Blood Runs Black – Chapter 6
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”.
Oct. 13th, I think.
I haven’t been keeping track of the days like I should’ve been. It’s been a long couple weeks though, and I need to find a new calendar thing soon. This one ends in January next year, and the way things are going, we might not be somewhere safe before then. Of course, then again, unless someone has a Farmer’s Almanac thing, none of us are going to be able to remember things like leap years, and dates aren’t going to mean much anymore. It’ll be all “How old are you?” “Ten summers!” Won’t that be grand?
Anyway, it’s been a while since I wrote, but to be fair, we’ve been busy. And there’s been a lot of changes. We’ve found quite a few settlements. We found one in a forest. They built a city in the trees, I kid you not. There’s a clearing in the middle that they’ve made into a farming area, but their homes are basically tree houses. Netted tree houses. It was weird, but it works. They have buckets set up to collect rainwater, and this huge..I forget what they called it, cistern? It’s an extra huge bucket. They keep it covered except for when they need to get some water out.
We stayed with them for about a week. We watched a couple hordes come through. With the way the platforms were set up, we could see them, but they couldn’t really see us. I mean, if they had bothered looking up, they might’ve seen us, but none of them ever did. They just walked along, minding their own business, the best I could tell. We asked Simon (the guy in charge) if they’ve had any of the pacers die in their woods. He said they had to kill one once, but they moved the body so it wouldn’t contaminate the food they have growing. George and Ryan went with him to see where the body was. They came back looking sick, and Simon disappeared for a while, talking to the others.
Ryan told us later, the body was decomposing, which is good (I guess?), but there was a circle of black all around it. They told Simon he needs to burn the body, and the entire area around it. That’s what Simon was off doing. Getting a group together to siphon some gas from nearby cars and all that.
Pete wanted to stayed with them. His wife didn’t. She was worried about their son falling out of the trees, since they built the homes so high up. A reasonable fear, especially for a mom, you know? She was very polite about it to Simon and the others, but Pete…man. He stuck his foot in it.
He told her it was fine if she didn’t want to stay. She could go and take the boy with her, for all he cared. He completely went off about how it’s all the kid’s fault his dad is dead and he didn’t want anything to do with her or the boy. Simon was standing right there when he said all that, and he was not happy. When Sue tried arguing some more, Pete slapped her. Simon grabbed Pete up by the back of the neck and threw him over the edge of the tree house. Head first. Pete didn’t stand a chance. We all heard the snap.
We left that night. Simon apologized to Sue for doing that in front of her. Said it was “vulgar” and “disrespectful” of him to have done that in such a manner. I don’t think it really registered to her though. For all his faults, and apparently there were a lot of them we didn’t know about, she loved Pete. George didn’t have any problems speaking his mind though. He thanked him for saving him the trouble of making Sue a widow.
Then there were the river settlements. We stayed a day or two at a couple of them, and Carl, Toby, and Noah ended up staying behind at one of them. The prison, wait, excuse me, “correctional facility” group almost got baby Alyssa and her parents. Jean liked the thick walls of the building, and the farm being in the middle of the building, but there were rooms with the blood staining the walls, so that was out. Last I heard, the people there are going to try and either burn out those rooms, or move somewhere else. We wished them luck and got the hell out of there.
We found a new group of people though, and I’m pretty sure Jean and them are gonna end up staying with them. Which, I can’t really blame them. I was tempted to stay, too. They’re kinda like the first forest settlement people, but instead of living in the trees, they built a wall surrounding the clearing, extra thick. They have a gap about a foot and a half and then another wall with the houses built into them. They’re slowly adding dirt and gravel into the gap to give it added strength. They’re talking about building another outer wall and doing the same thing with it, but they’re worried about the trees. They don’t want to do too much damage around the roots, I guess. They only have a small farm going on, but they trapped a few deer and rabbits inside the walls and are trying to breed them so they have a steady source of meat. The rabbits won’t be a problem, they breed really easily. I’m not so sure about the deer. I’ve heard of deers being tame enough to eat out of a person’s hand, but never of them actually being domesticated. They seem determined though, so best of luck to them. Especially since we wouldn’t have made it across the river without them.
