Chapter TwentyA Chapter by Cre8nFrmWithn
Others in the Arch...
Moving forward is difficult. It takes bravery, confidence and a positive out-look towards the future. It means you can roll with the punches; accept what’s happened to you and then make something new of it. It isn’t easy and it isn’t always fair but whoever came up with that phrase to begin with? Nothing is fair anymore and it probably never, ever was!
He was asleep on the grungy cot, but the wailing of a few babies a few rooms over caused his sleepiness to fade. He had his eyes open, looking into the same black that hid behind his eyelids but noisier. It was dark as pitch in the large room.
The darkness didn’t frighten him as much as it used to. Since the dead returned to eat the living, the blackness of the underground was a fantastic dream to sit in. Now, there was more to fear than the darkness. What lurked both in the day and night was to be feared.
He sat up and scratched his head; he always felt a little lost when he got up. He never turned on the light for fear of waking everyone but it was difficult to do anything productive without a beam here or there. Beside him sat a ply-wood reel that subbed as a table. On it sat his penlight, which didn’t shine too brightly but did the job. He could see his pants on the floor. He dressed as silently as possible and headed out the tunnel that was his home.
Roland Bixby headed to duty where he served as a leader in their security system. All around him were people, refugees of the catastrophe. Many were sheltering families who happened to be sight-seeing down by the Arch. The others were tourists, the unfortunate who would probably never get to find out if their families abroad were alive.
There were barrels with kindling burning but only near areas that could allow ventilation. The last thing they needed in their subterranean city was a black out by their own warmth-maker.
Bixby, as the other men called him, had no training in fighting. He was a manager by trade but that didn’t matter anymore. There were no more electronics stores and no more people to manage. He didn’t have a home, family or anything personal. All he had was a sense of duty. A duty that helped him feel useful. He was a protector now. He helped the woman and children that had no one to look after them. He protected the other men that were wounded. So now he was a soldier, a warrior of the dead.
“Bixby, you up early! What happened?” Asked a greasy faced, smiling, wiry guy from the shadows. His name was Hinton. Elmer Hinton. His parents must have wanted to curse the poor guy. He didn’t deserve a name like Elmer but he was good people. Elmer didn’t whine or cry when he had to serve on post and he always smiled.
“Nah Hinton. I just felt like I needed to get up. Anything happen during the night?”
“Nope. I tried to steal a peek through the wall but didn’t hear or see a thing. You think we need to go back out?”
Hinton didn’t like hitting topside. He was frightened of the zombies. He had the unfortunate luck of having to put his mother down; to have to kill others just wasn’t his thing. It was no one’s thing but hey, you did what you had to do in order to survive.
“I’m going to see Paddock. I’ll let you know.”
Bixby walked away from the tunnel and headed for the main lobby. The area was once a huge museum on the 100-year span of pioneering in the west. There were walls that used to show murals of the mid-west: wagons rolling across lush prairies; horses and Native Americans showing the cowboys how to plant and barter.
The Visitors Center was underground. It was far enough under to provide heat, which was bad since the air-conditioning systems had failed when the city cut the power. There were two entrances, directly across from one another. There were areas where displays used to be but not anymore. Now there was just space, filled with people doing nothing. Waiting. Praying for their lives to return. For the dead to go back to being dead and the normal worries of life to set in.
Their so-called Defense Department was the Information Center. It was a nicely made cubby stocked with computers running on car batteries, a battery-operated short wave radio, several walkies confiscated from Radio Shack, a box of 9-volt batteries; Mag flashlights, notepads and pens.
At the radio table was Fetch, their communications guy. He didn’t know anything but how to gab on a cb but he was always there, trying to make contact with someone. He really hoped the military would pick them up, saving everyone and providing the protection he could not.
He was a trucker in civilizations prior days so listening and talking to others was easy for him to handle. He had no family, an only child and no one loved him enough to marry him. He was a lanky guy with a pale complexion and a straight nose that ended with a bump. He wasn’t the most handsome but he was the kindest. Everyone liked Fetch, they just couldn’t love him.
Next to him was a heavy-set, black gal named Baker. Ansela Baker was good at passing messages along. She was a receptionist who did better on a computer than paper and pen but she got the job done- and it looked good too! She lost her six children to the dead while they were on their way home from school. The bus luckily didn’t get over run but crashed into a tanker on the shoulder and set the block ablaze.
