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Max_Writer

Basic Roleplaying System: Kyles Deadworld One-Shot: Escape from Boone

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

(After Kyle Matheson ran his Basic Roleplaying System setting “Deadworld” with Ashton LeBlanc, Hannah Gambino, Katie Gallant, James Brown, Yorie Latimer, Katelyn Hogan, Collin Townsend, and Ambralyn Tucker Sunday from 1p.m. to 5p.m.)

Friday, June 23, 2017, was the last normal day I spent in a world gone mad …

* * *

My name is Mervin Terwilliger and I was 24 years old when it happened. I’m not the best-looking guy. I’ve been told my face looks goofy and my ears stick out way too much on the sides. I also have a terrible lisp that even years of voice therapy was not able to eliminate. I went directly from high school to flight school, getting my pilot’s license by age 19 and investing everything I had into a little Cessna 172 Skyhawk. I had a little courier business, taking small packages and sometimes passengers around the country. I usually ended up in Boone, North Carolina, for some reason though. I had some good friends there.

I had learned, a little, how to fly a helicopter simply because I wanted to know how. I’d always had dreams of flying helicopters but they were too expensive. I also knew how to fire a sub-machinegun pretty well. At one point, I had taken the training to get a license to own a Thompson sub-machinegun. Then the money ran out and I had to shelve that idea.

I always tried to get my friends to call my “Ace” but I guess I never fit into the name. At least not until it happened. At least not until everything fell apart.

* * *

This story doesn’t start with me, though. It starts with some of the other people I met on that terrible day.

Daryl Greene and Daryl Green were second cousins. It got very confusing with the entire family, not only the different spellings of their names but the fact that they had the same name. They often went by their middle names as Daryl Greene was “Clem” and Daryl Green was “Cletus.” They were both dating a girl named Katie, though they claimed it was not the same girl.

Daryl Greene was average-sized with red hair, blue eyes, and lots of freckles. That day, he wore camouflage clothing and an orange vest. Okay, he probably wore that every day. He was 22 years old. Daryl Green was shorter than his cousin, 21 years old, and very good-looking.

On that evening, around 9 p.m., they were tailgating in the parking lot of the high school in Boone. Six of their friends were there, most of them in their own trucks. No women were there, of course. As usual. They met every two months or so. They were drinking beer and blaring Keith Urban. Some of them were already really drunk.

“Where the girls at?” their drunken friend Billy said. “Where the girls at?”

“Why you say they’re coming?” Daryl Green said, taking a sip of his Bud Light. “You gotta ask Daryl over there.”

“Daryl! Where them girls at?”

“What?” Daryl Greene said.

“Harley and I, we want girls!” Billy said.

He sipped his Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

“Where them girls at?” he asked again. “You said you knew where the girls were at, Daryl, so where are they? Daryl?”

“We were huntin’ bucks all day,” Daryl Greene said. “Why would we know where girls are at?”

“Go ahead and blare that Keith Urban!” another friend shouted. “Turn it up!”

They rednecks howled in excitement.

“My speakers are louder,” Daryl Greene said.

“Daryl, what the hell did you just say to me, boy?” Daryl Green said.

“My speakers are louder!”

“I’m about to turn it up, boy! I turn it up all the way. I hear the neighbors complaining already!”

“Oooo!” Billy said.

“Shut the hell up!” Daryl Green said. “See this kid? Thinks he’s something cool, ain’t he?”

“Hey, wait a second,” another redneck said. “Hey. Hey Daryl. Ain’t yer girlfriend’s name Katie?”

“Yeah,” Daryl Green said.

“Ain’t your girlfriend’s name Katie too, Daryl?”

“Yeah,” Daryl Greene said.

“That the same girl?”

“No!” Daryl Green said.

“No!” Daryl Greene said.

“Oooo!” Billy said.

“My girl’s faithful,” Daryl Green said.

“What’s her last name?” Billy asked.

“I don’t know,” another redneck said. “There’s two Daryls. There could be two Katies.”

“What’s her last name?” Billy said again.

“Who invited this guy?” Daryl Green said, pointing at the last redneck.

“Who are you, fella?” Billy asked.

Then they heard police sirens. They all went silent for a moment and then pandemonium broke loose.

“Oh shit!” Billy said.

“Hide the beer!” someone said.

“Get in the pickup!” Daryl Green said.

They all ran around like chickens with their heads cut off as two police cruisers pulled up into the Watauga High School Parking lot. They had clearly been seen.

“Oh ****!” Harley said, stumbling drunkenly out of the truck and trying to run away.

Both Daryl Greene and Daryl Green had gotten into their trucks, started them. They were revving the engines. Billy had gotten into his own pickup truck but then thought better of it.

“Don’t shoot!” he shrieked, putting his hands in the air. “I’m not black!”

The police cars pulled up.

“He’s just gotta pee, officer!” Billy yelled from his truck.

He was pointing at Harley, who had run several paces before tripping and falling in the parking lot. The man lay sprawled in his face.

“Don’t shoot him!” Billy cried out. “Don’t shoot him!”

“Please put your hands in the air where we can see them!” blared over the loudspeaker of one of the police cars. “Do not make this harder than it needs to be!”

“I’m getting the **** outta here!” Daryl Green said.

“Daryl, is that you?” came over the loudspeaker.

“Who said that!?!” Daryl Green yelled.

“Daryl. Is that you?”

