The Restless Dead

Zombie or Post Apocalyptic themed fiction/stories.

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majorhavoc
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In the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Part 14

Post by majorhavoc » Wed Feb 27, 2013 9:50 pm

Panting, I unsteadily draw myself erect and regard Rebecca, looking stricken as she casts her gaze from the one bloodied corpse to another.

“Dammit woman!” I roar. “I thought I told you not to come up here until I gave the all clear!”

Rebecca fixes her eyes on me, incredulous. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Do I look like I'm kidding? You could have been killed.”

“I could have been killed? I could have? What the hell about you?”

“I’m immune, Rebecca. I can handle a bite or scratch from one of these things. But not you! If someone has to go mix it up with a zombie, you damn well better stay back and let me or Francis or hell even the girl do it!”

“You looked like you were on the verge of getting a bit more than a bite or a scratch there Bill. Those things were seconds away from ripping your face off. Why didn’t you let me help you?”

“Because that wasn’t part of the plan.”

“What plan? You barged into a room full of zombies armed with a fucking pen knife. You call that a plan? Hell Bill, you didn’t even bother to unsling that gun of yours.”

“I told you, no gunshots up here. We got all the zombies fixated on Francis' shotgun blasts through that door below us. If we can just stay quiet up here, I think we might be able to slip away unnoticed.”

“How about sharing a little of your plans, Bill? Why the hell do you have to do everything yourself?”

“I - I had it under control.”

“You didn’t look like you had things ‘under control’.”

“I didn’t need you or anyone else up here messing things up.”

“Messing things up, or complicating your life? Sometimes I wonder why you feel you need to do everything alone.”

“I don’t feel I need to, it’s just that - “

“ - what?”

“ - that bad things happen to the people around me in dangerous situations.”

“You mean like when you were in Vietnam?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You didn’t need to, Bill. You’re not that mysterious.”

“Listen, there’s a reason why I work better alone. My world fell apart once. I’m trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“Oh now I get it,” Rebecca says slowly. “For you, the world ended a long time ago.”

“Not you too.”

“What?”

“First Zoey; now you. You sound just like her. She’s forever trying to figure me out. What’s the big deal with you women? I am who I am. If you two want to psycho-analyze someone, why don’t you compare notes on Francis? That man's a piece of work.”

Rebecca smiles. “You know, for a smart guy, you sure can be stupid.”

“I’ve been called worse.”

“Oh I’m sure you have, Bill.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“It means it’s obvious that you’ve made a career out of getting people to tell you to go to hell. I mean, just listen to yourself, Bill! I can only imagine the things you've said to the people you’ve met in life that’s allowed you to stay this alone and this angry for this long.”

“You know woman, I think I liked you better when you weren’t talking to me.”

“I’m sure you did. But you know what’s different now, Bill? We need you. You know how to stay alive. You’re quite good at that. That and, well, you seem quite adept at killing things.”

“I was a soldier. It’s what I was trained to do.”

“Skills that I don’t imagine were in much demand since you left southeast Asia.”

“That was a long time ago,” I reply quietly. “A lifetime ago.”

“And yet here we are again. History has this funny way of repeating itself, doesn’t it? Back then it was a time of war and you had to do what you had to do to - “

“ - Terrible things. I did some truly terrible things, Rebecca.”

“ - what you had to do to stay alive. And now we’re at war again. A war between the living and the undead. And those skills of yours are suddenly very much back in demand. Only this time you can use them to do something unequivocally good. So don’t be pushing us away.”

“I’m not trying to push anyone away!”

Rebecca tries to stifle her laugh, but doesn’t quite succeed. Almost demurely, she covers her mouth with her right hand and uses the other to cradle her right elbow, drawing the arm tight against her chest. I’m startled to find myself admiring Rebecca's breasts. She turns away from me and finally manages to contain her derisive laugh. “I’ve always known men to be thick-headed, but you are one for the ages, William Overbeck. Not pushing anyone away! Why, the way you treat poor Zoey - “

“ - what do you mean ‘the way I treat poor Zoey’?”

“Oh, Bill, only a fool wouldn’t realize how much it hurts her. It’s so obvious that she loves you.”

“What? Zoey? Me? That’s impossible! I’m old enough to be her grandfather.”

Men!” Rebecca declares in disgust. “Is your kind actually born this way or do you spend your entire lives perfecting the art of being clueless? I don’t mean ‘love’ that way! Is it even possible for your species to conceive of any kind of love than doesn't involve your dicks?“

“Well, I ….”

“Honestly Bill. Can’t you see the way she looks up to you? The way she hangs on everything you say, hoping for some little scrap of affection? If you two were any closer in age it would be quite pathetic actually.”

“Zoey's not ... she's appreciative, that’s all. She’s thankful that I’ve gotten her out of some jams. And for my part, well ... I’m appreciative because she’s actually, uh, done the same for me.”

“Yes, so I've heard. And tell me, have you ever told her that? That you appreciate the things she’s done for you?”

“What? … No!”

Rebecca doesn’t say anything, just cocks her head slightly and looks at me expectantly. Like a smarter pupil might look upon a slower classmate, waiting for him to understand the lesson. I hate it when women do that.

