Z-Burbia 4: Cannibal Road, страница 1
Copyright 2014 by Jake Bible
They call me Long Pork.
I wish they wouldn’t since my name is Jason Stanford and I really prefer to be called Jace. But, hey, you can’t pick your shitty nicknames, can ya?
Do you know why my nickname is shitty? To answer that, let me ask another question.
Do you know what long pork is? Human meat, man. Yep. My nickname is a cannibal entree.
You know what else is awesome? The fact that a few dozen fucking cannies are chasing my family and me right now as they scream, “LOOOOOOOOONNNNGGGGGG POOOOORRRRRRRRRK!”
Now, let me expand on that uber awesome uber more and explain the whole uber situation:
We are escaping the hellish nightmare of a cannibal compound in an old, open top, Ford Bronco. Like one of the big ones. All roll cage and loud muffler and shit.
In the back of the Bronco are my wife, Stella, and fourteen year old daughter, Greta. Notice I said “back” and not “backseat”? Yeah, there’s no backseat. The cannies ripped it out so they can stand in the back of the Bronco and whoop and holler as they chase down their prey. How very post-apocalyptically clichéd. They also need the room for the bodies once they catch their prey. Gross, but efficient.
We are lucky even to be in this Bronco. It’s not like we had a complicated plan to get away. All I can say is there were pink bracelets involved. It all sort of happened at once and then there we were on the fucking road again, running for our lives. Again.
I’m not complaining, mind you. I’m very happy to have this Bronco, because now we can get the holy fuck away from the crazy cannies and keep our skin intact. Seriously. We want our skin to stay on our bodies. Unfortunately, as I was told only moments before escaping, that wasn’t part of the canny master plan. Their boss was going to have his crew full on exfoliate me down to the bone. I’m sure they were going to do the same to my family. Why wouldn’t they? Pretty sure cannies are equal opportunity skinners.
Okay, so you know who is in the back (recap: Stella and Greta). Up front is where I’m sitting with my seventeen year old son, Charlie. I’m driving and he’s shifting. Why? Because Charlie’s still pretty messed up from getting a hunk of helicopter to the chest and doesn’t have the strength to drive the way we need to. Plus, he took a hard knock to the head only a day before by a canny with a steel rod. Oh, and I have no right arm and can’t shift. So there’s that.
I’m driving, as in steering and controlling the gas pedal, brake, and clutch. Charlie moves the stick when I tell him to. It is far from an ideal situation, but you make do when you have two pickup trucks filled with cannies on your ass.
“Jace!” Stella screams. “We can’t outrun them! Look at the gas gauge!”
I glance down, just after swerving around the burnt out husk of an old VW beetle, and see the gas tank needle aiming towards empty. Not that it’s actually “gasoline” in the Bronco. Probably diesel since that’s easier to make and it keeps longer. We’ve found out the hard way what old, bad gasoline does to an engine. Biodiesel is the fuel of the future, folks! Buy stock!
“Then I’ll have to outdrive them!” I yell back at Stella as she and Greta hang on for their lives. “Downshift to second!”
I hit the clutch and let off the gas as Charlie shifts the stick into second. It gives me the control and grab I need to take a hard left and get us off the main road from Canny Town. Not that it’s actually called Canny Town, I just came up with the name. Making up stupid names is a good way to pass the time and keep from pissing myself.
So, hard left turn and we are off the main road and zipping through a side street that used to be some residential neighborhood. I actually have no idea where we are, other than between Knoxville and Nashville, Tennessee, so I can’t say much about the residential neighborhood other than if they have an HOA then somebody needs to hand out citations for the lack of lawn maintenance. Nothing but weeds, man! That wouldn’t fly in Whispering Pines, I can tell you that.
Ah, yes, good ol’ Whispering Pines.
That was the subdivision we lived in when the zombie apocalypse hit. Turned out not to be such a bad place to hole up in when a few thousand zombies come looking for a snack.
