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Max_Writer

Basic Roleplaying System: Deadworld Session Five

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Monday, January 11, 2016

(After playing the Basic Roleplaying System original setting “Deadworld” with James Brown, Katie Gallant, Aaron Scott, Joey Scott, Kyle Matheson, and Hannah Gambino Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.)

After Sofia Rosita Mariana Fernando Vasquez II Junior drove off at speed, leaving Jaiqwan Jayshawn Skadooter and Floyd Wayne by the side of the Road in the early morning hours of Wednesday, July 22, 2015, Jorman Flanagan leaned forward from the back seat.

“You know, you left Floyd back there too,” he said.

“What?” she replied.

She was silent for a minute or so.

“Fine, if he wants to go with that jackass, let him!” she finally said.

“Maybe we should just go back for him,” Flanagan said.

The woman turned and glared at him. Then she slammed on the brakes and pulled off the side of the road.

“Sure!” she said angrily. “You want to go back for him, you go back! Get out!”

Flanagan slipped out of the 4Runner and she floored it and tore away from him. He looked around a moment at the dark road and then started hoofing it back down 421 towards Deep Gap. She had managed to get them several miles away from the others before stopping, he wasn’t pleased to see.

* * *

Leslie Stanwick, aka “Blaze,” was a 16-year-old young skinny punk who lived with his divorced mother in a crappy little apartment in Deep Gap, North Carolina. There were four other apartments on the building behind a gravel parking lot. Their apartment was a two-bedroom and he had the bedroom in the front because it was bigger.

He was awoken in the middle of the night by what sounded like a car wreck. He looked at his clock and saw it was almost 3 a.m. It sounded like a car rolled over some ways away, probably on 421. He tried to get back to sleep without luck so he went to the tiny kitchen for a snack. A little Mountain Dew Code Red and some Twinkies would hit the spot. His mom was at work in Boone and wouldn’t be home until about 7 a.m.

* * *

Abraham Jandhyala was woken from his sleep by the blaring of a stereo in one of the nearby apartments. An emergency medical technician, Jandhyala was Indian, originally coming from India, but had lived in the states for some time. He was 32 years old and had a small, inexpensive apartment in Deep Gap, though he worked in Boone.

The music that woke him up was Nine Inch Nails. It sounded like it was coming from the apartment next door, where the Stanwicks lived. He guessed Blaze was up.

Nice, he thought. He’s always had the greatest taste in music.

He got up and got a drink of water. He also checked his beeper. He was not on call, it being one of his rare nights off, but he wanted to see what was going on and was surprised to see there were no pages whatsoever since about 11 p.m. That was unprecedented in his three years working as an EMT. There were always calls for ambulances in the night but there was absolutely nothing from Boone in the last four hours.

Nice, he thought. Seems like a pretty quiet night. Nothing wrong.

It was a little strange though. The last dispatch was at 11:04 p.m. on Tuesday, July 21, 2015.

That’s really odd, he thought. Oh well.

* * *

Blaze, enjoying his Twinkies and Code Red, heard a banging on the apartment door. He answered it and found Mr. Frisby there.

“S’up,” Blaze said.

Mr. Frisby was a fat, balding man with a messy mustache who reminded him of Carl from Aqua Team Hunger Force. He wore a wife beater t-shirt and striped boxer shorts. His face was very red. He always spoke with a lisp.

“Whataya?” he said, his southern accent making him almost impossible to understand. “Shut that shit up! What th’ hell’s wrong with you!?! Shut that shit up!”

He shoved Blaze aside and walked into the apartment, going to the stereo and bending over it, trying to figure out how to turn it off. Blaze picked up the baseball bat nearby.

“Get out of my house, man!” Blaze said. “Yo, get outta here!”

Mr. Frisby finally just pulled the plug out of the wall. The music stopped.

“This is my mom’s house!” Blaze said.

“If you turn this thing back on, I’m comin’ back here,” Mr. Frisby said. “With the po-leese!”

He stomped out, grabbing the door and slamming it shut behind him.

Jandhyala had opened his own front door and watched Mr. Frisby leave the apartment. The man walked by, nodding at him as he went.

“Hey,” Jandhyala said. “Mind not slamming the door at three in the morning?”

Mr. Frisby looked at him, open-mouthed.

“Yeah, sorry Jandhyala,” he said.

“No problem, dude,” Jandhyala said.

He walked back to his apartment, watching the man as he passed. Blaze had opened up apartment door again.

“Yeah!” he said.

“What an ass,” Jandhyala said to Blaze.

“You want some Twinkies, man?” Blaze asked.

“Dude! Yes!” Jandhyala said.

Blaze remembered the car accident that had woke him up.

“Hey, man, you go out to that car accident?” Blaze asked as they entered the apartment.

“Nah, today’s my day off,” Jandhyala said.

“Cool, man,” Blaze said.

He realized there could be dead bodies at the wreck.

“You wanna go check it out?” Blaze said. “There might be some cool dead bodies.”

“I guess,” Jandhyala replied.

“Blood and stuff.”

“I guess if there’s a wreck, we should at least check it out. Make sure everyone’s okay.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

Jandhyala went back to the apartment and got dressed, grabbing his pocket knife and a first-aid kit. The two then walked over to 421 and saw a few cars already at the site of the wreck, apparently. In the intersection of 421 and 221 was a large overturned SUV. Several people were clustered around it, just standing there. It looked like it had rolled over.

* * *

Flanagan reached the intersection of 421 and 221 as a couple of other people approached a wrecked SUV in the intersection he had not remembered being there when he had passed by the place over a half hour before. He realized the people wandering around it were more zombies.

He crept by the walking dead in the darkness but they all saw him and turned his way.

* * *

Blaze and Jandhyala saw the man walk towards the SUV and then try to creep around the people there. The people all started walking towards him. He ran at the two. The people from the car slowly walked their direction.

“Zombies!” Flanagan said. “Get away!”

“Wait what?” Blaze said.

“What?” Jandhyala said.

“They’re zombies!” Flanagan said.

“Dude, you trippin’,” Blaze said. “What chu talkin’ ‘bout?”

“Well, if you want to wait a second, you can see them up close,” Flanagan said. “And they’re gonna try to bite you.”

“Is everything okay over there?” Jandhyala asked. “I’ve got a med-kit.”

“They’re zombies,” Flanagan said again. “They’re done.”

“Wait,” Jandhyala said. “Okay …”

“The med-kit might be useful though,” Flanagan said.

