The Restless Dead

Zombie or Post Apocalyptic themed fiction/stories.

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selen
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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by selen » Wed Feb 17, 2016 2:13 pm

Thanks for the update :)

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by teotwaki » Thu Feb 18, 2016 6:27 pm

Dang. I'm all caught up on years of writing and now have to live like normal folks and whine until the next installment magically appears.

PS: Major Havoc, please give your spell checker a swift kick as it loves to insert "clamor" for "clamber" which once in a while a provides a weird fit such as "Bill clamored up the ladder" which must have been a noisy verbal ascent. :mrgreen:
My adventures and pictures are on my blog http://suntothenorth.blogspot.com

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by D_Man » Fri Feb 19, 2016 10:04 am

Great update. Thank you!
To strive,
To seek,
To find, But not to yield.
~Tennyson

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by walterde » Mon Mar 28, 2016 10:52 am

Dam, caught up again. Glad to see you are back. Hope you get the creative juices flowing aga I n soon. Great job and I'll be back to check on updates in a few weeks.
I gotta go to class.

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by vthunter » Sat Apr 23, 2016 10:12 am

Just a little boost to the top, MH, to keep this in sight........and a bit of encouragement, if needed... :wink:

Ready for more, when you are.......... :mrgreen:

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by jls74 » Sat May 07, 2016 7:24 am

Major, wanted to make my first post outside the introductions thread on your story and say thanks for an awesome read. There are some pretty good stories on this board but yours has kept me coming back again and again looking for updates! Thanks for an awesome read, here's hoping the creativity comes back again and we get to follow your story to the end.

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by rimfire63 » Thu Jun 02, 2016 8:09 am

Major, thanks for this awesome read.
I posted in the introduction forum and then wandered onto your story and haven't gone anywhere else until reaching this point. Great writing! Cant wait for this to continue.
Rimfire

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by vthunter » Sat Jul 09, 2016 12:28 pm

...bumping back to the top, MH, to keep this in sight........ need a real diversion from current events

Always ready for more, when you are.......... :mrgreen:

Hope you're enjoying a good summer and a belated Happy 4th to you & yours!!

:clap:

P.S. apologies to those who get updates, that it's not yours they're reading... :wink: :wink:

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by D_Man » Fri Aug 26, 2016 8:59 am

Hoping for an update soon... :)
To strive,
To seek,
To find, But not to yield.
~Tennyson

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by D_Man » Fri Sep 30, 2016 10:04 am

Monthly bump. MOAR!!!
To strive,
To seek,
To find, But not to yield.
~Tennyson

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by D_Man » Fri Oct 28, 2016 10:46 am

Just another monthly bump. Hoping for moar now that the weather has turned... :D
To strive,
To seek,
To find, But not to yield.
~Tennyson

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by vthunter » Mon Jan 02, 2017 6:13 pm

Yeah, that dang "life gets in the way" issue again. Been W A Y too long since I've been here. Caught up a bit on TB's wonderful story and took a look see for MH's thread - found it down the page a bit and figured it wouldn't hurt to bump it back up, now that we're in 2017.

If you have more in you, Major, would love to read another installment...

... can't just leave Bill hanging out there with all this angst, don't ya know? :wink:

Happy New Year, sir - hope you had a few nice holiday times to ponder on the newest chapter(s)..

always, Vt

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All Is Lost; Part 47

Post by majorhavoc » Thu Aug 24, 2017 3:35 pm

The ground outside the bathroom building rushes up to meet me when I slide out of the ventilation window. I never actually parachuted into hostile territory when I was a Ranger; those were all helicopter or seaborne landings. But they sure made us do plenty of training jumps. Mostly out of C-130s, Chinooks and also one type of aircraft I'm still not at liberty to talk about.

I land on the balls of my feet and collapse sideways, rolling onto my hip, as I was taught. I end up flat on my back in the tall grass, my arms bunched together across my chest. Grasping for a parachute harness that isn't there.

In the midday sun, the expansive roof eaves of the bathroom building cast a wide apron of shadow all around the structure. I'm still within that darkened penumbra when I first rise to my knees in the tall grass. An expansive field extends southwest almost a hundred yards behind the bathroom structure before rising to a height of land where I've judged the main road to be. Dark silhouettes of undead are cresting that rise, moving rapidly in this direction.

Sucking in my breath, I duck down low and scramble back towards the structure's rear wall, retreating deeper into shadow. Yelps, hisses and slavering moans draw closer as the creatures bound down the incline and across the grassy field. They're heading straight for this building. I hug the wall and creep urgently towards the southeast corner. The zombies seem entirely focused on the bathroom building's front entrances, however. Approaching from the southwest, I realize the zombies' most direct path to the front of the building takes them along the opposite side. Breathing a sigh of relief, I finally round the corner and out of their line of sight.

Looking back across the park grounds, I regard the map kiosk and the trailhead that I passed by not ten minutes ago. The temptation to retreat back to the familiar and safe confines of the river trail is powerful. But along it's path is the spot where I encountered that doomed couple, awash in each other's blood and entombed in their tent. And beyond that: where I bid farewell to Joshua and Tracy; my last real prospect of sharing my fate with fellow survivors. For me, that river trail now represents only death and despair.

Casting about for an alternative, my gaze settles upon the bicycles I had noticed earlier. They're a little farther up along this side of the building, leaning unsecured against a bike rack. Surely I can pedal faster than I can run? When I reach the bikes, I realize there aren't three as I initially thought. Only two. Or more precisely: two and a half. There's a pale blue adult bicycle and then a bright green children's model. The green bicycle is leaning up against what I first took to be another kid's bike parked directly behind the adult-sized model. But I see now that the second children's bicycle is actually some sort of one-wheeled tag-along trailer, attached to the seat post of the adult two-wheeler. It's essentially a half bike with a rear wheel, handle bars and a diminutive saddle. Pink in color, it's embellished decals depicting the cartoon likeness of some Disney princess.

The tagalong is also decorated with tassels, streamers and a glittery pinwheel affixed to the tiny handlebar, spinning lazily in the cool afternoon breeze. And finally; a stuffed teddy bear; bungie-corded to the tagalong's handlebar stem. Like so many other trappings of ordinary life that might have coaxed a vague smile before the apocalypse, the sight of this child's conveyance now garners only an aching sense of sadness and loss.

I'm just starting to investigate how the tagalong's hitch mechanism works when a pair of creatures suddenly stumble into view at the northeast corner of the building. They immediately spot me and both emit an ear-piercing shriek. Scarcely a heartbeat later, the sounds of the larger horde inside the bathroom building rise to a full-throated refrain of preternatural fury. As though every undead within the building can suddenly see me right through these cinderblock walls. It comes to me in an instant these two zombies outside of the building have just telegraphed my location to every creature milling about the bathrooms within.