With the other residents of Whispering Pines (by other residents, I mean those that lived past the first couple weeks of zombie hell), we fortified the whole subdivision with razor wire and trenches. We even built a huge gate across the front to keep the Zs out...as well as other less than savory elements that wanted to take our shit and kill our families during the apocalypse.
The Homeowners’ Association (HOA) was run by Brenda Kelly before it all went to ten kinds of hell. Long story short: bad guys kept showing up and our little slice of Americana turned into a scorched nightmare and then a radioactive wasteland. And Brenda Kelly died...but she was an evil bitch and kinda deserved it. Okay, that’s not 100% accurate- shetotally deserved to die, no kinda about it.
That little slice of Americana I mentioned was called Asheville, North Carolina. Tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville was known for being a vacation destination pre-Z. Post-Z? Not so much. Unless you were an egomaniacal madman or zombie herd. They were totally about hitting Asheville for the weekend to kill all the living folk. Fucking tourists.
We tried to rebuild, but outside elements weren’t too keen on that idea and kept getting all, “We have big guns and helicopters! Bang bang! Pew pew! KABOOM!” and shit. The last straw was when a dirty bomb went off -that means a shit ton of explosives wrapped around spent uranium- and tainted the entire area.
We had to hightail it out of there right quick.
Who is we?
Well, after Knoxville, I’m not so sure anymore.
I’ve mentioned Stella and the kids, but there were also a bunch of other survivors.
James “Don’t Call me Jimmy” Stuart was with us. Retired Gunnery Sergeant in the Marines, Stuart is (was?) my best friend and has saved my ass more times than I’d like to say. He’ll be happy to say them, if you ask. He likes talking about my fuck ups. Stuart was head of our defenses at Whispering Pines, but now (maybe?) he’s just head of ass kicking.
Melissa Billings was in charge of our supply scavengers. Her crew would venture outside the safety of Whispering Pines (ha!) and get us what we needed. Or at least try to.
Her brothers -Buzz, Gunga, Toad, Pup, Porky and Scoot- were with us as well when we left Asheville. They made it through Knoxville, but then I lost track of them after the canny ambush. Except for Scoot. I know what happened to Scoot...
There was also Medical Sergeant Alex “Reaper” Stillwater and Weapons Sergeant Sammy “John” Baptiste from the Special Forces Team ODA Cobra. At one point, there were more of them, but like with most folks that end up hanging around me for any period of time, they bit it. At least we have Reaper and John with us. Or did. No clue where those two went. I lost track when we hit the first wave of ambushy fun.
Lourdes Torres. She is in charge of the PCs (private military contractors) that came down to take over our fair city of Asheville with the impostor POTUS Mondello. Mondello didn’t turn out to be the sanest of leaders and ended up kinda dead, which is how I lost my right arm. Long, painful story. Anyhoo, Lourdes signed on to help us out, and lost a shit ton of her people doing it, but none of that matters since I don’t know where she is or where her people are.
Kinda wish I did since they have all the guns. More awesome.
Who am I leaving out?
Dr. Laura McCormick. Used to be a proctologist pre-Z, but (see what I did there?) specialties are irre
Critter. Good, old Critter. He’s Melissa’s and the Fitzpatrick boys’ uncle. Brother to their late father, Hollis “Big Daddy” Fitzpatrick. While he’s a good guy, let’s just say that Critter’s moral and ethical lines are blurred a little more than most of ours. But the guy has had my back a few times, so I’ll always count him in the ally column.
There is a ton more people that I have no clue as to their whereabouts, but the one I’m thinking of the most is Elsbeth.
Carly Michelle Thornberg in a previous life -one that ended up fucked all to hell even pre-Z- Elsbeth became Elsbeth when she was taken captive by Pa. Not sure what that sick, perverted cannibal’s real name was, but Elsbeth called him Pa. Those two took me hostage, and were going to eat me, when Stuart saved my ass. Elsbeth bailed and I didn’t see her again until I got separated from Stuart and she saved my ass as well.
Notice a theme? Yeah, my ass needs saving. A lot.
