We arrived at my uncles place in the outback and were greeted by friends and family. They had come from all over, some from nearby Charters Towers just a few kilometers down the road, and some from Gympie, almost 1200 kilometers away. Eight families in total, thirty-six people, from six years old to eighty years old. That wasn’t including our two car loads.
If anyone happened to cross by, they would have thought we were one large group of misfits mixed and matched in the middle of Woop Woop.
It took all of us a little under a week to modify the place. We brought the cattle into the close fields so we could keep an eye on them and provide better protection from dingos. We put up four new fence lines and sorted out the stockmen quarters; bringing them up to a livable standard. We dismantled the shearing sheds in the three teams. Seven dismantled the sheds, seven transported them, and the last seven used the materials to fortify the main house and stockmen quarters.
All of the left over materials went onto the huge tractor shed where we kept the trucks, tractors, cars and pickups. We kept the motorcycles and quads out between the main house and stockmen quarters because we used them most often. They were backed right up to a railway post with a two meter high corrugated iron fence.
Satisfied with the fortifications, we began a stock count. We worked out to have around six months worth of food, six weeks worth of fuel for the generator and an everlasting supply of bore water supplied by windmills. We kept the pig traps ready, snares set and even set rat traps near the rabbit warrens close by. No proper bushman eats rabbit by choice, but there were a lot of mouths to feed.
Uncle kept a collection of guns that rivaled the majority of Australia. His trade made that possible under the old laws. He was a professional kangaroo meat exporter, horticulturist and typical Jackaroo. I wasn’t as proficient with guns as my uncle or my brother were, mainly because I preferred to drive when we came out to make some extra cash ‘roo shooting”. That, and it got me out of cleaning the catch; I was setting up the camp and preparing the four-wheel drive for the next day’s hunt.
Jo and the kids were holding quite well. Jo kept herself busy and the kids entertained, though I occasionally caught her with welled eyes staring into nothingness, most often as she nursed her daughter. John and Jo’s kids were a fine line in looking like them both. Cute kids that looked liked they lived a lifetime already.
We had aviation radios on hand from before, for times when we needed to call The Royal Flying Doctors Service. Occasionally we heard chatter over the frequencies. Western Australia and Northern Territory had the most aircraft in the air, and although we heard occasional chatter, no response was given. We heard details of towns gone down, but never where they were headed or zombie movements. The closest thing was flight height when doing a mid-air u-turn indicating another location was now overrun.
The morning of the third week, I got up early to put a couple of pigs on a spit in preparation for the night’s dinner. I was just putting a brace of rabbits caught in the rat traps over the pit when my cousins rolled in from town. They were returning from an overnight trip to Barcaldine with a pair of pickups, each hauling a thousand litre pod full of fuel and two other UTEs full of various supplies. They had ammunition from the news agents, a large variety of batteries, canned goods, powdered food, a few books and a whole tray back full of camping gear and some building supplies.
My cousin jumped out of the truck and gave me a cheeky grin. “That’s the last time we head into town, it’s shutting up shop mate. A few of the places are cleaned out and boarded up already, making it look like it’s occupied. I think some stores are booby-trapped. Those that are left have headed out to the farms. The pub refuses to close until it’s sold its last beer though.” His grin grew wider, he gave me a wink and handed me a shopping bag full of rolling paper and tobacco. “Last of your credit is used up on your card I think Sean, we couldn’t get any grog.”
“Shit happens mate, did ya manage to get the other crap I asked for?”
“Yup, ‘ere it all is, the maps and tourist info. We gotta head off, our turn to check the traps. We gotta go shootin’ later, mum wants to make more ‘roo jerky in the dehydrator while the power is running. Wanna come out and practice a few shots?”
“Nah, she’s all good mate. I gotta sort these maps out with your mum, get ourselves set up if we have to move.”
Jo, my aunty and myself sat down to mark the maps and note the areas of interest and the areas which were not on the maps at all. As I marked the co-ordinates down on the map, the two women wrote detailed explanations of the numbered areas in two legal sized notepads. They noted camping grounds, businesses, other farm houses, heritage and museum locations. I filled in some gaps from the information leaflets using the descriptions and what I could make out from the photographs. Apparently there was a dam with jet ski’s close by.
I think it was a Wednesday when Jo intercepted a call over the aviation radio and managed to get a conversation. Time was starting to get fuzzy. A single helicopter had escaped Townsville after a huge invasion and it had been slowly making its way west with a leak in the fuel tank. It had to stop at every rural airfield they could find just to fill it up and keep moving.
My uncle guided them into the airfield with ‘fancy’ aviation speech, something he had done many times before with The Royal Flying Doctors Service. Once the helicopter landed the passengers disembarked the chinook to find 30 guns facing them.
“Hello, Jo’s supposed husband.”
“Yeah sorry about that Frank, I needed to keep moving. I’m Sean by the way, Jo has told me all about you. She got a good laugh out of our conversation. I want to thank you for letting us pass through. What happened with the evacuation?”
“I’ll tell you over some food, if you have any to spare, the men have barely eaten in three days, and I’m starting to get a little light headed myself.”
