Horror novella featuring zombies and steam trains. Starring Stacey & Grits.
** Images For Use By Upgraded+ Only **
by Wyrm & Thundersbeard 30DBC JULY HOST
a Hell Virus novella
Ex-GWR class 5100 2-6-2T no. 4147 speeds along the (insert american landmark),and (insert american landmark) line. The location is just south of (insert american landmark),and (insert american landmark),station, and the train is the cross-country express. The year, however, is 2017 not 1967. After 18 months of hard work rebuilding not just locomotives but the tracks they were to run on, steam was about to hold sway across America again. And there was nothing those damn zombies could do about it.
The sun was setting, the light was fading, and Stacy ran.
"Only a little further," she told herself. "You’re nearly there. Don't quit. Not now. You can make it."
Her feet pounded the road in a steady rhythm that was slowing by the minute. She cursed herself for being this late. She tried to reassure herself it would be okay. It was a small quiet country town in the world before it died, not many people, so it would be likely that there would not be many Feeders around. She hoped.
Ahead, she could hear the buzzing of voices.
Her legs were starting to burn and her breath was coming in short huffs.
If a Feeder appeared now, she'd be fucked.
That buzzing, those voices, they were what made her smile though. There was no mistaking the sound. There could never be any mistaking that sound.
She rounded the corner and finally stopped. Despite herself, her hands clasped her knees and her torso leaned sharply over. She watched her sweat drip, drip, drip to the pavement.
And then she raised her head and grinned at the sight of the church hall before her. The grass was overgrown and the windows broken but it was a thing of beauty as the hymns resonated from it's creaking belly.
Stacey grinned. There must be at least three, maybe four, good christians singing gospel there. Not that they were in tune or anything but Jesus, it sounded good to her.
With people making that much noise she would normally avoid them at all cost, but it was easier to have someone watch your back than sleep with an open eye. With Christians she liked her odds of them offering shelter as opposed to raping her and leaving her for dead. Normally, she would just get these bible thumpers to shut the fuck up. Her thoughts wandered for just a moment. How could people like that still have faith anyway? She did not know if a god existed but if he did he did not give a shit about humanity at this moment.
She walked the last leg of the way, passing abandoned houses on either side of the street. Despite her rucksack being nearly empty it weighed a tonne. She would be glad to take that weight off her shoulders. The church gate creaked slightly as she opened it . She stopped. Ready for action. After a short assessment, she followed the bluestone path to the front entrance of the church. The path was only slightly delapitated, with weeds overthrowing it and with the odd stone jutting up around the roots of trees. She quickly rapped on the large double doors, eagerly waiting them to open. Despite herself, she didn’t want to remember the last time she had been to church. With no response she knocked a little louder this time.
The singing stopped.
She leaned slightly to the left, away from the doorway. If someone was going to shoot first and ask questions later...
She waited. A lock of her dirty blonde hair fell across her cheek and she carefully tucked it behind her ear.
She'd packed light this trip. Just a rucksack. Most provisions she knew she could find on the road. And as for weapons, she hadn't survived this long without knowing a thing or two about improvising means of defence.
"C'mon, you fuckers," she whispered. "Answer the fucking door."
Glancing at the towering eaves of the church, she figured it was a little too late now to feel remorse for disrespectful language. She figured if there was a God, he was the God of the Feeders not the survivors. Surviviors like Stacey were their own gods.
She braced her feet and prepared to knock again. This time she gave some rhythm.
A muffled sound and then a higher pitched cry. Stacey paused her rendition of "The Rockets Red Glare" and distinctly heard a mans voice say:
"Zombies don't know no goddamn American national anthem."
"That's right they don't and they can't speak either , so how about opening the door!" Her patience was fading with the light. "I'm unarmed,” she lied. “Please, just let me in. Feeders will be out soon."
She waited for the customary slide of barricades or deadbolts but there was nothing for a moment. Then suddenly there was the click of a latch and the door opened slowly...
Stacey grinned and rolled her shoulders, pointing at the man looming in the doorway. Both fingers cocked like cowboy pistols.
"Bernie! You sly dawg!"
"Shit - Stacey! You've cut it close girl. It's so late, we thought you'd decided to skip out."
"Haha, I wouldn't miss out on these fireworks if it was the fourth of july!" Stacey cried. "You gonna let me in?"