“No!” I repeat steadfastly. “I-it’s not necessary. She knows I'm appreciative. She knows! I’ve done the same for her and she’s done the same for me and it’s just … an understanding between us."

“Understanding? You two have talked about this?”

"Well, no. Not exactly. But there's no need," I say insistently, but not quite convincingly.

“Bill,” Rebecca says, shaking her head in disgust. “I sometimes wonder if you have an understanding about anything that doesn’t either shoot bullets or explode into a ball of fire.”
Last edited by majorhavoc on Wed Mar 13, 2019 9:31 pm, edited 14 times in total.

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by Sheriff McClelland » Wed Feb 27, 2013 10:00 pm

A marathon posting . What a story ! 8-)
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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by ZeroT » Thu Feb 28, 2013 5:44 pm

YES!!!!!
Thanks for the update! I was having withdrawal pains!
Excellent as always!
Gotta love zombie cheerleaders!
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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by Murphman » Thu Feb 28, 2013 8:11 pm

Never played th video game (never even heard of it), but absolutely love, LOVE, this story.

Thanks you for the entertainment.
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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by Shellyann36 » Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:58 pm

Great updates!!!
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In the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Part 15

Post by majorhavoc » Sat Mar 02, 2013 9:48 am

Minutes later, Donovan, Francis and Zoey join us in the scorekeeper’s booth, leaving the hundreds of furious undead still pounding savagely on the outside door below.

Francis surveys the room after emerging from the stairwell. “Looks like a frigging warzone up here,” he remarks.

“Yeah, we ran into a few problems,” Rebecca explains, gesturing to the bloody corpses. “But that poor guy in the chair was actually already dead.”

“I wasn’t talkin’ about the bodies, I meant you two. You look like you’re ready to kill each other.”

Rebecca and I exchange glances. “We’re fine,” I advise. “Aren’t we, Rebecca?”

“Oh yes, of course,” Rebecca replies icily. “See, Bill and I have what he likes to call ‘an understanding’. Isn’t that right, Bill?”

I was lying for effect, but the group instantly reads into Rebecca’s response everything they need to know. This woman I realize, possesses that mysterious skill so common to her gender: the uncanny ability to say one thing with her words, yet communicate something entirely different in the way she says it.

“Whatever you two say,” Francis, smirking. “But I’m goin’ on the record as whatever it was that didn’t happen up here? It’s totally Bill’s fault. All of it.”

Donovan, looking confused: “Am I missing something?”

“No, you didn’t miss a thing,” Zoey assures him, even as she takes up Rebecca’s hand and squeezes it affirmingly. “At least nothing you want to get involved in, Donovan. Trust me.”

A second door off the northern side wall of the scorekeeper’s booth leads down a short, steep set of steel stairs onto the upper portion of grandstands, ten feet below us. Ducking, we exit the gallery one by one. We move slowly and cautiously because the crowd below us is so vast that we are in full view of many of the creatures jostling to get closer to the battered and failing steel door two stories below.

The sight of the horde is breathtaking in its scope; fully half a thousand infected, swirling about at the base of the enclosed cinderblock column supporting the scorekeeper’s gallery. An undulating, writhing mass; their only conscious thought: that one door down there, and the dull memory of the living beings they last saw moving behind it. The remainder of their awareness is strictly elemental. Hunger. Hatred. Death.

Once onto the grandstands, we quickly move down a couple of rows so we’re out of sight, lest any of the horde happens to look up. Only Francis lingers near the edge, crouched over and peering down upon the creatures wistfully.

“Francis!” I whisper harshly. “Com’on!”

“In a minute, you old fart. Just takin’ it all in. Look at all them fuckers!”

I quickly glance in the opposite direction down onto at the ballfield. And the grounds beyond leading up to a sprawling cluster of brick school buildings. The only evidence of humanity I can see on the grounds before me is a vast smattering of human remains: bones, severed limbs, heads and dozens of exposed torsos, most scarcely more than ribcages largely picked clean of flesh. What a bloodbath this place was. Why so much humanity would have gathered together here at the height of the infection will forever remain a mystery.

But no movement coming from that direction, living or undead. They’re all clustered below us on the back side of the grandstands now. Cautiously, I join Francis at the top edge and cast my eyes below.

“We were royally screwed if Rebecca hadn’t gotten that door open, huh?” Francis remarks.

“Yep. Although this horde is probably double the size it was when we were first chased through that door down there. Your shotgun blasts were a fine idea, young man. Makes me realize that loud sounds can be our ally. It’s drawn every last one of them back here. Looks like a clear shot for us back to the main road.”

“You know what would be another really fine idea, old man? Grenades. Now there’s a good thought. I hate it when I don’t got no grenades.”

“Since when have you ever had grenades?”

“Like, never,” Francis confesses. “But you gotta admit, a couple-three sure would be handy right now, huh? Just pull the pins and drop ’em straight down on all those deadheads. That would be so sweet.”

“Distracting them is good enough, Francis. It’s not our job to kill every infected we encounter.”

“And why the hell not?”

“Well, we don’t have enough firepower, for starters.”

Francis, suddenly serious: “What happens when we run into another big horde and we don’t have no convenient door for Rebecca to open for us, Bill? It’s gonna happen eventually.”

“I don’t know, Francis. That may be the day our luck finally runs out.”

