Chapter 4 - Entry 6
April 25th cont. - April 26th and April 27th
Maliqe and I geared up and stood on the street with the office building to our right and the last apartment building to our left. “Am wanting wall here. Thick. Keep out demons and humans, yes?”
I nodded and counted footsteps from one building to the next. “Permanent wall or something movable like they’ve got set up around the hotel?”
She considered my question, lighting up a fresh cigar and surveying the area with milky white eyes. A two lane road leading out of town cut perpendicular across Maliqe’s street. Beyond it lay a few little storefronts and a gas station. The other buildings were too damaged to repair.
“Permanent. Block is like castle. Safe place for retreat. Made to defend.”
I nodded and mulled over options.
“No gate here.” At that I arched an eyebrow. “Come. I show.”
We walked around the apartment building on the main street and came to an alleyway that ran between the apartment buildings’ backside and the long strip of buildings across from them.
“Is being way in.”
There was a parking lot between the middle and far apartment building, wide enough to move a sizable truck into and out of the alley.
“Is being easy to block here. No can turn around in alley. Like canyon, yes?”
Back out on Maliqe’s central street again, we climbed into the Humvee and headed north out of town towards the construction site Dave Fargo’s crew had been working when the earthquakes hit. I stopped the truck before we reached the new school’s site and nodded towards a long, narrow warehouse set off from the road. Maliqe arched an eyebrow.
“Commercial roll-off dumpsters. Stronger metal with an open top. We can fill them with dirt and stack two on top of each other. Much better than those conex boxes they’re using at the hotel.”
Maliqe wasn’t sure what I was talking about until we pulled around back. Stacks of rugged metal rectangles brought a smile to her lips.
We made four trips using the dumpster company’s flatbed truck. The bed tilted up and a winch pulled the containers into place. Reversing the process deposited the boxes where you wanted. Two large dumpsters, each 18 feet long, 8 feet wide and 7 feet high, stretched across the street between both buildings with only a three foot gap in the center. Sand and gravel already loaded into dump trucks out at the worksite filled the containers.
Getting the second row of dumpsters seated on top of the first was a giant pain in the ass. We were forced to use the massive bulldozer and sheer muscle to finish the job, both swearing loudly with knuckles torn to hell. Rubble and debris from the street beyond filled both part of the way. The last sand and gravel mixed with a few yards of dirt from the town’s edge topped them off.
The entire process took most of the day, our efforts slowed by zombies attracted to the sounds of heavy equipment. In the end we were left with a metal wall filled with dirt and stone that was eight feet wide and fourteen feet high. It wasn’t perfect. Metal rungs set into the side allowed us to climb up top but the same held true on the opposite side. Those would need to be cut off using power tools the next day.
We decided to fashion a gate in the narrow gap between both walls since it was wide enough for a person but not a vehicle. That would be a project for the next day as well. Covering the open tops with plywood and setting up a protected way for defenders to man the walls would wait until more important things had been done.
As the gray skies darkened to true black, we blocked off the alleyway’s mouth using the huge bulldozer. Exhausted, we ate dinner with Henry’s family, showered and discussed plans for the next day.
Small dumpsters would be used to block access from the office building’s northern wall to the water’s edge and the same thing would be done for the easternmost apartment building. Henry asked if we could put him on top of the bank truck right in the street’s center so he could take Overwatch, leaving his wife and daughter free to work on the central apartment building and get their new home ready.
“I’ll need a utilities map soon so I can figure out power and water for the buildings," I pointed out.
Maliqe nodded and used her walkie-talkie to call Dave Fargo. Together they discussed the issue. He’d get back with us the next day.
“And I still need my rifle.” Hope reminded us with a grin.
Henry nodded and said, “If you’ll take me with you, I can probably trade some food and weapons for more rifles. We standardizing on anything?”
“From where?” I asked while Maliqe got up and headed into the armory. She was bringing one of each gun we owned out to the table while Henry answered.
“There’s a large hunting and camping supply store about twenty minutes west of here. Just north of East Moodus. Friend of mine worked there. He didn’t sell handguns since they require a permit in Connecticut but I know they carried rifles, shotguns and ammunition.”
Maliqe looked at me over the table where she’d placed an M16, an M9 pistol, one of the HK MP5 SMGs and a Remington 700 rifle. “Rifle is being .308 Winchester, or 7.62x51mm. M16 is 5.56x45mm. Pistol is 9x19mm. Nine mil. HK is also nine mil. In America, .308 and 9 mil being easy to find. Am thinking we trade M16s and ammunition for .22 rifles, .22 ammunition and more for .308 and 9mil. Or teach Hope to be using Remington and not get .22 at all. Is more kick but will be what she uses once older, yes?”
“Can I try shooting the bigger gun?” Hope asked.
No one could think of a reason why not so we headed up to the roof for target practice. I brought two of the Remington’s and Henry’s chosen weapon along with a box of ammunition. Kate looked at the third rifle as if it was a snake when I handed it to her.
“Some day their lives may depend on you. You’ll kill to protect your family, right?”
She frowned but nodded and took the gun. Maliqe gave both girls a lesson on loading the gun, clearing a jam, and basic safety. After that it was time for live fire.
