Through the static of the old radio in his workshop, Bradley Shoan can make out the distinct word "Zombies." The 'Breaking News!' all over the TV screen confirmed the same. "Zombies have taken over the south eastern portion of Baltimore. Martial law is now in effect, the president was seen boarding Air Force One moments ago. We encourage all men, women and children to take sanctuary in any well secured areas as soon as possible."
Being the hard headed Pennsylvanian farmer he was, he did not heed the warnings. He did not retreat to the assigned safe houses, nor did he rush immediately to the nearest supermarket to stock up on canned corn, pickled eggs and toilet paper. Instead, Bradley sat emotionless, staring at his television, watching the destruction and chaos unfolding in real time.
From his living room chair he viewed the entire country unraveling around him. The mass panic that rushed across the people was more terrifying than the zombies themselves.
The first few nights were littered with rioting and explosions. Every building in Baltimore was all but burned to the ground in the panic that forced man vs. man vs. zombie. Bradley would sit at his television and watch the explosions then look out his window to see the smoke rising from the city in the far distance.
He would always tell his daughters that he could see over a state away anytime he looked out the window. Not knowing the 160 acre farm sat right on the border of Maryland. "About 30 miles as the crow flies" echoes one of the only memories he has of his father while sitting on the front porch when he was a child. Every night he would watch the glow in the sky above Baltimore until one day they were just… gone. The fires went out and the city was quiet.
Days roll by to which he remains glued to the television. "Baltimore lies in ruins, hundreds of thousands have turned on the uninfected masses." After that report was aired, a message played over the motionless "maintenance" screen. "Here from the FOX news headquarters we're devoted to staying on air for as long as possible to bring you the most up to date news on the outbreak" This was the last broadcast before the screen cut to black then to snow. From the epicenter the zombies worked their way outward. From small town to small town, city to city everything was destroyed.
Nobody could stop them, the police were all but overrun within the first few hours. The national guard although valiant in their efforts quickly fell to the massive amounts of bodies. The Army, Navy and Air force were spread so thin across the country that they couldn't do much. Even with executive orders to level American cities to rubble they couldn't bear to kill their fellow countrymen. All the military could do was set up quarantine zones and assist with FEMA and the Red Cross as they tried to provide refuge for the uninfected civilians. They all quickly fell victim to this plague due to the limited knowledge that they had. Everyone has seen the shows and movies but when it became real nobody wanted to admit they had been infected. They wouldn't be in obvious places like the movies. Nobody was bitten specifically in the side of the neck or the hand.
Human survival instinct was a major player in the downfall of society. People will instinctively hide an injury because it's ‘not that bad’ when in reality, its just the same as every other injury that caused people to turn. The idea that their time was done and they needed to allow others to live on was beneath most people. They went to the quarantine zones unaware that they just killed everyone there. Soon any open areas that were not fortified early into the "repopulation" were overrun and added to the massive horde that swept across the country.
It was three months before Bradley saw his first sign of the undead. Across the road a horribly burned figure struggling to walk. Smoke still poured off of his clothes as if he was still burning. Bradley finally realized the fear that everyone had felt. He grabbed Baron and as much food and water as he could and ran down to his basement.
It's been six years since that day and Bradley along with his dog Baron remain hiding in his basement. Even with careful rationing and even more careful fuel consumption; his food and other essentials are beginning to run dangerously low. Bradley will be forced to make a decision soon. To fight for survival or to die of starvation.
Out of sheer boredom today I decided to rummage through some old boxes under the stairs. Among the dust covered clothes and children's toys I found this diary. Faded pink pages bound in a hot pink leather which has long since faded to a dull, almost grey exterior. The words, Cheyenne, Always remember that we all love you! Love, Dad Mom and Claire, adorned the cover. A beautiful gold pen engraved with her name was slid into the pen holder on the side. The small key was missing, but it took only a moment or two for me to pop off the little lock. I remember the day I gave this to her. Her eyes lit up and she was so happy. It took her all of one journal entry to be bored with it. I decided to tear out that page and stick it in my pocket. Maybe I can use it as a pick me up later. This journal shall now be my legacy, every event that affects me shall now affect you. The unlucky soul to have found this book.
I've been living in my basement since the first time I saw one of them walking on my street. The sounds of shattering glass and slow, aimless shuffling has been a plague to my ears for years. I know they're inside just above my head and I know I have to do something about it if I ever want to live in my home again. The power went out about 6 months ago and my generator has been running constantly. My fuel reserves are almost completely depleted, this means I'm going to have to make that trek to town. The major problem there is the few weapons I have are also low on ammunition and in the confusion I left my shotgun leaning against the bedpost on the third floor. In the morning I plan on fighting my way upstairs. Hopefully there aren't too many of those... monsters... up there.