“Which Daryl?” Daryl Green called.

A police officer exited one of the cars and walked towards them.

“Who’s there?” Daryl Green said. “What do you want?”

When the officer walked up, Daryl Green recognized his old buddy Chris from high school.

“Aw Chris,” Daryl Green said. “How the hell you doin’, man.”

“Daryl, what the hell are you doing?”

“What the hell are you doin’ man? I’m out here listening to Keith Urban and drinking me some Bud Lights.”

“What the hell am I doing? I’m doing my job. What are you doing at the high school drinking beers again?”

“I’m drinking some Bud Lights, I’m listening to Keith Urban, and I’m celebratin’ America!”

“How many Bud Lights you had tonight Daryl?”

“I’ve had … a couple.”

“Daryl, show me on your hand how many you’ve had.”

Daryl started to hold up his hand but then stopped.

“Now, you know that’s a damn trick question,” he said. “I ain’t answering that shit.”

“Are you gonna pick them damn bottles up?” Chris said. “There’s bottles all over this damned parking lot.”

“Ain’t bottles, they’re cans! You got eyes! Bud Light.”

“Officer, we didn’t bring the bottles, they was here,” Billy piped up, his hands still up and out the window of his pickup truck. “We been drinkin’ outta cans. Here’s the rest of the PBR.”

“Shut the **** up, Billy!” Daryl Green said. “Billy’s got PBR with him! Nobody drinks BPR anymore. Billy.”

“I like PBR,” Billy whined.

“We don’t drink PBR here. Chris,” Green said.

“Daryl, how long have you been here?” Chris asked.

“I prob’ly been here about an hour. ‘Bout an hour?”

Billy just nodded. He had scooted over to the passenger seat in the hopes they wouldn’t get him for DUI.

“Have you been hearing a lot of … strange sounds been going on tonight, Daryl?” Chris asked.

“I been hearin’ Keith Urban,” Daryl Green said. “I don’t know how ‘strange’ that is to you, but to us … it’s America.”

“Have you not been noticing all the cars that have been speeding up and down this road?”

“That’s just Boone for you,” Daryl Greene said.

“They’re drag racing!” Daryl Green said.

“Them all them crazy college students and tourists.”

“They’re drag racing.”

They both realized, now it had been pointed out to them, it was not the typical Friday night drivers going up and down the road. Something was happening. People were swerving. People were speeding. There were more horns than there usually was. They had noticed it.

“Well, I guess we thought it was a little different,” Daryl Green admitted.

“Daryl, there’s been an incident,” Chris said.

“Well─”

“Daryl, what did you do!?!” Billy said.

“I didn’t do shit, Billy!” Daryl Green said.

“Is this about Katie?” someone asked.

“It’s always about Katie,” Daryl Greene said.

“This ain’t about Katie!” Daryl Green said.

“Listen,” Chris said. “The police chief, he sent me and the fellow officers all around town stopping to see everybody that we can, came here to the high school ‘cause I figured you’d be here. I’m your friend. I figured I would try to help you. There is an evacuation process going on in Boone right now. This is serious.”

“Oh shit!” Daryl Green said.

“Daryl. Daryl! This is ****ing serious!”

“Oh shit boy.”

“Can … can we go then, officer?” Billy said. “Should we go? Home?”

“None of you are in trouble,” Chris said. “You’re gonna be in trouble if you don’t get the **** outta here.”

“Okay,” Billy said. He pointed at Harley. “C’mon! Harley, c’mon! C’mon!”

“All right!” Daryl Green said.

“You need to go … you need to go to Kidd Brewer Stadium,” Chris said. “That’s where the evacuation is taking place.”

“The Rock?” Daryl Greene said.

“Yes. The Rock.”

“Hoorah!” Daryl Green said. “Am I right? App State!”

“God damn it, Daryl,” Chris said.

“There must be a game going on!” Daryl Greene said.

“Hell yeah!” Daryl Green said.

“That’s all that driving!” Daryl Greene said.

“Get to Kidd Brewer Stadium!” Chris said. “Get to Kidd Brewer Stadium.”

“Tailgating two-point-oh,” Daryl Green said.

Daryl Green realized that Chris was scared when he told him about the evacuation and the incident. Everyone else had noticed his fear as well.

Billy got Harley into his pickup truck and they left at a reasonable speed, Harley puking out the window while drinking more PBR.

Both Daryl Greene and Daryl Green headed out of the parking lot for Kidd Brewer Stadium. As they’d picked up a 24 pack of Bud Light and still had over half the case left, they didn’t have to make a pit stop.

* * *

Around the same time, I was at the Appalachian Mountain Brewery with one of my pilot buddies, Roger Stanfield, and an artist I knew in Boone: Josh Hardy.

Roger liked to be called Maverick. He was a lot older than me, being 48. He’d also done some time with the U.S. Air Force, having reached the rank of Major and a jet pilot before retiring. He was a little shorter than me, and a little better looking. Where I was skinny, he was a brick, and very strong. Probably that Air Force training. After retirement, he’d gone into the commercial aircraft trade. That’s how I knew him. We both found ourselves often in Boone.

Josh was a lot taller than either of us, standing about six and half feet, and being solid. He was much better looking than either of us and usually ended up going home with a girl when we hung out. He was an artist and, like me, kind of a nerd. I’d seen some of his art and thought it was really cool and, since he was my age, he was easy to hang out with.

