Forest Park: A Zombie Novel (24 page)

BOOK: Forest Park: A Zombie Novel
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“That asshole doesn’t give a fuck about us, Officer Cook.”

It was Susan.

“I wouldn’t bother with the officer part. I have a feeling that the Forest Park police department is permanently closed for business.”

“And whose fault is that?” she said.

“What’s your problem, Susan?” Cook asked. “You must stop continuing to say the things you’re saying. It’s not helping anyone. Getting people on opposite sides won’t help the situation any.”

“I’m not getting people to choose sides, and I don’t just have the problem; we all have the same problem. And that problem is Tyler. Only moments before, Anderson saved his life, and for what? So he could be on the receiving end of a stream of abuse.”

As Susan spoke, Cook noticed her forehead was weeping blood.

“Are you okay, Susan?”

“Am I okay?” she said. “I’m fine, how about you?”

“Sorry,” Cook answered, “this is not about me.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” Susan said. “It’s about all of us.”

“I think you should lie down and relax, Susan. I’ll sort the food and drink out,” Cook offered.

Susan glanced over to Anderson as Cook was speaking to her. Tyler had no right, no right at all to speak to him like that.

“Concussion, I’ve seen it before, and it won’t be long...”

“What?” Susan said, her mind suddenly coming back into focus.

“I said it won’t be long until...” Before Cook could finish speaking, Susan had turned and walked away as if they had not been in the middle of a conversation at all.

We have a problem here, Cook thought, “and as soon as Tyler gets back, I’ll tell him so.”

 

 

 

TYLER STEPPED INSIDE

 

The gas station’s store was close to empty, excluding a few discarded magazines and newspapers that littered the floor. The mystery of what happened to the people remained, but the signs of where some had been at one time were everywhere. Most of the shelves were either empty or in disarray. The doors to the refrigerators had been left wide open, leaving only a few soda cans scattered on the floor.

The place had a feel to it, as if people had abandoned it long ago, long before the Dead begun to walk. It seemed stale, even the air was tasteless. He had a feeling that people didn’t belong there anymore. We need to fuel up and get out of here! This place is dead.

Tyler made his way over to the main counter, peeked over the top, and saw nothing, nothing hiding and waiting to jump out, anyhow. Looking up, he saw that the shelves that would normally hold the cigarettes were near empty.

He walked around the side of the counter and reached for one of the remaining packets.

If there ever was a time to take up smoking, then this is it
, he thought as he pocketed a lighter as well. “Welcome to the new world, a world where smoking is the least dangerous of things that can kill you.”

Taking some time to himself --- though it was in relatively short supply --- Tyler looked outside and saw what remained of his command.

A lieutenant who was out of his depths, a sergeant with a head injury and clearly hurting over the loss of his men, a police officer without a department to call home and a fat guy who according to Anderson, could speak Klingon. “Fucking brilliant!”

Not to mention that woman, who he watched converse with Cook until their conversation ended abruptly.

 

 

 

STAFF ONLY

 

Tyler attempted to open the door marked
Staff Only
, but found the door locked.

In one motion, he held the doorknob, and then firmly jammed his shoulder into the door. It cracked a little. He tried again; it had begun to give way. With one more distinctly heavier shove, he forced it open.

The room was near empty, except for a mop and bucket in the corner and some coats hanging on a set of stubby wooden hooks. Across from where he stood, was another door with a sign that said SWITCHBOARD and DANGER.

Thinking it locked, he gripped the door handle tightly, but to his surprise, it opened easily.

Some good luck for a change.

There was no generator.

“Damn.”

He then saw another door: EXIT.

“What the hell?” he said to himself and stepped outside.

At the rear of the gas station was a narrow alleyway.

To one side was a large bin, and on the other side was a long wall that ran down to another door.

It could be the generator room.

He had nothing to lose.

Raising his M16A4 to his shoulder, he moved along the wall in a slight crouch. The alleyway looked clear but old habits die hard.

As Tyler moved toward the other door at the far end, he missed a darkened figure slip through the open doorway behind him, and into the Gas Station.