“If we had some kind of grenades....”

“Francis, a hand grenade is no panacea. It’s not like the movies where one goes off and suddenly all the bad guys magically fall down dead. Plenty of those things would still be intact and keep coming.”

“No Bill, they wouldn’t. At least not right away. It’s like you said: loud sounds can be our ally. What’s a grenade if not a big noisemaker?”

I turn and regard Francis, awestruck. This tattooed biker has just revealed to me a tactical dimension of our fight that I hadn’t considered.

“You know, you’re right young man. The few seconds we might gain from zombies being distracted by a loud explosion would be just as valuable as the number it kills outright.”

“And if we could somehow use sound to attract ’em to the grenade before it goes off; that would buy us even more time and kill even more of ‘em.”

The significance of what Francis is proposing is startling. “You mean like a noisy grenade? Bait the bomb, so to speak?”

“Well, this here’s a work in progress, you understand; I’m still sortin’ it out in my head. But you came up with that idea of using the smoke alarms yesterday, Bill. That sure drew ‘em in a hurry. Maybe if we threw a smoke alarm and then a grenade into the crowd that swarms around it?”

“Or attach the two,” I suggest. “Put the guts of a smoke alarm on a grenade and toss that towards the zombies, or at least away from the direction we want to go.”

“Yep. That could do nicely. Except making these here noisy bombs we’re proposing presents a number of problems. Number one being: we don’t got no bombs.”

“Hey guys?” Zoey whispers urgently from a crouch. So intent were Francis and I on working out the technical details of his noisy bomb idea that neither of us noticed Zoey crawling up towards us. “Hate to break this up but aren’t we, like, on the clock here? You know, escape a zillion undead, get back to Cape May with our zombie machine, give it to the scientists and you know, save the world?”
Last edited by majorhavoc on Thu Mar 14, 2019 11:46 am, edited 4 times in total.

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In the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Part 16

Post by majorhavoc » Sat Mar 02, 2013 2:59 pm

We literally stroll away from the scene of our almost fatal encounter from the many fans and players of the last game of the mighty Drexel Hill Raiders.

Well, we trot away. Looking nervously over our shoulders every few seconds. Half expecting that horde to somehow detect our escaping presence and come spilling around the sides of the grandstands in pursuit. But nothing happens.

Finally, just as we reach County Road a scant mile shy of the safehouse, we spy in the distance a few confused zombies spilling out of the glassed-in scorekeeper's booth. They wander aimlessly along the top of the seating section, a few staggering over the edge of the safety railing and plummeting out of sight behind the grandstands. Others appear to trip and tumble down the front of the bleachers, landing in awkward heaps. Some get up again; some do not. But none appear to take any notice of us several hundred yards away as we step out onto the roadway.

“Good thing they all have lousy eyesight, right?” Donovan observes nervously. “I mean, at least that’s one advantage we have over them.”

“Not over all of them, Donovan.” Zoey corrects. “The hunter zombies are different. The first one we met spotted us sitting still on the pavement from over a quarter of mile away. Remember that, Bill?”

I shudder at the memory. Another almost fatal encounter. Are we really any better than others who have perished before us? Or just more lucky?

“Yeah,” I say, casually appraising the creatures in the distance. “Nothing wrong with the eyesight of those special kinds of infected. And I think that smoker kind of zombie has some kind of night vision; the way it tracked us in those sewer tunnels.”

“Like I said,” I conclude, turning towards our long postponed reunion with Frank at the safehouse. “They’re adapting.”


* * * * * * * * * * * * * *


“You really think we can convince Frank to come to Cape May with us, Bill?” Zoey asks thoughtfully as she walks alongside of me. “Give up the safehouse?”

“We have to. He’s not safe there anymore. No one is after all this human activity in Drexel Hill. If anyone stays there much longer, these creatures are going to eventually find it.”

“But waddabout his wife and that kid that was living with them?” Francis pipes in. “Didn’t you two say he wanted to stay there to honor their memory or something?“

“Mary and Gavin,” Zoey corrects. “Such good people. The safehouse is what they were all working for. I think the idea of it is what’s keeping Frank alive.”

“If he really wants to honor Mary and Gavin’s work on that safehouse, the best thing he can do is to leave it unoccupied,” I counter. “That way it’ll be there for survivors to use for a short spell before moving on. It’s just not safe to settle in one spot anymore.”

Donovan now: “So we start out for Cape May tomorrow then? With or without Frank.”

“Yes, but it’ll be with him,” I say with certainty. “We owe him that after all he’s done for us. We make him understand the reality of the situation and pack up what supplies we can carry. Then we rest up tonight and head out at first light.”

"Then tomorrow can't come soon enough," Donovan remarks. "To think: we could be safe aboard a cruise ship inside of four or five days!"

“I'm just thinking about tonight! Can you imagine sleeping in a real bed again?” Rebecca adds excitedly.

Francis: “Hot food.”

Zoey, clapping her hands excitedly: “Maybe a shower?”

“Well, enjoy it while you can tonight, everyone. I don’t imagine we’ll be living in much comfort from here on out.” Those words have scarcely left my mouth when I immediately regret my familiar role as the group killjoy. I’m about to say something to try to take it back when we round the final bend and get our first look at what has been our home and salvation for the past week.

