Blood Runs Black – Chapter 3

There are some things employee handbooks just do not cover. Number one on that list? What to do in case a zombie apocalypse happens on your shift. Good thing Alex is a quick learner…too bad the zombies are, too.

Sequel to “Say ‘No!’ to Zombies”.

 

May 31st

They reached a compromise. Kyle went by himself. We’re staying where we are. Exactly where we are. Kyle took the pickup with him. Whoever spotted us knows we were traveling by automobile, so we couldn’t have him just walk up to the place. If it turns out the people can’t be trusted, they would know there’s more of us out here and would assume we’re vulnerable. And they would be right. So he’s checking it out on his own. We took just about everything out of the back. Left just enough to make it look like he’s prepared for a long trip alone, and then sent him on his way.

If everything is as it seems, he’ll come back tomorrow morning and get us. If he’s not back by noon tomorrow, we’re supposed to leave without him. Jo is already checking the tires and gas gauges, making sure everything is ready for a quick get away.

We had ramen for breakfast. We’re doing potted meat sandwiches for lunch, and either a can of soup or spaghetti-o’s for dinner. No streams nearby for a quick bath. There’s a house nearby, but we can see movement against the blinds, and we’re not taking any chances. It could be a person, but we kinda doubt it. The movement is too….what’s the word? Uniform? I think? The only time it changes is when one of us opens or shuts a car door. Which is another concern. If they can hear us well enough inside a house, across a field…yeah, sorry, that’s scary.

While Kyle’s gone, we’re going to be going over the equipment again. Try and get used to working with it, and really decide what we need to keep, and what can be left behind. We don’t need five cooking stoves, or three tarp showers. I’m not even sure we need one tarp shower, considering they require a hose to use, but maybe they can be useful for…I don’t know. Something, maybe. I can’t think of anything, but that’s me.

Bored. So bored. We went through the equipment. Got rid of some of the crap. Now there’s nothing else to do. Bored.

Took a nap. Still bored. Had lunch. Still bored. Why didn’t any of us think to pack stuff for entertainment?

Sun’s going down. We got bored enough to risk the house. We have a couple board games now. Monopoly, Candyland, and I forget the third. Life, I think. Old time games, not like the ones we sold at work. Makes sense though. The pacers were an older couple. Had to be in their seventies. Kinda wish we could burn the house with the bodies in it. We don’t know for sure if that would stop the blood from spreading though. We think fire stops the blood from spreading, because after we noticed the blood coming back in the store, we went out and burned the bodies. They were covered in the black stuff. We soaked them in beer and lit them up, but since the area around them was black from the fire afterwards, we don’t know if it worked or not. We didn’t see the black spread beyond the burn area, but again. We don’t know for sure. There’s also the problem of 1. getting the fire hot enough to kill the virus in the blood, and 2. containing the fire so we don’t start a massive wildfire.

The first part shouldn’t be a problem. A house fire burns pretty hot, there’s no way it won’t be hotter than the puny fire we made from cheap beer. The second part is why we’re all sitting around glaring at the house instead of breaking out the marshmellows.

With the dark of the night, it’s easy to think of another reason for torching the place. At least it would provide some light to see by. I’m not sure what time it is, I really need to see about getting a watch or something, but the moon is almost too low in the sky to see anymore. Pretty soon I’m going to have to put this up. It’s too dark to do anything, much less write.

We’re all sleeping in the cars tonight. Not much point in staying on watch when we can’t see worth a damn. Doors locked, of course though. We’re not stupid. We put the seats down earlier, now we’re settling in. We ate dinner earlier. Nothing else to do.


July 13th

Sorry, I kinda forgot about this thing. We’ve been busy, with one animal after another giving birth, an actual person giving birth, getting the crops planted, and everything. It’s been, what, a month? Two months? Yeah, just checked. Been about two months. We have a bit more of a story to tell now.

