Zombie Squad

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 Post subject: The Restless Dead
PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 7:43 pm 
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Author's notes:

This story is based on the characters from PC/video game Left 4 Dead. It is an original work of fiction that is in no way endorsed by Valve Software. I should point out for anyone who might have concerns about these sorts of things that Valve has a longstanding and uniquely gracious relationship with its fan base. The company has, as a matter of policy, encouraged the creative efforts of its fans. This policy principally involves making available, free of charge, software development tools to allow the public to create new game content, so long as the end product is not used for commercial gain. But it also includes encouragement of other works of fan art, including fiction. This story was written and is being freely shared in that vein, and I hope I have remained true to the essential spirit of both Valve's creation and their intent to encourage fan participation in expanding the L4D universe.

My first attempt at using this as source material was the short story "The Verdict" (http://zombiehunters.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=113&t=79417).

L4D is a cooperative first person shooter set in a zombie apocalypse. The player inhabits one of four sharply-drawn main characters and must work closely with other player characters to shoot their way through a nightmare world teaming with the undead. The game has very little in the way of story or character interaction, so any over-arching "plot" and character relationships are left to the imagination of the game player. Because it influences how this story unfolds, one game convention should be noted from the outset: zombies in the L4D universe are the fast, highly mobile type popularized in movies like "28 Days Later". These creatures are not the shambler type of undead typical of a George Romaro zombie story.

It is the unique cooperative aspect of the game, plus the blank-slate nature of the characters that inspired me to write this story. My primary goal is to entertain the reader, irrespective of whether or not they have ever played the actual game. A secondary objective is to offer up semi-plausible explanations for some of the unique game elements and conventions that characterize the L4D universe. This secondary objective will primarily appeal to fans of the game. To anyone else, those explanations will just seem like another plot point.

A word about the language. I'm nine chapters into this and as I re-read what I've written, I cringe a little over the expletive-laden language I have my characters using. A better writer would come up with less offensive yet still convincing alteratives to words like "shit", "damn" and especially "fuck". Even if that's what the characters would really say. I tried that, but I'm not that good of a writer. My attempts seemed stilted, and rang hollow. They actually just drew attention to the offensive words the character really would have used. So in the end, I decided to just use the real thing. I'm trying to deal realistically with ordinary people living in extraordinary circumstances. These people are under extreme duress, and lack the time and emotional energy to filter the language they use to express some very powerful emotions. At my skill level, the real expletives are the only way I can get that across. I apologize in advance to anyone who reads this and thinks "Why can't he tone it down a bit?" I don't mean to offend anyone. I hope you can look past the language and focus on the emotions and actions these characters are feeling and taking.

Finally, I very much welcome feedback, both positive and constructive. If you enjoy the story, please post. Frankly, I need the encouragement to keep going. And if something bothers you about the story or my writing, I want to hear that as well. - MH

The Restless Dead

Chapter One: Locked Out Part 1.

When being chased by a bear, the adage goes, you don’t need to be any faster than the bear. Just a little bit quicker than the other guy.

It’s becoming distressingly clear that I may well be “the other guy”. As I and about a dozen other survivors run panic-stricken towards the trees looming above the far edge of this parking lot, I watch just about everyone else pulling ahead of me. Not too surprising when you’re sixty-six years old, out of shape, with a bad ticker and a pack a day smoking habit. Sweating profusely in a set of ancient army fatigues and a pair of old jungle boots, I'm lumbering along, clutching a time-worn special forces beret tightly in one hand, a baseball bat in the other. It’s a distressing sight to see. Especially when twenty-eight blood-crazed zombies are right behind you.

That was my rough initial count five minutes ago when we first spotted the horde slowly milling past the gates of Tenants Hollow State Forest and Recreation Area. More recently known as CEDA* Designated Evacuation Center 16-N, the sprawling parking area of this state park is where I and forty-two other souls were waiting in a sweltering school bus recently commandeered by CEDA authorities. We were just minutes from getting further away from hell, formerly known as the city of Philadelphia.

The nervous chatter aboard the bus quickly died down when we caught sight of the zeds approaching along the main highway. They likely would have continued on past without ever noting our presence. Except that our bus driver chose that particular moment to emerge from the CEDA evac coordinator’s tent with his route map and rendezvous instructions. Had he simply retreated back into the fabric confines of the tent and waited quietly, he and the evac coordinator would likely still be alive. Instead, he bolted, the sudden movement immediately drawing the attention of the creatures. That he chose to run straight towards the bus packed with his 43 charges, instead of towards, well, anywhere else, ensured that his fatal error would momentarily become an outright slaughter. He led the pursuing horde of undead right to the bus doors. Every one of us inside would have perished had I not gotten the rear emergency exit open. Still, most couldn’t get out before being caught and torn apart by the ravenous zeds surging in from the front of the vehicle.

The chorus of inhuman grunts, groans and hisses behind me is drawing nearer as I overtake a middle-aged woman; overweight and in footwear wildly inappropriate to the task of running for one’s life. She's one of the few surviving evacuees who is even slower than I am. Running awkwardly and wheezing badly, I imagine she now very much regrets all those years of picking clean the half-eaten plates abandoned by her children at the dinner table. We make eye contact as I pull abreast of her on her right. At some point she’s fallen at least once; her hose is torn around the knees, which are bleeding and streaked with dirt. Her face is a mask of terror and agonized exertion; skin flushed, eyes wide, mouth agape. Saliva, snot and tears stream back along her cheeks, mixing together in her sweaty hair, which is plastered to her forehead and temples. She would be disappointed to know that in these final moments of life, she’s definitely not looking her best. I realize I’m likely seeing a mirror image of how I appear to her eyes.

Cinema heroes die with their hair coiffed just so. Complexions are clear with perhaps a modest smudge artfully positioned on a chin or cheek for dramatic effect. And always enough unlabored breath left to quietly deliver a noble soliloquy, reveal some long held secret, or confess a past sin. As in so many other matters regarding death and dying, these past several weeks have taught us that reality is nothing at all like the movies.

In that last second or two before the pursuing zombie latches onto her shoulder, the woman conveys to me with her eyes a plea, a heart-felt request for some kind of assistance, anything that might help to extend her cherished agony just a little bit longer. And when the creature gets a second hand on her, and begins to draw her skidding down into the gravel and dirt, the final look I see is one of startled disappointment. But so soon? I had so hoped for a bit longer.

That’s it then. I’m next. The other fleeing survivors are surging ahead of me, those fleet enough of foot chance a look back over their shoulders. What message do they see, staring back at me? What does the strained face of William Overbeck say in the moments before death? I hope it’s nothing like the look of pathetic resignation I saw in the eyes of that poor woman.

I’m going for more of the “To hell with this horseshit, anyway” look.

* * * * *

The woods are the one place where I feel at home, in amongst the trees and the undergrowth, alone with only the wildlife for company. It is here that I come closest to finding a kind of inner piece.

Today this state forest offers more than a refuge from old memories, more than a salve to the weary soul. Today the sanctuary afforded by these trees has been of a more immediate sort. Reaching that treeline and entering this state forest just ahead of my pursuers, experience and half forgotten training reached across the years, offering the kind of assistance that I could not provide to that unlucky woman. Forty years ago it was a different hemisphere, different environment. A different lifetime. The setting and the foliage have changed, but the principles are exactly the same.

Evade. Elude. Misdirect. Hide and maneuver, hide and maneuver. Employ cover, seek concealment. When necessary, surprise and ambush.

Here in the woods, I am not just at home, I am in my element.

* * * * *

I spend most of the day working my way through the state forest, east towards the highway, where I know there will be business parks, office buildings. And hopefully fewer zeds. I have to find some someplace secure to spend the night. The baseball bat I’m carrying and this pop gun of a revolver I have tucked in my waist are scant protection from these things.