Her children were killed instantly, incinerated along with thirty other homebound kids.
Across from Baker was Dub. He was ‘Dub’ because he didn’t like his first or last name and never wanted to tell anyone what it was. Dub was one of those cool guys who loved to please. He was a cab driver, so when they scavenged, he was their man to get about. He wasn’t military trained but he had gun experience; he was a natural. Dub was always first-pic when Bixby went out.
The merging of the areas was huge, at least sixty to seventy feet wide. They were two levels under the actual city that the refugees occupied. They didn’t climb up into the elevators to the top of the arch. That was for an emergency evacuation. Should the zombies somehow get inside the center, they’d all ride to the top and defend the fort.
Many of the survivors had supplies they managed to bring along. Others had nothing and were rationing out items from the Levee Mercantile. There wasn’t much but lots of high sugar-caloried sweets. There were runs made where thety scavenged water, food and other supplies from topside. To not be noticed, they only went out about once a week. Better something than nothing.
There was a sort of bartering system going on too. Cappy frowned upon trading for goods. He thought it was cheap and didn’t like it. The people needed something to do though; a way to help each other out and be functional.
Total, there were probably about forty of them there. Bixby knew them all by first name. He was good with names. He helped many of them get to Archburg, as they’d termed it. He was like a shepherd and the lost were his flock. He didn’t see it that way but many thanked him, as though he’d saved them and brought them to an underground Mecca!
Bixby couldn’t even claim finding the haven. Someone, now long gone had located the opening and hid inside for a while, reaching out and plucking stragglers here and there. Bixby was one of the propitious deracinated. When he was well enough, he began the rescuing to present day. No one had a clue as to how long it had been. It was just a normal, every day thing now.
On each scavenging excursion there were less and less brought back. The bulk of the world were walking corpses now. It was a devastation to them all on many occasions; looking across the tables, seeing how few they were with very little communication of how many were actually alive on earth.
Bixby used the restrooms and washed up in a sink. He did his best avoid the mirror, trying his best to avoid seeing what he’d become. He didn’t want to think of himself as a murder of American civilians, people just like himself that were unfortunate to be struck down by the silent taker of lives. The invisible infection that ruined life on every corner of the planet.
He knew that his shift would be starting soon. He didn’t mind arriving early, seeing as he wasn’t since doing well in the sleep department. When he did sleep, it was either full of darkness or terrible nightmares. Nightmares of them. He didn’t want to think of them; better to work and keep the mind busy that to let it drift on idle.
“Bixby”, replied Baker. “You look rested and happy.”
“Yeah, thanks for coming to visit me last night!”
Chuckles rose in the quiet. “We haven’t heard anything. The crew from the second level didn’t send any messages back last night. I hope they’re alright.” When Baker worried, Bixby knew there was possible trouble on the rise.
“I’m sure they’re fine. When was their last contact?”
“About three this morning. I think they were near some zombies but I’m not sure. Carter called in and then cut off. Could be bad news.” A couple of creases burrowed above her chocolatey brow.
“Let’s see. Dub, you wanna hit the streets with me later?”
“Sure, when you talkin’?”
“Six or seven. I think I need to get more water. I was in the theater earlier and heard one of the kids crying. The mom didn’t say anything but I think she’s afraid of being a bother, having just arrived.”
“I’m your man”, Dub replied.
“Good. I’ll hit you back in a bit. First, I need to check in with Cappy.”
“Where is Cappy anyway?” Asked Fetch. He didn’t even look up as he spoke while adjusting his headgear for the radio.
Cappy wasn’t a captain. As a matter of fact, none of them were military. For some strange reason, the military were nowhere to be seen! Everyone thought the problem would be quickly resolved with the military once the zombies began attacking but they didn’t. The rising was so fast that all anyone knew was that the President of the United States was rushed off to an underground bunker and that was that.
The emergency broadcasting system didn’t offer much help. Once the television stations stopped talking of how people were being eaten, they all went off the air. All they knew was that the phenomena was worldwide and there was no resolution but to pop them in the noggin. Chest shots and mutilations were no good.
The things were so determined to eat you, they crawled on arm and leg stubs to get to their meal. It was horrific to Bixby as he returned home from Florida.
He’d gone to visit his mom at the retirement home for three days and was in happy spirits until he’d begun to hear the announcements of strange mob activity over the airwaves. Thinking it was some sort of prank like War of the World, he listened for a bit then turned the radio off.