God, we were lost when we found them. We’d been following this damn river, trying to find a way across for…I don’t even know how long. We’re down to having enough horses for all the riders, but we’re still moving fairly slow. Cows apparently only walk when they feel like it, and they haven’t felt like walking much lately. We lost a couple on the road, they wandered off, and George said not to bother chasing them down. We lost the golf carts a long while ago. We moved everything into the carts though, so we’re still good.
Sorry, got off track. Anyway, like I said, we were lost. And we were getting worried. We’ve been running into a lot of small hordes, and I do mean small. Maybe five or ten pacers in a group? They were weird ones too. A couple of them saw us and waved as they kept walking. Another group was sitting down in the middle of the road, munching on something small and round, but I’m not sure what it was. Didn’t look like it came from a human though, that’s the weird part. We came across another that chased us on sight, so yeah. It’s been crazy, and we didn’t exactly feel safe sleeping out in the open or with our tents. Then we found the wall. And it was a weird wall, too. I don’t know how they did it, I didn’t get a chance to ask, but they embedded some of the planks into the side of the trees. It looks almost like wall grew out of the trunks, in a way. But anyway we followed the wall and James walked right into a stream of piss. Needless to say, he wasn’t happy, but hey, at least we found someone.
They led us to the one spot in the wall they have that actually opens (it’s not quite a drawbridge, but close.) and got us settled. Their “houses” aren’t very big, so we ended up pitching our tents outside while we stayed with them. George did most of the talking with the couple in charge. I helped out with the garden patch and we all helped haul dirt and stuff for the wall. That’s actually how I found out what they were doing. They plan on getting this wall in place, and then, if they need to, they’ll start expanding it. They wanted to make sure they have that place to fall back to though.
Yesterday, George gathered us together and told us we were in leaving in two days, and to be ready. A couple guys from the town/village/whatever are going to take us across the river in exchange for a couple of the cows. I’m not sure what good that will do them, considering they don’t have a bull to mate them with, but that’s what they asked for. They spent today haggling over which two they wanted, and building a pen for them. The rest of us made sure the horses were ready to go, and got everything packed up except for the tents. We’re supposed to leave at dawn, which means we’ll be up before then, saddling horses and hooking up the carts.
Reggie went to talk to George a little bit ago. I don’t remember if I mentioned Reg before, but he’s Jean’s boyfriend. Alyssa’s dad. He and Jean have spent a lot of the past week talking to the people here, especially the woman…I forget her name, she’s hispanic, so I want to say Maria, but I don’t remember for sure. Anyway, I think Reggie and Jean have been seeing if it would be possible for them to stay here with the baby. With everything these people have in place, it’s probably the safest bet for them. Safer for us, too. We’ve had entirely too many close calls because Alyssa picked the wrong time to wake up and start crying. If it wasn’t for the blood at the prison, I would’ve tried calling for a vote to leave them behind then.
On another note, we found out quite a bit this past week. We watched the pacers while we were filling the wall, and it’s…interesting. We already knew they were forming groups, but apparently they don’t always get along. We saw three different groups get into a…well, I don’t want to call it a fight, all they did was growl at each other, but it was something.
Lori said that was the first time she saw them looking “hostile”. According to her, before, they seemed more desperate than anything. Personally, they always looked hostile to me, but what she said kinda makes sense. I’d probably look pissed off and ready to kill if I was starving too, but does that mean the pacers who were chasing us were just hangry? That’s a hell of a thought. Course, that would also mean that the ones who were so chill had already ate, and yeah. That’s another hell of a thought, and I am really wishing I hadn’t had it. Lori just brought me a bowl of the rabbit stew Maria(?) made tonight, and the floating chunks of meat are making my stomach turn a bit. I’m going to eat it anyway, we can’t really afford not to eat when we’re going to be going on the road again, but oh this isn’t going to be good.
I miss being on the farm. I miss the fresh bread and butter. I miss the hot baths and the indoor plumbing. But on the other hand, as cold as it’s getting at night…I just realized how screwed we’d be if we had stayed. None of the cabins had central heating, and no place to add a fireplace, either. I don’t know if George doesn’t know how to build them, or if he didn’t have the material, or if he was just in a hurry, but yeah. We’d be freezing come winter. It’s already getting cooler, and I know it hasn’t been more than a month since we left. I mean, the weather isn’t bad or anything, especially during the day (except when it rains) but at night, it’s not fun. Which makes me wonder how these guys are going to manage it. Oh well, what’s that facebook thing? Not my circus, not my monkeys? Supposedly a Polish proverb. I don’t know if I believe it, but it’s accurate enough.