With absolutely no other options, I yank the adult bicycle off the bike rack and begin frantically pushing it back towards the rear of the building. The pedals of the pink tagalong trailer instantly become entangled in the spokes of the green children's bicycle. For a few seconds, I'm dragging along all three conveyances. The two zombies have already covered half the distance between us before the green children's bicycle finally disengages and falls to the side. The first elements of the massive horde begin disgorging from the building's front entrance and spill around the front of the structure.

I reach the building's back corner, vault onto the bicycle seat and begin pedaling madly. I steer to my right and sweep along the back wall of the structure, picking up speed. The old truism that you never forget how to ride a bicycle turns to to be quite correct. But it doesn't mean you're particularly good at it after a couple of decades away from the saddle. Nor does it enable you to magically divine the function of the goddamned rat's nest of cables and levers sprouting all over this infernal machine's handlebars. When I last rode a bicycle, the state of the art was a Sturmey-Archer five speed hub, controlled with a single chromed thumb lever. If you wanted to slow down or stop, you pedaled backwards.

I concentrate on remaining upright and moving forward as I plow through the tall grass at the rear of the bathroom building. I angle towards the paved surface of the parking lot. The two creatures behind me are still gaining, but not nearly so quickly now that I'm on two wheels.

It's tough going in the high grass with this ridiculous tagalong trailer bouncing along behind me. And I'm in way too high a gear. But I'm afraid to even attempt a gear shift; I have no idea which of these handlebar controls does what. I'd just as likely shift into an even higher gear. Or worse, unship the chain and then all would be lost. The matter becomes moot as I burst through the last of the thick undergrowth, streak across a concrete sidewalk and bounce over the curb onto the asphalt parking lot. The pedaling instantly becomes easier and I accelerate. The chorus of screaming zombies is still behind me as I reach the access road and turn left towards the park exit. But for the first time since the start of the apocalypse, I'm actually outdistancing pursing undead while under my own power.

A slight incline leading out to the park exit slows my progress and again I lose ground to the creatures behind me. By the time I finally crest the hill, they're right at my heels again. But it's essentially level out here on the main road. As I turn west, I again begin to pull away from the horde. More than two miles of the road ahead is visible; the pavement sweeping gradually downhill and then rising toward a distant crest below the western horizon. Here and there along the roadway are abandoned vehicles and discarded debris. I have to pick my way around these obstacles as I come upon them. By the looks of it, the congestion only gets worse in the miles ahead.

I'm panting furiously. The woolen great coat I'm wearing is flapping in the breeze, adding to the drag created by the tagalong. And then there are those handlebar tassels and that stupid pinwheel thing, now spinning crazily in the wind. And what the hell is that racket going on back there? I crane my neck around to get a better look. Are those … playing cards? Clothes-pinned to the tagalong's chainstays? They're snapping against the blur of wheel spokes, producing a stacatto putt-putt-putt sound. Mimicking the sound of a real motor. And mocking me because a little mechanical assistance would definitely be useful right about now.

And finally there's that goddamned teddy bear, perched on the tagalong's handlebars. He's not one of those unassuming creatures with a prim little mouth and nose sewn onto his snout. No, this stuffed cretin is of the garish cartoony variety; what you might win at a carnival midway. Facing forward, he's beaming a toothy 'well, howdy-doody-do!' smile; without a care in the world. What the hell do you have to smile about anyway? There's close to three dozen zombies right on our heels and I don't think they're interested in playing tea time like you did with little Miss Cindy-Lou Who.

So wipe that shit-eating grin off your face, 'Ted'.

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All Is Lost; Part 48

Post by majorhavoc » Thu Aug 24, 2017 4:11 pm

I glower at Ted a moment longer before turning to face forward again; just in time. Lying on the pavement directly in front of me is an overturned plastic storage bin. It's right in the middle of the roadway and has disgorged its contents of shoes, clothing and camping gear. I swerve reflexively and narrowly avoid colliding with it. No sooner do I clear this unexpected obstacle when I hear a loud thump directly behind me. Followed almost instantly by the scrape of shoes on asphalt and an inhuman grunt. I look back in time to see the lead zombie land face first onto the asphalt and slide along the pavement on its left cheek. It tripped over the obstacle that I just narrowly avoided.

The fallen creature springs back to its feet, the left half its face debrided down to the bone. Tattered skin and subcutaneous tissue flap in the breeze, flinging pus and rancid blood in wide arcs to the creature's left and right. But it's immediately overtaken by two other infected who now assume the lead. In short order, it's passed by three more zombies. Before its tumble, the now damaged creature was my fastest pursuer, pumping its arms and legs with the smooth, efficient rhythm of an trained athlete. Now its arms are windmilling crazily. The creature is still running flat out, but spastically. As I and the other undead race along the roadway, it falls farther and father behind.

The road ahead is increasingly choked with debris; an obstacle course of suitcases, boxes and overturned shopping carts. Most have spilled at least some of their contents; the earthly possessions that people deemed essential to their exodus, or too dear to leave behind. Shredded tarpaulins, tent poles and backpacks also lie scattered across the pavement and wedged under the tires of all manner of wrecked or abandoned vehicles. I'm forced to repeatedly swerve and weave around these obstacles.

And thus I work out a way to elude the creatures chasing after me. For the next twenty-odd minutes, I use this ever-more densely packed labyrinth of obstructions to whittle down the size of the following horde. I quickly learn to sprint until I've drawn a single pursuing zombie ahead of the rest of the pack. Isolating the creature from the others, I then deliberately slow down, timing the closing speed so that it's right behind when I swerve around the next convenient car, suitcase or baby stroller. I can usually topple the creature on the first or second try. The first fall rarely disables it completely, but two or three good tumbles and it's too damaged to effectively continue.

It's a variation on a strategy I learned from Zoey. Only she did it on foot and just as often hurdled the obstacle as run around it, sometimes leaping like a gazelle three or four feet into the air. I witnessed her do it dozens of times over the preceding weeks, my heart in my throat every damn time. But the girl never seemed worse for the wear afterwards. Other than maybe a strand of hair that had tugged loose from that pony tail she always wore. I'd be aghast that Zoey would repeatedly take such terrifying risks. But she had this casual, almost cavalier way of tossing those stray wisps of hair from her cheek or brow with a quick flick of her head. And then the young lady would meet my startled gaze with a dismissive stare. As if to say: “What? One less zombie to worry about, right?”

I, on the other hand, find this cat and mouse exercise grueling, even astride a bicycle. But one by one, the damaged creatures fall further behind. It's too far back for me to actually see it happen, but some part of me knows intuitively that when the gap between the hobbled undead and the rest of the horde lengthens sufficiently, the telekinetic bond between these creatures is severed. Isolated and alone, the injured zombies suddenly lose their sense of purpose. The urgency of the chase forgotten, the infected slow to a halt or just continue walking in a straight line.

