YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE...MAYBE TWICE!
Hi everyone, I have a new book coming out (out as of right now). The Dead and The Living. I thought I would post a little of it here as a bit of a teaser. The book is not edited just yet (mid September is when edits start). I will be releasing it before the edits are completed. I am only releasing it early because of a beta reader. It has been brought to my attention that one of my beta readers is stealing content (copyright content) and maybe be using it for their own personal gain. It sucks, but it happens. I am one of the lucky ones who took the steps to protect myself. I put my book files on Amazon before sending it out to a group of beta readers (time and date stamped through Amazon).
So, with all that being said, here is the first two chapters. Please let me know what you think and if you would like to be in the drawing. I will also do another drawing once edits are done and I have copies in print. I will sign copies and send out to the winners. Thanks everyone.
Also, word documents don't translate when posting here.
Here is the link to the book. It is now live on Amazon and is in the hands of my editor as I type this.
The early morning fog slowly moved across the clearing in front of him. Chris took a breath as he took a knee at the edge of the tree line of the forest that he had been walking through since sometime yesterday afternoon. He listened to the world around him. It was eerily quiet. Chris wasn’t used to it being this quiet. He was used to the sounds of people screaming—dying while being eaten alive by the infected bastards that he and other survivors of this new world called walkers. The world he had once known was no more. The life he had once lived was a distant memory that was slowly starting to fade. Chris had lost a part of himself somewhere between the old world and this new nightmarish one that he was living in now. It was like living a nightmare that was right out of a horror movie. Chris narrowed his eyes as he peered through the fog, watching it as it slowly moved across the field in front of him. He thought he could see something through the fog and in the distance—a building of some sort. He looked over his shoulder and back into the woods. The sound of rain hitting the dead leaves that covered the forest floor echoed. He shivered with a chill that ran the length of his body. He was soaking wet from the rain and the elements he had endured for the last twenty-four hours.
Chris started to stand when the crunching sound of dead leaves and the snapping of tree branches echoed through the stillness of the forest behind him. It was the first time he had heard a sound—the first time in over a day he had heard anything but himself making a noise while running through the forest. Chris’s heart fluttered as it ticked a beat faster. His eyes were wide as he looked through the woods—waiting for the undead to show themselves. Chris gripped his rifle tightly in his hand. He slowly moved it to his shoulder as he looked down the barrel and through the sights. He held his breath and listened. The beating of his heart echoed into his ears. Chris took a quick breath and then let it out—the steam from his heated breath rose in front of his face. Come on . . . show yourself. Chris thought as the moved his rifle from one side to the other. His finger danced in and out of the trigger well as he looked for one of the undead to shoot. Maybe it’s just an animal. He narrowed his eyes as the voice in his head tried to convince him that it wasn’t a walker. Chris thought that it wasn’t more than one—at least he hoped it wasn’t. He knew if it was a horde of walkers, he didn’t stand a chance. He was one man—one man that couldn’t take on more than two or three of them at a time.
Chris slowly stood as he looked deeper into the forest. He could see nothing but the trees that had been there since the dawn of time. The sounds of someone or something walking across the forest floor had faded as quickly as it had started. It caused him to question himself. Had he heard what he thought he had heard. He shook his head and shrugged his shoulders as if someone had asked him that very question. The sound of rain hitting the leaves was the only sound that now filled the world around him—that and the beating of his heart. Chris slowly turned back to the clearing in front him. The fog had lifted just enough to allow him to see beyond the field in front of him. He could see what looked to be an old gas station. He looked at the old building for a brief second and then stepped out into the clearing. He took a few small steps and then forced himself to take a few larger ones. It wasn’t but a few seconds later that Chris had picked up his pace and was now running across the open field and towards the building. He was running like a bat out of hell. He didn’t want to be out in the open for long. He knew to be this exposed right now was inviting trouble—trouble that would be from both the dead and the living.
Chris was focused on the building in front of him as he ran towards it. He was in mid stride when he stumbled and fell to the ground—tripping on a root of some sort that stuck out of the ground. The building had filled Chris’s mind with hope—hope that he knew not to have in this dark and evil world. Hope was for the dying, not the living. The thought of getting out of the cold and rainy elements had consumed his mind—he had tunnel vision. It was that momentary lapse of tunnel vision that had caused him to make a mistake—a mistake that he couldn’t afford to make. It was this kind of mistakes that could get him killed or worse. He could be bitten and becoming one of them. Chris rolled onto his back and took a breath. He looked at the dark grey sky above him as droplets of rain pelted him in his face. He lifted his head off the ground and quickly looked around. He could see no one or nothing but the field he was lying in and the woods that were nearly eighty yards behind him.
Damn you Christopher! The voice inside his head scolding him. One mistake is all it takes. You know this world. You know that one little slip up and your dead . . . Or you become one of those things. Chris vowed to not let himself become one of the walkers. He would kill himself first. He kept one bullet in his pocket for that reason and that reason alone. He had told himself if he was ever bitten, he would put the barrel of his gun in his mouth and pull the trigger. It was an act that would have been considered suicide in the old world. It was now an act of mercy. Chris rolled over and onto his hands and knees. He leaned back onto the hunches of his feet. He felt the grittiness of dirt and debris in his mouth. Chris turned his head and spat. He spat dark brown dirt—at least he hoped that it was all dirt and not shit from the cattle that had once filled this filed. He ran the sleeve of his jacket across his mouth—it too was caked in mud and god knew what else. Chris spat again for good measure and then lifted himself off the wet ground. He shook his head and thought that if this had happened in the old world he would have cursed and then laughed his ass off at having done something so stupid. It wasn’t the old world and there was no point in cursing aloud or laughing at what his dumb ass had just done. He knew to make a sound would only bring the undead to him or alert the living that he was around.
Chris stood and walked the few steps to his rifle. He picked it up and had a quick look around before checking to make sure that it hadn’t been damaged. It seemed okay. The rifle wasn’t as covered in mud and whatever else that was in this field as Chris himself was. The rifle would need a good cleaning—something Chris was diligent about doing when he was in an area that was safe to do so. The last few weeks it had been rather rare to be in an area that was safe to do anything. Chris was about to take a step when the hair on the back of his neck stood on end alerting him that something was wrong. It was a gift Chris had been blessed with—a gift that he had used in the old world a lot and more in this new world. It was an instinct that had saved his life on more than one occasion. Chris brought his rifle up and into his shoulder as he began looking around—slowly turning in a circle until he faced the old building he had been running towards. He could see nothing and no one—dead or alive. Chris let out a sigh of relief as he took a step and winched with pain. It was then that he felt the effects of not only falling flat on his face but from the root that had tripped him. He took a step and gritted his teeth. It was his ankle. He wasn’t sure if it was a bad sprain from twisting it or if it was broken. He thought he could rule it out as being broken—he had walked on and felt nothing but then again that didn’t meant anything. The adrenalin that pumped through his body was a great equalizer of pain.
Damnit Christopher! He cursed himself as he began hobbling across the open field and towards the building. If it is broken, you just signed your own death warrant. Stopping as he shifted his weight to one foot while moving the other one in a slow semi-circle. He could feel it starting to swell and thought that it was just a bad sprain. He told himself that if it was broken, he wouldn’t have been able to move it the way that he was moving it now. He wasn’t a doctor and it wasn’t that much of an educated guess. He was just guessing and telling himself to rub some dirt on it and keep moving. It was what his old football coach—coach Robertson—would have told him to do. Chris hobbled across the field and only stopped when he came to an old cattle wire fence. It was rusted and just looking at it made Chris wonder if his tetanus shot was up to date. If something in this shitty world has to kill me . . . why not tetanus. He thought while looking at the fence. If it wasn’t for bad luck, I would have no luck at all. He took a breath and let out with a heavy sigh while following the outline of the fence in hopes of finding a way of getting past it without having to lift himself up and over it. Chris shook his head and grumbled. It looked as if there was only one way to get through it and that was by going over it.
Chris took his backpack off and laid it on the other side of the fence. He did the same with his rifle and instantly felt a bit naked without it in his hands. He was fearful that walkers would come rushing out of the woods to devour him now that he was somewhat unarmed. He still had his handgun but if a horde made their presence known his long gun was the better option at this distance—at least that is what he told himself. Chris felt the hair on the back of his neck standing on end as images of the undead flooding the field began to fill his mind. Keep those damn thoughts out of your mind Christopher. No sense in letting fear get ahold of you. The time for being scared has passed. He nodded in agreement as if the voice inside his head was that of a person standing next to him. It was something he thought might become a problem in the future—voices inside his head and answering them. It was the first sign of going crazy. The world that he was living in now wasn’t too far from causing him to go insane. The survivors of this ungodly world were more terrifyingly to him than that of the undead bastards that walked the face of the earth.
Chris gingerly rested the weight of his body on the ankle he had just twisted. He gritted his teeth while lifting his good leg up and over the fence. It took him a few painful minutes to get across—those few minutes felt like hours, but he had finally made it. He took a quick breath and felt week from the fiery hot pain of his ankle that now consumed him. It throbbed like a toothache—maybe worse than that of a toothache. He leaned against the wire fence as the pain damn near caused him to fall to his knees. It was going to be one hell of a walk to the station that sat nearly fifty yards away. He looked across the road at the building. It felt like the building was laughing at him as he stared at it—mocking him for falling. He pulled his pants leg up and had a look at his ankle. It was swollen and starting to make his boot feel a bit tight. He wasn’t willing to admit to himself just yet that his ankle was broken. Stop thinking the worst. It could always get a hell of a lot worse. Chris chuckled like a madman as the voice inside his head echoed. He knew he needed to get across the road and inside the old gas station as soon as possible. He needed to take his boot off and prop his foot up to allow the swelling to go down. He needed a place to rest his head for the night. He knew he wasn’t going to be walking anymore today. He knew to do so would be risking his life and maybe injuring himself worse than what he already was. He couldn’t run and he could barely hobble. It was a hell of a place to be—caught between a rock and a hard place and the undead. He was a walking meat stick for the undead to feast on.
Chris leaned over and picked up his backpack and then slung it across his shoulders before doing the same with his rifle. He placed the palm of his hand on the butt of his holstered handgun. It was the first time he had checked to make sure it was there since falling in the middle of the field. He breathed a sigh of relief that it was—he couldn’t bear the thought of having to cross the fence and walk back to where he had fallen just to see if his gun was lying in the mud. Chris took a quick look around and then began limping across the road and towards the gas station. The station looked to have been built in the late forties if not the early fifties. It had three service bay doors that led into the service area of the old station—something you don’t see with most modern gas stations in America. Gas stations in the modern world were more about selling you your favorite beverage and snack than helping you fix your car. This station was from a different time—a different error than the one he had lived in before the outbreak. It was from a time when people truly cared about one another. It was before the world had gone to Hell in a hand basket. Chris hobbled a bit closer and noticed that the gas pumps looked to have been updated at some point—maybe five or ten years ago. It wasn’t the kind of gas pumps that you would see at all modern gas stations. It didn’t have the TV screens that would give you the news while filling your tank full of premium gas.
Chris finished crossing the road as he limped into the parking lot of the station. He stumbled his way over to the gas pumps to have a closer look at them. I should have stolen a car before I left. I shouldn’t have started out alone and on foot. He narrowed his eyes in knowing that he had no one to take with him. He was truly along in this world. I shouldn’t have left with only a few hours of daylight remaining in the day. He shook his head and cursed himself as he started to second guess each decision he had made since yesterday—maybe every decision he had made since the night of the outbreak. Chris left a group of survivors that he had been with for two and half months. He had left to not only save himself but to get away from a madman that he felt was far worse than the walkers ever dared to be. Deacon. Deacon was the kind of man that thrived on the misery and carnage of others. He relished in the torment and fear that he and his group of survivors could inflict on those that were unable to protect themselves. Chris had witnessed things that would turn a man’s stomach. Vile acts committed against humanity. He had seen things he couldn’t keep turning a blind eye to. Things that were being done to the living that were far worse than one could imagine. He knew to stay with them meant that he condoned their vile and evil actions. He had made his voice known among the group of survivors and with Deacon himself. He knew to speak out anymore would mean his death. Deacon was the kind of man that had ice water running through his veins. He was a man to be feared and one that needed to be praised by those within his group. Chris wasn’t the kind of man that would ever praise a sick and twisted son of a bitch like Deacon.