"Sure girl, sure. Unarmed, my ass!" Bernie gently held her arm by the elbow and guided her into the sanctuary of the church. His heavily muscled arm dwarved Stacey's. In fact Bernie towered over Stacey. "Come through here, through the foyer. They're down the back, near the altar."
Stacey laughed uneasily as they turned the corner. Despite herself, she was nervous. Not of Bernie. She'd known Bernie for months. She knew he was crazy. She knew he was dangerous. But she also knew he wasn't crazy dangerous.
But this world...this world was fucked up.
Standing in front of the altar that only last year would have been lovingly worshipped at, swaying slightly although there was no breeze, their leg and arms chains slightly jangling , were six dead, rotting women calmly masticulating like cows.
Sitting in the front pew, feet up and reading a book, was a young girl. Possibly fifteen, maybe younger , her dark hair was pulled back tightly on her scalp and her plain yellow sweater was frayed and patched. That, and the dark circles under her eyes made it hard to judge her age.
"Beautiful aren't they?" the girl said.
"Yes," Stacey breathed. "Yes, they are."
"This is Sara. Sara's new here."
Stacey knew that was all the introduction she was going to get from Bernie. But when you were a runner, a persons history only slowed you down and even a persons name wasn’t important. Stacey didn’t even pause to consider if Sara was this girls real name or not. It did not matter therefore it did not compute.
"I'm new. But I've been a Runner since the beginning, I've come from upstate, " Sara said, putting her book down on the pew and swinging her legs down.
Stacey watched her without saying anything. Sara shrugged. A Runner's life was a solitary one in more ways then one.
Bernie flashed a grin. His yellow teeth looking healthy in comparison to the zombies.
"Beautiful hey? You mean my zombie choir ladies or the 6 kilos of c-4 I've got strapped to each of them? We are gonna have a real fourth of july party tonight girlie!"
Stacey wiped her brow. Six months of work herding zombies to this god forsaken little pissant town was about to come to fruition. Six months of acting like live bait to the massing hordes. Six months of nightmares, six months of living on the edge, always one outstretched foot away from a fate worse then death. Tomorrow, it would all be over. She could stop running. And maybe she wouldn't have to hide for a little while at least. Maybe lots of her people wouldn't have to hide.
“No ones ever done an op this big,” she said.
"It’ll be big alright! You know, another week and I think I could have got at least two of them in tune," Bernie growled and lit a cigar. "Did I ever tell you my mama was in a death metal band before the fall?"
Stacy couldn't help but laugh, " Yeah Bernie, you did. About a hundred times. Are we ready for tonight? Do we need to go over the plan?"
Bernie groaned at the suggestion. Stacey was a control freak, everyone thought, but truth be told it was much deeper than that. She was analytical and this was a good thing when it came to Feeders. See the thing about Feeders is that unlike humans they were completely driven in the sense that when they caught up with food they would not stop. She had once seen a group of Feeders follow a man over a roofs edge just for a bite. Luckily the man in question was tied around the waist so he just dangled there until the Feeders all jumped off the ledge. Like so many fucking lemmings.
"I’ll round up the others so we can go over this" Stacy continued. "And while I think of it, why the fuck weren't those pews against the door like they were meant to be?"
"Ah, chill out girl! When you were overdue I decided to move them just in case you needed a quick entry," the behemoth that was Bernie replied smugly. Stacey grumbled something about not giving a fuck as she exited through the door just off to the side of the tabernacle. The door opened up to a small L-shaped corridor. This led to another door which was open and the sounds of a muffled conversation seeped down the hallway.
"Hey guys! I'm back" Stacey called as she approached.
"Well, its about time. Did you bring my scooby snacks?" was the first reply in a grey, flat tone.
Graeme was not glad to see her returned, but despite himself was quite impressed. He had to be. With the way the world was now, it was hard to find people to depend on. Most groups that came together in these times became like family. This attitude was antithesis for a runner though. You did not become a runner in order to form relationships. You became a runner if you had nothing left to lose and weren’t happy about it. Graeme didn’t bother asking how it was out there. He knew it was Hell on Earth. They’d all take whatever reprieve they could get, because tonight they would all be in serious shit if anything went awry.
“I brought you multitudes of the raging, walking dead if that would make you happy Graeme. But sorry, no. No scooby snacks,” Sara scowled.
