He reached for a bullet in one of the spare magazines in his tactical vest pockets. His rifle had been knocked to the ground in the scuffle and now he was fighting for his life against a very pissed off zombie. He reached for his knife but couldn’t get to it.
The zombie had lunged out of the cabinet at him, catching him off guard. He fell to the ground, half turned onto his side, trapped between an air compressor and a wall. His gun was knocked out of his hand and slid across the floor. Just out of reach.
Perfect. Fucking wonderful. He was defenseless. Except for his bracers.
Max shoved his leather armored forearm into the zombie’s mouth to keep it from biting him, and pulled a single .223 caliber bullet cartridge from an extra magazine in his tactical vest pocket. The zombie growled.
He held the bullet between his thumb and forefinger, holding the bullet like a giant thumbtack, shoved the bullet hard into what was left of the zombie’s left eye socket. He hoped the bullet was long enough to reach the center of the brain, but it wasn’t. The brass cartridge gleamed bright in contrast to the red-black blood of the zombie.
In the parking lot of the mall across the road, more zombies were running towards him now, attracted by the noise of the fight. If he didn’t hurry this would be it.
What a shitty way to die. Thought Max.
He was just looking for some food and supplies in an abandoned gas station garage when this damn zombie attacked him. The zombie jumped out of a promising looking cabinet that Max had hoped held some goodies. A fucking closet. How fucking cliché is that? Thought Max.
He knew better, of course, but he was hungry and was just having an off day. “Ha!” he shook his head and he snapped back into reality as the zombie tried in vain to gnaw through the leather armor. If he had more time he might just let the zombie just chew away at the leather while he worked his hand under his hip to his knife.
Mental note. If I get out of this one, make a knife sheath to mount on the chest of this damn tactical vest.
Max had watched a lot of zombie movies growing up. He loved the movies, especially zombie movies. He was obsessed with zombies. He watched every zombie movie that was ever made.
Never thought he’d have to fight real ones.
What the hell happened? Why is there a zombie apocalypse? This shit only happens in the movies!
He looked around frantically trying to find a weapon. The other parking-lot-zombies were almost to the building now.
Damn they’re fast! Zombies are supposed to be slow, dammit!
There! A rock! In the rubble from a brick wall that had crumbled when a truck ran into it in the first days of the apocalypse.
He reached up above his head across the ground, flailing, fingers outstretched, reaching for salvation, trying to grab the hunk of brick.
If I can just grab the brick I can…
He got a good grip on the large chunk of brick and swung hard at the zombie’s face, aiming for the primer on the bullet cartridge.
The zombie’s head exploded in a giant red-black bloody mist as chunks of brain matter, skull, small bits of skin and flesh with hair still attached flew in all directions as the bullet exploded in the zombie’s skull.
But the other zombie were nearly there. Running.
He squirmed out from under the dead zombie, raced to grab his AR-15 just as 5 zombies burst through the open garage door.
Max took aim and fired, 5 quick shots, one bullet to center mass of each zombie. His “training” had paid off.
He played Airsoft on the weekends, and he was an avid gamer, playing marathons, and professionally in FPS game tournaments. All that Airsoft training and tournaments translated to quick target acquisition from muscle memory. Thousands of hours of practice and gameplay inadvertently trained him for the zombie apocalypse.
They all dropped in their tracks. He ran outside, stopped, looked around quickly to see if more zombies were coming. He listened. Quiet.
Gotta get outta here. All that noise from shooting is going to attract trouble. But I’m not leaving empty handed.
Max raced back into the garage, picked up his tactical backpack, grabbed a few quarts of oil and shoved them into his pack, then ran a few blocks back to where he hid his truck.
He had an old Ford F150, but it drank oil. He must have a leak somewhere but hadn’t had a chance to fix it yet since the chaos started a few weeks back.
Or was it more like a month? He couldn’t remember. Everything was one giant chaotic blur of activity.
During those first days it was insane! It was amazing how quickly things went to shit.
