/ Language: English / Genre:sf_horror,

About a Woman a Zombie Chronicles Novel

Mark Clodi

Dora suddenly has more to worry about than getting to the doctor's office. Smashing her car, she finds herself stranded on a day when all hell is breaking loose in Kansas City. Going on is not an option, walking two miles, in this heat? This is not something she does, not ever. Where are those overpaid cops when you need a hand? They always seemed to be there when Dora was driving forty-five in a twenty mile an hour school zone, but now when the flesh eating undead are after her, they are nowhere to be found. Walking back to the last intersection she finds a fast food place still open for business as usual, going in she meets her new best friends; Paige and Mike. When the bullets start flying the three scuttle back to take cover in the manager's office, turning on an old television set they begin to realize how bad their situation actually is. They need to get out of the restaurant, but with the chaos starting all around them, where can they go?

Mark Clodi & Tiffani Speller. About a Woman

A Zombie Chronicles Novel

Chapter 1

"It's not like it's that big of deal." Roger said wearily.

"Not a big deal? Not a big deal?!" she responded, her voice seething and shrill, "We'll see when I start swelling up like a balloon, when we have diapers to change, college to fucking pay for!"

Sighing Roger protested, "We're married for Christ's sake! It's what 'married' people do, right? It isn't my fault the condom slipped off!"

The way he said it betrayed something, in the darkness her eyes widened in shock and she knew it was indeed his fault the condom 'slipped' off. She started to reply, to escalate the fight, but her anger just deflated.

'Fuck', she thought, 'I didn't even finish.' This was, of course, the normal way things were working for her these days. The sex, which had always been mediocre before marriage, had turned into robotic motions, with fewer sessions per month than she had ever dreamed of. Why didn't her husband want her more often? She was open to new ideas, had never turned him away and yet 'the horse had stopped drinking at the trough', so to speak. It had deteriorated so much that a few weeks ago the woman had not fulfilled her birth control prescription, which she had passed on to Roger. The ironic thing was that since she went off of her birth control Roger had shown her more interest than ever.

'Three weeks and we've had sex, it was never lovemaking anymore, four times, damn but they were like a couple of wild teenagers!' Sarcasm never helped, it just often felt good. She had been married for four years, she was twenty nine years old and her friends, parents and now even her husband seemed to be on the baby war path. The dirty little non-secret was that she didn't want kids. She never had, her mom had 'pooh-poohed' her opinion away, telling her daughter she would change her mind when she got older.

However nothing had changed and she was pretty sure nothing would. Roger now wanted a kid, a hundred and eighty degree turn around from the day he took his vows, he also made it clear two or three kids would be better.

'Yeah, the condom slipped alright.' Part of her profanity was from the slippage, most was directed at the fact that she was still horny as hell. Why couldn't he finish what he started? She nuzzled closer to him, however a few moments of that let her know there would be no repeat performance, nor even cuddling. 'Where was a pool boy when you need one?' The very thought brought her a fresh wave of arousal.

She moved her hand between her legs, listening for Roger to stir, he was lethargic, drifting towards sleep, yet not quite there, she had been 'caught' before, explaining that had been humiliating. She usually just slept after another one of what she thought of as "Roger's Rapids", especially if his foreplay was of his standard performance variety.

'Let's see,' she thought, 'first the mandatory French kiss. Then, the one thing that decides if I cum or not; the neck nibble.' If Roger nibbled, it was a happy night of long sex, maybe even with some oral. A left side nuzzle was a horse of a different feather. Left side meant quick nipple fondling, some fast 'is the hole wet' exploration and almost immediate thrusting followed by equally speedy ejaculation. No, there was no need to get worked up about 'left nuzzle sex'. Again the thought of a pool-boy as a third partner crept into her mind. Just naughty enough to keep her arousal peeked, not too fantastic, not too mundane. Just ri-ight! The woman quickly slid out of bed and headed downstairs to the guest room, casting a quick glance behind her towards her now sleeping husband.

Twenty minutes later she was still glowing with the after affects and turned on the television, a cable news channel came on with the latest news about the riots that seemed to be everywhere the last few days. On both of the coasts, Denver, Austin, who knew where or why, no reporters we on the scene, travel along certain corridors was prohibited, it was a total cluster-fuck, so far as the woman could tell no one had come out and used the 'T' word yet. She was leaning towards a domestic terrorist group herself, another group of nuts, like the Constitutionalists or something. This would be just another group put down by the government; the end result would be fewer rights for the remaining people with higher taxes to pay for it. And so it goes.

The news was leading off with a story on several explosions in Colorado, rumored to be nuclear explosions. Someone had smuggled footage out of the 'Denver nuke', and it was all over the air now. The woman sat up, clutching the thin covers of the bed closer around her. 'Fuck! This is the world my family wants me to bring a kid into?'

The woman resolved to head to the pharmacy when she got up the next day. The rest of her night was spent watching the news. In the morning her husband poked his head into the room then came in and shut off the television without really looking at it. Before leaving he rumpled her hair and kissed her brow goodbye.

An hour and a half after Roger left a curfew was issued, citizens were ordered to stay in their homes. Twenty minutes after the curfew was issued a man approached the woman's front door. The man was about six feet tall had a bulging belly and wore a gray suit with black leather shoes. His knees and pant legs were muddy and there was a black stain along his right arm. His once designer haircut was mussed, leaving his gray-black hair a tangled birds nest. He was slow, he shuffled instead of walking, he did not knock at the woman's door, he did try to turn the door knob.

The front door had not been used in months, not since Roger's parents had come over for dinner. The woman preferred to go out, not stay at home. The door was locked. The man at the front door tried to force it in, his attempt was lacking and he soon gave up and moved to the next house. The noise he had made stirred the woman in her sleep and she awoke minutes later.

She yawned sleepily and scratched her ribs as she struggled into consciousness. Getting up was a chore, especially after staying up to watch the news so late. She hopped out of bed and viewed herself in the bedroom's full length mirror.

'Not bad.' she thought, viewing herself with a critical eye. At five foot six she weighed hundred and thirty five pounds, not as fat, yet, as most of her friends and not a skinny bean pole without any meat either. Her brown hair accented her skin tone, she was sure there must have been an Hispanic or Italian somewhere in her past probably on her dads side. The woman's old grandma always hinted about her first husband, making him out to be some sort of family skeleton in the closet. She had seen pictures of her grandfather in his military uniform, he looked like a normal guy to her, unfortunately he had been killed in some war overseas long before she was born.

Her old grandma had a wild past, that is one thing everyone agreed on, she still went against the grain living on her own, a few hundred miles away, at an age when most people in their eighties considered retirement homes a welcome respite. The woman continued her nude assessment, legs; good. Arms; excellent. Buttocks; rather nice. Hips, good, breasts, never enough, but the men she had been with had not complained. Lower stomach, well, that is where the extra few pounds had settled.

'More gym time. Today, after…..what?' She remembered, 'The pharmacy, the 'morning after' pill!'

Now, it actually was 'the morning after'. 'Now it is time to keep any babies from coming into this world of terrorists who set off bombs in Denver.' The woman headed upstairs to her bedroom, pulled on a fluffy pink robe and called her Doctor.

"Dr. Bayer's office. How may I help you?" asked the receptionist on the other end of the line.

"Hi, this is Dora Sturges, I am one of Doctor Edmundson's patients. Could I speak to him please?" said Roger's wife.

"What is this about Ma'am?"

"I need him to call in a prescription for the morning after pill to my local pharmacy."

"Oh. Well, that shouldn't be a problem. Is there a reason why?

'Stupid bitch, none of your goddamned business!' Dora thought, but she found herself saying, "My husband and I had a little, uh…break with our normal form of birth control last night."

"Okay, Dora. Give me a minute please." Dora found herself on hold for a couple of minutes before the nurse came back on and said, "Dora, are you still using the Medi-cap on Fourth Street?"

"Yes, that would be fine." only after she answered did the woman realize what the receptionist had really been asking was, 'Do you want me to have the prescription sent somewhere they do not know you?'

"Doctor Edmundson will call in the prescription now; it should be waiting for you at the pharmacy when you get there. He would like to see you and discuss an alternative form of birth control if you think this might be an ongoing problem."

"What? Oh, no…well, maybe. I will think about my options and set something up later." Dora said, though she had no such intentions.

Saying her goodbye, Dora moved downstairs and into the kitchen to start the coffee. She made a point of not turning on the news; she'd had enough of that miserable stuff last night. Puttering about she started some toast and took out a couple of brown organic eggs, which, according to the package, had been laid by happy free-range chickens.

"I wonder how happy they are to have their eggs stolen?" she said aloud.

The silence was getting to her, as it usually did, buckling in on her determination not to watch television she was reaching for the remote and ended up dropping an egg onto the tile floor.

"Dammit!" She set the remote down and cleaned up one of the happy chicken's eggs before turning back to her breakfast. Any thoughts of turning on the television were erased in her haste to finish preparing her eggs, coffee and toast. After she cleaned up, she got dressed, grabbed her purse and headed into the garage, where her burnt orange Mazda 7 awaited.

Sliding behind the seat she hit the garage door button, then turned the car over and started to back out of her driveway. When she hit the street she clicked the door shut and was momentarily startle by a loud buzzing siren. The tornado alarms when going off. The woman looked around suspiciously; nope, not a cloud in the sky. Dora figured they must be testing the system. Shrugging she headed for the pharmacy a few miles away, singing along to Lady Gaga's latest; that singer only got better as she got older, in Dora's opinion. As she drove out of her gated community, she did not notice the gray suited man crouched in the doorway of the first house inside the community's borders. The man, now walking with nary a shuffle to his steps, watched the woman drive away with a hungry look in his eyes.

The first indication the woman had that something was seriously wrong was when she approached a traffic signal, it was blinking red in all directions and there was no traffic from any other direction, very unusual for this intersection at this time of day. Shrugging the woman drove on through to the next intersection, thinking it was going to be a long drive if she had to stop at every corner.

She managed to get up to forty five miles per hour when she saw the police officer pull out behind her. As she saw his lights turn on she was distracted by what was going on in behind of her and she did not see the lady in rumpled clothing rushing off the slight incline with a tire rim. The woman did not see the rim thrown into the air and did not see it smash into her windshield. Turning her gaze back to the front of the car once she heard the impact Dora could not see out of her window. The windshield was bowed inwards, and she immediately swerved sideways and hit the steep curb at forty miles per hour. She didn't see the fence she blew through at thirty three and finally she also did not see the one hundred and twenty one year old oak tree that her car smashed into at twenty seven miles an hour, though she did hear it.

The air bag deployed, her life was saved, yet she still impacted with enough force to convince the police men following her that she was beyond saving. The police car stopped, a male and a female officer sprang out of the side doors, drew their firearms and shot the bag lady four times, the male officer approached the bag lady's still twitching form and fired once into her head. Both officers, looking grim, started to approach the crashed Mazda. Before they got there, their radios went wild with calls, demanding them to come quickly, there were officers down. They simultaneously headed back to their patrol car, hardly casting a guilty glance towards the Mazda as they did so.

Chapter 2

The woman was not dead; far from it she was barely injured at all. Her nose had been bloodied by the deployment of the air bag, her neck had suffered bruised ligaments, tendons and muscles, more commonly known as whiplash and she had been stunned briefly into unconsciousness.

When she came around Dora was groggy and scared, her nose had bled an awful lot and her neck hurt horribly. Looking out of her broken side window she saw the bag lady's body in the middle of the street. The woman mistakenly thought she had only been out a few seconds, she also thought she may have run the bag lady over before hitting the tree.

Guilt overwhelmed her and she reached for her door handled to go and see if the other woman was okay. The door was stuck and would not open. She looked around for her cell phone and, finding it on the floor of the passenger side, barely within reach, she put a call into the police. It rang twelve times before a dispatcher answered. She told him she had an accident and she thought maybe she had run over a bag lady. The dispatcher told her to go home, get indoors and not to go out again.

Dora was confused, "You don't understand, I ran someone over, I can't get out of my car and they are just lying in the street, you have to send someone to help, there is blood all over my car!"

"Are you injured?"

"I think so, I can move, I just can't get my door open. The window is broken out."

"Can you start your car?"

"What? Ugh, let me try." The engine would not turn over, "No it won't start."

"You need to get to a safe place, your home if you can reach it, can you make it home?"

"I don't understand! I had an accident. I might have killed a lady! And you are telling me to go home? Don't I have to wait for the police?"

"Lady," a voice sighed on the other end of the line, "Look lady, you heard about the curfew right? You are not supposed to be out; you were supposed to stay in your house. I am telling you, no ordering you, to go home and barricade the doors. Leave the bag lady in the street or sidewalk, do not approach her. Do not wait for the police to arrive, do not stop until you get home and above all do not talk to anyone who looks odd on your way back home."

The woman realized something more was wrong here than she had thought, "Curfew? No…I…" her voice lowered to a mere whisper, "Is it…is it the terrorists? Are they here in Kansas City too? Like Denver?"

The exasperated man on the other end of the line said, "Yeah, yeah, it is lady, they are running around Kansas City now, okay? They have a drug that make people all crazy, like maniacs you've got to stay away from other people, get home and don't answer the door! Can you do that? Tell me who you are and where you live, if we can send an officer around to check on you later we will. Okay?"

Dora gave her name and address to the dispatcher, who seemed please to get off the line with her. After hanging up she looked out the smashed window of her side door. It was covered in small pieces of broken glass. More blood dripped from her nose as she tried to force her door open. Her head felt like hell, she was getting frantic trying to force the door and no one was coming to help her!

She looked across the width of the car to the other door, it seemed like it was an insurmountable distance away. Dora leaned over and tried to reach the inside door handle. A dull pain shot through her neck. She took her hand off of her face and used it to support her neck and continued to try and open her passenger side door. Eventually she just lay down over the seat, then looked up and pitifully clawed at the door with one hand. It opened.

Dora was slowly able to move over the seat and out the door onto the lawn of someone's house. Getting up on her hands and knees she reached back into the car and got her keys out of the ignition, then groped around grabbing her purse and cell phone before using her hands to climb up the outside of the vehicle and get to her feet.

The bag lady had not moved, and the woman didn't think she was going to either, she was sure the woman was dead.

'There is something about killing a person that changes you.' she thought, feeling a strange sense of remorse and loss, even though she did not know the person she had run down and killed. Turning her head to the car she followed that up with 'Roger is going to kill me!'

The car had impacted on the front bumper almost directly in front of the driver, the tire rim, which had been thrown free when she hit the tree, was nowhere in sight. This was the second car she had totaled in less than a year. Roger might follow through with his threat and buy her a 'previously owned' vehicle as he had said he would after the first accident. That would gall her to no end, cars were status and no one of status bought used goods. Unless they were antiques, there was an exception to every rule.

Pushing herself away from the car she experienced another tingling pain in her neck, she immediately used one of her hands to steady her head and looked back the way she had come. No cars. She thought her house might be three miles away, a long walk, maybe she could call someone and ask them to pick her up. She opened her phone and called Marge.

Marge lived in the same gated community as Dora, but their houses were about as far apart from each other as they could be and still be in the same subdivision. The two of them shared many of the same past times; gossip, early morning bloody Mary's, club lunches and afternoon gin and tonics. They would also work out together and told each other all of their secrets, especially those that painted their husbands in an embarrassing light. Giggling like school children they would often be interrupted by Roger or Marge's husband, Jerry, in the middle of an off color story involving one or the other of them.

The woman had almost slept with Jerry once and Marge had almost been 'swapped' to Roger the same night. That had been one memorable ski trip in Crested Butte in Colorado. The swap had never managed to happen, but boy had Roger pounded her hard that night. She knew he had a thing for Marge since then and both women had tried to engineer a second trip, but their husband's schedules just never seemed to allow it. Not that the woman was all that impressed by Jerry, he was a spectacled man about six feet tall with a pronounced beer belly, nothing she didn't get with Roger, to be sure, but he was also completely bald. Not 'receding hairline' bald, but billiard head bald. He had lost all his hair in his twenties and something about his baldness disturbed Dora. Oh she would have slept with him, with Roger's knowledge, and she probably would have had an orgasm too, anything for a change of pace and something new. She just didn't think she would enjoy the baldness part of it.

The phone was ringing.

"Hello?" it was Sylvia, who Marge had over some days to help out with the cleaning and other odds and ends around the house.

"Oh, Sylvia, this is Dora. Is Marge there?"

"Yes, Dora. She is sleeping right now, want me to have her call you when she gets up? It is still a little early for her, she had a late night last night."

"Her too? I hate to ask this, but Sylvia, could you wake her? I have had a bit of an accident."

"An accident? You are hurt? I will get her right away!"

Nodding to herself and wincing in pain at the same time Dora waited for her friend to pick up the phone. Over the line she heard Sylvia knock on a door and then heard some muffled conversation, including a man's voice say, something like "I thought you told her not to bother us?" before Marge shushed him and yelled at Sylvia to go away. Sylvia tried explaining through the door that it was Dora on the line and she had been in an accident.

Grinning Dora knew the man was not Jerry. 'Ooh that tricky bitch! Getting some on the side and not even telling me! I am going to let her have it.' Then her brain caught up with her and she found herself pulling the phone away from her ear and staring at it in her hand while Marge said "Dora? Dora, darling? Are you there?"

Dora clicked the end button on her phone, breaking the connection. Her brain had caught up with her in time to tell her the man's voice on the other end of the line had been Rogers.

Chapter 3

Roger was fucking her best friend. That explained so many aspects of Marge's actions lately. Dora had never been a morning person, nor had Marge, it was one of the reasons they got on so well, only lately Marge had still been in bed when Dora called, even at two o'clock in the afternoon! Marge had laughed it off as staying up extra late, around the same time Sylvia had started acting weird too. Now Dora realized the part-time maid had been giving her looks of pity the last few months. Why hadn't the woman said anything to her?

Dora could make her life miserable, and would too! That wetback little bitch, letting Dora sit there in her friend's house chatting oblivious to the fact that her husband's cock had been in her friend's…Dora broke down and started to cry, she knew that it was not Sylvia's fault, still she was not ready to give Roger the full blame for his infidelity yet either.

No, Dora thought about all the long talks she had had with Marge lately, discussing his renewed sexual interest and hearing her respond with girlish laughter. That absolute bitch! Dora's crying turned into a snarl of anger, she tilted her head back to scream, however her howl of rage turned into a muted scream of pain as she moved her neck.

"Oh, that hurts!" she whimpered out loud. She slowly lowered her head to a more level position and turned her body to look around. No help had come while she had been standing there. She rotated her neck around, trying to find out where it hurt and how far she could safely move it.

Dora looked at the woman on the ground closer. There was a lot of blood, the woman's head and face were a disgusting mess of spaghetti sauce, with some wrinkly gray stuff and sharp white bits of bone here and there.

"Disgusting!" Dora said out loud. There was no way that the woman was alive. Where was everybody? Another car should have been by at least, everything was quiet and calm. Dora knew she should wait for the police, no matter what the dispatcher said.

Dora received a text message from Marge, it was short, "Call me beotch." Somehow using the pet name only infuriated her more as if that would be possible. The bitch was sleeping with her husband and wanted to maintain the masquerade? Fuck her! Dora almost threw her phone into the street in anger, but held herself back at the last second. She had the feeling she would not be able to get a new phone by simply walking into a store today.

Slowly putting her head and shoulders back into the car Dora opened the glove box and pulled out a small box filled with wet wipes. She then got down on her knees and proceeded to clean her face off using the wipes and the side mirror on her car. The bleeding from her nose had stopped and there wasn't any bruising so far as she could tell, just a lingering redness, one that showed in her eyes from crying too. Her shirt was ruined, the blood from her nose had made a mess of it and for a moment she didn't know what to do about that. Then she remembered her gym bag in the back seat, after a quick search she found it wedged under the front seat on the floor and pulled it out with a couple of tugs.

Unzipping the black bag revealed her gym clothing. They didn't smell too bad either, Dora thought she had only worked out in them once since she last washed them. Pulling out her workout t-shirt she held it up to her own bloodied shirt to compare them. The gym shirt was in far better shape. Dora slowly moved her head around to see if anyone was watching, when she saw no one she carefully pulled her shirt off and then put on the one from the gym bag. Checking herself in the side view mirror one last time she was happy with the results, she didn't look like an accident victim anymore, just a local yahoo out for a stroll.

There was nothing else Dora needed out of the wreck, so she picked up her purse and turned back to the road. She could still not see any cars or people, she was in a bit of a valley here and she expected to have a better view when she reached the top of the hillside at the end of the street. There were three very large houses along each side of the street on the way up, but they all looked empty.

'Another sign of the recovering economy' Dora thought, which brought her a snort of derision, 'sure we've recovered from the recession.' The house whose fence she had run over also appeared abandoned, Dora almost approached it, just to see if anyone was home. She took a step towards the house and she immediately changed her mind, the place was old and creepy, no one lived there, she was sure. Ignoring the freshly cut grass which contradicted her logic, Dora backed out of the yard and started walking for home.

Chapter 4

The first quarter mile walk went smoothly for Dora, she walked up the sidewalk until she was back at the cross street, which was fourteenth, in less than five minutes. She crossed the empty intersection with its flashing red lights and was about to continue down Uclid when she heard the noise. Fireworks? No it sounded like an action movie, those were gunshots!

'Close by too!' Dora looked for a place to hide. While Uclid was primarily a residential street, fourteenth ran through the main business district of this section of suburbia, so there was a gas station across from a fast food place diagonally and the opposite corners boasted a dry cleaning place across from a closed Chinese restaurant. The fast food place was right ahead of her so Dora crouched down and ran towards that, feeling a twinge in her neck with every step. She half expected the door to be locked when she pushed on it, but it slid open easily beneath her hands. The cool air that blew into her face was a welcome relief from the humid air of the street.

Standing in the entry way between two glass doors Dora peered into the place. Outside the gunfire intensified, seeing nothing unusual inside she pushed into the main lobby and approached the lone teenage boy behind the counter. He ducked visibly as the next round of muffled gunfire went off unseen outside, then nervously asked, "What is going on outside? That sounds like gunfire."

"Ya think" Dora responded sarcastically, "Maybe we oughta get in the back and hide somewhere?"

The boy nodded and Dora came around the counter quickly, almost running into a portly, younger woman with short, curly black hair wearing a fast food uniform and an assistant manager's badge with the name "Paige Hindale" on it. The woman's face held a worried expression on it and she quickly motioned to Dora and yelled, "C'mon Mike, we gotta get out of here!"

As she said this one of the front windows was shattered and all three of them dropped to the floor. Mike was wearing a head set to take orders from the drive through and it got caught up on a the cash register when he turned to run. He started swearing as the cord between the battery pack on his belt and the headphones he was wearing pulled tight around his neck, almost strangling him. Paige's expression was one mixed with fear and concern, Dora's was more of one that said 'what a clumsy dumbass'.

Mike pulled the corded headphones off, unplugged them from his belt and crawled towards the end of the counter where the two women were. Paige led the way as they crawled deeper into the building, eventually they ended up in front of a locked door. The industrial metal portal had a narrow rectangle of frosted safety glass from above the door knob that extended about two feet high. Opening it Paige revealed a messy office area that smelled strongly of old grease and stale bread.

The radio and small flat panel tv on the desk were barely visible beneath coffee stained papers and mantilla folders. Behind the desk, braced against the wall was a rickety looking bookshelf made of white medium density fiber board held up with braces and overloaded with training manuals, employee binders, old computer software and other paraphernalia. The users of this wonder of engineering must have realized the potential death trap they had sitting behind them when they used the desk, because the free floating corner of the shelves was braced up with a large post, screwed into the shelves with amateurish skill. The smells made Dora want to puke, reminding her briefly of her original reason for leaving the house this morning. Paige had immediately shut and locked the door behind them when they entered. Still on the ground, she eyed Dora speculatively before saying, "Welcome to our restaurant, can I take your order please?"

Mike started laughing at that and Dora gave them both a look of scorn, assuming, correctly, they were playing a bit of a joke on her. The moment quickly passed and she said, "I want a number 3 with a large black cup of Joe please, two creams and two splendas."

Paige scowled, "A large cup of 'Joe', that's our competitor you know."

Dora nodded, "Yeah, I know."

"A wise ass, eh? I outta toss you out on your ass."

Dora nodded, "Yeah, I know."

"I won't."

"Yeah. I didn't think you would."

Holding her hand out, Paige said, "I am Paige, that's Mike."

Shaking her hand Dora said, "Dora, I am very pleased to meet you."

"Is it bad out there? It has been dead in here all morning, no morning rush, no old people coming in to nurse their coffees for two hours. What is going on?"

Dora, who thought she was the last one who knew what was going on, said, "I was talking to the police they said to go home, lock my doors and not to talk to anyone."

"So what are you doing here?" Mike asked.

"I was trying to get home, I crashed into…well I hit a tree and they told me to walk home." Dora left the part out about the bag lady.

"Anyway, I don't really know much more than that, the cops told me to turn on the news, get an update that way." Dora shrugged her shoulders, then winced in pain at the effort.

Paige lifted one hand and brushed back a lock of her curly hair, "Yeah, watch TV, huh. You would know our cable went out in this place two days ago, we've missed most of the crazy stuff going on in the world the last couple of days. Then the manager is off in Vegas, so all the assistants are in charge, rotating the schedules, a major pain in the ass, I've been working 12 hour days the last three days, poor Mike has too. Only there was no business today, nothing."

"No cable, but does that thing work?" Dora asked while pointing at the half visible tv on the top of the desk.

It was Paige's turn to shrug, "Sure, I think so. But it doesn't have cable. The radio works too, let's try both and see what we can get." Paige grabbed the small television, while Mike unwound the plugs from both appliances from the jumble of cords under the desk. Dora made herself useful by tilting the radio off the desktop into her hand and then piling the loads of folders back into a stabilized pile that wouldn't fall on them. After a few confusing minutes of running the cords around and getting the television into a position where they could all see it on the floor they turned it on. It warmed up slowly, but the volume came on right away.

"…story by telling anyone who can hear this to look out for anyone acting strange. This could be your neighbor or spouse or even your children. Many of these people affected by the virus appear to have sustained fatal or near fatal wounds, the rule of thumb is if they look hurt and still come at you, you need to flee to a safer area."

A woman's voice came on, "Now, Jim is this the same thing that hit so hard on the east coast, with an outbreak in Denver?"

"Absolutely, Diane. The authorities are saying that we are going to have to form militias to deal with the problem, Kansas will not sit idle and let the contamination overwhelm us like what has happened elsewhere. As you heard the governor state just a few minutes ago, the National Guard has been called up and every available man and woman needs to help fight off the threat. Until all further notice you are not to go to your normal place of employment, unless it is in the following professions: Police, Fire department, Electrical Utility and Medical profession in any care giving or emergency medical capacity. Furthermore if you work for the phone company all technicians and operators are to report in. Only technicians and operators. Any and all civilians are to arm themselves with whatever weapons they have available, your local police for will not be able to protect you, if you do not have any weapons, go to a neighbor who does, or at the very least barricade your house up and stay indoors."

"So does anyone have any idea what started this…disease?" asked the newswoman from the studio.

"No one knows for sure. What we do know is that the 'normal' groups, the ones that usually would have claimed credit for something of this size, have been silent. Indicating it may not be a terrorist threat at all."

"So, no news from the authorities yet as to where this outbreak came from. Let's go now to our man on the street, Ned Stevens, to see how things are progressing. Ned? Are you there?"

The three of them in the manager's office waited while the news casters connected with the man about town, Ned Stevens, the screen on the television was still fuzzy until Mike fiddled around with the antenna. The picture then went from fuzzy washed out green images to a more tolerable resolution, just in time to show them a picture of Ned.

Normally Ned was dressed for clubbing and covered the local hot spots of social activity, so it came as a surprise to Dora to see him decked out in an Army helmet with a long sleeve camouflage jacket on.

'Somehow,' Dora thought, 'the look suits him.' In one hand he held a microphone, in the other he had a gun!

"…er me? Test one, test two." Ned said.

"Ned we are clear now, you are coming in loud and clear. What's going on? Where are you at?" asked Diane.

"Diane? Jim? Okay, okay.." Ned spoke to someone off camera, then turned back to face it head on face first, "Sorry, I am having some difficulty hearing you, Ray says you are coming through to him okay." In the background there was a group of soldiers standing looking down a business street with car lots on both sides of it. At the just visible intersection off in the distance there was a small crowd of people moving steadily towards the camera.

"Okay, I think we are okay now. I am down on west QM Avenue looking west towards Flora Drive, here is the situation."

The next twelve minutes were spent listening to Ned describe the nature of the contamination that they were dealing with, how once people were infected they became desensitized to pain and would attack and, yes, even cannibalize other humans. The only way to stop the spread of the disease was to destroy the carrier. The best, quickest way was with a sure shot to the head of the victim. If that could not be achieved then taking out the target's legs or doing massive damage to their torso was also effective at slowing them down.

As Ned reported the mob of diseased slowly approached his position, drawing concerned comments from Jim and Diane. Ned flashed them his trademarked grin and had the camera pan to the running, open vehicles that were waiting behind the camera crew, "We are not taking any chances Jim, if things get too bad we bug out fast and shift our position. A warning to viewers, we are going to fire on this group of infected; this is going to be graphic. We will not fall like Denver."

Turning his back on the camera Ned raised his pistol at the shuffling mob and began firing into it. He gave commentary while reloading and warned common citizens not to approach any of the diseased and that the disease was, as far as they knew spread through biting and blood, so avoid getting bit at all costs. Just when it appeared that the mob was going to get him Ned said into his mic, "Jim, I am going to send it back to you now as we have to get out of here, stay safe!"

Newswoman Diane, noticeably paler, said, "Thanks Ned, don't take any chances!" Dora smiled a bit, there had been rumors for years that Diane and Ned had been having a torrid love affair. "Jim, you have a new statement by the governor?"

"Indeed I do, the situation is very fluid right now. The governor has declared martial law and is ordering all able bodied citizens to arm themselves and patrol their neighborhoods, but warns that violence against uninfected will be treated as assault, manslaughter or murder as determined after this emergency is over." Jim looked into the camera pleadingly, "Please people do not take advantage of these horrible circumstances to break the law in any way. We need to pull together if we all want to live. The governor has called upon all citizens with military training to report to Kauffman Stadium to parking lots M, H and J for redeployment."

Jim looked down at the monitor built into his news desk, "This just in, Denver has fallen and I…this can't be…" Jim stared at the page in his hand for a moment, before looking back into the camera, "This…there…have been. This is confirmed…portions of Denver, Colorado have been bombed with nuclear weapons in an effort to stem the tide of diseased. This, of course, is a follow up to this morning's news about a nuclear bomb being used in Denver. It has now been officially confirmed. No word yet on how effective that strike was or on our forces losses."

The studio went silent, after a moment Jim continued, "The Federal Government has issued a statement saying they will cooperate with local authorities to help eradicate any and all threats brought on by the current outbreak. This aid will include the use of any and all force necessary as deemed by the people on the ground. Yesterday a strike force tried to make it into the heart of the city of Denver and was eradicated, almost to the last soldier, these brave men were able to pinpoint the greatest concentration of diseased and relay the coordinates to other members of their team waiting with the weapons. The president authorized the use of a weapon strike at the coordinates upon a request by the governor of Colorado. The soldiers may have been caught in the blast or killed by the infected. They did not make it out of Denver. The Federal government is now evaluating the success of the strike and will use this infor-"

The small television cut out, a blaze of static washed across the screen and Dora was left staring at the other two. Her new best friends named Paige and Mike.

Chapter 5

"Now what do we do?" Dora asked expecting Paige to come up with an answer.

"Stay here and hide?" Paige suggested, seconded by Mike's eager nodding.

"Hide? Don't you have friends or family to check on?" asked Dora.

Mike held up his cell phone, "I can call them, tell them to stay inside."

Paige seconded that notion, "Yeah, if we hold up here for a while, maybe the guard will get things under control and it will be safe to go out again. You heard the governor, unless you have military training just stay put."

Out in front of the restaurant there was the sound of more breaking glass. Looking around worriedly, Dora asked, "Are there any weapons in here?"

Paige favored her with a pained look, "Why would we want our employees to bring weapons to work? No, we have nothing, maybe we could make clubs?"

"Not even knives?"

"We have some box cutters, nothing else, everything comes pre-packaged, it's not like we do more than warm the food up here."

Dora nodded to that, "Yeah welcome to modern eating, I guess." Looking around the office and trying not to jump as even more shattered glass noise came from the front of the restaurant, Dora said, "No windows in here either, where does that vent go?" She pointed to a large vent set up high in the corner of the office wall.

"How should we know? To the furnace? I'm not a plumber."

Mike shook his head too; he was looking at the shelves along the wall. He was looking at the corner of the shelves that had been propped up with a post. It was a makeshift job with the shelves awkwardly drilled into the post at the edges. Following his gaze Dora said, "Yeah getting hit with that would suck, it's really long though. Can we get it down?"

"Tear it down you mean? No way, the manager will have a fit." protested Paige.

"I thought you were the manager?"

"Well I am the manager on duty, but I'm just an assistant manager, I told you Tom is in Vegas."

"So if we have to defend ourselves against one these zombie-guys what do we use? Your good looks and Mike's endless wisdom?"

"Ouch." said Paige completely not offended, she had realized she was no beauty long ago, "That hurts. I'll grab the pole myself if something tried to break in here. Until then let's try not to take the place apart okay?"

A loud thump sounded against the office door. Paige sighed wistfully then shrugged her shoulders and tried to wrench the pole away from the shelves. The shelving was attached firmly to the pole and to the wall, after three sharp tugs it pulled away from the wall and all of the training manuals and books came crashing down in such an avalanche of debris that Paige stumbled and fell over on top of them.

"Shit!" Paige yelped as she fell, a couple more books piled on top of her, followed by a couple of men's magazines from top shelf. Dora was up and knocking aside some of the books as they fell and managed to catch one of the wooden shelves, stopping it just as it touched Paige's back. Mike leaned over and brushed other books and binders away from Paige, his eyes on the men's magazines, which had spilled open revealing a titillating scene of two lonely farm girls in a hayloft. After tossing the shelf aside Dora looked at Mike looking at the magazines, then Mike looked at Dora and blushed, they both stopped working. Paige continued struggling and her muffled voice said, "A little help here?"

They pulled her out of the rest of the books, which settled into an unstable pile. Another loud bang hit the door causing all three to jump in unison. Dora let out a frightened laugh and all three of them reached for the pole, which still had two shelves screwed to it.

"Dibs!" cried Paige, as Mike knocked the shelves off the end of it.

"Dibs? Dibs? Who says that? You're calling dibs on our only weapon?" asked Dora.

"I'm the manager, I made the mess, I get the club."

Disgustedly Dora surrendered her hold on it with bad grace, "Fine! I hope you use it and don't choke when it comes time to hit things."

Another thump sounded on the metal door, the frosted glass rattled a little in its frame.

"Uh, this thing will hold right?"

"Dora, this whole experience would go better if you only asked us questions we can answer. Do we look like we built the place? No. We only prepare and serve food here. The door looks solid to me, it should hold, what do you think?"

Dora started thinking, her first instinct was to lash out at the overweight, sarcastic woman, hurt her how she knew she could, she had to stifle that urge. Too many things had changed in too short a time and there was this small inkling of an idea that maybe, just maybe Paige was right. Nodding, she answered more truthfully than she intended. "Sorry, I'm nervous." she let out a short laugh, "Who wouldn't be. I'll try to stop asking dumb questions."

Paige just nodded once, a short, curt nod that indicated she understood.

"So what do we do?" asked Mike, still eying the porn magazines, which had fallen behind Paige.

"Well I don't know about you two, but I'm going to explore that vent before the door banger gets in here." Dora crawled up onto the desk, which was an ancient metal beast that the office was seemingly built around. Paige didn't protest, but did eye the vent warily, comparing her ample circumference with the size of the grate.

"I don't think I will fit." she said finally.

Dora, now on the desk, looked down at her and said, "You'll fit, you have to, you have the stick of power. Not to mention, I should have asked, but one of you has a car right?"

They both nodded. "Good." Dora responded, "You two need to decide if we are taking both of your vehicles or just one. I am going to get this grate off and see where it goes." Another loud thump shook the door, this time a crack appeared in the lower corner of the glass. "I guess I better hurry!"

Looking at the grate she saw it was screwed on, Dora hopped down from the desk and motioned for Mike to get up there instead. "It's screwed on, you can unscrew it right?"

Mike looked at her with disbelief, "Well, uh, with what?"

"Well don't you have a screw driver or something? Men always have those, those things in their pants to unscrew stuff."

From his position on the desk Mike actually checked his pockets, and finally shook his head. Paige pulled up the drawers of the desk and came up with a small plastic case, which she opened and took out a screwdriver. Handing it to Mike she tried not to jump when the door was hit again.

"He's just a kid really, why would he have a screwdriver on him?" Paige asked Dora.

Shrugging her shoulders Dora said, "Well he's a guy, they have screwdrivers and know how to do those guy things."

"Like unscrew a screw?"


Paige shook her head, "You don't unscrew things then?"

Smiling Dora said, "Nope."

"What about the reverse?" Paige muttered under her breath.

"What's that? You have to speak louder if you want me to hear you." looking at Mike she said, "Is it off yet?"

Mike had been standing on the desk watching the exchange and he immediately turned and started unscrewing the two small fasteners holding the grate on. He handed it down to Dora who, finding it unworthy of use as a weapon, propped it up against the door. It promptly slid to the floor as the bottom of the door was kicked fiercely from the outside.

"You going in or are you going to stand there?" asked Dora.

"I don't see where it goes, it's dark."

"Oh for christsake! Let me up there. As she joined him on the top of the desk Paige handed her a flashlight, also taken from the drawer, it cast a thin, weak beam, but it was good enough to light up the interior of the venting. The office was at the back of the building and the venting appeared to run straight for fifteen feet then turn upwards at a ninety degree angle. It widened right away, because it split, with half going into the office and the other half continuing on to the kitchen. Turning back to look at Paige, Dora said "Hey you're in luck, the thing gets wide right away, even you will fit. Mike could probably do sit ups in there. I mean, it's big!"

Paige gave an exasperated look to Mike as Dora turned back around and tried to get up into the vent. "Hey Mike a push here? Lift my foot up."

Mike pushed her foot up and Dora scrambled into the vent, it was a wide fit and she was easily able to crawl along to the point where it turned upwards, standing up on the thin metal made a great gonging sound and for a second Dora thought she was going to fall through the vent into whatever room was below her, but it only bent a few inches then held her weight. She poked her head at the end of the vent, which was about a foot above her head, it looked, she thought, like one of those furnace filters, only it was all brown, she touched it and released a cloud of dirt and dust on top of herself. She let out a scream and pulled back away from it coughing and mad as she retreated into the vent.

"What is it?" Mike yelled seeing her crawling back.

"It's…It's…DIRT! All dirty and doesn't go anywhere anyway, now I am just dirty and trapped."

Mike helped her out of the vent and Dora plopped down on the desktop with an exasperated look. "I thought vents always led to a way out?"

"You sure it's a dead end?" asked Paige, Mike was already trying to get into the vent.

"Yeah, go look for yourself if you don't believe me, you'll just get dirty." Dora said. Once Mike was in Dora handed him the flashlight and he took off down the ducting. Dora, watching his scrawny backside was mortified that the duct work didn't give under his weight nearly as much as it had when she was in there. 'I don't weigh more than a punk assed kid, do I?'

Mike got to the filter and poked it tentatively with the screwdriver, which he had also brought along. He managed to get a hole through the filter and could not see anything beyond with the weak light from the small flashlight. He couldn't see any way to get the filter out of the way, aside from tearing it apart. Still not sure if he should he was just getting ready to head back down into the office, when he was struck by the idea that the filter probably was slid in from the side. He stuck the screwdriver back into the hole he made and tried pushing the filter sideways, the first direction he tried worked. He heard a clatter as the cap on the filter fell off on the outside and was rewarded with a thin sliver of light, through which he could see the flat top of the roof.

"I can see the rooftop!" he yelled back down the vent.

"Yeah, but can we get out that way?" Dora called back.

"I think I can force the metal apart, it's not that strong."

Dora looked at Paige and raised a questioning eyebrow. Paige nodded and yelled, "You better do it!"

The pounding on the door was growing in intensity; part of the safety glass was shattered near the bottom. However there were thin wires running through it that held the glass in place. While Mike was pounding on the metal above them Paige bent over and peered out through the small cracks in the glass.

"It's them." she whispered to Dora, who was still on the desk.

"Them who?" Dora asked loudly.

"Shh! It's the infected, the zombies."

Shaking her head sadly Dora said, "Oh? I thought maybe it was one of your missing employees wanting to talk to us. Of course it's them, you stupid girl! Don't 'shush' me either and don't whisper, I think they know we are here. Now get up here and let's see if we can stuff you into this vent."

Paige flashed Dora a brief angry look and climbed up onto the desk. Despite Dora's comments and Paige's own image of herself as being fat, she was not so large that she couldn't squeeze through the vent into the shaft beyond. Her hips, which were ample, fit with nary a squeeze and she was soon at Mike's feet while he pressed the sides of the vent outwards in a bid to escape. She had managed to keep hold of her stick through the process too and it lay at her side on the floor of the vent.

Chapter 6

Mike was having a tough time with the sheet metal. At first he thought he could force it open easily at the seam along one corner, but that was proving hard to do. The venting pierced the roof at this point and that was having a considerable effect on his ability to force the sides apart. In fact he was not so sure he could get out now. He tried pushing the screw driver through the metal and it went through easily, he then made a line of punctures to find out where the roof was and where the venting was above the roof. Then he had the bright idea to use the screwdriver to pry the slot the filter had slid out of to make it wider, so at least he would have more light. While doing so he started sweating and on one particularly hard jerk downwards the screwdriver slipped from his grasp, flicked upwards just so and toppled through the enlarged opening out onto the rooftop.

