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Note to Readers
This is an online shortened version of my novelette available on Amazon. It is as close as I came to the Flash Fiction Version.
I apologize if it's a bit disgusting, crude, vulgar and condescending.
At least I think I do.
We expect our cops to be tough, but honest. Able to maneuver in the back streets and just as easily, the courtrooms.
But sometimes things go awry. The streets become war zones and the only justice comes from the barrel of a gun. Some cops can met the challenge. Others, become part of the problem.
Dickson is a detective for the Miami-Dade Police Department. His job is to catch crooks and dopers, but after four decades on the job, he is looking forward to retirement. To beaches, sailboats, fishing, booze, bikinis and sunsets.
He never quite gets there, however. He takes a side trip, let us say.
The problem are the things. Part human and part something else. Dickson calls them zombies, but they are much smarter than that. And they screwed up his retirement. And he's miffed.
The apocalypse is one thing. Getting to the bottom of it all, is another.
Then there's that pesky infection thing.
The Short Story
It wasn't mass murder. Really, it wasn't.
But I need to unload this anyway. Let you know where I am coming from. Then you can judge me. You can decide if I did the right thing killing all those things or not.
It started last year. I was smoking my first of the day and sipping my Jesus Christ java, just like any other day. Sitting there on my concrete pulpit, my round table, the bench warming my ass.The cheesy sun-bleached aluminum red and white umbrella too high to shade me from the burning white-hot ball in the sky. They call it Miami heat for a reason.
I was delaying the inevitable. Another day on the steam streets of sin. My cop beat paradise.
I was trying not to think about the cranks or the coworkers, the real crank-in-steins. The streets were lame by comparison and I existed in that fetid limbo between neither.
I mean we brought the worst of the streets right into our offices. And it changed us. Made us suspicious. On edge. Screwed up our hearts. Made us hate each other worse than the thugs and made us better because of it.
The real street refuse was skulking around the police station in handcuffs, though. Being escorted down long linoleum hallways, along scratched and dented walls, under the smoke stained drop-tile ceilings, with the occasional bullet hole stuffed with ancient chewing gum, and into the wrecked interrogation rooms.
And yes, we had our share of bad cops, like I mentioned. If they weren't hiding in the break room or wandering along quiet streets, they were sitting in their unmarked police units, under the shade trees, sleeping. We tried to weed those kind out.
I thought of a few choice adjectives for the few puds I worked with. A selection of egotistical cop hack coworkers. Hawaiian shirt has-beers. Knock-off name-brand watches. Concealed weapons and flea-market sunglasses. Football fanatics and human hunting crazed macho puds, with the toothpicks dangling from tobacco stained lips.
None of this really matters now, though. It doesn't matter how I’d like to tell them off, grab the short hairs, and put a gun...
Never mind. That wouldn’t work either. Since they're all probably dead. Or half-dead now.
I held my tongue back then. Back last year. Bided my time. Let my blood pressure build up its "every morning" head of steam, so I could focus. Same as any other pisser morning in Miami before work. Same as I was doing then, when it started.
I puffed away on that first cigarette. Pictured my fingers wrapped around the throat of this one coworker. I still think of that. I got problems, what can tell you? And it made me feel good to imagine the unimaginable. How the neck would squeeze down to nothing, eyes bulge out, tongue turn blue, arms flail.
I guess I had the cop gene like all the other puds or maybe something else. Some slow acting disease that ate you up from the gut, until you were a cynical dried-up, alcoholic chain smoker. A divorced piece if crap just waiting for the melancholy years. The retirement home where they did the cooking, butt wiping and laundry, in that order.
“You don’t hunt?”
No, I said. I buy my meat at the grocery store. Dingus, I thought. I mean Jesus man. Hunting for your meat?
How about hunting real game: bad guys. And they shoot back. Keeps you sharp and all of that.
The pud I hate, just shakes his head. Gives me that crooked my-wife-left-me smile. She's screwing the lawyer. So now it's whiskey neat in the hunting tree-stands until he falls out and breaks his neck. And that'll look like an accident.
His name? Heck, none of their names are important. Not any longer. Only living is important. Dead-living is the pisser.
