So, a few of you have sent me emails saying that they wanted just one more taste from the new DEAD which is due out this July. The most oft requested plea has to do with Billy. Apparently many of you do not trust my ability to keep a character alive. Or, better yet, feel I have a propensity for killing off the ones you come to know and love. I offer up to you one final taste from DEAD: Spring. July is not that far away. Enjoy.
New Friends, New Enemies
“This sucks,” I whispered.
Looking around the landing, zombies were pouring out from a pair of long, dark cooridors. The walking dead were packed in pretty tight and there was zero chance that I could make it through; plus, I had no idea where those corridors went…if they actually went anywhere.
Spinning around, I saw something that had me positive that child zombies were something to be worried about. The children had lagged to the rear of the swarm that was now making its way up the stairs towards me. Another cluster had moved to the doors that I had come through when I first entered this building.
I let the magazine drop to the ground with a clatter as I pulled out a fresh one and slammed it into place. If I was to die right here in this spot, I wanted a damned statue built of me standing atop a pile of zombies.
“Billy died, but he took a shitload with him,” people would say. Hell, maybe they would put that on the plaque at the base of my monument.
Taking the last two steps so that I was now standing flat, I took aim at head level and fired a few short bursts. Zombies were dropping, but that didn’t mean much when looking at the big picture. It really seemed that for every one that fell, two more emerged from those gaping black maws from Hell.
“Fuck you all!” I screamed, but nobody would have heard it over the sound of my M4. Another magazine dropped and I knew that I had two left after the one that I was swapping in. I had not even realized it, but I had taken at least a dozen steps away from the defunct escalators. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw the first of the ones from below come into view.
I fired another burst at the closest group and then made sure my pistol would come clean from the holster in a hurry. I wonder if I will feel anything? That morbid thought was shoved down, but the same voice was also now reminding me to make sure that I aim the weapon up instead of back. More than one attempted suicide had failed because the person simply shoved the barrel into the back of their mouth and fired. I wanted to be certain that I blew my brains out.
My M4 dry fired and I went to swap out magazines again. There were bodies littering the floor, but there was still way too many of them coming for me. A few were close enough that it was a race to reload in time. I kicked one back just as I brought the weapon up and fired a round into its head.
I was not going to get to that fifth mag. The walkers from below were now pouring out into the open balcony area and had effectively boxed me in between themselves and their brethren. Death was now just a moment or two away.
An explosion sounded and was amplified to painful, eardrum-splitting levels by the vast open space of the enormous entryway of this cursed building. Another followed almost immidiately, but since my ears were still ringing from the first blast, it did not seem quite as loud.
Thank God for zombies being stupid; or, at the very least, easily distracted. Most of them turned at the sudden and new sound. The ones closest to me had a mixture of reactions. Only one, a female that had been in the act of reaching for me when the explosion sounded, still kept its focus on me. I was able to shove her back and draw my KA-BAR as she regained her footing and took a deliberate step forward. Driving the blade into her forehead, I gave another shove and snapped my arm back so that she slid off the blade.
Seeing my chance, slim though it was, I made a dash for the far stairwell. I knew that it had been almost totally free of zombies. If I was going to make it back down to the lower level and out of this place, that was my best option. My brain tried to scream warnings about the odd child zombies and their peculiar behavior, but I was at a “one thing at a time” point in my plan. Shoving aside a few of the undead that had turned towards the new sound, I was just reaching a point where my ears were not ringing.
“Billy!” a female voice called. It sounded tinny and distant, but it was the sweetest sound I could imagine. It was Jessie, the lady that I had figured to be the leader of this expedition. She was the one who had been giving the orders; she was the one who had sent me and Frank here.
“Yo!” I hollered as I reached the escalator; thank goodness it was still clear.
Down below, the scene was a nightmare of body parts flung everywhere. Unfortunately, damage of that variety was not enough to end the zombies. I could see a lot of movement in that goulash of arms, legs, and torsos. I glanced to my left and saw over a hundred zombies packed in to that narrow escalator. It looked as if a bit of a log jam had occurred. That might have saved my life, because only a few had made it to the landing. I suppressed a shudder as I took the metal steps two and three at a time on the way down.
“You might have gotten us all killed!” Jessie scolded as I stepped over the upper half of a child zombie that tried in vain to reach for me as I passed.
“You see all of this?” I threw my arms wide to indicate the carnage. “I was in a fight for my life.”
