The walking dead got me writing...heres a short story

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tangomike
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18 Dec 2010, 5:22 pm

in World War Z style short story.

[i][b]Colonel Grant Nakagawa
442nd Light Infantry Regiment, Easy Company
Siuslaw National Forest, Oregon


Grant is a seemingly average man, 5’10 and a buck seventy five and has a face you'd see on a pre-war instructional pamphlet or as a movie extra. To me, his appearance and demeanor embodies everything about the word ‘average’, neither deficient nor proficient in any sense – but also embodies the best and worst in all of us. We met in Fort Hope, the defensive structure that saved Colonel Nakagawa and his entourage. The surrounding defenses are battered and pockmarked with holes.

This place wasn’t much when we hunkered down and it still isn’t, but its home to me. It’s every reason why my men and I survived Zach’s westward onslaught on Florence via the 36. Our company, well what was left of it anyway, was on the tail end of the evacuation of Eugene. Our job was to escort the civilians and make sure Zach didn’t follow us down the highway to Florence. We got along fine enough at first , we accomplished our initial orders– we eradicated the isolated outbreaks at the local hospital and the university and got the last of the residents out of town and on the move. But like the rest of the war Zach threw us a curveball about half way to the coast. A huge swarm came up the 44 and cut us off from the rest of the division 20 miles east of here by Triangle lake.
The sad thing about the whole thing is that the zombies who cut us off were once refuges fleeing north from San Francisco on the 101. Some families must have had infected members with them who reanimated enroute. Its inexcusable how it happened, those refugees were city folk, people who were born and bred in San Francisco and the surrounding areas. Like most Americans the idea of walking great distances no longer made much sense and it really evaded many peoples imaginations. Americans pride ourselves on being individualistic and able to think in unconventional ways- its what made us the successful country we were…but when the Great Panic swept over our country we were no different from people anywhere. (Lets out a sad laugh). Its ironic , those refugees on the 101 stayed in their cars honking rather than humping it on foot. Maybe they didn’t want their plasma tvs, xboxs and golf clubs to get stolen…maybe the idea of walking the rest of the way didn't even register with those city people until the dead were amongst them, I don't know. All I know is that they didn’t act quickly enough.
I saw a lot of that in Eugene too, those damn ex-hippies and college kids loading up their cars with bongs and coolers of beer …God bless em but they were stupid! Every frat boy offered me a beer, and every baked out hippie wanted me to take a hit of their joint. Now my college days were far behind back in the 80’s but in those moments I wanted nothing more than to puff up and relax. I almost did it too, until I realized that my giggling and humming of Bob Marley would quickly turn into a nightmare if and when Zach arrived. It would be enough to make every seasoned hippie go clean forever. (chuckles). I made them ditch all unnecessary baggage and only take food, water, clothes and anything that could pass as a weapon before getting underway.

[b][b]“What happened when the San Francisco horde arrive[/b]d?”[/b]

As I said earlier they came up the 44 by Triangle Lake, first in small packs and later into a torrential downpour of undead, there must have been literally a million zombies coming up the trail assuming all of the Bay area was lost. I took a fireteam up a ridge and surveyed the surrounding landscape with my ‘noculars…I got goosebumps. I couldn't see Zach clearly because of all the trees and winding roads but I saw enough movement to know we were about to be overrun. It was like…like…when you uncover an ants nest. You can’t see every ant individually but there are so many of them moving that you know there are enough to be worried about. The re-animated population of San Francisco staggering in our direction like a huge snake was no easy thing to digest. As we engaged the head of that snake, the rest of its long long body started arriving and started engulfing us. It was a grade A clusterf**k they came out of nowhere. From behind the trees, rocks and cars… and the darkness. A lot of the civilians and students panicked and fled instead of staying with our unit. Some tried to swim across the lake only to find themselves surrounded and waiting to drown or be mauled. (Shudders) Others ran into the forest maybe thinking they could lose Zach in the maze of trees. Stupid considering Zach operated on smell and sound, not necessarily by sight. Panic causes people to do stupid things.



“So how did you escape the zombie ambush into the National Forest without them following you?”

