The Lake: Entry 1

Before you go any further, know these stories will likely contain spoilers for Pulse: Genesis and Pulse: Retaliation. If you’ve read through Retaliation, you’re good! Between now and Pulse 3, which will take place years after Pulse 2, I have something kind of cool for you. These are journal entries from Dom during his time at The Lake. One will be posted bi-weekly and I have about 10 ready to go. I’ve always wanted to do a journal style series, but not a whole book, so this is a perfect outlet.

Think of this as a supplement to the Anisakis Nova series. You’ll get a sneak preview of some of the nasty parasite developments to be found in Pulse 3, and also track the progress of some of the last uninfected humans trying to survive and rebuild.

Anyway, hope you enjoy!

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The very first night we set up the tents and built a bonfire, Jim gave me this journal. Old Dom would’ve laughed and thanked him with no intention of ever using it. I’m not the kind of person who journals and I also dislike confrontation. But when I think about what we have to do here, what we’re trying to do, I realize this might be useful some day. If the uninfected human species survives the parasite, years from now they’ll want to know how we did it. What it took, what our struggles were. Maybe even they’ll make a movie about it and someone will play me.

Okay, wishful thinking and I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m acting like Jim giving me the journal was a long time ago, but really it was only a few days. This is my first entry. I hope I’m doing okay. I’m not sure where to start. In fact, now that I’m questioning myself I feel really stupid.

Who journals? I guess someone needs to write an account of Anisakis Nova, how it started, how we tried to fight it. I’ll do that somewhere else, maybe another time. To be honest, none of us know that much beyond our first hand experience and what we remember was on TV.

So far everyone has found a spot to set up their tents. We’re close to each other but far away enough that there’s privacy. I can tell privacy is going to be important going forward. Sometimes it seems like people are already sick of each other. That worries me.

For now we’re in the woods just outside of the lake. We might build our home here. It seems like a nice area with tall, strong pine trees everywhere and a good view of the surrounding area. Chelsea would’ve hated that we’re going to cut them down.

Yesterday Magnus and Anthony built an outhouse about a 100 yards from the camp. It was an all day project but the thing looks amazing. They built walls out of split trees they fell. It has a window and a door. The roof was crafted out of wood then covered with tarp. We’ve had a few hot days and on those days we leave it uncovered, otherwise the thing stinks.

Everyone was excited about it. Really excited. The small things make people very happy. The kids, who don’t have many things to do as of yet, decided to gather stones to outline a path all the way to it. Good for them.

What weighs most on me is food. Matt is still devastated by the loss of the van. We all tell him it wasn’t his fault. There was nothing he could do. But he keeps saying, “I could’ve stopped them from merging in front of me.”

But the fact is we’ve lost about 70% of the food we intended to bring and we’re already feeling it. Beth makes soup every day, mostly water based with a few things floating around. We could eat heartier than that, but we have no idea how we’re going to come by food so we have to make what we have last.

Magnus is taking anyone who is interested to learn how to fish. I’ve never done it before, but if I want to eat more than watery corn and pea soup, I’d better get to it.

I haven’t told anyone, and I’m not going to, but this week I’m going to hike back down to the truck to listen to the radio again. I want to know where we stand against the infected. The group agreed we weren’t ever coming back down and I felt bad when I did it the first time. I need to know.

I need to know if anyone is still alive.

dash

Went to the truck. I wish I hadn’t.

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TF2 Heavy Gun Build: Part 2

This is Part 2 of the Heavy Gun Build, which will show how Joe and I built the ammo can and attached it to the barrel and hanger. Check out Part 1 here. Some of this was inspired by the Instructables guy tutorial so I highly recommend you take a look at that. This isn’t a step by step, but more of a general overview. If you have any questions, please ask and we’ll do our best to help you.

Bucket & Internal Structure
The base of the ammo can is a blue bucket from Lowe’s. We got two lids for it, one for the front and one for the back. Inside Joe also built a T structure made of wood. It wedges inside the bucket. The reason for this is to provide more stability for the hanger once it gets bolted into place. This does add some weight to the gun, but is worth it. The hanger needs something to attach to, more than just the plastic offers.

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So, before moving forward I wanted to show you this dumb looking diagram so you understand how the bucket works. The open end of the bucket will be facing you. The bottom is where the T shape goes. There will be a lid on the open end of the bucket, and the bottom. The T structure doesn’t go completely in the bottom, but a few inches away from it as shown in the diagram.

bucketdiagram

This part is going to be hard to explain typed, so bear with me. We used a sheet of aluminum slightly bigger than the bucket and wrapped it around the bucket like a sleeve. Joe used his riveting gun to merge the edges of the sleeve, but you could also use small screws. The aluminum sheet goes just against the top rim of the bucket and extends about an inch past the bottom. There is a bit of space between the aluminum and the bucket. We put a bit of expanding foam in this space to stop the aluminum from buckling in if the gun hit something. A lid goes on both ends, the white one fitting around the aluminum like it was an extension of the top.

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The great thing about putting that aluminum on is that it holds spray paint SO much better than the plastic bucket. Even if it does scratch, it is metal underneath which looks cool and distressed. If you opt to go without, you will have to sand it a ton before painting, and even then there is no guarantee the paint will stick. The Instructables guy had a long process for prepping the bucket for painting, but it is effective and I’d definitely go with that if you aren’t putting a sleeve on. If you didn’t do a sleeve, you could probably attach the front of the ammo can to the bottom of the bucket without the lid.

At this point while the bucket is separate from the hanger, I spray painted the whole thing white. I taped off the back half (the open side) once it was dry, and painted that black. Painted one lid black and the other white. This is the base of the ammo can.

Front of Ammo Can
At this point we got the elements of the front ready. Below is a diagram of all the parts for the front of the ammo can. These are all PVC parts. The flange attaches to the bucket lid with four screws. The coupling fitting attaches to that, then the black pipe, and the screw in end cap. Joe used a drill bit on the coupling fitting with the screw in end cap together to drill a hole the right size for the narrow pipe to thread through.

This is the flange in its natural state.

This is the flange in its natural state.

The large flange, coupling fitting, and screw in end cap were all lightly sanded and spray painted before being put together. We didn’t screw this structure onto the bucket until the end.

barreldiagram

We pretty much followed the Instructables tutorial for the narrow black pipe part, and in essence that gray part. The black pipe connects to the back of the gun with a little wood structure as shown below. The structure is just three pieces of wood glued together to fit on the bottom of the barrel. Joe used a drill bit to create a hole in the structure that another PVC coupler is inserted into, then the black pipe fits into that.