It’s a smoldering pile of ruins.
Last edited by majorhavoc on Mon Mar 11, 2013 7:44 am, edited 2 times in total.

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In the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Part 17

Post by majorhavoc » Sat Mar 02, 2013 5:07 pm

We start on this last leg to the safehouse in a dead run, but at different intervals we each lose steam and begin walking slower and slower as the extent of the ruination becomes evident. We’ve spread out too, approaching the charred and rubbled remains warily and with a deepening sense of despair. Even at a distance from each other, I can hear Zoey weeping softly and Francis muttering repeatedly: “Shit. Shit, shit, shit-shit-shit!

“What-what in God’s name happened?” Donovan cries out in anguish as we step onto the pavement of the building’s parking lot. His voice is cracking with emotion.

“What the fuck do you think happened, padre?” Francis blurts out, struggling to hold his own emotions in check. “The place got tanked, that’s what happened!”

Donovan, overcome with grief, falls to his knees, sobbing.

“Stop it Francis! Just stop it!” Rebecca admonishes as she kneels down next to the quivering man and wraps her arms around him. “You’re not helping things!”

Francis, scratching the back of his neck, chastened: “Yeah. Yeah, uh - sorry about that padre. It’s been a long day. This just sucks, you know?”

“You're right, Francis,” Donovan replies weakly. “This sucks. It all just - fucking sucks.”

Most of the damage, we eventually conclude, came from some kind of physical attack, not from fire. Although it’s clear enough that there were flames involved at some point. Whether it was put out by human intervention or by yesterday’s storm is uncertain. I don’t say this, but given my agreement with Francis’ assessment that the safehouse received a visit by a Tank, I’m fairly certain that no one was left around to put it out themselves. If so, then that pegs the timing of the attack as before the rain began in earnest; perhaps only hours after we departed yesterday morning.

“Maybe....maybe Frank escaped, you know, before whatever did this … came....” Donovan suggests hopefully.

Francis and I exchange glances. I note the grim shake of his head and I quietly nod.

“No really, guys,” Zoey adds, warming up to the idea. “Maybe not before the zombies came, but maybe he got out one door while they were coming through the other. That’s why they say every safehouse should have two doors, right? So you can block one and get out the other way. Just like we did through the grandstands! Why not?”

“Zoey,” I begin. “I don’t know that we should be getting our hopes up …...“

“Frank!" Donovan shouts out as he looks dejectedly across the fields and towards the stands of trees to our north and northeast. “Frank! If you can hear us, it's safe to come out now - “

“ - Sshhh!” I urge harshly. “We can’t be doing that! You’re more likely to attract a zombie!”

“If Frank’s out there, alive, we owe it to him!” Donovan counters. “What are you proposing Bill? That we just head off to Cape May without knowing? What if he’s somewhere close by, wounded?”

“Fine,” I hastily agree. “OK, we spread out and search the area. But no yelling! These creatures have found this place once and there’s a Tank out there somewhere -

“ - So you agree with Francis then?” Zoey interjects, crestfallen. “That it was a Tank that did this? Because if that's what happened and Frank was here all alone ….”

Francis, full of concern and stepping forward: “Zoey, it’s just that Bill’s bein’ realistic here. I mean look at this place. He and I seen what they can do ….. “

“Everybody! Look!” Rebecca suddenly calls out, pointing. "Over there!”

Out in the field to the east, a solitary figure rises unsteadily from a hollow in the terrain and turns towards us.

“It looks like Frank!” Donovan exclaims.

“Oh Frank!" Zoey cries out joyfully, making to run towards him. “We were so worried - "

Instinctively I latch onto Zoey’s narrow shoulder, immobilizing her. “Bill, what are you doing? It’s Frank! Let me go - hey, that hurts!”

Rebecca steps forward and clamps down on Zoey’s other shoulder. She sees it too.

“Guys, com’on! The way he's moving he looks like he’s - “

The way he’s moving.

“ - hurt; he needs our help! What’s with you two? It’s Frank! We have to -

“No Zoey”, Rebecca says softly. She glances to me; a wounded, sorrowful look in her eyes. “No dear. That’s not Frank. Not any more.”

Zoey spins out of both of our grasps, but she’s no longer trying to move towards the figure, which is slowly, steadily shuffling closer to us. She has her back towards it, looking at us both defiantly.

“No,” Zoey cries in protest, struggling to contain the pained grimace spreading across her face. “No!” Fresh streams of tears begin coursing down her cheeks. “No....he’s just....he’s just....he’s going to be OK. He’s just a little hurt, that’s all. He’s going to be OK.....”

Frank, or what’s left of him, is not OK. From the way he’s walking, it’s clear one of his legs is broken. Though he’s moving with obvious impediment, he seems oblivious to the splintered femur jutting down through a gaping rip in right leg of his coveralls. Broken too is his left arm judging by the way he’s holding it, half outstretched towards us.

And finally, as he draws close enough to make out the details, we plainly see, all except for poor Zoey, still facing us and shaking her head in abject denial, that the left half of his face is melted off.

“No,” the young girl repeats in a whimper, unholstering her pistol. “No it’s still our Frank,” she insists weakly as she slowly turns to face the last surviving resident of Drexel Hill, PA. It’s close enough now that we can hear it wheezing and groaning at the sight and smell of human flesh.