Oh believe me they followed us, hundreds of them. As sick as it sounds those idiots who ran off into the forest or swam into the lake saved us by distracting the bulk of the horde away from us. We ran in the opposite direction into the forests where Zach didn't come from.- we didn't even know it was a national reserve. My men were able to keep a cool composure too, I ordered them to only use silenced weapons to minimize attracting more Zach. The biggest surprise were the college kids, I thought they would be the first to perish because they were young and away from their parents for the first time…I didn't give them enough credit. Their football team, the Ducks, were in our group and their captain rallied all of the youngsters. He was dumb as a rock but he had what a wartime leader needed, charisma and a respectable standing with his peers…he was probably one of the most popular guys on campus. What was his name…Kev-no Clay. Clay Poehner, he did the unbelievable. Of all times to do it, he played football- no really he put on his helmet and pads and charged zombies that were assaulting his friends. He was being ingenious without realizing it, the helmet, facemask and padding protected him from bites and clawing and also gave him a huge physical edge over clumsy Zach. Pohener sent zombies flying and crushed a few in half. His teammates followed suit and we soon had very effective defensive tactic. The football players would knock back the dead who assailed other refugees and we would take them out with our silenced M-4s. Between the two of our groups we managed to knock off two of three hundred Zach who followed our smell and the shrieks.
We humped it for two days, never resting, always looking back nervously until we came to this spot. I saw that (Nakagawa points to a large stone formation blocking off the eastern portion of camp) and realized this was the best place to make a stand as any. We only a week or twos rations for all as we couldn't salvage any provisions during the ambush . We decided to hunker down for the time being. Its real funny how this rock wall is just here in the middle of the forest….I hear strange geographic and environmental phenomena occur in Oregon because of its unique position on the fault line and tectonic plates… Don’t quote me on that though.

“You got it, please go on”

Yeah…well so I sent out Pvt. Collins and Cpl. Rivera to check out the odd formations as soon as we came across it. They reported it to be clear so we set up camp there for the time being. They said the formation was unusual, it had an open area around on the other side. How could there be an open area in the middle of an otherwise densely vegetated forest?

(We walk to the other side, the shacks and vegetable patches are indeed constructed in a wide open spac[/i]e) [/b]
A few of the civilians with us were part of the university faculty- one of them gasped when he saw it and excitedly ran around the perimeter picking up rocks and what appeared to be decomposing wood. He was the head of the history department , Dr. Kenswick, not a great fighter but a brilliant man. He went on to explain that the Siuslaw Indians often used natural formations such as this as village sites if conditions permitted. In the 18th century apparently some tribes fled into the forests when the first pioneers started to displace them. Anyway, the rocks and decomposed wood he was looking at were parts of ancient walls and firepits….meaning that there was once a human encampment here! What kind of village chieftain would build a village without a water source? I sent out Collins and Rivera again since they were the fastest and they reported a creek one click to the east as well as various animals and wild berries in the area.

“So you had found a safe haven, were people relieved or were some still in panic?”

Hell no! Every guy in my regiment from myself down to the youngest grunt was still scared sh*tless, though we couldn't show it to the civilians. If their protectors couldn't keep it together how can we expect them to? I pulled out my maps and looked up our position, we got lucky again. In the chaos of the escape none of us really bothered to figure out what direction we were headed, our animal instincts just told us to get as far away from the slaughter as possible. Turns out we had gone north into a boxed in region of the national park- mountains on all sides but the way we came in. Since it was a National park it had to be uninhabited, meaning we didn't need to worry about swarms from behind, to the left or the right of us. You have no idea how relieved I was to learn that.
The civilians were exhausted, I knew we couldn't go much further so I took a vote. Keep going into the mountains where we’d be safe for sure but risk starvation and thirst…or stay here with water, land and a fighting chance. It was 453 ‘stays’ to 210 ‘keep going’s so I had my men start scouring the vicinity for useable fortifications and anything useful. At this point we had no idea we’d stay here for 3 full years, we were just content that we had found a reprieve from hundreds of thousands of the dead lumbering less than 10 miles away. Not everyone agreed with hunkering down, some of that 210 who disagreed went off on their own. I didn't stop them, there was no time, we had to build basic defenses, housing structures and other necessities like irrigation and arable farm land.

