The three zombies loped into town an hour after Max and his companions left it. They went into the hardware store and then into the basement where the lights were still on. He looked at the man's body and frowned, the flesh was dull and unappetizing, the woman's was no better.
“I gotta stop thinking about them in terms of food,” said their leader, a man named Erik, but he went by the nickname 'Red.'
Nita, nominally the second in command of this trio smiled and said, “They wouldn't taste good now anyway Red, you know that.”
“Besides” put in the third man, named Hugh, “we gave up humans, remember? We are going to save the world and all that.”
“We are doing what we can, don't make it into a joke,” said Red. He was a white man whose skin looked a bit chaffed and almost red, hence the nickname. His hair was a raven black and his eyes were a piercing gray, almost clear of the betraying cataracts most zombies had. He moved with a cat-like grace and had a huge pistol on his hip. His pistol was an old fashioned fifty-caliber weapon he picked up from one of his victims, the guy had already been dying and showed Red how to load the gun using black powder and small, childlike caps. Red liked the gun because it was so very anti-modern, it was not efficient, it had short range and made an enormous noise when fired. In short, it suited him. Hugh had been Red's second recruit from the suburbs around Denver, the man had probably been fifty when he died and was from Colorado. He was in top physical condition when he became a zombie his broad shoulders and huge muscular arms made a classic 'V' build favored by those into bodybuilding. Despite Hugh's physical appearance, the man never doubted Red could best him in a fight hands down. In the current world looks did not count for much, how many humans you had consumed counted for far more. Hugh's hair was a close-cropped gray, he had a badly receding hairline with some questionable hair in a strange pattern near his forehead, as if the man had gotten hair transplant that didn't go as planned.
Nita was the odd one of the group, she agreed with Red's aims, but would not go so far as to abstain from human flesh if she could get it. The middle aged woman had a good sized belly on her from giving birth to three kids, the fact that the weight followed her into her new life bothered her immensely. At night when they were walking and talking she would constantly complain about the fact that she might be doomed with a middle aged, fat body for the rest of eternity. Nita had darker skin than the two men and her hair and eyes matched Red's.
“I think I am done with saving the world for today. I could use some grub.” Nita said.
Red just scowled and checked out the room. There were still weapons in one corner and some medicines in a case on the wall. “Jeezus, this is some sort of opiate. Where did these guys get this stuff? Grenades? Drugs? Were they planning an uprising or what?”
“Probably planning for the end of the world. I wonder why the ones we are following killed them?” said Hugh.
“You can't be serious. They didn't kill these guys. This one had to be a psycho killer, the one boy is tied to the bed and looks like he has been dead for days. The girl she died here, probably about the same time. I think there is, where that plastic is taped to her" said Red pointing to a bit of bloody plastic and tape on the woman's body, "I think that is a bullet hole. I think they were trying to save her, but couldn't.”
Hugh shrugged, “Don't mean nothing really. Why are we here?”
“Just checking, you know 'the call' isn't as sharp here,” said Red. 'The Call' was how they described the constant urge they received in their minds from the east. All of the zombies seemed to be getting it too, the slower, shambling zombies were thoughtlessly compelled to move that direction. Red, Nita and Hugh could ignore it, but the call was still persistent and annoying, the three of them had risen to sentience and only if they were close by could a more powerful zombie compel them to do things. Red had first-hand experience with such a 'zombie master' in his recent past, the man he had traveled to Denver with had kept him on a short lease. When the late, not so great 'Og' had died near the Denver International Airport, he had been forcing Red to pursue a group of military trucks to the south. Og's control off Red all but disappeared after the bomb went off. He was not positive that Og was dead, but the zombie was weak enough that he could no longer control Red and that was good enough for now. Red, Nita and Hugh were not sure if another zombie could control them again, so they had no interest in getting too close to whoever was calling all of these zombies eastward. The control also seemed to be stronger in any zombies that Red made, so he assumed it worked the same way. Og had killed Red in Florida a month ago and had been able to control him without any problem at all. The zombies who had made Nita and Hugh were gone, possibly they had been killed by the living or had never consumed enough humans to actually remember who and what they had been. The change from human to zombie to super zombie was not an easy one and most who went through it were different from who they had been. Something about gaining so much power changed them for the worse, in Red's opinion.