He’d been fortunate enough to travel the interstates for the most part, not seeing many of the attacks. Once while he was at a rest area off of I-24, he’d run into a couple that were headed out of town. They had luggage stacked on the top of their SUV and bikes attached to a rack on back. They said they were fleeing North.
When he asked why they were so agitated, they said that things were frightening in Saint Louis. People were on a rampage, attacking one another; biting, hitting and continuous screaming. They didn’t want to waste another minute in the city. They told him to tune his radio to 1120 am for details and raced away! He flipped through the stations before listening to a heavy voice, relaying information.
The world had fallen into chaos according to the newstalk on KMOX. Reports of the dead actually eating the living. People were trampling others to escape the onslaught. Cars were smashing into buildings and martial law had been declared. It didn’t matter to the citizens of the city. They were all on the streets, running away from the beastly attacks of the dead.
Bixby made sure to avoid all major cities. He rode home listening to every report given, in shock. When he drove into his home city, cars littered the roads and streets. Many areas were parking lots of the refugees. Cars but no people were seen. When he’d driven as far as the pavement allowed, he took to foot.
That’s when he saw them, the remainder of so-called people of the city. Many people had died in their cars, some from attacks prior to driving away and others had their windows down and were bitten in their vehicles. Evidently the dead were too dumb to open a car door.
All along the roads, he spied mothers, fathers, children all trapped in seatbelts reaching for him. Some had plugs of flesh missing from their arms and faces while others were completely ravaged. Their skin was pasty and ashen; and those that had sat in their vehicles for a length of time were swollen from the heat.
They smelled even worse than they looked. He’d never imagined Hell on earth before. Nothing could have prepared him either, not for what he’d seen. With so much around him, he did his best to ignore the monsters and get home. He had to find his wife and children safe. That was all that mattered. His mind went into auto-pilot.
He fought through small clusters of the things; hitting and dodging them wherever they met. Many weren’t fast enough to catch him on the shake but some actually tried to run after him. For them being dead, they were fast! Those terrified him the most.
When he exited I-70 he had to stop the car and walk. He walked for almost five miles down Bermuda Road in silence. Bermuda was a parking lot, with vehicles up along the side of the road. A few had burst through the chain link fence that protectd a private golf course. Roland walked to Castro Drive, across from Bermuda Elementary school. It was a school day and noticed there were no children playing at recess. He did see… something atop the monkey bars. It looked like a thick, sleeping bag it was hard to see through the haze of the heat and his sweat beaded brow.
He reached his destination unscathed and hardly saw a soul, or souless. Unfortunately, he found his wife and children in the form of monsters, waiting to devour him. He’d walked into an ambush, right into the arms of the dead.
When he saw their pallor and milky eyes, realization of their condition set in and he ran from the house like a madman. He’d shut the door behind him, safely locking them inside. He didn’t like the idea of them roaming, possibly eating his surviving neighbors. He didn’t have the heart to kill them either.
Gail, with her springy, red curls and golden freckles. Macy with her long ponytails and Bradley, his only son; Bradley’s body had been damaged the most, crawling across the floor with his leg muscles and tendons frayed. His family, corpses walking in the sanctuary of the Bixby home, left there forever. Bixby wondered if they were too ignorant to get out. Were their rotted brains capable of problem solving? He didn’t care, as long as they were safe where he left them.
He wandered the streets, carrying a metal pipe for days. He ate where he found food and slept in tight spots, difficult to be reached by the walking, eating meatbags. He felt that life was lost. He hated himself for not being there for his family. The guilt of not being able to save his family pressed his undeserving, beating heart. He wanted to die. When the thought rolled through him, he understood he didn’t really care. He’d lost everything. He had no family and no longer desired to live.
That’s when he wound up surrounded by eight zombies. Absent-mindedly he’d walked for miles, right into their territory and trap on Flo Valley. They were standing with their backs facing him when he walked past, shuffling his feet. When they realized he was there, they followed. He stopped in front of a Dairy Queen to admire the moldy bodies bumping one another while a few others ate on the deceased. That’s when they jumped him.
He felt a mushy, grey hand land heavily on his shoulder. He snapped out of his daze and turned to look into the milky eye of a fat man in a torn jeans and no shirt. His entire abdomen was empty; meaty breasts hung over the opening with flecks of flaccid entrails. He smelled like a slaughterhouse and his breath to boot!
