My second attempt at writing 4D
Robert peeked out the crack in the curtain. It was cold out there tonight, you could tell by the person shambling past the house. The dark shadow moved stiffly in the dimly lit street. The knees didn't bend, it just swung it's legs in half circles. It's arms hung limply by it's sides, swaying with the movement. It finally passed under the makeshift street light. It was male. He wore a dirty lime green hoodie, a pair of jeans and only one red shoe. Robert sighed, almost sadly, he knew that person, or had known him. Jesse Branko, he had lived two doors down. They had quite often laughed over beers at the neighbourhood block parties. And now, like a lot of the world, he was dead, or undead, as it were. Robert remembered actually talking to Jesse about the end of the world, the apocalypse, with many different theories. Zombies were always a favorite topic, but there was also the nuclear war, or the Yellowstone volcano finally going off and suffocating the world, they had fun discussing it all. Robert hadn't worked up the nerve to put Jesse out of his misery yet. He knew it was always a risk to leave a zombie alive, but even though he knew Jesse would eat him if he came face to face with him, it made him feel a little less alone. He knew he wasn't alone, he had met other survivors, there was a small group a few streets down that he often went hunting with. There was an unwritten rule between those who socialised:
You never kill those that another should, unless it saves your life.
Robert knew that the rule was the only reason Jesse was still shambling around the neighbourhood. He had pointed him out on one of their hunting trips. He almost wanted to shut him in his house to protect him, he had seen what happened to zombie's who were stuck in isolation, with no food to consume their bodies wasted away, losing all muscle and body mass. But those that were exposed to the outside elements all day and night really fared no better either, the sun causes skin to blister and animals pull the bodies apart. It was almost like having a stray pet, having friends or family that you know you need to put down yourself.
Robert watched as Jesse disappeared into the darkness again. He sighed and tugged the curtain into place, making sure to leave no gaps, then he swung the shutters closed and slid the wood plank into position. He double checked the dead bolts on the doors. Not having to worry about the internet or any other electrical devices cut down on what the world thought of as a necessities. Food and water were a given as currency but books were also a highly sought after prize. It was a wonderful escape from the reality of the day. Although Robert's favorite genre before the apocalypse were those about end of days and horror, but now he leans toward fantasy, or anything else he can scavenge. He knew others used the pages of books as fire starters, so they weren't just for pleasure, but for survival too.
He lit the lantern next to his armchair and sat in it, he pulled his satchel into his lap and carefully pulled each item out of it, placing them on the side table next to the armchair. A bottle of water, a can of beans, a couple bags and a container for collecting things, his favorite book, a knife, a set of lock picking tools and a few other odds and ends. He relaxed back into the chair and picked up the book, flipping through it he found his makeshift bookmark, a pressed four leaf clover. He had found it the same day he found the book so even when he was reading other books the clover stayed with this book. Even though his favorite genre was horror his favorite book was fantasy, about a lawyer who buys a magic kingdom to rule over as king. The pages were yellowed from age and the spine of the book had lines from years of being read.
Robert sighed heavily, as much as he wanted to read a chapter, he was exhausted, the day had been tough. That was the biggest problem being a lone survivor. You had to be extra careful, watching your own back, looking over your own shoulder instead of having someone there to help. He wanted to join the group of survivors that he often went hunting with, but he also enjoyed having his own space, being able to do what he wanted when he wanted. He knew in the long run it would be better for him to have others around for safety. While he felt safe enough to sleep in his house, if there were more people then there could always be someone on watch for extra safety, so nothing could sneak up while he was sleeping.
Rubbing his eyes he stood and grabbed the lantern, double checking all locks and windows again before he made his way to his bedroom. His mattress was on the floor against the wall. He had bricked up the bottom half of the window, leaving a gap, about a foot or so at the top so he could still get air in the room. He placed the lantern on the low table next to the mattress and picked up a bottle of water. He could hear the insects chirping outside but no other noises could be heard. It was strange to not hear electrical items or cars on the road. He used to hear the neighbor behind him who had a motorcycle. Late at night he would hear the deep rumble of the bike as the neighbor pulled into their driveway. Robert didnt even know if that neighbor was still alive or had fallen victim to the virus or even had moved on to find friends and family.
