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COLUMBUS DAY: PART 2 by Patrick Turner
December 28, 2011  Longer stories   Tags: ,   

Continued from Part 1

The Stryker careened around the corner and the men inside, packed so tightly that they could barely breathe, swayed back and forth into each other. It was an uncomfortable ride, but not a one of them would’ve preferred the alternative. The Gunny couldn’t really see much, locked as he was in the mass of men packed into the APC but he did spot some few details as it continued to roar away from the crowd of dead left behind.

The Stryker was heavily “modified”, meaning it was completely stripped down and any piece of equipment or electronics deemed unnecessary was removed. There were several portholes that had been roughly cut into the armored hull of the APC, with crude steel plates on hinges attached that could open up to the outside world and the bandanna woman who had saved their skins closed one such plate and latched it down and leaned a rather large riot shotgun against the hull and squeezed into the gunner’s seat where she used the LCD to scan around with the “ma deuce” on a servo at the top of the vehicle.

She saw the coast was clear for now, except for the occasional individual corpse that would wander out into the road at which point the driver would gun the engine and a distinct thump would be heard inside the vehicle, but other than that no other indication that a human form had just been turned into pulp by the 8 large wheels of the APC. She glanced back at the group of men packed into every available inch of the interior and then went back to watching the LCD.

“Spec 4 Lydia Smith, at your service! Call me Lids, we’re not big on rank these days.” she said as she continued to pan the servo around. The LT spoke up.

“Lieutenant Paul Volker, and I have to say.. Lids. That I’m damn glad you showed up when you did! I was seriously considering putting a bullet in my head.”

Lids smiled “Oh doncha think about that yet LT, we were out doing supply patrol in the city but as you can see we’ve come up pretty empty this time around. We were on our way back to base when we heard you guys open up.” The Stryker suddenly swerved and the men rocked back and forth into each other for a moment and another dull thump was heard on the hull of the Stryker.

“Sorry ‘bout that guys, Ned tends to get a bit crazy on the wheel.” She said loudly at the driver’s compartment. She got no response other than a gunning of the accelerator that kicked up their speed and another corpse slapped against the hull.

“Well Lids, we certainly appreciate the ride. What outfit you with?” questioned the LT.

“I was with the First Battalion of the 148th Infantry, but that was a long time ago. Today we’re just survivors like all the rest, if a bit more organized.” Lids said.

“So there are more of you?” The LT continued.

“Yup, about 280 of us. We’re based at the zoo.” She said glancing back at the LT occasionally.

“The Zoo?”

“Oh yeah, it’s the safest place around with heavy fencing and good security. That is also where the labs are.”


Lids smiled “Yup, we have a scientific community of sorts, still doing active research.”

“I’m impressed.” The LT said with earnestness.

“Don’t be. We lead a pretty miserable existence to tell you the truth. Hand to mouth here in the city.” She said seriously and then picked up the mic to a CB that was haphazardly bolted to the wall of the Stryker.

“This is Lids. Got your ears on?”

“Sure do Lids! What’s up?” came a voice over the speaker.

“Coming in with… refugees.” She said with a wide smile on her face. “About a dozen”

“Roger on the reffs. I’ll get a clean team out on the gate to clear the way.”

“Roger and out” she said and she dropped the mic.

“So how come I have a platoon of the One Oh One in the middle of my city?” Lids asked the LT.

“Actually you have a squad of the One Oh One and another made up from a militia regiment, First Ohio.” The LT replied

“Ooooh… Militia boys eh? My uncle volunteered into one of those outfits, down near the ‘Nati.” She responded.

“Well, we’re all grateful to you for saving our asses.” the Gunny spoke up. Lids smiled back.

“No problem, Pops.”

She then returned to the LCD monitor as the Stryker roared north out of the heart of the city and towards the zoo. She swiveled the “ma deuce” back and forth. The LT stood over her shoulder and looked at what the display showed.

As they approached the Zoo the streets, which were virtually empty before, began to thicken with the odd clump or two of deaders moving around. The Stryker roaring by got their attention for a moment but then it was past and the dead continued on with the eternal parodies of their former lives. As they got near the gate however a large, thick knot of corpses could be seen piled up against the main gate of the zoo. A large sign that proclaimed COLUMBUS ZOO sat above an iron security gate, which swayed back and forth from the weight being pressed on it by the thick crowd of dead.

Suddenly the LT saw huge streams of flame roar out from the gate and move back and forth over the crowd and begin cooking and incinerating the dead in the immediate area of the gate sterilizing it long enough for the Stryker to rumble over the ashes and charred bodies and charge through the now open gate before it was closed instantly. Within a few minutes, fresh dead began moving towards the gate and collected against it, vainly reaching through the spaces in the iron and moaning in hunger and frustration.

The Stryker wound along several service roads and roared into a large vehicle garage and came to a stop. The hatch lowered and the men gratefully debarked into a large maintenance bay. The only other military vehicle within the structure was a vintage M-60 tank. The rest of the vehicles were a mix of pickups, golf carts and other vehicles marked with the logo of the zoo. The men looked around and thankful doesn’t even describe how they felt after the near death experience in the city.

“Wait here while I go find Dr. Humbacher.” Lids said as she walked out a door.

A hatch in the Stryker’s front opened and out climbed a man with a grey ponytail and wearing an ancient and faded Grateful Dead T-shirt and greasy jeans and he jumped down from the vehicle and went over to the loose standing group of men and up to the LT.

“Hey there fellas! Ned’s the name. Deadhead Ned. But you guys just call me Ned.” He said and put his hand out which the LT took.

“Paul Volker, This here is Gunny Raines” the LT said indicating to Raines at his side.

Deadhead Ned nodded and shook the Gunny’s hand as well. “I have to say guy, that wasn’t very smart getting into the Shootout at the OK corral in Downtown like that. We estimate there must be at least forty thousand dead in that area alone. If we hadn’t been in the vicinity?” the Gray haired hippy looking fellow said and then shrugged.

“Glad you guys came when you did.” said the Gunny and then turned as the door Lids had disappeared through opened and she came back in followed by a rotund little man with a bald head and wearing a pair of glasses that sat on the bridge of his nose and a white lab coat.

“This is Dr. Humbacher, formerly Professor of Biology at Ohio State University and head of our Board of Directors.” said Lids as they came up to the men, who except for the Gunny and the LT and Sgt Loomis had spread out and sat down on the floor of the garage, resting after the exertions of the day.

The little man came up to the LT and took his hand, he had a rather limp handshake, but the look in his eyes showed something sterner lay beneath, a kind of steel intellect. The Doctor repeated the process with the Gunny.

“Welcome to Columbus Gentlemen, I’m Dr. Humbacher. I can see right away you aren’t the typical starving skeletons we usually find hiding out in the city. Where’d you come from?”

The LT spoke up. “Well Doctor, I’m from the US Government, and I’m here to help.” This brought a quiet laughter to everyone in the room, except Dr. Humbacher who apparently didn’t get the joke.

“Well that is all well and good Lieutenant but wandering around the city aimlessly is statistically certain to get you killed. Why?”

“We’re looking for two girls, two very special girls.” The LT said

“The President’s Daughters you mean? Oh they are well taken care of and of no concern at the moment.“ Humbacher said with a dismissive wave and continued, “Your team can stay here and make themselves comfortable for now, we’re short of living space as you can imagine with over 250 people here. A meal will be served in about 2 and ½ hours. I’m afraid the portions are rather small, but we offer what we have.”

“We’re well provided for on personal rations Doctor, thank you. We’ll be fine on MRE’s for now, save your food.” Said the LT and the Doctor nodded.

“Well, if you and Gunny Raines was it? Would follow me, I’d like to show you something.” And with that he turned around and headed for the door to the bay. The LT and the Gunny looked at each other questioningly and then followed after the doctor.

They stepped through the door into a long corridor and then continued out a door marked EXIT where a golf cart sat patiently waiting. The Doctor beckoned the two men to get inside and then got behind the wheel where he started it up and proceeded to drive away from the maintenance garage. He then began explaining the setup of the zoo as they continued down the various footpaths through the park.

“Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, 700 acres in total area, although the Aquarium area is overrun and sealed off, so we only use about half that. There are 276 people here as of last count, 208 men, 47 women, the rest are children. You’ll notice if you look around, the distinct lack of animals in the areas. That is because they are dead, slaughtered for food. The carnivores were first to go.” He said with a smile. “Tiger is quite interesting actually.”

The Gunny and the LT smiled at the thought of living off of Lions and Tigers and Bears, but food was food and you took what you could get in times like these. The Golf Cart turned a sharp bend and came to a halt just before a large white structure. Red lettering on the Zoo themed sign on the door indicated RESEARCH AREA, EMPLOYEES ONLY.

