Darryl checked his shotgun for the 15th time. He hadn’t fired a round since the last time he reloaded, but the old Winchester lever action was the best thing he had, even with its 3 shot tube.
He steered sharply, fish-tailing his truck, ‘drifter style’ down the side of the mountain. He was travelling at a high rate of speed down a gravel road that led down into town from the secluded cabin he shared with his wife, just a couple hundred yards up the hill from his sister and brother in law. The road was full of curves, and typically he had to watch out for deer, although he typically swerved into the deer.
“Wouldn’t turn down a free deer,” he thought longingly.
The zombies were getting closer than ever, he’d never seen them this high up in the hills. They didn’t normally start having to worry about hitting them until he was out on the paved roads. Darryl wasn’t particularly averse to hitting them with his truck, the factory bumper was destroyed the same year he bought it. Darryl and his brother in law Harry had built a new bumper out of iron pipe and fittings, and welded it to the frame of the truck.
“Them fact’ry bumpers is too pretty anyways, this is a man’s truck.” He thought to himself.
Harry was up on the hill keeping their families safe; today’s run was a simple one for Darryl. Get to the farmer’s co-op in Warrenton, find some grain and antibiotics, and if the co-op’s flour mill was working, a couple of 50 pound sacks of buckwheat flour would make his missus pretty happy. They’d been eatin’ all purpose flour for the last week, since the zombies first started walking; everyone was looking forward to something with a little more flavor.
Sugar and flour were about all Harry and Darryl needed to keep their families fed. Sure, in the spring they’d need some seeds, and maybe the occasional tool, but they’d been living up in the hills along the Virginia and West Virginia border for years. Darryl could remember a time when he was about 15, they hadn’t left the farm for 2 years.
Times were different now, of course. They used a lot more store bought goods. Soap, toilet paper, and paper towels were necessities now. Twice a year the families would make a joint trip down to town and buy the local Sam’s Club out. Last time they went, Darryl’s truck was loaded up with toilet paper and paper towels, while Harry hauled the dish soap, bars of soap, that pretty smelling soap that Harry’s wife Lucinda liked so much, and a few other things. They’d all taken a liking to tube socks a few years before; Darryl always tried to bring home a few new packs to give the kids as presents throughout the year.
Harry’s boy Jimmy was 12 now, old enough to be thinking about taking a girl. If Darryl could find one, he’d speak to her parents about letting the two kids meet; and maybe trading off one of his own daughters if that man had a son. It was going to be a lot harder for Jimmy than it was for them; Harry took a job in the city for a few months while he courted Lucinda. She was high class, been to college. Darryl never did figure out what she saw in Harry, but they loved each other, and Lucinda was a good woman.
Darryl’s oldest daughter Sheryl was a problem. She hadn’t ever said anything, but Darryl figured she was one of those lesbians. Sheryl always kept her hair short and wore dungarees like a man, but she was a good girl, and the closest thing Darryl had to a son. He didn’t care much what she liked, he loved her just the same. His middle daughter was a beauty queen. She had long blonde hair, just like her mama, and by the time she was 15, she had to buy her under britches at that fancy secret place in the mall. Darryl never did like going in there, but it made his little girl so happy to open up one of them frilly things. He was embarrassed to think about his daughter wearing that stuff, but she was going to make some man a fine wife. She was 17 now, could skin a buck as fast as Darryl, and knew all her mama’s secret recipes.
“Hell,” Darryl thought. “Cindy can make venison tenderloin an’ biscuits better than his wife could. And that’s saying something; Pauleen is a hell of a cook.”
Pauleen and Darryl had been married for some 22 years now. When Darryl looked in the mirror he was a little pudgier, had some gray in his beard now, but overall looked the same. His hair hadn’t thinned much, still had his bright green eyes, and all his teeth. Ever since he was a kid, Darryl had had a passion for brushing his teeth. Even these days he brushed 3 times a day. He was the only man in the family that hadn’t lost at least one. If Darryl hadn’t aged badly, Pauleen hadn’t aged a day. She was still the same beautiful creature he’d fallen in love with 22 years ago. She had a big round backside, and huge size 44 tits, and a beautiful head of straight brown hair. He did notice she’d started to have some gray in her hair a few weeks after these damn zombies, but hell, if that was the worst thing that happened to their family on account of these walking corpses, that’s all the better.
