Monday, December 20, 2010
Rise From Your Grave! (Part 3)
Part 1 had intrigue. Part 2 had action.
Today, someone dies.
It's another fast-forward in the dream. We've been hiding, foraging, and boat-hunting for about a week. So far, the only vessel we'd found was a rowboat with one oar in a duckpond. We'd briefly considered taking the boat with us, but wound up taking only the oar. It had come in handy soon after, when we had come across a mottled rotter gnawing on a swan. It had been holding the bird up above its face as if it expected a prize to tumble out of its carcass. I had crept up behind it and swung the oar hard, smashing a sizable divot into the back of its skull, turning the thing's head into a gory backwards Pac-Man. Waka waka waka waka, I'll take a power pellet with a side of brain, please. Hold the bouncing cherry.
That was a couple of days ago. Right now, we're right around where I live...used to live. I'm a little creeped out to be back where I'd seen friends and family die, and am a little nauseated at the prospect of having to possibly kill one or more of them again myself. Lauren is sympathetic, but increasingly anxious to find a boat and get moving. She's got her own family to worry about, and she doesn't have the luxury of having seen them eaten in front of her. Instead, she's doubly laden with worry, with dread, with with awful, mindbending hope that they're still alive.
We've just raided a gas station convenience store for what scraps were left in it and discovered we haven't yet become savage or desperate enough to consider skewering and eating the rats we found there. Yet. There's another marina nearby which, when the world was a brighter place, had been crammed full of fishing boats, jetskis, houseboats, dinghys, and a couple of small yachts. There is also a Coast Guard station nearby, but we don't hold much hope in finding anything there. Every police and state trooper station we've come across has been trashed, picked clean, and in one case, burnt to the ground. We figure the Coast Guard would be no different.
Walking down the loose-gravel ramped drive to the marina we're surprised to find that while all the smaller craft and jetskis are gone(Really? Who takes a jetski to escape from zombies?), there are eight fishing boats and a sailboat still moored and afloat, along with fifty or so bloated corpses, bobbing silently like giant, noxious apples. Our jubilance at apparent salvation, despite the grim attache, doesn't last long; it seems the reason the rest of the boats haven't been taken is that the way out of the docks to the bay has been blocked by a half-sunken yacht. Well, okay, not completely blocked - after some investigation, we're pretty sure we can squeeze the sailboat, which is the narrowest boat there, through the opening between the yacht and the dock's edge. And if we can't, hey, it's not like it's the end of the wo--OH WAIT.
The opening is narrow, and it takes us the better part of a day to fit the sailboat through it. We've had to bash apart chunks of the yacht and the dock with tools from the boathouse, with requisite breaks to rest, eat, and decapitate a curious hungry shambler with Lauren's shovel (she did the honors after I tripped it with the oar). But now the boat is through, and is starting to drift away from the dock. Lauren's alreay onboard with the weapons, the bags, and the oar, so I take the leap and bid sayonara to the land.
Neither of us knows how to sail. However, this being a dream, we're able to overcome that mighty obstacle and get the sails hoisted and tied and rigged and whatever you do with sails so that wind goes in them and makes you move. As we leave the bay and head toward the open ocean, a triumphant cheer is torn from our lungs. For now, we've left the constant fear, uncertainty, and foreboding associated with the zombie plague behind. At sea, the only danger is environmental.
We were disabused of that pleasant thought in less than an hour.
Harsh reality take the form of a 30-foot fishing boat, knifing through the ocean's surface and heading straight at us. It overtakes us easily and circles once before pulling alongside and slowing to keep pace. There are three men onboard - two in sweats and t-shirts, the third (the driver) barechested with filthy dress pants and sneakers. They eye our bags, supplies, and water bottles openly and hungrily. Lauren is targeted with looks containing a different sort of hunger. Next comes the inevitable survivor-pirate demand: hand over the goods and the girl, and we'll let you live. One of the sweats-men, balding and paunchy, points a handgun at me as punctuation. A tilde, maybe.