“I made it very clear that there is a herd nearby and that firearms should only be used as the last resort.”
I felt my eyebrows arch as I glanced around at the carnage and then cast one quick look up to the landing above. The undead were crowding into the escalator that I had used for my escape and were already starting to get lodged in so tight that it was causing a backup.
“I don’t know where you get your definitions of ‘last resort’ from, but this was about as last as my resort gets.”
“They are coming through the fence!” a voice called from outside.
“One life that costs us everything—” Jessie looked at me like I was something she had just stepped in.
“Easy to say when it isn’t yours,” I snapped.
I was not going to stand here and listen to this crap. I stepped over another creeper and out onto the landing. What little that remained of Frank was not much more than a big red smear and a handful of zombie children that were now sporting a variety of head wounds.
I had to move away from the building to get a peek at the entry drive to this place. Sure enough, a pretty big group of zombies were headed our way. I looked to my right and saw a Dumpster sitting in the middle of a debris strewn section of parking lot.
Without a word, I jogged over to the big, metal garbage container. Both hatches were thrown open already which allowed me to look inside and ensure there were no nasty surprises. Looking around, I had my plan. This section of parking lot was slanted; not much, but enough for what I had in mind.
Treating the large green Dumpster like a tackling dummy, I put my shoulder into it and started to push. The wheels shrieked in protest and the lids began to clang. Basically, the noise was tremendous. I knew that I had plenty of space between me and the approaching herd, so I did not even bother to look back over my shoulder.
In a dozen or so steps, I had some momentum. Giving a shove for all that I was worth, I heaved the Dumpster forward. It rolled away and actually picked up a bit of speed as it reached the steepest section of the parking lot. The wheels had eased up on their squeals, but the metal lids were slamming into the side of the mostly empty, metal garbage bin.
I veered to the left and ducked behind some odd shaped brass and concrete thing that was supposed to be art of some kind. It just looked like a bunch of weird shapes in my opinion, but at least it was tall enough for me to duck behind and use as cover as I dashed for the narrow alley between two long buildings.
I picked up my tempo to a fast jog. Moving down this chute, I had the sudden fear that the group would take off back to La Grande without me. Not that I was afraid of making it on my own, I’d done it before. My concern was that they would run back and tell some crazy story about how I endangered the lives of everybody in this little expedition.
As I emerged, I could feel my heart thudding in my chest. Some of it may have had to do with pushing that big Dumpster and then my spint up a hundred yard long alley, but by the time I had reached the end, I was feeling what I imagined a panic attack to feel like.
Looking around, I was relieved to see the group formed up at a loading dock jutting from the side of one of the buildings. I did a quick head count and only came up with eleven; Jessie was now the only female in the group, so that meant that we’d lost the other two female members in addition to Frank.
“Neat trick with that Dumpster,” one of the guys said with a laugh that died on his lips as Jessie shot him a scowl that would peel paint.
“How are we going to transport all of the equipment?” one of the men from the science team asked. “There is more than I thought, and some of it is too heavy to lift, much less carry all the way back.”
I squinted my eyes in confusion. Hadn’t these people known what we were coming for? How was it possible that we had run this mission and not made any allowance for getting the stuff we came for back to La Grande?
“The group from the last run made large wagons,” Jessie said, but she was still glaring at me. “We will take turns being harnessed to them for the journey home. Each wagon has a harness setup that will allow four people to pull as a team.”
“So we are going to be freakin’ pack mules?” the same guy who had complemented my Dumpster distraction asked.
“We are going to do what it takes to get this stuff back home,” Jessie snapped. Standing, she gave us all a hard stare. “We have a lot of work to do, so I suggest that we get to it.”
“What about that herd?” another of the men asked, glancing back toward where the zombies had all trudged in pursuit of my noisemaker.
Jessie looked around at all of us and then her gaze settled on me once more. “Since Mister Haynes is so confident in his abilities out in the field, I will leave it to him to continue to ensure that the zombies are distracted. The rest of us will load out all we can and start back.” She looked around the group as if she expected rousing approval. When she was greeted by blank stares and a few open mouths, her gaze became even fiercer. “Is there a problem?”
“It’s just that…” the guy who had so far been the only one to really speak up started. He looked around to see if he had any support and decided to press on anyway when none looked to be forthcoming. “You are sending one guy out to try and distract a giant herd of those things. No backup or anything?”
“You’re right,” Jessie said with a shrug. “You can go with him.”
Like I didn’t see that coming, I thought