The people continued to walk slowly towards them.

“So, we should probably get out of the street because there’s like five them coming at us,” he said.

“Is anyone in the car?” Jandhyala asked.

“They’re zombies!”

“Zombies aren’t real!”

“Yo, Abraham,” Blaze said. “Zombies?”

Flanagan backed away from the approaching crowd.

“Look at them!” he said. “They’re going slow and they’re not talking! What the **** are they if they’re not zombies!”

“Hey,” Jandhyala said to the people approaching. “What happened here?”

The one closest to him, still about 10 feet away, opened his mouth wide and moved at him. Jandhyala backed up.

“Shit, Abraham, man!” Blaze shrieked. “They are zombies!”

“They are zombies!” Flanagan echoed.

“Wait, something’s wrong with ‘em but─” Jandhyala said.

Blaze didn’t wait. He stepped forward and threatened the man in the front with his baseball bat. The man didn’t appear to really even notice but continued towards Jandhyala.

“He’s in shock!” Jandhyala said. “He’s not a zombie.”

It was still unnerving.

Blaze swung his baseball bat at the approaching man’s legs. He struck the man and something snapped in one of the legs as the man went down without a sound.

“Jesus, Blaze!” Jandhyala cried. “What the hell!?!”

“He was trying to bite you, dude!” Blaze said.

“He was just in a wreck!” Jandhyala said.

The fallen man reached forward and grabbed Blaze by the leg. Blaze brought the bat down on the man’s head as hard as he could. The man’s skull cracked and his head slammed against the concrete with a terrible sound. A little blood appeared on the man’s head, but he didn’t make a sound and didn’t slow down at all. Flanagan flung a knife at the man but it missed and flew into the darkness.

“What’s wrong with you people!?!” Jandhyala said. “Stop beating this guy! He just got in a car wreck!”

The man on the ground tried to bite Blaze on the leg but the youth shoved the Twinkie he’d been holding into his mouth. This seemed to confuse him only a little as he continued to try to bite the boy’s leg. Blaze beat on him with the baseball bat but it seemed ineffectual. Flanagan flung another knife at the man, hitting him in the foot, but not slowing him down.

“C’mon man!” Blaze yelled. “Do something!”

Jandhyala dropped his medical kit, grabbed Blaze under the arms, and pulled him away from the man.

“What are you ****ing doing, guy!?!” Flanagan yelled.

The man on the ground bit at Blaze’s jeans and tore them though he didn’t actually bite the youth. Blaze brought the baseball back down on the man’s arm and struck him in the elbow. There was another terrible snapping noise and the hand that held his leg let go with a jerk. The arms flipped around in a way it shouldn’t but the man continued to try to grab at the youth with his other hand.

Flanagan moved by the two and stabbed the man on the ground in the temple, slamming the blade in and then pulling it back out. Jandhyala got a weird, sick thrill when he saw the man’s head drop in obvious death. It felt so wrong. The rest of the group continued to walk towards them.

“Run!” Flanagan yelled. “Run!”

He ran, picking up the medical kit as he ran by. Blaze yelled at Jandhyala to get off him and broke free to run away as well. Jandhyala saw the other men were coming at him, all with mouths open.

“I’m gonna go with this guy,” Blaze yelled as he ran up 421 towards Boone.

Jandhyala noticed there wasn’t as much blood coming from the dead body on the ground as he expected. Then he turned and ran away. The other four men merely walked after them without ever increasing their speed. After the three got about fifty yards up the road, the four strange men stopped walking.

“What’s going on, man?” Blaze said to Flanagan.

“I feel like we need to check out that SUV,” he replied. “It’s wasn’t there when I passed by before.”

“First things first. What are these guys?”

“They’re zombies! I’ve said it, like, five times.”

“When did this happen!?!”

“Just recently.”

“All right, well …”

“Around 11 yesterday.”

There were still stars falling from the sky though they were mostly confined to the west.

“You wanna sneak around and check out that vehicle?” Blaze said.

“We should,” Flanagan replied.

They crept around the men who were wandering aimlessly on the highway and got back to the SUV which proved to be an older model Lincoln Navigator. There was some camping gear within as well as a lot of canned goods, bottles and large jugs of water, and even a fire axe and a mattock. Flanagan recognized the tools as those Floyd and Skadooter had been carrying.

“Do you have a car?” Flanagan asked Jandhyala.

“Yes,” the other man replied.

“I don’t have a car but I can drive,” Blaze said.

“Can you bring your car up here?” Flanagan asked.

“If these are zombies, shouldn’t we, like, take care of ‘em?” Jandhyala asked.

“I mean … they’re slow,” Flanagan said doubtfully. “There’s only four. We could.”

“Do you mean take care of them like bash their head in?” Blaze asked.

“I think that’s what he meant, yes,” Flanagan said. “Here’s your med-kit.”

He handed Jandhyala the medical kit he’d picked up.

“Oh thanks,” Jandhyala said.

“I thought you meant care for them,” Blaze said with a pout.

“We should practice taking these out,” Jandhyala said.

He looked at the road. The tire marks connected to the wreck seemed to indicate someone had tried to turn the car left onto 221 at too high a speed and it had rolled. There was a little blood in the vehicle as well. He pointed it out to the others. Flanagan asked if they were heading up 221 and Jandhyala said they were.

“So, are these zombies your friends?” Jandhyala asked.

“Nah!” Flanagan said. “No. None of them look familiar. We can go kill ‘em if you really want to. I need my knives back anyway.”

“We need to practice,” Jandhyala said.

Flanagan searched for the first knife he’d thrown and found it in the road. One of the zombies had wandered into the brush, leaving three in the road. Jandhyala retrieved the fire axe from the car and Flanagan pulled the mattock out. Jandhyala asked if hitting in the head killed them and Flanagan said that’s what it seemed like. Blaze noted he’d hit the man’s head and nothing had seemed to happen.

“Yeah, but this is an axe,” Jandhyala said.

“You gotta put nails in your bat,” Flanagan said. “You can kill, like, one or two but then we need to leave.”

“We need to practice,” Jandhyala said.

“You pussied out in the last fight, so …” Blaze said to Jandhyala.

“Damn, kid!” Flanagan said.

“C’mon Abe-man, let’s see what you’ve got,” Blaze said.

“You were just too quick to accept that they were zombies,” Jandhyala said.

“He was trying to bite me!”

“Or get your attention. Maybe he had a collapsed lung and couldn’t say anything.”