“Should we box a bunch more in here?” Nita asked.
“Yeah, we could get a few thousand in the buildings in town.”
“A few thousand, from the hundreds of thousands following us? It won't make much difference will it?”
“It will, each town we go through we lock a few thousand in and soon there won't be any horde left.”
“I agree, but, you feel it too, right?”
Red nodded, he didn't have to ask what Nita meant, the compulsion was growing stronger the further east they moved. This caused the zombies to move faster, they might fill this town with zombies, but the next town they might not get so many as the zombies shuffled by. The slow zombies were idiotic and when the trio 'boxed' them in, they just put them in buildings and blocked the doors, the zombies at the very least were slowed down, in some cases, like this basement, Red doubted the zombies would ever get out unless someone freed them. In an ideal world Red, Nita and Hugh would swing back through the town whenever they stopped the horde and kill all of the zombies that were still trapped, for now they had to be content with locking them up and making it hard for the stupid ones to get out. So far they had boxed zombies in three towns taking the horde down by ten thousand or so, but the horde was too big to stop altogether.
The three of them also worked to stay ahead of the band of zombies, because if they were closer to the slow ones they could make them stop, which caused a bit of a traffic jam and delayed the horde's movement. Red didn't know why the zombie to the east wanted all of these brain eaters, but he knew it couldn't be for something good. Anything the more powerful zombie wanted, Red would fight against it for. Hugh and Nita, for the most part, agreed with Red's reasoning and agreed to help him. In terms of raw power Hugh was probably the weakest of the three, so Nita and Red were watching him carefully. If Hugh started to walk east, the other two were going to grab him and head west until he regained control of himself, then keep going.
“All right, anything we really need here?” Red asked the others. They shook their heads and he said, “Okay, let's get a few hundred into this place and lock them in, you two know what to do.”
The three of them filed out, leaving the bodies in the basement where they were. In a little over three hours, they had the town filled with the first zombies that led the Denver horde. Red finished up putting the last undead he could squeeze into a barn and locking them in and then went to find Nita and Hugh. He could sense where other zombies were with relative ease, the more intelligent a zombie was, the shorter the range of his ability to sense them. Nita and Hugh only knew where Red was when he wanted them to know. Concentrating, he found that the two were over near the main exit to the town from interstate eighty. A few minutes later he approached a bemused Hugh and Nita standing by a red cargo van on the shoulder of the road.
“What is so funny?”
Hugh hooked a thumb in Nita's direction, “Her.”
Turning to Nita, Red asked, “What?”
“Don't you feel them?” she asked him, pointing at the van.
“You didn't!” then Red concentrated on the van and found that it was crammed full of slightly moving undead. Quickly counting he came up with thirty-one zombies, “A new record!” Red walked around to the front of the van where the bodies were pressed up against the windshield and wiggling. “I think this van is larger than the last one.”
“That's what I said!”
“It is not! Look it is the same model and everything, but there was one difference.” Nita said.
“What?” the men asked at the same time.
“No bench seat in back. I got the extra three where the bench seat was. So does it count?”
Slowly Red nodded, “Why sure. I mean it is your game if you think it counts, then it does.”
Nita nodded, “I guess, but I wanted to see if you thought it was cheating because there wasn't a seat in back.” The three of them left the slightly bouncing van behind them as they walked back onto the highway.
“No, I think it is good. Hugh?”
“I think it counts. Thirty-one, no kids. Why do you like cramming zombies into cars anyway?”
Nita shrugged as they moved along, “I don't know, it is something to do. I could get into the Guinness book of records with it if we bring that back.”
Red laughed, “Always thinking ahead Nita!”
“Yeah, of course, why shouldn't I? Now if I could just lose this momma fat....”
The men groaned and trudged through the warm afternoon.