Finally, late in the afternoon, I emerge from the trees; cold, tired and hungry. I’m on high ground, looking out over a broad grassy hillside that descends steeply towards the highway. It’s an office park, the nice kind; what they call a corporate campus. There are two large office buildings, one up here on this height of land, the other down at the base of the hill, close to the highway.

Evidence of business wealth is everywhere: sumptuous landscaping and terraced greenery, paved walkways, trendy stone retaining walls. Trees, shrubs and verdant ivy groundcover artfully arranged on the sprawling grounds. And a grand corporate park drive leading from the highway and past the building down below before sweeping up the hill to the second building, just a couple of hundred yards to my right.

The building below me is older: eight stories of alternating columns of window glass and preformed concrete. I’m guessing circa 1960’s architecture.

The building closest to me up here atop the hill is the more modern of the two; and larger than its older corporate sibling. Only four stories, but it‘s much broader, laid out in a sprawling horizontal orientation that’s become popular in recent decades. It has a totally glass exterior, segmented by narrow vertical and horizontal borders of brushed metal. The overall effect is to make the building look like it’s constructed of individual stacked glass cubes.

Either of these two buildings could offer shelter, food. A place to rest and plan out my next move.

There’s a small rise of land between where I am and the newer building. I cautiously crawl up to the crest to get a better look. As I clear the rise, I get a commanding view of the main parking lot.

What I see spread out before me hits me in the gut like a sucker punch. It is a scene of utter chaos, frozen in a still life.

* Civil Emergency Defense Agency. A fictitious government authority that appears to be a amalgamation of real life government agencies FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control).

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The Restless Dead http://zombiehunters.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=113&t=80397

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:39 pm, edited 37 times in total.

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 Post subject: Locked Out Part 2
PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 7:47 pm 
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Just ahead of me are two wrecked cars abandoned at the mouth of the parking lot. They’re fused together at the front fenders, forever joined as a trophy in a race to the exit that neither driver won. At least a dozen more vehicles are piled up behind it.

Crisscrossing tread marks and deep furrows of ripped turf mark the spots where other drivers simply drove their vehicles over the grass borders and lawns to get to the main drive. Shattered bumpers and broken glass litter the entire parking lot. Wrecked vehicles are everywhere. A few are nothing more than charred hulks, resting on blackened rims sunk into the pavement.

There’s a long drainage ditch running along the southern edge of the parking lot. It’s filled with abandoned cars, mired in the soft, swampy earth. Most are oriented nose down, trunks and tailgates angled skywards. They stand in silent testimony to dozens of desperate attempts to drive through the ditch and reach the main drive, just a few dozen feet beyond.

Several of the light poles in this parking lot are skewed at haphazard angles, their bases littered with glass and other debris. One light pole lies toppled next to a ruined sedan, its front end savagely embracing the shattered concrete base. I’m having trouble imagining how a vehicle could possibly get moving fast enough in a parking lot to cause that kind of damage. The driver must have been in a blind panic.

The driver’s door of the sedan is ajar, and about 40 feet away I see what at first I take to be a large fabric sack lying on the pavement. Something dark is spilling out of it; my first thought is that it’s a torn bag of garden soil. The darkness spreads in a deep reddish-brown smear all the way back to the open driver’s door. Bits of something larger and more distinct are littered along that path. I grow uneasy looking at it. Then it occurs to me that garden soil doesn’t come in fabric bags any more, and what I’m seeing on the pavement isn’t spilled dirt.

It’s only then that I begin to register scores of other fabric sacks littering the parking lot and the groomed landscape all around. They’re bodies. Not merely dead office workers. But people literally torn limb from limb, dismembered, disemboweled, decapitated. Their flesh ripped or eaten away. And milling all around are dozens of zombies: in the lot, on the grounds, clustered around the front and side entrances. This place is infested with zeds.

I try to imagine the scene as it must have unfolded. Hundreds of employees pouring out of this building in abject panic, jostling, falling over, even trampling each other in a mad sprint to their parked cars, and the inevitable vehicular carnage that ensued. Some probably managed to escape, many more clearly did not.

It’s not hard to guess what started such a sudden, chaotic exodus from this building. It could have been just one infected office worker, regretting his decision to come in on a day when he really, really wasn’t feeling well at all. He hastily makes his way to the bathroom to become violently ill over the toilet. What goes into that lavatory is still a human being, but what emerges is something altogether different.

All that humanity packed into such a small, confined space. The infection must have spread here like the dark stain from a wine bottle toppled onto a white linen table cloth.

Looking down the hill, I see a radically different picture. The parking lot next to the tall building below me is surprisingly empty, with only a few vehicles left, all neatly parked. There’s no evidence of a panicked exit down there. I’m trying to work out why this would be. Did the occupants of that building somehow get advance notice of the massacre taking place up here?

There’s considerable distance and topography between the two buildings. There would have been time. Some of the employees in this building up here must have gotten word to their coworkers in the other building; given them warning of the unfolding horror taking place just a quarter of a mile away.

Whatever happened down there, it wasn’t nearly as horrific as what occurred up here. A deep and foreboding sense of dread hangs like a burial shroud over this newer building and its immediate surroundings. I quietly retreat back into the woods and begin the long, circuitous descent to the older building below.

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The Restless Dead http://zombiehunters.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=113&t=80397

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Mon Aug 29, 2011 3:50 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject: Locked Out Part 3
PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 7:51 pm 
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I re-emerge from the woods at the bottom of the hill. I’m near the edge of another parking lot, and beyond that, the tall office building.

There are only a dozen or so cars and a few service vehicles left in this lot. And far fewer zombies, at least from what I can see from here. There’s a couple out on the main drive, wind-blown trash their only company. Directly in front of me I see one leaning against a tree trunk in a stupor. I spot another two, moving slowly on a terraced lawn, above a tall stone retaining wall to the right of the building.

There’s bound to be at least as many zeds in that building. But I have to get inside, find some food, a room that I can barricade, get some rest. Two ways to do this: either sneak in without alerting those zombies, or deal with them before I enter the building.

I do some quick mental math. There’s a half dozen zombies that I can see, and likely an equal number milling around the grounds that I haven’t spotted yet. I’ve got 4 bullets left in the revolver. Really only 3 if I expect to follow through with my final contingency. Plus, as I learned earlier today, the sound of a gunshot attracts zombies. Lots of zombies.

Any of these zeds can probably be dispatched individually with just the baseball bat. After pondering the situation, I decide that in order to do this, I’m going to have to avoid as many of these zombies as possible, bludgeon the ones I can’t, and pray I don’t arouse a horde.

The direct approach across the lot is the shortest distance to the building‘s front entrance, but would leave me exposed, easily visible.

Almost directly in front of me is a broad grassy knoll running between the office building and the highway. I only need to get about half way along that knoll, a hundred yards or so, just past the parking lot. From there I can duck over to the southeast corner of the building.

Throughout the knoll there are a series of clumped shrubs, hedges and small thickets of clustered trees; little islands of cover. Moving quickly from cover to cover, it might be possible to work my way over to the building without being detected. There’s a line of shrubs skirting the base of the office building. If I could get behind that ring of shrubs, I could crawl along and get to with 10 or 15 feet of the front entrance.

My heart sinks somewhat when I spot two more zombies, both of these are on the grassy knoll itself. The closest one is out in the open, standing listlessly between where I am and that first hedge I was planning to use for cover. The second is standing underneath a copse of trees about half way along the knoll, the second source of cover I need to get to.

I spend another 10 minutes looking for alternatives, considering different approaches, sources of cover, numbers and locations of the zombies. I keep coming back to the knoll. It‘s my best chance.

That first zombie is just standing there, staring out over the parking lot. If it would just turn to its left another 10 or 20 degrees, I’d be out of its field of view. I wait another 5 minutes, but the creature doesn’t so much as flinch. The sun is starting to get low in the western sky, it’ll be dusk soon. If I’m going to do this, I need to do it now.