Selling my only living friend to zombie-apocalypse white trash in exchange for a slow death seems like a bogus deal to me, and I don't have to check with Lauren to see she's not exactly mulling it over either. Cupping my non-steering hand to my mouth, I call back cheerily, "Fuck you."
Paunchy McLosingmyhair doesn't like that one bit, and says something angrily to Shirtless, who twists his wheel sharply to the right. The fishing boat bashes forcefully into our vessel, causing it to heave violently. We stumble to keep our feet as Paunchy and Otherguy leap across to join us. We've been boarded, arrrr.
I grab my sword (yes, I still have it) from where it leans next to the wheel, and head back to face our attackers just in time to see Lauren, shovel in hand (yes, she still has it - I really don't know what her connection to the thing is), duck under the outstretched grabbing arms of Otherguy and dive over the rail and onto the other boat, which begins to speed away. I'm on my own with two living humans who want me dead.
Fighting zombies, after awhile, becomes a matter of timing and physics. They've really only got two tricks in their bag: bite you, or grab you and then bite you. With that in mind, it becomes a simple matter to see whether your rotting foe is leading with its arms or its mouth, and to evade or counter accordingly. Our brains are more than just chewtoys-in-waiting, and if more people used them instead of giving in to blind, stupid panic, the zombie problem might not be much of one.
Fighting humans is another matter entirely. They're unpredictable, and their potential for cunning and improvisation is unparalleled. It comes, once more, down to brains. If your opponent is smarter than you, it won't matter how fast or strong you are; you're as good as dead before the fight even begins.
It's lucky for me, then, that these two characters are collectively as smart as a box of rocks, and charge me, arms outstretched, like a pair of bull elephants shoved into gorilla skins and then shaved. And then put on a boat. With me.
Yep. Just like that.
Paunchy reaches me first, and so has the distinct honor of becoming my very first self-defense murder victim. I bring my sword up under his chin as he rushes me, and his own forward motion does the nasty work for me. Like I said, physics. I hope you've been taking notes. Otherguy gets to the scene a moment later as Paunchy is still falling to the deck, his severed spinal cord no longer able to instruct his legs to hold him up. I heave back, dislodging my sword from Paunchy's throat as Otherguy moves around him into an attack position, swinging the handgun like a club. I say "the" handgun, because I assume it's the same one that had been pointing at me. Paunchy no longer has it, and though I didn't see the transfer, it must have taken place, because hey - there it is.
So here comes Otherguy swinging for a line drive with my head as the ball. I've just pulled my sword down out of his buddy's neck, so I continue the motion, dropping to my knees before thrusting back up into Otherguy's crotch and midsection. A twist and a yank, and I've bucked his swashes from the inside.
With both assailants down, I drive my blade down twice more, ending one's gurgles and the other's shrieks. The motorboat is coming back around, Lauren at the helm. Pulling alongside as before, she waves me over. "Bring everything!" she calls.
I toss the bags, weapons, and supplies over before leaping across myself. Shirtless is lying facedown in a pool of blood, although "facedown" may be the wrong term, seeing as a good potion of his actual face is clinging to the blade of Lauren's shovel.
"We've got a new ride, I take it?", I ask.
"This will get us there faster, and we're not dependent on the wind. Plus it's got a roof," she replies, wiping blood from her face with the back of a hand. She winds up smearing it more than anything else. "Want to drive?"
"Yes ma'am," says I , snapping off a mock salute as we trade places.
"Yeah, yeah, just take the wheel, smartass."
"I mean it - I've had enough pirate shit for one day. Just get us to Jersey."
"To get anywhere, we have to be sure of where we arrrrr."
A bag of Jolly Ranchers hurled at the back of my head is the only response.
Laughing a bit more loudly than the exchange had warranted (hel-LO, first murder five minutes ago, remember?), I bring the boat about toward where I was fairly sure was the direction New Jersey was in, and pull back on the throttle. We're on our way.
Continued in Part 4.