I’ve got good news, and bad news, and good news, and bad news.
Today was the day we put Alex’s plan into action. Our target for scavenging was the Bianco’s Pharmacy over on Leigh Street to load up on drugs for the med center. This particular Bianco’s is just three blocks from the Hotel Majestic. The idea was simple. I would split off on my own from the three main cars of the caravan, pick up Sharon and Jimmy, and continue on to Bianco’s. Sure we would all catch hell from Kaur, but it’s not like he could refuse Jimmy and Sharon entry once we brought them back, right?
I don’t have an answer to that yet.
Things started out exactly as planned. Alex assembled a team of just his most trusted scavengers; myself, Maria Perez, Josh Sterling, Mikhael Beratz, Olivia Munchausen, Daryl MacGuire, Redd Waxman, Karen Hummingbird, Gerry McElroy, and Harris Patel. We took four vehicles instead of the usual three, I had a car to myself, a beat-to-shit Oldsmobile from the 70’s, and I followed behind the two SUVs and a minivan that the others were in.
The drive out was totally uneventful. We saw a few zeds, and someone did shoot one from one of the other cars (probably Maria), but that was it. When we got to the Hotel Majestic, the others kept driving as planned, leaving me alone.
The Hotel Majestic is a five story tall building that occupies a large lot on the corner of Utopia Parkway and Red Dragon Way. It’s an older hotel, but still known as a nice one even though it looks like a plain beige box from the outside.
The big sign at the edge of the parking lot still read “WELC ME MAVERICON GUES S”; MaveriCon was a big comic/anime/sci-fi/geek convention that was scheduled a couple of weeks after that day. I guess someone at the Majestic was determined to keep business going as the world descended into Hell.
I could not see any zeds out there, but that did not mean there weren’t any. I pulled up onto the sidewalk in front of the hotel, the passenger side of the car facing the building. I got out of the car, looking around me for any signs of movement, but there was none.
I went up to the front doors of the hotel, and found them locked. It was dark inside, but I would expect that. Looking at the other doors inside the airlock (you know, that space between the doors to the inside of the building and the doors to the street outside that is meant to cut down on noise inside, or keep the air conditioning from escaping or whatever) leading into the main lobby I could see that they had been barricaded with couches and tables that had once made the lobby a welcoming place.
I quickly went back to the car, and slowly started to circle the hotel looking for another access point. I drove through the parking lot on the street side of the building. The lot was mostly empty, and the few cars there were covered in so much dust that it was obvious they had been there for quite some time now.
Across the street in front of an Apollo’s Coffee shop I saw the burnt out remains of the SUV that Sharon was riding in when her team was attacked. Seeing it made me feel sick to my stomach in a way I haven’t felt since Mitchell and the others returned a month ago.
At the back of the hotel was a large fenced off area separating the pool and back wall of the hotel from the parking lot. The tables and chairs set out there for the use of guests remained, waiting for customers who would never sit in them again. There were glass doors that lead to the inside off the hotel, but even from here I could see that it had been blocked up.
Aside from the barricade inside the glass door, there were two things in this picture that reminded me the state of the world today. The first was a body floating on the surface of the pool, the water of which had turned a sort of greenish color. The other reminder was the person standing by a ladder that leads up to the roof.
The ladder was fastened to the wall, and had a door on it to keep people from being able to climb up about the first seven feet of it. I could see that there was some sort of sign on it, but I could not red it from that far away. At a cursory glance, one would think that the door on the ladder was still locked, but I suspected that it wasn’t. This was to be my way in. The only problem was the “person” “guarding” it.
Of course it was not a person at the ladder really, it was one of the undead standing there staring at the covered ladder looking like a monkey trying to do a quadratic equation. The dark hair on the male zed made its skin look even paler, and he was wearing blue jeans and a torn Oakland Raiders jacket caked with dried blood and filth. There were what I assume were bullet holes in the back of the jacket, probably related to this man’s first death.
I had a dilemma here. How should I take out the zed? There did not appear to be any other roamers around, but the noise of a gunshot could easily attract some, and that would make getting back to the car a problem, especially if we have to carry Jimmy (and as far as that goes, I hadn’t even though about how we were going to get him out in the first place if that ladder was the only way in and out).
The zombie seemed to have not heard the car, so I got out as quietly as possibly. I grabbed my Mossberg and a large machete off of the car’s passenger seat, and slung the rifle over my shoulder. I didn’t slide the machete into its nylon sheath hanging from my belt though.
I crept up on the zombie as quietly as I could. I slowly opened the gate to the pool area, thanking God it didn’t creak, and approached the zombie, machete raised. I know I did not make any noise, but damned if it didn’t smell me or something, because I was almost within striking distance of it when it quickly turned to face me, and that’s when I got the surprise of the day.
In the zombie’s left hand was a large aluminum baseball bat. This was a first for me, even online I’d not seen anything about these creatures using weapons. I would love to say that it probably just randomly picked it up and did not know what to do with it, but it knew alright.