Arced behind ‘No Gut’ were others, all with one thing on their late minds: making him food! Bixby threw the sodden appendage away from his shoulder and kicked out, landing his foot inside ‘No Gut’s cavity! He heard the muffled snap of his sole breaking the spine as the zombie folded into himself and crumpled in a heap.
The others ignored the pile and moved around it, flexing their blackened fingers, anxious to rip apart his flesh. Bixby yelled out as he swung a metal pipe through the air, holding them back but not stopping them from closing in. It was then that a battered, black 6-speed, Kawasaki Concourse revved up.
The rider was covered in leather riding gear, with tarnished, silver buckles riding up the black boots. The helmet’s shade was down making him a mystery among the oddities. The monsters paid the rider no mind, eager to eat their prey.
The man glided in Bixby’s direction with an almost slow-motion sort of grace. His hands were out at his sides, like a cowboy ready for a showdown. Then with his right hand, he reached over his head and down his back. When his arm floated back up, he brought up a twenty and a half inch, steel blade.
The katana was right out of a Japanese action flick! Bixby felt he was moving in an a sort of epoxied atmosphere. The freaks around him appeared to take a lifetime to claw at his clothing while he watched the leather-clad stranger approach the altercation. Then he began to dance.
With the saya gleaming an almost white silver, the wielder of the sword sashayed his malevolence upon the zombies. Heads soared with an inhuman grace, with blackish blood sprouting in all directions. It felt like hours to Bixby as he watched it all in a detached state but it only took minutes to clear the scene of monsters.
The quiet made his ears ring so when the stranger spoke to him he didn’t respond. He stood, his chest rising and falling in heaves. The person seemed to realize that Bixby was in shock, so he raised his shield to show is eyes and allow his voice to travel a bit better.
“Come on. The noise will bring more.” And that’s how he was saved, then becoming a saver himself. The man who rescued him later died, saving the mother and child he’d mentioned earlier. Bixby knew the woman felt guilty but it wasn’t her fault. Had Grier not died that day, he’d have died saving someone else. He’d said on more than one occasion that his whole purpose of being born was for this very situation. That God had made this all for his purpose.
At the time, Bixby thought he was crazy. Why would God put dead people in an active state, to eat the living? Later, he began to think that the old man was right on the money.
“People always saying God works in mysterious ways. x, they just His business. You think he flooded the earth just to be mysterious?” He wiggled his fingers in a childish, foolish way.
“Nah! He knows what to do. He rids the earth to shed the parasites. They the ones killin’ the earth and mankind. When God plagues the earth with stuff like fire, water and bugs,..and er, zombies- well, it’s to cleanse.”
“So this is a way to get rid of the sinners then”, Bixby stated more than asked.
“Well, what happened to Jesus coming back?”
“He is. You just watch. God gonna handle things and be ‘bout his business. Till then, I’mma do my part and save as many as I can.”
Bixby liked him. Grier was a weird country boy. Everyone liked him for his strange ways. He was eclectic, knowing how to use a katana, riding a motorcycle, and even a pugilist! The guy could do anything but speak a perfect sentence. The thought made Bixby smile.
But Grier was gone. And now Cappy was running things. Cappy wasn’t a bad fellow. He just didn’t go about things like Grier had. He was much harder on the survivors and even tougher on Bixby and the other capable men. He didn’t run things in a military fashion, just laborious. They did it happily. Anything was better than existing out there with the zombies.
Bixby headed towards the IMAX theater. It was time to to see what the mission of the day would entail. He knew they needed to get more water for certain. They still had food downstairs in the walk-in. There wasn’t much food but it was still enough for the fifty or sixty people for the time being. More supplies could be brought in later. They would mostly run for weapons, batteries and communications.
Bixby needed to get out. He’d been under too long and needed some of the fresh air. He laughed to himself. Fresh air, the only fresh air left on this forsaken planet was probably in the Rocky Mountains! With a sigh, he headed in to see Cappy.
© 2012 Cre8nFrmWithn
A Life Of Zen - Chapter One
AboutMy name is Alyssa and I am a Domestic Homeschool Engineer. I like to write, leaving some details to the reader's imagination. I describe but do not wish to over-indulge. Many things are best when l.. more..