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Thu Jun 16, 2011 11:31 am, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject: Locked Out Part 4
PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 7:56 pm 
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I take a deep breath and then quietly emerge from the woods, running low and sweeping to my left. It’s lengthening the distance I have to traverse, but I want to approach that thing more from behind. I’m holding the baseball bat loosely in my right hand, gripping it where it’s thickest, near the top.

After what seems like entirely too much time out in the open, I close in on the zombie, angling in from its right, slightly behind. As I near it, it begins to stir, lifting its head and slowly turning in my direction. I’ve risen out of my crouch now and pick up speed, letting the bat slide forward in my grip until I’m holding it around the narrow part. Just as the zombie is turning to face me, with some dim awareness beginning to register in its eyes, I’m hauling back the bat in a two hand grip. I close the last few yards and swing as hard as I can. I catch it straight across the bridge of its nose. It’s like connecting with a medicine ball. The bat comes almost to a dead stop, I have to keep rotating my shoulders and hips to follow through.

The zombie’s neck arcs back as the bat slides over its forehead, peeling away a large chunk of its upper face. It goes down as I trot by. I start to continue on to the hedge, seeking cover. But as I look over my shoulder, I see it rolling onto its stomach and begin pushing itself off the ground. I turn around and jog back. The zombie is on its hands and knees when I return, a strip of forehead and scalp hanging loose from the top of its head. I bring the bat straight down, flattening the zed to the grass. It’s still moving. I hit it two more times before the skull pops open, like a ripe coconut.

I drop back into a crouch and rush forward, sliding into cover behind the hedge. I’m lying prone, face down in the dirt, trying to rein in my ragged breathing and my stampeding pulse. I’m not used to this: running, crouching, swinging a baseball bat like a major league ball player. Cautiously, I raise my head and bring myself to my knees. I peer over the hedge in the direction of the parking lot and the building. None of the zeds in the parking lot or beyond are showing the slightest awareness of me. I look back at the zed lying still in the grass. One down. If I’m lucky, only one more to go.

I crawl forward along the side of the hedge and drop flat on the grass again, peering underneath the densest growth. There’s the zombie standing in that small thicket of trees. I stiffen as I see it’s looking in this direction, almost straight at me. I resist the temptation to jerk back suddenly. Across the decades, the voice of my drill sergeant at Fort Drake echoes in my memory:

“Overbeck! If you so much a pick your goddamn nose when the enemy is looking in your direction, I swear to almighty God I will shoot you myself! If you ain’t got no cover, you drop and freeze! That’s your goddamn cover when you’re caught in the open! Charlie’s looking right at you, he thinks maybe he knows what he’s seeing, but what he’s seeing isn’t moving, you follow me Overbeck? He looks right at you, he might even send a round in your direction, but you still don’t move a goddamn muscle, hear? He looks long enough at you and you’re still not movin’ and damn if he doesn’t decide you’re a fucking rock, or a goddamn log! Now give me 50 and then let’s run this drill again you sorry ass excuse for an Army Ranger!”

I spend the next 5 minutes motionless.

The zombie is still looking in this direction, but not directly at me, I finally decide. But it definitely seems interested in this hedge. I feel my arms, legs and back getting stiff. I need to get moving again or I’m going to cramp up. Again, I weight the options. A retreat back to the woods, which will almost certainly bring that zombie running in full pursuit. A mad dash for the main entrance would be suicidal.

I consider the first zombie I encountered on the knoll, how slow it was to react. Maybe this next zombie is still partly in a daze. If I get up and move right for it, maybe I could be on top of it before it starts moving.

In the end, I simply run out of patience; the direct approach has as good a chance of succeeding as any. I get up and start running towards the thicket and the zed. Except I‘m barely running and I‘m having a dickens of a time straightening up. I spent too much time on the ground. My back protests the rapid change in position. If I throw it out now, I‘m dead. What a pathetic way to die, going down because I’m too stiff and arthritic to put up a fight.

The zombie is not in a daze and spots me before I even clear the hedge. It snarls, lowers its head and charges. Its back seems just fine.

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The Restless Dead http://zombiehunters.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=113&t=80397

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Wed Jun 15, 2011 9:01 am, edited 5 times in total.

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 Post subject: Locked Out Part 5
PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 8:00 pm 
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We’re going to meet less than a third of the way to the thicket unless I pick up speed. But I can’t use the bat in an all out sprint. So I skid to a halt, force my body fully erect and draw the bat back over my right shoulder. I’m a batter facing a pitcher with a wicked fastball.

I start my swing when it’s just five feet from me; I can clearly see bits of spittle ejecting from its mouth and nostrils. It’s been crouched over and wheezing between clenched teeth the whole way, but now it’s rising up. It opens its maw, drawing back gray lips, exposing blackened teeth on both jaws, connected by a web of mucus and pus.

I immediately realize I’m swinging too low. The zombie is reaching out to me and I‘m swinging directly into the sweep of its flailing arms. They interfere with the bat’s forward progress, slowing it down. But I still manage to connect fairly solidly with the ribcage, just under its left arm. I think I hear ribs cracking. The force of the impact and my follow through pushes the zombie to my left, as I’m twisting in the same direction. The bat has interrupted its grasp, so it caroms off my back and shoulder, failing to latch on. I do a complete 360, facing the thicket again as the zed skids to a staggering halt behind me.

I miscalculate. I make for the thicket instead of turning to face the zed. I’m vaguely aware that for the first time today, I’m in full panic, making ill-considered, perhaps fatal decisions. I should have swung either a lot higher or a lot lower. And I should have pressed on with the attack back there, while I had the initiative. But I’m committed now so I keep running.

The zed quickly recovers and reverses direction, rapidly closing the gap I’ve managed to open up. I get maybe two thirds of the way to the thicket when I sense it right behind me. I twist to the left and drop to my knee, skidding in the grass but remaining upright. Again I swing, this time intentionally low, and catch it on the outside of its left knee, mid-stride, just as it’s planting that foot. The knee, relieved of much of its original connective tissue, buckles. Something snaps and the zed goes sailing over my shoulder, sprawling in the grass just 25 feet from the thicket.

This time, I don’t break off the attack. I’m rising to my feet as it’s spinning around on its one good knee, snarling in a crouch. The bat comes down hard on the crown of its head, pile-driving it chin-first into the turf. I’m winded now and it takes me a good four more solid hits to finish it off. I stagger into the thicket of trees, but as I do, I see yet another zed running straight at me from the parking lot.

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Fri Aug 19, 2011 3:38 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Locked Out Part 6
PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 8:07 pm 
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I’m bent at the waist, chest heaving, trying to get my breath. I’m using the bat in one hand as a cane, my other hand pressed against a tree trunk. Ragged breaths come pouring out of my lungs, my pulse roaring in my ears.

I raise my head; the zombie is a scant 20 yards away and closing fast. Again I consider the gun. Not for the zed, but for me. The thought somehow calms my thinking, clarifying the situation. Take my own life or continue the struggle? I make my choice in an instant.

I’ve worked through my panic and I’m thinking more clearly. Running is out of the question. Well, what do I have to work with? The thicket consists of five trees, tightly clustered. I move in tight to them and the modest protection they offer. There I realize there are only four trees. Two of the five trunks are joined, splitting apart about two feet off the ground. I could use that to my advantage, but the “V” is oriented in the wrong direction, the zed is approaching more or less edge-on.

As the zombie enters the shadow of the tree canopy, I crab to my right. The zombie changes course, angling to cut off any escape. When it’s only a few yards away, I crab back to my left. The zombie changes direction again; now it’s approaching the “V” almost head on from the right, its final few strides framed by the diverging trunks. The zombie lifts a knee and lunges forward. I step back, withholding my swing. The zed’s leading foot jams into the crotch of the V, and it simply rotates over its wedged foot, levering face first into the ground . My bat is now raised over my head and I bring it down, stunning it. A half a dozen more hits and it stops moving, its head caved in behind the right ear.

I drop the bat, fall to my knees. Wheezing painfully, I crawl around the zombie, and lean back against the tree, exhausted. I’ve come maybe 50 yards so far, and I’m utterly spent. If any other zombies are coming my way, they can have me.