About week into the pandemic Max had already killed at least 10 zombies, and one crazy person who tried to take his truck. That was tough. It messed with him. Max wasn’t a fighter. He hated violence, but he loved movies, and he was physically fit.
He was a black belt, he trained in martial arts since he was a kid. Fought in tournaments and had all the trophies a teen athlete was supposed to have. He wasn’t really into sports though. His dad was. So he did what his dad wanted. His dad always made fun of him for wanting to be a filmmaker. Max was an artist at heart. Not a fighter.
He knew movies. That’s where his heart was. That’s what he was passionate about. He especially loved zombie movies.
Which is why he wore this leather armor now on his arms neck and calves. He made it himself out of some thick leather he scavenged from an abandoned upholstery business. He made a mental note to find a motorcycle biker apparel shop somewhere. They would have lots of leather.
He always wondered why the idiots getting eaten in zombie movies never figured out that you wouldn’t get bit if you just wore leather armor. I mean come on. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if zombies bite, they can’t bite through leather, it would make sense to wear some kind of armor. Right? Especially on the neck, forearms and lower legs. How many times in a zombie movie have you seen people get bit on the calves by zombies hiding under beds, or by zombies that fell on the ground during a fight.
Max would always catch flak from his friends while watching old zombie movies, because he would point out how obvious it was to just wear leather armor.
“Shut up, man! Come on, just let us enjoy the damn movie!” they’d yell at Max.
He was right of course, they knew it, Max knew it, but they were right too. Just enjoy the movie. It’s ok to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy watching a bunch of idiots getting eaten by zombies.
Max promised himself that when he started making movies he’d make “smart” zombie movies. His friends thought he was nuts.
“No one will watch a movie like that. No one wants to see a zombie movie with smart people doing smart things. It would be too boring.”
But he knew better. Or did he?
Yeah. He knew better.
I’m still alive. He thought.
Max’s friends hadn’t lasted long. They all worked together and tried to fight back at first. But a few of his friends at work got infected early. How he doesn’t know, they were already turned when he first saw them that day.
3 more of Max friends had lived through the first few days, but one died when he was shot by some crazy guy who tried to steal Max’s truck. Max’s other two friends bailed on him after that saying they need to find their families.
He didn’t blame them, though. They had family and needed to find them. It seems this was a common theme for most people. They were looking for their family members.
Max had no family left. His mom had died at a young age, and his dad was an alcoholic for years after. He was an only child. His dad passed away a few years ago. He was all alone.
Then the zombie apocalypse happened.
Seriously? Are you fucking kidding me?
The collapse happened faster than anyone expected. The infected were simply everywhere all at once it seemed. All over the world.
The first few days were the worst. World governments tried to contain the virus with forced quarantine, curfews, and martial law. But the virus spread too fast. There was no stopping it.
It was weird. It was as if the virus laid dormant for a while, like it was staging an attack on humanity, then all of a sudden people all over the world started getting sick.
A few years back Max had complained to his friends while they watched World War Z.
“This is why those movies that show people turning into zombies in like 12 seconds is complete bullshit. It wouldn’t happen like that. If it did it would be easier to contain because you’d see the infection immediately and be able to contain it. The problem with these “outbreak” films is that they all ignore the fact that there’s an incubation period and no incubation period is 12 seconds long. Incubation periods average 2 to 10 days. It takes a long time for the infected to start showing symptoms. People can travel anywhere in the world within 24 hours. If a virus infected and turned people within 12 seconds it would spread fast, sure, but it wouldn’t take long to recognize there is an outbreak, and officials would lock it down and take extreme measures to quarantine a city to isolate the virus and keep it from spreading.”
“Shut up, Max!” they yelled in unison. He just laughed it off.
The CDC found out about 2 weeks in that the virus had an incubation period of 2-10 days. Max was right.
At first there were just a few infected, then suddenly millions. Like someone pushed a button. It spread like wildfire. It was unbelievably lethal too. Well, maybe “lethal” was the wrong word. It was extremely contagious, but the infected didn’t die. It had a 98% infection rate. The virus didn’t kill, it kept the host alive.
