Authors: Thomas North
Tags: #Zombie Apocalypse
A novel of the undead
by Thomas North
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author
s imagination and are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living, dead or undead, is coincidental.
2007 and 2012 by Thomas North.
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author or publisher.
First eBook Edition: May 2012
Table of Contents
Sunday, September 23rd
IKE WILLIAMS CAST his line, watching the wriggling worm and yellow bobber rise into the air in a smooth arc, the plastic thread barely visible behind it. They broke the surface of the lake with a small splash, and the worm disappeared, the bobber the only thing still visible, floating gently on the placid water. Mike leaned back and stretched out his six-foot eight-inch frame, his bass boat – a birthday present to himself less than a year earlier, though he’d bought it used – providing plenty of room for him to relax. He looked up at the blue sky and the puffy white clouds and enjoyed the cool fall air and, more importantly, the silence.
The lake was quiet. Most of the summer people had gone home already in advance of the coming fall and winter, their lakefront cottages locked up and shut down. Most other fishermen had packed it in for the year as well, figuring, for some reason, that the fish stopped biting after Labor Day, leaving just an occasional boat floating along the dark water. Right now, the occasional boat was his, and as far as he could see, only his. Aside from the very occasional sound of a car in the distance, it was quiet. He’d used his depth finder to motor over a relatively shallow area of the lake, usually prime fishing ground in the fall, where he was now parked.
Holding his fishing pole with one hand, he slid the power button on his Kindle and placed it on the seat next to him. Then he grabbed a beer from the cooler by his feet and popped the top off, taking a healthy chug before setting it on the edge of the boat. He let his body relax and started digging into his book, a biography of Abraham Lincoln. He was a history buff, one of the few things aside from fishing and camping that he liked to do in his spare time, devouring non-fiction books like most people went through magazines or television shows.
He’d been reading for nearly ten minutes when he felt a familiar tug on his fishing pole. He sat up in the boat, took another swig of beer, and then gripped the pole with both hands. The line was jerking wildly, his pole bending toward the water.
“Damn, must be a big sucker,” he said out loud, and gave the pole a good jerk to set the hook. He started to reel in the line, looking eagerly across the surface of the water for the familiar splashing of a wriggling bass. As the line came closer, his excitement dimmed. He grasped the pole towards the end to keep it from breaking, and started pulling in whatever it was that had hooked on his line. The object started to come into view through the cloud of silt that it had kicked up, sinewy strands writhing in the water.
The image of a human head, its light-brown hair floating to the surface in water-logged slow-motion, flashed across his eyes, and he nearly dropped his fishing pole. He closed his eyes tightly for a second and shook his head, then re-opened them. The strands were now floating on the surface, draped over his hook and bobber, a tiny sliver of yellow plastic all that was visible at the end of the line.
He reeled the line in the rest of the way and grabbed the slimy mass of lake weed and gunk and tossed it back in the water. He inspected his hook. The night crawler was still firmly fixed on the hook, a small miracle given the jungle from which it had just emerged. He re-cast the line, then went back to his book. Or tried to.
The image of light brown hair dancing and twisting beneath the water stuck in his mind even as his eyes fixed on the black letters on the e-reader screen.
It was ridiculous, of course. She wasn’t even dead, at least, as far as he knew. It had been nearly four months since he’d heard anything, but as far as he knew, she was living somewhere in Kansas or Arizona or some other equally wide, empty and far-away state. She might as well have been in China. She might as well have been dead.
He sighed and popped open another beer, taking another long sip, savoring the bitter flavor of the
Long Trail Harvest Ale
. He wasn’t an outright beer snob, but he usually drank something local if he could get it. He enjoyed the flavors, a perfect match for the fall setting, and started to feel himself relax again.
The hell with her, he thought. She’d made choices. Bad ones, in his opinion, but what the hell did it matter?