“What do you believe right now? Are they zombies or are they not zombies? Who was right?”

“Well … you were right.”

While they talked, Flanagan crept up behind one of the zombies. He tried to stab the thing in the head but the man lurched as he struck and the stiletto went into the thing’s neck, coming out of the other side. He pulled his knife out but the man didn’t fall.

“Cool!” Blaze said.

The zombie turned and opened its mouth, biting Flanagan in the shoulder and ripping out a chunk of flesh. He cried out. The other zombies obviously noticed the scuffle. Blaze ran from where he and Jandhyala had been talking. With a curse, Flanagan backed away and flung a knife at the zombie. He missed and the knife went into Blaze’s side just under his ribs.

“Whoa! What the hell?” Jandhyala said.

“You just had to practice, didn’t you!?!” Blaze yelled.

“Don’t blame me for this! Holy shit! Why’d you throw a knife?”

The zombie that had been watching Flanagan turned at the sound of Blaze’s voice and bit the youth in the face. Blaze screamed and fell to the ground. Two other zombies shambled towards the scuffle.

“Damn it!” Flanagan said.

He took out the .22 short automatic pistol from his pocket and opened fire on the zombies. The first bullet struck the zombie that had bit him in the back and it didn’t even flinch. The second bullet missed completely and the third bullet stuck that zombie in the head and the walking dead man went down and didn’t move again.

Jandhyala crept up behind the two zombies very quietly. One of them leaned down and ripped Blaze’s throat out. The other walked towards Flanagan. Then Blaze opened his eyes and climbed to his feet. He looked around and spotted Flanagan, then shuffled towards him. Flanagan pointed his gun at the little, undead punk, and pulled the trigger. There was a click and the gun jammed. He backed away with a curse.

Behind the other zombies, Jandhyala swung at one of the zombies but it lurched and he missed it completely.

Flanagan leapt forward and grabbed the knife out of the dead kid’s side, cursing at the child. He backed up. Jandhyala meanwhile swung again, this time so hard he flung the axe out of his hand and off to the left. The two zombies ahead of him stopped and turned, looking towards the sound. One walked towards the sound while the other looked towards Jandhyala. It didn’t seem to notice him and so followed the other zombie.

Blaze’s zombie suddenly ran at Flanagan, faster than any of the other zombies ever had, and tried to grab the man unsuccessfully. Flanagan stabbed the child in the left arm as it grabbed at him and he used it to try to hold off the youth. Jandhyala crept towards the two, picking up Blaze’s bat. Blaze grabbed at Flanagan, ripping his arm free of the knife by pushing forward and allowing the blade to simply tear up along the muscle. The child zombie managed to grab the man in a tight grip.

Flanagan stabbed wildly at the youth, cutting him in his already ragged throat. Jandhyala sneaked towards the fight, hoping the other zombies wouldn’t hear him. He crept up behind Blaze, who bit at Flanagan, tearing at his clothing without ripping through, yet, to the flesh. He stabbed at the kid again, cutting into his chest and not, seemingly, slowing him down at all. Then Jandhyala swung the baseball bat but it was only a glancing blow on the kid’s side.

Blaze bit at Flanagan but he squirmed and kept away from the teeth tearing at his clothing. He stabbed the kid again in the chest but it didn’t seem to help. Jandhyala brought the baseball bat down on the youth’s left shoulder but it was not a terribly effective blow and the zombie child didn’t seem to care. He bit at Flanagan again but the man squirmed away from the blow and stabbed the youth in the chest again.

Jandhyala struck the child another glancing blow and then Blaze finally bit the man he held in his death grip. Flanagan went limp. Upon seeing this, Jandhyala turned and fled back towards his apartment and his car. Behind him, Blaze ripped out Flanagan’s throat. Jandhyala glanced back and saw a second silhouette stand up from the fight.

Jandhyala had a 2001 Audi A3 two-door hatchback. He tossed the bloody baseball back into the passenger seat and was happy to see the tank was about three-quarters full. He decided to head up 221 in pursuit of the people the man on the road had mentioned. Every once in a while, he passed people shambling on or by the road. There were lights at the 221 Grocery and some kind of weird plant by the building, not far from a man lying on the ground. Another man stood under the canopy, in the light, and started to stumble after him as he drove past. He increased his speed a little bit, continuing up the road.

He had not quite reached the area of West Jefferson when he saw taillights ahead.

* * *

Floyd Wayne was driving more carefully down 221 since he, Jaiqwan Jayshawn Skadooter, and Dani Bateman had stolen the 2013 Jeep Wrangler from the 221 Grocery and fled the zombie and triffid there. He didn’t want another car accident. Skadooter had traded seats with Miss Bateman, putting him in the passenger seat and her in the back. He rode with the hunting crossbow on his lap. Wayne’s crossbow was in the back seat with Miss Bateman. They were heading for West Jefferson as Wayne had mentioned the Wal-Mart there and they hoped to get some better weapons and more supplies.

They had almost reached the area of West Jefferson and he thought he could see the lights of the town ahead when he saw headlights in the rearview mirror.

Oh shit, he thought.

The vehicle continued to gain on them as they continued on up the road. Soon, it was about 100 yards behind.

“Stop!” Skadooter said, looking at the rearview mirror on his side of the Jeep. “Stop the car! Stop the car. That’s gotta be humans, right?”

“I mean, yeah, that makes sense, but … do you really wanna stop?” Wayne said. “We don’t know what’s around here. I say we just … we’ll just keep going slow and they’ll eventually catch up with us.”

“That’s a good idea,” Miss Bateman said.

The car behind them flicked its high beams on and off.

“He needs help,” Skadooter said. “Actually, don’t stop. That guy’s drunk as ****!”

The car behind started honking its horn. It had pulled up close behind them. Wayne turned the hazards on and off and the car behind them did as well. Wayne cautiously came to a stop, looking around them carefully. Skadooter got out, crossbow in hand, pointing it at the car behind them, which had stopped about 50 feet back.

* * *

After the car ahead of him stopped, Abraham Jandhyala had pulled over. He was surprised and a little disturbed to see a solid-looking black man get out of the vehicle with a large crossbow with a telescopic sight on it. The man was decked out in camouflage clothing with a camouflage bandanna over his head. He pointed the crossbow at his car and yelled something unintelligible to him. Someone else called from the other vehicle but he couldn’t make out the words.

* * *

“Doot doot!” Skadooter yelled at the other car.

He walked quickly to the front of the vehicle.

“Careful Dooter!” Wayne called.