The incubation period was long. Which is probably why it seemed to just popup out of the blue all over the world.
Incubation period duration seemed to depend on a number of factors. People with weakened immune systems would show signs and symptoms of infection usually within 48 hours. The fastest anyone had shown any symptoms was 36 hours after being bitten by his nurse, but that was an elderly man in a Toronto hospice care facility who already had a severely weakened immune system.
Average incubation period was about 7 days from the time of infection to the time the first symptoms started to appear in patients.
The mystery the CDC couldn’t figure out was transmission. Besides biting and scratching, how was the virus spreading? It was clear the virus was spread by being bitten or scratched by someone who had been infected, but some people who were infected hadn’t been bitten at all.
How did it spread to the global population so quickly? People all over the world started getting sick independently all over the world at different times. Health officials tried to track it back but there’s no such thing as a “patient zero”. That was a myth, a typo turned rumor that turned into an international incident.
In a real pandemic there is no patient zero. The virus can spread and mutate and can go unnoticed for years before it’s ever recognized as dangerous threat.
A virus can even mutate and cross species from animals to humans, and vice versa.
Zoonotic diseases are common. Some animals carry diseases which can be easily transmitted to humans. Bubonic Plague, Influenza, Ebola, Hanta Virus, even HIV, Salmonella, are all zoonotic diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Reverse zoonosis is when humans transmit diseases to animals, and though not as common, it does happen.
Was this “zombie virus” natural or manmade? Was this an attack? If it was a terrorist attack, who was it? And why? So many questions.
The infection seemed to show up independently in multiple regions across the globe all at once. This suggested it could be a terrorist attack, but there was no hard evidence of an attack.
Looking back on reports from health officials the CDC reported that isolated pockets of infection had started 2-3 weeks prior to the initial patients showing symptoms in the US.
Symptoms include fever, nausea, chills, sweating, headache. Which could be anything from food poisoning to a stomach flu or the common cold.
Later, symptoms got steadily worse. Patients would suffer from vomiting, internal hemorrhaging, and bleeding from bodily orifices. The CDC reported that it seemed to be a kind of hemorrhagic fever. It wasn’t ebola though.
Patients also showed signs of increased aggression and strength and they became extremely violent the further along they were in the late stages of the disease.
They called it a kind of rage virus because it induced anger and aggression which acted catalyst and fueled the spread.
Virus X. Virus 0, Pathogen X, Disease X, HFR0 Virus, Z1 virus, Z virus, it has many designations from different disease control labs in different regions. People started calling the time Z-Day, Day Z, Day Zero, even though there was no clear date when the virus started spreading through the global population.
The virus spread rapidly.
Health officials working in conjunction with world governments and militaries all over the world tried to quarantine entire cities. Militaries moved into large metro areas and setup perimeters around towns and cities all over the world.
All public transportation was shut down in the beginning. This caused pandemonium as people were separated from their families, sometimes by thousands of miles. Wherever you were when the zombie apocalypse started, that’s where you were stuck. There was no transport!
Travel bans were in effect.
A global transport ban was strictly enforced. No transport vehicles of any kind were allowed into or out of cities. All air traffic, trains, subways, transport trucks, and automobiles were banned. No one was allowed to go anywhere.
In an effort to isolate and contain the virus the military was ordered to detain people and stop any vehicles from leaving the cities.
Camps were setup for outbreak refugees and stranded people. You can imagine how this went. People died, military personnel were tasked with an impossible mission.
In a few of the largest cities in the first week of the outbreak the military tried drastic measures to keep the cities under control and contain the virus. Soldier were ordered to shoot to kill anyone trying to escape the cities.
This of course didn’t work. People in their fear, being chased by zombies ran roadblocks and barricade checkpoints. Carnage ensued.
National governments were losing control. There was no help coming. They knew if they didn’t act the virus would spread to infect the entire world. This was now about saving humanity from extinction and protecting their countries from total annihilation.
