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You cant kill the truth.
Nothing is impossible to kill. Its just that sometimes after you kill something, you have to keep shooting it until it stops moving. And thats really sort of neat when you stop to think about it.
Everyone has someone on the Wall.
No matter how remote you may think you are from the events that changed the world during the brutal summer of 2014, you have someone on the Wall. Maybe theyre a cousin, maybe theyre an old family friend, or maybe theyre just somebody you saw on TV once, but theyre yours. They belong to you. They died to make sure that you could sit in your safe little house behind your safe little walls, watching the words of one jaded twenty-two-year-old journalist go scrolling across your computer screen. Think about that for a moment. They died for you.
Now take a good look at the life youre living and tell me: Did they do the right thing?
From Images May Disturb You,
the blog of Georgia Mason, May 16, 2039
Our story opens where countless stories have ended in the last twenty-six years: with an idiotin this case, my brother Shaundeciding it would be a good idea to go out and poke a zombie with a stick to see what happens. As if we didnt already know what happens when you mess with a zombie: The zombie turns around and bites you, and you become the thing you poked. This isnt a surprise. It hasnt been a surprise for more than twenty years, and if you want to get technical, it wasnt a surprise then.
When the infected first appearedheralded by screams that the dead were rising and judgment day was at handthey behaved just like the horror movies had been telling us for decades that they would behave. The only surprise was that this time, it was really happening.
There was no warning before the outbreaks began. One day, things were normal; the next, people who were supposedly dead were getting up and attacking anything that came into range. This was upsetting for everyone involved, except for the infected, who were past being upset about that sort of thing. The initial shock was followed by running and screaming, which eventually devolved into more infection and attacking, that being the way of things. So what do we have now, in this enlightened age twenty-six years after the Rising? We have idiots prodding zombies with sticks, which brings us full circle to my brother and why he probably wont live a long and fulfilling life.
Hey, George, check this out! he shouted, giving the zombie another poke in the chest with his hockey stick. The zombie gave a low moan, swiping at him ineffectually. It had obviously been in a state of full viral amplification for some time and didnt have the strength or physical dexterity left to knock the stick out of Shauns hands.
Ill give Shaun this much: He knows not to bother the fresh ones at close range. Were playing patty-cake!
Stop antagonizing the locals and get back on the bike, I said, glaring from behind my sunglasses. His current buddy might be sick enough to be nearing its second, final death, but that didnt mean there wasnt a healthier pack roaming the area. Santa Cruz is zombie territory. You dont go there unless youre suicidal, stupid, or both. There are times when even I cant guess which of those options applies to Shaun.
Cant talk right now! Im busy making friends with the locals!
Shaun Phillip Mason, you get back on this bike right now, or I swear to God, I am going to drive away and leave you here.
Shaun looked around, eyes bright with sudden interest as he planted the end of his hockey stick at the center of the zombies chest to keep it at a safe distance. Really? Youd do that for me? Because My Sister Abandoned Me in Zombie Country Without a Vehicle would make a great article.
A posthumous one, maybe, I snapped. Get back on the goddamn bike!
In a minute! he said, laughing, and turned back toward his moaning friend.
In retrospect, thats when everything started going wrong.
The pack had probably been stalking us since before we hit the city limits, gathering reinforcements from all over the county as they approached. Packs of infected get smarter and more dangerous the larger they become. Groups of four or less are barely a threat unless they can corner you, but a pack of twenty or more stands a good chance of breaching any barrier the uninfected try to put up. You get enough of the infected together and theyll start displaying pack hunting techniques; theyll start using actual tactics. Its like the virus thats taken them over starts to reason when it gets enough hosts in the same place. Its scary as hell, and its just about the worst nightmare of anyone who regularly goes into zombie territorygetting cornered by a large group that knows the land better than you do.
These zombies knew the land better than we did, and even the most malnourished and virus-ridden pack knows how to lay an ambush. A low moan echoed from all sides, and then they were shambling into the open, some moving with the slow lurch of the long infected, others moving at something close to a run. The runners led the pack, cutting off three of the remaining methods of escape before there was time to do more than stare. I looked at them and shuddered.
Fresh infectedreally fresh onesstill look almost like the people that they used to be. Their faces show emotion, and they move with a jerkiness that could just mean they slept wrong the night before.
Its harder to kill something that still looks like a person, and worst of all, the bastards are fast. The only thing more dangerous than a fresh zombie is a pack of them, and I counted at least eighteen before I realized that it didnt matter, and stopped bothering.
