Z-Burbia (Book 2): Parkway To Hell, страница 1
Z-Burbia 2: Parkway to Hell
Copyright 2013 by Jake Bible
Welcome back to the world of Z-Burbia!
Totally stoked you decided to join Jace and his family, and the others from Whispering Pines, in their never ending battle to stay alive in a zombie infested Asheville, NC. Speaking of Asheville, I have to say that my fellow citizens of the Cesspool of Sin have taken to this series like zombies to brains. Who knew a city filled with artists, intellectuals, hippies, rebels, misfits, and freaks would love zombies so much?
Well, I had a hunch since I put a little something for everyone in the novel.
Which brings me to my favorite review of Z-Burbia on Amazon:
“Z-Burbia" (The title) originally made me chuckle. Although, this play on words did not meet my humorous expectations! This book takes you places that are believable and frightening. This novel has the right marriage of suspense and thrill to keep readers on the edge of their seats. I recommend this book to the serious as well as the novice Zombie enthusiast.”
This review nailed Z-Burbia on the head! I wanted it to be funny, but not jokey. There had to be horror and thrills and suspense to make it work as a true zombie novel. To get a review like that tells me I was on the right path. Sweet!
So now to Z-Burbia 2: Parkway To Hell.
I get to include some of the surrounding area in this one. There is so much great material to mine for story ideas that I can keep the Z-Burbia series going for a long time. I hope you join me on each leg of this journey of horror, satire, suspense, and thrills. There’s a lot more to come!
“Your guess is as good as mine,” James ‘Don’t call me Jimmy’ Stuart says, as he lowers the binoculars and looks over at Weapons Sergeant Sammy “John” Baptiste. “But I don’t think they’re part of Vance’s group.”
“No, they aren’t,” John replies, moving his eye from the scope of his M110 sniper rifle. He looks over at Stuart and frowns. “Those aren’t crooks. That’s not crime, that’s business.”
“Business?” Stuart asks, looking into the binoculars again. “What business could they possibly be in then?”
John returns his eye to the scope and they both study the building across the street and above the ruined golf course. The Grove Park Inn. From the early 1900s right up to Z-Day, the GPI was the place for the affluent to stay when vacationing in Asheville, NC. Everyone from F. Scott Fitzgerald to President Barak Obama stayed at the GPI. Artists, actors, diplomats, masters of industry, all called it a temporary home at one point or another. Now the five story stone, brick, and wood luxury inn, is home to a different element, an unknown element.
Z-Day hit Asheville the same day as it hit the rest of the world. No one knows what caused it. A virus was ruled out because of the simultaneous occurrences of the undead rising from graves, beds, morgues, and battlefields. Some said it was a comet that came too close to the Earth’s atmosphere; others said it was God’s wrath on the wicked.
Whatever caused it, the result was the same: the dead rose and were hungry. Hungry for the flesh of the living. The apocalypse was on; and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina couldn’t escape it. Civilization broke down as the living dead multiplied exponentially. A bite meant sickness, death, and then undeath. And those that died of “natural” causes rose as well. Soon the undead outnumbered the living. The world as everyone knew it ended and a post-Z world hunkered down and hid in the shadows.
The undead, or Zs, could hear, could smell, and could see the living. Movement and sound attracted them; the smell of flesh drove them into a frenzy. It was a shambling, slow-moving frenzy, but get enough of the Zs in one place and a herd would form, surrounding any living that were unlucky enough to be caught.
Survivor pockets emerged, some good, some not so good. The Farm, Whispering Pines, Critter’s Holler, were just a few of the good pockets; places that humanity set up to survive in. Most of Asheville was uninhabited (by the living, at least) except for isolated individuals and groups of cannies. Cannibals. Everyone has to eat sometime.
Stuart watches the men and women that patrol the back balconies and massive porch of the Grove Park Inn and tries to figure out what category they fit in: good or bad. They all sport various automatic rifles. Not standard military issue and not just hanging out at the local Wal-Mart. Highly customizable, Stuart counts no less than six different types being carried by the armor-clad men and women, mostly versions of the Ares Defense Shrike, though.
“Mercs then?” Stuart asks.
“No,” John replies, “too uniform. Look at the gear. Except for the weapons, they all have the same gear. Same body armor. Shit, man, they even have the same boots on.”
“Private contractors then?”
“That’s my guess,” John says. “You say they were there when you were running from Vance and his goons?”
“Affirmative,” Stuart says. “Patrolling the Inn just like now. I only had a minute to observe them, but didn’t think too much of it. I figured they were with Vance.”
“But they obviously aren’t. Which isn’t good.”
“Because if they could hold the Grove Park against Vance and his people, then they are not something we want to tangle with,” Stuart says.
“Oh, I’d love to tangle with them,” John says, “but not before we have more intel. They stink of private contractors.”
“Who fucking knows? I don’t really care who they are, just who has hired them.”
“Maybe they’re on their own. Not hired out to anyone. If I ran a private military company, I’d want all of my resources and assets for myself. Screw the clients. Z-Day changed commerce like that forever.”