Chris had spent three and half months on his own while fighting the dead and looking for the living. He had prayed to God for help—for someone to come and help him survivor this untamed apocalyptic world that was overrun by the undead. He prayed to find a group of survivors. It wasn’t until he found Deacon and his group that his prayers had changed. He prayed for a way to escape them. He prayed to be rid of them and once again on his own. Chris had taken an oath as an officer of the law—an oath that he still felt needed to be uphold. He had taken an oath to serve and protect those that couldn’t protect themselves. It was an oath he had taken and one he had failed at doing. He wasn’t sure how to protect anyone in this nightmarish world that was filled with the living dead. Chris had seen people who had once been good and honorable do unmentionable things in order to survive. He had witnessed the killing of those that refused to bow down and take a knee in honor of their new King. Deacon. Deacon was to be their savor—the one who would not only keep them safe but save them from the walkers and those that dared go against them. Chris would rather die than be a part of what Deacon and his group were doing to survive. It wasn’t who he was—not in the old world or the new one. He wouldn’t bend at the knee—not for Deacon and not for anyone.
Chris blinked his eyes as his mind slowly faded from thought. He took a breath and let it out as he stepped between the pumps and then limped to the front entrance of the station. He looked at the double glassed doors with is rifle in hand. He stood there waiting for the walkers to come shambling out of the building. It didn’t happen. He wondered how many were inside waiting for him—waiting so they could make him their next meal. Maybe the dead are not the ones who inhabit this place. His heart ticked a beat faster as he took another breath and slowly let it out. The thought of the living being inside made him almost wish that he would find a pack of walkers. He looked at the building and found it odd that the windows and the doors still had glass in them. It was one of the few places that looked to have gone untouched by looters. The voice inside his head was screaming—warning him to not to go inside. It was no use. He wasn’t paying attention to the voice of reasoning. The pain of his ankle was far too great. He needed a place to not only rest but to warm up and stay the night. He needed to get out of his soaking wet clothes and out of the rain before he caught phenomena.
Chris limped a few steps towards the set of doors. He found himself saying a prayer as he walked. It wasn’t a prayer of asking God for protection—that shipped had sailed a long time ago. Chris was praying that there would be some food left on the shelves and a bottle or two of painkillers. He also hoped for running water—fresh water to fill his canteen. He would drink himself sick if he found the cooler stocked with bottles of water and other soft drinks. He wondered if he might find some beer or whisky still on the shelves. It might be the only thing to help take the edge off his throbbing ankle. It had been a long time since Chris had had a drink of liquor. He was sure his tolerance for alcohol was mighty low. If he found something strong to drink, he couldn’t allow himself to get carried away. He had to keep a level head if he wanted to survive. Chris was mere inches from the doors when he came to an abrupt stop. He stood there looking at the glass of the doors. The glass had a bloody handprint smeared across it. He let his eyes trace the bloody handprint to the outside handle of the doors. It too had blood on it. The voice inside his head wasn’t just talking. It was screaming with each second that passed.
Chris looked over his shoulder and at the field and the fence he had just crossed. He then looked up and down the road. He could see nothing in sight—no one and nowhere else to go to get out of the elements and off his ankle. He wasn’t exactly sure where he was but thought he might be on the outskirts of a small town in Virginia called Broadway. He had been in the city of Harrisonburg Virginia when he had left the group and started out for parts unknown. He walked for hours and miles before coming to the clearing he had just crossed. Chris had had no plan and no vision of where he was going. He wanted to be as far away from Deacon and his group of killers as he could be. He had stayed far longer than he had planned on staying. He had reasoned with himself to stay one more day. He had told himself to gather some things and to form a plan and then leave. That one more day had turned into being a couple of months. It was within those couple of months that Chris had witnessed the evil that dwelled not only within the group but within Deacon himself.
Chris turned and looked at the glass door in front of him as the voice inside his head began to whisper to him. If you stay out here, you will die. He nodded his head and took a breath. The voice was right. He couldn’t risk being out here on his own—alone and without anyone to help him should he find a group of walkers. The burning question that now filled his mind caused his heart to flutter. Is going inside worth the risk? Is finding someone else inside that is alive worth the risk? He narrowed his eyes in thought while looking at the doors. Ask yourself, Christopher, is it worth staying out here and on the road injured? The voice inside his head was now a conflicting one. One was telling him yes, it was worth going inside, while the other one was saying no, it wasn’t worth going inside. It was like having the Devil on one shoulder and an angel of God on the other. Chris knew he was damned either way. He knew to do anything else but except his fate was only prolonging what was to eventually come. Death. He bit the inside of his lip and knew that when his time came, he would go out fighting. He would go out as a dead man and not as a brain lust zombie.
Chris felt a chill spreading across his body as he stood there staring at the glass with the bloody handprint smeared across it. It looked as if someone had started to fall and caught themselves on the door. Chris’s mouth felt bone dry as he looked at the handprint. He could feel his heart ticking as it began to pound like thunder in the center of his chest. He wanted to turn and hobble away but the voice inside his head stopped him. You won’t make it through the night if you stay out here. You need to go inside and get off that busted up ankle of yours. He knew to go inside this old building was a roll of the dice. He could roll a snake eyes and crap out, but he was hoping to roll a seven or an eleven—winner, winner, chicken dinner.
“To hell with this,” Chris mumbled.
Chris started to reach out and touch the door with his hand and open it when he abruptly stopped. He was about to break the golden rule of entering what appeared to be an empty building. He was about open the door and step inside without first knocking to see if anyone was home—alive or undead. Chris put the barrel of his rifle to the glass of the door and began tapping it. Tap—tap—tap. He wasn’t sure if the taps of his barrel against the door was loud enough, so he moved the barrel of his rifle from the glass of the doors to the metal handle and banged it a few times. Chris finished banging the barrel of his rifle on the door and took a painful step backwards as he waited to see who might come running out. He stood there for a couple of minutes with nothing happening, so he repeated the process. Once again nothing happened. It felt like it was Christmas morning and he was waiting for his parents to get up so he could open his presents. Chris hobbled back over to the set of glass doors and breathed a small sigh of relief. It was only a momentary sigh of relief. He still had to go inside, and anything could happen to him once he did. Chris placed the barrel of his rifle to the glass of the door and pushed it open. He stepped inside with his rifle in his shoulder and at the ready. The beating of his heart echoed in his ears.
Chris moved his rifle from side to side as he scanned the interior of the building. He could see seven or eight aisles. The shelves looked to be fully stocked. He could feel himself starting to become a bit giddy with excitement. The old out of the way gas station had gone untouched. It was in that moment that the voice inside his head told him to stop acting a fool. The bloody handprint belonged to someone—someone that was either dead or alive or undead. It was hard to fathom that there were now three options in this godforsaken world. He stood there as his hands trembled and his legs felt weak. His ankle throbbed with pain. He was as of right now one of those three options. He was alive but for how long was anyone’s guess. Chris held his rifle in his shoulder as he slowly started to turn his body from one side to the other. He cautiously looked at everything. He could feel his finger taking the slack out the trigger—stopping just before pulling it all the way back and firing his weapon. He could feel his nerves starting to get the best of him. He was ready to put a whole into something that didn’t need a whole put into it.
Chris took a step towards one of the aisles and cleared his throat. He was now just mere inches from entering one of the aisles. He stopped himself from going any further as he spoke.
“If you are one of the living, I don’t aim to do you any harm,” Chris said as he stumbled across the floor and into the first aisle. His eyes were wide as he stared down the aisle. His heart ticked a beat faster as relief filled him that it was empty. He turned and stepped back into the main part of the building and began walking to the next aisle, “If you are injured . . . I can help.”
Chris found each of the aisles to be empty. He stood in the middle of the store with his head cocked to the side—listening to the sounds of the building. He focused on what was normal and what might not be a normal sound. The beating of his heart made it harder to determine. Chris stumbled to the counter and leaned his body against it while looking down a small hallway. He could see two doors on the left side of the wall with a sign hanging over them. One was a women’s bathroom and the other was the men’s bathroom. He started to walk into the hallway when he noticed a light switch on the wall. The natural light from outside had filtered in but the building was still a bit dark. He could see just beyond the hallway a door—a wooden door with glass in the center of it. He knew that door lead into the service area of the gas station. Chris needed to clear the two bathrooms and then the service area as well. He looked over his shoulder and towards the coolers in the back of the store. He could see set of double doors leading into what he knew to be a stockroom.
“If you can hear me,” Chris said as he flipped the switch and turned the light on overhead, “I am here to help. I just wanted to get out of the rain for a few hours and then be on my way.
Chris looked at the floor and saw a trail of blood. His heart just about stopped. The trail of blood led into the one bathroom. He put one foot in front of the other as he walked the short distance to the bathrooms. He stopped at the women’s bathroom door and took a breath before opening it—letting out the breath he had just taken when he stepped inside and found the restroom empty. He backed out and into the hallway and now stood in front of the men’s restroom. It was where the trail of blood had led to. He looked at the trail of crimson red and swallowed what little saliva he could muster.
“I’m going to open the door now,” Chris said as he placed a hand onto the knob of the door and began to twist it, “Don’t shoot . . . I’m not going to hurt you. I can help you.”
Chris started to open the bathroom door when he heard a noise behind him. It was the sound of shuffling feet followed by a growling hiss of a moan. Chris turned and found himself nearly face to face with a walker. The bastard had snuck up on him. The two of them were separated by eight feet—give or take a few inches. Chris felt his heart leaping into his throat as it skipped a beat and damn near stopped. The walker growled a hiss as it began to reach for him. He had little time to think. He had only time to react. He pulled the trigger of his rifle and fired one shot—one shot to the head. Chris watched as the bullet entered the man’s forehead, jerking his head backwards and spraying the air with both blood and bring mater. The walker had been in mid step when the bullet entered and exited out the back of his head. Chris watched in horror as the man fell backwards and hit the floor like a sack of rotten potatoes. He couldn’t believe just how close the bastard had gotten to him without him knowing. Chris looked at the body and then back into the main part of the store. He quickly limped forward with the barrel of his rifle leading the way. Chris made it back into the main part of the store and found no other walkers waiting for him. The only thing that caught his attention was the stockroom door was still swinging back and forth.
Chris quickly turned and pointed his rifle down the hallway behind him. He looked past the bathrooms and towards the door leading into the service area. It was the kind of door that had a knob and a lock on it. It wasn’t a swinging door like the one leading into the stockroom. Chris limped back down the hallway and to the bathroom door. He pressed his back against the wall as the fear of what had just happened gripped him. You should have checked the stockroom before moving on to the bathrooms. The voice inside his head scolded him. He held his rifle in a death grip while looking at the men’s restroom door. Get the hell out of here. The voice that had scolded him now screamed. Chris shook his head no. He couldn’t leave. He couldn’t go back out there. His ankle was throbbing, and it felt like he was walking in quicksand. The ankle was twice its normal size and he needed to get off it. Chris gritted his teeth through the pain as he brought his rifle back up and into his shoulder. He pulled the trigger and fired his weapon into the bathroom door and the walls around it. He pulled the trigger until he heard a metallic click. His rifle was empty. His ears were ringing as he dropped the empty magazines from his rifle and slammed a fresh into it. He hit the bolt release on the side of the rifle and chambered a new round. Chris took a breath and let it out as he tried to steady himself and calm his nerves. His hands trembled as he turned the knob of the bathroom door and pushed it open—holding his rifle in one hand with his finger on the trigger as he stepped inside. Chris started to pull the trigger when he caught sight of a man lying on the floor. The man was dead and had been for a while.