I'm wheezing badly when I finally encounter an obstacle I cannot maneuver around. A telephone pole lies across the pavement ahead of me: spanning the entire width of the roadway from shoulder to shoulder. The blackened and shattered remains of an electrical transformer lie in pieces alongside the prostrate pole; a tangle of wires snake away from it on either side.

I slow to a halt and hastily dismount just shy of this obstacle. My legs are trembling from nearly a half hour of all-out effort. Awkwardly, I lift the bike up and stagger over the fallen telephone pole, appalled at how little strength I have left in my legs. I'm nearly clear of the pole when the tagalong trailer gets hung up on the obstacle and begins to fall over. In my weakened state, it's just enough that I lose my equilibrium. Suddenly I'm flat on my back with the adult bike on top of me.

I find my nose just inches from the trailer hitch mechanism and suddenly its operation becomes clear. The quick release lever I had fumbled with earlier doesn't actually uncouple the mechanism, I finally see. It merely unlocks a large retaining pin. The pin itself has to be pulled free of a trunnion before the hitch will actually disengage. Within seconds I have the pin removed and the trailer clatters to the pavement.

“Well, Ted. I've taken you as far as I can,” I announce grimly, addressing the stuffed bear, still lashed to the tagalong. I glance back at the remnants of the horde; fast approaching from the east. “You're on your own from here on out.” I see he's still bravely wearing his shit-eating smile. Hopping onto my now unencumbered bike, I leave my fuzzy companion to face his fate alone. “Maybe you should try playing dead.”

In the first half an hour after leaving the tagalong trailer behind, I fairly fly along; the pedaling suddenly seems effortless. And I finally do figure out how to shift gears. But as the miles pile on, the constant slowing, swerving and accelerating needed to shake my undead pursuers begin to take their toll. By the time I dispose of the last zombie, I'm nearly spent. Each pedal stroke now seems like torture. I'm barely chugging along, teetering from side to side like a drunken sailor. I read somewhere that long distance cyclists can pedal for 100 miles or more in a single day. Which in my present state seems scarcely believable. I decide that riding at a steady pace, in a straight line and not having to worry about ravenous zombies dining on your flesh might have something to do with it.
Last edited by majorhavoc on Fri Aug 25, 2017 11:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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All Is Lost; Part 49

Post by majorhavoc » Thu Aug 24, 2017 7:41 pm

My weapons and all my supplies are gone, I reflect as I slowly plod on, moving on the bicycle at a pace barely faster than a walk. Everything had to be abandoned during my hasty flight from the bathroom building. The backpack with all my food, extra clothing and medical supplies. The ditch blade and both firearms. Even my treasured Special Forces beret fell off at some point. All gone.

The guns were useless anyway, I privately concede. The last of my ammunition expended in that fruitless defense of the women's bathroom room entrance. At least now I understand how other survivors allowed themselves to be overrun after firing off their very last rounds fighting these things. Rather than saving that last bullet for themselves. It's the sheer intensity of the onslaught the undead unleash upon you. It's all so overwhelming that you don't have time to think. All you can focus on is the desperate idea that maybe this next zombie will be the last one. But it never is; there is no last zombie. There are always more.

With each passing mile, the roadway becomes increasingly choked with abandoned vehicles. The vehicular congestion spans the entire roadway and across both shoulders. My pace slows even further as I cautiously thread my way between the derelict cars and trucks. And in between the vehicles the asphalt becomes increasingly littered with the detritus of a frenzied exodus. Cardboard boxes full of sheets and bedding, now soiled and ravaged by the elements. Plastic storage tubs, overturned shopping cats, baby strollers and wheelbarrows piled high with camping gear, pots, pans and tableware. A suitcase, flattened and tattooed by tire marks, disgorging its contents like the entrails of some gruesome roadkill. There, an expanding file lying on its side like a ruined accordion; with fading papers spilling into the wind. Birth and marriage certificates, wills and revocable trusts, insurance policies, certificates of deposit. The frail and impermanent record of identity and earthly wealth; now nothing more than litter upon the highway.

And strewn amidst these and countless other material goods are the human remains. The entire highway is strewn with corpses. As far as the eye can see. Even in their advanced state of decay, they bear evidence of brutal and violent ends. Cruel dismemberments, savage decapitations, disembowelments and scores of other injuries; gruesome and grotesque. Much of the human remains amount to little more than smears upon the pavement.

I coast to a stop and gaze out over the roofs and cabs of the inert cars, vans and trucks. My eyes follow the frozen flow of traffic as it unspools for miles ahead, growing ever more densely packed as this road rises and falls, sweeps right and left. It's apparent that this mass exodus of people was stymied by some unseen obstacle up ahead. Desperate, frightened survivors must have been clamoring for forward progress. Some swerved their two wheel drive vehicles onto the soft gravel shoulders and even the soggy fields themselves, unwisely attempting to advance even a few more car lengths. And there they quickly became bogged down. Blocking any possible forward progress by more capable off-road vehicles that might have had a chance of navigating around this logjam.

I imagine what it must have been like, the situation growing ever more desperate. Some drivers doubtless began honking their horns in frustration, even as others spilled out their own vehicles, shouting and screaming as tempers flared. A sprawling crowd of humanity; stationary and agitated. What followed was inevitable, the grim consequence of human activity that played out again and again in the final weeks of the infection. These doomed souls, stymied in their last, desperate attempt to escape, attracted the fatal attention of a horde of undead. I realize I am picking my way through a vast, linear killing ground, a scene of wholesale slaughter and death.

Suddenly I'm thankful that I'm on a conveyance that is nearly silent. Because in that moment, the icy tingling sensation again snakes along my spine. Surveying the scene more critically, I begin to spot subtle movement among the stationary vehicles, abandoned refuse and scattered human remains. Here and there I spy figures up ahead, cast in filthy, tattered clothing. Even beyond the gray pallor of their faces and exposed skin, there is something profoundly unnatural in the way they slowly move about, or stand rooted, swaying ever so slightly in the chill wind. The zombies ahead appear in clusters of two and three or stand apart as solitary figures. Some are still as mannequins, others wander listlessly between the abandoned vehicles. I spot yet more sitting or even lying upon the pavement, propped up on skeletal elbows or doubled over, vomiting torrents of bloody discharge onto the asphalt.

Sucking in my breath, I coast to a halt and quietly dismount. I sink to the pavement and gently lay the bike on its side; it will take me no farther. From here on out, I must continue on foot.

Moving in a crouch, I dart furtively from vehicle to vehicle. As I approach each cluster of zombies, I keep tab on their movements by cautiously raising my head just high enough to peer over truck hoods or the deck lids of car trunks. Or else squint through dusty, filmy vehicle windows. And when I draw closest to the creatures, I drop to my belly, my chin against the cold pavement and track their shuffling feet by glancing underneath the vehicles themselves.