Elsbeth sorta got adopted by us Stanfords, and we took her in and have spent a long time curbing her more wild ways. Not that we work too hard at that since Elsbeth has a certain skill set with the killing that keeps us all alive.
Which brings up Dr. Kramer. But I really don’t want to talk about that crazy fucking asshole. I could go the rest of my life without even hearing that cocksucker’s name again.
With that said, I think that brings us up to speed on the cast of characters in my life. Unfortunately, the only ones with me are my immediate family. The rest are offstage dealing with whatever they-.
“JACE!” Stella yells. “Watch it!”
I swerve around a pile of furniture that has been set in the middle of the road. Why is it in the road? No clue. A couch, two chairs, a coffee table- all just stacked up for no reason. Weird.
“Sorry!” I shout back at Stella.
“Now is not the time to space off!” she shouts back. “Pay attention!”
She’s right, now is not the time to space off. Thoughts come and go and most of the time I can ignore them. The problem is that sometimes I just can’t control it. There was this one time where…
“DAD!” Greta and Charlie yell at me.
“Sorry!” I yell back. “Downshift!”
I whip the wheel to the left again and try to coordinate the clutch with Charlie’s shifting, but we grind the fuck out of the gears before we get it figured out and lose some precious distance between us and the cannies. Their shouts and calls are even louder now and I risk a glance in the rearview mirror.
They’re laughing at us.
The pickup trucks are a hodgepodge of parts and colors. They’ve scavenged bits and pieces from all kinds of makes and models and just slapped them all together to make some ugly ass vehicles. I have to give the cannies credit- they sure know how to keep up with the whole post-apocalyptic aesthetic.
I mean, look at how they are dressed. It’s early fall and the air has started to turn, yet the fuckers are going around in ripped jeans, cargo pants, overalls without any shirts on. All the scars and tattoos must be what keep them all warm as we race through the night air. Of course, it could be the cozy embrace of their insanity that’s keeping them all toasty. I’m not up on my cannibal thermodynamics and shit.
The one good thing I can say about these particular cannibals is they don’t have firearms. Apparently they done runned out of bullets, y’all. Which is strange since this is rural Tennessee. You’d think they would have found several dozen stockpiles in these tract houses we are zooming past. Either they didn’t look or they went through their bullets fast. Doesn’t matter to me, really. I prefer them to be waving spiked baseball bats and axes rather than shooting AR-15s and shit.
“Open stretch!” I call out as we come around a corner and I see a straightaway that lasts a few blocks. No cars, no weird piles of furniture, nothing to get in our way. All I see is open road and I floor it. “Gimme third, Charlie!”
We shift into third gear, then into fourth as I press the accelerator down as far as it will go. The engine coughs a little, probably due to whatever fuel they have in this thing, but we quickly increase our speed until the speedometer says we are going sixty.
I can feel Stella’s eyes on the gas gauge. I try not to look down at it, but I am painfully aware of how little time we have until the chase is done. Some opportunity better present itself soon or we’ll just end up coasting to a stop on this road, which has suddenly stopped being residential and is now an open rural highway, and I don’t think any of us have the energy to try to outrun our pursuers.
“Quarry!” Greta yells as she points towards a sign on our right. “Maybe we can lose them there!”
“Worth a shot!” I yell. “Downshift!”
More grinding of gears, and I almost lose control with my one arm, but we take the turn and find ourselves on an old gravel road that splits through a small pine forest. I don’t think anyone had maintained the road even before Z-Day. There are more ruts and potholes than actual road and I seriously have to wonder if even the Bronco can make it. We are jarred and jostled to the point that I’m staying in my seat only because I’m gripping the steering wheel.
Did I mention that the cannies yanked the seat belts out of all their vehicles? I’m guessing they live by a libertarian ethos more than a safety first lifestyle. Ain’t nobody gonna tell them to wear their seat belts in the apocalypse! No, sir!
