“Oh wonderful shot!” cried Terry from the stern.
“Cheers mate! Is that 50 points?” I called back, satisfied with myself.
The disease had spread, far and wide throughout the world. No one knows where it came from, what started it. Or if they did, they weren’t advertising it. None of that matters anyway. The only thing that does matter is the result of catching it.
Zombies. Honest-to-god, walking dead, brain munching, zombies. Herds of reasonably well dressed people, drenched in blood, stumbling from place to place searching for other people to eat.
Having been raised by my video games, I had always joked about my Zombie Apocalypse 10 Minute Action Plan, warning others not to get caught on the hop. I’d either get a roll of the eyes, a serious talking to, or a laugh and a nod. It was a joke of course. The fantasy of an over-active imagination and border-line paranoia seeded and nurtured by all nighters, skulling energy drinks and chain-sawing zombies in the face.
The plan comprised of me stealing everything remotely useful in a 2km radius around my home. Medical supplies, food, water, clothes, cricket bat, petrol; anything I could fit into my car. Then pointing my car towards the nearest middle of no-where and flooring it. It seemed funny to me, I knew I’d never do it, but it was a weirdly enjoyable fantasy.
Then the footage started to appear. At first, anyone who was anyone thought it was a hoax, perpetrated by disgusting Gen Y video gamers like myself. Hell, even I thought it was a set-up, or at least a teaser for a new, interesting looking television show.
“That blood looks fake,” I remember thinking to myself, watching the video of that television reporter being ripped apart during a live feed. Live feed indeed. Then when they didn’t cut away from him, gurgling amidst a hungry, messy scrum, and I saw an arm, gnawed and chewed on, being tossed aside, wristwatch glinting merrily in the sunlight, I knew.
An hour later I was roaring down the road, car filled to the brim with Zombie Apocalypse necessities, angry shop keepers hurling abuse and heavy objects far behind me. Turns out ten minutes really aren’t enough to fill jerry cans and raid a supermarket. The things you learn.
So I drove until I ran out of petrol, filled her back up, and kept going.
Eventually I came across a little band of families and other stragglers who had made a little settlement way out in the sticks, hugging the big river that ran into town.
After some heated discussions and a thorough check of me for any wounds, and my car for any grisly hangers on, they let me in. I had some things they would find useful, and I didn’t really have anywhere to go, and here seemed safe enough to stop. I met their unofficial leader, a genial bloke named Terrence and he showed me around. They seemed nice enough, and my goodies made them feel like I wouldn’t be a complete burden on.
One thing they had that I didn’t even consider, for some inexplicable reason, was guns. Like...a lot of guns. And ammo. They had enough to last til Judgement day, unless we’re already there...
Well they had enough to last a really long time. And they liked to use them.
This is why Terry and I were on his little rubber dingy, slowly putt-putting our way up the river into the city. A little safari to help pass the boredom. We’d left early in the morning, boat groaning under the weight of food and ammo we’d brought along.
I was sitting up on the bow in a garishly blue plastic deck chair, an old rifle resting carelessly between my knees, wearing a big floppy sombrero to keep my head out of the sun, and a pair of comically large binoculars around my neck.
I was on 175 points and Terry was on 150 points, but he’d been leading all day so I let him know about it.
“That was a good shot,” I called out to him, pressing the large binoculars to my face, scanning the bank for signs of any more of the herd. “That puts me in the lead doesn’t it? Time to lift your game Terry me old china-”
“Shut up,” he grumbled loudly, and adding weight to his annoyance weaved the boat wildly, tossing me out of my chair.
“Oi! Careful!” I said, hat askew, watching the old rifle warily, listening to Terry giggle. I stood up again and continued my search for dead-long-pig.
We were coming up to the main bridge in the centre of the city, passing old boats, rusting in the water, seeing fires in the distance, smoke plumes rising lazily. This was a notable hotspot for good sport.
It didn’t disappoint.
The oozed up to the sides of the canal, the bridge over the river, grumbling and moaning characteristically. There must have been a hundred of the things. Terry cut the engine and dropped the anchor. Zombies, in our experience, can’t swim, something about muscle density or whatever, so this was the best way to enjoy them. I could see their snarling, lipless, moaning faces without the binoculars now. Clothes tattered,
Terry joined me at the front, taking the rifle from my hand as I took the weighty binoculars off my neck. “My turn,” he said happily, taking aim.
“One shot each!” I said quickly before he fired, knowing what he was thinking.