“Damn you!” Chris shouted at the dead man.
Chris leaned his back against the frame of the bathroom door as he gulped in breathes. The adrenaline pumped through his body like a runaway freight train barreling down the tracks. Chris blinked his eyes and gritted his teeth. Beads of sweat began to trickle down the side of his face. He looked at the man lying on the floor—his brains had been blown out. Chris could see a gun lying on the floor next to him. He looked at the gun and then at the man himself. He noticed an exit wound in the back of the man’s head and just a few inches above him the walls were caked in what was left of his brains. The man had placed the barrel of his gun inside his mouth and pulled the trigger. Chris wondered if the man had done that because he been bitten or because he had lost hope. His eyes wondered over the man’s lifeless form and it was than he noticed a rather large bite mark on his arm.
“Poor bastard,” Chris said, knowing that he himself would have done the same thing if he had been bitten.
Chris looked at the man and then back into the hallway. He breathed a sigh of relief that the hallway was still empty. He couldn’t afford to let his guard down—not like he had done just moments before. Chris started to step back out in the hall when he noticed something pinned to the man’s shirt. It looked like a piece of paper folded over with the words please read me scrolled across it. He shook his head and told himself no. He told himself to leave the note. It was a trap. The man wasn’t dead. He was just playing possum. He looked at the man and then at the gun lying beside him. It was a Glock and Chris knew it was a Glock G19. He could use the extra 9mm rounds and the magazines to go along with the one he himself was carrying. It didn’t hurt to have an extra gun either. The voice inside his head cursed him as he took one small step and crept forward. He stopped just inches away from the man and kicked him. Chris hobbled backwards with his eyes wide and rifle at the ready. The man didn’t move. He’s dead dumb ass. His brains are all over the damn wall.
Chris took a step forward and then took a knee beside the dead man. He slowly began to reach out for the letter pinned to his chest—watching the man for any sudden movements. Chris knew he wouldn’t be able to do much but shit himself should the man open his eyes and leap out and bite him. He felt the prickly feeling of his flesh as the thought of the man opening his eyes and biting him sored through his mind. Chris quickly pulled the letter off the lifeless man’s chest and leaped to his feet—ankle screaming a white-hot fiery of pain as he moved across the floor and back into the doorway of the bathroom. He stood there for a moment looking at the man and then at the empty hallway. Chris looked over his shoulder and at the door leading into the service area of the station. He had to check that area before moving to the stockroom and calling it a night. He had to clear the building and make sure that he had indeed found a good place to hold up for the night—maybe a few days until his ankle had healed enough to walk on it. Chris held the letter in his hand. He looked at it and wondered if he should wait to read it. He narrowed his eyes in thought before opening it. The crinkled paper echoed as Chris unfolded it. It sounded a million times louder than what it truly was. He took one last look into the hallway and over his shoulder at the service area before reading the letter.
If you are reading this, it means I am dead. I am sorry Brandy. I tried my darling little girl. I tried. Chris felt a lump growing in his throat. It wasn’t what he had expected. It wasn’t a letter of confession. It was a letter to a child—a child that would be without its father. Chris had seen notes like this before. He had witnessed the aftermaths of a suicide. It was a hell of a thing for a family to have to go through—a hell of a thing for someone like Chris who had been in law enforcement to have to deal with. He had done it more times than he cared to remember. It had affected him deeply as it should anyone with a conscience. The job that Chris had done in law enforcement sometimes caused one to become harden to such tragic moments as the one before him now. Chris was one of the lucky few whose heart hadn’t hardened to these tragic events. He took a breath and let it out as he read on. I want you to know how much I love you and how much joy you brought to my world. I couldn’t imagine my life without you in it. I couldn’t imagine not coming home to you and your mother every day. I guess today is the day that I don’t come home to you. I can’t tell you how sorry I am. I can’t tell you that . . . The letter stopped and then started with a new paragraph. Chris wondered what the man was about to say and why he hadn’t said it. Now was the time to say it and not hold back.
Chris looked up from the letter and at the man. He looked at him and wondered what he had done for a living. What had he been like before the outbreak? He wondered if the man was truly this loving in the old world or had he been an asshole who was now trying to make up for being an asshole. He couldn’t allow himself to think that way—to think that way would be judging a man he didn’t know. Chris was sure the man had a reason for being out here alone. He shifted his weight and leaned more into the door frame of the bathroom. I remember the day you were born. I remember holding you in my arms and calling you my little princess. You were so tiny and so perfect and beautiful. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be your dad. I am proud of the person you are. I am proud of the women you became. Chris raised a brow. The sentence he had just read had caught him off-guard. He had pictured a man writing to his little girl—telling his daughter how he felt one last time before leaving this unholy world. Brandy promise me that no matter what happens you will survive this world and help rebuild it. Promise me. The thought of you doing that brings me a warmth to me and my soul unlike anything I have ever felt before. I know if you are a part of rebuilding this new world it can only become one thing and that is something not only amazing but beautiful and perfect just as you are. Chris noticed the words had started to smear just a little. He was sure the man had started to cry, and it was his tears that had smeared the words. I love you my little princess.
Chris read the last of the note. He could feel his eyes starting to tear up. It was something he himself had wished he had had from his mother. Chris’s mother had been killed while Christmas shopping. She had gone missing and had been missing for four weeks until her body had been found in the woods by a hunter who had just happened to stumble onto her. It was the reason Chris had become a cop. He wanted to catch men like the one who had killed his mother. Chris started to fold the paper up when he noticed another sheet attached to it. He separated the two pieces of paper. It was another note but this time it wasn’t for Brandy. It was for him. To who it may concern. If you have found this letter, I ask of you to do one last thing for me. One thing I couldn’t do myself. I ask that you find my daughter and give her the letter. I need for her to know just how much I loved her. I need her to know that she was my world. My name is Carl Yassa. My daughter’s name is Brandy Yassa. We are a part of a group of survivors. Our last known location was an old warehouse in the town of Broadway. I have it marked on a map inside my bag. Chris looked up from the letter and at the man. He had not seen a bag when he had taken the note off the man’s chest. He could see something lying on the floor inside the bathroom stall. Chris hobbled over to the stall and pushed the door open and found the backpack the man had written about. He leaned over and lifted it off the ground by its straps.
Chris limped his way across the bathroom floor and back out into the hallway. He dropped the backpack onto the floor and leaned against the wall as he finished reading the letter. If you are the kind of person that I hope you to be. I ask of you to find my daughter, give her this letter and do what I failed to do. Protect her. Chris breathed a heavy sigh as his mind began to wonder as to what he should do. He couldn’t leave this note for someone else. He had been the one who had found it. He still had a sense of duty to a world that no longer had the rule of law. Chris looked at the letter and read it one more time before folding it and putting it into his breast pocket.
Chris took the short few steps back into the bathroom. He looked at the man lying on the floor with his brains splattered across the bathroom wall.
“I’ll do it. I will find her and give her the letter,” he said while looking at the man whose eyes were lifeless and staring back at him, “I will do whatever I can to protect her.”
Chris hobbled back out into the hallway and turned towards the door that lead into the service bay area. He looked at the door and took a breath and let it out with a heavy sigh. It was time to finish searching the building. It was time to get this over with one way or the other. His ankle throbbed. He needed to find a place to lie down and prop his leg up to allow the swelling to go down. He would grab a bottle or two of painkillers and down a handful of them and then eat something. Chris slung his rifle over his shoulder and pulled his handgun from its holster. He turned the knob of the door and flung it open as he quickly stepped through hit—waving the gun from one side to the other. He stood in place for a moment while looking around the garage area. It looked empty of walkers—at least it appeared to be. Chris looked at the cars that filled the three spots in the service bay area. One was an older model Corvette—late eighties he thought. The hood of the car was up, and it sat on jack stands. Chris limped past it and stopped. He came to a car that he not only loved but had wanted since he had been a teenager. It was a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T. He hobbled to the driver’s side door and peeked inside. He noticed a set of keys in the ignition and smiled.
Chris opened the driver’s side door and started to get in. He stopped himself and had another quick look around. He didn’t need any more surprises. He looked around the garage and could see no signs of anyone or anything other than the three vehicles. Chris wondered if the walker that he had shot and killed was the owner of the gas station. He wondered if the man had been working in the garage when the outbreak had happened. He had paid little attention to what the man had been wearing but thought he had had on a pair of overalls. Chris leaned into the car and made sure that it was in park. He turned the key ignition to see if the lights in the dash would light up. He smiled and let out a sigh of relief. The battery still held a charge and the gauges on the dash looked to be in working order. He looked at the gas gauge and noticed the car had nearly a full tank of gas. He switched the car off and quietly closed the door. Chris wanted to start it up and see if it would run but he didn’t want the noise to alert any walkers that might be nearby. He was sure the gunfire had been enough to do that. He took a painful step backwards as he stood there looking at the beautiful beast of a car and thought that it wasn’t very particle of a vehicle for the situation that he now found himself in. He looked over the roof of the car and at the vehicle sitting in the service bay next to the Charger. It was an old Ford Bronco. Chris limped over to it and did the same as he had done with the Charger. It too seemed to be in working order. He now had a decision to make. Shit. I’m not going anywhere any time soon. I can decide what one I will take later. Chris thought as he began walking towards the door that lead back inside the gas station.
Chris was halfway to the door when a shadowy figure danced across the wall in front of him. He quickly turned with his gun up and at the ready. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end and his muscles had gone ridged with fear. Chris blinked his eyes as his heart raced while looking across the garage and where he had just come from. He could see nothing—nothing but the three vehicles that he had just inspected. Chris’s heart thudded in the center of his chest and his mouth was bone dry as another shadowy figured danced across the walls of the dimly lit garage. It was like he was surrounded by shadowy figures. It felt like the walls were closing in on him. Chris jerked his head to the side and looked towards the windows in the rear of the garage. It wasn’t just one shadowy figure that had shambled by the windows. It was many. Chris felt his breath catching in his throat as he counted the walkers that were now walking by the windows. He had counted to ten when his mind kicked into gear and told him to get the hell out of there. He turned and quickly hobbled across the garage floor and to the door he had come through minutes before. His mind raced with thoughts as he pushed the door open and rushed inside with his rifle firmly planted into his shoulder and his finger on the trigger.
Chris abruptly stopped halfway down the hall. It was the first time he had taken a breath since he had entered the interior of the gas station. He felt a bit light headed—some of that was from the adrenalin rush and some of it was from the pain of his throbbing ankle. Lock the door. Chris nodded his head as he edged his way towards the end of the hallway. Lock the door Christopher and find a place to hold up until they pass by. The voice inside his head was already telling him that it was to late—he couldn’t leave. He was trapped. Chris narrowed his eyes and gritted his teeth. He wasn’t going to go down without a fight. He would kill as many of them as he could. He wouldn’t allow them to feast on him and his brain. Chris would turn the barrel of his gun on himself and do as Carl Yassa had done. He would pull the trigger and blow his own brains out. The blood and brain thirsty bastards that were now surrounding the store would get no pleasure from him. He would take that away from them. Chris still had the power to decide his own fate. He was still of sound mind—if anyone could be in this situation—and would use his mind to figure out this predicament he now found himself in.