I sit there for a good 10 minutes, struggling to bring my breathing and heart rate under control. I think of my cardiologist.

Bill, if you want to give yourself a heart attack, keep doing exactly what you’re doing right now.

She said that when I admitted to putting up the storm windows myself. What would she say if she saw me now? It is a wonder I haven’t dropped stone cold dead. I haven’t moved and worked this much in 20 years. This old body just isn’t built to take this kind of abuse anymore.

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Fri Dec 09, 2011 10:05 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Locked Out Part 7
PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 8:10 pm 
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The sun has set when I’m finally able to rise again and survey the situation. Just getting up takes considerable effort. Everything has to go my way now, or this isn’t going to work.

I hurry to the next cover, a group of decorative bushes, moving barely faster than a walk. One more lumbering stride to a second thicket of trees and still no zombies have marked my presence. I’m feeling a little better now, and actually manage a fast crouching jog to the corner of the building where I quickly settle in behind the bushes that border it.

I’m kneeling there, my shoulder against the cold concrete side the structure. Just 24 or 36 inches on the other side, and I’ll be safe. For the first time since I struggled back to my feet at that first thicket, I allow myself the possibility I might make it.

Peering over the top of the hedge, I see a work van parked next the building, near the front entrance. It’s a window repair van, with large panels of glass hanging from racks on both sides, a ladder laying flat on the roof rack. It looks so utterly ordinary, I can almost imagine this the end of typical work day. I could just stand up and stroll through those front doors.

Staying between the building and the shrubs, I work my way along the front side of the building, slowly and methodically. I pause every few seconds to listen. Another 30 feet and I reach an inside corner, the wall continuing 90 degrees to my right. It juts out 10 feet from the building; it’s the side of the entry foyer. There’s no more cover as I make the turn. I stand up, hugging this last 10 feet of wall. I peer around the edge, exposing as little of myself as possible. The handles to the front doors are less than 10 feet away. I’m going to make it.

Quickly I scan the surrounding environs. I can see the two zombies, up on that stone terrace high above the depressed ground on the right side of the building. Neither are looking in my direction. Even if they spot me it’ll take them a good 30 seconds to run along the top of terrace to where it slopes down to level ground. I look back across the parking lot to the main drive and the hill rising beyond. I can see another zombie over there near the roadway. In this dim light, its too far for me to make out what direction it’s facing. Even if it sees me moving to the entrance, I’ll still have at least 15 seconds before it can get here. Plenty of time to duck inside.

No time like the present. I round the corner, walk briskly up to the door and tug on the handle.

Its locked.

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 Post subject: Locked Out Part 8
PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 8:14 pm 
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I just stand there for a moment, staring at the door. How could it be locked? That carnage up the hill happened when all the employees were still at work; during business hours. These buildings were vacated in a panic, during the day. What the hell kind of employee takes the time to lock up during a zombie apocalypse?

I’m exposed out here in front of the building. I either have to get these doors open, or find another way inside. I inspect the doors. Made entirely of glass set in thick steel frames. It’ll be tempered window glass too, as will all the windows around the base of this building. I feel a sense of utter hopelessness begin to creep over me.

I turn and regard the window repair van. It must have tools. I quietly set the baseball bat down and quickly make my way over to the rear of the vehicle. I find a pair of doors, each with a grimey window. I glance over my shoulder and can now just barely make out that zombie on the far side of lot, but it isn’t moving. I take a breath and depress the button on the door handle. It clicks and the door pops open a crack.

The interior light immediately comes on so I quickly step inside and pull the door closed behind me. I have to give the door a good yank to get it to latch and extinguish the light.

I’m crouching in the darkened truck, listening. I made a bit more noise than I wanted to. But I can’t hear anything outside. I try peering out the back window, but it’s too dirty to make out anything. I move forward and poke my head between the seats. I can see through the passenger window the two zeds up on the terrace. They haven’t budged.

I retreat to the rear of the truck and hunch down. In those few seconds of light, I got a glimpse of the layout back here. Metal shelves built against the walls of the van. Full of …. stuff. Long things, pipes, metal bars, coils of yellow and orange wire; probably extension cords. There was a long toolbox on the floor, pushed up against the shelves on the right.

I kneel down, groping along the floor until I find it. I identify the handle, hinges and latches in the darkness. I unfasten the latches and ease the two halves of the roofed top apart as quietly as possible. My eyes are adjusting to the dark. Wrenches and screw drivers gleam dimly in the feeble light. I fish around inside, metal clanks against metal. I freeze, listen and then proceed, more carefully.

I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for. My probing fingers find a long metal object with an edged cross-section; hexagonal or maybe octagonal. I slide my hand forward and I feel the tool hook into a flared, flattened edge. I’ve found a crowbar.

As quietly as I can, I ease the crowbar out of the tool box. Another tool abruptly settles against the bottom of the tool box with a dull clunk. How well does this van muffle noise? I try the shelves on the right and left side of the van. I find lots of power tools, but nothing I can use. I decide that this is all I’m going to find in here, so I ease towards the back doors. It’s then I hear the sound of feet scraping the pavement, just outside the van.

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 Post subject: Locked Out Part 9
PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 8:23 pm 
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I duck down beneath the windows and try to remain as still as possible. I hear it again, shuffling, closer, on the right side of the vehicle. A slavering, wet hissing noise. The van rocks slightly, it’s up against the vehicle now. I’m still hoping that it hasn’t yet zeroed in on the source of the commotion when the van rocks again, violently. A prying sound, then a pop and the sound of one of the glass panels on the side of the truck shattering on the pavement.

Abandoning all pretense of stealth, I scramble into the driver’s seat. Can I get this thing started? No keys in the ignition of course, none over the visor. Frantically, I rip open the glove box, yanking out its contents. Nothing there or in the center console.

The van is rocking violently now. Abruptly the rocking stops and a rotting face, more muscle and skull than skin, appears at the passenger window, smearing against the glass. The head retreats a half a foot and then slams violently into the glass. Again the zombie swings its head back and brings it crashing into the passenger side window. With this second blow, a feathery web of cracks appear, radiating from the point of impact. I twist out of the driver’s seat and dart into the back of the van. I grab the crowbar and prepare to open the rear door.

Then I get a better idea. I return to the front cab and toss the crowbar in the driver side foot well. I swing my legs over the right side of the driver’s seat and lean forward towards the passenger door. The fractured safety glass of the passenger window is now bulging inward. I swing my right leg up onto the passenger seat and grab a hold of the passenger side door handle.

I time it so as the zombie is drawing its head back for another blow, I tug on the door handle and kick the passenger door open with my right foot. The zed staggers back, and then it bumps into the passenger door, slamming it shut again. What the hell? I’m trying to let you in, you stupid fuck!

I try it again, but this time I push the door open with my arms. As the zombie staggers back a second time, I brace my hand as the passenger door reaches its detent, and allow the zed to clear the edge of the door. I retreat back to the driver’s side just ahead of its grasping arms and gather up the crowbar. I wait until it works out how to climb into the cab and only then do I pop open the driver’s door. I wait another half a beat until the zombie is almost completely inside before I jump out and slam the driver’s side door closed. I dart around and close the passenger door. The van rocks violently and I hear a muffled roar from that thing inside.

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 Post subject: Locked Out Part 10
PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 8:32 pm 
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I glance beyond the front entrance to the stone terrace, but those two zombies are nowhere to be seen. I’m moving towards the front door when I see first one and then another zed rising up out of the depression, lumbering towards me. I abandon the front door and the baseball bat, turn around and run back in the direction of the knoll, still carrying the crowbar.

But even as I round the corner of the building, I slow down. I only got a quick glance at those two zombies, but there was something odd about the way they were moving, something wrong. I peer back around the corner. The zeds haven’t even reached the front entrance yet. The head of the lead one is askew, tilted at an unnatural angle towards it’s right shoulder. It’s neck is broken. It’s trying to stagger along in a run, but it keeps veering to its right, stumbling into the hedges running along the front side of the building. In a flash I realize its perspective is skewed; the world appears to this zed as though everything is tilting to the left. It’s trying to compensate by angling to the right.

