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Max_Writer

Basic Roleplaying System: Deadworld Session Six

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

(After playing the Basic Roleplaying System original setting “Deadworld” with Ashton LeBlanc, Collin Townsend, Katelyn Hogan, Hannah Gambino, and Kyle Matheson Saturday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.)

On July 1, 2015, six people answered an ad in the paper looking for volunteers for a month-long experiment at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. The work would pay $2,000 for the month’s work but those who volunteered would have to clear the entire month from July 1 to August 1.

Manuela “Manny” Rodriguez wore her black hair in a ponytail, usually with a baseball cap set backwards on her head. She was Hispanic and of average height, standing just under six feet tall. She wore a white tank top and a flannel shirt, primarily. She was a mechanic and strapped for cash but she bribed her boss with $100 to let her take the month off.

Jonathan Franks stood about 6’2” tall with sandy brown hair and was very good-looking. People often mistook him for a fashion model or thought that was what he should have done for a living. He told people he was a bank teller though in reality he was a conman. He needed the money and this sounded like an easy deal.

Elizabeth Tolini, as she called herself was Italian-American with dark brown hair, pulled up, and dark brown eyes. She was tan and obviously of Italian descent. She stood over six feet tall and was very leggy. Her actual name was Ella Auditore and she was an assassin. There was not much call for work in the last month so she decided to make an easy two grand.

The other three included Dan Adams, a plumber; Michael Curtis, who worked in a bank; and Dawn Henson, a housewife.

When they arrived, they learned it was a deprivation experiment. The scientists at Duke had set up a bomb shelter some 50 feet under the psychology classroom building of the university. The six subjects would be placed in the bunker with plenty of food, access to water, and books and video entertainment. However, they would have no contact with the outside world and would act as if they were survivors of a nuclear holocaust for the month.

The bunker was self-supporting with a generator, food, and water reserve to last a group of six people at least two months if necessary. It would be sealed from the outside world.

Every week or so, the scientists would contact them via intercom. In the meantime, they would be video and auditory recorded in order to gauge how people reacted to being literally in a bunker underground for that time. Additionally, there would be different difficulties placed upon them over the month to determine how average people would react to each other in such a situation.

All six of them signed the paperwork and were admitted into the bunker.

* * *

Over the course of the next few weeks, the six people dealt with each other in close quarters and amid the various tasks and tests the scientists set for them. One was a limited water supply for three days wherein the taps were only turned on for an hour a day. Other difficulties were set as they went. In one case, all power except for the air vents went out for two days.

They got to know each other fairly well. Dan Adams proved to be a creepy guy who hit on all three women in the place and grew depressed when he was rejected. Michael Curtis, when he learned Franks worked in a bank, pestered him incessantly about which bank he worked at. Dawn Henson talked about her children and her home life but treated the entire thing as a vacation.

Though the scientists told them they would contact them at least once a week, after the third week, the intercom remained silent. There was actually no contact after about the 22nd of July all the way until August 1. Miss Rodriguez assumed it was part of the experiment. Though the last week and a half of their time in the bunker was boring, it was pretty much a cakewalk.

* * *

Noon on August 1 rolled around but the hatch didn’t open as it was supposed to.

“What should we do?” Adams asked.

“Meh,” Miss Tolini said.

“What?”

“Meh.”

“Meh?”

“Meh.”

“I wanna get outta here!”

“Meh.”

“You know how long it’s been since … I need to get outta here!”

Miss Rodriguez continued reading the book she’d started the day before.

“Fine!” Adams said.

“I say wait a couple more hours and if they still haven’t contacted us, maybe try to get out somehow,” Franks said.

They waited a few more hours and, around 4 p.m., opened the sealed door, which they were surprised was not locked. An alarm went off and red lights flashed in the small room outside. They were surprised no one was in the outer area. The lights there were off but they knew an elevator stood on the opposite wall with a stairwell nearby.

Miss Rodriquez retrieved a flashlight, as did the others. Adams was ready to go.

“Gotta find my girlfriend!” he muttered. “I’m so ready. I’m so ready!”

“You’re so annoying,” Miss Tolini said.

“Whatever, I’m ready to go!”

“Then get out.”

“I’m going!”

Something about this doesn’t feel right, Franks thought.

Nothing happened when the elevator button was pressed so they went to the stairwell. It was just a shaft with a set of metal stairs made of metal mesh. It was about 50 feet up the shaft to the classroom building above. Miss Rodriquez assumed it was all part of the experiment and they made their way up, flashlights shining around as best they could. Adams led the way.

They reached the top without incident and opened the door into the darkened classroom building. They didn’t see anyone in the hallway and the classrooms seemed empty as well. Adams headed for the front door. Miss Rodriquez went to the hallway light switch. The clear plastic dome over it, to keep anyone from messing with the lights, had been smashed and pieces of jagged plastic lay on the floor under it. She tried the light switch there was no power.

Curtis and Mrs. Henson headed for the back door of the building, where they’d parked their cars. The others followed Adams towards the front of the building where the hallway opened into a foyer with windows. They saw about a dozen cars in the parking lot, one of them turned on its side.

“The ****?” Miss Tolini said.

A few bodies lay on the ground in the parking lot. Miss Tolini headed out the door to inspect one. Miss Rodriguez, watching out the window, was still convinced it was part of the experiment. She went to look for a circuit box. Adams walked towards his car, fiddling with his keys. Franks slipped into one of the classrooms to look for something to steal.

Miss Tolini reached a prone body on the ground lying face down on the asphalt. He stunk of a corpse and she grabbed him by the shoulder and flipped him over. He’d obviously been dead for a while, his throat torn out as if by an animal. The dead man’s eyes opened and he looked at her. Then he reached for her.

As Adams opened the door of his car, someone grabbed his foot from underneath.

“What the hell?” he cried. “Get out of there you son of a *****!”

He started kicking at the person under his car.

Miss Tolini ran from the walking corpse towards her own car.

* * *

Miss Rodriguez didn’t find a circuit breaker on the front hall of the building. She walked back to the front window of the building.

* * *

Franks searched a disheveled classroom but the only thing he found was a woman’s finger. He picked it up and looked at it. It stank and he quickly dropped it.

* * *

Miss Tolini opened the trunk of her car and took out a small dagger. The man stumbled to his feet and shambled towards her. Another body sat up and looked in her direction.

“Nah,” she said.

She tucked the dagger into her jacket and pulled out the crossbow.

Miss Rodriquez walked out of the front door of the building, still convinced it was all part of the experiment.

“Ha ha,” she said. “Very funny guys.”

They could hear a car engine somewhere in the distance.

* * *

Dani Bateman drove the white Jeep Wrangler carefully through Duke University Campus. She was Native American and very tall and slim. She had very long braided hair. She wore camouflage clothing and heavy, steel-toed boots. Jaiquan Jayshawn Skadooter rode beside her, crossbow in his lap. He was tall and solid, a black man with dreadlocks. He wore camouflage clothing, the shirt unbuttoned so the Appalachian State Football jersey was visible underneath it. He had a chinstrap beard and wore a camouflage bandanna on his head. He was also very high on cocaine, as usual. Miss Bateman’s own crossbow, loaded and ready, sat in the backseat.

It has been nearly two weeks since the terrible things happened in the Boone, North Carolina, area and they had been making their way towards the coast ever since, only getting to the area of Raleigh/Durham in that time. Between blocked roads, zombies, triffids, and people trying to stop them, it had taken them that long on Interstate 40 and back roads to get just that far.

They had seen some terrible things. In Winston-Salem, the Wells Fargo Bank building looked like it had gotten hit by one of the meteors, the top floors smashed and fallen. There had also obviously been many fires downtown. They barely made it through the city with their lives. Closer to the capital of the state, they’d passed a church with all the windows boarded up on a back road. Someone with a rifle was up in the steeple. He’d shot as them as they drove by. They had to deal with some feral animals. Skadooter had insisted on stopping at hospitals and police stations in search of drugs. He had gone through it quickly at first but started to space out his use of the drugs as his supply had dwindled. They didn’t see much in the way of zombies on the highway but occasionally spotted one of the strange plants.

He had also wanted to drive all the time.

“I wanna drive,” he said.

“Why don’t you let me do this one?” she’d replied.

“Why?”

“So you can focus on more important matters … like dealing out your cocaine and everything.”

“You smart!”

“Yeah.”