I grabbed my helmet and shoved it on without fastening the strap. If the bike went down, dying because my helmet didnt stay on would be one of the better options. Id reanimate, but at least I wouldnt be aware of it. Shaun!
Shaun whipped around, staring at the emerging zombies. Whoa.
Unfortunately for Shaun, the addition of that many zombies had turned his buddy from a stupid solo into part of a thinking mob. The zombie grabbed the hockey stick as soon as Shauns attention was focused elsewhere, yanking it out of his hands. Shaun staggered forward and the zombie latched onto his cardigan, withered fingers locking down with deceptive strength. It hissed. I screamed, images of my inevitable future as an only child filling my mind.
Shaun! One bite and things would get a lot worse. Theres not much worse than being cornered by a pack of zombies in downtown Santa Cruz. Losing Shaun would qualify.
The fact that my brother convinced me to take a dirt bike into zombie territory doesnt make me an idiot. I was wearing full off-road body armor, including a leather jacket with steel armor joints attached at the elbows and shoulders, a Kevlar vest, motorcycling pants with hip and knee protectors, and calf-high riding boots. Its bulky as hell, and I dont care, because once you factor in my gloves, my throats the only target I present in the field.
Shaun, on the other hand, is a moron and had gone zombie baiting in nothing more defensive than a cardigan, a Kevlar vest, and cargo pants. He wont even wear goggleshe says they spoil the effect.
Unprotected mucous membranes can spoil a hell of a lot more than that, but I practically have to blackmail him to get him into the Kevlar. Goggles are a nonstarter.
Theres one advantage to wearing a sweater in the field, no matter how idiotic I think it is: wool tears. Shaun ripped himself free and turned, running for the motorcycle with great speed, which is really the only effective weapon we have against the infected. Not even the fresh ones can keep up with an uninfected human over a short sprint. We have speed, and we have bullets. Everything else about this fight is in their favor.
Shit, George, weve got company! There was a perverse mixture of horror and delight in his tone. Look at em all!
Im looking! Now get on!
I kicked us free as soon as he had his leg over the back of the bike and his arm around my waist. The bike leapt forward, tires bouncing and shuddering across the broken ground as I steered us into a wide curve. We needed to get out of there, or all the protective gear in the world wouldnt do us a damn bit of good. I might live if the zombies caught up with us, but my brother would be dragged into the mob. I gunned the throttle, praying that God had time to preserve the life of the clinically suicidal.
We hit the last open route out of the square at twenty miles an hour, still gathering speed. Whooping, Shaun locked one arm around my waist and twisted to face the zombies, waving and blowing kisses in their direction. If it were possible to enrage a mob of the infected, hed have managed it. As it was, they just moaned and kept following, arms extended toward the promise of fresh meat.
The road was pitted from years of weather damage without maintenance. I fought to keep control as we bounced from pothole to pothole. Hold on, you idiot!
Im holding on! Shaun called back, seeming happy as a clam and oblivious to the fact that people who dont follow proper safety procedures around zombieslike not winding up around zombies in the first placetend to wind up in the obituaries.
Hold on with both arms! The moaning was only coming from three sides now, but it didnt mean anything; a pack this size was almost certainly smart enough to establish an ambush. I could be driving straight to the site of greatest concentration. Theyd moan in the end, once we were right on top of them. No zombie can resist a good moan when dinners at hand. The fact that I could hear them over the engine meant that there were too many, too close. If we were lucky, it wasnt already too late to get away.
Of course, if we were lucky, we wouldnt be getting chased by an army of zombies through the quarantine area that used to be downtown Santa Cruz. Wed be somewhere safer, like Bikini Atoll just before the bomb testing kicked off. Once you decide to ignore the hazard rating and the signs saying Danger: Infection, youre on your own.
Shaun grudgingly slid his other arm around my waist and linked his hands at the pit of my stomach, shouting, Spoilsport, as he settled.
I snorted and hit the gas again, aiming for a nearby hill. When youre being chased by zombies, hills are either your best friends or your burial ground. The slope slows them down, which is great, unless you hit the peak and find out that youre surrounded, with nowhere left to run to.
Idiot or not, Shaun knows the rules about zombies and hills. Hes not as dumb as he pretends to be, and he knows more about surviving zombie encounters than I do. His grip on my waist tightened, and for the first time, there was actual concern in his voice as he shouted, George? What do you think youre doing?