This black wooden structure is essential. It has multiple functions. For one, it is something for the narrow black pipe to go into. Second, it allows the gun to sit flat and not roll around. Without this piece, the gun would fall on its side and get dented and scratched. No good!

woodpart

Vent

vent
You’re still here? Nice! The vent is a plastic exhaust hood sort of like the one below. We sawed some lines in it to make it look more like a vent, spray painted it black, and used bolts to attach it to the ammo can and riveted the bottom to it to make it bend a little better to the shape of the can.

dryerhood

Assembling and Attaching The Parts
At this point we had a completed barrel with hanger, an ammo can, the front elements, and two lids. To attach the hanger to the ammo can, Joe drilled a hole through the ammo can and bucket into the T structure inside. Oversized lag bolts go through the hole into structure, and that’s how it is attached. The big lag bolts aren’t just for structural support, but add to that beefy look that is important for Sasha. Same with the rivets; it looks really cool, but you could definitely substitute screws if you wanted.

We then screwed the front elements (gray PVC structure) onto the white lid onto the bottom of the bucket. Next the wood structure is screwed onto the bottom of the bucket, and the narrow black pipes are put into place.

The black lid goes onto the top of the bucket. At this point it does look done, but it was flopping around a bit. We added this strap tie to the back for more stability. It is screwed onto the barrel, then on the wood structure on the bottom.

StrapTieBack

I did some touch ups on the paint and we were done. If you have any questions, please let me know and Joe and I will help you out as much as we can.

Again, we didn’t have the forethought to take a ton of step by step pictures during this process so I apologize for that. There was a lot of “I found this thing at Home Depot, can we use it?” going on. The gun was built over a couple months. I suggest you take your time with it. It’s a big project! Good luck on your own Sasha.

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TF2 Heavy Gun Build: Part 1

heavygun2
The Heavy gun my uncle Joe and I built for PAX was a huge undertaking. This thing was a lot of “look at this thing I found, could we use it?”, trial and error, hot glue, and heavy duty drilling and cutting. I’ve gotten some requests for a step by step on how we did it, and I wish I could. However, we just didn’t document each step well enough to do that. It took about fifteen hours to make. However, I would hate to leave you in the dark completely and so, instead of doing nothing, I’m going to discuss what was used to build it, things we did, and a general explanation. Joe has a workshop full of power tools and a lot of experience building things, so I will admit this isn’t necessarily the easiest build ever. But damn does it look awesome.

Before we continue, huge shout out to Joe. This guy can build anything. I absolutely could not have done it without him. This was the most amazing prop anyone could ever ask for!

heavyguncloseup

First of all, this guy from Instructables has a super amazing step by step tutorial on how he made his gun. Joe and I followed the barrel steps exactly. I suggest you start here. Be sure to adjust the overall barrel size relative to your own height. Here are some pictures below of the barrel in progress. Notice the barrel length has been reduced from the picture of me holding it to the final product below.

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Our Modifications

Click to view full diagram.

Click to view full diagram.

After the barrel is when Joe and I started to deviate from the Instructables guy. Our hanger and handles are very different. First off, I made the diagram above. Click on it to view a larger version.

hanger
The hanger structure is made out of wood. The handle on top was harvested from a flooring trowel. We used a double sided lag bolt to attach the trowel to the wood.

This is a flooring trowel. It was about $3 from Home Depot.

This is a flooring trowel. It was about $3 from Home Depot.


This is a double sided lag bolt.

This is a double sided lag bolt.

Here is a diagram of the measurements of our hanger. Click for larger picture.

Here is a diagram of the measurements of our hanger. Click for larger picture.

foundationstrap2
This piece is a foundation strap. Joe used a rotary cutter to cut it to the size we needed, then used his bench vice, any hard surface he could find, a hammer, and vice grips to bend it into the shown shape. We then attached another trowel handle to the back, but this time with regular screws. The strap was then bolted onto the hanger, and bolted onto the end cap of the barrel.

This is a foundation strap. These are in the hardware section of Home Depot. There are lots of different kinds. You will have to use what is available to you.

This is a foundation strap. These are in the hardware section of Home Depot. There are lots of different kinds. You will have to use what is available to you.

This is a bench vice.

This is a bench vice.

anglebrace2

From there we bolted two angle braces to either side of the hanger. These will attach the ammo can to the barrel. The specific ones we used can be found here and are called “USP TDL5″. Joe also bent the short end of the brace at an angle so it would fit somewhat flush against the ammo can.

USP TDL5 angle brace.

USP TDL5 angle brace.

embelishments

At this point we added some embellishments. There are two oil filters on either side of the barrel. They are attached to it by two aluminum strips we cut and wrapped around the filters, then used pop rivets installed with a riveting gun to attach. You could also use screws instead, since not everyone has a riveting gun hanging around. The other embellishments are two pipe clamps. The pipe clamps can be found at Home Depot.

Pipe clamp

Pipe clamp

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Here is the completed barrel with hanger and embellishments, ready to be attached to the ammo can. At this point I taped off the handles because I didn’t want paint on them, sanded everything I could, then spray painted four coats of Krylon black matte plastic spray paint.

In the next part of this build, I will talk about the ammo can and assembly. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask! I will provide more info or ask Joe. Good luck on your build!

Super Builder Joe!

Super Builder Joe!

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Zompocalypse Short: MaryAnn’s Story

In January one of my giveaway gifts was a short story featuring the winner as a zombie apocalypse survivor. The giveaway is done through my mailing list which is at my website www.eloisejknapp.com.

For these giveaway short stories I ask the fan a couple questions to make the story personal and get the ball rolling. For this one I wanted to do something zombie-ish, but also with a little twist. Hope you enjoy!

zompocshortmary

 

MaryAnn drove down the highway towards town and admired the weather. The past week had been cold, cloudy, and bleak. Today the clouds broke and the open skies were blue. Being February with a clear sky, it was still bitter cold but she’d take the sun over clouds any day. The rolling South Dakota hills looked beautiful. She found herself grinning. It was one of those days where the simple things really felt good.

The town came into view and MaryAnn adjusted to the speed limit change, then went over what she needed to pick up. Food for the animals, food for the family. She had a hankering for chocolate chip cookies, so chocolate chips were a must. It would be a few months yet until the weather was nice enough for a barbeque, but she planned on having some friends and neighbors over soon. Maybe some steaks and mashed potatoes.