“Oh fine,” he said, deflated.
We each took turns pumping rounds into the zombie herd around us. Bits of flesh and bone were flying around like sparrows. Some even tumbled into the water, which we clapped politely for and gave varying scores out of ten. When we each got to 1,000 points we stopped counting, knowing we would each try to start baulking each other, which would only end in a lethal, probably hilarious, accident.
Then we both heard a sound from behind us that chilled our blood. A teenage girl’s voice, hollering and screaming over the grumbling rumble that was the zombie herd. I went to the back of the dingy to look for where the sound had come from, picking up Terry’s assault rifle, which we never get to use. Way too much of an advantage. She was standing out on one of the concrete pontoons that lined the canal, waving frantically at us.
“Help! Please! You have to save me!” she shrieked at us.
I wanted to save her, and I looked back at Terry, but he had a strange expression on his face, somewhere between pity and disgust. He shook his head imperceptibly, “Pull up the anchor.” He said to me quietly.
“Are we going to help her?” I asked, idiotically.
“No,” he said as he came to the back of the boat and began trying to start the engine.
“She’s probably infected,” he spat as he pull-started the motor.
“How can you know that? What if she’s not?” I protested.
“No! Let’s go,” he said, and whipped the anchor rope from my hand, dumping the heavy metal thing in the boat, scratching my hand. I sucked my hand crossly, tasting the coppery fluid. I was at a loss, but Terry was in charge, so I just slumped against the back of the dingy, determinedly not looking at the girl who was still jumping up and down. I watched the herd trying to find a way down to her, the more curious ones crunching heavily into the concrete and practically exploding on impact.
She looked behind her and let out an audible whimper, instantly stopping her calling. Terry turned the boat towards her, and for one fleeting second I thought he was going to save her, before I saw the large boat ahead of us, necessitating our change of course.
But the girl didn’t see it that way, hope and relief rushing into her voice, thinking she was safe. “Oh thank you! Thank you thank you thank you!” she said loudly. When she started running to where we were going to pass the pontoon, hearing her feet slapping on the concrete, I finally turned around to look at her; she was a mess. A big gash across her belly, slowly trickling blood, a long gash down the side of her face, feet bloody from running with no shoes on. It was obvious where she’d gotten her wounds.
I should have shot her. I needed to shoot her. I had to shoot her. But I couldn’t. She was a real human being. Zombies were different...but I couldn’t do this. Terry was yelling at me to do it, but I couldn’t even raise my gun.
As we came closer and she was waiting patiently at the end of the pontoon, some of the more adventurous members of the zombie herd had found a way down to their lunch. She screamed and begged us to go faster. Terry took almost no notice. Suddenly I decided to knock him out of the way, taking him and myself by surprise. He began swearing at me as I took the rudder and powered us over to her, reaching my injured hand out to grab her.
It was a race between our little out-board and a hungry zombie. The chances were between laughably slim and hysterically nought. My heart raced as I got my hand around her waist and started to pull her in, when Terry pulled out a hand gun I didn’t know he had, and pressed it to her temple, pulling the trigger, spraying us with bits of teenager.
We practically had her in the boat, and he just blew her away. He re-took control of the boat and revved the motor, putt-putting madly. My brain felt numb and I just let him do as he pleased. I went and sat in the middle of the boat in a daze. It was like I was watching everything from a distance.
After a while, I was feeling restless and a bit peckish. I rummaged through the packs we’d brought, devouring everything I could find; sandwiches, cold chicken, ham, chips. It all tasted ashy in my mouth, not even touching the sides of the void in my stomach.
I asked Terry if I could take over, to get my mind off this painful hunger. He obliged, not thinking anything of it, just assuming I was hungry due to the stressful hour. He went and sat in front of me while I steered. I ran my fingers through my hair, picking bits of the girl out of my scalp.
Without thinking, I put my finger in my mouth. Good god, it was heaven. I haven’t ever tasted anything so delicious. Frantically I combed every bit I could find, scraping it into my mouth. Hunger drove me. When I’d finished it all, I looked around the boat for any surviving scraps, licking my fingers clean.
I heard a slow thud in front of me, coming from Terry. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew what it sounded like.
I only stopped when the boat ran aground, jerking me away from my feast. I consumed everything from the remnants I could. Picking bits of Terry from my teeth I looked around, hearing an inquisitive groan. Jealously I began sucking everything off of Terry.
This was my dinner.