They disembarked from the Golf Cart and the Doctor led the way as they went into the door and entered a spacious area with empty cages stacked up several high all around. The cages formed a series of corridors that the doctor led them through. The smell of animal still lingered throughout the empty building. They continued past the cages and entered into another door, this one marked PRIMATES.

“So what kind of research are you doing here Doc?” said the LT as he surveyed the room they had entered. There were more cages here, larger than the ones in the previous room, and these looked like they had been freshly inhabited. Signs with various names were on the cages like Tootsie, Sam and Beck.

“Looking for a cure of course or maybe a vaccination of some kind?” The Doctor said as he continued along to the end of the room where a large examination table was placed. The entire area was spotlessly sterile and smelled of bleach.

“These cages were once inhabited by every primate at the zoo. We kept them all alive in order to do experiments and see how Factor Z worked.” Humbacher said as they came to the table.

“Factor Z?” said the Gunny.

“That’s what I call it anyway, no one knows what it is exactly, could be viral. It could be some kind of mutation in our own genetic code too. We know it’s not bacteriological in nature but in all the experiments that I’m aware of before things got bad and since, we’ve never been able to successfully isolate any viral DNA from the blood of the dead or even recently infected. Experiments using every anti-viral known to man has failed to even slow down the onset of death and reanimation.” The doctor said with the kind of tone a teacher takes when giving a lecture, which he was in reality.

“Over time, we exposed every single primate to Factor Z. Just like humans, it killed them all within 48 hours, however unlike Humans, non-human primates apparently do not reanimate. All of them just died, except one.” said the Doctor over his glasses.

“What?” said the LT. “You say that non-human primates don’t reanimate but are killed by this Factor Z. However one actually survived? As in immune?”

“Precisely so Lieutenant, come with me.” And with that he turned and went through yet another door which led to a large balcony overlooking a rather spacious habitat area. It resembled a child’s play ground with a jungle gym and wooden platforms spread around the area. Sitting on its haunches staring back at the men, was a large Gorilla. He had black, course fur and a massive bare chest along with a prominent, whitish stripe of short fur on his back. He sat there, looking up at the men on the balcony and scratched at himself. He looked rather bored to the Gunny which was confirmed by a stiff yawn from the beast. Wickedly long and sharp canines glinted ivory in the sunlight. It had a monstrous and thick conical shaped head, with a pair of intelligent eyes that looked around the habitat with the boredom a prisoner in a prison cell might display.

“This is Kang. Kang is a 27 year old Male Silverback Lowland Gorilla from Uganda. He’s been living at the Zoo for almost 15 years now. He’s rather docile for a Silverback really, probably a result of separation from the rest of his group. He’s quite lonely, and I’m pretty much his only friend. He’s a playful fellow really, except when the dead get near him.”

“What happens then?” said the LT with keen interest.

“What do you think? He tears them apart limb by limb.” said the Doctor matter of factly and this brought a smile to the Gunny’s lips.

“He’s quite immune to Factor Z, though we haven’t been able to isolate any difference in his blood with any of the other gorillas in his group that Factor Z proved very fatal too. So we have no idea what makes him tick really.” said the Doctor with a bit of wistful curiosity. The men could see that he had a burning question mark in his head and Factor Z was a frustration because it stymied all of his years of biological expertise.

“However, there was just one problem that developed unexpectedly.” said the Doctor as he looked out over the habitat area.

“What was that?” said the Gunny.

“One of the people was bitten several months back and I decided to see if exposure to Kang’s blood might make a difference. Unfortunately, it did.” said the Doctor with not a little bit of regret.

The LT thought he knew where this was going and the color drained from his face. “Don’t tell me.” He said to the Doctor.

The Doctor merely confirmed with a nod of his head. “I ran an IV into the subject with Kang’s blood. The effects were completely unexpected. The poor woman, did I mention she was a she? Actually managed to survive the longest of anyone I had seen survive initial infection before onset of death. Four days, nearly twice as long as usual.”

“So it didn’t quite work, but?” said the Gunny

“When she revived, she had maintained much of the agility and strength she had when she was alive. She also possessed an extremely fine tuned predation instinct and obviously some kind of higher thinking.” The Doctor said in response.

“You made the hissers?” said the Gunny

“Correct. Completely unintentionally I assure you. I was just trying to save a poor woman’s life!” whined the Doctor

“So what happened after that?” said the LT

“I decided to study her. But after a couple weeks in confinement, she managed to get loose, kill two men and escape. Before long we began getting attacked by other dead exhibiting the same effects. I assume that being a more efficient hunter than the other dead; she probably managed to hunt out isolated survivors within the city, with the obvious effect of spreading her particular form of Factor Z.” the Doctor said, his voice hushed.

“Shit!” cussed the LT “So how many of these things do you think are out there?”

“There’s no way to tell.” said the Doctor. “It depends entirely on the density of survivors per square mile in the city. There could be on the order of several hundred at least.” The Doctor had obviously been doing the math before.

“Well damn Doc. You created a whole new species of deader, one meaner than the ones we already have to deal with. I understand you did it by accident, but damn Doc, bad accident!” said the Gunny as he turned in disgust from the balcony.

“Yeah Doc, really,” said the LT in agreement. “As soon as you found out what the hell she had become you should’ve shot her in the head right then and there. Why did you keep her around?”

“Professional curiosity.” said the Doc with quite some repentance.

“Well it might just have killed all the cats Doc. Damn.” replied the Gunny as he shook his head and walked through the door.

* * *

The trio piled back into the golf cart and didn’t have much to say to each other at first as the cart wound its way across the zoo grounds. Eventually the LT spoke up “Look Doc, this has all been real interesting but I was sent here for the girls. Where are they?”

“That’s where we are headed now. Over to the living quarters, they’ve been with us about two weeks now. They showed up one day in an upper level window in one of the buildings across the street from the main gate. Apparently the group they had been travelling with were ambushed and killed by several of these hissers as you call them.” The Doctor said with obvious distaste. It was apparent he didn’t like that epithet for them, accurate as it was. “We formed a clean team and they went out and got them back inside the zoo. They were extremely lucky to have survived.”

“These clean teams, are they the guys with the flamethrowers?” said the LT.

“Correct. We scavenged a few of them along with spare tanks from the Guard Armory downtown. We’re actually fortified quite well here. Heavy fencing that has been reinforced as necessary surrounds the entire grounds. The gates have been reinforced as well, as the dead like to congregate along those most of the time and when the sentries on duty deem the crowd has gotten too big, or if we need to open the gates, WHOOSH and it buys us anywhere from 5-7 minutes with a sterile gate.”

“Not to bad.” said the Gunny.

“Times are good right now with it being deep winter. Things can be very lively here in the summer when the dead are most active. We do get breaches once in the awhile, especially since the hissers became more numerous of late. In the last six weeks we’ve lost four men.” Humbacher continued as he came to the parking lot of a large warehouse. The parking lot had picnic tables with umbrellas scavenged from around the zoo scattered about and small groups of civilians sat or stood in various congregations around them. Some of the people looked up and waved as the Doc’s cart came zooming up.

“This is the living quarters. Most everyone lives here though we have a few brave souls who have staked out their own patches of territory throughout the zoo. Some of them are a bit off, but everyone is decent and works together to maintain what we have here. The biggest problem I have is dealing with tension between the men over the women in the zoo. But we have ways of dealing with that as well.” Humbacher said.

A dark haired and bearded man, wearing a pair of blue jeans and a windbreaker with COLUMBUS ZOO stenciled onto it came up to the cart. “Hey Doc, got some newbies for us?” he said.

“Not quite Karl, they’re military, sent to check up on our two VIPs.” Humbacher said in response.

“Oh?” Karl said and eyed the Gunny and the LT then nodded. “The girls are over in the house. I can take them from here Doc if you’re busy.”

“Good idea Karl,” the Doctor stated and then turned to the Gunny and the LT. “This is my Manager of Operations Karl Jones. He can take you to the girls and show you around some more. I have a meeting with my colleagues shortly, so I will leave you two with him.”

The Gunny and the LT nodded and climbed out of the cart and then with a high pitched hum the golf cart zoomed forward and the Doc was gone. The Gunny and the LT watched him go then turned to Karl who had blue eyes and dark hair and an equally dark beard. His smile was warm and he extended his hand to each one of them and they exchanged names.