Her mood shifted as she entered town. She squinted as she scanned the block. There wasn’t a single person in sight. The town didn’t have that many inhabitants anyway, but on a Saturday afternoon, that wasn’t normal. The bright sun didn’t seem cheery anymore, but austere. MaryAnn couldn’t think of any local events that would draw the populous away.

No. Something was wrong.

Then she spotted something that made her blood run cold and her chest tighten. In the middle of the first intersection into town was a body. Based on the tight jeans and pink hoodie, she guessed it was a teenage girl. She was curled in the fetal position facing away from MaryAnn. There was blood pooled around her.

MaryAnn pulled off the side of the road and grabbed her Trucker’s Friend before she exited the truck. She wasn’t the kind of person to turn away from someone in need and she also wasn’t the kind of person to go into a strange situation defenseless. Her footsteps echoed loudly against the concrete. She checked around her for any signs of life as she moved, but the storefronts were empty. Not a soul walked the streets. There were cars parked, but no one in or around them. One was all the way onto the sidewalk nearly ran into a brick wall.

“Are you okay?” MaryAnn stopped a few paces away from the girl. Her stomach sank.

She’d seen the movies. She’d read the books. Her SHTF plan wasn’t anything to scoff at. Abandoned town, single unmoving body in the intersection? Whatever this was, she wasn’t going to be the character in the movie that died because of naiveté.

Yet the girl might need help. She had to check, then she was out of there. MaryAnn increased her speed and gave the body space as she circled in front of it.

The girl’s face was gnawed off. Her pink hoodie was torn in front and ragged bits of organ and flesh hung limply from the wounds. The rest of her innards were gone.

Eaten.

MaryAnn glanced down all four streets since she was in the middle of the intersection. To her right a little red truck and a sedan were tangled by a gas station. There were more bodies down there scattered around the mess. Left was a bar and assortment of shops. The bar windows were shattered. Glass glittered in the sunlight.

“Hey!”

She spun around to face the street opposite her truck. A man leaned out from a windowless metal door next to a grocery store. He waved his hand at her, beckoning.

The guy wasn’t familiar. MaryAnn had her home waiting for her, her animals. She had to get out of there. Being stuck in a city was the last place she wanted to be. She turned to head back towards her truck when proof of her worst fears shambled towards her.

Blood coated their mouths, hands, and chests from the flesh they’d gorged. Some were missing limbs. Even from where MaryAnn stood she saw the glassy whites of their eyes. What shocked her was that they weren’t groaning. Besides the faint sound of their shuffling against the pavement, they were silent. She hadn’t expected that.

They had to have been drawn by the sound of the truck. There were six of them coming towards it. Four were already in front of it. How had they snuck up on her like that? Had she been so horrified with the scene around her she hadn’t heard?

There was no time to criticize herself. Now was time to survive. If she let them get closer, she could run around them and hop into the truck. No problem. She could use the axe hybrid Trucker’s Friend to take out a few if she had to along the way.

Behind her, the man began shouting. “You’re going to die out there! They’re coming!”

Of course they’re coming, they’re right in front of me! MaryAnn thought and ignored him.

“Seriously, you’re gonna…oh, shi—“

The door slammed. MaryAnn cast a glance behind her and realized the man wasn’t talking about the shambling undead. There were creatures running towards her. At first her brain couldn’t comprehend what she was seeing. They were humanoid but there were too many spindly limbs jutting from their torsos, their heads too bulbous. Monsters even worse than the undead.

MaryAnn’s only option was to run. She couldn’t fight that many and she didn’t even know what they were. The zombies near her truck were closing in and the fast mutants were closing in, too. She went down a street away from both of them as she looked for anywhere to hide. The mutants were quick and she couldn’t outrun them.

She followed her gut instincts and turned into a narrow alleyway away from her pursuer’s view. There were doors into the buildings on either side of her which she tugged at. All were locked.

“Here! Over here!”

A boy no older than ten peeked through a door up ahead. MaryAnn ran as fast as she could, not worried about who the boy was or why he wanted to help her, and darted into the building.

Her eyes had to adjust to the darkness of the room. They were in the back of a kitchen. It smelled like spices and meat, and MaryAnn realized she was in the kitchen of the roadhouse off Main Street. The boy flicked a deadbolt closed and put his finger to his lips.

“You have to be quiet. They’ll hear you.”

“What are they?” MaryAnn whispered. “What’s going on?”

The boy didn’t answer and lead her deeper into the kitchen. “Dunno. My brother said the fast ones are genetically mutated monsters from Area 51.”

“We’re nowhere near Nevada.”

He shrugged. “All I know is when they get one of us, they have a long tongue and they’ll sting you with it. Then you turn into a zombie. I’ve seen it happen a bunch.”

He sat down on a step stool by a rack of spices. There were bottles of pop and chips around him. It looked like he’d been there a while. MaryAnn sat down next to him, her ears still straining to hear anything outside. So far it had been quiet.

“Where’s your family? How long has this been going on?”

“Mmm…” he looked up at the ceiling as he thought. “Been here three days. We were getting ice cream on family night and the first one of those monsters came into the shop and started grabbing people and stingin’ ‘em. We ran out but there were a lot of them. They make nests in some of the shops, like webs and slime. I saw one yesterday.”

“And your family?”

Pain flashed across his face. “I don’t know.”

MaryAnn sat on the floor and rubbed her temples. She had to get herself and the kid out of town. This was the most dangerous place to be. She thought of the Ellsworth AFB not too far away. If this was something global, she had to think long term. That was a good place to bug out to. Worst case scenario she could drive any direction and be in the Badlands.

“We need to get to my truck. If we make a distraction we can run back and drive out of here. You can come with me.” She looked around the kitchen as she tried to come up with ideas. “What do you say?”

The boy didn’t answer. Finally MaryAnn looked at him and found him staring at the double doors to the rest of the restaurant.

One of the monsters stared in at them through the porthole. Eerily quiet, its head was twice the size of a human’s, with an extra set of poorly developed eyes adjacent to the normal humanoid set. Its skin was mottled and small spines poked out through it as though it were shedding its skin. The mouth was gaping and full of small sharp teeth.

When it realized MaryAnn saw it, it rushed into the room. Its extra limbs flailed as they reached out for them. One of its hands caught the boy and hauled him into the air.

MaryAnn gripped the Trucker’s Friend and swung with everything she had. The sharp blade edge cut through the spindly arm like it was nothing. The appendage fell to the ground and the boy scrambled away. The monster squealed in pain, disoriented and stumbling. MaryAnn took advantage of that and brought the hammer end of the Trucker’s Friend down onto its head. It cracked as it made contact and, to her surprise and relief, brought the monster down.