“So,” I said with my terrible lisp as we sat drinking our beers. “We gotta find three … three girls who like us! Don’t forget: call me ‘Ace.’ Call me ‘Ace.’ ‘Cause I’m a pilot.”

“Why do we call you ‘Ace’ again?” Josh asked.

“‘Cause I’m a pilot,” I said.

“Do you sirs want another pint?” the bartender asked.

“Ah yes!” I said. “Thanks! Yes!”

“Which one would you like?”

“I like the dark. That gold. Dark Gold? Whatever it’s called.”

“The … the Black Gold?”

“Yes, the Black Gold. Yes.”

He gave me an odd look. I’d been there a few times but that guy was always surprised just how awkward I could be. He was probably surprised I still couldn’t remember the name of the beer I liked. He might also have thought the alcohol would loosen me up, but it never really did.

Josh still pretended he didn’t know us too well.

“You two want another drink?” the bartender asked the others after he’d gotten mine.

“Yes,” Roger said, ordering the Black Gold as well.

“It’s the Black and Gold,” I said. “Is it Black and Gold? Black Gold?”

“Black and Gold every night,” the bartender said.

“I’ll have a cider,” Josh said.

“Oh, God damn it!” I muttered.

The man got them their drinks.

“Only nerds drink that stuff, you know,” I said, lisping as usual. “Why would you drink that? The women don’t like it. You have to drink the … the porter. That’s what the girls like.”

“I mean … Mervin … does it look like he has trouble with the ladies?” Roger said.

“Porter?” Josh said.

I looked at Josh.

“How do you do that, by the way?” I asked.

“Maybe he’s born with it,” Josh said.

“Are you talking about yourself in the third person? Again?”

“You call yourself Ace!”

“Sh. I’m a pilot, God damn it!”

Josh looked around. He got up from the table and signaled one of the bartenders. Then he went to another woman on her phone who he talked to. She ignored him.

“Oh, he’s gonna get her!” I said. “She’s not that good-looking though.”

“No,” Roger said.

“I think he likes the plump ones that aren’t interested,” I said.

Josh walked to the bartender and asked them to put the news on. They had just gotten a new wide-screen TV at the place. When the man asked which channel, Josh asked them to put on the Charlotte station. The bartender changed to the channel and turned up the volume.

The headline at the bottom read “Breaking News: Eastern Seaboard Attacked.”

“Oh no, the Russians are finally invading!” I said.

“What?” Josh said.

The ticker read on: “This is not a test. Repeat: this is not a test. The United States Government as issued a mandatory evacuation for the following Eastern Seaboard States: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Call your local authorities for evacuation information.”

“Mandatory evacuation of the state?” I said. “The hell?”

The woman read out the same message over and over and over.

“We are under attack,” the woman read. “When we know any more information, you will know. We do not. Call your local authorities. Figure out how to be evacuated.”

I opened up my flip phone and dialed 911. I got a busy signal.

Roger had opened his phone and was calling someone as well. I noticed the bar was getting empty. Everyone looked nervous and scared.

“Hey, where are you going?” I called to one. “Where are you going?”

No one answered.

The bartender told us they were closing. I dropped money down for the beer I didn’t drink. Then I heard a police car pull up, sirens blaring. We went outside and saw the police car weave in and out of the people leaving.

“Evacuation at Kidd Brewer Stadium!” came over the loudspeakers. “Everyone to Kidd Brewer Stadium. Please go to Kidd Brewer Stadium. Do not stop. Do not go home. Go to Kidd Brewer Stadium.”

We got into Josh’s Ford F-350.

“I have to go home before I go to Kidd Brewer Stadium,” Josh said.

“Where’s home?” I asked. “Where do live?”

“Just down the street,” he said.

“That’s fine,” Roger said. “I’m gonna call my buddy, Phil.”

That’s when I noticed a girl standing behind the brewery by the picnic tables. She was leaned over by one of the picnic tables, puking profusely.

“Help me,” he muttered between puking. “Help me.”

I pointed her out to the two others in the car.

“What should we do, Maverick?” I asked Roger.

The police car stopped, lights still flashing, and the officer got out to check on the woman.

“Okay, she’s good,” I said.

“It looks like she’s getting help,” Roger said.

Josh later told me he thought he’d heard someone calling him from the bar. He checked to make sure he had everything. There was a shriek from the police officer and he fell to the ground. The woman jumped on top of him.

“The ****?” I said. “The ****?”

“Ooo,” Roger said. “He’s getting lucky.”

“No!” I said. “No, he’s not getting lucky. This is bad. Where’s his partner?”

There was a crunching sound coming from them.

“Wait in the car,” I said to Josh. “Wait in the car.” Then to Roger: “C’mon. We’re pilots!”

“All right Ace, let’s go,” Roger said.

I looked more carefully as we approached but couldn’t see anything though the officer was jerking and it looked very … strange. The crunchy sounds continued. It was the weirdest sex I’d ever seen.

“I should’ve helped her,” I muttered.

“No, he dead!” Josh called. “Just … get back in the car!”

“What?” I called.

I tried to look more closely. It didn’t look like sex, actually.

I went to the police car, got into the driver seat, and closed the door. I motioned for Roger to join me. Then I called to Josh we’d lead him to his house. I pulled the automobile in front of Josh’s 350 and, siren blaring, we left the parking lot.

