Orange County, California, USA
[ I look down on the city of LA, from my perch on a balcony in the hills above the city. The sounds of reconstruction and clean up still echo even 10 years after the war. I'm waiting for the owner of this large, walled in compoud. It is definately a post war consturction. Part House, part shooting range, part bunker and storage facility. It's owner, a very successful business man, gives lessons in shooting, and most importantly, the art of killing the undead. I'm here to get his story of what had happened when the day came, when the dead walked the Earth. ]
My name is Jack. It had been four months since my inactive reserve status had expired, from my tenure in the Marine Corps. I had joined back in 02′, right out of high school. My grandfather had his war, in Europe, my father had his war in Indochina, back before it was even Vietnam, and now I was going to have my war, in the Middle East. I busted my ass to be the top of everything I did, and it paid off. I was noticed by a Gunnery Sergeant who was looking for people to take the “indoc” as they called it for Force Recon. Those guys were the best of the best. I jumped at the chance. I nearly killed myself trying to pass that thing, and nearly drowned during the swimming portion. I eventually made it. I was pipe lined through all the appropriate schools, and a few months later, was part of a 4 man team kicking in insurgents doors in Iraq, and later Afghanistan. Five years…Four deployments in all, and I’d had enough. After my extension was up, me and the Corps parted ways.
Four and a half years later I wondered if I was any better off. I was going to school, working a part time job, barely scraping by. I kept hearing on the news about this African Rabies thing going around. African Rabies? Christ. Every year it was something new. SARS, Bird Flu, that damn thing the mosquitos give you now. Whatever. Not like I thought it’d ever bother me.
I was always the prepared type though, you know?
Well. Coming from a Spec Op background, you’re always trained to expect the worst, hope for the best. I had some MREs stashed in the garage, a few cases of water. You know. In case something happens. Earthquake, Riots…I don’t know.. Aliens? Hell. I even always joked with my girlfriend about the zombies coming. I loved zombie movies. [he laughs] I guess that paid off in the long run. Anyway. I was a firearms collector too. It was a pain in California, prewar anyway. I also kept a lot of stuff when I left the Corps. Combat losses, you know? I must have had 3 or 4 sets of body armor alone. I had some nice toys too. My buddy snagged me this beauty of a scope from the Armory when we left Afghanistan. Said it was lost in transport. That came in handy when it…happened.
Where were you when you realized something was wrong?
It was a Friday night. I don’t remember the date exactly. My roommate was a big party person. He’d go out clubbing, and I’d have the place to myself. So me and my girl would stay in and watch movies. We weren’t really the go out type ya know? Anyway. It was like two in the morning, when my roommate came in. I had just gotten back from taking Justina, that’s my girl’s name, home when he asked if we had any hydrogen peroxide. Some crazy homeless guy had bitten him when he threw him some change. He was bleeding pretty good, so I took him into the bathroom, and checked it out. It didn’t look like it needed any stitches, so we cleaned it out, wrapped it, and gave him a shot of vodka for good measure. He said he wasn’t feeling too hot, so he went to bed. I must have crashed out on the couch not too long after that, because the next thing i know, its early in the morning, and I hear this loud banging from his room.
What did you think it was?
I didn’t know. Sounded like he was wrestling a bear. I thought maybe someone had broken in through his window, woke him up, and was fighting them off. I slipped into my room, and grabbed my Kimber. I had bought a matching set of them for me and my girl. Both the 4inch SIS models, we have had our names engraved on both sides of the slide. How romantic, right? Anyway, I always had it with me…
Wasn’t that illegal?
Depends. It wasn’t for me, because I had a concealed weapons permit at the time. Prior military service made that easy to get, oddly enough in California.
Sorry, go ahead.