“There’s more! Run, come on!” The boy’s hand tugged at her shirt.

MaryAnn looked past the swinging doors. The group of monsters and zombies she ran from moments ago were filtering into the restaurant. She let the boy lead her through the back exit again. The alley was clear.

She headed the opposite direction they came in hopes of looping back to the truck instead of taking the same route. The boy was faster than her but stayed within range. MaryAnn was grateful for his presence. He’d saved her life back there. She planned on returning the favor.

As they exited the alleyway and headed back to her truck, she checked behind her. There were zombies shambling about now, perhaps drawn out by the commotion. None were close enough to pose a threat. She and the boy made it to her truck and she was glad they took a different route to it.

There were dozens of undead in the intersection where the girl’s body was. If they’d come that way, they surely would’ve died.

MaryAnn checked the truck before they entered. She wasted no time turning it on and turning around in the street before speeding out of the city. She checked her rearview mirror and saw more of the multi-limbed monsters following. They stopped just outside the city, pacing like animals. For reasons unknown to her, they did not follow.

Now that she was safe, she let out a shaky laugh. “It couldn’t just be a normal zombie apocalypse, could it?”

After a moment, the kid grinned. “Nope. I guess it couldn’t.”

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Zompocalypse Short: Paul’s Story

In November one of my giveaway gifts was a short story featuring the winner as a zombie apocalypse survivor. The giveaway is done through my mailing list which is at my website www.eloisejknapp.com.

For these giveaway short stories I ask the fan what their weapon of choice would be and if there was anyone they wanted to suffer a gruesome death. This time I also asked Paul, “Despite all the bad stuff, what would you look forward to most about the zompocalypse?” Part of his answer was to meet Cyrus V. Sinclair. I had to oblige. =)

zompocshortpaul

 

Paul tried to ignore the noises coming from his coworker’s cubicle. If Aaron was sick, he needed to tell the boss and go home. No more of this groaning and wet wheezing to get attention. Sometimes people did that to set the stage for a more believable exit. They’d mention an upset stomach early in the day, or really play up on some sniffles. When the right moment struck, they announced they were feeling under the weather.

Everyone did it at one point or another.

Willing himself to focus on anything but his coworker, Paul instead focused on his weekend plans. It was Thursday. One more day to go until escape. His bonsai trees needed pruning and him and his wife Sunshine planned on having a relaxing, quiet weekend.

Wheeze. Hmmmffff. Wheeeezze hmmff.

Would the guy ever stop? Paul hoped Aaron would stand up and announce he needed to head out soon so Paul could get some work done free from distraction.

On cue, Aaron released a loud, shuddering wet cough.

Thump. 

A hush went over the office. Two cubicles over, someone called, “Is everything okay?”

No response. Paul shifted in his chair. He was the closest one to Aaron. People probably assumed he’d check. He didn’t want to, but something did sound wrong and he wasn’t a bad person. He stood and peered over the edge of the wall divider.

Paul’s breath caught in his throat. Aaron was dead. Stone cold dead. Paul knew it the moment he saw the ashen face, the glazed bloodshot eyes. There was a sheen of sweat across his skin. He was slumped forward at his desk, his face turned towards Paul.

“Is he okay?” a woman asked.

“Should we call 911?”

Just as Paul opened his mouth to answer, Aaron’s shoulder twitched. At first he wasn’t sure if he was imagining it, but Aaron did it again. This time it was a violent jerk, the force so intense it brought Aaron back into upright position like a demented puppet.

A primal instinct screamed at Paul to run, but another part made his body stone. He was afraid. Aaron had been dead. Now he wasn’t. That wasn’t right. It didn’t make sense.

Tina, the building receptionist, marched up to the desk. “What is wrong with you people? If–”

Aaron sprung into action, flinging himself at Tina. His mouth clamped onto her exposed shoulder and tore a meaty hunk from it. Blood spattered across the cubicle wall and covered Aaron’s face. He tilted his head up to the ceiling and released a ragged howl.

It was as though the world had been on pause and now everything—everything—was happening at once. The building shook as some kind of explosion outside rocked it. The electricity flickered and dust fell from the ceiling. People scrambled like cockroaches in all directions, Aaron the light source driving them away. Aaron spun and honed in on his nearest target: Paul.

Paul managed to raise his hands up before Aaron’s hurtling body could knock him down. His hands were firm against his chest, holding the wild dead man at bay. Aaron’s bloodied fists opened and closed as he reached for Paul’s face. His breath was putrid, saliva and blood seeping from his mouth.

Aaron pushed forward, knocking Paul flat against his cubicle wall. “Help! Someone help!”

Not a soul answered. In fact, most of his coworkers had already disappeared, leaving Paul alone to fight the…

Zombie. His mind offered the word quickly and he accepted it right away. Aaron was a zombie. The only way to kill one was to disable the brain.

He had to do something and quick. He scanned his desk and spotted a pair of bonsai pruning shears near a stack of papers. Paul always had shears somewhere near him. He shoved Aaron as hard as he could, sending his assailant tumbling to the ground.

In a flash he grabbed the shears and tried to take a defensive stance just as Aaron was up again and charging.

Paul dodged and let Aaron run straight into the wall. He pushed him onto the ground and set his knee on Aaron’s back to keep him pinned. Both hands on the shears, he brought them down with as much force as he could muster.

At first there was the resistance against the skull, but only for a moment. The shears broke bone, it sunk into soft brain matter. Aaron’s body went limp.

Adrenaline pumped through Paul’s body. His hands shook. He felt lightheaded. His survival instinct took over and helped get him to his feet. Paul had to get home safely to his wife at all costs. He wiped his bloody hands on some tissues at his desk and donned his jacket. The stairwell to the back of the building was his closest exit.

There was a blood trail in the stairs by the elevator. It went down three flights, a bright red brushstroke down the concrete. Paul stepped around it as best as he could. Who knew blood was so damn slick?

Finally at the bottom, he pushed open the exit to outside. White, wintry light blinded him momentarily before his eyes adjusted. As far as he could see was destruction. Flashing lights of emergency service vehicles, smoke from buildings, the popping of gunfire. All at once the apocalypse began. It was just like he thought it would be.

Oddly enough, that didn’t comfort him. The apocalypse he always thought of was full of terrible people, death, and hardship.