Bump, bam, whack and many other none too pleasing sounds come from under the Bronco. Some of those sounds are very similar to metal grinding on metal. And I’m not talking about the grinding from the transmission as Charlie and I tag team the fuck out of the gearshift. The Bronco is not sounding good as we continue the pattern of slamming into the road and then catching air as we bounce our way down the gravel road more than actually drive down it.
At this rate, I distinctly believe that I’m going to snap an axle before we run out of fuel.
“Oh, shit!” Stella yells as the Bronco sputters and dies. “We’re empty!”
So much for my prediction.
I yank the wheel to the side so that the Bronco blocks the “road.” We all scramble out and start running as fast as our weakened bodies can. The cannies haven’t exactly kept us in an environment conducive to our health and well being. And before that, we were fighting for our lives so much that rest and proper nourishment weren’t exactly falling from the sky. No timeouts in the apocalypse!
“This way,” I huff and puff as I see a trail off to our left. “We can try to lose them in the woods.”
It isn’t so much a trail as it is a wider space between the pines than the other spaces around us. We have to zig and zag a lot, but eventually, we get deep enough into the woods that the canny shouts become more echoes than threatening calls immediately behind us. I almost wonder if they missed seeing which way we went and are hopefully heading in the other direction. But I know exactly how hopes turn out post-Z.
“I think I see a clearing,” Greta whispers as we slow to a pitiful pace of stumbling and tripping. “Over there.”
We all see the break in the trees and head for it in the hopes (there’s that word again) it will lead us to the quarry. Not sure why I think a quarry is a good place to go, but it at least gives us a destination. Maybe we can find someplace in it to hide. Or maybe there’s machinery or supplies around it that we can use as weapons. I don’t fucking know. My mind is a hazy mess of pain and hunger.
But I can’t let on to my family that I’m not thinking straight. I’m supposed to be the big brain that is always figuring ways out of shitty situations. That’s what I’ve been known for since Z-Day hit. I was the guy in Whispering Pines that could strategize and engineer the solutions we needed to stay alive. I was the generalist that may not have had all the answers, but I at least had some of the answers.
The only generalist I am now is generally fucked, which doesn’t make a lick of sense. See?
We break from the trees into an open meadow. The meadow is ringed by pine trees exc
I glance over my shoulder, but it’s too dark to really see anything in the woods. The fucking cannies don’t even use torches or anything so we can see them coming after us. They’re all night stealth and shit. Fuck, as far as I know, they’re standing at the edge of the trees flipping me off.
Oh, wait, never mind, here they come!
“Go! Go!” I shout at my family as we all stumble towards the edge of the meadow. “Just run!”
“Where, Jace?” Stella shouts. “What are we going to do? Jump in?”
“If we have to!” I reply, my one arm at the small of her back, urging her to go faster.
“Wait...what?” Charlie yells. “We’re jumping? Fuck that shit, Dad!”
“It’ll be like Butch and Sundance!” I yell at him. “Bad guys on our asses and we have to jump into the raging waters!”
“I hated that movie!” Greta shouts. “It was boring!”
I don’t respond because no self-respecting person would give a statement like that the time of day. Butch and Sundance a boring movie? That’s crazy talk! It has all the elements of great cinema! Charisma, humor, adventure, drama, romance…
“Jace! Keep up!” Stella shouts.
Dammit, I was spacing again. Can’t blame me, though. I love Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. Just a fucking great movie. I am totally psyched to jump off the edge of a quarry cliff into the water below. That will be some seriously cool, post-apocalyptic hero shit!
“Well...that solves that,” Charlie says as we skid to a halt at the edge of the meadow, which is at the top of the quarry, and look down into an empty pit of dirt and rock.
No water. Nothing.
“I thought quarries had standing water in them,” I say to no one in particular. “Holes in the ground fill up with water. Rain comes from sky, water fills quarry. It’s an unspoken law of the industrialized world we live in. I mean what is the fucking point of digging a fucking hole if it isn’t going to fill up with water and become an unsanitary and unsafe place for local rednecks to hang out in? What has this world come to?”