Zoey continues her monologue, as though there is no one left in this wretched world save this one lonely girl and the stricken, anguished figure lurching towards her, reaching out; only to her.

“Oh, Frank," she says in a quivering voice, wiping the tears and strands of hair from her eyes. Raising the pistol with a steady arm, she carefully takes aim.

"Dear, dear Frank..... you've come home!”
Last edited by majorhavoc on Sun Mar 10, 2013 4:21 pm, edited 11 times in total.

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by DTyra » Sat Mar 02, 2013 9:46 pm

As always...excellent!
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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by majorhavoc » Sat Mar 02, 2013 10:12 pm

DTyra wrote:As always...excellent!
Thank you, DTyra. Can't tell you how much I needed that. :)

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by Samson101 » Sun Mar 03, 2013 6:08 pm

MH, great update, I look forward to them. Keep them coming!

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by Griffworks » Sun Mar 03, 2013 10:13 pm

Awesome to see these updates! It's inspiring!
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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by MrFord » Mon Mar 04, 2013 6:49 pm

:clap: :clap: Wonderful!! Was best ever, looking forward to how they get out of this predicament! :clap: :clap:


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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by Shellyann36 » Tue Mar 05, 2013 12:56 am

I was really wondering if the safe house would be left with only one person guarding it. Thanks for the update!
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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by slannesh » Tue Mar 05, 2013 2:47 am

Excellent updates! Really enjoying this story MH
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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by ZeroT » Wed Mar 06, 2013 9:33 am

I gotta say Major, I really enjoy the way you develop the characters!
They become living, breathing people as I read through your installments!
Makes for a very enjoyable read!
Thanks for the temporary escape from reality!

As always... MMOOOAAARRR!!!!
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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by Zombied » Wed Mar 06, 2013 10:11 am

My GOD Major,

This is some serious talent, me and a few guys are thinking about developing an RPG Zombie Board Game, would you be interested in working on something like that?

We could definitely use some one with your gift :)
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In the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Part 18

Post by majorhavoc » Sun Mar 10, 2013 4:31 pm

As a new Ranger trainee, I remember my initial impression of our Special Forces training staff at Camp Drake was that they were, to the one, goddamned sadistic sons of bitches. And that much of what they had us doing had less to do with actual training and more to do with the sheer, unbridled joy of inflicting as much misery and physical pain on naive young men as is humanly possible.

Unexpectedly announcing something like a twelve mile LRIM march just as we were slogging back to the barracks after a particularly gruelling day was all too typical. Rousting us out of bed in the middle of the night for several unplanned hours of celestial overland navigation. Or just as we were sitting down for dinner in the canteen, announcing an unscheduled Small Unit Tactics drill with full loadouts and under live fire.

Yet no matter how often it occurred, they always managed to find a way to spring it on us when we absolutely least expected it. Much of what we did appeared to be done in a way to purposely catch us off guard, unprepared, unwilling and in the worst possible state of mind. We never seemed to be able to detect any rhyme or reason to what they were doing. It seemed like no sensible way to hone promising young soldiers into an elite fighting and reconnaissance unit. So I didn’t think they were just sadists. I concluded they had to be idiotic sadists.

But I had been in the field with my ODA team for less than a week before I came to understand there was very much more method than madness to that kind of training. It turned out that all those unexpected drills had precious little to do with extra physical conditioning. We were all young bucks back then and the cream of our original units: Q Course graduates or 18X qualifiers. Physically stronger, mentally sharper and far more skilled than any of the regular grunts. We were already in the best physical shape of our lives.

No, the real function of all those surprise marches and middle of the night drills was to confer on us a kind of emotional agility; a mental toughness that allowed us to quickly set aside our own expectations to instantly deal with changing circumstances.

I first recognized the value of this in some of our early missions and so I assumed to understand their true purpose. Like when, after a punishing slog through miles of swamp and jungle carrying hundreds of pounds of confiscated intel and our own wounded, we’d be informed that the primary extraction point had been “compromised”, and we had to quickly shift to a secondary LZ, sometimes miles away. Some of our wounded on those early missions desperately needed immediate evac. And because of the extra time it took to reach those backup LZs, they didn’t get it. We lost some good men due to those delays and altered extractions, which happened to us far more often than seemed plausible.

But later on, after they removed our leashes and took off our training wheels, the true purpose of that mental conditioning became apparent. Mission objectives started being changed on us mid-operation. Just as we were wrapping up what we thought was the primary objective, we’d receive a coded communique with brand new instructions. Belatedly revealing what the actual objective had been in the first place. Only then would it become evident that what we took to be our primary task was merely a strategic feint, or a successful gambit that opened up the conditional portion of the mission structure; green lighting what had been the real objective all along.

That mental toughness allowed my whole ODA team to become the living embodiment of a perpetual “If-Then” statement. Where we’d never even know if there was a “Then” part of the equation until it was sprung on us at the last moment.

Because half the shit we were doing back then was done in the shadows. We truly were Black Ops. Off the grid, in the purposely vague or blank parts of official sector maps and command structures. So everyone clear up the chain of command and all the way down to us, the boots on the ground, were on a strictly ‘need to know’ basis. And most of the time we didn’t need to know something until the last possible moment, so that’s the way it usually went down. Sprung on us at the end of the day, the end of a firefight or the end of some particularly gruelling assignment.