Let’s just call them macho studs. That's what they were then. Over-the-hill kids who mangled their rotator cuffs lifting weights. Punk-men, who think -- thought -- killing wild boars with spears was testosterone therapy. Having their toes cut off after diabetes has set in, just one of life's little bumps. Guys who got some wild pleasure when they break bad guys’ jaws, shovel body parts from the suicide sidewalks downtown, you know, because of the jumpers back then, and then they drank too much.
It's funny when you think about it. We didn't have real problems back then. Just financial problems, wife problems, kid problems, boss problems, health issues, but no hordes of mind warped diseased people choking down other peoples guts.
Some cops back then did a little coke in the morning too. A wake-me-up zinger. Coffee was not necessary for the Crack-Cops. But they didn't last long on the force.
Why am I telling you all of this? Just to let you know that survivors seem to be another kind of human. Not so nice either.
I mean the cop puds I worked with beat their wives and screwed up the kids. Some even screwed their kids after they beat their wives. The next day, they'd put on their badges and their guns, unless they were really tough, and only holstered one pistol and ditched the vest; and then go off to the ready-made-war. The hot streets of Miami. Riot Central. Full of bad guys always fighting "The Man." Us. Except they were more often than not just fighting another version of themselves. They sort of cancelled each other out, you know?
Artery clogging powdered donuts were optional, but encouraged in cop world. Donuts to dust the uniform. It wasn't coke. Yeah, right. Cocaine Cowboys of the streets, I tell you. But not most. Most were just heart attacks waiting to happen. Standard boozers and hopeful pre-retirees never to see past the liquor that dissolved their livers by age 50.
How I would like it if any of them were alive now. Just one extra gun loving pud to help out. Even one of those Hawaiian shirt lovers. I don't care. At least they had guns under those fat guts.
“I don’t follow football anymore. Maybe boxing,” I said back then. Pre-Zombie era.
Just silence then. Like the puds were speaking to some accountant type. They'd shake their heads. That was, until we were in a shootout or two. Then they'd leave me alone. After I dragged up the body, leaking and all of that. Tell the newbie to make sure it didn't move and shoot it again if it did. Then the newbies would chillax or puke, or both. Maybe take up drinking. I know I did and it works until it doesn't.
Hell, I would even be happy if a newbie was here today. The more guns the better. Hell gets you that way. Wanting some company. Any live human company.
Like I said. It all started on that gray crap morning at the coffee shop. The end of the world kind of sunrise. Red clouds over the red and white aluminum umbrella. A warm breeze to bring on the early coffee-laced tobacco sweat. Me and my concrete bench, a seat in a theater with the show about to begin, and never end.
So I was sitting there. Thinking about work. Brooding about it. This is my table, I thought back then. Been coming here for 32 damned years. My concrete corner of paradise, before Hell. I can still feel the rough concrete.
The Coffee Shop’s red and white logo is forever imprinted on the umbrella and my mind. Only few fly specks and roach crap linger there. A white outline of a cartoon-like palace. Hence the name of the coffee shop: “The Coffee Palace.”
Even my damned coffee cup was plastered over with scenes of white palatial estates on a blood-red background. Some things never change, I thought back then. The cup sat there doing its thing. Helping to keep Miami steamed.
Maybe it was just the red cup designs that bothered me. Keeps it fresh in my mind even now.
I had to be at work in 45 minutes, so I was delaying the pain for as long as possible. Trying to push back at time, that old man refused to die. Just kept pouring on the years and yanking out the tears.
Not mine. I'm a big boy you understand.
Puff puff. Anything to distract me. I had to get the blood pressure up anyway, just to shift into gear. Shove my humanity into my crotch and work upwards.
I know, that sounds bad. But its how real men work.
I don't do coke. Never have. Tobacco is as close as I'll ever come. And java. Not those little jiggers of brew either, but the big ones. Big Gulp size.
And people-watching, savvy? That really helps. Sometimes spikes the old heart for days. Pops out a few clogs I mean. It is really amazing how simple we are inside. See a few chick curves and whammo, life is wonderful again.
Or maybe its just me.
Thing is, I need eyeglasses these days and it gets kind of obvious when I put them on. Trying to focus through dirty lenses sucks. Then I go cleaning them off and well...obvious. And I haven't perfected cell phone photos yet. Chicks always know about pervs. Especially old ones like me.
