All Good Things
Sept 29, 2013 – Z-poc plus 135 days
The compression bandage has stopped the bleeding but twenty-eight-year-old Jason Bowling, forever called “D-Day” because he was born on June 6, knows he will not see twenty-nine. The blood vessels leading away from the wound have turned a dark gray even as the surrounding flesh loses its color. All around the bite, the skin is painful to the touch and getting worse as the minutes pass. He knows he needs to make a decision about what to do next; too much time has passed for amputation to be effective, so either he’s going to have to ask one of the people he’s been staying with, has trained and has bonded with, to kill him, or he’s going to have to punch his own ticket.
Marc Wallace comes rushing in, out of breath from running. Marc is forty-four years old and is in the best shape of his life. It only took the end of the world—the end of human domination of the world—to get him out from behind his desk. He was a work-from-home web designer before the z-poc and still displays his nerdish leanings, but he’s leaner and tougher now than he was in the spring. Of course, everyone is, D-Day thinks. He redirects his focus to Marc, still panting from his sprint into the room. He’s holding his iPad out in front of him.
“The Parrot has more bad news!” he gasps, catching his breath.
On the ten-inch screen, they can see the familiar field, about a third of a mile south of them. Instead of out-of-control alfalfa grown by the former owner so he could claim the tax advantages of being a “farm,” they watch about 2500 zeds loping toward their housing development. Some stagger and fall in the ruts left from the last time the field was plowed, more than a year ago, while some trip over the railroad tracks that run east to west at the edge of the field.
Some of the zeds that trip find themselves impaled on a length of rebar protruding from the ground … several through the head, thanks to the statistical measurements Marc has provided. Even on this uneven topography for every one that has been auto-speared, there are fifteen more who flow like water, along the path of least resistance, following a single row until they reach the dirt road that borders the acreage. Some have already crossed the road and are stuck at the fence that separates the field from the green space that marks the southern end of their housing development.
Soon they’ll find the opening where a gate used to be, and once the first zeds make it through the opening, the rest will follow like molecules being dragged by invisible atomic bonds, following the sounds of the battle that just ended. Marc puts to words what everyone is thinking. “We’ve got about fifteen minutes to dig in or bug out.”
They’re all spellbound for a moment, watching the image being transmitted by the Parrot. The Parrot is Marc’s four-bladed helo-drone, originally bought for having fun in the park, or spying on his neighbor’s property as a virtual neighborhood watch. Now it’s their early warning system. At 150 feet in altitude, the Parrot can see for miles in any direction with the on-board HD camera. It has saved their skins several times, many of them on supply runs, and it gave them the upper hand in the battle that they just finished. Recharging the Parrot’s batteries and the iPad, which controls it, always gets priority on their makeshift electric grid.
Kyle Puckett, the group’s leader—though he does not like that title—takes about ten seconds to do the math in his head. “Kids, go-bags, now! We’re bugging out!”
D-Day watches as the five younger members of their crew spring into action, their adrenaline from the battle they just escaped still coursing through their systems. They move with purpose, though; they’ve practiced this before and they each know what to do.
They’ve forgotten his condition for the moment as well, D-Day thinks. It’s the combat mindset. Since May 17, 2013, there has been little time for mourning the dead or weeping for the dying. In fact, in Zed’s World, dead and dying are the same thing. D-Day knows they all wrote him off the minute he’d been bitten, knowing that when the time came, someone would do what was needed. Afterward, they’d bury him in the vacant lot down the street, next to the last member of the group they’d had to put down.
Marc goes back to the basement window and climbs into the tunnel that connects the houses. He has to get ready to move as well. At least now, with the images of that horde still fresh in his mind, D-Day knows what he needs to do about his own situation.
“Kyle, load me up. I’ll need a popper too,” D-Day says, using their colloquialism for a hand grenade, as he struggles to his feet.
“D-Day …” Kyle starts to say, but D-Day holds up his good hand.
“I’m done, Kyle, and you know it. But before I go, I’m going to buy you all some time.” He looks at his graying arm. “Time which neither of us have much of, by the way, so stop wasting it and help me get geared up.”
Kyle looks at D-Day through tired eyes. Eyes that have seen more death, more horror over the last half year than anyone should see in a lifetime. They all have seen the same things, but Kyle bore the burden of leadership, whether he wanted it or not. He had made the hard decisions when other people had not had the desire to do so.
No one said it out loud, but it was easier to follow an order than to decide it was necessary. They have all been glad to have him make these choices since it absolved them of being the ones responsible, but that weight has taken a toll on Kyle these long five months. Here at the end of D-Day’s time on this planet, someone other than Kyle is making the decision about how to end a life. D-Day has decided to go out on his terms, and Kyle respects his choice. He knows if the roles were reversed, he would do the same thing.
“Okay,” he says as he reaches for the well-used rifle D-Day brought with him to their sanctuary. It was all he could say, but nothing more was needed.
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