The Graveyard Tales
Chapter Eight: Crossing Over
"This is insane," said one of the six people that sat in the branches of an old oak.
"I haven't heard you come up with anything better," replied a young woman, who peered ahead with a pair of night vision goggles.
"C'mon Jay, Addie's never steered us wrong," said a third, a waif of a man named Eric. "She knows what she's doing."
The first speaker, a former college football player known among the frat house as 'Blockade,' but now content to be referred to by the moniker his parents spent all of two minutes thinking about before settling on Joe merely rolled his eyes. "Can I get an opinion from someone other than the Addie Fan Cub?"
"Will you shut the fuck up?"whispered Tyrone, a police officer and Addie's boyfriend. "And Eric, quit being a cheerleader for my girl, or I'll toss your whiny ass down there."
Tyrone pointed to the forest floor, which was strangely devoid of rabbits, squirrels and racoons. In their place were dozens of zombies.
And the critters that used to occupy these pines and oaks? Well, flesh is flesh.
For days the small party had been on the run, finally making it to the forests of Maine. When their respective hometowns had been overrun, many residents of what was now known as the Graveyard had headed north, desperate to escape. Fleeing the country by boat or plane was impossible, thanks to the barricades set up by the other nations, so trying to jump the borders into either Mexico or Canada seemed like the best bet.
Which didn't mean it had any better chance of success.
The Mexican and Canadian governments were just as adamant about keeping the undead out as the rest of the world, even if they didn't have the benefit of a thousand miles of ocean to serve as a buffer. To that end, they had deployed almost half their armies to the borders, reinforcing them with gun emplacements and razor wire. When all was said and done, crossing into these neighboring countries, before merely a minor bureaucratic annoyance, now looked alarmingly like the beaches of Normandy, circa 1944. Anyone foolish enough to try to approach was given no warning, unless the shots fired by the soldiers managed to miss.
And the Mexican and Canadian armies employed some crack snipers.
At first, the newly-minted refugees of the Graveyard had tried to cross the border the old fashioned way, by car. By this point, burnt-out or blown up SUV's, sedans and pickup trucks now numbered in the hundreds, a silent but to-the-point message.
Those that managed to survive the few months of dodging zombies learned what it took to survive, and now, people employed more militaristic methods of getting across the border. Teams would be formed and attempt to slip across in the dark of night.
They fared no better.
As Addie, a cop like Tyrone, scanned the razor wire barricade, she shuddered as she sighted skeletons caught in the wire and stripped clean by the undead. The gruesome totems were no doubt meant to scare off anyone who attempted to break into Canada.
But not Addie. She had vowed, after she shot her infected brother and mother, that she would survive, not matter what it took.
Along with the bones, she saw hundreds of soldiers, clad in body armor and armed to the teeth. Occasionally, a shot or two would cut the silence of the night, and a zombie would fall to the ground, its head either pierced by a bullet or blown clean off. Along with the soldiers, she could see dozens of gun emplacements, some meant for shooting down aircraft, although no one was foolish enough these days to try to fly to safety. The skies were patrolled more fervently than the seas, and it was rare when a plane even got off the ground.
Suddenly her face split into a grin. There was a small gap in the barricade where a tree had fallen. Soldiers surrounded it as work crews moved the large oak off. Zombies approached in swarms, as if they could tell the enemy had been weakened. Gunfire echoed across the forest, along with the occasional scream.
Addie lowered the goggles and crawled across the branches back to the group. "Okay, we've got our way in," she said, explaining the breach in the wall.
"And you want us to go in through there?" asked Joe. "Through the wall of undead and gun-toting soldiers. And what idiot put you in charge?"
"My father. After he got bitten and I had to put a bullet through his head," responded Addie, her expression deadpan.
Joe simply lowered his head, finding nothing to say in response, other than a mumbled apology. The officer turned to the last two members of their ragtag group, Sean and Jessica. The two were decked out in black leather, complete with black makeup and piercings in places most people don't know they have. Despite their appearance, the two were reduced to little more than mewling cowards in a world populated by the dead. Addie and Tyrone had found them while making their way up north, huddled in a van surrounded by zombies. At first, the two officers were ready to leave them to their fate, but something tugged at Addie's soul as they tried to leave, and in the end, the oath she swore the day she received her badge made the decision for her.
Eric and Joe were students at a college in New Hampshire, one of the first states in the path of the undead plague. As such, it was nothing short of a miracle when Tyrone found them while searching the cafeteria for supplies. No one in this party trusted each other, and it was only the promise of safety across the border that kept them together.
Sean nodded to Addie. "Whatever you want, we're with you," he said, never taking his eyes off the forest floor, wincing every time he heard dry leaves and brittle twigs crunch under undead feet. "Just get us the hell out of here. I wanna sleep. I just wanna close my eyes."
