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Max_Writer

Basic Roleplaying System: Deadworld Session Four

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

(After playing the Basic Roleplaying System original setting “Deadworld” with Joey Scott, Kyle Matheson, and Hannah Gambino Friday, November 20, 2015, from 6:30 p.m. to 10:15 p.m.)

In the early morning hours of Wednesday, July 22, 2015, Sofia Rosita Mariana Fernando Vasquez II Junior drove the stolen car out of Boone, North Carolina, heading east on U.S. Highway 421 towards Deep Gap. Riding shotgun was Jaiqwan Jayshawn Skadooter while in the back was Floyd Wayne and Jorman Flanagan. They had escaped the horrors of the city filled with zombies though falling stars still fell in the sky all around them.

Skadooter suddenly started shouting he had to pee, making a huge deal out of it until Miss Vasquez pulled over, very angry, and turned off the vehicle. Both Skadooter and Wayne got out, though Miss Vasquez didn’t notice the latter open his door at the same time as the athlete. While Wayne headed into the woods, roll of toilet paper in hand, Skadooter stopped by the hood of the 4Runner they’d stolen, grinned at Miss Vasquez, and then took out the bag of cocaine he’d found in the Honda Fit they’d raided earlier. He poured some cocaine on the hood, cut it with his ASU student id, and then snorted it up with a rolled up dollar bill. Then he raised both arms and gave her a look.

“Doot doot!” he said.

He backed away and then turned to walk into the tree line to urinate. While he was doing so, he heard the car start up and then drive away.

Wayne, relieving himself further away in the woods, heard the car pull off too.

Da ****? he thought. I’m so mad right now!

He finished, wiped, and ran out of the woods. The car was gone and Skadooter stood there, looking around vaguely. All they had was the single roll of toilet paper, Wayne’s mattock, and Skadooter’s fire axe from the hospital. Wayne looked around and realized they were just west of Deep Gap near where U.S. Highway 221 headed north of 421. Angry, he wondered whether they should continue down 421 or head up 221.

“That *****!” Skadooter said.

He looked around.

“Doot doot!” he cried.

“Shut the **** up!” Wayne hissed at him.

After the echo went away, he listened carefully but it was very quiet. He saw no vehicles or anything else in the vicinity. The stars falling seemed to have thinned out.

“We’ve got our choice between hick town, this way,” he said pointing down 421 to the east. “Or hick town this way.” He pointed vaguely to the northeast, where he guessed West Jefferson lay. “Hick town this way is probably going to take a little more time than hick town this way.” He pointed to the northeast and then the east again.

“Hm,” the other man said. “Skadooter don’t like waitin’.”

“All right,” Wayne said. “This one’s on a bigger road. This one is a little two lane.”

“Skadoo thinks we should stay on the small road, then,” Skadooter said.

“Small road?” Wayne said. “All right then, I guess we’re going to head towards West Jefferson.”

“You want some of this before I bag it up?” Skadooter asked, brandishing the quart bag of cocaine.

“No,” Wayne said. “I think I’m doing good. I’m still a little loopy from all the blood loss.”

“I’m hella loopy right now,” Skadooter said.

Everything was awesome for him.

“It’s pretty good except for the fact that that ***** left us,” he said.

“All right, I guess,” Wayne said. “****.”

They continued down U.S. Highway 421 towards U.S. Highway 221. They passed the Pepsi bottling place on the left and were approaching a small road on that same side of the highway, only a quarter of a mile from the yellow-flashing U.S. Highway 221 stoplights, when they saw a light suddenly appear in a house on the hill a few hundred yards to the left.

“I don’t think they know how to do that,” Skadooter said. “That’s prob’ly a person.”

“Maybe,” Wayne said. “Out here in the middle of nowhere, I doubt they know what’s going on.”

“They might have a car.”

“Well … I say we at least go up there and check it out.”

“I’m gonna go knock on the door and tell ‘em it’s Skadooter.”

“Hey.”

Skadooter jogged up the little road apparently called Yuma Lane.

“They might know you,” Wayne called after him.

Skadooter jogged about halfway up the road before he had to stop to catch his breath. The cocaine was really messing with his head and the road kept going back and forth, it seemed. Wayne, watching from the highway, saw Skadooter run from one side of the road to the other, almost as if he were running serpentine up the lane before he stopped about halfway, hands on his knees.

“What the hell’s up with this road!?!” Skadooter yelled back at Wayne.

That boy ain’t right, Wayne thought.

Skadooter started running up the road again and, from his vantage, he could see some people wandering across a nearby field. They appeared to be glowing slightly and he realized the two people were skipping. It was also brighter out, it seemed. There were so many flowers beside the road. He stopped.

“Wayne!” he stage whispered to the man, who was at least 100 yards away. “Wayne.”

He could see Wayne’s silhouette on the highway, but then he was right in front of him, but then he was gone again.

“Wayne!” he whispered again. “Wayne.”

Wayne, still standing in the middle of 421, saw Skadooter start up the hill again and then simply stop and look back at him. Skadooter pointed to one side and Wayne thought he saw two silhouettes crossing the field nearby. They weren’t heading his direction so he jogged up to Skadooter.

From Skadooter’s really high perspective, it looked like Wayne ran to him and then back and then ran up and back and then up and back again. He finally actually arrived. By then, they both saw the light had gone off in the house.

“Why’d you stop?” Wayne asked him when he reached him.

“Monsters over there,” Skadooter whispered back.

“Wha … I … yeah … I mean. So what? They ain’t botherin’ you.”

“I’m just really scared right now. Doot doot.”

“How ‘bout, hey. Let’s go see these people.”

“Oh yeah!”

Skadooter ran towards the house, going about 50 feet before he ran off the side of the road and fell flat into the dirt. To Skadooter, it had looked like the road had climbed and gone over his head. Wayne went over to the youth and picked him up.

“The ****’s wrong with you, boy?” he said.

“I know this may be hard to believe but this is my first time doing cocaine,” Skadooter said. “This stuff’s pretty crazy.”

“You did what?”

“That bag. The bag of stuff I showed you.”

“That’s what you got?”

