The horrors of the past meet the brutality of the present.
In a world without electricity night descended rather quickly. After burying the old man’s wife and daughter they returned to the front porch and made preparations to move on a bit before setting up camp. The old man, who had exhausted most of his sorrow before they arrived, would hear none of this, and after introducing himself properly he insisted that they stay for the night.
His name was Gregory and before the awakening he’d been the manager of a home improvement store just outside of Richmond. When the shit his the fan he had taken his wife and young daughter to his cabin in the mountains West of Richmond to ride everything out. Unfortunately the Zombies turned out to be the least of his troubles. They’d been found and driven from their home by a group of men and women who were better armed, and far more savage than he.
Sitting around the kitchen table, with several candles providing their light, Gregory finished his story and looked at each of them expectedly, his hands folded on the table before him.
“You lived in the world before all this happened?” Einstein said.
“We were in our thirties when it happened, our daughter was five.”
“So you know about fast food and grocery stores, what were they like? Could you really get a whole meal in less than a minute?” Billie Bob said.
Gregory shrugged, “absolutely, in the city there was a fast food joint on practically every corner.”
“That’s amazing, man I wish I could have seen that,” Billie-Bob said.
“Where are you four from?”
Window and Meat exchanged glances, Window tilted his head slightly and Meat agreed. “We’re from a place upriver called Bremo Bluff.”
“I’ve heard of it,” Gregory said, “isn’t there a co-generation plant there?”
“What’s a co-generation plant?” Window said.
“A place that makes electricity.”
“Yeah, we have electricity, we use it to make fresh water too,” Billie Bob said and Window scowled as Meat shrugged. They’d learned long ago to be cautious about what information they shared with strangers.
“What about libraries?” Meat said.
“What about them?”
“Do you know where one might be, one that hasn’t been torched or destroyed?”
Gregory shook his head, “I’m sorry, libraries weren’t exactly at the top of my list of priorities when I was trying to protect my family. How do you know about libraries?”
“An old lady where I live, she has a room filled with books, but they’re story books, not real books you can learn anything from. She does have a set of encyclopedias but they’re from the fifties. She told me about libraries.”
“You can read?”
“Of course, to live where we live it’s required, everyone has a job to do to ensure the survival of the group, and you have to be able to read to follow instructions.”
“Don’t they have any other books?”
“Only technical manuals for running the plant, how to books about making things, those sort of books. I’d like to read about our history, what the world was like before all this happened,” Meat said with a shrug.
“Do the children work?”
“Everyone has to work.”
“Then why are you outside?”
“The parents of the children who had been kidnapped hired us to find them. They agreed to take on our jobs until we return.”
“And if you don’t.”
Meat smiled at this, “we’ve been going outside the fence for over two years now, staying close, but scavenging what we could find. We know the risks we’re taking, but I know the other three with me, I know what we’re capable of, and I’m pretty confident we will return to Bremo Bluff with the children.”
“What about the kids who took them, what do you plan to do to them?”
“Nothing if they stay out of our way.”
“Why are you doing this? Are they paying you?”
Meat shook his head, “we’re doing it because we want to help, and if we’re successful we may be able to convince the council to award us a scavenging slot.”
“A scavenging slot?”
“There are scavenging teams that search for necessities beyond the fence, each one is assigned a particular item to look for and bring back.”
“So you’re doing this more for yourself?”
“Not really, I mean getting a slot would be nice, but even if it wasn’t available, we’d probably still be doing it.
“That’s pretty altruistic of you.”
“What does that mean?” Window said.
“It means we’re generous,” Meat said.
Window shrugged, “speak for yourself, I’m in it to find bullets and guns, you can never have too many guns.”
“Don’t mind Window, he hates Zombies and practically everybody else.”
“Why do they call him Window?”
“It’s a name we came up with for him, since he’s so open about his past, he’s as clear as a window.”
“I take it you’re being sarcastic.”
“Absolutely.” Meat smiled. “By the way, my name’s Meat, that’s Einstein on Window’s left and at the end of the table is Billie Bob.” Each of them in turn nodded their head as Meat pointed at them.
“Whatever happened to regular names, you know like Don and Mark, and Fred and Pete?” Gregory said with a bewildered expression,
“According to my Dad I was born during the awakening, my mom said I was nothing more than meat so that’s what they started calling me. I don’t think I was ever given a real name. Besides it fits, aren’t we all just walking bags of meat?”
“That’s a pretty dismal view of the world.”
“It’s a pretty dismal world in which we live.”
“You’ll get no argument from me,” Gregory said, “I can understand Einstein, he’s the smartest, right?”
Meat nodded in agreement.
“But why Billie Bob?”
Meat smiled, “he’s one half of a set of twins, his name is Billie, and his brother’s name is Bobbie. When they were younger they would trade places with each other so everyone started calling them Billie Bob as they were never sure which of the twins they were really talking to.”
“How did it happen?” Billie Bob said.
“How did what happen?”
“The awakening? They told us in class it was because of a virus, that a company was trying to make a biological weapon that mutated into the virus. But they never really gave us any more details.”
“I don’t think anyone is really sure what happened. I know it started in a small town outside Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, some said a train had derailed and one of the tankers carrying government cargo was ruptured. Others claimed a military transport plane had crashed into the woods outside the town. There were some who believed it was tied to Ebola that had been out of control in South Africa.
“Most of the people fled from the area, carrying the virus that quickly spread around the world. The next thing we knew anyone who had recently died woke up. Hospital morgues, funeral homes, places where those who had recently died were stored, saw the dead attacking the living.
“Panic set in as people fled from the cities. The normal restraints of civilization crumbled and it became a dog eat dog world. The undead were only half the problem, survivalists and militia groups who had been waiting for something like this to happen went on killing sprees. It was crazy, if you weren’t dead, or didn’t belong to one of the groups that sprung up in the aftermath, you were a target.”
“Just like now,” Meat said, “most of our problems come from survivors instead of the walking dead.”
“Man’s inhumanity to man, throughout history man has been his own worst enemy.”
“It’s getting late, if we want to get started by first light we need to get some sleep.”
“There’s plenty of floor space,” Gregory said, “just grab a spot.”
“Do you have any objections to us sleeping in your barn?” Meat said.
“No, but I don’t understand why.”
“Call it a precaution, I’ll take the first watch, Einstein you’ll be second, Billie Bob third, and Window you can wake me for the last two hours.”
“I can handle it.”
“I know you can, I’ll sit with you, keep you company.”
“If that’s what you want.”
Meat nodded as he pushed himself away from the table. He stuck his hand out for Gregory, “it’s been a pleasure, and thank you for your hospitality.”
“The pleasure was all mine, when do you plan to set out in the morning?”
“Early, I’d like to be gone before the sun comes up.”
The others pushed away from the table and crossed to the front door where they waited for Meat who led them to the barn.
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