Once the formalities were concluded, Karl led the LT and the Gunny towards the large warehouse that made up the main living area of the zoo. The men entered the door into a large, spacious, and nearly empty warehouse. Nearly empty except for the double tiered wire frame bunks that were lined up in neat ranks and files that spread through the entire interior. Some civilians were scattered about the dorm here and there. Some lay on their bunks asleep, others reading and some just whispering quietly to each other. It had the quiet atmosphere of a library at the moment.

Karl spoke up, “Most everyone is out right now on duty. We maintain strict schedules here, no slackers. Everyone has a job depending on their skill set or talents as we discover them even the children. We have many of the modern conveniences still. We have power generation because the zoo, being a zoo, installed solar panels for much of its electrical needs. You’ll notice them scattered about the roofs of the buildings and set up on various poles and other things throughout the zoo. Of course that means only electricity during the day but we do have backup generators and plenty of gasoline to make up for research or living demands with proper rationing policies. The Board of Directors, or “Brain Trust” as we call them, call the shots around here mostly, though thankfully they tend to be pretty liberal and aren’t trying to set up some kind of despotic regime around here like tends to happen in places like this. We’re pretty lucky actually.”

“I’m surprised. Usually when we penetrate an urban zone we find little scattered colonies of starving, feral people ready to kill on sight. That you guys have managed to create this Shangri la in the middle of a major metropolitan area is an achievement.” The LT said in complimentary tones.

They continued across the building, winding around bunks. The LT and Gunny looked at each small space as they passed by. Each bed was made and tidy, like in a military barracks. Each one had a plastic box of some sort to act as a footlocker that was pushed up underneath each bunk. Some personal items, trinkets and other things were visible on small tables of every sort and size that were scattered around the beds. Family pictures mostly.

“As you can see with so many people living in so small a space, conflict naturally develops. Most problems are easy to solve by separating the two parties for awhile but sometimes we have more serious incidents.”

“Define serious.” said the LT

“The occasional crimes that occur when people are pushed to an almost primeval form of existence, things like serious assaults, rape, even murder.” said Karl as they came to door leading into another area of the warehouse.

“What do you do then?” asked the LT

“Hold a trial of course. Three of the six Directors are chosen by random lot to act as a tribunal. One director is assigned by lot to become the accused persons advocate and one is chosen by lot to be the prosecutor for the community. The last remaining Director becomes a sort of court reporter and record keeper. A jury of six is chosen from the community according to random lot as well.” Karl walked through the door and they were in a separate corridor which led off to offices that now made up more private quarters.

“Not a bad way to dispense Justice.” said the Gunny.

“It works for us pretty well. Sentences can vary from extra sentry duty, assignment to latrine or other unpleasant work details and other stuff like that. For the most serious offenses we have exile, but no capital punishment here.” he then came to a wooden door and knocked.

“Exile into this city is pretty much a death sentence any way.” agreed the LT as the door opened and a young woman with long brown hair and eyes of the same color answered the door wearing an Ohio State sweater and a pair of jeans.

“Hi Karl! Whats up?” she asked while making a girlish grin.

“Hey Samantha, these guys came a long way to check on you and your sister.” Karl said

She looked over at the two men and looked them up and down and then frowned. “Our father sent you didn’t he? I told Kathy not to use that damn phone we found! Now she’s ruined everything!” and she slammed the door in the men’s face. The LT and Gunny stood there flabbergasted as she was heard stomping into the room and began yelling at her sister, her shrill screams piercing the wood of the door. The argument bloomed as her sister screamed back in response and the two girls were heard bickering as they once again returned to the door, then just before the door opened there was a distinct moment of silence before the door flew open and the two girls were standing there bright and sunny with smiles, as if the explosion of dual rage the men heard had never even occurred.

“Hi, I’m Kathy. My sister says Daddy sent you?” Kathy said, a pleasant smile on her face. She was blonde and blue eyed, with perfect lips though how genuine her smile was could be debated after the shouting match that had not ended but ten seconds ago.

“I’m Lieutenant Paul Volker and this is Gunny Raines. Yes, your father personally sent me here to check up on you and your sister and evacuate the two of you to Aspen ASAP.” The LT said matter of factly.

Samantha scowled in anger. “I don’t want to go back! You don’t know what kind of hell it will be with all this shit going on! We’ll be like prisoners, with some scummy goon guard wearing sunglasses and an ear bud who speaks into his sleeve. Always watching you to make sure your precious little ass doesn’t stub a toe. I’m not going back to that!” she said with resolute anger and firmness. Kathy, while not as vocal as her sister, seemed to be in at least partial agreement judging by the look on her face.

“Look madame, I understand that maybe you think you are safe here but you most certainly are not. At any time the security of this place could fail.” The LT said and this brought Karl’s ire up.

“Hey now, I’ll have you know that this place is impregnable.” Karl said with resolved certainty.

“Yeah sure buddy, whatever you say. I’ve seen entire army bases wiped clean off the Earth by hordes so large they stretch from one end of the horizon to the other like herds of buffalo. You don’t stand a chance here over the long run and with these hissers running around it’s the final countdown buddy. You need to plan to get the hell out of here.” The LT said loudly and silence prevailed for a moment.

“Sam, maybe they’re right, I mean at least we’ll be in Aspen with Mom and Dad. They haven’t heard from us but for a few minutes in almost two years sis. We have to go home sometime.” Kathy said, placing her hand on her sister’s shoulder. Her sister shrank from her strong woman act and deflated like a balloon and broke into sobs as she retreated to a couch in the room.

Kathy looked back at the men in the hall. “How are we supposed to get out of here? Walk?”

“Nope, caravan.” responded the Gunny and the LT nodded in agreement.

“You need to take us to the Brain Trust Karl, we need to talk to them.” said the LT.

* * *

A short while later the Gunny and the LT stood in front of a boardroom table that was laid out in front of them where the Brain Trust was holding their meeting. Doctor Humbacher sat at the head of the table. The other four men and one woman who made up the Brain Trust, each in various casual wear made their introduction.

After Dr. Humbacher, there came Dr. Sheila Wright, Professor of Sociology. Then there was Arthur Young, former city councilman of Columbus. Next to introduce himself was Keith Morris, Director of the Columbus Zoo. The other two men in the Brain Trust were brothers, Sam and John Wilson. They ostensibly represented the interests of the many Ohio State student survivors who inhabited the zoo grounds and as a result were younger and rougher looking than the decidedly older members of the Brain Trust. While it couldn’t be said this group of six formed an outright oligarchy, it was close enough.

“Look. I know that you people have been here for a long time and feel real secure in this gilded cage, but I am trying to explain to you that when the weather warms up in a couple weeks, you people are going to be in a world of hurt.” The LT pleaded to the council.

Dr. Wright spoke up, she was an older woman with grey streaks running through her hair, which was pulled back into a bun and she wore thin glasses that hung on the bridge of her long nose.

“We spend much time and effort keeping the people safe here Lieutenant, you really have some nerve just riding in here and making demands that we should just pack up and leave.” Several of the men around the table nodded in agreement. Dr. Humbacher was not among them.

“Lady, this isn’t some game I’m playing with you. I have the full authority of the President of the United States..” at which point she stood up and screamed shrilly at the Lieutenant, the force of which drove him back on his heels.

“THERE IS NO MORE UNITED STATES YOU ARMY PIG! IT’S GONE! YOU PEOPLE DESTROYED IT!” and her scream sort of hung in an echo for a moment around the room before she regained her composure and neutral expression once more. “We here on this Council no longer recognize the authority of the United States Government, and therefore the President.” She said matter of factly, as if that was the end of the matter and retook her seat. The Gunny and the LT were simply flabbergasted at the venomous vibe this shrew just hurled in their direction and they were caught silent for a moment.

Dr. Humbacher intervened, “These men came a long way and deserved to at least be heard. I thank them on behalf of the Council for bringing these matters to our attention and they will be given due consideration in the future. On to the matter of the girls…”

Dr. Wright interrupted. “The girls do not wish to go back. They are staying here.” Once again with the same tone as if that was all there was to the matter.

The LT lost his own temper then, though his voice was quiet and low, with a hint of threat. “Lady, I’m under direct orders from my Commander in Chief to return those girls to his custody and I fully intend to fulfill those orders or die in the process.” making it quite clear where he stood on the issue.

The shrew refused to back down. “No Lieutenant. As long as those girls remain here with us then those Pigs in Aspen will leave us alone to live as we see fit. We have no wish to return to the auspices of the corrupt Republican government that precipitated this crisis by trying to force the Earth into submission and therefore causing it to fight back with the zombie plague. We are building a new society here. One based on empathy and social justice and environmental sustainability, not the corrupt and capitalist ways of the ancien regime.”