When Skadooter reached the car, it changed gears and backed away from him very slowly. He sat the crossbow on the ground and held up his hands.

“Friendly!” he said. “Doot doot!”

The car stopped and gears shifted. Skadooter walked over to the driver’s side and the windows rolled down to reveal an Indian man. He reached his hand into the window.

“What’s up, man?” he said.

“Hey,” Jandhyala replied, shaking hands with the man.

“How ya doin’?”

“Uh, not too great.”

“Not too great?”

“Ah … just … just two people died right in front of me.”

The Indian man looked a little nervous. Skadooter saw a bloody baseball bat in the passenger seat of the car.

“Dude, that sucks, man,” he said. “I’ve seen people die too. It’s not good.”

“Yeah, what’s going on?” Jandhyala asked.

“It’s hell out here.”

“Yeah. Where are you guys heading?”

“I … I got this guy with me. His name’s … uh … Floyd Wayne. He just … he said ‘Go to West Jefferson.’ I’m just doin’ it, man. Boone’s a shit town, dude; I’m outta there.”

“Okay, where in West Jefferson where you guys headed?”

“I don’t know, man. You can ask Floyd. You wanna come sit with us in the Jeep?”

Floyd got out of the Jeep, pulling out his crossbow and holding it in one hand. He stood by the door.

“Do you know who I am?” Skadooter asked. “It’s me, man. Jaiqwan Jayshawn Skadooter, man!”

“Oh, the football player,” Jandhyala said.

“Yeah! We won the championship! ASU! ASU!”

“Dooter! Shut the **** up!” Wayne called to him angrily.

“Ah, sorry Floyd,” Skadooter said. “Sorry. I just get hyped. I get hyped, man. Sorry.”

Wayne shook his head and put his left wrist to his forehead. Jandhyala saw that the man was missing his left hand.

“Does he need help?” he asked Skadooter.

“No, he’s fine, man!” Skadooter said.

“Are you sure?”

“Dude, Floyd’s a boss, dude. Don’t worry about it. You wanna get out of the car and talk to us though? It’s kind of weird talking through a windshield.”

“I should probably check out that wound.”

“What? What, are you like a doctor or some shit?”

“I’m an EMT.”

“Dude! We don’t have a doctor! Help us out, man!”

Skadooter pulled on the door handle but found it locked.

“Dude, come help Floyd, man,” he said. “What the ****?”

“Totally,” Jandhyala said.

He grabbed his medical kit out of the back seat and climbed out of the car, going to Wayne.

“Hey, that hand looks like it’s been messed up,” he said to the man.

“It is,” Wayne said. “Where you coming from?”

“I’m coming from Deep Gap. That area. The intersection of 221 and 421.”

“All right. We had a pretty nasty spill out there.”

“Yeah, we came across an overturned vehicle and there were, like, four zombies out there and two of the people I was with kind of like … died. We tried to take them on.”

“Yeah, so did I. And you can see what happened.”

“Dude, if you stay drunk or high, they don’t come for you as often,” Skadooter said.

He’d retrieved his crossbow and walked back over.

“It’s kind of weird,” he said.

They both looked at him.

“Is that so?” Jandhyala quietly asked Wayne.

The other man just shook his head.

“I … I don’t know what he’s thinking,” he said.

“Anyway, I’m an EMT,” Jandhyala said. “I can take a look at your hand and see if it’s dressed, at least, properly, and can clean up the wound.”

“That’d be nice,” Wayne said.

He looked around first but their part of the road was completely empty. Then Jandhyala examined the wound. It was pretty bad. When he released the tourniquet, blood began to ooze from the man’s wrist. His hand was completely gone. He smelled alcohol and antiseptic on the wound and noticed burn marks around the edge of the ragged wound. He replaced the tourniquet and redressed the wound as best he could. It was really a bad wound and he knew it would have to be watched carefully as gangrene was a real threat. The man needed to get to a hospital.

“Were you bit?” Jandhyala asked him.

“I was,” Wayne said.

“That like … turns people into zombies.”

“Well, here’s the thing. I was bit and then … um … pretty immediately afterwards, some ******* shot my arm off. Um … I been okay since then.”

“Oh.”

“Maybe we should … uh …”

“Well, how far is the nearest hospital?” Miss Bateman asked.

“It’s not far,” Wayne said.

“Do we want to go there? I feel like we should anyway to get materials.”

“It’s about 10 minutes from where we’re at,” Skadooter said in a brief moment of clarity. “I think.”

“Does this need medical attention or can we just pick stuff up at a CVS?” Wayne asked Jandhyala.

“We probably need medical attention ‘cause … I mean … you’ve got …” Jandhyala said.

Wayne sighed.

“Shit,” he said.

“… your arm is, like, open,” Jandhyala said.

“So, you can’t use, like, needles and dental floss to sew it shut?” Wayne said.

“Probably not. You don’t have enough extra skin to pull over the wounds, so we’d have to graft some.”

“You got some ‘roids on you?” Skadooter suddenly said. “Coach just used to give us ‘roids to get rid of everything!”

“That won’t work,” Jandhyala said.

“Yeah,” Miss Bateman said.

“Well, we tried a hospital in Boone and it was … busy,” Wayne said.

“Yeah, I would imagine it would be busy at this time,” Jandhyala said.

“Like bad busy,” Skadooter said. “Like zombie busy.”

“Oh,” Jandhyala said.

“The hospital we’re going to is in West Jefferson, you said?” Miss Bateman asked.

“Yeah,” Wayne said. “Less people.”

“Maybe that one’s not as bad,” she said. “Maybe we should try it, at least. I mean, we could pull up and see how it looks, at least.”

Jandhyala knew Ashe Memorial Hospital was in Jefferson. He’d transported people there.

“What about a vet?” he suggested.

“Wayne’s not an animal, man!” Skadooter said.

“There’d be even less people,” Wayne said.

“They still carry basic medical supplies,” Jandhyala said.

Wayne said he knew of two in the area of Jefferson. They discussed going to one of them for medical supplies.

“Listen, I hate to be that guy,” Skadooter said. “But can animals be zombies? Because I don’t want to deal with no zombie dogs, man. I don’t want to deal with that!”

“We haven’t seen any yet,” Wayne said.

“I’ve only seen human zombies,” Jandhyala said.

“Well, I ain’t seen a four-legged man but I’m still keeping my hopes up,” Skadooter said.

“Tell him no,” Wayne whispered to Jandhyala. “Just tell him no. Lie, I don’t care. We need to go somewhere.”