They had been traveling in a caravan with gravedigger Floyd Wayne riding them with. Driving the other car had been EMT Abraham Jandhyala, Dr. Mikīl Wolfgang, and ASU student Courtney Dean in Jandhyala’s 2001 Audi A-3 hatchback. However, they’d lost the other vehicle in some confusion in the Greensboro area several days before and hadn’t seen them since. Just two days after that, Floyd Wayne had told Miss Bateman he couldn’t take Skadooter anymore and said he’d find his own way to the Outer Banks, meeting them down the line somewhere. If they made it to the Outer Banks, he’d find them.

“I’ll meet you in Roanoke,” he said to her.

He was gone the next morning.

“Where’s Wayne?” Skadooter said.

“Um … he went out for a little bit,” Miss Bateman said. “He was just wanting to … you know … he was just wanting to enjoy the scenery. You know.”

“Cool. Let’s wait for him.”

“Well, we don’t have to do that because he’ll just catch up. He’s a pretty smart guy.”

“Wayne’s my bro.”

“What’s even cooler is when he gets to see you, it’ll be a bro reunion, man. It’ll be so fun. It’ll be better than now.”

“Where’s Wayne?”

“No, man. He just … I didn’t want to tell you. Do you know what he said?”

Skadooter looked at her.

“Do you want to know?” she said.

“I love gossip,” he said.

“Okay. He was … he was planning on surprising you. He was going to throw a party and get a bunch of shit together like a bunch of drugs. And you just made me ruin it!”

“Naw, that’s so good. I’m so glad you told me. I hate surprises.”

“Okay.”

“Low-key, I’m kind of scared of surprises.”

“What … okay, that’s cool. Now you know. So it won’t be a surprise so we can go have fun. So let’s go meet ‘em!”

“Yeah!”

“Yeah, Skadooter give me five!”

The man did so.

“Doot doot!” Skadooter said.

They went on their way, coming to Duke University that day. Campus was actually the best way to go through the area. As they passed through campus slowly, they spotted a woman in the trunk of her car who took out a large black crossbow. Nearby, a man seemed to struggle with someone on the ground. A couple of zombies shambled towards the woman. Miss Bateman noticed another woman was in the doorway of one of the classroom buildings.

“Dani!” Skadooter said. “Dani! I think that’s Wayne’s crossbow!”

“Maybe we shouldn’t get close to her because then she’ll get really mad,” Miss Bateman said. “She might want to shoot us.”

“I think she knows where Wayne is.”

“You think she’ll shoot us? ‘Cause I think she’ll shoot us.”

“Ain’t nobody shoot Skadooter. *****, I’m too fast.”

“Hey, Skadoots, there looks like there’s a zombie over there. You think we should get out and attack it or do you think we should just run over it or something?”

“Do you think it would hurt the car?”

“I think this car’s pretty strong.”

“Run that ***** over, then.”

“Okay. I’ll run the ***** over.”

* * *

One of what Miss Rodriguez thought were just more testers messing with them turned and walked towards her. Then a white Jeep Wrangler roared into the parking lot, just missing one of the zombies and curving towards the classroom building, stopping near her.

“I think you missed him,” Skadooter said Miss Bateman in the car.

“What are you doing!?!” Miss Rodriguez yelled at them.

“Should I bump the lock?” Skadooter said.

Miss Rodriguez ran to the car as it slowed.

“What are you doing!?!” she called again.

* * *

Franks heard the screech of tires from out front and so looked out the classroom window. He saw the white Jeep.

“Aw, that’s cute,” he muttered.

* * *

Miss Tolini pointed her crossbow at one of the zombies and let fly. The bolt went wide and struck a yellow car across the parking lot.

* * *

“Lock the doors,” Skadooter said, pressing the lock button.

He hit it wrong and accidently unlocked the doors.

“Skadooter, you know what you did?” Miss Bateman said.

“I’m savin’ our ass!” he replied.

Miss Bateman stopped the car and rolled down the window.

“What the hell you doin’?” Skadooter said.

“Hey, what’s going on?” she said to Miss Rodriquez.

“What’s going on!?!” the other woman replied. “Why’d you just tear into this parking lot?”

Franks appeared at the front door of the classroom building.

“Get in the car!” Miss Bateman said.

“You gonna talk to me about this?” Skadooter said.

Miss Rodriguez looked at the vehicle, trying to figure out how to get in and if she wanted to get in. Then she jogged towards her own car.

“It’s okay, I got my car!” she called.

Across the parking lot, Miss Tolini started to reload her crossbow.

“You wanna try and hit that person again?” Skadooter said to Miss Bateman. “And maybe not ***** out?”

“Hey Skadooter, why don’t you get out and go save her?” Miss Bateman said.

“Why don’t you let me drive?” he replied.

* * *

Franks surveyed the arguing couple in the Jeep, Miss Rodriguez running for her car and Miss Tolini working on reloading a crossbow.

* * *

Miss Rodriguez looked more closely at the man shambling towards her. He appeared to have a couple of bite wounds and smelled like road kill. She continued jogging towards her car.

Miss Tolini reloaded and backed away from the man walking towards her. He didn’t make any noise at all, just shambled towards her, looking at her with dead eyes.

* * *

“Why don’t you let me drive?” Skadooter said again.

“I think it’d be faster if you just got out─” Miss Bateman started to say.

Skadooter reached forward and turned up the radio. The only radio station they had been able to find was suddenly loud. It was someone talking as he described what he could see from wherever his transmitter was located, probably somewhere in Raleigh. The man was obviously not a professional radio announcer and it was very strange and somewhat creepy.

“Oh my God,” the voice said. “There’s a lady. I think she’s still alive! They’re getting her! Oh God!”

Miss Bateman turned the volume back down.

“I was listenin’ to that!” Skadooter said.

“Skadooter, if you want to help, get the **** out!” she said. “Ultimatum.”

* * *

Bored watching them play with what he thought were actors, Franks headed for another classroom, looking for valuables. He heard someone banging on something in one of the classrooms.

Sounds like that’s occupied, he thought. I guess I won’t go in that one, then.

He headed for another classroom. It was a science classroom with large, built-in lab tables on the sides and at the front, each with a sink. On the large one at the front, a man was tied down, rope binding him tightly by his wrists and ankles and holding him atop the table. Large nails had been driven into the sides of the table to secure the ropes. His chest and body cavity were opened up but the obviously dead man still struggled against the ropes that tied him down.

* * *

Miss Rodriguez continued to jog to her car.

Miss Tolini raised her crossbow and fired at the man coming at her, striking him in the left arm, the bolt entering inside his elbow. She heard a snap. She growled as it didn’t seem to even affect the man. He continued shambling towards her, coming at her and trying to bite her, his teeth snapping shut with a click. The man’s tongue was black and shriveled up and he stank like a week-dead corpse. He made no other noise at all.

* * *

“Fine, you want me to go help them, I will,” Skadooter said.

He pressed the button to unlock the door, locking it. He tried to open it but it wouldn’t open.

“I knew you didn’t want me to leave!” he said.

Miss Bateman unlocked the doors.

“Get the **** out, Skadooter!” she said.

“All right, but from here on out you don’t tell me how much cocaine I can take and I get to drive!” he said.

He climbed out of the car.

“I didn’t agree,” she muttered.

“Hey, watch this!” Skadooter said.

Outside the car, he tried a 360 no-scope, spinning part of the way around like a drunk ballerina and firing his crossbow. The bolt flew off the wrong direction entirely. He looked around confused, unsure exactly how he got out of the car.

“Doot doot!” he said like he’d done something.

In the car, Miss Bateman laughed, sighed, and then put the car in gear and drove towards Miss Rodriguez, coming up behind the zombie shambling after her. The thing didn’t pay much attention to the car and she bumped into it, knocking it over; it went down in front of the car. The back tire bumped over something and she heard a crunching noise. She continued over it and pulled up next to Miss Rodriguez.

* * *

Franks slowly approached the lab table and noticed several Exacto knives and surgical scalpels, all of them bloody, stuck into or laying on the table near the struggling man. Dissecting T-pins were stuck into the man, holding back sections of skin and muscle, leaving his chest and abdominal cavity open. Franks crept closer and the smell overwhelmed him; he turned and vomited onto the floor.

The man on the table looked at him with dead eyes, opening and closing his mouth as he bit in his general direction.

* * *

Miss Rodriguez looked back and saw the man the Jeep Wrangler had just run over. The man’s left arm was straight out and his left shoulder was crushed to a pulp. A tire track ran over his back. The man still trembled and shivered.