The second zombie is having even more difficulty; it’s left leg is completely shattered, attached only by rotting muscle tissue and sinew. As the zed lurches forward on its right leg, the ruined left limb jerks and whipsaws behind it. It tumbles to the ground and awkwardly stands up again.

It’s then I realize these are the same two zombies that were up on the terrace. They didn‘t try to run around the stone retaining wall, they must have run right over the edge of it, sustaining these grotesque injuries when they landed. One obviously fell head first and the other landed on its left leg.

This good fortune is short lived; I spot a third, undamaged zombie running across the parking lot, angling towards me. I turn and begin jogging along the left side of the building, desperately looking for another entrance. I find two doors along the left side. Both are monolithic slabs of green metal; no handle or knob protruding from the outside. I look over my shoulder and see not just the third zed pursing me, but 2 more undamaged zeds round the front corner of the building, all in a dead run.

I reach the back of the building. I can see a loading dock, about half way down the rear wall, but there‘s no way I can make it before the lead zombie overtakes me. I step up to just behind the corner and wind up with the crowbar.

This is where I’m supposed to say that the zed never sees it coming. But actually I think it gets a pretty good look at the crowbar, seeing how I swing it right into its face. Especially the hooked end, which buries itself in the left eye socket.

It goes down but now the end of the crowbar is hooked inside its skull. I tug a couple of times and then I feel it violently tug back, almost pulling it out of my hands. This thing is still moving!

I plant my left boot hard on its lower face, dislocating its jaw. It’s still struggling when I grasp the crow bar with both hands and push down hard, straight into the brain cavity. A small geyser of brain matter and dark gray fluid is ejected up through the pierced eye socket, more streams out of both ears. The zombie stops moving. I push the head over onto its right cheek with my boot and lever the crowbar towards the ground. The bone around the left temple snaps and splinters until the bridge of its nose abruptly erupts outward and the foot of the crowbar, rising up through the right eye socket, bursts free.

The other two zeds are almost half way along the left side of the building now. I turn and run towards the loading dock. A paved roadway slopes down to the foot of the loading dock, terminating a good four feet below the lip of the platform. Concrete steps on this side lead up onto the platform; I take these two at a time. The loading bay is shuttered closed by a heavy metal door. My lungs are heaving; I stagger out onto the middle of the platform and turn. Those things have already rounded the back corner of the building and are running right for me.

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 Post subject: Locked Out Part 11
PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 8:36 pm 
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The zeds reach the paved access road before angling in towards the dock. They’re running together; I know I cannot take two of these things at once. I crab to my right, trying to draw their attention away from the stairs. Everything depends now on both of them coming at me from the loading ramp below, giving me the high ground. If even one takes the stairs, I’m dead.

The first zed, just a half a step ahead of the second, hits the lip of the loading platform at a glancing angle, pawing at me as slides to a halt. The second runs right into the first, pushing it to the pavement. This second zombie remains upright, grasping for my knees, trying to get at me through the loading dock. That’s all the opening I need.

Just as its beginning to work out that it needs to lift a knee and climb onto the dock, I lean into a low swing right to left, using the crowbar like a golf club. The crowbar hits the thing on its left ear. I’m leading with the heel of the hooked end this time, so it doesn’t lodge in the skull. Still, I distinctly hear the sound of something cracking, and it’s not the crowbar. It staggers back and falls over backwards.

The first zombie is back on its feet and attacks the loading dock. My crowbar is high over my left shoulder when the zed reaches the platform, so I simply let it swing back in the other direction, connecting with its right temple with a vicious backhand.

Not as much force with this second blow, it staggers to my right, but hangs on to the lip of the loading platform. It’s leaning forward, trying to pull itself up onto the dock. With an overhand swing, I plant the foot of the crowbar solidly into the base of its skull.

As this second zombie crumples to a heap, the crowbar is pulled from my grasp. It’s stuck again. The other zombie is trying to get up, but it’s not doing too well. I sit down on the edge of the loading dock and hop down onto the loading ramp. I extract the crowbar and turn towards the other zombie.

I pause just beyond its reach. It can’t seem coordinate its leg movements anymore. Most likely because the left side of its head is bashed in like wrecked car. It’s propped up with its arms, and as I approach it lunges towards me, falling on its side. It lays there clawing at my boots.

“You . . . are one miserable . . . mother fucking piece of shit. You know that?” I say between ragged breaths.

It bares its teeth and lets out a primal hiss.

I flip the crowbar 90 degrees, grasping it midway along it’s shaft, hooked end on top, the other end pointed straight down. Like a dagger.

“I cannot begin . . . to convey . . . how much I hate you things!”

I step inside the zed‘s reach, plant a boot across its neck and raise the weapon high above its head.

“But I’m sure as hell gonna try.”

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 Post subject: Locked Out Part 12
PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 8:40 pm 
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There is no egress from the rear of the building. The loading bay door is heavy steel, rolled down from inside the building and shuttered tight. The door to the right of the loading bay is also locked. After a few minutes of fruitless prying with the crowbar, I give up.

I wearily make for the last side of the building; the one I haven‘t yet tried. The ground is gradually sloping down and as I round the corner, I see I’m in that depression between the building on my right and the stone retaining wall at the base of the terraced hillside rising to my left. It’s almost a moat I’m walking in as I make my way towards the front of the building again. This last side is even less promising; no openings of any kind interrupt the smooth concrete base of the building. The first floor windows on this side are a good 12 or 15 feet off the ground.

I angle out toward the retaining wall to get a better look at the windows above me. It’s dark behind those windows, they all appear black from this angle. Suddenly one of the windows bursts outward and falls in a shower of glass shards to the ground. Behind it are four more zombies; they’ve seen me through the window. If I’d just stayed close to the building, I could have passed beneath them, unnoticed.

Two of the zombies lunge out through the window at nearly the same instant, waist high to the window sill. They simply rotate over the edge and fall face first. I actually see them bending their necks on the way down, keeping me in their line sight. Each hits the ground with a dull crack. Another appears at the window and does exactly the same thing, landing on its chin between the first two.

A fourth zombie folds over the window sill, but it impales itself on a shard of glass still wedged into the window sill. It gets hung up there for a moment, but as its legs flop over and out of the building, the shard snaps loose and the zed comes down, still rotating. It lands feet first, its arms already reaching out towards me. Its right leg buckles on impact, the knee joint simply exploding with tendrils of flesh and ligament flaring out to either side. It crumbles to a heap on the ground.

All four are still moving. They’re bunched together, a thicket of flailing, grasping arms. I don’t risk finishing them off; I could get caught up in all those limbs and brought down. I hurry on towards the front of the building, glancing over my shoulder. They’re getting to their feet to pursue me, but not very effectively. Three of them are doing that veering thing, the fourth is simply hopping and crawling in my direction, trailing a useless right leg tethered by just a few strands of sinew.

The crowbar is dead weight in my hands. I’m so weak with exhaustion now that I momentarily consider leaving it behind, coming back only if I find need it. I round the front corner and stagger up out of the depression. I’m in plain view of anything in or beyond that parking lot, along the main drive, or up on the terraced hillside behind me.

I feel like collapsing when I finally arrive back at the front entrance. I kick the baseball bat aside and look dejectedly at the thick glass doors.

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 Post subject: Locked Out Part 13
PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 8:46 pm 
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A few half hearted swings of the crowbar accomplish nothing except scuffing the glass. Next I try the seam between the two doors. I fish out my matchbook, unfold the cover and insert it into the crack. I identify a thick bolt right in the middle, between the door handles. I try using the crowbar to lever the metal frame apart there, hoping to widen it enough to get at the bolt. But these doors are designed to withstand precisely the kind of tactic I’m trying. They’re designed too well, the metal is too strong, and above all, I have too little strength left to do anything about it.