Thus, I maneuver past the infected without their ever noting my presence. The tingling sensation subsides as I move past them. But it soon returns as I approach more undead at odd intervals as I continue moving westward, now at a snail's pace. As difficult as the pedaling had become, moving now is even more taxing; running in a crouch, crawling on my hands and knees or even occasionally on my belly. The next mile saps my ebbing reserves of strength.

By mid afternoon, the only vehicles that made it this far on the shoulders alongside the roadway are four wheel drive trucks and sport utility vehicles. The last of the two wheel drive passenger cars that attempted to drive on the gravel and mud shoulders petered out over a mile back. Finally, I pass what I judge to be the very last vehicle to advance off pavement: an on/off road motorcycle. It's certainly built for the job; knobby all terrain tires, skid plates and an off road suspension with close to a full foot of travel in the front forks and rear swing arm. Appearing undamaged, it now lays forlorn on its side were it finally spun out in the sodden earth. It's owner must have abandoned it to continue on foot. Or else he was moving too slowly and was overrun by the zombie horde that swept over this gridlocked mass of humanity. Either way, it's just one more derelict vehicle, standing in mute testimony of a failed exodus; frozen in time.
Last edited by majorhavoc on Sun Aug 27, 2017 7:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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All Is Lost; Part 50

Post by majorhavoc » Thu Aug 24, 2017 8:26 pm

The day wears on. The roadway is now essentially a parking lot; the derelict vehicles are so closely packed together. I'm hot, dizzy and exhausted when I crest a hilltop the road has been climbing toward for almost a quarter a mile. Squinting west in the lowering sunlight, I see the road ahead descends steadily into a river valley. And from up here, I finally discover the cause of this monumental traffic jam. A half a mile ahead, a steel truss bridge spans a river snaking its way across the floor of the valley. Astonishingly, the bridge is still standing. Unlike every other bridge span I've encountered in the past three weeks, this one hasn't been destroyed in an effort to slow the infection.

Although not for lack of trying. Even at this distance, I can see the bridge deck is canted precariously to the left and buckled at several points along its 200 foot length. Every one of the junctions between the vertical, horizontal and diagonal steel bracing on the structure's left side have been cleanly blasted apart. But their counterparts on the bridge's right, upstream side are still intact. With the web of girders along the right hand side of the steel trusswork still distributing torsional and longitudinal stresses, there's just enough structural integrity remaining in the structure to keep it from collapsing into the river.

A botched demolition
, I decide. Somebody – likely members of some engineering battalion - planted explosives at those critical junctures. But something went wrong and the charges on the right side of the structure failed to detonate. By the looks of it, those soldiers then attempted some sort of holding action at the bridge's eastern approach. I can see a rough defensive perimeter down there, comprised of a semi circle of concrete Jersey barriers. And closer to the bridge itself, an inner cordon of humvees, a pair of transport trucks and a tracked combat engineering vehicle, its earth moving blade facing directly toward traffic approaching from the east. Looking beyond to the western bank of the river, I spot a gap in the trees lining the opposite riverbank, 150 yards downstream. There, just visible through the trees, an M1A1 Abrams main battle tank, its 120mm smooth bore main gun is pointed directly at the road winding towards the bridge's eastern abutment.

The gridlock of vehicles ends abruptly about 50 yards short of the Jersey barriers. It's clear why they progressed no further. The first several ranks of vehicles are nothing more than twisted, charred wrecks. Cars and trucks alike are riddled with bullet holes or blasted to pieces by cannon fire. Driving directly into a barrage of well directed small arms fire and exposed to high explosive ordinance from that Abrams tank, those fleeing civilians down there were cut to pieces just short of that river crossing and relative safety on the other side.

Those last 50 yards - open roadway and broad exposed shoulders - are devoid of vehicles, but it's not entirely empty. It's filled with corpses, some lying just a few yards short of the soldiers' outer defensive position. The carnage is too distant for me to tell whether they were cut down as humans or zombies. I'd have to imagine it's some of both.

The cold-hearted exigency of the situation is easy enough to comprehend, at least in the abstract. The infection's spread had to be stopped or at least slowed at this and every other river crossing. But that doesn't make it any easier to look upon this scene of carnage and slaughter. In their last, most desperate moments, those people were mowed down by their own country's military. They had already been written off by their leaders when they piled into their sedans, station wagons and mini vans.

I realize something in this scene doesn't quite add up. The column of fleeing civilian vehicles was successfully halted. And the Abrams battle tank had a clear field of fire across the river to cover the soldiers occupying the bridge's eastern approach. Their demolition team should have had time to reset the charges, complete an orderly withdrawn across the damaged bridge and then send it tumbling into the river. It doesn't make sense. Something else happened down there. Something wholly unexpected.

Dejected, I sink down onto the asphalt. I don't know whether it's the lack of food and water since early this morning, the aching sense of loss after being ostracized from my group, or the sobering scene of betrayal ahead of me. But in the moment it all seems overwhelming.

What's the point of even going on? This really is the end of all things. If it's come to soldiers gunning down their own civilian countrymen, haven't we already lost the real battle? Didn't I do much the same thing when I snuffed out the lives of that mother, father and child by the train wreck?

That was different. I was giving the gift of mercy.

Isn't that what triggered such outrage in Zoey, Francis, Louis, Donovan and Rebecca? Weren't they appalled by my chilling lack of humanity? Isn't that why they banished me?

I was giving the gift of death.

And in the end that gesture of supposed mercy didn't accomplish a damn thing. Just as that wholesale slaughter down there at that bridge didn't accomplish anything either. That doomed family died just as surely as they would have if I had just turned my back on them. And below me, that bridge is still standing. The only thing those soldiers accomplished down there was to mete out more death. Those soldiers and I; we rejected compassion - the very essence of our humanity - in the harshest way possible.

I am the giver of death.


And just as those soldiers failed in their mission to stem the infection, I failed in mine to maintain those last few fragile bonds of humanity. Five people who were practically gifted to me after years of self-imposed solitude. And I couldn't do the one thing that I and every human being was born to do: hang on. Just hang on to that which binds us all. Love. Compassion. Whatever you want to call it. I was supposed to protect it. Nurture it. But instead I blew it all away in a moment of violent hubris masquerading as principle.

I am death.

What was it that Zoey said? The real infection isn't the virus. It's what it does to people; those who are left. The choices it forces us to make. The soldiers below me allowed the infection to spread by failing to halt its march across that river. And I allowed the infection to spread by severing the last bonds that connected me to the ever diminishing web of humanity. In a sense, I already am infected.

I already am the disease.

I realize I don't have a future. There isn't going be any trek around the major cities. No retreat to a rural area up north. No winter refuge in any remote cabin. If I hadn't lost all my firearms and ammunition, I might have taken my own life right then and there; sitting on the pavement. But I don't. And I'm too cowardly to use this combat knife to sever an artery. I look up and regard the teetering bridge a second time. Maybe there's another way to do this.

