Prologue—Introductions

I look back on the problems I once had, and I don't know if I should laugh or cry. You know, the problems every teenager had, those ones we think are life or death. Are people talking about me behind my back? Does the person I like even notice me? Will my Geography teacher spring a test on us? Will my dad notice that I have slipped a smoke from his pack? Compared to the problem I have known, those troubles are laughable, childish really. When every day is a battle for survival, what's the point in worrying about an English paper you didn't get to hand in? My problem right now is one of life and death.

Maybe I should start from the beginning. My name is Nathan (Nate) Freedburg. I'm fifteen, light of build, with brown curly hair and mismatched eyes- one brown, one green. My problem, the life and death one, began about four weeks ago. It was the last week of school, the last day in fact. I was sitting in French class, listing to the teacher drone on about how we should practise over the summer when Gerry Fitsommons got pissed off with one of the jocks cracking jokes about his weight. Gerry was overweight, but he had always been cool about it. He was the kind of guy who cracked jokes about it, called himself "The Piggynator." He was also one of the most placid guys you could meet. We could ride him for hours with the fat jokes before he lost it, but today, no luck. He bounded to his feet, snatched up his chair and beat the jock, Matty, to a bloody pulp before anyone could react. His eyes were wide, blood vessels showing in the whites, the skin around his lips turning grey. He looked confused at the sight of the bloody, broken chair in his hands. He had asked what had happened before he had passed out, vomiting blood all the while.

We found out later that he had died in hospital. Over the next week, I heard more and more stories like that—people getting pissed off at the slightest thing, beating someone to a bloody pulp, forgetting what had happened, passing out, vomiting blood and dying. The problem was, they didn't seem to stay down. Pretty soon, hospital staff reported that the "dead" patients were up and walking around the morgue, attacking staff, taking chunks of flesh out of them. The local undertaker sealed up the funeral home for the same reason. The local news stations reported that the same thing was happening all over the country. The President had ordered a state of emergency all over the country.

Two weeks after the incident with Gerry and the jock, there were reports of people fleeing to the borders. All of a sudden, it was Mexico receiving American immigrants. Canada, Britain, Ireland, France, all of them took in a certain amount before they realised that maybe the infection could be coming in with the planes. They sealed their borders. But it didn't work. Before the news reports cut out, we heard reports that the Irish President had ordered the army into several refugee camps where there was mass infection. Britain moved the refugees to islands off its coast. We don't know what happened in France, but Canada and Mexico moved their armies onto the border.

Three weeks after Gerry, when people were just really beginning to panic, the local supermarket began to run out of food. Like everyone else, my family and I raced down there and raided the place. We stockpiled water and food. We ransacked the gas station for fuel.

Three and a half weeks later, three days ago, my parents and older sister left me at home looking after my kid brother when they took our car and pickup to raid the next town over. That's the last I heard of them. The power cut out two days ago, so I fired up the generator my dad had installed, but only for an hour or two each day—just long enough to use the computer, check the TV and make sure my phone stays topped up. Yesterday, after my once kindly neighbour tried to break in and steal our water and fuel, I decided to leave my kid brother with a shotgun and then I went to raid the gunstore. It was nearly drained of ammo.

I did manage to pick up a girl named Lily, a friend of my sister. I'll admit it, I fancied her. She was the Sheriffs daughter. She had taken his spare key and raided the Sheriff's station and loaded everything she could into the back of a prison transport van. Through tears she told me her father, and most of the Sheriff's Department was dead. She told me that before her father had left, he had told her that the military were bombing several major cities. I convinced her we should go back to the station. It would be easier to defend- the windows were barred, the people left alive, desperate. I helped her unload the prison van and then took it. I grabbed my kid brother, loaded up the generator and whatever supplies we had into the back of the prison van, and took off back to what I hoped will be a safe spot for a while.

And here I am people. I, Nate Freedburg, am holed up in a Sheriff's Department, heavily armed, with a kid brother who just about understands what's going on, missing parents and older sister (possible dead), and a girl who gives me a hard on every time I look at her. And the reason for it all, I hear you ask? Freaking ZOMBIES, if you can believe it. That is how you find me. Fun, huh?

000

Chapter One—Settling In

I woke up this morning to the sound of laughter. Strolling out of the cell I was using as a bedroom, I found Lily tickling my eight year old brother Kevin. When she saw me, she smiled, cuddled Kevin and told him to go get dressed. Kevin ran off, leaving me in my boxers, looking at Lily in her denim shorts and low cut blouse, her black hair tied up in a pony tail and her green eyes flashing. She was five years older than me, but even in the day I had spent with her, I could tell I would be the one in charge. Lily had always been confident. She had always known where she wanted to go in life. Now, she was lost. So was I, but thanks to TV and video games, I had an idea of what to do where Lily didn't.