In desperation, I try the crowbar on one of the ground floor windows. My feeble swings produce the same disappointing results. The window glass, at least what’s on the ground floor, is tempered too. It can’t be broken.

Except, I realize in a flash, it can: on the right side of the building. Those zeds broke through and dropped to the ground. I suddenly see the logic of it. The first floor windows are elevated above the depressed ground level on that side of the building; they’re out of reach. The architect simply saw no need to specify shatter resistant glass on that side of building.

I’m trying to work out how to reach that open window when I remember the window repair truck, with the extension ladder on its roof. When I turn to look at the truck, I see that the windshield is shattered from the inside out. The zombie I trapped in there has broken out, and is roaming the grounds, looking for me.

I hear movement behind me and turn with resignation. It’s the first of those four damaged zombies coming around the corner, comically staggering into the shrubs lining the front wall, slowly making its way out of the depression.

I set down the crowbar and rush to the back of the van. I step onto the rear bumper, grasp the ladder with both hands, and haul myself up. My strength is ebbing fast. The second damaged zombie has rounded the corner now.

The ladder is strapped to the roof rack with heavy rubber bungee straps. The angle is all wrong; it takes what little arm strength I have left to pop it loose. There’s still another bungee strap up front. I step off the bumper, open the front passenger door and step up, hanging outside of the cab. The third and now the fourth zombie have rounded the corner now, joining the other two in their awkward, dogged pursuit.

I finally wrest the front strap loose. I step down and return to the rear of the van. Throwing caution to the wind, I pull open both doors, flooding the pavement with light. I wearily climb into the back of the van, turn around and reach up to a ladder rung with both hands. I just lean forward and the ladder comes sliding off the back of the van. The trailing end clatters to the pavement. I ease the leading edge off the roof rack and it drops through my hands; I barely have enough strength to slow it on the way down.

My plan was to continue in the direction I had been heading, staying ahead of those four zombies and do another complete circuit around the building. But I realize I’m beyond exhaustion at this point. I‘m not sure I can carry this ladder at all, let alone around three sides of a large building. My only chance now is to reverse direction, somehow get the ladder around those zombies, and approach the broken window from this direction.

I leave the ladder at the back of the van and step towards the building. I want to draw them along the front of the building, as close to it as possible. Then dash out, pick up the ladder and sweep around them. The problem is they’re not bunched together. As the lead zombie staggers past the front door I realize too late I left both the crowbar and the baseball bat at the entrance; I can’t attack these zombies to improve the odds.

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PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 8:54 pm 
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I wait until the lead zombie is nearly on top of me before backing around the front of the van. As soon as I can see it commit to this side of the vehicle, I move quickly to the rear, pick up the ladder and start heading back across the lot towards the right side of building. It’s immediately apparent I’m too weak to hold this thing off the ground. With no other choice, I let the trailing half of the ladder drop to the pavement and continue on, the sound of it dragging across the parking lot reverberating off the front of the building.

Zombies 2 and 3 adjust their trajectory, trying to cut me off, but with their broken necks, they can’t effectively stay on course, and I evade them. I cross on to the grass and dragging the ladder immediately becomes easier and quieter. Heading down into the depression, I actually jog past the fourth zombie, the one with the shattered leg. It lunges at me but I’m already past it.

I round the corner and spot the broken window above, about halfway down along the wall. As I near it, two other zombies round the rear corner of the building, coming toward me from the other direction. My heart sinks, but then I see that they both are moving slowly, one veering, the other stumbling on only one functioning leg. These, I realize, are the first pair of zombies, the two that ran off the terrace retaining wall when I made my escape from the van. They’re only now completing their circuit around the building.

I reach the base of the wall below the window and begin to raise the ladder. I can’t get it more than a few feet above my head; I have no strength left in my arms. Two of the zombies I skirted by in the parking lot have rounded the front corner of the building, heading back towards me. I’m trapped. Six zombies coming in from both sides, a towering retaining wall behind me and a window above me, just out of reach.

In desperation I lay the ladder down alongside the building and stagger to one end. I pick that up, lift that over my head and start walking it towards an upright orientation. As I near a 20 degree angle, the foot of the ladder begins sliding away from me, towards the front of the building. I‘m pushing the ladder towards four of my pursuers. I glance back; the other two zombies are closing in from the rear. I have time for one more try.

Wearily I drag the ladder back along the wall until the foot of it is directly below the broken window. Then I drag the top of the ladder away from the building until it’s perpendicular to the structure, pointed at the spot directly underneath the jagged openning.

I struggle to lift the top end of the ladder over my head and start walking towards the building, passing the rungs over my head as the ladder rises behind me. The foot of the ladder wedges against the base of the wall, and I move past the 45 degree angle, my arm muscles screaming in protest. It momentarily gets even harder, for one instant I think I can’t do it, but then suddenly the effort lessens again as the ladder moves toward vertical. I push it the rest of the way and it slaps against window sill.

It’s completely vertical, ready to peel away from the building the moment I let go. Wearily, I grasp the side rails at thigh level. I feebly raise it an inch or two and stagger back a couple of feet. I look to my right and left; they’re only 30 feet away. It’s then I see a seventh zombie round the rear corner of the building, coming from the direction of the loading dock. It immediately spots me and breaks into a run. This is the zombie that escaped from the van.

Two more brief lifts of the ladder, two more steps back and I’ve run out of time. The ladder is still appallingly close to vertical. I begin climbing, hugging the rungs and rails, trying to keep my center of gravity as close to the ladder as possible. The ladder suddenly shudders and I look down. One of the zeds has walked into the ladder. It knows it’s near me, but with a broken neck, it’s having trouble looking up, working out exactly where I am. I look to my right, the undamaged zombie is sprinting past the other two coming from that direction. It’s going to plow into the base of the ladder.

With the last of my strength I scramble to the top, a jagged glass window sill my last obstacle. With no time left, I lunge into the dark interior, just before the unhindered zombie crashes into the ladder and knocks it to the ground. I clear the glass with one of my hands, but not the other, slicing it on the jagged sill. I also feel a sharp pain in my right knee to as I roll into the unlit room.

* * * * * * * *

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 Post subject: Re: Locked Out
PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2011 12:01 am 
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MOAR!!

Great stuff man, can't wait for the next chapter.

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 Post subject: Re: Locked Out
PostPosted: Sun May 29, 2011 6:14 am 
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I love playing L4D and these stories ring true. The hand to maw combat sequences are really well written.

MOAR!

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 Post subject: Not Alone After All
PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2011 8:56 pm 
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The next installment of the story about characters introduced in the video game Left 4 Dead. The narrator is Bill Overbeck, a 66 year old Vietnam War veteran ill-prepared for the zombie apocalypse. [EDIT: deleted whiplash-inducing link to preceding part of story when chapters used to each have their own separate topic.]

Afterwards, feel free to check out "The Verdict", which continues the story after about a 2 week gap.
http://www.zombiehunters.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=113&t=79417

I plan on adding to this story, and eventually, the timelines will connect.

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PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2011 9:04 pm 
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I am in a daze. All I see is blackness. I draw myself to my knees, wincing with pain from my right knee. My left palm is wet and sticky against the carpeted floor. Behind me, through the broken window, I hear the sounds of seven extremely frustrated zombies hissing and snarling at a concrete wall. I’m so exhausted I could collapse right here and sleep through the inhuman noise they’re making.

But that noise may attract the attention of something within this building. And I don’t want to be anywhere near here if that happens. I stagger to my feet, orienting myself. I’m in some kind of conference room. Oval table. Chairs around it. A door. I stagger around the table, nearly stumbling over a chair. There’s no knob on the door, it’s a lever. Brushed metal. I depress it and quietly push the door open a crack.