Chris peeked around the corner and to the front doors. He could hear the hissing moans of the undead just outside the building—approaching quickly as they shambled across the sidewalk and the hardtop of the parking lot. He stood there with his eyes open wide while watching their shadows grow closer to the door. He looked at the glass doors. It was the kind of doors that swung both in and out. The doors had no real friction to them—easy to push or pull open. Chris cursed the world and himself as he leaped out from the hallway and hobbled in a half run and half limp to the set of doors. His hands trembled as he turned the locks on the doors—locking them and hoping they would hold. Chris had but a tick of a second to leap behind cover. He hit the floor as the doors raddled with walkers banging against them. He took a deep breath and winched in pain as his ankle screamed a fiery hot sensation. He started to cry out but held his tongue—the infected could smell him and he didn’t need them hearing him too. Chris rolled onto his back and propped himself up on his elbows as he had a look around. He was just a few feet from the front doors and just inches from the windows that lined the wall above him. He slowly moved his head towards the windows—shadows of the undead crept in. He rolled onto his hands and knees and began crawling to the cinderblock wall that separated him from the world outside and his would-be killers that now banged on the windows above him.
Chris could feel the urge brought on by fear to stand and run taking a hold of him. The voice inside his head told him to get up and move into the stockroom. It was the place he had to check. It was also the place the walker he had killed just minutes before had come from. Chris looked at the old wooden doors. It was the kind of doors that had two small windows dead center of them. The doors swung on the hingers allowing anyone to get in and out of the stockroom easily. Get your ass up and get in there. The voice inside his head screamed. He couldn’t. He couldn’t move a muscle. Chris knew to stand, and run would only cause a bigger problem. The mob of walkers would see him, and they would push their way through the glass doors and into the building—trapping him. He had seen it happen before. He had seen a mob of walkers stop at nothing to get to their prey that awaited them inside a building that had only glass barriers to stop them. It didn’t stop them, and the glass did nothing to slow them down. The undead felt no pain and they were fueled by a lust for both blood and brains.
Chris flinched as one of the walker’s head banged against the glass door. He felt his heart leaping into his throat and his breath quicken. The hissing moans of the undead echoed louder with each second that passed. He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth. He had to do something. He told himself to think. He told himself that if he stayed here, he would be eaten alive. The thought of that now consumed him. It was something he wouldn’t allow to happen. Chris opened his eyes and looked at the door and then at the windows above him. The glass was a smeared mess of both blood and God knew what else. He slung his rifle over his shoulder and pulled his handgun as he crawled on his belly towards the stockroom doors. Get inside. Check to make sure there are no walkers. Get to the roof. Chris’s mind formed a plan as he made it to the doors and opened them just enough to peek inside and then crawled through them. He didn’t let the doors swing shut. He held them and guided them back into place. Chris looked around the dimly lit stockroom—skylights in the ceiling above helped to light the room.
Chris lifted himself to one knee and planted his good foot on the floor in front him. He scanned the room with his handgun stretched out in front of him—wherever he turned his head the muzzle of his handgun went with him. His heart was beating like a drum as he looked around the stockroom. He tried to ignore the hissing sounds of the undead outside while concentrating on the interior of the stockroom. The sounds outside were growing. Chris lifted himself off the ground and limped into the center of the room. It wasn’t that big of a stockroom. It had a few boxes stacked on top of each other and shelves filled with various items. He noticed a room in the far-right corner with its door open. He could feel the hair on the back of his neck standing on end as he slowly limped towards it—gun up and at the ready. He held his finger on the trigger and knew with just a flinch of a pull he would send a bullet down range and into whomever dared to poke their head out of the room.
Chris made it to the doorway of the room. He could see a desk and a couple of filing cabinets in one corner and what appeared to be a cot in another corner. Rush in and be ready to pull the trigger. The voice inside his head commanded. Chris rushed in and scanned the room. He found no one inside but could tell someone had been staying here. He was sure it was the walker he had killed earlier. The man had been living here—maybe it had been the man’s full-time residence or maybe he had just gotten trapped here the night of the outbreak. Chris noticed another room with a door. The door to that room was cracked open and he could hear what he thought was the echoing sounds of dripping water. Bathroom. Chris limped to it slowly—the banging sound of undead bodies hitting the glass doors and windows caused him to act a bit quicker. He kicked the door open and held his gun out and at the ready to fire. Nothing. It was just a bathroom with a shower stall. Chris stepped inside and had a quick look around. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for until he found the medicine cabinet. He opened the cabinet and found a bottle of Tylenol and Ibuprofen. Chris grabbed them and popped the lid on both bottles and then dumped a handful of pills into his hand. He opened his canteen and tossed the pills into his mouth—not worrying about mixing the medications or taking more than the recommended dosage. He took a long pull of water from his canteen and swallowed.
Chris put the medication into his pants pocket and limped back out into the stockroom. He knew there had to be a way up and on to the roof. It took him a minute until he found the ladder that led to the hatch in the roof. Chris put his handgun back into its holster and hobbled towards the ladder—stopping just a couple of feet from the ladder when something on a shelf caught his attention. Flammable. The label on the canister caused Chris to smile and his mind to quickly form a plan. It was a small butane canister. The kind used for camping stoves. Chris grabbed a couple and put them into his backpack and headed for the ladder. You bastards are not going to know what hit you. He thought as he began climbing the ladder—taking each rung of the ladder as quickly as he could without falling. His ankle felt like mush and the pain from it caused him and his legs to feel a bit weak. I’m going to blow a few of you to tiny bits and pieces. I hope the rest of you burn. Chris could feel a laugh burbling up from within himself as he reached the top of the ladder. It’s time to send you blood thirsty bastards to Hell. He grunted a bit as he pushed metal hatch door. It took a bit more force for it to swing open. The damn thing hadn’t been opened in years and was nearly rusted shut.
Chris popped his head up through the hatch and had a quick look around. The rain had finally stopped but the air was much colder now. The sky had a dark greyish hue to it and the chill in the air reminded him of an approaching snowstorm—spring was a month or two away. Chris pulled himself up and onto the roof—leaving the hatch open as he quickly hobbled towards the front of the building. He leaned out over the edge and could see the infected below him—banging their bodies against the glass doors while hissing their angry moans of hunger. The bastards were pissed that they couldn’t get inside. Chris could feel his heart beating a tick faster with each second that past. His flesh crawled and his mind filled with thoughts and images of his death while watching the hungry creatures below him. The bastards were working hard to get inside, and it was only a matter of time until they succeeded in doing just that. It was shocking that the glass in the doors hadn’t broken yet. Chris looked at the angry mob of walkers and wondered how he was going to get himself out of this damn mess.
Chris turned away from the front of the station and looked across the roof to see if there was a way off. His heart sank to the pit of his stomach. The only way off the roof was to go back through the hatch and back into the stockroom below and out the front doors. He was not only trapped but screwed if this half-baked plan that he had formed while climbing ladder to the roof didn’t work. He would soon find out if he was going to become food for the angry walkers below. Damned if I do and damned if I don’t. He thought as he unslung his rifle and then dropped his backpack. He hobbled across the roof and to the backside of the building to have a look—hoping there would be something or someone that could help him. He knew if anyone was watching they wouldn’t dare come to his rescue. He wasn’t their problem. Chris looked over the ledge and at the ground below him. This backside of the station was used as overflow for parking. He looked at the parking lot below and found a newer car sitting about fifteen or so feet away. Chris could feel himself starting to smile as he looked at the car. He knew it had a car alarm and if he could get it to go off it would solve his problem with the walkers. The sound of the blaring alarm would draw them to it and away from the front of the store.
The hissing sounds of the undead were getting louder. He could hear the echoing of their bodies smashing against the glass doors and the windows that lined the front of the building. He had to act soon. Chris unslung his rifle and aimed at the car. He took a breath and held it as he pulled the trigger and fired one shot through the windshield—hoping it would set off the alarm. It didn’t. He fired another shot and again it did nothing to set off the alarm. The feeling of hope was now of hopelessness as he stood there looking at the car. He wished now that the car was a few years older—one of the ones with an alarm system that would go off if a bird landed on it. His shoulders started to slump in despair when a shadowy figure below him caught his attention. One of the undead had stepped out and around corner and was heading towards the backside of the parking lot. Chris wanted to jump for joy and shout at the top of his lungs. He had caught the attention of one of them and knew it was only a matter of time until more of them followed.
“Come on! What are you waiting for you ugly bastard!” Chris shouted, “Bring your friends with you!” whooping and hollering between words, “Let’s make this a party we won’t forget!”
The walker shambled into the parking lot and stopped. It stood there with his milky white dead eyes looking straight ahead. Chris noticed how the bastard sniffed the air. It was a like hunting dog sniffing for its pretty. It sniffed the air and took a few more steps forward and stopped. Chris was above the walker and knew it could no longer smell him. He watched as the walker shambled forward and then stopped and slowly started to turn around. Chris knew the infected bastard had lost interest and was about to head back to the front of the store. He shouted a bit more and then fired a shot into the car. It was the shot he needed and it damn near scared him to death. Chris flinched as the car alarm blared—echoing over the sounds of the infected that were growling and hissing. The walker was in mid turn when the alarm had gone off. Chris watched as it turned back around and began shambling towards the car. He watched as shadowy figures filled the edge of the building and then made their appearance. The dead were walking towards the car and its blaring alarm.
“That’s it you ugly brain sucking freaks!” Chris gleefully shouted, “Follow that ugly bastard out in front of you!”
The walker that had first shambled around the corner was now nearly to the car. His friends were right behind him—within feet of being to the car. Chris felt his heart racing. It was working. The car alarm was drawing them from the front of the building to the back parking lot and to the source of the annoying sound that now filled the air. Chris watched for a tick of a second before turning and taking off in a mad hobble of a dash to where he had dropped his backpack. He rummaged through his pack and found the first of two butane canisters that he had brought up to the roof with him. He kissed it and giggled a laugh as he hobbled back to the other side of the roof. The walkers now surrounded the car and were beating their bodies against it. The car rocked back and forth with each undead body that slammed against it. It wouldn’t be long until the once perfect looking car would be riddled with dents and its windows smeared a red mucky mess.
Chris stood there with the butane canister in one hand and his rifle in the other. He smiled while looking at the sight below him. It was going to be a glorious sight to behold once he was done. The parking lot would be filled with chunks of meat and flesh—body parts scattered all over the place. Chris drew his arm back as if he was about to throw a football downfield—the game winning touchdown in the last seconds of the fourth quarter. He released the canister as his arm moved forward. He watched it sail through the air and then to the ground. It bounced a handful of times before settling into a roll. It rolled towards the car—catching the attention of a few walkers. Chris brought his rifle up and into his shoulder and pulled the trigger. The bullet hit the canister and sailed through it—skipping across the blacktop surface. He fired another shot and was damn near knocked on his ass when he felt the concussion from the tank exploding into a giant fireball. The sound of that explosion echoed for miles as bloody bits and piece of human flesh rained down around the parking lot. It was a sickening sound that reminded him of heavy raindrops hitting the pavement.
Chris hobbled back to the edge of the building to have a look at what remained of the walkers. He noticed that some of them were still alive while others were engulfed in flames—burning like a roman candle. The ones that were still alive were missing their legs. The bastards were still hungry as they tried crawling away from the burning wreckage that had once been a car. Chris started to raise his rifle up and fire but stopped himself from doing so. He wouldn’t waste the ammo. The walkers had been reduced to crawlers and he thought that they wouldn’t be able to do much harm—easier to kill. He watched as the franticly crawled across the blacktop of the parking lot—leaving a trail of blood and guts behind them. The smell of burning flesh filled the air. It was sickening. The ones that could walk were flapping their arms as if to try and put themselves out. It was almost as if they were alive and not dead. He knew that wasn’t the case. The walkers had no heartbeat. The virus that infected them had stopped their heart from beating long ago. It was the lust for both blood and brains that kept them alive and moving forward. Its was drove them to be the murdering creatures that they are.