Baron is getting antsy, I should let him out soon. Luckily, we had the old coal chute turned into a pair of reinforced storm cellar doors before all this happened. This was so we could quickly move things from the basement to the barn if necessary. For some reason they just walk past the dog like he doesn't even exist which is dumbfounding to me. I have a theory that if this was just a "virus" like they had been saying on the radio then wouldn't they feed on anything that moved not just humans? I wish I could train Baron to fetch essential items but he's far too old now at 7 years old. He's always had a way of making his grievances known. For instance, when he was a puppy and he was hungry he would always grab his bowl and put it in my lap. If I ever shooed him away he's come back and do the same thing. My generator is starting to sputter. I'd best get some sleep, tomorrow is going to be a long day.
Got my gun but it wasn't easy. Running the generator night and day must have attracted them inside the house. I could always seem to differentiate the footsteps above my head. I figure there were about 3 in the house right now. I was hoping that with the colder weather these bastards would be slower, apparently not. As I started my eleven step climb I tried to to be as quiet as I could but the old wooden steps had other intentions. The creaks and groans surely gave away my plan. Still, I slowly opened the heavy old wooden door to find Jason, my neighbor, staring at me with a ghoulish snarl on his face. The right side of his neck was a gaping black hole with small chunks of what looked like chewed human flesh hanging from the wound. His eyes were glazed over with a hauntingly blank look on his face, I was terrified.
Jason had always been a good friend to me. When I lost my wife and daughters, his family took care of me with no questions asked. I couldn't do it. Not yet. Not like this. He lunged at me and I jumped to the side and let him tumble down the stairs. I quickly slid into the room, silently closing the door behind me. There was several more of them in my house. I hoped it was nobody else I had known. The steps to the third floor were across the room. Quietly, I maneuvered the dust covered couches and silent electronics that once screamed loudly with children's shows and movies. I stood on the bottom step for a few moments remembering everything about how my house used to be. The girls playing with their dolls in the center of the living room. Marissa making banana bread in the kitchen. Baby Baron running around trying to pick up any scraps he could. Happier times.
The shuffling seemed like it was coming from the second floor, where my girls' rooms once were. However, they've been silent since far before this plague hit. I opened Cheyenne's door first. Like a picture frozen in time the untouched toys and furniture sat silently, the dust coverings shifted slightly with the breeze from the open door. I couldn't help but think of how beautiful she looked as her and her sister, Claire left to see "The Lion King" on Broadway that September evening. The last time I ever saw them.
Claire's room was next. Her door was already open and I could see the shadow of the ominous figure huddled in the corner nearest the window. A quick knife to the head and down she went but I couldn't just leave the body to decay further on the floor of my child's room. Instead I opened the window as wide as I could and struggled to lift the dead weight, literally, and rolled her out the window. Apparently the years of sitting in my basement have worn away some of the muscle I used to have. I closed the window, turned headlong to exit the room when I nearly jumped out of my skin.
Baron was standing in the doorway with his nose in the air. Something familiar lingered in this room to which he could not make out just yet. He paced the walls and then turned and looked at me. As if he remembered, he came to me and sat at my feet and stared at me. His eyes met mine and we both sighed a deep heavy breath and exited the room. I closed the door behind me so the ghosts of my memories couldn't follow me out. It's time to head to the third floor.
My bedroom was in the same condition as I had left it that day. Bed undone, clothes all over the floor and my bedroom window still slightly open. I could smell the crisp December air as a breeze made its way through my room. The shotgun was exactly where I had previously left it, leaning carefully against the bedpost as if it were part of the decor itself.
A box of shells laid on its side spilling its contents onto my dresser. I swept them up and turned to leave, then stopped. I couldnt leave my room like this. I spent the better part of an hour cleaning it up before I closed the door for possibly the last time. Baron had already gone roaming the upper floor as I had expected him to. As I headed back toward the basement I began hearing some groans and snarls coming from the ground floor. Apparently I had been making much more noise than I thought I had been.
I peeked around the corner of the banister and was able to count four of them roaming aimlessly around my living room. Two women, an older man and a young boy, all clearly had the "virus" due to the disfigured forms of all of them. I lifted the barrel of my shotgun to the boy first. He turned and we locked eyes right as I pulled the trigger. *CLICK* The boy was still standing and I looked like an idiot staring down the barrel of an unloaded shotgun.
He began stumbling his way toward me through the sea of couches and end tables that my wife had so graciously placed in the middle of the room. The others began their relentless shuffle toward me as well. This is where I panicked, I fought the box of shells out of my pocket to which I fumbled and practically threw into the middle of the room. Luckily I was able to snag 2 or 3 shells before I watched them bounce in extremely slow motion into the room and come to a rest at the feet of my "guests." Like a cartoon character on marbles the 2 females began stumbling and falling over eachother which bought me some time to chuckle softly and load the shells into the gun.