The Gunny shook his head in amazement and then spoke up “Dr. Wright, no one gives a shit what you people do here. You want to stay here and feed yourselves to the dead of the city then that is your business, but we were sent here specifically to ensure these girls got back to their parents and your little oligarchic dystopia here is in no danger of collapse from that.”

Dr. Humbacher regained the floor “Please! Everyone stop! Mr. Raines there is no reason to insult this Council with insinuations of despotism. I assure you we care greatly about the lives of the people here and take all due consideration to our security and safety. As far as the girls are concerned there is some dispute as to whether they want to leave. We will adjourn until tomorrow morning where the girls can make their wishes known and we can further discuss security measures. Until then this meeting is finished.” and as he stood up the rest of the Brain Trust stood as well and proceeded to file out of the room without another glance or word at the Lieutenant and Gunny Raines.

A little while later, the Gunny, the Lieutenant and Sgt Loomis along with Lids, were standing off to one side in the vehicle bay examining the vehicles available in case they needed to bug out in a hurry with a large group of people in tow. There was Lids’ Stryker, half of a dozen pickup trucks, two shuttle buses and a tractor trailer rig. Then there was the M-60 tank, which stuck out like a sore thumb.

“What’s the deal with this antique?” said the LT as he looked up at Lids while she climbed up onto the turret of the armored beast.

“Some tank collector slash restorer guy donated it to the guard armory to put on display. The main gun is breech blocked and non-functional of course but this fifty mounted on the pedestal is functional enough and she drives like a dream. She’ll tear up anything that gets in her way.” Lids said with a huge grin as she slapped the metal of the tank in affection.

The LT nodded and considered how the tank could work into an escape plan. They needed to be able to drive through the city to the south side where the First Ohio truck and its guards would hopefully still be alive and waiting. Once there they would spirit the girls to the safety of Benny’s farm where the Lieutenant fully intended to get on the horn with National Command Authority and advise them of the situation with the hissers, and recommend Columbus be authorized for permanent sterilization, which was the official term for nuking a city.

“Do you have gas for all these vehicles Lids?” the Gunny inquired.

“Well, we have enough to top ‘em all off at least.” Lids responded. This brought a nod from the Gunny.

Loomis spoke up then, “Sir. This could work. We’ll put this bad boy in the lead, put the other trucks and the shuttle buses in the middle and have the Stryker follow up the rear to police up any stragglers or aid in case of an accident. We might be able to take as many as a hundred folks out of here.”

“Sarge I’m thinking the exact same thing. Lids, unless you want to stick around and become lunch for some deader, we could really use your help.” The LT said up at her.

She grinned at him wickedly and replied “Well LT, I’ve been kinda bored around here lately anyway. So I don’t think I’ll miss this place much. At least in Aspen I can ski!” She then jumped down from the tank. “I’ll go talk to as many people as I can, try to get a handle on how many may want to break out with us.” She then disappeared out the door leaving the men behind to consider the rest of the breakout plans.

* * *

Like all would be despots, no matter how petty. Dr. Wright had managed to consolidate under her control a network of like minded snitches and informants that made up a large part of her power base. Most of the Ohio State survivors were former students of hers, and often she would hold quiet meetings with the more influential members of the student body, indoctrinating them as the all important seed stock that would build the perfect future, securing their loyalty. It was her scheme that got the Wilson Brothers appointed to the Brain Trust, the idea being that they would be her rubber stamps on the Council and increase her power and influence, which it did.

She placed her lackeys in key positions of authority that guaranteed her tight control of the “variables”, by which she meant people not under her direct influence. She particularly despised the freer souls who had abandoned the communal living arrangement in the Living Quarters and staked out claims throughout the zoo. They tended to subsistence farm, and rarely had much to do with the day to day running of the community. These people would have to be brought into the fold eventually, or exiled in her opinion.

While Dr. Humbacher concerned himself primarily with his fool’s errand research into Factor Z, she had chosen upon herself the noble project of building the perfect socialist society. At first when the Apocalypse came, she was like all the others, almost as mindless with terror as the dead were with hunger. She had personally witnessed one of the gruesome final stands of Government authority at one of the barricades outside the Ohio State campus.

She had awoken to shouts and heavy activity beneath her window, and climbed out of her bed leaving the naked and snoring form of one of her male students behind and put on a thick robe. She then went to the window where the balcony that was attached to her apartment was. She opened the double paned glass doors and stepped out onto a scene of absolute chaos and terror. Gunfire was popping off all over the city, and explosions and fires were seen raging blocks away leaving the horizon awash in an orange glow, punctuated by the dark forms of the buildings that made up the Columbus skyline. The smell of death and cordite was on the wind and the stench of sulfur combined with rotten flesh made the bile rise in her throat. It all added a sense of urgency to the scene beneath her.

A mixed group of the military and police could be seen in the brightly colored strobe lights of police cars erecting barricades using whatever vehicles they could get the keys to. They piled the vehicles across the road, clear up to the walls of the buildings on each side of the street. Grim men in Kevlar helmets stacked sandbags onto the line of vehicles, forming a low parapet from which the men could fight. Off to the side, several men were assembling some kind of heavy weapon in a sandbagged pit. They shouted back and forth to each other and a radio in a nearby police cruiser squawked status reports, she could clearly hear them in the crisp, late evening air.

“This is Unit 7! Be advised I’ve got a huge crowd of IP’s heading up East 5th towards the Campus!” came over the air along with the screams of hundreds of terrified people that could be heard. In the background, faint but audible were the terrible wails of the hungry dead.

“Roger Unit 7, Unit 6 is enroute.”

“Unit 7 here, don’t bother! I’m falling back! There are thousands of them! They’re literally tearing people out of their cars and eating them on the street!” his voice was high pitched with terror and in the back ground distinct pops could be heard as armed individuals engaged targets. Their desperate calls to each other added to the auditory disaster unfolding.

“Negative on the fall back Unit 7. Unit 6 will instead reinforce.” the dispatcher responded.

“Unit 7, FUCK THAT, We’re outta here!” came the desperate voice on the other end.

“Unit 7? Unit 7? Please Respond.” This went on for several moments and then a large volume of gunfire erupted just off to the East, startling Wright for a moment then the speaker squawked again.

“This is Unit 6! We drove right into a huge pack of them! They’re everywhere!” The sound of gunfire could be heard in the background and the bloodcurdling moans and cries of the crowd of dead was evident over the speaker and one of the men in the unit was screaming over and over again “Back the fuck up! Back the fuck up! Oh shit!” The gunfire reached a hair-raising crescendo, echoing up the street and then went suddenly silent.

“Unit 6, this is dispatch. Unit 6, come in.” but instead a terrifying, inhuman moan pierced the airwaves and all the men working the barricade stopped in their tracks and stared at the cruiser a moment, the absolute fear etched onto each man’s face was perfectly visible in the bright blue and red strobe lights of the cruiser. There was a moment of silence before the speaker squawked to life.

“Unit 12 here, I’ve got eyes on Unit 6, he’s gone. They’re crawling all over him like ants. We’re falling back another block, there are thousands here. The poor civilians are being torn apart by these animals and we can’t do anything about it!” the rage and frustration felt by the sender came over loud and clear on the radio along with the chaos that could be heard on the air now. The very wind carried terrified screams of civilians to Dr. Wright’s unwilling ears.

“Unit 12, negative on the fall back, repeat, negative on the fall back we must hold them as long as possible until the barricades are ready at the campus.”

“That’s a big negative dispatch, we’re falling back another block to 4th. We’re almost cutoff already, Unit 12 out.”

An entire chorus of similar radio messages poured in, hammering the big picture deep in to Dr. Wright’s mind that the entire world she knew was coming to an end. Her hand rose to her mouth in terror when she realized that her apartment sat right at the corner of East 5th and High, just south of the Campus. That meant the dead were only a half dozen blocks or so away.

She immediately scrambled into her apartment screaming frantically at her former bed mate to get his ass up out of bed and get lost. She then began packing what clothes she could just as the first moans were heard outside her window and the shouts of “There they are! Open fire!” rang out before her world suddenly exploded into a barrage of gunfire so loud she screamed from the suddenness of it. Her companion yelped and screamed “See ya babe!” and ran out the door with just his pants on, barefoot and shirtless.

She frantically put on some jeans and a shirt and leaving everything behind but her purse, sprinted down the stairs and out into the streets. What she saw terrified her beyond all compare. Hundreds of dead were shambling mindlessly down 5th Street in a compact wall of flesh. The sound of all the gunfire and moans and screams detonated around her, the very air shook with the wall of sound that assaulted her hearing.

