In the event this log is found with my corpse, I’m Machinist Mate First Class Jackson Creed and it’s been a week since we arrived back in San Diego following the event. With me is Marine Sergeant Joel “Cruze” Kelly.
A little over a week ago we were both stationed on the USS McClusky, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate out of San Diego. Our ship was overrun by the dead and we barely escaped with our lives. Now we live in the middle of Undead Central.
The fuckening has become more bearable even though we almost joined the crawlers today.
- A pound and a half of Jasmine rice
- A half pound of dried beans
- Two pounds of that tofu-jerky shit that gives me gas
- Seven cans of tuna
- Two cans of cat food that I’m saving for Butch in case he returns
- A case of canned spinach that I eat even though every bite makes me want to puke my guts up
I want to go on record as saying that this whole stupid day was Joel’s fault.
18:25 hours approximate.
Location: Undead Central, San Diego, CA
“Look at all of those crawlers. Everyone wants a piece of us,” Joel whispered.
He was dressed in black tactical gear with a New York Fire Department ball cap pulled down low to keep the sun off his face. Beneath the hat, he wore a pair of Tom Cruise-style Ray-Bans we’d found in an overturned car. Joel was prone and staring down the barrel of his Rock River Arms AR-15. He switched on the EOTech holographic sight and shifted his aim left and right.
We’d found the assault rifle the day after we founded Fortress, both not far from our area of operations. Some civilian had purchased the piece and stored it in a case. It still had a manual and price tag. Even the magazines hadn’t been unpacked. The second bonus had been a green canister filled with 400 rounds of 5.56.
Joel was probably sweating his ass off in all that gear. The one thing he managed to escape the ship with was most of an IMTV – Improved Modular Tactical Vest.
“Let’s make sure they don’t get a piece. I like all my limbs,” I whispered. “How many?”
“Six, and there’s a shuffler.”
I popped up and did a quick scan. Five of them were moving around the freaky creeper. The shuffler was down on all fours like a retarded crab missing a few legs. The other Z’s were your garden-variety dead. They moaned and cast milky white gazes on nothing in particular while they shambled.
We were perched behind an abandoned house about a mile from the naval base. Our area of operations had spread out over the last weeks as we ranged farther and farther away from the fortress. It had to be done; our search for food and supplies was getting harder every day.
This had been a residential neighborhood with an elementary school and apartments along a large main road that led to Interstate 5. There were a number of houses, but most had already been ransacked. Some sported graffiti and broken windows. Most had furniture and belongings dragged out onto front yards and dumped next to corpses that, thank God, did not move.
We’d learned the hard way not to bother with the houses. Walk in an open door and it could become a deathtrap. Open a bedroom and it could be filled with the fucking Z’s. When panic hits and you’re in an unfamiliar location, suddenly you don’t know which way to exit.
“Your call. I’m good and didn’t need a beer run in the first place,” I lied.
I needed a beer run bad. I’d kill for a cold one but would settle for a six-pack of warm. My gut rumbled, thanks to our light breakfast of dried tofu and some leftover beans and rice. God, what if he had potato chips and Little Debbie Cakes? What if Kelly’s friend had boxes of crackers and Cheez Whiz? My mouth flooded with saliva and I feared the creepers would hear my stomach rumble. This wasn’t just about beer. We needed anything we could scavenge.
It was getting close to dusk. A bead of sweat formed on my shaved head and ran down my forehead. I wiped it with the ridiculous orange sweatband around my wrist. Joel had been sick of me bitching and dug it out of an overturned bin in a Walmart we’d raided a few days ago. The rest of the store had been a bust. By the time we arrived, it’d been picked over ten times. We also found out the hard way that it was filled with about a hundred snarling Z’s. When we got out, I wore the sweatband to remind myself to never enter a big department store again.
“Go distract them. See that dumpster at three o’clock? Just poke your head around it and say hi. I’ll pop a couple in the head. When they come toward the sound of my shots, you finish off the rest with your club.” He nodded toward my wrench.
I shaded my eyes and studied the battlefield. A green dumpster sat next to a low wall. There was a break right next to it that would provide me with an easy way to get on the party’s “six.” I bet Joel thought it was funny as hell, sending me out with my ass exposed while he shot from a distance.
“I don’t like it.”
“Roger that. Let’s pack up and go home.”
“Well, hold up there a second, Professor,” I said. We might not have a chance to explore this area again. “If we leave now, your friend’s place will be picked over. Might already be empty.”
“I told you. He’s a security nut. His front door is solid metal, plus he’d have left it bolted.”
“I still don’t know how we’re going to get in.”
“If he’s not there, I have a plan.” Joel didn’t turn but he had that cocksure sound in his voice that I no longer questioned.
“What if he is there and tells us to fuck off?”
“He won’t. He owes me.” I didn’t ask about Joel’s time in Iraq because it pissed him off.
After a few seconds of cursing, I hefted my wrench. At twenty-four inches and eight pounds, this was a devastating weapon when applied to Z’s heads. Joel chambered a round but didn’t look back to make sure I’d left. After a week of this shit, we were like goddamn mind readers.
“Stupid fucking idea,” I said under my breath, and moved around a dying hedge.
I dropped low and hoped there weren’t another dozen hiding behind us. You could lose them if you moved fast or stuck to shoot-and-scoot tactics, but try to make a stand and it was a quick trip to Undeadville.