I hadn't fully cocked the gun by the time the boy was grabbing at my ankles but a swift kick sent him falling backwards into the living room. I raised the barrel and preceded to re-kill the 2 females and the older male. This left just the boy, who at this point had regained his footing and was beginning to crawl over the bodied on the stairs to get to me. This time I knew the shotgun was empty, I dropped it to my side and pulled out my knife. The boy was clicking his teeth at me while trying to find a solid place to bite. I timed it correctly and shoved the steel toe end of my boot into his mouth and flipped him onto his back on the stairs. Without thinking twice I drove the blade into his left eye as hard as I could.
Not a happy moment in my life but I had to do it. I stood and examined the zombies for a moment and wondered how a woman with her throat torn out and a man with no midsection could be "cured" with anything but a slug to the brain. At this point Baron came trotting down the stairs with one of my old slippers in his mouth. He jumped over the bodies in the living room and trotted down the stairs to begin chewing on his new "toy" while I crawled on my hands and knees in the living room looking for all the lost shells. I walked toward the basement locking the front door as I passed by. There's no reason to have to do this all over again if I ever make it home. The excitement ended in me burying Jason in the dirt under my cellar. It seems Baron is getting antsy again, I'd best let him out and settle in for the night. Tomorrow starts the 15 mile walk into town.
Happy New Year... Another year goes by without any celebration. No big ball drops, no New Years Rockin' Eve, no champagne or fighting my girls to go to bed after the ball drops. Nothing but silence and a snore from Baron every once in a while. I laid on my cot and stared at the basement ceiling trying to formulate some sort of a plan for the day. First of all I've got to map out some sort of route to town. I figure the main roads are probably jam packed with abandoned cars and zombies and I surely have no desire to fight through that, so obviously taking the woods route is a much much better choice to avoid any conflict. Only con to me trekking through the woods is that I lose out on supplies that would be available on the main roads.
My car has not run in over 6 years so I cannot consider it an option for transportation. There's no way I'll be able to get it into the barn and get it running. I've spent the better part of an hour just changing the battery BEFORE the zombies came around. I have never been very mechanically inclined when it comes to small cars like this. Give me a combine or an old Deere and I'll have her running in no time.
It took me 45 minutes but I've got a path mapped out that will give me the best of both. I'll even cross a small creek and an adjacent farmers field which may allow for some hunting and fishing if time persists. I will have to move much slower though. I cant do the full trip today, I may as well do half and half. 7.5 miles today 7.5 tomorrow. Then 2 days back. I've put together a nice make-shift siphon out of a garden hose and an old hand crank pump I found in the basement. This way I'll be able to get gasoline without having to find a power source in town or drinking a mouthful of gas. I'll obviously be taking my nice pink journal along to document any points of interest I find along the way just in case this ends up in the hands of someone who needs it.
I've put together a list of materials and approximate weights:
1- fishing pole- 3lbs
1- 3-gallon re-sealable bag- 1lbs
2-5 gallon jugs (for gas)- 5lbs each empty
1-shotgun- 12 lbs (carbon fiber)
50-shells- 5 lbs
1-tactical knife- 2 lbs
1- backpack- 3 lbs unloaded
1- flashlight-1 lbs
1- medical kit-3lbs
4 days rations-6lbs
Unloaded, I'll be carrying about roughly fifty pounds. On my way back I will have substantially more. I need to find someway of transporting this all back because having to carry it will cause us to move so much slower. Baron is sturdy for an older dog but it still wont be enough to carry everything. I need to find some sort of wagon that I can pull behind me or that I can strap to Baron. Nonetheless its time to head out. First stop: The creek.
I ran into very few zombies on my way. God I hate that name, I feel like I should call them something a bit more disarming. Monsters? no that makes this seem like a fairy tale. Deadlings seems to fit. Anyways, I had no trouble putting them down besides the attack of conscience. These deadlings, however dead they may be, are still human beings. They may still have some sort of a soul. I guess I have to look past it. For me to survive others must die, correction, re-die. Luckily, I've found Baron has a sixth sense for these bastards which gives me some time to set up before they're upon me.
The creek is running very high due to the late December rains we've gotten this year. This is good because it will give me a chance to catch some fish as well as using it as a reliable escape route in case the plan goes awry. The creek has a very interesting view to it as well. It sits on the border between my land and an adjacent farmers land and is surrounded by a thick hedgerow. We both agreed a bunch of years back when we were developing our lands that we would leave the trees up as a kind of privacy fence. But to either side its almost eye level wheat for as far as the eye can see. At this pace I'll be at my next destination by dusk. Ill sit down and take a break and grab a few fish for dinner before heading on. Next stop: Jasons house.