Kyle came back to us when he said he would, brought along a loaf of fresh baked bread and butter. Told us about the farm and we decided to give it a try. Turns out, George and Danni, the people who run this place, are preppers. They already had a basement full of supplies, and by the end of the first week, they had a fence in place, and had already gathered all the people in the nearby community that they could. They started turning the fence into a wall for more protection. They had a lot of people turn on them of course, but they took care of the problems as they came up and kept going.

They started broadcasting on a short wave radio to let anyone passing by that they were there. They broadcast 24/7, just whatever they feel like talking about. Or the latest book they read. Things like that, unless movement is spotted, especially along the roads. Then they start the whole “We’re here, we have a safe place for you.” spiel (speil?). It was Danni’s idea. She’s smart like that.

It was George that came up with the idea of building smaller home/shacks for the people coming in. Not sure whether it was because he didn’t want a bunch of strangers in the house with him and his wife, or to give them their own space. From what I’ve seen of him, it was probably a mix of the two. They’re both pretty decent people, and everything they said in their broadcast has been true so far. It would be nice if this was the new norm, but I’m not counting on it.

We did have a slight problem at first. George had built a makeshift house for new people to sleep in until they were sure the person wasn’t going to turn. The problem was, they had people that did turn in that house. And all they did was clean up the mess and use it again. They didn’t know that about the blood growing back…(for lack of better word). So when Kyle showed up, and they tried to make him sleep in the house, he saw the black blotches and flat out refused. He told them had someone waiting for him, and he would be leaving in the morning, so if it was all the same to them, he’d rather hole himself up in his truck for the night.

They were okay with that, but said that if his “friend” came back with him, they would still have to spend a week in the house. “Don’t worry, we’ll get it cleaned up for you guys before you get back.” He refused again, of course. Pitched himself enough of a fit, apparently, that he almost got himself shot. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. He calmed down, and explained that it wasn’t the idea of being locked up in a house that he was opposed to, it was a house that was contaminated with the blood. They still didn’t understand until he told them about Cam and Beck. After that, well…they were still adding fuel to the fire when we arrived. They wanted to make sure the blood was completely burned out. When the fire finally stopped burning, they loaded what little was left into a wagon and hauled it away. I’m not sure where, but Danni said it was away from the water supply, so that’s good.

Anyway, we’ve been here since then. We can leave anytime, the cars are still in working condition, no one is hurt, or anything. We just haven’t felt the need to leave. This place…it isn’t big, but the people here are making it work. It’s a very small community, but it’s growing (thankfully). There’s lots of farmable land, but not a lot of hands to do the farming on top of everything else that needs to be done. There’s a large clearing next to George’s property, and we’ve been working on expanding the wall to include it, too. That would give us more room to let the cattle and horses graze, and more space for the house…shack things.

There has to be a better word for them, but I can’t think of one now. They’re not as small as shacks, but they’re not as big as actual houses either. He built them in groups of four, with an outhouse at one end of the group, and a firepit in the middle. Each group is basically its own small community, on top of the larger group as a whole.

They’re fairly simple. They kinda remind me of the old ones we used to see on tv. Four walls, a floor, and a roof. Two doors (front and back) with locks and brackets for boards to reinforce it. Two windows on opposite walls, but no glass in them. One wall is almost nothing but shelves for things like our stuff (what little there is), a couple wooden plates, silverware, and a bunch of canned/jarred food. The latter is my favorite part. There’s been a couple times when I haven’t felt like going up to the main house to eat, so I just cracked open one of our cans of beefaroni and ate alone. According to Danni, the shelves of food are meant to hold people over in case a horde comes through, or the weather gets too bad for people to be running back and forth. The whole quiet meal at “home” is just an added bonus. About once a week, we check the shelves and restock as needed.

Danni brings around a couple loafs of bread for us to share sometimes. And a little thing of butter, but that goes bad fast, so we pretty just eat it the first day. We’ll have buttered bread for a snack, and save the rest of the bread for later. She tries to split the bread and butter days up between the groups equally, so one week our group will get them, the next week, a different group will. She also checks to see if anything needs done to the houses, and makes sure we have what we need. It’s a running joke among us, George is the boss, and Danni is the landlord. Not much of a joke though, considering how accurate it is. She really does take care of us and the houses. She’s the one that showed us them in the first place, and explained what was what in them.