She saw the dead falling, but for every one that fell five more took its place and many of the ones that did fall managed to climb to their feet again and rejoined the mass. As it moved closer, even more dead began to fall and as they were mowed down yet still more came. Blood from the fresh dead collected in the gutters and ran in a thick sluice into the sewer. The dead piled up against the barricade like a wave, their mass so large that the entire barricade shifted. One cop suddenly slipped and screamed out in abject primal terror as he fell into the crowd of dead who then pounced on him and tore him apart with the efficiency of a chainsaw. The men standing on the cars and trucks that formed the barricade fired directly down into the crowd while a group of burly civilians in all manner of dress came running around the corner and towards the barricade. They were armed with every kind of tool for weapons. Machetes, crudely fashioned spears, pitchforks, butcher knives, baseball bats, handguns and every other form of weaponry imaginable was present in the hands of the crowd of men. Dr. Wright breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that the cavalry had come to save them all.

They ran forward and mounted the barricade with the military and police and wildly began hacking and slashing away at the dead beneath them on the barricades. Dead began falling into the crowd, their heads broken and smashed, however the bodies of the dead soon piled up higher and higher. The dead behind them were then able to clamber up the pile to the level of the sandbag parapet. The exhausted men on the top of the mass of vehicles and bodies soon began to succumb to weariness and it became obvious that they couldn’t hold much longer.

One heroic soldier, manning the large machine gun nest anchoring one end of the barricade held the trigger down and let a never ending stream of rounds into the crowd as it piled up against the barricade. The huge bullets tore through the crowd, blowing huge gaps that were soon filled by more dead. Then a huge knot of the crowd surged toward his position. He screamed out and held the trigger down, wiping out an enormous chunk of the horde but not enough. Their bodies began to pile up around his position before the barrel on his weapon overheated, warped and sagged and the weapon jammed up tight. The soldier rose from his now useless weapon and drew a Beretta and took several carefully aimed individual shots before the crowd was upon him. Just as the icy cold fingers of the dead wrapped themselves around his body he put the weapon in his mouth and fired.

Several of the men were snatched from the barricade and disappeared into the crowd of dead, their screams piercing and painful over the gunfire. It was just too much and the entire unit broke and began jumping off the barricades and running for their lives north towards the Campus, Dr. Wright running along with them. She looked back and the blood drained from her face as she saw the dead pouring over the barricade like a water fall.

That was almost two years before and since then she had triumphed over adversity in her mind and managed to not only survive, but also create a seedling for future generations to build around. A seedling that she lovingly cared for and tended to as she waited for the day when the dead would finally rot away and she could begin the process of rebuilding society the way it was supposed to be built. Where everyone would have a say in the production and distribution throughout the society and that say would be enacted and enforced through a larger, more powerful Brain Trust who could wield the power that would be necessary to grant them with both responsibility and justice.

But now, the seedling was in danger of being uprooted and crushed by representatives of the corrupt and greedy ancien regime. In her mind, like all nascent socialist communities in history her creation was now in danger of being destroyed by capitalist greed before it could blossom and grow from a community into a society. Sarah Hollinger provided her with the key information. That bitch Lydia was going around spreading lies and fear about the safety of the zoo’s defenses and offering a way out. Worse, people actually were beginning to believe her, and some were starting to talk about leaving the community for the West. Sarah said Dr. Humbacher had been meeting with some of the people and might leave himself. The ingrates wanted to abandon her noble project and return to the ancien regime with all its environmentally unsustainable greed. She had to do something.

“Thank you Sarah, for bringing this information to my attention. Don’t worry the gates and fences are strong enough to hold back anything. Remember how I explained that certain forces of greed and evil still lurk in the world and would one day come and try and “reclaim” the land they stole and so never had rightful claim to in the first place? The land we are going to reserve for The People? That time has come, and we must act swiftly or lose it all.” Dr. Wright explained to the naïve young girl and then proceeded to outline her plans.

* * *

Dr. Humbacher sat at his desk in the Primate Research Area going over his notes and peering through a microscope at a culture of Kang’s blood. It was almost 2 am and he removed his glasses and rubbed at his eyes with exhaustion. He heard the door to his office open and he turned around to discover Dr. Wright standing there.

“Sheila? What are you doing here?” he said in confusion.

“I want to discuss the future and security of our community Doctor. I understand you met with some of the people and that there is talk of leaving.” she said, the look in her eye was distant, hazy.

Dr. Humbacher sighed and responded. “Sheila, I indulged in your little social experiment because the concept was solid for a community such as this one to adopt and survive under the current circumstances. However, the concept is predicated upon the voluntary interactions of the people here. Many do not want to stay here anymore.”

Dr. Wright’s face took on a scowl. “That is a lie! They merely remember their old wasteful lives and naturally have some wish to return to them, like a homesick child who cries for its mother at summer camp. We’ve just never provided the right message for the people to latch onto! It’s obvious that mere survival isn’t good enough anymore. The people need a vision, then they will realize how important the work we are doing here is.” she said with the desperation of a fanatic.

“Sheila, the experiment is coming to an end one way or another. I intend to broach the subject at the Council meeting tomorrow morning and recommend that we leave and take as many people with us as possible. Once far from here, as I understand it, the Lieutenant is going to recommend to the President that the city be permanently sterilized with a nuclear weapon. I agree with that assessment. These new dead cannot be allowed to spread.” He stated emphatically and stared her down. The blood drained from her face and her mouth dropped. No! They wouldn’t dare destroy her city!? Everything she worked for, her society, the most important thing she’d ever done. Humbacher stood there with hands on his hips, waiting for response. A sneer crossed her face.

She responded by reaching into her pocket and pulling out a small .380 automatic and pointing it at Humbacher, who blanched when he saw it and his mouth dropped in shock.

“I cannot allow you to destroy the future. The beginning of a new age has dawned! The corrupt capitalists, and their shills like you have no place within it.” and she pulled the trigger. There was a loud POP then a bright flash illuminated the dim office. A splash of red appeared on Dr. Humbacher’s lab coat and he clutched at the site and then collapsed to the floor. As the smoke cleared she smiled a soft smile, then turned and walked out the door.

A few minutes later, Dr. Humbacher groaned and stirred. He began crawling towards the door from his office that led out into the Primate Habitat. He left a broad streak of blood on the tiled floor as he made his way the short distance. He was just able to push the door open and crawl out onto the grass of the habitat, where Kang sat on the other side, curiously watching him as Humbacher fell onto the grass face first and expired, his body laying halfway into the habitat.

Kang, the short silver hairs on his back rising at the smell of blood, became curious and alarmed that his only friend looked hurt. He got onto his knuckles and slowly lumbered his giant frame over to Humbacher’s prone body on all fours. He nudged the body gently as a pool of red spread out and soaked into the dirt. Kang’s intelligent eyes took in the scene and his animal senses told him that somehow the Doctor was dead. Kang lowered his head and made a kind of anguished groan while continuing to prod at the Doctor’s body, but eventually gave up.

Kang then noticed that the door was open, and a new scene was before him. Curious, he carefully stepped over Humbacher’s body, and entered into the office. He was tentative, maybe even fearful at first to see these surroundings. Eventually the fear shook off and he knuckle walked his way to the other exit. The one that Dr. Wright had left previously through, and pushed it open and entered into the zoo at large.

* * *

A man sat alone on a chair at the main gate, watching the undead corpses shake the gate back and forth with the weight of their combined mass. Reaching out and moaning in frustration that such a meal was just out of reach, the corpses at the gate like a wave rolled back and forth. This was the worst duty for him. He was always afraid he would see some loved one or friend he knew appear at the gate, wanting to eat him. So far such a horror hadn’t presented itself, but if it ever did he doubted he’d be able to sentry the gate again.

What he couldn’t see in the darkness, was a shadowy form quietly creep over the fence off to his right a few dozen yards. He did however hear it when it landed in the bushes on the near side. He looked over in the direction of the sound and his eyes squinted in the darkness. He then stood up from his chair and walked a few feet, listening while peering into the shadows. He heard a soft hiss, and then a dark form blasted out of the bushes and sprinted for him, screaming a feral growl. The gate sentry yelped in fear and then turned and ran for a small guard shack, the hisser rapidly closing the distance behind him. He ran into the shack and then slammed the door shut, turning the bolt on the door to seal the monster out. The hisser didn’t slow down and didn’t even bother with the door but made its own as it jumped into the pane of glass that made up the window of the guard shack and blasted through it, covering the now screaming sentry in glass.