“Are you gonna follow us or are you gonna get in our car, man?” Skadooter asked Jandhyala.

“I think two cars is better than one,” Jandhyala said.

“That is true,” Miss Bateman said. “Just in case one gets messed up.”

“Two is more than one,” Skadooter said. “Math taught me that.”

“Yeah, totally it is,” Jandhyala said.

“So, instead of the hospital, we’re going to go to a vet,” Wayne said. “There’s one down the hill from the hospital.”

“I wanna ride with the new guy!” Skadooter said as Miss Bateman started to climb out of the car.

She was ready to not be riding with Skadooter anymore.

“New guy!” Skadooter said, raising his crossbow over his head like a Tusken Raider. “New guy!”

Jandhyala walked back to the car as Miss Bateman also headed back that way. When Skadooter saw her, he ran over to her.

“Yo, you be with Floyd!” he said to her.

“I’m leaving!” Wayne said.

He got in the Jeep and started it. Skadooter was only torn for a moment before he ran to the Jeep Wrangler. Miss Bateman climbed into the Audi with Jandhyala. The little caravan headed up the road.

As they approached West Jefferson and passed through the intersection at 163, they could see the entire area was dark. Light still came from somewhere ahead down 221, however, so they continued. Lowes, on their right, was also dark, but the light became brighter ahead and when they could see Wal-Mart and its parking lot, they saw the light. They also saw a good-sized group of people.

A lot of vehicles appeared to have been pulled into the parking lot and their lights left on, as the lights in the parking lot were dark. The noise of engines rumbled in the area and an air ambulance helicopter sat on the edge of the parking lot next to a good sized tent. Wayne had slowed and they could see more tents pitched in the parking lot as well as several bulky generators, all apparently running. It looked like a couple hundred people were out in the parking lot. Skadooter pointed out the generators and Wayne nodded.

It was dark everywhere else.

“Wayne, I never asked you, should I stay in the car?” Skadooter suddenly asked. “I know this is the south.”

“Nah, man, you’ll be okay,” Wayne said

“I’m in the camo. They’ll think I’m one of them, huh?”

“Yeah, you’ll fit in, man.”

Wayne was unsure what to do. He slowed as they drove down 221 and came to a stop, motioning with his nub. Jandhyala pulled up beside him and Miss Bateman rolled down the window.

“Should we go over there?” he asked.

“They’ve got an emergency helicopter,” Jandhyala said. “It may be able to fly you somewhere where you can get some help, or they might have some materials at the camp to work on it.”

“There’s a lot of people over there.”

Jandhyala noted there would be a pilot and co-pilot as well as at least a flight nurse from the helicopter.

“Well, we may as well go check it out,” Wayne said.

“Yeah, better to be around living people than …” Jandhyala said.

“Not,” Wayne finished.

“You guys want some weed?” Skadooter asked.

“Okay, let’s head that way, then,” Wayne said, ignoring him.

He drove the Jeep down 221 and pulled onto Campus Drive and then turned on 1149, the road connected to Wal-Mart. When they got closer, they could see cots were set out in the open in the few spots and several of the people carried hunting rifles or shotguns. Some folks were dressed in their nightclothes while others were fully dressed and some were even outfitted in camouflage clothing and hunting gear. A Jefferson police car and a West Jefferson police car were amidst the other vehicles in the parking lot as well, and they could see a couple men in uniform in the crowd. Leaning against the helicopter was a man in a flight suit, smoking a cigarette.

It seemed loud in the parking lot compared to everywhere else they’d been that night. The generators and car motors set up a low vibration in the air. Most of the cars with their lights on were pointed inward and the whole place had the look of a refugee camp. Wayne parked the car on the edge of the parking lot and Jandhyala pulled in a little behind and beside him.

“Let me handle this,” Skadooter said.

He climbed out of the Jeep, leaving his crossbow on the seat, and looked around.

“Doot doot!” he called out.

A few people nearby looked his way and some of them replied in kind. One man had an ASU jersey on and Skadooter jogged over to the middle aged white man with messy hair.

“Yer that … yer that guy,” the man’s southern accent was thick and came right through his nose.

“Skadooter!” Skadooter said.

“Dooter! You did that thing. Like, good. What they call that. Good thing.”

“Running back!”

“That’s it! You do it so well. You won the Championship.”

“I won it.”

“You got that touchdown.”

“I did.”

“I never went to college myself.”

“You don’t need to go so college! It’s overrated, man! I made D’s the whole way!”

“The power went out,” the man told Skadooter.

“In Ashe County?” Skadooter asked.

“I … I dunno. It went out in my house.”

“Where you at?”

The man pointed to the east.

“Ah, okay,” Skadooter said like he knew where the man was talking about.

The man told him the power had gone out and the phone was out too, and they couldn’t get through to call anyone to fix it as their cell phones had no signal. They decided to wait until morning but then noticed people in the yard. The people started to try to get in their house, which was strange because the people weren’t really violent, or didn’t seem to be, but acted like they were bored.

“I hate those kind of people, man,” Skadooter said.

“So we got in the car and left,” the man said. “And we saw the lights here and … I guess the lights are out in West Jefferson and Jefferson, so people are settin’ up here. That helicopter was here when we got here. I don’t know what they’re doin’ here. But there’s some hurt people and they set up a triage or whatever they call it. I watch M.A.S.H. I like M.A.S.H.”

“M.A.S.H. is a good show.”

“Anyway, from what I gathered, this happened to a lot of people east of Jefferson so they came to West Jefferson. The power’s out, nobody can get hold of anyone on their phones, and people showed up, so we’re all gatherin’ here ‘til someone comes.”

“How many guns you guys got?” Skadooter asked as he lit up a blunt.

“I don’t got any,” the man replied. “You got some? I like guns.”

“I got a crossbow in the Jeep.”

“That ain’t loud enough. I like loud things.”

Skadooter went to the Jeep to get his crossbow to impress his new friend.

* * *

Wayne got out of the car.

“I guess I’m going to handle this,” he said.

He headed for the air ambulance and was followed by Miss Bateman and Jandhyala. They passed the large camping tent next to the helicopter and could see several cots had been set up inside. There were at least a dozen people in the cots, most of them covered by blankets or fleece throws. A lady was in the tent wearing nurse’s scrubs and an old man in a somewhat out of date suit were there, the two of them tending to injured people. A pair of air ambulance coveralls was discarded on the floor near the entrance.