I can hear their thoughts. What are you staring at old man? But it's also a cop thing to people watch. My job. So screw you.
Here, old man -- the finger. Okay, I'll stop taking photos. Not really.
Then it started to drizzle that morning. A mist of a rain to wash away the coming red. Just enough to irk you. Steam you all under.
A pink morning giving way to dull washed out haze, punctuated by car horns, people jabbering, airplanes screeching overhead and insects dive bombing my donuts.
My irritation mounted.
Drops of pink water from the old umbrella began to pool around me. Mixed with fly dung. Great, I thought. Just fabulous. Stained my crappy shirt. Lucky it ain't Hawaiian, my brain offered.
Right, I answered. Like that makes a difference.
But my day brightened in that muggy ocean of bile. Even before the bullets went flying. Minutes before that I got another kind of rise. Yes, The Sun Also Rises.
I saw a woman walk into the Coffee Palace. She was all "Miami Heat." Curves and cleavage. Stunning. Nobody had a right to those curves, I thought. I mean she wasn't a Goddess, but the way she walked.
Cool it old man. Freeze-dry your Billy goat.
A few minutes later, she came out of the Coffee Palace with one of those fancy coffees. A Crappuccino or something. There was a big pumpkin picture on the side of her cup. A cup help by elongated flashy nails, diamond studded digits, and honey skinned hands.
My cell phone was out. Already had my bifocals on. I was pretending to read my cell phone. But I was only half-interested, you know, I was doing my cop job, scoping the scene. Right. That's just a lie.
Mrs. Pumpkin Cup walked by, but it was more like she swayed all the way to her sleek black Mercedes-Maybach, and her cups ‘runneth over,’ if you know what I mean.
Legs and honey. Shoulders and sun. Smooth perfection over God's lesser creation. Hey, I'm just kidding. I know who the boss is. I'm almost sitting on them.
She was just another rich babe in Miami. Over exposed. Literally. Miami was nice and not so nice that way. No wonder there were so many rapes. Hey, it was job security. And it was a whole lot more.
It was the last time I ever saw another sane and beautiful human being, however. The last time I ever saw anyone not hunting, attacking or eating someone else. The final beauty, before the gore.
Sorry I had to take that away, but I need to tear it down now.
The fact that I shot her dead still bothers me. What a beautiful waste of a woman, not to mention the nice dress.
My ex-wife would have beaten you stupid for that sleazy silvery slip-on. Slink and butty-tang.
I looked at my rusting undercover Toyota, then back to my cell phone and finally at Mrs. Pumpkin Cup or is that cups, plural?
She was sitting in her Mercedes. Hadn’t even started it. Staring straight at me. Was she batting her eyes? Were her eyes red? What the hell?
That was when it all started.
My old heart thudded. I’m not in her class, I thought. Just a detective with too much java in the veins and not enough sprite in my monkey meter, if you catch my drift.
This was just not clicking. Maybe I'd met her before. Did I arrest her before?
I was thinking on that when she opened her car door. Stuck both legs in the air, like she’d forgotten about modesty or about the sidewalk. It was weird but kind of sexy at the same time. Legs and the under pinks.
I shook it off. Focus, I told myself then. Dump the hormones and put this together.
I was scrolling my phone. Head down, but keeping an eye on her. Things were off.
What a sight I remember thinking, but a jolting burn behind my eyes made me focus. Come to think of it, that may have been when the infection thing first hit me and all this time my body had been fighting it off.
That was the first time I remember it happening. That's also when I started my killing spree. It's okay, I just killed the already-dead.
I’m setting a new one man dead-killing record, actually. Hell, I’ve worn out so many handguns, rifles, shot guns, even a .50 cal I pilfered from my station.
Dr. Death, I was. Have bullets will cull. I should've had a some business cards made up, if only there were sane people to give them to. Besides, most stores were closed.
That was a post-apocalyptic joke. Get it? I mean you need to keep your sense of humor these days.
And I was kinda angry at myself for being an idiot about Mrs. Pumpkin Cups. Ogling her. I was thinking my stupidity might have been the reason for it all. That I subconsciously caused it to happen. Created some wicked, Satan-come-early, Hell Home, because of my past.