Where was I? Oh right. I slipped into my room, and grabbed it out of the holster, still attached to the jeans I was wearing the night before. I only had one mag loaded, with those nice 235 grain hydra shock hollow points. I locked and loaded, and headed to his door, and put my ear on it. The banging was gone, but I could hear this raspy breathing sound. Sounded like someone breathing when they have a real bad cold, you know. That mucus sound? We had shaggy carpet, so I couldn’t peek under the door, so I quietly tried the door knob. Locked. I considered asking if he was ok, but if there was someone else in there, they’d get the drop on me. I cringed at the thought of what the apartment manager was going to say when I showed him the kicked in door that needed to be fixed, but I did it anyway. The door flew open, taking a chunk of the frame with it, and I Immediately covered the room. It was just Chris, my roomie, standing by the window. “Chris dude, are you alright? What the fuck was all that noise?” The only answer I ever got this blood curdling moan, and he slowly turned. He was a dark gray color.. His eyes were glassy and unfocused..kind of blood shot too. He started slowly shuffling at me. Stupid me. I’m still standing there asking questions. Whats wrong? Why is your skin like that? Too long in the shower? Not talking to me? Then he lunged at me. Teeth snapping. “What the fuck?!” I side stepped him, causing him to miss and fall flat on his face. He kept trying to bite at me and grab me the whole time.
What did you do?
I was really freaked out. This is what they were saying on the news that happened with the whole African rabies thing. I didn’t know what to do at first. I didn’t know if it could be cured, or whatever. I decided on a middle road. Our bathrooms connected, between our rooms. I led him into his, ran through to mine, and closed the door, running back around through his room, and closing the door behind him. I stood there for a few seconds, waiting for him to just turn the door knob, but he didn’t. Just banged on the door. The doors were pretty flimsy, so I knew I didn’t have much time. I ran back into my room, grabbed my pants, my boots, my keys, and my cell phone. I about left the room when I noticed the four empty magazines on my desk. I ripped open the drawer, grabbed the box of .45 ammo I kept there, and the mags and ran for the garage. On my way, I looked into my neighbors window, and saw him feasting on his wife on the floor. I’d seen some fucked up things in my time in Iraq, but never anything like that. I probably turned white.
So what happened when you got to the garage?
I opened the door, ran in, and closed it behind me. It gave me a little zone where I felt safe, and I could think out my plan. I turned on the radio in my car, and listened in. It was absolute chaos. I guess Chris wasn’t the only one who was bitten. There were cases of it exploding in LA, all the way down to San Diego. The freeways were a mess, and they were telling everyone to get out of the populated areas. Great I thought. How the hell are you supposed to get out of this place when the freeways are jammed? I remember glaring at my car when I heard someone in the complex rocket out on their motorcycle. I felt stupid, as I looked over the car at my bike. It might have been jammed for cars, but bikes are always skimming by on the narrow edges. I thought I was going to be okay. But then it hit me.
Justina. I was so panicked, I almost forgot. I dug around my pockets for my phone, and called. No answer. I tried again. Nothing. Shit. That’s when my all that hard wired training I got kicked in. First things first. Equipment check. You remember when I said I “borrowed” a lot of stuff from the Corps when I left?
You have no idea.. [ he laughs ] I still had my exact kit that I used when I was kicking in doors. Hell, I still had the flex cuffs still dangling from the back of the vest. We had a safe in the garage. That’s where I kept my 2 rifles. I had to drive all the way to Yuma to get these guns, because they were illegal back then. God. Everything was illegal back then. It took me a good fifteen minutes to get that safe open. I couldn’t get my mind and hands to function together to get the combination right. Eventually, I got it. I tried calling Justina every 2 or 3 minutes, with no answer. It was nerve wracking. I was trying to hard to focus on that I was doing, and not what could be happening, or have happened to her. I grabbed my FN FAL first, checked the action, and jammed the 4 magazines I had for it, and threw another 140 rounds in a backpack. I could remember arguing with myself over which gun to take. The FAL had the range, and knock down power, but was heavy, and the ammo was heavy as hell, but it had a folding stock. The SIG 556 I just bought was much lighter, and had more ammo. I opted for both, and told myself I’d need them both. I jammed all 32 magazines I had for that Sig, again all from my old kit in the Marine Corps, and threw another 600 rounds in the backpack. I did the same with my Kimber. Some people might have thought I was crazy, and a little paranoid, but I tell you this. That day I was prepared. I was fucking prepared.
So what did you do next?
I topped off the bag with the main meals, and crackers from the MREs, and a few bottles of water. I tried Justina again, and finally there was an answer. She didn’t say anything, and hung up. Before I could call back I got a text from her. It simply said “Alive”. So I sent her one back asking if she was okay. She said she wasn’t hurt. Her parents attacked her. She had shot her mother 7 times in the chest with her Kimber, and she got right back up. She panicked, ran back to her room, blocked the door, and was hiding in the closet. It had taken her all that time to work up the courage to leave the closet long enough to grab her phone. She said they were beating on the door trying to get to her. I told her to be absolutely quiet, and not to move. I was on my way.