The order was given for military forces to pull back. Scuttlebutt within the ranks of the enlisted men and women was that they were going to nuke the cities in a desperate last ditch effort to save the rest of the country. Most people didn’t believe it.
Civilians trying to escape were gunned down in the streets during the military’s withdrawl. Only a few countries on earth have nuclear weapons.
A TOP SECRET plan was made to firebomb a large mile-wide perimeter encircling the worst infected and largest cities. The giant circles of fire surrounding cities was to stop anyone from escaping. Military ground forces were pulled back 50 miles from city borders. Napalm was used to create the fireline perimeter. And then they did it. They detonated small nuclear bombs over many large cities around the world.
When the order was given. Some refused. They were removed from command and the proverbial big red button was pushed anyway.
Cities burned. Tens of millions of innocent people died in the blasts.
Many military personnel refused to fight their own people, some deserted their posts after that.
Some soldiers mutinied, turning on their commanding officers. In most cases people died. Some that didn’t die were either infected in the ensuing chaos or became hostile towards everyone.
The mutineers formed their own rag-tag paramilitary groups. Some were good, some were bad. Law enforcement no longer existed. Gangs or criminals roamed.
Zombie hordes were running rampant.
No one knew who was infected. Because the virus had such a long incubation period and people didn’t start showing signs and symptoms of infection for days or up to a week or more.
It was impossible to tell just by looking at someone if they were infected. This is why quarantine didn’t work.
In cities and towns and rural communities that weren’t nuked things were still very bad.
Crimes were committed. Entire refugee camps were wiped out for fear of the virus spreading. Millions of innocent lives were lost in the fear and pandemonium. Locals were told to stay in their homes and not go anywhere to avoid risk of infection.
Makeshift quarantine and treatment facilities were setup to try to contain the virus, but because it could take a week or more for the infected to show symptoms it was impossible to tell who was infected and who wasn’t without a blood test.
Eye scans would work, but the equipment was readily available to all personnel.
The CDC and other health agencies were overwhelmed.
Everyone was terrified. Everyone was on their own.
Survival became everyone’s mission.
In the movies you see brilliant scientists working frantically to create a vaccine for a viral outbreak, and just before everything is lost and the protagonist is about to die, they miraculously find a cure and then everyone is saved.
Max always hated this cliche in movies and would always voice his complaints, much to the humorous dismay of his friends who merely wanted to watch a movie without Max ruining it for everyone by using his infuriating logic and critiques.
Mere days into the global pandemic and health officials, hospitals, and staff were completely overtaxed. Their meager resources were grossly inadequate to handle a global pandemic.
Communications and utilities lasted only about a week after the start of the outbreak. Once enough people were infected entire systems went down. Blackouts started happening more frequently until within a few days the power went out and never came back on.
Global economies collapsed. Not that it mattered much.
People went crazy. People rioted. Looting was rampant as people starved. Food was gone within a week. Even the reserves. No trucks were bringing more food. Everything had completely collapsed within the first couple weeks
It was chaos. Zombies were everywhere.
These zombies weren’t the slow stupid lumbering undead you see in movies.
These were very much alive. Stronger than hell. Violent and very fast.
They could also think. They had high cognitive function. Just like any human, similar to the drug-crazed, bath-salt, face-eating zombies you read about in the news…only these weren’t drug-induced zombies.
These were highly contagious virus zombies.
A viral infection with a 99.9% chance of turning you into a monster if you got any blood into your bloodstream.
The first time Max killed a zombie he got blood on him. He was terrified he was going to get sick and turn. He almost killed himself. He didn’t want to turn. He put a gun in his mouth but couldn’t pull the trigger. He screamed in a terror-filled anger because he didn’t want to die. Not like this. Days passed but nothing happened. He showed no signs or symptoms of infection. It seemed he wasn’t infected. Or was he?
Maybe he was but the incubation period was longer than normal for him because he was in such good shape. But that didn’t really make sense because he saw other healthy people and athletes who were in great shape and healthy as a horse get infected within days of being bitten, scratched or coming into contact with the blood of an infected person or zombie.