I'll tell you about that later. Maybe in a part two digest, if my brains have not fried by then.
I know, guilt is stupid sometimes. And I know I didn’t make everyone go nuts. Stuff just happens.
She was walking now. The woman I was about to kill. The door to her Mercedes opened. She was stumbling toward me, but off kilter a bit. Like maybe she was drunk. Tipsy?
Great, I thought, maybe I had arrested her before. An old DUI case, as a rookie. And she was going to give me a piece of her mind.
But she hadn’t walked by stumbling. She was smooth and swirly then. Tan and taunting.
I looked up.
Mrs. Pumpkin Cups was angled funny. One of her supple shoulders was shoved up and back. All angular and ugly.
Her hands were curled into claws. Opening and closing. Digging hard at her own palms.
Her elbows were bent, stiff. Locked in. Tendons sharply outlined.
Her arms, like frozen steel cables ready to spring. A readied trap.
Her face a frozen contorted grimace, like she was on the toilet, constipated, but hopeful.
Drying phlegm drew two pink lines down her chin. I thought of stroke or seizure.
I stood. “Ma’am?” I said. “You okay?”
Yes, I am stupid, but hopeful. You gotta understand, I didn't believe in zombies then.
My libido jettisoned like yesterday's spoiled cadaver anyway. I felt so empty then.
She said nothing. Kept stumbling over her own heels. Had a hard time walking.
My brain said: "Okay, Dickson, lay down the facts. Based upon all of the moron zombie movies you watched, the booze you just drank at six-thirty in the morning, because you are a 'controlled-alcoholic,' (right!) your mental health concerns (I'm being nice here) your ability to see real stuff -- is this real? Because if it is, well, we are in for storm of hot lead."
She howled then. Howled like a damned wounded and cornered animal.
It was the first time I heard one of them howl like that. It sent an electric shock up my spine and made my trigger finger twitch involuntarily. Already, my hand was looking for my gun, all on its own. I mean you have to be there, but at times like these, training and fear kicked in and your body was one with the police force, if you savvy.
I thought, okay, this was no damned stroke. Not a seizure. This was something else. Like a chick having a bad reaction to drugs. Except that she looked kind of hungry.
And it was such a turn-on at the same time. I don't want to examine that reaction either. I'll chalk it off to caveman love.
She charged me, like a wild stupid animal.
Hopped the short fence to the outdoor cafe and knocked over the chairs. Screamed at the chairs as they tangled in her dress. Flung them aside. Ripped her off dress, partially I mean. Not all the way, so don't focus on that.
My caveman appreciated that partial anyway.
Napkin holders clattered to the ground. An umbrella that should not have folded, collapsed abruptly, scaring the crap out of me, but drawing a quick growl from her.
I was sober now. Not that I was drunk yet. I only had one shot in my coffee, Okay?
So, I was thinking, as Mrs. Pumpkin Cups struggled toward me, and if she decided to do bad things, then where am I going the shoot you Pumpkin Chick.
No shoot, sayeth my caveman.
The noise of Mrs. Pumpkin Cups rushing toward me attracted the attention of the others in and around the Coffee Palace's front entrance.
Finally, I thought. Witnesses. Maybe Mrs. Pumpkin Cups would back off now.
"She's got no top on!" a man yelled over his latte.
No crap, I thought.
I was dumbstruck, I tell you. I mean I had punks stab me. A chick once tried to strangle me and she had been naked. I have been shot twice, by the same perp. But this chick, Mrs. Pumpkin Cups, she was bouncing around like a crack-babe on cheap steroids, nearly naked and howling.
I had mixed emotions, to say the least.
The gaggle of onlookers at the front door of the Coffee Shop seemed unconcerned. Just another Miami morning.
I flashed my badge to the people gawking from the Coffee Palace. “I’m a cop!” I yelled. “Call 911.”
I hoped they heard me, but it looked like they were glued on Pumpkin Cups. Fascinated. Waiting for the free show. "Cop arrests stripper." News at noon.
I turned back. Mrs. Pumpkin Cups was only a few feet away. Breasts jiggling. Cocking her head and sniffing. A long string of fresh drool worked its way past her chin.
I already had my gun out, down to my side.