Like, the windows.

When we first walked up to the houses, we all noticed the holes, it was kinda hard to miss them, and it threw us, cause there wasn’t any glass in them. What were we supposed to do if it rained? Or if pacers came through? Then we got inside, and there were thick beams of wood leaning against the wall, and a pile of wood and rope, and yeah, it was confusing. It turned out though, the wood was the shutters for the windows, and the ropes were actually squares of…well, not rope.

Danni and some of the others make these things…they’re not screens, exactly, but they work like one? They took some kind of thread and wove it like a net, if that makes any sense whatsoever. It’s a lot like lace, I guess you could say. The gaps are wide enough to let in air, but small enough to keep out some of the bugs. There are little hooks on the inside of the windows to attach the screen things when we want to use them. It’s perfect for at night when we want to let some air in, but keep the mosquitoes out.

On the outside of the windows, there’s these little lips, kinda…I forget what they’re called, eaves, maybe? Anyway, they’re little slopes over the windows so when it rains, the water is directed away from the opening, and if the weather gets really rough, the wooden shutters slide into place to help keep the water out. On the inside, next to the screen hooks, there’s more brackets for boards in case we need to barricade them, too. The doors are thick, but they have slots on them – almost like a mail thing, you know what I mean? – but instead of being near the bottom, it’s close to the top. George said it was a cheap version of a peephole, basically.

We also have a tiny room in one corner with….basically a hole in the ground. There’s a two-toilet outhouse for each group of huts, but there are also twelve (or thirteen, in our case) people sharing those two toilets, so George went the smart route and gave each home a latrine, basically. It stinks to high heaven, of course, but it’s better than nothing. At least he built that side of the hut with really thick walls, so the smell doesn’t really make it into the living area. We try not to use it though. We have to share the houses, there’s too many of us to each have our own place, and there’s three of us in the hut, so you can imagine how quick that could get out of hand.

We have a couple huge jars of water, and some buckets. A couple washrags and soap for like, washing our hands and face or any of the dishes we happen to use. The outhouse has a couple taps on the side we can use to refill the jars, so there’s that.

It’s really nice, and it gives us a place to get away from everyone else when we’re done working for the day…and believe me, by the end of the day, we’re ready for some quiet time to ourselves, even if we’re not actually “alone”. We were all stuck in the main house for the first almost three weeks, so going from that, to only having to share space with two others was nothing. Besides, we all got to pick who we wanted to share a place with. Jo chose to share a place with James and Marissa, of course. Brandon and Michael got to know Ryan while they took turns watching at the wall or hunting, so they invited him and Aj to stay with them. Bridget made friends with a couple girls her age, so she bunks with them on the other side of the farm, and I share a place with Lori and Kyle. Because of the way the houses are set up, the only person from our little group we don’t see everyday is Bridget. The rest of us are all in the same “block” which makes it a lot easier for us to get together and commiserate about our days.

See, our little group…none us had ever picked up a farm tool in our life, unless we were trying to sell it, so we were useless for the first couple weeks days. We’ve gotten a lot better now, and we’re finding more and more survivors every day, so the workload is getting easier on all of us, but it was still a miserable start, and it didn’t help that, when we first got here, there were only about ten people. When we arrived, it brought the number up to about twenty, but even with twice as many people, there was still a lot of work to do, cause just didn’t really count for much. A couple days after we got here, Brandon and Michael brought in another three, and then a group of about five…Two weeks ago, a group of about twelve found their way to us. They were half starved and dehydrated. Another large group came in last week, but they were better supplied. They mostly needed a place to sleep. Some of them stayed though, and then yesterday, Kyle spotted two more people. They’re still in the main house. Not everyone who has came here, or was here already, has decided to stay, so we’re not overcrowded yet. With all the coming and going, I think there’s about forty people? Forty-five? Maybe? Something like that.