The shack shimmied and shook violently as the feral screams of the hisser and its struggling victim belted out into the immediate area and in the struggle, a button was hit. The gate began to groan and squeak and then it rattled open, the mass of dead tumbling over each other. Their moans picked up in intensity, calling to those that surrounded the zoo. Several hissers nearby, hearing the excited moans of the other dead that indicated food was imminent, turned and started bounding their way in the direction of the now open gate as the dead began to slowly spread out around the zoo, hunting for victims.

** *

Gunny Raines and the LT were standing in front of a group of about 70 people who had come over the course of the evening to say they wished to leave the Zoo. He apprised them of the situation and explained to them that they only had enough room for so many, and women and children had priority over anyone else.

Almost all the mothers in the zoo had chosen to leave and brought their children with them. They were going to be loaded into the shuttle buses. One of the men living in the zoo, a former truck driver, was tapped to drive the truck which would contain other survivors and whatever supplies could be gathered.

The remaining men who had volunteered to go were going to load up in the backs of the pickup trucks and be armed with whatever hand weapons could be found. These plans and other discussions were being had when the door to the vehicle bay burst open and Dr. Wright appeared with about ten of her Ohio State kids carrying shotguns and hunting rifles. They ran in and quickly surrounded the Gunny and the LT and Sgt. Loomis. The rest of the LT and Raines’ men were unarmed and spread out and relaxing when the coup became reality. No one was near a weapon, so they placed their hands in the air.

Karl marched at Dr. Wright in anger, pointing his finger at her as he came closer. “Dr. Wright! What the hell do you think you’re doing!?” he said in indignant anger.

“Stopping a revolution.” she stated plainly and raised the .380 and shot Karl right between the eyes. The women and children in the place screamed and the crowd broke in terror and ran for the exits. They streamed out as Karl’s body fell backward to the cement of the vehicle bay, spreading crimson out onto the floor and after a moment only the shrew, her stooges and the visitors remained in the bay.

She approached the LT and spit in his face. “YOU PIGS! You almost ruined it all! You thought I would let you destroy my city? You knuckle dragging Neanderthals could never understand the noble work that is being done here! I thought that maybe that putz Humbacher would understand but he turned out to be a coward and shill just like you. I cannot have such swine fouling up my space!” she yelled at him. She then stepped back from the LT as the men were all lined up against the wall of the garage and her petty goon squad of brainwashed youth took their positions to become the first executioners of her new society.

Suddenly a heavy bolt was thrown back and the sound echoed throughout the garage and she turned her head to see Lids standing on top of the M-60 with the massive .50 cal on the pedestal pointed at her. She turned white and then spun around to face the woman on the machine gun.

“You!” Dr. Wright spat.

“Damn straight bitch!” cursed Lids and then the .50 spat flame. One round that blew Dr. Wright in half. The noise was absolutely deafening and it echoed for many seconds around the building. When the echo had died, Dr. Wright was nothing but two parts lying together in a pile in a massive pool of blood. Her goon squad of kids dropped their weapons without a word and ran out the side door.

“I wondered where the hell you wandered off to!” the LT shouted at Lids and she smiled. That was when they heard the first terrible screams outside the garage as a crowd of dead flowed out of the darkness to envelop the frightened people who were standing just outside the vehicle bay. The moans of the dead mixed with the blood curdling cries of the people told the entire story. It was time to leave. But first they had to find the First Daughters.

Several people were screaming terrible, primal howls as they were being consumed by spread out crowds of undead when the side door flew open and the crack of gunfire echoed throughout the zoo and deaders began to hit the pavement. The soldiers and militiamen burst from the door and began taking down the dead in expert fashion. Each one was a seasoned pro and they dispatched the dead so quickly and efficiently they cleared the immediate area in a few moments. The moans and cries of the dead and awful screams of people being pursued, caught and eaten alive were echoing all around them throughout the zoo.

One of Dr. Wrights goon kids sprinted by screaming in terror, a hisser hot on his tail. The LT lifted his rifle and took just enough lead and pulled the trigger, tossing the hisser off its feet as the bullet caught it in the skull and it hit the ground and slid to an abrupt stop, face down.

The Gunny reached out and clothes lined the kid as he tried to run by, stopping the kid in his tracks and dropping him to the ground. He then reached down and picked the dazed kid up off the ground and held him by the scruff of his jacket. He leaned in close and growled at the kid “Unless you want me to feed you to these things I would suggest you tell me where Dr. Wright put the girls.” The kid, already white with fear turned even paler and simply pointed in the direction of the living quarters. Raines released the kid and he immediately ran off into the darkness.

The Gunny and LT led the way as they quickly trotted the several hundred yards to the living area taking down a few dead that stumbled along the road aimlessly. When they arrived what greeted them was a scene so awful that none of the men could believe it. The entire parking area was covered in thick pools of blood. Clumps of dead were everywhere, growling at each other and pulling at the entrails of victims that lay scattered by the dozen around the lot some still alive and screaming, even struggling weakly as the knots of dead men and women consumed them. The creatures were slicked head to toe with fresh blood and seemed to delight in rolling and playing in the guts and gore of these unfortunate souls.

The men took action instantly and in another brutal and efficient operation cleared the parking lot of the dead with methodical timing. Cutting their way past them to the door of the living area, they knocked loudly at the locked door and called out for it to be opened. It was opened and the men all filed in quickly and the door shut and locked tight and the Gunny looked around and noticed there were 30 very frightened people standing around the door. Most of them were from the group of women and children that had escaped from the almost-execution. The two First Daughters were here as well. They were sitting off to one side clutching each other.

Gunny Raines spoke up to the crowd “Listen folks, shit’s hit the fan out there. This place is done for. Now, we’re going to make our way back to the vehicle garage with as many people as we can gather and get the hell out of here. I want everyone to form up in the middle of the ring the men will form and you listen to me. If I say run, run. If say stop, stop. If you follow directions, you might just make it out of here alive. The alternative…” and the Gunny just let the silence hang there before the frightened crowd nodded in agreement.

“Okay, what do you say we get out of here LT?” the Gunny said.

“Damn straight gunny! Okay men! Form up, defense ring formation, let’s get the civvies home!” and a loud hooah erupted from the men and they filed out the door and formed up in the lot. They then proceeded to move at a brisk walking pace across the lot and onto the road that led back to the maintenance garage.

They were halfway there when a couple hissers, trailed by a huge pack of regular dead came bounding up the roadway. The Gunny shouted for the men to form a skirmish line in front of the crowd. The people in the crowd whined in fear and some in the back began to back away as if to head back to the living quarters. The Gunny shouted for them to follow orders and stay where they were. The Gunny was terrified at losing control of this crowd that had grown to almost fifty people and if they panicked and ran like a herd of cattle, they would all be killed.

Suddenly, a 450 pound mass of screaming black and silver fur came roaring out of the bushes next the crowd. The women in the group screamed out in terror as Kang, smelling the dead, had come out in a rage. He flew past, running on his knuckles and hind legs, his mouth wide open presenting his fangs and screaming a primal roar none of the people had ever heard before. Kang stood up on two legs between the crowd of terrified civilians and the group of dead and beat against his chest wildly. It sounded like two wooden mallets being beat on a hollow log and it echoed across the zoo. The hissers felt absolutely no intimidation from this display of natural strength from their potential meal, and so they charged at Kang, hissing wildly. The first one leaped into the air and Kang caught it in a massive bear hug, enveloping the emaciated deader in his long and powerful arms and squeezed. The crack of bones was heard and then Kang, roaring like the primal beast he was reached down with those nasty canine teeth and took a huge chunk out of the neck of the hisser effectively decapitating it. He dropped its limp body to the ground as the other hisser raced within reach.

His massive, hairy arm shot out like a piston and snatched the hisser by the throat. It instantly stopped hissing as Kang, with the ease that one would squeeze a ball of cotton crushed the creature’s windpipe and snapped its neck. He then lifted it off its feet and grabbing one of its arms by the elbow screamed out and pulled. With a snap, crackle, pop and a tearing sound the arm came free from the hisser and Kang then pile drove the corpse into the ground in anger. The wet slap of its body sounding out as it was choke slammed into the pavement several times before being thrown carelessly to the side.

Kang ran forward on two legs, pounding on his chest and roaring before dropping to all fours and charging sideways at the pack of undead in front of him. Using his muscled bulk like a battering ram he rolled through the crowd of deaders with the ease of a bowling ball hitting a strike. Like pins the deaders were scattered through the air and on the ground. Then like a machine Kang went to work systematically dismembering the dead within reach. He reached down and grabbed one unfortunate deader by the ankle and lifted it up off the ground and then slapped its limp form against the pavement breaking its neck and then using it as a club to beat several other deaders, sweeping them aside into the bushes before dropping the now useless and misshapen body to the ground.