Chris tucked his noise into the crook his arm and coughed while chocking on the smoke and smell of burning flesh. It was a godawful smell and one he wouldn’t soon forget. He looked at the cloud of black and grey smoke as it began to fill the sky. If the sound of the explosion didn’t bring more walkers than the billowing cloud of smoke would soon bring the living to investigate. He stood there with his nose in the crook of his arm and wondered who he feared the most. The dead or the living. His eyes began to water as his coughing and chocking spell began to pick up. He pulled his shirt up and over nose and took a quick shallow breath. The living was who he feared the most. The dead were after one thing. Brains. The living was after everything they could get, and they would do anything to survive. Chris gritted his teeth as the pain of his ankle brought him out thought. He would worry about whatever came next—the dead or the living—later. He knew right now he had to get off his ankle and deal with the injure before it became much worse. His body was telling him that he needed to get some rest in order to be able to leave this place. It wasn’t safe to stay here for very long. One or two nights. Maybe. He knew that if he stayed longer than that he was pressing his luck.
Chris turned and limped across the roof to retrieve his backpack. The hissing moans of the undead were starting to slowly fade away. The crackling of their burning flesh had replaced their angry moans of hunger. Chris leaned over and picked up his pack and then dropped it through the hatch. He took one last look at the undead and then at the field he had come across earlier in the day. He shook his head and cursed the field—cursed himself for being out here alone. He knew it was better being here alone than being with Deacon and his murderous group of survivors. He wasn’t a cold-blooded killer—at least not yet. He was sure that his body and mind and spirit would one day get there but right now it wasn’t. Right now, Chris still had his humanity and he was clinging to it for all that it was worth. He lowed himself through the hatch and onto the ladder. It was slow going but he had finally made it down the ladder and into the stockroom. His ankle screamed with pain and it had damn near given out on him about midway down the ladder. He took a breath as he leaned against the wall—shifting his weight off his ankle. The fiery hot wave of pain was starting to make him sick—maybe it was the handful of painkillers he had taken on an empty stomach.
Chris pushed himself off the wall and rushed into the bathroom and began heaving. He threw up until he could throw up no more. The taste of vomit still clung to his mouth as he sat there on the bathroom floor with his head leaning against the wall. The room had been spinning as he heaved his guts up. He was thankful that it had finally stopped. The feeling of wanting to throw up had also passed. His stomach hurt and his ribcage felt as if someone had worked him over. His eyes were closed as an image from the movie Rocky entered his mind. It was were Rocky had gone into a meat locker to do his workout routine—punching slabs of beef as they hung from their meat hooks. Chris’s body felt like one of those slabs of beef and world was his meat hook. His throat burned from the acid that had been in his stomach. Get up. You can’t die here. Not like this. The voice inside his head barked. Chris lifted himself onto his hands and knees. He took a breath and held it as he lifted himself off the floor and onto his feet. The pain in his ankle instantly shot through his body. He moaned out a slew of curse words and then hobbled to the sink. He turned the water on and put his mouth down to it and began lapping at it like a thirsty dog before cupping his hands and gulping it in.
Chris stood at the sink for what felt like hours. He had only been back on his feet for a few minutes. His legs felt weak and wobbly and his body shaky. Not all of it was from the pain and having of thrown up. He needed to get something to eat and then he needed to lie down and rest. He hobbled out of the bathroom and then out of the small makeshift bedroom and across the stockroom floor. Chris pushed the swinging doors open and entered the convenience area of the gas station. He took one painful step and then stopped and had a look at everything. It was as how he had found it. The body of the walker he had killed was still lying in the middle of the hallway. He took a breath and let it out with a heavy sigh knowing that Carl Yassa lifeless body was still in the bathroom down the hall. He touched his breast pocket and felt the note. He had to find Brandy. He had to get the note to her so that she would know what happened to her father. It was his mission. Chris limped down the aisles as he began looking for something to eat. He wanted something that wouldn’t make him sick. He found a box of saltine crackers and a jar of peanut butter. He would eat a few bites of saltines to see if his stomach could handle it. He would then move on to the peanut butter and then on to some of the other foods that were stacked on the shelves. It was a junk food paradise.
Chris sat on the edge of the cot with a handful of crackers and a cold Coke. He sipped the coke and then took a bite of crackers while looking at the room he now found himself in. He wondered if this had been the man’s home. Maybe it was just a temporary place the man stayed while working late at night. He took another bite of crackers while staring at the posters that hung on the walls. Some of them were of classic cars while others were of women dressed in little to nothing at all. He took another sip of Coke and then stuffed another cracker laced with peanut butter into his mouth. His stomach rumbled but not with sickness. It rumbled from hunger. Chris had not eaten since early yesterday morning. His ankle still throbbed with pain and he knew he needed to prop it up and take his boot off. It was going to be painful pulling off his boot. His ankle was swollen, and the boot was now tight. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the bottles of painkillers. He opened them up and this time he took the recommended dosage of both medications. He tossed them into his mouth and took a drink of water and washed them down. He hoped that they would not only relieve the pain but take the swelling down as well.
Chris leaned over and began unlacing his boot. He could feel instant relief as the unlaced boot allowed his swollen ankle to expand. He gently pulled the boot off and looked at his ankle. It wasn’t bruised so he took that as a good sign. He slowly and gently moved it around. It was stiff and hurt like a son of a bitch and felt a bit mushy. It isn’t broken. Chris thought as he looked at his foot and ankle while moving it in a slowly circle. Give it a day or two and let the swelling go down. If it still feels and looks this way, then it isn’t a sprain. He took a breath and let it out with a heavy sigh. If it was broken, he was as good as dead. It wasn’t like he could head to the emergency room and have it looked at. Doctors were rarity in today’s world. Hospitals had been a hot bed of activity during the outbreak. It had been ground zero. He was sure the percentage of living doctors that could deal with major trauma was rather low. He was sure most doctors were dead or in hiding and not speaking up to help anyone. He couldn’t blame them. He wouldn’t blame anyone for letting their fears override their sense of duty. It was easy to give up and just go with the flow of what life was now throwing at you. Chris was thankful that he wasn’t built that way. He was thankful that his sense of right and wrong remained. His moral compass was still intact—for how long was a question that still remained.
Chris sat both of his boots to the side of the bed. It felt good having them off. He couldn’t remember the last time he had had them off. The way his feet smelled it had been a long time. He turned and reached for one of the pillows on the bed. He rolled it up and placed it at the foot of the bed. He leaned back and placed his foot across the pillow and then laid his head on the other one. He stared up at the ceiling above him as the wind outside began to howl. It was an unsettling sound. It was the kind of sound that horror movies were made of. He took a breath as droplets of rain began to hit the roof above him. He shivered as he wrapped a blanked around him—thankful to be indoors and not out there in the weather. He looked at the skylight and could see that it was starting to get dark—darker than just the storm clouds that filled the sky. He blinked his eyes and felt them becoming heavy with sleep. He could only guess the time. He hadn’t had a working watch in months and doubt he would ever have one again—time no longer mattered. Chris yawned as he pulled the letter from his pocket and read it twice more before closing his eyes and letting sleep overtake him.
Chris awoke with a start. He was covered in sweat and breathing heavy. The blanket he had placed over him felt like a new layer of skin as it clung to him. He quickly sat up and looked around the darkened room and wondered where he was. He couldn’t see anything but the light of the moon shining through the skylights above him. It took a moment for the fog of his brain to clear and for him to remember that he had taken refuge in an old gas station. It took even less time for the aching feeling of his ankle to remind him that he had been injured. Chris took a handful of deep breaths to try and steady his nerves. He had been dreaming—dreaming the nightmarish nightmares from the night of the outbreak. He had been reliving the Hell of that while trapped in a deep sleep. It was something Chris hadn’t done in quite some time. Dreamt. He couldn’t remember the last time his mind had entered reem sleep—maybe it was six months ago. Maybe it was a bit longer than that. It was the kind of sleep one need in order for the body to get the required rest that it needed. It had been quite some time since Chris had gotten that kind of sleep. His heart thudded in the center of his chest as it raced to beat the band. It was like he had gone for a jog and ended up running for his life—just like he had done the night of the outbreak. Chris had been running for his life. He had been running ever since.
Chris shivered with a chill. It wasn’t the kind of chill of being cold. It was the kind of chill one had from being scared out of their mind. He hadn’t admitted to himself just how scared he had been since the outbreak. He had been an officer of the law. The kind of man that carried himself with not only distinction but without fear. He did a job that came with certain unknown risk each day he left his apartment. Chris never had a guarantee that he would live to see another day when he left home to go and work his shift. He had patrolled the streets and had done his job without fear. The thought of dying while on the job lingering in the back of his mind but he always thought that it wouldn’t be him, it would be someone else. Chris had attended funerals of fallen patrolmen—officers killed in the line of duty. The sound of their family crying still haunted him. He pushed those thoughts from his mind as he rolled onto his side and reached out and fumbled to find his backpack. Chris found it and then found a flashlight he kept in one of the main pockets of his pack.
Chris held his breath as he pushed the button on the flashlight—fearing that he wasn’t alone in the darkness. Images of the undead flashed through his mind as the beam of light came on and cut through the pitch blackness and reviled the room that he had taken refuge in. His heart fluttered as he took a breath and let it out with a sigh of relief. He was relieved to not only find himself alone but that he was still in the same spot he had fallen asleep in just hours before. He let the light of his flashlight play across the room. He looked at the posters that hung on the walls—mostly classic cars with a few of them showing half naked women on them. Chris slowly moved the light from one wall to the other as he began looking for a light switch. It was something he hadn’t done earlier. He hoped the place still had electricity. He noticed the switch was on the wall next to the entrance door. He also noticed the bathroom was just a few feet away. His bladder felt full and the urge to urinate motivated him to set up.
Chris started to hang his legs out over the edge of the bed when he remembered his ankle had been injured. He propped himself up on one arm and shined the light onto his ankle. It was still a bit swollen. Chris slowly moved his ankle and foot in a semi-circle—it was still a bit stiff and sore but maybe not as bad as it had been a few hours before. The medication had helped relieve some of the inflammation and having it propped up on the pillow had helped the swelling to go down. He knew the true test of just how bad his ankle was would be when he stood and began to walk on it. He couldn’t wait much longer. His eyeballs felt like they were beginning to float. He knew if he didn’t get to the bathroom soon and take a piss, he would urinate all over himself. He pushed himself up onto his elbows and then swung his legs out over the bed as he sat up. His ankle barked a bit with pain, but it was nothing like it had been. It was more manageable of a pain right now.
Chris took a breath and held it as he forced himself to his feet. He kept his wait on one foot and barely touched the floor with the other one as he hobbled to get his balance. Once Chris was steady on his feet, he shined the light in front of him as he cautiously took a step forward—winching as he put the full wait of his body on his injured ankle.
“Damn that hurts,” Chris mumbled to himself through gritted teeth, “It’s going to take a bit more than rubbing some dirt on it to get back in the game coach.”
Chris shook his head as he limped towards the bathroom. The voice of his old football coach echoed through his mind—a haunting memory that no longer existed and a time that no longer mattered. He was sure the old fart was dead or had died long before the outbreak. The man was a cantankerous old bastard. Chris looked towards the entrance of the room and thought about walking over to the light switch that was on the wall next to the door but decided against it. It was a few extra steps that he didn’t need to take right now. Steps that were painful enough to take just to get to the bathroom. He knew he couldn’t walk much further without pissing himself. The urge to empty his bladder and the pain that accompanied that urge was far too much. Chris stepped into the bathroom and began looking for the light switch. It was behind the bathroom door. He thought it was an odd place to have a light switch but then thought the bathroom was more than likely added years after the building had been built. He was sure the bathroom didn’t meet building codes—built without a permit. He flipped the switch as the light overhead flickered to life. He blinked his eyes as he slowly turned around and came face to face with the mirror over the sink. He stared into it as the face of a stranger stared back at him. It had been a few months since Chris had seen himself. Those few months hadn’t been kind to him. He placed a hand to his face and felt the scraggly beard. He couldn’t remember the last time he had shaved. Maybe the day before the outbreak. Maybe the day of.
