The old farmer awoke when heard the whomp-whomp of a helicopter’s blades echoing down the valley with its steep rocky walls. It reminded him of the American military helicopters he had fought when he was young. As quickly as the noise came, it left. When he finally looked out his window a few minutes later he saw dark figures approaching his goat pens, silhouetted against the dim horizon. He quickly got up, grabbed his rifle, and headed outside. These men could be insurgents looking to take a goat back to their camp to roast. He would have none of that. He had his own mouths to feed, but still, he felt a tremor of fear run through his body. He considered getting his sons up, but decided he could warn the interlopers away on his own. Hadn’t he once been a warrior?
The air was moist and the scrubby grass damp with the early morning dew as he crept along the side of the outbuilding. He knew the ground like the back of his hand after having traversed it countless time. As he advanced towards the pens, he saw a half dozen figures stooping over the rickety wooden fences surrounding his small herd of goats. The goats raced around and screamed out in panic, staying just of the reach of the figure’s groping arms.
The old farmer hurried his approach and used another small outbuilding to flank the figures. The men seemed unnaturally quiet, not talking or making any other noises as they attempted to grab a goat.
He looked to his house and saw it was still dark then brought his attention back to the men. He quickly saw that the men were unarmed. This inspired him with some confidence, but he also knew that he’d have to make a show of force to get these men to leave.
In a crouch, he moved from behind the smaller building and rushed as fast as his old legs would carry him, coming up from behind the men.
When he got to within 20 feet of the men, he slapped the bolt action of his ancient rifle, hoping that tell-tale noise would scare the men and cause them to run away. In his native tongue, he shouted, “You will leave my goats alone and get off my land now, or I will be forced to shoot you.”
The men remained focused on the goats until the old farmer fired a single shot into the air and then all of the shadowy figures turned towards him. He now had their full attention and they started in his direction.
“Stay where you are, or I will have to shoot,”the old farmer shouted. He really didn’t want to shoot them or anyone, but knew he would if he had to.
The men’s faces were still hard to make out in the pre-dawn light, but from what he could see, they seemed gray and expressionless. He shouted again for them to stop, but it was if they were deaf because they did nothing to heed the his warnings. Every second they got closer, and the old farmer was left to make the devil’s choice.
“My sons will be out here in a moment and you will be sorry you came upon my land. Leave now. This is my final warning.”
But they didn’t listen. When they were within ten feet of the old man and he aimed at the chest of the closest man and fired. The bullet struck home, a dull, wet, yet empty sound. The man staggered momentarily, regained his balance and returned to its pursuit of the old farmer.
Where the old farmer had hoped the others would break and run, they seemed oblivious and continued towards him, too. He whipped his aim from one man and then to another, shouting for them to stop, but they didn’t. He fired directly into the group, bullet after bullet finding a target, but still they came at him. They were almost upon him when his nose was overwhelmed with the smell of decaying flesh — the smell of the dead. This filled him with a fear. Surely the devil was at work here. These men were demons. He turned to run, but it was too late as one of the men slammed into him knocking him to the ground. They were on him in seconds. He saw their faces, drawn and emaciated. Their eyes gray and soulless. He also saw their mouths, opening and closing expectantly, as they moved into to take those first bites.
The old man began to shriek as the first set of teeth tore into his flesh and the goats joined him in as they screamed into the night.
Four Days Earlier
They came up to the last set of security doors. They looked quite formidable with their double vacuum seals and four inches of metal. Just to make sure people knew they meant business, two guards stood on each side of the door armed with assault rifles and stern looks.
They had already passed through Level One and Level Two security which required a security clearance so high that only a select few had it. Most of these individuals were either with the CIA or in the upper echelons of the military. This clearance was so rare that even a couple one term Presidents didn’t get it.
It was Sam Longoria’s first time inside and even though no one could tell, he was nervous. He had seen a lot of horrible things during the war back in 2019. It was a rare occasion that you came face-to-face with the enemy that almost wiped out humanity.
He had been named deputy director at the CIA just three months ago after 15 years in the agency. Throughout the vetting process no one had told him about the this initiative and he had never even heard a whisper about it. Not one.
It lay hidden a quarter mile below the ground at a secret installation in Northwest Indiana. Sitting at ground level was a military fuel reserve staffed by a few soldiers who knew nothing about what went on below.