“But I thought engineers didn’t travel with Light infantry-“

No, no they didn’t. Us military guys didn’t have the know how to till the ground, dig wells or even know the basics of architecture. All we knew was how to kill the enemy, battlefield tactics and how to effectively pool our resources and that's what we did. It was the professors, the architecture majors, townspeople and the hippies who made this all happen. While my men and I toiled for weeks scouring the valleys for logs and other usuable wall building materials, the Eugenites and students had turned that open area into a small town. Hope started out with two big shacks that resembled those Viking longhouses and it grew each passing day. Under the supervision of the architecture profs the arch majors and Eugene folk worked together to raise new constructed from trees they chopped down…we had no botany professors though, and so I was a little nervous about our dwindling rations at first. Turns out the hippies were good for something after all, most of them had their own private gardens back home- be it of reefer or vegetables. Most had brought along seeds and even live seedlings because they wanted to save ‘life’ and created a large field for sustaining foods like potatoes and beets. With time we expanded those fields to include whatever you could imagine- carrots, beans, cabbage, onions, corn, celery, spinach, eggplant squash….Of course the few botany majors around categorized the priority of what to grow the most of. The fasted growing veggies were beans, lettuce and radishes so they planted those most of those. Second came the veggies that had the most nutritional value-mostly in the form of carbs- so potatoes. The rest was used for whatever seeds we had left.

“I thought you only had a week or twos rations, don’t vegetables take weeks to grow?”

Yeah, that's right. It ran out faster than you can say ‘ hungry’ . We had to make due by eating whatever we could find. That meant berries, wild fruit, edible roots and the occasional rat or squirell who came too close.

“You had guns and there were animals in the forest…”

Being a soldier and a hunter are two completely separate things, not to mention we carried semi auto and automatic weapons- not accurate hunting rifles. Thank God we had the sense to bring plenty of ammo with us…the beginning was sloppy in terms of ammunition conservation Some of our guys were so starved and desperate that they would unload half a clip in the direction of a deer before hitting it. Talk about forgetting your training. …and all that's that's assuming we were able to stay quiet enough to get that close to begin with. While the fireteams were off hunting and clearing the forest of any wandering Zach the rest of Hope divided their work amongst themselves according to skill and know-how. What a sight Hope must have been…Army fireteams going off into the woods to hunt while hippies and well read college professors spent their days foraging for edible roots.

Did’t the dead ever wander into your areas?”

Yep, almost everyday. They didn't come in more than groups of 10 or so because they had only gotten that far into the forest chasing a deer or something. We made sure nobody strayed too far away from camp lest he or she attracted a nearby horde. When someone came across a Zhead he or she fetched one of my men to go take it out as quietly as possible- can’t risk them moaning too much or their buddies would come stumbling along after their voice. We needed to conserve our ammunition for swarm attacks so this meant using rocks, logs and such to destroy their brains. It was a pretty good system until other refugees started wandering into our camp half crazed and starved. Some of them had come as far as Colorado on foot saying the only military safe zones were on the coasts. Everything inland was either besieged or completely devoid of life. Apparently the Man took over all radio stations and started telling people to travel through forests and lands untouched by humanity to avoid large population zones….a good idea for everyone except us

“Why? Didn't these survivors join your camp and help?

Yes and n in other aspects no. Some were pretty set on getting to Florence even though we didn't know if it still stood, nobody stopped them it was their choice alone. However most stayed with us seeing as we had a solid set up and not many Z heads around. We must have picked up around a hundred or so of these survivors from the east. Yes, they added to our work force and yesm they pulled their own weight but they also had anywhere from ten to a hundred Zach in their wake a few miles behind arriving an hour or so after them. At first the original Hope refugees were wary of such half starved, Z shocked souls but everybody rallied to take on Zach when they caught up to the refugees. These lost souls almost always felt such gratitude and sense of safety that they became our most productive and loyal citizens after. Doing good still had its rewards after all.
When those survivors started showing up in June of the first year our first potato and veggie crops just came in. Another lucky strike for us. We were prepared- we had a well fed population of 600 all of whom had practiced hand to claw melee and close quarters combat We also fashioned hundreds of wooden swords and sharp spears out of random metal parts we scavenged from abandoned cars. The rule was no guns until the situation was dangerous, meaning groups of Zach more than 50.
The smaller skirmishes often got bloody and personal- a lot of people couldn't handle it in the beginning. Most of our undead counterparts still wore their Sunday best and had wallets with ID and pictures of their spouses, children and even his or her dog Pookie. Most got over it with time but a few couldn't shoulder the burden of seeing the faces or coming across someone they once knew. We would often find a person or two laying up against a tree with a still smoking pistol after engagements….those sights struck me harder than any Zedhead- those people had lost all hope and they had symbolically and literally left our town. That was bad but at least those people took their own lives.
There was zero tolerance for those who got bit , I gave my boys strict orders to eliminate on sight if the wounds were too great, others with minor wounds on arms or legs got them amputated immediately. If not amputated within 20 minuets they had to be put down. It was horrifying to have to order such a thing but it was for the survival of the community, I’m sure you understand. (I nod)

I understand completely, most successful enclaves had a variation of this policy. Please don’t feel judged or think too harshly of yourself. How was Hope able to survive swarm attacks? Two hundred soldiers and a few hundred civilians against thousands….