It wasn’t until years later that it occurred to me that a secondary consequence of this mission style was that it minimized the amount of time any of us had to think about what we were being asked to do. Somebody thought it through from every angle.

Why all this need for secrecy and mental toughness? Because the only thing more damaging than a United States Special Forces Ranger captured alive in a part of southeast Asia where he absolutely, positively had no business being is a United States Special Forces Ranger captured alive with operational knowledge of why he was in a part of southeast Asia where he absolutely, positively had no business being. In fact, the less anybody knew about what we were really up to in those jungles was better for everybody involved.

Or so we were told.

That kind of mental training never leaves you. Physical skills can deteriorate over time, but that sort of emotional conditioning becomes burnished into your psyche just as surely as the memory of a thousand travesties committed are seared to your soul.
Last edited by majorhavoc on Mon Aug 18, 2014 9:24 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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In the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Part 19

Post by majorhavoc » Sun Mar 10, 2013 4:50 pm

My four companions have no such mental conditioning to draw on. Their reaction to this crushing turn of events is immediate, palpable and persistent.

We bury Frank alongside the still fresh graves of Mary and Gavin. Then we dejectedly pick through the ruins for what salvageable supplies we can find. But after ten minutes, no one is accomplishing much more than kicking loose bricks around and pawing absently at the cindered debris. None of these four know - or even wants to think about - what comes next. Physically exhausted is one thing. But Francis, Donovan, Zoey and Rebecca were mentally and emotionally prepared for a long shower, a hot meal, maybe a little final packing and then off to a quiet night in soft, warm beds. Somehow, these four have to let go of all that and muster the will to move on. Get far away from this tomb that we used to call a “safe house.” Now a grave site full of grim memory and an air of foreboding.

I clear my throat and broach the topic we’ve all be avoiding.

“Zoey,” I begin. “How well do you remember the Sturdevant’s safehouse wall map?” (I remember the map perfectly well, but I need to get these four to come to to their own conclusions about our situation. It’s more painful for them this way, but they’re more likely to buy into what we have to do next.) “How far to that next safe house south of us?”

“The one in Chester? Gosh, Bill, it had to have been at least ten miles.”

(It’s actually almost 12.)

“Donovan, you pulled a double watch last night. You sacrificed sleep so that the rest of us could get more shut eye. No shame in this, but you’re in worse condition of any of us right now. Do you think you have at least another ten miles in your legs? We’ll have to move at a pretty brisk pace if we’re going to reach that safe house by nightfall.”

“I am truly, truly sorry everyone, but honestly? I’m having trouble seeing how I can walk another mile, let alone ten.”

“Rebecca?”

“Thirty minutes ago I was sure we were done for the day. I more or less am done for the day. I could do another mile or two, but that’s about it. This pack is already killing me.”

“Then we set a stretch goal, OK?" I propose, making eye contact with each and every member of our party. "Three miles, people. Just three more miles and then we stop for the night. Maybe less if we can find a suitable spot beforehand. But if we can’t find a defensible position, we have to at least put three miles between us and this …. tomb.”

To my everlasting satisfaction, the group looks at each other for only a few seconds before wordlessly pulling backpacks onto their backs, cinching down straps and adjusting their weapons. These are such good people, I remind myself. They’ve been through hell already and we’ve sacrificed so much. Yet here we are. Still alive. Still standing. Still fighting. Have I ever had the honor of leading a better team? If I can just see them safely through this next week, maybe less, they might be able to live out their natural lives in some semblance of peace.

Surely that isn’t too much to ask for.

All that remains is the business of the paltry bag of supplies we were able to salvage from the rubble: a few blackened cans of food, a box of .40 shells, a damp parcel of bedding and a pack of alkaline batteries. And Frank’s old coffee kettle, battered and blackened. We all saw Zoey slip it into the bag, none of us had the heart to protest.

“Francis, if I carry your axe for a while, can you manage these extra supplies?”

“Oh sure, Bill. Just load me up more, why don’t ya? You know what I hate? Bein’ seen as the group’s pack mule, that’s what I hate! I’m already carryin’ more'n anyone else - “

“- I’ll do it, Bill.” Zoey volunteers. “It’s not like we found that much worth taking anyways. We can’t ask Francis to carry any more.”

Francis, leveling a stare: “Oh, that is low, little lady. Real low. I see what you’re tryin’ to do!”

“Give me the extra gear, Bill,” Zoey insists, ignoring the accusation.

“Don’t do it, Bill, I know what Princess Peach is up to; tryin’ to guilt me into taking the extra load. And it’s not going to work either!”

“But you’re so tired, Francis.” Zoey counters innocently. “We can all see that. Wouldn’t want you to strain any of those big old muscles you’re always showing off.”

Yes, I do see what Zoey is trying to do. And it has as much to do with group morale as it does with guilt. So I join in: “Son, I just asked you a simple question: can you handle the extra gear or not? Like I said to Donovan, there’s no shame if you’re too ….. weak.”

