Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Thirty-Fourth Entry: The Geek and the Dead

December 30oth

I actually have clothes again! I am wearing something without anyone's blood on it, and while most of the rather limited selection are either too big or too small, and I cannot say for sure that they are actually clean, they are certainly cleaner than what I was wearing. That is a major improvement in and of itself, and worth having to keep my belt tight to keep my pants up.

Gerry, Maria, and Beth have been quite busy gathering up our supplies for our travels while I have been stuck here babysitting Sharon, which isn't to say that I've been totally bored. They may have tales of dashing adventure to tell about searching houses, but I have my own little tale of badassery, but let me stay in order.

Along with the clothes, Gerry also gave me a coat (they all found coats and clothes for themselves too, the only difference is they got to pick and choose what they wanted as opposed to just having stuff picked for them). It's a big thick black pea coat; it's too big for me and goes down to my knees practically, but it is quite warm, and big enough that I could probably wear my satchel under it, and merely look deformed.

Naturally, since I now have a coat as well as some sweaters, t-shirts, and jeans to wear, it was sunny today. I don't just mean the clouds broke and the sun shined through, I mean that it is warm. It feels like it's about 80 outside, but it's probably closer to 70, so I don't really need the coat today. I know it sounds like I am whining about pleasant weather, but it does bring its own sets of problems.

According to Beth and Gerry (Maria hasn't been particularly talkative the last couple of days and was in the back of the store while the rest of us talked), the suburbs are a little worse off than a lot of the rest of town.

“It's just really creepy, you know?” Gerry told me, as we sipped cups of nasty instant coffee “Everything looks like people just left one day. There are cars in the driveways, toys on the lawns; I mean everything would look normal if it weren't for the fact that the lawns are all overgrown and brown.”

“Then there are the houses where the doors were left sitting open, or the windows are broken,” added Beth, “Then there was that one intersection with the car accident that was just left there.”

“Yeah, it was like looking at a sculpture, or a photograph; a moment frozen in time,” Gerry said in what I guess was supposed to be a teacher or artist's voice, “Then there's the bodies. We must have seen forty or fifty bodies lying out there.”

“Rotting out there, “ corrected Beth.

They had brought in a large number of boxes of ammunition, as well as some guns (including what I think is an AK-47, and a pair of MR-15s, the ones that look like M-16s), and a lot of freeze-dried emergency food, so I asked them where that all came from.

“Ah,” said Gerry, “Now that's a good story. We were driving slowly down this one block on Elm Street looking for a promising house.”

“How do you tell a promising house?” I asked,

“There are signs, we noticed it pretty quickly really, “explained Beth, “Houses with open doors or broken windows don't usually seem to have much in them. Empty driveways are a crap shoot, but an open and empty garage seems to be useless.”

“So what do you look for?” I asked.

“Cars in the driveway,” answered Gerry, “I know it sounds bad, but those seem to be houses where the people didn't make it. The gun house was a dead giveaway just from the driveway.”

“Yeah, the guy must have been a total stereotype. There was a this big camouflaged pickup truck in the driveway with an 'NRA for Life' bumper sticker on it. I made Gerry pull over as soon as I saw it.”

Gerry picked up where Beth left off, “This house looked like even the zombies were unwilling to fuck with it. If it weren't for the jungle of a front yard, the rain gutter hanging down over the porch, and the fact that the American flag by the window was all torn up from being out in the weather, you wouldn't know anything was wrong with the world at this place.”

So if it weren't for all the thigs wrong with it, you'd not know anything was wrong? I didn't say that though, I just let them continue with their story.

“So we went up to the door and knocked on it,” Beth told me, “ and then we got down off of the porch in case anyone decided to start shooting at us through the door.”

“Not that zombies generally knock politely.” Gerry stated.

“Or murderers,” Beth added, “but there's no reason to take unnecessary chances, right?”

“So we did this about three times, knocking and then getting away from the door. We got no response, so we listened at the door, and we didn't hear any noise coming from the inside,” explain Gerry, “So we did a quick sweep around the house, and we didn't see anything moving inside.”

“We did see quite a mess through the windows at the back though, so we were still worried that there might be an active zed inside there somewhere,“ Beth continued, “So we go back around to the front of the house, see that Maria is still standing by the van keeping an eye out for zeds or other scavs, and Gerry goes ahead and starts on the door.”

“I get the door unlocked, and it still won't open. The guy had a fucking metal bar across it on the inside. We start going around the house looking for a way in.”

“We really don't want to actually break anything if we can avoid it,” interrupted Beth.

“After spending about fifteen minutes looking for a way in we find that the kitchen window is unlocked. This guy had barred all of the doors, and then left the window unlocked.”