What else…we’ve had a few run ins with wild animals. Coyotes and raccoons mostly. No bears, which is what I’ve been worried the most about. Well, bears and wolves, but more bears. The people here didn’t have any news to share, so as far as we know of, there’s still nothing known about the virus. I keep hoping we run into a military base. They might have more information about what’s going on than the rest of us. We didn’t get cable at Walmart, and the radio stations we listened to just kept repeating the same thing: the virus is world wide. Seems to spread via bodily fluids and/or bites. Stay inside, stay safe. Like that was helping anything. People were probably starving in their homes, waiting for help that never came. Or worse, were scraping by waiting for help, and died when our own government started dropping bombs on their houses.
Yeah, I’m still pissed off at Joe. We all are, imagine that. Whatever. My stew is cool enough to eat now, and we leave early. Putting this away now.
October…I don’t even know anymore.
We’re in the woods. I was right about Jean. They stayed with the tree people. Kyle is thinking about going back with Trey (our guide). He hasn’t decided yet. Sue probably would’ve stayed if it wasn’t for all the trees. I guess it reminded her too much of the other tree town, and she’s still having nightmares of Pete’s death. I’m just glad the kid didn’t see it. As it is, he keeps asking her where daddy is, which starts her crying, which starts him crying.
Trey said we should reach the bridge tomorrow. Fingers crossed. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get comfortable when you have a root digging into your back? Plus, it rained earlier, so everything is cold and wet tonight. I hope we run into a house soon. We take turns on who gets the couch/beds/whatever, and it’s my turn for a bed.
October something again.
We’re on the other side of the bridge. We’re in a house. It looks like we weren’t the only ones who have stayed here. There were a bunch of empty cans of food in the trashcan. Stunk up the place, but we couldn’t really do anything about it. If we put it outside, the smell might attract the pacers. Or wild animals. Either way, not a good thing for us. For now, we shoved it in a closet. It helped, some. Better than nothing, anyway.
We didn’t really have any choice but to find a house. It got cold quick tonight. I hope Trey makes it back to town alright.
My turn for the bed. Goodnight.
I think it’s still October?
We’re kinda worried about Danni. She’s been having headaches and throwing up. Then today? She fell off her cow. Lori is poking me. She’s been reading this to make sure I don’t miss anything. Apparently I didn’t mention the whole, her riding a cow thing. Yeah, so she’s been raising a cow since it was born, and she taught it to let her ride it. So the rest of us are on horses, and she’s on Pippi. It is seriously the damndest thing I have ever seen.
And it’s also not really important, because the important part of this whole thing is…she fell off. Not only did she fall off, she fainted. Two things this woman claims she has never done, and she did them both in the same day. George almost broke his leg jumping off his horse to go check on her, but she’s alright…far as we can tell, anyway. She’s bruised, and embarrassed, but nothing fatal. Lori says Sue and Jo both think she might be pregnant, but the whole reason she started raising cattle was because she can’t have children. I’m not sure of the details, but that’s what she was told. Supposedly her and George had been trying for years and nothing’s ever took.
I’m figuring it’s just all the rain we had. I don’t imagine where we’re camping tonight is going to do her any good either. We’re not far from a river, Mike rode his horse ahead and said it’s a big one. Some of the other waterways we’ve come across, we followed them til we found a good shallow spot and walked the horses across. This one, and that last one, though. Way too big. Ryan and Brandon rode out to check out a few paths, and there’s a bridge not far from us. They said it looks like it was meant for trains, but it’s wide enough we should be able to walk the horses across it. The cows too, but they’ll need to be hooded. Cows and high bridges apparently are not friends. Luckily, we don’t have that many to worry about. We’ve lost more than half our herd, including a mother and her calf, so we’re down to only seven. Between our jackets, and actual hoods, we have enough to cover the eyes of all of them, if we needed to, so getting across the bridge before we made camp for the night would – normally – not be a problem. Normally.