Dora hopped off the desk back in the office, she was certain she could get up through the vent, now that Paige was gone and wouldn't see her stepping on top of a filing cabinet to do so. Creeping towards the door she looked through the cracked glass and couldn't see much of anything, it looked like a man's shirt. As he backed away for another swing she saw that it was indeed a man. Someone dressed in a business suit who looked like father time had kicked the living shit out of him. He was an African American male wrinkled down to a small prune sized shadow of his former glory. Probably he weighed less than Dora did. She wondered if being infected made him look like that, then shook her head, even viewing them on the small television the ones Ned had been fighting didn't look all old and wrinkly.

The old man hit the door again and Dora noticed more movement in the hallway, another zombie was there, a woman who made Paige look anorexic. This one was apparently a naturalist as she didn't have a stitch of clothing on. Her skin was an even pale white color, except for her slightly tanned face and arms. Dora couldn't see her feet, but seeing the woman's massive buttocks turned towards her elicited a groan of disgust from her mouth before she could stop herself. The woman had a huge mole on her ass; it was so large that it was probably cancerous.

'Why didn't people take care of shit like that?' she asked herself. Upon hearing her moan both zombies, who had slacked off a bit, turned back towards the door and started pounding it again, giving Dora an extreme close up of the fat woman's sagging belly, which was low enough down to hide her brown pubic hair.

"Ugh! Fat swirls! Damn that's ugly." she said out loud.

The door suffered a few more heavy hits, ratting in its frame. Looking at the door, Dora didn't think she had anything to worry about; it was metal and strong enough to keep anything they could throw at it out.

"The idiots, this door is way stronger than the wall, if they started smashing that we would be in trouble." she clapped her hands over her mouth as the pounding on the door stopped. Then, unmistakably, something hit the wall to the right side of the door.

Dora backed up until her butt hit the desk. "Oh shit. They did not just hear that. No, no, no, no!"

The wall took another couple of hits and Dora heard a tearing crumbling sound, then another hit sounded louder and the wall on her side bulged inwards. "Fuck!" she spat out. Bending over she picked up the vent grate from where it was on the floor, determined to wedge it into the duct to hide her retreat. Climbing on the desk she looked down for something to wedge the grate into place. Tape, a stapler, anything to try and attach the grating to the wall after her. Her eyes came to rest on the faded, plastic tool box. It was like a book, with molded plastic holding the various tools in place and one 'page' between the covers, she flipped the middle section over to see what was on the other side, a small cheap looking hammer and various pieces of general use hardware in plastic bins. There was a round slot that Dora recognized had probably held duct tape at one time, however it was empty.

She picked out the hammer and then noticed the circle of wire. Nodding to herself she pulled it out and tossed it up into the vent. Laying the grate sideways and flat she pushed it into the vent as well before crawling in herself. Once inside she ignored Paige's requests about what was going on and contorted herself to get turned around.

'Funny how the pain in my neck isn't bothering me that much now.' Dora thought to herself as she moved around. She then ran the wire through the slots of the vent, threading the one loose end through the mounting bracket so she could get a good grip on it. Working quickly she slide the grate out and turned it up the right way, then used the wire to pull it close to the vent opening. It didn't line up perfectly, but it was close enough. She twisted the rest of the roll of wiring around the other mounting bracket and let go of it, the grate sagged a little, but stayed in place.

Looking over her body she told Paige and Mike to be quiet, very quiet, because the infected were getting into the room. Paige, who had been watching Dora closely, told Mike to stop working and stand still. Then whispered to Dora, "Are they in?"

Dora nodded, she kept her eyes glued to the hole in the wall, which was now big enough for someone to crawl through. She saw bits of the naked woman trying to get through the wall, then the suit wearing zombie made a play to get past her, trying to worm his way into the room. He wasn't successful and was pressed sideways by the fat woman and it was she who finally was the first to crawl through the hole, coming through the opening like a maggot going through meat. The others could hear the noise as fatty knocked over a chair and slipped around on the books and binders on the floor, finally standing she shifted weight and her bare foot came down on the porn magazine Mike had been so infatuated with earlier. The glossy magazine proved to be a slippery surface and she went down again. The suit chose that time to scramble into the room, crawling right on top of and then over the woman. It was all Dora could do not to laugh. On the one hand she was more scared than she had ever been, on the other the scene was comical, who could be afraid of such a fat woman and her little shrunken companion? She held her breath and didn't let out a peep, watching as both zombies righted themselves and stood up.

Their brains may have been rotting, but they both still seemed to realize that with no other exits in the room their prey should still be there. Slowly their eyes tracked the walls, checked out under the desk and then made their way to the grate set in the wall.

The fat woman lifted her arm to point at the grate in the wall.

'No way!' thought Dora, 'No way she can see me and the wires were too small to be noticed that quickly. It's like they have some sort of x-ray vision or maybe a strong sense of smell.' Dora could smell the sweat of 'teenage boy' and 'fat woman' quite clearly. Well, there was nothing to do about it, except try and help Mike clear the way onto the roof. Dora backed up and ran into Paige.

"Mike through yet?" she asked the woman.

"No you told us to quiet down." said Paige.

"Oh yeah." said Dora, "Don't worry about being noisy now, they know where we are. Get that vent open Mike!"

"Uh, okay. I dropped my screwdriver." Mike told her.

"Well pick it up, it's not like it could go far in the vent, right?"

"It slipped out of my hand, went through the hole onto the roof."

"Shit! You are aware that we are fighting for our lives here right? I won't die because you fat fingered a screwdriver, get the fucking vent opened so we can get out of here before they get in!"

Mike mumbled something under his breath then shifted position in the vent until his feet were up against the hole he had been enlarging near the seam.

"Oh, I got this little hammer too, if you think it would help." Dora called to him.

Mike was straining, pushing with his legs up against the edge of the vent, the seam gave away slowly and steadily, until it hit a supporting bracket on the roof, then it would give no more. The hole was still too small. Dora might fit through it, but only if Mike were pushing against it and she crawled through at the same time.

To Paige, Dora said, "We are going to get close and personal real quick, honey. Try not to get your stink on me, okay?" and then she wrestled by the woman to get close to Mike. "You push and I will get through and try and get something from the outside. On the count of three, ready? One. Two. Three!"

The fit wasn't that tight, Dora made it through with hardly a scrape and she felt good to be out of the confines of the stuffy office and into the bright morning sun. She took a deep breath and stood up. When she did so, she caught sight of several other infected people coming towards the restaurant. Leaning over she called back in, "More of them are coming. We gotta get you guys out of there."

"Dora?" called Paige, "They are at the grate."

"Which one do you see there Paige?"

"The woman, the big woman."

"Oh then that is alright, she is fatter than you and I don't think she will fit through the hole. If you see the small guy up there give me a scream."

"And then what?"

"Well, I will know you two are fucked and can leave off trying to get you out. Shut up and let me think here a minute."

Paige shut up and Dora looked around the roof. The top was lined with large stones, not pebbles, but pretty hefty rocks. She bent and picked one of those up and started pounding on the bracket that was preventing the vent opening from getting any wider. The rock broke into two after about ten hits. "Jesus Christ! They don't make rocks like they used to."

She heard a banging from inside the vent. "What is going on in there Mike?"

"They are hitting the vent. I think the fat woman is. It's bending."


Paige picked up the hammer and looked at the bracket, the hammer was tiny and the bracket was huge, large enough to hold the ductwork steady in the high winds that tore through the city from time to time. She gave it a couple of hits anyway but nothing happened. Picking up the screw driver she told Mike to back his feet away and started pounding it through the thin metal alongside the bracket, then she pounded the metal down and had Mike push it back up, doing this several times they weakened a line of the metal and made the opening about six inches wider and Mike didn't have to hold his feet against it either. Looking at the hole Dora thought that would be enough.

"C'mon guys get out now. It's wide enough."

Mike didn't need to be told twice, he slithered through the opening quickly, while Paige lined herself up for her attempt.

"The guy is there, they got the grating off, but it is still bent around and hanging by the wires you used, so he is having a hard time." Paige thrust herself up through the hole, then stopped as her belly halted all forward progress. She could not push through. To make matters worse the metal sides acted as a trap, preventing her from ducking back down into the duct so they could make the hole wider.

"Hm. This doesn't look good Paige, push harder." Dora told her.

Sweat broke out on Paige's face as she pushed with her legs as hard as she could. "I can't do it!"

"Bullshit bitch, stop fucking around and push!" Dora grabbed one of the woman's hands while Mike grabbed the other and they all three strained with the effort of pulling Paige through the hole.

Paige let out a shriek, "Something touched me!" then started frantically kicking and jerking about, her uniform top was soaking through with sweat and she finally gave an adrenaline empowered thrust that popped her out of the vent sending all three of them onto the rooftop in a heap.

"God you two reek! And, Paige starting now you are on a diet. No more chips or candy for you until you are size six again."

"I skipped size six." Paige mumbled, checking the scrapes on her stomach.

Mike rolled away from the two women and approached the vent cautiously, Dora propped herself up on her elbows and watched Paige examining her belly.

"God my gut hurts, it's gonna be bruised." Paige said.

"Hey c'mere!" Mike said.

The women got to their feet and looked into the vent, it was empty. Dora saw the little man's head pop up at the far end in the office. She wrinkled her face and said, "Shit he wasn't even in the vent yet! You just freaked yourself out. Good thing though, I don't think we could have gotten you out otherwise."

Paige blushed, "I swore I felt something grabbing my legs."

The other two looked at her pants and shoes, expecting maybe a rip or a tear, but her pants looked fine to them.

Shrugging Paige said, "Meh, no big deal, we are out. Let's pound this thing back down and put a bunch of rocks on it."

"The rocks won't hold it." said Mike.

"Duh. The rocks are so if they are all quiet like we will hear them fall off and know they are coming out this way." Dora tapped the side of her head, "I got brains in here, I use 'em too. Try using yours once in a while smart boy."

Mike flushed and Paige rose to his defense. "Are you always this much of a bitch?"

"Only to my friends." Dora smiled, "See? You two are moving up in the world, to have a friend like me."

Shaking her head Paige went to look at the parking lot and try and figure a way to get down from the roof. More infected were coming towards the building all the time, they were slow and they all went into the building when they got there, she could not tell how many were inside. Mike and Dora bent the metal back down into shape and then piled about fifty rocks on top of it, until it started to sag down into the vent, when they were finished they went to stand by Paige near the back of the building.

"We can get down here, make it to my car." Paige said.

"You got a car Mike?" Dora asked, eyeing Paige's dilapidated old beater.

Mike shook his head. "My dad dropped me off for my shift, my clutch is getting fixed."

"Well then I guess we go with Paige's plan. How are we going to do this dear?"

"The dumpster is right there, we can walk on the grease vat, its lid is solid and then climb over the wall and drop down and run to the car."

"Does your car work okay? I mean, in the movies they always run to the car and it doesn't want to start, then there is a big suspenseful scene where it catches at the last possible moment. I would rather do things without the drama if we can."

Paige's lips moved slowly mouthing 'Without the drama' a couple of times, before she shook her head, as if to clear out some random thought, "It got me here today."

"How's the fat? You gonna be able to make the drop and run?"

"I'm fine." Paige answered brusquely, turning from Dora in embarrassment.

Dora reached out her arm and turned back to face her and Mike. "It wasn't an insult. If you can't run you better let Mike or me go and start the car, then pull it closer to the building. I don't want you to hit the ground and crumple. I don't think Mike and I could carry you."

Flushing even deeper Paige looked Dora in the eye and said, "I am fine, it's just bruised."

"Okay, let's do this then." Dora sat her butt on the edge of the building, then rolled over onto her stomach and lowered herself down. She dropped onto the grease container and walked across it to the red metal fence that blocked it from the parking lot view. Mike did the same and Paige came down without any problems. The three of them had not gotten the attention of any of the infected moving towards the building yet. Before they vaulted the gate, Dora held her hand up and turned to Paige.

"Get your keys out."

"What? Why?"

"First, so we know you have them and they are not in your purse inside, and second so you can get the doors unlocked when we get to the car."

Paige fished around in her front pocket and came up with an electronic key for her car. She pressed a button on it and the car's lights flashed and they all heard the sound of it unlocking. Unfortunately some of the infected either saw the lights or heard the sound too, a group of them were shambling towards the car now.

Dora vaulted the fence like a pro and was halfway to the car before Mike or Paige had even gotten over the fence. She pulled open the front passenger door with a yell of "Shotgun!" and had it shut just as the other two were getting down from the fence. Despite the adrenaline surged rush, the infected were far too slow to catch them. Paige slid into the driver's seat the same time Mike scrambled into the back. They both shut and locked their doors and Dora told Mike to lock the other rear door as well. Paige pressed the ignition button and the car coughed to life. Dora noted with some satisfaction that the car had half a tank of gas too.

Both Mike and Paige turned towards Dora and said, "Where to?" at the same time.

Chapter 7

"Pull out of here first, before those guys get any closer. Get onto the street, take a left. We can go crash at my place, it's like a mile away. I don't have any cloths that will fit you Paige, but could scrounge something up for Mike."

"Thanks. Clothing was my first concern." said Paige sarcastically.

"Well it should be, plus we all need showers, we're filthy!"

Mike stammered, "I should call my dad."

"I ain't stopping ya."

Paige, still driving, asked, "Okay where do I go from here?"

"Fairmount Estates. You know the way?"

Paige just looked at her, "You live in a gated community?"

"Yes darling, now speed us along, I wrecked my car and my nerves are just shot this morning. Get me home Paige."

"Rich bitch." Paige muttered under her breath. Dora heard, as she was supposed to and just smiled and nodded.

In the back seat Mike was talking to his frantic father, the conversation was not going well. Mike got off his phone and said, "I need to go home."

"Me first, Mikey. We are almost there now. You can call your dad again after that."

Mike looked out the window and didn't say anything. Paige pulled her car up to the security gate and looked over at Dora for the pin number to open the gate up. Dora smiled and said, "I can't give it out to you. If I did that everyone would have it! You know your face looks very ugly when you do that. I am just kidding of course, just winding you up a bit. The pin is one four three two, which is also my street number, very not clever, right? I am surprised we don't have more robbery's here, I really am. Plus to get out just takes making the motion sensors go off, you could get in by throwing a basketball over the gate and waiting for it to open automatically. Stupid really."

Paige snorted, "Geez do you want to tell me where you hide your spare keys to get in too?"

"Under the stone in my potted plant on the front stoop. I mean, really I could leave the door unlocked, with all the heavy security around here anyway."

They drove about two blocks into the community with Dora calling out directions in a haphazard way, which required a trip around the block to arrive in the correct driveway.

"So. Here we are." Dora looked at Paige, who looked back.

"Yeah, get out." said Paige.


"You're home, Mike needs to be brought home, so you need to get out."

"I thought we would stick together during this time of crisis? Don't you dare abandon me Paige Lynn!"

"Paige Lynn? My middle name is not 'Lynn'."

"Oh? You look like a Paige Lynn to me. Anyway the TV said to get into your home and stay there, I thought we could crash here."

"Us? With you?"

"Sure I saved your lives already, so I am useful. Plus I have organic eggs and probably some good beer, oh and a virtual cellar full of very good wine." Roger would hate it if even one bottle were drank, which is why Dora was planning to foist as many off on her guests as she could.

"I'm twenty, Mike is seventeen, we can't drink yet. Not legally."

"In my house, you follow my rules, don't you worry about the law in times of crisis."

"You seriously think you can bribe us to stay here with alcohol?"

Mike's door opened and he got out. He looked sheepishly away from Paige as she looked angrily out the window at her. "Besides we should keep our heads about us, we got infected people running around and, and…"

"And what?" asked Dora getting out of the car.

"And… the governor said not to break any laws!"

Dora threw back her head and laughed through the open car door. "Oh honey, that's great. Now shut off the car and come inside so we can decide what to do."

Still mad Paige shut off the car and followed the other two into the house.

Dora waited until Paige came inside then said, "Lock the door honey, we don't need any baddies getting in."

Fuming Paige turned and locked the door behind her, "We are only here for a few minutes, I have to get Mike home. Right Mike?"

"Ah, maybe…" he mumbled.

"Relax, we are all safe here, don't rock the boat any Paige dear. Mike call your dad, you too Paige if you need to I still have an old fashioned land line. I'll go upstairs and find you something to wear. Turn on the cable when you are done and by all means help yourself to anything to eat or drink. Don't pilfer the silverware or steal any trinkets." With that said Dora headed upstairs leaving them alone.

"Call your dad, then lets blow, she is fine here." said Paige after Dora was out of sight.

"No, I would rather stay here, my old man, he is fine."

"You'd rather stay here with her? You've got to be kidding."

"She's funny."

"A stuck up bitch is more like it. What's so funny about her?"

"She thinks she is right about everything. That's funny." said Mike.

"How exactly?"

"Oh knock it off Paige! I saw you laughing too, when we first ran into her. You're just pissed because she is ordering us around."

Paige thought for a minute before answering, "I still don't like her. You should call your dad anyway, let him know you are safe. I'll call my parents and try and get ahold of my roommates."

The both got busy on their cell phones, Paige had a brief conversation with her mother, telling her she was all right and in a safe place, but she could not get in touch with her roommates, who were probably still sleeping. She had wandered over to the large flat panel television and was figuring out how to turn it on when Dora came back downstairs with an armful of clothing.

"You might not have to smell like French fries anymore, Paige dear! I found some of Roger's mothers clothing from when she visited last fall. Just a jogging suit, but really it should look good on you. There is a shower in the guest bedroom over this way, c'mon darling, let's get you cleaned up."

Mike was still on the phone with his father, at least it sounded like it, so Paige let herself be hauled off to the guest bedroom and into a rather well appointed tile bathroom.

"No underwear dear, sorry about that, but I know how to use a wash machine, so you just go commando and toss your dirties out to me to launder. I'll wait for Mike to get his shower in too and let us all get in hot showers before I start the wash."

"Uh, I don't think my underwear requires washing just yet, but I'll give you my uniform."

The women stood looking at each other before Paige realized Dora was waiting for her to undress, she turned a bright pink and said sternly "Out!"

Dora laughed and called over her shoulder, "Oh, so I don't get to see your goods yet, huh? I was going to suggest we shower together to save time and water during this crisis too."

As the older woman shut the door Paige couldn't be sure she had been joking. Paige locked the bathroom door, which brought another snicker from the bedroom, then proceeded to shower as quickly as she could.

Back in the living room Dora picked up a massive remote and turned on the sixty inch television with surround sound. Static greeted her ears and she scrambled to turn the volume down and find a channel still broadcasting. The news channels were still up, CNN, FOX and others, but Dora skipped the national channels and went to the local NBC affiliate, hoping for another update from Jim and Diane. It was still on. Dora was pleasantly relieved, after the TV died in the restaurant she had thought the station had gone off the air. Or maybe it had, the picture was all grainy, like they were using old cameras to film the newscasters. Dora watched the broadcast for several minutes, but learned nothing new about what was actually going on. The station did say it was going to broadcast over the old airwaves system in case the digital channels went down.

Mike came and stood by her and she brushed some dirt off of his face, "You okay hon?"

He blushed and said, "Sure. My dad says to stay put here, guys in army cloths are shooting anyone outside right now. He was a little…well he was mad we didn't go to his place right off the bat, he has a gun and thinks he can defend us better, so if the army lifts the travel ban we should go over there."

"A gun? Oh Roger, that's my bastard of a husband, has a gun. Do you know how to shoot?"

Mike nodded.

"Well then let's go get it. Hm now where does he keep it. I think in the garage. Let's check there first." Dora grabbed Mike's hand and pulled him through the kitchen into the garage. Once there she opened a door to what looked like a storage area beside a work bench and in front of the four car bay. Two of the bays were occupied; there was a large green Suburban in one bay and what looked like a speed boat in the other. Mike was gawking at the vehicles while Dora retrieved a duffel bag from storage.

"Here it is Mike, see what you can do with it."

Mike took the bag from her and sat it on the work bench, which was completely empty and looked as if it had only ever seen light use. Unzipping the bag he gawked at what he saw, then looked at Dora, then back at the bags contents.

The door to the garage opened and they turned to look at Paige, still dripping from the shower. She was wearing a rather nice set of Kansas City Chief's sweat pants and a matching t-shirt.

"Curses! Foiled again!" mumbled Dora, then more loudly she said, "I haven't even got his pants off yet darling, you finished your shower too quickly!"

Mike took a second, looking at both women, trying to figure out what was going on, then gave up and said, "Dora, this isn't going to help us. Well not much anyway."

"Tut-tut you unbeliever it fires bullets, that is good right? Time for your shower Mike, I simply cannot stand how you smell of old grease and French fries. Plus you must get out of those cloths if you expect to use any of my furniture."

Mike thought that was probably wise, the furniture in Dora's house all looked pretty high end and the vents had been coated on the inside with grease and smoke and oil, his pants had been soaked through at the knees and would stick to his legs when he was walking. The women headed back inside with hardly a glance at him and Mike was left to gather up the duffel bag of paint ball equipment and lug it in himself.

Chapter 8

Putting the backpack on the granite topped island in the kitchen, Mike let himself be led off into the bathroom for his shower. Dora gave him a set of clothing she said fit her 'bastard husband' a little too tightly and would probably be loose on Mike.

"If you get your clothing off I will toss it into the wash when I do Paige's stuff."

"Okay, want me to toss it outside when I am done."

"Well that is one way, I've seen it all before Mikey and just this morning I found out my husband was cheating on me with whom I thought was my best friend…"


Dora moved up to Mike, until she was almost touching him and whispered, "So…turnabout is fair play, don't you think? Here let me help you get these clothes off."

Mike was stripped down to his boxers with Dora on her knees in front of him when there was a loud throat clearing noise from the bathroom door. "What in the hell are you doing Dora?"

Dora got up and turned to face Paige, "I knew it was too good to last. Just gathering his laundry, come on Mike give me the boxers now."

Mike blushed and backed away, turning from the women and stuttering, "O-out! I'll pass them through the door!"

"Fine, you must be the only man I know who would pass up an opportunity to get naked with two attractive women in the same room!" to Paige she said, "Stop gawking girl, he said 'out', not 'take a seat'!" Pushing the younger woman out into the bedroom Dora waited with the door cracked until Mike handed his clothing through with one hand. He made sure the door stayed open long enough for Dora to get an eyeful and she winked at him and mouthed 'later'.

Paige followed Dora to the laundry room upstairs, Dora has gathered up all the soiled clothing and when she got there she threw it all in with some detergent, bleach and some oxy-clean, then started stripping down and tossing her cloths in as well.

"I will wait to start this until Mike has had a few minutes."

"What were you doing down there?"

"Having some fun, what do you think I was doing?"

"You were going to blow him."

"Oh I was hoping for more than that! He does appear to be rather well, oh…proportioned, shall we say? Certainly you noticed it, you've worked with him right?"

"No, I never noticed it! We don't typically see each other naked at work."

"Now Paige I have heard the best place to get laid is by working in the food industry, it's common knowledge. Don't tell me you've never dipped the pen in company ink before? Or should I say, 'had the pen dipped'?"

Paige blushed again, for about the tenth time in an hour, "Geezus what is with you? The world is going to hell and you are trying to hook up with a seventeen year old? I mean, that's, that's illegal!"

"Not in Kansas dear the age of consent is sixteen, I just can't take pictures of him or it would be child porn."

"Really? Don't you have to be like within two years of his age or something if he is under eighteen?"

"Not in this state, sweet thing."

"How do you know stuff like that? I mean who knows stuff like that?"

"It was the line that got used on me when my older brother came home from college and brought his twenty year old friend who stayed with us for a month one summer. I was sixteen. I even checked into it after he told me that. Let's just say the last two weeks of his stay were quite remarkable for both of us. You know that really does look good on you, is it comfortable?"

"Actually yeah, it is a little loose, but feels nice. Your mother in law bought good clothing at least."

"You should wear looser stuff, in that outfit you look, well, honestly a lot thinner and far more attractive. The tight clothing just emphasized the muffin top, you know what I mean?"

"God you are so annoying! Mother in law….so you're married? Wouldn't doing Mike be cheating on your husband? Oh wait, let me guess, you're swingers too?"

"Well one of us was. And it wasn't me. I've had my thoughts over the past couple of years, doubts about Roger, but he always brought home the sausage, still some nights I couldn't entice him and he works awful long hours sometimes." Dora paused, "This morning I found out he was cheating on me with my best friend."

"What? How?"

"He left early, as usual and I called her up and heard him in the background. It was earlier than I normally get up, so I think I surprised them and her maid brought the phone in, the maid knew who I was, knew Roger was my husband, so in a way I owe her one. Probably I will have to hire her on as no doubt that bitch Marge will fire her if she figures out the maid did it on purpose." Dora paused again, her voice got hard, "There is no doubt in my mind the maid did it on purpose, either to hurt me or Marge I am sure, but it didn't hurt me. It freed me. Infidelity means I get half of everything Roger owns, it's in my prenuptial agreement. That maid and Marge just made me a wealthy woman."

"If you can collect. Things are going to hell out here now. Uh, I don't want to ruin this or anything, you have a good thought going, but wouldn't it be bad if you cheated too? Like with Mike?"

"Oh who would tell?" she eyed Paige, "You wouldn't! You would! Why? It would serve him right?"

"Mike or your Roger? You'd be using Mike to make yourself feel better, not to mean anything to Mike."

"You think Mike would care? Men don't mind being used in that manner, trust me."

Paige shrugged her shoulders to concede the point, "Most women don't either, when you come down to it, but it doesn't make it right."

Dora had undressed to her bra and panties, she reached around and undid her bra, which caused Paige to turn away.

"Jesus! You can't win the argument by getting naked!"

"We're fighting? We're not fighting Paige! We are talking about things. And the human body is a wonderful thing, not something to be hidden away and repressed. Plus you've seen it all before."

"No, I haven't seen yours before and I'd like to keep it that way!"

"Prude!" Dora teased, now nude she brushed past Paige went down the hall and into the master bedroom. "We can talk while I shower if you come sit in the bathroom with me. The door is frosted so you won't see anything you don't want to see."

Paige went, wondering how this insane woman kept getting her to follow wherever she went.

Chapter 9

Later the two women came downstairs together, not quite at peace, but to Mike's eye they had settled something between themselves. Paige was not so pissy about everything and even laughed while Dora made them all coffee. Looking through the refrigerator Paige said, "Dora you don't have much to eat in here." Grabbing some yogurt at random she looked at it and said, "And it looks like a lot of it has expired."

"I don't cook much. Usually I eat out."

"I thought you said you had food?"

"I believe I said I had wine and organic eggs. The eggs are good, I had one this morning. Plus the tortillas and cheese are probably safe. Leave the other stuff there in case we get so hungry we want to eat it anyway. I could order in."

Mike and Paige just looked at her and laughed, "Yeah right!"

"What? Oh this problem going on out there? I wouldn't worry about it, people still want to make money and I know this fabulous Chinese place that delivers, they will bring us food if I ask, it's less than a mile away."

Shaking her head Paige said, "We'll see, but I bet you find out that no money in the world will bring them here today."

"It's a bet then, let's see shall we bet Mike's virtue on it?"

Mike and Paige both said, "No!" in unison, but only Mike blushed.

"What? What happened, Mike? You seemed pretty keen before the shower. Oh, the shower? You had some 'gentleman' time didn't you? Nothing to be ashamed of, but still you should be recovered by tonight."

"Could we talk about…and bet, something else?" said Paige with a warning tone to her voice.

Sighing wearily Dora said with ill grace, "Oh alright! How about five hundred on the delivery?"

"We don't have that much and you know it!" said Paige, "We work at McDonalds."

"You said they won't deliver, don't you believe that? If you believe what you said it's easy money for you. Plus if I win I will just take it out in work. You can be my cook Paige and I will keep Mike around as my pool boy. Oh yes that would work out just fine." said Dora with an evil glint in her eye.

"You have a pool?" asked Mike.

"Of course, open the blinds and take a look. So do we have a bet or not?" Dora held out her hand to shake on it. With some reluctance the other two shook her hand one at a time. Mike went to the blinds shutting out the light from outside and looked out.

"I don't see a pool, just a deck and built in grill. It's like looking into another room with that overhang and stuff out there."

"Well come on then, let me give you the grand tour of Roger's folly!"

"Roger, your husband, right? Why'd you call it that? His folly?" asked Mike.

"This place is semi-awesome I admit, but between the cost for the house and the cost for the community dues we've had to cut back on things. You know, going places and stuff. I thought his salary could cover everything, and he has money from his parents, but Roger likes to live within his means, so his inheritance accumulates interest and we make do with what he brings home. My allowance is a pittance of what it was before we moved in here. Of course, before we were living in the sticks in a crappy four bedroom without a pool and no boat or suburban."

Mike and Paige glanced at each other as they followed Dora out the back door. The wealthy woman showed them around the spacious back yard, the house was built on about half an acre of land and had an eight foot tall privacy wall to keep out the neighbors on either side and at the back. The trees and shrubs planted around the edges were only partially grown, only about twenty feet high, however the flowers were in full bloom.

The deck stepped gracefully down on to a patio, and the built in grill Mike had seen from the window was brick and boasted as much cooking space as the main kitchen. The pool had an additional fence around it, not fully enclosed, just to keep any neighbors who looked out from their second story windows from seeing anyone lying about the edges of the pool. There was a changing room with showers and a bathroom on one side as well. Next to it was a half constructed building that Dora pointed to.

"That's where the sauna is supposed to go. Now I doubt it will get done by the party in September. Maybe it will, if the world isn't truly ending anyway. And no hot tub, isn't that awful?"

The pool was huge and rounded, with a slope that went from zero inches to a depth of three feet about a quarter of the way down. The pool maxed out at nine feet deep at one end with a diving board and water slide.

"We bought this place because Roger had grand dreams of throwing huge parties with his friends and coworkers. You know how many we have had in the two years we lived here? One. Just your run of the mill house warming party. Everyone got to see our place, kick the tires and puke on our lawn. It was a good party." Dora's eyes grew distant as she thought about it.

"So when can we swim?" asked Mike.

"Go for it. Just us friends here." said Dora.

Mike looked hesitant, then mumbled, "Maybe later. You don't have any swimsuits do you?"

"Mike I find the one God provided me with to be sufficient." Dora paused, a moment later she broke out laughing, "God! You are so funny you two! Of course I have swim suits, I am not some naked heathen! If you want to go now I can scrounge up some loaners we have just for that reason."

They all looked at each other for a minute then Paige nodded and pointed at yet another television mounted off the bar near the grill, "That work?"

"Of course darling!"

"Good we can keep up with the news. Let's swim before it gets too hot."

Dora went inside after pointing out the location of the remotes to Mike, she returned minutes later with a couple bottles of wine, glasses and their swimsuits. "Here we are! Now Paige don't look at me like that! I promised you wine and here it is. I have a nice light white here from…Summerset in Iowa, just the thing for a hot day, and you will love what it is called."

"I hate to even ask." said Paige.

"Oh don't be like that! It's called 'Kiss Me', isn't that lovely? It is good too, I think I am right in assuming you two haven't drank much wine?"

They both nodded and took a look at the swimsuits she had brought out with her.

"Then this is the perfect light wine for you to try. I shall expand your palate! Give you an introduction to the find art of wine drinking. Here Paige, wear this one." Dora handed her a black one piece.

Paige looked at it and nodded her thanks before moving off to the pool room to change. Dora looked at Mike and said, "You can change on the deck behind the bar, I promise I will stay here."

"What if I don't want you to stay here?" Mike asked sheepishly, turning a little pink.

"Why Michael! That is just lovely, but Paige told me to mind my manners and I shall do so, for today. Tonight it may be different, so don't despair."

Mike went around the bar with hardly a shrug and was changed and wading into the pool by the time Paige came out. She glanced at the two of them and Dora shook her head slightly and then exclaimed, "See Paige? It fits perfectly! And you look lovely; a little white around the edges, so you better load up on the sunscreen, but a day of lying around here will solve that. Now scoot while I go change. You two stay out of trouble while I am gone."

Dora disappeared into the changing room leaving Mike and Paige to look at each other.

"She is like, insane." Mike said.

"Maybe, she seems lonely to me, almost desperate. I think we might be the best friends she has and she just met us."

"Maybe. This is better than being at home with my dad."

"Yeah, for me too. My roommates weren't home. I guess being here with you is better than being alone. Not much food though. A lot of cheese. Probably goes with the wine. You better not drink much, you know, in case more of them show up."

Mike's face looked around at the walls, then back at Paige, "We seem pretty safe in here, don't you think?"

Paige shook her head, "Those aren't prison walls, I mean it's better than wood, and higher, but I don't know if they will keep the zombie-guys out."

"Better than wood?"

"Shut up! Is that all you think about?"

Mike's face got serious, "No, I think about video games a lot too."

Dora came out of the changing room in a two piece suit and she looked stunning. Her skin was tanned, but not dark, and she dove into the deep end without saying anything to them. Paige had sat on the edge of the pool with her feet in the water and Dora emerged close to her.

"Perfect. You were so right Paige, the temperature is just perfect right now. This afternoon it is supposed to get up to a hundred and ten. We would have felt like we were boiling out here in the water."

"Yeah, it gets too hot in July, I should move north."

"To where? Canada? You don't strike me as a Canuck love."

"Well I was thinking more like South Dakota."

"Really? Why? I mean I know Kansas City isn't Denver or New York, but it still boasts a lot of culture."

"I don't know I guess I just like smaller towns."

Mike was busy at the shallow end of the pool watching the television. He had set the remote down along the side and was flipping from channel to channel, finally settling on a major national news network.

"Hey guys! Look at this!"

"What is going on Mike?" Paige asked as they both swam over.

"Some network got some footage of Denver, it's pretty far away, but it looks like it is burning."

The poor quality image on the television screen showed a billowing tower of debris and the announcer was talking about how what they were looking at was the Denver International Airport, right along the major highway interstate seventy six. The camera panned down further to the highway and everyone could see a mob of people crowding it, heading out along the highway, filling all four lanes of it. The announcer said they were heading north east into the suburbs around the airport and that the entire mob was infected or 'zombies'. As they watched a wall of them paraded up an off ramp and into a gas station parking lot, where they pulled a family out of a parked car and tore them apart.

Dora said quietly, "I think I am going to be sick dears." She turned away from the television.

They were all silent for a while with Mike and Paige continuing to watch the coverage until the helicopter flew away from the scene and back towards Kansas, along interstate highway seventy. The mobs there were only slightly smaller than the ones along the other highway and the first of them was a good fifty miles from Denver and heading their way.

The announcer stopped relaying the film from the helicopter and went back to the news desk where they switched to scenes from California, which made Denver look like a walk in the park. The newscaster did warn them about the disturbing scenes before he started relaying them and Dora had time to turn away before they were shown. Paige couldn't help but watch out of the corner of her eye and Mike just ground his teeth and viewed them head on.

After a while he turned the television back to the local channel, which had picked up the film from the national news about Denver and was replaying it with the more gruesome parts blurred out. The newsmen Jim and Diane were looking harried, like they hadn't had a break since that morning, which they probably hadn't. They had lost touch with Ned and their remote news van and were filling the airwaves with warnings from the local government for people to stay in their homes, arm themselves and kill any slow moving person who would not respond to verbal warnings. They also conveyed that the zombies needed to be damaged in the head to stop them completely, but that severing their spines could make them into 'twitchers', zombies that would have a hard time following people who were running away.

"I don't have anything to damage their heads. I mean it was all just a joke before right, the paint ball gun, I mean. But it's not a joke is it, things are really over." Dora was crying, which seemed to embarrass Mike.

"No it's not a joke, but we should be safe here, right? You have walls and stuff and it is a gated community."

"The walls don't even go around the whole place, they are not built yet. People can get in here if they want to. Our gate has a good lock." Dora sighed and continued, "I guess the sauna will never be done."

"Who needs a sauna in Kansas?" asked Paige quietly.

"Yeah it was a stupid idea, it's not like we would actually use it in the winter either. What are we going to do?"

Neither Paige nor Mike had an answer to Dora's question.

Chapter 10

"You know I do have a freezer full of steak and seafood." said Dora.

"Really?" asked Paige.

"No, I am lying! Yes we do, what do you think the grill is for? Roger always buys his meat by the truck load and fills the freezer up in the fall, we still have about half a freezer full, mostly because all the barbeque's we were going to have never happened. It's all high end stuff to. Oh I think we have a box of hamburger patties, for when people bring their kids." Dora snorted, "Never happened, of course, so that box is unopened. McDonald's makes a better burger than you can grill at home and you guys are close by."

"What if the power goes out?"

"Then the meat spoils I suppose. We could still cook it, the gas won't go out. I guess we eat as much as we can and toss the rest."

"Couldn't we make jerky? The Indians did."

Dora thought about that for a moment, then pulled herself out of the pool, Paige caught Mike eyeing her behind as she went and elbowed him. He protested his innocence but didn't leer quite so badly. Dora got to the counter space by the grill and opened a cabinet door to reveal several cookbooks, most of them on grilling and food preparation. She fished around in the back and let out a triumphant yell to hold a thin book above her head. She brought this over and tossed it down in front of Paige and Mike before stepping down a ways along the edge of the pool to jump in. Despite her distancing herself from the book a few drops splattered onto the cover.

Mike and Paige looked at the soft bound book, which had a cartoon like cover of a bunch of people in various outfits holding grill implements, the title read, "Just Jerky. The Complete Guide." Mike flipped through it and turned to Dora. "This is awesome, we better start now, Jim mentioned power outages could start anytime." looking at the ingredients to some of the recipes he asked, "Do you have salt? Brown sugar? Other spices?"

"Of course! In the cupboards. Roger was all gun-ho to do this, like all of his plans they were more planned than completed."

"So, should we, you know, start making jerky?"

"Of course, Mike." Dora got a far-away look on her face, "I suppose I don't want to say that at the end of the world I was swimming in my pool. Alright, let's go. As soon as we have the first batch going we pop a bottle of wine, agreed?"

The other nodded their assent and they all hopped out and dried off using towels from the changing room. Dora showed them the freezer, pulling out steaks by the package and then showed Mike and Paige where the spices were. Paige looked over Dora's double oven and found it had a 'Drying' feature, with the convection fan it could also make jerky. They spent an hour defrosting, cutting and spicing meat, then another hour defrosting, cutting and setting meat aside to marinate for batch two, the whole process would take between twelve and eighteen hours. By the time they finished they were all hungry and Mike grilled up some of the remaining steaks on the grill while Dora popped the bottle of wine and poured them all a glass.

While eating the steaks they watched the news. Parts of Kansas City were under heavy attack. They listed the city by severity and the three were alarmed to see they were in a yellow zone, right on the verge of a red zone, a newsman, no longer Jim from the morning show, told them the Mayor was contemplating an evacuation, but had not yet made the decision on where to have people go.

News from the plains was bleak, the helicopter reporter was back in the air looking at Limon Colorado, the horde of zombies there, estimated to be between thirty and fifty thousand had cleaned the town out and was headed down the open highway again. There was no organization to the mob, but they did seem to follow the roads, instead of going overland. Hundreds, if not thousands were wandering around aimlessly, with more splitting off of the horde at any given time, however the horde marched on. As it came to the small towns dotting the plains the conjecture was it would simply devour them. Evacuation orders were given for all cities and towns along the interstate.

The land line at Dora's house started to ring. This startled them, making the three jump at the sound. Dora walked over to the phone mounted outside and looked at the caller id, then turned her back on it.

"Who is it?" Paige asked.

"Roger's cell phone."

"You're not going to get it?"

"No." Dora stated flatly, "I am not. I don't have anything to say to him."

Paige shrugged. The phone stopped ringing and they watched the news start to loop over the same stories it had before. Mike had assembled the paint ball gun, after being given assurances that there were no other firearms in the house. The gun lay on the bar not out of his reach, he was reasonably sure, given the news footage, that the gun would be next to useless, but it was all they had.

The phone started ringing again. Dora stepped over to it and looked again, "Hah! Marge this time? I wonder what she wants? Maybe to say, 'So sorry I have been sleeping with your husband, but things are going to hell and we should all pull together now'?"

"You going to get it?" asked Paige.

Dora swung her head around, eyes watery, then she looked down and said softly, "I don't know what to say to her either."

"Call her a bitch and tell her never to call again?" suggested Paige.

"Not yet. How about a hot afternoon dip?"

"Sure, but could you turn off the ringer?" asked Mike.

"Done." said Dora, turning to adjust the phone. The three got into the pool to cool down a little, but more to wash off the sweat and spice smell from the morning's labor. After a few minutes of carousing they all stopped talking and drifted apart.

Mike finally broke the silence when they had drifted together again, "We need weapons."

The women nodded.

"Do you know any of your neighbors? Are any of them hunters or sports shooters?"

"I don't really know any of my neighbors, we don't talk much. I mean, I know their names, I know who is supposed to be here and all, but socializing? No. Never. I think the guy across the street, Tobin is his last name. Across the street and one house down, I think he went out hunting in the fall. I remember seeing some sort of camouflage truck out in front of his house then. He would have to be my best bet."

"What about baseball bats? Any of the neighborhood kids play ball?"

Dora laughed, "I definitely didn't have anything to do with the neighborhood brats. None of the people on our street have bred yet, so far as I know."

"Okay, then we should try your neighbor across the street first. Then any other empty houses we can, to see if we can find guns and ammo. I do know how to shoot, I got my first deer when I was fourteen."

"Ooh, a great white hunter!", Dora exclaimed, "How hard is it to shoot? Could you teach me? And Paige if she doesn't know how?"

"Learning how the gun works isn't hard, safety is the biggest problem and accuracy too, the more you shoot, the better you can get. It takes time. I hope your neighbor has guns."

"Well I hope his alarm system isn't engaged." said Dora.

"Alarm system?" asked Mike.

"Yeah, all the houses have them. We never use ours, that is what insurance is for."

"Well either way, we won't find out from the pool. You guys want to go now?" asked Paige.

"Better now than when it is dark." said Dora.

They got out again and dried off as best they could in the hot, humid air.

"You guys changing or do we do this in our swim suits?" asked Dora.

"I'll put a shirt on." answered Mike.

"Me too and I'll pull those jogging pants on." said Paige.

"Not me, I think I look more defenseless in my suit. Who would shoot me if I were caught breaking in."

"You think your neighbor is home?"

"No, he never seems to be around during the day. But today? I don't know."

They headed to the front door and Paige stopped Dora, "Wear shoes at least!"

