Authors: Edward Crae
Copyright © 2015 Edward Crae
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
All brand names mentioned within are the registered trademarks of their respective copyright holders. No infringement, endorsement, or detraction is intended.
This is a work of fiction, and any resemblances to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Place names are used respectfully and solely for the purposes of reference points for the story.
No animals were harmed in the making of this story.
Dan hadn’t always been a loser. There was a time in his life when he had the potential for a bright and fulfilling future. He had always been a bookworm; reading everything he possibly could about science and history; not for school, but for his own pleasure. He had a wide variety of interests, any one of them being the stepping stone for a lifelong career.
He had gone to college a few times, never finishing, but always learning enough to make it worth the cost. He definitely had skills, some learned through schooling, other through trial and error—and reading, of course.
Throughout the years, he had secured some pretty good jobs; union jobs with great pay, or tech jobs that could lead to awesome executive positions.
But, no matter how hard he tried, nothing ever came of any of it. Every time he began building a path toward the future, something always fucked it up. Something. Though, try as he might, Dan could never figure out what that something was. That is, until a few years ago when he found himself in a jail cell.
The night before, he had been arrested for DUI, but had blacked out. He awoke in the cold, cinder block room, feeling desolate and alone, as if he had been dropped in some bizarre level of Hell itself; one complete with a steel door. It was then he had realized the problem.
You fucking drunken loser,
he had told himself. And that was it.
Curiously, though, even after realizing the truth, he didn’t stop. There seemed to be no point in even trying to live a worthwhile existence anymore. He would simply die alone someday in an alley with a bottle of booze in his hand, and a puddle of bloody puke next to him. Because that’s what drunken losers did.
“Dan,” his father had said a year before he passed away, “you’re thirty-nine years old. You’ve lived your life like nothing matters. You’ve done that for so long that it’s become true. I give up. I’ve tried to get you motivated to do something with your life, but you keep fucking up every chance you’re given. I’m done. Do what you want. I don’t care anymore.”
It was the last sentence that really got to him. His own father didn’t care anymore. To make matters worse, it was really the last time that the two of them had spoken more than a few words to each other. Then, suddenly, his father had died, leaving him with a house, and nothing to live for.
He was never sure whether the house was a gift, or if it was a curse. At some point he figured that his father had some kind of plan. Perhaps if Dan had a house to take care of, he would grow up eventually. A loser can’t maintain a house, after all.
That statement couldn’t be truer. It had been tough. Bills were hard to pay with no real income, and the house itself was hard to keep up. The yard had gone to shit, so much so that Steve had filed complaints with the county.
He had been on the brink of a meltdown the morning the comet had passed by. Though having stayed sober for a few days beforehand, his mind was just too dead set on screwing things up, as it always did. Booze was a bitch; even more so than the pills.
He had never really had much of a problem with the pills. He had never robbed or killed anyone to get them; he just took them when he had them. If he didn’t have any, oh well. No biggie. The booze, on the other hand, was a different story. He had stolen money, shoplifted bottles from the liquor store, and even pocketed change he found on people’s coffee tables; all to buy cheap, rot gut booze.
Christ, what a loser.
Now, there really
nothing to strive for; nothing but survival that is. But perhaps that was the thing. Since the comet, he had worked harder to maintain his sanity than ever before. It was just the kick in the ass he had needed to stand up and really live.
Goddamnit it all, it took the end of the world to set him on a path to growing the fuck up.
But Shirley had been right. There was no way he could survive stumbling around like some drunken vagrant. Even before then, though, his drinking had been much more controlled. He only drank in small quantities—mostly.
There was hope, it seemed.
Now, as he sat on his roof, bolting a solar panel bracket to the wood underneath, he felt alive; really alive.
“Not too tight,” Jake said from the ground below. “Just another turn past hand tight, I guess. You don’t wanna damage the plywood underneath.”
