Chapter 1 - Liz
Elizabeth allowed only her closest friends to call her Liz, and Liz was pissed off. Formalities did not have much importance anymore since almost everyone was dead, dying, or somewhere in-between. Liz was particularly angry at her boyfriend, whom she had discovered was not entirely forthright about his past. She was also hopping mad about all of those undead bastards who were trying to kill and eat her.
This thing had not been in Liz’s five-year plan. Get a real career, meet a decent guy, lose ten pounds, yes, those were in the plan, however ephemeral. Mobs of animated corpses springing out of the shadows, that was most definitely not part of the plan.
A world-wide pandemic of the undead stalking the living was just a cable television fantasy, except there was no television anymore. Liz had always assumed the apocalypse was an excuse for doomsday preppers to justify buying cases of ammo for their collection of Glocks. It was a Millennium fantasy. It was a great Halloween costume if your boyfriend was creative enough to see how much fun it would be to show up as an undead couple. The apocalypse was never supposed to become a reality.
Yet here she was, scanning the street from a doorway, trying to pick out a safe route back to the Fort. The corpses scattered up and down the block were the least of her worries. Stinking bodies were still pretty gross, but they were steadily disappearing as the re-animators ate them. Right now she was worried about the corpses that didn’t stink.
It was the multi-national corporations that finally managed to wipe out civilization, along with most of the humans in it. Liz remembered watching those last grim news reports. As the now-dead talking heads became more frantic, the news puppets had begun to blame genetic engineering. One too many starfish genes spliced to one too many tomato was all it took. The dissenting view, taken by some fundamentalists, was that the pestilence was caused by the liberal homosexual agenda in America. Since the fundamentalists were as dead as their hairpieces, their view didn’t count for much.
The plague sparked on the West coast of America, flared in the Midwest, and then raged. Exported like a bad Hollywood action movie, the wave of death rolled over Europe and kept going, meeting an opposite wave sweeping across Asia.
Crouching in the doorway, Liz pondered the five long city blocks between herself and the Fort. It was daylight and the street seemed still. None of the dead bodies in view were twitching, but that was no guarantee. She sniffed the air for any scent of almonds, but there was only the usual haze of rot and decay.
She checked the lanyard between her right wrist and the number three driver. Daylight would not last forever. She had already cinched the shopping items tight to minimize noise. Snugging down the backpack straps and keeping a two-handed grip on the golf club, Liz ducked out of the doorway and into the street.
Human society had lasted about five weeks, at least in Seattle. Five short weeks from the first reports of a fast spreading illness to silence. Television broadcasts went first, slipping into the blackness of the “No Signal” message on Liz’s digital TV. Radio signals lasted a little longer, but they too sputtered and went silent. Then the Internet died, along with everyone else in her neighborhood.
Liz moved quickly down the center of the street, holding the driver at port arms. She maintained clear sight lines on the bodies, scanning for movement. Keeping up a fast walking pace with as little noise as possible, Liz gave the abandoned vehicles a wide berth. Three step distance, three step distance, that was the mantra of survival. Nine feet was the margin of error. Three steps from any obstacle, any doorway, any body. A three step buffer in which to swing the driver twice and the run like hell, noise be damned.
Being pissed off was not helping Liz’s concentration. Being distracted could easily mean being dead, but she couldn’t help it. She tried to move towards the Fort like a silent ghost, but she looked more like a very angry golfer out for a drunken speed-walking session.
He had lied to her! If he had lied about being a pacifist, what else was he lying about? It is true, he had saved her life, but he was a liar. She couldn’t actually dump him for some other guy, at least not one that was alive. Dating options had gotten a lot leaner since the plague. Granted, those options hadn’t been good before everyone died. Three step distance, three step distance. Last datable guy or not, when she got back to the Fort they were going to have a serious talk.
Liz was two blocks from the Fort. She could almost see it. Eyeing the pavement ahead, focused now, she shifted to a quiet trot. It came at her right side from behind a dead van, lunging low and fast. Liz swung the three wood out in a lashing arc, but she was off-balance to her right. The heel of the club hit a glancing shot to the Re-am’s jaw, swinging its head up and momentarily stopping its attack. It was a weak blow, but it gave Liz the time she needed. Balanced now and ready, Liz swung from her right with a perfect forehand, arms extended in a deadly follow through. The driver’s titanium faceplate dug a deep furrow through the Re-am’s forehead, temple-to-temple, and the thing fell in a heap. Failing to replace the bone divots, Liz recovered from her swing and sprinted towards the Fort.
The heavy pack was slamming into her lower back with each step as she careened around the last corner, keeping three steps out from the wall. Clear! It was clear! She veered right to snatch at the panic alarm handle but the steel door was already open. A 12-gauge shotgun barrel was trained behind her from the shadows within the doorway. The barrel disappeared and the door flung wide as she hit the opening at a full run. Inside the shadows, doubled over and gasping for breath, she heard him clang the Fort door shut and shoot the lock bolts home.