“Unless someone has enough resources to make a job worth it,” John says, “and that scares me.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“We better get back to Whispering Pines and check in,” John says, slowly scooting back from the rhododendron bushes they are hidden in. “Captain Leeds and Long Pork will be back soon.”
“Maybe,” Stuart nods, “if they figured out what was wrong at the gas transfer station.”
Gas stinks, man.
Or to be more specific: natural gas. Did you know they add that dead meat smell to it? That way if there’s a leak way out in the middle of nowhere, they can spot it by the circling buzzards overhead. Kinda cool.
Know what’s not cool? The natural gas infrastructure I am currently staring at. I haven’t a clue what I’m looking for, I just know that the flow of gas has stopped and we need it to rebuild Whispering Pines. Not a single person has refrained from reminding me that my idea to blow the fuck out of Whispering Pines two months ago, was probably what caused the gas transfer station to shut down. Some failsafe kicked in and the lines went dead. It was the last vestige of civilization post-Z. Shit may have sucked with everything else, but at least we could count on the gas to flow and the water to be hot. Oh, and the gas furnaces to run during those super cold nights.
Yes, we might have been a little spoiled in Whispering Pines when it comes to apocalypse amenities. But we aren’t spoiled now. There’s barely a single dwelling left in the entire subdivision. Crews are there sorting debris into useable and non-useable piles. In between the Z attacks, that is. Quite a bit of the fortifications surrounding the neighborhood were damaged, which means stray Zs are coming in all the time.
I’m being blamed for that too. Fuckers.
“Thoughts, Stanford?” Captain Leeds asks me, as we stand on a small hill overlooking the transfer station.
“Oh, I have lots of thoughts, Captain,” I say, looking at the pipes and equipment before me. “But none useful. I don’t know shit about natural gas lines.”
“Critter?” Leeds asks, turning to the older, lanky, wiry man next to us. “Any experience?”
“None, I’m afraid,” Critter says as he unceremoniously scratches his nuts. “Long Pork done fucked this shit up. We’re gonna need an expert on this one.”
“Don’t happen to have one back at your holler, do you?” Leeds asks. “Maybe one of your gambling customers or inebriates?”
“I don’t call them customers,” Critter says. “I prefer suckers. No need to mince words during the apocalypse.”
“Fair enough,” Leeds smiles. “Would one of those suckers know about natural gas?”
“Possibly,” Critter shrugs, studying the station, “but I wouldn’t know who. Maybe we should get inside and see if there is some switch we can hit. Could be simple as that.”
“I wish,” I say. “Nothing’s ever as simple as that.”
“Usually is for me,” Critter smiles. “But then I avoid all the hard shit. Narrows down my options, right quick.”
“That’s one way to go through life,” Leeds smirks.
Captain Walt Leeds is the commanding officer for ODA Cobra, a US Army Special Forces team out of Fort Bragg that was on a training exercise when Z-Day hit. They stayed alive and hidden during the entire apocalypse, until they met up with me. Two of Leeds men, Weapons Sergeant Danny “Stick” Kim, and Engineer Sergeant Dale “Cob” Corning, were killed helping save my ass in Whispering Pines. That is my fault. I take full responsibility for that. I will for the rest of my life.
“Boys,” Critter says, turning to a group of men standing off to the side. “How’s about you go down there and take care of those Zs? Get that gate open and we’ll be down shortly.”
The men, many of them looking like they could eat nails and like it, don’t even blink at the order Critter gives them. If they did, they wouldn’t last long. Not around Critter. He’s a good guy, don’t get me wrong, but he wasn’t exactly Mr. Morals before Z-Day. Now? Let’s just say he doesn’t have the time or patience for anyone that wants to waste his time or patience.
We watch as the men walk down the grassy hill towards the swarm of Zs that surround the transfer station. Did I mention the dead meat smell? Yeah, that’s not so good when the world is overrun by flesh-hungry undead. Since there’s no movement or sound inside the fence, the Zs don’t get all worked up. The smell just attracts them to the station and then they stand there, staring between the chain links, waiting.
Despite each of them having pistols holstered to their belts, the men use only melee weapons: crowbars, lengths of pipe, baseball bats, and machetes. I have my own baseball bat I have dubbed The Bitch. It used to be Elsbeth’s, but she gave it to me after I lost mine. We thought The Bitch was lost, but we found it in the rubble of Whispering Pines, its wood scorched a little, but still deadly as hell with the steel spikes driven through the end.
The men spread out, dividing up the swarm of Zs. It doesn’t take long for the things to realize fresh meat is behind them. One turns, then another, and finally all of them do, their rotting bodies stutter stepping their way towards the men. These aren’t fast Zs like in the later zombie movies pre-Z. These are the shambling kind. Slow and easy to pick off; they don’t get dangerous until there’s a bunch of them, or if you let your guard down and one sneaks up on you.
That’s not a problem for Critter’s men. These guys are pros. They’ve been killing Zs since Z-Day and they are damn fucking good at it. I watch as one of the men goes down on a knee, acting like he’s wounded. The entire swarm goes for him, seeing easy prey. Systematically, the others start to pick apart the swarm, smashing and piercing skulls in a deliberate pattern that divides the swarm into smaller, more manageable groups. Group by group the men whittle down the numbers until there are only a couple left, their teeth gnashing at the men closing on them.