How far did you have to go?
Fifteen miles. Through little Mexico as I liked to call it. If this bug had hit there, I was going to need a tank to drive through the hordes of crazy gray biting people. I jumped on my bike, and popped the garage door open. It was chaos outside. Helicopters were flying all over, I could hear screams, and even gunshots. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. I checked myself. Made sure everything was secure. I had my FAL zip tied to the back of my vest, my Sig slung along my side, and my Kimber in a drop thigh holster that I also took. I must have had close to 70 pounds of stuff on.
Why did you have all of those bullets, and why the body armor?
There was a gun show a few months before it all happened. I always went and bought surplus ammo. The more you bought, the cheaper it was. I’d always go out to the desert and just blow off rounds at targets. Some was to keep my training muscle memory, some was stress relief. I was even trying to teach Justina how to fire the rifles. She was just too small. A 100 pound Vietnamese girl, with a 7.62 NATO assault rifle? [he chuckles to himself] She was always better with the Kimber. Good enough to make me not want to get on her bad side. As for the body armor? People have guns. When stuff starts getting crazy, they shoot people. I didn’t want to get shot. I figured I’d rather wear it just in case, than get shot, regretting not taking it in the first place.
You obviously survived the trip. What happened?
Our street was pretty quiet. I could hear screams further down the street. I slowly made my way down to the main avenue. To the right, was the I-5 Freeway. Jam packed. I could see people running across the bridge, with those things chasing behind them. On the Ave, the street was clogged with empty cars. People had left them, opting to go on foot. I slipped between two cars, and rode down the sidewalks. I made it a good half way to Justina’s place before I ran into trouble. Not from those things. From the living. There were a pair of Mexican guys trying to wave me down. I knew they were going to try and take my bike. The one had a knife clearly visible in his hand. I slowed down trying to find a way around then, when one of the gray bastards came running from a house, and tackled one of the Mexicans. The other ran, so I zipped right past. I wanted to help, but I had to get to Justina before I stopped for anyone else. I came across several scenes like that, with people fighting for their lives, or simply running away. I used it all to my advantage to get by. I was lucky. Most of the streets were fairly clear. Most of the congestion was near the freeways.
What happened when you got to Justina’s place?
She lives in this gated apartment complex. I parked the bike next door. It was one of those storage space places. I hid the bike behind a dumpster, and went in on foot. It’s weird now that I think back on it. Three weeks before the outbreak, I had just bought a red dot scope for my Sig. And a Week after, took it out to the desert to zero it. Fate? I don’t know. Maybe. But it saved my life. I Poked my head around the wall, through the gate. From what I could see, it was all clear. I entered the code for the gate, and it started opening. Opening in its loud, squeely, creakyness. I heard half a dozen moans before it opened all the way. I cursed it, and went through, rifle at the ready. Thankfully, they were pretty arthritic, and slow moving. I Took two shots at the closest one, perfect shots, center mass. Dropped like a rock. I quickly changed targets to the next one back, and again. It dropped. As I swung my sights on the third, to my horror, the first one stood back up. My mouth must have hit the ground. I remember thinking to my self very clearly…”What…The…Fuck…” I sighted in on the first one again. Two more shots. Got right back up. The last time, I went for the head. There was a splat sound, and it dropped, and stayed down. Carefully this time, I took careful aim and dispatched them. The whole thing took maybe 30 seconds. It felt like a life time.
I knew my shots were going to draw more attention, so I headed for her apartment. I quickly cleared the immediate area. I grabbed my phone and sent her a text. I’ll never forget it. “standby…breaching”. For the second time that day, I kicked down someone’s door. Both her parents turned, and shambled at me. Her mother was a mess. All seven of her shots were dead center. Almost key holed. That made me proud for a split second, before I had to drop them both. It looked like her father was bitten first, since there was steak knife coming out of his shoulder. I guess he went on to bite her mother, judging by the large chunk missing from her arm.
I remember yelling at her to let me in, and after a few minutes the door opened. She was a mess. Absolutely cried out. I spent a few minutes trying to calm her down and to get herself together, when they started coming through the door I kicked down. We ran into her room, and blocked up the door again. Her door was pretty solid, so we had a few minutes to plan. She grabbed some clothes, reloaded, got dressed, and discussed our options. I’m still surprised by how strong of a person she turned out to be. Her parents just tried to eat her, her neighbors were now trying to, and we were trapped in a room.