Henry helped Hope while I coached Kate and the pair of them started shooting at a quartet of zombies that had entered the street from the gap between the new walls. Hope yelped in surprise as the rifle bucked against her shoulder. Henry adjusted her stance and the next shot didn’t catch her off guard.
We let them both put fifty rounds through their rifles before packing things up for the night. Hope was already complaining that her shoulder was sore but truly wanted to continue using the ‘grown up rifle’. In the end we decided to skip the .22s and standardize down to just 9 mil and .308.
There was popcorn made that night before bed and we all sat down to watch a movie together. Kate offered a smile when I glanced her way, snuggled up on the couch with her family. I nodded and went to bed, waking up briefly when Maliqe’s familiar scent reached me as she climbed in later.
Thick black drops of rain were hammering away the next morning and there seemed to be no noticeable transition from night to day. Despite the previous night’s jovial mood, everyone woke up filled with gloom; spirits depressed from the weather outside. Neither Maliqe nor I felt like working in the foul rain, watching as strong winds drove it sideways in rippling sheets. Lightning sealed the deal, illuminating a mob of pasty faces in the street below.
The day was spent inside; inventorying food and supplies, cleaning weapons, making lists of needed items and doing minor upkeep on the station. I spoke with Mary on the walkie-talkie for awhile, catching up on the news and gossip over in Lockwood Land. Apparently things were wonderful there with hearty meals and light work duty. She and Marley, who was also a Computer Science major, had gotten several laptops running and were trying to set up security cameras along the hotel’s rooftop. Mary was having a blast, hanging with her peers. Especially a boy named Lu.
Maliqe had a turn and spent twenty minutes chatting with Marley in Albanian while I kept busy doing maintenance on the generator. She was speaking with Dave Fargo about the utilities maps when I headed back upstairs. He’d been unable to find them and assumed they were still locked up at the Town Hall.
The downpour hadn’t let up by three and it was still as black as night. A steady rhythm of zombie fists pounding on the brick walls and metal garage doors served as background noise while our little group tried to keep busy. I’d finally had enough by dinner and went to bed early.
The next morning was no better. Black, cold and pouring rain.
“Fuck this. I’m going over to the other apartment building to have a look.”
There were fifty zombies out front as we all gathered on the roof. Shooting fish in a barrel came to mind as everyone started firing down into the seething mob while Maliqe used a pair of big flashlights to guide our efforts.
Kate, Maliqe and I drove the armored truck across the street, fallen bodies squishing loudly beneath its big tires, while Hope closed the garage door and Henry sat Overwatch from the roof beneath a big picnic umbrella. Kate had one of the M9 pistols and a flash light. Maliqe and I each had a SMG with a light mounted on the forward grip. We did a quick sweep through each apartment before leaving Kate alone in a three bedroom flat on the top floor.
The buildings were all two stories tall with two three-bedroom, two two-bedroom and two one-bedroom apartments on each floor. Kate picked a three bedroom facing out into the main street and was relaying a description to Hope and Henry using the walkie-talkie as Maliqe and I headed down to the basement.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the basement dry despite the heavy rains. Assuming all three apartment buildings were identical, they were set up with a boiler for each floor. Heat would be easy. Just add oil. The circuit breaker box was a nightmare and I hunted for twenty minutes to find the electrical supply line where it entered the building.
“Ok. If we put a generator down here and move a big oil tank outside the building, then I can run a fuel line into the basement and supply the furnaces and gen set with the same tank.” My light swept across the concrete floor and fell on a trio of washers and dryers. “Probably need a separate generator to power those. Limit their use to once a week or something.” I shrugged and started flipping off circuit breakers.
“Is furnace working now?”
“I don’t see a fuel oil tank down here so there might be one buried outside somewhere. We can give it a whirl though.”
Maliqe held the light steady while I primed the fuel line and pressed the spark igniter. There was a soft whoosh as the boiler fired up and the pipes started clanking loudly.
“Kate, is there baseboard heat up there?”
“Yes there is. Oh! And its warm!”
I smiled and nodded to Maliqe. “Turn the hot water on and let it run for awhile.”
“It stopped running after a minute.”
That meant the town water system wasn’t working and life grew more complicated.
“Station is using water tower. Gravity fed.” Maliqe confirmed.
Frowning I clicked the walkie-talkie and sent Kate instructions. “Ok. Please go around to all the second floor apartments and set the heat on like 60 or something. I’m going to let this run.”
Maliqe and I went to the other two apartment buildings and had a look, finding the one closest to the lake in the same shape as the previous building but the third had a flooded basement.
Wading in kneedeep water, we found a huge crack in the basement wall, likely damaged from the earthquakes. As Maliqe searched for other signs of damage, I flipped off circuit breakers and turned off the fuel oil line where it entered the building.
“Am thinking we are not being able to move people here. Is not being….”
The building shook, floor bucking as dust rained down from the ceiling overhead.
I ran up the basement stairs with Maliqe hot on my tail as the building shook violently around us. Kate’s voice cried out over the walkie-talkie but her words were lost as the ceiling collapsed on top of me.
There was darkness and a deep rumbling.
Crushing weight forcing air from my lungs.
Gasping for breath.