I see little but darkness, but I sense I ‘m looking out into a cavernous room. I’m dimly aware of some sort of wall, five feet high, in front of the door. I step out of the conference room. The low wall recedes into the darkness on my right and left. I touch it. Solid, but with a fabric surface. I look out above this low wall and I see the top edges of more walls, extending back, branching at 90 degree angles to the right and left. Not thinking clearly. Looks like a goddamn labyrinth. Then I see more of the top edges and detect a pattern. Rows, aisles.

Cubicles. Scores of them spreading out ahead of me, to the right, to the left. Filling this entire space, however large it is.

I fight the wave of fatigue washing over me. I listen in the darkness. I hear nothing save my own breathing and the faint, rhythmic patter of liquid hitting the carpet underneath my left hand. It‘s a deep cut, I can tell. My eyes are adjusting to the feeble light. Pick a direction. I choose right. I stagger toward the back of the building. I pass more doors on my right, more cubicles on my left. Any of these rooms on my right could be a place to rest, but I can still hear the sounds of those enraged zombies outside the broken window. I have to get some distance between myself and that noise.

I’m dragging my fingertips along the right wall, feeling the doors. The laceration on my other hand is becoming increasingly uncomfortable. My knee doesn’t hurt as much, but it’s stiffening. I can barely stay on my feet. I’m not sure if my difficulty in perceiving detail around me is lack of light, or dimming consciousness. I’m on the verge of collapse.

My right hand loses contact with the wall to my right and sweeps into open space. I continue forward a few more feet and I pick up the wall again. I stop. Dully, I register the gap I just passed on my right. I back up and peer in that direction. Some kind of alcove set into the wall, three or four feet deep. A door on each of the shallow walls. Between the doors, a water fountain. I’ve seen this pattern in countless VA buildings over the years. I’ve found the bathrooms. The sight of a water fountain triggers a powerful sensation of thirst. I lean over and turn the knob. Nothing comes out.

I push open the door to the right. Men’s or women’s? I don’t care. It’s pitch black inside. I listen for a moment, but it hardly matters now. If a zed is in here, I don’t have the means to fight it off. If I grab for the revolver, it won’t be for the zombie.

I stagger into the darkness. Tiled floor under my feet. I’m groping at air in front of me. My hands locate a horizontal surface to my right, then the curve of porcelain. A sink. I fumble to find the faucet and rock the lever behind it, back and forth. Again, nothing comes out. I angle to the left. My hand touches cold porcelain again. This time, a urinal. So I’m in the men’s room. Another few feet in the darkness and I encounter a metallic wall. My fingers curl over the rounded top, six feet above the floor. A stall.

I haul myself around to the front, push inwards and enter. More groping. Something plastic, boxy hanging low on the wall. I fumble up from underneath and start un-spooling toilet paper. I tear off a wad of it, stuff it into my left palm. It instantly adheres to the sticky wound. I un-spool more and start wrapping it around and around my hand. Around and around some more. I imagine what it must look like in the light. A snow man. An oven mitt. I kneel down, fumble to the toilet bowl. I sniff. No odor, just cool porcelain. I reach in tentatively with my right hand. Cool liquid. I sniff again, then I lift the toilet seat, grasp both sides and lower my face into the water.

And then, I drink.

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Tue May 31, 2011 7:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2011 9:07 pm 
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I awake with a start in the darkness. I’m sitting on a cool ceramic floor, wedged between the toilet bowl and the side of the stall. I must have blacked out for a moment. I’d like to just stay in here for a spell. I know I wouldn’t have the slightest problem sleeping on the tile floor. But the bathroom door opens with just a push. There is no safety in here. I have to find some place secure before I lose consciousness again. I pull open the stall door and grab the rail. With great effort, I rise until I can sit on the edge of the toilet bowl. I rest there for a moment and then slowly, laboriously rise to my feet.

I try stepping out of the stall and nearly fall over. My right knee has gone completely stiff. It’s hardly working at all. How long was I out? Tentatively, I move in the direction of the door, using the vanity counter for support.

I emerge back into the cavernous room of cubicles. It’s still dark, but compared to the total blackness of the bathroom, I can make out quite a bit now. I continue to my right, working toward the back of the building. Eventually, I reach the back corner. There’s a door there. Dark wood. Real wood. I push on the lever and it swings inward.

There’s a large window along the wall a short distance ahead of me, another equally large one to the right. Slatted blinds are drawn down, but they let in enough light to make out a large desk with a flat screen computer monitor. A bookcase on the left, a wood and steel credenza, a couple of stylish wooden chairs and some kind of long bench underneath the window on my right. I’ve reached a corner office. I close the door behind me. This door locks from the inside. I turn the bolt, then limp over to that bench. It’s padded leather. I half sit, half fall onto it, roll onto my back and painfully swing my legs up off the floor.

And then, I sleep.

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PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2011 9:11 pm 
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I awoke either 18 or 42 hours later. As near as I can tell, it must have been between 8 and 9 pm on Sunday night when I entered that corner office. I awoke mid-afternoon, either Monday or Tuesday. I’ll probably never know which.

Every possible indication that the human body is in distress was on full display when I awoke. It wasn’t too bad for the first five minutes as I slowly came to; I wasn’t moving yet. Just staring at the ceiling trying to remember whether I was supposed to be alive or dead. But as soon as I moved, a wave of vertigo washed over me and my head begin throbbing savagely. My left hand was on fire. My right knee hurt almost as bad, but more than anything, it simply refused to bend more than a few degrees. I was parched. Ravenously hungry.

When I first tried to swing my feet onto the floor and sit up, every joint and muscle in my body erupted in a chorus of agony. I passed out. When I came to, I managed to pull myself into a sitting position only by fighting through five minutes of excruciating pain. I was stiff and sore in places and in ways that are almost beyond description. The best way I can describe it is to imagine being strung upside down by your ankles and then systematically beaten from head to toe by three or four very large men using baseball bats.

I was so dizzy and lightheaded, it took me 10 more minutes to get to my feet and emerge from that corner office.

That first day, I accomplished just three things. I went back to that bathroom and drank another toilet bowl dry. I found a first aid kit behind a glass door set in the wall next to a fire extinguisher. After picking out the matted toilet paper that had fused to my left palm, I properly cleaned and bandaged that wound and the one on my knee. The package of ibuprofen in the first aid kit recommended an adult dosage of two pills. I swallowed eight.

And before I locked the office door again to collapse back on that leather bench, I returned to the bathroom and had the longest, most painful, yet most utterly satisfying shit I’ve ever had in my life.

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Tue May 31, 2011 7:52 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2011 9:17 pm 
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Over the six or seven days, I explored the building. There were a number of zombies in the structure, including two on the first floor. Had I turned left instead of right that first night after emerging from the conference room, I would certainly have been killed. The former occupant of the corner office I had taken up residence in had some kind of thing for African décor. One of the decorative items I found in there was some sort of ceremonial machete; two feet long, almost a sword. The cubicle walls provided ample cover and even in my half-crippled condition, it wasn’t too difficult to creep up and dispatch them individually.

The front of the building on the first floor consisted of a marble tiled lobby, with a massive wood and granite reception desk, a seating area, and an open gallery looking down onto the lobby from the second floor above. I discovered that the front doors could be manually locked and unlocked from the inside. I only ventured out long enough to retrieve the baseball bat and the crowbar.

I returned to that first conference room just twice. The first time was on that second day, to peer out of the broken window. The only evidence of my frantic struggle to gain entry into this building was the toppled ladder laying on the ground below, and one severed human leg.

As far as food goes, the typical office building is a bonanza. Every third or fourth cubicle contains at least some kind of food. Candy, snack bars, crackers, even canned goods. My first meal was a can of beef ravioli. I cut a rough half moon opening in the top of the can with my pen knife and devoured the contents using a plastic spoon. To this day, I have never eaten anything as delicious as that cold beef ravioli.