She was pretty damn calm, and collected for all of that just happening. We ended up making the decision to go to the Costco that was only 2 miles down the road. It was a good place to hole up. Plenty of food, water, and very defensible. I peeked out the window, it looked clear. Apparently most of the things went through the front door, and were trying to get into the room that way. We crawled out the window, and made a run for the gate before the bastards noticed us from inside the house. We made it out just in time. As soon as I cleared the window, the door shattered. We made it back to the bike without incident.
Did you think that anyone else would be headed there?
I considered that. It was a chance we were willing to take. We made it to the parking lot of the Costco. To our horror, there was a giant mass of the things in front of the door. I could see movement on the roof. They were people. They started waving to us, I waved back. One of the men on the roof was pointing at the door. I didn’t know what he wanted me to do. There had to be at least a thousand of them in front of that door. Two more men appeared on the roof. They started yelling and banging on the edge of the building. They were drawing them all off to the side. I was just getting ready to make a bee line to the door when one of those things made a grab at me. We were thrown off balance, and fell off the bike. We were lucky. That gave us a precious few seconds to react. We were able to get a few shots off to kill the thing. Its flesh was ripped and torn. There was no blood. Only this Thick. Black fluid that seeped out of the holes in its chest neck and head.
Unfortunately, our shots also attracted the attention of some in the crowd. They let out one of those moans, and like a flock of birds, they all turned on us. We were nearly surrounded. They were coming from the crowd, coming from the houses behind us, from down the street, the way we just came. We only had one choice. Run for the building. We sprinted like we never sprinted before. They had opened the door just enough for us to crawl under. Justina went first, as I covered, and as I went under, my vest caught on the door. I struggled to get free, and eventually someone grabbed my arm and pulled me through. When I got through, I checked myself. No bites… Not entirely [Jack holds up his foot, and turns it to the side, revealing a large gouge taken from the heel] My lucky boots. One of those things almost had my leg for dinner. Instead, it got a mouth full of rubber. [he laughs] My lucky boots. I still wear them.
Once we calmed down, we finally got a good look around. There were about 50 people in there. Some men, some women, and a few children. Two police officers came forward from the back of the crowd. They introduced themselves, and looked me up and down. “Military?” the one asked. Former, I told him. The younger of the two cops. I guess he just got his badge. You know he actually had the nerve to ask if I knew that my rifles were illegal? [he shakes his head] I told him if he wanted to walk me to the police station, and arrest me, that I’d be right behind him. That got a laugh out of the crowd.
We spent the next few days trying to use out phones, but they became useless after all the circuits got clogged, and eventually shut down. There was a computer in the office, with internet access. We were able to keep tabs on what was happening, the plans for evacuation, and what people were saying. But eventually servers started going down, and even the internet didn’t work. We also had the TV, and radios, but after about a week, the power went out.
We had enough food to hold out for months maybe even a year or two. Thank god for Costco. Over the next few weeks we were able to get some survivors inside. Some weren’t so lucky. We had to watch a few people get eaten in the parking lot. Eaten, then turn into one of the the crowd outside trying to get us. We spent a lot of time on the roof, trying to get helicopters to notice us. The first few weeks, there was a lot of air traffic. We watched civilian helicopters, military transports, and even gunships on the hunt.
After about a month, the metal rolling door was pretty well banged up, from all those damn ghouls banging on it day and night. There was concrete mix in the building, and we spent our time fashioning a wall around the door frame, to reinforce it. We turned part of the store into a barracks of sort, giving everyone their own privacy. We ended up with close to 150 people. I spent a lot of my time either listening to the radio, listening to what was happening in the outside world. We heard about Yonkers, the incidents in China, and the whole Pakistan/Iran incident. It was a mess.
When did help finally come?
It must have been about 3 months into the siege. A civilian pilot had noticed us, and came our way. We figured that one of the corners of the building might be able to support the weight of his helicopter. He filled us in on the establishment of safe zones, and that he was picking up survivors where he could. We told him how many we had, and I remember that cringe he made. We knew he couldn’t take us all. We brought up the kids, and he took as many as the youngest ones he could. He promised that he would let the military know about us. A few days later, a trio of Marine Corps CH-43 helicopters appeared on the horizon headed right for us. We crammed as many people as we could onto those birds, and as I, and the two officers went to board, we were blocked. All the birds were at max weight, and couldn’t take us. They said we’d have to wait another few days. We figured no big deal. We had waited months already. So we thought.
