'How did they fucking survive so long?' Katie asked herself. The grieving half of the duo, Robert, had wandered into a zombie almost as soon as they made it into the housing development. Kent and Katie were walking ahead of the other three, who were still crying and in shock, when the zombie lurched out of an open garage and surprised the man. When the zombie bit into Robert he decided it was time to fight. By then, however, it was too late, he was already infected. His daughter, Jess, clubbed the zombie in the head, hitting it so hard she bent the barrel of her rifle. That hadn't saved Robert though. The four of them gathered around the sobbing man as his blood spurted out onto the driveway and made a rivulet down to the gutter.
Katie backed off and watched for more activity while the others bandaged the man up and tried to get him to his feet. He ignored them and sobbed. “They took our baby Kent! Our little Sammy!”
Kent bent over and hugged Robert, “I know Rob, I know. But we have other kids to live for, other kids to help, we have to move on, get them safe, we have to. C'mon, get up. We can't stay here.”
“I can't go. You know I can't go with you. Not with this!” he held up his bandaged arm, the white gauze was already drenched in bright red blood.
“You are not dead, we'll find someone to take care of you, we'll get it...” Kent's voice trailed off and he too started to sob.
The crying was painful to Katie's ears, she had compartmentalized her grief at losing Randy, put it away in a small little room buried deep within her brain. She had locked the door and turned the painful, numbing grief that threatened to destroy her into a cold anger for revenge. She would go through what Robert was suffering....but later, not now. A single tear appeared at the corner of her eye and she wiped it away angrily, turning before the group behind her could see her weakness.
“What do we do?” Kent's voice asked her, “What do we do?” he repeated when she didn't answer him. “Hey, military woman! I am talking to you! What can we do?”
Katie looked at Kent, then at the blood, which continued to drop out of Robert's arm. She then looked up and down the street, not seeing any activity she crouched down and set her gun on the ground, pointed towards the bleeding man.
“He is bleeding a lot. Maybe he bled out the infection.”
“You don't sound very convincing.” Kent said.
“You want convincing? What do you expect? He got bit, he is going to die. He is going to come back as one of them, same as Sam. I am not a doctor.” she pointed at Robert and shrugged, “He bled a lot, maybe the infection didn't get inside him, like it did with my partner. Maybe he will recover. If he doesn't bleed to death.”
“I can feel it in me.” Robert said through his sob.
“That's blood loss, I doubt you feel the infection.” Katie said. Her voice was doubtful though, she recalled Randy saying the same thing.
“You've seen this before.” Kent accused.
“What did you try?”
“There wasn't much to try, we washed him up real good, we had antibiotics, we had bandages, and we were in the field. He died.” Katie looked away 'What the fuck does he want from me?'
“Shut up, Robert, you don't know what you are saying.”
“No, you shoot me, Kent. I would do it for you.”
“You aren't even dead! You're being unreasonable.”
“I can't do it myself. I am not that strong.”
“How could you ask me to do that? I wouldn't ask you to do it! Not while there is a chance.”
“You heard her!” Robert screamed, “There is no chance!”
“We don't even know who she is, she could be lying.”
Katie shrugged, this little gathering reminded her of her own family all too much, the constant bickering, leading to screaming, then someone yelling at someone else to kill them. She smiled bitterly at her dark sense of humor, Randy would have got it. The two men continued to argue until Katie got tired of it, she picked up her shotgun, stood up and walked across the street.
“Where are you going?” Robert yelled when he saw her walking away.
“Over there.” Katie said without looking back while as she pointed to the house in front of her. It was a home just like any other on the block, except it was all buttoned up. She hoped that meant there was a car in the garage and keys somewhere inside.
“You can't leave us!” Robert said.
Katie half turned and answered over her shoulder, “I'm not. I'm just going into the house. When you get done calling every zombie around us down on our heads, I will come back out.” muttering under her breath she continued, “Or I will just drive away in a nice Suburban by myself.”
The kids looked embarrassed and torn, half wanting to go with Katie, half wanting their dads to stop bickering. Family loyalty won out and they stayed in the street to watch the two men argue. Katie approached the door and banged on it, calling out, “Anybody alive in there?” She waited a full count of sixty, then banged again, “I am coming in, if you are in there and don't want your door broken down, you have about ten seconds to open up.” Nothing. Katie turned sideways and slammed into the door, it only took two tries to break the frame holding it shut.