“It was probably his wife that left it open, Gerry.”

“We assume that was his wife.”

“She had a wedding ring on.”

“Doesn't mean she was married to him.”

“Come on, Ger, they matched.”

“Anyway, Beth climbs in through the window and lets me in through the kitchen door. We look around the house, and the living room is a mess, it looks like there was a fight in there.”

“My guess is the wife got infected, turned, and made the mess coming after her husband.”

“Of course the husband is captain gun-nut, so he scattered her brains all over the wall with a shotgun.”

“There was an empty mounting over the fireplace; my guess is that he kept it there.”

“Loaded.” added Gerry.

“Doesn't do you any good if it's not loaded,” replied Beth as it were a perfectly normal thing to keep loaded guns around the house as decoration.

“So what about the guy?” I asked.

“We found him in the basement,” answered Beth.

“Basement? That's unusual.” I said, since as far as I know, basements aren't normal around here, at least I've never been to a house that had a real basement.

“I think it was actually a bomb shelter,” Gerry said to Beth, “The walls seemed really thick, and the door to it was like a two inch thick piece of metal in the floor of the garage. It was sitting wide open though, which was not terribly secure.”

“Well I don't think he went down there with any real thoughts of survival in mind,” replied Beth.

“Which is ironic, because that's clearly what that place was made for. There were just boxes and boxes of those freeze dried meals, and what I'm assuming are military rations.”

“There were also those meals and drinks that heat themselves, which will come in handy.”

“And guns,” said Gerry, somewhat in awe, “The walls were covered in guns, rifles, shotguns, handguns even a pair of AR-15s and some very illegal hand grenades.”

“Which Maria took, of course,” Beth said rolling her eyes, “Hopefully she doesn't blow us up with them.”

Gerry continued, “If any man in Covenant was ready for the end of the world, it was this guy. Which I guess makes it even sadder that we found him sitting on the toilet with a shotgun on the floor, and most of his head on the ceiling.”

“You can prepare for the end all you want, “said Beth, “ but nothing is going to prepare you to lose someone you love. I mean, how do you go on living if your soul mate is dead, you know? Makes me kind of glad I'm single.”

I know she didn't mean anything by it, but those words stung. I tried not to react to them, but something must have given me away. Suddenly Beth's eyes went wide with realization and she started stammering, “Umm, I mean... uh... shit, man, I'm sorry, I didn't mean.... I mean Rupert was my friend and all, so it's not like I don't have any idea , but we weren't like that, so... you know?”

Part of me wanted to let Beth continue squirming, but I put her out of her misery, “It's okay,” I said, trying to smile.

“No, I'm sorry, “ Beth continued, “We've been out doing stuff, and we've just left you here with no thoughts of what you're going through, and then that thing with Sharon the other day.”

“We're all going through this, don't worry about me; finish the story.”

“So this guy was like a super-right winger too, “started Gerry, “I swear the only books in the house were written by Michael Savage, Bill O'Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh.”

“No, there were those NASCAR romance novels in the bedroom, “Beth said with a snort.”

“True, and a whole shelf of those Left Behind novels in the basement along with books about guns and survival.”

“Which we took as well of course,” said Beth, “the gun and survival books I mean, not the Left Behind crap. We filled up the van with just that house, and there's still a bunch of stuff left there. We would need a bus to take it all with us.”

“I found the keys to the door, and locked the place, you never know, we might need to come back and use that stuff,” Gerry shrugged, “If we cleaned out the rotting corpse, that would make a fairly decent place to stay. It's got cots, and a bathroom, and it's about as secure as anyplace I could imagine.”

“We should have moved his truck into the garage and on top of the door, that would keep other people out.”

“Oh well,” Gerry replied, “We're probably not going to be coming back. It's just a shame to leave all that stuff behind.”

With our supplies as full as we can realistically take with us in anything short of a Winnebago (which has been discussed and abandoned as a vehicle that won't get us very far once we hit the unplowed roads up north), the only issues now are clothes and a couple of vehicles, and that is what they all went out to look for today.

For Beth's talk about not considering my feelings being left here with Sharon in her bizarre state (she tried to hug Maria last night. Maria didn't hit her, but it looked like she wanted to. She just pushed her away and warned me to “keep the retard on a leash or else”), she did not volunteer to stay here in my place today so that I could maybe stave off the case of cabin fever I'm getting. I almost wish they had brought back those Left Behind books, I could have used something new to read. Of course today had plenty to hold my interest anyway.