Brandon sketched us an image of what we’re headed for. There train tracks cut through some woods to the north, through a large grassy clearing, and narrows down into the bridge. There is no way of getting to the bridge without going through that clearing, and that clearing? Is full of pacers. Good times, am I right?
Now, on the plus-ish side, Brandon said they appear to be a group of the more tame acting pacers, rather than the chase you down and eat you alive ones. Problem is…do we want to risk it? I mean, we don’t exactly have a lot of choices here. Between George’s GPS and our maps, it looks like we’re a good couple days away from any other bridge, for one, and for another, we may very well end up with the same problem, just in a different place.
Kyle, Mike and Brandon have been talking the problem over, trying to find a way around this whole mess. Right now, they have two different ideas. One is to have a group running distraction, getting most of the horde to chase them while the rest of us get across the bridge. They would lead the pacers away for a couple miles, then loop back and head for us. We would be on the other side of the bridge with guns and bows to cover them while they walk their rides across (Danni says not to risk riding them, just in case the footing isn’t solid enough) or ditch the horse completely. Lori suggested having two people on each horse, so when they got back to the bridge, one person could get off and start walking the horse across, while the other stays a little behind and helps with the cover fire. Or, they could pick one person who runs longer than the others. That would give the other runners more time to dismount and lead their rides across. Then when the last guy makes it back, if he has to ditch the horse, so be it. At least that way, we only lose one horse, instead of three or four.
The other suggestion they had was to have one person at a time go out into the clearing. Kinda test the waters, I guess. If Person 1 made it across the clearing without a problem, then we would try Person 2, maybe leading a hooded cow. It would take longer, and we’d have to make sure none of the cattle started running, but if these pacers are some of the tame ones, it could work. We would have to have someone volunteer to go first, though, and who would do that? Besides Lori or Danni, because those two have no sense of self preservation.
I’m pretty sure George will be able to hold Danni back, at least. It turns out he can say ‘no’ to her when he needs to. She didn’t want us to camp out in the middle of this clearing. He had their tent put together first and dragged her off for a “nap”. From the sounds of it, it was more of a knock down drag out whisper fight. She stayed in the tent after he left, so I’m not sure what happened, but he didn’t order us to pack everything up and get moving again, so I guess he won.
Lori, on the other hand. She’s the type who, if we tell her “no”, she’ll fight for a while, and then pretend to give in, and at the last minute, she’ll do it anyway. If she tries to volunteer, and we tell her no, we’d have to pretty much hog tie her. And honestly? I’m not sure if that would be any safer than trying to make a run for it through that clearing.
The sun’s going down and it’s getting cold. We originally put up five tents, but we just took one of them down. If it’s like it was last night, even with all the blankets, it’ll be too cold to sleep alone. Four people is kinda stretching it, the tents aren’t exactly large, and we had to find somewhere to squeeze Jen in, but we’re managing. Lori and I are sharing our tent with Sue and Max, and they’re both small, so we told her she could stay with us. It’s actually not too bad. We already checked the sleeping arrangements and we all fit. Barely, but none of us are kickers, so it’s good.
We’re just waiting to eat dinner now. Mike and Brandon shot some rabbits earlier, and we have some veggies from the tree town, so we’re having rabbit stew. We’re (well, George and Ryan, anyway) are having to cook it a couple miles from us though, just in case the pacers smell it and decide to investigate. As soon as they get back we’re all huddling in our tents and going to bed. It seriously is too cold for this.
It’s the next day. Whatever day that is. I give up.
So, Michael came up with another idea last night. He suggested we try crossing at night. He thinks the cold might affect them the same way it does any other creature, making them more sluggish and easy to avoid, if we do the whole move slow and quiet thing. Danni vetoed it immediately though. If the bridge is anything like other railroad crossings, it won’t really have any railings worth mentioning, which means, if any of us stumble because it’s too dark to see, we’re done. She liked a blend of the other two ideas. Have someone start out crossing, nice and slow. If they don’t chase us, then we try another person going across. If they start getting rowdy, have three other people ready to ride in and start acting like a bunch of crazies, basically.