'Surprising, how easy it is to break into a house if you don't care that other people can see the damage.' Inside the shades were drawn shut, with only a little light seeping into the front room from the kitchen.
A smell of decay wafted passed her as Katie stood in the doorway. In the street the argument was reaching a new height. 'Decay means dead-dead, not living dead.' thinking this to herself she shut the door as well as she could behind her and scanned the room. There weren't any bodies lying around, or moving either. 'Upstairs, in the bedrooms. I bet you five Randy, that is where I find the family, all suicided.'
She took the stairs two at a time as fast as she could, just in case there was a smart zombie lying in wait. The stairway opened into a loft like area that overlooked the main room, there was a bathroom directly in front of her, two open doors down a short hallway to her left and a closed door that screamed 'Master Bedroom' across the loft room to her right. The door was ornate and oak. Not good, hundred year old oak, but the newer faux oak door that was lightweight, yet still cost a few hundred more than standard doors and looked nice.
“I could just leave it. I know what is in there. Dead people. I don't have to go in.” Katie said out loud. She put her hand on the doorknob, or latch rather, it looked and felt like some sort of brushed nickel. 'Nice.'
It was also locked. Pressing her ear to the side of the door she listed for a moment, but only heard faint yelling from the street. With a heavy sigh she shouldered this door too, breaking a chunk out of the frame on the first hit. The stench of rotted flesh rolled over her, but the room was pitch black. Katie backpedaled and crouched down pulling her pack around to the front of her to get her flashlight.
Nothing came crawling out of the black doorway. Katie left her pack on the floor and turned on her light, the beam was almost painfully bright. From her position outside the door Katie could see a set of feet lying on the carpeting, the rest of the person was out of sight behind the bed. What she could see of the body gave her the impression it belonged to a corpse, not a zombie. The feet were gray and swollen; the flesh of the ankles was tightly bound by the cuffs of a pair of men's sleepwear pajamas.
Before she stepped in Katie moved to the far right side of the door, the angle gave her a better view of the rest of the room as she approached. She knew she had to go in, if the couple had car keys they would be in here, not someplace sensible, like the kitchen. 'That is how my luck runs. I kinda hope I am right, otherwise I am going through a whole lotta gross for nothing!'
It was a family of five, the wife and children were tucked into the king sized bed, the man lay on the floor beside them. Katie's eyes were drawn to the rifle the man had, a thirty ought six. 'Respectable, maybe he was a hunter.'
She reached down and picked up the rifle, which had fallen beside the man and was out of the bloated rot of his remains, as she was bent over she heard a faint sound, as if someone were continuously squeezing water out of a sponge. 'Maggots.'
Even as sealed up as the house was, flies had gotten in. 'I don't even see any flies around, but I can hear their babies in the bodies.' Standing with the gun, she looked around for any ammunition and spotted a case on the desk, next to a set of keys. 'Bingo!' Katie grabbed the ammo and the keys and run out of the room.
In the loft room she let out a breath she hadn't realized she had been holding and pulled the door shut behind her, it didn't stay closed, but only crept open a few inches. 'Fuck it, I am not staying here anyway.'
She turned off her light and tucked it and the rifle ammunition into her pack. The keys went into her front pocket. By the time Katie was downstairs Kent had dragged Robert up the sidewalk to the door. Jess hesitantly swung the front door open, using the barrel of her gun instead of her hand. Katie paused on the stairs to wait for them to come in.
“It's okay, there aren't any zombies in here, just dead people.” she said.
“Okay. It's dark. And smells bad.”
“I didn't say the house was empty. The family committed suicide, it's a mess, you'll want to stay out of the master bedroom.”
Robert and Kent continued to bicker, but at least the wounded man was walking, albeit with one arm around his spouse's shoulders. The boy, Bobby, brought up the rear, pointing the gun he had taken off of his dead sister behind him as he came in.
“Did you draw their attention?”
“Yeah.” Bobby said.
“That's what got those two moving huh?” asked Katie as Kent dragged Robert into the bathroom on the ground level against his wishes.
“Uh-huh.” Bobby hesitated, then asked, “Is my dad really going to die.”
Katie held his gaze for a moment, then Bobby flushed and she asked, “How many zombies are out there?”