Darryl was a big man, the kind of big you get from a lifetime of eating whole foods, and working on the land. He was strong and in good shape, even at 45 years old, he could out run most of the kids, and could work all day in the fields day after day.
Darryl slowed the truck and bounced off the mountain track onto the paved road that led into town.
“I gotta stop by the co-op, then maybe a grocery store, then the gun shop to see if they have any ammo. These days you can’t ever have too much ammo.” Darryl had a habit of speaking things out loud to help him remember.
The trip through town was fairly uneventful. The infection had hit Warrenton, Virginia quickly and violently. It was a small town by most standards, although the thought of living his close to 12,000 other people always made Darryl’s skin crawl. He’d never considered the zombie apocalypse, he’d only seen one or two zombie movies on TV, but his whole life had set him up for this. He wasn’t worried about surviving, his lifestyle hadn’t changed much. No more city electricity, but they had the windmill his father and grandfather built in the 80’s, that provided enough juice for a few lightbulbs.
It was an easy drive across town to the farmer’s cooperative. Darryl used the butt of his shotgun to put down 2 partially eaten corpses, and then the place was his. He backed his pickup up to the loading dock, and started throwing 100lb sacks of grain into the back of his pickup, 3 bags across the back, stacked 3 high, 900 lbs would feed his cows through the winter.
He grabbed a pallet jack and an empty pallet, and headed across the store to the flour mill. The mill was a fairly new addition to the co-op, most of the people around here grew corn, but lately several people had started growing wheat, and had lobbied the co-op to purchase a grain mill, allowing them to grind the wheat into flour. The co-op kept 5% of what it ground. Wheat flour sold for 10 times more than raw wheat, so it was a money making proposition for the co-op.
He loaded 250 lbs of wheat flour on his pallet, before dragging it down the veterinary isle, where he found horse and cow antibiotics. They were the same antibiotics people took, just in much larger doses. Darryl’s cow pasture had a lot of rock in it, and with 100 cows and 5 bulls, one of them always had a hoof infection. Darryl had used the same antibiotics. He figured he weighed about a quarter of a cow, so he took a quarter of a pill. Cleared up the infection in a cut on his arm from the chain saw last year and he didn’t have to pay that quack doctor a cent.
He threw a bunch of odds and ends on top of the flour, and loaded it all in the back of the truck, feeling pretty good about how his day was going so far.
On the way out of the parking lot, a half eaten, stumbling corpse stepped out in front of his truck. Darryl stepped on the gas; the pathetic creature’s head bounced off the hood, and hit the street behind the truck. The tires bounced over the corpse with a quick chirp.
It was 2 blocks back towards home to the grocery store. The parking lot was empty, save 2 cars and a pickup truck, all 3 having crashed into each other. The doors of the truck and one of the cars were open, but a bloated corpse sat behind the wheel of the 3rd, still belted in. The corpse looked at him with dead eyes as Darryl walked by the car; there was no feeling, no intelligence in them at all. The corpse reached for the window, pressing the bluish, bloated hand against the window. The creature pressed so hard, the finger bones erupted out of the tips of the fingers, and the skin split along the joint where the fingers joined the palm, leaving puss and blood streaks down the glass.
The door to the store was locked, which Darryl took as a good sign. He rapped the butt of the shotgun against the glass, and waited to see if there was anything undead inside. 3 corpses appeared at the door, pressing against them. Darryl really didn’t want to waste bullets on just 3 of them, so he headed back to his truck to grab something.
Embedded in the side of the pickup truck was a hatchet, still pinning a severed hand to the metal quarter panel. He walked over to the truck and wrenched the hatchet free. It seemed like someone had put it there just for him, seemed a shame to leave a perfectly good hatchet to rust.
He strode purposely back to the double doors, put 1 hand on either door and gave a mighty yank. The old fashioned doors ripped from the aluminum center post, and came crashing open. Darryl stepped a few steps back, and waited for the zombies to stumble out after him. Like always, they walked straight towards him, he sidestepped the first one and smashed the hatchet into its forehead.
He stepped back again, waited for the next one, sidestepped it, and brought the hatchet around in the same arc, carving a big notch out of the head of the second male. The third, a female, with most of her chest torn away, caught his attention for a second. She’d been a beauty in her former life.