A tall, broad shouldered but skinny woman covered in a swarming mass of scars and tattoos, standing cross-armed against a bare wall where once religious paintings of jesus on the cross may have hung chipped in " It's good to see you Stacey". She got up out off her chair and hugged her tight.
"Zoe!" Stacy squeezed her back just as hard. " We have to go over the plan for tonight."
Stacey didn't wait for a response as she turned and left the other two looking after her. She didn’t even pause as Graeme barked, “Did you find them or not?”
Graeme sighed, knowing full well that Stacey knew who he meant. The runners she was sent out to find. “Alien. Fish.”
“No. I thought I did, but then their trail went cold. It went dead.”
Stacey never slowed nor stopped.
“I’ve got no time for the dead.”
Insert another train/zombie apocalypse photo caption here
Grits felt he was too young to be losing his teeth. Oh sure, he wasn’t surprised. Not with his diet and his problems. He remembered when he lost his first one. Not his baby teeth, or the teeth he lost playing high school football or the time he had one of his molars chipped by a pair of home made knuckle dusters in a canteen fight when he was in prison that time. No, he remembered the first time one of his teeth fell out after the fall of society. The fall of society was what Grits had heard other hobos, for that was what he was: a hobo, call it and it suited Grits to call it that too. It sounded intellectual. It sounded poetic. It sounded metal. It suit them all, no matter what pigeon hole they still rammed their pontificating heads into. Grits called it the fall of society, because that’s what had happened. Society fell. Whether you liked that or not.
The return of steam trains was one thing that the straggling dregs of humanity like Grits liked more then most. After a year or so, the pseudo-government – the Man – had put the trains back on the train tracks. Like iron angels visiting purgatory, their steam whistles giving hope like trumpet calls to the desperate. God knows what the damned thought of the damned steam whistles. But Grits knew, Grits had seen the hope and tears these trains brought to once thriving –now-isolated communities stranded by the fall . No diesel air horn could do that. Fill the belly’s soul like that.
The first time he lost a tooth, it was after 6 months of abject poverty worthy of a boat refuge. Six months of consisting on nothing but dog bone soup, broiled and rebroiled and eaten when he dared. First time he lost a tooth he thought it was maybe radiation poisoning and that was what had killed all his cronies, his parole officer, the cops who beat him every week, and even the goddamned social worker who dealt heroin on the side, not for the money but because she was a left-leaning, socially conscious sap. But no, then he realised that was just the zombies. The zombies killed and ate all those people, not radiation poisoning. And even Zombies didn’t make your teeth fall out. Unless they bit half your face off with it.
Grits looked at the mangled thing before him. It was caked in filth, brown and stinking. Dry, brittle. The first couple had been sharp as daggers but these days, when his teeth fell out they were weak, gnarled imitations of the real thing. Frankly, Grits thought he’d be better off without them. Without this process. But Grits had liked his teeth. So had the girls. Grits had lost many things over these few years and made many hard decisions. Survival wasn’t cheap in this world. And really what was one more lost tooth in the bevy of lost souls surrounding his existence? Still, Grits knew he was dreading his final tooth, and after that no teeth. He might as well be one of them. A fucking zombie.
“You fucking dickless bastards!” Grits yelled and hurled, ineffectually really, the dead tooth off the moving train carriage roof at the milling zombies. “You fucking no good smelly dead beats!”
“Yeah! Yeah man!” Grits looked over at his current hobo-brother. His current travelling partner of the tracks. He called himself the Snakepit Man. Said he was a salesman before the fall of society, the fall of autumn as /he/ called it. Grits looked at him. The thing with travelling partners was you had to keep them in check, let them know who was in charge, who came first in the pecking order. And when you had Grits problem, you needed someone you could rely on. The only way to get somebody reliable in this world was through fear. Grits wondered if the Snakepit Man wasn’t too stupid to be ruled by fear. Or maybe it was that he was too smart. He didn’t have any teeth, and that showed he’d survived a lot longer then Grits, and on a lot less. Cunning as a shit house rat, Grits decided.
“Give me your hat.”
The Snakepit Man stopped guffawing.
“What do you want that for? It’s my hat.”
“Give me your fucking hat, for I take it from you,” Grits spat on the ground, away from the other hobo. No need to be too confronting.