He re-focused on his book, and with some mental effort, forced himself to start reading again. He was out here to relax and catch some fish, not to piss and moan about things that happened months ago and that he couldn’t do anything about anyway.
He felt the tension begin to lift as he got into his book again. He continued enjoying his beer, the quiet of the lake, and the cool fall air.
, he thought, looking up from his book for a brief moment, admiring the sun glinting off the water.
So this is what it feels like.
Not that his job was stressful. Being the “chief” of police (a title he was convinced was given as a joke) of a generally quiet town of just over two-thousand people didn’t exactly involve putting his life on the line every day, but what it lacked in severity it made up for in consistency. As the only full-time cop for the town ˗ he had a part-time deputy and an occasional dispatcher, a seventy-two year-old named Rita who answered whatever calls came into the town’s police station rather than his personal cell phone ˗ he was on-duty 24/7.
The calls were rarely serious. Domestic disputes. Drunken fights. Shoplifting. The most serious issue he’d dealt with was when seventy-eight year-old Nora Porter chased her husband Ed down the street waving a stiletto heel that looked like it hadn’t been worn (or in style) since the 1950’s. He probably could have charged her with attempted murder if he’d wanted, but it would have been a waste of time. The cases themselves were nothing compared to what he’d dealt with earlier in his career (when he had one), but the non-stop nature of the job became tiring after a while, in its own way. Allentown wasn't an idyllic New England village out of a storybook. People had their problems just like they did everywhere.
Mike was popping the top off of another beer when he heard the police sirens in the distance. He set the beer down and listened as the noise faded and then disappeared completely. Even though he knew the siren couldn’t be from his own department – Allentown was over forty minutes away – he couldn’t resist the urge to pull his old gray flip phone out of his pocket and check if anyone was trying to call him. He didn’t have a fancy Blackberry or iPhone. Reception on phone calls was weak enough, and they were about as likely to ever get high speed data service as they were to get a multiplex movie theater or a shopping mall.
Allentown, Vermont was perpetually a decade behind most of the rest of the country – and a lot of people who lived there liked it that way. For some reason, one thing that brought together the town’s “leave us the hell alone” ultra-conservatives and “let’s pretend singing and holding hands will bring world peace” ultra-liberals was a dislike of just about anything new. It was the only thing that they all agreed on.
Mike wasn’t quite the Luddite that a lot of people in town were. He didn’t miss the negative parts of living in a big city – the noise, the pollution, the “I don’t give a fuck about anyone else” attitudes – but he did miss the amenities. He missed being able to hop on the subway and get to a real movie theater in ten minutes. He missed being able to walk down the street and buy a Turkish lamb kebab, a plate of Indian curry, or a sushi roll. He missed the vibrancy, the excitement, the liveliness – the sense that whatever was happening in the world, it felt like it was happening right there.
Of course, when he was living in the city, he missed the quiet and the kindness of the small town. Whoever came up with the phrase “the grass is always greener…” was a damn genius. No matter where people were, Mike had realized soon after moving back to Vermont, they always figured someone had it better somewhere else.
His phone showed no messages or calls. No news was good news. The town was having its last “summer” cook-out (deliberately scheduled for the first Sunday after the official end of summer, a tradition that started in the 1950’s, or so he’d heard) at a nature preserve just outside of town. That usually drew several hundred people, not a bad turnout for a town that only had a couple of thousand.
He looked one more time at his phone, and considered dialing back to the police station to check in with Rita and find out how everything was going at the cook-out, but fought back the urge. He’d come out here to get away from his job. Thanks to cell phones and the Internet, work could be 24-7, and his practically was anyway, but he didn’t need it to be. Not today, at least.