“What’s going on?” she asked the woman in the car.

Miss Bateman gave her a thumbs up. Miss Rodriguez backed towards her car.

Nearby, Miss Tolini turned and ran from the man shambling after her at a slow walk. The man Miss Bateman had just run over stumbled to his feet and looked in Miss Rodriguez’s direction.

* * *

Across the parking lot, Skadooter looked around. There were maybe a dozen cars scattered around the lot and he saw a man struggling with two zombies on the other side, screaming as they dragged him under the car.

He’s a goner, Skadooter thought.

He went to the nearest car and peeked in, hoping it was empty so he could loot it. A woman sat in the passenger seat, strapped in. As he walked away, he heard rattling coming from the car.

* * *

Miss Bateman, seeing the man stand up in the rear-view mirror, put the Jeep Wrangler in reverse and backed up, bumping into him again and knocking him down. He went under the Jeep and vanished. She backed up until she could see the man on the ground again. He was still moving.

Miss Rodriguez went to her car and opened up the trunk as Miss Tolini ran from the zombie that had been chasing her. The one Miss Bateman had run over twice stood back up.

* * *

Franks got closer to the man, pulling his shirt up over his face to try to cover up the terrible smell. There was not as much blood as he expected and he realized some of the man’s organs had been removed or at least moved around. It was the most grisly science experiment he’d ever seen and he suddenly had the dry heaves.

He picked up a few Exacto knives, tucking a couple away. The he looked at the moving corpse again. He poked the corpse in the hand with the blade but it didn’t react. There was not much blood either.

“Huh,” he said. “What the hell is this?”

He continued stabbing the man on up the arm. The man didn’t really react aside from trying to bite him.

* * *

Across the parking lot, Skadooter approached another car. He peeked inside and saw two children in the back seat, unmoving. One of the children was very small and in a car seat. He headed for the next car.

* * *

Miss Bateman, angry, put the Jeep back into gear. She pulled forward and curved the wheel to hit the zombie with one corner of the vehicle, knocking the man down again. She had angled the Jeep so the tire would definitely roll over the man’s body this time and heard a nasty crunching as she pulled forward, stopping the car when she thought sure it was in the right spot. She leaned out the open window and saw she had rolled the left front tire right up the man’s back about halfway. He struggled to move, his legs unmoving and his head bouncing up and down.

Nearby, Miss Rodriguez pulled a pump shotgun out of her trunk and started loading shells into it.

Miss Tolini ran past the Jeep and slowed to start loading another bolt into her crossbow. The zombie still on his feet shambled towards Miss Rodriguez.

* * *

Skadooter went to the next car and found it already broken into, the driver’s side window shattered. Lying on the passenger seat was a severed head. As the athlete looked in, the head, looking at him, started to open and close its mouth as if trying to bite at the man.

“Oh God damn!” he said.

His cocaine buzz was completely gone and he felt far too sober.

“****!” he said, stumbling away and towards the screaming of the man the two zombies had dragged under another car.

* * *

Miss Bateman took the Jeep out of gear, pulled the parking brake, leaving the vehicle running. She climbed out, walked over to the zombie, and stomped on its head. The skull was crushed as the bone shattered and brains and blood spewed out. Her boot was dirtied.

Miss Tolini walked up to the woman.

“Damn girl, you’re hardcore,” she said.

“Thanks,” Miss Bateman said.

Miss Tolini put her crossbow to her shoulder and aimed at the zombie shambling slowly in their direction.

“Do you want to get this next one?” Miss Bateman asked.

“Imma try,” Miss Tolini said.

* * *

Franks saw one lung was missing and part of the liver was gone from the corpse. The heart had also been removed from the body cavity and lay in the sink on the table, unmoving. He guessed the organs had been removed to see what would happen to the living corpse. Nothing had.

He took the Exacto knife, put it against the man’s temple, and shoved it in as hard as he could. The body jerked and then stopped moving.

“Huh,” he said. “I think I read that in a comic once.”

He looked for anything of value but the room was empty of anything except a sheaf of bloody notes that appeared to be the results of an “Experiment on the Animated Corpse.” The notes explained how certain organs were removed but the dead man would not die. It was noted there were no microscopes powerful enough to examine the blood.

One sheet noted everything had started on July 21, almost two weeks before. Apparently there were several thousand meteor strikes on the world which seemingly released something that killed people and then caused the bodies to rise from the dead. There was speculation an airborne pathogen was released but became a blood borne pathogen after the dead were animated. The dead seemed to spread the disease via bite.

* * *

Skadooter peeked into the next car and saw it was empty. He used the butt of his crossbow to smash out the driver’s side window. He reached in to unlock it but found it was already unlocked. He opened the driver’s side door. It was very hot in the auto and he started looking for anything of valuable.

The screaming had stopped from the car where the man had been dragged under.

Skadooter didn’t find anything of value in the car. There was a snow scraper and an umbrella. Nothing of value was in the glove compartment. He abandoned the vehicle and headed for the next car.

* * *

Miss Rodriguez moved behind the zombie heading towards the other two women but didn’t fire.

“Is there anybody else in the place or anything in the place that we could use?” Miss Bateman asked Miss Tolini.

“Well, there are, like, five other people around here someplace,” Miss Tolini, still aiming, said. “One I didn’t really care for, I think he got dragged under a car. I think he’s dead now.”

* * *

Franks listened and didn’t hear Dan screaming any more so decided to check and see how the others were doing. He went out into the hallway and heard somebody walking slowly down an adjoining hallway. He opted for the front door of the building, opposite the direction the footsteps came from.

* * *

As Miss Rodriguez loaded more shells into her shotgun, Miss Tolini shot the zombie that approached her right between the eyes. He was only a few feet away and knocked literally off his feet as he crashed backwards onto the concrete. They heard metal scraping against stone as the bolt had gone right through the walking dead man’s skull and stuck out the other side.

Miss Bateman clapped.

* * *

Across the parking lot, Skadooter found a car with a crossbow bolt sticking in the door.

“Who the hell would shoot a car?” he said, pulling out the black bolt and tucking it into his own quiver.

Then he focused his cocaine-hazed mind on the car and was suddenly upset. It was a yellow Porsche 918 Spyder in pristine condition. The little two-door was slung low to the ground, with a black spoiler on the back and a black roof. It was sleek and shiny and looked new. Aside from the hole in the door, it looked brand new.

“A wha …?” he muttered.

Being delicate, he tried the door handle and found the car unlocked. It smelled brand new on the inside.

“There’s gotta be drugs in here!” he said.

He did a little dance outside of the car.

“Oh yeah!” he said.

He didn’t notice the three dead men crawling out from under the car nearby with a large puddle of blood underneath it.

* * *

Both Miss Bateman and Miss Rodriguez noticed the two rotten men and the relatively fresh but probably dead man crawl out from under the car. Miss Rodriguez recognized one of the men as Dan Adams from the bunker experiment. He’d been bit in several places and looked about himself with dead eyes. Skadooter stood near the yellow sports car, stock still, staring at it.

Miss Bateman ran back to the Jeep and drove it over to Skadooter.

* * *

Franks was surprised at the carnage in the parking lot when he reached the front door of the classroom building. At least two men lay obviously dead on the ground and the two women he’d left the bunker with were both armed. There were also a couple of other people he recognized.

“Huh,” he said.

Then he noticed Dan Adams, apparently dead, with two other rotted men by one of the cars in the parking lot.

“Oh, that Dan prick died,” he said.

* * *

Miss Rodriguez walked towards the zombies, loading the last shell into her shotgun. Behind her, Miss Tolini pulled the crossbow bolt from the dead man’s arm and then put her foot on his skull and used both hands to rip the other bolt out. Blood and ichor splattered from the wound. She looked around and spotted Dan Adams and the other two zombies near a car across the lot.

Skadooter also noticed the nearby zombies, who walked slowly his way.

“Don’t let those zombies touch this car!” he said. “I’m gonna be lookin’ inside it for a bit.”

He climbed into the car, looking for anything he could find. He flipped the visor down and the keys fell into his lap. He did another little dance in the front seat.

Miss Bateman drove at the three zombies slowly and one was knocked to one side while the other two grabbed the front of the car and backed up, staying on their feet. She suddenly realized she had left the driver’s side window open.

At the classroom building, Franks headed towards the two women he knew. Miss Rodriguez ran towards the Jeep and the three zombies. Miss Tolini followed her towards the yellow Porsche to get her last crossbow bolt.