"This is God's shoe dear," she said, pointing at her feet, "Besides all I have is flip-flops or slip ons, no traction and we are going across the fucking street, not down to the mall."

"God! You really are crazy! You're going into a robbery practically naked!"

"I am a braver woman than you, yes. Burglary though, I hope. Robbery is when they are there and we take stuff from them personally."

"Whatever. Let's go."

Mike had the paint ball gun with him, it was loaded and ready to shoot. He looked out the front doors cautiously, the street was empty. There was not movement anywhere, barely a breeze in the air to make the trees sway. Nodding he gestured them out and they shut the door behind them. Dora was the last one and she tested the door after they shut it, while the other two were not looking. It was locked. She had left the keys inside. A look of momentary concern passed over her face, she bit her lip and followed the others.

The crossed the street to her neighbor's place without any problem, no zombies came out to get them and they didn't see any of the living dead anywhere. Looking at the double doors of her neighbor it started to sink in that they were actually going to burglarize the place. Dora was getting ready to tell Mike to stop, not to do anything, when he tried the door, it was unlocked and swung open easily.

"What the hell? Doesn't anybody lock the doors here?" Mike said.

Quietly Dora responded, "Oh, I do."

They moved inside the house, leaving the door open behind them. The air conditioning was going full blast, the cool air raised goose pimples on Dora's body and even the others shivered in the cold. Nothing seemed out of place from the doorway. Dora closed the door behind them and locked it. "Just in case." she told the other two, "We don't want anyone sneaking up on us, right?"

The first sign of any trouble was in the living room. The glass coffee table was overturned and shattered. One of its mahogany legs was broken off and lay on the floor amidst the glass. Dora pointed it out and asked Paige to grab it for her. Paige muttered something about God's shoes that Dora didn't quite catch, but did fetch the table leg. It made a hefty, if short club and Dora felt immensely better about having something to protect herself with.

"If I were a gun, where would I be? The master bedroom? The basement? Well if he is a hunter I would say the basement. I hope he doesn't have a gun safe."

There was a blood trail through the kitchen that led to the basement stairs. Mike cautiously opened it, while Paige selected the longest kitchen knife out of the rack by the sink. She took up last place in the group now, with Dora and her club moving into the second position. The blood trail continued down the stairs, visible even on the rugged brownish carpeting. Mike paused and cocked his head to one side, listening. He looked at them and said quietly, "I don't hear anything."

"Betcha wish you'd worn shoes now, huh?" said Paige, watching Dora tip-toe around the blood splatter.

"Shh!" Dora answered.

They proceeded downstairs and came into a long rectangular room that seemed to make up half of the basement. The other half was hidden behind a wall that had two doors in it, the one closest to where they were was open, the blood splatters led through it. This side of the basement was lit by track halogen track lighting, casting the far side in shadowy darkness. The far door was barely visible, but shut. On the opposite wall from the two doors, there was a third door, it was open as well and Dora could see a sink from the angle she was standing at. Lost in the darkness on the far side was a pool table. This side of the room seemed to be devoted to a large television and several well used couches and chairs that did not match.

Mike quietly moved to the open door. He glanced in, then ducked back, then popped in again and stood there.

"It's okay." he said, although it sounded like he was talking to himself more than the women. Turning he looked at them, "Well your neighbor has some guns. It doesn't look like they did him any good." Mike swung the door fully open. There were two bodies on the floor of what looked to be a large laundry room. Dora recognized one of the body's as her neighbor, he was laying with his head away from them, feet apart and towards the door. The other body was no one Dora recognized. It was disgusting, the head of this corpse had been bashed in. Mike's face, still turned towards them was a mix of horror and relief.

Dora's eyes widened in fear as she saw her neighbor's body slowly start to rise up off of the ground behind Mike.

Chapter 11

"Mike! He's moving!" Dora screamed, causing both Mike in front and Paige behind her to jump. Mike quickly backpedaled into Dora, knocking her on her butt. Paige reacted faster and moved out of the way. She did not run up the stairs, but towards the pool table in the shadows. The body of her neighbor continued to move on the cement floor, he rolled over onto his hands and knees and Dora saw a full moon as the old brown robe he was wearing rode up to his hips.

Mike was trying to avoid stepping on Dora, while turning around, while backing up and he ended up tangled in Dora's legs, which tumbled him to the ground beside her. The thin carpet did little to cushion his fall and he let out a yell, followed by "Fuck!"

He did managed to hold onto the paint ball gun and once on the ground he rolled over onto his back and brought the gun to bear on the zombie, which was now on its feet. Dora shoved herself backwards to the right side of the doorway, pulling her bikini bottoms almost off as they rubbed against the carpet. Almost without a thought Dora stopped to pull them up while Mike fired at the zombie.

The thunk-thunk-thunk of the paint balls was amazingly loud in the confined space of the basement. Dora had heard the gun fired before, in her backyard, it hadn't seemed so loud then. The paint had little effect on the zombie and the thing didn't flinch away as Mike had been hoping. He stopped firing and, like Dora he pushed himself away from the doorway and the zombie.

The zombie shuffled out of the doorway and launched itself at Mike, who thrust the paint gun at it. The gun barrel hit the thing in the chest and kept its mouth away from Mike's body. Not deterred, the zombie rolled its body off to one side, grabbing Mike's face with one hand and allowing itself to drop next to Mike on the floor. Dora took this all in and somehow found herself on her feet. The table leg was lying next to the door and within easy reach, she scooped to pick it up and took a step towards the zombie, which was now between her and Mike. Hefting the club up she brought it down on the zombie's back.

Dora pulled her punch. She hated that she did that, she knew from watching the news that her neighbor was gone, that this thing would not stop, would kill all of them unless they stopped it. Yet when it came right down to it, he was a human, or looked like one, and Dora was having a hard time thinking of him as anything else.

"Dora!" Mike screamed, as the zombie brought its mouth to his arm, "Dora!"

It clicked then, this was not a game. Sure they had stopped swimming, cut up a huge amount of meat to make jerky, and were watching the news, but the news was not her neighborhood, the tv didn't capture what was going on right here, right now.

The fear coursing through her body was making her tremble. Dora shook her head, as if waking up for the first time. The table leg has somehow already swung up above her head and she had to decide how much force to use to bring it down on her neighbor. Dora swung violently, hitting him in the head, backing his teeth away from Mike's arm by a mere inch. The thing was stunned, but still moving, she hit it again, and again, she barely noticed that Paige had joined her with a pool cue, barely noticed Mike sliding away from the splattering blood the two women were kicking up with their blows.

"Stop!" Mike said weakly, then with more force, "Stop! Dora! Paige! Stop! He's not moving!"

Dora dropped her club and rushed to Mike, feeling his head, ruffling his clothing and examining him while she asked frantically, "Did it bite you? Did you get any blood on you? Are you hurt? Mike! Are you hurt?!"

Mike brought his hands up, "No I just got spattered with blood, like you two."

Dora looked at herself and Paige, then pulled Mike up and marched all three of them to the bathroom she had seen, flipping the lights on as she went. The bath was a 'three quarters style' with a large granite shower. She shoved all three of them back into it and turned the water on with a violent twist. The shower was high class with nozzles on both sides of the stall, with the flip of a switch all the water came on and it was cold.

"Get your clothing off! Anything bloody, get it off now!" Dora said.

The others were terrified of the voice coming out of the woman and hastened to obey, not even modesty stopping them, the water abruptly turned hot and Paige yelped in pain, Dora turned the heat down too far and the heat tilted back and forth for a while until she finally got it to body temperature, then hot until they could barely stand it.

Their clothing lay in a pile at the edges of the shower and after three or four minutes of frantic scrubbing the blood was all gone. Dora turned to Mike and had him bend over so she could look at his face where the zombie had grabbed it. Paige was behind Mike and checked the back of his head as well. Mike's face was bruised but his skin was not broken anywhere, all of the blood was from the zombie.

"Did anyone swallow any blood? Even a splatter of it? We don't know if it spreads that way." Dora said.

"No Dora." Mike said.

"No. I don't think so." echoed Paige.

"I know, I know; we can't really know, can we? Well I think we'll be alright. I am going to see if there is any mouthwash and rinse my mouth out. Just in case." She found a full sized bottle in the cabinet beneath the sink, Dora made quick work of opening it and rinsing out her mouth.

They shut the water off and moved out of the shower, there were only two full-sized towels, Dora grabbed a hand towel from the side of the sink and threw it to Mike, who had grabbed a full sized one, Dora had the other, "Give Paige yours when you are dry, and use this for modesty, if you have to."

"What about our cloths?" Paige asked, toweling off her flabby, pale belly.

"I would rather be naked than walk around in contaminated clothing. I saw women over here, I know one lived here, she was hefty like you, so we find their closets and we dress up again, okay?"

They nodded and Paige and Mike took turns rinsing their mouths out with the mouth wash. They filed out of the bathroom and walked over to the zombie, staying well away from the blood splatters. Paige was surprised Dora didn't have a cutting remark about Mike's erection, the poor guy was having a hard time concealing it with the hand towel.

"For christsakes Mike! A little control here!?" Paige whispered fiercely, "How can you be horny at a time like this?"

"I can't help it! I mean I would if I could, it's not something I can control!"

Dora overheard and said, "Life or death situations can bring that on, so I heard. It didn't do anything for me, what about you Paige, you aroused?"

Paige flushed, "No!"

"Liar! Poor Mike's condition is obvious to all who look, us women we can lie about it and no one is the wiser. I would pause to let you two crazy kids indulge yourselves but I don't have any condoms and we don't want anyone practicing unsafe sex now, do we? Besides we need the guns, and clothing and to get home to the jerky. We are going to raid this guy's food too. Take everything we can to my place. Mike, get into the safe, that is a gun safe right?" Mike nodded, "See what is there. The guy we killed is the owner he might have the key in his robe pocket, maybe, if the safe is locked."

Mike was relieved to find his situation went away as he put his mind to working on the safe, it was locked and the key was not in the guy's robe. He was searching around the safe when Dora handed him a pair of large shorts.

"I got it out of the drier, the wash room is right there, so they are clean." The women both had on large shirts too, with Paige pulling on some pilfered underwear and shorts that were large even for her. Dora gathered up their clothing carefully from the bathroom and started a load of wash, moving the clothing she found there to the drier while Paige joined in the effort to find the safe key.

"It has to be here, he wouldn't have come down here without it. Not unless it was hidden here somewhere, right?" asked Mike, when Dora finally came over to help them out.

Paige nodded, Dora said, "Makes sense, you check the shelves?"

"Twice." Paige answered glumly.

"Nothing in his pockets?"

"No. His robe was empty." said Mike.

Dora stepped back from the shelves and surveyed the scene, the other body was still lying on the floor, its head appeared to have been slammed against the concreted and the back of it was crushed in. The guy was wearing blue jeans and a shirt, it was no one Dora recognized.

"What about him?" she asked.

"I thought the other guy owned the place?" asked Paige, "Why would the keys to the safe be on him?"

"Well he is dead. Look at him. How did he die?"

"Uh, you mean like 'CSI' him?" asked Mike, coming closer and squatting down by the body. All three of them looked for another moment, before Mike spoke again, "It looks like his head got bashed in by your neighbor."

"So?" said Dora.

"So what?"

"So that means my neighbor had his hands on the guy, probably on his head or neck, right?"

"Oh, yeah, I see." Mike pulled at the corpses shirt, tilting his body up, peering underneath he didn't see anything at first, then looking closer he said, "Yeah, hold on, I found the key. It's stuck to the back of his head, looks like the blood dried and it got stuck in his hair. Get me a stick or pliers or something to pull it off."

Paige moved right away towards the washing machine, she stooped down beside it near a black tube that went into the ground, a sump pump. She then reached down and her hand came back with a pair of rusty pliers. Stepping to Mike she handed him the pliers, "Here."

He took them and held the body up with one hand pushed the pliers back onto the corpses head, after a few tries the key fell out of its hair and landed with a dull ring onto the cement floor where he was able to lift it with the pliers. He brought the key over to the utility sink, also near the washing machine and rinsed it off with laundry detergent until there was no more blood on it. Turning to the women he held the key up with a flourish and said, "Ta-da!"

Dora made a sweeping gesture with her hands, ending by pointing at the safe, "After you, you are the gun expert after all."

Mike approached the safe and put the key in the lock, there were no surprises and the safe opened easily, revealing a half a dozen rifles and two shelves with pistols and ammo.

"Wow." said Mike, "He does have a few guns." He started sorting through the pistols, sitting one aside on top of the safe and leaving the others on the shelf.

"What's wrong with that one?" Paige asked, pointing at the gun Mike had set on top of the safe.

"Uh, it's black powder, an old gun. I don't know how to load it, I could probably figure it out, but we have enough guns here for all of us, and more. These are shotguns, those three, the others are normal rifles, it looks like a thirty aught six, a two twenty three, and a little twenty-two plunker. Plus three pistols and a good old fashioned revolver. Ammo for everything, but not much of the two twenty three, only a box of twenty five. All in all this good."

Dora and Paige looked at each other, then Dora said, "Gee I don't suppose you were planning some sort of school shooting or something where you? Maybe you felt bullied by the 'normal' kids?"

Mike looked at her confused, "No, no, nothing like that. I just grew up hunting. Shot my first gun when I was six, so I know about these things. I own a couple of rifles myself. I have fired pistols before, but my dad doesn't see any reason to keep pistols in the house. He says he sleeps too heavy and if a burglar breaks in he wouldn't be able to get to a gun to stop him anyway."

"Nice." said Paige.

"Okay. Good enough, so can we get all these in one load? What guns should we have, Paige and I? Anything easier to fire than the others?"

"Um, I would guess a shotgun. I mean it isn't much more likely to hit, but it is a little easier. The longer the barrel the easier it is to aim for beginners. No pistols for you two."

"So you get what? Five pistols and we get two of the rifles? That hardly seems fair." said Dora with a little pout in her voice.

"No we take all of them, I will show you how to fire them in your yard, so we all know what to do if we have to. No more fighting these things with table legs or paint ball guns."

"Or pool cues." said Paige.

"Okay, let's find a duffel bag or a backpack." The three set out finding the needed bags to carry the guns and ammo. Mike took the precaution of loading one of the rifles and carrying it with him as they searched the basement for what they needed. Everything they needed was found in the basement bedroom, which had its own bathroom and a huge walk in closet. The closet was full of hunting clothing and also had a duffel bag with padding and a gun cleaning kit in it. Mike took that, while Paige grabbed the camouflage backpack to put the ammunition in. Dora took another, slightly larger pack and told them it was to put any food they could carry into.

They loaded up the guns and ammo and went upstairs to raid the kitchen. After making sure the house was locked and there was no one else inside the ground floor Dora sent Mike and Paige upstairs to get more clothing for Paige. In the mean time she opened the fridge and discovered it was well stocked. Dora loaded the pack up with all the fruit and vegetables she could get and then packed in the package of steaks that were thawing out. She left the alcohol and soda pop, but moved on to the cupboards to steal some packages of crackers and chips.

By the time she was finished Paige and Mike were back. Paige held a bundle of clothing and she picked up the ammo bag to carry as well. Dora slung the backpack up over her shoulders and Mike carried the duffel bag and his rifle awkwardly towards the door.

"Let's leave the back door unlocked in so we can get back in. There is still more food in the fridge and cupboards. Plus we have to come back for our cloths and your shoes later too."

The other two shrugged and Dora took that as agreement so she unlocked the back door before moving to the front of the house. Dora, who had both hands free, opened the front door and held it for the other two. Soon enough all three of them were standing on the walk looking down the street towards Dora's house.

Chapter 12

The street was deserted. Dora could see waves of heat coming up from off the pavement, distorting the distant houses, making them seem to dance in the heat. Mike led the way sticking to the wide white sidewalk, before braving the hot dark pavement in his bare feet. After the third step he was wishing he had taken his shoes out of the wash, wet shoes were better than burned feet. He made it across, followed by the two women who were yelping as they stepped. All of them were sweating from the heat and the heavy loads of the various packs they were carrying. They made it up to Dora's front door and turned to her to open it.

"You know how you were saying 'no one locks their doors around here'?"

"Oh, for Christsakes! You locked us out?" said Paige.

Dora shrugged and sounded truly apologetic as she said, "I am sorry. We can go through the back, right? I didn't shut the back door."

They made their way to the side of the house to the gate in the stone wall. The wall was still eight feet tall here, but the gate was only six feet and made of iron bars with some wood woven through it for privacy. The top of the gate had pointed spikes on it.

Mike tried it and it was locked. He turned to Dora with a raised eyebrow.

"I thought we could climb it." she said slowly.

"It's got spikes on it!" Paige said.

"Well they are not sharp, not really, just pointy, I am sure Mike could get over it with no problem."

"Spikes, no spikes, I'm the guy with the gun. Why don't you boost Dora over Paige?"

"Why me?" Dora protested, "You're a guy! You're good at climbing over stuff, right?"

"Yeah, but if I do it there won't be anyone to cover you."

"We haven't seen any zombies on the street!"

"Oh for crying out loud, boost me over then!" Paige said.

Dora gave Paige a scathing look, "Fine, my mess. I forgot the key. I'll go. Will you at least help Paige boost me up, oh mighty gunman?"

Mike nodded and all three of them dropped the various bags and packs they were carrying. Paige and Mike boosted Dora up and she carefully balanced herself on the top of the gate, her bare toes curling around the sides to grip it with all the strength she had. Mike kept staring up and Dora realized he was looking at her bare ass.

"Like what you see? I thought you were supposed to be covering us, not getting free looks up a lady's dress." Paige flushed too, giving Dora a good idea of where her eyes had been as well. "You two! What am I going to do with you? Don't you know we are fighting for our survival here?"

"You started it this morning!" Paige protested, "Going all off on poor Mike!"

"Yeah, well this is an emergency now. I didn't understand that then, now I do. If we get all secured in maybe we can talk about other things again but for now watch the street and not my ass!"

Both of them turned diligently towards the street and Dora couldn't help but hike up her shirt and give her ass a little shake before she turned and found a way to let herself down. She heard Mike mutter to Paige, "Did you see her do that?" with Paige giving an affirmative answer, "Only applies to us I guess."

There was no graceful way to get off of the gate, Dora half fell, half climbed down and opened it for them to come through. "Stop sulking I wasn't really mad. In fact if you want to look later I think I would be okay with that. We gotta get this food in the fridge first though and check on the jerky and make fill up some containers with water, just in case. After that some wine and who knows…?"

"Gosh, Dora you make it sound so good!" said Paige with some mocking sarcasm in her voice.

"There's the Paigy I love!" Dora replied.

They picked up the various bags and sacks and headed into the backyard and then went inside to put the food away, the gate swung shut, bounced open slightly behind them, then slowly swung towards the street again, not quite latching closed.

Dora cleaned all of the expired food out of the refrigerator, making a clean sweep by checking everything, down to the last bottle of salad dressing. Mike checked on the meat in the oven and on the low burning grill outside and Paige started setting all the guns out on the table on the back porch. She set the ammunition in a separate pile sorted by size. Everyone met back at the patio table under the shading trellis to look the guns over.

"We'll take turns firing all of them. Mostly you will fire the shotguns, because we have the most ammunition for those. I want you to know how to shoot everything here and load it too. Anything you learn with these guns should apply to any others we might find too." Mike said.

The women nodded and paid unusual attention to the lecture as Mike when on to show each of them how to load, unload and put each gun on 'safety' and take each gun off as well. Then he turned the unloaded weapons over to them and made each of them tell him how to do everything he demonstrated. Through trial and error the women became familiar with the guns until Mike felt comfortable enough to have them try firing them. Dora said they should move behind the changing room and fire towards the back yard.

Mike went back into the kitchen and rummaged in the trash, bringing out a few bottles of various things to use as targets. Behind the changing room there was a wood pile and Mike took a few of the split logs back and set them up about forty feet away. He positioned them in front of a small mound of dirt left over from the pool construction and put a jar on top of each log.

"Now, you need to aim low. If a bullet hits the wall it could ricochet, which means bouncing back, we don't want to be hit by bullet, or have one damage the house or something. So for the first time you fire, keep it a little low until you figure out where the bullet is going." Mike explained how to use the sights on the rifles and how the pistols used a similar system. He cautioned them that the pistols would not be as accurate as the rifles, because it was easier to get a line on a target with a longer barrel.

He picked up a shotgun and then lay down on the grass and propped it up with another chunk of firewood. "The steadier you can keep the barrel the more accurate you will be." With that he squeezed off a shot and shattered one of the jars of salad dressing, knocking over the piece of wood it has been sitting on as well. "See? Slow and steady, take your time and exhale before you pull the trigger, never take your eyes off the target."

The women were still recovering from the loud sound the gun had made when it went off. With Dora conspicuously rubbing her ears.

"Yeah we should use earplugs, but I didn't see any over there around the safe."

"Oh, like little orange bits of foam, right? Roger has some in the garage, for when he is cutting wood. I'll go get some, it's better than being deaf after this session of shooting."

Dora went to the garage and looked around for a few minutes before spying the package of foam ear inserts hanging off of the pegboard behind the work bench. She brought them outside and handed them out to the others. Mike had replaced the bottle he had shattered with another and had Paige lay down in the prone position to fire her first shot. Dora looked at the young woman and thought to herself that some people just were not designed to lie down on their stomachs; she started to giggle and stopped herself. The other two didn't notice, so that was one advantage to having the ear plugs in. Paige's first shot missed, but her second one was dead on. Mike had her fire until she hit all the targets, Paige took nine shots to hit six targets and Mike seemed very pleased. He went and set up new ones and then it was Dora's turn to lie down and fire the shotgun.

Mike was loudly telling her to go slow and breathe slowly and she thought Paige said something too, but when she looked over her shoulder the woman just pointed at Dora's bare ass; Dora hadn't thought to put on anything under her shirt yet. Shrugging her shoulders Dora looked downrange and slowly let out her breath then squeezed the trigger. The recoil of the gun surprised her, but she hit her target on the first try. In fact she knocked all of her six targets off with six shots, although one was not broken; Dora had hit the log out from under it, causing it to topple unharmed into the grass.

Mike was still very pleased and they progressed to standing and firing the shotgun, then moved on to the rifles and finally they tried to shoot the pistols. They practiced for over an hour, loading, firing until the last round Mike had set aside for the training was gone. Finally the practice was over and Dora pulled out her ear plugs and tossed them towards the woodpile, the others did the same.

"That took longer than I thought it would." said Dora.

"Yeah and you get better the more you practice, but we don't have a lot more ammo to practice with, so I think we are done, you'll just have to get better fighting zombies. We have to aim at the head, if Ned was right anyway."

"That is what he said. Should we check the news and jerky and then get some dinner going?" asked Paige.

"Absolutely! And I promised wine!"

The trio came around the side of the changing room, with Dora leading and she stopped dead in her tracks, pushing the other two back. Between them and the house were several people. Dead people. Zombies were invading her back yard.

"Fuck!" Dora whispered loudly as she manhandled the other two behind the small building. "Where the fuck did they come from?" Thinking for a moment she then looked at Mike and Paige, "Tell me one of you latched the gate when you came in?"

They looked at each other and shook their heads, with Mike saying, "It doesn't swing shut on its own?"

"Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! No it doesn't fucking latch on its own!"

"Sorry Dora! I didn't know!" said Paige.

Dora was about to utter a scathing remark, then stopped herself, remembering she was the reason they had to come through the gate in the first place, the anger left her and she said, "It's my fault not yours. I am not mad at you. I locked the fucking front door, which is why we had to go through the gate. I know the damned thing doesn't always latch. I am just mad at myself. I should have known. Mike, tell me you have more bullets."

He shook his head, "We shot them all. The rest are on the table. Did they see us?"

"I don't think so." Dora said shaking her head, "They must have heard us firing the guns. I didn't know they could hear us."

"What do we do?" asked Paige.

Dora peeked her head around the corner again, one of the zombies was shuffling their direction, it had obviously seen them and was only about twenty steps away. Quickly Dora counted the others, three were gathered at the back patio sliding door, unable to get in, another two were standing by the pool, looking the grill intently. There was another one coming in from the side of the house too. The gate was not visible from where Dora was standing, but she was sure it was still open. Ducking back she said, "One of them is coming, he saw me. There are six others, two by the pool, three by the back door and one coming in from the side of the house. We need to get to the table and get some bullets, then get the god damned gate shut and kill the ones who are in the yard. If there are any more out in the street we better take care of them too, I don't want a mob around the house, what if they draw more?"

"Okay so how do we do this? Do you want to be a distraction while I race for the ammo?" Mike asked.

"Uh, maybe me and Paige together on this side of the changing room. We'll tackle this one and make a lot of noise, you go out from the other side when we tell you to and run for the table around the far side of the pool."

"Okay, we'll keep it simple. After I get the bullets I'll yell for you two to run. You go that way," Mike pointed at her neighbors to the west of her property, "Run behind the shed and make your way back towards me by sticking close to the wall so you won't be in my line of fire."

"We aren't defenseless either." Paige bent over and picked up a stout piece of wood off the wood pile. "We should be able to take the first one out with a few good whacks, right? I mean this is heavier than a pool cue or the table leg."

"Okay, let's do this." Dora said.

Chapter 13

Dora and Paige went around the side of the shed almost at the same time. They moved several paces away from it and the zombie who was closest immediately headed their way. The ones coming in from the open gate started shambling their way too, the others had not yet noticed the living in the yard behind them and kept batting at the glass door or looking at the grill.

"Hey dead people! Over here! Can you hear me?" shouted Dora.

"Hell yeah they can hear us! Look they are turning this way!"

"Yeah brilliant idea, firing the guns in my backyard, huh?"

"Who knew?" Paige asked. She took a swing at the lead zombie, catching him behind the ear and stripping a patch of gray hair off of the old zombie's head.

"Shit you hit like a girl!" Dora said, immediately letting out a small "Oops!" as her own blow did little damage to the other side of the things head.

"It ain't as easy as it looks, huh?" Paige's second blow crushed in the top of the things head and it went down and stopped moving.

The melee had lasted all of six seconds and yet both women, hopped up on adrenaline, were panting. The next zombie was still a good twenty slow paces away and they moved a bit further towards the side of the yard to draw them over, Dora also wanted to see the gate, when it came into line she was horrified to see that beyond it was a mass of zombies, all trying to get through the bottle neck at the same time.

"There must be twenty or thirty of them! We gotta get that gate shut!" Dora said.

"One thing at a time, okay, keep 'em coming towards us so Mike can run for the ammo."

"What is going on?" Mike yelled over at them.

"There are a bunch more trying to get through the gate, we gotta hurry or we are going to be up to our ears here soon!"

"We aren't already? Maybe we should just get out of here, go around front and make a bunch of noise so they will follow us there instead?"

"Paige, I could barely get over the gate, and that was with Mike's help and the gate is only six feet high! These walls around the yard are eight feet, no way I can do that."

Paige looked around, noticing how all of the trees were short, not more than four or five years old. There were no piles of junk in the yard either, other than the wood pile behind the changing room there was nothing they could use to climb over the back walls. She got a determined look in her eye as she turned to Dora, "We bash a few, get their attention, climb up the wood pile and get on the roof of the changing room, they are too clumsy to climb up there."

"Good idea, I knew I picked you for a reason!" said Dora.

"You picked me? Hah! I only came along because I knew you would be dead without me. I felt sorry for you." Paige swung at the second zombie in line. The other members of the living dead were lining up nicely and the door and patio were almost clear of them now, however a large number were still pouring in from the open gate.

The women clubbed the second zombie together, handling them two on one was easy, things were going to get harder in mere moments when they would have to handle two or three at once. Paige took a step back, Dora matched her, and the next two zombies were upon them. Dora recognized one of the women, it was an older middle aged woman with stringy blond hair. She lunged forward at the last second, causing Dora's swing to hit her in the back instead of on the head. Dora used her off hand to push the woman's head back and of course the zombie tried to bite that hand. Screaming in fear Dora ran backwards three or four paces, which left Paige to deal with two zombies alone.

"Back off Paige! Run!" however Paige held her ground, swinging a viscous upper cut into the jaw of the first zombie, an older man with no shirt and enough hair on his chest to qualify as fur. The old man fell over backward from the blow and Paige swung her club down on Dora's zombie from behind. Through some misfortune, the woman had her hand up and Paige's blow caught it in the arm. The zombie woman didn't slow down a bit, even with her arm bent in the middle of the wrist and white bone gaping out of the wound. The woman turned to go after Paige and trod over the body of the shirtless man to get to her. Dora stepped up and bashed the blond haired woman over the head when she turned.

This left Paige's second zombie free to act and it lunged forward and toppled the woman down. He pulled her down to her knees and pressed his head into her stomach. Dora grabbed Paige by the arm and jerked her backward. The motion pulled her away from the zombie, but Paige lost her hunk of wood, it toppled end over end until it landed on the grass between the women and the next zombie, where it acted as a meager wall.

As Dora helped Paige to her feet, they watched the lead zombie's foot step down on the piece of wood, its ankle twisted sideways and the man toppled into the shirtless, hairy zombie, which had just regained its feet. Both of them went down again and another zombie, one that looked about twelve years old, tried to walk over them and also ended up on the ground. Both women giggled at the pile up, then Dora said "All we have to do is throw wood in their way!"

"Yeah, my wood! I already miss it."

This set Dora off to giggling again and they fell back further. Paige, with a perplexed look on her face asked "What's so funny now?"

"I'll bet you miss your wood! You poor girl!" she laughed again as they continued their retreat. Paige shook her head slowly from side to side, the smile didn't leave her face, but she said nothing in response to Dora's needling.

The women watched as Mike raced to the back patio table and grabbed several boxes of ammo and ducked into the kitchen. Dora looked at Paige "Uh, was that the plan?"

Paige grabbed the woman and started hustling forward in an arc around the back yard, "He has to reload the guns, right? Let's get to the changing room."

They raced around the side, but because of the rectangular shape of the yard they ended up closer to the zombies than either woman expected. Paige tossed a couple of pieces of wood on to the top of the shed and scrambled up the stacked pile to get onto the roof. Dora, followed tossing her own club up first, she had almost made it to the top, when she felt a cold hand grasp her ankle and start to pull her down.

"Paige!" Dora screamed. The younger woman turned and grabbed Dora's hand, pulling her hard, but the zombie would not let go. Dora kicked ineffectively, bouncing her bare feet off the thing's face and shoulder. This zombie was a younger man, probably sixteen or seventeen, Mike's age. He was wearing only dark green boxer shorts and they were torn open in a way that left nothing to the imagination.

"Hold on, Dora!" Paige said and then let Dora's hand go, she then turned around and hefted a chunk of wood in her hand, she threw it at the man's head, where an end struck it right square on the nose, ruining an otherwise good face. The thing might not feel pain, but having a three pound piece of wood hitting it in the face must have jarred it in some manner, because it let go and fell backward. Dora pulled herself up and turned around to look at the zombies milling about in her yard. They kept coming and were starting to build up at the back of the shed. The mob moved up and stomped on top of any who fell, which they all did when they reached the pile. Thus, the pile was getting higher as each pressed forward. Dora estimated there were now around forty zombies in her yard, with more streaming in from the open gate. Gunfire started in the street in front of her house. It was a rifle, Dora recognized the sound. Then a pistol started firing. Then everything stopped.

"You don't think…" She began, but a rifle started firing again. "What is he doing?"

"Getting to the gate from the front I bet. Get your club, we gotta knock heads."

The women began smashing the heads of the zombies that came close, this stopped the zombies from getting to them, but added to the pile, making it easier for the others to reach them. Fortunately the zombies were only able to get up on back side, where so many of them had fallen. On the other sides the zombies just pressed close and jostled each other, not able to reach up or threaten the women.

The gun fire continued, abating periodically, before resuming again. After what seemed like an hour of time, the firing started coming from the side of the house near the gate. The women smashed heads until Mike appeared in the yard. He moved forward, but didn't wade into the crowd of zombies. Instead he angled off to one side and when he was close enough he yelled, "Catch!" and tossed up a pistol.

Paige recovered it and Mike retreated back into the house to reload, several zombies followed him. Paige took slow aim at the zombies closest to the bath house and fired one shot at a time, which drew the zombies back towards them. After nine shots the pistol was empty, but by then Mike had reloaded and was using the grill as a place to steady the rifle he was firing. In minutes the slaughter was over. There was still some movement on the ground, zombies whose heads had not been fully destroyed, Mike tossed up a box of ammo for Paige and another pistol to Dora. The women climbed down on the pool side by hanging and dropping from the roof.

"Well that went well. Thanks Mike you did a great job." Dora leaned over and hugged the young man.

"Yeah, I think we need showers again. You two are splattered, uh, more like coated in blood." said Mike.

"You aren't much better yourself." said Paige looking Mike over. "What do we do with these? Some of them are still moving."

Dora pondered it over for a minute then said, "You know I think we better pull them out one by one towards the back, make sure each one is fully dead. I would rather not have them in the yard, but what else do we do with them?"

"They're gonna smell." Mike said.

Dora shrugged. "Better out there then around the pool. Could we bring them out front?"

"Uh. There are more out there. They just kept coming. I cleared a path, but there were lots of them. Maybe we can wait until tomorrow, maybe they will go away?"

"Fine." Dora said with resignation in her voice, "We drag em back here and put a cap in any of them that are still alive. At least they are easy to kill."

"I don't know Dora. Out in front. Well I missed one. Took two shots at him, he moved like…well, like us. Fast, he ran away when I started firing. None of the others ran away, they just came forward no matter what."

Dora looked at Mike, trying to figure out if he was putting them on, she decided he wasn't and said, "That's…not good."

"No." he answered.

Chapter 14

Moving the bodies back to the back fence took them almost an hour and a half. They had killed thirty seven zombies in the back yard. Mike said he had probably killed that many in the front too, and when the women looked out the front windows there were still dozens of them wandering around in the street and on the front lawn. After the noise stopped they did begin to disperse, but not quickly. Some of them looked at the house in a way that made Dora uneasy.

In the back Dora got her garden hose out and washed all the blood and gore off of the patio and away from the pool. She turned the pools filtration system on manually and let it run while they checked the jerky and made dinner. The sun was near setting by the time they had dinner ready and were gathered around the picnic table to eat outside. They kept their conversation low and the television was muted, but on, providing a flickering light as the natural light faded.

"Do you think they are attracted to light?" asked Paige.

"We better not risk it. I think we should stay upstairs, we can tape paper or foil to the windows, to black them out completely, then barricade the hallway at the top of the stairs. I still don't think I am going to get a good night's sleep." said Dora.

"We still have electricity, that is a good sign right?" asked Mike.

"Probably, I mean if they are attracted to light maybe they will gather under the street lights?" said Paige.

"We should be so lucky!" said Dora.

"We were lucky." Mike said, raising his wine glass in a toast, "to us, new best friends."

The women clinked glasses with him and then drained the few ounces of wine out of them. Dora had opened a bottle of wine, some ice wine from an Iowa winery, as she expected, both of her young guests liked it well enough. She had told them they would only split the one bottle, which shouldn't be enough to do any of them any harm. She was surprised that she was feeling buzzed by the end of the meal.

The three of them cleaned up the dishes in silence and Dora shut off the patio television and came inside. She locked the door and braced a chair in front of it, wedged under the handle. They had already done the same thing to the front door and even to the door leading to the garage and basement. In the kitchen Dora gathered up her tin foil and some paper bags and the three of them headed upstairs with some duct tape from Roger's stash.

In the dying light from the master bedroom they looked outside at the street below, there were still a couple dozen zombies milling about out there. Dora sighed heavily and then put the foil over the window, Mike and Paige taped the ends up and then went down both edges, sealing the room against all light emissions. There were three windows in the master bedroom, two facing the street and one facing the side of the house. They sealed them all and even did the small window in the master bathroom. The three of them spent some time looking up at the sky light that provided extra light in the bathroom, but none of them could figure out a way to block it off; eventually they all conceded it probably didn't matter as it faced almost straight up and slanted towards the back of the house.

"We can open that you know." said Dora referring to the sky light. "Then we could get the ladder from the garage and get up onto the roof."

"How about tomorrow? I was up at five today to make my shift, I am dead tired." said Mike.

"Yeah tomorrow. Let's move the bed out of the other bedroom and set it up across the top of the stairs, then we can get some sleep." said Dora, the other two agreed and Paige was yawning by the time they found themselves back in the master bedroom.

"There's only one bed." Mike said.

"It's a king, it'll hold us." said Dora.

"Uh, I dunno.." began Mike.

"What? Still afraid of us women folk? We don't bite. Hard." teased Dora.

Mike's face took on a tone of uncertainty, his eyes shifted back and forth from Dora to Paige, taking in their bodies, until Dora let out a laugh. "Relax sweet pea, Paige here has convinced me to take the high ground. Not to sleep with anyone just because my worthless piece of shit husband did so."

"Don't you still love him anyway?" asked Paige.

Dora thought for a moment, Paige was not asking to poke fun at her, but earnestly trying to figure out how Dora felt.

"Paige…" she began, "Paige, in one day I have found out my husband was cheating on me with my old best friend, I've fought off a horde of zombies who just wanted to eat me and I've made the new best friends I have ever had in the world. Do I love Roger? I guess, underneath it all I do. But right now I am very, very angry with him and I really do not think I will ever forgive him. You know how many affairs I had when I was with him?" Dora paused as both of them shook their heads, she could see them mentally guessing numbers, "None, not one. I had opportunities too, but I never crossed that line. I thought about it, but I never would have. Paige, you stopped me from thinking of Mike as a piece of meat to get back at Roger with, that's good because that is all it would have been. I am emotionally drained right now, some sex would be an awesome tension reliever, but I think, maybe, it would be best if we just sleep tonight." She waited until they digested that then could not help but add, "The bed is big enough for all of us, the only rule I have is we all sleep nude."

Paige laughed, Mike looked perplexed, so she said, "She is joking Mike. Still you better sleep on the floor."

"Okay, fine. Can we still get downstairs? Roger the bastard has a camping mattress in the garage, right where he kept the paint ball stuff. I don't think he ever even used it." said Dora.

The three of them pulled the barricade out of the way and made one more trip downstairs to get the mattress. They also used the opportunity to check on the drying beef and to make sure there were no more zombies in the back yard. It was all clear and after ten minutes they were upstairs making Mike a place to sleep along one wall. Sitting on the bed and floor with flashlights, Dora held the light up to her face and in a spooky voice said, "Now we shall tell scary stories that keep us up all night. Who wants to go first?"

The other two laughed and shut off their lights, leaving only Dora's lit up. She stifled a yawn with one hand and pouted out, "Party poopers!"

"Dude." began Mike, "We were up at, like, dawn. I am crashing." Mike let out a yawn of his own and pulled a blanket up over his head. They had taken all the bedding and pillows off of the barricade mattress so he looked pretty comfortable in his 'Mike Nest'.

"Alright, to sleep we go." Dora stood up from the foot of the bed and made sure the stout wooden door was locked, then got the chair from her vanity and propped the back of it under the handle before returning to bed with Paige. Dora thought she would fall asleep instantly, however the events of the day kept replaying in her head over and over. Paige's soft snores reminded her of Roger, on the floor Mike moaned in his sleep, eventually the darkness closed over her. The digital clock on her nightstand still had power, when Dora fell asleep it was only two minutes past nine o'clock.

Halfway through the night Mike moved into bed with them, on Dora's side. It was with frantic passion that they kissed and began caressing other. It turned into a frenzied, yet gentle, pawing as they tried not to wake Paige. Mike shifted the nightshirt Dora was wearing up above her breasts and caressed them, hardly daring to lower his head until Dora grasped his hair in her hands and forced it to her breast. Once his mouth was busy his hands were free to travel down her stomach and between her legs, the thin fabric of her panties was already moist and his pressure against the outside of her panties combined with his suckling made Dora gasp.

She continued running her hands through his hair and spread her legs allowing Mike more direct access. One of her feet bumped against his groin and he ground against it. She used her toes and slipped down his boxers, he ground his pelvis against her foot, doing so in time with his hands against her groin. Eventually Dora could stand it no longer; she brought his head up to her face and shifted her legs to get Mike on top of her. Sliding her panties to one side she reached down for Mike, guiding him into her, she gasped and a wave of pleasure emanated throughout her body. Mike's frantic thrusts caused her more pleasure heightening it to levels she had never reached with Roger.

'Roger. What was that noise? Roger, why would I think of him at a time like this?' Her fire alarm was going off. 'The jerky! It was on fire! The house was burning! Dora pushed Mike off of her and sat up in the bed.'

Dora came awake slowly, Mike wasn't on top of her; he was still asleep on the mattress beside the bed. She had a tangle of sheets wrapped between her legs and a long, fluffy pillow clutched to her chest. As she came fully awake, Dora untangled herself from the sheets and tossed her pillow back to where it belonged. Paige moaned next to her.

'It was a dream.The house isn't on fire, the alarm isn't sounding off and her clothes were still on.' Sighing, she adjusted the blankets and fell backwards into her pillow. Softly she whispered, "Fuck." It was three fourteen in the morning.

A moment later she repeated the word with more force as the telephone rang. Getting out of bed she stumbled towards her vanity where the land line sat, the ringer was set to low and had not wakened Mike or Paige yet. Dora answered it on the third ring.

"Hello? Hello?" she said into the receiver.

"Dora? Oh, thank God! Why didn't you answer the first time I called? Are you alright? Dora, you gotta get out of the house!" it was Roger.

Chapter 15

"What? Roger, what are you talking about?" Dora replied.

"It's the zombies, they are coming from Denver, and there are too many here already, Kansas City is drowning in them! The National Guard can't hold them back. So our neighborhood is in the exclusion zone."

"Roger, slow down, hold on a minute." Dora glanced over and noticed that Paige and Mike were both awake and groggily propping themselves up on their elbows.

"It's on the news Dora, turn on the news! Our house was in the yellow zone until midnight, then they switched it to red, they can't protect you anymore."

"I'll go watch the news. I will turn it on and see what I have to do. Thanks for the warning, Roger." There was a long pause on the other end of the line.

"Dora." Roger began.

"Don't." she warned.

"I'm sorry Dora. I didn't…this wasn't what I had wanted."