“I saw eight.” said Jess quietly.
“Or nine.” Bobby added, “More were coming.”
“Yeah, noise seems to draw them. It's not the only thing though. I had good luck sleeping below ground once, which seemed to throw them off. What is the plan?” as soon as she asked Katie silently cursed herself, the kids would not know. True to expectation they shrugged.
“Get my dad to a hospital.” Bobby said.
Katie shook her head, “No. Every brother and his dad brought their relatives who got bitten to the hospital; they are probably Zed central now. Not worth the risk. Besides there aren't any doctors there now.”
“We can't just let him die!”
“We aren't letting him do anything. We didn't do this. I want to have some compassion for you, but I just...can't. I just can't. I'm sorry.” Katie pointed to the kitchen, “Go see if they have any food we want. You, Jess, find a bowl and try to pour water into it from the tap, but find the bowl first. If the water is off a little might drain out and I bet your dads will want it to help get cleaned up.”
Their dads did want it and more water too. Katie eventually had to go upstairs and raid the toilet bowl tank for more, but not before she and Bobby moved a heavy leather couch in front of the broken front door. As the men cleaned up Robert's bitten arm Katie eyed the glass patio doors nervously. So far no zombies had appeared in the back yard and only a couple were banging on the front door, but zombies doing something interesting tended to draw more zombies, like some sort of weird zombie herd mentality.
“Kent, we need to leave or I need to do something about those zeds out front. They will draw more of a crowd.”
“We aren't ready. He is still bleeding badly.” Kent said, pouring a bottle of hydrogen peroxide he had found in the linen closet over Robert's still bleeding avulsion.
“I'll take care of it then.” Katie looked around the kitchen; she found what she wanted in the pantry closet, a box of recyclables, which included some empty two liter bottles.
“Watch that door Jess! I'll be back in a couple of minutes. Bobby you keep an eye on the back door. If either of you sees anything, yell. I am going into the garage, but will keep the door to the house open.”
Katie took her flashlight with her and after a few minutes searching she found a healthy roll of duct tape, barely used. Nothing had gone super nova in the few minutes she was gone, but both kids seemed glad to see her. 'That's me, Katie; Idol to the disgruntled youth of the mid-west.'
She set the duct tape and empty bottle on the counter then picked up her new rifle. She had already checked it over while Kent was cleaning up Robert. It was not an heirloom; the thing was new, brand new; if it had been fired more than fifty times Katie would cut off her right tit. However, there was no one she cared to make that bet with now. She placed the rifle on the island counter top and fitted the empty bottle over the barrel. Using the duct tape she bound the bottle to the rifle barrel, then taped a spiral along the sides of the bottle and over its bottom. By the time she was done the bottle was pointed as straight out from the barrel as she could make it and though it sagged slightly.
“What are you doing?” asked Jess.
'Inquisitive youth, maybe she could learn to be worth something.' Katie answered her as if she were a younger soldier asking her for information, “I am taping this bottle to the barrel of the rifle, then I am going to shoot a couple of those persistent zombies in the head. The bottle will help deaden the noise when I fire the rifle by capturing the escaping gas from the bullet. It is not perfect, it won't be totally silent, but I doubt anything will hear it from even a block away.”
“Oh, so others won't hear it. That looks simple.”
“It is, and effective, but not perfect. After about three shots it is even less effective, and you either need to duct tape up the holes in the bottom.” Katie pointed to the bottom of the bottle where the bullets would go through it, “Or get a new bottle. If you tape over the bottom like this it should prevent the plastic from shattering, but it could tear the bottle off the gun barrel too.”
“Are you really are a sniper?”
“A markswoman, I have the same training, use the same equipment and test against the same targets as snipers.”
“Why aren't you called a sniper?”
“Sexism. It's better than it was, but the army still tends to regulate women to support roles. You can get around anything if you try hard enough. Or have the skills.”
“When did you go to the army?”
“Jess, now isn't the time. You and Bobby, get your guns, set them on the couch, then move the couch back about six inches, that should be enough for me to get this through the crack and cap a few of them. As soon as you put the couch down pick up your guns, but do not fire unless I tell you to or things really get out of hand.”
“Out of hand?” asked Bobby, “What does that mean?”
“You'll know it when you see it.”