Chapter 7 - Entry 1
The morning whimpered into existence as black skies lightened to a miserable gray overhead. Ash had fallen during the night, coating me as I slept atop the RV bus’s roof. I rose slowly, aching slightly in the chilly air, and promptly had a sneezing fit as bits of Yellowstone tickled my nose. The scent of coffee brewing filled newly emptied nostrils and awoke hunger inside my stomach.
Thick steam-mists clung to the ground like low clouds as I hopped down and lit a cigarette. Closer to earth, the soil seemed several degrees warmer and slightly soggy beneath my booted feet. Humidity competed with a general dampness heavy in the air that foretold of coming rains. I scanned the area, finding it just as silent as the night before. Spooky in a way. We defiantly had the haunted forest vibe going on.
Canned hash browns and powdered eggs were cooking by the time I finished my smoky-treat and stepped inside the bus. Seeing Molly naked as she moved about the kitchen area was more than a little shocking. Especially considering her father sat on the sofa nearby. Not that Frank, whose mental faculties were only one step above a zombie’s, seemed to notice as he stared blankly at the wall before him.
“Mornin Molly. Didn’t realize it was nakey time.”
Molly barked out a laugh and finished mixing up pancake batter, little breasts jiggling with the vigorous arm motions. “I took a shower earlier but we don’t have any towels. Figured Dad wouldn’t notice and you wouldn’t care.” She grinned and offered a mischievous wink while wiggling her ass. “You don’t mind, do you?”
I chuckled and moved to stand beside her, grabbing a coffee mug and filling it with black gold while staring at her pierced nipples. Tattoos were everywhere; all high quality grayscale scenes of death that must have cost a mint. Leaning one hip against the counter, I let my eyes have their own breakfast as she did a little turn-around.
“Don’t mind it one bit. You’re pretty comfortable being naked around folks who are mostly strangers.”
“Worked as a stripper for a year.” Molly replied with a shrug before going back to making breakfast. “”Sides. We’re gonna be living together for a long time. Not like I need to be a prude around you.”
Couldn’t argue with her logic so I simply nodded and took a seat at the RV’s little hide-away table, sipping my coffee and letting her backside put me in a trace as it moved around the kitchen. She caught me staring and grinned before swearing when the scent of burning pancakes filled the air.
We ate a big breakfast together once the food was done cooking. Obviously Home Economics had been a class in high school Molly skipped often and my heightened sense of smell seemed more a curse than blessing as I gagged down the meal. She didn’t seem to notice, humming happily until we’d finished. I did dishes while she went to get dressed and try to feed Frank. He wasn’t interested. Apparently meat was all he ate.
Bellies full and everyone dressed, it was time to get down to business. I grabbed a roll of toilet paper and started making a list using a magic marker, thinking aloud as I wrote.
“So I think the first thing we need to do is secure the first floor windows and doors. That lets us work safely without having to worry about zombies walking in.” I looked up and watched Molly nod in agreement before continuing on.
“That means we have three doors and nineteen windows to barricade. I’d like to go ahead and do it right the first time since we’re using the bus to live in for now. Fuck plywood. I’m thinking we either brick them in or use metal sheets.”
“What about firing ports and stuff? Maybe brick part of it in but make some metal shutters we can close if necessary?”
I nodded and wrote down the basics of what hardware and tools we’d need to get the job done. The big issue was where to get equipment. There were plenty of bricks laying around from homes that fell in the earthquakes and metal could be cut from things like dumpsters. But finding the right tools would be a problem since neither Molly nor I knew the area well enough and Frank wasn’t talking. That meant recon.
The three of us were in the van an hour later, armed for war and carrying enough food and water to stay overnight if need be. Our first destination was a slow drive along the roads bordering the territory we claimed. The area was an irregular rectangular with a woodland core and houses nestled along the road on either side. Middle class stuff built in the 70’s and 80’s with the occasional McMansion thrown in for good measure. Half were damaged from fire and earthquakes. None seem occupied. All together it was a five mile round trip.
“We should clear these out and lock em up tight. Don’t want any neighbors moving in. Living or dead.”
“Good call,” I said, nodding towards Molly as she kicked off her boots and wedged both bare feet up onto the dashboard. For a moment I was lost in thought, remembering Maliqe and her aversion to wearing shoes. Her loss pained me deeply despite the short time we’d spent together. Frowning, I pulled my gaze off her toes and focused on the road, trying to crush the melancholy with an effort of will.