Like I said, it is a nice day outside today; it's downright springlike, and that has brought a set of problems none of us really thought about this morning. We've all been kind of going on the theory that the zeds don't like the cold, hell, our entire survival plan is based on it. This logically means that the zeds do like the warmth, and the unseasonably warm day has brought them out of wherever they had been hiding.

I was passing the time shooting rubber bands at empty paper cups that I had set up on one of the empty shelves when I heard a thump against the window. At first I didn't really even notice it, but it happened again. I turned to see what it was.

“Oh shit,” I said to nobody in particular.

Sharon was standing by the window, and three ghouls were outside, pawing at the glass, trying to get at her. If Sharon noticed they were there, she didn't let on; she just stood there with her right palm placed to the glass and staring off into space.

One of the three zeds, the tallest one who looked like he was probably a biker, maybe even one of the Postmen (half of his face was burnt off), pounded his fist against the glass again, hard. Thank God that display window glass is thicker than the kind of window glass they put in houses.

I was still afraid that he would break the glass, or at the very least draw more attention to us, so I went and grabbed the store's door keys off of the counter as well as a baseball bat, and one of the hatchets that we had collected (well, that they had collected) and headed for the back door. I attached the hatchet's little belt holster to my belt as I walked, but left the top of it unsnapped so that I could pull the little hatchet out quickly.

You're probably wondering why I didn't just use our new collection of firearms to dispatch them quickly. I didn't know how many of those things were up and active in the December sunlight, and I did not want to do anything to draw any more of them towards us. It's one thing to keep those things from surrounding you on the top of a fortress, it's another entirely to try and defend a convenience store.

I went out the back door hoping that there wouldn't be any zeds there since they appeared to be coming after Sharon. I stuck my head out and saw that there was one zed, a small girl, over by the dumpster, but none near the door. I went out into the alley, and made sure that the door locked securely behind me.

The girl, she must not have been more than 13 or 14, heard the door lock engage as it closed, and turned to face me. I think she was checking out the bodies of Vince and Cassie, but I was clearly more interesting to her. She started towards me.

I had forgotten how fast the younger zombies are. I don't really understand why they should be, it doesn't make any sense. The girl came at me at something like a jog, but I was ready for her, bat raised.

As soon as she was in striking range, I swung. It was a perfect homerun swing and it connected with the left side of her face with a crunch, The bat left a sizable dent in her head, and her jaw hanging at an unnatural angle. She staggered and fell forwards onto her knees, and then her face. It twitched a bit, and then stopped moving.

Not taking any chances, I held the bat in my left hand, and pulled the hatchet with my right. I brought it down hard onto the back of the monster's skull, and felt the sound of the skull splitting open. I pulled the hatchet free with some effort, raised it, and then brought it down again on the corpse just to be sure. In the process I managed to fling some of the blackish liquid that seems to pass for zombie blood on myself.

I wonder; if getting bitten by one of the zeds is enough to infect you with the sickness/virus/whatever, what about ingesting it? If some got into my mouth (God forbid, ew!), would that cause me to turn? Would it matter if I had an open wound in my mouth, or throat? Hopefully I'll never find out for sure, I guess.

I wiped the blade of the hatchet off on the filthy remains of the blue Hello Kitty shirt that the girl was wearing, and headed around for the front of the store. Arriving there, I found the three zombies were still there, and Sharon was still standing in the window.

As I watched the biker zombie continue to bang on the window glass I had a moment of wondering just what the hell I was doing. Sure, I didn't want to attract anymore zeds by firing a gun (not to mention not wanting the shoot out the window), but how could I take out three zeds single handedly? I should have brought two bats, one for each hand. Hell, I should have brought a small army.

Oh well, can't do anything about that now.

I ran up to the zombies, the bat raised above my head, and brought it down o the first one, a thin man with dirty brown hair, as he turned to face me. The bat hit him in the center of his skull with as much force as I could muster, and his skull caved in like a ceramic bowl wrapped in a tablecloth.

The other two, the biker and a woman wearing a camouflage jacket and pants (hunter's camo, not military), turned to face me, and lunged forward. Thankfully they were both of the slower adult variety of zed, as opposed to the fast child ones, and I was able to sidestep their charge.

The two zombies hit each other where I had been, and bounced back as I swung the bat. Unlike the first two I took down, I did not get a clean hit with this swing. Instead of hitting her in the head, I caught camogirl in the shoulder. Something in there must have broken, because her right arm dangled limply at her side after that.

I looked around, trying to make sure that there was nothing coming up behind me, and that I wasn't going to back myself into something that would trip me up or trap me. I was good, there was nothing behind me but empty streets, not even any other zeds.

Camogirl was a little bit faster than the biker (also a good two feet shorter), and she came at me ahead of him, her left arm reaching for me. I didn't have room for a full swing, so in effect I bunted. The bat caught her across the chest, and more shoved her back than really hit her. She stumbled backwards into the biker.