 

Susan stood inside the gas station door, and glanced about her with the torchlight. Hardly any decent food remained; crisps aren’t really a food.

“So I’ve been reduced to Clark bars and soda?” she said to herself. “This day isn’t getting any better.”

As she waved the torch around some more, she saw that the fridges were left open. So she couldn’t even get a cold drink, forgetting about the lack of power, which she wanted so badly.

Then the thought began to cross her mind that maybe she should carry her gun, her new gun.

She had to protect herself regardless of what the others had said. Every man I have ever known has been a liar and a cheat. I’ll trust in me from here on in. I’ll believe in Susan Shaw, she thought as she felt for her Colt, hidden in her bag; she touched it with the tips of her fingers. We’ll play soon. I promise.

When Susan reached the front counter, she checked the register. It was empty, but she found some gum, which was a win in itself.

She opened the packet and popped a piece in her mouth. It was nice being alone for a while, nobody jabbering away in her ear. Maybe this wasn’t so bad at all; a girl could make a fresh start here. It’s a new world.

Under the counter were some boxes of plastic bags and another box with some more environmentally friendly options.

Being a campaigner for environmental change, Susan chose the eco-friendly carry bags, even though they didn’t seem as large as the others. Protecting the environment was a twenty-four-seven commitment, the planet couldn’t save itself. Susan Shaw wasn’t going to abandon her principles just because the world had undergone some changes.

Not that anyone would thank her.

It had always disappointed her when most people didn’t see her good side, the side of her that chose the eco-friendly bags, and who looked after losers like Charlie --- he’d be lost without me.

After popping some more gum into her mouth, Susan sauntered down the aisles containing the remaining food and other products. Pasta without any sauce, no coffee --- not even any hand cream.

“Okay then...” she said to herself. “This is the worst shopping experience I have ever had. No fruit, no yoghurt, no muesli, no bottled water.”

However, there were some diet sodas and regular. “I think I’ll take the diet, otherwise all that sweetness will go straight to my ass...”

Then out of the corner of her eye, Susan saw the shadows move. Her heart skipped a beat as she stepped backward. A thousand different scenarios suddenly ran through her head as she dropped her shopping and the torch to the ground. Forgetting her gun, she was about to scream. Then the shadow spoke.

“Susan, is there anything I can help you with?”

“Lieutenant, you startled me, don’t you have any soldiering to do?” she said with relief. Susan gave him a smile, and did her best not to look too startled.

“I sneaked in through the back door. I nearly ran into the captain, but I have the skills to give him the slip,” he said.

“Shouldn’t you be outside protecting the settler’s wagons?” she asked him. “And not in here, spying on me?” Susan was now a few feet away from him, but still further than she wanted, or needed.

“Williams is out there. Anyway we haven’t hooked up since...” he said as he placed his rifle on the counter.

“You don’t need to remind me,” she said as she leaned in and kissed him. “I enjoyed it too.”

Anderson placed his arms around her slender waist and pulled her closer to him. “I just thought that while we had a little time we could catch up...”

“Lieutenant, I didn’t know you were a romantic.”

Anderson’s hands moved down the sides of her body, deliberately taking in everything.

“Are you armed, Susan?”

She looked into his eyes. “Yes.”

“Good,” he answered before they kissed again. “We wouldn’t want anything to happen to you, would we?”

“No, we wouldn’t, Lieutenant Anderson.”

 

It was the sudden explosion of sound.

From across the way, dead eyes now watched.

What they saw was a blur; it didn’t make much sense to them. The vehicles scarcely existed, they’re of no use; they only reflected back at them --- obstacles; that’s what they were, shadows like themselves, useless and without thought, shadows and reflections.

All of them, the Dead that watched from across the way, were pure hunger with a primordial thirst for what stood before them --- past the obstacles, the trouble, a taste --- raw and unpolluted, flesh and movement; people, something alive and roaming --- a lust.

 

“Oh, fuck!” No generator, No anything.

Tyler kicked the earth.