Addie's expression softened for a moment. The two dark-clad youths, both seventeen years young, were so terrified of the undead that neither had slept in days. Caffeine pills helped to keep them awake, but the dark rings around their eyes and their shaky movements told her they wouldn't last long. "All right, here's how it's going to work. With that breach, there's fewer soldiers a few miles down the border. We can get past them, and once we're in, I know a guy that can get us some fake ID's."
"You sure you can trust this guy?" Tyrone asked.
"No. But we've got no future here. Any of us," she said, a hand involuntarily going to her stomach.
Together, the six slid down the tree trunk. Moving quickly, they made their way through the forest, dodging around what few zombies there were, using axes and hammers to dispense with any that got too close. As they approached the wall of razor wire, they ducked down. Peering up, Addie and Tyrone saw only a half dozen soldiers. Rather than watching for wandering undead, their attention was on the breach.
"You think they can get the wall back up?" asked one, a young man by the cracking tone of his voice.
"Ease off, kid, they got it. Just a few deadheads. Americans can't get by us, no way a few corpses are going to."
The other soldiers laughed, confident in their superiority. Which they had every reason to be. Since they cut off entrance and their relations with the U.S., no American feet had touched Canadian soil.
But Addie and the others were determined. And if she couldn't get across, then the sticks of dynamite strapped to her frame would make a nasty mess of the Canadian's oh-so-impregnable barrier.
Reaching into her bag, she pulled out a large rat. The animal had been tranquilized into a coma, but the meat was still fresh. The drugs were to ensure it didn't suffer. The soldiers she could kill with no compunction. When her countrymen had begged Canada and Mexico for help, what had been their response? An army at their borders, with orders to shoot to kill, be it man, woman or child. Her Uncle Clark, the damned fool, had taken his family there, with the intent of buying their way across.
He was dead six times over before he hit the ground, along with his wife, brother, and five children. Little Anya was only two months old, one of the first post-Exhumation children born.
The others pulled out similarly incapacitated rats, and threw them as far away as they could, but making sure the animals landed close to the barricade.
Within twenty seconds the undead were swarming on the precious morsels, and as the tearing of flesh and the crunch of small bones echoed across the trees, Addie allowed a brief prayer for the animals. The soldiers she could kill, but the rats? They hadn't done anything wrong, and yet here they were, tossed to the undead like sacrificial lambs. It didn't seem fair, having to use creatures, and in some cases people, just to survive. But Addie had to live, if not for herself, then for the tiny life she had sworn to protect.
The joking from the soldiers quickly ceased, and curses and gunfire quickly overshadowed the sounds of feasting, as the undead were cut down. Tin snips and bolt cutters made quick work of the razor wire, and the party of six made their way through.
"You did it, Addie! I knew you could!" whispered Eric excitedly.
"I couldn't have done it without you," she said, and without warning, set off a flash grenade, blinding Eric, Sean and Jessica. Joe and the two officers ran into the underbrush, just as the soldiers arrived.
The three watched from the bushes as their companions were cut mercilessly down. Eric held out his wallet, his hand shaking like a leaf. It continued to shake even after he had been riddled with gunfire, as his body convulsed in its death throes.
Jessica begged on her hands and knees, tears mixing with her eyeliner to create a black river of sorrow on her face. Without a word, she was shot in the head.
The three took off into the forest. The plan had been made two nights ago. They knew they would be hunted down in short order once their breach in the barricade was discovered, but with the others dead, a search would not be conducted, with the army convinced the border jumpers had been caught.
Once they were deep into Canadian territory, Tyrone took Joe aside. "Look man, just because you agreed to this doesn't mean I trust you. You do anything sketchy, I'll hamstring you and leave you for the soldiers to find, got it?"
Joe brushed the threat aside. "Hey, it was my idea to leave my brother and those two freaks behind. They would have been dead weight to us anyway."
Addie stepped between the two. "That's enough, both of you. Joe, I know it must have been hard to watch Eric die like that. We just want to make sure you're not going to have a change of heart."
A smile played across Joe's lips. "Heart? Sorry, kitten, but I ain't got one of those. Having a heart gets you killed in this day and age. Now come on, let's see a man about some ID."
As the former football star sauntered off, Tyrone watched, an uneasy expression on his face. "Guy's out of his fucking mind. We never should have let him come with us."
"No argument here. But his friend's the one who's gonna help us start a new life here. Who knows what would have happened if we showed up without him."
Tyrone could only shake his head, and that was when he noticed the dynamite was missing. "Hey, where'd the bombs go?" he said, looking around.
"I left them behind," said Addie as she started after Joe.
Tyrone caught up to her. "Why'd you do that?"
A distant explosion followed by panicked screams from the border answered his question. "Opening the fucking floodgates," said Addie. "Damned zombies wanna take out country? Fine. They can have it."
She scanned the verdant forest and stopped on the lights of a distant city. "We'll just find a new place to call home."