“Damn if you aren’t a sight for sore eyes.”
Chris turned from the mirror and the image of himself and hobbled over to the commode. He unzipped his pants and began pissing—sighing as he stood there relieving himself. His body felt a bit weak. His stomach rumbled with hunger. He hadn’t eaten much—a few crackers and some peanut butter and a cold Coke. He thought about the shelves lined with food. It was mostly junk food, but it was better than nothing at all. He longed for the days of catching breakfast at one of the many fast food joints that dotted the city’s landscape. Harrisonburg was full of chain restaurant’s and a few local gems. He missed the local joints and wished he had eaten at them a bit more. His favorite local hamburger joint had been Jess’s. The burgers were mouthwatering. He thought about Jess’s until his stomach roared with hunger.
Chris moved back to the mirror. He turned his face from side to side while looking at himself. He needed to shave, and he needed a haircut. Chris opened the medicine cabinet and found a razor and some shaving cream. He opened a draw on the sinks cabinet and rummaged around until he found some scissors. He trimmed his beard until it was short enough to shave with a razor. He then moved on to trimming his hair the best that he could. It didn’t look like a professional haircut, but it looked a sight better than what it had just moments before. Chris lathered his face with shaving cream and set about shaving. He looked in the mirror at himself and then at the shower stall behind him. The last time he had bathed with running water had been just before the first snow fall of winter and then it had been in a creek with flowing cold water. He guessed that it had been about three months ago. His daily bathing ritual had been a pan full of water—something he had heard referred to as a whore’s bath. Once I’m done shaving, I should take a long hot shower. Running the razor across his face as he thought about taking shower. Find me a bar of fresh soap and stay in there until I’m shriveled up and look like a prune. It was a thought he couldn’t wait to put into action. He would first get a bite to eat and take some painkillers when his stomach was full and then take a nice long hot shower.
Chris cupped his hands and filled them with water as he washed his faced. It felt odd not having a beard. It also felt odd having this small luxury—something that he had taken for granted six months ago. He looked at himself in the mirror. He no longer looked like a bum. He still smelled like one but at least he looked somewhat presentable. He hobbled out of the bathroom and towards the bedroom door. He started to step out and into the stockroom without his rifle. He allowed himself to become complacent and it was a mistake that could prove to be a fatal one. He knew not to go anywhere without a weapon of some sort. The weapon was to be used against both the living and the undead. Chris quickly turned and hobbled over to where he had placed his rifle. He slung it over his shoulder and headed out of the makeshift bedroom. He was in mid stride when the rumbling sound of a vehicle outside caught his attention. It was followed by the sound of voices. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end as he froze in place. He knew the voices that now echoed outside. He knew the very men the voices belonged to. The men were a part of Deacon’s group of survivors.
Chris hobbled forward a few steps and peeked through the small windows in the stockroom doors. He could see two men standing outside talking. It was Tiny and Pete. He was sure the two of them were not alone but had yet to see anyone else. Chris narrowed his eyes and listened to the two men as they spoke. He could barely make out what was being said. He stared at the two of them as rage filled him. He watched as Tiny said something to Pete and Pete began laughing. Tiny had been a truck driver in the old world. He was as big as horse and had the strength of ten men. Chris had witnessed Tiny strength firsthand. He had seen the man punch a walker—killing it with just one punch. The sound of the walker’s head cracking still echoed in Chris’s mind. It was a sick grotesque sound that reminded him of popping popcorn. Tiny had hit the walker with such force that the bone fragments of its face and skull pierced its brain—killing it instantly. It made Tiny a legend among the group of survivors—a legend that was to be feared and not revered. Tiny was not only a big man but a jackass of a man as well. He made jokes that were not funny and most of the time they were at the expense of someone else. He was a bully.
Pete was a former building contractor who had just taken a new job with the city of Harrisonburg as an inspector. His first day on the job was that of the outbreak. Pete was in his early to mid-forties. The years of doing manual labor had kept him physically fit. He had been a smoker before the outbreak and was now lucky if he found a butt of a cigarette to take a drag from. He was irritable at times because of his nicotine addiction. He would make off color jokes about killing a man for just a pack of smokes—those jokes were not always a joke. Pete had gone with a group of survivors in search of supplies. He had come back covered in blood and carrying a cartoon of cigarettes and smiling like the Devil himself. The rumblings around camp was that Pete had killed a man—gutted him—for a cartoon of smokes. Chris didn’t care for the man and hadn’t since the two had first met. Pete was a bit loud—boisterous. He was a cocky bastard that needed to be taken down a peg or two. He had the same mentality as that of Tiny. The two men were bullies. The one thing about Pete, unlike Tiny, he knew his place. He didn’t dare go against Deacon and his henchmen. Pete didn’t have the balls it took to do so. When it all boiled right down to it, Pete was a follower.
Chris ducked back into the stock room as the bell over the front door chimed. He looked around for a place to hide. He wanted to climb the ladder and get on the roof but knew he had very little time. His ankle would slow him down—that and the lack of not having his shoes on. He cursed himself as he ducked behind a row of boxes that were stacked along the back wall. Dumb ass! The voice inside his head shouted. Why in the hell would you leave your shoes off? Chris held his breath and listened to the two men who had just entered the store. His heart fluttered. The anger that had burned through him moments ago was now replaced with fear. Chris knew he could easily kill these two men by ambushing them, but it was the unknown that caused him fear. He was sure the two of them were not alone. He was sure there was at least one or two other men with them.
“Tiny, if you find a pack or two of cigarettes let me know,” Pete said with a chuckle, “I would kill you over a carton of smokes . . . and I wouldn’t think twice about it my friend.”
Chris could see the shadows of the two men as they began moving around the store. Tiny’s shadow was big enough to be that of three men. He stood over six feet tall and weighed over three hundred pounds. He wasn’t fat—not at all. He looked like a body builder—a gym rat. Chris knew the bigger the man was the harder they’d fall—at least that was what his grandfather had always told him.
“What do I get if I find a pack or two?” Tiny asked with a chuckle.
“You my friend will get a freshly plucked female from the next group of survivors we find on the road,” Pete said, “A fresh flower for you to devour.”
Chris felt his blood boiling hot as the two men laughed and joked about what they would do when they found the next group of survivors. The two men would rape, rob and kill those that were looking for a safe place to take refuge—a safe place to start over and call home. He could feel himself wanting to rush through the double doors with his rifle up and his finger on the trigger. He knew that killing these two men without remorse was something he could do. It would be ridding the world of evil—an infestation that deserved nothing but death.
“She better be far better looking than that toothless bitch you found last time,” Tiny grumbled, “I had to keep one eye closed and a hand over her face just to get my rocks off.”
“She was a bit ugly . . . Wasn’t she?”
“Ugly?” Tiny scoffed and then grumbled a laugh, “Shit . . . that bitch was so ugly the walkers wouldn’t even eat her.”
Pete cackled a phlegm filled smoker’s laugh. Chris could feel the angry rage within him boiling hotter than the flames of Hell. He could feel himself going into motion as he stepped around the boxes and headed for the stockroom doors. He stopped just a few feet short of doors as the two men quickly changed the subject.
“We need to load the Jeep up with a few supplies,” Tiny said, grabbing a couple of bags of chips off one of the shelves, “I need to radio back to command and tell them about this place. I’m sure Deacon will send someone out here to get the rest of the stuff within a few hours.”
Chris peeked through the windows of the doors. He could see the two men and where each of them stood. Tiny was feeding his face full of chips.
“Better tell them to hurry up. It looks like someone has already found this place,” Pete said as he pointed to the walker lying on the floor, “That walker didn’t just shoot himself in the head.”
Chris watched as Tiny walked over to Pete and looked down at the dead walker. He kicked the body of the dead man and chuckled a laugh before walking down the hallway, stopping at the bathroom doors. The big man tapped both doors and waited. He heard nothing on the other side of the two doors and felt that it was safe to enter—nothing to worry about. Tiny took the barrel of his rifle and pushed the men’s bathroom door open. He reached in and flipped the light on—shrieking as he stumbled back out into the hallway. Tiny damn near jumped out of his boots at the sight of Paul Yassa’s lifeless body lying on the floor. Pete hearing his friend letting out a blood curling yell ran down the hall with his gun up and at the ready. He looked at the big man who was leaning against the wall and then peeked inside the bathroom. Pete had a sickly look to him as he wrinkled his face at the sight before him. He looked at the wall that was covered in blood and brain and shook his head as he stepped out of the bathroom and back into the hallway.
“You think that poor bastard in there,” pointing a thumb over his shoulder, “was bitten by this dead fuck?”
Tiny shrugged his shoulders as he stared at the body of the dead walker. He couldn’t tell if the walker had been dead for a day or for a few weeks. The man inside the bathroom looked like he had been dead for quite some time now.
“Who the hell knows.”
“You think maybe he killed the walker and then blew his own brains out?”
Tiny was getting tired of Pete constantly asking questions. He had just had the shit scared of him. He didn’t need the bastard in front of him asking him a million and one questions.
“How the hell should I know? I just go here myself,” narrowing his eyes as he looked at his friend, “Maybe it was that unlucky bastard in there that shot the walker . . . and then again, maybe it was that asshole Chris who killed the walker . . . I have not a damn clue and to be honest about it, I don’t give two shits one way or the other.”
Pete looked at Tiny and knew he didn’t need to push the issue. The irritation in his voice told him not to let it go. The man was embarrassed that he had had the shit scared out of him. It was also pointless in asking questions on how the two dead men had ended up the way they had. No one would ever know. It was the way things were in this new world.
“Yeah . . . Yeah, you are right. Maybe it was Chris,” Pete said as he turned and walked down the hallway and around the counter and began rummaging around.
Tiny took one last look inside the bathroom and then followed his friend back into the convenience store area of the old station. Pete was knocking things off the shelves in search of cigarettes.
“I never did like him. It wasn’t just because he had been a cop either,” Tiny said while watching his friend as he continued to search the shelves underneath the counter, “There was just something about that asshole that I didn’t care for from the get-go.”
Pete stood up and placed his hands on the counter as he narrowed his eyes and wrinkled a brow. He took a breath and let it out as he spoke.
“Yeah, I’m with you on that one brother. Chris is an asshole. He’s a self-righteous prick that doesn’t deserve the air that he breathes. He acts like we are the bad guys,” Pete shook his head and pounded a fist into the countertop, “We took him in and gave him a safe place to stay. Hell, Deacon gave him everything a man could ask for and how does he repay us?” his voice taut with anger, “The bastard goes and runs off. He not only runs off, but he stole from us. He took a rifle and some other gear that didn’t belong to him. If you ask me, that is a dick move man. It’s a move that only an asshole would make.”
Tiny nodded his head and then chuckled a laugh. He slapped his hand to his leg and then began laughing so hard that Chris thought he would bust a gut. Pete looked at Tiny with his brow wrinkled—wondering why his friend was laughing so hard. It was like a joke had been told and Pete had been left out. Pete didn’t like being left out.
“What the hell is so funny?” Pete asked with a tone of irritation now in his voice.
“I was just picturing the look on Chris’s face,” Tiny began to smile an evil smile as he spoke, “when Hawkeye and his group of trackers catch up to him,” looking over his shoulder at Pete, “It won’t be long until they find him, and you know what?”
“That self-righteous prick is going to die a slow death,” Tiny giggled, “Deacon gave Hawkeye and his men orders to bring Chris back to camp to stand judgment. You know everyone wants to see that asshole die . . . I bet you couldn’t find one person among us that likes that son of a bitch.”
