God is an Iron

My first try at writing something in a Zombie-verse. ARGH! – like I really needed a character from another Universe to start talking to me!
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This is a work of fiction and is copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Chapter 1 Old Joe

Prolog; Camp Alpha, NY October 20, 2032

Kenny was too young to remember the world before the Great Dying. He had been born at the Camp. He had heard the stories of the wonderful world of the Before Times and the terrible stories of the Great Dying, how the Flight had struggled to get here – how others had escaped to join the flight here.

His world was bordered by The Fence. Three fences with concertina wire, pits and traps in between to catch the Eaters. He had heard the stories of the Flight, of the struggles to keep out the Eaters, of the struggle to put up the second and third perimeter fences.

And Old Joe.

Old Joe had a bunker outside the third fence. The Flight converted every inch of soil inside the fence to growing food. Their living spaces were in side tunnels of an old coal mine. They burrowed into the ground, so they could grow food above. They grew mushrooms in trays in the mine tunnels – but it was not enough.

Never enough.

No one went outside the Fence. Old Joe never came inside the Fence. But he foraged in the Old Places. He brought back canned foods, dry goods, and tools. He left them at the Gate.

For the parents, it was a horrible life – but they endured, for the memory of better days, for the hope of better days.

For Kenny, and the other children, it was just life. He had never known what it was like to be full from eating too much. He had only tasted chocolate a few times, and only on very special occasions. The sweetest treats he knew were the carefully rationed chewable vitamins that all the children were given each morning after breakfast in the chow hall.

For him, home was a section of tunnel in an old coal mine, a bed was a pallet where he and his parents and siblings all crawled together for warmth at night.

As he got older, he started to shoulder more responsibility. By five, he was carrying a rifle and learning formation drill. By ten, he was learning to shoot, to carry a real rifle. The children were started on sitting Night Watch with their parents, watching the fence for Eaters.

By then, there were fewer Eaters. The Eaters who had once been human were mostly gone, but the other creatures – the ones who had once been rats and dogs – burrowed under the fence and crept into the Flight.

He started to call Old Joe by the name the adults called him – "Major" – and sometimes, "Major Sherman". One night, he was standing watch in the main bunker, and he saw the glimmer of sparks from the chimney of Old Joe's bunker.

There was a sound powered telephone in the main bunker, and on a whim, he picked it up and spun the crank. There was a crackle in the earpiece and then a familiar voice said "Sherman".

"Airman Jones, Guard One." Said Kenny, in the way he had been taught. "Just checking to see if you were there, Sir." He said. "Turnover didn't tell me you were back, but I saw sparks from your chimney."

"Hmmph." Said the Old Man. "Good eyes, Kid." He chuckled. "Guess I gotta watch it on the poplar – or fix the spark arrestor on the chimney flue. Thanks."

"Roger that," said Kennie. "I'll mark it down in the logbook that you're back."

"Thanks, Kid." Said Old Joe. "Jones -You must be Sam and Estelle's oldest boy, no?"

"Yes, sir." said Kenny.

"So many years." Said Old Joe. "How's your folks?"

"Getting old." Said Kenny. "Every winter, my dad complains of his arthritis." He shook his head. "Momma is having a lot of back trouble."

"It's been twenty years, kid. That sort of thing happens."

"Why do you stay out there?" said Kenny. "You must be REALLY old. Dad says you were old when he got here."

"I carry a curse, son." Said Old Joe.

"A curse?" said Kenny.

"Yep." Said Joe. "Everybody that caught the Disease – they turned into Eaters. I'd brought the Flight up here – got your parents here, got the camp set up, was off on a foraging trip and got bit by an Eater."

"Damn" said Kennie. "What happened?"

"Dunno" said Old Joe. "I got torn up by Eaters. Got away, but passed out before I could kill myself. They tell me I was gone for a couple of weeks. I woke up and came back here, and I was like I am now. Now, an Eater bites me, it dies."

"Wow." Said Kenny. "But why do you stay outside?"

"Because I still carry the Eater Disease." Said Old Joe. "I can infect Humans if I'm around them for very long."

"That sucks."

"You bet. Other part is, I don't seem to age. Might be watching over you folks for a long time to come." He said.