Something with a bit more style.
Last edited by majorhavoc on Sun Aug 27, 2017 3:58 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by jaymz » Thu Aug 24, 2017 8:59 pm

Thanks for continuing the story, major. This is such a good read that I may start at the beginning again!

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All Is Lost; Part 51

Post by majorhavoc » Fri Aug 25, 2017 6:48 am

First, I have to find some food and water; I'm practically on the verge of collapse. The bridge is only a half a mile ahead, but if I'm going to accomplish what I hope to accomplish, I need sustenance to keep me going. It doesn't have to be much. Just enough to see me through the next couple of hours.

One after another, the vehicles I check are devoid of any sort of supplies. I'm just beginning to despair this entire vehicular quagmire has been picked clean when I finally hit pay dirt.

It's an older pickup truck with fading paint and rusting badly around the wheel wells. By the looks of the dimpled sheet metal, it's the veteran of several minor accidents. Weathered plywood panels rise almost four feet above the metal sides of the truck bed, creating a semi-enclosed cargo area open only skyward and from over the tailgate and the top of the passenger cab. I find it on the long descent towards the river valley below; it and all the surrounding vehicles were halted on a steep downhill grade. I check the cab first, easing open the passenger door and inspecting the interior. It's mostly empty. The glove box is open, its contents of registration papers, gas station receipts and paper maps disgorged onto the passenger seat. Otherwise a spartan interior; stick shift, hand crank windows and a thick layer of dust everywhere.

I creep around to the tailgate and step up onto the trailer hitch. The cargo area is partially shaded by the tall wooden sides. Peering into the gloom I spy a three rung step stool; folded and lying atop a blue nylon tarp. The tarp covers almost the entire cargo area; it's evident from its uneven contours there are multiple indistinct objects underneath. But the only thing that interests me right now is partially visible towards the front. Butted up against the back of the passenger cab is an Igloo cooler peeking out from underneath the tarp. It's small; the kind with a peaked roof-like top and handle. It's hardly larger than a lunch box. Which is precisely what I'm hoping it was being used for.

Transfixed by the possibility of food, I swing first one, then my other leg over the tailgate and stand up in the cargo bed. I take maybe two tentative steps toward my prize when my right foot comes down on something not entirely solid underneath the tarp. It shifts under my weight and emits an unearthly shriek. Suddenly the whole cargo area is a blur of movement and I'm thrown off my feet. A form rises up from the cargo bed floor and suddenly I'm looking up at a spectral figure, six feet tall and shrouded in the tarp. Then the blue nylon fissures apart as something sharp and deadly slices through from the inside. A hunter zombie emerges from its fabric cocoon, hissing menacingly.

I'm scrambling on my haunches and back up against the closed tailgate. As I rise to my feet, I just have time to unsheath my knife. I don't even manage to get it above waist level when the creature plows into me. The knife's pommel punches me violently in the stomach as the infected wraps me in a deadly embrace. Together we tumble over the tail gate and out onto the pavement below. I land on my back, sprawled parallel to the truck's rear bumper. The creature lands heavily on my stomach and chest, driving knife handle deeper into my gut. My diaphragm spasms as the wind is knocked out of me. Fighting for breath, my entire midsection is suddenly awash in diseased blood. Slickened by the foul liquid, the knife handle slips through my fingers as the creature rises up into a kneeling position, straddling my hips and shrieking maniacally. The handle is all that is visible of the knife; the rest of it is buried up to the hilt in the hunter's stomach. Coils of rotting entrails are already beginning to spill out of its pierced stomach cavity.

I try feebly to rock my hips, hoping to worm my way out from underneath the hunter's imprisoning weight. It's useless. I've been in this position before, helpless against the brute power and ferocity of these things. Except no Zoey this time to come sliding down the wet embankment, ready to ring this beast's skull with a steel crowbar.

Fangs glistening, dark orbs peering down upon me with simmering hatred, the creature begins to raise its arm for a killing strike. It's the truck's trailer hitch that saves me. Jutting out from the truck's rear bumper, it interferes with the deadly claw's ascent to its apex. In that instant, the hunter zombie is forced to rock onto its right leg and haunch to clear the protruding obstacle. For the briefest of intervals, there's suddenly less weight on my pelvis. I roll hard in the only direction I can: to my right; towards the truck. Any other kind of passenger vehicle and my left hip would have connected solidly with the bumper; foiling my escape. But this truck, sprung high on a heavy duty suspension, provides just enough clearance for me to continue my sideways roll and suddenly I'm underneath the vehicle's rear axle. Straightening out, I belly crawl frantically towards the front of the vehicle. With the truck pointed downhill, it's the fastest escape route. The enraged creature scrambles to follow, pawing at my boots the entire way.

I've cleared the undercarriage and emerge from underneath the truck's front bumper. I get maybe halfway out when the pursuing hunter finally latches on to one of my boots. I kick blindly and the creature loosens its grip just long enough for me to get my legs out from underneath the truck. The creature is already working its head and arms clear of the undercarriage when I clamber onto the front bumper and up onto the vehicle's hood. I crawl to the vehicle's windshield and onto the roof. Scrambling, I tumble back into the cargo bed, completing a full circuit under and over the length of the pickup. The hackles on the back of my neck bristle as I hear the harsh rake of sharpened claws chattering across sheet metal. Glancing over my shoulder I see the hunter is already crouching upon the roof, preparing to pounce. It didn't even bother climbing over the hood, I realize. Such is the power of these things; it launched itself from the pavement as soon as it cleared the front bumper. I cannot out-distance this lithe creature of the undead. It's faster, stronger and more cunning than I am.

Casting about for any kind of weapon, I snatch up the folded metal step stool lying at the foot of the cargo area. Spinning 180 degrees under its arcing path, I bring it smashing down upon the hunter's head. The side rails of step stool pass on either side of the creature's skill as the second step rung caroms off frontal skull plate, smashing into its nasal bridge. It rakes off much of the hunter's lower face as the ladder rung clears the maxilla. The zombie ends up wearing the step stool like an ungainly horse collar, its head ensnared between the second and third rungs.

Stunned, the creature is driven off the truck cab as I push forward on the step stool. As it tumbles onto the vehicle's hood, I see my attacker is now completely disemboweled. Glistening entrails are snaking out of its stomach and back across the hood towards the ground in front of the truck. The creature disappears from view as it tumbles over the front grill and back onto the pavement.

Now weaponless, I retreat to the back of the cargo area and vault over the tail gate. There I find the asphalt slick with the creature's blood. Glancing at my feet, I realize the trail of intestines begins here and leads all the way underneath the vehicle's undercarriage. As the creature at the front of the truck begins to shrug off the effects of my feeble counterattack, I drop to my knees, grab an handful of the entrails and begin to furiously wrap them around the truck's trailer hitch. Suddenly I feel the limp coils draw taunt underneath the rear bumper as the hunter again launches itself from the pavement at the front of the pickup. Anchored at the truck hitch and still connected through its pierced stomach cavity, the hunter's leap is violently arrested even before it clears the truck's hood. I hear it crash hard against the front grill and let loose an enraged shriek. It's the closest thing I've ever heard to a zombie expressing astonishment. This thing has no comprehension why it can't progress further.