I swear I almost see fear in those Z eyes, but that’s just the grey rot that clouds them. Zs are dead; there’s nothing there that knows fear, or happiness, or love, or loss. They are empty, flesh-eating monsters. Putting them down is a mercy; after all, they were human once.
“Clear,” one of the men calls out.
I look around immediately, worried the sound of his voice will bring more Zs, but after a few moments, it’s obvious we are alone in the area. For now.
“What the fuck?” another man says as he gets to the chain link gate. “This shit’s locked!”
“Now that’s curious,” Critter says as we walk down the hill, “who’d go and do a stupid thing like that?”
“That’s a very good question,” Leeds says, “I’d like an answer to it.”
“Maybe Vance locked it up before he died,” I say.
“You mean before you jammed a pick axe up in his skull?” Critter laughs. “Take credit when it’s due, boy. Don’t be ashamed of your accomplishments. They’re about all we have in this damn apocalypse.”
“Yeah, you’ve said that before,” I reply. “But I’m not proud of it. Killing Zs is one thing, but killing people? Even people that deserve it? That’s a little harder to stomach.”
“It should be,” Leeds says. “Taking a life is not a casual affair.”
Critter shrugs. “You two can hug it out later. How’s about we get inside this fence and see what we can see? Boys?”
One of the men produces a bolt cutter and slices right through the chain, sending the padlock falling to the pavement. They shove the gate open and we walk up to the concrete building that houses the controls for the transfer station. Windows rim the top of the walls in order to let some natural light inside, but other than that, it’s solid concrete with a steel door. Critter tries the handle, but it’s locked.
“Dammit, this shit is getting old,” Critter says. “Who’s got the bumps?”
One of the men steps forward with a ring of keys and a hammer. I tried actually learning their names once, but Critter frowned on that. He said he wanted his guys to be detached from the rest of us in case he had to kill us all. I’m about 75% sure he was kidding. The guy inserts a key then gives it a bump with the hammer as he turns it. After three tries, he’s able to get the door unlocked.
Unfortunately, he’s the first in line as Zs burst from the building, coming at us hard. The man falls to the ground, his throat opened by the jagged teeth of a Z wearing a Postal Service uniform. He screams and shoves the monster away, but it takes half of his neck with it, flaps of skin hanging from its teeth. Blood spurts and sprays everywhere, sending the rest of the Zs into a frenzy. We’ll have more on us soon; Zs can smell fresh blood a mile away.
“Fuck!” Critter yells as he decapitates a Z with his machete. The body falls one way, the head the other, its teeth still gnashing. Critter kicks the head aside; he’ll get to it later.
Leeds holds a collapsible steel baton with the end sharpened. He flicks it hard and it extends and locks into place. He dodges around one Z, then jams the business end of the baton through the eye of another. The thing stops moving and falls when Leeds pulls the baton free. He instantly spins about and dispatches the Z that he’d dodged. He drops to one knee and lets another Z tumble over him, coming up hard and flipping the thing ass over teakettle.
I’ve always liked that saying. I need to ask my wife, Stella, where the saying comes from. She’s a teacher and would probably know.
“Jace!” Critter yells as three Zs come at me. “Get
I sometimes space off. Even when Zs are trying to eat me. It’s a side effect of my way of thinking. I tend to get lost in my head, thoughts swirling everywhere.
But, I get it together and slam The Bitch into the skull of one Z, while I plant my foot against the belly of another. And my foot slips into its abdomen. The smell makes me gag and I struggle not to vomit when I pull my foot free. Rotted intestines are wrapped around my ankle. I pull The Bitch from the first Z and swing it around into the skull of Gutsy the Stinky Zombie. Half of his head caves in and he falls in a heap.
The third Z grabs my Bitch arm and is about to take a nice little chomp at it when her left eye explodes, spraying goo all over my face. I wipe the black blood away and flick it off my hand.
“Thanks,” I say to Leeds as he pulls his baton out of the thing’s skull.
“No problem,” he nods, turning back to the rest of the Zs.
And there’s a fuck ton of them. The building must have been jam-packed. Someone really wanted to keep us out. Or keep everyone out. But my gut tells me this is about our group of folks.
My gut also tells me to duck, so I do, letting the reaching Z arms swipe above me. I come up and bury The Bitch’s spikes into the soft part under a Z’s chin. Well, that doesn’t narrow it down since most parts of a Z are soft; you know, because of the rotting flesh and all. But, the softer the better! I pull up and rip the thing’s jaw right off, and then bring The Bitch down hard on top of its skull.
Fingers grab at my arm and I shake them off, putting The Bitch into the face of the offender. Another Z down, only about twenty to go. Fuck me. Critter’s guys are doing well, but as I look past the chain link fence, I can see we have company.
“More Zs,” I announce, “I count another fifteen at least, coming down the hill.”
“I see a dozen coming up from below,” Leeds says, pointing with his baton before he pierces two Z skulls at once. The Z heads knock together; the sound reminds me of coconuts.