With scores of cubicles on each of the floors, I could have lived well for months. But the real bounty came from the departmental “snack shops” I found on each floor. These were nothing more than dedicated cubicles stocked with assorted snack foods, a price list and a cash jar. There I found whole boxes of candy bars, snack cakes, chips, pretzels and nuts, trail mix, fruit bars, granola bars, cans of soda, tea and juice, bottled water, even canned, microwavable foods like chili and soup.

Water itself was a bit more difficult to come by. Fortunately, in addition to the bottled water in the “snack shops“, many of the office workers kept water bottles at their cubicles. I also found fish bowls at several of the office desks, a fresh water aquarium in another corner office, and a large watering can near some potted plants. And the toilet bowls. I never drank from them again, but I did use the toilet water for sponge baths. The fish water and some dish soap I found in one of the kitchen areas allowed me wash my filthy, blood stained clothing.

I found gym bags in several of the cubicles, so I had plenty of t-shirts, shorts, socks, underwear and towels. Some had toiletry kits, so I could clean up, shave, brush my teeth. Basically I found pretty much everything I needed in that building: pen knives, flashlights, matches and lighters. Paperback books, mp3 players, radios and all manner of spare batteries. I collected all the first aid kits I found on the eight floors and after setting aside ample supplies for daily dressing changes, I consolidated some of the remaining supplies into a fairly comprehensive trauma kit.

Quite a few packs of cigarettes, in spite of the “This is a smoke free workplace” signs displayed prominently throughout the building. A fair amount of alcohol hidden deep in drawers and cabinets. Some decent scotch and whiskey, plus some vile stuff I wouldn’t give to a bum on the street. Exploring these cubicles was a little like reading someone else’s diary: a window onto their secret lives of vice. I even found several joints.

All of these I enjoyed as I healed and regained my strength. Once the soreness wore off, I found I had a spring to my step that I hadn’t had in years. I had managed to lose quite a bit of that paunch I had developed in recent years, and I could actually detect some muscle tone in my arms and legs.

Though I wasn’t too hopeful, I looked in vain for any kind of firearm. If there had been any concealed carry weapon owners on the premises, they must have taken their firearms with them. Which made sense, considering the circumstances.

I had also hoped to find some binoculars or even opera glasses somewhere in the building, but I never found any. Still, I spent many hours each day staring out of the windows, noting the positions of the zombies on the grounds below. I got so I could identify the different ones, which I gave names to so I could keep track of them. Bart, Leroy, Hildegarde, Cyclops, Brutus, Esmarelda, Gimpy, Fastso. I charted the movements of each in a notebook, taking sightings twice a day. Some went a day or more without moving, and then only a few feet. Others seemed to be in constant orbit around and between the buildings and the highway.

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Thu Jun 02, 2011 4:43 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2011 9:20 pm 
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It was a strange time, living hermetically sealed in that building, amidst all the trappings of ordinary life. It was surreal because of the utter banality of my surroundings. The coats and jackets hanging in offices and cubicles, post-it notes workers had left to remind themselves of urgent tasks for the following day. Pictures of family, friends. Departmental bulletin boards, decorated with felt and construction paper, marking the birthday of each team member and whose turn it was to bring in the cake.

I‘d find myself staring at the tiniest detail: a coffee mug with a photo of a child on it and the caption “World’s Best Mom”. A snow globe. A calendar with a series of big “X‘s“ marking each day leading up to the word “ACAPULCO!!!!” scratched across the entire week in block letters. I found I would often lose time, suddenly realizing I had been in a daze, standing or sitting there, like a zed.

All those people. All those lives. None of these workers are coming back. Many of them, perhaps most of them, are dead. Some of them probably killed their loved ones, or were killed by them. Not in a considered, conscious act of mercy, but in a primal outburst of murderous rage. Betraying everything that had formerly mattered, everything they were working for in their small, ordinary lives.

I went though an entire range of emotions during those days I spent alone in that office building. Relief at first. Surprise and delight at finding the simplest pleasures: a can of tuna or chicken noodle soup. A big fat joint.

Then boredom, followed by listlessness. Then sadness, and loneliness, and finally: depression.

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PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2011 9:25 pm 
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I found myself bitterly acknowledging a fundamental irony of my situation. When I was struggling to get into this building to escape the zombies, moment by moment I was faced with the possibility that I would have to draw that revolver and use it on myself. And how, against all odds, I fought my way into this place, and found safety and protection here: shelter, food and supplies. I thought I had avoided having to take that final measure.

But I‘m living these days with the growing certainty that I didn’t beat the odds at all. I’m not going to die of starvation or sickness. And I’m not going to die venturing out again. Because I understand now I am never going to leave this place.

Sooner or later I am going to put that bullet through my head anyway. Just as surely as if I were outside, cornered by a hundred raging zeds and choosing to avoid a gruesome end. I‘ll do it not to escape the horror of those things, but because I‘ll no longer have the will to endure a world turned upside down by an unstoppable horror that turns people against people, family member against family member.

There is no love anymore. No loyalty, no sense of compassion, empathy. Even if those concepts are only appreciated in the abstract, they used to be real. You could find them, feel them if you wanted to. And even if you didn‘t want to, you still drew comfort from knowing that they were indeed out there.

Not any more.

And that’s the thing isn’t it? This isn’t just an apocalypse. If the seas rose and swept every soul from the face of the earth, that would be different. If an errant chunk of rock hurled out of the cosmos and splintered this world into a trillion pieces, there would be some sense to that. Some commonality. A unity of fate and ill fortune. We’d all go out together, and we’d go out as human beings.

But this? This is beyond tragedy. Beyond an apocalypse. Families, towns, nations get neither the courtesy nor the dignity of merely perishing together. They don‘t even get to watch each other die. They get to lose their humanity and become the very monsters they fear. They turn and prey upon their loved ones. They get to kill each other, eat each other. Their neighbors, their friends. Their families.

Their children.

And if they avoid that fate? Then in their humanity preserved, they will die knowing, in their final moments of pain and horror, it is their neighbors, their friends, their wives and children that have become the monsters. And that all the love, loyalty and the shared experience that passed before doesn’t matter at all, because it is forever gone. They will die at the hands of the very people they loved most.

This isn’t an apocalypse, this is some kind of karmic rip off.

Compared to this, a mere apocalypse where everyone simply died would be a good thing, a mercy. Which is precisely why the last bullet, or the severed vein, or the step off the top of this building will also be a mercy. With what is happening out there, what it inevitably means, we all should make this choice. All who are left. Go out with sadness yes, but in that sadness, we’ll depart this world with our humanity intact.

And I came to know that this was to be my fate. I came to accept it as an utter certainty.

Until one day a reason to keep living literally showed up at my front door.

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Thu Aug 11, 2011 12:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2011 9:28 pm 
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It is late afternoon and I am on the 2nd floor, at the windows in the front of the building. I’m trying to come up with a convincing reason why I should continue to log the movements of my zombie prison guards making their appointed rounds below me. I am right next to one of the front the windows, which is the only reason why I hear it.

A car alarm.

Distant, far off, coming from the direction of the other office building, up on the hill. I never would have heard it if I was anywhere but at the front of the building. I’m startled at first because this is the first new sound or outside event I’ve experienced in over a week. I immediately conclude a zed somewhere has bumped a little too hard into a car up there. It’s sure to attract every zombie in the area. In fact, I see all of the zombies I’ve worked so hard to track quickly move off in the direction of that piercing sound.

I casually wonder if other zeds could get sufficiently pissed off at one zombie making too much commotion to attack and kill it. I ponder how long it takes for an alarm to drain a car battery. And what the zombies will do when the alarm finally does shut off. Probably not come back down here, at least not any time soon.

I consider, without any real interest, that the area around this building is now relatively safe and zombie free for the first time in a long time, at least it is in the short term. No matter, I’m not going anywhere. Still, it does strike me: that car alarm certainly does an effective job in drawing the zeds away from here. It would be a good tactic, if that were something I wanted to do.

If that were something I wanted to do.

If that were something that someone else wanted to do.

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Fri Oct 21, 2011 10:10 am, edited 4 times in total.

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