One of the zombies near the car moved to the open driver’s side window and leaned in, trying to bite Miss Bateman. She leaned back as the dead man’s teeth snapped together with a snap. One of his teeth cracked nastily.

“What the ****!?!” she cried out.

One of the rotten zombies was pawing at the passenger side window of the car, which Skadooter had left closed. The man who didn’t look like he was dead for long moved towards the Porsche, which suddenly came to life with a low roar. Inside, Skadooter felt himself getting very, very excited. The fuel gauge showed almost half a tank of gas. The man pawing at the passenger side window of the Jeep turned towards the Porsche as well.

Miss Bateman punched at the man in her window but only struck him a glancing blow in the face, which seemed almost loose on his head and squished nastily. Then she put the Jeep in reverse and backed away from the zombies, narrowly missing the Porsche.

Franks headed across the parking lot towards his own car. He was disappointed to see someone had broken the driver’s side window. He stopped and sighed.

“I’m the criminal and I get robbed,” he muttered to himself. “****!”

Miss Rodriguez continued walking towards the zombies, followed by Miss Tolini, whose crossbow was still unloaded. Then she noticed her third crossbow bolt was gone from the side of the Porsche.

“The ****?” she muttered.

The zombies shambled towards the two running vehicles.

Skadooter drove the Porsche past the zombies, curving around the parking lot to the two cars with open trunks nearby. One of the zombies stopped walking and just watched the yellow sports car as it moved. Miss Bateman put the Jeep in gear again and drove forward, aiming at two of the zombies and knocking both of them over, driving over each of them. She felt the jeep bounce over two things and heard crunching from below.

The others saw her run right over one of the men’s head with the front tire of the car, crushing the skull to pulp. The back tire went over the left foot and ankle of the other zombie, crushing it.

Rodriguez closed with the still-standing zombie and blasted away at it with her shotgun but missed.

“What the actual ****!?!” Skadooter said.

Miss Tolini stopped and started reloading her crossbow as the zombie with the shattered foot stood up.

Miss Bateman backed up again, trying to pin the two zombies behind her heading for the woman with the shotgun. She missed both of them, bumping them to one side as she went by them.

* * *

Skadooter searched the car for drugs but only found a nice pair of leather driving gloves in the glove compartment. He put them on. He found the switch to open the trunk, but when he pulled it, the hood of the car opened. Not knowing the engine in a Porsche was in the back, he was a little confused.

“Well, that’s weird,” he muttered. “Why did this open?”

He got out of the Porsche and looked under the hood but found the empty trunk.

“Where’s the motor?” he cried.

* * *

Franks went to the trunk of his car and opened it. He was pleasantly surprised to see the things there undisturbed. He took out the Glock 17 and pocketed it, as well as extra magazines. He also took out his baseball bat.

* * *

Across the parking lot, Miss Rodriguez shot the zombie with the shattered foot, blasting away his right thigh. The man fell to the ground, slamming his face into the pavement, and then crawled forward and bit her ankle. The other zombie turned towards the sound of the shotgun and started shambling her way. She screamed in pain.

“Oh no!” Miss Bateman said.

She grabbed the loaded crossbow from the back of the Jeep and climbed out. She fired at the zombie at the woman’s feet, missing completely. Miss Rodriguez then put the shotgun to the head of the man biting her and blasted it to pieces. Nearby, Miss Tolini aimed at the last zombie, Dan Adams, shambling across the parking lot towards Miss Rodriguez.

* * *

Franks, meanwhile, went across the parking lot to search cars. The first car looked like it had been vandalized. All of the windows were broken out, all of the tires were flat, and it had obviously been lit on fire.

* * *

The undead form of Dan Adams reached for Miss Rodriguez and tried to bite her, just missing as she stumbled backwards. With a roar, the Porsche turned and headed out of the parking lot.

“I’ll be back!” Skadooter called.

Then he was gone.

“Thanks,” Miss Bateman muttered. “That’ll help.”

She ran towards the last zombie as Miss Rodriguez put the shotgun into Dan Adams mouth and pulled the trigger, blowing his head off.

Miss Bateman looked around and saw no other zombies but realized the shotgun fire had probably attracted the attention of undead and any triffids in the area.

“Well,” Miss Tolini said.

“Who has a knife?” Miss Rodriguez said.

“I have a machete,” Miss Bateman said.

“Cut off my leg,” Miss Rodriguez said.

“How you gonna wrap that up?” Miss Tolini asked. “It’s gonna bleed out.”

They could see the nasty bite mark on the ankle.

“All right, let’s do it,” Miss Bateman said. “Would you rather live or a be a zombie?”

“We could put a peg on your leg,” Miss Tolini said. “Peg leg!”

“I can craft metal,” Miss Rodriquez said. “I could make a metal leg.”

“What do you want to do?” Miss Bateman asked.

“Cut my leg off,” Miss Rodriguez said.

“She gonna bleed out,” Miss Tolini said. “Ain’t nothing to stop it.”

Miss Bateman raised her machete over her head and brought it down on Miss Rodriguez’s leg. Unfortunately, the blade didn’t cut through the ankle as she intended, but struck her on the leg above it, cutting to the bone and then sliding down to the ankle, cutting skin, flesh, and muscle and leaving a large chunk of meat hanging there.

“I’m sorry!” Miss Bateman said. “I’m sorry.”

Miss Rodriguez screamed and passed out, blood gushing from the terrible wound. Miss Tolini quickly staunched the bleeding and bound up the cut. Then she bound up the bite wound though didn’t do a very good job on it. Miss Bateman cleaned up her shoddy job on the bite. Miss Rodriguez partially regained consciousness but was only semi-conscious, fading in and out. She was in terrible pain.

* * *

Franks found nothing of value in the other abandoned cars.

* * *

Miss Tolini noticed people were moving their direction though they were far off.

“**** that!” she said.

He grabbed Miss Rodriguez by the shoulders, dragging her towards the classroom building. Miss Bateman followed her.

“Hey, what are you doing?” she asked.

“That,” Miss Tolini said.

She pointed.

“That?” Miss Bateman said.

“That,” Miss Tolini said. “Way out there. That.”

“That?”

Miss Bateman finally saw the people walking towards them. They were pretty far off but seemed to be coming from every direction. She ran back to recover the shotgun.

“Do you really want to go inside or do you want to leave?” Miss Bateman asked. “Because we can get in my car. My car’s fine.”

“Take my car …” Miss Rodriguez muttered.

“But there’s probably medical supplies in there,” Miss Tolini said.

“But it’s also safer to get away,” Miss Bateman said.

“****, okay.”

Miss Tolini dragged Miss Rodriguez to the Jeep and they got her into the back seat. The people walking towards them were closer though still pretty far away. Miss Rodriguez wondered if they’d put her in an ambulance but was unsure where she was.

“I … want my car …” she muttered. “I … want my car …”

Miss Bateman got into the driver’s seat.

“Get in,” she told Miss Tolini.

The other woman ran back towards the classroom building.

“Pepperoni, get in the car!” Miss Bateman called after her.

“I’ll be back!” Miss Tolini called.

Franks followed her into the classroom building. Miss Tolini looked for some kind of map of the building and found a place where there might have been one once, but it had been ripped off the wall.

“**** me!” she said.

The sound of footsteps approached from the nearby corridor.

“**** it,” Miss Tolini said.

She turned and headed back out. Franks waited and she ran back.

“Hey you!” she said. “Come with us.”

She grabbed him by the arm but he resisted and she wasn’t able to easily move him.

“Fine, get ate,” she said. “Bye!”

She ran out of the building.

The person shambling down the corridor was a woman and he approached her slowly. She looked normal but looked at him with dazed eyes.

“Hello?” he said. “Are you okay?”

She didn’t respond but walked slowly towards him. He backed up when she got closer and he looked around for something to throw. There was a paper plate of stale cookies and he picked one up and chucked it at her. The cookie missed. He picked up the rest and flung the other four cookies, missing with all of them. The woman didn’t stop coming at him or say anything.

He swung with the baseball bat landing a glancing blow on her shoulder as she moved forward and tried to bite him, her jaws snapping shut close to him. He drew his pistol and stuck it in the woman’s face.

* * *

As Miss Tolini ran towards the Jeep, she heard a gunshot from within the building.

He’ll be fine, she thought.

“All right, are you ready to go?” Miss Bateman said as she reached the Jeep.