They walked over to the pilot.

“Do you know what’s going on here?” Wayne asked him. “Do you understand the severity of the situation we’re in?”

“Uh … no,” the pilot said. “No. We had put down here because we had trouble with the radio and all those meteor were coming down. So we had to put down in order to … we didn’t want to get hit.”

“So, you’re not here for rescue, you’re just down because you happened to be in the air?”

“Yeah. We put it down. It looks like it’s clearing up. We were going to head out and then all these people started showing up. Some of ‘em had some people who had gotten hurt, so … Miss Christian over there, she said we should get a triage set up and see who we could handle. What’s going on? The power’s out everywhere in this area. We weren’t even able to get through to Boone or any of the other hospitals on the radio.”

Wayne told him some kind of mass hysteria had struck the area. People were rioting and weren’t acting right. He decided not to mention zombies for fear of not being believed. He pointed out the missing hand.

“They did this to me,” he said.

“You need to get into the triage tent,” the pilot said. “Get Miss Christian to look at you. She’s only a nurse, she’s a flight nurse, but she can help you out. Looks like someone’s done a pretty good job there, though.”

He noted they were going to get out of there pretty soon. Wayne looked at Jandhyala.

“Let’s go check out the first aid tent,” he said. “See if they know what’s going on.”

The three headed over to the tent.

* * *

Courtney Dean was an average-looking but very tiny, energetic, and somewhat dumb cheerleader and junior at Appalachian State University. She had been in West Jefferson visiting her boyfriend, but when several people showed up in the yard, he sent her away while he dealt with it. She hadn’t seen him since, but had found the lit area at Wal-Mart and had been there ever since.

When she saw Skadooter, he was posing for pictures some other man was taking using a cell phone.

“Boop boop!” she said, getting his catchphrase wrong. “Hi!”

She walked over and got into the photo, doing duck face.

“Hey Jaiqwan Jayshawn Skadooter!” she said.

“You know my whole name?” he asked.

“Yeah, I do!”

“Have you got enough pictures?” the little man in the football jersey said.

“No!” Skadooter said.

“Hey, you wanna take pictures?” the man asked Courtney.

“I wanna be in the pictures!” she replied.

The older man sighed.

“Who are you?” Skadooter asked the girl.

“I’m a cheerleader for your team!” Courtney said.

“Are you one of them girls on the sideline?” he asked, finally recognizing her.

* * *

Mikil Wolfgang was originally from Germany. He’d immigrated to the United States many years before. He was 69 years old and a doctor and surgeon, having practiced in the area for years. He was semi-retired but still helped at the local hospitals. When his power had gone out he’d come into town to help. He ended up at a triage tent set up at Wal-Mart where several people had gathered.

He was working with Nurse Christian, who had come in the air ambulance and had been there when he had arrived. The people in the triage had all been attacked by other people and, strangely enough, all of them had been bitten and were showing signs of some kind of infection. There were about 20 injured people in each of the large tents set up in the parking lot.

* * *

Jandhyala approached the tent and looked around nervously.

“I think you should ask since you’re the EMT,” Wayne said.

“Hey,” Jandhyala said to the nurse as he entered. “What are most of these injuries from?”

“Some people are attackin’ people,” the nurse said in a heavy southern accent.

“How so?”

“They’re getting attacked! Who are you?”

“EMT.”

He pulled out his certification card, which seemed to impress the nurse.

“We can use some help,” she said to him.

“No thanks,” he replied.

“We got a lot of people hurt here. We need to actually transport them to Boone or up here to the hospital─”

“It’s my day off.”

“What?”

“What do you mean, it’s your day off!?!” Dr. Wolfgang said in a thick, German accent.

“I don’t work today,” Jandhyala said.

The two looked at him, aghast.

“Did you not take the Hippocratic oath?” Dr. Wolfgang said to him.

“Are any of you hurt?” Nurse Christian asked.

“No,” Jandhyala said.

“Then get out!” she said.

“Okay,” he replied.

“If you’re not going to help, I got no use for you!”

Jandhyala left the tent.

“What did she say?” Wayne asked.

“They’re all bitten,” Jandhyala said. “We should leave. Most of these people were bitten. I can tell just by glancing at them. They’re either unconscious or not feeling too well. I don’t have a good feeling and want to leave.”

“So, what are you thinking of doing?” Miss Bateman asked Wayne.

“All these people are here, being bit,” Wayne said. “I don’t like it.”

“I don’t either,” Jandhyala said.

“I say we get in our cars and we get out of here,” Wayne said.

“These people turn fast,” Jandhyala spoke from terrible experience.

* * *

“Y’all are bit!?!” Skadooter yelled, having overheard part of his companions’ conversation.

He pointed his crossbow at the people around him and backed away from them.

“Dooter, get in the car!” Wayne yelled.

The guy with Skadooter’s phone backed away and Skadooter reached for the phone. The man reached as well, trying to stay as far from him as possible. As soon as he handed it off, the man turned and walked quickly away.

“Y’all are bit?” Skadooter yelled again.

“Boy, you better settle down!” someone shouted at him.

“You bit?” Skadooter yelled.

“Dooter! Get in the car!” Wayne yelled again as he headed for the vehicles.

“You better settle down, boy,” another man, this one armed with a double-barrel shotgun, said to Skadooter.

“Don’t call me boy, boy,” Skadooter said.

“Listen, you little shit!” the old man said.

* * *

“God damn it,” Wayne muttered. He raised his voice: “Dooter!”

He ran over between Skadooter and the old man with the shotgun and physically pushed Skadooter towards the car.

“Can I go with y’all?” Courtney asked.

“C’mon!” Skadooter said to her.

* * *

In the triage tent, one of the more seriously ill people suddenly sat up and climbed out of his cot.

“Sir, sir, you need to get back in your bed,” Dr. Wolfgang said.

Nurse Christian went over to help and the man, who suddenly leaned forward, teeth bared, and ripped her throat out. Dr. Wolfgang screamed as the man attacked the man on the next cot, ripping out his throat as well.

“Security!” Dr. Wolfgang screamed.

The nurse was choking on her own blood on the ground while the man who had just been murdered also climbed up out of his cot. Dr. Wolfgang fled.

* * *

“There’s a helicopter comin’!” Skadooter said, pointing to the east.

They heard the sound of a helicopter in the distance and could see the flashing lights in the sky. Then the old man ran out of the triage tent.

“The patient is eating the other people!” he screamed.

“All right, we’re leaving,” Jandhyala said.