Enough people that George has moved away from strictly farming, and is working on other projects, like expanding the main house and building a massive bathroom, I guess you could say. Kinda like a shower room at a gym, I guess. He already built a bunch of little outhouses so we’re not all fighting over a toilet, but getting clean is another story. James and a couple others have been helping him with the construction work. It’s slow going, since there’s only about seven of them doing all of the work, but at least it’s going. In the meantime, we’re getting better at farming and helping out.

We’re learning. A lot, and not just about the farm. We’ve all been invited to stay as long as we like, permanently even, if we decide on that, but George said we need to know how to survive on the land too, just in case. They’ve prepared the best anyone can, but all it’ll take is one big storm to wipe out part of our wall, and we could be overran. If that happens, we need to be prepared to grab our stuff and run. He’s trying to make sure we’re ready for that worst case scenario, you know?

Plus, there’s all the trips we make outside the wall. We try not to do it too often, but we do go out hunting. Danni has a good crop going on, but one thing the Bible got right is that man can’t live on bread alone. So we go out and we bring back what food we can. The first week we were here, there was a horde that came through. It wasn’t a huge one, but it was big enough to be a concern. Luckily, they came from the west where the wall is more built up, so they didn’t make it to the houses, but we still stayed inside and only left the buildings to tend the crops. We did that as fast (and quiet) as we could, and got back to safety.

If we had been outside of the wall when the horde showed up, we would’ve been in trouble. As it was, poor Marissa was freaked the hell out. She didn’t leave the house for another week after the last of them were gone. She didn’t want her parents out of her sight…it was bad. She’s okay now, for the most part. She still gets jumpy, and she still doesn’t like them being where she can’t see them, but she’s pushing through. I think it helps that she’s learning archery. George only has three crossbows, and us “newbies” aren’t allowed to touch them until we’re proficient with the regular bows. He comes from a long line of preppers, so he’s been making bows and such since he was little. He’s like…fifty? I think? So he’s pretty much a master bowery (?) now. I’m not actually sure what he’s called, but he’s…wow. He’s made us all our own bows, and he’s had us practicing whenever we get a spare moment.

I’m…well, I’m not great at it. I’m hitting the actual board, but no bullseyes yet. Lori is better at it than I am. Marissa is, too, for that matter. Ryan is doing about the same as I am, but Aj’s blown us all out of the water. Bullseyes left and right. Kyle sucks at it. He’s even worse than I am. George has him practice with targets nailed to the side of the barn, and even then, he makes sure the area around him is clear.

We’re both much better at hoeing (?). We spend more time in the fields than the rest of our group. And George thinks I’m a natural with a hammer and saw. I started helping out with building today, and he said I picked things up faster than he expected.

We’ve talked about leaving a couple times. Jo is happy here, and so is James. They both think it’s better for Marissa, especially after the horde incident. Lori doesn’t care either way. Ryan and Aj…I think they’re trying to like it here, but they’re kinda like Lori and I, and couldn’t care less.

George and Danni know. We’ve been up front with them, and they respect that we’re on the fence about the whole thing. They’re just happy we’ve been able to help. George suggested waiting til the weather starts cooling down before we try leaving, if that’s what we decide on. The heat isn’t too bad for us right now, but that’s only because they have massive amounts of solar panels attached to the roofs (rooves?), and we all have fans going in the houses.

The main house is the only one with an actual air conditioner, but George isn’t greedy with it. We’re all welcome to gather in the house during the hottest part of the day. He’s also being careful with the water heater, but he makes sure we all get a chance to take a hot shower at least once a week. The rest of the time, we wash outside. He has a system set up, something called grey water? It basically collects the water we use for bathing and washing dishes, and recycles it? We can’t drink it, but it can be used for watering the crops and the outside baths. Every morning, we bring the buckets of water we used at the huts, and empty it into the system, then fill a couple tubs with fresh water from the system and let it stay out in the sun. By the time we’re done with all the outside work and are ready to get clean, the water is warm enough to stand. It’ll suck when it gets too cold for that to work, but right now it’s good.

