Henry was a tough guy. He had survived some pretty tough times in the army, and during his time in the merchant navy, he had broken his knuckles, and other people's jaws, in ports around the world. He had spent time sobering up in his ships 'brig,' in local jails and in hospitals. He was a fighter. But this new reality of zombies was pushing him to the limit mentally as well as physically. As he walked between the wrecked cars on a grimy city street somewhere in Texas, gulping some water from his canteen, he thought about swapping the canteen for the barrel of his gun. He was sure he would like what came out of that a lot better than water right now. He was mulling over the idea when he heard distant gunfire and the revving of an engine.
He scanned the ruined city skyline, trying to figure out where the noise came from. He heard the gun fire again, and turned to his left. Down Richmond Avenue, with it shattered glass fronted stores and the remains of the police forces last stand. Brendan shrugged as the gunfire died away. Probably looters, hoping some of the high end stores still had warm clothes for winter. Absently, Henry started walking down Richmond Avenue, scratching at the week old stubble on his jaw and rummaging for a cigarette. He kicked at a SWAT helmet as he lit up. As he took a deep drag, he checked the cop cars, with their blood smeared windows and shattered headlights. Nothing of any use. The SWAT van turned up things of more use. A few shot guns shells, and a few clips for his small collection of automatic weapons he had stashed at an abandoned apartment.
He sat on the rear step of the SWAT van with a groan and finished his smoke, thinking about how the world got so bent out of shape. He had been sitting in some dingy, smoke filled bar in Rotterdam when the news had broken about some small military research base in an ex-Soviet Republic been raided by some dissident faction of the military. It had been all of two minutes reporting on the news, and Henry hadn't given it much thought. He had gotten drunk and knocked out the front teeth of some mouthy Irish sailor and woken up in his bunk, back on his ship, with his Captain standing over him looking pissed off.
By the time they reached Bayview Harbour on the east coast of America, that two minutes worth of news was now getting nearly a full hour. The small ex-Soviet Republic that was home to the research facility was now completely dark—there was no ground communication of any sort coming out of the country. Satellite images showed its capital in flames. Whatever images were been sent from Russia showed long lines of refugees going one way, with equally long lines of soldiers going the other. There was thirty second footage of some video shot in the town about a mile from the military base, and things didn't look good. Henry had found some small internet cafe and checked youtube. The videos that had been uploaded from the infected country were either grainy and uninformative, or grotesque in their violence. One video, the one that was been used on news channels, was about four minutes long. It started out on the edge of a small town, and showed a field full of cattle. Suddenly, the cattle had gone crazy and scattered in all different directions, to reveal a figure in the distance. As the figure came closer, details were easier to make out. It was a man, mid-twenties, and in a military uniform. His skin was pale, the blood vessels standing out like black ropes. The image changed. The angle was pointing down from a roof. The man in the military uniform was bent over the body of a teenage boy, ripping large chunks of flesh form him.
Henry had returned to his ship to find most of the crew had gone AWOL, the Captain finishing off a bottle of vodka and the docks crowded with people. After several minutes of slapping the Captain, and a lot of cold water, Henry had managed to find out that the infection had hit the city of Bayview. It wasn't at pandemic level yet, just a few isolated cases in the local hospitals, but with all the news reports, things had gone south real fast. All around them, ships were empting their cargo's to make room for refugees. Henry decided to join his crew, and he ran inland. Now, he was here, in some city in Texas, smoking a slightly musty cigarette and sitting on a step incrusted with dry blood.
He was mulling over whether or not he should stick the barrel if his Beretta in his mouth after the smoke when he heard the sound of tires crunching over the rubble. It was coming from behind him, from the front of the SWAT van, and a few seconds later, the hood of a car appeared. It was green, but the further it came, he saw that the doors were white. There were blue and red strobe lights on top, a Sheriffs badge on the door, and the words HARDWOOD COUNTY SHERIFFS DEPARTMENT. Henry shot to his feet as the car rolled to a stop and bumped against an overturned SUV. He jogged to the driver's door, and inhaled deeply. Sitting in the car, in Sheriffs uniforms, were two kids.
Charles groaned as he came round, and he knew he wasn't in good shape. After the horde had attacked, they had gotten most of the bug out buses gone, and he had stayed behind to try and distract the horde for as long as possible. Kurt had stayed with him, over his objections. They had managed to hold the horde off for a while, and had even radioed in that they, as a safe zone, had fallen. Then they had bugged out themselves, choosing a patrol car because it was the only vehicle they could reach. They had driven hard, and had stopped only to get what little gas they could, and the running had taken finally hit home. Both he and Kurt were exhausted, Charles was in constant pain. Finally, on a street in some city, after fighting off another massive swarm attack, after Kurt had finally fallen asleep, Charles had put the car in neutral, turned it off and let it coast to a stop. He didn't remember anything after that.
But he was sure he hadn't fallen asleep on a soft bed. Or had stripped off to his boxers. Or even made himself the sandwich which now lay on the bedside locker. Charles staggered to his feet, and his shoulder twinged. Someone had changed the dressing. In a bed across from him, Kurt was in an equal state of undress, and beginning to wake up, and when he was fully returned to consciousness, he was just as confused as Charles as to their predicament. It didn't stop him from jumping into Charles' arms and kissing him passionately. They tried the door, but it was locked, and the windows were barred. They couldn't find their clothes or weapons. Finally, they tucked into the food, and wondered aloud how they came to be here.
It was late afternoon when he came. Kurt was dozing on Charles' lap, with Charles playing with the soft fuzz on his chest, when the lock on the door rattled. The guy who entered was tall, muscular, and clearly hung-over. He studied Charles and Kurt for a long time, especially the way Kurt wriggled back into Charles after he woke up.
"So," he finally said, "neither of you were infected. That's good, I guess."
"What are we doing here?" Charles demanded, dragging Kurt as close to him as he could. The other guy noticed his protective movement.
"Relax, I ain't going to harm your brother. I saw you stop. I wasn't going to leave two exhausted kids out on the street. I had to lock you in to make sure you weren't infected, like I said," the man explained.
The guys clear green eyes peered out from under his lank brown fringe.
"I'm Henry Sutton, by the way," he said.
"I'm..." Charles began.
"I know who you are. It was on your ID card. Real fucked up when a kid becomes a Sheriff. Not that it will buy you any favours. I spent enough time in county lock-ups not to have much fondness for the law. The minute you and your brother get better, you're gone. I don't have the food for guests to stay a long time."
With that, he left.
Authors note: Sorry this chapter is so short. Trying to get back into the swing of things. Thanks to freddyburn for his help on this chapter, and to little lette for giving me a boot up the backside and getting me writing again. Check them both out, and give them a read and review.