“Aww, now Grits,” the SnakePit Man said, already cowed. “No need ta be like that. I’ll give ya my hat, if that’s what ya want. No need to be like that.”
Grits watched narrow-eyed, never taking his eyes off the other. Grits didn’t even think he’d have to snarl to get the big dope to do what he was told.
The Snakepit Man took his hat off his head and carefully held it out to Grits. Grits looked at the Snakepit Man one last time. Gave him one last narrow-eyed look to show he meant business and gently took the hat.
“I know you like this hat SnakePit Man,” Grits says. “You can have it back after I manage my sleep. You can have it back after my nap. Nothing happens to me, nothing happens to this here hat. You got that?”
“I know Grits. It’s okay. You look after me. I look after you. That’s how it is with us. You’re a real good fighter Grits. And a real good problem solver too. You’re tenacious, is what you are. Tenacious. You like that?”
All the time the Snakepit Man has talked, he hasn’t taken his eyes off that hat. Grits turns the hat over and over in his hands. Watching the hat. Watching the Snakepit Man. Watching the hat.
“It’s a nice hat Snakepit Man.” Grits says, looking at the hat but not looking at the Snakepit Man. “It really is. What do you think it was made of? You think it was one of them imported hats from Italy?”
The Snakepit Man smiles at that. He likes that idea, Grits knows.
The train carriage is really whistling along the tracks now. The fields were once wheat fields, Grits knows. Now they are overgrown with thistles and weeds and other detritus. Like the milling dead.
Grits grins and throws the hat.
Grits doesn’t throw the hat.
“Geez, Grits. Don’t do that. That’s my hat.”
Grits throws the hat.
“Jesus goddamn it Grits. That’s my favourite hat. Don’t do that to my hat. You said you was gonna look after it,” the SnakePit Man stomps his foot, a dangerous move on the roof of a moving steam train.
Grits stares at the SnakePit Man.
“I’m gonna take my nap now. Manage my condition. You look after me, I’ll look after your hat. “
“Grits, you know you look after me. I look after you already. It’s how it works when your budd-“
Grits throws the hat.
“Keerrist Grits! Okay, okay. You have your bleeping nap. I’ll watch your bleeping back. Befor e you know it we’ll be at the cross roads and I’ll wake you up and we’ll get some supplies. Have a look around. Keerist, Grits.”
Grits puts the Snakepit Mans precious hat in his rucksack. Props it up against the air vent and shifts around until he’s comfortable.
It’ s a tough world. Made tougher still when it’s a world full of zombies and humans who’d poke you in the eye as soon as let you look at them. You don’t survive being a narcoleptic in this world without being one tough little bugger yourself.
Grits is dreaming before his eyes are even shut.
(SCENE DELETED TO BE EDITED)
Later, Stacey found Bernie sitting in the middle section of the church pews. His head was bowed, and his hands were clasped.
Stacey was surprised.
"Don't tell me this place has got to you? You're not praying are you?"
Bernie looked up, his eyes were bleary but he managed a quick smile.
"Did I ever tell you my mama was in a gospel choir?"
"Only a hundred times, Bernie," Stacey returned his smile.
She liked Bernie. She really did. But he could be a moody cat when the moon was full.
She'd first met him in Phoenix. She'd been on the run for a couple of years, since before the fall if truth be told, but she’d only been a runner for a couple of weeks. She was still getting her bearings. Being a runner, it...it was a whole new level of nightmare. Stacey’s sanity had prevailed but there was a trail of dead adrenaline-junkies across America behind her.
Pockets of civilization had sprung up all across America, and those that survived long enough had formed a committee of sorts. No one leader but a selection of strong willed men and women from different communities liasing together. Not to rule, but to get the country's infrastructure back up and running. But there was the Feeder Problem still. Something had to be done about the Zombies. Which was where crazy people with nothing to lose like Stacey and Bernie and the others came in. Nobody knew who came up with the idea of the Runners, least of all the Runners themselves, but word had spread quickly amongst the fledging communities. Live bait leading the zombies into traps, usually towns, and blowing them to kingdom come. Zombie Runs. It sounded good on paper, it sounded great to those who were starting to feel some form of ownership of their destinies again. It was a lot harder in reality. It was a lot more dangerous. Life expectancy of the Runners was low, but that was the way some of them liked it.