I led him to his house, driving down Winkler’s Creek Road to Winkler’s Meadow Road, where there were duplexes and apartments. Josh had a big house at the near end of the street. When we arrived, he went in while Roger and I waited outside. I noticed the shotgun and told Roger I knew how to use it.

* * *

About the same time on King Street, Salama Pöllö, aka Jake Miller (don’t ask) was performing. He was young, wore a strange headdress, and had his face painted gold. He was naked except for a loincloth and had symbols painted all over his body. Hobo Joe Johnson was also there, a beggar who often roamed the streets of Boone. He was older, being 68 with thin gray hair, leathery, tan skin, and a single eye. His left eye was missing and had been for some time. He walked with a walking stick and wore old clothing and pushed a cart. He enjoyed Salama’s playing and the two were both street people so had bonded over new people coming to the school every year that didn’t like them. Freshman and tourists hated them.

Not far away, Matthew White, a junior at Appalachian State University and member of the baseball team, was heading for Boone Saloon. He was very tall, being 6’8”, and solid. A strong man, he was also very smart. He passed the two every Friday night but never paid the two much mind, though he was not rude to them. The smell and the awkward panhandling both held him off.

White went on to Boone Saloon to have a drink with his buddies. There weren’t a lot of students there or anywhere in town during the summer session. He wasn’t taking classes but had an apartment nearby so he stayed all year in the town.

On the street, a friend of Salama’s, in charge of the anthropology department at ASU, approached so he renewed his dancing act. However, Hobo Joe realized there was something wrong with the man. He shambled towards them strangely. It seemed a little early for someone this drunk to be out and about, but it was not unheard of.

As the shambling man came under one of the lights on King Street, Hobo Joe saw a lot of blood on him.

“Well, that ain’t right,” he muttered.

It was too much blood for it to be his own. The entire front of his clothing was covered in crimson.

“Salami, I think there’s something wrong with that guy,” Hobo Joe said.

“The Professor?” Salama said.

“Yeah. He’s got too much blood on him.”

Salama saw it was not his professor and there was too much blood. He and Hobo Joe backed away from the shambling man. When they turned, they saw two more shambling people coming from the other way. Hobo Joe ran across the street at speed.

“C’mon Swami!” he called.

Salama ran after him as the men slowly followed. They stopped on the other side of the street and looked back. Salama didn’t think they were normal humans and didn’t think it was a prank or a crazy murder. Then they saw more and more of the things heading their way.

Inside the bar, Matt White was drinking and having a great time. He hadn’t seen anything on the street. Then Hobo Joe burst into the saloon, pushing past the bouncer at the door. He looked scared. That’s when Matt noticed the people shambling towards Boone Saloon. He figured they were drunk. Then Salama ran in.

“There’s a bunch a Haitian zombies!” he shouted.

“What the hell you talking about Swami?” Hobo Bob said.

Salama ran towards the back of the bar, telling everyone there about the Haitian zombies. The bouncer grabbed him by the shoulder.

“Sir, I’m going to need to ask you to leave,” he said.

“I will leave but not that direction,” Salama said.

“We don’t have a back door.”

“I have my rights!”

The bouncer was taken aback and Salama broke free and ran to the back. Hobo Joe just sat down at the bar. Matt stared at them. The bouncer came at Salama and grabbed him again.

“I’m being oppressed!” Salama cried out. “The white man has come to get me!”

Both Matt and Hobo Joe knew the painted man was white.

“Boy, what are you talking about?” Hobo Joe said. “You’re whiter than I am.”

Eight people were at the windows of the bar, tapping on the glass and trying to get in. All of them were covered with blood.

“Nope,” Matt said. “Where the back door at?”

“Hey, bouncer man, look at the window,” Hobo Joe said. “Where’s my drink?”

“Bouncer bouncer bouncer!” Matt said, getting up. “Dude! Dude! Dude!”

He got to the bouncer and pointed to the window. The bouncer pushed Salama towards the bar and looked. Then he headed for the door.

“We’re closing soon,” he said to the people outside. “Y’all need to leave!”

He started to open the door but Matt stopped him.

“Do you not see the blood on them?” he said. “You need to lock this door.”

The man did. He took out his cell phone and called the police.

“Bartender, where’s my booze?” Hobo Joe said.

“You don’t have any money,” the bartender said. “I ain’t giving you no booze.”

“C’mon man, I just need a drink.”

The bartender found a shot glass on the bar and gave it to him. He drank it.

Matt noticed the glass windows were starting to crack. He ran back to the pool tables and grabbed a pool stick. The bouncer was dialing and redialing 911 over and over again. The bartender advised everyone to back away from the windows. Other patrons were also on their phones, desperately trying to call the police. Matt looked around for another way out but there were none.

He went to the bar.

“Do you have a gun behind your counter?” he said.

The man just looked at him. He looked terrified.

“God damn it,” Matt said.

People started to grab pool sticks. Matt started to push tables and chairs against the windows.

“Hey, barkeep, can I have another drink?” Hobo Joe said.

The man ignored him.

Several people helped Matt pushing tables and chairs against the windows. Then they heard glass breaking off to the left. The two men beating on it actually fell through the shattered window and crashed to the floor next to the bar. The bartender hopped over the bar and grabbed a pool stick. The other shambling guys heard the sound of the glass breaking and turned, still banging at the air, and headed that way.