That was one thing he had often thought about. His own friends and family. He wondered if they were alive, but it would be a dangerous trek, they lived about three hours apart, but that was via a car. Nowadays vehicles were a luxury. You had to be able to maintain it, and find fuel for it. Bicycles were common now, and if you got lucky you had a horse, or could find a domesticated one to claim, but then you had to look after the animal. Animals ran rampant through the town streets, no longer staying to the country roads. Without vehicles to keep them away they wandered in but it also gave the survivors fresh meat for their meals, if they could kill it and skin it.
Robert had become better at doing it over the nine months since the virus had hit the world. It had become known in June the previous year, a half dozen cases reported all over social media and the news channels, but then the outbreak and widespread horror hit the world in August. It was chaos. The governments in each country tried to keep control of the public but to no avail.
Amy checked her reflection in the mirror; they had just finished a scavenging run and had encountered a small pack of zombies, seven in total. The mindless creatures definitely picked up the pack mentality once infected but occasionally you would get a handful that seemed to be happy just wondering around by themselves, or in pairs. The singles weren’t as aggressive as packs were so most survivors generally left the loners to meander around and go for small animals, they tended to not target the survivors unless provoked. It was odd behaviour but generally no one questioned it, besides there were more important things to worry about like staying alive and figuring out where to get the next lot of supplies from.
Amy saw the blood smear across her back; she pulled a face as she slid her arms into the jumper and twisted it around on her body. She lifted the stained section, testing the fabric to check for any rips or tears. Nothing, just the grubby fingermarks from the zombie trying to pull her to him, it must have been that one that was jammed between the jeep and the dumpster. She hadn’t noticed the zombie until she had walked past the dumpster to the door of the jeep. A lot of the time if a zombie was trapped they would not move until something aroused their attention, such as a survivor walking past. It had reached out and caught the back of her jumper; Amy’s reaction was to pull away, doing a barrel roll, pulling her knife from its position in her boot. She had relaxed once she realised that it was trapped in place. It pawed at the hood of the jeep, stretching its arms, trying unsuccessfully to reach her.
She climbed onto the roof of the jeep and unstrapped the pickaxe on her back; she looked thoughtfully at the zombie for a moment before she stepped around its flailing limbs and brought the weapon down into its skull. The head crashed face first onto the jeep and its arms thudded next to it, the rest of the body went limp. Amy jiggled the pickaxe to make sure it was dead then she put her foot on the back of its head and pulled the pickaxe out of its skull. The body slid sideways from the extraction and then was still. Weapons which didn’t make noise were always a better choice than those that did as you didn’t want to draw more zombies to where you were.
Amy and her group of friends had always watched the zombie movies and shows, talking about the best way to combat the undead. Theory and practicality always work different however. You never knew if real zombies would move or act like those in your favourite shows. Would they be intelligent or mindless beasts? Could they run, climb stairs or crawl through small gaps? These were all things that had to be discovered, and by this stage most of these questions had been answered, but still there would be a zombie that would do something surprising, that no others had done, or shown the ability to do.
A knock on her door brought her back from her thoughts. “Yeah, come in.” she called and turned to see who was interrupting her thinking. Her friend Jason stood smiling in the doorway; he held a chocolate bar triumphantly in his hand above his head like a trophy. His sandy blonde hair was pulled back under a backwards facing baseball cap; the only one he ever wore and would continue to wear until it literally fell apart.
“You find anything good?” he asked her as he entered her room and plopped down into the armchair. She shook her head and watched as he carefully peeled the wrapper away from the chocolate. “Only one end got crushed in my bag,” he took a bite and continued, “Want some?” he held it out to her. “It’s still good.” Amy bent down and took a bite for herself then jumped onto her bed, stretching her arms above her head.
“That group of zombies were pretty easy today; the cold is definitely starting to creep into their limbs, slowing their movements. Imagine if it snowed. We would have zombie popsicles.” Jason laughed and mimicked a frozen zombie, where only its eyes could move. “That would be great.” Amy laughed watching her friend. "Although, I'm not looking forward to when summer hits. The heat? It'll be like when you used to drive past a dead roo on the side of the road, that stench of death."
Jason groaned. "Don't even say that, next time we go scavenging maybe we should pick up some glen 20. Spray those mo-fo's, maybe add a flame too."
"Ew dude, that's just wrong, but i do think we need to start looking at ways to dispose of the bodies, especially those in close vicinity to home, cause the smell will start to waft into the house." She pulled a face at the thought. "Digging that many graves is going to be too much for the five of us. But maybe we dig a trench, make it a deep bonfire."
