Fiction: 6/27/2013 pt. 2 – Tough Commute

I could go for crabcakes. I’ve been craving them for some reason. Anyone have a favorite recipe?

Oh. Where was I? Right. Opening the stairwell door.

See what I mean about the chaos factor? Life doesn’t follow rules other than physics. Animals don’t follow rules. Sure they’ve got their basic programming but then the rest is improvisation on a theme.

I opened the door and Carl was standing there. Carl is in facility operations. I never knew his name before the moment I opened the door but I can read a name tag. I looked at him. He looked at me. I looked at him.

He looked confused. Just a little out of it but too out of it. His left forearm was bloody. Something had taken a bite out of him. Probably just as he was closing a door or gate to save himself. It had been a close call but he didn’t make it. Damn sad. He was always friendly. Still, you know. You can’t just turn off a lifetime of social behavior. You see a person standing in front of you. Just a person.

“Hey … Carl. How’s it–”

He blinked a long, slow blink and said something that sounded like a man trying to speak with a mouth full of marbles and mashed potatoes. A guttural sound.

I responded with something eloquent like, “Oh s—!”

I swung the wrecking bar and, granted, it wasn’t a good swing. Still, I wasn’t expecting him to catch the damn thing mid-swing with his left arm. He looked at me and at the wrecking bar and back at me and then at the bloody wound on his arm. I’m pretty sure I heard a low growl in the back of his throat.

Zombies are strong. Not superhumanly strong, obviously, but as strong as you could be if you never got tired. If you could grip something with all of your strength with no thought for saving anything until later. A literal death grip. But they have their limitations, too. Their muscle is still muscle and is often decomposed at that. Their bone is still bone. That’s why their teeth are usually cracked and jagged. You try biting through bone as hard as you can and see what happens to your teeth.

Personally, I think some of them feel pain. They still have a nervous system, obviously. They have to in order to move. Maybe it’s like the worst case of neuropathy ever, though. The signal doesn’t make it through more than a sensation. But be warned, even the ones that do feel pain feel it like a rabid, methed out pitbull. It just pisses them off so you really can’t go getting cute and trying to kick them in the jewels. No pressure points. No feints to the eyes or vitals. Wouldn’t recommend it. Everything you do has to be a move to break or remove something vital, preferably the head.

The point is, I could have been screwed. Little panic. Something in my brain didn’t register to let go of the wrecking bar so we were both just standing there. The smell hit me. The stench of rotting meat getting stronger. What the hell. One thing at a time. Carl was a newbie. Right. So I tried a distraction tactic. I called his name.


It had the effect I wanted. His grip even loosened a little bit. I started to tug a little to free the wrecking bar. Bad move. Carl tried to bark something that sounded like “no”. Like rebuking a child. Loud, wet and phlegmy. Ugh. I hate it when they try to talk.

So here’s something else to keep in mind. A hungry, pissed off zombie is like a guided missile. It will do its best to get a hunk of flesh off of you — obstacles be damned — and it will not stop until the food source is removed or it is put out of commission. Thing is, other zombies count as obstacles.

Two furious movie-style critters laid into Carl from behind, hitting him like a pair of distracted drivers in a 66 traffic jam. They were fast with two additional slow ones lumbering behind trying to join the party.

Carl was kind of a big guy, though, and didn’t tumble forward like you would expect. So they did what they do when something is between them and food. They started biting on Carl like a cheap steak, tearing, growling, snarling, whining. It was ugly. Like the worst dog fight you would ever see but with horror movie ugly dead people.

“Sorry, Carl. Really sorry,” I said and swung the wrecking bar as hard as I could catching him on the chin. The dull clang of metal vibrating down into my arms and the crack of bone. His head rocked back and he staggered, the weight of the two zombies on his back pulling them all down to the ground.

I ran. The two slow ones tried to shuffle in my direction but I just booked it. I awkwardly fished the keys out of my pocket while I ran. The door to the stairwell was closing behind me. I could still hear the dog fight going on behind me. I guess Carl was fresh enough to count as food but he was putting up a fight.

I hit the key fob to unlock the car doors just as the stairwell door banged shut and the garage went pitch black. Six seconds later I was at the car opening the door, hands shaking. I heard something running toward me. Fast.

So fine. I’m not the coolest under pressure. My hands were shaking so much I dropped the keys on the floor once. I managed to get the key in the ignition and turn it, though. Put it in drive, flipped on the headlights just in time to see a runner slam into the passenger side door. They’ll do that sometimes. You’ve got to be careful. They’ll run at glass head first, using their own skulls as a battering ram. Sometimes hard enough to kill themselves. Most of the time not. This one managed to daze itself. I’m not going to lie. I thought the window was going to give. Lucky.

But whatever. I drove out of the garage with minimal drama. The two lumberers followed the light and noise but they were somebody else’s problem now.

My heart rate slowed a little. My hands were still shaking. The parking garage attendant and security guard seemed a bit pissed but they let me out without too much hassle. I told them what I had seen. A little intel for them and the cleaning crew.

Then I drove to the gym. Like I said. It wasn’t too bad as far as things go or could have gone. Only six of them. Two of them slow and one confused. Plenty of room to run. That’s a good day as far as these things go.

I hate how the media always sensationalizes, y’know. “It’s a zombie derecho! Stock up on ammo and essentials!”

And then it’s just a level 3. Typical.

They say it’s a level 4 outbreak in DC. A friend asked me if i wanted to catch a band at the 9:30 Club. On a level 4 day? In a crowd? Hells no. Hooray for the suburbs.

You want to hear something random, though? A friend who works near the Pentagon said she saw two T-100s near the Metro. I know! So random, right? They really do look like Ahnold. Wonder what that’s about.

Anyway, that was my Friday. How was yours? What are you up to this weekend?

I hear Amphora has good omelettes. That sounds like a good brunch option this weekend.

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