Chapter 9 - Entry 3
May 14th cont – May 22nd
We managed to make it through a week without major issues. That felt like some kind of record for me.
Paulie and Brandon laid out plans for the new village. Scavenging crews brought back food and the supplies needed to see that plan take fruit. Even Shakespeare’s library got started. Granted, it wasn’t filled with the great literary works he’d envisioned. Technical manuals and ‘How-To Books’ were the main focus. And Romance novels, oddly enough.
Whatever made zombies ignore the Infected wore off after four days. By then the crews had gotten just about everything on their shopping lists and the manpower was reallocated to clear trees from the building site. I took groups of three out on security patrols around the woods and kept guards with radios stationed at all times. Noise from the chainsaws and our newly liberated cement truck carried beyond the forest and a steady stream of zombies kept everyone on their toes.
Speaking of toes, a few mannerisms began to develop among the tribe during that week. Most of the women wandered around barefoot, no doubt influenced by Cleo and Molly’s general refusal to wear shoes around the Home. Given their dulled pain recptors and the generally soft, spongy ground, it didn’t seem an issue.
Other little customs started to take hold that I didn’t fully understand, mostly dealing with food and meals as the group ate together. Defiantly the pagan thing but I didn’t dwell on it overly much.
Much to Shakespeare’s dismay, Cleo began to gather all the children, and no small number of the adults, for storytime each evening before bed. I leaned against a tree one night, listening to her tell the tale of some Greek goddess and an apple or something. The children loved it.
Apparently Hope took center stage one night, relaying a story about me. I felt a tug on my shirt the next morning and looked down to find a six year old boy staring up at me with wide red eyes.
“Did you really beat up an army and call a horde of zombie rats from hell?” He asked.
I laughed and crouched down until we saw eye to eye. “Yes I did. That’s what happens when someone messes with my people.” He ran off after that, joining the other kids who stood watching our exchange nearby.
At least they weren’t calling me Keres.
Once all the able-bodied adults had gone on patrol with me a few times, I let them handle things on their own and got to work on the Home. With Paulie’s help, I redid the water system and managed to get hot water running through the building’s old radiator piles. It wouldn’t keep the place as warm as true steam but I found it tolerable enough during the chilly days and early evenings.
A crew laid down plumbing pipes in the village area and started digging a trench towards the Home’s tower. We debated several options for turning the structure into a watertower and finally settled on a permanent, extremely durable solution. In essence, we used marine-grade cement and heavy-duty pool liners to turn the whole building's interior into a water-proof holding tank. No idea how much water the thing actually held but it took days before runoff from the original system’s overflow started flowing out of the tower again.
I watched from the tower’s roof as Paulie and his work crews cleared trees and laid down foundations. I’d suggested they leave as many trees as possible so the place would be harder to spot from the air. A few looked at me funny but I shrugged and told them folks still had helicopters and planes, just like we had cars and trucks. They went along with the idea anyway and slowly but surely, a village started to form.
So eight days passed without incident. On the ninth day though we had two issues crop up one after the other. Vacations never last. The first was relatively minor, considering the apocalypse had happened and all; one of the guards was bitten by a zombie.
They brought him to the Home and a small crowd gathered as the man tried to wave everyone off. “I’m fine. I’m fine.” He said over and over again.
Doctor David and his wife Sandy had a look at the wound; a nasty bite to the forearm that had ripped away part of the muscle. The lingering changes to his Infected body dulled the pain but we discovered another side effect that day. The bitten man didn’t turn into a zombie.
Still, I ordered that he be kept chained to a tree and observed for a few days. We moved a tent to his position to keep him comfortable and settled in to wait and see what would happen.
It was a few hours later that one of the guards, positioned near the road’s southern entrance down by the highway, radioed that we had company inbound.
There were three men in a Humvee slowly making their way up the road and deeper into my forest. I wandered down the path towards them while the others flanked them in the woods to either side. The truck stopped a few feet from my position and several minutes passed before two stepped outside with M16s raised.
“Heya fellas. What brings you to this neck of the woods?” I asked, lighting up a cigarette while keeping my SMG casually slung to one side.
“Just scouting. Who are you?” One asked, slowly lowering his gun while his buddy kept me under cover.
“Jaeger. Where you boys from?”
The name sparked a look of recognition across the speaker’s face and his gun raised again. I grinned when I noticed it shook a little in his hands.
“Dead Cross Militia. We don’t want no trouble.”
I nodded. “Me neither. Just havin a friendly chat. You boys did a number on the Fort last week. Why’d you bother?”
“We had people on the inside that heard Silas was going to launch an attack against us.” The other guy replied.
“I see. Well you tell whoever’s in charge over there that these woods are mine. There’s a road that boarders it on all sides. Stay outta my forest and I’ve got no call to cause trouble for you folks. Understood?” I leveled my gaze solidly on the guy with shaking hands and blew smoke from both nostrils. “Leave me be and I’ll do the same.”
The guy’s Adam’s Apple bobbed up and down as he swallowed and nodded. His buddy didn’t seem so smart.
“I don’t think you’re in any position to tell us what to do.” He said.
I shrugged. “So there you boys are, all comfy cozy in your beds at night. Suddenly the fuel supply explodes. Or maybe one of your patrols don’t return. Then another. And another. Or maybe zombie rats get found inside a few bedrooms. Folks get shot when they step outside by a sniper no one can see.”
I paused and shrugged again, taking a moment to enjoy my cigarette and let the words sink in. “I don’t need an army to shut you boys down. Attrition works just fine. One or two dead a week and you’ll be fucked by summer. But I don’t wanna do that, see? I just want to hunker down in my woods and get through this mess. Same as everyone else.”
“We’ll pass along your message.” The shaky guy replied.
“See that you do. And don’t come back here again. Ever. Next time there won’t be any pleasant conversations going on. Just screaming and dying and fun stuff like that.”
They got back into the Humvee and put it in reverse, slowly backing their way out of my woods as I stood there smoking awhile. Part of me hoped I’d never see them again.
Part of me couldn’t wait until I did.