“Darlin’ it’s a shame to wreck that purdy face,” he said to her as he side stepped all the way around her, he shoving her forward. He swung the hatchet vertically into the back of her head. She crumpled to the ground, face down.
“There ya go, darlin’. You can have peace now.”
When he stepped over the corpses, he sighed. “God damned zombies. I never thought I’d live to see the day.”
Inside the grocery store, the smell was almost enough to knock him down. He headed for the registers first, pushing a shopping cart in front of him.
It had only been about 2 weeks since the world went to hell; they’d listened to the news on the radio up until there wasn’t any news anymore. Then there wasn’t any radio anymore. Harry had a ham radio setup, he’d gotten when they were kids. It wasn’t super powerful, but when they were kids they’d stayed up late a bunch of nights talking to people all over the state of Virginia, but now there was nothing there either.
Darryl set the candy boxes inside his cart, before he headed off to the produce, to see if there was anything still good. He figured there’d be some taters or onions that might still be good. As it turns out, there were also carrots, celery, rutabagas, apples, every kind of citrus fruit, and the turnip greens were Ok looking.
After he loaded up every piece of fresh produce that still looked edible, he was off to the dry goods section. He loaded up the shopping cart with every bag of beans and rice and topped it off with pasta and jarred sauce.
He left that cart at the front of the store, and made a run through the canned food section, sweeping cans of vegetables into the cart by the armload. Once that cart was full, he went back with a 3rd cart, stopping by the dairy section, tossing in every whole block of cheese and all the real butter in the place. Margarine and that fake stuff wouldn’t last, but real salted butter wouldn’t spoil for weeks yet, and cheese was good no matter how moldy it got, you could always cut the mold off and eat the middle. This cheese was all vacuum sealed, and still mold free. At the very last second he remembered to swing by the baking goods isle one more time, and piled salt and sugar into his cart. You can’t ever have too much salt.
Darryl loaded up his 3 carts into the back of his truck, and then put one of the carts on top of all the groceries. There was always use for a shopping cart.
The truck was getting pretty loaded down. Darryl couldn’t pass up the chance to check out that huge sporting goods store they’d built a couple of years ago. He’d like to get a rifle for everyone, maybe just a .22, that’d be good enough for stopping a zombie, and they were easy to shoot and easy on the shoulder.
When he pulled into the parking lot of the huge sporting goods store, he noticed that there were lots of cars parked there. They were all parked normal like; the whole place looked like a regular day, before all this shit went down.
Darryl parked his truck pretty close to the door. The front door to the place was locked.
“That’s a bad sign,” he thought to himself as he stepped inside the gloomy interior, shotgun ready. “This place is gonna be full of these sons’a bitches.”
The inside was quiet, not a sign of undead or of previous looters. Darryl walked slowly through the rows of shelves, admiring all of this stuff that was now his for the taking. He didn’t check over the whole store, but instead walked back to the firearms section. He pulled a shotgun down off the rack, a brand new Banelli M4 tactical shotgun. It was solid black, with a pistol grip. The best part for Darryl, it was an 8 round semi automatic. As fast as he could pull the trigger, it would fire shells. He carried it over to the counter, and laid it down. Behind the counter he found a ring full of keys, and spent the next 10 minutes finding the right one to remove the trigger lock device.
When that was finished, he walked down the row, looking for a gun cleaning kit, and a box of 12 gauge shells, before returning to the shotgun, whistling a tune. He cleaned it right there on the counter, and loaded 7 rounds into the tube. He racked the first one, and put an 8th round in the gun, replacing the one he’d just moved into the chamber.
Happy with his new shotgun, he turned around to see the store manager walking slowly towards him, hands up. Without a thought, Darryl fired a round into the man, as he started to speak. The shot hit center mass, blowing a hole clean through the man’s midsection. The spread at that distance was only about 3 inches, but as the man twisted Darryl heard him let out a groan.
“Oh shit!” Darryl swore.
The store manager laid on the cold tiled floor, bleeding out from the wound to his chest. He let out one final groan and died, eyes open, laying on the tile.
“Shit. Shit, Shit,” Darryl swore. “I’m real fuckin’ sorry mister. I didn’t know you was alive. I thought you were one of them things.”