That won't last long, I think.

The truck is pointed downhill. Sprinting along the vehicle's left side, I jerk open the driver's door and tug on the emergency brake release. The truck rocks forward incrementally and then stops.

Still in gear.

Belly flopping onto the vehicle's bench seat, I punch the clutch pedal with my left hand and yank the shift lever out of reverse with my right. The truck immediately begins rolling forward, picking up speed as it coasts downhill. The snarling hunter begins backpedaling furiously, still tethered to the accelerating vehicle by its own distended digestive system. I slide out of the vehicle's cab ass first, rolling onto the pavement. Picking up speed, the pickup truck rapidly closes the distance between it and vehicle directly in front of it; a U-haul moving van with a broad rear bumper and a slab sided cargo box. The ensnared hunter finally loses its footing and falls directly between the two vehicles at the very instant they smash together. The creature's final, defiant shriek is cut short by a sickening crunch of metal and bone. A geyser of blood and cranial fluid erupts from the point of contact and suddenly the rear panel of the U-haul's cargo box is awash with a fan of brain matter and blood. Skittering shards of skull, scalp and hair rain down on the pickup truck's hood. The collision punches the U-haul van forward another two feet before it skids to halt.
Last edited by majorhavoc on Sun Aug 27, 2017 7:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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All Is Lost; Part 52

Post by majorhavoc » Fri Aug 25, 2017 7:07 am

I find my combat knife, now sticky with the creature's rancid blood, lying undamaged on the pavement, marking where it squirted out of the creature's stomach cavity not 30 seconds ago. Panting from exertion, I stagger down to the pickup truck, now forever conjoined with the U-haul's rear bumper.

Groaning, I haul myself back into the truck's cargo bed. I gather up the Igloo cooler and set it on my knees as I settle back against the tail gate. Before inspecting the cooler's contents, I contemplate this latest, nearly fatal encounter with a hunter zombie.

That thing was under that tarp the whole time I was approaching this truck, I consider. It had to have heard me. Yet it lay there, silent, biding its time. Right next to the Igloo cooler, I realize with a start. Bait? Did that thing actually set up an ambush? Because I fell for it; hook, line and sinker.

I think back to the alcohol-infused conversation I had with Rebecca that night back aboard the Brandywine. A conversation that now seems a lifetime ago.

Where'd they learn to do that, Bill? We were told these things can't think. But now they're learning to sneak up on you, attack you from a distance, even mimic the sound of a fellow human in distress.

They're changing. Learning to deal with the strategies used by those of us smart enough to survive.

Yeah, but Bill? We're only smart because we've been evolving for millions of years. These things have gone from mindless beings to hunters, tanks and witches in a matter of weeks. Where is this going to end?

Sitting alone in the pickup truck's cargo bed, a grim realization comes to me. These zombies were once humans. We've seen ample evidence that they carry forward something of their former human selves. So why is it so surprising that should include our innate aptitude for hunting and killing? The infected may have started as unthinking creatures, but they're fast-forwarding through millions of years of human evolution. To catch up and eventually surpass us at our own deadly game. It's going to end when, now that these things can already outrun us, out leap us, out fight us, they finally get to the point where they're out thinking us as well. The end of the human race is going to come at the hands of this dark reflection of our own selves. We had it in us all along. The viciousness, the cunning, the unthinking propensity to hate. The only thing holding us back was fear of our own mortality. Now we've passed those instincts on to creatures who are already dead. They're unburdened even by that one last limitation. Humanity has finally met its match.

I depress the button and tilt back the cooler lid. I'm immediately assaulted by a swarm of fruit flies and the rancid stench of rotting food. My first glance into the interior reveals sea of writhing maggots atop a soupy mass of gray green. I turn my head in disgust and spend the next minute choking back wave after wave of dry heaves. This is what it's come to, I think as I steel myself and plunge my hand into the semi-liquid decay.

There must have been some kind of fruit in here; a lot of it. Whatever it was, it's now unidentifiable. I fish out from the filth two dripping zip lock baggies, each containing a semi-liquid mass that might once have some kind of sandwiches. Next I dredge up the sodden remains of a snack size box of raisins and something else that looks like it might have been cookies once upon a time, or maybe a brownie. There's also a cellophane wrapped package of peanut butter sandwich crackers, but after weeks submerged in the frothy liquid, decay has penetrated the packaging.

But amidst the decomposing refuse, I dredge up an unopened bottle of spring water, its green plastic collar still tightly affixed to the bottle cap. And an untouched can of Orange Crush. Plus a small bag of Doritos, a packaged granola bar and what looks like diced peaches in syrup, still sealed in a disposable snack cup.

I brush off as much of the rancid filth as I can with my shirt sleeve. Using some of the bottled water, I then rinse off the packaging before consuming first the diced peaches, then the Doritos and finally the granola bar. I wash it all down with the Orange Crush. I consider saving the rest of the spring water but as soon as I bring the bottle to my lips to take a small sip, I drain what's left in a single, long pull.

The sun is low in the western sky when I finally rise to my feet in the pickup truck's cargo bed. I happen to glance back at the roadway in the direction I've come. Standing elevated in the cargo bed, I can just see over the hill crest back to the last rise in the roadway, almost a mile back. There, feathering the contours of that horizon line is the jagged, undulating profile of a vast column of zombies, marching slowly in this direction, urged along by some collective sense of purpose.

I look around uneasily before realization sets in. It's me. They're coming after me. I never did lose the horde that chased me out of the bathroom building. I just slowed them down enough to pull away while I was on the bicycle. For the past three hours, they've been steadily gaining on me as I've slowly worked my way through miles of this traffic jam on foot. Only, along the way they've been sweeping up each of the hundred-odd zombies I've so carefully crept around. My pursuers are finally catching up, except now their ranks have swollen with all the additional undead they've picked up along the way.

Fine by me, I think grimly. The more the merrier.
Last edited by majorhavoc on Sun Aug 27, 2017 4:02 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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All Is Lost; Part 53

Post by majorhavoc » Fri Aug 25, 2017 9:40 am

The bridge is only a half a mile away but it takes me almost a full hour to get there. Strangely I don't encounter any more zombies along the way. But of course I don't know that in advance. So I creep forward, cautiously picking my way between the cars and trucks as I have for the past three and a half miles. I find the inexplicable absence of any further undead to be vaguely unsettling. Especially because I cannot shake the uncanny sensation that I'm being watched the entire time.