Dora grew angry, "I said don't. As in, 'Do Not'. I am not ready to deal with you when I am having to deal with staying alive."

"I am sorry, Marge is sorry too, she, we, didn't mean to hurt you."

"Roger, you and Marge are only sorry you got caught! Fuck her, I mean that literally, go for it, I don't give a shit anymore."

"So…it's over then?"

Dora let out a short, machine gun type laugh, "Over? I am fucking killing zombies, fighting for my life and you think I want to take time out to deal with my husband banging my best friend? I have bigger shit, much bigger shit to deal with than your betrayal. If it makes you feel any better just think of me as dead."

"Dora…I…I am coming to get you. Now. I will fight my way over there and pull you out of there."

"What? You and what army? Have you been on the streets lately? Do you know how many zombies I killed today? Me? How many have you killed Roger or were you too busy killing the rabbit to get outside today?"

"You…you had to fight them?" His voice was barely a whisper.

"Hah! I knew it, you and Marge and Sylvia for all I know were lounging around in bed screwing all day while I was fighting to get home, to get back here and to save…" Dora began to cry, angry fat tears and she didn't trust her voice to say anymore.

"What do you mean you had to fight to get home? Why did you leave home? You really killed a zombie? We haven't seen any here. Sylvia left about eleven, told Marge to fuck off and walked out. Dora. I have other news. Jerry is dead."

This last prompted Dora to speak again, "What? How can you know that?" Jerry was Marge's husband, who had gone out of town on a business trip to California last week, he was not due to return until next week.

"He called us, well, um, Marge."

"So he called and was still alive, right?"

"No he was in his hotel, he, it was terrible, Marge's face went white, she put him on speaker phone. They, they were in the room with him, at the end. He…I've never hear a man scream like that. I've never heard a man die."

"Roger, I am sorry. Sorry for you, sorry for Marge. I don't really like either one of you right now and even with all this shit going on I don't want to see you either."

"What? What are you saying?"

"I am saying, evacuate, don't worry about me."

"I am worried about you."

Dora sighed, the timing was all wrong to be having this conversation. "What do you want to do, Roger, go into marriage counseling? Look, you were an asshole yesterday. Worse, an asshole that cheated on his wife with her best friend. Where have you been, Roger? I mean really, Marge lives two fucking miles from our house! And you're only calling me now? I think that shows, more than anything else, what your feelings are. You didn't even know I was gone. You know I crashed the car?"

"What? Is the car okay? Were you hurt?"

Thinking to herself Dora let out a soft chuckle, "'Is the car okay? Were you hurt?'" she mimicked his tone back at him, "The order of your questions indicates your priorities. I set you free, Roger. Don't come here. Leave me alone."

"I…Dora, I am sorry! I didn't mean it like that. I needed to know if you needed a ride or if the car was working."

"I am home, I can drive the suburban, if I have to."

"If you have to? What kind of statement is that? Of course you have to, we have to leave. Dora…how did you get home?"

"I ran into a couple of other people close to where I crashed. I got a ride from them. They are here with me now."

"Are they men? They are aren't they?!"

"Fuck you Roger. Is that all you can think about? If they are men, why not? First, it isn't like the sanctity of our marriage means anything to you, so why should I care? Second, why do you think people would think about sex at a time like this?" remembering her dream Dora smiled slightly.

"Are they men?"

"Roger, no, they are not men. One is a guy named Mike, he is seventeen, in case you are wondering. The other is named Paige, she is a girl, in case you didn't get that from her name. She has shown more balls today than I think you will ever have. I mean, at least she got out of the fucking house and killed a mob of zombies with me!"

"You killed a mob of zombies?" Roger started to laugh, "Tell me another lie you spoiled bitch! You really had me going there for a second. What did you do? Bitch at them until they died?"

"I would say 'Fuck you', but I think the better phrase is 'Go fuck yourself'. Just so you know I shot the zombies. With a gun."

"Gun? You don't even…you found my gun? No, no you couldn't have, I have the key on my key chain. Where would you get a gun? And how would you know how to load it, or shoot it? No this is just a lie, as usual from my nagging bitch of a wife."

Intrigued Dora thought for a second, 'Roger has a real gun in the house?' That was the most interesting thing she had heard in a long time, now how to get him to tell her where it was, "I suppose it could be true, you having a gun here. No, I didn't use your piece of shit gun. I went to the neighbor's place, you know, the guy across the street and down a little way." Dora looked to Mike and Paige, who were both awake and following her side of the conversation. Mike got up and went into the bathroom, flicking on the light as he did so. Paige yelped for him to shut off the light and Mike complied after a moment.

"For Christ sake, it's Jason! His name is Jason, I went paint balling with him, like eight times. He had dinner with us twice. Oh wait you were so drunk you probably don't remember that."

"Jason? Nope, not ringing a bell. We got his guns."

"Is he there with you too?"

"He is dead."


"We found him in his basement, he was a zombie, it was the first one we killed. With a table leg and a pool cue. Oh, was your gun at Jason's? Then we probably have it. We cleaned his safe out, except for an old antique gun that Mike didn't know how to use."

"He is really dead? I thought, I thought he would be fine. I mean, he had all those guns…"

"He was trying to get to them, he had the key, otherwise we probably wouldn't have been able to get into the safe. So your gun was there then?"

"My gun is in the garage, why would I keep it at Jason's? Dora, I am coming home. If for nothing else than to get my stuff."

"It is not a good idea."

"Look I can be an adult about it, but I need clothing and wouldn't mind having a gun too."

"Do you have a gun now? Did Jerry have one in his house?"

"No. Well Marge hasn't said, but he doesn't seem the type."

"Neither do you. Why would you have a gun and not tell me?"

"It cost a lot of money."

"You make a lot of money."

"I…look do we have to get into this right now?"

"You shouldn't come here."

"Why?" Roger asked.

"Because we had a little incident today. And not all of the zombies are gone. We have a lot of them out in front of our house."

"Right. I am coming home."

"Now? Can't it wait for daylight?"

"Why? You going somewhere?"

"Well, back to sleep."

"You were sleeping? The world is fucking ending and you are sleeping?"

"Well, I want to be well rested for the end. Look, the world might be ending for you, in more ways than one, but it is not ending for me or for my friends. We are going to fight. And we are going to live."

Paige turned on the television, cable was out, but the local channels were still broadcasting, the evacuation areas were prominently displayed on the screen. Everything west of interstate seventy one was red, in the mandatory evacuation area. The sections between highways thirty five and seventy one were in the warning area. The map zoomed out and showed a large red blob moving slowly along interstate seventy heading east, right now it was close to Trenton, not that far from Kansas City at all, a larger blob was further west, trailing the first small group, close to Goodland. 'It's nice to know our ability to make pretty pictures is still around.' Thought Dora as she looked at the drawings on the screen.

"Isn't that where we are?" Asked Paige pointed to the map as it zoomed back in.

"Yes honey, it is, that is why Roger the Bastard called, to let us know."

"Oh, thanks then, I guess." Paige said.

"Paige says 'thanks for calling and telling us'. Me? I think we could use the sleep. It is what?" Dora looked at the clock, "Three sixteen! Dammit Roger! Who calls at three sixteen in the morning?"

"It is a fucking emergency! We have to leave!"

"Fine drive by here. But I am not turning on any lights and if you fuck us over I will be pissed. You still shouldn't come over until daylight. I guess I've warned you already, so whatever happens is on your own head. Fuck you and what you think you know Roger. Have a real fun trip in the dark, husband, and remember you don't have to run fast, just faster than Marge. Call me again when you are about a block away, so we are prepared."

"Prepared? Prepared for.."

Dora slammed the phone down. Turning back to Paige she said, "Fuck, fuck, fuck!" She started sobbing and sat on the bed. Paige awkwardly leaned over and put her arms around her."

Mike came out of the bathroom and looked at her in the dim light. "So Roger called, eh?"

"Yeah." Dora and Paige said at the same time.

"Jinx! You owe me a coke!" Dora said reflexively.

Chapter 16

"So when will he be here?" Paige asked for the tenth time in as many minutes.

"I don't know, Roger is always unpredictable and usually late. He sounded scared though, like he had to get out. I expect him and Marge to show up any time." this was Dora's stock answer to the same question.

Apparently Paige was irritable when she was woken up early. Dora had to admit to herself that she was not much better. Her plan was to get Roger in and out and not bother with anything else. The two women were in the kitchen, Dora in her robe, Paige in a cover stolen from Mike's bed. Both were sipping coffee, Mike was not with them. Dora had him looking in the garage for the alleged 'gun' that Roger had hidden there. She had gone into the garage with him to unplug the wireless garage door openers, she did not want him pulling up and opening the doors to the garage.

That would be an invitation to the crew of zombies that were still walking about outside the front of her house. The herd had thinned out a little more, they hadn't really gone anywhere, but had spread out evenly along the street. When Dora came into the garage she had Mike help her haul in the ladder, to move up to the bedroom eventually, for now it sat in the kitchen, very much out of place.

Dora's phone rang, both women jumped a little, Paige spilling hot coffee over her fingers. "Fuck!"

"Oh, Paige you always proposition me at the worst times! Maybe later." Dora flipped her phone open after noting it was Roger calling, "Hello Roger. Are you almost here?"

"Close, but I can't get there. I am at the end of our street, there are a bunch of…them in the street. We can't get any closer to the house. Do you want to meet us at the end of the block?"

Dora laughed, "No. I am not leaving the house."

"I want that gun Dora, we need something for protection."

"Well do what we did, steal one from the neighbors! I am not venturing out in the middle of the fucking night to bring you a gun."

"It's almost four."

"So how do you think I am going to get to you? Walk? Through the zombie field?" Dora asked.

"Well, you have to leave anyway, just load up in the suburban and plow through them."

"You in the Volvo or Marge's car?"

"My car." Roger said with disdain, as if the very thought of driving Marge's car was distasteful.

"Don't want to dent it, eh? Well my answer to you is 'no'. Come back tomorrow if you can't make it through now."

"Dora, you are not listening to me. You have to evacuate now, the governor said so. Get in the suburban and plow your way towards us, we are on the corner of Heritage. We will wait for you there."

"Okay, have a good wait." Dora hung up the phone. Turning to Paige she said, "Well I guess he isn't coming after all. Let's bring the ladder up to the bathroom and see if we can get out onto the roof."

"Now?" Paige asked.

"Why not? I am awake, thanks to 'Roger the Bastard'. I suspect he will wait for about twenty minutes and try something stupid. I don't like him right now, but I don't want to see him eaten alive either. If we get up on the roof we might be able to shoot a few zombies, if we have to."

"Fine. God this sucks. The things people do in relationships."

"Why Paige, I think this is the first time you have ever complained to me about relationships! We are getting to be regular ol' girlfriends now, aren't we?"

"Dora, you are so not in my class, I don't even think we could be friends." said Paige, but she smiled as she said it.

"I know, I know, but I can pretend to slum once in a while, right?"

Hefting her end Paige laughed, "Why would you want to?"

"Because of the drama! There is so little on television these days, so I have to get my entertainment somewhere."

They started hauling the ladder upstairs and had no problem until getting it to the doorway to the master bedroom. Then they had to move a stand in the hallway and carefully slide the thing through. Dora was carefully trying not to scrape up the walls or trim and Paige grudgingly went along with her.

"You know we probably won't be able to get any repairs made now, so we should take care of the place as best we can." Dora explained.

"If you say so. So you don't want to evacuate?"

"Not at night. Not right now. That is fucking insane. I don't know what Roger is thinking." Getting the ladder set up in the bathroom was easy once they got the top into the shaft of the sky light. The ladder fit well in the space, after fiddling with it a few minutes the women managed to telescope it up until the rungs were just shy of the sky light.

"Let me open it up.", said Dora, pressing a switch on the wall near the bottom of the shaft. A low humming noise could be heard and up above, lost in the gloom the window started opening.

"How far does it open?" asked Paige.

"You know, I don't know. I've never opened it. I mean this is Kansas City dear, not North Dakota where we can just open a window to cool the place off in the summer. We only used the air conditioning. Should I risk a peek with the flashlight?"

All three of them in the house had been being very careful with their lights, particularly when using them near any windows. They were not entirely sure that the zombies were attracted to light, however it seemed like a good bet.

"Yeah, do it. Wait unit it is open all the way."

"Duh." replied Dora, when the motor stopped the covered the lens of the flashlight with one hand and sent a narrow, soft beam upwards, trying to walk it up one wall before hitting the window. What they saw was good, the window was hinged on the upper slope and opened wide on the side facing the back yard. The wedge shaped opening had to be at least a foot and a half, something any of them could get through.

"We will have to take the screen out, no big loss. Should we go up now?"

"Hold on, I hear something downstairs." Paige said.

Dora listened and heard the garage door shut, both women waited, listening to what they hoped was Mike climbing the stairs. The young man entered the room and saw them peering at him from the bathroom, in his hands he carried a large metal case. "Hey." he called by way of greeting, "I found it. I think. I mean it is heavy enough."

"What is it?"

"Can't tell, it's locked. A good gun case. I was hoping we could find the keys."

"Where was it?"

"Under a built in shelf that had a bunch of old golf clubs, and other stuff, like exercise stuff, on it. I had to take the shelf off to get to it. You never saw this?"

Dora shook her head, "Another one of Roger's secrets I guess."

"I like 'The Bastard' better." said Paige.

"Me too." seconded Mike.

"Sounds good to me. Now where would Roger keep his keys?"

"Under his underwear?" said Paige.

"In a safe?" suggested Mike.

"Safe? I don't think we have a safe. It wouldn't surprise me to find out we have one, maybe leading to an underground bunker filled with Asian sex slaves. Let's check the dresser first, you do that, I will check his nightstand." The other two set about rifling through the dresser Dora pointed out, while Dora looked through the nightstand on the side of the bed.

It took all of two minutes of searching then Paige said, "I think I found it." She held up a key ring with several keys that she had taken from a padded manila envelope. Paige looked a little uncomfortable; her stance was awkward as she held out the key to Dora.

"What Paige? What else is in the envelope?"

"Ah…pictures." Paige began, "Of 'The Bastard', I guess. And women. Not all of them are you."

"Oh. I see. Many different women or just one other woman?"

"Three or four. Maybe more. They are, God, they are pornographic! He was into taking pictures of himself during sex?"

"Only for a while, it was a phase. He told me he got rid of them. And he left them in the dresser. Proof of his infidelities right there, not ten feet from the bed we slept in. Of course, I didn't find them, so what does that say about me?" Dora felt herself begin tear up. Then she channeled her sorrow into anger, saying, "I will not give him the satisfaction. I will not. Unlock it Mike." Dora gestured at Mike to take the keys from Paige and try them in the box.

Only one key looked like it was small enough to fit and sure enough it worked. Paige tucked the envelope back into the second drawer of the dresser and shut it firmly.

Mike opened the box to reveal a short, nasty looking rifle. To Dora it looked like the type of gun a terrorist would use. "What the fuck is that thing?"

Mike looked at it, "I don't know. An assault rifle, I guess. The paperwork is here too, I think." he said rummaging around in the padded case, "It is a…MR556, I've never heard of it." Mike flipped through the book reading out the stats as he picked them up in the dim light. "Semi-automatic, only a ten round magazine." he paused and pointed into the box, "That holds more than ten bullets I bet." What he had pointed at looked like a clip from a movie to Dora and Paige, only it wound around upon itself. "I think that is a drum magazine, probably holds fifty shots and it might be illegal."

"Illegal? Roger? I didn't know he had it in him."

"Well, maybe illegal. There are laws that restrict this kind of gun from having a large clip, to try and limit the amount of destruction a civilian can have access to. Usually it is ten rounds, bullets, but that does not stop people from making other…." Mike stopped, and whistled as a small slip of paper fell out of the manual.

"What?" Dora asked.

Mike held up the piece of paper, "Two thousand dollars, just for the gun, the drum, it's says it is a thirty round drum, was another ninety bucks. Plus he has, five, no six, boxes of ammo for it. Dang he spent a lot of money on this thing."

"Two grand? For a gun? We could have had the hot tub in for that much! Geezus!" said Dora, she then shrugged her shoulders, "Oh well, this will work better now than a hot tub would, right? Can you make it work?"

By way of answer Mike handed her the gun, Dora almost dropped it, it had to weigh six or seven pounds, "I showed you how to use the other rifles, you should be able to get this one to work, so show me."

Hefting the rifle, Dora looked along the length, Mike handed her a magazine and she inserted it into the gun. Dora set the safety to 'semi' instead of on 'safe' and then looked at Mike, "That is it, right?"

"Pretty much. The magazine wasn't loaded, so you will want to do load it, but it is simple enough, like all the others. This one is a carbine, not a rifle. See how it…well the barrel anyway, is shorter than the ones on the rifles?" Mike pointed to the other guns, which were leaning up against the wall in the bedroom.

"Yeah, it is shorter, like for a girl, right?"

Mike just looked at her, then shook his head, "No. Not 'for a girl', it looks almost like an M4 carbine, which is what our guys in the military used to use. It might be an updated version or something." Still shaking his head he repeated, "Not for a girl."

"So do we keep it or give it to 'The Bastard' when he shows up?" asked Paige.

"Hmmm, I suppose we should give it to him. I wouldn't mind keeping it; it would serve him right to have to go out there without any weapons."

Dora's phone started ringing. She handed the carbine to Mike and went and picked it up off of the dresser. Glancing at the caller id she said "Hello Roger."

"Are you almost here? What is taking so long?"

"Well two things really, first we had to find the gun. It is real nice too Roger, really nice, you don't mind if we use it do you?"

"I am not stupid. It's in a locked box. I have the keys."

"You left a spare in the manila envelope in your dresser, next to all those photos of you with women who are not me. Yep, we found those. Got your gun out, loaded and everything. So our marriage was just a sham wasn't it, I was someone you could drag to your office functions while you slept around on me with whomever would spread their legs for you? And that brings me to reason two we haven't driven up there; we are not leaving the fucking house. You want the gun, then grow some goddamn balls and come get it yourself!" Dora hung up the phone and sat down on the bed, Mike and Paige looked at her with a mix of pity and support. Paige put her hand on the other woman's shoulder and Dora shook it off angrily, "Don't Paige, just don't right now. Let's get some weapons up on the roof. Roger will be showing up soon."

Dora's phone rang again; she pressed a button to send it to voice mail, then powered her phone off. The three of them each loaded a gun and then put some extra bullets along with a few other odds and ends into a small, canvas purse that resembled a backpack. Mike chose to take Roger's rifle and Dora waved her assent when he asked her about it.

The three climbed slowly out onto the roof from the sky light opening, they were just below the center of the roof line on the back side of the house. The pitch of the roof was not so great that if they lost their balance or dropped something that it would slide all the way to the edge and drop off. Still, they found themselves treading with caution when they leaned over the top of the roof to view the front of the house. There were still dozens of zombies milling about on the ground out in front.

Following Mike's lead the women chose to prop their weapons against the apex of the roof, which steadied their guns and also decreased their visibility to anyone in the front. The drawback to where they had chosen to lay down was that the garage roof obscured part of their view of the street and almost all of the view of Dora's driveway, they could not even see Paige's car from where they were at.

Mike edged towards the side of the house, to get a better view of the drive and what was beyond it, then they all settled down to wait. Below them, in the bedroom, the house phone began to ring.

Chapter 17

The phone stopped ringing. No one said anything and the cool morning air which had been a welcome change from the air conditioned interior was now causing them to shiver in the light clothing they had been wearing while sleeping.

"How long do you think, before he decides to drive down here himself?" asked Paige.

"Any time now I bet." said Dora.

"We didn't unlock the doors or anything." Mike said.

"Oops. Silly of me to forget."

They heard a car in the distance and saw the glow of some headlights approaching. It sounded like Roger was revving the engine, still going slow, but revving up the engine as he approached.

"He is a dumb ass. Why didn't I see it before? Was it the money?" ask Dora.

"Probably, you strike me as that kind of woman; petty and gold digging." said Paige.

"I'd almost be offended dear if I didn't agree with you. Now look where we all are. Roger was right about one thing, this situation changes everything. He was wrong about so many other things…" her voice trailed off.

"Dora?" asked Mike, "What are we going to do with him?"

"I really don't know yet." she tucked her head behind the low powered scope of her rifle and took a bead on something in the street below.

The car came creeping down the block soon after, the three of them saw Roger and another woman, Marge, sitting in his white Volvo. They approached the house and Roger started pressing the top of his car near the visor.

Dora laughed, "He is trying to open the garage door! Hah! And he brought his whore, Marge, my former best friend. This day just keeps getting better and better."

The car stopped just shy of the property line, not quite in front of the house, there were too many zombies left to proceed without hitting them. The scattering of dispersed zombies started to congregate around the car.

"What should we do Dora?" asked Mike.

Dora sighed, she was looking through the rifle scope at the man she had spent the last few years of her life with. Did she want him dead? It was just a trigger pull away. If the bullet didn't kill him the zombies would pull him out and finish the job. And get that bitch Marge too.

When it came right down to it she could not do it. It was not just because she had mixed feeling towards him; she was also concerned that when this whole mess blew over she might be held accountable for killing him…if there were witnesses. Dora didn't fancy killing Mike and Paige just to cover her murder, so, for now, Roger got to live.

"Clear some zombies out, in front of the car so they can drive away. I don't want them to pull into the driveway, so leave any zombies there. I know Roger; he won't hit any of them with his precious Volvo."

Mike's first shot with the unfired rifle rang out and hit a zombie in front of the car in the neck, it was not dead again, but it do fall over and lay on the ground, twitching. Dora and Paige each started firing at other zombies in the mob, all of their shots were timed and aimed as Mike had stressed to them, but even taking those precautions they were only scoring a head shot one in three times. Mike was having particular problems with the new rifle.

"This is a piece of shit!" Mike said, "I cannot find the range on the barrel."

"Shoulda taken the thirty aught six then?" asked Dora sweetly, stroking the wooden butt of the rifle she held with a loving hand.

"God yes!" he replied before taking another shot with the rifle. This one was better hitting the top of a zombie girl's head and dropping her in her tracks. Roger seemed to get the idea that they were making a channel for him to drive into and he started creeping the car forward slowly. Down below them Dora heard her home phone ringing again. She ignored it and took another two shots in quick succession, scoring one good hit.

The three of them shooting in the dim light were making short work of any zombies around the car. Roger seemed timid at first, reluctant to drive the low riding car over the bodies that dropped in front of him, eventually he did start running over some of the fallen. The car rolling over the bodies was strangely compelling to watch, in Dora's mind it was a taboo sort of thing she never expected to see someone doing. It was desecrating a body on a different level than shooting them in the head was. Before too much longer Roger's car was near the driveway. He turned his indicator on, expecting them to shoot the zombies out of his path.

"Dora?" asked Paige.

"No. No. Let the fucker find his own way. I did. Just keep shooting them in front of the car." she responded.

"We will have to move. I can't see that part of the street from where I am, so I know neither of you can either." said Mike.

"Okay, Mike, why don't you shift over now, while Paige and I clear the zombies in front of the car. Then I will move over and then Paige. Paige, maybe you can stay, I dunno, kind of near the top of the garage peak? You won't see the driveway at all, but you could keep an eye on the other side of the street?"

"Sure sounds good…Dora?"


"What if they get out and make a run for the house?"

"Shit would they be that stupid?"

Looking down at the car, which was not moving forward into the gap they had cleared before it, but sat patiently with its blinker on waiting to turn into the drive, Dora said, "They might be. I won't let them get him. He might be a piece of shit that I don't like anymore, but I won't let them get him."

"That's good." Paige said softly between firing.

"Is it? Don't get the wrong idea, Paige. I hate them worse than I hate Roger, only just barely."

Mike's voice carried over from the other side of the roof, "I am set up." He punctuated the statement with a round that took the back of the head off of an elderly zombie.

"I am going to move over now, watch your footing when you come over. I don't want to have to find a new cook."

Paige sighed and went back to shooting. She moved over after Dora called out and she did watch her footing. Paige set up above the peak of the garage, as expected this gave her a really good view of the street both ways, but afforded her almost no view of the drive. Down below the car started honking its horn. They kept shooting the zombies out from in front of the vehicle, making an every widening path that Roger had to see. Looking down at the carnage Dora said in a loud whisper. "You guys see that?"

Both grunted their 'nos' at her.

"The zombies, they are avoiding the area we cleared out. See it?"

Both of the others looked at the cleared path, sure enough the zombies were shuffling along the rough edges of the shoot zone, but none of them were walking directly into it. Paige even saw one man, in a full dark suit, step out of the path, then turn and continue forward out of the killing zone.

"Did you see that? The on in the brown suit over there…" Paige aimed and shot the zombie down when the others looked, "He moved away from the front of the car, then turned to walk along our kill zone! What the fuck does this mean? Are they getting smarter?"

The Volvo's driver side window rolled down and Roger's voice cried out, "Shoot them the fuck out of the driveway so I can pull in!"

Dora thought for a moment, then stood up and walked in front of Paige, who barely stopped herself from firing as the other woman went down to the peak of the garage and walked it until she stood on the edge overlooking the drive and Roger's car. She pointed the gun down and shot at a zombie dangerously close to the side of Roger's car, when the zombie fell the others, definitely moved away from it making a hole through which she could see her husband.

"Keep driving Roger!" she yelled down, her voice not much louder than normal.

"What? Shoot the others so I can pull in and go open the Goddamned garage door! I can't get in."

Dora raised the rifle and sighted down the barrel putting the small cross directly on Roger's forehead, then she lowered it to his neck, the rifle was sighted in for much further ranges than the distance she was away from her husband.

"You sleep around on me, which is bad enough, but you fucking do it with my friend? You are very lucky I am letting you drive away instead of pulling this trigger."

"You bitch! Let me into my own God damned house! I paid for it, I paid for everything! In fact get your ass out of my house!"

Dora started to giggle, looking at her husband through the rifle scope, she could not help it. Soon she was laughing so hard she had to lower the gun and set its butt on the roof top, she was sure to engage the safety first, as she very much wanted to live and not accidentally anyone. Roger yelled at her, "What the fuck is so God damned funny?"

Unable to speak, Dora just brushed her hand sideways in the air, indicating he should drive on. Behind her Paige asked "Dora, you okay?"

Looking at the girl over her shoulder Dora winked, then, thinking Paige may not have seen her expression in the dim light she called back, "I am fine Paige dear. Guess what? I don't hate Roger anymore. It was that easy! I mean who can hate something that stupid? It would be like hating a rock or the sky." Dora gasped as she pulled in a long breath, trying to recover, she kept giggling. Down below Roger started yelling something again and Dora brought her gun up in a swift motion aiming at the general area of the car. She chose to target the rear tail light, breathing slowly and trying to compensate for the sights and her infirm footing, she slowly squeezed the trigger, it was a direct hit. The light blew out in a shower of shattered plastic and glass.

"You crazy fucking bitch! You shot my car! You shot a hole in my car!"

"Move along Roger, my next shot is going to end up in your trunk, then into the back seat, then, maybe the front seat, so you better get moving. I'll stop shooting your 'God damned' car when you start moving forward.

"Fuck you! No! Don't!" Roger yelled, and the car jerked forward just as Dora shot again. She missed the trunk entirely. She shifted the gun to aim again.

Roger screamed out "I hate you! I hate you, Dora! You haven't seen the last of me! I will be back to get my house! I will make you pay for this!" He did keep the car moving forward at a walking pace.

Mike and Paige were busy clearing the lane again in front of the vehicle further down the street where the zombies had not yet learned to get out of the way. Dora was surprised when the passenger's side door opened and Marge spilled out into the street. Roger had rolled his window up and Dora caught a few screams as he yelled at Marge, then she heard her fiend say, "You are worse than she is! I never should have done this! It was the worst thing I ever did in my life!" and she slammed the door. The zombies, of course, started closing in. After a moment the car started moving forward again. Marge pounded on the top of it, yelling, "Pop the fucking trunk! I need my bag!" The car didn't stop. Dora, felt the cold ice of fear in the pit of her stomach. There were too many zombies, too many for the three of them to shoot. She got down on her stomach and took aim at a zombie heading for Marge's back. One shot and it was down. She winged another in the leg, toppling it, while Marge was calling Roger and asshole and screaming incoherently at the retreating vehicle.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck." Dora said to herself working the bolt on the gun and taking another shot. The gun fired and the bolt stayed open, which meant it was empty and she needed to reload. All her ammo was back where she had set up on the roof, not here with her on top of the garage. "Oh fuck! Marge. Oh, Marge!"

Scrambling to her feet Dora started running back along the top of the garage's peak to the main roof over the house. "Save her! Shoot Mike, shoot Paige! I am out of ammo!" The others were already shooting steadily, the rounds hitting the zombies near the woman, trying to keep her in a protective bubble.

Paige paused while Dora ran across the front of her barrel again and took a shot at a crawling zombie that was making its way crab like towards Marge. Dora reloaded the magazine on the gun in a few second and joined in the firing. From the back yard a whiff of barbecued beef jerky carried to her on the slight breeze, making her stomach growl. Adrenaline coursed through Dora's body and everything sprang into sharp focus, the darkness didn't seem so oppressive, the cool air was no longer making her cold, all that was left in her vastly shrinking world focused down into a tight circle centered around Marge. Her world was suddenly more simple, no anger, no hate, just a bit of fear as she shot, aimed and shot again, trying to save her friend. Roger was long gone. To the east the sky was brightening slightly, the warm promise of a new day to come.

Chapter 18

"I am moving forward so I can see more of the driveway and front yard. I am going to tell her to get to the front door. Someone has to get the door unlocked and let her in." said Paige, picking up her rifle's ammunition as she moved forward.

"I will go down after Paige has moved, to open the front door. Please Mike, don't let them get her!" Dora called.

Mike grunted and shifted the rifle to hit another zombie coming up beside the terrified woman out in the street.

"Oh God! They are all around me!" Marge wailed, "Help! Help me Dora!"

Paige moved into position and yelled out, "Start coming towards the house. Dora is going to open the front door!"

Marge started that way, but had to dodge around, moving into open areas to stay out of the zombie's grasp. She ended up on the sidewalk across the street, in a fairly clear area. Dora realized it was now or never and she put the rifle down and ran towards the skylight on the back of the roof. "Mike, I left you the thirty aught six!"

Running down the back side Dora slipped on the damp shingles and almost toppled over, she caught herself, thankful she had opted to go barefoot instead of putting on the flip flops she had considered. She reached the top of the ladder and slid down it so fast it resembled a controlled fall more than climbing. Reaching the tile in the bathroom she headed through the master bedroom, pausing only to pick up the twelve gauge shot gun and two boxes of shells.

She made it to the front door, shotgun at the ready. Before opening it Dora tucked one box of shells into the thin pocket of her robe, the other she sat on the knickknack table on one side of the door. She unlocked and pulled the door open, there was a zombie right in front of her, he was holding the storm door open and his other hand had been on the doorknob. When Dora pulled the door open he stumbled in towards her, only to be blown backwards in a spray of dark blood. He tumbled off of the porch and onto the sidewalk before falling sideway into the ornamental shrubs in front of the porch.

Looking down her covered porch Dora saw two more zombies had wandered on to it. She dispatched them easily with the shotgun, then turned her attention to the street and her friend. Reloading the gun back up to full capacity Dora started firing at the zombies between her and Marge. This was harder than she would have thought because she did not want to aim directly at her friend and because Marge was hopping around like a jumping bean in the sun.

Marge was doing well, watching each step she took and lunging into where the zombies were dropping. Mike and Paige were trying to create holes for her to move into, much like they had for Roger's Volvo. It was working and with Dora killing those others who got in the way the woman was making it across the street.

It was the children who ruined everything. The two little girls in white and yellow sun dresses, with yellow, corn silk hair ran towards Marge. All three of the people firing at the zombies hesitated, they had not yet seen any child zombies, and the girls looked so alive. They ran at Marge with their arms outstretched in a parody of running towards their long lost mommy, looking for a hug. Too late the three guns boomed out, the fusillade caught one of the little girls in her white clad abdomen, twisting her around and flinging her to the ground. The other girl leaped onto Marge and hugged her tight. Marge tried to throw the zombie off of her, but the girl scrambled around like a spider monkey, sticking like glue. Marge let loose with an agonized scream, then she started running straight for the house, not heading towards cleared areas, not avoiding the other zombies.

An old man in a gray button up shirt with rather long hair grasp Marge as she tried to get by him, he hooked onto her arm, then fell onto her retreating legs, he didn't get a good hold on her, but his action caused the woman to stumbled into three Gothic teenagers. The trio of teens looked like they were giving Marge a group hug, Dora was off the porch of her house now stepping down onto her front law and ignoring the threats around her. To one side a zombie's head exploded, hit by one of Paige's shots. Mike was yelling that he couldn't see Dora, Paige was yelling back at him to get over to the other side of the garage peak so he could help. Dora, meanwhile was advancing steadily on the mob of zombies that had surrounded her friend.

She fired once, twice, three times, knocking as many zombies off their feet, then aimed the gun with one hand while she fumbled ammunition into the magazine below the stock. Shells fell out of her nervous hands and two more zombies heading towards her were knocked over by Paige's firing.

"Dora! Dora!" Paige screamed, "Get back into the house! Get back, there are too many and they are too close to you! Get back!"

Dora either was not aware of Paige's yelling or chose to ignore it, she stepped further out into the street, making her way towards…what exactly?

'I hate Marge. Or I think I do. Why am I doing this?' she asked herself. Yet she could not go back. The group around Marge was driven back, leaving a broken sobbing woman, bleeding from numerous bite marks, part of her hair was missing, bitten away as the zombies tried to bite through her head. The bloody woman looked up as Dora fought her way towards her. Dora saw one of the zombies had bitten Marge on the jaw, blood spilled down the front of her former friend's neck and breast. On her back the little girl was gnawing at Marge's neck like a dog with an old bone. Dora stepped forward and put the barrel of the shotgun against the girl's head, the little girls stopped, turned towards Dora and quick as a blink dropped off of Marge and scooted away.

Dora fired after her, but the shot hit a large fat woman squarely in the abdomen, spraying, blood, guts and cellulite out in an arch behind it. The little girl paused only to drag the other little girl back through the crowd. From the rooftop the two others were raining lead on the mob. Reloading Dora yelled at Marge, "Get the fuck up you whiny, man stealing bitch!"

Marge, on her hands and knees tried to get up, she couldn't and Dora would not help her. "Marge you gotta get up, I can't help you and protect you at the same time, now stop fucking around and get up!" Dora was out of bullets again, Mike and Paige were yelling at her and as she reloaded they told her to get back to the house.

Glancing that way Dora saw the way was mostly clear, she could make it easily on her own, the shotgun was loaded again, all the other rounds were gone; either shot or dropped on the ground along the way. "Fuck me." Dora said softly, bending to grasp Marge under one arm. A zombie grabbed her from behind and literally grabbed her behind. A shot rang out and the thing shuddered, but was not dead, Dora stood up straight, dragging Marge with her and swung the gun barrel in an arc that ended on the thing's arm. It was not the best looking zombie Dora had seen, this thirty something year old man had Italian features and a small Spanish style mustache, his face was a mottled mess that spoke of a hard bout of acne when he was growing up. He screamed when Dora's gun hit his arm.

"Ow! Fuck lady! Don't! I am trying to help!" the man said.

Dora was stunned, she had brought the gun barrel back until it was resting against the man's stomach.

"Please don't kill me!" he said. Behind him Dora saw a middle aged woman and a younger man, maybe fourteen, with baseball bats. They were fighting their way into the mob of zombies, swinging as they went. The zombies they hit went down, however most were not destroyed by a single bat blow.

Moving the gun Dora swung it around and fired at a zombie on the other side of her.

"Come on!" screamed Paige, "There are more coming, the whole block is full of the fuckers! You gotta move!"

With the man on Marge's other side, Dora hefted her friend to her feet and they made a mad dash for the porch, the young man and the woman followed them. Halfway to the porch Dora ran out of shells to fire. She had to use the gun as a club to bash through the last three zombies and make it to her open front door. Once the young man, a boy really, was in she slammed the door and locked it. Dora sat Marge down on the tile of the entry way. "Don't you move from there. I don't want blood on the carpet."

Marge babbling hysterically slumped to the floor and sobbed. The three people looked at each other and then at Dora, who shrugged her shoulders, "My house, my rules, right? C'mon Paco, flip the lights on and let's make sure no zombies got inside while I was out fooling around."

"My name is Alex." said the man, turning he flipped on all the lights, including the one on the porch. The room was clear. She brushed by Alex and grabbed the other box of shotgun shells off of the knickknack table, then shut off all the lights except the one that had come on in the kitchen.

"Fine Alex. I am Dora. Who are these?" she asked pointing at the woman and the boy.

"This is Peter and Marybella, Mary for short. Don't you think we should do something for…" Alex pointed at Marge.

"This woman? Her name is Marge, she used to be my best friend."

"And you make her sit on the floor so you don't get blood on the carpet?"

"She used to be my best friend until yesterday morning, when I caught her sleeping with my husband."

"Oh." Alex gave Marge a hard look, "But you rescued her."

"I never claimed to be bright. She got out of the car, did you see the car?"

"Yeah, we did, only as it was going through, we saw the woman get out of it." Alex was holding his arm where Dora had hit him.

"Walk it off Alex, we can't afford to have you gimping around here one limb short."

"I think you broke it." Alex said seriously.

"Really?" Dora sounded impressed, "I didn't think I could, I mean it takes a lot of strength to break an arm right?"

"Alex, let me look at it." said Mary.

Dora's eyebrow raised up, the way the woman said it let her know that they had some history. The man turned and pulled up his sleeve to his shoulder, wincing as he did so. Mary came forward and touched it tenderly where it was beginning to bruise and felt around the back side of it as well. She asked him to squeeze her hand and then said, "We better get a sling on it and clean this woman up. You have any towels, Dora, right? You have any towels or bandages for your former best friend?"

"Well la-te-da, you a nurse or something?"

"No. I am a doctor." the woman said rather more coldly than Dora would have thought possible.

"A doctor, you look like you are twenty five years old? And you want me to believe this is your kid? Or did you find him somewhere?"

"He's mine." Seeing Dora's look, Mary went on, "Yeah, sometimes life throws things at you, just to see what you can handle. I had a kid at seventeen and still went on to medical school. And I am thirty, thanks for the compliment. Now if we are done sharing irrelevant stories can I get what I need to mend these two up? I need a sheet or a shirt to make a sling for Alex."

Dora had finished reloading the shotgun and put the box into her robe pocket, which caused it to sag down and reveal a bit more of her breasts than the man and boy were comfortable with, they averted their eyes, Mary did not. "Towels? Sure, right away, Doctor! I will have my people get on it."

Moving into the downstairs hallway Dora headed for the linen closet and pulled out the guest towels, she didn't grab the good set, but grabbed the older set she had gotten at her wedding so long ago. She grabbed a set of sheets for the day bed downstairs too and returned with all of this laundry to the living room. Alex was on the leather chair, Marge was still sobbing quietly on the floor.

"Did I miss anything?" asked Paige, coming down the stairs. "I check upstairs, but didn't find any zombie. I checked because I figured you didn't shut the door when you ran out there."

"Oh you missed me making friends in the usual manner. Paige this is Mary, Alex, the boy is Peter and, of course, you have heard all about Marge."

"She gonna be okay?" Paige asked looking at the bleeding woman.

"Sure Paige, she will be fine, Mary is not a nurse; she's a Doctor! In our own neighborhood, in the middle of the fucking night, imagine our luck! Anyway she will fix us right up, won't you Mary?" asked Dora.

"Don't worry about Dora." Paige said, "She is always a bitch, but it will grow on you."

This brought a started, wet laugh from Marge, they all turned towards her and she said, "My God, Dora! Not even now! You can't change even now!"

Rather stiffly Dora replied, "Why change perfection?"

This brought a sharp bark of laughter from Paige, who came up behind Dora and gave her a pat on the back, "Yeah we love you too, you stupid, stupid woman. You gonna hold that shit all day or give it to the doctor? What can I do to help?"

"God, Paige every time I think I start to like you, you surprise me. Go check the rest of the downstairs, we only cleared the living room. Here, take the shotgun, it is better close up than the rifle." Paige propped her rifle up against the back of the couch and Dora handed her the shotgun.

The young woman then started walking towards the hall, then paused and addressed Peter, "You stop slacking, come with me."

The boy looked to Alex and Mary, who both gave curt nods and he followed Paige down the hall.

"Ah, young love, so innocent! So sweet! It's amazing how it happens, isn't it?" said Dora. She handed the sheets to Mary and went over to Marge, where she dropped a towel on the floor. "You look even worse than your normal, ugly self." crouching she looked the other woman in the eyes, "I don't know why I saved you. I really don't. I am so mad at you right now… But I couldn't let them get you. And I couldn't shoot you. How is that for fucked up?"

Behind them Mary was saying to Alex, "Don't do that again. You don't tell him what to do, or give him permission to do anything. You. Do. Not. Do you understand? You do not tell him what to do. He is my son. Mine."

"Maria, not now!" the man hissed.

"Then you stop. I am not fighting you in front of him and you defer to me in everything when he asks, do you understand?"

The man looked at her for a moment, then sighed and said, "Fine, but it won't work for long, you see how he looks at me."

"Fucking great!" Dora injected, "A nice little domestic feud in my home. Hey, doc, could you leave off badgering your baby daddy and come give a look at Marge, she is all pale and shitty looking from blood loss. I may not be a trained professional, but I think bleeding to death takes precedence over a broken arm."

Mary shot Dora another cold look, which had no effect whatsoever on the other woman, then she stopped tending Alex and came over and took a look at Marge.

"Dora, get your gun. Sorry, Marge is it? But you are dead. Dora might as well do it now."

Chapter 19

"What?" asked Dora.

"You've not been watching the news? It's all over. This is how they reproduce. They think it is something in the saliva, like rabies. Your friend here has maybe a day to live. Then she joins them becomes one of them. She cheated on you, with your husband, she is probably married too right? So it was a double sin. You ever run around on your husband?"

"Only in my head." Dora replied with wry amusement.

"A venial sin, nothing to worry about, she actually did the deed. In the old days we would have stoned her. Maybe we still should."