“Oh no you don’t!” Francis hisses. “Don’t give me that ‘you’re too weak’ business. Your Jedi mind tricks won’t work on me, Obi-wan! Give me that bag! Ha! Thought you could fool me did you? And I’ll carry my own damn axe too!”
Last edited by majorhavoc on Fri Mar 29, 2013 10:48 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by Sheriff McClelland » Sun Mar 10, 2013 6:57 pm

The personality details are great :)
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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by DTyra » Sun Mar 10, 2013 9:28 pm

My sister used to pull that Jedi mind crap on me when we were kids...come to think of it...she still does.
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In the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Part 20

Post by majorhavoc » Thu Mar 14, 2013 11:00 pm

We’ve already noticed a biting chill settling into the damp afternoon as we wordlessly set out on the roadway leading south. Towards Chester, Pennsylvania: an obvious place to cross the Delaware River and into New Jersey. I suck in the cool air between my clenched teeth and let out an involuntary shiver, noting the first traces of mist snaking out of the hollows and wooded dells of the rolling countryside.

Another mile and the mist has steadily drifted out of the folds of the landscape, pooling together into a gathering fog that soon envelops us in our lonely march along the roadway. What little wind there is cuts through our damp clothing, coming in behind us off our right shoulders out of the northwest.

Back in the army we used to say that every regular grunt was a rifleman, but that every Army Ranger was a rifleman, a naturalist, an astronomer and a meteorologist. So it’s evident to me that yesterday’s tropical depression has moved on. Ushered out to sea by a high pressure system sweeping down from the Canadian northwest. And a cold front advancing in front of it.

It’s going to be a damn chilly night tonight.

In the gathering fog, the landscape begins to take on a grim, ethereal air. Abandoned vehicles appear in the mist in front of us, strewn like toy cars all over the roadway. And then each slowly recedes from view in the fog behind us as we walk past them.

Telephone poles stand like sentinels: silent, brooding as we slowly pass beneath them. They appear sometimes listing and even toppled where they’ve been clipped by crashed cars. The wires, where they are still held aloft, trace a rhythmic, undulating pattern above us in the gathering gloom. A grim echo of the frenetic buzz of energy and purpose that coursed through them just a few short weeks ago. To our right and left, derelict structures occasionally emerge out of the mist. Silent, abandoned, some reduced to burnt out shells. And then they too slowly disappear in the fog swirling behind us as we make our way through the gray, chill air.

Not all that we encounter along this abandoned roadway is silent and unmoving however. Every cluster of shattered vehicles seems to lay claim to at least a solitary zombie; sometimes a warren of three or more. Silence and the sharply reduced visibility are precious advantages in the gathering fog however, prizes we are reluctant to squander with any unnecessary noise. So we are hesitant to use our firearms to deal with the creatures that we encounter.

Francis, Zoey and I instinctively take the initiative, advancing quickly on the infected before they can fully react. We cut them down with the silent whistle of a swinging axe, the dull thud of a baseball bat or the cold, wet smack of a crowbar plunging into rotting flesh. Donovan and Rebecca largely stay out of these fights - unless they can chance a quick, uncontested jab with a rifle stock when the occasional zombie survives our initial blows.

Otherwise, Donovan and Rebecca hang back and cover us with their raised weapons as Zoey, Francis and I engage in a series brief, frenzied skirmishes. Through one violent encounter after another, it remains largely quiet save the low moans coming from the startled creatures, or our own emphatic grunts of exertion.

This unspoken division of labor intuitively makes sense to the five of us; for we are all keenly aware that Donovan and Rebecca almost certainly do not share the strange, inexplicable immunity to the zombie virus that Francis, Zoey and I enjoy. There is no resentment as the three of us repeatedly wade into the thick of the fight, shrugging off bruises, scrapes and teeth marks. Because even as Donovan and Rebecca hang back, we all remember that acute feeling of vulnerability that each of us felt in the early days of the infestation. When the smallest scrape or bite invariably meant death.

Still, the fighting begins to take its toll and covering the second mile takes us well over an hour, slogging through one pitched melee after another. Finally, chance, fate and our own growing exhaustion finds Zoey, Francis and myself suddenly overwhelmed by a cluster of eight zombies. And so it falls to Rebecca and Donovan to quickly and efficiently cut them down with a volley of rifle and shotgun fire.

The abrupt reports from the firearms echo out into the misty gloom. We only have a few moments to ponder the decimated creatures lying still on the damp asphalt when we hear rising from the fog directly in front of us a chorus of guttural howls and angry moans. Then the sounds of feet, dozens of pairs of feet, furiously pounding the pavement and rapidly drawing closer.

"Uh-oh", Franic mutters, peering into the fog. "This can't be good."

“Quick!” I cry out. “We need to get off this road! Now!”

Without another word, we make a beeline 90 degrees off the roadway, running tightly clustered and hunched over into the adjoining field. We’ve gone less than 25 yards through the damp overgrowth when I clamp onto Francis’s back. He repeats the gesture to Zoey and the signal passes forward to Rebecca and Donovan. We wordlessly stop and cower together in the damp grass. Still and silent, we are surrounded by the swirling folds of fog.

Listening intently, we hear the troupe of zombies pound their way along the pavement right to the spot where we were standing just 30 seconds ago. The sounds of footfalls persist for only another second or two before they begin to break up, the horde coming to a confused and uncertain halt.