“Hmmm - one sec,” the other woman said.

She ran to her car and took out a leather rifle bag from the back, as well as another smaller leather bag.

“Okay,” she said as she climbed into the passenger seat with her gear.

Miss Bateman put the vehicle in gear.

“All right, we good to go?” she asked. “Let’s go.”

She drove away.

* * *

The woman had stumbled back and fallen to the ground after Franks had blasted her in the mouth with his Glock 17. He looked around and then headed back to the fake bunker for food and medical supplies. He heard a vehicle driving away from the building as he headed down the stairwell. He grabbed medical supplies and food and a few bottles of water as well, putting what he found in a couple of pillowcases and heading back to the surface.

As he exited the front of the classroom building, he heard a roar and a yellow Porsche driven by a black man in camouflage clothing pulled up out front. Loud music was playing on the CD player.

“Hey … what’s going on?” Skadooter said to the handsome man coming down the steps. “I’m back.”

“Not much,” Franks said.

“D’y’all handle them zombies?”

“Were you … huh.”

A lot of people were walking slowly towards them and starting to get closer.

“You need a ride or something?” Skadooter said.

“Yeah, man,” Franks replied.

“Let me show you something cool!”

“All right.”

The trunk on the front of the car popped open. Franks moved towards it as Skadooter got out of the car.

“Check this out!” Skadooter said. “No engine!”

“That’s … really cool, mean,” Franks said.

“Magic car! I bet this thing don’t even need gas.”

“I don’t know.”

Franks shoved the pillowcases into the trunk and closed it. Then he got into the car on the passenger side as Skadooter took the driver’s seat again. Skadooter had seen the others driving away but he said he’d come back so he had. He thought he knew where the others were.

* * *

It wasn’t long before Miss Bateman spotted the yellow Porsche pulling up behind them, the horn blaring. The car pulled around the left side and she saw Franks in the passenger seat, shaking his head. The passenger window rolled down and Skadooter leaned across Franks.

“Yo, we still goin’ to the beach!” he shouted.

Miss Bateman rolled down her window.

“Uh-huh!” she called.

“Spring break!” Skadooter yelled.

“Okay,” she called back. “Yeah.”

She rolled her window back up.

* * *

In the Porsche, Franks rolled his window up.

“Yo, what’s your name?” Skadooter asked.

“John,” Franks said.

“John. You ever do coke?”

“Nah, man.”

“All right. Good. More for me.”

“You sure you should be driving, man?”

“I’m good.”

Skadooter turned up the CD player.

* * *

They continued making their way east that afternoon, driving for about four hours. Franks and Miss Tolini both had trouble getting cell phone reception though the GPS in the cars seemed to work fine. Internet also proved to be very spotty.

In her vehicle, Miss Bateman turned on the radio with the lone man talking.

“I don’t know, I think they might have seen me,” the nameless man said. “I don’t know. They’re looking up. Oh God! One’s running! There’s a runner! Oh God! There’s a runner! Oh shit! Look at him go! Oh God! What the hell is that!?! Okay! I’m seeing something new! I’m seeing something new!”

The signal was started to break up.

“I think it’s … it’s … what the hell is that?” the voice said as Miss Bateman reached for the knob. “That ain’t human. That ain’t─”

The broadcast faded in a burst of static and she turned off the radio altogether.

“Somebody’s just wanting attention,” Miss Tolini said.

Miss Bateman looked for CDs in the car to play some music. She had found some en route.

* * *

They had to take several back roads to avoid car wrecks, places where vehicles were simply blocking the roadway, and, finally, a barricade crossing Interstate 40 with armed men atop it. They ended up on a back road somewhere south of Raleigh as it started to get dark. They had learned it was safer to travel during the day as the lights at night made them a bigger target, it seemed.

“Where’s my car?” Miss Rodriguez called. When no one answered, she asked again: “Guys, where’s my car?”

Miss Bateman and Miss Tolini were talking about how best to get to the coast and if they should stop for the night.

“Guys, where’s my car?” Miss Rodriguez said again.

“We’re in it,” Miss Tolini said.

Miss Rodriguez was very relieved.

“Thank God,” she said.

They discussed staying in their cars overnight but realized they would possibly have no warning before something broke in. There was also the potential of having a zombie wake up with them the next morning in the form of Miss Rodriguez thanks to her bite. They were unsure what would happen to the woman.

“What do you think the best course of action is this moment?” Miss Bateman asked Miss Tolini. “Because my intuition is saying we shouldn’t necessarily stop somewhere because that would leave us not being able to leave immediately.”

“Let’s knock on a door,” Miss Tolini said.

“Where?”

“I don’t know. If there’s a light on. If there’s no lights on, we probably shouldn’t. If there’s a light on, we should probably knock on the door. If there’s not, we should probably not trust it.”

“All right. Let’s do it.”

They started keeping an eye out for a light. When they saw one at a small farm off the road, they turned in. The light had come from between the two-story farmhouse and the barn and was moving. It looked like a lantern or flashlight. Then it was covered up and gone as they drove up the long dirt road that led to a circled driveway between the house, the unattached two-car garage, and the barn. There was also a chicken coop on one side and a few smaller sheds or outbuildings. Miss Bateman pulled up between the house and the barn, Skadooter pulling his Porsche up behind them.

“Hey!” Miss Tolini called.

There was no answer. Miss Tolini got out of the Jeep and looked around. It was very quiet and she noticed the windows of the house had been boarded up with large sheets of plywood. She went to the front door and knocked as Skadooter rolled down his windows.

“What the hell are we stopped for?” he called.

“Who is it?” the voice of an older woman asked from inside.

“Hi!” Miss Tolini said. “Hi … there’s five of us. Do you have a place for us to stay for the night?”

“You-you’ll have to ask my son.”

“Where’s he at right now?”

“He was going out to the barn but … he’s scared. Don’t threaten him.”

“I’m not going to─”

“He’s got a gun.”

“Oh.”

“He’s keeping them off us.”

“I saw a light in the field and it went out.”

“He wouldn’t go in the field. They’re out there in the woods.”

Miss Tolini looked to her right where the fields lay and could see the woods beyond the fields of wheat. The woods looked very thick.

“They come every night,” the old woman behind the door went on. “He’s-he’s … he went to the barn to check on the animals.”

“Okay,” Miss Tolini said. “We’ll go find him if that’s okay. Is there anything we should say so we don’t get shot?”

“Don’t-don’t threaten him. He’s really, really upset.”

“Excuse me!” Miss Bateman yelled from the car. “We are disciples from the Lord Jesus and we have come to spread the day of reckoning. If you’d let us in, we’d like to demonstrate what we can prove …”

Miss Tolini looked at her like she was crazy.

“Oh no!” the old woman from behind the door said. “More of ‘em!?!”

“What kind of God damned lies are you spreadin’ now!?!” Skadooter called from his Porsche.

“What do you mean ‘More of them?’” Miss Tolini asked at the door.

“Oh, they came through,” the old woman’s voice said. “They said ‘Find Jesus … or else.’”

“Or else what?”

“I don’t know. Simon shot at ‘em. He said ‘Get the **** off my property.’ He shot a few shots and they high-tailed it. They had guns. They were strange-looking folks. They were wearing all black. They said it was the day of reckoning and, if you weren’t a Christian, they were going to make sure you became one … or you were gonna die trying. They were scary folks.”

“Yeah … don’t listen to her.”

“Okay. As long as you’re not trying to hurt nobody.”

“We’re not. We’re just looking for a place to stay for the night.”

“Well go talk to Simon.”

“P.S. Do you make Salisbury steak or something?” Miss Bateman called. “‘Cause I’m hungry right now.”

“Hey, I don’t wanna do any more coke!” Skadooter yelled from the Porsche. “I need to go to bed soon!”

“Oh, is that a colored folk?” the old woman’s voice behind the door asked.

“How would you know?” Miss Tolini asked.

“‘Cause it’s in his voice. You can tell.”

“Uh … okay.”

“Okay.”

Miss Tolini walked back to the cars.

“We have to ask her son,” she said. “And I think he’s out here somewhere.”

She pointed at the large, red barn. It had big doors in the front and another door over the entrance to the hayloft above. All of the doors were closed. A corral was on one side but no animals were in it.

Skadooter got out of the car and stretched.

“Who the hell was you talking to?” he asked.

“Some old lady,” she said.

“Yeah, let’s get the hell outta here. I don’t trust this place.”