"Now who's being gross, i know you're right but can we not ruin my chocolate find." Jason smiled, showing her the chocolate in his teeth. "Come on, lets go see the others, see if anyone else found anything good. Plus what about dinner." Amy shook her head. Her friend always thought about food, often talking about all the foods that they no longer could have with the state of the world.
"Yeah, I'll be down soon, i need to freshen up a little first, i got a blood smear from that zombie trapped by the jeep. It grabbed me before i realised it was there. That poor dude." Jason nodded and left her room. Amy grabbed her backpack and dug through it, finding what she was looking for. She collected an item such as a licence or jewellery from those zombies that she killed. It somehow made her feel better that she had to put them out of their misery. She opened the lid of her hope chest and placed his wallet into it. She smiled sadly as she looked at the other items she had gathered. It was sad to think that these used to belong to people. Real, live people. Not just mindless creatures reacting to their environment. She closed her eyes and shut the lid. She tugged off her jumper and tossed it into the hamper then pulled on a clean one. She didn't want to be too much longer to go see her friends downstairs.
Tahlia knew that this would not be a pleasant trip; it actually scared her slightly knowing what they would be potentially facing. She looked across at her friend, Mia, who stood at the door, one ear pressed tightly against the wood and her hand covering the other. She met Tahlia’s gaze and shook her head. That meant that there was no movement behind the door. She watched as Mia expertly picked the lock. All these months had forced the survivors to learn new skills they never would have thought they would ever need to know. Mia had picked up lock picking quite quickly, Tahlia wasn’t as fast as her friend but she could still do it. And if those attempts failed there was always the option of a rock through the window, but anything that caused noise was always more dangerous to do.
The pair slipped into the darkened hallway and clicked on their headlamps, torches were no good, it was essential to keep your hands free, either for rummaging or saving your life. They crept quietly along, listening to their footsteps echo back at them, their ears straining to hear any other foreign noises. The noises that everyone had come to dread; the shuffling of feet or the rustling of clothes. So far so good. They knew where to go, this had been their school when they were young but now it had become an ominous place, almost a prison to those who fell victim to the virus. Each door they passed they made sure was closed, they didn’t want anything to sneak up behind them.
The fifth door they came to down the hallway was already closed. Tahlia looked through the window into the classroom. The thing she dreaded was in there. She looked above the door. Her heart hit her stomach. In a large bold font were the letters 3H; it was a third grade class; the kids would have been about eight years old. The light from her headlamp caught their attention and she watched as they shuffled their way towards the door, she counted about ten before she lost track from their movements, bumping into each other to be the first to the door. There was no sign of a teacher, just the kids. It made her sad to think that even if the parents were alive they would never see their child again. Some people had refused to believe what was being reported and continued their everyday activities, including sending their kids to school. She shook her head and walked away, listening as their hands slapped at the door.
Her friend Mia had been at work when she first encountered the virus. She was a prenatal nurse. A patient had come in for a check up, complaining of pains in the abdomen. They got her ready for an ultrasound, the entire time the expectant mother was crying and clutching her stomach. Mia had told her that she could see the baby moving, but the heartbeat wasn't there. They tried another machine and called the doctor but still got the same result. As they were getting prepped for emergency surgery the mother began to bleed, blood pouring down her legs. Everyone started rushing, wondering what was happening to the mother.
They had her on the table, exposing her belly. That's when they all stopped and stared. The mother's stomach was moving in a way that it shouldn't be. The skin was stretching and warping. The expectant mother gave a scream then passed out from the pain. Her stomach was still moving, everyone in the room was in shock, just staring. The doctor approached the mother and picked up a scalpel. He carefully slid it across the woman's abdomen and reached in. He pulled the baby from her stomach. It was scratching at the doctors arms and trying to bite him. With a worried look on his face the doctor placed the baby into the cot. It didn't make any sounds but continued to swing its little arms wildly, the head rolling around, its jaws snapping open and closed.
Mia walked over and held the arms while the doctor pressed his stethoscope against the baby's chest. He wiped the stethoscope and pressed it against his own chest, then attempted to listen to the baby's heartbeat again. He quickly picked up the baby again and put it into a humidicrib. The rest of the staff had been checking on the mother, who had passed from blood loss. The autopsy showed that the baby had almost scratched its way out of her womb. The doctor called the department of health, bewildered at the reaction of the newborn without a heartbeat.