"Couldn't we just get stoned with her?" Dora asked.

"Joke if you want. You need to wake up Dora. The dead are returning to life. It is the end of days. Your friend, who committed adultery, is going to die and come back and try and kill us as a servant of Satan. After we put her down again her soul will find its way to hell for eternity."

"Oh fuck, you're a whack job!"

The other woman nodded, "Call me what you want, it won't stop me from trying to help you." Her son and Paige returned from the hallway and checked the back yard by flipping on the light briefly, seeing nothing they headed downstairs.

"Okay, okay, but Marge doesn't have to die right now, does she? Maybe she can repent and still make it?"

"It is the end of days, everybody won't be treated the same, the time for amends is gone, now it is judgment. I am afraid it is too late for her. I will keep her from bleeding to death. Bring more towels. And a wash cloth. Do you have any disinfectant? Bleach or hydrogen peroxide?"

"I'll see what I can find. Don't kill her while I am gone, okay?"

Mary nodded, "I won't. I said you should kill her, not me."

"Yeah, that is right, I mean killing is also a sin, last I checked.", to Marge she said, "Try and repent anyway dear, I am sure it can't hurt. I will leave you in good hands and be back soon."

Dora went downstairs calling loudly before she got there, "I am not a zombie, don't shoot me. Put your clothes back on Paige. I am coming down the stairs."

When she got to the concrete floor she saw Paige and Peter waiting for her.

"Thanks Dora, I mean, it isn't like the kid needs self-esteem or anything. Me either for that matter. He's thirteen for Christ's sake, so lay off a bit will ya?"

Dora shook her head, "Nope. All clear down here?"

"Yeah, we knew it would be the door was shut. I figured the kid needed an excuse to get out of there so his parents could fight in peace, you know? How'd that battle go?"

Looking at Peter, Dora said, "Not good. I take it your mom doesn't like your dad anymore?"

"She just met him again." The boy said sullenly.

"The plot thickens!" Dora said with some glee, "Do tell Petey boy! How did this turn of events came about! C'mon you two we need to check the laundry room, Doctor Mary needs some bleach. I am sure hoping Roger bought some… Continue Peter."

Peter looked at Paige who shrugged her shoulders, "You might as well, she'll make your life hell if you don't and it is far better to have her on your side. Unless you want to go up into that again?" Paige asked, upstairs they could hear Mary and Alex having a heated discussion in the living room. Peter shook his head 'no' in response to Paige's question and went with them into the relative sanctuary of the laundry room.

"My dad showed up at our house yesterday afternoon. He had a gun, these bats." Peter hefted his bat, "And a plan to get us out of here. It was the first time I met him."

"No shit?" said Dora.

"Dora! Language!"

"I am sure Peter has heard the word 'shit' before Paige, go on Peter."

"Well, she always told me he disappeared, and apologized that he never wanted anything to do with me, like it was her fault or something. She got, um, pregnant, and he took off when he found out." in the dim laundry room light they could see the boy blush saying the 'P' word, "I was born on my mom's eighteenth birthday. I never saw my dad. Never got a letter or a phone call. Mom never got support from him."

"She seems to have done okay, being a doctor and all.", said Dora.

"Yeah, I grew up mostly with my grandma and aunt when mom went to college. Grandma says Mom is smart in everything except love. When mom went away to med school I only saw her ever few months, it was out of state. Then she did rotations a hospital in Nevada. I was seven and went with her, she got some money by then, but I still hardly ever saw her for another two years. When she graduated it was second in her class. She got a job here and we've been in Kansas ever since. Grandma lives down in Oklahoma."

"See Paige? This is why I like kids, they are direct. Peter how did your dad find you?"

"He said he moved here about a year ago and was trying to work up nerve to contact us, me. Then this whole thing started and he knew it was now or never."

"What are you doing here? In this suburb I mean?"

"We live here, about three blocks away. We came over to Mister Tobin's house yesterday after sunset. He has guns, or had some anyway, someone killed him and took them all. Except for this old fashioned one. They left that one there. My dad tried to get it to work, but he didn't know how. There weren't any instructions."

Dora and Paige gave each other a look and Paige said, "Your mom told you that someone killed mister Tobin and took his guns?"

"He was dead, his guns were gone."

Dora jumped in, "The house, like two doors down only across the street?"

"Yeah." the boy confirmed.

"How did your mom know that guy?"

"She was his doctor. He gave us some venison steaks last year and mom told him she would buy some if he got another deer this year. Did you know Mister Tobin?"

"Ah, not really, no. I mean, I knew his name, but I never really spoke to the guy. My husband did."

"That guy in the car? Who cheated on you?"

"Yeah Peter that guy in the car who cheated on me. He knew Mister Tobin too."




"Jesus, I don't speak 'kid', what does that mean Paige?"

"Sometime Dora, 'nothing' means 'nothing'. Probably not this time, but let it go, he filled us in. Isn't your friend dying?"

"Friend? Hm…I will have to think that over. Look!" Dora said, pointing at the shelf, "There is bleach! Grab it Petey and let's get back upstairs. Wait at the bottom first, maybe your mom and dad are having a juicy fight we can eavesdrop in on."

The boy shrugged and grabbed the bottle of bleach. The three of them proceeded to the stairway and stopped to listen, other than the steady thumping on the screen door out front, there were no sounds.

"Hey, Paige?"


"You see that little kid, the girl, well her and the other one?"

"Yeah. I know who you are talking about, why?"

"Well she acted, well, smart. I put the gun up to her and she ducked down and away from it, then took off, but grabbed her sister, did you see that?"

"No. I was a little busy saving your ass."

"Paige! Language!"

"You sure she ran away? That doesn't seem likely…"

Dora stopped walking up the stairs, turned to Paige and looked her in the eyes. "Yes, Paige, I am sure of what I saw. I'm not fucking with you. I was hoping you or Mike shot the little bitch." They continued to the top of the stair and into the living room.

"I didn't shoot her. We'll have to ask Mike. I, well, I kind of doubt it, if they were not near you we didn't shoot them, we had enough trouble keeping them away. It is a good thing you heard us yell about these three." said Paige indicating the three newcomers.

"What? Paige I couldn't hear anything, I never heard you yell about these guys. It was only luck that I didn't blast them." Dora turned towards Mary, "Say, you never did answer my question about what the heck you were doing out there?"

Mary looked up from where she held a bandage on Marge's jaw. "We were just a bit down the street; we heard the gunshots and got outside as soon as we could to see what was going on. We got here when the car drove off and Marge got out of it. We thought you were soldiers come to save us."


Mary just looked at Dora who said, "Sometimes 'oh' means nothing. Or nothing means nothing or 'oh'. Understand?"

Mary shook her head, "I am surprised you are still alive. Peter come here please." The boy moved next to her and she took the bottle of bleach from him. She then dumped it onto the floor around Marge and into one of the towels, which she wrung out. The powerful smell of the disinfectant filled the room. The zombies outside still banged softly on the door. Gesturing towards Dora Mary handed her the bleach bottle and said, "Go fill this with cold water please and bring it back here. Do you have a mop?"

A mop?"

"A stick with some long white, rope-y cords at one end, used for cleaning the floor?"

"Jesus lady! I know what a mop is! I just haven't seen one, I will have to look."

"You don't clean your own house?"

"I don't mop it."

"Fill the bottle, find a mop or at least a bucket and come back here to clean up the floor around the doorway. I am moving Marge to the kitchen as soon as I can get her wounds cleaned and bound up." Turning to Marge said. "Okay this is going to burn a little, but if we are lucky, maybe it will sterilize the wounds." Mary then pressed the bleach soaked towel to the wounds on Marge, cleaning them out one at a time and making shushing sounds as the chemicals started to irritate the wounds. Dora got out of there fast, flashing Paige a dirty look when she caught a smirk on the younger woman's face. Paige noticed and immediately put an expression of complete angelic innocence on her face instead, causing Dora to scowl.

"Why don't you check the garage for a mop? And then go fill Mike in on what is going on." Dora said.

"Sure Dora, sure." said Paige heading towards the garage door.

Chapter 20

"Fill the bleach bottle. Find a mop! Get me towels. Blah, blah, blah." Dora muttered to herself as she topped off the bottle of bleach with water at her sink. Her back was to the rest of the group in the living room and she heard Marge's ongoing complaining about the treatment Mary was giving her. When Dora came back Paige returned from the garage with a mop and bucket. The mop was old, stiff and full of cobwebs. Paige handed it to Dora and set off up the stairs, with a bit of amusement in her eyes.

"Do you repent your sins?"

Dora heard Mary asking Marge as she arrived at her front door. Marge was standing up and Mary was working her legs over, each sported several oozing, bloody wounds that made Dora want to vomit. Looking at the bucket she was glad she had it handy, just in case.

"You about done, doc? Or should I say 'preacher'?"

"Don't. This is serious. Maybe she still has a chance to redeem herself, maybe the Lord means for her to find her way, even at the end of days. Do not make light of this situation."

"Give it a rest. She is chomped up and bleeding and you are the only person with any way of helping her. Do you think she wouldn't say anything you asked her to? What is the Lord's feeling on coerced confession?"

Mary's face flushed slightly, but she nodded, "Really what you say is true, Dora, I had not thought of it like that." Turning back to Marge she said, "Whether you repent or not, I will do what I can for you, and be as gentle as possible. I will still help you. Do you understand?"

"Yes." Marge said.

"Do you repent your sins?"

Marge looked at Dora, "Yes. Yes, I do."

Dora let out a short, "Hah!"

Marge continued to look at her, "I do. I am serious too. I messed up Dora. I messed up bad. I am so sorry for what I did to you. And to him and to Jerry. If I could take it all back, I would." The sincerity in her voice bothered Dora, this was not like Marge at all.

"Why Roger? I mean, you could have done so much better!"

"He showed interest, I am not like you Dora, men falling all over you, flirting. Roger…he, well, he showed interest."

"How long?"

"Two months, it started when you went with your sister on that trip to Chicago. Roger said he was sure you were cheating on him, so you wouldn't care. He made it sound like you had practically agreed to it."

"Roger was a player? God! Who knew? Marge, you don't think I would have told you first? I mean, if it was okay?"

"He said you liked to keep things discreet. Which is why you never talked about your other men to me."

"You stupid, stupid woman! The fuck of it all is, if I had been getting some on the side, I totally would have told you. We'd have laughed about it."

"I can't believe how naive I was." Marge said, casting her eyes down.

"It takes two to have an affair." said Mary, "You knew it was wrong when you did it and you have suffered the Lord's vengeance because of it."

"I know and I knew it then. I knew it was all lies when it happened, but I let it happen. I was mad at you Dora. Angry at how you seemed to have everything, you ate what you wanted and never gained a pound, had a husband who wanted you sexually and was around, you had friends, money and, well, things."

"Margie, Margie, Margie, don't go all like this on me!"

The other woman just looked at Dora, "Of course darling. So sorry about Roger and I. You are so right, I could have done better."

Dora looked at her and let out a heavy sigh, "Alright, I supposed I can deal with 'maudlin Marge', I mean you are dying and all."

"Thank you. I am sorry."

"As Mary said, it takes two, lucky you, I can blame Roger for most of it. Are you going to be okay?"

"I don't know, doc?"

Mary finished binding Marge's leg up with strips of towel and said, "The bites will not kill you. Pray that you don't have the virus or whatever the infection is, if you don't have it, you will live."

Dora made the sign of a cross with her fingers in front of her and said, "Lord hear our prayer, please don't let Marge have the virus so she can get better so I can kill her myself. Amen."

"Dora!" Marge said.

"I will agree to the first part. I hope God gives you time to reconcile and repent Marge." said Mary, then to her son, "Peter, we need to clean this up, come and help."

Mary and Dora wiped Marge down with the towels and then led her across to the kitchen and sat her on one of the bar stools by the island. Mary sniffed the air as they went. "What are you cooking?"

"Oh that? We popped a bottle of wine last night, to help us think things through and decided to make all the meat in the freezer into beef jerky so it would last longer, we expect the power to fail any time."

"That's a good idea. Russell has a freezer full of meat too, venison mostly, we should get over there and bring it back here. How many days does it take?"

"Just about twelve hours actually, this batch is probably done. I think we made some of it a little too salty, other bits are too dry. We used the grill outside too."

"That was the smell we ran into last night, there was a rot in the air, but fresh meat too, the mix was disturbing." said Mary.

"We killed a lot of zombies yesterday afternoon. We dragged them all out back behind the pool shed."

Paige came downstairs with Mike right behind her. He was carrying two rifles, the thirty aught six and the military rifle they had found hidden in the garage.

"Everyone, this Mike. Mike this is Mary, Alex, Peter and Marge. Why don't you lend Peter a hand cleaning up the entry Mike. Make sure not to get any blood on the carpet."

"You are welcome Dora, for saving your life I mean. Don't mention it, no problem." said Mike sitting down at the island next to Marge. "This the woman who was sleeping with 'The Bastard?'"

"The Bastard?" asked Marge.

"Roger. A little nickname we came up with. And yes, Michael, thank you so much for being there shooting when I ran out to save Marge. I could not have done it without you and it is good to know you had my back. The entry way isn't going to clean itself."

Mike just stared at her, Peter spoke up, "I got it. Almost done."

Looking over they saw that he had placed towels around the edges to protect the carpet and had moped up most of the blood. He had the mop in the bucket and brought into the kitchen to rinse out in the sink.

"A handy kid to have around." said Dora.

"He helps around the house. He is very self-sufficient."

"We could use that around here. Mike cooks, Paige manages and Marge and I mostly just sit around telling people what to do. Mary you get to be the medical staff." Turning to Alex she asked, "What can you do?"

Dora noted with interest that Mary was also watching Alex closely for his answer. The man slowly rose to his feet and said, "I worked as a locksmith." to Mary he added, "I went to trade school, made some sort of life after I…left you."

Mary's eyes were disapproving, "You could have contacted me at any time in the last thirteen years, don't look for me to be happy with you about getting your life together."

"Mary…" Alex began, only to be cut off by Mary making a firm cutting motion with her hand.

"I don't want to hear it and in front of these people, definitely not."

A zombie pounded on the front door of the house, causing Peter to jump.

Dora laughed, "Don't worry son, the doors in these places are pretty solid."

"Don't laugh at him." said Mary.

"Oh don't be silly, it was funny. If we can't find humor in our situations then we are just…lost. Look at me, I just fended off a zombie horde to rescue my husband's lover. Now that is funny!"

"No. I don't appreciate you laughing at him."

"Noted. Now we move on, right?"

Mary turned away from Dora's gaze to look at her son, who had stopped mopping and was looking at her.

"Well now that we are all here, we might as well finish cleaning up and make a little breakfast, while we still have power to do so. We did raid Russell's fridge so I think we have enough food to go around for now. Why don't you manly types move the couch in front of the door. If it has Peter worried, I am worried."

Mary's eyes snapped back to Dora's face, "You took food out of Russell's house?"

"Oh. That. Yes. I understand you knew him?"

"Did you kill him?"

"Us? Please lady! I could not put a bullet through my lying cheating, husband's head when I had the chance and you think I killed Russell, someone I don't even know?"

"That isn't an answer really, is it?"

"It is of a sort."

"Jesus Dora!" said Paige, "I am too tired for this shit. No, Mary, we got there and this Russell guy was dead, or rather undead. He attacked us and we killed him again. He was the first one we killed, before him we just ran away. We found the key to his gun safe in his basement and took his guns too. Oh, and we did a load of laundry at his place, because we all got splattered with his blood and were worried that we were contaminated. We took the food when we left as an afterthought, because Dora here," Paige pointed at her with the barrel of her rifle, "really didn't have any food here. Well except for the meat."

"I normally eat out a lot." Dora said with a shrug of her shoulders, "See? I am really not the bad guy."

"No, just a bitch." said Marge from behind her. Dora laughed again.

"So, Paige while the boys are moving furniture, can you make us breakfast? Mary could you help Peter clean?"

"Sure Dora, me and you can make breakfast, why don't you check the beef jerky when I get the coffee started?"

Dora sighed and nodded, "Fine, I won't return to my warm bed, but will do a little work with the common folk. Marge you don't have anything to do, on account of your condition, I'd say you should just sit tight. Would somebody turn on the news and see if we missed anything last night?"

Chapter 21

The group sat around watching the television, listening to the news from Diane, Jim and even a short segment from Ned, the news was all bad. The sun was barely above the horizon and Marge was sleeping fitfully on the couch. The couch had been placed in the way of the front door, as a makeshift barricade. The house was sparkling clean again, they still had running water, although the electricity had blinked off twice in the last forty five minutes. Diane droned on as the group sipped their coffee.

"…our viewing audience, my last word is that if you are in the evacuation zone, to please do everything you can to get out, we will be hearing from Ned again shortly, from the evacuation zone. Jim what have you got for us on the national scene?"

Jim, somehow still looking fresh and ready, said, "Thanks Diane. Nationally communication is gone. We have only rumors about what is happening out east. The governor has rolled out the guard here, and is in a meeting with the governors of Iowa and Missouri, which have not been hit as hard as Kansas. The Nebraskan governor is out on the front lines himself, he left only a message that if you are an able bodied adult you should be heading towards the fight, not watching the news. It appears his strategy has had some success, they seem to be holding the horde that came down interstate eighty on the outskirts of Lincoln after an orderly pull back from North Platte to give the troops time to recover and rest."

"Iowa is sending troops to all of its borders, but so far they have neglected to cross those borders, citing the rivers on both the west and east side of their state as 'natural boundaries' that other states should fall back to. The last news we had out of the state department was a warning to evacuate Chicago, this was six hours ago. From an affiliate station in the south of Kansas we have word that the national guard of Louisiana has blown the dikes and flooded New Orleans and the surrounding area." Jim paused and put his hand to his ear piece, "The governor has announced an agreement with Iowa, Kansas and Missouri to act in concert to stem the advance. Iowan troops are streaming into both states now and should be to the outskirts of Kansas within thirty minutes, with some troops arriving sooner by helicopter."

From inside the house the group heard a series of shots ring out in the street, awakening Marge, whose complexion was gray. Dora and the others went to the window and carefully opened the shades. Some of the zombies in the street in front of her house were taking fire. Others were milling about on the lawn starting to head towards whomever was firing the guns. Dora pointed out three zombies who were hanging back, or in one case outright retreating. "You see it? Tell me you see that?"

"We see it." said Mary and Paige at the same time. Alex, Mike and the boy merely nodded.

"What?" asked Marge from here place on the couch.

"Gunfire in the street, some of the zombies are running away from it." said Dora, "It wasn't just chance then last night." Dora caught a flash of white in the woods across the street. The trees were not really woods so much as a well-manicured park, however they did provide some cover, Dora's suspicion was that the little girls were hiding over there in the trees.

"Well we better get up on the roof to help these people out. You know it is going to be Roger don't you? He probably convinced some national guard ya-hoos to bust in here so he could get his precious stuff and drag us off to safety." Dora said.

"Alex, do you know how to shoot?" asked Paige. The man nodded, and she said, "Good you come up with us, we have an extra rifle. Mary we will leave the shotgun with you and Peter, okay?"

Mary nodded, then said, "Point the trigger and the bullet comes out the other end?"

Paige paused while handing over the shotgun, "You haven't fired a gun before?"


"Shit. Okay new plan, Mike you stay here and at least teach Mary how to fire and reload the shotgun, then come up to the roof afterwards. You better teach Peter too, Mike, just in case."

The group split up and Dora could hear Mike rushing through where the safety was and how to load the shotgun as she went up the stairs. A few minutes later they were on the roof and looking down the street where Roger had driven off a couple of hours ago. They left Mike the big MR556, as he had the most experience firing it, even if he didn't like it. The three of them went over to stand on the roof near where the garage roof branched out from the house. Lying down on the slope of the roof they braced their rifles on the peak to give themselves every bit of help to may accurate shots. Dora sighted in on the van down the street and then pulled her eye back from the scope to look at Paige, who stopped and turned her head to stare at Dora.

"Hell yeah, Paige! Let's do this!" Dora said, Alex took a moment to realize what the fuss was, then he too let out a whoop of delight and started firing into the crowd of zombies around the news van at the end of the block.

Downstairs Mike had just finished showing Mary how to fire the shotgun, when his ear caught Ned on the news, "We seem to have found some survivors out here, Diane." A zombie coming towards the camera was thrown forward missing the better part of its head. The camera panned up to take in a rooftop where three people were laying down firing at the mob in front of the news van. Mike stood there watching with Mary for a moment, mouth opened. Mary was playing with the safety and without looking up she said, "You going upstairs?"

"Those sons of bitches." Mike swore.

"What?" she said looking at him.

"They left me the goddamned MR556!"

Mary seemed impressed, "You can tell that by the sound of the guns."

"No." Mike said, pointing at the television screen, which showed Dora and the others up on the roof and the MR556 laying unattended by the open skylight.

Her eyes slid towards the television screen and then back to Mike's face, "That is… That is here? That's us?"

"Yeah, dammit." Mike set off for the stairs, calling back over his shoulder, "Be careful with the shotgun!"

A few minutes later Mary and Peter saw Mike climb up onto the roof behind the others, he gave a wave into the camera clearly intended for them. Peter waved back, which brought a smile to Mary's face. Mike lugged the big rifle to the top of the garage, where he exchanged a few words with the others that ended with all three of them flipping Mike the bird. Resigned he got down behind the peak of the roof like they were and started firing towards the area in front of the camera.

Mary laughed, prompting Marge to ask, "What?" weakly from the couch.

"The television crew is here, on our street, with Ned. See?" Mary turned the television more towards Marge and stepped out of the way so she could see Ned reporting.

"…had gone on here, these people have defended themselves well. You can tell by the dozens of zombies on the ground around the front of the house. If it were not for the survivors I would turn this crew right around and get the hell out of here, even with the scores of dead, there are more than that still shambling around. Diane, Jim, the crew and I are going in, with luck we will be reporting back in a few minutes, however due to the danger I cannot I ask my camera man to film instead of fire a gun. So we are out for now. Signing off this is Ned for KSHB TV in Kansas City." The camera went dark and Diane weakly called out for Ned to stay safe.

"Mom, are we rescued?" asked Peter.

"No, Peter we aren't, not yet, but things are looking up."

On the roof the others saw the cameraman exchange his camera for an assault rifle provided by one of the national guardsmen traveling with the group. As far as Dora could see the entire party consisted of five people, a driver, a cameraman, Ned and two guardsmen.

"Damn, I knew he had balls, but I thought there was a whole convoy with him, not two guys with guns." Dora said quietly.

"So? Before Alex and Mary arrived there were only the three of us." said Mike.

"True, I just thought, you know, him being famous and all, even if it is just 'KC famous', that he would rate more of an entourage."

"Times are tough, I doubt the military cares much about getting news out, they need to tell people where to go and all, but other than that…" Alex's voice trailed off. "They got trouble." He went back to firing faster.

The mob around them had just been reinforced by another group coming from behind the van, this group had come in from another street on the four way intersection. It took a second for one of the guards to realize what was happening, then he clued into the reason why the garage group's shots stopped falling in front of the television crew. Tapping his fellow guard on the shoulder they both turned and fired on automatic at the huge mob coming from behind them.

The driver rushed to the side of the van and tossed his rifle in, then he backed the van into the oncoming crowd. The short distance he had to get up speed was not sufficient to plow through the crowd as he had apparently hoped. From the rooftop, even over the other sounds of the morning, they heard him cursing as he shifted the van into gear and lurched forward. Dora saw instantly that something was wrong with the van, it slid a bit sideways and plowed into the curb leaving a trail of sparks. The front wheel popped with a sound louder than the surrounding gunfire and the van, barely in control barreled forward into the mob of zombies in front of Ned and the others. The cameraman continued to follow the van at a brisk trot while Ned and the guardsmen turned and volleyed into the oncoming horde.

From the side a couple of zombies came out towards the group on the ground, Dora's group handled them easily. Finally Ned and the guardsmen started falling back, running after the van as fast as they could go. The van had almost made it to the edge of Dora's driveway before it finally slowed to a stop. The driver picked up his rifle from inside the van and pointed it out of side window and let loose a barrage of shots into the zombies on that side of the car, then he opened the door and hopped out, clearing more space around the vehicle. Ned and the others reached him with the mob hot on their heels.

"I hope Mary cleared the door to let them in." Dora muttered.

"That would risk her precious son." Alex said, shaking his head, "No way. You better send one of us down there to do it."

"Fine. Mike! Go down and get the front door open."

"Why me?" Mike complained, getting up nonetheless.

"Because you hate that fucking rifle and I am tired of hearing you bitch about it every time you miss a shot."

Mike sulked away towards the ladder.

Down below the five figures concentrated on the group in front of Dora's house, letting the group behind them close to a dangerous distance.

"What the fuck?" asked Paige, firing into the group behind Ned. Dora and Alex began doing likewise.

"You! On the roof, clear the ones in front of…" Ned called out, his voice was drowned out by a low flying military helicopter, which passed barely twenty feet above Dora's head so fast she had not even heard it coming."…will clear those others up!" Ned finished. The helicopter slowed and turned nimbly, coming around sideways to the street where it hovered and door gunners started firing at the zombies.

Dora just watched, not even bothering to fire her rifle, while the zombies were literally torn limb from limb by the helicopters machine guns. The bullets were making craters in the street as they passed through the bodies. In moments it was all over, the mob had been reduced to a pile of bloody red chunks, steaming softly in the morning sun. Not all of the them had been put down, zombies here and there still moved forward, but had Ned wanted to retreat he could easily have moved back that direction with little fear. Instead he kept moving forward and came up Dora's driveway. The helicopter swiveled around and its guns plowed into the group in front of Dora's house. In seconds all zombie resistance had ceased to exist.

The flying vehicle tilted from side to side momentarily then flew off, leaving silence behind. The small group on the rooftop quietly took in the scene below them. The zombies who were left were quickly dispatched with a few well-placed shots. The helicopter had accomplished in thirty seconds what it would have taken them the better part of a day.

"That is the difference between military and civilian firepower. Just amazing really." said Alex softly.

In the trees across the way Dora saw a flash of yellow, she lifted her gun and fired at it, but was certain she had missed. Down below she heard Mike say, "Come on in! We have coffee and can make you up something to eat if you are hungry."

Chapter 22

"I need to call into KSHB, let them know I am alright." said Ned, over the top of his mug of coffee. Up close and personal Ned was not as impressive as he seemed on television, he was sunken into himself and older than Dora expected. He wore a long sleeved khaki shirt and his tan complexion was a bit more pale than she thought it should be. Ned looked…well Dora thought he looked sick.

"You get any sleep the last few days?" she asked him.

In response the cameraman, Jeremy, laughed out loud. "Him? Any of us? No. Not a wink. We have taken a few cat naps from time to time, when we found a safe place and needed to recharge the batteries for the camera. It has been hell."

"The walking dead are part of God's plan for the end of days." Mary said.

Ned just raised his eyebrows a little, but all of them let the comment pass. One of the guardsmen, John, got on his radio and called in to someone, a simple time check, stating their current position and followed by some code. "Checking in?" she asked.

"Yes ma'am, mandatory, the only way they let us go with him. We check in every fifteen minutes, when we don't check in, they send someone looking for us."

"The helicopter?"

"If it is available, usually the sergeant just gets on the radio and yells at us until we answer." said John.

"So…did you call in the helicopter?"

"It was in the area, they zipped over here to help us out. They are getting ready for the big push against the ones coming down interstate seventy."

The other guardsman, Kerim, shushed John, "Not supposed to talk about that John."

"Yes corporal."

"So you outrank him?" Dora asked shifting her attention to Kerim.

"Yes. Look it is not much of a big deal, but we knew if Iowa was coming in with their troops we would go on the offense as soon as they arrived. We are not telling civilians, because the situation is still not good. We want to evacuate the area and if people think we are going to protect them, they will not leave, see ma'am?"

"I suppose. I wasn't planning on leaving." Dora said. The rest of the group got real quiet.

"Uh, Dora, what do you mean?" asked Paige.

"I thought I would stay here."

"Don't be stupid, how long could you last?" asked Mary.

"As long as I have to. Fuck leaving. Roger left. I am staying."

Ned raised his coffee cup to her in a toast. "Whoever wants to come can follow us out in whatever cars you have. I won't tell Dora to go. Everyone deserves to fight for what they believe in."

"We are getting to safety." said Mary clutching Peter close to her. "And taking Marge, she needs medical attention. I do not think it will do any good, but we should try."

"That is up to Marge." said Dora, keeping her voice even, "She knows she isn't going to make it, so she can decide where she wants to die."

Mike had been quiet during the exchange, suddenly he spoke up, "I am staying too." looking quickly at Dora he added, "If it is okay with you?" Dora nodded at him with a smile.

Kerim's radio started to chatter, a string of codes and numbers rattling off in the kitchen. He ducked out the back door to the patio to respond.

"So Mary, you Peter and, I assume Alex will go? What about you, Paige?" asked Dora.

"I am thinking about it." turning towards John, she asked, "Are there any safe places? Anyplace for us left to run to?"

He hesitated and shook his head slowly. "I don't know. Iowa is, well not zombie free, but they have a much lighter problem then we do. Their guard is almost complete. Plus they have access to every base around their state and all the equipment there. If I had a choice, that is where I would go."

Kerim poked his head in from the patio, "John, Ned and crew, could you step out for a moment for a little pow-wow? Sorry, its private." he said holding up his hand to stop the others from coming out. The group stepped out and then moved well away from the door, all the way to the other side of the pool, where they stopped and started having a quiet conversation that grew more animated as the group inside watched.

Dora stood looking them over for a while before making a "Hmmm" sound.

"What?" asked Paige.

"Probably nothing."

"Nothing, nothing or are you going to share?"

"Is it hot to you guys?" Dora said addressing the group.

"Hell yes!" said Mike, summing it up for all of them.

"They all have long sleeves on. And pants. No shorts, no flip flops. And they are sweating too."

Dora's group looked at the group outside. "Ned seems a little, gray to me too. Like," Dora hitched her thumb over her shoulder to where Marge lay in a restless sleep, "her."

Mary started a low prayer.

Paige screwed up her eyes, squinting out at the soldiers, "I think you are right, Dora. What do you think that mean?"

"They're fucked already? Who's going to ask them?"

"You." Paige responded, Dora's eyebrow went up questioningly. Paige sighed and said, "I dare you."

Outside the group seemed to come to a consensus, Ned, Jeremy and the driver, Cameron, came marching back to the house. John and Kerim stayed outside, with Kerim speaking into his radio. Dora opened the door, Ned was the last to come in and when he did Dora ran her arms up the length of his and embraced him in an awkward hug. Ned suffered through it, patting her back with his hands and looking uncomfortable. As Dora pulled away she jerked his right sleeve up, unbuttoning the shirt forcefully at the cuff. A white bandage was uncovered, Dora stepped back and asked, "So when did you get bit?"

"I knew you were up to something. That didn't take long."

"You are looking a little gray around the gills, Ned. Did you have an affair with Diane?" Dora asked referencing to the other newscaster on the air.

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"She knows then too, right? Her face, it's like she is in mourning. The other guy, Jim, seemed on his game, she is not. I thought maybe she was just extra tired."

"So you put two and two together and did the fake hug thing to check for bandages?"

"Devious, huh? I had to know."

"Does it make any difference?"

"Well, to me, just knowing. So how long do you have until you, well, die?" asked Dora.

"It varies. I've seen badly bitten people, like Marge, die in six hours or so. I know of a couple of single bit people, like me, who are still wandering around okay."

"But no one has lived through it?"

"The doctors don't know. But yeah, so far as they can tell, no one lives through it. It is some kind of virus, they think, like a super flu with a one hundred percent mortality rate."

"What are you doing out here then?" asked Paige.

"It was my idea, we got overwhelmed, almost, the first day of shooting on the outskirts. All of us came away with bites, those two", Ned pointed at the guardsmen outside, "were at our aid station. I bounced the idea of continuing to report off the station as a public service. They decided to come along, instead of going back to die with their families. It has worked out okay. I think we are doing some good."

Ned's right front pocket started shaking, he pawed at it and pulled out a phone, "It's the station, I am going to take this, so hold any other questions for a moment, or ask Jeremy or Cameron." Ned stepped back through the patio doors.

"So you are crazy too?" Dora asked them after Ned ducked out.

Cameron spoke, "No worse than you Dora. You're out of your mind to stay here."

Dora shrugged, "Better to die here than to run and then die tired somewhere else."

The two crew and Alex laughed, the others did not. "I couldn't do that in front of my wife and kids, I just couldn't. I sent her a text, told her I loved her, but I wasn't going to make it. Then I tossed my phone out the window as we drove."

"Oh, how mellow fucking dramatic!" Dora said, "Still I see your point. So you think Marge has only a few hours left?"

Cameron looked over at her, "If that, look at all the bandages on her, she lost blood too, so she is weaker, I give her two hours."

"We could start a pool." Dora said seriously, "But what to bet? Money is worthless now."

"Dora!" Paige said, her eyebrows squinted down in anger. Mary said nothing, but made the sign of the cross in front of herself.

"What? I mean I would let Marge in on it, she'd be a part of the whole thing."

"Part of what?" came Marge's voice from across the room. "Are you talking bad about me again?"

"Yes she is, your supposed friend wants…wants to start a pool for when you pass on!" said Mary, her voice quiet with anger.

Marge propped herself up on her good elbow, shrugged, looked at her watch and said, "Anyone have eleven yet?"

Dora laughed, throwing her head back like a cartoon mule, "No! No dear, no one has eleven yet, you want that time?"

"Yeah, put me down for eleven, what's the bet?"

"We haven't figured that out yet." said Dora, going over to her friend.

Thinking for another moment, Marge's face suddenly lit up, "I know what I want, if I win you just push me out the door and don't kill me. That work?"

"Um, I don't know Marge, you might kill someone else…" Dora began.

Marge looked at her, "If I am lucky it will be you or Roger. C'mon, what is the point of a bet if it doesn't mean risk?"

"Oh fine! I suppose I can agree to that. But what do I win?"

"You get to kill Roger the next time you see him?"

"Nah too easy, and I probably will anyway. I get to pretend I am divorced?"

"No, again, too easy and if you are not already then you are stupid. The old Dora I know was a bitch, a naïve bitch, but not a stupid bitch. Let's think about it for a bit and get the others to bet too. Fifteen minute increments to the pool? Whoever is closest wins?"

"Deal." said Dora, holding out and then shaking Marge's hand with her own.

Cameron turned to Jeremy, "I want ten forty five."

"Eleven fifteen then." Jeremy answered.

"What in God's name is wrong with you people?" asked Mary. Peter cringed away from his mother and Alex looked at her with amazement on his face. "You are betting on when this woman dies! That is wrong! That is…evil!"

"Now, now Mary, doesn't the bible say something about 'judging not, lest ye are judged yourself'? Don't worry about us, or do worry and just pray for us."

"Your mocking will be paid for when you stand before Saint Peter trying to get into heaven." Mary said.

"Agreed. Any other takers on times? I am taking ten, you always did overestimate your abilities Marge, and if you win you will at least have an hour to gloat about how wrong I was."

"Why Dora, I believe that is as nice as you have been to me in a long time. I vow to live until noon now, so I can make you suffer the whole time."

"And you thought I hadn't forgiven you."

"I'll take noon then." said Alex.

"Alex! You too!" Mary said, her voice raised a couple octaves.

"You can use me as a bad example for my son." he replied.

"Fine, I will take eleven thirty." said Mike, bringing a snort from Paige.

"Paige, dear…what have I told you about the snorting. It is very un-lady like, and frankly just nasty, even in men." said Dora.

"That is a woman?" asked Marge, then laughed, "I thought he, uh, she was a trucker or something."

"Fine, fuck you both, I will take ten thirty. Winner gets to decide what they get." said Paige.

"I am taking the thirty aught six if I win." muttered Mike.

"Only out of my cold, dead hands Mikey dear, or we might work out a payment plan if you must have it." Leaning closer to Marge, Dora whispered loudly, "He is infatuated with me, can hardly keep his hands off me when we are alone."

Mike blushed and shook his head from side to side as Mary looked back and forth between the two of them.

"Do not speak like this in front of my son!" Mary said.

"What? For Heaven's sake why not? You're a doctor, you think he hasn't figured out what his twig and berries are for yet?" asked Dora.

"Twig….Stop! I mean it! This is not appropriate conversation for a twelve year old."

"I'm thirteen." Peter said softly.

"See? Thirteen, besides Mary, him and Paige already have something going. What happened to 'hos before Bros' and all that?"

Mary turned and picked up the shotgun, she twirled around and pointed the barrel at Dora. "I said 'stop'. You will respect my wishes."

Alex and Peter were on either side of Dora. Alex made a slight movement and Mary stepped closer to Peter and the barrel of the gun wavered towards her him. "Stop. I mean it, we will have some rules and we are going to set those up now, not later."

"Oh Dora, you stepped in it this time." said Marge.

"Don't worry. She is a doctor shooting me would be against her oath. Plus she is religious, that whole get into heaven speech and all means something to her. Right, Mary?" Dora said standing up to face the woman.

"Mocking! Again mocking!" Mary said pointing the gun downward but in Dora's general direction. Behind her Jeremy slipped a pistol out of his waist band, the others, outside seemed to realize something was up, all of them stopped speaking and looking into the house as Mary continued yelling. "This is the end of days! God is already judging us! You should not mock me or him!" The shotgun blast in the confines of the house was deafening.

Chapter 23

Several things happened at once, Alex, next to Mary, jumped forward grabbed the barrel of the shotgun and pushed it downwards. Behind them Jeremy pulled his gun up into firing position at Mary, he did not fire. Dora stood there dazed, then looked down at herself, nothing, no wounds. Marge started screaming. Peter also started wresting with his mother, screaming "Leave her alone!" at Alex. Mike and Paige, just stood on the sidelines, Paige's mouth was opened and her face went white. It looked to Dora like she was going to faint.

Mary had a horrified look on her face and as Alex and Peter played tug of war with her arms she dropped the shotgun, it discharged again, sending Dora ducking to the ground.

"Jesus-Fucking-Christ! Stop shooting at me!"

Mary screamed at Dora, "I am sorry! I am sorry! I didn't mean to fire, it…just happened! I didn't mean it!"

Alex pushed Mary into Peter and the boy and his mother toppled over backwards, he bent down to pick up the shotgun and his eyes came into contact with Dora's. "Oh shit." he said softly.

"What? She missed. I am okay."

"No. It's Marge."

Dora got to her hands and knees and looked back at her friend. At first there didn't seem to be anything wrong with her, then she noticed the slow, spread of red from her abdomen.

Dora heard someone saying, "Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" She thought it was Mike. The back door slid open and the soldiers with Ned in the lead rushed back in.

"What the hell is going on!" Ned demanded.

"Did Marge turn?" Kerim asked.

"Mary was swinging the shotgun around and it went off, Alex jumped her and she dropped the gun and it went off again." Paige said.

"Oh Christ! What happened? Jeremy?" asked Ned.

"We…it's complicated. We were having a little dark humor, it got out of hand and Mary didn't like it. Dora didn't stop, and Mary was fuming, she grabbed the shotgun and it went off."

"Is anyone hurt?" Ned asked.

"Marge got hit." said Dora.

"I didn't mean to! It was an accident! You saw it! It was an accident!" Mary said, getting up and crying. Peter helped her and gave his father a hate filled stare.

"It was his fault!" the thirteen year old said. "He tried to get the gun away from my mom and it went off!"

Alex looked at him and sat the shotgun onto the counter top, he engaged the safety with a loud 'click' and stared down his son. "I wasn't waving it around like a crazy woman."

"Oh for shit's sake! Can someone help Marge please? We'll get to the trial later!" Dora yelled.

Mary didn't move. John and Kerim came forward.

"Well I would prefer the doctor take a look at what she did." said Dora.

Mary stayed where she was and hugged Peter close, murmuring, "Please forgive me Lord for I have sinned against thee…"

Peter hugged his mother close and patted her back, saying, "It'll be okay mom, you will be okay."

Ned took charge of the gawkers while Kerim pulled up Marge's shirt, the woman continued to grunt in pain, saying, "Dora, make it stop! Dora! It hurts!"

Ned took Mary by the hand and led her outside to the patio. He stepped back in and called out, "Alex, why don't you come out here and keep an eye on things." When Alex moved passed him he said, "Talk to them. To him." Which brought a short nod from the man.

Marge stopped moaning and lifted her head slightly, then dropped it back to the couch. There were flecks of blood being blown out of her mouth and nose as she breathed. Kerim was kneeling beside Marge and had her shirt up to get a look at the wound. His eyes met Dora's and he shook his head slightly, while calling to John, "Get me some medical supplies out of our kit. Marge must have seen the slight head shake she smiled weakly and said, "You fucking bitch Dora. You win."

Confused Dora said, "What?"

"You had ten. The earliest time."

"What? That was a joke Marge, a bad joke!" Dora started crying, "It didn't mean anything…I was…was trying to cope, you know?"

"Still a bet is a bet." She grunted in pain as Kerim pressed a bandage to her wound, "At least tell me what you win so I can go stand as a sinner in front of Saint Peter with a smile on my face."

"Fuck Marge, you can't leave yet. We haven't made up!"

"It is not your fault Dora. I forgive you. You didn't do anything. That cunt of a doctor fucked up. You just didn't think. It isn't one of your strong points anyway. How do you think you got in the mess you're in? Not thinking."

"Which mess?"

"The first one with Roger, Dora dear. You just didn't think, about Roger, about me, about your other friends. How many real friends did you have? Five?" Marge shook her head, "Two? Plus your family who only came by every year at most. You can be real mean, you know."

"I'll…I'll.." Dora started to stay to be interrupted by Marge.

"Sshh, you'll have more time to talk when I am gone. You were going to say you would be nicer? I don't believe it; it's against your nature. You might try being a little less mean, see how that works for you." Marge coughed a large blob of blood spewed out of her mouth to land on her chin and dribble down to her neck. "Dora." she whispered.

"What?" Dora asked leaning closer.

"I am not going to live. I am not coming back either, no second life for me. Now go get that bitch who shot me. I am going to fix her good. Go easy on her…afterwards, because I am not going to."