The faint odor of charred rubber and seared automotive paint greets me as I reach the very head of the traffic jam. Raging vehicle fires ignited by the withering barrage of rifle and cannon fire have long since burnt out, but the scent of that wanton destruction lingers.

The stench of the rotting corpses littering the final fifty yards to the soldiers' defensive barrier is quite a bit more pronounced, however. Contrary to my initial suspicions, not one of these bodies are those of the undead. A rotting carcass is just a rotting carcass. But I've seen enough of these in the past several weeks to distinguish between those which continued to ambulate well after decay set in, and ordinary remains of people who had the good grace to die and only then began to rot, as is the customary fashion. Every one of the corpses lying here near the bridge was cut down as a living human.

This only further unsettles me. An advancing horde must have been driving these poor souls forward; nothing short of that would have compelled them to run headlong into the gunfire. Yet eventually that crush of infected must have arrived at this spot. The soldiers weren't firing when that happened; or else at least some of these bodies would be those of undead, with their oddly leathery flesh and ashen grey pallor. And all of the soldiers' equipment is still here. Why would they stop firing when the bridge behind them was still standing; their mission incomplete?

As I walk past the concrete Jersey barriers marking the outer ring of the defensive perimeter, I encounter the first of the soldiers' bodies. They lie sprawled just behind these cement fortifications. The ground around each of the soldiers is fairly littered with spent shell casings; evidence of an intense, sustained interval of weapons fire. In spite of that, I still find each with live rounds in their carbines and unspent ammunition magazines tucked into their equipment vests.

Even more disturbing is the uniform manner of their demise. I find that each soldier manning the outer barriers was felled by a short, precise burst of rifle fire into the back of their necks, a particularly vulnerable spot in their garb of kevlar helmets and ceramic body armor.

It is exactly the same for the soldiers manning the inner ring of defenses; a semi-circle of military vehicles parked directly in front of the eastern edge of the bridge's decking. Here I find the murdered defenders collapsed at their firing positions behind the wheels and hoods of the military vehicles. And then, behind the left rear corner of the tracked combat engineering vehicle: a pile of spent rifle casings with no accompanying corpse. Frowning, I kneel down at this spot and look eastward, regarding the approach the fleeing survivors would have taken.

It's a terrible firing position, I quickly conclude. Almost every quadrant of fire is at least partially blocked by the soldiers manning the Jersey barriers. Blocked by every single one of them in fact. That's when I suddenly realize it isn't a terrible firing position. It's perfect. Perfect if your objective is to frag each and every defender in the back.

I find the second unaccompanied pile of spent shell casings near the middle of the bridge, just behind the rear left corner of a commercial delivery van. The van is skewed nearly sideways across the travel lanes. Aside from its crumpled front bumper where it crashed into the bridge's left guardrail, the only real evidence of damage are its tires, three of which have been shot out.

Again positioning myself amidst the spent shell casings at the back of the delivery van, I turn east and quickly confirm what I already suspect: this second firing position makes no sense from a defensive standpoint, yet is absolutely the perfect spot from which to snipe at the soldiers crouching behind the military vehicles making up the inner defensive ring. Peering downstream from around the van's right rear corner, I realize it's also conveniently shielded from view of anyone in or around the tank parked admist the trees along the river's western bank.

And thus I come to understand I have encountered this scene of murderous betrayal in reverse order. The treachery began here, at the middle of this bridge. Sometime after the botched demolition, the traitor began firing from behind this van. In the heat of the battle, with booming cannon fire from the tank echoing up the river valley and the sound of small weapons fire reverberating off the bridge's steel superstructure, the harried soldiers were none the wiser as they were systematically picked off from behind. First those behind the vehicles, crouching isolated and focused on fending off the charging civilians. After the soldiers manning the inner ring were eliminated, the assassin calmly walked forward to the next firing position, alongside the tracked combat engineering vehicle. There, the traitor methodically fragged each of the soldiers manning the Jersey barriers. Each falling to a quick, precise burst into the back of the neck, from a distance no greater than 15 meters.

The tank crew would have been unaware, even if they had taken note of the sudden radio silence coming from the bridge. I've been on the inside of a tank while its main gun is firing. It's an auditory hell; it would have been impossible to note that all small arms fire from the bridge had suddenly ceased.

The murderous saboteur could have had an accomplice to dispatch the tank crew. But just as likely the same person performed the task himself. Even had the tank crew noted an armed soldier running up from behind, they would have suspected nothing as the traitor clambered up onto the tank's hull to deliver two messages. The first would have been given to the tank commander standing in the turret's upper hatch. A message in the form of a bullet fired point blank from a side arm. The second message would have been communicated to the remainder of the tank's crew as a live grenade dropped through the hatch.

Whether or not any surviving civilians managed to then cross the bridge hardly mattered at that point. Whenever the advancing zombie horde arrived, having decimated the doomed survivors trapped in the gridlock, they found the bridge intact and completely undefended.

Someone went to considerable lengths to ensure the zombies weren't stopped at this bridge.  Someone wanted the infection to spread.
Last edited by majorhavoc on Sun Aug 27, 2017 4:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by teotwaki » Fri Aug 25, 2017 9:55 am

:clap: I am now in a blissful "story coma"......

Thank you Major Havoc.
My adventures and pictures are on my blog http://suntothenorth.blogspot.com

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Re: The Restless Dead

Post by Spazzy » Fri Aug 25, 2017 10:19 am

Wow, very nice updates!
Overheard at my USN retirement ceremony....
"So he's not a team player then?"
"You mean Spazz...? Hes not even a fan of the team."

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All Is Lost; Part 54

Post by majorhavoc » Fri Aug 25, 2017 10:24 am

My first order of business is to determine why the demolition charges on the right side of the bridge's superstructure failed to explode. I immediately spot the blackened remnants of the Primex detonator cords where they ran from a sandbagged redoubt west of the bridge. From there, the cords forked into two paths, one leading onto the bridge and running along the left hand edge of the decking, the other along the right hand side.

Primex det cord isn't based on electrical transmission, it's not actually a cord at all. It's a narrow, flexible tube of a compressed, powdered chemical called pentrite. Once ignited, it conducts a controlled low intensity explosive impulse at a rate of approximately 7,000 meters per second. Unlike electrical cable, it reliably transmits the detonation signal over any distance without loss of signal strength, and through any medium, even completely submerged underwater.

There's practically nothing left of the det cords themselves, just charred fragments and blackened marks on the pavement and steel girders marking the cords' path onto the bridge and then following the vertical steel girders up to thick riveted steel plates twenty feet overhead. The plates form the junctions tying the vertical steel girders to their diagonal and horizontal counterparts at the top of the bridge's trusswork. The junction plates on the left side of the bridge have been ripped apart by precisely placed explosive charges, leaving only unjointed girders and the flayed metal remnants of plates themselves.