The biker did something that kind of surprised me, he shoved Camogirl back at me, and he shoved her hard. Camogirl half lunged, half fell towards me, and I didn't have time to get out of the way. I tried to block her with the bat again, but her left hand grabbed at my shirt.

Thankfully the baseball bat ended up between us, or Camogirl likely would have gotten her teeth on me. I tried pushing her off with the bat, but neither her hand nor my shirt would give up. I pushed harder, using both hands to create as much space between us as possible. Her arms were shorter than mine, so I was able to push her far enough to stretch the front of my shirt.

Biker closed on us, and I tried to turn to keep Camogirl between me and him. If I let him get to my side, I was done for. He reached over Camogirl's head, and I had to pull her with me as I backed up to stay out of reach. I may have longer arms than the girl, but this biker was a fucking giant, almost seven feet at least.

Biker's finger grasped air right I front of my face, which is far closer than I wanted them to be. He apparently was growing frustrated with his inability to reach me past Camogirl, so he changed the target of his aggressions.

With both of his hands, Biker grabbed Camogirl's head, and yanked her backwards. Her head practically disappeared into his monstrous hands. Between my pushing with the bat, and the biker's pulling on her head, Camogirl finally lost her grip on my shirt.

The biker lifted Camogirl fully off the ground, her feet kicking I the air, and her good arm still reaching for me. He looked at the back of her head for a moment, as if he was deciding what to do with her.

I took advantage of the moment, stepped back enough to get a good swing, and swung as hard as I could at Camogirl's head, still wrapped in the biker's hands. The bat connected sollidly, and his left hand let go, leaving Camogirl hanging, now mostly by her greasy brown hair, from his right hand.

Turning his attention back to me, Biker threw Camogirl to the side. She bounced off of the Snacky Mart's big glass window with a thump, and tumbled to the ground. There was a smear of blackish blood on the, thankfully unbroken, window, but she wasn't done moving.

Biker came at me, his hands outstretched, and grabbed my head. His left hand was unable to get a grip with his now broken fingers, but his right hand had no problem getting a grip of my admittedly too long hair. He yanked hard, lifting me off the ground; the pain was almost blinding.

He held me up so that my face was even with his. His milky eyes spoke volumes of pain, anger, and hunger, and a smell that can only be described as putrescent came from his mouth. The smell was not from his breath, as he wasn't actually breathing as far as I could tell. It was more flowing out freely; like the smell from a can of corn you just opened only to find that it has gone bad while still sealed.

I beat ineffectually at his side with the bat, and kicked uselessly as his legs. Theory confirmed today; kicking a zombie in the balls has no effect at all. It not only didn't hurt him, it didn't even piss him off; he didn't even seem to notice.

Desperation started to bleed around the pain screaming from my scalp, and I know that if I didn't do something, this creature was going to get bored with staring at me any second, and take a bite. It was in my desperation that I decided to try the stupidest thing I could think of (although I now realize giving up would actually have been the stupidest thing); I threw the baseball bat off to the side.

The baseball bat hit the surface of the parking lot with a echoing clang, and the biker turned his head to look for the source of the noise. I fumbled for my hatchet, pulled it free, and began wildly hacking away at his left side.

The sharp blade cut through his leather jacket, and into the flesh of his arm, shoulder, side, and whatever else I could hit with it. I could feel the vibrations of the blade hitting bone travel up the small ax, and into my arm.

Biker must not have noticed what I was doing, as he was walking towards where the baseball bat lay on the ground, as if he totally forgotten that he held a tasty meal in his hands. Fine by me, really.

In my wild hatchet swinging, I must have finally hit something that th biker could feel, because he suddenly threw me seemingly halfway across the parking (I'm sure it was only a few feet, but it felt like farther). I hit the ground hard, but I didn't have time to embrace the pain in my head or my body, because even through the tears of pain streaming from my eyes I could see Biker's black leather clad body coming towards me.

I scrambled to my feet to prepare for Biker's attack. As he lurched towards me, I wished that I had a weapon more formidable than a hatchet; a lightsaber maybe, or a minigun, or perhaps a tank. I had to get the bat back.

I lashed out at Biker's hands with the hatchet, and two fingers fell to the ground. I swung at his hands again, and another finger became separated, and that's when it finally occurred to me; if I was going to win this fight I wasn't going to do it by hacking off bits of him because I would fall to exhaustion well before he would run out of parts; I had to knock him down.

I ducked around the biker, and ran for where the baseball bat lay in the center of an empty parking space, re-holstering the hatchet as I went. I scooped up the bat, gripped it in both hands, and charged the biker.