Darryl bent down and grabbed the man’s still warm hands, and dragged him out into the parking lot. Once in the parking lot he searched the man’s pockets, recovering a wallet, a set of keys, and a Leatherman multi-tool.
He pulled the identification card out of the wallet. “Harold James Carter. I’m sure you was a good man, you didn’t deserve to die like that, and I’m real sorry about the way things happened.”
Darryl picked the man’s corpse up and shoved it into a car, sitting upright in the driver’s seat. He looked almost normal, like he was fixin’ to drive home after work.
“Sorry again, buddy, you shoulda said somethin’. I didn’t mean to kill a person, it was an accident.” Darryl said as he walked back inside the store. He used a shopping cart once again, loading up several of the best hunting rifles, and an entire shelf of bullets and shells. He only took the stuff he needed, or thought he might need. Lastly, he grabbed a brand new Kimber .45 caliber 1911 frame pistol out of the glass case, before heading over to the tactical gear section. There he pulled down a black vest, and a shoulder holster for the pistol, adding them to the top of the cart.
On his way out the door, he locked it behind him, donned the vest and shoulder holster, loaded the guns and ammunition inside the cab of his truck and started off for home. He’d been gone way longer than he anticipated; his wife would be worried. He was driving faster than he usually did, but there weren’t any cars out these days, so he didn’t feel like it was too fast in the afternoon sun. The road was bone dry, when Darryl turned onto the gravel mountain road, a huge plume of dust rose into the air behind him.
He passed 3 zombies on the way up the hill. Each time, he pulled over, stuck his new .45 out the window of the cab and blew the things brains out. He’d used 12 rounds by the time he made it back to the house; he clearly needed practice with the pistol.
The whole family came rushing out of the house to meet him when he pulled into the drive. He quickly counted heads, everyone was accounted for; even Harry came out to survey the haul.
“Holy geezus Darryl. Did you take everything they had?” asked Harry.
“I figured I might as well come home with a full truck. Take a look in the cab!”
Harry danced a jig when he saw the contents of the truck.
“Holy shit Darryl! You hit the motherload!”
“I got us all a little somethin’, everyone over 12 carries a gun everwhere they go. Anyone under 12 doesn’t go nowhere without someone over 12.” Darryl ordered.
“Everyone’s over 12; step up and get yourself a gun and some ammunition. We’ll go over the rules tonight.”
Everyone pitched in to unload the truck. They had provisions, with the addition of what they grew and hunted to last them well through the winter. They had enough ammunition to take out a small army, or a very large horde of zombies, all they needed now was to build up some fortifications.
After the work was done, Harry and Darryl were walking around the farm, making sure everything was buttoned down for the night.
“I shot a man today Harry. I feel powerful bad about it, he was the manager of the gun store by his name tag. He snuck up on me, didn’t say a word. I thought he was one of them zombies.”
“Hell Darryl, he oughtta have known better than to walk up on a man with a gun this day and age. Nothin’ you could do about it. You ain’t done nothin’ wrong.”
“I can’t help it, all I can think about is if he had a family, what they’re doing without him. I gotta go back Harry. I gotta go to his house and tell his family he’s dead. Its what’s right. Its what I gotta do.”
“When you gonna go?” asked Harry.
“I dunno. Its gotta be soon, I can’t handle the thought of his family sittin’ at home wonderin’ where he’s got to.”
The two of them walked in silence the rest of the way back to the house. That night, Darryl had nightmares about shooting the man. In one dream he was holding a baby. In another dream he was standing in front of his wife and 2 kids, and Darryl shot them all. Finally, Darryl dreamed he went and found the family and brought them back home. When he woke up, he knew what he had to do.
Over breakfast of biscuits and sausage gravy, Darryl told the family what he’d done and what he intended to do. Just a quick trip back into town, find the address on his driver’s license, and see if anyone was home. They all gave reasons he shouldn’t go. None of them blamed him, nor held him responsible for the man’s death. But Darryl was convinced that the dream was a message, that it was something he was meant to do.