“It’s right here. Yeah.”

“Holy shit, boy! Oh my God! This is not the time! If anything, you save that for later!”

“I still got some.”

“No. Well, God. Hold onto it.”

“Okay.”

“Apocalypse, you can trade that shit.”

“Okay. I won’t do anymore.”

“Promise.”

“Mmmm.”

“Man, **** you! Let’s go!”

“Okay.”

They continued on up to the house. A pole light out front lit the area but the house was otherwise dark. It was two stories with gabled windows on the sides. A garage was attached to the right side of the building and there were many windows. The front porch was merely a stoop.

Skadooter knocked on the door.

“Hold on, son,” Wayne said. “Let me talk. Please.”

Skadooter moved off the stoop and then moved to the right and peeked into the darkened windows. He couldn’t see much of anything.

“You think I could jump through these, like you see in the movies?” he asked.

“No! Don’t!” Wayne hissed. “Please don’t.”

He put down his mattock and knocked a little harder on the door. He looked over at Skadooter.

“Someone’s in here,” he said.

“We know that,” Skadooter said. “There has to be somebody in there.”

He stepped away from the window as he thought he’d seen a doll looking at him. Wayne knocked a little harder on the door, pounding with his fist.

* * *

Dani Bateman had just gotten back to sleep after using the bathroom in the middle of the night. She woke to the sound of someone knocking loudly on her front door. She looked at the clock; it was 2:30 in the morning. She got up and went to the front window of her bedroom upstairs and tried to see who was there. A tall man with graying hair stood on the front stoop, knocking loudly. He looked a little raggedy.

The entire upstairs of her house was one big bedroom. The windows were open and the cool July air was brought into the room by the fan set in one of them.

She headed downstairs, turning the lights on as she went.

* * *

When Wayne saw the lights coming on in the house through the glass panes in the door, he stopped banging and stepped back. The woman who opened it was very tall, almost six and a half feet. She had Native American features and was slim. She was pretty, had long dark hair, and appeared rather fit. She wore pajamas.

Skadooter ran over to Wayne and the woman quickly shut the door again.

“Who are you guys?” she asked through the door.

“I’m sorry to bother you, ma’am,” Wayne said. “You don’t know me. You might know my friend here. He’s the star quarterback of Appalachian State.”

“Running back!” Skadooter said.

“Running back. Football.”

“Skadooter!”

“Um … we ran into some trouble out here on the road. We’d really appreciate some help.”

“Do you have a car?”

“Not now!”

“So, what do you need?” she asked.

“Oh, we just …” Wayne said. “Ma’am, we don’t know how familiar you are with what’s going on right now. Um … things aren’t nice.”

“It’s bad out here!” Skadooter said.

“What are you talking about?” Miss Bateman said. “Are you guys on drugs or something?”

“I’m not,” Wayne said.

“Welp!” Skadooter said. “Doot doot.”

She noticed Skadooter’s eyes were very dilated and guessed he was high on something.

“Okay, so what’s going on?” she asked. “What’s happening because I have no idea what you’re talking about?”

“Listen, ma’am, I don’t know if you’re aware … but shit’s happening,” Wayne said. “So we had to get out of Boone in a hurry.”

Neither Wayne nor Skadooter noticed the man come around the side of the garage and start to shamble slowly towards them.

“Okay, well, I’m just going to call the cops so … if you guys want to leave, that would be awesome,” Miss Bateman said.

“Please!” Wayne said.

“You can stay here,” Miss Bateman said. “The cops are coming.”

“I don’t think the cops are coming,” Skadooter said. “They’re probably busy.”

“Please,” Wayne said. “Please call the cops.”

“What?” she said.

“I would love nothing more for the cops to show,” Wayne said.

Just then, both men noticed motion in their peripheral vision and turned to their right at the same moment. Their eyes went wide. A man stumbled towards them, mouth open. He wore pajamas and nothing else. He was middle-aged with brown hair going gray at the temples.

Wayne grabbed his mattock and swung it around at the man’s head. The blow struck the man in the jaw and tore his face and chin, the blow actually catching the man’s jaw and ripping it free of the right side of his face. It partially dislocated at a terrible angle, his tongue hanging out as well. The man didn’t slow down or speak.

Skadooter moved around the side of the dead man and brought his fire axe down on the back of the man’s neck. The blade went too low and cut into the side of the man. It didn’t slow him at all though there was a lot of blood. The zombie turned towards him and tried to bite him on the shoulder without much effect due to the lack of a lower jaw. It felt more like a bludgeoning blow.

“Get off me!” he cried. “****er!”

* * *

In the house, Miss Bateman ran towards the kitchen to get a knife.

* * *

Wayne grabbed at the dead man’s collar but was unable to pull him off Skadooter. The athlete dropped his axe and punched the man in the temple as hard as he could. The man stumbled but did not fall and then tried to grab at Skadooter and bite him.

“Get off me!” Skadooter cried.

Wayne moved behind the man and tried to get him in a headlock without luck. The man ignored him.

“Let me get him!” Skadooter said.

Wayne backed off and Skadooter tried to grab the man around the midsection, hoping to pin the man’s arms and then move behind him. Instead, he grabbed the man under his arms and was unable to shimmy around. It put the zombie in a perfect position to bite as his neck. Fortunately, the thing only managed to lick his neck with its tongue as it tried to bite him.

“Ow!” Skadooter yelled. “I got him right where I want him.”

Miss Bateman flung open the door of the house. She recognized the man in the pajamas as one of her neighbors on Yuma Lane.

“You guys need to back up!” she yelled. “This is my neighbor!”

“He’s not your neighbor anymore!” Skadooter yelled.

Wayne picked up his mattock and brought it down on the man’s back, much to Skadooter’s dismay.

“No no no no!” Skadooter cried.

The mattock glanced off the back of the dead man’s neck and blood splattered all over Skadooter. When he realized he had not been hit by the mattock, he tried to get a better grip on the man in pajamas. He slid around behind the man, still grappling him.