Dora nodded, tears falling on her friends face, making clear trails through the blood.

"For fucks sake Dora! Get her now! I don't have all day here."

Dora scrambled up and yelled over to Ned, who was still at the back door. "She is dying; she wants to talk to Mary. Quickly!"

Ned poked his head out the door and called out to Mary. She came to the door quickly, Peter clinging to her. Ned held up his hand and pushed it on the boy's chest, "Only your mom, you stay there."

Peter went to protest, but Mary said, "Stay there." The boy fumed and shot his mom, dad and Ned a furious look, his face a deep scarlet color.

Mary crossed the room and stood woodenly by Marge's side.

"I don't know why, but she wants to talk to you." said Dora coldly.

Nodding, Mary looked down at Marge who said, "God knows why, but I forgive you. I was going to die anyway, so you shooting me only hurried it along. Now get down here close to me."

"Don't bite her Marge!" said Dora suddenly.

Marge laughed, "Bite her? I am not going to bite her, I am going to do far worse, but only she gets to hear me. So you three back off."

Kerim and John backed off, looking relieved. Dora hesitated, but then joined them by the island as Mary leaned over Marge and listened to the woman whisper in her ear.

Tears came to her face and at one point she looked sharply at Dora, then Marge's hand turned her face back around. It was a good long talk too.

"What do you think she is telling her?" Paige asked Dora.

"Probably all my dirty little secrets, it'd be just like her."

"You have dirty little secrets? You seem pretty transparent to me."

Dora thought about it for a minute and then said, "You know, you are right." her brow furrowed in thought, "What the hell is she telling her?"

The conversation ended with Mary saying, "I will, I promise. I will Marge. I am so sorry. You can count on me."

"I'll explain everything to Saint Peter, if I get that far."

"Do you repent?" Mary asked.

"Oh yes I do. I can see now how everything, everything, I did was such a waste. I wish I could do it over again and make the right decisions. I wish I had more time."

"Can I…can I pray with you? Say a prayer with you?"

Marge looked over to where the rest of the group was gathered, "I would like that, but it had better be a short one." blood was making Marge's lips a bright red color.

Mary took out a silver crucifix and began to recite an 'Our Father' over Marge. She kept it short and then said a personal prayer to Saint Mary to watch over and guide Marge to heaven.

"Why Mary?" asked Marge.

"She is ever merciful. Jesus be with you Marge….I don't even know your last name?"


"Goodbye Marge Norton. I will pray for you. I will honor what you asked of me."

"Dora!" Marge cried out, as a spasm wracked her body in pain.

"I am here Marge!" said Dora brushing by Mary as the other woman stepped away. Kneeling Dora took Marge's hand in her own and held it to her face.

"I want nothing to happen to Mary, Dora. Nothing. You don't have to be nice to her, you don't have to like her, but I forgave her and you should too. I was dead anyway. She only stole a few hours from me, a few miserable hours. I had a vision Dora, when she shot me, I blacked out for a moment, I saw things…" Marge's voice dropped off quietly to nothing.

"Marge!" said Dora crying.

The other woman's eyes flickered open, she said softly, "Not…dead..yet. I will be okay. I am almost free. You need her Dora. You need…Mar…" again Marge stopped talking and again her body trembled in pain. Then, in a loud voice she spoke again, "and for God's sake be less of a bitch!" Marge's body tensed up and then relaxed, her eyes stayed open and her breathing stopped, a thick wad of slimy, red spittle dribbled out of her mouth to fall on the leather cushion she lay upon.

"Step back Dora." Kerim said, forcibly removing Marge's hand from hers and pushing Dora back. Dora stood and took a step away from her friend's body. Turning she saw John standing back with the others by the island.

Ned was over by his driver and camera man, helping himself to another cup of coffee. He raised his eyebrow at Dora, lifting his mug. Dora nodded once and he took another cup from the counter and filled it for her.

"How long now? Until she comes back?" she asked Ned, taking the mug from his hands and adding sugar and cream.

"Two, three minutes at most."

Watching the digital clock on her stove Dara waited until five minutes had passed. "What now?"

"Kerim?" Ned called.

Dora turned to look at Kerim and Marge. Kerim was standing with his rifle aimed at Marge's head, he stood about three feet away, waiting for the first sign of movement. "Nothing yet." he said, his voice was wavering, "This is, unusual."

"She isn't coming back." Mary said, smiling.

"What are you smiling about? You think this is funny?" asked Dora.

Mary's face became serious, "No Dora. It is wonderful. She told me she was not coming back. She said it was proof that what she told me was true, if she didn't return, I would know she was telling me the truth. It is a miracle."

"Saint Marge?"

"No saints Dora, God himself." Mary slid to her knees and bowed her head in prayer.

Looking at the others she asked, "Do any of you know what the hell she is talking about?"

"Dora we were next to you, right, how should we know?" asked Mike, "Uh, should we pray too? I mean, Marge did die right? A true death, she should have come back."

Paige went to her knees and one by one the others did as well, leaving only Dora standing, Kerim still kept his gun pointed at Marge's head.

Mary looked briefly at Dora, smiled again and started praying, John joined her moments later and the two of them recited verses for the rest. Dora snorted, turned and filled up her mug with another cup of coffee.

Chapter 24

"So, what now?" Dora asked of Ned. They were standing at the counter enjoying another pot of coffee. Mary and Alex seemed to be reconciling out on the porch, at one point their reconciling had grown rather loud, before cutting off so abruptly that Dora looked outside to see if Alex had the woman in a head lock. When she looked he was staring right at her, a shocked expression on his face. The reconciling had grown quieter after that.

"We gotta keep getting the news out there. You will make a good case study, we'll edit it up a bit and just interview you, Paige and Mike. Mary doesn't want to be on, I didn't ask Alex, I am going to mention Marge as a cautionary tale to others not to get bit. We go live in…" he checked his cell phone for the time, "Seven minutes."

"Fuck." said Jeremy hurrying past.

"He is the cameraman; he needs to go get the gear." Ned said to Dora's unasked question.

Jeremy and the guardsmen moved the couch out of the way then shot three zombies that were out on Dora's porch. Jeremy ran off towards the van, where they heard another gunshot. John and Kerim hauled Marge's body out the front door, they moved it off to the side and put it up against the house.

By the time they returned Jeremy, with Cameron's help, had the cameras set up and Ned had a small mic in his hand. He was coaching Dora, Mike and Paige on what to say, stressing them not to deviate too much.

"This is not news, you know that. It is not entertainment either. It is life or death for hundreds of thousands of viewers. Understand, and I am talking to you Dora, no fucking around. Don't ad-lib or give us any of your crap on the air, the survivors need to know they can survive. We will get your story out and I will go over the evacuation points with Diane and Jim back at the station. You three just look confident and maybe, yeah, get your guns over here. It wouldn't hurt to have mugs of coffee, like this is just another day and you are confident in yourselves. You can be a little worried, but be worried with a positive attitude. You got all that?" Ned's phone rang and he answered it, "Hello?" He held up a hand to the trio and then said to them, "Be ready on Jeremy's signal." Turning away he started speaking on the phone.

Jeremy called out from behind the camera, "Okay see the green light on the front? That means you can talk freely, we are not broadcasting, when it goes red it means we are live on the air and don't fuck anything up, got it?"

"Yes, I think so." said Dora, she stepped to the island to recover her rifle and a cup of coffee, she thought it might be Mary's. She filled it, added cream and sugar and then stood waiting. "Jeremy?"


"Thanks for having my back there, with Mary. You know, pulling out on her and all. Even if you didn't shoot her."

"Ah, you are welcome. For the record I am glad I didn't shoot her."


"Well, it was an accident. The shot that hit Marge was from when the gun hit the ground. Sure it was Mary's fault for starting the whole thing, she started in with all the drama. Marge forgave her, in that much pain, on her death bed, as her dying request. I think I can forgive her too."

"Too easy, I won't let her off the hook like that."

"You better, you have to live with her, not me."

"What? No, she's going with you, she said they were."

Jeremy shook his head, "We'll see, huh? I don't think that's going to happen. We are live in five, four…" Jeremy counted down the rest of the way using his hand and holding up three, then two then one finger, which he pointed at Ned. The red light came on almost the same time.

Dora was so busy thinking "He is good!" that she missed the first part of Ned's statement, giving a synopsis of what happened in the house and how they fought their way over to it. She was not sure if she, Paige and Mike were on camera yet, or just in the wings, but she put a smile on her face anyway.

"Finally when all the dust settled we met up with the other survivors here. One had been bitten and, sadly, nothing could be done for her. She passed away and we had to make sure she didn't come back." Ned paused and it took Dora a moment to realize he was listening to a question from the studio in his earphone. "Yes, Diane, the best, the only way, to make sure the zombie stays down is massive head trauma, take out the brain and the zombie does not come back." He paused again. "We are safe for now, taking a brief rest before we leave the house of Dora Sturges. Dora is here with me now and has agreed to answer a few questions for us." Ned turned and addressed Dora directly. "Dora how long have you and your friends been holding out here?"

Dora paused, took a slow sip from her coffee mug, then hefted the shotgun up into better view and said straight into the camera, "For about two days now."

"What steps have you taken to survive?"

"Well Ned, right now we have been using the power and gas as much as we can, none of us think it is going to stay on much longer. We took out all the meat from the freezer and we are making beef jerky in the oven and on the grill. Who knows how long it will take before the markets will open again?"

"Did you have any trouble with zombies?"

"Oh, yes we did! They were very troublesome. Fortunately my friends, Paige and Mike are really good at killing them. We must have killed thirty of the bastards yesterday and today, well, when my husband Roger came by to drop off his mistress we killed another twenty or so and when you got here, there has to be fifty more corpses out there."

"Marge?" Ned said, surprised. Before he could recover Dora took the opening.

"Yes, that's right, my husband was having an affair with my best friend, she is no saint either, but he was a rotten bastard. I don't know where you are Roger, but leaving all of us here to die was a terrible thing to do. Why would anyone do that, Ned?" Behind the camera Jeremy was making a horizontal slashing motion with his hand, Dora waved at him from the waist with her off hand. Cameron was grinning and trying not to laugh.

"Well, I…Let's talk to your friends here and see if they can give us any tips on putting the undead down? Mike, Paige, you two fought alongside Dora, how did you do it? There were just the three of you and you have accounted for more than sixty dead as a group."

Paige started talking first, "Guns help. At first all we had were table legs and logs. Once we got our weapons it made a huge difference. My advice is to get onto a roof or shoot from higher up, like in a building. Mike only taught us to fire the guns yesterday and we do okay now."

"In only a day? Mike, was it hard to teach them how to shoot?"

"Dora was a…challenging student. I covered gun safety with them first, then how to load and unload the guns, then finally how to shoot. That is really what got us into trouble. We shot all our ammo learning and the noise attracted a bunch of zombies. We had to fight our way out of them with just the fire wood out back."

"Quite a story, Mike!" Ned turned back to the camera, "So noise seems to attract them, it doesn't seem that we can get a break does it, Diane? The one thing that makes it easier to kill the things also draws their attention." turning back to the three of them Ned asked, "You have been following the news that we have right?"

The three of them answered 'yes' while nodding, "Does it concern you that you sit less than a mile from the major highway that the masses of zombies are traveling down?"

Dora answered, "Oh no, we feel really confident now, yesterday I was not able to do much to defend myself and my friends, but now, I am sure we can handle ourselves."

"Even against the estimated three to four hundred thousand zombies shambling down from Denver?"

"They won't all come here, the national guard will kill a bunch of them along the way. We'll be able to mop up any survivors that get through. It would help if we had more ammunition." Dora answered.

"So you're not evacuating?"

"Not a chance, Ned. Not a chance."

"Can other survivors come here if they cannot make it to the safe zones?"

"Only if they want to fight instead of run away, we don't need any slackers here. I am standing up to them. If they drag me down I will go down fighting. Never give up. Never give in."

"Mike, Paige, do you feel the same?"

Dora watched as her friends gave some less than enthusiastic nods back to the question. "Hopefully the soldiers will get here soon and drive them off. We can hold on until then." said Paige.

Ned turned back to the camera, "Well there you have it, Diane, this is one group that is going to be hard to dislodge. If everyone is as successful as this group then the grocery stores should be opening up again very soon." Ned paused to listen to another question and Cameron motioned Dora, Mike and Paige to step away from the front of the camera.

"No, Diane, I cannot, in good faith tell people to stay and fight it out. The government has made it clear that that people need to evacuate to give the military a clear firing ground to meet the threat. This is American, however, and if the citizens want to stay and defend their homes and each other, I cannot, because of the things I hold dear, tell them not to do that either." He paused again, listening, before saying, "We have come about as far west as I was hoping, we plan on looping around to the south and then heading east to get behind the lines, if we can. Unless we run into trouble we should be back at the station this evening. Thank you, Diane. Stay safe!"

Ned cut off and immediately sagged back to a tired looking middle aged man.

"Are you mad at me?" Dora asked him.

Ned looked over at her, shook his head and smiled, "Forget about it. I wasn't sure what you would do and that went…better than I had hoped. We got the message out. Thanks for the interview. Can we use your address later? For others to come here? Can we give it to the military?"

Dora thought about it for a moment then nodded. "Sure, Ned. Sure thing." She stepped forward and gave the man a long hug, whispering in his ear, "I think I hate Roger now."

"That's better than feeling nothing at all."

"I think you might be right."

"Well, right or wrong, I wouldn't want to be him."

Dora pulled back from the hug and said, "You say the sweetest things sometimes, Ned! Is that how you got Diane?"

"Now, Dora, don't believe everything you hear."

Looking over at the camera Dora saw that the red light was still on, she pulled back from Ned and asked, "You still recording Jeremy?"

The green light came on and Jeremy popped his head out from the screen behind the camera, "Recording, not broadcasting. We can use the footage later with some edits. Mind if I get you saying your address and if Ned asks you a few more questions for a canned interview we can broadcast later?"

"Sure I will do that stuff. Later…"

Ned stepped up and touched Dora's arm, turning her to face him, "There won't be a later Dora, we are not looping down south and heading east. The five of us agreed to that. We will send your interview in, but depending on how things go, it might air posthumously."

Chapter 25

Ned took turns interviewing all of the people at the house and at the end each of his crew spent three or four minutes recording a final farewell to the camera lens. The crew started packing up the van and getting ready to go after that. Jeremy had been correct about Mary and her family, she made it clear they were staying on. Despite Ned's offer to escort Paige and Mike, in Paige's car, to the nearest military station, Paige said she too was staying on. Mike just shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.

The van's front tire had to be changed out, so the whole group went house to house to look for a compatible vehicle to get a new tire from. They did not have to search for long, Dora's neighbor Russell had a spare set of rims in his garage for his truck, with snow tires on them, they were not precisely what the van needed, but they would work. The only drawback was they wanted the tires on the back, as they were slightly larger than tires the van had. Because the front tire of the van had been blown that meant they had to change three tires instead of just putting a new one on.

"Well, we probably would have had to change both the front tires anyway." said Cameron, "So they would match. Changing three instead of two isn't that big of deal."

The guardsmen took the opportunity to get a couple hours sleep while Dora and her gang provided cover to keep the zombies away. By eleven in the morning, the job was finished and the weather was blazing hot. The clouds and rain of the previous day were long gone and the humidity made breathing a sluggish chore. The area's electricity was still going, so Dora had the house air conditioning on full blast. Mike and Paige made the group lunch and they sat down with the news crew one last time.

"So, you will keep filming for how long?" asked Paige, serving up a cold cuts sandwich to Ned.

"Depends on when we start to go. None of us feel too bad yet. It's there though, like a poison slowly working through my system. I can't say how long it will be really. I've seen people bit up like Marge was and they go fast. Maybe we won't go at all. Somehow I don't think that's realistic. Say a week at the outside?"

Kerim said, "I say five days. We've heard for the lightly wounded that's about how long it takes to fight off the body's defenses. We were all lucky really, just scrapes, I think I have the worst case." He pulled up the fatigues on his left leg to reveal a white bandage on the side of his lower leg, from the edges of the gauze there was a deep purplish blue streak running up and down through his flesh.

"Does it hurt?" Peter asked, craning his neck around to look at the wound.

"Like a bad bruise. It's tender. So far it isn't bothering me too much. Every day though, it's worse and hurts a little more. And I am getting tired. I could have slept ten hours, not that I am complaining about the time you let me sack out."

"We are going to radio our superiors your location." Kerim said to Dora after the meal and while they were cleaning up the dishes.

Dora shrugged, "What will they do? Evacuate us?"

He shook his head, "I doubt it, they don't have time to protect or evacuate fools like you. They might, I say might, check up on you when they can. I spoke with my Sargent, who spoke with our lieutenant, who had news from further up the line that the soldiers seemed happy to see you doing what you are doing. Fighting back instead of running."

"We aren't really, you know." said Dora.

"Aren't really what?"

"Fighting back. We are just holding our ground like in the Hobbit where Gimpy raised his staff and fought the demon. The giant flaming demon the bagman?"

Kerim's face turned pale, "You did not just say that."

"Bagman?" Dora asked puzzled.

"I loved that movie, the Lord of the Rings, does that mean anything to you?"

"Yeah, yeah with Orlando Bloom as the fairy guy. It was awesome. I had dreams about him…and his bow."

"Stop. You're ruining my childhood memories. That was my favorite movie when I was a kid. I watched it so much my dad said he thought the plastic was going to melt in the dvd player."

"Oh, well I just liked Bloom, he was good."

"So you mean you are going to hold out like Gandalf the wizard against the Balrog in the mines of Moria?"

Dora waved her hands and nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah, yeah, whatever. Are you sure he fought a 'balrog'?"


"What kind of name is 'Kerim' anyway?"

"Bosnian. I was named for my grandfather, my parents came over during the atrocities when they were young. They grew up here, but still found each other and married. I am first generation American, or more like generation one point five, my parents both arrived when they were like, six."

"Huh? Sad I don't even know where my parents came from. I mean Kansas, yeah, but before that? No idea. It never really interested me. Hey, Ned?" Dora called to the man as he was lugging a bag out the front door.

Ned turned back, "Yeah Dora?"

"You leaving?"

"Well I was going to come back in for a final goodbye, but yeah we gotta get moving." said Ned.

"Let's go, John." Kerim said from beside Dora.

The people who were staying gathered in the living room to say goodbye. Mary was crying, which made Peter look like he was going to cry too. John put his hand on the boy's shoulder and leaned over and whispered something into the boy's ear, whatever it was seemed to work and he perked up immediately.

The men all shook hands with the other men of the house and gave the women hugs, then they filed out the door. The house members followed them outside and watched as their van pulled away and drove up the block, leaving in the opposite direction from where they had arrived. The road still had bodies here and there and the van had no choice but to drive over some of them as it went, although Cameron was doing his best to avoid that. Mary quickly brought Peter back inside, leaving the other adults on the porch looking after the vehicle until it was gone.

"Well." said Dora, "I think we need to get some of these bodies off the road. And we need more vehicles, in case we ever have to run for it. Russ's truck would be a good start, but I think we should get all the vehicles we can and park them across the road as a kind of road block to keep the riff-raff out."

"We'll need our own power sooner or later too." Alex said. "We should make a list of the places that might have generators and go out and get one, or three. Plus fuel and the cold cuts are all gone. It would be a good idea to start stockpiling some food."

Dora looked at him, "You know Alex, you are so different from Mike and Paige. I think those are all good ideas. Mike, Paige? Listen to the man and take notes."

Alex looked a little surprised as he followed the others into the house.

Part II. Six weeks later

Chapter 26

The break in the weather was a welcome relief to the group staying in the neighborhood, the power had long ago gone off and while they had generators they limited them to a common entertainment room to power up a television and keep a line of freezers and refrigerators running. Fuel was going to be a problem. It was weighing on Dora's mind heavily this mid September morning. Dora was sick, some bug she had picked up from the last refugees the army had dumped off on her.

'Three more fucking kids and one late teen.' In her mind Dora had expected the refugees to trickle in as family units, all self contained and tough, like survivors should be. 'Instead I get kids, little fucking idiots with no parents.' And they were survivors alright, the little tramps hoarded food and valuables and had to be taught that stealing, lying and cheating were no longer acceptable inside of 'Doraville', which was the common designation of the area around Dora's house.

The original crew was all still alive, Mary, Alex and Peter were living in Russell's old house with a pack of almost twenty kids. The two adults fought like a married couple and Peter was left with a lot of work bullying the younger kids into behaving. Paige and Mike stayed with Dora, they each had their own room upstairs. Dora had kept the master bedroom and most nights she slept alone. Sometimes there was a frightened kid in there with her. Paige seemed to take unnatural delight that some of the kids were comforted by Dora's presence.

The living room of Dora's house was officially called the 'Clinic', where all refugees were brought when they arrived, anyone who had been bitten was given the option of leaving or being shot, anyone judged 'clean' by Mary was set up with housing somewhere. Yesterday the army had brought in the three kids, four really, and they were all stripped naked, washed off and examined following the usual procedure Mary had gotten from one of her military counterparts.

"You puking in there?" asked Paige from the open doorway into the master bedroom.

"No, just brushing my fucking teeth with vomit." Dora called out, before leaning forward and puking again.

"Wow, I knew water was scarce, but using toilet water to brush your teeth…that takes balls, Dora."

Dora held up her middle finger at the woman and threw up one more time. Rising to her knees, she said, "You'll have the fucking bug soon enough bitch."

Paige shook her head, "Somehow I doubt it. I never get sick, it's always you. You don't have to be there when the new kids come in you know. Let us deal with it and you can go do 'Mayor' things somewhere else."

"It's my town, right? So I should approve the new arrivals. What else did the army drop off yesterday?"

"Another rifle, an old M4, plus a thousand rounds of.223 ammo, we need it, we were getting low. Oh and some food."

"Oh god, don't tell me, more dehydrated eggs?"

Paige nodded, "Another whole pallet. And two pallets of MREs. Dora?" she stepped forward as Dora leaned over and threw up again. The MREs were packaged military food that the entire town had already grown weary of.

"God, don't speak to me of food again! Fucking dehydrated eggs? That's shit. The MREs are shit too."

"We are going to need the food when winter comes." Winter was on the minds of all of them in town these days. They were a hundred and forty two people living here in western Kansas City, the official border of the Midwestern state was only about a twenty miles to the east, on the outskirts of the city. The Iowan's had pulled even further north because they could not control the city itself, there were too many zombies running around.

"Any other news this morning?" Dora asked. The group had raided a big box store and had taken all of the walkie-talkies they could find, as well as every battery they could fit into the pickup truck bed, right now they were using rechargeable batteries and saving the other ones for emergencies. In addition to the batteries and walkie-talkies they had all sorts of flashlights, bedding and blankets. None of them were under any illusions that winter would be anything but miserable if they didn't find some way to heat the houses. Of the large houses they were in only a few had real fireplaces, most ran on natural gas. Dora's was one of the few that had a fire place that actually burned wood and wasn't just for looks. The group had decided to build a long, low bunkhouse in the backyard of Dora's neighbor. They had most of the wood in piles around the neighborhood, as well as roofing materials, a few windows and four wood burning stoves. They planned on keeping the ceilings down to eight feet high and to double insulate the walls and attic to help keep things warm. At least that was the plan.

Some of the men had construction experience, one had actually been a general contractor, and he was in charge of the construction. Dora's yard would be filled with firewood for the winter. So far the reality of the construction was that Dora's yard was filled with firewood, not much work had actually been done on the new bunkhouse. Tim, the contractor, seemed to have less experience actually building things then he had led them to believe.

"No, no word on any attacks last night."

"Did Tim say anything this morning?"

"He found more firewood yesterday, about a cord of it."

"We got nothing to heat, let alone heat it with! Goddamn it, we need the fucking bunkhouse built!"

"Yeah, we all know that. You gonna fire him?"

"And do what with him? Send him out searching for firewood? And who would take over for him?"

Paige just looked at Dora silently. Dora stood up and turned on the tap, a thin trickle of water came out, she arched her eyebrow in surprise. "What is this?" The water had been sporadic at best the last few weeks.

"Surprise!" said Paige.

"They found the water tower and got the pump working?"

"They found the water tower and attached a generator to the pump. We need to go around and shut off the water to all the houses the tower uses."

"Wait, wait…I am not letting you off the hook on the Tim stuff, you have an idea and I want to hear it, first though, isn't that a lot of houses to cut off from the water tower?"


"When the fuck will we have time to do that? And who?"

"Ed Bradly is taking some of the ten year olds around and doing it." The water issue had come up in the town meetings many times before and Tim had been going over the maps they had trying to find the water tower that served this section of the city. The problem was they needed to shut off all the house attached to the tower or in the winter the pipes would freeze, leak and then the tower would run out of water again. It was a low priority on the list, they had access to creek water, but for morale it made a huge difference, which is why Dora kept someone on the job. Dora suspected that there would be water mains that could shut off entire blocks of houses, but no one had any idea on how to find out where they were.

"Does he think he can get them all shut off before it gets cold?"

"No, but he thinks he can shut a lot of them down, if less pipes freeze it will be less of a drain on our resources. It might keep us in water for the winter at least. By spring maybe things will change."

Dora looked at Paige, "No, nothing will change. I can't believe there were not any attacks last night, not even by the twins?"

Paige shook her head, 'the twins' were girls that haunted the area, picking off anyone they could get. The zombies had evolved in the past month and a half; some of them moved quickly, used tools and even spoke. Head trauma still killed them, but they were faster than humans. The twins, nicknamed Dee and Dum by Dora had been a constant pain in the town's side. They had made their presence known after the horde had arrived in town from Denver about five weeks ago and had been seen several times since; they always seemed to be seen when there were no guns pointed at them too. They had an uncanny ability to disappear before a gun barrel could point their way.

"Nothing, all quiet on the lines last night."

Doraville was small, the core of the community lived up and down the street in the McMansions on either side. There were always gunners on the roofs watching out from the core of the community and the fences that had been built around it did a good job of keeping the zombies out. Building the fences had been the first thing the group had done when people started arriving. After the interview with Ned had gone out people had started flocking towards Dora, they arrived in time to help build what was now the outer fence and haul in generators and the first few loads of food from abandoned stores.

When the zombies hit town in force almost everyone was killed. There was a terrible slaughter and the outer fence was overwhelmed in the first few hours of the onslaught. The army had flow in helicopters and helped defend the enclave, but they stopped short of actually moving up troops. As the battle raged the Air National guard from Iowa had actually bombed the horde as well, it was something none of them wanted to live through again. The houses to the north and west of Dora's were bombed, the destruction started about three blocks away and an area for about five blocks beyond that was just gone. The wasteland was a favorite hangout spot for lone zombies of the more intelligent variety.

Usually Dora kept a person or two out there to watch for them and give warning to the others. Tim had grand ideas about building a concrete bunker out there too, but the man's knowledge of construction didn't seem to match his knowledge of having other people do the work.

"Okay so tell me your brilliant idea about firing Tim."

"You sure you want it now?" asked Paige while Dora quickly brushed her teeth.

Dora nodded, foamy toothpaste dripped from her lips into the sink.

"Alright, use Alex and fire Tim. No, that isn't right…ah, promote Tim to materials scavenger, first send him out with a small crew and a truck to see if he can find the pre-constructed roof trusses we need. Have Alex handle the day to day stuff in Tim's absence."

Spitting Dora looked up at Paige, "Alex? What experience does he have?"

"Practical experience actually working. Plus, he is not too stubborn to read a Goddamned book." The group had also raided a book store and taken a plethora of home improvement and construction books covering everything from plumbing to roofing. Tim had not cracked the cover of even one so far that Dora knew.

"Okay I think I can make it work. Promote him? That is a good one. I bet that goddamn bunker in the wasteland would get built faster if I promoted him to that."

Despite being the leader of the people, Dora had not endeared herself to anyone, she still tended to say what was on her mind and political speeches were not her style. This made for some rather fiery weekly town meetings, with everyone either in the street listening or using walkie-talkies to hear the theatrics. There were also daily meetings of the 'council members' a select group of people close to Dora, these meetings were shorter and more critical to the survival of the town. Tim had been trying to get a seat on the council for about two weeks, Dora had shot him down, telling the other members to just wait. "You know I never liked that asshole."

"Duh. I think every time his name comes up your face turns red, it gives you away. It's amazing to me, but you really are a good judge of character."

"Amazing to you? I don't know why I wanted you to chair the council. Maybe because you always vote the way I tell you to."

"We all always vote the way you tell us to."

"True enough, because I am always right."

"No…more like because it is easier and you are never too wrong."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence. What are we doing with the flu bearing kids we got in yesterday?"

"They are still downstairs. Mike is on guard over them." Through experience they had learned to keep watch over all new arrivals. They were not zombies, a blood test could prove that every single time, and Mary had the equipment to check when newcomers arrived. However, the kids were always skittish and sometimes it was not so much that they volunteered to come into Doraville as they were captured and brought in.

"Six weeks, you know?" asked Dora.

Paige nodded knowingly, it was a common discussion between them with only the number of weeks or days going up.

"These kids have been on their own for forty days and are little barbarians who would knife their doctor for a candy bar." It had happened, Mary was handing out granola bars to a group of kids and one wanted more and had stabbed her in the arm to get it. That was two weeks ago and the incident kept coming up for Dora.

"I know Dora, kids…they are flexible, which is probably why we get more kids now than adults. Kids adapt, the next generation is going to be very different from us."

"Preaching to the choir here. Say, that reminds me, no news of Father Cruz?" While on a scavenging mission Alex had come across Saint Assisi's Church, the man had not thought there was anything useful there, but he was Catholic and had gone inside to say a quick prayer to Saint Jude before he continued looking for the solar battery chargers he had been sent out to find. To his surprise Father Joseph of the Cross had come out of the church hall and greeted him.

The man lived alone and had professed to never being bothered by the undead plaguing the area, claiming God protected him. So far as Dora knew he was right. They had tried to get him to come to Doraville, but the old priest had refused, saying God's plans for him were at St. Assisi. Mary had gone to see him for a checkup, bringing along a few others who wanted to celebrate a mass and take communion. The priest had obliged, but refused to come with his new flock even after that.

"Cruz? He still alive? No I don't know, it's been a week. Sounds like just the thing for Tim to look into. I mean he will be out looking for trusses and the lumber yard is over in that direction. We'll have to have him check into it."

Dora looked at Paige again, and raised her hand to her chin, "Hm, you know the water main thing is bothering me too. All those blown up buildings, you know, those are going to drain that tank faster than anything. I think Tim should go to where ever we paid our water bills and see if he can come up with some plans or something."

"Not bad, not bad at all. How long do you think it will take him to realize he is on shit detail?"

"About a week, that is enough time for Alex to make some progress." Dora picked up one of three walkie-talkies and spoke into it, "Mary?"

A child's voice came on the line, "She is here, gimme a minute."

"This Katie?" Dora asked.


"Mary on the pot making poop again?"

The girls voice laughed back at her, "No!"

The eight year old was helping Mary with everything, the girl had come in with her mom and dad before the big horde from Denver arrived, her parents had not lived through the fighting. She had been with Mary, Peter and Alex ever since. "Here she is, it's Dora."

"Dora? What's up?" asked Mary.

"No medical emergency, sorry to get you worked up, I need to speak to Alex, could you send him over?"

For a moment Dora thought the other woman was going to lecture her, again, about only using the medical walkie-talkie for 'Medical Emergencies', but instead she just said, "I will send him right over, can he eat first?"

"He can eat here if he wants, we have eggs." Dora said, with a frown that caused Paige to laugh.

"Okay, he'll want coffee."

Dora set the walkie-talkie down and turned to Paige, "Chop-chop! Make the coffee girl!"

Paige flipped Dora off on her way out of the master bedroom.

The day flew by without incident and that afternoon the council members had another meeting in the clinic at Dora's house. There were seven of them altogether, including Dora. Mary, Paige and Dora made up the only women on the council; the men consisted of Alex, Leon, Steven and Freddie. Each person had their own skills, Mary was in charge of all things medical, she was the only person with any sort of training in Doraville, the group hadn't even scored a nurse or paramedic.

Alex was good with locksmithing and mechanical equipment, plus he was the newly crowned construction czar. Leon was a retired African American computer programmer who was sixty years old, he had taken pains to read up about electrical wiring and had been invaluable at keeping the local electric grid running off of the generators. Steven was an ex-military man officially 'on loan' from the National Guard, the fact that his wife lived in Doraville and would not leave was the real reason he was here.

Freddie was the last male on the board, he was Hispanic and a jack of all trades, he spoke Spanish, French and English all very well and had been making ends meet by hanging drywall when z-day came around. Finally there was Paige, her job was more to be Dora's keeper than anything else, although she displayed remarkable skills organizing and managing things too. Dora did not do much on the council, she brought up new issues, said her piece on what she thought the group should do and entertained any questions the other council members might have. She was also the public face of the group. When someone wanted to bitch, they sought out Dora, when speeches needed to be made, Dora did it. The other council members directed every other problem to her. Freddie was particularly good at deflecting attention Dora's way, so much so that he had the nick name of 'Teflon Freddie' when the council was in private.

"Okay I hope everyone had a good night and morning, any new business?" Dora asked to the group seated in her kitchen. They all had cups of coffee and were seated informally. Paige had a laptop to take notes with on next to her. The council members all looked at her and Dora said, "Well then, no new business? Then I vote to adjourn until tomorrow, same time, same…"

"Dora!" Paige interrupted.

"Fine. Any old business?"

"Tim." Alex said

"Tim." repeated Freddie and Leon at the same time.

"Yeah, Tim." said Mary.

"Et tu Mary? Tim would be crushed. What is he doing now?"

"Normally that would be worded, 'What is he NOT doing now?'" said Freddie, "But in this case he is speaking to the other adults about how you are not going to give him a seat on the council when he could do so much good."

"What the fuck?" Dora said turning to Paige, "I thought we sent him out to check on Father Cruz?"

"He wouldn't go, said he had too much on his plate to go out checking on stubborn old holdouts." said Alex.

Dora's face turned red, "And no one told me?" The others looked away from her, not meeting her eyes, except for Paige, "Paige?"

"We thought we should address it here. I told him twice to get moving. Even Steven reminded him he had to work. Tim just said he was too busy to go today. Even after Alex said he was taking over Tim's project in Nina's yard." Nina Roberts had moved into the house next to Dora's, where the large hall was being built.

"Huh? So he wants to play hardball huh? Well I say boot him out. Fuck him, he is dead weight anyway, he isn't building shit and what he has built looks like shit to me, am I right Alex?"

Alex nodded curtly, "It doesn't look good. I think he was more of a manager, not a builder. Hell Freddie and I could do a better job and we have already discussed it."

"Does he have a weapon we need to worry about?" asked Dora.

"Him?" asked Steven incredulously, "The guy is afraid of his own shadow. He has a gun, but he won't use it."

"Okay then I vote for booting him. Don't you look away from me! I know why you tolerate keeping me at the top of the heap, because I make the hard choices so you don't have to. Let me make this one and get this dead weight out of here, send him to Iowa, they will take him, they take any survivors."

"Dora, maybe we could give him the choice? He either does as he is told for the good of everyone or he leaves for Iowa?" suggested Paige.

"He won't do either." said Steve, "Iowa has the mandatory serve law, they are fighting for their lives, the horde broke over us, swept around us like an island and we are really behind enemy lines, even though they caravan over to us pretty much every week. But Iowa got hit hard in Council Bluffs too and rumor has it they want to push the zombies back to Lincoln. They got zeds coming down highway thirty five from the twin cities and to the east they got the highway eighty hordes from Chicago. They can only thank fucking God that the rivers on the east and west sides of the state are so large and the populations to the north and south were relatively small otherwise they wouldn't have a chance. So no, Tim won't go to Iowa, didn't you seem him getting the news with the others yesterday when the Guards dropped off those kids?"

Dora shook her head, while Mary said a soft prayer about forgiving Steven for using the Lord's name in vain. Steven nodded to her and said softly, "Sorry Mary."

"Apologize to God, Steve. I know you are caught up in the passion of the moment, but try and live by his rules." Steve nodded.

"Holy fuck." Dora said softly.

"What?" asked Leon.

"I have surrounded myself with religious whackos! Paige, why didn't you warn me I was the only atheist on the council?"

"Dora! You are NOT an atheist!" said Mary sharply, "Do not say such things! Don't even joke about them."

Dora shrugged her shoulders, "You are not all Catholic are you?" Everyone but Paige nodded. "So we are the last voices of reason here, Paige?"

"Well after what happened with Marge, I have been going to a few study groups with Mary, but nothing official."

"Only Father Cruz can do that, well, actually the…" began Mary.

"Don't care! Don't care! Forget I asked, can we get back to business?"

"Long story short Tim knows if he goes Iowa, he goes Army and they will put him on the front lines, he has not shown any skill worth having that would make them keep him off the front lines and I know the people over there would just push him to the front, they will figure that he will man up when the time comes." said Steve.

"So he dies, not our problem. My problem is he is useless and wants a job on the council. Do the people think we don't go out and do things anymore? Hell, Steve you were just out at the wasteland trench two days ago. Is the perception that sitting on the council means staying out of danger?"

They sat and thought about it for a moment, then Alex said, "I think only Tim believes that. I haven't heard any one else say it, Tim thinks if he can get a seat here, he can make a job that doesn't require him to face the zombies. He wants to be safe again, watch Monday night football, and maybe throw back a few beers."

"Then he is a dead man. That will never happen, it's over, it's all over. Is he a drinker?"

Leon answered, "No drinking, no real friends. Look, Dora the only people who listen to him are those who are scared themselves, he ignores the kids, so that leaves, what forty adults for him to persuade and seven of those adults are here, plus we are not even elected officials, we are a dictatorship. If you went out and shot the man in the head no one would do a damned thing."

"Hm." Dora scratched her head, thoughtfully, "I could…"

"No." Paige said, "You can't. We are here because we agree with you that there really isn't anywhere safer, you start shooting people in the head and they will start thinking it isn't safe." she raised her hand in a 'stop' gesture before Dora could respond, "I know you don't give a fuck, but who would take care of the kids? And I know you give a fuck about what happens to them, don't even deny it. We got four kids fourteen and under to every adult here, you want to make that ratio ten to one? I don't."

"Okay, so what do we do? He won't leave voluntarily, he won't do anything useful."

"We have to be creative." said Mary.

"If he could only build like he led us to believe, I mean even as a laborer he might be useful, but he thinks he knows things, and he doesn't, so he won't follow direction. Do we want to make a slave class? Put him in chains and bring out the whips to force him to do what we need?"

Leon sat up and grimaced at Dora, "Probably not a good idea."

"Oh, sorry, I was just throwing that out, maybe more like a chain gang thing than slavery?"

"What about a babysitter?" asked Paige.

"Does he get along with the kids?" asked Steven.

"Well not really, but if offered that instead of exile he might take it."

"And I don't want him influencing the children, they can smell fear. He would make them nervous." said Mary.

"Okay, this isn't going anywhere, no one wants him. How about this. We have the water tower now right?" asked Dora. Alex nodded. "Won't we need a guard out there?"

"Well not really…" began Alex who stopped when Dora stared daggers at him, "Maybe we could use someone to flip on the generator when we needed the pump to come on."

"So we could build him a fucking bunker out there under the tower, is there a shack or fence or something around it? When I was a kid they had our town water towers fenced in to keep kids from climbing on them."

"Yeah, a chain link fence. And a shed, but it was insulated and heated to keep the equipment from freezing, no air conditioning though."

"So we bunker his ass in, lock the fence up and give him a walkie-talkie so we can tell him when to flip the switch."

"Dora I was going to use a wireless relay to do that, so we wouldn't have to risk anyone being there all the time, it is about a mile outside of Doraville." said Leon.

"Not helping."

"No, but seriously we are going to make up a position so he doesn't have to do anything?"

"I wanted to exile him, boot his ass out, you are the ones who said he won't go. Then I offered to shoot him…" Dora said.

"All I am saying is it a drain on food, gas and other resources."

"I got that Leon. I will still shoot him."

"No, let's just try this, we can mention to him that maybe Leon can do a wireless thing in a few weeks and we won't need him there anymore. And I will go have a heart to heart talk with him when we drop him off. I won't hold anything back. See Dora? You're not the only one who can handle the shit details." said Steven.

"She'd have too much fun doing it anyway." Paige added.

Dora nodded, "Well water got mentioned, I think we should try and find the water mains and cut off the other neighborhoods."

"We are trying. Paige mentioned it to me this morning, Tim obviously didn't go today, but I've got the address of the water building from the phone book and I think I can get over there tomorrow with a few of the older kids. If we have to dig up and cut off a few water pipes I think we could do it, I know where to get the heavy equipment. Plus we still have the bulldozer." They had used the bulldozer to push the zombie bodies into the bombed out area to the north of Doraville.

"Food wise we are looking great, the army brought us enough stuff to last us for months yesterday. We won't like it much now, but it will keep us from starving." Mary said.

"So we get the hall done, get the water squared away and we are all set. Is that about right?" asked Dora.

"I think we need to get more for people to do during the winter." said Freddie, "Not now, but I've lived here for four years, winter could be long and boring, people are going to go stir-crazy. Do we have enough video games for all the kids to play?"

"Not a bad idea. Could we raid a toy store or Wal-Mart or something just for toys and games? Even the adults might want to play after two months inside. But later, say after the first snow? We gotta get that hall finished."

"That takes labor and between guarding twenty four hours a day, feeding the kids and scavenging the other things we need for winter we have no one really left to work. Every person counts. I say we give Alex no more than two days to find the water mains, after that he gets to work on the hall with Freddie to help tell the kids what to do." said Paige.

"I could use the help." Freddie admitted, "I can't supervise so many and the kids I have are fourteen years old. I am going to need more than one other adult with me on the project. We have everything for the outside walls and roof now, probably too much stuff for the roof. And I know Tim didn't do shit for the foundation, it's on pylons, even I read the book that said that isn't suitable for buildings."

"Well lucky us, there are no building codes any more. We have to make it work for this year. Next year we can build a new hall. So Alex goes for two days?" asked Dora. The council members all nodded yes. "And Tim is offered the job at the water tower or to go to Iowa?" again a series of nods. "Thanks, Steven for offering to take care of that. I am going to be there when you tell him, so he knows we mean it. Just for the record does everyone still feel we need to build the bunkhouse?"