Two women ran by him, their faces streaked with blood and sweat. He didn’t recognize either of them. They made it a hundred feet down the road when three zombies came from out of nowhere and tackled them to the ground.

Paul forced himself to focus on the task at hand. His car was in a parking garage one building over. The newly arrived zombies were right in the way. He’d have to circle around the other side of his building.

As he turned the corner he saw a gift from heaven. A car was idling by a parking meter, the driver’s door open. On the sidewalk beside it, a zombie burnt almost to a crisp was leaning over what Paul imagined was the driver. Even from where Paul stood he heard the crunching and popping of the zombie eating human flesh.

Paul staved off a wave of nausea and rushed the car. He slid into the driver’s seat and slammed the door, bracing himself for the crispy zombie to attack.

Seconds passed. Paul couldn’t help but peer out the window. The zombie had absolutely no interest in him. The loops of intestines flopping around its hands and mouth were much more desirable.

Grateful for the find, Paul put the car into drive and stepped on it. Now he could add car theft to murder. If the world made it through this, would people like him be held accountable for their actions? Killing Aaron had been self-defense.

Hypothetical technicalities were the least of his worries. The streets were congested with people and zombies running about. Not as many cars as he expected were trying to navigate the streets yet. Sunshine would call the traffic ‘sluggish’.

Sunshine. He should call her and let her know he was safe. Make sure she was safe! He reached into his pocket for his cellphone.

Thug-kunk!

Paul slammed on the breaks. He hit someone. The person in question was a few feet in front of the car. It must’ve been some kind of soldier. He was decked out in black tactical gear, helmet included, and had a combat rifle on his back.

The man shifted and got to his knees. Shit. Killing Aaron was one thing. Leaving this stranger who he hit was another. Paul got out of the car and ran over to him.

“Are you ok?”

“Ok? You fucking hit me.”

Paul went to help him up, but the man pushed his arm away. “I’m sorry. Maybe you shouldn’t have been running in the middle of the street?”

“There’s a horde of them coming straight for us. I suggest we get the fuck out of here.”

“Get in,” Paul said and returned to his stolen car.

As he walked he noted the direction the man came from. Down the road at least a dozen zombies were running straight for them.

Yet the man took his sweet time getting to the car and sliding into the passenger seat.

The second the door was shut, Paul sped out of the area and towards home. The man hadn’t spoken yet, though he had removed his helmet. He sported flaming red hat head and pale skin. He opened his backpack and was rifling through it. Paul caught glimpses of colorful packaging.

“Is that candy?”

“Yeah. Got a problem with that?”

Paul focused on the road. He didn’t notice any official markings on the man. He could easily be some insane fanatic gun nut.

“Make a right up here. My apartment is just up ahead.”

“No, I need to get home. I nee—”

The man deliberately pulled a handgun from his side and set it across his lap. “Make a right.”

Any detour from home did not sound appealing, but the guy had a gun. Paul didn’t. He was kind of crazy. Paul wasn’t. Doing what he said seemed to be the only option.

“Who would’ve thought it would be Zs, right?” The man tore open a bag of Sour Patch Kids and popped a few into his mouth. “Maybe economic collapse or world war. Not the walking dead. Left here.”

The pulled in front of an old brick apartment building.

“But no matter what the End was going to be, I could handle it.” He exited the car and pulled on his pack. He leaned down and grinned at Paul. “Cyrus V. Sinclair. The V stands for versatile, after all.”

He slammed the door and left, leaving Paul dazed. If those were the kinds of people who’d survive the apocalypse, the world was in trouble.

Paul got back on track and soon exited the city. Outside of the main urban area the roads were much quieter. Paul thought it looked like a normal Thursday afternoon. Only his morbid thoughts of killing Aaron and seeing all the zombies were out of the ordinary.

It took another twenty minutes before he was cruising into his neighborhood. Moments later he was at his house, running up the steps to his front door. It was locked—for which Paul was grateful—and the entire neighborhood appeared untouched from the chaos inside the city.

When he entered, he heard his African grey parrots Tucker and ILA excited ruckus that he was home. But other than that, it was quiet.

“Sunshine?” he called out.

Nothing. He yelled again as he moved through the house.

He was about to panic when he heard her coming downstairs. “Paul!”

The sight of her made Paul’s heart and spirit lift. She had the BFH—Big f’n hammer—clutched in her hands. It was obvious she was on edge, but when she saw him she set the hammer down. They met halfway embraced.

“I was down at the store when this lady went ballistic and started attacking people.” Sunshine turned her cheek onto Paul’s other shoulder. “It was terrible. I came back here and got the hammer. I’ve been trying to call you but none of my calls are making it through.”

He squeezed her tightly. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Just shook up. What happened to you?”

“I was at work and then Aaron turned into a zombie, and I had to kill him. I stole a car to drive back here, then there was this crazy guy with a ton of guns and candy.” Paul stopped. “It’s a weird story.”

They both were silent, still glad to be with each other once again.

“What are we going to do?” Sunshine asked.

Paul pulled away and smiled. “We’re home now. We’re safe together. I don’t know about you, but this is exactly where I want to be.”

Sunshine gave him a million watt smile. “Agreed.”

It seemed like that weekend Paul’s was dreaming about started early. And was never going to end.

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The Undead Ruins: Sneak Preview

The Undead Ruins

A decade after the apocalypse started, Cyrus V. Sinclair, a mercenary for the leader of three survivor settlements, is part of a world repeating its mistakes. With most of the undead turned to dust and raiders giving up, everyone thinks they’re safe behind city walls.

But after a town is brutally massacred, it seems no one is safe. Well-hidden, numbering in the thousands, and controlled by a new merciless leader, the crazies are stronger than ever before. When a familiar symbol keeps appearing amidst the chaos, Cyrus realizes an old enemy is back.

Despite the turmoil, Cyrus finally sees things clearly. He has one goal: destroy the Brotherhood or die trying.

***

April 25th, 2015–the release date for The Undead Ruins–seems very far away. In the meantime, I wanted to give everyone a glimpse of the first chapter of TUR and talk a bit about context. If you’re not interested in this, feel free to skip down to Chapter 1!

Shortly after The Undead Haze, Cyrus and Blaze went on a crazy-killing-rampage just like they planned. They cleansed the post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest of as many of them as they could find. But their momentum couldn’t last forever. Resources dwindled along with their strength. After months of barely surviving, desperate and hungry, they accepted help from a survivor’s colony. Eventually the colony leader gave them an ultimatum: stay and help or leave. With intent on extorting supplies from the colony and jumping ship once they had enough, Cyrus and Blaze agreed. But as the years passed and habits formed, the new world engulfed them. This first chapter is a look into what their new life is like.

