Chapter 10-1

~~~

National Guardsman, Sergeant Richard Hash, gave the checkpoint officer the thumbs up from the armored Humvee as he led his two-truck detail across the protected northeast access bridge from the Percy Power Plant toward the outskirts of Percy Township. This was the last run before sundown and they were already running behind.

“I hate this shit,” Corporal Carl Thomson said from the passenger seat, readjusting his white biohazard suit beneath the assault rifle strapped across his chest. He looked back into the passenger mirror, past the cargo truck that followed the Humvee, and watched the checkpoint patrol re-secure the triple-layer of chain link gates, which effectively locked them out of their only place of safety for miles. Out here, they were at the mercy of an unknown enemy who had a craving for human flesh.

“Stop playing with it or you’ll put a tear in it,” Hash advised, trying to get Thompson’s mind back in the game. “They’re not meant to be comfortable or we would all be trading in our camos for them.”

Thompson laughed. “Now wouldn’t that make us a sight to spread intimidation wherever we went: The National Guard dressed in marshmallow suits.”

“We’ll have to hurry this load up. It’s gonna be dark in thirty mikes. In and out, alright?” Hash said.

“You don’t have to tell me twice.” Thompson couldn’t keep his eyes off the woods.

Hash continued to lead his six-man team down the one-mile gravel road that ran parallel with the lake. The fifty-foot cliff which ran the length of the north side of the plant offered some small comfort but the woods ran deep and dark toward the right. Back at the bridge access, a twenty-foot deep trench ran along the entire east side of the plant, making an approach through the woods difficult… but not impossible. On the other end of those woods, God only knew what was happening to the general populace.

“So tell me again how you got stuck with us grunts on this shit detail¸ Sarge?”

Hash ran a hand through his sweaty, blond flat-top and shot Thompson a weary look. “You already know that so stop asking.”

“Yeah, I know,” Thompson said with a smirk. “I just never get sick of hearing how you disobeyed a direct order and pissed off the Major. And here I thought you were Mr. Do-No-Wrong.”

“The man wanted to get home to his family. What right did I have to stop him?” Hash defended.

“We have our orders,” Thompson countered. “For Christ’s sake, everyone wants to get home to their families. Don’t you think I’ve thought about bailing, too? Point is, we were under strict orders after lock down: No one leaves until the threat is neutralized and order is restored. Then you just let that chicken shit go AWOL.”

“Better to have men fighting who understand the score. A man who can’t keep his mind clear is no good in a fight,” Hash said. “His mother was elderly, could barely wipe her own ass by herself and he needed to see to her safety. He told me she had no one else to help her, said he wouldn’t leave if there had been anyone else except a hired nurse who sure-as-shit probably fled as soon as everything went to hell.”

“Yeah, but-”

“Try to imagine that for a moment, considering what we’ve seen. An old woman stuck in her bed with no one to help her hide is left alone to get devoured by one of those things. Can you imagine the terror of what that woman went through as all hell broke loose in her neighborhood and she could do nothing but pray when one of those things barged into her home? Besides, the man was local, which means he had a chance to help her, unlike the rest of us with family God-knows-where. Also, he wasn’t military. He was a civilian security officer at the plant so cut that AWOL shit out.”

“But what if word got out that you let him go? Hell, that would’ve encouraged others to leave their posts and then we all would have been fucked.”

Hash considered this for a moment. “I see your point. But if given the choice all over again, I wouldn’t change a God damn thing.”

Thompson laughed. “And now you’re out here tossing bodies. Was it worth it?”

Hash frowned. “All I know is that I’m still alive. I think my odds are considerably better than that poor old woman or her son right now.”

Thompson shook his head. “I like you, Sarge. Even when you’re wrong, you’re right. Gotta respect a man who stands by his own fuck-up no matter what.”

“Thank you… I think. Enough chit-chat. We’re here. Let’s do this double time. We’re about to lose the light.”

~~~

Hash’s team stopped just before the end of the dirt road where an old chain link fence separated the farthest eastern edge of the power plant’s property from Lakewood Road in Percy. From here, it continued east into a residential area. Toward the lake, a cliff-side view opened up before a beach below.

They’d had plenty of time to establish a routine as Hash used hand gestures to give commands. All six members understood the value in keeping quiet this close to town. The cargo truck was backed up within five feet of the cliff edge while one guardsman manned the mounted M-60 from the Humvee’s roof hatch, taking up a tactical position toward the wood line to defend the group from any surprises. Two more guardsmen, armed with assault rifles, watched the north and south ends of the dirt road.

Hash, Thompson, and the remaining guardsman, all dressed in biohazard suits, opened the back of the truck as the stench of the dead assaulted their senses immediately.

“I still hate this shit,” Thompson moaned as he joined the last guardsman and began to remove the infected corpses from the back of the truck. They walked a pale and disfigured woman toward the edge. Her eyes were locked open, still yellow and full of hungry hatred—a tell-tale sign of the enemy. A dried up bullet wound marked the center of her forehead. “Let’s do this, she’s creeping me out.”

They tossed the woman down the cliff side where her body joined the mass of former humanity turned monsters.

Hash retrieved his binoculars and scanned the hundreds of corpses on the beach below, making sure that the crazy ones (as they were sometimes called) who had attacked the plant just two nights ago, weren’t down there playing possum. He didn’t think they could climb the cliff, but they had proved surprisingly strong and fast-as-shit when they had first attacked the plant.

