfall. I took out the walker by the door with my bow. A gesture from Cole on point got us moving quickly. We booked it for the doors at a dead run.
My little rule about retrieving arrows? Well, let
s just say I wouldn.t miss this one.
“Not locked.” Adam declared pushing in the first set of outer doors. I readied my sights on the closet approaching target but before I pulled the trigger something grabbed the back of my jacket. Ben was shaking me.
!” Ben barked, pushing me passed him. I followed Adam through the second set of doors to the buildings foyer.
One of the guys shouted all clear, I didn.t focus on who. My eyes were still fixed on the thing moaning and scraping against the door. Female, early teens maybe based on her torn attire. No lower jaw and missing a good chunk of her nose. Her arms beat desperately against the pane, wrists still decorated with brightly colored bangles. She had been about my age the time of the outbreak. Is that what I would have looked like? My dad
s voice rang in my head, chiding me for trying to humanize them. I knew better. I really did.
Right. Time to move on.
Cole locked the top switch on the external doors once we were all inside then moved to the inner set. We found a similar lock switch at the top of the double doors as well as a metal gate that could be lowered with a sharp pull.
The first of the dead had already begun to bang on the external glass of the doors.
“Should hold long enough I bet its bullet proof.” Ben declared, smirking at the teeth chomping not twenty feet away from us.
Cole snorted. “Why would you think that?”
“Fed Building. Duh.” The towering red head replied, as if all institutions of this caliber were the same.
pposite from the hungry dead was the wide open marble foyer of the building. In the center a little reception desk sat in front of an American flag. A building directory was posted on the small decorative wall adjacent the desk.
“Know where we.re going
?” I tore through my
walking back into this place was like lifting
he fog on an old dream. Some things were so vivid, other details were completely foreign. The last time I had set foot in this hall I was nine. My Mom had brought me here
to visit my dad. I had worn a glittery shirt and pigtails.
We had gone up stairs. I didn.t remember how many. I walked over to the plaque, my boots squeaking slightly against the floor. My eyes poured over the dust covered departments, searching for our destination.
“Second floor. Left Wing.”
Behind the reception desk were stairs leading up to the second floor, then it split into a Y, a staircase going left and right. As a group we moved into the dark left wing. Daylight barely peeked through the dusty glass on the second floor.
Our destination was the third door on the right of the hall. The one made of steel with a number patch.
“Allow me.” Adam announced excitedly. I watched his skinny fingers fly across the numbers 1-2-3-4-5-6.
“You have got to be kidding me.” Yet, in spite of my criticism the little latch released.
“Default code on all these style locks, you have to input that to reprogram them. Stupid really.”
“How do you know that?” I asked him. One would think a Fed building would be a little bit more secure than what was the quote? A combination an idiot would have on their luggage.
“My Uncle was a locksmith.”
“Bull.” Cole punched him in the arm.
“You.re right, I
m just good at random trivia.” Adam smiled while the guys gave him flack. I was really happy we had brought him along at this point, his humor cut through the tension like a knife through warm butter.
As the metal door to the offices swung open a hum kicked in overhead.
One by one, florescent bulbs flickered to life revealing endless rows of cubes and
ittle black computer screens all in a row in front of matching keyboards and ergonomic grey cloth covered chairs. Everything was undisturbed. No blood no chaos. A vacant ordered space. To think this was what people did all day. Looking back it seemed so unnatural.
“This place is creepy with a capital C.” Ben whispered.
With a quick nod, Cole agreed. “How are the lights still on?”
“Must be a backup generator somewhere triggered to kick on when the emergency override is engaged.”
Adam said, he was staying a good step behind the armed men as we walked into the space.
t that too high tech for our state?”
“Tax dollars at work bro.”
“Sweep the immediate and regroup?” Cole suggested. Even though we saw nothing out of the ordinary in the immediate area. Who knew?
“Deal.” Ben pulled both hatchets off his hips then went around the far side. Cole went down the center. I took to the close wall with Adam close on my heels. The wall I knew contained the door to my father
The giant was back at my side a moment later, all grins and freckles. “All clear in the
“You.re such a dork sometimes.” I rolled my eyes then turned my attention to the closed door in front of me.
Cole rejoined us, the corded muscles of his arm flexing as he slid his katana back into its sheath. “Empty far as I can tell.” He was also smiling. It made sense for them to be in good spirits. When you looked at the overall objective the hard part was done. We had gone into the wilds, commandeered a vehicle both land and water based then trekked into downtown and got inside our target building.
Now we just needed to do some reading and
“This one.” A little plaque posted at eye level read Steven Younger, Director.
“Card Reader.” I pointed to the metallic box beside the door.
“Great I brought a key.” Ben hefted the shotgun off his back, aiming it at the lock on the door. I barely got my ears covered when the shot rang out. It echoed in my head in a harsh ringing. I saw mouths moving, Cole was yelling at him while Adam was trying to step in the middle.
“...and if they.re still in the building.” Cole
s words cleared as I crept to the now ajar
oorway. Inside was a large wood desk, a computer station, American Flag and a small filing cabinet.