***

Chapter 1

So this is what it feels like to know every person in the room hates you.

132 people—soon to be 131—crowded the main hall of the settlement. They were a single entity, breathing and hating me in sync, wishing I was the one who had to die instead of…
Katie? Cassie? I didn’t even know the girl’s name. Then again, I didn’t care. I stood on the center stage, trusty Glock in hand, waiting to execute the sixteen year old girl who defied the town’s rules. They’d set up old tarps around her to catch the blood.

Months from now, some poor soul would find a stray drop and think of Candy. Or Katlyn, or whoever she was.

It was better to forget her humanity.

Jon Dynan’s town chose to opt into the execution plan Valtown offered newly developing settlements two years ago. No exceptions. If you didn’t like it, you didn’t move there. Once you were in, you had to abide by the rules forever. Yet the settlers acted like it was some unwanted force taking her away.

Dynan himself stood beside me delivering an obligatory pre-execution speech. He gently reminded the town that the girl hid her mother’s death for two weeks, resulting in the demise of her brother and father. It could’ve cost everyone their lives if the Zs escaped. In the small confines of the settlement, all it would take was one zombie. There was no room for people who didn’t follow the rules. If a neighbor hadn’t smelled the rotting corpses and reported them, who knows what would’ve happened.

Scratch that. I knew what would’ve happened, because I’d seen it before.

Valtown offered the execution plan after an incident in Surville three years ago. Someone turned into a zombie, someone didn’t report it, and half the town was wiped out. It was devastating to everyone in Valtown. Surville was second in food production next to Brickston. The plan was incentive to be a good, tattletale citizen. Be a functioning member of society or the big baddies will come and put a bullet through your head.

At first it was an exaggerated warning that no one thought the town leaders would follow up on. Then some people broke the rules, and Blaze and I came to execute.

I’d been to this settlement, too useless to even have an official name, four times before. They whispered ‘savage’ and ‘murderer’ when I walked by. Seven years after the apocalypse and people were still looking for new sources to blame. Zombies weren’t good enough any more. They were piles of papery skin and bones, millions of them turned to dust, only some capable of moving. Now it was me, or Arbuckle, or Blaze that became the enemy.

“Carrie was a good girl, as we all know. One who would always lend a helping hand to anyone who asked.” With a smile, Jon Dynan looked at each of his townspeople. Just the right amount of sorrow, hope, and insight. “It is unfortunate we have to lose such a bright person.”

I bet he was a politician in his previous life.

Carrie was stoic. She slumped in the chair, her breathing shallow. The resignation coming off her scared me. Children of the apocalypse were strange.

Really, he could have said anything about the girl because he wasn’t the one doing the dirty work. I doubted a single fucking person was listening to him. It’s me they were looking at. Cyrus V. Sinclair—mercenary, and now child killer.

***

“How did it go?” Blaze didn’t stop sharpening her combat axe to look at me when she asked.

“It went great. The whole town cheered when I squeezed the trigger, thanked me as I left, and asked me to kiss their babies on the way out. Like they do every time.”

She made a noise between acknowledgment and an indifferent grunt. “If someone hadn’t reported it—”

“I know,” I said.

“No one in that town even remembers how to use a gun, or any weapon for that matter. They would be massacred in a heartbeat.” Blaze ignored me and rested the axe against her leg. “They’re the beginning of how things used to be. Before. It’s funny how their settlement is so well fortified, but they’re also the least essential to the survival of the rest of the towns. Surville and Brickston are agriculture. Valtown is the big hub, controls everything, and houses all the firepower. What the fuck does Dynan’s settlement do? Plant flowers and have barbeques to raise morale?” She shook her head and resumed sharpening.

I agreed with her completely. She knew that. But bitching about how society was becoming a bunch of lazy reliant idiots again was one of our common, and favorite, conversations.

“That’s what happens when they don’t have to protect themselves,” I said. “Valtown never should’ve started doling out protection. That was the beginning of the end. As soon as these towns could exist without a purpose, it was over.”

Blaze’s eyes bored into mine. After all these years, I still couldn’t read her when she didn’t want me to. “It gets easier to kill the young ones.”

Ah. A topic shift. Hadn’t seen that one coming.

“I hope so. At the rate we come here, I’ll be tossing babies over the wall next month.”

I hadn’t killed someone alive who was as young as Carrie before. It was beyond me how, after a decade since the first dead resurrected. Blaze always did it, should need arise. I wondered if she liked it or if she was saving me from the job.

I hoped for the latter, worried it was the former.

She sheathed the axe and pulled a hand rolled cigarette from its shiny tin case. Lighting up was her way of signaling the end of a conversation. “We’re headed back then?”

“No. Arbuckle radioed while we were at Dynan’s. Someone thinks they saw a hoarder in a house on the way back. We’re checking it out before returning. Give a report.”

“Great. None of those have panned out in months.” Blaze took a drag and blew it between her teeth.

I rolled down my window. It was one of those days I wished we could’ve ridden motorcycles, but Valtown made us take medical supplies and food to Dynan. Our bikes were too small to carry the crates. The cold wind rushing around me was what I needed to shake the fog of what I’d just done.

After two tries, the truck sputtered to life. We drove in silence to the main gate. It took thirty minutes before they let us out. A rare smattering of zombies had gathered and were being dispatched with melee weapons while we waited. Eventually they moved us through the primary and secondary entries and we were on our way.

The forests blurred by as we sped back to our next destination. The landscape shifted from dense trees to open fields of overgrown grass. We were in the flood lands.

“Arbuckle is training more people to do what we do. Doesn’t need us as much these days,” I said, breaking the silence. “If he doesn’t have anything else for us, and I don’t think he will, we could leave.”

I could feel sadness emanating off her, coming at me in waves. I knew what she thought. I regretted mentioning anything to do with the future, so I tried saving myself. “We could do whatever we wanted.”

“Maybe. Or maybe you were going to say ‘let’s gather supplies and leave next year’ like you always do?”

I steered around a shambling zombie in the middle of the road. It was an old rotter, his skin stretched so tight across his bones it looked like he’d crumble any second. The right tire caught in a bad pothole, sending us lurching forward before we evened out. I watched in the mirror as he made a futile attempt to follow the truck.