While he was fighting to escape the city he saw many people get infected just by getting blood in a cut or scratch, or in their eyes.
For about 2 weeks Max had hooked up with a small group of survivors who got attacked, they successfully fought off a few zombies, but within a couple days two members of the group started showing signs of infection.
Everyone knew what had to happen. They “euthanized” their friends. Shot them from a distance to keep the rest of the group from being infected. They suggested suicide, but like Max, they couldn’t do it. Someone suggested just giving them a gun, but then they quickly realized that would be a waste of a good weapon because it would be covered in infected blood after. Someone suggested sleeping pill overdose. Maybe a bunch of pills would do the job. “But what if it doesn’t work?” asked another. No one knew.
There was only one other option. Firing squad. It was morbid, and if they missed it would cause more pain and suffering. Everyone was emotional. No one wanted to do it. Time was running out.
Max and another man who he didn’t know stepped up and did it. They all said their goodbyes and on the count of 3 Max and the man killed the two infected. They said it was a mercy killing. Humane euthanization, but it was more than enough to fuck with Max’s head. In his mind it was still murder. It was.
Most of the group broke up and went their separate ways after that, not wanting to be reminded of what happened.
The remaining survivors made a pact to stick together and with Max’s help they formed a few important group rules and protocol.
He suggested they avoid contact with any strangers and never allow anyone near the group. If someone insisted on getting close to the group he suggested giving warning that they would be killed if they got within 20 feet of anyone within the group. Max explained that micro-blood splatter from a gunshot or other projectile weapon could spread the virus. Melee weapons were out of the question.
Where did he get this information? They asked.
Zombie movies. They laughed, and dismissed him offhand, but Max was insistent and argued his case well.
“If you don’t do this you will die. You will become infected and you will attack your friends.”
Max explained he had studied CDC and infectious disease protocol for a book he was writing before this all started.
He explained that in his research he learned what a virus is, how it spreads, how it can jump from animals to humans and back again. How viruses can be transmitted through blood and contaminated objects, and contact with an open wound, scratch, cut, or orifice. Bodily fluids can transmit the virus very readily and you can even get sick from food that’s not properly prepared.
He explained how if the group didn’t form some kind of quarantine policy and isolation protocol for interacting with other people, then they would die because they would become infected. It wasn’t a question of if, but when.
The 20 foot rule made sense. Don’t let anyone close to the group. If they wished to join, they would be quarantined for 2 weeks. Since the incubation period was known to be at least 2 days and up to 10 days, then 2 weeks seemed like a good time frame to wait to be safe before bringing anyone into the group.
“That’s ridiculous!” argued some of the survivors in the group. “That’s insane! No one’s going to do that.”
“If you don’t, you die and you risk the lives of everyone in the group.” Max rebutted. “Someone will become infected.”
“You don’t know who is infected and who’s not. You could walk up on someone and you won’t know if they’re infected or not. They will show no signs. They won’t show symptoms for up to 10 days. It doesn’t matter what they say. If they claim they’re not infected they very well might not be, but even they don’t know. During their escape from the city if they came into contact with even a single micro-droplet of blood or bodily fluid that contained the virus and that blood found its way into their bloodstream through any orifice, cut, scratch, or scrape in the skin, then they are infected. Until you have the ability to test them, and the protective gear needed to even get near an infected person, you must keep all strangers away from your group.”
“How long have we all been together in this group?” Max asked.
“Two weeks at least!” they said.
A woman spoke up, “I’ve only been here for about 9 days.”
Everyone turned to look at the woman.
They all started to back away slowly. “Wait a minute. I’m not infected.” she exclaimed.
“We don’t know that, Max said.
“Fuck you! I’m not infected!” yelled the woman.
“We don’t yet know that to be true.” Max repeated.
Max spoke up with conviction in his voice. “She’s probably not infected. But this is a time to do a quarantine.”
Everyone agreed. Except one young man in his early 20s.
“She’s infected!” he yelled and pulled his gun. “Get away from me!” he snarled, half growling.
