Episode 32: Warning: Graphic Content
Maple Leaf Zombies - A free online zombie web novel
Times change, people don't.
Like duh! Tell us something we don't know genius! Anyways, that little golden nugget of wisdom has been going over and over Patricia Myer’s mind in the northern Alaskan survivalist camp now under siege by god knows what. It's been a while since something tore their leader Ted Altman apart. Safe to say, no more wooden carvings for the kiddies. Now loyalties have gone out the window and it’s every man for himself.
Since Altman's untimely demise there's only continual disquietude within these timber walls.
Nobody in this fort feels safe. They don't say much these days as the families plot how they'll safely make their own way out, and the hell with everyone else.
A few days ago, several of the men, including the high-strung little Italian, ventured out for another shoot-and-destroy mission but never returned. What's more, several of the camp inhabitants slipped away a few nights ago, thinking they would be better off at one of the towns, taking a bunch of guns and supplies with them.
There's just over a dozen of them left now, including the computer geek, Mr. Pleats, Andrew, as well as Leo McGregor's two sullen boys now under the care of Patricia, who’s been voted the new camp president. Do they stick it out or do they head for Anchorage?
His head more ears than face, Andrew takes a seat beside her on the steps of one of the cabins, wiping dust off his hands. Their uncertainty is palatable, and that odd, unpleasant burning hair smell that has begun to saturate the gloomy forest doesn't help matters.
They both examine a spot in the fence that's been damaged by something big, something that rammed itself into it in the middle of the night. The wall is holding but the large cracks in one of the beams is evidence the occupants here are biding their time until they’re something’s dinner.
"You know, those weird howls, whatever tried the smash the wall, they're just testing us, Pat. Ummm, ya, looking for weak spots,” Andrew offers. “Whatever killed off most of the people on the outside, it’s obvious they mutated all the animals, made them monsters. It's like a sci fi movie, no? They're looking for vulnerabilities....”
“Just, just quiet, Andrew, please,” Patricia interjects, not wanting to sound distraught. “This is all too much for me to handle. How am I supposed to take care of those kids? How are we supposed to stay here when someone gets ripped apart the moment they set foot outside? I need answers, not the obvious.”
The two are joined by Mike Turner, known to everyone as Big Mac Mike thanks to his generous frame. Yes, he's a light eater - every time the lights go on, he eats. And he's usually a grump who views people with the same suspicion as a prison guard clutching a rifle. Now, though, Mike is almost giddy due to the news he’s about to offer.
“The short wave, the short wave!” he shouts, almost out of breath. “I’ve got somebody on a channel. Says he’s at that military base, maybe a couple of hundred miles from here….come on!” the big guy urges as he begins to scamper back to another cabin.
Well, some good news for a change?
Patricia, Andrew and several others join Mike in a stuffy, cramped room where the short wave has been set up. After hearing nothing, anywhere, for weeks, seems they have some company out there.
“This is Donny Bikes…..Sergeant Bikes……do you hear me? Mike are you still there?”
“Yes, Roger that, still here. I’ve got our camp president, Pat, here. She wants to talk to you…over.”
Mike hands the mic to Pat, who’s still in disbelief anyone is alive on the outside. Definitely too good to be true! OK, what’s the catch? Are they sick? Are some of them turning?
“This is Patricia Myer at Alaska camp. What’s the situation where you are, sergeant, is it safe at your location? We have a situation here, problems….over.”
“I tell ya, it’s awesome hearing your voice there Ms. Myer. We thought we were the last ones. I mean, it’s pretty bad in the cities, all overrun. The government, agencies, all that has fallen. We’re still holding out here at the Long Range Radar Site at Point Barrow. We were on a Coast Guard ship but couldn’t stay there anymore. Some civilians too. Came here at the base but it was empty………over.”
“We’ve got trouble, our people getting killed. Weird animal things……” Patricia responds.