He loaded up his truck right after breakfast, taking his new pistol and shotgun, 3 venison sandwiches with field greens and mustard on homemade sour dough bread, 2 gallons of water and a 2 liter bottle of soda. He wasn’t planning on staying long, but he didn’t want to leave without a day’s worth of food. Heading down the road, he noticed a larger than average population of undead. He took out 6 with the bumper of his truck, and for 2 more he pulled over and used the hatchet he’d pulled out of that truck the day before. Ammunition was valuable, and using up his on these singles was silly.
When he got into town, he opened up the glove compartment and pulled out a map book. A few minutes later he’d found the street and was headed there. He turned onto Maple Avenue, and knew something was up. There were undead everywhere. He’d never seen more than 6 or 8 in one place, this looked more like 25.
Hearing the sound of his engine, they turned en-masse and started stumbling towards him. He floored the gas pedal, and plowed into them at about 35 miles per hour. His truck stuttered and jumped over the corpses, smashing the bodies into mush. The cute little girl in a girlscout uniform was a tough one. She looked mostly human; he hated to see the kid zombies. He chose to believe he was giving her peace.
When he reached the end of the block, he got out and walked back towards the corpses that were still upright, hatchet in his hand. They all came the same way. Every one of the stumbling corpses stretched their arms out, grabbing for his throat or head. Every time, Darryl side stepped and took the top of their head out. Sometimes he dodged left, sometimes he dodged right. At one time, there were 3 of them, he dodged left, took off the top of the first one’s skull. Then he backed up, resetting them. He was right handed, when he stepped right the hatchet connected with the back of the skull. When he went to the left, he hit them in the forehead. He tried to avoid their faces for some reason. It just didn’t seem right to hit them in the face. Every corpse he left had an even slice right across the forehead just above the eyebrows, or in the back of the head. After the eleventh, he had to stop and wipe bits of hair and gore off his hatchet. His arm was covered in the blood and brain matter of them; he was going to have to throw this shirt away. It was his favorite plaid shirt; that made him kind of sad. Then he felt bad for feeling sad about a shirt that got wrecked while he brained 2 dozen corpses.
He took the shirt off and threw it on the ground as he walked back to his truck. He wasn’t the type to just wear tee shirts, and this was somewhat of a formal visit. He didn’t want to show up covered in blood and bits to tell someone he’d killed her husband the day before.
3 blocks down Maple, he made a left onto Garnet Street, the street on Harold’s driver’s license. This was the 500 block; the Carters lived on the 900 block. Darryl started watching out the window, until he saw what he was looking for, a house with a flower garden outside. He stopped his truck and ran up to 725 Garnet St., cut a handful of flowers from the bed, and trotted back to the truck.
He parked outside of 905 Garnet street, and walked 3 houses down the sidewalk. He wasn’t sure why he needed to park so far away, it just seemed odd to pull into their driveway. He walked straight up to the front door, which was barricaded from the outside. Darryl could see the screws Harold had used to secure the plywood, as well as screws going through the middle of the sheet. Darryl bet he’d added 2×4 strips on the inside of the plywood, to add structural rigidity.
He rapped on the window beside. It was boarded up too, but there was just enough room to get his hand between two of the boards. The gap would allow those inside to look and shoot from inside, but no zombie would be able to climb in through the small space.
He waited for several minutes, before leaving the front porch and walking around to the side of the house. He suddenly felt pretty silly holding a bunch of flowers. The side door was a normal household screen door, but inside of that was a solid oak door. Darryl opened the screen door and knocked on the inner door.
“Hello! Anyone in there? My name is Darryl Sheetz. I’m sorry, I have some bad news about Harold Carter.”
There was nothing, not a sound from inside the house. Darryl tried the door, but it was locked. He pulled Harold’s keys out of his pocket, opened the door and called inside.
“Hello! Anyone home?”
Still no answer. Darryl stepped inside the house. The inside was immaculate. He stepped into the kitchen, noting the beautiful cherry wood cabinets and granite counter tops. The floor was lightly stained oak. Somebody loved this house and spent a lot of money here. This wasn’t a rich area of town, the houses were all small 3 bedrooms. He looked around the kitchen for any sign of life, there wasn’t a dish out of place.
He stepped through the kitchen into the small living room. The oak flooring appeared to continue throughout the house. The walls were painted a light green color, and tan leather furniture surrounded a huge flat TV hanging on the wall.