Miss Bateman burst out through the screen door and stabbed her neighbor in the leg. The man didn’t cry out but merely continued to struggle with Skadooter. Wayne walked around the man and swung his mattock at the man’s chest. He cut the man pretty badly but the man continued to fight and struggle. Then Skadooter picked up the bloody man and fell backwards, slamming the man into the ground behind him. There was an audible snap as the man’s neck broke. Then the body convulsed as Skadooter crawled quickly away. The corpse jerked around for a few moments before it finally lay still.

“Jesus Christ!” Miss Bateman said as Skadooter stood up. “What the ****?”

“Skadoots!” Skadooter said.

He got his face into the dead man’s face.

“Doot! Doot!” he cried.

Then he looked at her.

“You gonna call the cops?” he said.

“I - I’m probably gonna call the cops,” she said.

“Good! Good!”

She stared at the dead body of her neighbor in shock. She held the knife pointed at the two men. Skadooter picked up his fire axe. He walked to the porch and then looked around for anything else coming. Wayne had dropped to his knees, dizzy from the sudden exertion.

“That wasn’t a person,” he said. “It’s not people. You saw!”

“Okay, so what was that?” she said. “Because that was my neighbor!”

“Not anymore it weren’t.”

“Not anymore? Obviously, ‘cause he’s dead, but what happened?”

“Naw! I don’t know what happened to him.”

He leaned his mattock against the house and she noticed, for the first time, one of his hands was missing. His left wrist was wrapped in bloody gauze. She finally pointed the knife down.

“Okay, what happened to your arm?” she asked.

“One o’ him happened to my arm!” he said.

He pointed at her neighbor.

“If I didn’t get lucky, he would have turned all of us into one o’ him,” he went on.

“Okay, so this is a zombie situation,” she muttered.

“A what?” he said. “Like Dawn of the Dead?”

“Like Walking Dead.”

“What?”

“Like … Night of the Dead, maybe?”

“I … zombie. Dawn of the Dead. That’s all I hear.”

“That’s what it seems to be.”

Skadooter spotted some people shambling around down on 421.

“This can’t no zombie thing!” he suddenly said. “The black guy always dies first!”

“He’s high,” Wayne said. “Ignore him.”

“Yeah,” Skadooter said with a smile. “You want some?”

“No,” she said.

“Ma’am, you have a car we can borrow?” Wayne asked her.

“I do have a car but is there any reason for me to leave as well?”

“I don’t think you should stay here.”

“Where is this all at? Where did it start?”

“We just came from Boone.”

“Meteors,” Skadooter said.

He pointed to the sky.

She could see a few shooting stars in the distance, mostly to the west.

“I heard about stuff happening, but I thought it was just a bunch of crazy stuff,” she said.

“Naw,” Wayne said. “Boone is gone. We’re trying to go somewhere a little less populated but …”

Skadooter stared at the falling stars.

“You can’t stay here,” Wayne said.

“All right,” she said.

“This ain’t safe no more.”

“I’ll go with you. Just let me get my stuff, I guess.”

“Can I drive?” Skadooter suddenly said.

“**** no,” she said.

“If you have any high proof alcohols, grab ‘em,” Wayne said.

“Come in with me and get whatever you need,” she said.

“Okay.”

The three of them entered the house. The ground floor was one large room with a kitchen in the back and two doors that led to the only rooms: a bathroom and a small guest bedroom. Stairs went up to a door as well. It was decorated in old American style with plenty of modern features. Another door in one wall probably led to the attached garage.

Wayne went to the bathroom and found the aspirin, popping a couple and grabbing other medical supplies and alcohol he could find. Skadooter grabbed canned foods out of the cupboards. He also found crackers and other non-perishable foods. He also found several bottles of water and put them on the counter as well.

“You got anything to defend yourself with?” Wayne called from the bathroom.

“I got this knife,” she replied.

“You got anything better?”

“Guns!” Skadooter said. “We need guns!”

“I have some lawn supplies in the garage,” she said.

She knew there was an electric weed eater and a riding lawnmower, as well as some old lawn darts of her parents and a long piece of pipe. That was about it.

“Djew see the newest episode of Walking Dead?” Skadooter asked her.

“I haven’t kept up this season,” she said. “How did it go?”

“This is what they would get ‘cause …” he lowered his voice to a whisper. “… we’re in the Walking Dead now. We’re the Walking Dead.”

He was having a strange, drug-induced epiphany.

“Do you have any alcohol?” Wayne asked, coming out of the bathroom with supplies. “Any at all?”

“There’s some wine,” she said.

“No vodka or anything like that?”

“No.”

She gathered some camping stuff from hiking trips she’d gone on. There was a backpack, small tent, and sleeping bag, as well as a little propane stove.

“We can’t stick around here much longer,” Wayne said. He pointed to Skadooter. “That ******* needs to eat something.”

“Yeah!” Skadooter said.

He was looking at his phone. He had made a Facebook post that read “We’re the Walking Dead now.” Then his Facebook Messenger beeped. It was his friend, a freshman who lived in Cannon Hall.

“Skadoots,” the message read. “I’m so ****ing high right now.”

“Same broski,” Skadooter wrote back. “Same.”

“What’s going on with these people in ASU? They’re like people are ****ed up. Somebody drove crashed a car. I can see it from my dorm.”

“You guys stay inside right now.”

“I saw there was girls. They crashed a car. There’s a girl.”

“What girls?”

“I don’t know. She was a girl. There were two guys with her.”

“One to ten.”

“I’m on the fifth floor!”

“Bruh! One to ten though.”

“… … … I’d give it a seven.”

“All right.”

“Hold on. Somebody’s at the door.”

“You should probably go check that. I’ll talk to you later.”

He put the phone away but it beeped a couple minutes later.

“Oh shit!” his friend sent. “Some ****er bit me.”

“That’s not good,” Skadooter wrote back. “Aw man. That sucks dude. RIP.”

“What are you talking about??? I lost my buzz. What’s ****ing going on? Oh shit! There’s a bunch of them out there.”

“Dude, I’m busy right now.”

He smirked.

Wayne and Miss Bateman were talking about the zombies and how the thing was spread.

Skadooter’s phone beeped as he got a Skype call. He saw it was the same guy he’d been texting.