Pete looked at Tiny and nodded his head in agreement.
“No. I guess not. I sure as hell didn’t.”
Tiny took a breath and let it out with a heavy sigh and then stuffed a handful of chips into his mouth and chewed them as he spoke.
“I just hope Deacon lets each one of us have a whack at him before letting the Butcher get ahold of his ass,” licking his fingers as he tossed the empty bag to the floor, “That bastard will carve him up like a pig.”
The two men were laughing as Chris stepped through the set of double doors with is rifle up and pointed at them. Tiny started to reach for his holstered gun but Chris stopped him.
“I wouldn’t do that big man. Not if you want to live.”
Chris looked at Tiny and then at Pete. He quickly glanced over his shoulder and looked through the windows. He could see no one else around. The two men were alone. The two men had formed their own scavenger party and without anyone else from their group. Chris could feel the excitement within. He had the two men dead to rights. He knew no one would know what happened to them. No one would know that it was him who had killed these worthless pieces of shit.
“Well if it isn’t the prick himself,” Tiny said.
“I might be a prick, but I’m the prick holding the gun.”
“I should have killed you a long time ago, but Deacon wouldn’t let me. He wouldn’t let any of us kill you . . . Deacon thought he could convert you. Make you see the ways of this new world . . . But you had to go and be an asshole about it.”
Pete cleared his throat as he looked at the two men. He stared at the barrel of Chris’s rifle and felt a cold chill rushing across his body. Chris had gotten the jump on them. Pete wondered if Chris had the balls to pull the trigger—to kill them both in cold blood. He was betting that Chris couldn’t do the deed. He didn’t have the kind of balls that it took to survive this new world.
“You know Chris, Tiny and I could kill you right now,” Pete said as he narrowed his eyes, “Deacon wouldn’t care one way or the other,” looking at Tiny and then back Chris, “Tiny and I could take your cold dead body back and get double the rations for the next month.”
Chris noticed the way Tiny smiled. It was unsettling.
“Fuck the rations. I would rather have a nice piece of ass,” Tiny said as he looked over at Pete and then back at Chris who still held him at gunpoint, “I bet if we took this worthless piece of shit back to camp dead . . . Deacon would let us raid that camp of survivors we found a few miles down the road,” the look in the man’s eyes were pure evil, “I bet a few of those tender young girls haven’t been with a man yet.”
Chris felt his blood boil. He could feel himself taking the slack from the trigger of his rifle. He wanted to put a bullet in Tiny’s head. The bastard was talking about raping young girls—children.
“You got that right brother,” Pete said, “I bet those young girls would put up one hell of fight too.”
Tiny chuckled a laugh.
“I love it when they fight back. I like getting a little rough with my women. I like hearing them scream and I sure as hell love tasting their tears.”
Chris could feel the tension in the air and the beads of sweat trickling down the side of his face. He knew the two men were not going to go quietly. He knew the two of them wouldn’t be taken alive—at least not Tiny. Pete was a different story. Chris knew Pete would be on his hands and knees pissing himself as he begged for his life. Chris wanted to kill them both but wouldn’t do so unless they gave him no other choice.
“There is two of us and one of you,” Pete said, “Isn’t good odds Chris.”
Pete made a point. The odds were stacked against him. He had gotten the jump on both men but knew anything could happen. Chris had been in a situation just like the one he now found himself in. He walked in on a robbery taking place one night while on patrol. He shot and killed the first man while the other one shot him and ran off. The second gunman had died later from gunshot wounds received in a standoff with other officers. Chris remembered lying on the floor. The feeling of blood leaking from his body. The feeling of becoming cold—deathly cold.
“No one has to die here today,” Chris said, “You can just toss your guns on the floor and walk right out of here.”
“You know that isn’t going to happen asshole,” Tiny said.
Chris felt the lump in his throat as he swallowed. He knew it was wishful thinking that these two evil bastards would do anything he asked them to do. He held them at gunpoint and they both were arrogant enough to think that they still held the upper hand.
“I want the two of you to do as I say. Toss your guns on the floor and put your hands behind heads and get on your knees,” Chris said as he narrowed his eyes, “Then I want you both to put your face on the ground.”
Tiny looked at Chris and then over at Pete as he chuckled a laugh.
“This isn’t the old-world Chris. You are no longer a cop. Justice isn’t served by a man wearing a badge. Not anymore,” Tiny said as he stepped over the body of the dead walker. He had a murderous look in his eyes and Chris knew the big man wasn’t going to comply, “I’m not going to get on my knees. Not for you and not for anyone. If you want me to—”
Chris pulled the trigger of his rifle and shot Tiny in the chest. Tiny froze in place as the look of shock spread across his face. He slowly looked down at his chest and to where he had been shot. The hole was just starting to leak a crimson red substance. Tiny placed a hand to his chest as the blood leaked through his fingers. He looked at Chris and then fell face first to the floor with a loud heavy thud. Pete screamed for his friend as he began to pull his gun from its holster. Chris turned his rifle towards Pete and pulled the trigger. The shot went wide, and it allowed Pete to get his gun into the fight. Pete quickly squeezed the trigger and fired off a handful of shots. Chris flinched as he felt something hot burning the side of his face. He had been grazed by one of the bullets. The glass windows behind him shattered—blowing glass everywhere. Chris dove for cover as Pete fired a few more rounds.
“I’m going to kill you Chris!” Pete yelled as he fired off a few more shots.
Chris flinched as various bags of chips exploded from the bullets that passed through them. He was quickly covered in crumbs. Chris crawled around the corner and to the back of the aisle. He peeked around one of the shelves and could see Pete standing behind the counter with his arm outstretched and his gun pointed to where Chris had just been. Chris slowly got to his knees and then to one foot. He took a breath and lunched himself from behind cover—running to the next aisle. Pete fired wildly—missing Chris by inches. Chris ran from one aisle to the next while a hailstorm of bullets followed him. Pete was firing wildly and without concern of running out of ammo. Chris heard the clicking sound of Pete’s gun. He was out. Chris rushed down the aisle and came into view just as Pete was putting a fresh magazine into his gun. He brought his rifle up and into his shoulder and quickly squeezed the trigger—hitting Pete dead between his eyes. Pete’s head jerked back as the wall behind him was painted a crimson red. His body fell to floor in slow motion. Pete was dead before he hit the ground.
Chris slowly walked over to Tiny’s body. He put his foot under the man and grunted as he turned him over. Tiny’s eyes were open wide as they stared up at him. His eyes had a blank look that now filled them, gone was the murderous look of rage that had been there when Chris had shot him in the chest. His pupils were dilated and frozen. Chris took a breath and let it out. Tiny was dead. He stood there for a moment looking at the big man. He wondered when he would feel the guilt of having killed Tiny. He wondered if he would ever feel any guilt at all. The man was dangerous—more than just dangerous. He was evil. Tiny was a cold-blooded killer and he enjoyed it. Deacon had allowed both Tiny and Pete to grow as killers. The two men were not as bad as others within the group. The Butcher was the worst of them all. Chris knew the man rather well. He was the kind of man that was not to be trusted. Cole had gotten the nickname, Butcher, not from the job he had had before the outbreak but from what he had done to those poor souls that had been captured by the group of survivors.
Hawkeye and his group are out looking for Chris now. Just wait until the Butcher gets ahold of him. That bastard will carve him like a pig. Tiny’s voice echoed through Chris’s mind as he looked at the dead man lying on the floor in a pool of his own blood. Chris was being hunted. Deacon wanted him alive. He wanted him to stand judgment before everyone within the group. Deacon was going to use him as an example of what happens when you don’t obey him and his rule of law. Chris turned and looked out the window. He looked at the parking lot outside and at the Jeep sitting there. He looked beyond the jeep and at the field he had come through the day before. Hawkeye was good at what he did—one of the best trackers he had ever met. Chris knew if Hawkeye was tracking him on foot it was only a matter of hours before the man caught up to him. Hawkeye had grown up using his Apache heritage to track and hunt wild game. He had been a Wildlife officer—Game warden—for the state of West Virginia for nearly twenty years and a damn good one at that. Hawkeye had bene in the city of Harrisonburg visiting family the night of the outbreak.
Chris turned away from the window and took one last look at Tiny’s lifeless body before walking to where Pete now lay dead. He stepped around the counter and stopped short of the man he had shot between the eyes. He admired the whole in Pete’s head. It was one hell of a shot. Chris knew he had gotten lucky with the shot. It was the kind of shot that as an officer and as an avid gun enthusiast he had trained for but knew in the real world that nine times out of ten it was never going to happen. He raised a brow in thought. I guess you can never say never. Chris looked at the wall coated in Pete’s blood and brain matter. He watched as the trail of blood and brain matter slowly dripped down the wall and to where Pete was now lying dead. Chris noticed the look that was frozen on Pete’s face. His eyes were open and glassed over and the look on his face was that of shock. That makes two of us. Chris thought as felt a trickling of blood going down the side of his face. He placed a hand to the source of the blood and winched with pain. He had forgotten that one of Pete’s wild and misplaced shots had grazed him. He had also forgotten that his ankle had been injured. The pain of both injuries had been subdued by the adrenaline that had been pumping through his veins.
Chris pulled an old rag from his pocket and held it to his cheek. The thought of infection from the old rag crossed his mind as he limped to one of the aisles and began looking for some medical supplies. He found some medical tape and gauze and a box of bandages but no rubbing alcohol to clean the wound with. He was caked in filth from running through the woods the day before and from the filth of living in a world that was now owned by the dead. Chris’s eyes wondered towards the back of the store and to where the beer and alcohol was kept. He could seem various boltless of aholehole. If it was good enough to use during the civil war it is good enough to use now. Chris thought as he pulled a bottle from the shelf and walked towards the stockroom. He glanced over his shoulder and looked at Tiny’s lifeless form and then out at the world outside. He wasn’t sure how long he had until Hawkeye and his men would find him. He stepped through the double doors and headed for the bathroom that was located inside the makeshift bedroom. Chris turned the light on and had a look at the wound. He was sure the gash on his cheek needed stitches, but he had no way of doing it himself. He opened the bottle of whisky and took a long pull of it and then a deep breath. He knew this was going to not only hurt like hell but burn like the flames of Hell themselves.
Chris held his breath as he titled the bottle up and to his cheek. It wasn’t but a second until he let out a slew of curse words. His hand shook as he sat the bottle of alcohol onto the sink’s countertop. He took another pull from the bottle and then a breath and did it three more times before he could do it no more. Chris’s legs felt weak. He could barely hold himself up. He sat on the commode and took a handful of deep breaths. The fiery hot pain of the wound that was now covered in alcohol took his mind off the pain of his ankle. You twisted your ankle and you’ve been shot. All of this in less than twenty-four hours. What’s next. He thought while looking down at his ankle and holding a gauze pad to his cheek. The swelling of his ankle wasn’t as bad, but it still hurt like a son of a bitch. Chris was still guessing that it was just a bad sprain and not broken. He reached out and took the bottle of alcohol from the sinks countertop and took another quick swig. He could feel the effects of the alcohol starting to take ahold. He couldn’t allow himself to get drunk. No more. The voice inside his head ordered. Get something to eat and take some of the painkillers.
Chris sat the bottle down and then took a deep breath while looking at his dirty feet. He then looked at the shower stall in front of him—images of the old world passed through his mind. Thoughts of taking long hot showers. Thoughts of being able to bathe without worry of being eaten alive. It was a luxury that he and everyone else that had survived the outbreak had taken for granted. He sat there staring at the shower stall and wondered if he could get a quick shower before Hawkeye and his men caught up to him. It had been a long time since he had felt the hot spray of running water against his body. His bathing ritual had been reduced to pans of water heated over an open flame. A whore’s bath. He thought.