One of the two men who broke through started to slowly get to his feet while the other crawled. Matt rushed them and brought the pool stick down on one of their heads. The man fell onto his side but he was still moving. It obviously hurt him but he showed no feeling. Salama tried to hit the other with a femur he carried but slipped in spilled beer and fell.

“Why’re these drunk dudes breaking into the bar?” Hobo Joe said. “Shouldn’t they be breaking out of the bar … if they’re already drunk.”

Matt punched at the zombie she’d just hit but missed the thing. Salama got to his feet and headed beyond the barricade. The two zombies got up and moved into the room. Everyone backed up to the very back of the place. Some of them were trying to find their way out.

“You gonna help?” Matt shouted at the others. “Either you help or we all die here!”

None of them moved so he threw another punch, connecting with one of the zombies and knocking it back to the ground. Meanwhile, Hobo Joe ran over to the pool tables and grabbed a pool ball.

“There’s too many!” Matt said.

One of the zombies tried to bite him, lunging at him, slipped in the same beer that Salama had slipped in, and fell to the ground. Then the bouncer fled the place, making a beeline for a window and jumping out of it. Matt took the cue and fled the place as well. Salama followed. They looked back and saw the zombies cutting off half the rest of the people there. Hobo Joe snuck out of the place carefully, grabbing a bottle of liquor as he went.

He caught up to the other two, running down King Street. They noticed people were running towards campus. They saw a mass of people fleeing towards Kidd Brewer Stadium and headed that way.

* * *

Billy and Harley took a detour after leaving the high school.

“Let’s go get Denise!” Billy said. “She’s cute. We’ll need breeding stock.”

Harley just looked at him. Then he turned and puked out the window again.

“She don’t listen to no radio,” Billy said.

Harley puked out the window some more.

They drove to the repair shop where Denise “Danny” Valerie Abbott worked. She was a broad-shouldered woman with black, pixie-cut hair and green eyes. She was of mixed race and worked as a mechanic. She wasn’t there, of course, so they went to her apartment.

“Don’t you listen to the radio?” Billy said. “You never listen to the radio. C’mon, we gotta get to … where we going?”

“What are you boys talking about?” Denise said.

“It’s that place at ASU where they play football?”

“The stadium?”

“Thank you. The stadium. We gotta go there.”

“Why?”

“Because things are going on.”

They took her to the truck and he turned on his AM radio.

“This is not a test,” the man on the radio said. “I repeat: this is not a test. Our United States government has issued a mandatory evacuation for the following Eastern Seaborne states.”

North Carolina was mentioned. The local blurb said for people to go to Kidd Brewer Stadium.

“Right now?” she said. “I’m working.”

“It’s a evacuation!” Billy said. “It’s a evacuation!”

“****,” she said.

“Just grab your wrenches and shit and lets go. We gots to go! The cops told us. They didn’t even arrest us. Look how drunk I am and I’m driving! He’s puking out the window! You can ride in the back. Just push that carcass aside and get in!”

She got into the back seat of the extended cab truck, pushing aside what appeared to be a deer carcass, and Billy drove them, at the speed limit because he was very drunk, towards Kidd Brewer Stadium.

* * *

Daryl Green drank two more beers on the way to Kidd Brewer Stadium. They saw dead people on the ground with people on top of them, apparently eating them. They had to avoid the ones in the road. Daryl Greene followed behind him and ran over some dead people, jacking up his truck a little bit. They saw a woman and her daughter running from the zombies. The woman led the girl by the arm down River Street.

Green stuck his hand out the window, signaling Greene to stop. He pulled up beside her.

“Jump in the back of the pickup!” he shouted at her.

She climbed into the back of the truck with her daughter and Green sped away. He didn’t even open up the back window of the cab.

* * *

While we waited for Josh in front of his house, I turned off the siren. Then I pulled the shotgun out and found it only had a single shell in it.

“Is there more shells anywhere around here?” I asked Roger.

“Let me check the glove box,” he said.

“Okay,” I replied.

He found five more shells in the glove compartment and put them into the weapon. Then I put the shotgun back into the clamp that held it.

“Where is he?” I muttered. “He’s taking so God-damned long. Can we just meet him there?”

“I mean, he’s your friend,” Roger said. “I don’t care.”

That’s when I noticed someone walking down the street towards us. I rolled down the window and called to the man, telling him we were to get to Kidd Brewer Stadium. Then I noticed where his stomach should be was torn out and there were no intestines at all.

“This is a dead man walking,” I said. “Dead man walking. Dead man walking.”

I rolled the window back up.

“We did see the girl eat that cop,” Roger said.

I looked towards the house. There was no sign of Josh.

“Shall I check on him?” Roger said.

“No,” I said.

I put the car in gear and turned around, driving away.

“Whoa whoa whoa,” Roger said. “Should we not just check on him?”

“Did you see the dead guy walking!?!” I shouted. “Did you not see it!?! It’s a dead guy!!! Dead man walking!!!”

It took me some time to calm down as I drove towards the stadium.

“It’s a ****ing zombie,” I said. “You can’t kill it. We gotta just drive away.”

* * *

Josh, meanwhile, had gotten his plate mail and exited the house. He saw a man with a missing stomach and noticed the police car holding his pilot friends was gone. He tossed everything in his truck and left as well.

* * *

Daryl Green, Daryl Greene, Billy, Harley, and Danny soon arrived at the stadium. Billy told the officers he’d been drinking and asked if that was okay. Harley just puked out the window. When Daryl and Daryl arrived, drinking beer while they drove, Green offered the cops a beer.