“Alright,” Dan said, looking across to the garage roof where Drew awaited Jake’s instructions.
The big guy had his Apocalypse Compendium open, and was coaching them both on how to hook up a solar array. They had procured Gary and Linda’s solar panels, and were now setting them up for the final hookup to the house’s power grid.
“Hook the cable to the two leads on the back,” Jake said.
Dan pulled the cable behind the panel, stretching it up to the terminals there. He hooked the red wire to the red terminal, and the black to the black; tightening the screws that held them.
“Okay,” he called down.
“Now, angle the panel toward the south,” Jake said. “And fix the cable to the roof to take up the tension. We’re gonna run it down the siding, under the dirt, and into the garage wall.”
“I thought we were running it across the gap,” Drew said.
“No,” Jake replied, chuckling. “I just wanted to see you climb the garage.”
Drew gritted his teeth, sliding down the peak and dropping to the ground.
“See?” Jake said. “Wasn’t that fun?”
Drew grinned, shaking his head. “Dick.”
Jake chuckled again. “Okay, use those little brackets to attach the cable to the siding, then we’ll run it under the dirt later on. Come on down, Dan.”
Dan climbed down the ladder.
“Okay, we’ll run the cable through the garage wall,” Jake said. “You’ll have to drill a hole in the siding.”
Dan nodded, plugging his drill into the generator, and pull-starting it up. Jake walked over to the wall, pointing at a place close to the ground.
“There is good,” he said. “Don’t drill through the cinder block though. I’ll go inside and pull it through.”
Dan placed the drill against the siding and pulled the trigger. The drill went through easily, and soon there was a nice, big, one inch hole. He set the drill aside and poked the end of the cable through. He felt Jake grab it.
“Come inside,” Jake said.
Dan went in, standing next to Jake as he pulled enough cable through to reach the terminals on the battery bank’s circuit.
“We attach the panel to the charging circuit,” Jake said. “The circuit will charge the batteries. Then, we attach this cable here to the circuit breaker box.”
“What’s that thing the outlet cables are attached to?” Dan asked.
“That’s an inverter circuit,” Jake said. “That changes the current from DC to AC.”
“Ah,” Dan said. “I knew that.”
Jake pulled open the breaker box, making sure the main breaker was off. He then unscrewed the panel and pried it half off the wall.
“Unhook the main power line from the box there,” he said. “Then, attach the ends of the outlet cable to it. I’ll go outside and check on Drew.”
Dan unscrewed the existing cables, bending the ends up and out of the way. He then attached the outlet cable to the giant breaker, tightening the screws back up as tightly as he could.
He went outside, watching as Drew dug a narrow trench where the cable would go. Jake looked at him.
“Done?” he asked. Dan nodded. “Cool, let’s fire it up.”
They returned to the garage, where Jake inspected the entire hookup. He seemed satisfied with the battery bank, the connections, and the locations of everything. With one last nod and a grin, he flicked the entire circuit on. A red LED blinked on the charging circuit for a second, then turned green.
“Awesome,” Jake said. “It’s charging. Let’s give it a few hours before we use it. It shouldn’t take long. The batteries were still mostly charged. Once it’s ready, we’ll flip on the main breaker.”
“Coolio, Julio,” Dan said.
“Now remember,” Jake began, “this is an eight thousand watt array. It won’t power as many things as the real power grid would, but it will do a great job with some CFLs, the pump house, and some small appliances.”
“Good, we could use showers.”
Jake lifted his arm, sniffing his armpit. “Oh yeah,” he said jokingly. “French whore comes to mind.”
They sat on the floor in the living room, perusing the notebooks Dan and Drew had gotten from the sick fuck’s house a few nights before. Jake seemed intrigued, as if he admired the guy or something. Dan found it amusing, albeit a little disturbing. But he quietly sipped his beer, flipping through the pages.
“This guy had something really weird going on,” Jake said. “He wasn’t just torturing these people, he was experimenting on them.”