Crap, I thought, I hadn’t even finished my coffee. I stubbed out my cigarette then. Never got to finish that, either. Positioned my thick metal liquor bottle, that was inside my jacket breast pocket, over my heart, out of habit. My body bladed itself, just showing Mrs. Pumpkin Cups a left shoulder, face, gun and beer gut, in official shooting profile.
But Pumpkin Cups had fallen now, started growling and crawling. A line of pink drool on the pavement, marking her progress. Her lips working like two pale worms, bumping rumps.
“Ma’am?” I asked. I demanded.
Her head lifted. She focused on me. Eyes bloodshot. Irises sparkling. I couldn’t see any pupils.
She growled in response. Did it again.
Jeez, I thought. Enough of this.
She howled then. Jumped to her high heels. Wobbled and something cracked. One heel busted then, along with an ankle. A bone poked through, but she didn’t seem to notice.
I was both amazed and concerned. Had to be the drugs I figured. What else could it be? Maybe some PCP?
She picked up a steel chair. A heavy one. Drew back, held it over her head and launched it. It spun wildly, a missile of twirling steel. I ducked just as the chair flew by and then clanged to the sidewalk, rolled into the other chairs like a bowling ball, sending a dozen other steel legs into the air.
What power I thought.
But she had missed me and that just pissed her off.
She howled again, frustrated? Gums dripping flecks of foam. Head shaking. Sniffing now.
More patrons of the coffee shop gathered at the window. I was center stage. Why was everybody just staring? Coffee in hand. Jaws slack.
"This ain't a show! Call 911!” I yelled.
Pumpkin Cups sniffed then burped some vile viscous substance onto the table next to her.
One man seemed to be dialing now. At least I hoped he was. Because his hands were shaking violently. He was looking at them, amazed.
“Stop that!” I yelled at Mrs. Pumpkin Cups. I pointed my pistol. Aimed between her ample breasts, that were not hiding any longer.
“Put that down!” I yelled. “Police!” I paused.
"Dammit, I said now!"
Mrs. Pumpkin Cups picked up another chair. She was lifting it in the air. Then she charged, growling, screaming, foaming...puking.
I shook my head. Dammit, I thought. I don’t want to do this. What a waste of tits.
The report was deafening. A hollow boom, followed by the deafening silence and the ringing that seeming to put you in some other world for a few seconds.
Oh Jesus, I was thinking. Sweet God. Why did I pull the trigger? Did I really pull the trigger, Mr. Finger.
Yep. You pulled it, said Mr. Finger. I helped, but you did it.
The first shot tore her stomach wide open and hurled her a full ten feet back.
I had closed my eyes and that had dropped my aim. Yes you did, said Mr. Finger. At least I didn't hit one of her boobs.
Seconds ticked by. I was thinking about nothing. Trying to hide from the reality of what had just happened. Trying to fold up inside and disappear.
Then she got up, zombie style. Mr. Finger readied, again.
Slowly standing now, turning her head. Arching her back, like she was trying to untwist her spine. Then she eyeballed me. A fixed stare. Anger and hatred and hunger.
No way, was all my brain could say. Not freaking possible.
Mr. Arm was raising again. No way I was thinking. We gotta do this, Mr. Finger said.
Pumpkin Cups wobbled. Something gross plopped to the concrete behind her. Innards. She ignored the wet snake unreeling in front of her. She stepped through it. Tangled in it. Howled again.
All I could think about was what I said to her. It was, "Ma'am that's really disgusting."
And I thought she was pissed before. Never tell a lady she's nasty -- even if she is dead!
I was shocked. She had a big hole in her. I mean I could put my fist through it, but she lifted yet another chair and charged me again.
More internal organs worked loose. Loops of it. And blood. A gut tail growing longer with each step. I can still remember the detail of it.
My caveman brain kept saying no f-ing way. And sweet mother, why me?
Mr. Finger said that a double-tap might do it. Pull the damned trigger.
Then I double tapped her. One in the heart, above the hole I already made in her, and the other in her head.
That did it. Her body sprawled away a second time, into another table. Not superwoman after all. Not bullet proof. Even zombies need brains, right?
The steel chair she had been holding, pierced the aluminum umbrella and hung there, swinging back and forth. Some freakish bloodied mobile for zombie kids.