James stepped up and pointedly aimed his gun at a bound man in fatigues. “You are all welcome here friend, except that thing. We’ve had enough first hand experience with super zombies already and I really don’t want to fight until after I eat.”
“The Corporal was infected, but has shown absolutely no signs of aggressiveness.”
Nori appeared close beside me. Frank and his companions aimed their guns straight. Nori didn’t even flinch “That’s because he is a super. He has been using all his strength to try to draw in more Kadaitchi, err zombies. Every time you use your skills zombies are drawn to you whether Kadaitchi or human, unless you can hide it like me.”
The Corporal woke from his trance and looked straight at Nori. “Smart girl, we thought we wiped your tribe out first. Typical loose ends always left lying about. No worries, soon…” A gunshot rang out. Frank stood there with his side arm still smoking and saluted The Corporal “Every threat killed immediately, as ordered Sir.” He spoke to the corpse. “A talking zombie is definitely a threat.”
I thought for a moment then turned to Nori. “Wait, you’re a woman? I just thought you were a really feminine looking kid.”
“Of course bruddha. You thought I was a sexy male? You got issues.”
We gave the new people some jerky and water to hold them over until dinner, and spent the next several hours patching up minor wounds. Dinner was plentiful, and our guests ate their fill of barbequed pig and rabbit, roasted warrigal greens and macadamia nuts. After dinner we sat around the large forty seat table to talk.
Nori was the first to tell the story of how her family had been attacked in the night and the slaughter of her extended family. “No hero, no legend, just me piss bolting out of there after they bit me. I though I was dead. Nothing I could do but run, and that Dazza mob, he could track us,” she said. “I found out I could turn invisible in a panic when the Kadaitchi puffed in front of me. He said he can smell me to them other two that was with him, but they could not see me. Then they walked into the servo and bit the white boy behind the counter. They all talked about something inside and suddenly Dazza puffed away again. It was just ten minutes later John and James showed up.”
James followed on filling in the blanks up until we met Frank the first time, then my uncle continued to give him a run down of the farm leaving out some tactical details here and there.
“So the west is unaffected?” Frank queried.
“Not anymore,” my uncle continued. “All the townships have been completely abandoned or infected already. We speak to a few farms on the two-way giving updates and tips. The Hawkins seem to be doing the best out of all of us. Cattle, crops, surrounded by ridges or thick gidgy bushland. They got enough supplies to last them two years and that’s not including the crops they grow.”
“We need to get all the survivors together.” Frank noted.
My uncle sighed. “No, we don’t. Keeping us sparse and spread out will increase the chances out here mate. Put us all together in the outback and we will drain the available resources within months. The way we are set up now, we can swap and barter or even just give away supplies if need be. Understand?”
“It makes sense, but what if an army of them attacks? Everyone will be too spread out.”
“It seems that way, but a single community under siege from a relentless group of zombies would have less chance compared to multiple communities. It would spread the attackers out trying to hit all the places at once. If the zombies concentrated on one area, they will be flanked by the other settlements. We have the land fighting against them as well, something similar to guerilla warfare. Your ideas work in other scenarios, but bushlore is a hell of a lot different.” my uncle unwrapped some nicotine gum and start chewing. Leaning against his forearms on the table he continued “Now you are all welcome to stay here, we have the room and could do with the extra hands. But bushlore is what is going to run our lives and keep us alive. Respect the land, the flora, the fauna, the people and punish those that don’t. Every pair of hands works.”
“I appreciate the offer, but I have orders, even if the world has no order. I have an obligation to protect the country and it’s people. Human people. We’ll stay for a week to help out with the things necessary, but we are going to need a few vehicles, preferably four-wheel drive and three of with fuel, water and food.”
“I’m going to need a couple of pairs of those night vision goggles and the rights to that chinook, considering it’s on my land and is fucked anyways. Any survivors you can send to the Tree Of Knowledge in town. The town is completely empty, not a soul or a zombie. No people, means no food, so why stay? We have already organised a shift watch with the other farms of the town to keep an eye out.”
“I can deal with that, it’s not like the army is gonna reprimand me now. The civilians will probably want to stay here and hopefully I can convince the police officers to come with us. I was hoping to have more people to scout the lands with us.” Frank focused his gaze to Nori, James and I. “You three seem to be our best option, with Nori abilities and you two being immune, we could really use your help. We will send back supplies often for the farm here to share out to the others.”
We looked to each other and gave a slight nod, I noticed Nori’s breasts for the first time because of the midriff shirt she wore. I quickly changed my gaze to Jo and gave her a quizzical look. “Sean,” She said. “We are coming with you. It’s the only way we can find a way to get to that brother of yours. He’s not getting out of changing nappies just because of the apocalypse.”
I looked to back to our proposer “Frank, we coming along for a ride, but it’s not permanent, I need to get my brother’s family to him and I got a fair idea where he is thanks to my nephews.”
We started our preparations and a week later we took one last night of rest before we moved out in the morning. Eleven of us would leave in the morning to protect John’s family, only 3 of us would ever see this place again.