* * *

We soon arrived at Kidd Brewer Stadium. At the bottom of the stadium was a police car barricade with four cars. There was just enough space for a single car to get through. I lowered the window and leaned out.

“Whosever car this is, is dead,” I said.

He looked in the car and then motioned us in. That seemed surprising to Roger.

“Oh no,” I said. “Something bad has happened.”

The police were waving other cars in as well.

Josh arrived shortly after that.

It was after that when Hobo Joe, Salama, and Matt White ran up and through the barricade.

Cars were parked all over the place in the parking lot at Kidd Brewer Stadium. White tents were set up on the football field and a helicopter stood on either side of the goalpost.

“I can fly that,” I said when I saw the helicopters.

“I think it already has a pilot,” Roger told me.

“Oh.”

Ten police officers were at the gates to get into the stadium, using their cars to block the entrance. Roger and I got out of the police car. I brought the shotgun and looked around for pretty woman. I spotted Josh and called to him. He was wearing some kind of armor or something.

“Don’t I look like Sauron?” he said.

“I didn’t see that movie,” I told him. “I read the book. Where’s your sword? Do you have a sword?”

“No, it’s a mace!” he said, showing me a large, gaudy weapon.

At the gate, we met Boone Police Chief Dana Crawford. He was a solid man with a mustache. He seemed to know Hobo Joe, which surprised me.

“Hey Crawford, how’s it going?” the bum said.

“God damn, Hobo Joe,” Chief Crawford said. “I’m surprised you made it.”

He stopped us, including all of the people I’d been writing about and I noticed there was a pretty girl with our group. That was Danny.

He told us the evacuation process had no protocol. He said the eastern seaboard was hit by a Russian chemical weapon that had infected people on the coastlines mostly, but the fallout was spreading westward.

“Is it zombies, sir?” I asked.

“The ****?” Daryl Green said.

“Why is that man speaking gibberish?” Hobo Joe asked, pointing at me.

Chief Crawford said the white tents were there to quarantine us before evacuation. He said a helicopter came about every 30 minutes and we would be getting out of there in a couple of hours as it was backed up. He noted FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) had come to help in Boone but obviously as it was the entire eastern seaboard that was hit, the Agency was very spread out. Not only was this the evacuation spot for Boone, but also for all the neighboring counties as well.

“I know how to fly a helicopter,” I said.

“We have plenty of pilots,” Chief Crawford said.

“God damn it,” I said.

“Ace, slow your roll, buddy,” Roger said. “Slow your roll.”

Chief Crawford handed us off to Sgt. Joe Knapp.

“Hey Joe, how’s it going?” Hobo Joe said to him.

He told us Sgt. Knapp would escort us to a FEMA tent to be quarantined and after that we’d be placed in a waiting area up in the bleachers until the helicopter was ready to take us.

Daryl Greene tried to hide beers in his jacket when he found out they wouldn’t allow alcohol in the quarantine tent.

Sgt. Knapp led us to the FEMA tent where we met Dr. James Strickland, an older gentleman with glasses who was the lead scientist there. I immediately didn’t trust the man. He broke us up into twos to go to different tents. I tried to be with Danny, who I’d not even been introduced to yet.

Daryl Greene and Daryl Green were conferring about hiding their beers. He called Daryl Green first, pairing him up with Matt. Then he picked me, putting me with Daryl Greene.

God damn it! I thought.

I’d been hoping to be with Danny. Instead, I was with a redneck.

“I’m Ace,” I told Daryl Greene. “I’m a pilot.”

I spit in my hand and held it out, figuring that’s how rednecks shook hands. Daryl Greene seemed impressed and shook my hand. He offered me some chaw.

Billy got paired up with Harley.

“That’s good ‘cause we’re like cousins,” Billy said. “We’re also half brothers.”

Josh was put with a blonde woman and her daughter. They paired off the rest of us in twos or threes. They thought Hobo Joe was a zombie for a minute and ended up putting him with Salama. Roger ended up with Danny and I was quite envious.

In the tents, they took a swab from the inside of our cheeks and scraped some skin off the side of our necks. It was not pleasant. They told us they were testing for human rabies which had come from the chemical weapon on the eastern seaboard. I asked how long it would take before the tests were in. The man said it would be an hour.

“Daryl, you ain’t got rabies, do you?” I asked.

“I ain’t got no rabies,” the redneck replied.

* * *

The doctors didn’t tell Hobo Joe or Salama anything, just took the samples and get them out of the tent. They also didn’t tell Roger or Danny anything.

“What the **** is happening?” Danny said.

She bit the nurse’s finger as she swabbed the inside of her cheek. Roger tried to pull the woman off the nurse.

“You are a zombie!” the nurse screamed. “You just bit me! I’m going to be a zombie!”

She ran out of the tent.

“YAS *****!” Danny said.

Roger drew his Glock.

“What are you doing?” Danny asked.

“Uh … Denise, it was?” he said.

“Yes.”

“What the ****?”

“I’m not taking this shit!”

“What shit?”

“I don’t know what the **** is going on─”

“What shit?”

“─put her finger in my mouth─”

“You just bit a human!”

“Whatever!”

“Are you a dog?”

“She doesn’t have a right to put her fingers in my mouth!”