Beneath the swinging chair, was Mrs. Pumpkin Cups, a mess of holes and oozing brains. She was dead. At least I hoped she was, with that crooked smile. Those sparkling eyes. Those...never mind.
Flashes now. It was my head trying to shift back into normal mode. My adrenaline was slowing now. I was fighting my chemical dump, trying to think through it.
How was I going to report this? Innocent lady killed by off duty cop? What evidence do I need to preserve now?
Good, I was thinking gain. The caveman brain was giving way to the cop thoughts. Good sign. The shakes were coming next, I knew. The low after the high.
It turned out that I needn’t have worried. The next jolt was about to start and many more after that. Mrs. Pumpkin Cups was just the intro to Hell. My adrenal glands were in for a work out.
I should have paid more attention, it turned out. In fact, I was one of the very first ones to get it. Luckily, and I say this with all respect, I was only a carrier. At least I think I am. I've been feeling bad these last few days though. Too hungry for meat.
And I am deeply sorry for all the pain I caused, but it’s not my fault. At least I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t mean to kill all of you.
I take that back. I didn’t mean for me to cause all of you to kill each other. There, that’s more accurate. Oh what am I getting at? I’m just sorry. If I caused it all, there has be a reasonable explanation for all of this anyway. Zombie apocalypse? Please.
So I was there still, outside of the Coffee Palace in Miami. I glanced at the windows of the shop and was amazed. The Coffee Palace had turned into a free-for-all. A bloodbath.
I saw a guy standing near the door, coffee cup midway to his lips, frozen in space. His eyes fixed on the fighting inside. Suddenly, the guy ran. I was amazed at his speed. Much too fast for a man his age.
He reached the door, but didn’t stop. His frail body burst through, shattering the glass. He flipped over the iron push bar and landed on his back with a crunching sound. He righted himself on the other side -- the inside -- and charged. He had turned.
I had just killed Mrs. Pumpkin Cups and now this? “Come on!” I yelled. "Seriously?"
I started to move toward the coffee shop. Put the phone to my ear after I dialed Homicide, directly. A beep-beep in my ear. I was being transferred.
I stepped off to one side and peeked in through the windows to Hell. As the phone buzzed in my ear and nobody was picking up, the horror inside the Coffee Palace made me shove it back in my phone case. I needed to act now.
I pulled my lukewarm gun again. How many bullets did I have left? I couldn’t remember.
Carnage was all I could think. An indoor riot. How could I deal with this? Everybody was attacking everybody. Men were punching women. One guy was shoving his cell phone into a young woman's mouth.
Women were howling, while standing on tables. One lady, wearing a red hat, was holding someone’s head, and it was not attached to a body. She was using it like a hammer, pounding another man’s backside with it. Still, it bothers me. It does not fit into my filing system under “screwed up things I saw.” Women spanks half-nude man with bloody head.
A young male clerk was smashing a broken coffee pot against the head of a elderly man who was, in turn, gumming the clerk’s arm. His false teeth had slipped to one side. It was almost comedic. Slapstick. Bits of coffee pot glass embedded in his forehead.
The old man. “Num. num, num.” Spitting foam and dripping blood.
The young man. “Freaking wacko! That hurts!” Smash, smash, smash.
Then both began to growl. A thrumming, almost guttural sound. They had turned. Is was too late for either of them now.
I mean this was really happening, I was thinking then. I was seeing some new virus or some electronic mind control. Perhaps a new military experiment gone awry. Ideas kept spinning in my head, trying to make sense of it all.
Three women near the door, were fighting. Each was pulling the hair of the other two and bashing their heads together. Macabre. Reminded me of Indian wrestling, but with hair of red-boiled spaghetti.
One finally succeeded in hair-scalping another, which just enraged the now hairless, skinless-headed woman. Then each discovered that they could use their long nails as tools. Slipping and falling in their own gruesome bodily fluids, now pooling over the table and onto the tiled floor with each swipe.
I file that one under: “Stuff I Need to Forget.”
And these were just a few of the fights -- the attacks -- as I watched in the first few seconds.
Afterwards, I mean these days, it's almost normal to see someone walking across the park with a hunk of thigh. An extra arm to beat all-comers. Even hairless redheads. Seriously. As long as these things have a hunk of flesh to munch on they are as docile and kittens, but don't freaking pet one. They don't make friends.