The other council members nodded or answered 'Yes' one by one.

"Okay then we'll proceed with building it. Maybe some more adults will wander in and help out with it. Unless anyone has anything else…no?" Dora paused to let the others bring up other issues, no one did. "Then I pronounce the meeting adjourned."

Chapter 27

In the wasteland northwest of Doraville

Jeff Harvey was in his element. He was hunting slow zombies out in the wreckage of the waste land with three of the older children. The kids all had guns and knew how to act around the living dead. They kept their pistols in hand and the safeties off. Jeff had a shotgun slung over his shoulder, not one of the newer ones they had taken from a raid on the sporting department, but an old double barreled model he had inherited from his grandfather before z-day.

The barrel was short, it might have been legal before the fall of civilization, or perhaps it hadn't been. His grandfather and dad always referred to it as a 'coach gun', it used standard twelve gauge shells and kicked like a mule when fired. Jeff loved using it for close fighting; there was nothing better to drop zombies in his opinion.

The pistols they all carried had make shift silencers on them, twenty ounce plastic pop bottles duct taped over the barrels. Everyone carried more duct tape and an extra empty bottle or two in case the ones they had now were damaged. The idea was to suppress the noise of firing enough so that other zombies would not come running and mob the group. So far the strategy had worked well.

Jeff and the kids had left a middle aged housewife named Sally and the doctor's son, Peter, back at the trench at the edge between Doraville and the wasteland. Those two would be on watch and act as a backup should Jeff and the kids run into trouble.

Jeff's team had an afternoon of hunting and if they could make it out of the bombed out section of town they would try their hand at a little looting too. The kids Jeff was going out with were Jack, Willy and Nadine. The youngest was Nadine at twelve, Jack and Willy were both fourteen and practically inseparable. People had tried to split them up and have them work in different areas, but sooner or later, usually within an hour, both boys would be doing whatever one had been assigned to. Now no one even tried to keep them apart, it was just easier to work them together. Today they were partnered up to the right side of Jeff and Nadine and they were getting a little ahead of the others. So far Willy had been the only one to take a zed down; he put killed a morbidly obese zombie that was stuck in the watery mud at the bottom of one of the many craters littering the area.

Jeff had a theory about the zombies; it was like when one of them died the others around the dead one knew about it and swarmed to the area. Kind of like bees would emit a chemical to let their colony know there was danger present when they were killed. Of course Jeff was not too well educated, that was just something he recalled reading in a magazine at the dentist's office one day when he was a kid.

The light zombie activity was unusual, typically the zombies wandered in aimlessly to fill any voids or open space. The slow ones, tended to group if something interesting happened, like say, someone started screaming. Today Jeff wanted to see what lay beyond the wasteland, he knew that it ended in a series of houses, but he thought there were some stores in that direction too. The group had not scouted this direction before and there might be some good loot they could use. The main reason no one had made it too far in this direction is that every time someone tried they ended up in a pitched battle and had to retreat to the trench at the edge of Doraville.

'Today will be different, I can feel it.' Jeff said to himself, 'The zombies are just not around.'

If he could he would test his theory at the same time. He had gone so far as to tell the kids not to kill any zombies they could avoid, to pull the trigger only as a last resort if someone's life were in danger. The kids had wanted to know why and he explained it to them. Will and Nadine thought Jeff might be right, Jack was more skeptical, but was willing to test the theory.

For the trip the group had brought along a set of Motorola walkie-talkies and small digital video camera, the thing only took low resolution videos, but had the benefit of operating on double 'A' batteries, which were still plentiful. Jeff really doubted he would use any of the electrical gear, noise tended to draw unwanted attention.

The other radio was back in the trench with Sally and his radio was turned off, the kids didn't carry any electric gear at all. This was against the official rules of the town, but radios, no matter how small, added bulk and the temptation to use one could be too great. All four members of the group were very quiet; they knew how to move in the rubble and urban environment.

Jeff thought the kids had undergone a form of transformation, a sort of metamorphosis from child to something he could not quite put his finger on. The way they moved in the wild was feral and shifted between that of a predator and prey at any given moment depending on the circumstances.

Normally a scouting mission was a dangerous undertaking and this early evening journey would be no different, but Jeff was glad to get out of town. After the council meeting today Dora, old man Leon and Steve had went to talk to Tim Grub over in the backyard where the new building was supposed to be going up. On the way out they had passed Jeff coming in to talk to Steve and Leon had gestured for him to follow them next door to talk to Tim.

Things got ugly real fast. Tim had smiled that dumb grin of his and asked something like 'Have you come to offer me a place on the council?'

Steve shook his head and explained in very clear terms what Tim's options were. Steve gestured at the lack of building progress, even Jeff knew there was no way the place would be built in time for winter, not at the rate it was going, they didn't even have a floor yet! Then Tim started shaking and his face turned red. He was wearing a pistol, almost everyone did, but Jeff had his shotgun couched in his arms and he had already been letting the barrel drift towards the man as the tempers flared.

Jeff may not have been the brightest bulb in the pack but after the fur started flying he knew why Leon had wanted him, or rather him and his gun, at the confrontation. He knew he had not won any points with Tim this afternoon, but what the hell, no one liked that weaselly bastard Tim anyway. Still, being out of town for the night on patrol was a good way to let the man cool down before they ran into each other again.

Dora stayed silent through most of the arguing, Jeff thought she had looked a little under the weather, finally she chimed in and what she said stopped all the fighting and practically had Tim in tears. Jeff could not remember exactly what her words were, but he knew things like 'cowardly', 'lazy' and 'fired' came up with something about shipping him off to Iowa the next time the guardsmen came by.

For some reason, when Dora said that last bit, it took all the fight and anger right out of the man. Jeff didn't know why Tim didn't want to go to Iowa, they had electricity, water and were still fighting at least. Everyone who opted to stay in Doraville had their own reasons for remaining. For Jeff it was simple; he had been to Iowa before, the state voted 'best rest stops in America for twenty years running' held no appeal for him. At least if he was going to die, Jeff would do it in the state he was born in, fighting to defend it to the bitter end. For now, at least, the bitter end was Doraville.

Taking up his position Jeff gestured with his lowered left hand and the boys leap frogged him and Nadine. Jeff raised a small telescope to his eye to track their progress and watch for Jack's signal to move forward. When Jack gave it he indicated that he needed Jeff to stop next to him to talk. Jeff and Nadine moved up abreast to the boys and stopped. Jack leaned over close to Jeff's ear and said, "Two zombies ahead, one is a slinker."

'Slinker' was their name for a zombie that was between the really smart ones and the really dumb ones, these zombies were clever in their own way, but not as smart as a human. The slinkers tended to stay low to the crowd, to dodge behind cover and they were known to set up ambushes, like herding a group of slow zombies in from one direction while they attacked from another. They were not as bad as the super zombies, but they made a lot of problems for the night watch, so Jeff liked to kill them when he could.

Jeff shook his head and signed that they would go around. He tried to use a few bits of actual sign language to indicate that they would get the slinker when they returned. Willy seemed to understand, he nodded at least, Nadine and Jack took a moment to think about it and then nodded too. Jeff was not sure either knew what he said in sign, but they did understand the signal to 'go around'.

The sign language was an idea Jeff had come up with, to help them communicate better in the field. On one of the trips to a book store Jeff had grabbed a couple copies of 'American Sign Language' and they had been studying it for the last few days. The kids loved the idea, but were not so fast to catch on yet except for Willy, who seemed to pick it up easily, surpassing even Jeff's abilities.

Just because Jack had called them over did not mean that Nadine and Jeff were off the hook for the rest of the leap frog effort, they still had the point for another hundred yards or so. The two of them set out to flank the zombie keeping mounds of debris between the slinker and where they were moving. Jeff also kept an eye out for other threats ahead, and he was glad he did. They had moved forward about a hundred yards and Jeff spotted another pair of zombies, they were staring over the open debris towards Doraville. Jeff hunkered down and gestured for Willy and Jack to come up to him again. A minute later Jack was by his side, like a shadow come to life.

Jeff thought about signing, then shook his head and leaned in close, "Another slinker and another slow zombie. What the fuck is this? They are just standing there, like the other ones we saw."

"Let's kill them and be done with it. We can do it quick and quiet."

"I know we can. But I don't want to. No killing, something is up. Why are they just standing there? And the slow zombie is not even in cover at all, we could pick him off from here."

Jack looked at them again, "Slinker is down in partial cover, slo-zom is up and an easy target." he paused, thinking then whispered, "It is a trap. Slo-zom is bait."

Jack nodded, then shook his head, "Two sets of watchers this close together?"

"Go back?" Jack shook his head 'no'.

Pulling out the video camera Jack rose up quietly just enough to film the zombies, saying to himself as he did, 'Do not see me, do not see me…' and sweating with fear. He was certain there was something going on and it was bigger than two sets of what he could only think of as watchers keeping an eye on Doraville.

"We can pass through them." he whispered to Jack as he ducked back down from filming. Jack tucked the camera back into the padded black case on his belt. He then drew a crude diagram in the dirt. "Right ahead of us is a basement, where the house burned, we can scramble through that, there is a trailer in the road that will shield us from this group, so we only have to watch out for the other guys out front that we already passed. They shouldn't be looking behind them and we'll be safe if we are quiet."

Jack nodded and went off to explain the plan to Willy while Nadine came up to Jeff for a quick briefing. They never gathered in more than pairs when out of town on a scouting mission, that way they increased the chance that only one group would be seen and the others could get back to town to report what happened.

This time Jeff did lead the way, Nadine stuck with him staying about ten feet away and slightly to his left. She stayed much too close for normal, but they had only a narrow path to go down between the two groups. They leap frogged successfully and the scout mission went on another quarter of a mile before Jack again signaled for him to stop next to him.

Jack was in one of the last bomb craters on the edge of the wasteland. Approaching the boy Jeff immediately saw the problem. There were supers ahead. Jeff knew they were supers because they looked alive but there were other undead around them who showed no interest in eating them. The super zombies were rare, maybe one in a thousand. Jeff was not sure why some of the dead came back smart and fast, and other came back slow, but he was glad that the proportion that did was relatively small.

Supers could be differentiated from slinkers and 'slow-zoms' by the way they acted. They looked around, their motions were far more fluid than other zombies and they very much did not spend time 'doing nothing'. It was like they were alive. These supers were gesturing towards an old car, which had all of its windows blown out by the bomb blasts, but otherwise looked okay. At least one of the other undead was a slinker and Jeff counted five more slow zoms too.

He signed 'shit' to Jack who nodded agreement behind the wall of earth between them and the zombies.

'What now?' Jack signed.

Leaning in Jeff whispered very quietly into the boy's ear, "Go back? What do you think?"

Jack edged up to the top of the crater, Jeff could see his lips moving in the all too familiar mantra most of the scouts used, 'Do not see me. Do not see me.' and smiled. Sliding back down he leaned over and whispered, "I think this is weird. The watchers. The supers. Something is not right. What do we do?"

"Can you distract them? You and Will make some noise and run, shoot them only if you have to?"

Jack nodded, "Then you and Nadine go through the hole, right?"

Jeff nodded.

"Piece of cake for us, what will you do when they come back?"

Jeff grinned again, "Kill them."

Jack's face fell into a frown, they all knew how unlikely it was for a human to win against a super zombie. The things were fast and strong and did not feel pain. Only a blow to the head could kill them and they just kept coming until that blow was landed. The boy shook his head 'no'.

"Okay then you keep them distracted for long enough for me to get a few blocks over and we will circle around and come back another way."

Jack nodded agreement with this plan, then whispered, "We will go back to the first line and make a distraction, not too close to here."

"Good plan, do it."

Jack went to explain the plan to Willy while Nadine came up to Jeff. He gave her the brief synopsis of what they were going to do and made sure she was ready. Jeff was certain this was a risky maneuver, but he was equally sure that this strange behavior was no good for the inhabitants of Doraville, they needed to find out what was going on.

Chapter 28

"What the fuck is it?" Dora yelled into a walkie-talkie. She was still not feeling good and sure she was about ready to throw up again. It was past midnight and she was supposed to have been asleep two hours ago at Mary's orders. Her yell brought Mike running in his boxers to her room, with Roger's military rifle in his hands. She waved him off in the dim light of the single LED she kept lit on the dresser next to all the walkie-talkies. Mike mumbled something incoherently and moved over to sit on a chair next to Roger's dresser.

The radio crackled and static made the words hard to hear, "Do-problem you nee-with. Over."

"Problem. I got that there is a problem, where at? Who is this?"

"Sharon, Peter, Willy out at th- land. Over."

Sharon? Dora thought for a second, Paige moved in from the hallway to stand in the doorway. "You hear that? Sharon, where is she tonight?"

"The trench, with Mary's kid and…uh, Sally, I think she is giving them breaks tonight. Willy? He was out earlier with Jeff on a scout, they hadn't come back yet. They must have found something." Paige disappeared from the doorway, Dora did not doubt for a second she was going to get dressed and head over to the wasteland trench.

Speaking slowly and clearly into the radio Dora said, "Sharon we are on our way over there now. Do you need more help than the three of us?"

"May-. Coul-bring coffee and bandages?"

"Do you need the doctor?"

"Negative. No Mary needed. Just — f ban-ges."

"Affirmative, we are on our way, be there in ten." to Mike Dora said, "Get dressed lover, time to go to work. Paige! Put a pot on will ya?"

Sammy Jenkins came running up the stairs to Dora's house, almost colliding with Mike. The little boy was eight years old and had the formal 'night shift' manning the clinic. This meant that he was supposed to wake up Dora if anything happened and that he had to try and stay awake as long as he could. Dora had come up with the idea for using the little kids for duties like this to stretch their manpower as far as possible. Even if the kid fell asleep it was rarely a big deal, they would wake up when the doors started getting pounded or when their walkie-talkies went off. One universal trait all the survivors seemed to share was sleeping light and waking up fast.

That didn't mean they weren't grumpy though, thought Dora, pulling on her clothing with reluctance and looking at her bed with longing. Sammy just stared at her as she changed, not saying anything. The boy didn't react to Dora's casual nudity or turn away. 'He's a strange one,' she though, then asked, "You got hot water down there?"

He nodded. Sammy was not big on talking and looked as if he had been sleeping too. "Got cocoa. Just made it before you started yelling."

"You know how to make coffee?"

The boy shook his head.

"Ah well hot water is good. You were still awake?"

Sammy nodded his head and said softly, "Yeah."

"Pretty good. Pretty damn good, kid. Anything else happen tonight?"

"Just talk. Willy came back. With Jack. No Jeff. No Nadine."


"I liked Jeff. He was teaching me to sign."

"I liked him too, doesn't mean something happened to him."

Sammy just looked at her with his big brown eyes, then turned and went down the stairs without nodding or saying anything.

"Fuck." Dora said softly. Jeff was a decent guy, had a way with the kids, like Alex and Mary. And he wasn't all religious and crap like they were. Going to her closet Dora pulled on some tennis shoes and headed to the kitchen.

In the kitchen Paige already had a large thermos filled with coffee, she had used a French press and taken the hot water from Sammy to brew a quick pot.

"Any left?"

Paige handed her a medium sized travel mug, then another to Mike, before the trio headed out the door she grabbed a third mug for herself. Dora noted with some disgust that her cup was the smallest.

"How come I always get short straw these days?" she asked Paige while lifting her mug up.

"I didn't see any point to wasting it, you got the flu right? Chances are you are just going to toss it back up. How are you feeling?"

"Fine." Dora said in an even tone, "Thirsty, in need of caffeine, but otherwise fine."

The small group made their way up the street and greeted one of the men walking around on watch, he was smoking a cigarette and nodded as he passed. On the rooftops Dora could see other people on guard and tracking them with their scopes.

"I feel so secure. Remind me to be really, extra nice at the next town meeting." Dora said.

"Why?" asked Paige.

"Well in our new democracy everyone has a gun and takes turns pointing it at people from a rooftop. I wouldn't want there to be any mistakes."

"Everyone loves you, Dora. You got nothing to worry about."

Dora shrugged her shoulders and said nothing in reply. She was getting angry however, as the coffee went down her desire to puke it back up had grown stronger. Finally she could not hold it in anymore and took two quick steps off of the sidewalk to vomit on the grass where it would not be noticed.

"You okay? You better see Mary about this, it's been two days already."

Dora waved her hand, shooing Paige away as she stood up and wiped her mouth on her sleeve. "It'll pass, it always does. I wonder how many people the flu is going to kill this year with no vaccinations?"

"God, why would you say such a thing?"

Shrugging again Dora stood up straight and started walking. "We will have to think about it eventually, we are lucky half of us are not down at once, what would we do for the perimeter guards then?" Tapping the side of her head, Dora continued, "See? Your beloved leader thinks of these things so you peasants can just play and have fun all day long. I am lucky my hair isn't gray yet."

They turned right at the end of the block and headed towards the inner fence. There was one kid on guard there and he was dozing in his seat. Dora thought he looked about eight years old.

"Wakey-wakey and open the gatey-gatey." she said to him poking his chest with her rifle barrel. The boy barely moved at first, and then groggily stood up and started turning a crank that slid the gates open about three feet.

"This the best use for our kids?" Dora asked Paige after they had passed through and the chain link gate clanged shut behind them.

"Like Mike is much more than zombie walking right now." Paige said.

Dora looked over and it was true, Mike looked like he was asleep on his feet, just shuffling forward slowly beside them.

"Mike? You awake?"

He turned his face towards her and winked, "Not sleeping. Just thinking."

"You? A hidden talent! Tell us what you are thinking about!"

Mike gestured towards the next gate, which was only about half a block out from the first one. "I am thinking there should be a guard there. And there isn't, so I am wondering why not."

The little group scattered, going to ground in the uncut grass next to the sidewalk. Scanning the rooftops Dora could not see the sniper who was also supposed to be watching the gate as backup.

"Fuck. Where are they? It looks like the gate is closed to me."

"It is. I will go on point and see what I can see, cover me.", Mike hunched over and ran a zig-zag pattern towards the guard house.

He gestured Dora and Paige up a few minutes later. They crept up at a slower pace and saw nothing amiss, other than the guard was gone.

"Who is on outer ring tonight Paige?"

"Leroy, with Susan Bower on sniper."

"You put them together?" Dora asked, Paige shook her head, "Well I know where they are."

Dora set off for the closest house, the door was no longer on the front and she walked through, carefully avoiding broken glass and the few fall leaves that had blown in. Paige and Mike followed behind her, with a gesture Dora set Mike to watching out the front door while Paige and Dora worked their way into the house. Creeping up the carpeted stairs like ghosts the two made their way to the former master bedroom, there was still a bed there and there was a dim glow of LED light in the room. This house was used as a sort of rest and relaxation area for the second ring guards, so the windows had all been painted black on the second story to prevent any light from getting outside. From inside the room came some animal grunting noises and the quiet slapping of flesh against flesh.

This was not the first time Leroy had been caught away from his post, it was not even the second. The man liked to fuck, pair him up with a female and the odds were good he would make a play for her before his shift ended. How he managed to flirt the distance from the rooftop to the guard station, Dora couldn't figure out.

No one had ever heard the man on the walkie-talkies, and the women he hooked up with never discussed what happened either. The last time Dora had come down on Leroy hard, or rather Leon had, at Dora's request. The guy didn't listen to women well, apparently he didn't listen to his elders much either. Susan was Leroy's latest conquest, a Caucasian woman about forty years old, she would not have been much to look at six weeks ago, but the available choices had dwindled Leroy's options down quite a bit. She didn't seem to mind the attention either. It was almost love, or so the gossips speculated.

Paige looked at Dora's face and the older woman flashed her a keen smile and gestured for them to go forward. The made it to the doorway and silently stood watching as Leroy pounded into Susan in a classic missionary position. He was a noisy love maker, while Susan just clawed his back and threw her head back on the pillows until she was almost facing the head board. Both were completely nude, their clothing was piled on the floor at the foot of the bed. Dora almost giggled, but managed to stop herself, looking at Paige she saw the other woman staring curiously at the couple on the bed.

Dora leaned over, "Never saw an African American naked before in real life?"

"Just the kids, when we bath them. I saw some porn on the internet. I thought, well…I don't know…that he would…."

"He'd be hung like a horse? Me too! I am glad that myth got cleared up."

The two on the bed were not finished yet, in fact they hadn't noticed their audience. Leroy was talking dirty to her now, which caused Paige to blush fiercely.

"I really hate to stop them before they finish, but it looks like it might be awhile and we need to get out the gate." shrugging her shoulders Dora straightened and cleared her throat loudly.

Leroy looked back over his shoulder at her, reaching over for his rifle while balancing on one hand. The fact that he kept grinding into Susan at the same time amazed Dora, if only Roger had displayed such dexterity!

"Oh, it's you."

"Yeah Leroy, me. Are you on gate duty tonight? Oh, hi Susan! I didn't notice you there!"

Susan looked like she wanted to shrink into herself and clawed frantically at the bed covers trying to pull them up over herself. Leroy didn't get up off of her and indeed, kept making moving up and down on her as she struggled.

"Oh don't stop fucking on my account, Leroy! We just needed to get through the gate. The one you are supposed to be guarding. If you want to give Susan a lift down there hanging off the front of you while you open it up, that'd be fine."

Finally the man gave one last thrust and then rolled off of Susan, who wrapped the blanket around her. "Shit, Dora, I am sorry. You know? I, we didn't mean anything by it, but there isn't anything going on tonight and we were bored."

"Yeah, yeah, lunch break, okay. Look I don't mind you two going at it like rabbits, but in the future could you do it on the roof or in the guard house? At least then you might see the zombies coming." Susan pulled the covers more firmly over her as Leroy disengaged causing Dora to giggle, "Don't bother, Susan I've seen you naked already, and nothing will ever take that away from me now. Get dressed and let us through, then get back to your positions, I mean back to your posts. We are plan on heading back through here within fifteen minutes."

"Thanks Dora! Thanks! In the guard shack? Okay, okay, we can do that." Leroy said as he quickly pulled on his clothing. In a moment he was done except for his shoes and socks, which he picked up and carried with him back downstairs and outside. They left Susan wrapped in her blanket and followed Leroy out to the guard house.

"Nothing happening out here. Glad you found them okay." Mike said as they came out.

Leroy stopped and propped his gun against the plywood shack that served as the outer guard station. They waited while he pulled on his footwear and then waited a little longer until Susan appeared on the roof of the house overlooking the shack. Waving to her they moved through the gates.

"Leroy, we are coming back through here in a few. Do not disappear on us, there is something going on tonight. You got it?" Dora tried to sound stern.

"Yes, Dora. Thanks again for being so cool about the lunch break."

The three of them walked towards the final fence where the trench was dug in along one side of the wasteland. The 'outer fence' was really not much more than a loosely strung together set of chain link running from building to building. There were holes in it, it did not run all the way to the ground in some places and it was not very good at keeping out slinkers or the wonder twins, as the little girl super zombies were called.

Fortunately the girls had not been seen for about four days and there had been a noticeable lack of slinkers in the past week as well. Dora suspected most of the tougher zombies were fighting it out with the Iowan National Guard further to the east.

As they approached the trench a voice cried out ahead of them, it sound to Dora like it was Peter.

"Run! Run! They are coming!" The voice got closer and Mike and Paige had their rifles raised and aimed towards the trench. Gunfire erupted ahead of them; the flashes from the gunfire were oddly muted, except for one rifle, the M16, if Dora guessed right. Normally the three of them would have gone prone and started looking for targets, but when someone yells 'run' they tended to mean it. Risking a light Dora flashed one towards the trench.

Directly in front of them, running down the street towards them was Peter, he was not carrying his weapon. Behind him all she could see were zombies, the trench was either overwhelmed or had been surrounded. Dora's light was not that powerful so the shapes moving around were more like shadows than definable people. That detail did not stop Paige and Mike from firing, even on the move they both scored hits.

"Don't the fuck shoot our people!" yelled Dora.

They are done for, no one can get out of that." Paige replied calmly.

Dora flicked her light off and turned around to run for the inner gate, Paige and Mike kept up a steady rate of fire while walking backwards behind her. Peter ran past Dora and reached the second gate before she did. A shot rang out from the guard house and Peter fell over backward. A low voice called out from behind the shut gate, but Dora could not make out what it said. Veering to the side Dora worried less about Peter and more about why the gate was not opening.

Reaching one side of guard shack where she could not be easily seen from inside of it, Dora peered up to see what was happening inside the inner gate. On the ground Peter was twisting around in pain, he did not cry out, in the dim light Dora saw he had one hand pressed to the top of his head, with the other he was trying to push himself up.

Inside the guard shack Dora saw Leroy, his back was to the firing slot cut into the shack. The man was yelling up to the rooftop and raising his fist in the air.

"I got her, the bitch is dead, a clean shot into the head baby!" Leroy yelled back at the house where Susan was.

If Susan replied it was lost in the gunfire behind Dora. She had heard enough, there was no mistaking who the 'bitch' was.

'That fucking bastard.' Dora thought, 'and here I was cutting him slack about the sex and all.' She dropped her coffee cup and brought her rifle up, aiming it through the gun slit she fired three shots into Leroy's back. The young man pitched forward and lay on the ground with his feet facing the door. Leroy was not moving and Dora could not see any sign of him breathing either.

Bracing the rifle carefully she put a final shot through his head for good measure. From where she was at Dora could not get a shot off at Susan on the roof, in fact she could not even see the woman at all. Dora could hear the woman's long, loud scream pierce the night, and bullets started peppering the guard shack.

Pulling back and ducking down to below the gun slit level, Dora let go of her rifle with one hand and grabbed Peter's ankle, she pulled the boy towards her and then off to one side of the guard house, making every effort to stay close to the wooden fence that made up most of the second layer of defenses. From where she was at Dora did not think that she could be seen by Susan. However, she could not get over the fence without being seen either, for the moment she didn't want to climb the fence. On the ground by her feet Peter started throwing up.

"Fuck, not good." Dora said softly to herself.

Looking back out towards Mike and Paige she saw they were slinging their guns and making a run for the gate. Dora dropped Peter's ankle and pulled out her flashlight, she turned it on and covered the end with her hand. Then she flashed the light at Paige and Mike as they ran towards the gate. Paige saw the light and veered towards Dora, grabbing Mike's arm to steer him that way as well. They arrived out of breath and Dora gestured them to silence. Behind them, in the trench a rapid series of shots rang out.

No more shots came from Susan's roof, which was good, Dora knew that while Susan might not be able to see the group, she also knew that bullets could fly through the thin wood of the fence with relative ease. The group had concealment from Susan, but no actual cover.

"Leroy shot Peter. He though it was me, told Susan he 'shot the bitch'." Dora told the other two.

"Are you sure they were talking about you?" asked Mike.

"Does someone else have the 'bitch' title too? I thought there were no competitors?"

"Mary is a contender." Mike said, then he realized that Peter had stopped throwing up and was looking at him, "Well, no offense or anything, Peter. I like her like I like Dora, but you know…" Mike shrugged his shoulders.

"Stop while you're ahead. We gotta move in case Susan decides to shoot up the fence, unless you guys can think of a better idea?"

"Move around the wall a quarter mile then up and over. And hope we don't get shot by a sniper." suggested Mike.

"No." Paige said, "I have a better idea."

Chapter 29

"Get a couple guys and get over to the North gate." Paige said into her radio, "Leroy shot Peter, so we need Mary. Yeah, it's bad. He's still alive right now, so hurry. Leon?"

"Yes Paige?" Leon asked.

"Susan is shooting at us, and there are zombies between the trench and the second fence. So hurry."

"I am on my way."

"Watch out for Susan, last we saw her she was on the roof overlooking the guard tower."

"We will take care of her, Paige. One way or the other. What about Leroy?"

Paige looked at Dora, who shook her head slightly in the starlight. "He didn't make it Leon."

"Got it, one less thing to worry about. I'm headed your way now, I will be there in about two minutes, tops."

Mike asked, "Are we going to move? Paige and I shot a half dozen slow zeds around the trench, more were headed this way."

"When they show up, we move. Or if Susan starts firing through the fence. I don't think we should move Peter unless we have to."

From the other side of the fence they heard rapid footsteps and then a woman started sobbing and screaming, it was Susan by the sound of it.

"Well shit." whispered Dora.

"Three of us with guns to one of her." Paige said quietly.

Mike raised his gun, pantomiming firing through the fence. Dora pressed her hand against the barrel, pushing it downward while she shook her head.

"Go by the shack, try and get a bead on her, if she tries to shoot us we shoot first." Dora said by way of planning.

"I go first." said Mike, taking point.

Dora moved to move into second place, but Paige strong armed her to the last position, whispering, "Sick people and head shot kids stay behind." Peter was not standing or moving, he was conscious and his eyes were as big as saucers, with small pinpoints for pupils. Dora had been taught by Mary to recognize shock and had seen it all too often over the past month and a half from the wounded the guard brought in. Not paying attention to Paige, she followed the woman a few steps to the side of the guard shack, readying her rifle.

"Drop your gun, Susan!" Mike shouted as he leaned around the guard house and pointed his rifle at the woman, who was sobbing over Leroy's body. "Drop it!"

Paige was aiming through the rifle slot, pointed her rifle in the same manner that Dora had when she shot Leroy. Dora stood up enough to peer through the window of the shed and look at Susan. The other woman's tear streaked face was staring at Mike's rifle, her hand was still on the handle of her rifle, her finger on the trigger. Slowly Susan's eyes slid over to take in Paige and finally Dora. When their eyes finally locked into place Susan started shaking, the trembles went down her face to her neck, then to her shoulder and arm.

"Don't do it!" Paige shouted. Susan's finger tightened on the trigger, she nudged her rifle sideways with her knee and fired off a shot towards Mike, then tried to roll sideways. Mike let out a yell, but got a shot off and Paige fired three times, all of the shots hit Susan. Dora could not tell who had hit Susan in the head, but someone had, the woman simply slumped over her lover's body.

"Fuck. I don't…" Dora started, before realizing that Mike was down. He was clutching his lower leg and softly swearing. Dora and Paige went to him to see how badly he was hurt.

"Fucking hurts."

"You got shot, of course it hurts." said Dora, trying to maintain her usual bravado.

"Move your hand and let us look." Paige said.

Mike took pressure off of his leg and Paige slowly pulled up the pant leg over the wound to expose the damage. Upon viewing it Dora leaned sideways and vomited. Bone shards were sticking out of the back of Mike's leg, his calf looked like a bowl full of extra red sauce spaghetti, complete with meatballs. Mike took one look at Dora, asked "That bad?" and then fainted onto his back. Dora reached forward to catch his head and keep it from hitting the pavement; she vomited on her arm in the process filling the air with an acidic coffee smell.

"— Uck! This night jes' keeps getting better!" she mumbled trying to spit and hold Mike's head.

"Zombies." Paige said, aiming her rifle down the street towards the trench. She fired three times, hitting two of the closest zombies. Dora retched again.

"Dora! Less puking, more gunfire!"

Groaning Dora dropped Mike's head and reached for her own rifle, then stretched out on the ground prone to start firing at the zombies. She did move over enough before she started firing to avoid laying in her own tossed cookies. Less than a minute later a worried voice called out from behind the second fence, "Paige? Dora?"

"Yeah Leon, we are here, open the gate will ya?"

"Sure thing."

"Peter? Peter? Madre de Dios! Peter!" yelled Mary, trying to haul the gate open forcefully.

"Over there." Dora said pointing at the boy.

"I told you we shouldn't have kids in the trench. How many times have I told you?"

"Every other day, at least. He wasn't in the trench. Leroy shot him, no zombies got him."

The gate finally opened wide enough for Mary to squeeze through she rushed to her son with a backpack she used for emergencies.

"Oh God! Oh God! Please, Lord save my son! Please God!"

Alex came through the gate next, he took up a kneeling position on the other side of Peter and added his gunfire to Paige's. Leon and five other teens came through after that, Leon squatted down to examine Mike.

Dora waited until he was done, then gave him a questioning look, to which he answered, "It's bad. Mary, bandages please or Mike might bleed to death."

Mary had a flashlight out and was examining Peter's head. Peter was not responsive, his pupils were pinpoints. Dora watched the woman, who paused for a moment and shook off her hysteria, then very carefully and clearly said, "Well this is not too bad. Peter you will live through this. You are going to be okay." The boy seemed to take that as a cue to pass out. Mary nodded and tossed Leon a few packs of gauze and some bandages to hold it in place.

Leon and the younger boy from the first gate wound Mike's leg up, the blood soaked through it, so they kept adding gauze and wrapping to apply more pressure. Mary was taking similar action with Peter's head, glancing at Leon's work she snapped, "Harder, Leon, you have to bind it tighter!"

Leon nodded and pulled with much more force, the dripping blood slowed to a trickle. In a moment they were done and he said, "We got to get inside the gates, we didn't bring enough ammo for a long fight."

Two of the teens stopped firing into the zombies and helped bring Peter and Mike inside the perimeter. The rest of them then started to make a fighting withdrawal into Doraville. Alex stopped to help Dora up.

"You wounded?" he asked gazing at her wet arm and her legs.

Dora looked down and discovered her pants were covered in blood. "No, I don't think so." The blood was from where Dora had dragged Peter to safety after Leroy shot him. Following the trail with her eyes Dora noticed a black rectangle lying on the ground, close to where Peter had been.

"What is that?" she asked pointing.

Alex bent down and picked it up. It was a digital video camera, covered in electrical tape to make it black. On the back a flap had been fashioned into a crude hinge that covered a small square video screen. "Digital video camera." Alex said, handing it to Dora, "Yours?"

"No. Did Peter have one?"


"But, he had this one."

"It looks like it."

"Dora, Alex!" Paige called, "Talk once the gate is closed behind you!"

Moving behind the fence Dora watched wistfully as Mike and Peter were hauled away, more people had shown up at the North gate, the word had gone out that there was trouble. Dora did not feel up to explaining what was going on, especially not why Leroy and Susan lay dead in front of the gate.

"Leon, get a couple guys and get these two out of hear." to the rest of the gathering crowd Dora said, "Could be for nothing, but zombies got over the trench, and it looks like they are going to press to the gate, so everybody needs to get your ammo, find a rooftop or take a position along the wall, got it? Steve here yet? Steve?!"

"Naw he was pulling on clothing, should be here in a minute." a voice called out of the crowd.

"Okay then you will have to suffer with me and Leon coordinating things until he arrives, got it? I want two teams of you juniors to haul ammo and information to and from the inner gate, two teams of two, the rest of the juniors need to get back inside the inner gate and make sure there is ammo there for the two teams to keep bringing us." Dora pointed out two kids in the crowd who she thought were 'junior' helpers, a term Steve had come up with. There was no rank per se, in the way things were done, but people were classified according to ability, the juniors were kids from eleven to thirteen. No one wanted the juniors on the front lines if they could help it, but they could haul ammo and information back and forth to the coordinators of the fight. The walkie-talkies were good for communicating, but when you had fifty people trying to talk at once they could get congested really fast, using the juniors helped with the problems of getting data where it needed to be, when it needed to be there.

The town didn't have a name for kids under eleven. So far there were none; the cutoff for those wily enough to survive on their own seemed to be about eleven. Dora often wondered what this was going to mean for the future, if there was one, there would be at least eleven years between the generations. Shaking her head she cleared her thoughts and got back to the task on hand of running the battle. It was a battle, they realized all too soon.

Two super zombies came over the fence to the east of the gate, they led a group of slinkers and a whole mob of slow zombies into the second ring of defenses and the town had to fall back to the inner fence. By sunrise Dora was scrolling down an excel spreadsheet on her laptop, tallying the dead and wounded. Fourteen people dead, including one of the pairs of juniors she had selected for running ammo. They had gotten caught near the fence when the supers came over and just didn't run fast enough to get away. And this number didn't include the missing scout patrol or the two presumed dead at the trench. Or Leroy and Susan.

Dora scrolled down the list and marked the patrol, the trench guards, Leroy and Susan as dead too, bringing the final count to twenty two. Twenty two people, twelve of them over twenty years old. Ten had been between fourteen and nineteen and two had been juniors. The ratio of adults to kids had just taken a turn for the worse.

Peter and Mike were going to live. That was positive news, the only positive news. Peter's wound was superficial, the bullet had creased the top of his skull splitting the skin from two inches passed his front hair line to almost the back of his skull. It was an ugly wound. If it had been Dora who had been shot the bullet would have hit her in the head or neck. Mike was in worse shape. Steve had been trying to get a hold of the guard all morning.

The town did not have a long range radio, the farthest their walkie-talkies could go was only about four miles and the border was probably twenty miles away. They best Steve could hope for would be to get a hold of a vehicle on patrol that wandered into range. Mary didn't think she could save Mike's leg and wanted to ship him off to Iowa for treatment. A compound fracture was bad news even when society had hospitals and x-rays. Mary's prognosis for saving Mike's leg were poor, she gave it about a fifty fifty chance and unless they got him to better care he would never regain full use of his limb again. Mary was a little out of her depth treating injuries like Mike's. Her specialty was actually infectious diseases, which didn't do the town a helluva lot of good, but a doctor is a doctor and all of them had to go to medical school and learn the basics before specializing. The last few weeks had given her a lot of experience treating a variety of wounds. It was almost with amazement that Dora realized that this was the first time since Marge that a gunshot had to be treated.

The town did have an incredibly good stock of antibiotics and medicines, a few trips to some of the pharmacies had gotten Mary everything she thought they would need for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately antibiotics could not put a leg back together. Even as Dora pondered what to do with so many less adults Mary was performing 'surgery' in the clinic downstairs trying to save what she could of Mike's leg.

Paige had seen Dora to the master bedroom and told her to go to sleep, and then disappeared into her own room. Dora assumed the woman was sleeping, these days it was hard to tell, Paige didn't snore any more. She had lost a lot of weight over the past six weeks and when the pounds came off the snoring stopped.


Mary's soft voice startled her from her thoughts.

"Yeah? How is Mike doing?"

"Maybe it won't be as bad as I originally thought. I have him stitched up now and drugged senseless. Why are you still up?"

"Just updating the town roster." Dora said gesturing to the computer screen. She pushed her chair back and stood up, stretching her back, immediately she felt nauseas, she rushed to the bathroom and made it to the toilet just in time.

Mary followed her in to the bathroom, a concerned look on her face. Dora finished up and smiled weakly as the other woman handed her a towel.

"You hate it when that happens don't you?" Mary asked.

"When what happens? I puke? Yeah I sure hate that. I mean who likes puking? All those diseased kids getting me sick every go-gosh-darned week."

"You're pregnant." Mary stated flatly.

"What! Bite your tongue woman! It is just a bug going around…"

"Dora." Mary said raising her hand up in a stop gesture, "No one get else gets the flu every week, a flu that lasts four or five or six days. When is the last day you didn't throw up? When was your last period?"

"I don't…oh shit…oh shit…oh shit!" Dora stammered.

"C'mon downstairs. I got a bunch of home pregnancy tests when we raided the pharmacy two weeks ago."

"Oh shit…oh fucking shit. I told him! I told that douche bag…"

"Dora. Stop. I am too tired right now to deal with anger, with denial, with your usual bullshit. After we do the test, three, four times, I don't care how many it takes to convince you, after we do the tests, we get some sleep. After that we can go back to the usual games you play. For now, let's just get this done."

Meekly Dora wiped off her mouth again and followed Mary downstairs. They only needed one test, but Dora insisted on two.

Chapter 30

Dora was crying in the dark alone. Large, silent tears came out of her eyes as her head lay back on her pillow. Mary had closed her door to the bedroom a few minutes before leaving her alone. Paige barged in ten minutes later, tired and dirty from the fight the night before. The younger woman rushed over and gave Dora a big hug.

"What the fuck is this? What about doctor patient confidentiality?" Dora had asked Mary who was lurking by the door.

"I am not your doctor. I was not acting as your doctor as we played out a hunch I had about your condition and further more you can feel free to sue me if you want. I knew you wouldn't tell her. I knew you wouldn't tell anyone until the little bun fell out of your oven. And I know that is the wrong tactic to take. For you, for me, for everyone. You are resting today, all day. Maybe you go to the council meeting if you go to sleep right now. We can't risk it. You know that."

Now an hour later all Dora could think about was the baby. A baby. Her child, a last gift from Roger. Her first impulse at finding out she was pregnant had been to ask Mary for the morning after pill. This was what had gotten Dora out of bed so long ago the morning that she met Paige and Mike. The thought of filling her prescription had never even crossed her mind, there was simply too much going on.

Dora should have restrained herself from asking for the morning after pill, she knew Mary was a strict Catholic and there was absolutely no way the woman had taken any of that sort of medication from the pharmacy. To her complete surprise Mary had gone over to a cabinet, pulled something out and then returned to hand Dora a packet of pills.

"Right here is how you can end this. This is Mifeprex, 'RU-486' or better known as the morning after pill, whatever you want to call it. You can end a pregnancy up to nine weeks with it and you are probably about seven weeks along."

"What? You? I thought…"

"You thought right. I told you, no bullshit until after we sleep. I am not condoning you taking this pill, I knew you would ask about it if the test came back positive. I am not having this baby. You can end it right now, right here and we will never discuss it again."


"Why did I pick this up? First, there are actually times when saving the life of a patient requires the sacrifice of the child, if the patient dies the child dies too. I am too pragmatic to kill both, especially now. I have never, ever written a prescription for this. Or were you asking why am I offering it to you? Dora I have never given this to any of my patients. I am not an obstetrician, so it really never came up. This is the first time I even have to contemplate going against my beliefs, I knew it could happen someday and this mess with the zombies made me realize it probably would happen. People have sex, people probably do not want to have babies right now. The decision was easier than I thought it would be. As to why I am giving it to you, well I am not prescribing it. You have free will as God intended, you have to make the 'choice' to murder your baby. If you do you will go to hell, I do not doubt that for a moment. You have me pretty well convinced you are going to Hell anyway, if we are all not there already. I have put the ability to murder your own child in your hands, I will have to answer to a higher authority for that. I can only hope that I will be forgiven for this crime against God."

"I thought this was a sin, like the biggest in some way? A mortal sin?"

