An excerpt from Z-Risen 3: Poisoned Earth
In the event this log is found with my corpse, I’m Machinist Mate First Class Jackson Creed and it’s been almost two weeks since we arrived in San Diego following the event. With me is Marine Sergeant Joel “Cruze” Kelly.
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.
Entry #21 – SSDD
The Z hit me like a ton of bricks.
My partner in crime, Marine Sergeant Joel “Cruze” Kelly, yelled for me to move out of the way but I was slow on my feet. We’d come across a group of feisty assholes about fifteen minutes ago and ducked into the remains of an AM PM. He and I huddled for a few minutes but the sounds of something moving in the back finally got to me.
The Z had been hovering near a shelf, and no more than a few feet away. In the gloom I didn’t even see him until his shuffling steps betrayed him. He moved fast, arms up, milky white gaze locked on my face like it was prime rib. I panicked and backed into Kelly. That’s when the Z almost got a piece of my dumb ass.
I hit the wall hard enough to make me see stars. Breath whooshed out but I got my hands up, purely by instinct, and fought off the Z. He had about fifty pounds on me and smacked me right back into the wall. I pushed the Z back. Something clamped my wrist and I squealed like a six year old.
It wasn’t teeth, it was the a hand. Most of his fingers had been gnawed to the bone and he had a hell of a death grip. I got my foot up and kicked the zombie in the chest. He fell back but left his arm clamped to me and dragged me along for the ride. That’s when I noticed he’d fallen away, all except his arm. I bounced around like I was in a one man idiot dance off as I tried to shake it off.
Joel was fast on his feet just like you’d expect a Marine to be. If he wasn’t practicing shooting stuff, punching stuff, or just snarling at stuff, he was probably asleep. He grabbed the zombie by the collar and slammed him to the ground. Joel lifted his boot and brought it down on the Z’s head once, twice, and then a third time that left pulp leaking from the man’s cracked head. The Z didn’t move again.
I leaned over and tried to catch my breath. Hands on knees, lungs spasmed as I sucked in air.
“Need a hand?” Joel nodded at the Z’s appendage that was still stuck to my arm.
“Oh that’s real funny.”
“Looks like he had a strong grip,” Joel deadpanned.
“Okay, that’s enough.” I said and mostly meant it. I was worried that if I actually caught my breath I’d break into laughter.
The arm hung off my wrist and when I shook, bits of blood and flesh flew. Joel moved out of the way of the bloody little projectiles.
“You’re giving shaking hands a new meaning, man.”
“I hate this fucking place.”
“Your ability to state the obvious is a real gift, Creed.” Joel smacked my back, lifted his assault rifle and moved toward the back of the store. I grabbed the remains of the arm and pulled it free and left it next to the Z’s battered body.
Movement in the back of the store meant that my little break was over.
He held up a hand to motion me to stay cool. I did just that, trusting that he was confident enough to take on whatever was creeping around back there. From the soft scraping I hoped there wasn’t anything too serious lurking. With any luck it was just a torso looking for a meal.
A few weeks ago that shit used to get to me. Seeing bodies or half of bodies still crawling around used to freak me out so bad I wouldn’t sleep for days. Now it was just another sun up in Undead Central US of A. The Z’s had lost their souls or whatever made them thinking and reasoning beings, and left them as brainless meat bags capable of little more than piss-hate coupled with an appetite for human flesh.
Now I’ve learned, thanks to the walking Marine hard-on named Sergeant Kelly, to be more aware of my surroundings. Don’t let the above Z attack fool you. I’m a lean (because I haven’t had a proper meal in days), mean (because I haven’t had a proper meal in days), killing machine (you get the picture).
I noticed that the little store reeked of spoiled food, rotting flesh, and blood when we sniffed around the entrance but give a squid a break for hoping for a bag of Doritos. Turned out the shelves were bare and probably had been for days. Mom and Pop stores had been well defended at the start damn apocalypse, then the looters had gotten into it. Guys like Frank McQuinn, who days ago, had led his merry band of jack holes against my group, and a bunch of retirees who wanted to be left to their own meandering devices. We’d hurt McQuinn and his group and they’d scattered. The quick brains of Kelly and my girl, Anna Sails, had saved us. Now she was stuck in a camper with a bullet in her arm and I was out trying to find supplies to fix her up.
A pair of shapes slid behind a shelf. Joel motioned for me to take the other side. I moved away from him, head low, shoulders hunched, eyes on the floor as I sought out anything that might make noise like a errant Funion or potato chip. If I saw one I would likely start drooling then it would be a struggle to stop from eating it. Was there such a thing as “the three or four week rule?”
I met Joel’s eyes. He nodded and we swung around the shelving from opposite sides.
My wrench was already in hand and I’d raised it, preparing to bash in at least one head all the while hoping that Joel didn’t shoot my ass off.
The kids were filthy and had to be a lot younger than Christie. A pair of boys, just little kids really, with faces covered in dirt, hair a rats-nest, clothes holed and hanging in strips. My first impulse was to swing the wrench because they looked like Z’s.
“We ain’t like those things,” one of the kids said.
“We’re just looking for water or food,” the other said.
Joel blew out a breath and pointed his gun toward the floor.
“You dudes got family?” I asked.
“Yeah. Right outside the door.” One of them pointed.
My head automatically followed his gesture. They were on the move before I could ask who was waiting for them. The kids were fast and slipped away and out the front before I could get another word out.
“Well shit,” Joel said.
“Hey! Come back!” I called and moved toward the door.
I poked my head but they were gone. I could probably pursue them but the little rug rats were a lot faster than me. Besides, what was I going to do when I caught up with them? More than likely they did have someone around here watching them. Someone with a big ass gun and a bullet labeled “Jackson Creed”.
I stopped scanning for them when I noticed a shape across the street. He was dressed in black from head to toe with only his or her eyes peering through some kind of ski mask looking thing. The person had a big assault rifle at the ready so I slowly raised my hands to show I didn’t feel like getting shot today. If that was one of McQuinn’s guys, I was probably wasting my time and should plant my gut on the ground.
As I watched, another shape appeared next to the first and I could have sworn one of them nodded in my direction. Then they both faded from view.
I couldn’t help but get the chills.