Escorting Sam was a civilian research scientist name Oglevee who wore a white doctor’s coat and a sidearm. Sam thought it was a strange combination. Oglevee was an intense guy with a shiny hairless dome and piercing intelligent eyes. Despite his casual demeanor, he seemed to pulse with an undercurrent of nervous energy.
“First times are always a bit off-setting,”Oglevee said as their credentials were being processed by one of the guards. It was an anxious few seconds.
With some anxiety of his own, Sam said offhandedly, “What happens if our ID’s don’t clear? Do we get shot on sight?”
“Pretty much,”Oglevee said without looking at Sam.
Sam wanted to say, “Oh,”but restrained himself.
The guard handed back their IDs while the other one opened the large metal doors. They entered a long cylinder shaped room that led to another set of security doors. They both walked in, and Sam listened as the guards sealed them inside and found it somewhat disconcerting.
“Last chance to turn back,”Oglevee said.
Sam looked at him humorlessly.
“You wouldn’t be the first one to back out,”Oglevee said.
Sam stepped up beside the scientist and saw him press an obvious red button next to the door. A second later a computerized voice came forth from a speaker in the wall.
“Please speak into the microphone for final clearance and state your name and federal security clearance code.”
Sam spoke into the microphone and Oglevee followed in suit.
“Security access approved.”
The door popped open with a whoosh and Sam felt a slight rushing of stale air strike his face. Oglevee stepped into the large corridor and Sam followed.
The word corridor was an understatement. The room was as big as a small airplane hangar, cavernous and full of echoes. There were several equal sized rooms leading off to the left and right of the main corridor. Each one of these rooms had large metal doors with mammoth hinges. Each of these large doors had one set of smaller doors positioned at floor level. Wide portal-style windows provided spectators a view into the rooms.
In an uncharacteristic and overly theatrical motion, Oglevee spread his arms and swiveled on his feet to face Sam and said, “Welcome to Zombie Inc.”
“What?” Sam said.
“Officially, it’s Undead Defence Services — UDS for short, but we call it Zombie Inc. You have to have a little fun with it. It’s that or Zombies R’Us.”
“Doctor, can we just get on with this?”
Unperturbed, Oglevee turned around and motioned for Sam to follow.
“If you can give me an idea of what you need, I can help guide you to make your best choice,”Oglevee said.
“Doctor, I’m not at liberty to divulge confidential details right now,”Sam said, but Oglevee stopped in his tracks and looked back over his shoulder at Sam.
He said, “I can’t imagine that what you have to do is any more critical to national security than the fact that we’re in a secret underground government facility with nearly a 1,000 zombies.”
“Point taken,”Sam said.
“I know you’re CIA, but you look military, too,”Oglevee said.
“I was in the Marines, but joined the agency over 15 years ago,”Sam replied. He had kept the buzz cut, albeit even if his hair was nearly all gray. He also maintained that eternally upright posture of a military man.
“You fight in the zombie wars?”
“Yes, both on the California and the Mexican border.”
“That Mexican border was a mess,”Oglevee said.
“Yes, it was,”Sam said, images of a rushing throng of zombies flashed in his mind. The zombies, driven by their ravenous appetite, broke through the concrete barriers and swarmed onto the lines of his fellow Marines. The Army guys broke and ran, but the Marines held the line. They lost quite a few good men that day, but they held, just like they held in California, Texas, and New Mexico. He sometimes thought if they hadn’t, would any of us be around today? But they did and ultimately they tide turned, and the zombies were eradicated from the Earth. Or, at least, so that’s what everybody thought.
“So, what’s the mission?”Oglevee asked. “Assassination? Overthrow? Annihilation? Or just sending a message — like to spread some fear and panic?”
“Well doctor, we have a new leader in power in the east doing some dangerous saber rattling. We need to consider our options.”
Oglevee led Sam up to a large metal door with three observation windows. They stopped and looked in. The sight of several dozen undead creatures shambling around right in front of him almost made Sam take a step back, but he held himself in place. Something in his face gave him away, though.
“They can be sight to behold, can’t they?”Oglevee said. “These are our Z-212 models. They’ve been modified to be more aggressive but are not infectious.”