He lowered the binoculars. Hash couldn’t help thinking about their losses. Like a bomb, the initial outbreak had gone off from within their own ranks as he’d watched fellow guardsmen go crazy and turn on one another. At random, men and women contracted the unknown disease that turned regular people into cannibals. They were fortunate that the numbers of those who turned were significantly lower than what had happened elsewhere, and they were able to restore order before the first attack came from the south in the early hours on Saturday. By then, everyone had seen what they were up against and were prepared to hold the perimeter. That had been a hellish night no one would forget. And now, Hash had questions upon questions that continued to go unanswered.

It started on Thursday morning when The Guard had been mobilized and sent to Percy for what was being called a multi-task force operation involving organizations from all across the state. Rumor had it that a pandemic event had been declared in the region and that an unknown outbreak was imminent and would reach Ohio as it had already done in neighboring states to the west. Protocols and emergency procedures had gone into effect. State government officials had been evacuated to two power plants in northeast Ohio. Information was sketchy at best and with the mysterious internet and phone service black-out two days later, no one knew for sure what was happening.

At Percy, additional security fences and barricades were erected to expand the protected area. Weaponry, vehicles, machinery, mobile labs, medical supplies, food trucks and water were all sent.

It had been a busy couple of days leading up to the event that without the early warning, the Percy Plant would have fallen.

The latest gossip running wild throughout the ranks was that Percy was the only plant still standing.

“At least you didn’t have to sit in the back with those fuckin’ things,” Private Andy Gibbs, the guardsman assisting Thompson said. “Every time someone hits a pothole, it looks like one of ‘em moved. Tell you what, next time I sit in the Humvee.”

“Sorry, chum, but rank has its perks.” Thompson turned to Hash. “Hey, Sergeant, how about you stop looking at the dead things and lend us a hand?”

“Sorry, chum, but rank has its perks,” Hash mocked. “Be right there, let me just-” Hash noticed movement farther up the shoreline. Someone dressed in a leather jacket and a red hat was walking toward the beach. From what he could observe, it appeared to be a woman. “Well I’ll be damned.”

“What is it?” Thompson asked nervously.

“Looks like we have a refugee heading in from the shoreline. That’s a first. Kind of smart, really. Most of the action’s been further inland.”

Thompson reached for the binos and took a look. “Shit, she’s alone. Not so smart. She’s not going to make it up here before nightfall.”

“You’re right, she won’t. Not without help.”

Thompson gave Hash a weary look. “You know we can’t go down there. Beach is off-limits, remember? Or have you forgotten that order, too?”

Hash waved a dismissive hand at Thompson and watched as Red Hat stopped before the bodies. “That has to be a real mind job, seeing all those corpses down there.”

Red Hat looked up and saw them. She began to wave enthusiastically.

“Now you’ve done it,” Thompson said. “We should get these bodies unloaded before dark.” He walked away, not giving Red Hat another thought.

Hash was irritated with Thompson’s indifference. “For someone who claims to be a National Guardsman, you sure don’t fit the bill. That’s one of our own down there.”

Thompson sighed and said, “Orders are orders, Sergeant. They may not have mattered much before all this, but now, it’s the only structure we have left standing between us and chaos.”

“Stop being so fucking dramatic and get back to work,” Hash said.

Thompson laughed. “How are you going to get down there?”

“Gibbs, is that repelling line still in the truck?” Hash was already on the move before Gibbs could answer.

~~~

Gina walked among the bodies as if trapped in a nightmare mine field not knowing what would happen if she stepped on one of them. They lay in disfigured heaps in various positions. She paid particular attention to the bullets wounds in their heads, knowing that if she found any without one, she’d be in serious trouble.

What if they’re not all dead? What if they’re… sleeping? Gina thought about her conversation with Hathaway, about how he thought they went dormant. Then she remembered what the boy said, that he woke one of them up. Even the little girl on the boat confirmed as much.

She tried to avoid contact but eventually had to walk on top of a few where the bodies were piled thickest.

Gina was motioned by one of the men at the top of the cliff to meet him at the base. She waved back to show she understood his intent. A man was climbing down on a rope.

She stopped herself from stepping on a man with a bloody gray beard, nearly falling into the pile trying to maintain her balance. He stared up at her with his yellowish eyes, his face contorted into a permanent snarl of bloody teeth. There was no bullet hole in the man’s head. Gina froze. Unsure of how to proceed she realized she needed to step over the man to find a spot of sand to step on. She extended her leg over the man, expecting him to reach up and grab her at any moment. Then she was past the man, noticing from the other side of the corpse that someone had shot him through the ear.

She was almost to the cliff. In her haste to reach the end before losing the light, her foot caught on the extraneous belt buckle of a heavy-set woman. Gina fumbled forward, stepping on several bodies in an attempt to stay on her feet. She was about to fall in the heap until a guardsman reached out his right hand, catching her wrist and allowing her a moment to stabilize.

“Gotcha,” Hash said with a smile. “Are you alright… Miss?”

Gina looked up and smiled. “I’m alright if you tell me you’re not a figment of my imagination.”

“I most certainly am not.”

“Then if you don’t mind, please get me off this fucked-up beach before I shit myself.”

~~~

Next Episode 10-2
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2015/07/31/chapter-10-2-the-plant-2/

Previous Episode 9-3:
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2015/07/27/chapter-9-3-desolate-shores-2/

~~~

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~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 10-1: The Plant” Copyright © 2014, 2015 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark, Book One: Southbound Nightmares”.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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Comments
  1. Sam says:

    You are on form, great work. I checked out ‘The Final Diary’, I will deffo be filling my waiting time with it.

    Like

  2. sscherr says:

    Welcome back, Sam. I’m glad you’re still enjoying the tale and Paul will be glad to hear from you over at The Final Diary.

    Like

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