When Stacey met Bernie she’d been stopping through Phoenix on her way to ______. A big supply trip. Grab an open top land cruiser, some petrol and some food and water. Nothing too fancy. Not like what Bernie and his homeboys had been trying to do.
They'd been trying to round up as many monkeys as they could, in zoos across the country, to use as bait. Bernie’s theory was that monkeys and man shared a common ancestor and so the zombies would at least come check out the monkeys, see if the monkey's fry was to their taste, and Bernie could then round the zombies up.
Stacey had laughed and laughed. There they all were. In a Mexican standoff situation. It was raining. Bernie and his homeboys were loading a group of baboons onto a truck and they had caught Stacey in their headlights. It was dark and they were yelling at each other, screaming in the rain to identify themselves. Stacey’s revolver versus Bernie and his homeboys collection of crossbows, shotguns and baseball bats.
It never paid to be careless in this world, but things had settled down when Stacey gave the Runners code, an identifying code to avoid mishaps like this escalating into madness.
Bernie had told her their plan, using monkeys as bait, and Stacey had laughed. Shed laughed so hard, and so damn good. And then Bernie had laughed too and then Cowboy too. The rain pissing down and them all pissing themselves laughing. And then one of the baboons, fed up with all the noise and not liking the dark, the rain, or the big, stinking truck, had sunk it's fangs into one of Bernie’s homeboys. Right in the side of his face. His cheek had peeled away and the blood came in a torrent and then his screams.
Stacey never knew his name. They were never introduced. Afterwards, where was the point in asking Bernie his name? He was just another dead homeboy.
The baboon, after ripping Bernie's homeboy's face off, had shoved him to the ground and just pummeled him. Those big, long arms. Wet as well as hairy. The strength contained, unleashed on his body in a fury. Monkey fury.
Stacey shook her head, bringing her back to the present. No tears for her. No tears in the rain for her.
"A couple of us were thinking of hitting the town? Grab some last minute supplies before we blow this place. Let off some steam you know?" Bernie looked away from Stacey. "You want to come?"
"Naw," Bernie said. "Someone has to wait for Alien and Fish, and I got some last minute things I want to take care of here. The plan has to go off like clockwork. But you go, unwind. I've done plenty of unwinding lately. Now I'm focusing on unleashing some righteous wrath on these beasts."
Bernie stood, stretching his back, flexing his biceps.
"You guys be careful out there. It's not just zombies out there to be afraid of. There's wolves in the guise of men."
"Or monkeys," Stacey offered, laughing."Hey, remember Phoenix? In the rain?"
"Yeah. I do." Bernie said.
And left her standing in the church alone.
insert here an interlude about train passengers
The street was dark and deserted. There were cars scattered here and there with some blocking the road, hastily abandoned. Once where street lights illuminated the nights secrets, nothing but a redundant metal spire remained. The runners walked quickly, a few feet adjacent from each other so that if Feeders did attack they would not be overwhelmed. The air was still and peaceful but they all knew that peace could be shattered into a thousand pieces in but a moment, so they took nothing for granted. They walked silently and any words were only out of necessity. If there wasn't a need to draw any attention it wasn't tolerated. Every Runner was on guard; always tense, ready to react. Their eyes scanned continuously, as if searching for something long lost. They were at their destination. The street signs read Wedge Tail and Finch. The Finch street Square was the goal. The buildings lined the street either side, looming above the party. The shadows cast from the moon played tricks, as shadows often do. They made the stores appear much larger than the two stories they were, the shadows almost made the stores arch overhead like some sort of brick and mortar canopy that. The shadows cast from the cars, the buildings, and even the kicked over trash cans like everything else in this world, threatened to envelope them.