When I swung this time it was not at Biker's head, but at his knee. With a satisfying crack his knee bent inwards, and like a table with a broken leg he fell over to the ground. While he tried to get back up, I brought the bat down on his head, now that it was where I could reach it.

The impact of the bat drove the biker face first into the ground, but it lacked that satisfying crunch that would tell me that the skull had been breached. If there was any doubt about that, the fact that Biker continued to try and get to his feet would have dispelled that quickly enough anyway.

The biker got up onto his knees, but when he tried to get to his feet, his left leg would just bend under his weight, and he would fall over again. If I weren't all jacked up on terror and adrenaline I probably would have found the sight amusing in a sick way.

Instead of laughing I raised the bat and brought it down on the biker again and again. He must have had no real need for a helmet when riding, because his skull was thick. I practically wore myself out hitting him over and over before he finally stopped moving.

This only left Camogirl, who, despite her useless arm, and smashed nose had somehow managed to get back to her feet. She was pawing at the window in front of Sharon with her one working arm, totally oblivious to my beating one of her undead comrades to re-death just a few feet behind her.

I was feeling pretty tired by this point, so I pulled the hatchet from my belt, walked up behind her, and swung the hatchet as hard as I could at the base of her skull. With a squelchy crunch the blade severed the zombie's spinal cord and she sagged, sliding down the surface of the window.

Camogirl's body was twitching, and her jaw was opening and closing wildly, as if she were trying to bite the air. Even though she was now paralyzed, she was still alive (un -alive?).Making sure to keep my hands away from her mouth, I bent down to try and recover my hatchet.

It took a couple of tugs before the hatchet would pull free from the back of Camogirl's neck. I then re-holstered the hatchet, and finished her off with a couple of hard swings of the bat.

Breathing heavily, I looked around at my handiwork under the warm December sun, and felt a surge of pride. I had just taken out four zeds all on my own without firing a shot. Sure I would be dead right now if Biker had been able to focus his attentions a bit better, but he couldn't and I'm not, because





I looked back at the store, and saw that Sharon was still standing in the window. She waved at me while smiling. For a short moment I thought that maybe she was back, but then I realized that her eyes were still unfocused, she wasn't really looking at me at all, but through me.

Trying not to let Sharon's condition ruin my feelings of awesomeness, I fished the store keys out of my pockets, and let myself back in the front door. Part of me was saying that I should drag the dead zeds around to the back, but most of me said, “fuck it, we're leaving tomorrow anyway.” Needless to say that the lazy side won.

Once I had the front door to the Snacky Mart locked, Sharon launched herself at me, wrapping her arms around me, and kissing me hard on the lips.

“You're my hero!” she proclaimed in a dreamy voice (which is to say she sounded like she was dreamy, not that I found her voice dreamy)

I didn't shove her off, but I did gently pry her away from me, “Don't do that,” I said as gently as I could.

Sharon cocked her head, and looked at me (through me) questioningly After a few seconds she straightened her head out, nodded twice, and turned and walked away. She went back to her sleeping bag, climbed into it, and went right to sleep.

What do I do with her? I want her to be okay, but if she keeps being physical like that with me, I'm liable to do something stupid. I still feel bad just for thinking about it.

The others came back a couple of hours later, just as it was starting to get dark. They too ran into more zeds than we've seen in a long time; certainly more than we've seen in the wild since the coffee run.

I wish I had some of that coffee with me now.

It turns out that Beth, Maria, and Gerry spent their day not looking for a vehicle (they just went to a dealership not too far from Snacky Mart), but getting it operational. I guess that sitting unused for the better part of a year is not good for a car? Maybe they just wanted to get away from my whining.

I'm not terribly surprised to find out that Maria is a car geek, and she spent a lot of the day outfitting our new transports with all-weather tires, fresh oil, anti-freeze, and whatever else it is that cars need (I am not a car geek, can you tell?) while Gerry and Beth kept the zeds at bay.

Gerry says that between him and Beth they probably killed a dozen zeds out there using only baseball bats, a fire ax, and a lump hammer, so while they were congratulatory of my accomplishments, they were not all that impressed. I don't care though, because they probably double-teamed all of theirs which means I'm still a badass.

I've seen our new cars; they are a pair of Ford Excursions, one black, one tan. Both of the cars are fitted with those plastic rooftop luggage pods which the others have filled with fuel cans just in case we have problems finding gas up the road.

We're going to wait until the morning to actually load up the cars with all of our supplies (We are leaving the gas in them though, as we don't want to suffocate tonight). Once we're loaded up, we leave Covenant for colder climates.