He also set up something to collect rain water, and man, have we had a lot lately. We’ve had a couple weeks, where all it did was rain. The first time happened around the same time as the horde coming through, which made it even more creepy. What made it even worse was that we had to keep the AC off those weeks to save as much of the solar batteries as we could.

It’s worked out for us though. George and Danni both made rounds while we were all stuck inside, checking on us. We spent a lot of the time talking to them, making plans. We couldn’t really do any building, with the way we were stuck inside, and it didn’t take that long to get the crops taken care of. He got to work on sketching some plans out for a wagon he could build for us. It wouldn’t be as big as what Shelly had. He’s trying for something a little narrower, but he’s worried about stability. He’s also going for all wooden, instead of, say, rubber for the tires. He said we’ll have to be careful not to break the wheels, but he’ll try to make a couple extra for us to take, just in case. He’s also going to try and set it up so we can switch out the wooden wheels with rubber ones if we have to. The aim is to make it as light as possible, but still sturdy enough for what we need.

He’s also wanting to try and take time to teach us some maintenance for the bows, and how to make our own arrows. We have the guns Ryan and Aj took from the store, but the bows will be better in the long run. More sustainable. The fleching (fletching?) is tricky. That’s going to take some time to learn. Not sure about the strings either. He’s been taking pieces from the animals we’ve brought back from the hunts and doing something with them. I don’t know what, but I guess I’m going to be finding out fairly soon.

He’s already made plans for next week. We’re all going to be going with him and learning…everything, basically. He has hunting techniques he wants us to learn, tracking, more practice with the bow…a lot. He wanted to get started sooner, but he didn’t want to dump everything on Danni until there were more people to help her out. Plus, I think he’s worried about leaving her alone with so many people. It’s not that she can’t take care of herself, but she’s tiny. She’s maybe five feet tall. Maybe. But she’ll cut you down at the knees real quick. One of the new guys that came right after us tried running his mouth to her. Called her all kinds of names. She ignored him until he grabbed her by the arm. He woke up a couple hours later. George gathered all of us that night and reminded us that he had plenty of land to bury a body, and a wife who wouldn’t mind procuring him a body to bury. There hasn’t been any problems since then.

Lori loves her, but then she loves anyone/anything shorter than her, so that was expected. When she hasn’t been practicing with the bow, she’s been following her around, trying to learn everything she can. I joked about her having a girl crush, and she gave me a look like “and?” Which is fair enough. I’m pretty sure we’re all half in love with Danni. I’m still trying to figure out what the hell she sees in George. She’s almost half his age, and way out of his league. I’d be worried he was keeping her against her will, but I’m pretty sure that’d be impossible. Plus, anyone who spends time with those two can see the way they feel about each other. And who exactly is in charge. Danni says jump, and George is mid-air when he asks “how high?” It’s cute. And scary. But mostly cute.

The newest…additions, I guess you could call them? The people Kyle brought in. They brought news with them. Nothing good, but not terrible either. Shelly was right about the bombings. All of the major cities are gone. Well, all that aren’t military based anyway. They’re not sure about those. I don’t remember these guys’ names yet, but they were traveling from the east and said that every city they’ve came across was either a pile of rubble, or still on fire. The ones that were still on fire or at least still smoking were also surrounded by pacers. They started going the long way around the cities to avoid being spotted. Not that they needed to though, from what they said. The first time they ran into a horde around a city, the pacers just stared at them…didn’t chase them or anything.

I know Shelly mentioned something about the pheromones or whatever affecting the pacers, and it makes sense, I guess, for them to gather at a place where a lot of them (presumably) died, but that doesn’t explain why the pacers didn’t chase them. Unless it overwhelmed them? The pheromones, I mean. Maybe if there’s too much of them present in the air around them, it overloads their senses? If that’s the case, maybe other things can do it too? None of us have tried that yet. It’s an idea, anyway. Too bad we don’t have any way of testing it.

It’s getting late. I’m putting this away. I’ve got a lot to think about, and we’re going to try and get another shack/home thing done tomorrow. I’ll try not to forget this thing again, but with so much going on, I’m not making any promises.

-AG

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