“Dooter, get in the car!” Wayne said.

Skadooter ran for the Jeep. Wayne and Courtney followed him while Jandhyala and Miss Bateman got into the little Audi. Dr. Wolfgang, seeing the people piling into vehicles, ran over to the Jeep with three people in it. The black man in the passenger seat had a large crossbow.

Several people had headed into the triage tent. A shotgun blast erupted from the tent and blew a hole in the back of it. Screams issued from the tent and from the people nearby. Some people ran towards the tent, mostly armed men and women, while others ran away. Several people suddenly came out of the darkness to the east; they looked very confused as they stumbled slowly, but with purpose, into the lights of the parking lot. A few other people ran into the light and fell upon those who were there.

The pilot climbed into the air ambulance and, moments later, the turbines began to whine loudly as the engine warmed up and the rotors started moving. More gunshots and screams issued from the triage tents. Someone stumbled out of the tent and attacked another person. An automobile on the other side of the parking roared into motion and crashed into a generator, knocking into a crowd of people and ripping it free of the lights it had been attached to, sending that part of the lot into darkness.

Skadooter pointed his crossbow at the Dr. Wolfgang’s face.

“Did you call me nigger?” he asked the man.

“Vhat does nigger mean!?!” Dr. Wolfgang said.

Jandhyala had put his car into reverse and backed up enough for Wayne to the get Jeep out.

“Dooter, not now!” Wayne said. “Get in the damned car!”

“Did you call me nigger?” Skadooter said to the man again.

“No!” Dr. Wolfgang yelled.

“I don’t think he did!” Courtney said from the back seat.

Dr. Wolfgang grabbed the door handle and jerked the door open. Skadooter laid the crossbow down between the seats.

“Doot doot?” he said.

“Doot doot?” Dr. Wolfgang said uncertainly.

“Get it!” Skadooter said with a smile. “Get in!”

He dragged the old man into the Jeep and shoved him towards the back seat. Then he pulled the door closed again. They heard what sounded like automatic weapons fire from the approaching helicopter, then saw someone fall out of it and disappeared into the darkness. It looked like an older model military Bell UH-1 Iroquois. The vehicle seemed to be flying a little more erratically and they could now see there was some smoke coming from it.

Wayne put the Jeep into gear and floored it, peeling out and trying to spin around so he could make a quick escape. Unfortunately, he spun out, coming around about 90 degrees, and the car stalled. He quickly started it again and then turned and drove out of the turmoil of the parking lot a little more carefully. As he drove away, he saw more people stumbled out of the triage tent slowly, their mouths open.

“What ze **** was zhat!?!” Dr. Wolfgang cried.

“My history class told me Hitler was bad,” Skadooter said to him, pointing his crossbow at him. “Are you Hitler’s son?”

“No!” Dr. Wolfgang said.

Wayne drove to Campus Drive, watching in his rear view mirrors. The helicopter continued to fly erratically until it struck Wal-Mart on the front top corner and broke up and exploded, burning aviation fuel spewing out and all over the front of the building and the nearby parking lot. He thought he saw the air ambulance get off the ground and head off to the east, several people hanging from it, and wasn’t sure if they were alive or dead. More gunfire erupted from the parking lot.

“Do you like football?” Skadooter asked Dr. Wolfgang, his crossbow still pointed at him.

“We really like football,” Courtney whispered to the old man.

“American football is best,” Dr. Wolfgang said.

Skadooter grinned, put his crossbow down, and high-fived the man who flinched away from him.

“I like you, French-German-whatever guy,” Skadooter said.

Wayne stopped where Campus Drive intersected U.S. 221, about 500 yards from the madness in the parking lot. He wanted to talk to someone about what to do next, but didn’t trust anyone in his car.

“Can we get some music going in here?” Courtney said, tapping Wayne on the shoulder.

He sighed and rolled his eyes.

“You could always pull over and sidebar with the other car,” she said.

“What?” Wayne said.

“See if they have any ideas about where to go.”

“What?”

“And they might have some snacks!”

Jandhyala stopped his car behind the jeep until Wayne stuck his head out and then pulled up beside them. Wayne appeared to be on the verge of tears.

“Doot doot!” Skadooter said.

“Where are we going?” Wayne asked.

“Vet?” Jandhyala said.

“All right, let’s go to the vet,” Wayne said.

They turned right on U.S. 221 and headed up a little ways until they reached Mt. Jefferson Road, then turned left and followed the road into the darkened Jefferson until they reached South Main Street. They turned right and followed the road up about a mile until they reached the Animal Hospital of Ashe, pulling into the parking lot on the south side of the building. Next to it was a building marked Tractor Supply Company. They didn’t see many people as they went, though they spotted a few people, sometimes, in the distance, down side streets. The only person they saw nearby was a man in front of the Tractor Supply Company who seemed confused and was walking in a circle. He didn’t even pay the cars any mind as they passed.

They pulled up in front of the vet and killed both of the engines.

“Are we going to see puppies!?!” Courtney asked brightly.

Skadooter gave her a look.

“We’re going to have to break into this place,” Wayne said as he got out of the jeep.

“Easy,” Jandhyala replied. “I’ve got a baseball bat. And there are windows.”

Miss Bateman handed the man the bloody baseball bat.

“I threw my axe on accident,” Jandhyala said as he took it. “I went to swing it and I swung too hard, expecting to hit something that I missed. It flew out of my hand.”

“Good job, bud,” Miss Bateman said. “Good job.”

“Yeah, I’m not used to swinging giant axes at people,” Jandhyala said.

“Soon, though,” Skadooter said. “Soon.”

Jandhyala talked about putting nails into his wooden bat. Wayne walked to the front door.

“You want to use my credit card to pick the lock?” Courtney asked.

“No, we’ve got a baseball bat,” Jandhyala said.

He walked up and looked around. The only person around was the man in front of Tractor Supply, who didn’t seem to be paying any attention to them. Jandhyala asked why they didn’t go to Tractor Supply and Wayne pointed out they could.

“So, doot doot,” Jandhyala said.

“What did you say to me?” Skadooter said.

“Doot doot.”

“You say the n-word?”

“Stand watch.”

“Did you say the n-word?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Okay.”

“But, you stand next to the cars with your crossbow and protect anybody from that guy or any other people who come by.”

“What guy?”

“The guy over at Tractor Supply.”

Jandhyala pointed at the man.

“Because that dude’s a zombie, but─” Jandhyala said.

“Clearly,” Skadooter said.