There was screaming outside.

“She’s going to try to come in here and kill both of us!” Roger said. “We gotta get out of here!”

* * *

I saw the nurse burst out of the tent.

“There’s a zombie in the tent!” she screamed.

I headed over to the tent with my shotgun followed by Josh in his stupid movie Sauron armor. I burst into the tent.

“Where’s the zombie!?!” I yelled.

“I am not a zombie!” Danny yelled back.

“Oh! Hey! Wait. She’s a zombie?”

“No, but she had to bite people!” Roger said.

“She had no right to be putting her fingers in my mouth!” Danny said.

“She seems kind of like … she can talk?” I asked, confused.

“Who is the one with the undead!?!” Josh said, bursting into the tent.

“So, you’re not a zombie?” I asked Danny.

“No,” Danny said.

“Hi, I’m Ace,” I said to her, holding out my hand to shake hers.

“The ****? No!” she said. “I’m not shaking hands.”

“She’s talking back and zombies don’t talk,” I said.

Police Chief Crawford entered the tent, gun drawn.

“I don’t think she’s a zombie,” I said. “I don’t think she’s a zombie. She’s talking.”

“Ace!” Roger said. “Gun up! Like, drop it!”

He held his gun up.

“Who are you?” Danny said.

“My name is Ace,” I said. “I’m a pilot.”

“A pilot?” she said.

“What the **** is going on?” Josh yelled in a strange, deep voice.

“This is Sauron,” I said to Danny, rolling my eyes.

Roger put his Glock down on the ground.

“Chief!” I said again. “Chief! I don’t think she’s a zombie. Listen.”

I turned to Danny.

“Talk,” I said to her.

“What?” she said.

“See?” I said.

“You all need to leave,” Chief Crawford said.

“Gladly!” Danny said.

“Okay!” I said. “Okay, c’mon. Let’s go!”

“I’m not going with you!” she said.

“This evacuation process has become compromised!” Chief Crawford said. “I need everyone to leave!”

“Everyone out of the tent!” Josh said in his deep voice.

“Walk with me like you don’t know what’s going on,” I said to Danny. “Walk with me.”

Sgt. Joe Knapp said he was going to escort us back to the gates. I looked around like I didn’t know where the zombie was. We headed for the gates.

“Something’s going on,” I said to her.

“Why did they swab my mouth?” she asked.

“Because they’re checking to see if you’re infected. Look, I saw a guy walking and he had no guts, okay?”

“What?”

“Yeah, it was like empty. And I said okay because … zombies.”

“What are y’all talking about,” Josh said in that deep voice.

“What the **** is wrong with your voice?” I asked.

“I gotta stay in character, man!” he said in his normal voice.

“Are either of you ****ing for real, right now?” she asked.

“Yes!” I said. “I don’t understand it, but I’ve watched a lot of movies. So, when it came, I just drove away.”

“Sci-Fi doesn’t give you a degree in the paranormal!”

“You’re right. You’re right. It doesn’t. But I know my eyes. And I saw what looked like a dead guy walking.”

We reached the gates.

“I don’t know this woman,” Roger said to Sgt. Knapp. “I don’t know why she chose to bite your nurse. Can I please continue with the evacuation as planned?”

“You swear you don’t know this woman?” Sgt. Knapp said.

“I swear, I’ve never seen her before today.”

“Okay.”

Josh had noticed a bunch of people approaching from the side, coming down the road beside the stadium. There were at least 15 of them. I was still trying to convince the girl of what had happened to me, telling her the man I’d seen had no guts.

“He couldn’t have been alive,” I said. “There’s no way.”

“He was walking?” she asked.

I nodded.

“So, I drove away,” I said. “I’m not hero.”

“Oh shit!” Josh said in his own voice.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“There’s a lot of people coming down now!” he said in his deep “Sauron” voice.

“Coming down what?” I asked.

He pointed.

“Oh shit!” I said.

“Back in the stadium!” Sgt. Knapp said. “Back in the stadium right now!”

“Officer Knapp!” I said, pointing out the dead guys.

He nodded and yelled at the other police officers.

“Okay, let’s go back in the stadium,” I said.

“Mike, Trent, over here!” Sgt. Knapp called.

I didn’t see Roger but went back into the stadium with Danny.

“Who are they?” she asked me when I pointed them out to her.

“I don’t know but they don’t look like they’re friendly,” I said.

“Let’s get outta here!” Josh said in a deep voice.

“What is with this ****ing voice of yours!?!” I asked.

“Shut up Ace!” he yelled.

“Okay, that’s your regular voice.”

As we ran back in, we passed Chief Crawford. He did a double take as if he wondered what we were doing back in there. Then numerous gunshots erupted from the gate so he ran in that direction.

“I will trust you,” Danny said to me. “I don’t like you but I wanna live!”

* * *

The rest of our group had been escorted into the bleachers. They saw the people coming down the road and heard gunfire.

“What is that?” Hobo Joe asked.

“I don’t like it,” Salama said.

“Well, I know you don’t like it but what the hell was it?” Hobo Joe said.

Some of them noticed a blood stain on one of the white medical tents down on the field. Hobo Joe pointed it out to Matt and he started to head that way.

* * *

Roger pointed out the bloodstain on the tent to me.

“Shit!” I said. “Hey, Lord Sauron, maybe you should go check that out!”

I pointed it out to him.