"What's wrong?" I ask.

"I'm worried, Nate. Other than the sick folks wandering around outside, we haven't seen anyone else. What should we do?"

She pouted, and I tried to concentrate on things not related to the feeling, well, down there.

"Not drawing attention to ourselves would be a good idea," I proclaimed after I had won my battle with my body. "Conserve ammo," I continued. "We have enough food and supplies to last at least two weeks. Then we will take a look round. Use the prison transport. Go to Henley if we have to."

Henley was NOT the town my parents and sister had gone to. If they were one of those things, I really didn't want to see.

"What if there are other living people?" Lily fretted. "Like your neighbour who tried to break in?"

I placed a hand on her shoulder.

"Lily, every window is barred. The windows are two inch thick bullet proof glass, even on the doors. There are multiple locks on every entrance. You would need a tank to get through there. The entire building is surrounded by a ten foot high wall."

Boy, right now, I was thankful that Sheriff Daniels was paranoid. Lily nodded and began to wander off, before turning with a mischievous look on her face. She made a circular motion at a certain area of my body.

"Thanks for the compliment," she said smiling. I groaned. I wandered to the locker room, grabbed a towel and took a nice, long, cold shower.

000

It turns out, Lily was right to be nervous about the non-infected inhabitants left in the town. Mr. Orvan, my "nice" next door neighbour must have followed us here last night. His car came screeching around the corner near the station followed by a pickup. All were full- about twenty people I would say. Orvan must have rounded up every living survivor in town. I recognised my French teacher, Madam Hallowat, her husband, three football players and some bar flies that inhabited the bar across the street from my house. All were armed with guns, pointing their guns at the station. It was easy to spot those who were sick. Their eyes were bloodshot, the skin around their lips were turning grey. Only Madam Hallowat, her husband and one of the football players looked healty.

"Oh NATHAN," Mr. Orvan bellowed, rattling a sniper rifle against the locked gates. Mr. Hallowat stood a little behind him, his gun trained on the back of Orvan's head and not at the station. Hmmm. Maybe he realised. Maybe this was his way of getting to safety. I knew Madam Hallowat was pregnant.

"Let us in little piggy," Orvan was shouting. I pressed the button for the intercom at the gate, while Lilly got two pump action shotguns ready and passed on to me.

"What do I get?" I asked. Orvan smiled.

"We have supplies," Orvan said into the intercom.

"So do we," I shot back, sounding braver than I felt. That wiped the crazy grin of his face. He began pounding the gates with the gun, before one of his barfly goons pointed out that he could shoot the padlock. All the ones I knew to be infected began shooting like rednecks at a wedding. Once the padlock was off though, the gate still wouldn't budge. Orvan and the goons stormed off screaming in frustration. You see, that's what the infection does first. Gerry had been lucky, dying so soon. The infection turns the living into crazed things first—living, but crazy. Some were lucky to have five minutes of logical thinking and concentration on any one day.

Madam Hallowat, her husband and the lone football player, not been infected, knew what was going on. Once Orvan and the other infected were far enough away, I hit the switch and the gate slid open. Once they were inside the gate, I hit the switch again and the door slid shut. Orvan didn't notice. I ran to the front door and opened them for the new arrivals. They burst in panting. I locked the door behind them.

"How bad are they?" I asked.

"The barflies will be dead by tomorrow. Sniper rifle guy and the two footballers, another two, maybe three days," Madam Hallowat panted.

"So, they'll be back," I sighed.

"Afraid so," the football player added, his voice saying he was sorry.

"Let's get you settled in," I offered, keeping an eye on where Mr. Hallowat tucked his gun.

000

That night, Lily paid me a visit. She snuggled up beside me on the bench that served as my bed.

"Do you think it wise to let them in? More people mean more chances for someone to turn on us."

"It also means more people to go scouting for food and to handle the weapons. Better keep them locked up, by the way. It's enough Mr. Hallowat has one."

"Of course," Lily sighed into my ear. Across the room, Kevin snorted in his sleep. I fought to control myself. Outside, we heard Orvan drive off at last. A zombie moaned as the infected hoard filled the void left by those not yet in their ranks.

"Mind if I sleep here tonight?" Lily muttered, half asleep.

"Not at all," I sighed, enjoying the feel of having someone other than my scared kid brother snuggled up beside me.

Authors Note: So, what do you think?