“They might give us a place to stay for the night. You wanna go to bed, don’t you?”

“I do wanna go to bed, but not in Redneckville North Carolina.”

“Redneckville … where is NOT Redneckville, North Carolina?” Miss Bateman asked.

“Listen, I didn’t have a lot of schools recruit me,” Skadooter said. “I had to pick the best one I could!”

“Uh-huh,” Miss Bateman said.

“I heard ASU was a bunch a druggies and I was like ‘All right.’”

“Oh my God.”

“Listen, if y’all wanna stay here, that’s fine. But me and John? We ain’t stayin’ here at Uncle Tom’s Cabin, all right? We’re gettin’ the **** outta here.”

“Good reference. Good reference. What is our decision?”

“I was going to go find that guy but she said he had a gun and he was scared so … maybe we should just leave,” Miss Tolini said.

“I don’t know,” Franks said. “I think I could talk to him─”

“Plus, zombies come every night. I don’t like that. Let’s go.”

“Let me go talk to him.”

“Are you telling me her son Bubba is out there in the dark with a ****ing gun?” Skadooter said.

“Yeah,” Miss Tolini said.

“Aw we definitely outta here now!” Skadooter said.

Franks got out of the Porsche.

“Let me go talk to him,” he said.

“Oh shit,” Miss Bateman said.

“I don’t like that,” Miss Tolini said.

But Franks was already on his way to the barn.

“John, get in the car!” Miss Bateman called. “John, don’t walk to the barn!”

As he approached the barn, Franks saw a rifle barrel stick out of the crack next to the door in the loft.

“Whoa,” Franks said.

“That’s far enough,” a man’s voice came from inside the barn.

“Okay.”

“What’s you folks want? You them Jesus folks come around here to torture us to Christ or some bullshit?”

“No, we’re just looking for a place to stay for the night. We don’t want to hurt anybody. We don’t want anybody to hurt us. We’re just trying to find someplace safe.”

“You-you got anything? Like anything to trade to stay?”

“Got a little bit of extra food we might be able to trade you.”

“You-you ain’t … there’s five of you?”

“Five of us.”

“There’s only two of us. But you try anything and I’ll fight. I’ll fight you.”

“Okay, I mean, we can … if you feel more comfortable, we can stay out in the barn while you’re in your house.”

“No. Stay there. Don’t move.”

The rifle barrel was withdrawn and a few moments later the lower barn door opened with a click. A skinny man of about 40 who hasn’t shaved or bathed in probably a week crept out. He held an over under rifle with a the small barrel on top, probably a .22, and a larger barrel on the bottom which was probably a 20 gauge shotgun. It was a hunting rifle and had a cheap plastic stock. He latched the door and then checked it, trying hard to get it open. It didn’t move though. Satisfied, he turned back to Franks and cradled the rifle in his arm. The two walked back to the cars.

The man looked at all of them suspiciously and then his eyes stopped on Skadooter.

“John?” the athlete said. “You and Forrest Gump having a good talk over there?”

“Huh,” Franks merely said.

“Name’s Simon,” the man said.

“Course it is,” Skadooter said.

“Wait a minute,” Simon said. “Ain’t you Skadooter?”

“Doot doot!”

“Omigod! I saw that game! I’m an ASU fan!”

“Aw hell yeah!”

“I can’t believe it’s Skadooter! Jayshawn Jaiquan Skadooter, right?”

“Jaiquan Jayshawn Skadooter.”

“Damn, I always get it backwards. They give me hell at the machine shop!”

“I forget sometimes too!”

“C’mon in! C’mon in! I gotta let grandma … I gotta let grandma … C’mon in!”

“That’s your grandma?” Miss Tolini said. “Okay.”

“I love my car!” Miss Rodriguez called from the Jeep as they walked away.

“We better get in the house before it gets dark ‘cause they come around,” Simon, not hearing it, said. “C’mon.”

“Okay, wait,” Miss Tolini said. “I’ve got to get this girl out of the car.”

“Oh. Oh my God.”

Simon helped her to get the woman, now gibbering in Spanish, from the vehicle and into the front door of the house, Simon bidding Granny to let them in. They heard something heavy move and, once they got in, found someone had built a makeshift bar to hold the door shut.

Simon told them they hadn’t had power for almost a week but they were making do. They noticed the kerosene lantern near the front door. He also told them they’d had some problems with some things in the woods that came out every night. When Miss Tolini asked if it was zombies, Simon shook his head.

“No,” he said. “They ain’t trouble. ‘Cause you can see them like a mile away and they just pop ‘em and they die. You shoot ‘em in the head and they go down. That’s what I found out.”

“Yeah, we found that out too,” Miss Tolini said.

“There’s some out there. But no, they ain’t out there no more because the other things took ‘em away.”

“What other things?”

“I don’t know. They’re these things. I ain’t seen ‘em up close. They only come out night and … I ain’t goin’ out there. They make this weird … yipping noise. Like …”

“What the ****?” Miss Bateman said.

“Like a dog?” Miss Tolini said.

“Like a what?” he said.

“Like a dog?” Miss Bateman said.

“No, more like a meeping,” he said.

“Like a fox,” Miss Tolini said.

“Kind of like a fox,” he said.

“So, it’s cute,” Miss Bateman said,.

“Oh, God no,” he said. “I don’t know what it is. I can’t see it. It’s dark out there.”

“Yeah.”

“But they been coming for the last three days and you won’t see ‘em, the dead people, out there, ‘cause they kind of come wanderin’ in every once in a while. And I shoot ‘em. But … but they’re gone now. All the bodies are gone. They just been lying out there, rottin’ after I shot ‘em in the head, but now they’re just gone. I don’t know what happened to ‘em.”

“Oh, hell yeah,” Skadooter said.

“Well …” Miss Tolini said.

“I say hell no,” Simon said.

“Hell no,” Miss Bateman said.

“Hell no, they’re dead,” Skadooter said.

“I’ve been wantin’ to get granny outta here but we only got the one car and I … I’m just worried about …” Simon went on. “What’s going on out there? The radio’s not working. TV ain’t working - or at least there’s nothin’ on. And there’s no power. And then there’s the … we got the - uh - we have the generator but weren’t not runnin’ it now ‘cause we ain’t got much gas left for it. And-and-and we got kerosene stove though, so we can still cook. Damned, I wish I’d a got one of them damned windmills. Anyway … but …”

He looked at all of them.

“So, I boarded up all the windows ‘cause we had some plywood but …” he went on. “They come around the house. But they’re comin’ closer every night. So … I’m worried about that.”

“What do you think they are?” Miss Bateman asked.

“I dunno. Ain’t never seen the like.”

“You have no idea?”

“No. They … I-I can’t see ‘em. It’s too dark.”

“I’m curious,” Miss Tolini said. “We should stay the night.”

“Oh … God,” Miss Bateman said. “Well I might as well stay with a group of people rather than go on myself, so I’ll stay with y’all. Let’s do it.”

“They been trying to get in the barn too,” Simon said. “That’s why I secured it real good at night, ‘cause─”

“Are there animals in the barn?”

“Yeah. Yeah yeah yeah. We got some chickens in the coop and I secured that too. It’s all boarded up. Although the dead people walkin’ around, they don’t seem to care about chickens and cows. We got some cows and some sheep and two horses.”

“Woo cows!” Miss Rodriguez called from the couch where they’d laid her.

“Yeah,” Simon said. “Okay. Is she okay?”

“Uh … no,” Miss Tolini said. “Um … we might need some rope for her and we need to cut off her leg.”

“What? Why?”

“She got bit. By the zombies. When you get bit, you turn into one.”

“You do!?!”

“Apparently. This one guy I saw, he got taken underneath this car and he got turned into one of them. So we need to tie her up for the night. See what happens.”

“We could lock her in the cellar.”

“Okay.”

“The only way out’s the ladder. Can they climb ladders?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen it. They walk real slow though.”

“Okay, we could tie her up in the cellar if you want. It’s just got a dirt floor but it’s secure.”

“Yeah.”

“And I boarded up all the windows too. I didn’t want something coming up out of there.”

“You got anything we could chop of her leg with?”

“Uh …”

“What the ****?” Skadooter said.

“There’s a wood axe,” Simon said.

“We never finished cutting off her leg,” Miss Bateman said to Skadooter.

“I got a … well, there’s no electricity,” Simon said. “‘Cause I got an electric saw but you can’t run that. I guess I could get the generator going.”