“Calm the fuck down!” someone else said.
“Please, don’t do this!” the woman pleaded.
Max stepped between the kid and the woman. “Put the gun down.”
“Fuck you! She’s infected. I know it! I saw her last night, she coughed.” He insisted.
“What!? No I didn’t. I don’t remember coughing. I didn’t cough goddammit!” She exclaimed.
The others looked at each other. Max stepped toward the kid, walking slowly toward him “Put the damn gun down. You’re ok. We’re going to quarantine her. We’re going to make sure she’s safe and everyone here is safe, including you. Now put that fucking gun down before I take it from you and beat the shit out of you with it.”
Max walked right up to the barrel of the gun. The kid relented and holstered his weapon.
“No! Give me your weapon.” Max demanded. He wasn’t asking. The kid knew he meant business, and handed him the gun.
Max turned his attention to the woman. “I’m sorry.” he said. “But you’re going to have to be isolated from the group for a few days until we get this figured out. How long have you been here again?”
“9 days.” She whispered sheepishly.
Max spoke softly and deliberately.
“You don’t have to leave the group, just stay at least 20 feet away at all times during the quarantine. If you need something, ask and we’ll help you. Food, water, anything. We’ll help. You’re part of our group. We want you here.”
“Isn’t that a bit extreme?” Someone asked. “I mean, 20 feet is far. She’s been with us for 9 days already. She not going to attack us. Probably. Right?” They all laughed.
“The 20 feet rule is just for defense of the group against a stranger isn’t it, to keep blood from splattering on us if we have to shoot them. Right? We’re not going to shoot her.”
“Good point.” Max replied. “Very good point. How about this. 3-5 feet should be ok until we get protective gear like facemasks and gloves. We’ve all been too busy just trying to survive up until this point to worry about that stuff. Now we have to actively take precautions to protect ourselves from infection. It might be a good idea to find a drug store or medical clinic somewhere and see if we can find some protective gear, latex gloves, masks, face shields or even safety glasses of some kind.”
“Good idea.” Said another survivor.
That was over a week ago now.
Max had left the group because he was simply not a group kind of guy. He was a loner. A lone wolf survivor; he liked the sound of that.
Honestly he just didn’t like people. The idea of being alone appealed to him. He liked his alone time. It recharged him. He was really an introvert, but could deal with people if he had to. He simply chose not to.
He thought back on the insanity of the past few weeks. Month?
The CDC had reported that the virus was also transmitted via sexual contact and requested everyone to refrain from unprotected sex or completely abstain from any sex. Why anyone would want to have sex during the zombie apocalypse Max didn’t know.
It seemed like transfer of bodily fluids like semen or vaginal fluids would transmit the disease.
Max wasn’t infected.
He had clearly gotten blood and zombie saliva all over him and his clothes and armor, yet he was not sick.
Am I immune? Is it possible I’m immune?
It didn’t matter right now. He had to get back to his basecamp outside of town. A week earlier after he left the group, he headed away from the city and found an old house far out past the suburbs in the country, up in the hills. It was a quaint little rural mountain community, seemingly abandoned. Isolated. No one was around.
Max’s old Ford pickup truck was smoking pretty bad because of the oil leak, and it was noisy. But it was 4×4 and he could go around the abandoned vehicles in the road.
Finding gas was easy with all the abandoned cars and gas stations around. Most people had ben killed or infected and so there was quite a lot of fuel available for the taking.
Although, scavenging for fuel and supplies these past few weeks was extremely dangerous with everyone else doing the same thing.
How long did fuel last anyway? He thought he remembered reading somewhere that it was about 3-6 months if it wasn’t treated with some chemical stabilizer. It would turn to “sour gas” they called it. Gas and diesel would start to separate and condensation on the insides of tanks would form in the changing temperatures causes water to get in the fuet if the tank wasn’t sealed tightly enough. If there were too much air in the tank it would start an oxidation process, further spoiling the gas. Some fuel would last a long time, up to a year if it were treated, usually less, depending on climate. In hot humid areas gas wouldn’t last but 3-4 months.