Down the hall, Darryl found a child’s bedroom, perfectly in order. There were clothes folded in the shelves. The entire house smelled clean. The kitchen had a faint smell of pine sol, and this bedroom smelled faintly of laundry detergent.
He crossed the hall and found another bedroom, in similar shape as the first; this was for an older girl. The bed was perfectly made with a pink bedspread, the computer desk was tidy, all the pens in the pen jar, papers neatly stacked.
When Darryl stepped into the master bedroom, the scene took his breath away. Laying on the bed was an adult woman, with a child laying on either side of her. 3 drinking glasses were the only things out of place. On the night stand, he found a letter addressed to Harold. Darryl picked it up, afraid to read it, but unable to keep from doing so.
Please forgive me for what we’ve done.
Our life together has been perfect, until these things came and ruined everything. You are an amazing husband, and the perfect father. You provided me with love and support and everything a woman could want. All of the work you put into our beautiful house, remember what a wreck it was when we bought it all those years ago as newlyweds? Our children are perfect. I can’t bear the thought of them growing up in this world. I thought I could hold it together, for you, until you didn’t come home last night. I spent all day worried about you, and when you didn’t come home, I know the worst happened. I just know you’re dead, or worse, one of those horrible things.
Harold, you are my world, you are my life, and I can’t do this without you. I don’t want to do this without you.
See you in heaven.
Your loving, devoted wife,
Darryl crumpled to the floor sobbing. The weight of his careless action hit him like a ton of bricks. He cried for the first time in his life.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. It was an accident, I’m so sorry,” he mumbled over and over. He held his head in his hands and cried for a long time.
Finally, Darryl stood up, and walked out into the back yard, where he found a shed, and a shovel. He started digging. He dug and cried; and dug some more. It was night by the time he finished. He picked up the small boy, and carried him into his room, laying him on his bed. He wrapped the small dark haired boy in the sheet, and carried him outside. Darryl carefully laid the boy down in the grave. He did the same for the daughter, before wrapping Shannon up in the king size bed sheet and carrying her outside as gently as he could.
Back inside the house, he found the linen closet and re-made all the beds.
He took one large sheet with him, and walked outside, down the street to his truck, where he drove to the sporting goods store and retrieved Harold’s body. He wrapped the body in the sheet he’d brought, and laid him in the back of the truck.
Back at the house, he carried Harold’s body to the grave in the back yard, and laid it inside. He laid Shannon and Harold side by side, the small boy to Harold’s left and the daughter to Shannon’s right.
It was after midnight when he’d finished filling in the hole, and piled the extra dirt on top. In the garage of the house, he found Harold’s workshop, and used 2×4’s to build a crude cross. With a sharpie he wrote on the cross “Here lays Harold and Shannon Carter, and their two beautiful children. Their lives ended too soon, rest in peace.” He put the cross at the head of their grave.
“I’m so sorry for what I done. I know I can’t ever make it up to you, but I’m going to kill every one of these things I can find.”
He walked back to his truck, and started planning. The drive back to the mountain was slow, every time he saw a zombie he stopped and beat the thing to re-death. He found himself using the blunt side of his hatchet, it caused more damage. He raged inside at the zombies, his anger erupting every time he saw one.
One previously middle aged man Darryl wasn’t satisfied with just bashing its skull in anymore, he left the hatchet in the truck; wanting beat the thing to death with his fists. He punched it square in the face, shattering the creature’s nose. If it had needed to breathe, it would have been a mouth breather for the rest of its life. He punched it a second time, a wild haymaker that knocked it flat on its back. It started to rise again, but Darryl brought his work boot down on its head, smashing its skull in with his foot.
It was almost dawn by the time he pulled into the house. He was a bloody, exhausted mess. He’d beaten the last half dozen zombies with his hands, craving the feeling of crushing the evil out of them. His hands were battered; his muscles were fatigued almost to failure. As the sun came up he was standing naked on the hill in the warm early morning sun, totally naked, washing himself off.
“Daddy! You’re alive!” His daughter Sheryl shouted. She ran up and hugged him, paying no attention to the fact that he was stark naked.
“I’m fine darlin’” Darryl said. He didn’t feel fine, he was a mess, but he had to stay strong for his family. “Let me finish washing up, then I need to go sleep for a few minutes.”