“Answer that!” Wayne said. “Answer it! You know who that is? Answer it!”

“Nah,” Skadooter said.

“Why not?”

“My friend got bit and now he’s *****in’ about it.”

Wayne just stared at him.

“Look … we need to get out of here,” he finally said. “You need to eat something.”

He turned to Miss Bateman.

“All right,” Wayne asked her. “So, you’ve got a Lincoln Navigator.”

“Uh-huh,” she said.

“Back seat!” Skadooter said. “Called it!”

“How much do we have packed into this?” Wayne asked. “How much can we get into it?”

“We should take everything we can!” Skadooter said.

The car in the garage was a 2001 Lincoln Navigator, a big SUV. It looked like it was in good shape. Skadooter started loading the truck up with the food and water he’d found while Miss Bateman put in her camping gear. He found two five gallon jugs filled with water in the garage as well so he put them in too.

“Yo, does it have a DVD player for the back seat?” Skadooter asked her.

“No,” she said.

“Fack!”

“Calm down.”

“Fack!”

Skadooter climbed into the back seat with his fire axe.

Wayne had filled his pockets with everything he’d gotten from the bathroom. Then he asked if Miss Bateman had any men’s clothing. He was specifically looking for underwear. They found an extra pair that was her father’s. He’d left them one time when visiting. Unfortunately, they were small for Wayne. He found some socks as well.

“Anything else you can think of?” Wayne said to her as they entered the garage. “Because shit has hit the fan. We ain’t coming back. If there’s anything … personal effects you want to take.”

“You wanna dig up, like, a dead pet and take it with us?” Skadooter said from the back seat.

“For ****’s sake!” Wayne said.

Wayne got into the passenger seat as Miss Bateman took the wheel. There was a GPS sitting on the dashboard and, when she started the car, there was about a quarter of a tank of gas. Wayne said he knew the closest gas station was a few miles up 221. He said if they headed for West Jefferson, he knew a place they could fill up. Miss Bateman knew about the gas station and he guessed they would still have power.

“When we get there, we need to check for extra gas cans,” he said.

She pushed the button on her automatic garage door opener and, as the door went up, they saw two people standing right outside the garage door, facing it. It was Miss Bateman’s neighbor’s wife and little girl both standing there in their pajamas.

“Floor it!” Skadooter said.

“It’s not them!” Wayne said.

“Floor it!”

“It’s not them!”

The two walked forward slowly and Miss Bateman put the car into gear and gunned it. The Lincoln Navigator leapt out of the garage with a squeal, running down the two. The seven-year-old girl vanished under the front of the SUV without a sound. Her mother was taller, however, and as the Navigator struck her she crashed over the top of the hood and slammed into the windshield. She started clawing at the glass as the vehicle tore down the driveway. In a panic, Miss Bateman turned on the windshield wipers. The other woman grabbed one with one hand.

“Stop!” Wayne said, his voice growing louder. “Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop!”

Miss Bateman slammed on the brakes and the woman flew off the car and hit the ground, rolling over and over again before landing in a heap off the side of the road. Then Miss Bateman floored it again, tearing down Yuma Lane. As they passed the smashed woman, she sat up again and reached a hand towards the vehicle.

They tore down to 421 and turned left towards 221, Miss Bateman driving recklessly fast.

“Hold on,” Wayne said, hitting Miss Bateman with his nub. “Calm down.”

She swerved around one of the cars stalled in the road and turned hard to the left as she applied the brake. It wasn’t enough, however, and as they made the turn, the SUV rolled. The car rolled once completely over and then came to rest on the passenger side, the glass on that side shattering out of the windows. Both Wayne and Skadooter were injured and the automobile stalled out. The windows on the driver’s side were intact, as was the windshield, though there was a large crack in it.

“I told you to let me drive!” Skadooter screamed.

Miss Bateman braced herself then unbuckled herself and looked at Wayne who lay moaning in pain.

“Hey!” she said. “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” he mumbled.

“Can you unbuckle?”

In the back seat, Skadooter climbed out of the driver’s side back door. Wayne unbuckled and she asked if he could get out. He said he thought he could. She tried to fiddle with the sunroof but nothing happened when she pushed the button.

“We need to flip it quick!” Skadooter said to them.

“I’m here,” Wayne muttered.

Atop the car, Skadooter saw several people shuffling their way.

“Zombies coming,” Skadooter said with a grin.

Miss Bateman lowered the electric window on the driver’s side and she climbed out.

“Scooter!” she said to Skadooter. “Scoot!”

“Skadoot-er!” he said.

“Help me get−”

“All star running back for the Mountaineers!”

“Help me get Floyd out of the car. Please.”

“****ing Skadooter!” Wayne said.

“Hi Wayne,” Skadooter replied.

He reached into the car and pulled Wayne out with one great heave leaving him sitting on the edge of the door. There were at least five zombies shambling towards the car. He looked back into the car.

“We can’t risk it,” he said. “We need to make a run for it.”

“You’re right,” Miss Bateman said.

“We need to go. Now.”

“We definitely need to go that way though.”

She pointed up 221.

They all climbed down off the wreck and ran up 221, avoiding the zombies who slowly shambled after them. They had nothing but the medical supplies Wayne had stuffed into his pockets. They passed several dark houses and jogged for nearly a mile until they saw a church to the left. They walked from there to catch their breath.

“Are we going to the gas station still?” Miss Bateman asked.

“Doot doot,” Skadooter said.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Wayne replied. “The gas station, even when we rolled, it’s going to have what we need.”

“Well, we might as well go there and see what they have,” she said.

“I mean, if anything, it’ll have … medication.”

He sighed.

“They’d have something,” he said.

“Yeah,” she replied.

“Ooh. They’d have beef jerky is what they’d have.”

They passed another church on the left and a few buildings on either side of the road. They saw no automobiles. Shortly after they passed the church, they saw a chain link fence with barbed wire across the top on the left side of the road. Wayne didn’t remember it being there the last time he’d been there though he’d heard rumors of some botanical company setting up some kind of greenhouse in the area.