“I’m gonna stop and check a few homes for phone books. Might save us some time.” With that I pulled into the driveway of a mostly intact ranch and hopped out. Molly didn’t seem to think joining me was necessary, which was fine with me at the moment. I circled the house and found the windows all in their place. Front and back doors were locked.
Knocking on the door didn’t result in undead fists rapping in reply so I kicked in the door and scanned the living room that lay before me. The scent of stale air tickled my nose but no rotting meat seemed to be present. A quick search turned up the local Yellow Pages in the kitchen along with a dozen cans of food. With prizes in hand, I headed back to the van and started thumbing through the phone book, settling on a local hardware store two miles away.
Molly fed Frank the meat from a can of beef stew while I drove, tearing down the road where it was clear and slowing to a crawl as I slalomed the big armored van around car wrecks and debris. The only zombies we saw had clustered together outside a brick church, fists banging away on the solid foundation and unable to reach its high windows. Candle lights moved around the interior but no cries for help followed our taillights.
The hardware store had been ransacked, judging by the little Toyota 4x4 still wedged into the front entrance. Every window was broken and bloodstains covered the parking lot’s cracked asphalt. Frank and Molly joined me as I circled the exterior. A pair of rotting bodies, riddled with gunshot wounds and covered in ash, lay crumpled by the missing backdoor’s frame.
“How do you wanna do this?” Molly asked, Glock in hand.
“Zombies react to sound. They don’t plan. Don’t use tactics. If you want to draw their attention, just bang on something and wait. They’ll come.” I shrugged and shined the HK’s underbarrel flashlight beam in the darkness beyond, scanning the chaos inside.
“Anyone home?” She yelled, flicking on a little mag-lite. A series of low moans sounded in reply.
We both stood back from the door and leveled our barrels towards the entrance, waiting as things shuffled and banged around inside. Frank grew agitated, shifting back and forth on his feet while hands clenched and unclenched into fists. Finally the first corpse stepped into view.
Molly fired first, her shot blowing apart the Shambler’s jaw and sending shards of bone and teeth everywhere. The man’s body crumpled and tripped the Runner that came up fast from behind. It was a young teenaged girl, seeming pretty intact and showing only modest signs of decay. Her small hands clawed towards us as she fell, hitting the ground hard. I squeezed off a shot at the back of her head and raised the barrel in time to see another Runner come dashing around the building’s corner on Molly’s side.
Frank was a blur of movement as he soundlessly screamed and ran full tilt at the approaching zombie. Both bodies collided with a wet smack and crunch of bone. The Runner’s teeth locked onto Frank’s shoulder, gnawing at the thick flannel shirt he wore. In response, Molly’s father punched through his attacker’s stomach, hand erupting from the back in a spray of black blood and still holding a length of yellowed spine. A headbutt sent the zombie’s upper half backwards, leaving its feet and lower body in place. With a chunk of its backbone missing, the zombie’s head settled near the back of its knees, body held aloft by Frank’s forearm through its abdomen.
Molly fired her second round at another Shambler as it made an appearance. One more dropped from my own firearm, absently done as an afterthought while I continued to watch Frank literally tear his target into pieces. He was covered in gore by the time he wandered back to stand behind us, vacantly staring straight ahead.
We looted what was left inside after a thorough search. Mostly power tools, some heavy-duty extension cords and spare drill bits, saw blades and sander belts. Apparently those that came before us were only interested in hand tools that didn’t use electricity. A final sweep yielded small but essential items like tape measures, carpenter's squares and construction chalk. All in all it wasn’t a bad haul.
A construction equipment rental supply came next; the sort of place contractors go to rent gear for job sites. Surrounded by a high chain link fence, the warehouse seemed in better shape that the hardware store. Its gate was unlocked but a thorough search failed to turn up any zombies. As before, most of the non-electric items were gone, leaving us with most of the stuff on our list and more. I hooked up a flatbed trailer parked around back to the van and loaded a big ass sand blaster, two heavy duty shop vacs and an industrial power washer while Molly grabbed bags of sand and cleaning supplies.
The van was pretty full so we headed home, unloaded and grabbed an early lunch. Molly was looking through a pile of carbon paper copies as we ate. I arched an eyebrow and pointed at them with my fork. “What’s that?”
“Rental receipts,” She replied with a grin, separating a few from the rest. “James Baker, who lives on Lakeside Drive, rented a small generator/arc welder combo unit using his Visa on April 12th. David Smalls, who also lives on Lakeside Drive, has a Caterpillar Bulldozer.”
I slapped Molly’s shoulder with a grin and joined her in going through the papers, putting together what would become our afternoon shopping list.