I’m from Hawaii, you ever been to Hawaii or lived on a beach?

No, I grew up in Michigan but we had beaches if that's what your getting at.
Not the right kind of beaches. Zach’s movements and mentality reminded me of my childhood and of playing at the beach.
I’m don’t understand

Hold on I was getting to that. Zach moved like the slow pounding waves at the beach….slow, methodical but relentless. As a kid I used to build sandcastles with my brother on the beaches with great big walls. At first that wall would hold up against the constant barrage of waves, but overtime it got harder to maintain that wall until the waves finally destroyed it and the castle behind it. To slow down and dissipate the waves power we learned to build numerous, smaller walls in front of the main wall. These smaller walls had strategic holes in them to let some water through as not to let the full forces of the waves to hit it. It channeled the water through the walls like a mouse in a maze….with each layer it passed, it got weaker and weaker. When it finally reached the main wall it no longer posed a real threat to the castle. I applied this tactic here.
It was the second week after the first refugees from the East started arriving, Zach had followed the trickle of refugees to our camp. This time it wasn’t just a few scattered posses of the undead, this was the bulk of the former residents of Boulder, Colorado judging from the Univ of Colorado gear many sported. I was falling asleep reading my ESPN magazine for the hundredth time when the perimeter was breached and the sentries started a rukus. Bleary eyed, I jumped out of my bag and sprinted to the perimeter…I almost sh*t my pants. There were hundreds of them swarming out of the woodwork, moaning and arms outstretched reaching for their evening meal. IT was dusk and so visibility was poor, I ordered lamps and all maglights directed at the outer walls. “This was it” I thought to myself, if my sandcastle scheme didn’t work we were done for. IT never got to that because Zach mindlessly wandered through the walls and exited into the open plain here through a choke point where my men poured all their fire into. Within 30 min I estimated 500 kills and after 4 hours we destroyed two or three thousand of them. My men couldn't get all of them, they had to concentrate all their fire at the choke point or risk losing the tactical advantage of the choke point. If to many got past , their bodies shielded all those coming through the choke point and we would be overrun eventually. The refugees made me proud to be human, to be alive that day. These were men who sat at a desk or drove delivery trucks before the outbreak, women who breast fed their babies and dropped off little Timmy at soccer practice, youngsters who stumbled around drunk at college parties puking…but that day they fought, they fought well. With wooden spears and swords as well as improvised iron weapons from cars, they took on the Zach that breached the choke point in close combat. My men and I were trained soldiers, we spent years of our lives honing our fighting skills and we had guns….those men , women and kids had little more than sharpened sticks to take on the undead. They inspired me to fight harder, I think all of my men were too. The whole engagement lasted 5 hours and we had taken out nearly four thousand zombies.
(I look around and realize that the defensive walls were not destroyed in places, rather they were strategic openings)
“It must have been stressful making these clever fortifications on such short notice. How did you think so quickly? Facing starvation and Zach coming out of the dark forest would make anybody, civilian to the most hardcore soldier to panic…”

To tell you the truth I had a small mental breakdown. After our second large engagement I curled up in a ball on my sleeping bag and went to my happy place….I wasn’t thinking at all, all I could think of was Hawaii and how much I wanted to go back in time and surf and be at the beach. My ‘happy place’ is what saved me, I was remembering all my friends and family and when I thought of my brother and I at the beach….thats when I had my revelation. Its true what they say you know; “Remember where you come from and who you are, then everything will be alright.”



CockneyRebel
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20 Dec 2010, 11:36 am

That's a really good story. I've enjoyed reading it. :)


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tangomike
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21 Dec 2010, 2:47 am

thanks! Once i start something I cant stop-I wrote a page at first but couldnt stop till I had a full short story. anyway this is just a fan fiction of Max Brooks's World War Z that I decided to write in one shot after seeing The Walking Dead on AMC.



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04 Feb 2011, 11:11 pm

CockneyRebel im surprised you were able to read that. I just re-read it myself and it took forever lol