“My god, god, we know all about it. Killed a bunch of our people too. Now we’re low on ammo. But they left food and water here and the base is secure. Not sure if anyone will come looking for us, though. We’re on our own,” says the sergeant. “Don’t know how this will go on…..over."
“Is there any way we can hook up? Do you still have access to your ship? We need to hook up….over,” Patricia answers, desperate.
“Dunno……Ms. Myer. I get it, but no way we’re venturing out to your coordinates, where Mike said you’re set up. Too far. Too many of those things in the forest. You can try to make your way here, if you’ve got guns, but you’re better staying where you are…over.”
“I understand……stay safe. Keep in touch…..over,” Pat answers, her defeated tone sinking the mood further in the little cabin. What in the hell are they supposed to do now?
“Tell you what, though,” the sergeant at the other end adds, making a surprising proposition. “We have a working transport plane here but nobody knows how to fly the damn thing. We’ll send a team to come get you if you’ve got any pilots. Gives us a chance to get out of here, maybe make it to British Columbia….over.”
Big Mac Mike, heavily perspiring, snatches the mic from Patricia. “I’m a pilot! A pilot! Flew in the air force. Been doing bush piloting lately but I can do it!”
“Mike, that’s music to my ears! Let’s talk tomorrow, same bat time. We have to work things out here. It’s dangerous but we can make this work!” the sergeant acknowledges, sounding enthused at his end.
“OK, talk to you then, thanks a bunch…over,” Patricia finishes.
Feeling cautiously optimistic, Mike tells the rest of the group outside and they clap when they hear the news. There’s a few hugs, high fives and even tears.
Later that evening after the group finishes their communal supper in the largest, most rustic cabin in the compound, Patricia and Andrew take a stroll while the kids play inside. It’s good to hear their laughter again.
Big Mac Mike opens the door and steps out, allowing his silhouette to be illuminated by the light from inside. Puffing on a celebration cigar, the big fella is also feeling pretty good about their chances. Patricia and Andrew both smile at him and continue their walk by the fence.
“I busted a mirror and got seven years bad luck, but my lawyer thinks he can get me five,” chuckles Andrew. Yup, corny and lame.
“I get it,” Patricia responds. “I don’t like it, but I get it!”
Ouch, a good zinger. Andrew had been trying to make up for ineptness, his whoops-a-daisy moments, in camp by being the clown, a funny man who could bring a smile to their faces. It had been awfully tough doing that lately with what’s been going on, however.
“Can’t tell you, it’s so cool, so neat, we got in contact with somebody. They’ll fly us down to B.C., away from here and all these thing,” he says.
Patria crosses her arms and begins to frown. It’s not the response Andrew was expecting.
“Andrew, we’re not out of it yet. Let’s say…let’s just, well, say they get to us and we make it all the way back to that base. How many of us will actually make it there? And, let’s say, we fly back down to Canada. Even if we make it, god, what are we getting ourselves into down there? You heard what that sergeant was saying, it’s bad out there. There might be nobody left…..nobody. Nobody could stop it from happening.”
“I don’t want to give up. No, I don’t want to start thinking we won’t even have a chance,” Andrew snaps. “Look, this is going to work, it will. It’s more than hope, I guess, it’s a belief. I believe one way or another we’ll make it through this and it’s totally worth holding onto!”
“You going to tell me to just think positive?” she answers. “I’m not saying it’s pointless but…all right, is it all pointless in the long-run?”
“Nope, and that’s not just wishful thinking either,” Andrew offers with a grin.
“Stop right there, don’t you move you mother!” a nasal voice barks at the pair. WTF?
Three scruffy, aggressive figures suddenly appear from the dark, armed strangers who somehow scaled the fence and have the drop on the inhabitants. With quick precision several other men holding assault rifles storm various parts of the camp including the big cabin, ordering everyone to get out. Obviously, this can’t be any good.
Dazed, Patricia is pushed from behind by one of the mangy intruders, who then points is weapon in Andrew’s face.