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Thirty-Third Entry: Where Do We Go From Here?

December 28th

After a long discussion yesterday, it has been nearly unanimously decided that we will leave Covenant and head north. I say almost unanimous because Sharon abstained from voting.

Our hope is that the ghouls' apparent dislike of the cold means that they won't be active where it's colder. Of course if we're going to go up into the snow, we are not going to be able to take the vans, as I am pretty sure that the snowplows aren't running.

In order to help prevent a repeat of the incident a couple of days ago, Gerry and Beth went and found somewhere nearby that is hopefully secure enough to hid the vans. I suppose anywhere that Gerry can get into isn't really all that secure, but it's got to be better than leaving them out in plain sight as an advertisement.

Of course with Beth and Gerry gone, that left me and Maria with the task of cleaning up the mess that Sharon made in the alley. The first thing we realized as we were out there was that we need coats. Even though it has been raining the last few weeks off and on, it hasn't really been that cold. It's getting cold now.

Alex remembered pretty much everything we need in the back of those vans except winter gear, but who knows how many months ago he packed those up? If he packed the vans in the summer, it may just have not occurred to him that winter would eventually be an issue... or maybe he just didn't think we would survive this long.

“I don't see why I'm stuck doing this.” complained Maria as she dragged Cassie's body down the alley towards the dented green dumpster at the other end of the building.

“Because you can't pick locks,” I answered, dragging Vince's cold remains by his feet. Much of his head stayed where it had been on the surface of the alley, “and because you're such a nice person, and you like me.”

“Beth should be doing this, not me,” she complained again, and then stopped her dragging, “No, actually Sharon should be doing this, she made this mess.”

It was kind of weird hearing Maria complain like this. She's not usually a whiner, that's kind of my position, but she has been a little off these last few days. She's been short with everyone, and even a little mean.

“Sharon's not well,” I answered.

“None of us are well. I notice she's well enough to eat and take a shit on her own now though.”

That much is true, if not exactly tactful. Sharon is still acting like she doesn't see us, but she has been eating and drinking on her own, and getting up and shuffling her way to the bathroom (thank God, I did not really want that job) a couple of times a day. She's also stopped crying, so maybe she'll come all the way back to us soon.

I think this behavior of hers is freaking out the others more than when she was just sitting there and doing nothing. At least then the idea of her putting herself, or us, in danger was just an idea. With Sharon up and about it becomes more real. She might decide to just let herself out quietly and walk off. She might decide to let some zeds in. I'm not giving voice to these ideas, and no one has voiced them to me, so maybe they're not thinking about it too much.

“Maria, if you want, I can do this myself,” I said, heaving Vince another couple of feet. For such a skinny guy he sure was heavy.

“I'm almost done now,” she replied, “and I am going to let you deal with the chunks over there,” she motioned to pile of Vince's skull and brains by the back door to the store.

Maria finished dragging her body over the the dumpster, and dropped Cassie's legs unceremoniously on the ground in front of it.

Vince was a bigger guy than Cassie, and Maria is probably actually stronger than me, so I was having a little more difficulty. It took me a bit longer, but I got there. I dragged Vince's body to the side of the dumpster, and dropped him there.

“Do you think we should put them in?” I asked

“I don't think anyone's going to be by to empty it anytime soon.” Maria replied.

“Just leaving them on the ground seems disrespectful somehow.”

“And you think throwing them in with the trash is better?”

I shrugged a response; it was a good point.

”And you're on your own with that. I'm not getting any of that crap on me,” Maria said, pointing to the reddish trail leading from where I had dropped Vince's body back to the pile of drying gore that used to be his head. The moist air was not doing anything to help his neck stump dry out, but then again the cold was probably also helping to keep him from getting too smelly.

“What am I supposed to clean that up with?” I asked.

“I don't care, but if I step in it you'll be cleaning my shoes,” answered Maria as she walked back to the door.

I don't know what crawled up her ass and died (and presumably then rose from the dead), but she's acting noticeably different; noticeably to me at least. Maybe she doesn't like being relegated to holding down the fort. I know I'm not keen on it, but I'll do it for Sharon's sake. Maybe she's just tired; if I thought life was stressful since the end of the world, it's gotten at least a couple of times worse since last week.

I am surprised to find out how much worse living in the post-apocalypse actually is without lights, heat, clean clothes, and a proper bed.. I guess you just don't realize how bad your life can suck until you lose everything.

I ended up using a dustpan to scrape up Vince's brains and dispose of them, and the dustpan, in the dumpster. I briefly considered finding a hose and hosing down the alley, but then decided to let the rain do it; it's not my store, and we're only going to be here a couple more days anyway. It was a good call, it's been raining most of the afternoon, so I'm sure there's not much left out there by now.