“My legs already cut off,” Miss Rodriguez called. “Don’t cut off my leg.”

“She thinks her leg got cut off,” Miss Tolini said.

“I got a bandsaw,” Simon said. “I got a skill saw. That would not be easy, but I got a circular saw.”

“Don’t cut off my leg!” Miss Rodriguez called again.

“We could use that,” Simon said.

“We could try the axe,” Miss Tolini said.

“Are you a doctor?”

“Um …”

“Are any of y’all doctors?”

“Are you adopted?” Miss Bateman asked him.

“Am I adopted?” he replied. “No. She seems distraught. No, but what I’m sayin’ is if you chop her leg off, she already looks terrible. Will she live?”

“We might as well just finish her off and heal her up,” Miss Bateman said. “She thinks it’s hilarious. Let’s just do it.”

“Okay, this is what happens,” Miss Tolini said. “Either we chop her leg off and she might survive or she might turn into a zombie anyway.”

“Y’all don’t ****ing know that!” Skadooter said.

“Don’t chop off my leg!” Miss Rodriguez cried.

“If you wanna do that, you can,” Simon said. “I’d rather you didn’t do it in the house.”

“Okay, where would you rather do it?” Miss Tolini said.

“Well I guess we could do it … it’s getting dark out … I don’t want to go outside. I’d do it in the barn, but …”

“Don’t chop off my leg!” Miss Rodriguez called again.

She was staring at a dead flatscreen television but, in her mind, the show she was watching was amazing.

“I mean, I can do my best trying to patch her after it’s done,” Miss Tolini said.

“Man, I love this show,” Miss Rodriguez called.

“She … she loves that show …” Simon said, confused.

“What show?” Miss Bateman asked, walking into the living room.

“That show, right there!” Miss Rodriguez said, pointing at the blank screen.

“I guess we could do it in the kitchen …?” Simon said. “Maybe the bathroom. We could do it in the bathtub.”

“How about your porch?” Miss Tolini said.

“Do you know what’s on TV right now?” Miss Rodriguez called.

“There’s gonna be a lot of blood,” Simon said. “Have you ever chopped somebody’s … what are you chopping off?”

“Just her ankle,” Miss Tolini said, reaching down. “Like, right here.”

“You ever done that before?” Simon said.

“No,” Miss Tolini said.

“Do you know what’s on TV right now?” Miss Rodriguez said.

“It’s … uh … McGyver,” Miss Bateman said.

“I’ve slaughtered some animals,” Simon said. “There’s gonna be a lot of blood.”

“McGyver’s my favorite!” Miss Rodriguez said. “Richard Dean Anderson is the best. Like …”

“McGyver’s a good show,” Miss Bateman said.

“If ya want …” Simon said.

“It’s a hard call,” Miss Tolini said.

“It’s up to you. It’s up to you. I’ll help if you want but … Jesus Christ. I don’t know no medicine. Nothing like that.”

“Got any painkillers?”

“Just aspirin.”

“Don’t chop off my leg!” Miss Rodriguez said again.

“We got Granny’s arthritis medicine,” Simon said. “That’s pretty strong, but … it’s pain medicine, that’s all I know. I got some marijuana.”

“What?” Skadooter, sitting in the dining room, suddenly said.

“I have a little marijuana,” Simon said. “I used to grow some out in the field amongst the crops.”

“Let’s smoke some.”

“Okay, we can smoke some if you want. I usually smoke in the morning.”

“I do too, but I smoke in the night and the evening and …”

“Well, I just don’t want to be … them things out there scare me. I’m afraid they’re gonna try to bust in the house.”

Simon turned to Miss Tolini.

“So, what do you want to do?” he asked.

“Don’t chop off my leg!” Miss Rodriguez said.

Miss Tolini looked at the woman.

“You know what?” she said. “Let’s just make this a little game. We’ll lock her up in the cellar and see what happens.”

“Okay,” Simon said. “We can lower her down there with a rope or something.”

“We’ll patch her up a little bit before we keep her down there for the night.”

They did so. Simon made a comfortable enough bed for the woman in the cold cellar and they lowered her down with some rope. Then got her comfortably enough in the bed and left a lantern with her. She stared at the flames. They closed the trapdoor and put a heavy piece of furniture on top of it.

The others ate a small meal of the food Franks had and some of the food in the house. It started raining.

Later that night, they heard strange noises from outside. Indicating that was “them,” Simon headed upstairs. He had set up a barricade at the top of the steps and moved it back into place once they were all up there. Granny went to her room. Miss Bateman picked a bedroom and fell into the bed, going to sleep almost instantly, exhausted. The rest of them looked out the back windows on the second floor.

They saw movement in the field amidst the trampled crops. At first they thought it was people, but they moved more like apes, sometimes going on all fours. They were hard to see. The light rain came down and it was overcast. They could also hear some kind of strange meeping noise.

“Oh my gosh, it’s Beaker,” Franks said.

“The ****?” Miss Tolini said.

“I dunno,” Simon said.

“Is that all you can ever see?” she said. “Just walking on all fours?”

“You got this place barred in,” Skadooter said. “We’re good for the night, right?”

“They ain’t never tried to get in the house before,” Simon said. “Hopefully they won’t tonight. They’ve been trying to get in the barn. You can see the claw marks.”

“Well, if they can’t get into your barn … I dunno,” she said.

“I don’t either,” Simon said.

“We’ll be all right.”

“I hope so. I ain’t got these upper windows sealed up. So …”

“Why not?” Skadooter said.

“Why not?” Miss Tolini echoed.

“I ain’t got enough plywood,” Simon said. “I had to do everything I could down below.”

“Shit.”

“That’s what I said.”

“Why the hell we ain’t in the cellar?”

“You got any bookshelves or anything we could put in front of ‘em?” Skadooter asked.

A few bookshelves and dressers and a china hutch were pushed up in front of some of the windows, but they weren’t really secured.

“Let’s just smoke and go to sleep,” Skadooter said.

Miss Tolini quickly looked for anything else to use but it looked like Simon had used everything. Even the mattresses for the beds were lying on the floors. He’d used the bed frames to help secure parts of the house.

“There’s one,” Simon said.

“Shoot it!” Skadooter said.

One of the things came out of the field and moved carefully towards the house.

“I don’t wanna waste the ammo,” Simon said. “Not unless I know it’s coming for me.”

Miss Tolini opened up her leather rifle case and pulled out a massive Accuracy International AW 7.62mm sniper rifle. She pulled up the window sash and leaned out the window, aiming the rifle out at the things in the field.

“Now what the hell you doin’ with a gun like that?” Skadooter asked.

“I hunt,” she lied.

“The hell you hunt? Elephants?”

“Naw, them …”

“Nothin’?”

“Nope. Never mind. It don’t matter.”

“‘Never mind. It don’t matter.’ You know, I tried to say that to a cop once? Almost got arrested?”

“Well, that’s─”

“Pulled up and smoke come out my car window. ‘Never mind. Don’t matter.’ Yeah. All right.”

“That sounds like a different problem, sir.”

“You gotta lotta secrets. I don’t like you.”

“I mean, when you got smoke coming out the car, that sounds different from me having a hunting gun.”

One of the things moved towards the house and, as there was no porch on the back, they had a pretty good view of the darkened field. It moved towards the back door where the stoop was and clambered directly towards the back door. She followed it with the site. When it was right below her, it looked directly up with green-glowing eyes.

Freaked out, Miss Tolini fired. The sound of the shot was unimaginably loud.

“Jesus Christ!” Simon yelled.

Miss Tolini had missed and the bullet struck the stoop by the back door, shattering the stone on one side of it.

She saw that the thing had a doglike snout. It leapt up towards the window, digging claws into the outside wall of the house and climbing up towards the window she was in.

“Get your gun ready, Cletus!” she said.

“You do hunt nothing!” Skadooter screamed. “You can’t hit for shit!”

“I wanna see you do something!”

“I’m gonna go hide in the other room!”

The thing pulled itself up over the door and towards the window.

“Yo, go downstairs and get me anything silver!” Miss Tolini yelled.

Franks had drawn his Glock 17 as the thing climbed up and into the window. Its silhouette had green glowing eyes and a stooped posture. The body, though roughly bipedal, had a forward sloping and vaguely canine cast. The texture of the skin was an unpleasant rubberiness. It gibbered and meeped as it tried to claw and bite Miss Tolini. The claw tore at her clothing but didn’t hurt her but it bit her on the shoulder and clamped on.