The girls continued down the hallway, ensuring all the doors they passed are shut so the child zombies couldn't follow them and trap them. They were heading towards the canteen, hoping to find any kind of food or drink. The canteen door was, of course, locked. Mia went to work unlocking it. Tahlia stood back to back with her friend, keeping watch up and down the hallway. The pair always kept as silent as possible while on their supply runs, not wanting to draw any attention to themselves. They had come across other survivors previously. So far most of the ones they had met were friendly enough, just trying to survive like they were. They had swapped names and information on where they were staying.
Before the virus hit, it took about ten minutes by car to get from one side of town to the other, and another ten to get to the suburb further out, the population was around 40,000 people. And now, Tahlia has seen roughly a dozen survivors, she hoped there were more and that she had just never come across them. She heard the telltale click of the door as it unlocked. Mia poked her head into the doorway, looking around the canteen for any movement. She watched her friend quickly step backwards and pull the door closed. She held up two fingers and Tahlia nodded her understanding. They didn't like killing the zombies, if they could avoid it they would but when the zombies stood between them and any supplies they would eliminate the zombies.
They had done this many times. Mia pressed her ear to the door. Poking her head into the room had caught the attention of the two zombies and now they were making their way to the door. One girl stood on each side as Mia opened the door slightly. Each girl held an axe, ready to bring it down onto the zombie's heads. The first zombie shuffled out into the hallway, Mia brought her axe down with a thud and Tahlia did the same as the second zombie stepped out of the door. The girls then dislodged their weapons, pushing the bodies away from the door. Again Mia checked in the canteen, making sure it was empty. She nodded to her friend and the pair entered, closing the door behind them.
Deano sat in the lounge room talking to two of his friends. The other two were still upstairs after having just returned from their hunting and gathering trip. The three were discussing the group of zombies they had run into. None of them had known any of the seven zombies they had come across which in a town this size wasn’t unusual; however it was strange how often you did come across someone you used to know. It had often been discussed whether it was the ingrained memories of the undead coming through causing them to go places they had visited when they were alive. Other groups of survivors they had talked to had also observed this behaviour. The survivors tried to be civil to each other considering how few of them there were these days but occasionally there would be a group of nasty people who just didn’t care and would try stealing from other survivors which usually resulted in adding to the undead population from one side or the other.
After all these months there had been discussion floating through the surviving groups about organising a community area, rather than just staying in small bands of people struggling. A community could provide better safety and keep the sociableness of humanity alive. It was a big step to propose. They would have to find an area and clear out the zombies as well as making sure it was in a secure location such as having a fence or other suitable barrier around it. The showgrounds were one suggestion, as well as one of the many schools around town, as the fences were tall and had thick bars opposed to just regular chicken wire fences. Although the idea of having to kill child zombies wasn’t anyone’s idea of fun. But necessity always won out over guilt at this point.
The wildlife had also become more brazen, without the sound of vehicles to keep them away, they now wandered into the suburbs, making it easier for the survivors to set traps for the animals, the meat was always eaten and the hide was cured and used for warmth. In the first month after the virus the raiding of stores was intense and crazy. If you fell you would literally be trampled, no one would stop to help you up. Everyone was only focused on finding food to live on and survive. Some places were able to maintain control of the chaos and closed doors and shutters, letting in a handful of people at a time and in fairness to those waiting outside imposed a two bag policy per person, where the bags were given out as you entered, so everyone had the same amount of space to fill, rather than people bringing massive bags to cheat the system.
The living population dwindled, slowly at first, but then something caused a widespread epidemic of the virus which quickly become a pandemic.
People thought I was stupid for having a dog but I had spent many hours training him before the virus had spread across the world. No one wanted to stay with me because of him but I refused to give him up and he seemed to want to stay. In the beginning I did leave the gate open to see if he would run, not wanting to force him to stay with me during this terrible time but when I woke in the morning he was standing guard at the back door. I continue to train him, even now. With his keen ears he keeps me safe while I sleep. Luckily the virus hasn’t mutated to other species yet, just us humans. I live in fear of that day.
“Hush now Dusty.” I held out my hand flat in front of him. He tapped his nose into my palm then lowered himself into a crouch. I ducked down next to him, letting my hand rest on his shoulders. He was a beautiful Australian Red Heeler with the bluest eyes I had ever seen on a dog. He had adapted really well to this strange and horrifying new world that we now lived in. He seemed to understand how dangerous the world had become and that we needed to be cautious. His food had gone from always having kibble and canned dog food to fresh meat; the kibble becoming a treat whenever we came across a bag of it.