The former Raiders fun lunged at me, swinging the bat awkwardly. I dodged in what must have been a most un-Matrix-like way, and felt the wind as the bat missed my head by mere inches. The weight of the bat caused the zed to pivot and lose its balance, sending him stumbling into a pool lounger.
The zed tumbled forward, and hit the plastic straps of the lounge chair hard, causing them to snap under the weight. He hit the cement under the chair face first with a wet thud, and started struggling to free itself from the broken straps and metal frame of the chair. In his struggles he let go of the bat which clanged on the ground, and rolled for a couple of feet towards the pool.
This thing looked absolutely pathetic caught up in the chair so I decided to put it out of its, and my, misery. I swung at the back of its neck, but between the odd angle its head was pushed back at, and its thrashing about I only hit its back. I heard a loud crunch, so I think I may have split a shoulder blade or something, but I did not get the spine. This was evidenced by the fact that it was still trying to get free of the chair.
As I raised the machete again, it managed to roll over onto its back. It would be really dramatic to say that its face was a mask of fury, but, aside from being a bit smashed from its meeting with the cement, it was pretty blank. If there was anything that could be described as emotion to the thing, it would have to be in its eyes. There was this mix of hunger and sadness there, or that could just be me attributing human emotions to something inhuman.
I brought the machete’s blade down again, this time striking the zed right across the front of the throat. As I yanked the blade free, a spatter of black crud dribbled out of the gaping hole in the zed’s throat, but I still did not get the spine as it was still trying to get up.
As the zed got free of the chair’s frame and sat up, I brought the machete down again, this time aiming at the center of its head, hoping to split his skull and destroy the brain. In the movies this would have worked perfectly, the machete burying itself deep into the skull of the zombie; it’s too bad that I do not live in a movie.
The machete did crack the zombie’s skull open, but did not go deep enough to damage the brain (or at least not enough to put this thing down once and for all). That’s bad, but worse is the fact that the blade was now firmly lodged in the creature’s skull, and in the process of trying to pull the machete free, I ended up pulling the flesh-hungry former football fan to his feet and towards me.
Realizing what a colossally stupid thing I had just done, I then got the hell out of its way as momentum brought it towards me. It staggered for a few steps, almost joining the other body in the pool, which would have made finishing it off a real joy. Luckily it regained its balance before going into the water… unlucky, it now turned back towards me.
I started to back away, getting ready to dodge as it lunged at me, and nearly fell on my ass as I stepped on the baseball bat that was still lying at the side of the pool. I stooped down and snatched the bat.
The handle of the bat was sticky with I don't want to know what. At the time I was more interested in the end of the bat that was pointing away from me than with the handle
The zombie moved towards me, and I swung in the awkward way that I swing a bat (you may not have realized, but I'm not really much of an athlete. Regardless of what my coach in high school would say about me form, the swing did its job.
The bat connected to the side of the zed's head with a crunch and a clang (the clang coming from the bat hitting, and bending slightly, the machete), and the zombie staggered. I hit it again, and it went down, and flopped over onto its back.
Once it hit the ground, the zed didn't stop moving. It wasn't trying to get up exactly, but it was sort of flopping around like a fish or like someone having a seizure. I raised the bat above my head, and brought it down on his. The entire head split open at the crack the machete had made, and a spray of gore hit me in the face. The machete dropped to the ground as grey brains starting to turn black oozed free.
When I was finished vomiting, a combination of adrenaline and disgust (there's something a lot more personal about bashing a zombie's skull in compared to just shooting it, even at close range), I set the bat down on the ground, wiped my face on my shirt sleeve, and retrieved my machete.
The machete was not bent badly, but I would never be able to straighten it. I decided to keep it though, as I had no way of taking the bat with me up the ladder easily. I rinsed the machete off in the pool water. The water was cloudy and green, a combination of lack of maintenance and the dead body rotting in it, but it was still a lot more pleasant than the crap that was all over the machete. I sheathed the machete, which did not hang right due the bend in it, and went over to the ladder.
I went over to the swinging metal door which covered the ladder to the roof. There was a sun faded sign stuck to the door which read:
AUTHORIZED ACCESS ONLY
LADDER TO REMAIN LOCKED WHEN NOT IN USE
WHEN USING LADDER, TAKE LOCK WITH YOU
As I had hoped, there was no lock on the ladder; Sharon must have read the sign. One not-so-quick climb up the ladder later (have I mentioned no being athletic?), and I was on the roof.
I surveyed the roof for a way in, but found only machinery (air conditioning, or maybe the elevators, I don't know), some satellite dishes, a number of solar panels, a couple of skylights that looked down into the penthouse suites, and no obvious way in. No doors, no hatches, nothing. I guess it makes sense that there would no be an internal roof access if there was a ladder on the outside of the building like that.
“Well, crap!” I said to the no one there.