Blaze took a deep breath, exhaling smoke at her reflection in the window. “Things aren’t like they used to be, Cyrus. Fuck, it’s like we’re having a midlife crisis. Unhappy with our jobs but what else are we going to do?”

She was right. We weren’t necessarily captive to Arbuckle. We could leave whenever we wanted. But sometimes it felt easier to be a part of the developing society he’d made than to go back to suffering like before. It wasn’t like the first year of the apocalypse, where we always had food and ammo. Back then you could hotwire almost any car and know the gas was still good.

“We could leave the state and try killing crazies somewhere else. We’ve got so many supplies in the nest egg, bet we could survive off that alone for at least a year,” I said.

“Or we could start looking for Beau again.”

We both knew this was always on her mind, the thought of him forever lurking. It was in the dull lifelessness of her eyes, the flatness of her voice. Above all else, Blaze was rational. Her fervor in searching for him was admirable, but even the strongest people were worn down with time. She’d never said she’d given up, not directly. Yet she didn’t search buildings quite like she used to. Before killing them, she used to interrogate the crazies for any useful information.

Not any more. Getting no closer to finding him took its toll on her. She hadn’t brought it up in weeks. I was surprised she did now.

“Yeah, we could. If you wanted to.” I spotted the hoarder house in the distance. “Hey, there’s the place. We’ll talk about this later, okay?”

She nodded and put her game face on. She pulled deeply on her cigarette twice to finish it, then crushed it in the ashtray.

I never told Blaze I believed Beau was as good as dead. I never righted the lie I told her to stop her from leaving me. As long as I had leverage, she wouldn’t go. But the longer I lived with it, the harder it was to tell her. It was impossible now.

People always say, if you love something set it free. I found that keeping it captive worked just as well.

But not a day went by that I didn’t regret it.

 

Please note: this excerpt may not reflect the final product that will be published through Permuted Press in 2015. It is subject to change.

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Zompocalypse Short: Daniel’s Story

In September one of my giveaway gifts was a short story featuring the winner as a zombie apocalypse survivor. The giveaway is done through my mailing list which is at my website www.eloisejknapp.com.

For these giveaway short stories I ask the fan what their weapon of choice would be and if there was anyone they wanted to suffer a gruesome death. What Daniel said surprised me. “Life’s too short to hate anyone.” I thought that was awesome. It wasn’t what I expected and it made me think. I wanted this story to reflect something I rarely touch on in the zombie apocalypse, which is the good side of humanity.

danielsstory

Daniel covered Jordan as he shoved cans of food into a plastic bag, feeling optimistic about their find. His gaze never settled in any one spot on the tiny convenience store. You were knew where the dead would be lurking.

Chili, baked beans, pickled beets. Almost three cans of each. Plus they’d found a few packages of jerky in the convenience store break room. This was a feast, more food than they’d had in weeks.

Jordan hefted the pack onto his shoulders. He grinned. “It’s heavy.”

“Not for long,” Daniel said. “I’m starving. Back to base?”

“Yep. Quick and quiet. Let’s go.”

The two paused at the entrance to the quickie store, taking a look outside. Thick lazy snowflakes drifted to the ground, adding to the already five inch deep layer. The snow made things difficult, but it also helped them see any tracks left by the undead. The only set of prints was theirs coming from down the street directly to the convenience store.

Daniel’s heart pounded in his chest, but he kept his nerves in check. He clutched the suppressed .22 handgun and strained to hear any groans or shuffling. The snowfall dampened sounds.

No matter how many times they left to find food, it didn’t get easier. They still feared for their lives, or that they wouldn’t find any food at all.

“Clear, come on,” Daniel said.

He went first. They followed their own footsteps exactly, using the indents to make their progress home a little quicker. Neither Jordan or Daniel liked trudging in the snow longer than they had to. The city might look abandoned, but it wasn’t. There were zombies. Other survivors who had bad intentions. All hidden and waiting for the right moment.

They turned left at a daycare. Behind the chain link fence trikes and toys were all smooth mounds of snow. The door was open–had been open since forever–and the skeleton of a kid was halfway out. Daniel looked away and focused on the pig plumes of white coming from his mouth. They needed to find a different route. He hated walking by the daycare.

After another block they were in front of base. At three stories, the office building was the tallest structure in the town. It was the newest, too, built only a couple years ago. The colors were tan and blue with white trim, and a peaked roof had a giant clock. It was supposed to look classy. Daniel and Jordan chose it for its vantage point. If they climbed up the service ladder they could see through little windows across the entire town.

Daniel kept watch while Jordan moved a bench from the front doors. It wouldn’t do much to keep out humans, but it was good enough to keep the dead out. He unlocked the doors and they shuffled inside. They waited five minutes, listening and waiting for any signs someone followed them. Satisfied they were alone, they took off their gear and settled in. If they were lucky, they wouldn’t have to leave for another week.

***

The chili steamed on the small propane stove, its scent filling the office they designated as a kitchen. Daniel’s stomach rumbled. He was so hungry it hurt. The last time they ate was four days ago; canned pineapple and Vienna sausages. The pineapple gave him canker sores.

“I think it’s hot enough,” Daniel said. He clutched his metal spork in hand.

Jordan used the sleeve of his jacket to move the can in front of Daniel. “Definitely. Here you go, man.”

It tasted like heaven. He shoveled in two bites before he realized he’d burnt his mouth terribly. Daniel gulped down some melted snow from a beat up plastic cup and made himself slow down. They ate in companionable silence until Jordan–as usual–started talking.

“I always thought when the zpoc happened I’d go kill my boss over at Dairy Queen. I regret not doing it. Hell, there’s a lot of people I would’ve offed if I had the chance. What about you? Who did you want to revenge kill?”

“No one.”

“What? You’re kidding.”

“Life’s too short to hate anyone, so no,” Daniel said. “I never dreamed of the zombie apocalypse happening so I could kill someone or get revenge. That just isn’t me.”

Jordan took a big bite of his chili and spent a good minute chewing it. He had a pensive expression and Daniel could tell wheels were turning. Finally, he shrugged. “Good on you, I guess.”

Even though he and Jordan had been survival companions for two months now, they rarely spoke about life Before. It was painful for Daniel. He’d lost everyone within the first couple weeks. A year later did nothing to mend the grief or depression. There was a permanent bleakness to the world that, he imagined, would be there until the last living person died.

Lately Daniel wasn’t sure what he was living for. Not Jordan. He wasn’t a friend. He was a nice guy, but Daniel always suspected he’d leave him for dead if he ever had to. He hadn’t encountered living people for months. Before that, the ones he did were terrible or wanted nothing to do with him. If there was nothing in life to live for, living was pointless. He was going through motions, nothing more.