He spun around and around within the crowd of deaders, wild with screams and literally tore the crowd to pieces with his fangs and overwhelming strength so quickly that the Gunny was reminded of the Tasmanian Devil from the Looney Toons. Body parts flew in all directions, heads, arms, torsos, legs. Like a blender Kang worked his way over the crowd, leaving nothing in his wake but a pile of twitching moaning torsos, and scattered arms and legs laying around. He then screamed, beat on his chest and fled into the darkness down the road on all fours to continue the hunt.

“There’s our chance! Move people!” The LT shouted and the crowd began moving as quickly as possible while still staying organized down the road. They heard Kang roar again in abject rage and in a moment came upon him as he finished off a hisser that had been foolish enough to charge him. He had it pinned on the ground and was jumping up and down on its head, smashing it like a watermelon and screaming with anger before continuing on down the road leaving a thin twitching body laying out in the road with a red, chunky streak being all that remained of its head. The people followed a trail of body parts left behind by the enraged Gorilla as it worked its way down the road, dismembering in seconds whatever dead happened to be within his sight.

They finally reached the vehicle garage and Kang continued running past and disappeared into the darkness where he was heard crashing through the underbrush howling out and the moans of the dead answered in response before thrashing and crashing within the bushes told the tale of what Kang was doing to the dead within the trees that surrounded the road. The crowd of people used the distraction of the wildly fighting Gorilla to make it to safety inside the vehicle bay.

Since the crowd of people was smaller than planned, it was decided that the best way would be load everyone up in the two shuttle buses and have them ride behind the M-60 as it plowed their way to freedom and safety far outside the city. The rest, all men, would ride on the outside of the tank and the Stryker and try to fend off the worst of the hissers and deaders.

The People, frightened to the point of simple herd instinct, were literally herded into the buses where they took a seat. Frightened children clutched their mothers in desperate fear and the poor women themselves were torn with terror. Lids and Deadhead Ned mounted up into the Stryker. The LT called out. “Thompson, Garcia.” And the two men ran forward and saluted the LT. “Thompson, you were Armor before you were Airborne, right?” Thompson answered with hooah.

“Okay, you two take the tank, Thompson on the wheel, Garcia on the gun, let’s get rolling.” And the men saluted quickly and ran to the M-60 and began climbing inside and starting it up. Engines roared to life and headlights came on. The huge corrugated garage doors were rocking and back and forth and the moans of dead on the other side could be heard. They were scratching and pounding on the metal doors. One of the men ran over to a button console on the wall and pushed the button and the doors began to slowly lift.

As the doors slowly rose, the legs of a mass of dead could be seen at first and then as the door rose higher their true mass became visible in the bright headlights. There were hundreds, and the dead for a moment seemed to be dazzled by all the headlights shining in their faces. They sort of stared, dumbstruck for a moment like deer on a dark country highway. Then the world exploded in a wall of gunfire and deaders suddenly disappeared in puffs of black mist. The tank rolled forward into the crowd, Garcia hanging halfway out of the commander’s hatch, blasting away with the .50 at everything around him and clearing a huge slick path through the crowd.

The buses pulled out next following slowly behind the tank as it crushed over everything in its path, rotated to the right and continued down the service road towards the main gate. The Stryker pulled out last, men clinging to the top of it, shooting off to the sides at the few dead that remained in the area. The Tank thundered along and turned towards the main gate. The gate was packed with a steady stream of dead flowing in from the street. The tank engine roared as Thompson hit the gas and the tank belched smoke and then tore into the crowd. The dead were caught beneath the treads of the tank and smashed to a sick pulp, the entire time Garcia is hooting and firing wildly with the .50 cal. The caravan turned left out of the gate and continued down the street, crushing over the packs of dead that happened to be in the way and disappeared into the darkness, leaving the dead behind to explore the zoo.

Several hours later the LT was on a battered HAM radio set with National Command Authority in Benny’s bunker like house. He identified himself with a special code, and was transferred directly to the Presidential Offices in Aspen.

“Please hold for the President, Lieutenant.” came back from the communications officer. After a moment a voice was heard.

“Lieutenant Volker?”

“Yes Mr. President.”

“I understand you have information to report?”

“Yes sir. You’re daughters are safe. We recovered them along with about fifty other survivors.”

“Thank God, and thank you as well Lieutenant. I understand you have some other information?”

The LT took the next few minutes to fill the President in on the situation. The man, sitting thousands of miles away in an office in Aspen, listened with grave attention as the LT discussed the hissers and the danger of their spreading.

“What is it exactly you recommend I do Lieutenant?” said the President, wanting to be sure he heard properly.

“I recommend that you authorize for Columbus to be immediately and permanently sterilized, sir.” The LT came back

The President nodded. “Well, color me skeptical Lieutenant, but you must understand my reluctance to detonate a thermonuclear weapon over an American city, even one infected by the dead.”

“Mr. President, There are people scattered across this entire State, entire country. Millions of them who are living in isolated communities that are still surviving. If these things spread, it’ll be even worse than the first time. This needs to happen Mr. President.” the LT said with deadpan seriousness.

“Very well Lieutenant, I’ll let you know my decision one way or another within 12 hours.” The President said.

“Yes Sir.”

The President hung up the phone and stared out at the idyllic, snow-capped peaks through the window to his office, then picked up the phone.


Kang sat on a thick limb of a large oak tree somewhere in the Zoo. His fur was caked in black slime from a night of tearing bodies apart. He was exhausted, bleeding, and dying. Though he was immune to Factor Z, his body was not immune to exhaustion and stress. His heart was giving out, and slowly winding to a stop. He had climbed into the tree to get away from the grasping hands of hundreds of undead which collected around the tree in which he sat. He was too exhausted now to even utter a growl. He just looked around at the massive crowd as it swayed back and forth beneath him, reaching up and calling for his primate flesh.

A sharp burning sensation ran through his chest, spreading through his arms. His breathing became slower and slower. Suddenly, a loud roar was heard overhead and he looked up as an F-111 shot right over him at full afterburner, before turning for the sky. It rose, higher and higher and higher and Kang’s eyes followed it as it zoomed into the clear blue sky. Then, a shiny object seemed to come free from the plane after which it turned onto its back and disappeared in the direction it had come.

Kang’s eyes slowly closed, his breathing stopped and then he went limp and tumbled from the branch, landing with a loud thud onto the mass of dead below, crushing many beneath his bulk. As the crowd surged in to finally pick the huge carcass clean, a blinding flash of white hot light rolled over the crowd vaporizing it, and everything around it for miles.

The End


  1. fantastic. i’ve been waiting for the sequel and you did not disappoint. bravo

    Comment by Brett on December 28, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

  2. awesome

    Comment by rapraapraaap on December 29, 2011 @ 6:53 am

  3. Poor Kang … nice story though.

    Comment by Jasmine on December 29, 2011 @ 8:05 am

  4. Wow. Powerful with many elements at play. Wish it were longer so we could get to know more about the characters, but a great short story nonetheless. Another installment, please!

    Comment by neecey on December 29, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

  5. WOW!!! easily my top story on the site. “sorry PETE you used to hold my top spot” i think the gorilla took it for me in the end!! great great great imagination

    Comment by uncleb on December 29, 2011 @ 6:52 pm

  6. Vety good story thank you Mr. Turner:))))))

    Comment by Selen on December 30, 2011 @ 12:46 am

  7. what a great story! You held my interest throughout but there is one thing that got my attention. A Strker is definitely not an APC (armored personal carrier.) It did have a cupola for the fifty gunner. The fifty could tear up some ass. Back in my day (1968) they were nicknamed “Rolling Coffins or Purple Heart Boxes.”
    An Old Soldier

    Comment by John the Piper's Son on December 30, 2011 @ 3:20 am

  8. I liked it and Kang was a nice touch. It does seem to me however that you are more familiar with ‘military’ in many, if not all its aspects, rather than with sociology.
    Socialist communities like the one Dr. Wright has in mind would certainly come into existance after a zombie apocalypse (assuming there would still anybody left and assuming grouping together in large groups would be a good idea), but not in combination with a more or less aristocratic government as you described it. I understand the angle it gave you on the story, but your description of the workings of your community don’t add up to it and that sort of bugged me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great story. But like guns are for some people their ‘forte’, sociology is mine.

    Comment by David_VDB on December 30, 2011 @ 3:57 am

  9. @David:

    Oh boy. I don’t want to launch into a sociology debate here. This is not the place for it but I must address this issue.