“Look, there’s somebody over there!” Courtney said loudly.

The man apparently heard her and started to shuffle their direction.

“Okay, line up a shot, somebody, and take this guy out,” Jandhyala said.

Skadooter put his crossbow to his shoulder, aimed through the site, and fired. He missed.

“Skadooter, you’re so fine,” Courtney chanted. “You can hit him any time!”

He started reloading his crossbow.

“Shit!” Wayne said.

“It’s going to take him an hour to get here!” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“There’s six of us,” Wayne said. “Let’s get rid of this guy.”

“From a distance,” Jandhyala said. “I’ve seen what they can do up close.”

Wayne took his own crossbow out of the car and took a shot at the man. His bolt also flew off into the darkness, missing. Skadooter’s next shot was accompanied by the snap of the bowstring as it broke.

“God damn it!” Skadooter yelled.

He flung the crossbow at the man but it fell far short. He looked at Wayne.

“Yours,” he said.

He held his hands like he was holding a crossbow. Wayne aimed and fired again, thinking he meant the zombie was his to kill. The bolt missed. Skadooter was a little upset as he had expected Wayne to give him the crossbow. Wayne reloaded and fired again but missed once more as the man slowly approached. On the next shot, his own bowstring broke. He cursed.

“Who’s got weapons here beside me?” Jandhyala asked.

“I have a butcher knife,” Miss Bateman said.

Skadooter drew the hunting knife he had gotten. He looked at everyone.

“Should I go get him?” he asked.

“No,” Jandhyala said.

“Should I go get him?”

“I don’t think anybody’s voting for that,” Miss Bateman said.

“Guys, maybe we should just to talk to him,” Courtney said.

She started walking towards the zombie.

“Courtney, no!” Skadooter said.

“Oh, okay,” she said.

Wayne was getting really angry. He glared at the zombie.

“Dooter, you have it,” Dr. Wolfgang said. “Go get him.”

“We are,” Skadooter said. “We are. We are.”

Courtney walked over to the front door of the veterinarian’s office. Dr. Wolfgang followed her. It had a large window in it but it was locked.

Miss Bateman said she thought the zombie might forget about them once they were out of sight in the building. Jandhyala said it was worth a try. He went over to the door and shattered the glass with his baseball bat. They discussed throwing something at the zombie to distract it. Courtney picked up several rocks from the parking lot and flung them in its direction, but it ignored them. It seemed focused on them and was getting closer.

Wayne climbed back into the Jeep.

“Get out of the way,” he said.

He backed up, turned the jeep around and then drove slowly at the zombie. He sped up a little bit as he approached the thing and then turned to hit it with the front corner of the car as he approached. The zombie went down under the car and he peeked out the driver’s side window. The zombie was under the tire, most of its chest crushed by the vehicle. Still, it struggled to get to Wayne though it was completely pinned. Wayne got out on the passenger side and walked back to the rest.

Jandhyala had finished clearing the broken glass out of the door. Skadooter ran over to him.

“What’d coach say?” he asked. “What’d coach say?”

“We’re going to the vet to get the guy some better medicine,” Jandhyala said.

“You follow me?”

“What? Why?”

“You follow me?”

“No, you follow me.”

“I follow you?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.”

Jandhyala climbed through the window and tried the light switch on the wall of the small foyer. Nothing happened. The inner door, also with a glass window, was unlocked and opened into a reception area and waiting room. They all crept into the place and searched as best they could in the dark.

Jandhyala, Wayne, and Dr. Wolfgang headed behind the reception desk where the drugs were apparently kept. They grabbed everything they could that might possibly be useful. Dr. Wolfgang asked about Wayne’s hand and he showed him the wound. Jandhyala also found the drugs used to put animals to sleep. He took some and found syringes to use with it.

Miss Bateman started to pull kibble and canned dog food off the shelves and pile them by the door. She figured they could eat it if they got desperate. She asked if there was anything else they could use. Wayne told her they’d go to Tractor Supply for other stuff. She noted there were probably snacks and such at the checkout there as well. Then she noticed a small rack of snacks on the counter right there. She grabbed them and stuffed them in her backpack.

Courtney found half a bottle of Captain Morgan’s Spiced rum in one of the desk drawers.

“I found the alcohol, guys!” she called happily.

She and Skadooter wandered into the back where the dogs and cats in various cages set up a racket. She continued looking for alcohol, as she’d been told, and he eyed the animals suspiciously, fearing zombie dogs. Then he started opening up the cages to let them all free. Courtney found a tiny three- or four-month-old German shepherd puppy female with the name “Killer” on the cage. She had stitches on her belly and was listed as being “neutered” with that day’s date for release. She released the puppy and kept it.

They left the vet and headed over for Tractor Supply. The zombie remained trapped under the Jeep tire as they broke into the place and started looting everything they could find. Wayne found buckets of long term emergency rations and started carting them out to the cars. Jandhyala found a machete and a bush axe, taking one of each. Several others took machetes too. Courtney found some pink camouflage clothing and put it on.

There was also camping gear, hunting supplies, game hoists and 24-mile walkie-talkies. There were plenty of tools like shovels, picks, and even mattocks, which Wayne was happy about. He replaced his lost mattock. There were a good deal of fishing supplies and they took them as well. Jandhyala got a lot of extra fishing line too. He also got long nails to put into his baseball bat when they had more time and a wood axe. Wayne got some small winches.

Courtney’s puppy ran all around the store, slipping on the smooth concrete and trying to love everyone. She made sure to get treats and a little squeaky toy.

Wayne made sure Courtney had practical clothes before they left. Everyone got some hiking boots that fit them as well. He also got several sleeping bags as well as hose to use for siphoning gas if they needed it.

It was dawn before they were finished and they saw a few vehicles moving along the street, as if people were going to work. Wayne wanted to get a trailer for the jeep but found it didn’t have a hitch so decided against it.

They discussed where to go and, after a short discussion, decided it was probably best to head for the coast via Interstate Route 40. Jandhyala pointed out zombies couldn’t swim and asked if they’d read the Zombie Survival Guide. Courtney was excited about going to the beach. In one of her moments of clarity, she also suggested they go where there would be less traffic. Miss Bateman thought they should head somewhere not as crowded, like Shallotte. Wayne was for going to the coast or heading north. In the end, they voted for heading down to Interstate 40 and the coast.

They headed out of the area in the two vehicles as the sun rose, the smoke from the burning Wal-Mart still thick in the sky behind them.

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