“What are they doing?” Rebecca mouths almost wordlessly. “Why did they stop?”

“They’re trying to figure out where the fuck we are,” I hear Francis hiss in reply. Then looking at me, urgently: “How the hell did they know we didn’t just keep goin’ back along the road?”

I don’t want to add to the chatter, so I draw a raised finger against against my lips and then hold my arms out to my sides, palms up, pantomiming my own uncertainty over the behavior of these infected. These creatures are indeed evolving. No longer the shuffling, shambling corpses of only a few weeks ago, these things seem to being growing ever more alert and aware of the presence of any remaining human survivors. The almost uncanny hunting behavior they engage in seems most pronounced when the zombies gather in groups; making the hordes doubly dangerous.

And thus we find ourselves a scant 25 yards from one such horde, which is actively engaged in the process of ferreting out our location in the fading light of this cold, foggy autumn afternoon. It’s when we hear the first splashes of foot falls onto the soggy grass on this side of the roadway that I urgently gesture to the others. Without another word, we begin quietly making our way south again, moving cautiously through the fog, parallel to the roadway, just out of sight to our left.

We’ve covered another fifty yards when we encounter a barbed wire fence blocking our path. Listening to the scattered movement behind us, we sense the creatures have reached the spot where we first paused to cower in the field.

“I don’t get it,” Donovan complains quietly. “It’s like they’re tracking us! Can they follow our scent? Is that it?”

“I don’t know,” I profess. “It’s something. Like they can sense our general presence when they get close enough.” I raise the lowest strand of barbed wire. "Com’on people. Under you go, and don’t get hung up! This fence should slow them down.”

I hold the wire strand aloft as each of the group shimmies underneath, quietly grunting and sputtering in the mud and dampness of the sodden earth. All around us the fog thickens even as the air grows ever more chill. Zoey, shivering, lingers on the other side and holds the wire for me to follow. “H-Hurry Bill!” She whispers urgently. “I can hear them getting closer - they’re coming this way now. They’re definitely tracking us!”

What remains of the afternoon light is fading to dusk as I worm my way underneath the barbed wire. I silently curse the wet and cold ground. The few remaining dry spots on my army jacket are now drenched in moisture, adding to the chill.

“Angle back to the roadway!” I whisper to the group as they linger on the other side. Donovan stumbles in the slick, wet grass. “Com’on young man,” I urge, helping him to his feet. “We need to get some distance from that horde; throw them off our scent. Or whatever it that they’re using to track us!”

Donovan is clearly struggling, and it’s more than just fatigue. As we scramble back to our left, angling back to a roadway that we more sense than see, I observe in the man’s wincing gait that he’s suffering from pain as well as exhaustion.

We stagger back onto the roadway and no one needs urging to continue along at a trot, striving to put as much distance as we can between us and the horde. Which we all now picture stumbling into the barbed wire that we hope will stymie them at least for a little while.

Francis gathers up Donovan’s right arm, and stoops to wrap it over his massive shoulder. “Com’on, padre. Don’t let up now.”

Donvan, now clearly limping: “Don’t ... know how much longer I can keep this up ... my feet, they’re killing me!”

“Ah, it’s not so bad, preacher man,” Francis counters, encouragingly. “Nice brisk night, fresh air, a little bit of exercise, and a shitload of zombies ridin’ up our ass. What’s not to like? But you know what I hate? Savin’ Bill’s sorry ass. And you was doin’ a helluva good job back there, bailin’ him out with that rifle of yours. So we ain’t leavin’ you behind, padre.”

“Bless you...Francis. Bless you.”

The third mile is a herculean struggle for all five of us. The light is rapidly fading, the fog and cold intensifying and we’re all reaching our physical limits. We encounter just four more zombies, which Zoey and I dispatch with increasingly labored efforts as Rebecca and Francis hang back to keep Donovan, who can now barely walk, erect.

It’s been twenty minutes since we last heard any sound of the pursuing horde. This is when we first spy a low sprawling structure slowly emerge from the fog on our right as we plod along, struggling to stay on our feet.

What we first judge to be the building itself is revealed to be a high fence of stout, vertical boards, enclosing a somewhat smaller, but still substantial structure within. As we progress further along the fence, an unlit sign closer to the road slowly materializes out of the mist: McGarrity and Moses Truck Repair. Painfully, Rebecca trots alongside of me as I ponder this latest signage. “Bill,” she offers weakly, “We’re on our last legs back here.”

“I know, Rebecca. I know.” I reply as we draw abreast of an open gate in the fencing. In the failing light I continue to appraise the high fencing and the barest outlines of a low cinderblock structure within. “But I think this place just might be what we’re looking for.”
Last edited by majorhavoc on Sun Apr 07, 2013 5:42 pm, edited 14 times in total.

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by Sheriff McClelland » Fri Mar 15, 2013 7:43 am

Must be tracking the "device" I guess . This was a fantastic addition :)
"Yeah, they're dead. They're all messed up. "

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by fourpaws » Fri Mar 15, 2013 1:48 pm

Your awesomeness keeps getting more awesome MH.... keep it up bro.. this is thrilling !!
Somewhere, somehow, someones going to be smashing zombies.....

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