“Yeah, sort of shocking the advances we’ve made. My team of geneticists and microbiologists have done some amazing work. These nasty little buggers are just as hungry as their predecessors, but we’ve been able to remove all infectious agents from their blood serum.”
Sam marvelled at the zombies until they noticed him and all rushed at his window portal at once. They slammed into the window en masse, clawing, pounding, and even biting at the window, wanting a piece of the tasty human morsel outside. This time, he did step back.
Oglevee extended a hand to a control panel, pressed a button, and a sliding metal shield closed over the window cutting off the zombie’s view of the outside.
“Let’s move on, shall we?”Oglevee entreated as he started toward another one of the large containment rooms. It took a moment for Sam to compose himself, but he did and followed the doctor to the next chamber.
“These are our Z-188 models, a little older, but very effective. I think a batch was used over in Southeast Asia to destabilize that crazy Korean dictator, Kim Jong-something. He was the fifth in that line of inbred insane pitbulls.”
“How are these modified?”Sam asked.
“They’re pretty much standard models. They’re still infectious, but the strain is weak and usually the spread plays out in a few days. Very effective for destabilization and fear without causing too much long term problems. Know what I mean?”
Sam knew all too well what he meant.
Oglevee led Sam past two more containment chamber housing different varieties of modified zombies. One contained a hybrid model that was less aggressive, but highly infectious and the other was just your standard variety biter but with lethal virus capabilities. Oglevee said they were best used for assassinations, because if the bitten didn’t turn into a zombie, the virus killed them anyway.
When they got beside the next chamber, Oglevee said, “These are our most dangerous models and are basically like the originals — aggressive and highly infectious. A scratch or a bite and you’ve got another one and then another one and so on. You know what I mean?”
Sam nodded while he spied across the corridor. In another chamber, he saw what looked like to be a set of very healthy looking zombies in orange jumpsuits walking past portal windows led by three armed guards. “What model are those?”
“Oh those,”Oglevee said. “Those are real live bona fide humans.”
“Why do you have humans down here?”Sam asked, spinning towards Oglevee.
Oglevee leaned in and in a low whisper said, “Where do you think we get new zombies?”
“That’s crazy. You’re taking civilians and…”
Oglevee cut him off by raising his hands in the air in mock surrender. “No, no, no. Well, yes, but they’re not Americans. Follow me.” Oglevee walked over to the chamber with Sam in tow. They could see more men in orange jumpsuits walking around in leg shackles, their heads down. All of them had dark complexions and most of them had long scraggly beards.”
“Where did they come from?”Sam asked.
“Well, sometimes this place is called the new Guantanamo. All those guys are considered enemy combatants. That status dates back to the Bush presidency. Bush II, not Bush III. They were picked off the battlefield in Iran when we had that little skirmish back 2037,”he put air quotes around the word skirmish. “No one knows they’re here, so they’re assumed KIA.”
Sam felt a shiver go up his spin as he contemplated the unholy practices taking place in this subterranean facility. Surely, there had to be a better way? But as soon as these thoughts came, they went. He was a soldier through-and-through and if there were orders, he would follow them.
“So, what’ll it be?”Oglevee asked.
Sam considered his options from the resources laid at his disposal for a few seconds, then made up his mind.
Eight Days Later
Sam watched the news coverage on the TV in his office. The media reported a sizable outbreak of the zombie virus in northern Iraq and Syria. Needless to say, the story took all the headlines.
There had been several small outbreaks in the years since the original zombie wars. Some were attributed to zombies that had been trapped in caves or the rubble of collapsed buildings. Some scientists hypothesized that the zombies could go into a sort of hibernation allowing them to survive long years without eating. At least, that’s the line they fed the public.
Most of these incidents were easily contained as the world’s forces united immediately and aggressively against this common enemy. Fear brought about strange and necessary allies.
When this latest outbreak started to get out of control, leaders in Iraq and Syria called for help from the international community. The United States, being experts in zombie extermination, was more than happy to lend a hand. Surprisingly, the U.S. had boots on the ground faster than anyone expected and the zombies were cleaned up in short order. It was as if they were ready for it.
The upstart leader in Syria was forced to calm his aggressive tendencies and cooperate in the new world order, thus calming any possible strife.
All was well with the world again.