“This does not look familiar,” Wayne said.

Miss Bateman told him about a new botanical garden in the area. She’d only heard a little bit about it. He told her the gas station was right next door to a very large, expensive house. She asked if anyone would be there and he guessed if there was, it’d only be an old man. It was a mansion on West Pine Swamp Road.

When they had walked another half mile, they saw a building to the left with a sign that read “New River Archery Supply.” The lights on the sign were off. The front of the building had a set of glass doors and wide glass windows. They could see a single light burning within. The chain link fence ran around behind the building and continued closer to the road on the other side.

“This is meant to be,” Wayne said when he saw it.

He headed across the parking lot and the others followed him. He looked into the front windows and saw a single fluorescent light on in the middle of the room. There were shelves filled with archery supplies. He was disappointed he couldn’t see any crossbows. The whole place looked pretty rough. The back wall had an interior door set into it and he guessed there was a large back room as well.

Wayne tried the front door but found it locked.

“Lemme kick it!” Skadooter said.

“Can I at least find a rock first?” Wayne asked.

“Skadooter’s foot is stronger than a rock.”

Wayne found a good-sized rock and smashed the window next to the door. He was happy not to hear any alarms go off despite the First Alert sticker on the window. The three of them climbed into the building.

There was camouflage clothing, paintball supplies, numerous bows and arrows, crossbows of various sizes and bolts, and even tree stands and other hunting supplies. Wayne was happy to find paintball masks, elbow pads, knee pads, protective gloves, and even athletic cups. The place had several composite bows and even the cheap bows he remembered using in middle school. Beef jerky and pork rinds stood on the counter as well as a jar of pickled eggs. Confederate flags hung behind the counter.

Skadooter picked up the largest crossbow, which was equipped with a stirrup in the front necessary to cock the massive thing and a telescopic sight. Wayne picked up a heavy crossbow for himself that he thought he could reload with one hand, also with a stirrup on the front and a telescopic sight.

Skadooter started to take off his clothing to change into camouflage. Wayne decked himself out in protective gear including the paintball knee and elbow guards, gloves, and a mask. Skadooter followed suit and also got some protective gear on. He was especially careful to make sure he held onto his weed and cocaine and filled his backpack with crossbow bolts. He smoked a bowl after he was decked out and had his new weaponry. Wayne found a camouflage backpack and loaded it with all of the beef jerky at the counter. He also found hunting knives and suggested they all get backpacks.

Miss Bateman got some clothing and a backpack. She also found some light cloth camouflage clothing and tucked it into the backpack to use for possible bandages later. She tore a few of the outfits into bandages and then tended to the wounds the men had sustained in the car wreck.

Skadooter and Wayne both heard a noise from the front of the building where they’d broken in. A man was climbing in through the broken glass. He looked terrified.

“What?” he muttered. “Who’re you guys?”

“I’m Skadooter!” Skadooter said. “All star running back of ASU!”

The white man was small and wore pajamas, boots, and a light jacket. He was probably about 30 years old.

“What the hell’s going on?” he asked in a thick southern accent.

“Stop!” Wayne said.

“What?” the little man said.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Billy.”

“Billy? Billy who?”

“Billy Jackson. What the hell’s going on?”

“Billy, do you know what’s happening?”

“I don’t know! I woke up to pee and there were people out in the yard. And I was like ‘**** them people.’ So I went out there to talk to ‘em. God! I’m still drunk. I was drinking a lot tonight.”

“You get bit?” Skadooter asked.

“No,” Jackson replied. “What?”

“You did get bit, didn’t you?”

“No, I do sterno. You ever drink sterno. It’s so good.”

“I’m gonna shoot this ****er,” Skadooter mumbled.

“And I drank a bunch ‘cause my stomach is all … messed up. So I can’t drink like real−”

“So Billy, get in here!” Wayne snapped.

“Yeah, yeah,” Jackson said, walking a little further into the room. “But … but I looked out the front and I was like ‘Martha!’ That’s my wife. Martha. And I went back to tell Martha … and then Martha tried to kill me! She came at me. She didn’t say a word, she just came at me! I’m like ‘Martha, I’m not in the mood. There’s people out on the yard.’ And then she tried to bite me! So, I had to put her down.”

“That’s kinky,” Skadooter said.

“It wasn’t!” Jackson said. “I beat her to death with a croquet mallet.”

Wayne looked out past Jackson but didn’t see anyone else in the parking lot.

“You get bit?” Skadooter asked again.

“No, I didn’t get bit,” Jackson said. “I beat her to death with a croquet mallet. She was trying to bite me, the *****!”

“You got bit.”

“I think her mom’s talkin’ to her too much.”

Wayne looked the man over but didn’t see any bite marks. Though there was splattered blood on his pajama tops neither Miss Bateman nor Skadooter thought the man had been bitten. He also appeared to be unarmed.

“Is he okay?” Wayne asked.

“Yeah,” Skadooter said.

“Yeah,” Miss Bateman said.

“Yeah, Martha, she was crazy,” Jackson went on. “And then those people in the yard so I just came here ‘cause I thought there’d be weapons.”

“We’re the walking dead,” Skadooter said.

“Shut the **** up, Scooter,” Miss Bateman said.

“The Wha?” Jackson said.

“Ah,” Skadooter said.

“Is that on cable?”

“Yeah.”

“We ain’t got no cable. We got four channels. Well, five if the weather’s right.”

Jackson moved further into the room.

“What’s going on?” he asked again.

“I need you to sit down and just listen,” Wayne said.

Jackson listened.

“Wait a minute,” he said. “That’s Jaiqwan Jayshawn Skadooter!”

“It is!” Wayne said.

“Hell yeah,” Skadooter said.

“You’re a running back!” Jackson said.

“Yeah.”

“Your with ASU! You’re so good! Even for a colored folk!”

“I won the Championship.”

“Yeah, you did!”

“You wanna smoke some of this weed?”

“Oh, God damn yeah, I wanna smoke weed!”

Skadooter had been filling his little pipe and lit he. He and Jackson shared a few hits of the marijuana.

“Nobody here smokes with me,” Skadooter said sadly.