I yanked open the shattered door to the coffee shop and I said it. Yes I did.
“Freeze! Everyone, just stop now.” I used a lot of curse words, but I don’t need to repeat those here.
And you guessed it. Nobody listened. They just charged.
But it was not exactly like that. It was as if a bunch of confused second graders were told that there was fire drill and the guy at the door had free ice cream and there are monsters under their desks. Confused and happily enraged.
As they came after me, they continued to rip at each other. There was no ‘group zombie must kill human’ thinking here. No thinking at all. It was just kill each other and do it now. And hey, that guy at the door -- let’s rip him open too! And hey don’t shove me or I’ll tear your...but they weren't talking, just growling and screaming.
I backed out of the door fast, just as I was plowed over by another gaggle of people who were pouring from the cell phone store, adjacent to the coffee shop. Another mini-mob of bloodied throat rippers on parade.
One guy was smiling. He had a girl’s upper torso in his arms. A nude torso, perfectly formed. I shot smiley first and he dropped the torso onto the sidewalk like I had ruined his day.
Something clicked then. I stopped thinking about saving others. I started thinking about saving my own hide. I was important to me, I figured.
One after the other, I killed them. If that was what it was called. It was more like putting down rabid animals than killing.
I did it until I ran out of ammunition and had to go back to my car for more. Ever watchful for them. I emptied all of my boxes. Even the practice ammo.
The parking lot began to fill with bodies. The sidewalk in front of the Coffee Palace looked like someone was stacking corpses, haphazardly.
All the time, I was shooting, I was trying to call someone. All the time, nobody ever answering. Just bang, bang, bang, until I couldn't even hear the phone, my ears were ringing so badly. Until my trigger finger was raw meat..
And thank the lord's load, I was not a religious sort of guy. Thou shalt not kill, did not apply. You can’t kill these things. You just put them down, like I said.
I eventually cleared the Coffee Palace. Shot them until they stopped howling. No more screams. Growls gave way to moans. People were no longer running back and forth. Shelves were no longer toppling over...
I used the place as my fort then. My retreat from the ever growing nightmare outside.I don't know how many hours I sat there. All day for sure.
Shadows, moved by storm clouds fled across the blood soaked floors late in the day. Now a distant rumble, reminding me of the coming storms. I was surprised I could hear the thunder at all, but also grateful.
I dialed the police again and again. Nothing. Not even an automated answer. What the hell was going on? I asked myself repeatedly.
It wasn’t over by a long shot.
As I was clearing the Coffee Shop, cars on the highway swerved, trying to miss the insane mobs of walking wounded. They had come from everywhere. Home. Stores. Their vehicles. Hospitals. Barber Shops. Even prison work crews. I could see their prison uniforms, stained with gore, shoulder bones poking through. All from my seat at the Coffee Shop.
I wasn't about to go out there and die.
The fodder for traffic continued, almost unabated. Screeching tires, bodies seeming to leap into the air, while others were dragged hard, like wet pencil erasers across sandpaper. Battered forms limping away or crawling into the fray for more abuse. Always bleeding and mangled and enraged.
The mangled hoards began to grab at their saviors, who were spilling from vehicles along the highway. People who had just come to help, now “infected” and scrambling themselves, toward the next available target meat.
Heads lolling in a weird aberrant ecstasy. Arguments mutating into fits of growling. Growling to fighting. Fighting to shredding. Shredding into blood soaked eating contests, all ending in death and rebirth and death all over again. A circle of death-life.
More cars careened off of the highway. Bodies cartwheeling. Screams. Gun shots. Then, mercifly, after what had to have been hours, silence. Except for the birds and sirens. The birds lasting longer.
The other animals came later. In the darkness. Battling over prizes. Gorging and retching. Dying and re-living.
So many howls came in that first night. So many rebirths.
The fires came next. Billowing black smoke from the strip mall. Flames from the large tractor trailer jackknifed in the intersection. Small explosions here. Sizzling sounds there and the fading of gun shots in the near distance.
I sat in the Coffee Palace, among the deceased, staring at my gun. I was out of ammo.