I rounded the block and cut back toward Joel’s position, sticking to a sidewalk that was already overgrown with grass. I constantly scanned my surroundings, looking for the slightest hint of additional Z’s.
The red wrench wasn’t my only weapon. I also wore one of the newer Colt M45A1 pistols on my hip that I’d taken from a corpse back on the base. I had one extra mag and a pocketful of rounds in case things got real hairy. What concerned me was the noise a booming gun could draw. I might as well attract a horde with all six-feet, three-inches of me bouncing up and down while singing the national anthem.
The thirty or so rounds did make me feel better. As long as I kept an extra one in the little coin pocket at my right hip, I felt like I was safe. I’d take as many of them as I could, but that last bullet had my name on it.
Sun glistened on my arm to reveal that I was still losing muscle mass. I needed protein, not beer, but I’d settle for a buzz after the last shitty weeks I thought back to the day when our ship, filled with undead sailors, plowed into the pier. Joel and I had been tearing through the passageways, firing into the mass that had previously lived on the USS McClusky.
I ducked again as one of the creepers looked my way. Milky eyes brushed over my position as I hit the ground. Even at a mere twenty feet away, I still marveled at their ability to actually see or hear a damn thing. As the days rolled by and they rotted a little more, they had to slow down and lose some of their senses. At least, that was my logic. It’s one of those things you tell yourself over and over. It’s not that bad, it’s not so crazy out there. Things will get better in a few days, just wait it out. But that didn’t happen.
One thing that did grow was their hunger and, as that got stronger, so did their need to eat. Us.
I used to read zombie books and think Z’s would be about as scary as drunken senior citizens. These weren’t. They had started mad and gotten madder. The shufflers were the worst. When they changed, so did their disposition. Not content to wander around mindlessly, they were driven by a need to rise and attack, and they’d go psychotic whenever they spotted the living.
The slow ones weren’t so bad, but get twenty or thirty of those relentless fucking monsters on your case, and they’d run you right into the ground.
I scanned my entry point and crouched again, then brushed past another dying hedge. I rounded the corner near the dumpster and the pack came into view.
I slid next to the giant green monstrosity and plugged my nose with my fingertips. Foul, very foul. I stood and waved a hand in the air, hoping to hell Joel wasn’t currently getting swarmed. Then I stopped. What use was it? He wasn’t about to announce his hiding place.
“You ugly godless fucks come here often?” I lowered the wrench, letting all 8.4 pounds of the weapon become an extension of my arm.
The creeper that had fixed his milky gaze on me earlier turned his head on his creaking neck and drew back desiccated lips over rotted teeth. The others swiveled to take me in. A chill raced over my body at the thought of one of those assholes sinking their teeth into me.
One shot and the creeper’s head popped to the side, followed by his body. Brain matter splattered and blood sprayed. Two Z’s moved toward the noise, leaving three for me. Terrific.
“Hey assholes,” called Joel.
I risked a glance at my watch. The action had already occupied five seconds of the thirty we allotted any battle. If we couldn’t wrap things up in that time frame, we’d bug out.
I swung the wrench up and took the nearest right under the chin. I hit him so hard I thought his head was going to come off. Poor kid. Couldn’t have been more than fifteen when he turned. Dressed in shorts and a gaudy t-shirt, he wore only one knee pad. He did have pads on both elbows, though. Probably some skate punk that was now a dead punk.
The second Z closed in. I gave ground, lifted my size fourteen US Navy-issued boot, and kicked him in the groin. That didn’t put him down but it bought me a moment. As far as I knew, they didn’t have functioning nads, but a swift kick could still put them in their place.
Another pair of shots, but I had things to worry about other than Joel’s body-count.
I didn’t have time to beat these things to death, so I drew the M45 with my left hand, aimed just as I’d practiced a hundred times over the last couple of weeks, and shot one through the neck. It sounds cool but I was actually aiming for its forehead. I’d lowered the gun just a fraction at the last second.
The Z fell away, gurgling blood from its neck. I aimed and fired at the shuffler but it was already on the move. It’d been caressing the ground on all fours, doing that shuffle step that freaks me the fuck out. The man had long wisps of hair hanging from his scalp and, somehow, a pair of glasses perched on the remains of his face. His mouth was full of blood, drool, and something that looked a lot like human flesh.
I fired again. The bullet punched through his gut just before he smashed into me.
I hit the dumpster hard enough to knock my breath out and staggered to the side. He fell away but was on his feet in a flash. His eyes had the same milky white look but they somehow fixed on me. He howled a wordless scream of fury and launched himself. I swung the pipe but there wasn’t a lot of strength behind it. The glancing blow barely kept him from biting my arm.
I staggered back again and bullets whizzed through the air, taking the creepers out with extreme prejudice.
I fired again, but the shot went wide because I’d panicked. The shuffler didn’t cower, it didn’t hide, and it didn’t turn and run. It was completely unreasonable—and its only desire was to rip into my flesh.
I gave ground, fighting for breath, and when he attacked again, I punched him. I didn’t get a lot behind the strike but it was enough to knock the Z down. I lifted the gun, took a half breath, and blew his fucking brains all over the pavement.
Joel moved in on my position, Ray-Bans looking everywhere as he ran. He had the assault rifle across his chest, finger on the trigger guard. We didn’t stop to admire our handiwork. Instead, we moved out at a fast clip because we were well over our thirty seconds and that was bad news. Another half minute and we’d be overrun.