The weight of the helicopters landing on the corner of the building had weakened the walls. They gave out. The whole corner of the building sagged, and collapsed. That giant mob now had access to the roof, and the inside of the building. We retreated to the back corner of the building, by the emergency exit. We kept all of our weapons, and ammunition, along with our “survival packs” crammed with food, water, and ammo, should they get in and we had to run. It paid off. We hunkered down, and fought them off for a good forty five minutes. There was actually a wall of dead bodies. Well. Dead, dead bodies seeing as how they were undead. It was nothing like the images I saw after the war of the great eastern push.
Eventually, we just couldn’t sustain enough fire to keep them away from us. We each grabbed a bag, and opened the door. We were lucky. None of the ghouls were in the back of the building. They all seemed content trying to follow us through the front door so many weeks before. There was a bank across the parking lot. It had one of those self contained indoor ATMs, where you had to swipe your card to get inside. The two officers knew it was a good place to go. They had those thick shatter proof windows. We’d be safe for the time being. We just had to get there. It was a long parking lot. And there were a lot of ghouls between us. We had made it to about three quarters of the way there, were we decided to use a car in the lot as a firing point. We started taking out any of the zombies in the way of us and the doors when one of those little crawling bastards struck. You know? The ones where their legs are gone, or they don’t work? Well. One of those little bastards crawled under the car, and bit one of the cops. He screamed in agony, and we all turned to give it a lead bath. Before we could even say anything else, he threw his bag to his partner, and yelled go, and turned his sidearm on himself. I cant blame him. Better than turning into one of those things.
We eventually made it to the bank, and pulled the door. Locked. We thought we were done for. As I turned to look for another place for us to go, Hal, the older of the two cops was digging in my bag. He pulled out my wallet. He threw it in there a long time ago when we made those bags, just out of habit. It saved our life. The bank must have been running on some kind of emergency battery power, because the card reader still worked. I swiped my ATM card, and it unlocked. We made it just as the first of the swarm made it to the doors. We were safe for the time being, but right as we were about to rest, I heard the distinctive “whump whump whump” sound of a Huey. It was circling the Costco. Hal mentioned there had to be some kind of roof access. We shot out the glass doors that lead into the inside of the bank, and there it was, in the back office. The ladder to the roof. We made it up, and had to figure out a way to signal the helicopter. What better way to do that, than firing every weapon we had into the air? It did the trick, and the pilot noticed us.
The pilot had told us we were lucky. They were already at bingo fuel, and were getting ready to leave. They didn’t think anyone was left alive when they saw the zombies crawling all over the building. We eventually made it out to Ft Irwin, out in the high desert, far away from the cities. The outbreak was much more easily contained out there, and the base had been set up as a rally point for refugees and the military.
What happened after you made it there?
First thing? I had to hunt down Justina. We were reunited. It turned out to be a pretty good day considering the world was ending. I eventually joined up with the base security team, and helped them conduct perimeter patrols, all the way to the end of the war.
What are you doing now?
I give shooting lessons. Ever since the whole incident, its been almost encouraged that everyone carry a sidearm these days. They think that it’ll eventually help prevent another outbreak. There are always little ones, every spring when the ice thaws, and those damn things come down from the north. It makes sense. Enough people with guns on them, can take down any individual zombies they come across. Who knows? I’m just here to teach people how to shoot now. The first 3 days, you’re on a range shooting a paper target. The fourth day, is your pre qualification. You have 20 rounds, and you have to get 15 of the 20 as head shots. The final day is the pit. Its you, one of the instructors, and 3 ghouls. You have 10 seconds to drop all three.
What happens if they miss?
Well. That’s what the instructor is for. He doesn’t miss. We cant have our customers getting eaten. We want them to come back again. And pay again of course.
Where are you getting the zombies?
From up north. They use a ground penetrating radar to find them, and dig them up. They ship them down south to us, and others like us. We keep them frozen until we need them. It works out pretty good. Anyway, I hate to cut our interview short, but Duty calls. Care for a free lesson?