The corpses around me were stilling jerking and moaning, but only in my memory. There, in my head, they were still rampaging and my bullets were tearing them in half, in slow motion. A bad movie, in color, with endless reruns.
I tried every cell phone I could find. Tapping the screens in frustration.
Later still, Miami was swallowed in this new hell. Not local riots, but the whole of Dade County and beyond, consumed. The contagion spreading north, then west, eating its way across the Americas. A conflagration of disease and death. Great for target practice, but hell on the wrist. I mean, I was sore as hell for weeks.
I left Miami when I couldn’t find my dad in the first week. The retirement home was gone. Burned to the ground. Bodies everywhere. Driver-less cars jamming the streets. Smoke. Always that.
The insane running amok, still, appearing like wraiths in the smog and fires at night. My car attracting the crazed people, like me to Mrs. Pumpkin Cups. Phantoms manifesting from the gray twilight fogs. My gun briefly lighting their warped faces as they fell back into the darkness. Some getting up for more of my hot lead, until I drove way the hell out of town.
A strange sight of one of them stuffed in a stack of old tires and duct taped, so it couldn't hurt anyone? Why would anyone bother?
Cars offered some protection, but getting gas was tough. Getting food even tougher.
It was a hand-to-gun experience. Shoot, get gas. Shoot get food. Shoot, start car. Drive, find a place urinate. Drive, find a place to crash. Wake up, kill the mobs banging on your windshield. Exit car. Remove the bodies from the car. Wipe the blood from your hands. (Note to self: find more gloves.)
Do it again and again. Every day. And don't talk to myself.
I had a routine. It worked for me. It was kill and run. Eat and run. Sleep and run. I don’t want to tell you when I had time to crap. And most of all, don't lose it. Keep the brain-can stable.
I’ve driven all over now. The whole country. Until I had trouble finding gasoline. Until the cars went to crap.
I didn’t find a sane soul. Most are dead now.
You tend to talk to yourself or go silent for days at a time.
I also discovered that human bones can burst car tires. Do not run over skeletons. It's my motto now. Drive slowly and avoid the big white sticks.
Don't run over the vultures for fun either. The damned things hide the bone piles. And they break windshields.
A lot a bridges are out too. Forget the Mississippi. You need to take a boat. And good luck finding a running motor. That’s why I stay east of the big river for now. More like a river of mud now.
I checked the libraries. There is no internet now. No electricity. You wouldn't believe how much you miss the internet. Books are such a pain, but good for toilet paper and starting fires.
I found a good place to live. Fewest number of bodies. I was able to move most away. Burned some. The animals ate the rest. At least I hope it was the animals. Otherwise I got another problem now.
But I still see the stains.The shades of blood where the people were. I guess rain will eventually wash it away.
I have a fresh water source. I’ll not say where I am now, but I have food as well. Enough for a long time. A few years maybe.
I am armed too. So screw off. Unless you are nice.
Oh, and I have lots of books. What can I say? I live vicariously.
So that's pretty much it. I'm just sort of surviving. And like I said, I think I have a new problem. I noticed yesterday that all the bodies, even the bones, are gone. Animals seem quieter too.
If anyone finds this message, please come to...
The rest of the long letter is torn away. Almost as if whoever had written it had recently done so. The pages are blowing in the wind along a dirt road.
In the distance, beyond the black hills, something howls, but the noises are muffled. Screams come next. Then pounding. Finally, a crashing sound, as a dark shape, something that should not be able to run on all fours, bursts through a car windshield, from the inside. The thing sits there on bony haunches, huffing, the car hood warping under its unusual mass.
The thing is breathing the moist foul air for the first very time. Relishing the sweet taste of excessive carbon dioxide, sulfur oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons. Twisting its contorted jaw, arching its serrated spine, and staring longingly at the full moon. Hooded eyes brooding. It's in a sour mood, but it does not know why.
Moments pass. The thing's flesh begins to dry, its cocoon falling away. Large knots of calcified shell, sliding to the car's hood, then along the rusted fender and onto to the ground.
It begins to howl again, like a wolf, spreading its beak-like mouth, lathering its fangs with a forked blood-red tongue, wagging its short tail in anticipation.
Its mating call is answered.
The dawn is fresh. The world is theirs.
© 2017 Jack Shorebird