None of us are particularly fond of any of the plans, but they’re all better than sitting here doing nothing, or trying to go around them, which would add days to our trip. If the weather was still warmer at night, going around wouldn’t be such a bad idea. I mean, yeah, there is still that risk of there being pacers at the other bridge, but at least we would have more time to come up with an idea of how to handle it. Plus, the other bridge we found is on the map, which means it’s a car bridge, not a railroad one, so it wouldn’t be as narrow, and we wouldn’t have to worry about the horses or cow (or us) falling.
Another thing is, if we go around, we might find another railroad crossing. Danni and George both say it isn’t likely, but I don’t the possibility should be ruled out completely, you know?
Maybe we could do a mixture of all three, but instead of crossing at night, cross right at dawn. It would still be cold, so they would still be sluggish (if that is even a thing for them), and there would be enough light for us to cross.
Sorry, I went to talk to the others about the idea. They liked it. We’re going to try and get a little closer tonight so we’re able to start first thing in the morning. We’re taking turns watching the group tonight. Mike said there were fewer today than yesterday. We’re hoping that means they’re leaving.
Wait. Now what?
Crap. Okay. James just pointed out that some railroad bridges have open slats. So trying to lead the horses across, even with a hood, might be out of the question. Now the plan is for one of us to go ahead and check the bridge and the pacer’s…appetite level, I guess you could say. Danni came up with a way to decide on who’s going.
Remember how she said her and George would be carrying a coin with them? Turns out she wasn’t kidding. They made everyone pick a side. If they chose heads, they stood behind Danni. If they chose Tails, they stood behind George. Sue and the kids are automatically out, so they’re taking turns on who calls the “safe” side, Danni flips the coin, George reads it. If you picked the safe side, you’re out of the game. They’re going to keep going til it comes down to one person. I was out in the first round. The only people left right now are Bridget, Jen, Lori, and Mike.
Late. Don’t ask me what day it is. I. don’t. Know.
It got down to Lori and Mike. They volunteered to go together. Watching each other’s back. They’re back, and they have good news and even better news. Good news is, the bridge’s slats are not empty. We can lead the horses across. We’ll still need to hood the cows, but at least now we know it’s safe. The better news is that it appears the horde is gone. Somewhere between the first time Mike went, and this last time, they cleared out. I’m thinking it’s too good to be true. Lori says not to look a gift horse in the mouth. I say the Boy Scouts are right about the whole “always be prepared” thing.
Whatever. We’ve moved in closer to the bridge, but we’re not quite brave (stupid?) enough to risk camping in the clearing. James and Ryan ran across the bridge earlier to make sure it was safe on that end. So far, it’s all good. Tomorrow morning, we go.
October 27th (According to Lori. Who knows at this point?)
I’m still waking up. I’m sore as hell. We rode…god, I don’t even know how far. We just rode. We had to put up as much distance between us and them that we could. We’re resting today though. No choice. Not after what we put the horses through, not to mention the cows.
Yesterday was, as Lori put it “fucking weird” and we’re all creeped out. Another reason we’re taking it easy today.
Remember our plan? Well, it went…okay at first. I mean, that morning, we got up. Checked the clearing. It was still empty, so we got the horses ready, and headed for the bridge. Ryan went ahead to the other end so he could keep a lookout on that end, while the rest of us helped George and Danni get the animals ready. They’re the best with the animals so far, so we agreed, they would lead a few across, then a couple of us would pull a cart across. Back and forth, so there’s always something moving, you know? We were saving one pony cart for last though, in case we needed a blockade.
Anyway, we got the first cow hooded and on a lead with George’s horse, Elvis. While George was taking them across, Danni started working on the next one, waiting until they were about halfway before heading over. George got across, came back, and it all started again. It went back and forth like that, for hours it felt like. The bridge wasn’t long, but with George and Danni being the only ones who were any good at leading the cattle like that, it really slowed us down. We’re going to have to practice this stuff, just in case it happens again.
Well, the crossing part. Not the other part. Which I haven’t got to, right, okay.
So, we got almost all of the animals across, and three of the carts (we have seven.) we were finally starting to relax, we were in the groove of things, I guess you could say. Marissa was helping me with tying a lead to Gin, and all of a sudden, her face just turned white, right about the same time I heard Brandon and Lori start cussing real quiet. I looked over Gin’s back and almost started cussing, myself.