Despite Andrew’s “It’s cool, cool man, take it easy” attempt to calm him down, the stranger seems to grow more agitated.
Everyone in the camp soon finds themselves in the middle of the compound around a flagpole, surrounded by a dozen dirty, heavily bearded wild men acting like they’ve just snorted some major blow. Best not make any sudden moves, Andrew assesses as he turns to Patricia, hoping she will reason with these strangers and their obstinate approach, show them there's a better way.
Then, the invaders suddenly appear composed when another figure, obviously their unassailable leader, emerges from the dark, a cool-as-a-cucumber, but at the same time intense, character with a stone-cold face chiseled by hardship. His body odour is also the least objectionable of the bunch.
“Don’t, don’t say a word, cuz I don’t wanna hear it. No, just shuddup!” the man in the tattered camouflage gear tells Patricia in a forceful tone.
“Umm, hey man, you don’t have to do this….we can pool our..” Andrew mutters sheepishly, knowing he’s taking a risk opening his trap.
The man slowly approaches Andrew, his face just inches from the computer geek, and glares. It’s as if his eyes had laser beams and were burning a hole into Andrew’s head.
“All right, this is what’s happening. We’re taking this place. It’s ours now. That means you’re out!” the ringleader says knowingly. “I don’t want to kill anyone here, but I will. We’ll let you pack a few things. Maybe axe or knife and out you go. This place is ours.”
Patricia can’t believe what’s happening but doesn’t want to panic. It’s hard, though.
“God, no, wait a minute. He’s right, I-I mean you don’t need to do this, sending us out, you’ll kill us,” she exclaims.
No good, the man doesn’t want to hear it. He gives Patricia the same sharp glare and shakes his head.
“Come on man, just kill ‘em!” one of invaders, a skinny and fidgety character clutching a shotgun, recommends. The leader goes right up face-to-face to his gaunt soldier and admonishes him for speaking out of turn, and, of course, gives him the dirty look.
“What did I tell you, eh? Keep your stupid mouth shut. We’re not killing anyone!” the clenching teeth leader snarls. “We don’t do that! Not us!”
Well, at least he’s not going to murder Patricia’s group but his morals are on the ambiguous side for sure. Sending them out in the forest certainly lowers their chances of breathing on god’s green earth.
Another invader, proud as a stallian going to stud, chuckles to Andrew, "Yup, this is our pad, although the man at the front desk did promise me an oceon front view."
There’s no chance to plead their case as the inhabitants are escorted to one of the cabins that’s just been ransacked. The leader tells them to get ready to leave in the morning, and sticking around the area isn’t advisable. That's just great, they'll have the choice of either getting shot dead or torn into a million little chunks by demonic beasts. There is no door number three.
The petrified group is left standing in the dark with only a faint hint of light coming through the window. The door is shut and premises under guard. Inside, the group, lost for words, is looking around in dismay with dumb expressions - you know, the look someone has the second before they're run over by a car. Patricia, her shock rapidly replaced by frustration, turns to Andrew, asking, “You still believing now?”
Many miserable miles away in the suburbs of Vancouver, meantime, several beguiling figures wearing remarkably clean and colorful motorcycle racer outfits, and with shiny samurai swords strapped to their backs, slowly step over a dozen or so rotting cadavers to work their way inside a drug store that appears well stocked. These bodies, most looking as if they were survivors torn apart by the dead, are nothing more than ill-fated bones scattered and baking on a red-stained sidewalk. A mandible here, collar bone there, the usual carnage nowadays, so much so that there's really not much shock value .
Yes, it's Head Snapper and his ravishing gang doing the scavenging. They're tired, hungry but determined, more than ever, to pick up the pieces, perhaps save a few people, somehow start something special. Inside, they encounter several weeping survivors begging for salvation. Well, it's their lucky day, for a change. Always the dreamer, Head Snapper warns everyone they save that, for a while, the winding road ahead will only get darker but he'll ensure they don't lose their way.
Story by Sandor Gyarmati