What now?

He stepped back out into the alley behind the service station.

“What now? Why can’t anything go my freaking way?”

 

Williams removed his night-vision goggles.

His eyes were stinging from sweat, and his head throbbed. He still couldn’t believe they were all gone, his boys, gone. He wasn’t even conscious while they died, they died without him. He felt useless, but most of all, he felt bitter.

Reaching down into the Humvee, he grabbed a water bottle and tipped it over his face.

“That’s better...” he said to himself quietly, he didn’t want to draw any attention. The last thing he needed was a conversation.

Dropping the bottle, he gave his face a vigorous massage. He was tired, totally beat.

I’ll just close my eyes for a second, he thought, just a second.

Moments later, he was asleep.

 

“How long do you think it will take to get the pumps running?” Charlie asked Cook.

“Who knows if they’ll get ’em running at all?”

“You think they won’t?”

“I don’t know. The way things are going, we might have to siphon some gas from the cars out on the road. It’s better than nothing.”

Charlie nodded in agreement.

“Charlie, is Susan all right?” Cook asked.

“She’s fine,” Charlie answered him without hesitation.

“How’s that head of hers going? It looks like it’s opening up again, she should have it bandaged.”

“Susan said she doesn’t like bandages; they mess with her hair, and if we need to go live...”

“I think the days of going live are gone to hell, buddy.”

“Yeah. I don’t wanna get her down though, she tries really hard.”

“You don’t mind the way she talks to you?” Cook asked.

The question was very personal, and he didn’t expect much of an answer.

Charlie laughed. “It’s just friends ribbing each other; we’re a team,” he said, not really believing it himself.

He’s just as crazy as she is.

Anderson took a deliberate step away from Susan as he came to his senses. “Look, I’d better get out there,” Anderson said. “I really want this, and I want it now. I wish we were still on the base. We’d have all the time in the world together, like it was.”

“I do declare, Lieutenant Anderson, I think you have fallen for my womanly charms,” Susan said.

Anderson smiled.

“Before you go, Lieutenant!”

 

Anderson saw Tyler standing behind the counter.

“Any luck with your generator?” Susan asked.

Tyler didn’t look at her. “Not as yet. However, there’s always a solution.”

“Of course there is, Captain,” she replied, “you’d know.”

“Anderson, what’s the situation out front?” Tyler asked.

“No problems so far...” Anderson said. “It’s all under control. I only came inside to get Williams a drink; he’s really thirsty. It must be the head injury.”

“We’ve got water in the Humvee, use that next time.”

Susan rolled her eyes.

“What is your problem?” Susan asked Tyler.

Tyler stepped out from behind the counter.

“As of this moment, Miss Shaw, I have too many to list, and you’re only adding to the list.”

“So you’re going to blame everything on me?”

Tyler stepped closer to her. “Get over yourself and don’t interfere with my command.”

Susan laughed at him. “You do have some serious delusions of grandeur, don’t you, Captain? You don’t have a command any more. You abandoned it without a second’s thought,” she said.

Then seconds later, Lieutenant Anderson screamed, “WILLIAMS!”

 

The Dead felt drawn to the sounds which echoed through the silent night, the gun shot, engines, the sound of people talking and arguing; the sounds of life, sharp and erratic. Living souls had a sound like nothing else that surrounded the Dead; they had a color to them, a light which drew them to it, to life.

 

Anderson stepped outside and cursed himself; he felt disappointed that he had lied. He had never been a liar, and at no time ever felt the need to lie before. She had a hold on him. Those few short days after Susan had gained consciousness were like none other he had ever had. He’d never known a woman like her before. Susan was different; she made him feel vital.

Listening to them both argue inside did nothing to put his mind at ease. I need to focus; I need...

He saw some movement out there in the darkness, and lots of it.

“It could be the trees moving?” he said to himself as he raised his night-vision goggles.

There were dozens upon dozens of the Dead making their way toward them.

“WILLIAMS!”

Williams jolted awake.

BOOK: Forest Park: A Zombie Novel
10.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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