“That’s a shame!” Jackson said.

“I know.”

“I smoke enough, I’ll treat you like a brother.”

Wayne filled him in on what was going on and the spread of some kind of zombie virus through the meteorites crashing to earth. The man picked up on it though he was still a bit confused.

“What?” Jackson said. “That’s crazy! Was Martha a zombie?”

“Billy …” Wayne said.

“Wait wait wait wait wait! I ain’t goin’ to jail?”

“Well, you killed her,” Skadooter said.

“No,” Wayne said.

“Yes!” Jackson said. Then to Skadooter: “I had to! She tried to ****ing bite me!”

“There ain’t no more jail to go to!” Wayne said.

“Woo,” Jackson said. “We can do anything!”

“No!” Wayne said.

“Smoke weed,” Skadooter said.

“I am,” Jackson said.

“Billy, how much … are you a local?” Wayne asked. “Do you know the area?”

“Yeah, I live just across the road here.”

“We passed a chain link fence. What was that all about?”

“Oh, that’s the farm.”

“What’s in the farm?”

“They’re farming those plants, those weird-ass plants. I can’t remember what they’re called.”

“Weed?” Skadooter said.

“No. No, it’s a plant right? And it does oil, but it’s better than like fish oil and all that stuff. They been doin’ it since the 60s but nobody knows much about it because … who cares? It’s ****ing oil.”

“Who cares?”

“I don’t care. It’s some kind of plants and what they do is they extract the oil. And it’s supposed to make all these jobs. But I didn’t get no job.”

“Same.”

“I still work up at the God damned gas station. I still work up there. But, you know, I saw these people so I came down here because, **** it, I ain’t got a gun in the house. Martha wouldn’t allow it. **** her. *****.”

“Oil plants?” Wayne asked. “What is that?”

“I don’t know,” Jackson said. “I don’t remember the name of ‘em. There’s a sign up by the gas station.”

“Are they a fruit? Are they a vegetable? Can you eat ‘em?”

“I dunno. They’re just … they were supposed to make a bunch of jobs. They didn’t make no jobs. There’s like three guys that work there and they’re all like these scientists or some bullshit.”

He clutched his belly.

“Ah shit,” he said.

“What’s wrong?” Wayne asked.

“My stomach. I got ulcers and shit. Martha gave ‘em to me, that *****.”

He turned to Skadooter.

“Hey, you got any more?” he asked.

“Aw, that’s all I got, man,” Skadooter said. “I’m sorry.”

“Aw man.”

“I shared with you.”

“I thank you. So, I came down here and I was gonna get a bow and maybe a tree stand and I was gonna wait in a tree for those ****tards to come at me and I was gonna murder them.”

“That’s really smart.”

“Well, if they’re coming at my house, if they’re on my property, I’m going back up to my house here in a minute, once I get a bow.”

“Well Billy …” Wayne said.

“They’re zombies?” Jackson said. “Like Dawn of the Dead?”

“Yeah.”

“We should get to a … a …”

“Mall?”

“Mall. Let’s get to the mall.”

“No, Boone ain’t good.”

“Boone bad,” Skadooter said.

“Boone is ****ed up,” Wayne said.

“West Jefferson ain’t got a mall,” Jackson said.

“There is a mall in Wilksboro,” Wayne said.

“Let’s go to the Wilksboro Mall!”

“Billy, that mall ain’t been functional for years, man. If you want to camp out−”

“In Dawn of the Dead, the zombies went there, I remember that movie, they went there ‘cause they were familiar. So, if nobody’s been there for years, they won’t go there.”

“But there’s nothing for us there, Billy,” Skadooter said.

“If it’s familiar and that’s where they’re going, why would we go there, Billy?” Wayne said.

“No, they’re not familiar,” Jackson said. “But he just pointed out that there ain’t nothing there.”

He picked a bow off a shelf and got some arrows in a quiver. He pulled on the bow. Then he looked around.

“Billy, how far away would you say the Wal-Mart is?” Wayne asked.

“What Wal-Mart?” Jackson asked.

“The one in West Jefferson.”

“I dunno. Ten miles?”

“I’m thinking−“

“I’m gonna look in the back. I’m gonna get an armguard.”

He headed towards the back room.

“We got nothing,” Wayne said to the other two. “Car is on the intersection. Gas station’s up there. But we got food. Only thing it’ll give us is bottled water and drinks. We need to get somewhere we can protect ourselves. The only thing I can think of is the Wal-Mart in West Jefferson.”

“How far is that?” Miss Bateman asked.

“Ten miles.”

“We gonna walk there?”

“If we don’t find any better way to get there.”

“That shit’s uphill!” Skadooter said.

“I mean … at points, maybe, yeah,” Wayne said. “But …”

He sighed.

“I do know there’s a house next to this gas station,” he went on. “Whether or not there’s a car there, I don’t know.”

Miss Bateman and Skadooter both heard the tinkle of glass and the sound of a whip or something slapping from the back. Then they heard what sounded like someone fall to the floor in the back room.

“Did you guys hear that?” Skadooter said.

“Huh?” Wayne said.

“****ing glass shattering.”

“Yeah, I heard that too,” Miss Bateman said.

“Wait, from where?” Wayne asked.

“The back room, apparently, seems like.”

“Wait. Back room? Shit. Does this place have flashlights?”

“**** that,” Skadooter said. “He’s gone. Let’s go.”

“No.”

Wayne found a package with several tiny flashlights and batteries. There were four small LED flashlights, two smaller ones with straps to place around a person’s head, and at least a dozen triple A batteries. He grabbed one of the packages.

“Billy’s dead,” Skadooter said again. “**** him.”

Wayne struggled with the thing with one hand and was unable to open it. Skadooter took it from him and ripped open the plastic the flashlights were trapped in. He set up one of the ones with the straps and put it on Wayne’s head.

“Here ya go, buddy,” he said.

He looked towards the back.

“Billy, you okay?” he called towards the back.

There was no answer.

“Guys, he’s done,” Skadooter said.

Wayne turned on the light as Miss Bateman put batteries in the other flashlights. She grabbed the other pack of flashlights and tucked them into her backpack.