I was as done as I was going to get by the time that Gerry and Beth came strolling down the alley. Gerry was holding his arms to his body in a vain attempt to keep his body heat from escaping, but the cold did not seem to be bothering Beth.

“Aren't you cold?” I asked.

“I'm from Michigan, this isn't cold.”

“Cold enough,” commented Gerry.

Once we were all inside, we gathered around the cashwrap counter, and continued planning what we needed to get before leaving town.

“The first thing we are going to need is clothes; I need a coat and these clothes are feeling a bit ripe, “said Gerry, drinking a cup of hot water that he had added packets of sugar and coffee creamer to. I don't know why he didn't just make some of that instant crap that was in the van. I suppose he wants to make it last as long as possible.

“I second that, “ I agreed, and motioned to the dried spots of Vince's blood on my shirt, “I would really like to wear something without dried bits of brain stuck to it.”

“You should have packed some clothes in that purse of yours,” teased Maria, but with a smile. It was still her being odd, but at least not outright hostile at the moment.

“Yeah, yeah,” I said.

“Regardless of who amongst us does not have a change of clothes, and I notice you have been wearing the same thing for the last three days as well,” said Gerry, motioning with his cup, “We are going to need some serious winter clothes if we plan to head up to the snow.”

In reality, the only one of us that has clothes with them is Sharon, who had time to grab her backpack before leaving my apartment. Tara had a change of clothes for me in with her stuff, but that didn't really work out so well.

“What are we going to do when we get there, where ever we go, I mean? I don't think we'll last long if we're going to try camping out in tents or the vans,” said Beth, “Aside from how exposed we will be to any attackers, undead or not, we'll be exposed to the elements.”

Maria grabbed the road map off of the counter, and unfolded it, “That much I have an idea about.”

Maria had made a red X on the map over Covenant, and had traced a line up Highway 5 to town identified as Daisy Lake. It looked to be a couple of hundred miles by car, which would normally be a simple three or four hour drive, but life being anything but normal now, who knows?

“When I was a kid, my dad used to rent a cabin up here in Daisy Lake. We would go up there and go fishing and hunting. It's been a few years and all, but as long as there are still fish in the lake, trees in the woods, and a cabin to stay in, I think it could be a good place to wait out the winter.”

Gerry nodded, “Okay. Any other ideas?”

“I don't think that going blindly somewhere is a great idea.” said Beth.

“You got a better idea?” challenged Maria.

“No, I just object to going somewhere when we don't know what to expect. What if there was a forest fire over the summer and the town is nothing but a black smudge?”

“Where could we go that we know what to expect? Other than a couple of scavenging runs just outside of town, where have any of us been since this shit all started?”

“I get your point, Maria, but what if we get there and there's nothing there? What if things there are even worse than here?” asked Beth

“Then we keep going until we find somewhere better?” I suggested.

“We wanted to get somewhere cold, right?” asked Maria.

“Yes,” Beth answered.

“Well it snows there, and it's a lake full of fish and water. As long as there's still a building standing somewhere in the area that has a fireplace, that gives us everything we need to survive. We can figure out what to do next after winter is over.”

“Assuming we don't freeze to death,” added Beth.

“Always assuming we survive, yes.” stated Gerry.

“Plus maybe it'll give the produce over there a chance to snap out of it,” Maria said, motioning in the direction of where Sharon was laying on her sleeping bag.

“My main concern, all of our mental fitness aside, is something that we will not be able to find growing wild by a lake; “said Gerry, “ammunition.”

“I've been worrying about that too,” agreed Beth, “We had access to a good supply while in Mallville, but that's gone now. Between us and the Postmen, there's not going to be any good supplies of ammo left in town. Even the police station was totally cleaned out.”

“We could find some gun nut's house, and take supplies from it.” I suggested.

“Except how easy will that be?” asked Beth, “It's not like he would just put up a sign out front.”

“We're just going to have to find some places on the way to stock up, “said Gerry, “If other towns are anything like here, then there will hopefully be some fully stocked T-Marts along the way. If people cleared out like they did here in Covenant, there shouldn't be a problem there.”

“Covenant cleared out because a lot of people went to Mallville,” Beth reminded us, “I think we may see more survivors as we go. I mean, the people who left town had to go somewhere, right?”

“Or maybe they just died and we'll see more zombies.” suggested Maria.

“Maybe we should just use our guns less?” I asked.

“What do you suggest,” asked Maria, “Archery? Karate? Throw Sharon at them?”

“Store shelves?” asked Gerry, smiling, probably meaning to take some of the sting out of Maria's words.