It’s not a danger now, but in a few months Max needed a plan for fuel. Especially if we were going to stay on the move.
Most of the time people avoided contact with each other. Sometimes people just shot other people for coming anywhere near them out of pure fear of infection.
Whether those people were infected or not didn’t seem to matter. No one that was still alive after the first week or so was taking any chances.
He got back to the old house just after dark, parked the truck inside the garage, closed the garage door, grabbed his pack and went inside. Safe.
An angry voice called out from the darkness.
“Who are you and what are you doing in my house!?”
Max nearly shit himself. His heart jumped into his throat as he dropped to the kitchen floor behind the granite island.
He called out. “Who are you!? I didn’t know anyone lived here! I’ve been here for over a week! I don’t mean any harm!”
The man called out, eerily calmly. “I’m going to ask you one more time. Who are you and what the fuck are you doing in my house!?”
“My name is Max, I found this house abandoned about a week ago. After this damn zombie apocalypse started I fled the city to find safety. Most cities are overrun by the infected, some are decimated by the nukes. I came here because there was no one around and thought the place was abandoned. I don’t mean you any harm. I’m just trying to survive.”
The man was quiet.
“Hello? Are you there?” Max asked
Max felt cold steel press against his temple and herd the distinct sound of a gun cocking.
“If you move I will kill you. Do you understand?” warned the man.
“Yes.” Max whispered.
With the gun still pointing at his head, the man reached over and took Max’s knife and rifle and his pack.
“Stand up. Slowly…”
“OK…” His heart was racing. Dumbass! You idiot! Max was cursing to himself.
The man directed him to sit down in a chair by the kitchen door while he searched his bag.
“There are no more weapons in there. I don’t have anything of value.” said Max.
“I’m not robbing you. If I wanted your stuff you’d be dead already.” quipped the man.
Scared, but curious, Max asked the man. “What’s your name?”
The man stopped what he was doing and looked at Max as if deciding to kill him or not.
“Greg. This is my house. You’re trespassing. You’re lucky you’re not dead.” he lowered the gun.
“I’m sorry, I thought the place was abandoned. There was dust all over everything and all the food in the pantry is outdated. I didn’t take anything…mainly because there’s nothing to take. The house is pretty much empty.”
“It was my father’s place.” The man threw Max’s pack at him, but kept his knife and gun.
He slung the rifle over his shoulder in a familiar way and told Max to follow him.
Hesitant Max stood there. The man seemed slightly annoyed.
“Look, if I were going to kill you, you’d be dead already. Follow me.”
They walked into the living room. Greg told Max to have a seat on the couch.
He walked to the liquor cabinet and grabbed a bottle of whiskey and a glass, set it on the coffee table and poured a hefty three fingers worth into the glass and pushed it at him, staring him in the eye with a look like “Shut up and drink.”
He then propped Max’s rifle against the wall next to the recliner, sat down across from him, pulled the handle on the recliner, leaned back, and took a long swig of whiskey directly out of the bottle. All without saying a word.
They sat there in silence for what seemed like an eternity. Max sipped on his glass of whiskey. It was good. He wasn’t a big drinker, but this was excellent whiskey.
Apparently Greg knew good whiskey.
Who was this guy and why was he sitting in the dark drinking whiskey?
Max sensed the man would speak when he was ready and he didn’t want to risk getting shot just for asking a stupid question at the wrong time, so he remained silent.
“My family is dead. Wife and kids. Gone. My company, gone. Those things…those animals. Those creatures took everything from me.”
Max was shocked. This man’s dad died within the past few years. Now his family is gone and he apparently lost his business too. He had a worse time than me. Max was just here, along for the ride at this point.
Greg’s demeanor wasn’t really threatening anymore. It had changed from threatening to distant and preoccupied with some deep faraway thought. Like the man was reflecting on life and how we all got here to this moment right now.
I hope he doesn’t kill himself. Max thought.
“I’m sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what that must be like for you.” Max said. He didn’t know what else to say.