“Billy?” Wayne called carefully towards the back.

No reply.

“He’s gone,” Skadooter said again.

He headed for the front windows and climbed out of the building.

“Billy, we’re leaving!” Wayne called as he backed away from the back room.

Miss Bateman followed the men.

“We’re going,” Wayne said again as reached the window.

“Good luck with that, Billy,” Skadooter called. “Good luck with whatever’s happening back there, buddy.”

As they got out of the building, Wayne and Skadooter heard something moving on the right side of the structure. It sounded like someone had a branch with a lot of leaves and was shaking it. It was getting closer. Skadooter quickly loaded his crossbow. Light from Wayne’s headlamp faced the side of the building. He’d already loaded his crossbow. Skadooter aimed.

The thing that came around the corner was a strange looking plant.

“Oh shit,” Miss Bateman said.

The plant was walking! It had a large bole on the bottom which was shaggy with little rootlet hairs. It would have been almost spherical but for three blunt-tapered roots extending from the lower part. Supported on them, the bole was lifted about a foot clear of the ground. It walked like a man on crutches, two of the blunt legs sliding forward and then the whole thing lurching as the rear one drew almost level with them, then the two in the front sliding forward again. Growing up out of the bole was a tall, straight stem at least five feet high with short sprays of leathering green leaves. The top of the plant had some kind of wide, conical cup. Three short straight stems grew up from the bole on the sides of the main stem. At each step the horrible thing took, the long stem whipped violently back and forth sickeningly.

It came around the corner and stopped.

“Do you guys see this?” Skadooter said.

“What the ****!?!” Miss Bateman said.

“That’s a plant, right?” Skadooter said. “Like … you guys see this, right?”

“Uh-huh,” both Wayne and Miss Bateman said.

“Um,” Skadooter said, turning to run.

“Don’t move!” Wayne said.

The thing started to move in their direction with purpose.

“Go!” Wayne yelled. “Go go go!”

They fled around the side of the building, the strange plant in pursuit.

“Around the corner and stay still!” Wayne yelled.

They fled around corner and then stopped once they got there. They heard the plant still coming but it stopped moments after they stopped.

“Skadooter, aim around that corner, but don’t do anything yet,” Wayne said. “Do not move.”

Skadooter aimed towards the corner of the building without moving. They listened but heard nothing. Somewhere in the distance, a coyote howled in a strange ululating wail.

“What I think we should do, I think we should try to sneak around the back of this building and cut around it,” Wayne whispered.

“Yeah, I think that’d be best,” Miss Bateman said.

“Quietly,” Wayne said.

They moved painfully slowly towards the back of the building, taking about five minutes to get there. Skadooter got to the corner first.

“What do you see?” Wayne whispered.

Skadooter peeked around the corner. The chain link fence was not far from the back of the building. A large section of it was knocked down as if something had broken through it. A lot of smashed plant matter was in the area of the break, all mashed up.

“Looks good,” Skadooter said.

They continued creeping along the back of the building, past the windows and the back door.

“Hey, isn’t that that room Billy went into?” Skadooter whispered.

“I honestly don’t care about Billy right now,” Wayne whispered back. “Just keep going.”

“Shall we go through that broken fence where it looks like that ****ing plant came from?”

“****. No. That’s the worst ****ing thing.”

“Okay, I’m just going to keep sneaking this way.”

They crept across the back of the building and when they reached about the halfway point, not far from the door, they saw one of the windows was broken.

“That’s it,” Skadooter whispered.

They crept by the broken window. Miss Bateman peeked in but it was too dark to see much. The broken window had a circular hole but the glass had stayed in the window frame. They could make out a little light coming through the open doorway from the front of the store.

When he reached the corner of the building, Skadooter continued to follow the fence. Wayne, walking backwards, stopped them when he noticed they were leaving the building.

“Hold up,” he whispered.

The other stopped. Wayne surveyed the area but couldn’t see much in the darkness.

“If we want to get to this gas station, if that’s still the plan, then we need to get back to the road because it’s on the other side,” he whispered to them.

“Okay,” Skadooter whispered back.

“I mean …”

Skadooter again crept very slowly towards the road. It took them five or six minutes to get to the edge of the building nearest the road. He peeked around the corner and spotted the plant still in the same spot. He got a good look at it and saw it wasn’t moving.

“Shall we sneak by it?” Skadooter whispered.

Wayne sighed.

“We could try to shoot it,” Skadooter whispered.

“Let’s back away,” Wayne whispered.

He crept towards the road and away from the strange plant.

“We need to go this way,” he whispered. “This is the way we need to go.”

They made their way quietly and carefully to the road. Wayne still had his paintball mask on with the headlamp upon it, still turned on. He was pleasantly surprised the mask was not fogging up. Once they got to the road, they crept until they were out of sight of the plant. Only then did they start walking normally.

“What the **** was that!?!” Wayne finally said. “What was that!?!”

“I knew the government was making marijuana plants,” Skadooter said.

“It was like a ****ing … oh my God! Little shop of horrors! What the **** was that!?!”

“I’m gonna tweet this.”

He got out his cell phone and tweeted “Saw a walking plant. #what?”

They soon saw the lights from the gas station ahead. Miss Bateman and Skadooter also spotted another of those creepy plants at the corner of the building. Someone was lying on the ground on his back right next to it, arms spread.

“Wayne,” Skadooter said. “Wayne.”

The other man looked at him.

“Plant,” he said. “Plant.”

They pointed it out to Wayne. They wondered why, if the man was dead, he was not walking around.

“Skadooter, how’s your throwing arm?” Wayne whispered.

“Best in Boone,” Skadooter said. “Better than my quarterback. That guy sucked.”

The lights were still on at the 211 Grocery. It was a white building with two gas pumps out front under a small canopy. Florescent lights glowed under the canopy and a vehicle was parked between the pumps and the main building. Light also glowed from the windows. An outbuilding was further up the road and a house was on the near side of the road to the right. The man on the ground looked like he wore a gas station shirt.

The plants reminded Miss Bateman of the red weed in the relatively recent War of the Worlds movie.