The charred paths of the expended det cord on the right hand side of the bridge's superstructure appear identical to those on the ruined left, yet the junction plates high overhead on the right side are completely undamaged. Craning my neck and leaning out from the structure's right side, I spot the charges up there, affixed to the intact junction plates. The Primex det cords on this side of the bridge functioned flawlessly and yet the charges up there failed to explode. Why?

I discover the answer after I summon the nerve to shimmy up a sloping diagonal girder and inspect one of the unexploded charges more closely. There I find an irregular hole in the plastic wrapping of the charge itself, and a corresponding hole underneath, penetrating maybe two inches into the soft, pliable explosive material. The interior of the hole, the surface of the primary charge and the plastic wrapping all around it are heavily sooted in black. This is where the det cord was inserted into the charge; where the detonation impulse arrived and was blown clear of the hole as the last of the pentrite material burned itself out. The reason the demolition charge itself did not detonate is apparent enough. Not three inches to the right of the charred hole is a second of similar size and depth. Only this second hole is occupied by the detonator, a small secondary charge used to ignite the primary explosive. The protruding end of the detonator is a molded plastic orifice, precisely sized to accept the terminal end of the Primex det cord.

The det cord was supposed to be plugged into the detonator, which would then be inserted into the primary charge. Instead, whoever prepared this explosive plugged the det cord uselessly into the primary charge itself, insuring the detonator charge never ignited. From a distance and viewed from below, this charge would have appeared to be properly prepared and ready to go.

Still clinging to the girder, I look across the top of the bridge's superstructure at the destroyed junction plates on the other side. So why sabotage the charges on only one side of the bridge? Why not both to ensure the demolition would fail? The answer comes to me in a flash. The engineers setting the charges up here would have worked in pairs, each planting and arming explosive charges in succession along opposite sides of the trusswork. Only one of the two engineers was in on the subterfuge. The person working along the left side of the bridge was planting and arming the explosives correctly, competently. His counterpart working here on the right however had a very different agenda. He was deliberately preparing the charges so they would not possibly detonate. It was a calculated risk; trusting that destruction of the left hand side of the trusswork would be insufficient to collapse the entire bridge into the river.

But it was a risk that paid off for the saboteur. The bridge, mortally damaged and tilting alarmingly to the left, certainly isn't anything I'd want to drive a heavy truck across. But it's sound enough to support the weight of a few dozen zombies crossing it at any one time. And the botched demolition also set into motion the chain of events that culminated in the frenetic defense of the bridge's eastern approach. The perfect cover to methodically slaughter every one of the soldiers without anyone realizing what was happening.

That uncanny feeling of being watched returns when I approach the sandbagged redoubt on the western side of the river. I cast nervous glances in all directions, but fail to see any evidence of company, living or undead. I find the rest of the unused det cord behind the sandbags, next to the lunchbox-sized detonator control unit. But as I begin un-spooling the cord, I quickly realize there isn't nearly enough left to arm all the charges. In fact there's only enough det cord to wire a single charge all the way back to the sandbagged redoubt.

One more destroyed junction plate still might not be enough to bring down the bridge. And I'm only going to get one shot at this. In order to be sure, two of the remaining girder junctions need to be destroyed. Preferably one at each end of the bridge. I realize the only possible way to do that is to divide the remaining det cord into equal lengths, wire the charges at the each end of the bridge, and then move the detonator control unit in between them. In other words, I'm going to have to be standing on the middle of the bridge when I send it crashing down into the river.

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All Is Lost; Part 55

Post by majorhavoc » Fri Aug 25, 2017 10:48 am

The front of my army jacket and pant legs are fairly covered in rust and green flakes of bridge paint by the time I slide down the the last sloping steel girders. Above, the remaining Primex cord is now properly connected to the detonators in two of the demolition charges, one at each end of the teetering structure. The very center of the bridge turns out to be pretty much exactly where the crashed delivery van is, the spot where the saboteur started his killing spree. So I settle upon the van's driver's seat to position the detonator control unit. I run the det cords through the driver's and passenger's door windows. After connecting them to the detonator control unit, I have easy access to it by simply stepping through the van's open rear doors and walking forward to the seats in front.

The military vehicles parked in a defensive cordon at the bridge's eastern approach are festooned with five gallon gasoline jerry cans, stowed in exterior brackets. There are fourteen jerry cans in all. And underneath the tarpaulin canopy of the transport vehicle parked on the western side of the river, I discover a 250 gallon auxiliary gas tank, complete with a dispenser nozzle and hand crank transfer pump. Not surprising that this engineering unit would be traveling with so much extra fuel. The supply chains were breaking down everywhere in the weeks leading up to total societal collapse. The military units still operating at that point were expected to function more or less independently. So all this extra fuel makes sense.

I fairly drench with gasoline the first two rows of undamaged civilian vehicles in the traffic column on the eastern side of the river. So too is the cordon of military vehicles at the bridge's eastern entrance splashed with gallons of raw fuel. The air is pungent with the aroma of gasoline as I haul the empty cans back to the transport vehicle's auxiliary gasoline tank. There, I use the dispenser nozzle and hand pump to refill each. I then saturate the truck's fabric cargo roof with more fuel. As a final measure, I pump another couple of gallons directly onto the truck's cargo floor.

It takes me another five minutes to drag the refilled jerry cans back onto the bridge and position them at staggered intervals along the decking on both sides of the delivery van. I place the final two gasoline cans just behind the concrete Jersey barriers. The approaches on either side of where I plan to detonate the demolition charges are now guarded by pre-positioned gasoline bombs.

Finally, I return to the soldiers' corpses on the eastern side of the bridge and pry one of the M4 carbines from the clutches of a partially skeletal hand. After stuffing my pockets with spare ammunition magazines scavenged from the bodies, I inspect the weapon.

It's basically a cut down M-16, I observe, racking the bolt and testing the action. Except this one is select fire, with a 3-round burst option in place of the full auto setting on the weapon of my fighting youth. Full auto was just a waste of good ammunition anyway, I recall. Thinking back to the jungles of Vietnam, the initial reaction of every raw GI experiencing his first real firefight was nothing if not predictable. Spray and pray. Good for nothing except firing for effect. Which is kind of an oxymoron when dealing with the undead, I realize with a chuckle.

The carbine also features a ridiculously over-engineered optical sight in place of the M-16's iron sights and iconic carry handle. Completely ruins the balance of the original, I think, shouldering the weapon. Peering through the optical sight I'm startled to see a red chevron reticle, glowing brightly and eerily floating in space where ever I point the rifle. It clearly marks where the bullets will land, even in the fading late afternoon light. Shooting in low light was a real problem in the jungle. Even when you could see your target, half the time you couldn't see the iron sights on your own goddamn weapon.

I marvel at how the glowing reticle makes it so much easier to see exactly where I'm aiming. Much like the Gore-tex waterproofing of my boots, I'm forced to acknowledge there just might be something to this newfangled technology after all.

Still ruins the weapon's balance, goddamnit.

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