Greg was quiet for what seemed like another few minutes before he spoke again.
“You can have your rifle and knife back.” He picked up the rifle and knife, leaned forward and handed the AR and knife back to Max.
“Thank you.” said Max.
Greg took another long swig off the bottle of whiskey.
“Do you have any idea what’s going on?” Greg asked.
“No. Only that there’s a global pandemic. Some kind of virus. The CDC and world governments tried to stop it, but it didn’t work. I don’t even know if they’re still trying since they dropped the nukes on those towns and cities.” said Max.
“No. You misunderstand. I wasn’t asking if you knew what happened. I asked you if you have any idea what’s going on”
Confused, Max answered “No. I guess not.”
“This is my fault.” Greg said in a confession-like tone.
“What? You mean this outbreak? The zombies?” Max asked in disbelief. Clearly the man was drunk now and the stress of losing his family must be playing with his mind.
“No. Really. It’s my fault. At least part of it is. My family is dead because of me.” He said.
“What do you mean?”
“My family. They’re dead because of me. I killed them.”
Max was silent. Holding his gun in his hand, trying to remember if there was a round in the chamber.
Greg also still had his hand on his pistol in his lap. He took another pull of whiskey from the bottle.
“Those things. Those, zombies, whatever you call them. They got my family. My wife. My babies. Dead. All of them. They swarmed into our apartment building, broke down our door and killed my family.”
“Then you didn’t kill them. You’re not responsible for that.”
“No! I did kill them! They’re dead because of me. I refused to leave! They wanted to leave. I said it’s safer to stay there. I told them to trust me. I told them everything would be ok. And they’re dead because of me! I told them to trust me.” He cried.
Wow! thought Max. This man believes he’s responsible for his family’s death.
“Look, you didn’t kill them. The zombies did. The virus did. You didn’t.”
“You don’t understand. Those things, those evil creatures killed them because I wouldn’t leave and take my family to a safe place. They wanted to come here, to grandpas house in the country. They wanted to come here! And because I refused to leave, my family was attacked and they turned. Within 3 days, they turned into those disgusting monsters. They got sick and turned. Then I had to kill them again! MY OWN FAMILY! I had to shoot my babies. My wife! My love!”
Oh my god! Max was terrified this man was about to kill himself now, and maybe him too just because he was here. He didn’t know what to say to him.
His mind was racing trying to figure out what to do or say that might save him when he suddenly cocked the pistol and before Max could yell “NO!”
The man put the gun to his temple and pulled the trigger.
Max was in shock. His head was spinning in confusion. Someone just committed suicide in front of him. This man. He was in such unimaginable pain. And then he wasn’t.
Max sat down. Staring. Slowly drank the rest of the whiskey in his glass staring at this man’s corpse, wondering if there were anything he could have done differently that might have helped save him.
Thinking back over the past 15 minutes or so since he got back to the house, apparently Max interrupted the man when he pulled up in the truck.
The man was going to do it anyway Max reasoned.
That’s why he came here. There was nothing for him back at the apartment. There was nothing for him here. Only a reminder of his failure to save his family.
Sadly the man was right. He did get his family killed. He should have left the city when he had the chance. That’s part of the reason why Max was still alive. He got out of the city.
He almost didn’t though. He almost died. One of his friends did die. His other two friends bailed and went looking for their family. This man lost his family.
Now Max was alone again.
Well, alone with a corpse. At least he won’t turn. The man put a bullet through his own head.
Wait. Was he infected? In the dark room, barely lit by the moon outside, the man’s body laid back, feet propped up, head bowed forward, chin resting on his chest. The left side of his skull gone.
Was the man infected? How long ago did all this happen? His story. He mentioned the city and an apartment building. What apartment building? How far away? How long did it take for him to get here? A week? A day? Was he bitten? It doesn’t matter. He’s dead.
And Max might be immune.
How can I fight and kill zombies and come into contact with all that blood and saliva and not become infected? Max wondered.
It was his last thought before drifting off to sleep.
Am I immune?