“I want to try to see if this thing is distracted by noise,” Wayne said.

“Yeah, because we snuck around but it was just standing there?” Miss Bateman said.

“I think it detects vibrations on the ground within its vicinity,” Skadooter said in a rare moment of clarity. “So, like, when we’re running fast it’s big vibrations.”

“Tremor rules,” Wayne said.

He handed off his crossbow to Miss Bateman and picked up a small rock.

“Stay here,” he said. “Please.”

Then he crept towards the gas station. Skadooter aimed his crossbow at the plant from the couple hundred yards away the other two were standing. He aimed a little above the plant, expecting the bolt to drop a little, at least from his experience playing video games. He watched Wayne creep up to the gas station, getting to within about 45 feet, near the diesel pumps.

When Wayne got close, he realized the body was wearing the shirt of someone who worked at the gas station. He chucked the rock past the plant, aiming for a spot near the front doors. The plant didn’t move. The vehicle between the pump and the station still had a hose and nozzle in the tank. It looked like a two-door, hardtop jeep.

Skadooter and Miss Bateman crept over to where Wayne was still watching the plant.

“I don’t know what to do,” Wayne said when they got there.

Skadooter noticed a man standing in the darkness on the other side of the canopy, not moving.

Wayne pointed out the diesel pumps they were hiding beside and noted diesel was not as volatile. Skadooter had a lighter. Wayne suggested they make a big puddle of diesel fuel, make a line with the fuel, and light it to attract the plant. Then they could go around to get to the car at the gas station. He hoped it would create a diversion.

“Skadooter, what do you think?” Wayne said.

“Burn the plant?” Skadooter said.

“Are you with me?”

“I am all about burning plants.”

Wayne repeated the plan one more time, noting they weren’t trying to burn the plant but creating a distraction. He said if the pumps still worked, they would pour a pool of diesel fuel, ignite it, and hope it would attract the attention of the plant.

“You with me?” Wayne asked.

“Yeah,” Skadooter said.

“You understand that?”

“Yeah. You want my lighter?”

“That’s − yes!”

Wayne quietly removed the nozzle from one of the diesel pumps, feeling lucky it was not locked. He turned on the pump and then slipped over towards the gas station. He pumped enough fuel to cover a wide area in a big puddle, pumping for about five minutes and getting a puddle about 15 feet across. Then he make a line of diesel towards the road, shut off the pump, and put the nozzle back.

“I’ll light it,” Skadooter said.

Wayne told Skadooter the plan again.

“Light it, cross the street …” Wayne said.

“Slow or fast?” Skadooter asked.

“Creep.”

“Okay, am I supposed to stomp around before I light it?”

“No. No. Do what we’ve been doing.”

“Creep.”

“All you’ve got to do is bend down and light it. And then … the whole time we’ve been moving. All you’ve got to do is do that across the street. ‘Cause the idea is that they’re attracted to this flame, to this moving flame. That’s the plan.”

He looked at Skadooter’s lighter and saw it was a cheap Bic. He would have to light it before he could move.

“Now, this is up to you, because you’re lighting,” Wayne said.

“I’m going to light and then creep,” Skadooter said.

Wayne and Miss Bateman crept across the road and hid in the shadows on the other side.

Alone by the stinking diesel gasoline, Skadooter waited until they were out of sight.

“**** the police,” he whispered.

He lit the spot Wayne had shown him and the diesel fuel burned in a line to the pool, which ignited. Skadooter, meanwhile, crept away without even looking to see what he’d done. He thought he saw movement out of his peripheral vision but he kept creeping.

Up by the gas station, the man who’d been standing there, unseen by anyone but Skadooter, turned and shambled towards the burning fire. The plant didn’t move. Wayne didn’t see the zombie until it walked by the Jeep. Skadooter was about halfway across the road when the zombie got close to the plant. Suddenly, something whipped out of the cone atop the plant like a whip. It struck the zombie in the head in a heartbeat. The zombie stumbled but then continued to walk towards the flames. The plant turned as it walked by and whipped at its head again. The zombie continued to walk towards the flames.

The plant followed the walking dead man, continuing to whip at the back of his head. The zombie ignored it and stopped near the fire. The plant continued to whip at the dead man several more times before it stopped. It stood there for maybe a half minute before it shuffled back towards the first dead body.

Skadooter reached the others, all of them hiding in the darkness.

Wayne signaled and they crept down the road, almost in the ditch on the other side from the gas station, until they were across from the Jeep.

“Are the plants on our side?” Skadooter whispered to the others.

Wayne told the others he wanted to sneak across and check the vehicle for keys. He headed across the road and the other two followed a little further back, Skadooter about 10 feet from him and Miss Bateman behind the two of them. Wayne crept up to the car and looked into the open driver’s side window. A set of keys were sitting on the driver’s seat.

Wayne opened the door of the car and motioned them over. The other two crept to the car until the zombie turned and looked in their direction. When it saw them creeping towards the car, it shambled towards them. As it got near the plant, the thing started whipping at it once again. Skadooter crept towards the car but Miss Bateman broke into a run and leapt into the car, climbing into the passenger seat.

Skadooter leapt up and ran after her when the plant started to move their way, now ignoring the zombie. He clambered into the vehicle and over the seat, crashing into the back. Wayne leapt into the car and slammed the door shut. They heard another whipping noise and something struck the glass in the back of the vehicle. Some kind of greenish liquid splattered where the horrible thing struck.

“Ew!” Skadooter yelled.

Wayne saw the car had a manual transmission. He started the engine and threw the vehicle into gear, pulling out of the gas station quickly but not at a breakneck speed. Miss Bateman struggled to strap herself in while Skadooter was thrown around in the back seat.

There was a snap behind them as they pulled away from the pumps and Wayne looked into the rearview mirror on the driver’s side. He saw the nozzle was still in the gas tank of the car, the torn hose hanging from it. He kept going, heading up the road.

The chain link fence followed the road on the right and they saw an entrance in the fence line. A prominent sign there read “New Generation Triffid Farm.” They roared past it and headed up U.S. 221.

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