I ignored both of them.

“Destroying the brain kills them, just like in the movies, right?” I asked.

“I think that destroying the brain kills most things, but go on.” said Beth.

“So we can use objects like baseball bats, or hammers, stuff like that when we're only dealing with one or two of them at a time. We can save our guns for when we really need them.”

“Not a horrible idea, “conceded Gerry with a shrug.

“Do you really want to get up close and personal with those things?” Maria asked,

“No, but I think they can hear, or some of them can anyway, so maybe killing quietly will keep some of them from following the noise right to us.”

“That's actually a good point, “said Beth, “If we're going to stay in one place it might be a good idea to not advertise our location to the zeds.”

“Alright, alright. We need to make a list of what we need to get a hold of before we move. If we're going to leave soon, we need to be ready.” said Maria.

“Where are we going to be looking for stuff?” I asked, “Ash had a point, we have been a little locust-y on the local supplies.”

“We have a couple of choices there as I see it, “explained Gerry, “We can either go out of town, which will mean having to hope that those areas aren't already occupied or picked over, or we can start going house to house in some of the residential parts of town. There would be less risk of finding nothing or coming across a group who would attack us, but there would probably be a greater risk of zed contact or with a small group of other survivors who may see us as hostile.”

“So we can choose a rock or a hard place?” asked Beth.


The rest of our discussion was about making up a list of what we need to look for. Clothes, weapons, food, ammunition, fuel (for the vehicles and the stoves), vehicles large enough for us and out supplies, and able to drive through snowy terrain. That sort of stuff.

Not that I would tell anyone else this, but I do feel uncomfortable with the idea of leaving Covenant. I know there is nothing left here for me, but I still kind of want to stay. Maybe it's because I've not really left town much in the last few years even before everything that's happened this year. Maybe it's because I know that when I leave this time it will probably be for good, that I will never see this town again.

Anyway, the plan is to leave on New Year's Eve. So in three more days and It's goodbye to Covenant. As I write this, it's just me and Sharon here in the Snacky Mart again. The others are out looking for our supplies as I write this.

It is unbelievably boring here. Sharon is just sitting there on her sleeping bag and staring off into space. I'm glad that she's stopped crying, it was creepy.

I've been trying to find creative ways to entertain myself. I finished that final issue of F&SF, and don't feel like reading any of the news magazines; not only are they all months old, but they are full of the crap information we were getting when this all started. Part of me thinks reading about what the government thought they knew about the “Zed Virus”would be funny, but most of me thinks it would just be depressing.

I found some decks of cards in a box in the back,, and played solitaire for awhile (I also stuck a couple of decks in my satchel). , and then passed some time trying to make paper airplanes out of the foil-paper hot dog wrappers. That didn't work though (the paper is too light to fly properly), so I made a half a dozen paper cranes instead.

You know, I never gave much thought to it, but a cold and empty roller-grill is a really sad thing. Never again will wieners or breakfast taquitos spin on that grill. Never again will someone get to eat a piece of food that has been spinning there for 12 hours, taunting customers with is salty fatty goodness.

Sharon's up walking.

Okay, I don't know if I feel good about that or not. Sharon just walked up to me, looked through my eyes (which is to say that she was looking me in the eyes, but with that distant stare she's had for the last few days, like she's not really seeing me), and smiled.

“Sharon? Are you okay? Are you hungry or something?” I asked.

Sharon cocked her head a little to the left and kept looking through me.

“Do you want something? Do you even hear me?”I waved my hand in front of her.

Sharon smiled a little then, and without ever focusing her eyes, reached out and hugged me. She pulled me tight against her, and I didn't know how to react. Part of me wanted to hug her back, but this was not a friendly comforting kind of hug, and to respond to it would be inappropriate, you know?

I think if I were a worse person, I could take advantage of her the way she is.

Wow, I kind of feel like a piece of shit for even thinking that, but I think she wouldn't even try to stop me. I could be wrong though, she might beat me to death with a shelf. Of course she could decide to do that anyway. I deserve it for even pursuing this line of thinking.

Just for the record, I limited my actions to just hugging her back in a friendly way, and asking, “Are you still in there somewhere? If you are... if you are, Tara wanted me to tell you that she's sorry for everything that happened.”

Sharon squeezed me tightly one last time, and then let go, turned and walked back over to the soda dispenser and sat back on her sleeping bag.

I really wish there was someone here I could talk with. I need someone to talk to right now, someone who can talk back. I don't feel good. I feel bad for having those sorts of thoughts about Sharon. I feel like I'm betraying Tara somehow. I feel like a pervert.

I miss Tara so much

I feel alone.

I'm tired suddenly.