Despite their constant hunger and the bleakness of their lives, Jordan enjoyed it all. He liked killing zombies. He’d killed living people too, in self defense he claimed, and was not fazed by it. He liked not having anyone rely on him.

Those kinds of thoughts were what kept Daniel awake at night. He imagined some day his last drop of hope would evaporate and he’d feel it, like a shift in his body, and he wouldn’t want to live anymore. Or worse, he’d be like Jordan.

His chili gone, Daniel rinsed the can and his spork, and went to his sleeping bag. He slipped out his pocketknife and faced the wall, adding another tiny line to the tally of days survived.

***

“Daniel! Daniel wake up.”

His eyelashes were frozen shut. Daniel had to cover his face with his hands and exhale hot breath to free them. When he looked up, Jordan was already going up the ladder to the clock.

“What is it?”

“People.”

Daniel’s stomach tightened into a knot. People could mean a lot of things. They could be raiders who’d kill them for fun or their supplies. They could be other survivors who needed help, more help than they could give. Or, what Daniel hoped, they were better off and would help him and Jordan.

He wiggled out of his sleeping bag and followed Jordan up the ladder. At the top was a narrow walkway just below the clock. There were tiny rectangular windows overlooking one side of the town.

“Morris street,” Jordan said. “Oh God. They’re headed to the FEMA camp. Gonna be a blood bath.”

About a half mile down Morris, four adults and two children walked single file down the snowy road away from the tower. Daniel knew they were following signs to the old FEMA camp. It was set up just outside of town a month into it all and was overrun with dead a week after. The dead congregated there for some reason, their bodies statues inside tents and trucks. It was why Daniel and Jordan were so quiet; loud noises might draw the horde deeper into the town.

“We need to stop them,” Daniel turned and began descending the ladder. “They’re going to die.”

Jordan leaned over the edge, but did not follow. “Let them go, man. They’ll be at the camp before you can catch up with them.”

“I have to do this.” Daniel hustled down the ladder and grabbed his suppressed handgun. He couldn’t explain to Jordan why he needed to try and save the people outside. The guy wouldn’t understand.

He removed the barricade from the door. Suddenly Jordan was behind him and helped pull the bench aside.  “I’m not going. I’m staying here. But you can come back if you make it.”

Daniel gave him a curt nod. His body felt electric as adrenaline coursed through his veins. He descended the steps and broke into a full run around the building towards the group.

When he realized how far he had to go before he met up with him, it didn’t discourage him. It made him work harder. He eventually caught up with the path they’d already cut in the snow and used that to his advantage and picked up speed. He clutched his gun tightly, eyes scanning the buildings flanking him. So far no dead.

After another few minutes he caught up. He spotted them clamoring on top of an overturned humvee. About fifty yards away was the FEMA camp. Six undead were shuffling towards the group, but made terribly slow progress in the snow. There were already four around the humvee trying to scramble up. It was an awful idea going up there to begin with; more would congregate around them and then they’d have no chance of escape.

Daniel was a good shot, but with little ammo every shot had to count. He used the dead’s distraction to his advantage and crept up behind the first. With his gun pointed directly at its head, he fired. The bullet went through its soft, rotten skull and ricocheted off the humvee. Daniel’s heart skipped a beat at the sound. He needed to be careful.

His action drew the attention of the two nearest him. The first tripped over the body of its comrade and tripped, its head landing conveniently at Daniel’s feet. He saved a bullet and crushed it’s skull in with the heel of his boot. The skull caved in and the monster stopped moving.

One of the survivor’s on the humvee leaned over the vehicle and used the butt of his rifle to knock down the other undead. It turned to its assailant and Daniel closed in, pointed the gun at its head and pulled the trigger.

There was still one left. Daniel closed in on it and put it down with one of his last rounds. Beyond, more zombies approached from the FEMA camp, drawn out by the noise.

“Get off there, quick!” Daniel shouted. “Before they get here!”

The biggest figure climbed down first and started helping the others down. Daniel came forward to help, too, but the survivor brought his shotgun up.

Daniel raised his hands in the universal sign of peace. “I don’t want any trouble.”

“Neither do we.”

“I came to warn you about that camp. There’s nothing there. Just a ton of dead. As you can see.”

The man was at least six feet. He stood in front of what must be his family with a protective stance. He glanced behind him at the two undead, the seemingly empty tents. “We need supplies.”

“There’s dozens in there. Once you get into the tents you’ll see. They’re just standing around. There might be supplies but you’ll die trying to get them.”

They were all off the humvee now. One of the adults came beside the man. Daniel couldn’t make out a gender—the figure was bundled with scarves and a hood–but when she spoke he heard an older woman’s voice. “I think we should trust him, Charles. He just saved us.”

“We can’t trust anyone, mom!”

That last drop of hope was threatening to vanish. Daniel knew why he wanted to save these people. He wanted to know, once and for all, if there was something worth living for. He didn’t know what he expected to happen. Part of him felt foolish. He’d risked his life, and ammunition, to rescue them and they were doubtful of his intentions.

“Listen,” Daniel said. He paused. What did he have to tell them to convince them? At a loss, he said, “I just wanted to help. That’s all.”

It must’ve been something in his voice. The man was silent, then nodded. “I believe you. It’s just, well…there aren’t good people out there anymore. We’ve come across a lot of bad ones.”

Good people. Daniel was a good person. It was easy to lose sight of it in this new world so wrecked from death and destruction. When you were isolated you lost sight of humanity. All that time in the clock tower, surviving but not living, ate away at him.

“We need to get out of here,” the older woman said as she looked back at the undead. “We live outside of town in a farm house. Do you need a place to stay?”

“We don’t have much,” the man said and shrugged. “But you’re welcome to.”

All he had was a bit of food and his sleeping bag at the clock tower. Nothing worth going back for. He knew Jordan wouldn’t come with them. Jordan just wanted to survive. He wanted to kill, to use the new world as an excuse. Daniel wanted something more. A new life—yes, a life—might be in store for him if he went with the people in front of him.

That inkling of hope shifted. Grew.

The man motioned for his family to start walking. He pulled his scarf away from his face, showing a stubbly chin. His eyes were a startling shade of green. “What do you say? We could always use help getting supplies and taking care of the place.”

Daniel managed to smile, for the first time in a year. “Yes. Thank you.”

 

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