“Can you shoot if it’s that close!?!” Skadooter screamed.

Miss Tolini dropped the rifle and pulled the dagger out of her jacket. She slashed at the thing, cutting it terribly but not killing it.

“Somebody shoot this thing!” she screamed.

“What the hell do you do for a living!?!” Skadooter screamed.

Then he rushed forward and punched the thing in the side of the head, which knocked it loose of Miss Tolini. It fell backwards towards the window but Miss Tolini grabbed it and pulled it into the room, falling back with the thing on top of her.

“Whose team you on!?!” Skadooter yelled at her.

The thing was not moving and appeared to be unconscious.

“I meant to knock it out the window!” Skadooter said. “What the hell you doing?”

“I want to see what this thing is,” she replied. “Kill it.”

“Huh?”

“Kill it. I want to see it.”

“Well … well yeah, I was gonna kill it. It fell out the window! What you doin’ bringing it back in?”

“I got this.”

She stabbed the thing in the head.

“What the hell is it?” Simon asked.

“Well, it’s dead now for sure,” Skadooter said. “But that counts as my kill, by the way. I killed it.”

“Whatever,” she said. “I don’t care.”

More gibbering and meeping came from outside.

“Shut the window!” she said.

The stink of the terrible thing filled the room. It smelled like nothing so much as an open grave. Simon closed the window and stationed himself at it.

“What the ****?” Miss Tolini said, looking at the stinking thing.

“There’s more,” Simon muttered. “There’s more out there. I think there’s more out there.”

“Yeah, probably,” she said.

The thing was definitely dead and she wanted to drop it into the cellar to see, if Miss Rodriguez turned into a zombie, if she would eat it.

“There’s more out there,” Simon said as she dragged it out of the room. “They’re not coming to the house, I don’t think.”

Miss Tolini rolled the corpse of the horrible thing down the stairs and then left it there. She returned to the room.

“We’ll check on it later,” she said when she returned.

“Hey, make sure you hit this one,” Skadooter said.

She glared at him.

“You wanna keep talking?” she said. “I’ll throw you out the window!”

“Why don’t you let me try to shoot that gun?” he said.

“Nope.”

“Well then shoot something.”

There were about three or four more out in the field.

“You shoot ‘em,” Skadooter told her. “If they get in the house, I’ll punch ‘em. All right, that’s the way we’re gonna do it.”

“Well fine,” she said.

She worked the action on the rifle.

“It’s gonna be loud again though,” she said.

Simon opened the window for her and she aimed at one of the things.

“Hey, why don’t you take some shots too?” Skadooter said to Franks when he noticed the Glock in his hand.

“I don’t think I can hit those things with this thing,” Franks said.

“Give it a shot,” Skadooter said. “She didn’t hit the first shot she made.”

“You gonna keep talking about that?” Miss Tolini said. “And I’m going to turn this on you.”

“Let me shoot the gun!” Skadooter said.

“I’m not going to waste the bullets,” Franks said.

Another of the things moved towards the house and Miss Tolini aimed at it. Instead of coming to the back door, the thing moved around the side of the house toward the front. A couple more were near the barn.

“Hey, go get that one,” she said to Franks. “It went around the house.”

“You crazy?” Franks asked.

“Little bit.”

He sighed.

“One of y’all wanna give me a gun?” Skadooter asked.

“Got get your rifle … or whatever you got in your room,” Miss Tolini said.

“My crossbow, man …” Skadooter said. “That ain’t as cool as what you got. Somebody give me a gun.”

“Oh my God, here,” she said, handing over the rifle. “I’ll get my crossbow.”

“Oh! I get the big gun!” Skadooter said, laughing.

“Now you be careful with this,” she said. “This thing’s powerful.”

She quickly showed him how to work the bolt action after every shot, that bracing it was best, and warned him not to shoot it from the hip or he’d break his pelvis. He went to the window and braced the weapon up against the sill. He aimed at one of the things and fired. The blast rocked the house but he missed.

“I think I hit it in the foot,” he said.

“Oh, you wanna hit something?” Miss Tolini said.

She left the room.

The two creatures outside headed for the window.

“Uh …” Skadooter said as he worked the action. “Hey. Hey John …”

“Uh-huh,” Franks said.

“You wanna back me up?”

He set up the next shot and fired again, missing once again. Then both of the creatures started running towards the house, waving their hands over their heads.

“Uh … John!” Skadooter said. “John! Shoot these things!”

The things ran very quickly.

“I’ll take the one on the right,” Franks said.

Both of them fired, Franks hitting with his second shot but the other bullets missing. The thing stumbled but didn’t fall as the horrors both made strange gibbering noises.

* * *

Miss Tolini grabbed her crossbow, quiver, and one of the magazines for the Accuracy International AW. Then she moved to the master bedroom in the front of the house. She peered out the window into the dark and could see the roof of the front porch. As she moved to put up the sash, she saw claws come up onto the roof and pulled the creature’s head and shoulders up to look towards the house.

She opened the sash about an inch, lined up the crossbow, and shot at the thing in the throat. It shrieked incoherently.

* * *

Franks took two more shots at the rushing things, hitting the one on the right in the hand. The thing didn’t fall but kept coming at them.

“Get ready John!” Skadooter said before firing again.

He blasted the one on the left, hitting it in the hand as well. Blood spewed from the wound. Franks fired twice more at the one on the right, hitting it once in the gut and missing once. Then the things climbed up the wall towards them.

* * *

The horrible thing on the porch roof rushed the window, crashing through the glass as Miss Tolini leapt out of the way. Shattered glass, muntins, and stiles shredded the horrible creature and scattered in to the room as the thing fell to the ground, a shattered piece of wood in the thing’s throat. The death rattle rolled from it and she drew her dagger and stabbed it in the head just in case.

“What luck,” she said with a laugh.

* * *

Skadooter dropped the rifle and punched the horrible thing in the head, hurting it badly.

“Shoot both of ‘em!” Skadooter said.

Franks fired twice, the first bullet striking the thing on the right in the chest. It fell backwards out of the window with a shudder. The second bullet missed. The second thing tried to claw and bite Skadooter but the athlete was too fast, dodging out of the way.

“Shoot it again!” he cried. “Get off of me you─”

He punched the thing in the head, merely clipping it in the chin. Then Franks fired twice more, the second bullet hitting the thing in the crotch and it fell back without a sound, crashing to the ground below.

They looked out of the window and saw more of the things in the fields. They were not getting any closer to the house. Miss Tolini walked in.

“How you guys doing?” she asked.

Some ichor stained her clothing from when the thing had bled after crashing through the window. Skadooter picked up the rifle.

“Can I have this?” he asked.

“No,” she said.

“Please!”

“That’s my personal gun.”

“Please!”

“No.”

“Aw. I hit one though. Didn’t I John?”

“He did,” Franks said.

“What are those things?” Simon asked. “What are they?”

“Where the hell were you the whole time!?!” Skadooter asked.

“I didn’t wanna hit you!”

“With what?”

Simon showed him the over-under.

“You had that the whole time and didn’t help us!?!” Skadooter asked.

“I don’t shoot at people when monsters are in their face,” Simon said.

“All right.”

“If I shot Skadooter … You know how much money I won on that game you won?”

“How much?”

“A thousand dollars!”

“Nah-ha-ha-ha.”

“Yeah!”

“Sheeit!”

Skadooter looked at the man.

“So, since I saved you and your granny’s life … can I please smoke some of that stuff you was talkin’ about?” he said.

“Yeah yeah,” Simon said. “Are they coming any closer? We gotta - we gotta keep an eye on things.”

“I think we’re safe for now. C’mon now.”

“All right.”

“I’ll keep an eye out,” Franks said.

“I mean, I was basically─” Skadooter said.

“It ain’t great but all right,” Simon said.

“I got this,” Miss Tolini said, brandishing her crossbow.

“I mean I was basically high when I was shootin’ ‘em anyway!” Skadooter said. “I’m high all the time!”

They tried out the marijuana, which was okay and had few sticks and seeds. Simon kept watch through part of the night and Miss Tolini did as well.

* * *

The next morning, Miss Rodriguez was still semiconscious but had not become a zombie, much to their surprise. They decided to continue on towards the Outer Banks.

They examined the horrible thing that had been killed the night before. In addition to its canine-like face, it had hooved feet and stank. When Miss Rodriguez saw it, it reminded her of feral ghouls from the Fallout III video game.

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