The Runners approached the ladder on the closest building. Despite the rust spreading at joins where it was attached to the building the ladder was quite serviceable. Graeme volunteered to stand watch as Sara led the way up the ladder on point, then Stacy and Zoe rolled, each one waiting for the person ahead to get about half way up the ladder before starting the climb themselves. Once at the top of the ladder Sara gave the roof a quick scan before proceeding. Although it seemed unlikely to her that a Feeder may be on the roof they all had to take what precautions they could to stay safe. The building the ladder was attached to was much the same as the others in the street. They were built about twenty or thirty years ago Sara estimated from the style, which was quite a plain faded orange brick standing two stories high like a vertical rectangle. It had a single massive archway for an entrance and a bay window either side as a shop front. The once bright white paint had all but faded and peeled everywhere, the cracks on its surface resembling a river system on a map. All the building in the street looked like this for the most part. Sara boosted herself up over the lip of the building and quickly made her way across the tar surface. She ignored the manhole cover as she walked past it. This building, once a real estate agency, was useless to them. Sara approached the makeshift bridge that lead to the second building. Although the bridge was assembled from all manner of scrap materials it was quite sturdy. Whenever the Runners knew they would be encamped in a town for anything more than a few days there were many precautions and preparations to follow and makeshift bridges were one of them. By linking the main stores with bridges it allowed for a conveniently safe way to move from store to store as the Feeders lacked the dexterity to climb a ladder.
So there Graeme was standing the silent watcher, left with his thoughts. He was left to his thoughts most of the time. When Silence was a requirement to live you had nothing else to do but ponder your thoughts. Every now and again his mind would drift back to his life before the fall. Of how much he longed for things he took for granted. Like a hot meal with meat and vegetables, clean clothes, or even one night without having to sleep with one eye open. But more than anything else he missed music. He missed listening to it, he missed creating and playing it.
He quickly snapped his thoughts back to the present. A lapse in concentration could get you killed he told himself. It was his turn to climb the ladder. In the short few minutes it took him to reach the roof of the real estate office the others were already at their objectives. Stacy and gone ahead to the fourth building of the six on this side of the street. She had removed the manhole and was listening for Feeders. Stacy had explained earlier how she had left her machete embedded in the skull of a Feeder and needed to replace it. So there she was, leaning over, head swallowed by darkness hoping no Feeders had breached the sporting goods store. Zoe and Sara were doing the same but much closer on the second rooftop which happened to be a general store. Sara lowered herself into store, dangling for a moment and then landing lightly on her feet. She waited anxious for a few moments to allow her eyesight to adjust to the gloom. Slowly details revealed themselves,as is materializing from nothiness. Major details become apparent first, like how empty the shelves in the isles were and then minor details followed such as the amount of dirt that the corners of the store had collected after months of neglect.
Sara took no heed to the empty shelves. Food along with many other requirements for survival was not difficult to come by Despite that all major production had stopped. The fact of the matter was that there just weren't that many Survivors to consume what was left. Sara moved lightly behind what was the serving counter ignoring the employees only sign attached to the back wall. Sara allowed herself a small smile upon viewing the small stockpile of highly volatile molotov cocktails that lay still intact.The glass bottles gleamed in the moonlight light pirates treasure. The cache was assembled and left specifically for tonight, it was usually far to dangerous to carry petrol bombs in a Runners line of work and they even refused to have something so unpredictable where they broke camp. Sara begin ferrying bottles two at a time back to the man hole to pass up to Zoe. By the time Sara had passed up the last Molotov Stacy had re joined the group and had taken up watch with Graeme. Stacy had re armed her self with a baseball bat. She had resigned that it would have to do for now but was much better than the pistol at her hip that had no ammo. Once Sara had climbed back onto the roof and dusted herself off they all huddled together in a circle, passing the glass bottles around. Zoe spoke first asking "are we ready?" nods of agreement and even one or two mutterings were her only reception. She knew why. It was quite rare for someone to grow comfortable for the scene that was about to unfold, and better yet she would be right in the thick of it. It was her turn to volunteer. Maybe she was really asking herself if she was ready? It didn't matter. They were pressed for time and she had to descend the ladder whilst the others waited secure and safe on the rooftop. Graeme, Sara and Stacy spread out across the roof of the general store, their eyes constantly searching. Stacy begin the ritual by banging her new found baseball bat on the guttering. The aluminum bat rang as it clashed on steel. It was