Instead of putting the phone back in his pocket, he tossed it onto the seat behind him. He was about to turn back to his book when his fishing pole jerked forward and nearly jumped over the side of the boat. He grabbed it, feeling the sharp tug on the line, and began reeling it in. This time, he was greeted by a violent splashing, as what looked like a large bass flipped and thrashed in the water, trying to dislodge the hook that was now embedded in its mouth. As Mike pulled the fish closer to the boat, a smile flashed across his face. The hell with cleaning town-drunk puke out of the back of his police car, and sorting out petty domestic squabbles.
It was just as he was hauling the still very energetic fish onto the boat that the buzzing sound caught his ear. His smile faded, and he turned, still holding onto the line, and saw the glow of his cell phone, indicating an incoming call. He had a brief hope that it might not be work-related, until he saw the number. It was the station.
“Son of a bitch,” he swore, shaking his head. He grabbed the fish tightly in one fist, carefully pried the hook from its mouth, and tossed it back into the water. He’d planned on taking it back home and grilling it, but he suddenly wasn’t in the mood.
His first and only catch now back swimming in the lake, he climbed over the seat, picked up the phone and brought it to his ear.
“This is Mike,” he said.
“Hi Mike, this is Rita,” the raspy, barely audible voice greeted him.
“Yeah, how you doing Rita?” he asked, trying his best to sound pleasant.
“Mike, I know it’s your day off and I really didn’t want to bother you, but we’ve got a bit of a problem.”
“Of course we do,” he said, resignedly. “Of course we do.”
APPY FIRST DAY! The chirpy voice caught Andy's ear just as he was hauling a heavy black suitcase into the back of the van his parents lent him so he had wheels while he was away at college. The suitcase landed on the carpeted van floor with a heavy thump, causing the rear of the vehicle to sag a few inches.
He looked at the skinny, pimply student who had greeted him.
"Right. You too," Andy replied.
"You're supposed to respond with 'Happy First Day!'" the kid responded, his cheery voice wavering only slightly.
"Uh, right. Happy, uh, First Day," Andy replied unenthusiastically. The kid eyed him suspiciously, then turned and continued walking across the parking lot.
"Wouldn't hurt you to be a
enthusiastic!" The voice came from around the passenger side of the van, from where his girlfriend Sarah, tall and thin with long blonde hair, came around to the back of the van.
"Yeah, if you haven't noticed, this Strive stuff isn't quite my thing. I'm pretty sure I mentioned this once or twice before we came."
Strive was a program their college put on, that took students on a camp retreat, where their Strive "coaches" (other students who had been through the program) held all sorts of activities designed to connect people God, the Holy Spirit, themselves, their friends, humanity, and all two-legged, four legged, and multi-legged creatures big and small, the one exception being, apparently, mosquitos, which were frequently massacred and cursed at on every Strive retreat.
Sarah pinched him again and then pecked him on the cheek. "I know it nearly killed you to have to sit through. But thanks for coming anyway. I'll owe you one... once we get back." She winked, a simple gesture that, after three days singing "This Little Light of Mine," caused his cheeks to flush, and gave him the urge the take her right there, everyone else in the area be damned. He slipped his arms around her waist.
"We're taking Route 100, right?" she asked, just before he moved in for a kiss ˗ about as far as he was going to get for at least a few hours until they got back on campus.
He sighed. "Do we have to? It turns a two hour drive into an all-dayer."
"Everyone wants to," Sarah said, referring to their four other friends who were helping clean up the camp area. "The whole weekend sort of... inspired everyone, I think. It's supposed to be a really beautiful drive. It's always mentioned as one of those scenic byways, or whatever."
"Yeah, I got it. Everyone wants me to drive two extra hours so they can get in touch with nature."
"I'm sure Kyle or Jack˗"
"It's fine, hon." He smiled and leaned in for a kiss, but she dodged it.
"Really?" she demanded.
"Really," he said firmly, and forced a smile that looked at least semi-genuine. He leaned in, and this time Sarah let him. He slipped one hand from around her waist and slid it over her backside, until she swatted it away and pulled back again.
"Later!" she said, smiling. "And that guy is staring at us."