“To Hell with it!” Chris grumbled.
Chris stood from the commode and began stripping. He wasn’t going to pass this opportunity up. He knew he could be caught by Hawkeye and his men and he also knew the gunfight could have a million walkers headed his way. The lust for hot water and a bit of normalcy won out. Chris turned the water on and waited for it to heat up. He looked at the bar of soap inside the shower stall—it was just as grimy as he was. It turned his stomach to think of it having of been used but at this point he didn’t give a damn. He wanted a hot shower and to feel clean. Chris stepped into the shower and felt the tension in his muscles release. The hot water and powerful spray splashed against his body and caused him to forget about the world beyond the shower stall—beyond the gas station itself. He dunked his head under the water and held it there for a moment. He chuckled a laugh and then felt the urge to shed a tear. Chris took the grimy bar of soap in his hand and held it under the water until the grime melted away. He lathered his body up and then washed it off. He used the bottle of shampoo to clean his hair. The wound on his face burned but Chris paid it no attention as he stood under the water for what felt like hours. His flesh now looked like a prune.
Chris quickly dried off and began putting his clothes back on. The feeling of being clean vanished as he put his dirty clothes on. The fresh clean feeling faded within a blink of an eye. He stepped over to the mirror and looked at himself. He ran a comb he found through his hair. He somewhat resembled the man he used to be. Chris quickly bandaged the wound on his face and downed a handful of painkillers. He had eaten a bit of beef jerky and some peanut butter while packing his gear and a few other items to take with him. He loaded the Jeep outside with various goods and then headed back inside to retrieve the rest of his things. He would take the Jeep Tiny and Pete had been using. The CB radio inside the Jeep was tuned to the command center back at base camp. He would listen to it while driving in hopes of hearing some reports about Hawkeye and his group and about Deacon’s other groups of scavengers.
Chris grabbed his gear and stepped out into the afternoon sun. The day before had been a rainy cold mess—today it reminded him an early spring day. He stood there for a moment and leaned his head back and allowed the sun’s rays to heat his chilled face. He took a breath and breathed a sigh of relief as off in the distance a bird chirped and sang something so beautiful. He couldn’t remember the last time he had heard a bird chirping and singing. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been to a park without having to dodge the dead that were trying to eat him. His eyes were closed and for that moment the world felt familiar. It felt safe. It felt as if he had gone back in time and none of the bad things he had witnessed or had done existed. He was just a normal human being living a normal day. He was Chris Anderson. He was an officer of the law. He wasn’t a survivor of the outbreak that had turned their world upside down and into a cesspool of shit.
Chris opened his eyes and looked around. It was just a daydream—wishful thinking. The world was the same cesspool it had been before he had closed his eyes and let the sun’s rays lull him into the past. It was dangerous to allow that to happen. You need to stay alert. Hawkeye and his men are hunting you. Deacon wants you to pay for your sins. Chris narrowed his eyes and gritted his teeth. He had no sins to ask Deacon to forgive. Deacon was a man made of flesh and bone just as he was. He was a man that had pure evil dwelling within him. Chris would only ask forgiveness from that of his Heavenly Father. Not the bastard who ruled the group of survivors like Hitler had ruled over Germany. First chance I get . . . I’m going to kill that son of a bitch. Chris thought as he walked towards the Jeep and tossed his backpack into the passenger seat. He took his rifle off his shoulder and placed the barrel of it pointed down at the passenger floorboard. It was within reach if he needed it quickly. He touched the handgun on his side and knew he could reach it quickly while driving.
Chris turned from the Jeep and took one last look at the field behind him and then at the gas station. The windows that faced the parking lot had been blown out by a handful of bullets that Pete had fired wildly at him. The gas station had gone unscathed by looters to only be ruined by Pete. Chris shook his head as he lifted himself up and into the Jeep and started it. The engine roared to life. He leaned back into the seat and placed his hands onto the steering wheel and breathed a sigh of relief. He felt a sense of calm rushing over him. It was a false sense of calm—something he needed to not let get a hold of him. He knew he couldn’t keep letting his guard down and to keep doing so meant that he would end up dead. He put the Jeep in gear and pulled out of the parking lot and raced down the road. He looked in his rearview mirror at the gas station behind him. It was growing smaller and smaller with each second that passed. He was thankful to have found the place and wished that he could have taken more supplies with him. Chris was going to give what he had loaded into Jeep to the group of survivors he was now heading to meet. Carl Yassa had given his life for these very supplies. He had given his life to protect his daughter. Chris would honor Carl’s memory by doing what he had been unable to do himself. He would not only help the group but protect Brandy.
“Tiny!” a voice echoed through the speaker on the CB radio.
Chris damn near jumped out of the Jeep as the radio crackled to life and voice on the other end echoed through the vehicle. His heart was pounding like a drum. He looked at the radio and then back at the road. The voice was that of Jake. Jake had been an electrician and a Ham Radio operator in his spare time. It was a hobby that had saved his ass during the outbreak. Jake had gotten word about the outbreak hours before it had started on American soil. He had been talking to a friend overseas. Chris couldn’t remember if it was England or Germany. Not that it mattered. Europe had been the first to be hit with virus that turned the living into the undead.
“Damn it Tiny, if you don’t answer me, I will kill you myself when you get back,” a long pause filled the air before Jake spoke again, “That is if Deacon lets me,” another brief pause, “Damn it . . . the two of you better not be out there fucking around.”
Chris raised a brow and thought. Don’t worry Jake. Tiny and Pete are not out here Fucking around. The bastards are dead. I killed them. His eyes wondered to the radio and then back to the road in front of him. He was somewhat shocked and confused that he felt nothing for the two men he had just killed. He wondered if this world had hardened him to what he knew he would soon have to face. He would have to kill Deacon and anyone that Deacon sent after him in order to survive. His life of upholding the law had vanished within a blink of an eye and it had taken Chris nearly six months to realize that and that the world was never coming back.
“Tiny, don’t make me go and tell Deacon that the two of you left without having backup,” Jake said, “I didn’t like this idea from the get-go.”
Chris listened as Jake kept talking. He was starting to get more pissed off by the second as he rattled on. The two men had left the group and had gone out scavenging alone. Deacon hadn’t permitted this type of action. No one ever left camp alone. Deacon wanted his group to go out in numbers. It was a show of force for anyone that might be lurking. The two men had broken protocol and in doing so they had paid for it with their lives. Chris could feel a smile creeping across his face knowing that no one knew where Pete and Tiny were. He also felt a bit giddy that no one knew about the group of survivors in Broadway. Tiny and Pete had kept their mouths shut about the other group of survivors and forever would. Chris had seen to that.
“Okay assholes, I’m betting that the two of you can hear me. If so, listen up. I just got word from Hawkeye. He has picked up Chris’s trail. He wants the two of you to head down Route 42 towards the town of Broadway. Hawkeye said to drive up and down that road and see if you see anything . . . If you do, radio back to me.”
Chris gritted his teeth and gripped the steering wheel of the Jeep. He could feel his heart racing. It wouldn’t’ be long until Hawkeye found where he had taken refuge and where he had left the bodies of the two men to rot into eternity. He knew a world of shit would soon be heading his way. Deacon would send out a group of men—maybe his whole damn group of survivors. The group would hunt him down and kill him and anyone that was with him. The voice on the radio echoed through the Jeep as Chris reached for the mike.
“Jake, it’s good to hear your voice man.”
The radio crackled with static for a moment before Jake answered.
“Listen asshole . . . Hawkeye is coming for you. You and I both know he will find you. Once he does you will be brought back here and killed.”
“Yeah. I know,” pausing for a second, “That is what both Tiny and Pete said.”
The radio fell silent. Chris knew that Jake was trying to think of what to say next. He was sure Jake had sent someone to go and get Deacon. Jake couldn’t shit without Deacon’s permission. The bastard was just another lacky among many in Deacon’s cog.
Chris gripped the mike in his hand. He gritted his teeth while pushing the button on the mike in and cutting Jake off in mid-sentence.
“It’s too late Jake. I gave both Tiny and Pete a chance. I told them to toss their guns away and I would let them go,” images of what had taken place filled Chris’s mind, “I had them dead to rights, but the bastards thought that they could kill me. I was defending myself. Not that it really matters when it comes to a bunch of murders.”
Chris let off the button. He looked at the road in front of him as the static of the radio filled the cabin of the Jeep. He looked into his rearview mirror to see if anyone was behind him. He was still alone on this long stretch of road. He knew that wouldn’t last long.
“Christopher . . . it is so good to hear your voice. We have been worried about you my friend,” Deacon’s voice boomed over the radio as it filled the interior of the Jeep, “It is good to hear that you are still alive . . . at least for now,” a coldness in his voice edged his words, “I am rather sad to hear about both Tiny and Pete,” he breathed a heavy sigh before continuing to speak, “but let’s face it Chris. We both know that is the way shit happens. Isn’t that right?” bellowing a laugh as he talked, “Nothing in our world is for certain. Nothing but death and zombies.”
Chris took a breath and let it out with a heavy sigh of anger. Deacon had finally shown up. The cockiness in Deacons voice was something Chris hoped to one day put an end to. He hoped to end it with a bullet between the man’s eyes. He wanted to stand over his body and watch the life fade from his eyes. He wanted to watch as Deacon fade from this world as he entered the Gates of Hell. It was a thought that would have at one time sickened him. That time was no more. Chris could feel something within him changing. He was becoming a killer. You killed those two men. You killed Tiny and Pete without hesitation. Admit it . . . It was easy for you. Wasn’t it? The voice echoed through his mind.
“I had to kill them. They left me no choice. They were going to kill me,” answering the voice inside his head as if it was a person sitting in the passenger seat next to him.
Chris angerly gripped the mike of the radio as he started to speak into it. He started to say something back to Deacon when a group of walkers stepped out and into the road and into the path of the Jeep. Chris dropped the mike and jerked the steering wheel with both hands. He jerked it to the left and then to the right while trying not to hit them. He heard the loud thud of bodies hitting the right side of the Jeep. It was a loud crunching thud of a sound. He had just clipped at least five of the walkers. The front left wheel ran off the shoulder of the road and onto the berm. The sound of gravels hitting the underbelly of the Jeep echoed beneath him. Chris tried to right things but in doing so he overcorrected and caused the Jeep to flip onto its side as it began rolling down the highway. He could see the bright blue sky above him and then the ground and then the sky once again. The Jeep flipped end over end at least six times before coming to a halt. It had stopped rolling as suddenly as it had started. The sound of twisted metal and shattering glass still echoed in his head. The Jeep came to a rest in the grassy median about ten or so feet from the road that Chris had been traveling on.
Chris sat there as the world around him began to slowly fade in and out. It was like the tide rolling in and then back out to sea. It was damn near soothing. The soothing feeling was interrupted by the sound of Deacon’s voice echoing through what was left of the Jeep’s interior. He could faintly hear the man laughing about what the Butcher was going to do to him once they brought him back to camp. He blinked his eyes as blood trickled into them and down the side of his face from a gash over his right eye. The throbbing sensation that had consumed his ankle now consumed his head and his body. It was a throbbing pain that caused him to feel sick to his stomach. The urge to throw up was overwhelming. He could feel the goose egg that had formed over his eye from where he had banged his head against the steering wheel. His body was going limp as he began to slide down and into the driver’s seat—sinking deeper with each second that passed. The welcoming darkness of unconsciousness began to creep in. It slowly wrapped its arms around him until it fully engulfed him. His body had had enough and his will to fight it was no more. The world around him faded within a blink of an eye as he slipped into the nothingness that awaited him.
Please let me know what you think. I may post a couple more chapters. I look forward to reading comments. I had a blast writing this book. I took a two year break from writing novels while taking care of my grandmother who has now passed. This book brought me out of a slump and gave me something to look forward to doing daily.