a slow beat at first. By the time Zoe and reached the main road the other two had joined in. Graeme was using the head of his axe and Sara was banging the flat edge of a machete against a ventilation pipe. As the pace quickened with the banging Zoe withdrew her tire iron from her belt and began smashing shop front windows. She dragged the iron against the brick worked as she darted between windows and then made her way to an abandoned car in the middle of the street. She walked quickly around the car always making sure that any approaching Feeders couldn't catch her unawares. Zoe hit the tyre iron against the bonnet, the roof and then the rear window. It left massive hole but it wasn't completely broken so again the tire iron rained down on the remainder of the windshield. And then she saw it. The first feeder of the night. It materialized like an apparition from an alleyway at the opposite end of the street from which they had come. Zoe was immediately focused and the others quickly realized and their rumpus subsided. The Feeder was grotesque Zoe thought to herself. It was a man once, not so long ago. The Feeder was missing the left half of it's face. As it approached she could see its eye hanging from the socket and it's bared teeth through an absent cheek. Dried blood was caked around its open wounds, it's mouth and hands. The Feeders once casual blue jeans and white t shirt were nothing more than filthy shredded rags. It wasn't just the dried blood that sullied a Feeders cloths, it was the filth from their victims. Intestinal juices, bile, phlegm, vomit,piss and shit and all and a number of other unsightly filth would often end up on the Feeders as they fed. The Feeder began to pick up pace, it's shuffle becoming a quick jog and then Just as quickly a quick sprint. Zoe gripped the tyre iron hard to make sure it was still there, to make sure it was in fact a tyre iron. Zoe went into a defensive stance with one leg forward and her weight on her back leg. The Feeder was nearly upon her. It let out a low growl. It was primal and inhuman. Zoe waited still. The feeder could nearly grasp her, it's finger outstretched and barely touching her jacket before the tyre iron swung upwards and sharp. What was left of the Feeders jaw exploded into pulp. It stunned the Feeder for a moment and sent spinning and as it stumbled Zoe pounced. She rained blows down upon the Feeders head. Hitting the Feeder anywhere would only slow it down and she knew to put it down as quickly as possible. The second blow drove the Feeder to its knees and the third left it sprawled on the road. Blood sprayed with every strike. The tyre iron continued descending until there was nothing left of its skull but mush and gore. Zoe allowed herself a small grin. Despite the for aiding cloud that hung over their plan if she was to die tonight she had taken at least one Feeder with her and it was one of the few things she could take solace in. Now, she thought to herself as she looked off into the distance, with freshly spilled blood it won't be much longer until more Feeders arrive. That's when the real fun shall begun and her grin turned into a broad smile.
The train burst out of the tunnel.
The tracks were old, and the train was older. It was a insert description of train here and how they fixed it up.
But the lay of the land was marked by more than signposts on the side of the train tracks, for everywhere a travelling man could see from east to west, across every weed infested cotton field and overgrown path, there stumbled, stood, stank; a zombie.
The racket made by the train was enough to wake the dead, but it couldn’t wake the hobo Grits. Perhaps, he found the rocking motion of the train to his liking, Snake Pit Man mused.
Snake Pit Man sat in the middle of the floor of the cargo carriage, the last one of seven in the carriage train, and wondered again how Grits had survived this long. Grits was tough, Snake Pit Man knew that. He’d seen that little wild-haired body fight like the devil, and he knew it could run like the devil too. But Snake Pit Man had seen many a tough man (some stronger than Grits, some faster then him) brought down by zombies.
Looking out over Grits slumbering form, out through the half open door, past the meadows of milling dead and the spatterings of Aspen trees at the foot of a distant mountain, at the afternoon sun making the clouds go that bright shade of orange that always reminded him of the easy days of his childhood, SnakePit Man found his thoughts meandering like this steam train, a relic moseying its way along the countryside, up and down, and side to side, over terrain marked as safe by braver men then he, or even stupider, as Grits would have it.
SnakePit Man felt like a reborn relic too, sometimes.
Something caught his eye fluttering in the wind up ahead, and for a terrible moment he thought a fucking zombie was climbing aboard the train. That was the main reason they hunkered down in the middle of the carriage and away from the walls, and why they kept the carriage door half open. Easy to see the lay of the land but also easy to hurl open or slam shut as the case may be. Snake Pit Man was a pragmatic man. And cautious to boot.
But, no, at this speed, and out in the open like this, a zombie boarding the train would just be ridiculous.
As the steam train shuffled around a bend in the track, the angle of the train's contours changed enough that he was able to see clearly the locomotive.
What he saw made even his well-worn eyes widen, and not for the first time he found himself thinking that waking up Grits early, and facing his wrath, would be the lesser of two evils.
to be continued