“Clearly there’s a problem over there!” he said in his fake deep voice.

Roger headed down that way, Glock in hand. Josh followed him.

“I’m Sauron!” Josh yelled.

“Oh God,” I said.

Danny headed to the tent and I followed her.

We ran into the tent. The blonde mother was over the little girl, eating her.

“Head shot!” I hissed. “Head shot!”

I aimed the shotgun at the woman’s head, trying to get a really good shot. Roger fired, grazing the woman in the gut. The bullet struck the daughter in the head.

“Rest in peace,” Roger said.

“Jesus Christ!” I cried out. “Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s get out of here!”

The woman had blood all over her mouth. I aimed at her head and fired. The blast blew her head off and I worked the action on the weapon, sending a smoking shell flying through the air. The body crashed backwards.

“Nice shot, Ace,” Roger said.

I just nodded.

It had gone very quiet. There were no more gunshots. Danny heard a shriek from somewhere.

* * *

Daryl Green had run down to the gate during all the commotion. He planned to return to his truck for his rifle. But he was unnerved by the silence that greeted him when he got there. There had been gunfire but all was quiet now. He saw only one police officer still on his feet of the dozen or so who had been there. The man shambled towards the gate, holding his side where he bled from a wound. It was Sgt. Joe Knapp.

“Help me,” he muttered. “Help me.”

“Hey, how’s it going Joe?” Daryl Green said.

Four zombies were heading their way. Daryl Green went to Sgt. Knapp and started to take him towards his truck.

“We need to get to the chopper,” Sgt. Knapp muttered. “Where? Where you going?”

Daryl Green turned and headed back into the stadium. He saw zombies coming from the top of the hill over the stadium as well.

* * *

Matt ran up to us.

“You know I could fly one of those helicopters,” I told everyone around me. “IRL. IRL.”

As we exited the tent, we saw zombies shambling in through the gate. I pointed and cried out. Daryl Green was helping a wounded police officer in our direction.

The nearer of the two Chinook helicopters had its engines roaring and propellers spinning.

“Ace!” Roger said. “Ace! Ace!”

Nine zombies were coming down the hill on the opposite side of the football field. The FEMA people were all already in the nearer helicopter. It took off.

“****!” I said.

* * *

Over by the still-grounded helicopter stood Hobo Joe and Salama.

“Hey, Swami, can you fly that thing?” Hobo Joe said.

“No,” Salama said.

“Damn it,” Hobo Joe said.

* * *

“Ace, you thinking what I’m thinking?” Roger said to me.

“Does anyone know how to pilot this!?!” Salama yelled at us from where he stood near the helicopter.

“By that I mean can you pilot that helicopter there?” Roger asked.

I nodded.

“Let’s move towards the helicopter!” Roger yelled. “We’ve got a pilot!”

We all headed for the Chinook. Several zombies were coming down near the scoreboard.

“We gotta lure them away from the helicopter!” I said.

“Yeah, that’s a great idea!” Daryl Greene said.

“All right!” Roger said. “All right. Listen. I’m going to go over to the left and start shooting. You get to the helicopter.”

“Okay!” I said seriously. “Be careful, Maverick. Be careful.”

“All righty,” he said.

I saw Hobo Joe jump into the helicopter even as Roger headed off to our left. Salama got in as well. Then Roger fired a couple of shots from his Glock. All of the zombies headed for him while the rest of us continued towards the Chinook. Daryl Greene reached the helicopter first.

“I know how to fly a helicopter,” I told everyone around us. “I can fly a helicopter.”

“Like **** you do?” Danny said.

I looked at her and then looked at my shotgun.

“Just cause you blew a *****’s head off doesn’t mean you can fly a helicopter!” she said.

“We gotta get outta here!” Josh said in his weird deep voice.

Josh climbed into the Chinook, followed by Matt, Daryl Green, Danny, and finally me. As I got inside, I called to Roger to keep shooting. A zombie looked at me and then headed back towards him when he fired again. As I made my way to the cockpit, I heard another shot fired. I looked out the window and saw Roger running perpendicular to the Chinook so I waved him away but he kept running in a path that didn’t take the zombies any further away from us. I kept motioning for him to get them further away.

Salama was chanting and praying or something. I kept gesturing for Roger to move away from us further.

When he was finally far enough away, I flipped the switches and the engines roared to life. It was very loud.

“Here we go folks!” I yelled.

I’d never flown a Chinook before and I did my best to get the engines going and get us off the ground, but it took me a while. Roger sprinted back and leapt into the Chinook and I kept working to get us aloft. The zombies were focused on us now.

“I’ve never actually flown this kind of helicopter before!” I called.

“Oh that’s really good to say!” Daryl Green said.

Roger climbed into the cockpit.

“Maverick!” I cried. “Help me!”

He couldn’t. He knew nothing about helicopters.

The zombies were crossing the field towards us and I finally got the Chinook off the ground. It lifted into the air and I took us up about 200 feet. Once we were hovering, I leaned into the back.

“Where are we going?” I shouted. “Does anybody … where are we going?”

“Are you drunk?” Daryl Green yelled back at me. “Are you drunk, buddy?”

“I only had two beers and that was an hour ago!” I said.

“You wanna be drunk?”

“Yes!”

We headed west. Roger checked the fuel and found the Chinook had a full tank. We listened in on the radio frequencies and started hearing coordinates for evacuation centers and places of safety on various radio frequencies.

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