While we were all distracted and feelin’ good about ourselves, the pacers had returned. They were all along the treeline. I’m not sure how many, I don’t trust my count right now, far as I was concerned, one is too many, and this was a LOT more than just one. They weren’t walking or running at us or anything, they were just…watching. Marissa handled it pretty well. She didn’t freak out. She didn’t yell or make any jerky movements, whether it’s cause she’s used to being around the horses, and not being able to freak out (without getting kicked, anyway), or what, I don’t know, but she kept it together.
James came over and told her to mount up. She said something to him, but I missed the conversation cause I went to help Mike get Sue and Max up on their horse, Lucky. When I came back though, Marissa was still on the ground, and Aj was up on Gin. She held out her hand for Lucky’s lead, and started walking across the bridge, Gin following along with her nose just about up Lucky’s butt. They were all just as calm as could be, like there weren’t flesh eating zombies all around us.
The rest of us pulled back as close to the bridge as we could. We still had two cows waiting to be taken across, but none of us felt sure enough to try taking them over ourselves. We settled for hurrying up with the carts instead, two people each pulling one. James and Kyle pulled one, then Mike and I pulled another. We met George and Ryan on the way back. George saw Marissa leading the horses across and figured out what was going on. Danni was staying behind to start hooking the carts back up to the horses. She came back with me and Kyle though. And Marissa. Which really pissed James off, but Marissa is good with the animals, too, and is one of the better shots with the bow, so as much as I hate to admit it, the decision made sense.
It also helped that Danni had Riss (yes, I’m shortening names again) bring Gin, and told James that the girl wouldn’t get off the horse even once and that if the pacers so much as moved an inch closer while Riss was on that side of the bridge, she’d slap Gin on the butt and make him take her back to safety.
The pacers did end up getting closer, but not for a while. Well, some of them moved just enough into the clearing to sit down, but that was okay. It was weird, but it was okay. We just kept one eye on them while we worked.
We got all the animals across except for Pepper (mine) and Trick (Mike’s). Lori was with me. She was going to help me lead them, and George came back across with his cross bow in case the pacers decided they were tired of just watching. We still had two more carts that needed to go, but Riss and Danni came back to hook them up to Gin and Spook (Ryan’s horse). I was waiting for them to get far away enough for Lori and I to follow along when the pacers really started moving.
I won’t lie. I saw them start moving closer, and I almost needed a new pair of pants. George brought his bow up, and we started easing our rides back, blocking the bridge with Lori behind us. She let us back her onto the bridge, but she kept telling us to watch them. I’m sitting there like, “what the hell do you think we’re doing?!”
We couldn’t back across the bridge, not with the horses, so we each took turns watching the pacers, while the other two rode ahead. As soon as we were out of sight though, we all turned around and rode the rest of the way hard. We cleared the bridge, and Danni was waiting for us. She had everyone saddled up, the carts hitched, and ready to go. As soon as we came off that bridge, they took off. We hit the ground running, and we didn’t stop until we couldn’t see well enough to go any further. I have no idea where we are, but the place was perfect for us. There’s even a pen for the animals. We lost another cow, but considering how far we drove them, I’m not surprised. Danni and George are going to spend today figuring out where we are and how much further we have to go. I think we crossed the state line, which means we shouldn’t have too muc
Lori here. I took over. Alex is being a pain in the ass and NOT LISTENING. He’ll read this tho cause I just yanked it out of his hands. So. READ, jackass!
The p’s weren’t moving to ATTACK US. If you had WATCHED them like I TOLD you, you would’ve see that! They moved when we moved. They knew we saw them as a threat, so they were keeping distance between us, you moron! Everytime we stepped back, they stepped closer. I bet you anything, they saw us watching them in the clearing and figured out that we needed to get across the bridge, and that’s why they left in the FIRST place. Like it or not, I’m telling you, they are FIGURING things out!
Also, Dan IS pregnant, just you wait and see. Hell of a time for this to be happening, but Jo and I are both like 99% sure, which means you and G and the rest need to get your head out of your ass and start paying attention!
Ugh, you men.