    I am perfectly aware that a truly socialist society would in all likelihood be a democratic institution under ideal circumstances, with a “General Assembly” rather than an oligarchic council.

    But did Mao not believe in his own mind that he was setting up the perfect socialist society even as he was installing the political machinery to ensure his own absolute power over such a society?

    Dr. Wright’s thinking was intended to be more in line with that of a twisted powermonger interested in the advancement of her own control, rather than setting up a pure socialism.

    I fully admit that I had little interest in providing the reader with a textbook accurate idea of a socialist society and claim the right to artistic license. 🙂

    Comment by Patrick Turner on December 30, 2011 @ 5:54 am

  10. @ Patrick:
    is there a better place to discuss sociology than a post-z-apocalypse world?
    I’m afraid I didn’t make myself very clear, it seems. What I tried to say is that I couldn’t see Dr Wright’s social structure. She speaks about her socialist paradise and even dr Humbacher acknowledges her ambition and experiments, but I don’t see any traces of it in your description of the society. Quite frankly, I don’t really see the link between the flashback and her socialist delusions either. But maybe I’m just really off on her character.
    Don’t misunderstand me, I still like the story a lot. And please, do claim all the license you’d need, kind sir ;-).

    Comment by David_VDB on December 30, 2011 @ 7:12 am

  11. Geez David .. Way to take a small piece of the story and rip it…. Who cares. Great story and imagination

    Comment by uncleb on December 30, 2011 @ 7:30 am

  12. Admit it u nuked the city mostly for kang. Great read love your work

    Comment by Bigralph on December 30, 2011 @ 8:47 am

  13. @ david guess it was her idea for everyo ne to have a job based on what they were best at. Granted that makes sense, but you may think your a great cook while the leadership thinks your the best shit shoveller
    Also the whole comunal living and food sharing. I mean really her character just kind of loses it when she breaks her own no capital punishment rule
    . You gotta be a special yype of crazy to kill a scientist who might have developed a vacine the next day

    Comment by Bigralph on December 30, 2011 @ 9:03 am

  14. Also can some draw kang fighting of a swarm of zombies. The discription was so awesome

    Comment by Bigralph on December 30, 2011 @ 10:10 am

  15. Well done! Loved it!

    Comment by Retrobuck on December 30, 2011 @ 10:53 am

  16. @ David:

    You’re probably right. It is difficult being the author sometimes. The characters are fully formed in my mind, where they wouldn’t be in the mind of a reader!

    I’ll have to keep this in mind in the future. This is why I love this site though. The reader feedback allows for one to make adjustments in future stories.

    Heck, when I re-read my first submission to this site it seems rather “primitive” compared to the complexity of the tales I weave now. This place can build an author.

    Comment by Patrick Turner on December 30, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

  17. @ patrick.

    Honestly I cant get the image of a gorilla using a zombie to kill other zombies out of my head it was just to awesome I might try to sketch it out

    Comment by Bigralph on December 30, 2011 @ 12:58 pm

  18. kang has more depth to his character than the whole cast of twilight put together and then some

    Comment by kang on December 30, 2011 @ 1:23 pm

  19. I have really enjoyed your series so far. I’m hoping you’re not done with it yet! After reading about your use of the “hissers” they seemed familiar to me and after some looking I remembered the book “Rise Again: A Zombie Thriller” by Ben Tripp. His smart zombies (not that he’s the first to use them) are pretty similar, and so I was wondering if you got the idea from that book, or use them as sort of an homage, a coincidence? Once again, great story and keep’em coming.

    Comment by Capt_Random on December 30, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

  20. For a moment, I thought Dr. Humbacher had reanimated after Dr. Writght shot him. 🙂

    I viewed Dr. Wright as a cult leader type a la Jim Jones. Any ideal society can be corrupted and twisted by a sufficiently charismatic leader. The zootopia sounded like a really nice place that could work if it wasn’t in a large city and if it didn’t have rigid ideologues as leaders like Dr. Wright.

    It would be an interesting sociological phenomenon to see what happens when people become power hungry when trying to form a new society after human civilization is destroyed. The new society would be totally different than our current one with different veiws regarding race, gender, and economics.

    Very good story. Mr. Turner, you should make this into a series and send the characters on a new adventure. Just don’t take as long as another 3 months to submit it. 🙂

    Comment by Steely Danville on December 30, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

  21. @ steeley
    My monies on a tribal society lead by charismatic leaders. Hopefully whoever ends up on top of the pile knows what hes doing. Warring tribes barter and hopefully some diplomacy.

    Comment by Bigralph on December 31, 2011 @ 9:11 am

  22. Several things distracted me from what could have been a good story. First, when LT mentions he is looking for two special girls and the doctor says they are there and OK, LT doesn’t even seem to mind; no follow up questions, can he see them, take me to them now, nothing. Just mentions about his rations and that’s it. Was it not his mission to find them, so why when he does, does he not care?
    Next the whole Dr and Gorilla thing was too similar to Dr Logan and Bub in Day of the dead. I kind of expected Kang to end up killing Dr Wright.
    Finally the back story of Wright, although interesting, seemed out of place half way through. It would have been good as a one off short, but just distracted from the main story line too much.

    Comment by Wade Cole on December 31, 2011 @ 1:44 pm

  23. I loved the story.. Great job.. Socialist people like Dr. Wright like to dictate what’s good for you and society. They think they know best. They love the power that comes with telling u how to live ur life.. This is not freedom or what our forefathers wanted.. Glad Kang took her out :)… Hope u make more installments of the story.. Would be nice to know what happened to them back in Aspen.. Again great job!!

    Comment by Mark Rios on December 31, 2011 @ 4:34 pm

  24. Correction to my comment: Sorry, I meant to say ” I’m glad LIDS took her out :).. But I did love how Kang took out the hissers.

    Comment by Mark Rios on December 31, 2011 @ 4:43 pm

  25. How about an army of Kangs?Just imagine what they could do to the hoards.

    Comment by DAVE KI on December 31, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

  26. Two words: Armored Kang.

    Comment by Josh on January 8, 2012 @ 4:10 am

  27. Solid red-blooded zombie-killing action! A good story and very good plotting. As to the politics- extreme situations bring out extreme reactions in people, I have no problem accepting the existence and behavior of the marxist professor. You have a good story but, if I might be so bold, I’d like to give a few tips. In the words of Captain Barbosa “They’re more like guidelines, really…”:
    1: Guard against run-on sentences, they are the bane of all writers. Never be afraid to chop one sentence into two.
    2: No more than one modifier per sentence. It slows down the word flow.
    3: No more than one “and” or comma per sentence. Same reason.

    Comment by T.J. McFadden on January 11, 2012 @ 5:04 pm

  28. Guilty as charged TJ, mind you I’m with the Iain M Banks school of grammar. If its not four lines long with at least 8 commas, then you had nothing interesting to say anyway 🙂

    Comment by Pete Bevan on January 11, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

  29. LOL Pete, I’m just keeping my head down for when my next story gets printed and everyone points out all the times I violate my own advice!

    Comment by T.J. McFadden on January 11, 2012 @ 11:31 pm

  30. @ TJ:

    Yeah, I do have a nasty habit of running on sentences. I’ve been trying to work on that.

    Comment by Patrick Turner on January 12, 2012 @ 7:00 am

  31. Me too Patrick. I am improving tho.

    Comment by Pete Bevan on January 12, 2012 @ 5:42 pm

  32. holy conolys thats long!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Comment by spetsnaz1337 on January 19, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

  33. I have read all 4 stories in your series. Very well done!

    Comment by Katrina Talbot on January 28, 2012 @ 6:12 pm

  34. Wow!!!!! Just Freakin!!! WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Comment by Mixeng on February 12, 2012 @ 3:50 am

  35. Before I even read this I just wanted to say I’m really diggin’ it. I’m Spc(P) Green of 2-27 infantry, 25th ID out here in Afghanistan’s terrible Kunar Provience right now. My job is that I’m a line medic with an infantry platoon that I love and I approve how realistic the last story was and why I actually came to read this one. Sgt. Neale and myself are huge zombie buffs and BS about it all the time. I will be recommending this site to him and thanks to your stories we will most likely end up writing one of our own. HERE COMES THE COMPETITION!
    -SPC(P) Green, Andrew

    Comment by Clarence on February 12, 2012 @ 6:36 pm

  36. Awesome story! Being from Columbus and having been to the Columbus Zoo many times, I was able to visualize your tale perfectly!

    Comment by Joshua on February 15, 2012 @ 9:48 pm

  37. @Clarance:

    Come home safe guys…

    Comment by Patrick Turner on February 24, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

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