“Like what kind of experiments?” Dan asked.
“Some Frankenstein shit,” Jake said. Drew looked up, wide-eyed.
“Sewing people together?” he asked.
“Well, not really,” Jake said. “He was just speculating on what he could do. Did you say there was a Shambler down there?”
Dan nodded. “Yeah. She was chained to the wall. I’m not sure whether he caught one, or she was just down there when the infection hit.”
Jake nodded. “Groovy,” he said. “That’s fucked up, man. Was she hot?”
Dan shrugged. Jake smiled. “Just kidding. Who cares?”
“If he caught her after she was turned,” Drew said, “I wonder how he did it.”
“Well,” Jake said, flipping to a page with sketches, “it looks like he was good at building contraptions. Maybe one of these is some kind of trap. Either way, the guy was an engineering genius. Do you have any idea what he did for a living?”
Dan shook his head.
“Hmm,” Jake mused. “Some of these designs could be useful for something.”
Dan’s attention was drawn by a chuffing sound outside. He stood and looked out the window, seeing one of the horses near the kennel.
“Cool,” he said. “The horses came back. One of them anyway.”
He opened the door, going out to open the kennel door. Only one horse had returned after they had been set loose before their trip to pick up Jake.
“Where’s your buddy?” Dan asked.
The horse chuffed again, slowly walking back into the kennel. Dan closed the door and went back into the house.
“Just one,” Dan said.
Drew shrugged hesitantly. “That’s not good, man. I wonder what happened. Did he seem… disturbed?” His tone was humorous.
Dan sat back down. “Fuck, I don’t know, man. I don’t speak horse.”
“I knew a guy who spoke horse,” Jake said, flipping a page. Then he glanced up as if in thought. “Or maybe he
a horse. One of the two.”
Dan shook his head, grinning. “You guys are just fuckin’ hilarious.”
“Take a pill, Ginger.” Drew said, sipping his beer.
“Ooh, Ginger,” Jake whispered. “I like that.”
Dan smiled, propping himself up to move to the couch. He was interested in the notebooks, as the other guys were, but he had a sinking feeling for some reason, and he began to feel uncomfortable. Perhaps it was the sketches, or the strange diary entries. Or maybe it was the pale, filthy figure he suddenly realized was shuffling down the gravel road.
“Guys,” he said, waving them over.
Jake and Drew went to the window, kneeling down in front of it so the three of them could peek through the gaps in the OSB. The person, obviously a Shuffler, staggered along the gravel like a drunk walking home from the bar. She was dressed in a pantsuit; black, ripped, and covered in stains. Her hair was long and blonde, caked together with blood and other disgusting fluids.
“Oh, she’s hot,” Jake said.
“I bet she’s a dead fuck,” Dan added, prompting snickers.
However odd and disturbing her appearance was, the strangest thing was that she appeared to be pregnant. As the jacket flapped open in the breeze, her belly showed a large bulge that caused her filthy white shirt to stretch out.
“She’s got a duck in the oven,” Drew said. “Oh my god, that’s fuckin’ brutal.”
“Man,” Jake whispered. “Poor lady. Poor
Dan felt some sympathy for her, and her baby, but there was something odd about her belly that didn’t quite add up. The bulge was way too big, for one, and seemed to extend into her back. He could see the bulge in the small of her back as she swayed from side to side.
“I don’t think she’s pregnant,” Dan said, unsure of how to explain.
Drew and Jake leaned in closer, their eyes glued to the woman as she stumbled into the ditch. Her foot caught the short ridge at the edge of the road, and she tumbled over it, falling flat on her face.
“Oopsy,” Jake said.
“We should kill it,” Drew said. “Pregnant or not, it’s a fuckin’ zombie.”
Dan stood, grabbing his .308 and chambering a round. “I’ll do it,” he said.
“Hold on a second,” Drew said. “Check her out.”