"Is it a mortal sin to make a hand gun? Even knowing hand guns are made to kill people? Or is it the fault of the person who buys the gun and kills someone? Funny how religion works, isn't it? I put the gun in your hands, I created the situation for you to make the moral choice, not me. I feel bad about my part in this. I could have lied and said I didn't have the drugs, a lesser sin. I don't know how it works Dora. If there is some sort of naughty and nice list, like Santa is supposed to keep, only my immortal soul. I do the best I can and right now I am running on three hours of sleep, my only son is unconscious, my own former lover is living in sin with me and I make medical decisions every day based on the group's needs rather than the individual I am treating. I am in no position to judge you. This decision is also important to the group and I, alone, cannot make it. How many babies have we rescued? You know as well as I do that the child will give people hope as well as being a drain on our resources. I think the boost to morale will outweigh the costs. What do you think?"

A look of wonder crossed over Dora's face, "You and Alex are…"

"Stop it. This is not the time for that." Mary held up her hands in front of her, gesturing for Dora to stop talking, "Just make up your mind, don't get sidetracked on things that are not relevant to your decision."

Dora handed the medicine back to Mary, who put it into the cabinet and locked it back up without a word. There was a slight smile of victory on Mary's face as she guided Dora up to her to bed. After telling Paige not to let anyone disturb Dora for the day, the two women did the unthinkable; they took all of the walkie-talkies off of Roger's dresser and left. Dora had started crying again the moment they left.

Dora looked over as her door softly opened. Paige's head peeked into the room.

"Oh God! I didn't mean to wake you!"

"You didn't. I can't sleep. Too much going through my head."

"You want to talk?"

Dora gave her a look that could have curdled milk.

"No, really it might help." Paige let herself in, she had a purse in one hand.

"You going somewhere?"

"This? No, it is just the walkies. It is easier to carry them around in the purse than it is to try and juggle them in my arms everywhere I go."

"So, do what I do. Dump them on a dresser and only answer them when you are around."

Paige looked mortified at the very idea, "Dora, that might not be the best way to handle them…"

"It is the best way, none of us can handle all the crap that goes on around here, except by getting away from it. And really, where can we go?"

Paige shrugged her shoulders, not quite agreeing with Dora, but not disagreeing either. "You could delegate more of it to other people."

"To some juniors? You know, after last night more than half the town is under thirteen years old?"


"Yeah, 'fuck' is right. What are we going to do Paige? What are we going to do?"

"We got to get out of this place. We have to head to Iowa. If we don't have the man power to stay on here, then we have to leave."

"I don't want to agree with you. I really don't, but I can't see how we can make it here anymore. We can't hold on with children. We have thirty people over twenty years old left in town. We have seventy kids thirteen and under and we have thirty eight, well, older kids really, between fourteen and nineteen."

"I didn't realize it was so bad. I mean, I knew there were a lot of kids running around, but that many?"

"Yeah, I just ran the numbers before I found out I'm expecting. Last night was bad for us. Not just Susan and Leroy trying to kill me, or losing Jeff and Sarah and Sally, but all those others who were killed when they came over the fence. Damn the wonder twins! I know they set that attack up!"

"No one saw them last night. Just those other two supers, the woman that looked like Clinton and the old dude. And we got Hilary. Sure the old man was driven off, but one super for ten humans is about how it works out for us, actually that is a better than normal ratio, isn't it? I remember when we first ran into them when the horde came down from Denver, I thought we were all dead."

"Me too. I was so afraid that night, more than any other time since this shit started."

"Even at the restaurant? I mean that was pretty bad, we didn't even have guns then."

"Somehow I think of that day as the time before I really knew what to expect. It is like the days of my youth or something, an enlightened time before we really lost our innocence. No, I was more frightened when I saw that super tear Vic Slater's head off and throw it into Nancy Wald. I am pretty sure if I had checked I would have found piss running down my legs at that moment."

"You pissed yourself? You?"

"Oh don't tell me you weren't scared!"

"Want the truth?"

"Yes, if you think I can handle it."

"You might not be able to. Here is the truth Dora. I was not scared, because you were not acting scared. You charged that fucking super zombie, ducked when he swiped at you and shot him through the chest twice, the bullets didn't kill it, but it did throw him on his ass and he couldn't get up fast enough before you shot him three times in the head. It is hard to be scared when you have wonder woman fighting on your side."

Dora just stared at Paige and let out a laugh after a moment. "You mean it!" she said with a surprised look on her face.

"I do. That is why you lead and we follow. You don't act scared, you tell people what you think of them. You are barely in control, but your snap decisions are better than the decisions I would make if I had a week to think about it. You seem to be able to judge people moments after you've met them and you come up with solutions to problems the rest of us didn't even know we had. Is your head big enough now?"

"Oh my, yes love! You do say the sweetest things! How is Mike? Any changes?"

"No, nothing really, uh…" Paige trailed off.



Dora stared at Paige, finally the younger woman flushed and looked at her hands, "Peter, he woke up downstairs in the recovery room, he started babbling, asked if the council, if you, had seen the video yet. Did you watch the video yet?"

"What video?" Dora thought for a second, "Oh god, that video! No, no I haven't really had time, I forgot I picked the damn thing up, you know?" Dora made as if to get out of bed.

Paige blocked her way and said, "You are resting, let me get it, where is it?"

"Well if your God is so great it will still be in my jacket pocket, I tossed it in the tub when I came it. Careful, it is filthy."

Paige went into the master bathroom and over to the large corner tub that had not been used since Dora moved in. The dirty black jacket was in the tub and there were spatters of blackish red blood congealed all over it.

"Holy shit, I was with you all night, when did you get this bloody?" Paige fished around inside the jacket pockets, pulling out a loaded revolver, with the safety was off first. Slowly she engaged the safety and set the gun on the counter by the sink. Reaching in again she pulled out several different kinds of ammunition, bullets for various guns, a shotgun shell and a double bladed knife. There was nothing else in that pocket. In the other one she found a second knife struck through the lining and hanging out the bottom. The blade was streaked with blood, she decided to leave it there. "I got nothing in the jacket, are these your pants in here?" she called out to Dora.

"Yeah, but they were too tight to put a camera in one of the pockets, did you check the inner pocket of the jacket?"

Reaching inside the jacket she felt around for the inner pocket and came up with a taped black rectangle. "Found it. I think your jacket needs to be burned."

"Oh, darling it is the height of fashion, 'blood streaked grime' I call it. It's simply the rage in all the Midwest right now. Yes, that does look familiar." Dora said as Paige tossed her the camera.

Paige flipped the cylinder of the revolver opened and reloaded it with spare rounds she had taken from Dora's pockets, three of the bullets had been fired. Dora turned on the video camera the two women start watching the small screen. "Dora you didn't reload this last night." Paige scolded.

"It was a pick up from…uh, Sally I think. I didn't check it out or clean it either. Mike would be upset, so let's just keep that between us girls now that we are all friendly and such…oh…ah Paige?" Dora asked while looking at the video on the camera screen.

"What darling?" Paige asked in mocking imitation of Dora's own voice.

"Come look at this and tell me what you think it is."

Paige came over and sat on the bed beside Dora, together they both rewound and watched the first video on the recorder again.

"Oh fuck. That's not…" said Paige.

"Yeah, it is. You saw it too, right away. 'Oh fuck' indeed."

Chapter 31

The council was gathered in Dora's kitchen again, only fifteen minutes had passed since the two women had watched the video. Dora had immediately called out for all the council members to "Get your asses over here like they were on fire!" Leon looked the most rested and seemed ready to get down to business. A general, pissed, grumpy mood was the order of the morning, no one had gotten more than a few hours of sleep, all of them had bags under their eyes and coffee mugs in their hands.

"What is the big news that couldn't wait for this afternoon?" asked Freddy without his usual smile.

"Freddie, you think I would get you up here for bullshit? After the night we just lived through?"

Freddie looked down, and mumble, "You? Maybe…"

"I didn't. Paige? Play the first one."

Page had her laptop sitting on the counter; she had transferred all the video files to it and had them paused and ready to play.

The video image was of low resolution, still they knew immediately what they were seeing. An army truck. The truck was sitting beside a QuickStop gas station between the fuel pumps and the store windows. The video had panned around a little showing a street sign and some houses that Dora recognized.

"This is to the north west, just a few blocks over past the bombed area." The video continued to linger on the truck until two men appeared around the front of it, one looked around at the surrounding buildings and they all heard a low voice that the camera barely picked up. They could not make out what it was saying. Dora volunteered, "I think it is Jeff. I think he is saying 'Don't see me. Don't see me.'"

The man, a white guy with broad shoulders paused looking straight at the camera for a moment. The other man just as tall and muscular stayed at the font of the truck. Dora gestured and Paige paused the video, then zoomed in on the face, it was distorted, but clear.

Leon was the first to see it, "That's Sargent Waller!"

Beaming Dora said, "Yes. Everyone agree?" Sargent Waller was the army national guardsmen who rode shotgun on the truck that delivered supplies to the group every week and dropped off any kids the army had found.

"Yeah it is him." said Freddie, "Zoom back a bit to the other guy." Paige zoomed out and he continued, "But what the hell is he doing over there? And he isn't in uniform. Is that…I recognize that other guy too. Miller or something? He drives the trucks once in a while?"

"Watch, it gets better." Dora said she gestured and Paige played the movie again.

The video showed Waller getting the keys out of his truck and going back inside the building then the video abruptly stopped. Paige cued up the second video snippet and the audience resumed watching.

The second video was shot from the same location except the scene was much darker. After a moment the back door opened bathing the alley in artificial white light. One of the twin blond girls came out into the alley by the dumpster. Following her was Waller and a third man they all recognized after a moment as one of the soldiers who frequently visited on the supply truck. The three zombies went to a dumpster and Waller unlocked a padlock on the top of it then pushed the lid up. Reaching inside he pulled an adult man out of it, the man was naked and shivering in the cool evening air. Waller lifted the guy with one hand, as if he were lifting a loaf of bread. With contemptuous ease he tossed the man to the ground between the girl and the other 'soldier', the man did not even try to get up. The little girl grabbed the naked man by one ankle and started to drag him into the rear door of the gas station while the unnamed soldier laughed. When the man's hands reached the door sill he tried to hold on, but with a quick tug from the inside his fingers were pulled off the doorway and he disappeared. A moment later there was a brief scream. Waller was still outside, and once again his gaze seemed to find the camera lens, he stared for a moment and then went back into the building, returning the alley to darkness.

The next video on the player showed the alley again from a slightly different perspective, the camera was moving a little, like it was being operated by unsteady hands. There was a shadowy form visible on the screen in the starlight. The camera zoomed in clumsily, showing sky and then ground before getting back on a wiry man approaching the dumpster.

"That is Jeff." Paige said, for anyone who could not figure that out themselves.

Jeff made it to the dumpster, he had his short double barreled shot gun in one hand and was keeping it aimed at the door, with his offhand he carefully examined the lock on the dumpster. After a moment he tilted the lock back down and it looked like he was talking to someone inside the dumpster. The back door abruptly opened, bathing the area in light, quick as a cat Jeff dodged to the side and put the dumpster between himself and the doorway. No one came outside at first, then there was a shadow and a naked dirty zombie shuffled slowly out of the building. When it was at the doorway it was kicked from behind and went sprawling onto the dirty pavement. It struggled to get up briefly revealing a terrible tear near the top of its left leg, a cut so deep that it looked like a paperback book could be shoved inside of it. There was no blood, none dripping out of the wound and none obvious down the leg or on the zombie's belly. The zombie stood and looked back into the room, where one of the little girls appeared at the doorway, she was swinging it shut and called out to the zombie, something the video camera did not catch.

Paige paused the video, went back a few frames and turned up the volume, "I had the volume turned down, there is a lot of breathing. We can stomach it for a moment so you can listen to this."

The video resumed from where the door opened and they could hear some rapid breathing from someone behind the camera. It was so fast that is almost sounded like a dog panting, the door opened and laughter was heard, then "Welcome to the Army! Time for patrol duty." followed by more laughter, as the zombie was pushed down they could hear it scrabbling on the ground, flesh slapping on concrete. As one half of the wonder twins shut the door they heard, "Let me know if you find anything, go."

The video showed the zombie start to shuffle around the dumpster and head towards the front, abruptly it stopped and faced the deep shadow beside the dumpster where the watchers knew Jeff was hiding. It started towards the shadow and Jeff lurched suddenly into view. He moved with an unbelievable grace and he clubbed the zombie back, then twisted past it and swept one of its legs out from under the thing, the zombie whirled around and fell next to the dumpster as Jeff sped off into the night.

The video stopped again and Paige went on to the next one. The screen stayed dark and they heard Jeff say, "I told you to go if anything like that happened." His voice was an angry whisper.

"I know." came the quiet reply of a young boy or girl.

"You stuck around. I ain't mad. You have the camera?"

"Can we go now?"

"We better… Oh you left it on."

A loud bang sounded and the camera came up in a blur to focus on the back door again. The light silhouetted a shadowy form making a bee line towards the camera holder and someone from the doorway called out, "Where the fuck are you going? I told you to go the other way, towards the town idiot!" The male super zombie caught up with the slow zombie and spun it around, pointing it towards the wasteland.

"What?" The super said, "C'me here!" The slow zombie was jerked around until it was face to face with the super now recognizable as Sargent Waller. The camera was still zoomed in, so it was hard to tell how far away from the zombies the person filming them was. The view was good, even if the faces were cast in shadows by the light from the doorway.

The super zombie was staring intently into the other's eyes, like it was reading something.

"Some sort of mind reading." They heard Jeff whisper, "Get this to Dora. Nadine, take it, get it to Dora!"

"Jeff, no! Jeff!" the small voice trailed off, the view of the camera was shadowed out for the briefest of seconds as it struggled to auto focus on what was going on. Jeff sprinted forward, his shotgun aimed out in front of him. Waller was not facing towards Jeff, he was looking more towards the bombed out ruins. Jeff took advantage of this and came in behind the man, in full view of the slow zombie. As Jeff ran up the super zombie lifted the slow zombie completely off the ground and spun him around in an arc designed to hit anyone approaching him from behind. Jeff was quicker. He slid under the swinging body and to the base of Waller's feet, where he pushed his shotgun up towards the zombies head and fired with both barrels. The camera jumped at the noise and when it returned to survey the scene only the slow zombie and Jeff were moving. Fuller was on his back sideways to the camera angle, it was hard to tell, but it looked like his head was missing. The doorway immediately filled with shadowy shapes and dull pistol shots rang out. The duct taped barrel was visible in the upper corner of the camera and bucked each time the small hand holding it fired. The noise was surprisingly faint.

"Fuck!" Jeff screamed drawing his own pistol, he didn't bother to reload the shotgun, but transferred it to his off hand as he charged forward towards the door. "Go! Go! Go!"

The pistol fired until Jeff got in the way of the shots, then the camera was stuffed into a pocket. It was not turned off, however and recorded the frantic flight of Nadine running from the gas station.

"I have not shifted through the rest of this so far." Paige said, "I fast forwarded until I got to some video again, this is the last of it on the camera." She fast forwarded it until she came to a point where the camera was pulled out of the pocket, the starlight provided only a slightly less dark blur on the screen. The camera angle twisted and spun as it sailed through the air, before it passed over something the watchers actually recognized, the sand bags around the trench by the wasteland.

It landed hard and the screen went to static before it was picked up and a familiar voice said, "What is this?" The camera showed Peter's face in the darkness, beside him a flashlight turned on and then everyone in the trench was visible, Peter, Willy, Jack and an older woman named Sharon.

"It's Jeff's camera! Something threw his camera in!" Jack said.

"Turn off the fucking light!" Sharon said, the boy did that immediately, "I am calling Dora. You guys get your guns, keep an eye out."

"I think it is still on. How do I turn it off?" asked Peter

"Press this." answered one of the other boys and the video stopped.

The council sat in silence for a moment. Leon lifted his mug towards his mouth, stopped partway, his jaw moved, his lips started to form words, then he shook his head slightly and took a drink instead.

"Speechless? Me too." Dora said, "How long since we heard from anyone in the military who was not Fuller?"

"Since after the horde broke over us." Alex answered.

"Never a fly by or a helicopter evacuation for our severely wounded. Just load them onto the truck and send them away with Fuller and the crew. I guess we know where they went now, huh?"

"No. This can't be." Mary whispered, "Why?"

"Farming has always been popular in Kansas. I guess they just want to continue the tradition. Face it Mary, we are the next crop." Dora said, "We need to get out of here. Do we have enough vehicles to carry everyone?"

"Dora, where will we go?" asked Alex.

"East, to the front lines. We break through and we join the Iowans."

"But Dora, we have been getting news from Fuller, he lied about who they were, he could have lied about the front lines too, for all we know he lied about everything. We could be it." Alex said.


"It. As in, the only people left. We haven't had a television signal for weeks, no radio signals, nothing, everyone else could be dead."

The group thought about this in silence for some time before Dora said, "So we better send a scouting group out to find and make contact with the Iowans, if they are still around. If not…then what do we do?"

The council members tossed around a few ideas before agreeing to send out three scouting groups to try and find the front lines and get more information. They also agreed it would be best not to tell the rest of the town about what was going on, if they were in a more traditional war, Steve had argued, what their soldiers didn't know could not be tortured out of them. Steve also had more plans for when the 'National Guard' came by the next time and the council readily agreed to do things his way.

Finally just as everyone got up to leave Steve stopped them and said, "Well isn't anyone going to address the elephant in the room?"

"What elephant?" asked Leon.

Dora let out one of her classic snorts, as everyone else looked confused, she stared at Steven and spoke to everyone else, "Him."

One by one the others stopped and stared at Steven too.

"He came from the guard, he could be one of them, this was before we strip searched everyone, Steve, good ole Steve-O, he might be a zombie too. An agent in our midst to sow discord among us. So how about it Steve, you a zombie?"

Steve smiled, "So you were thinking about it. What was your plan? Were you just going to watch me for a while, then jump me if I did something you thought was suspect?"

"Me? Now I am not that deceptive, am I?" Dora nodded and conceded the point, Leon and Mary slowly edged away from Steve, causing Dora to laugh, "Please people! Do you think he would even bring the subject up if he were a zombie?"

"I might, to dissuade suspicion."

"So what do we do? Strip search? Normally I could totally get into that, but you are married and I have been under the weather lately. So it wouldn't do anything for me. I doubt your wife would appreciate it either. So how do we tell you are who you appear to be?"

Steve rolled back the long sleeve over his left hand, "Cut me. Every one of them we killed bled that foul black shit; my blood will be red and alive, I promise you that."

"No. Stop." Mary said, holding up a hand to forestall Dora from coming around the table with a knife that had magically appeared in her hand. "For Pete's sake Dora! I have needles! I can just get a blood sample, the microscope is right over there." She waved at the microscope which was sitting on a bench against the far wall where she kept her medical supplies. "We can check him and know inside of two minutes."

"Mary you are no fun at all!" Dora said with a frown. Still she put away the knife and they all waited while Mary went to get a needle. She looked for a vein in Steve's arm and followed a procedure for drawing blood, in a few seconds she had the sample, which she brought over to the microscope to examine.

"It is alive. Anyone else want to have a look?"

"We should all give a sample. It is only fair and we need to be sure we can trust each other. If we only test Steve it could breed distrust." said Leon, rolling up his sleeve.

Dora pouted, "But I shouldn't have to go! Or Paige, I can vouch for her and who needs to check Mary, she's the only doctor."

"You go first, that is what a good leader does, and I am sure even a layman can see enough in the blood to tell the difference, right Mary?" said Leon.

Mary nodded and Leon continued, "See? Go on girl, get your little prick so we can all rest easier."

Dora put her hand over her mouth and laughed softly, "Oh Leon! You say the naughtiest things!"

The old man waved her on, "Have you're fun if you have to. You just caught me too tired to watch my tongue."

Everyone could see Dora struggle to not respond to this obvious opening, finally she just clamped her mouth shut, giggled and turned to where Mary was waiting with a fresh needle. The council members were all checked out one by one and it turned out they all were alive.

Chapter 32

A week went by with only a few minor attacks on Doraville, the three scouting groups had gone out all of them went east, two towards the north east, one almost directly east. Two groups had returned, they had been instructed to go to the edges of Kansas City and come back with any information they had found, both came back telling stories of empty battlefields, where there were plenty of true dead corpses and military equipment just lying around on the ground. Neither of the groups had any trouble foraging or living off the land. Nor had either of them contacted anyone with their walkie-talkies or short range radios. They had not seen any living humans and had killed very few zombies, the scouts had been instructed to avoid killing and being seen by zombies at all costs. It was Steve's position that the smarter zombies could sense when the slow zombies were killed. The third scouting group was supposed to make their way up into Iowa before coming back with news. Nothing had been heard from them since.

Now the council members were all out on the street in front of Dora's house at about nine in the morning. They were looking towards a military supply truck where four soldiers were climbing out of the cab, Sargent Waller was nowhere to be seen.

Dora led the way, confident in her acting ability, "Where is Waller at?" She arched her eyebrow and looked over the Sargent's replacement, the man was tall and broad shouldered. The man had on the rank designation that Waller used to wear, but Dora had never seen him before.

"Ma'am? I am Sargent Jim Tiller. Were you a friend of his?"

"Friend? No, more like an acquaintance really, something happened to the man? My name is Dora, supposedly I run this place."

"Some supers jumped this squad last week, Waller got shot, believe it or not."

Dora stopped and brought her hand to her mouth, then swore, "Fuck. I knew it. I knew sooner or later they would start using guns. Fucking bastards. Waller going to be okay?" She let her eyes mist up.

"He didn't make it. But the zombies didn't eat him either."

"Sargent Tiller do you have time to come in and have a sit down conversation with us?"

The man looked over his shoulder at his three men still standing by the truck and said, "You guys get the supplies unloaded. I am going to talk with Dora. The guys have told me there the town is run by council, is this everyone I need to speak with?"

"Yeah come on in and I will introduce you around and tell you about our problem."

The group moved inside while the three other soldiers unloaded the truck with the help of some of the older children. Sitting down Dora introduced Nash to the council, Mary, Paige, Alex, Leon, Steven and Freddie who were all there for this meeting. All of them were following roles they had discussed beforehand; Freddie and Steve seemed to be the worst of the actors, looking ill at ease.

"Sargent, we have some problems."

"Yeah, go on."

"We are getting worn down by the zombies, did you bring anyone for us today?"

"No we haven't spotted any humans today."

"See this is part of the problem we have. About a week ago the zombies attacked us again, there is a bombed out section to the north west of town and the zombies came through there, they killed fourteen of our people, most of them adults, this includes four people who went out on patrol and never came back. We have another twelve people who are walking wounded and honestly we cannot cope with the loss of manpower. The zombies are winning and we need to evacuate."


"We need to leave, we don't have enough fuel, we rely more and more on the National Guard to get us food, we have almost no gasoline to power the generators for the winter, in short, we're screwed. The council and I have decided to ask the army to send enough trucks to get the hundred and thirty some of us out of here. Could you pass that along to your superiors and see if they will help? We will do our part, we will try and find gas and scavenge a bus or two to make the trip less resource intensive for you, but we need to leave before winter sets in."

Sargent Tiller sat looking at them for a moment, "Maybe we could get you more supplies? Stretch things out a bit?"

"It is not a matter of supplies so much as manpower, we can't hold them back anymore. Every time there is an attack, well, people have to defend against it, if they stay up all night defending against the attack, they can't be expected to go out the next day to scavenge food and fuel. Plus our ammo is low, these people are not trained soldiers, we fired off almost all of the ammo we had in the big fight on Friday night."

"Ammunition is in short supply. How bad is your situation?"

"We are down to maybe twenty shots per gun, we do have a boat load of the common.22 ammo, but we all know that stuff is just about useless for taking a zombie out." Steve said.

Tiller grinned, and said, "Yeah, you would practically have to press your gun against the things head to make that work. Better than a club, but just barely. Okay I will pass this along to my lieutenant and see what he comes up with. Today though, well does anyone know where the closest gun store was? I will go that way as a personal favor and me and the boys will gather up all the bullets we can and bring them back here before we high tail it back to the east side. We should have time if we can find the place. Anyone have a phone book to get the address?"

Paige rose up and went to get the phone book, while Dora said, "Thanks Sargent, you have no idea what this means to us. I don't suppose the guard could run a few more patrols around us to keep some of the zombies away? If we could only get a few night's sleep I think we could catch up…there is, well, no never mind."

"What?" Tiller asked.

"Well the decision to leave was not unanimous; if we can catch a break we might consider trying to tough it out. We thought maybe with the nights getting colder maybe the zombie activity would die down. So far we have not noticed a change, if anything it is worse because the nights are longer."

Tiller nodded, "I bet they will keep coming. There should be less of them around here though, so many have followed us East and North as we retreated, and we just keep killing more and more every day. I thought that would have drawn them away from you. "

Dora shook her head from side to side, tilting her chin down, "No, they are still around us, it is like they can sense us or something."

"That is too bad. Okay let's look and see where we can get ammo. You have shotguns right? So a Wal-mart or Sam's club would be good for shotgun shells."

The group of them looked in the phone book then brought up a mapping program Paige had on her computer to show the Sargent the best way to get to the stores where he thought he would find ammunition. After that Tiller went back outside and the council members saw him off before coming back into Dora's house to talk again. Paige waited by the window until she could no longer see their truck, then came and sat down at the table again.

"Do you think he bought it?" she asked Dora.

"Hook, line and sinker. I am a good actress." said Dora beaming.

"You were laying it on a little thick I thought, kind of suspicious, tears? For Fuller? You were supposed to have barely known the man!" Mary said.

"Hey! Steven said to get emotional, what does 'emotional' mean to you? To me it means tears. What does everyone else think? Did we sell this? Did it sound reasonable?"

The council nodded their agreement.

"Well good, now we wait, if he comes back we see what he brings. Over the next week we see how the 'attacks' go, if Steve is right they will die off down to nothing, which will let us send out scouts to get the school buses and diesel so we can make a break for Des Moines."

"Even if our last long range scouts don't come back?" asked Alex.

Dora nodded, "Yeah, even if we don't hear from them. I would rather start over somewhere that I knew we weren't just the local zombie's next meal, there has to be someplace safer than this."

"True enough, so now we wait."

They did not have to wait long, Sargent Tiller and his crew returned in about three hours. They had brought seventy boxes of shotgun shells and three new shotguns. They had also stopped by a coffee store and cleaned it out of coffee and filters. The last thing they brought out was a heavy card board box, it was lined with a blanket and the Sargent himself presented it to Dora. She looked inside and said, "What are we supposed to do with these?"

The Sargent set the box down and brought up a squirming puppy by the scruff of its neck, "Well, raise them. Use them to help guard the perimeter, they can bark and alert you to any danger that is coming your way."

"That will take months!"

"People like dogs, right?" Tiller asked as several loitering kids came over to the box to get to the puppies. He stepped away from the box and brought Dora with him. "See the kids love them already, they are good for morale and will turn into guard dogs, eventually."

"Maybe, it still won't solve our manpower problem. You bring food for them?"

Turning Tiller called to one of his men, "Scott, they will keep them, unload the puppy chow!"

The man grinned and hopped back into the truck, they unloaded eight bags of puppy chow and four bags filled with raw hide other chew toys for the dogs. Scott said, "I knew you would take them! I put in plenty of chew toys, these guys are going to want them soon and you aren't going to want them chewing up your shoes and stuff. Here is some medicine for them too, don't you got a doctor here?"

"Yes, Mary, she isn't a vet."

"No but she can give them shots." Scott pressed a brown bag into Dora's hands, "This should be enough for rabies and heart worm for the first year, she can figure out the doses and get them taken care of." The man grinned again then went back to the truck.

"He like dogs or what?"

"Yeah he wouldn't let me put these down, the mother was nowhere around, most of the time we kill the dogs when we see them, so they don't go feral. He thought you could use them and convinced me of it."

"Well I guess it is too late to refuse them now, if we end up staying here we can always eat them this winter." said Dora looking as the kids of the town started playing with their new acquisitions.

"I don't think it will that bad. The Guard will help keep the zombies off of your back, I will push hard for that, and if they don't we will unofficially be doing some heavier patrols around the town."

"That is good to hear. Now we just need manpower to complete the hall and scavenge, plus larger vehicles to do it. Maybe a semi or a bus…yeah a bus would be good, we could take out a bunch of seats. I will get the scouts looking for one."

Tiller shrugged, "There are a few schools around, it shouldn't be too much trouble to find one. I would get a truck if I were you, maybe a U-haul style with a box on the back."

Dora thought about this for a moment and said, "Maybe, but the problem is getting the manpower to the area we need to loot too. With a bus we could hold ten people to act as guards and laborers once we got to where we were going."

"That makes sense. Well I gotta get these grunts back to base before they start worrying about us. Good luck, Dora! It was a pleasure to meet you. We will try and stop by sooner than in a week if we can."

"Good, thanks Sargent. Keep your heads down out there!" Dora said with a smile.

After the military truck took off Dora adopted one of the puppies for Mike and let the kids distribute the others, when they started to bicker over who would get the puppies Dora stepped in. She thought Mary would not like to have more than one in her house so the kids staying with her only got to choose one for the residence, then she split the others up more or less by area. Finally to all the kids who were crestfallen about not getting a dog, she said they could come by and play with hers anytime they wanted, in fact she told them to set up a walking schedule among themselves, leaving it to the older kids to be fair.

"You work well with them." Paige said.

"They aren't mine. I can just send them home when they start to bug the piss out of me." The nine kids who would be watching Mike's dog were in the front yard with the puppy arguing about the walking order. Dora stepped up to say the dog could probably use more than one walking a day, and maybe up to three and anyone not holding the leash could go along for the walk. After that the debate among them got down to brass tacks and Dora stepped back to stand with Paige on her porch.

"So, what do you think about our super zombie soldier friends?" she asked Paige.

"Think? I think they are using us for a breeding ground like you think. I think they may have protected us from the worst of the horde that came through here a month ago. I think those two little girls are at the head of it."

"Pure speculation, but why not? They have to have a reason to keep us, why not as cattle, they just cull the herd as they need to and protect us like any good shepherds would from predators. We could live like that you know."

"Survive like that, are you serious? Knowing that we are cattle?" Paige shook her head, "No, not us. Maybe somewhere someday, but not here, not now. We would know that at some point someone was just going to disappear and we couldn't live with that. How many do they need a month to live? God knows we can't produce enough babies to make this work. Do you think this is why they are giving us all the kids they find and no adults?"

"Honestly?" Dora asked, Paige nodded, "Honestly I think that kids can survive this better than adults. How many of these kids have stories of watching zombies eat their parents and siblings?"

"Pretty much all of them." It was one thing most of the children had in common, other than Peter not a single child here had their real mother or father with them.

"Okay, now, of the few adults we have here, how many of them watched their children eaten alive by zombies?"

"Well no one…" Paige's voice trailed off.

"See? A mother or father would not stand by to watch their kid devoured, but a kid? No, kids are a different kind of creature altogether aren't they? I hope you were not wondering what they would do if the zombies were coming for you and they were standing around. I know I wasn't. Hell I am not even related to any of them, I know where I stand and what would happen in that situation."

"Damn. You think of the strangest things."

"You didn't say I was wrong, or that you disagreed with me."

"What? Haven't I been telling you that you are right enough lately? Do you really need me to say it more often?" Paige asked.

Dora laughed and said, "No three or four times a day is enough."

"Dora, do you think your baby would fight for you?"

"No. No I don't. And I wouldn't want him to. I would want him to run and live, to make my sacrifice worthwhile. See? Kids suck; they will get you killed." Dora patted her belly, which was not showing her pregnancy at all. "Well on that positive note we better gather up the rest of the council and have our little talk early today, so we can plan what to do." Dora called out to the kids in the yard and sent one after each of the council members.

The council convened for their afternoon discussion in Dora's house, about three hours earlier than normal.

"We may have a problem." Steve said as soon as everyone had sat down.

"Gee, no call to order or anything, no 'Howdee do'?" said Dora, she waved at Steve disgruntled look, "Oh fine, go on then, what is the problem?"

"What may be the problem." Steve said, emphasizing 'may', "Is the scouting parties that got back. They know something is up. They went beyond where our visitors have been telling us the front lines are and discovered there are no front lines. We should have told them not to talk about it sooner. This is my mistake, I didn't have a sit down with them until after those zombies left this morning. And by now they have all mentioned it to the others, the whole town has got to know at this point. Well the adults anyway."

"Shit. That is not good Steve. I thought I told you to keep it on the down low?" Dora said.

"You did. It was my mistake. What do we do about it?"

"Are the people talking?"

A chorus of 'no' went around the room, except for Leon, who raised his hand. "Yes. Tim came to me and asked me directly."

"Fuck, we haven't moved him out to the water tower yet?"

"It was just two days ago, Dora. After we got hit so hard we didn't move him out there."

"So what did you tell him?"

"That I would ask the council. I am not a good liar, but that was not much of a lie. I need to ask you what we are going to tell everyone." Leon said.

"Well I think we are fucked now. All it will take is for the zombies to catch one of us who knows and beat it out of us, or kill us and bring us back and beat it out of us."

"Or maybe not even that." Steve said.

"What do you mean?" asked Mary.

"Well when I spoke with Peter…"

"Peter is awake?" asked Dora.

"Yes he woke up around noon, hungry, I am pretty sure he has a concussion, a small skull fracture, but his eyes are normal and his vital signs are good. Steve wanted to talk to him, so when Peter said he felt up to it, they chatted for a few minutes."

"I debriefed Peter and he told me that when the scouts went out yesterday Jeff told them to not kill any zombies, to try and sneak by them. He told me there were, well, what I can only describe as pickets, guards, out in the wasteland where everything was bombed out. There were pairs of them, one slow zombie with one slinker. They were not moving, just watching, with the slow zombie up and visible and the slinker under cover. What does that sound like to you?"

"Guards." admitted Dora.

"Slow, mindless zombies as guards. And remember the tape, they brought that poor man in from the dumpster and when they pushed him out, the told him he was going the wrong way. Like they expected the slow zombie to do what they said. And the zombie started to do it too."

"Until it noticed Jeff." said Paige.

"So they have control over them somehow. What if that control is some sort of mental control? What if they can read the minds of those that they kill?"

No one in the council said anything, Dora broke the silence by laughing, "Sorry, but that is pretty far-fetched. We can't prove it. But what you are saying is they wouldn't torture us, but would just kill us and read our minds if they caught us?"

Steve's face had flushed a little, in anger or embarrassment, "That's my theory, yes. Look I know it sounds strange, but just keep it in the realm of possibility okay?"

"My mind is open. What you're saying is they don't need a spy in Doraville, they just grab one of us whenever they want to know what is going on. If what you say is true, and I am not buying into it, but you handle security, right? So if what you say is true, how do we go about getting stage two ready without letting them know?"

"Here is what I thought of, first we call all the adults together, just the over twenty year olds, tell them what is going on and of the need for secrecy."

"Wait, wait, when we lose people the over twenties are the first to go!" protested Dora, "Telling them is like telling the zombies, if what you say it true."

"Just let me continue. If what I suspect is true, the zombies will find out anyway. So we tell the adults, we wait a day or two, see if the attacks lessen like we all think they are going to. In two days, we get the buses, day three we gather the fuel and four days from now we get the fuck out of Doraville. Four days to evacuate. Two buses should be enough if we only pack fuel and food."

"And dogs. Do we have enough bus drivers? Can we get fuel?"

"No certified bus drivers, but how hard can it be to get one moving forward and drive? They take diesel, we don't have a lot of diesel, but that is good, because we have not been scavenging it from the nearby areas, so it should be easy to top off the tanks and get another fifty or so gallons for each bus."

"What else do we need to do if we leave in four days?"

"We'll get the buses, take out a few seats in back, load up the supplies and that's it. If we can meet that goal and keep anyone from being taken for four days, we can get out of here before even Sargent Tiller comes back."

"Okay I like this. I agree with it. I think we will need a few extra vehicles too, we can take my Suburban and another larger vehicle to go ahead and behind the buses as guards and maybe a motorcycle or a couple smaller cars to roam ahead and scout the roads. What about a wrecker to move vehicles out of the road if we need to?"

"Good idea. That would be good. So let's say, three motorcycles, two Suburbans, a wrecker and two buses. That should give us even more room in the buses, if we have four to each suburban and three in the wrecker."

"Jesus, do we have that many drivers?"

"Some of the older kids can fire rifles or shotguns from the Suburbans, and we can take one in the wrecker, the third man in the wrecker will just be there as a lookout for the other two when they are hooking up the truck."

"Do we have anyone who knows how to use a tow truck?"

Steve looked at Dora, "Yeah, me."

"I have been on a few hook ups too." said Alex, "Maybe if Peter is up to it, he can be the scout with us?"

Mary did not look pleased with this, but merely said, "We'll see." She knew Peter would have to be somewhere and if not with her then with his dad was the next safest place.

"Any of the kids ride motorcycles?"

"What?" asked Mary, "Dora you can't think about putting them on a motorcycle, they would be alone!"

"I can think it and I am. Just check around. A guy on a motorcycle is going to be vulnerable, he can't steer with one hand and shoot with the other, so we want people riding them that will run away if they hit trouble. The kids are ideal for it."

"I just can't…that is too much risk." said Mary.

"Just ask, let's see what we get. Try the fourteen and over crowd first, okay?"

"Okay. I will, if Mary will not. I can see your logic." said Alex.

"Is everyone agreed that we follow Steve's plan?" The council nodded, "Then it is unanimous, let's get the word out that there is a town meeting tonight, and we need to speak to the adults first at a pre-town meeting, say it is about drinking alcohol or vaccinations or something that no one would want to attend. Make it boring. Can you handle that Paige?"

"Sure, no problem. Sterilizing wounds."

"Good! I knew I kept you around for a reason. Other than the good loving, of course."

The other council members scoffed at this, but said nothing.

"So, Steve you get with everyone about what we need to gather up. I think putting it in my garage until we leave would be best, out of sight, out of mind and if the 'National Guard' finds out we just tell them we are making a supply storage area for the winter."

The meeting was not adjourned right away, they all stayed and worked out what they thought they would need for the journey and there was a brief debate on whether to send another group out scouting to the north east where the Iowan's hopefully were still fighting.

Chapter 33

The town pre-meeting with the adults went about as well as could have been expected. The town meeting afterwards was a little bit hostile because of the rumors floating around about the Iowan's not being where they were supposed to be. Dora addressed it with the bare truth; no one knew where they were. She mentioned that the council was trying to make plans about what to do and if anyone had suggestions they should contact her or another council member.

Tim, who had been at the earlier meeting, then got up and told the whole town that the council was concealing things from them, that they knew the national guardsmen who came to town were zombies and that they were all planning on leaving as soon as they could. Dora looked on with amusement, while he spoke, she thought Steve was going to shoot the man. When Tim was finished with his little speech, which ended on a high note of him calling for new leadership and implied he should be the man in charge, Dora took the floor back and gave her own speech.

"Well thank you Tim for repaying the trust we had in you. You see ladies and gentlemen and kids of all ages, what he said is essentially true, he left out the little important details, like we think the zombies will torture to death anyone they capture to find out our plans. Which is why the people who did know everything, include Tim, agreed to keep their mouths shut. What you younger people and kids didn't know could not be beaten out of you before you died." She let her words sink in for a moment and continued, "Now many of us know Tim has been angling for a council seat for the past couple of weeks, he seems to have it in his head that this is some sort of a Democracy or something, really folks you are living in a dictatorship, I have never made any bones about it, the council, in theory keeps me in check as a balance of power, that is it. The only difference here is that you are all free to come and go as you please and we can kick people out too." She stared at Tim as she went on, "In fact that very thing has come up a few time recently when discussing, well, hell, let's just get it out there; You Tim. And how you don't work worth shit." The meeting turned frosty, but several of the people looked on with amused attention, this would be another meeting to remember.

Dora went on. "Yes, I'm calling you out, you don't do your share around here and we are sick of it. Like how you excuse yourself from patrolling the perimeter and how you make more progress on report writing, which we don't need, instead of on getting a building finish, which we do need. Do the people around you look like they need a god damned report to keep them warm in the winter? No? It's no surprise you are not the most popular guy, getting to the top of the food chain is not going to endear you to anyone and bringing up privileged information had to be about the number one way to make every other adult in town hate you. You just put the rest of us at risk. I am half tempted to shoot you myself."

Three of the nearby adults offered Dora their pistols, handle first, while a couple of the older kids near Tim and some of his few supporters, backed away from him.

Tim looked around nervously, obviously he had not anticipated this turn of events. Dora thought that he probably was expecting a common uprising from the people to toss out the council and make him the new dictator for life. "You had no right to keep that information from everyone! It was not fair, everybody should know what is going on so we can decide what to do!"

"Really? Why didn't you say anything at the meeting before this one? Why didn't you speak up then?" Dora waited, but Tim said nothing, "Oh? So it was politics. Well Tim you got your wish now, everyone knows. Can anyone think of anything to do about our situation now that you have this added information? Here is our plan in a nutshell…unless you other council members think I should keep it under wraps?" Looking around none of the council members tried to stop her, so Dora continued, "Okay then our plan is this; We find a couple of school or city buses, we load them up with supplies and we head towards Iowa. There may still be someone left up there. The plan is to get the buses and fuel tomorrow, then load up and leave within four days. I think it would be better if we left sooner now. The sooner the better. Any suggestions?"

From the crowd a younger voice yell, "Kick Tim out!" Several other people agreed loudly and Tim looked around wildly, whatever support he came with had disappeared.

Dora smiled and responded, "Oh I want to, you know I do. He doesn't work for shit, he causes problems and I really I just don't like him. But we can't."

A chorus of "Why not?" came back at her. Dora held her hand up, "Think about it, we kick him out who finds him? Our enemies, he spills his guts to them, one way or the other and then we are all screwed."

"Why?" called out one of the older kids.

"Because, if you haven't figured it out yet, the zombies want to keep us here." Other calls of 'why' answered that and Dora held up her hands trying to calm everyone down, "For the love of Christ people quiet down! We think, we suspect, the zombies are keeping us here, to, well, eat." The uproar of this was loud enough that they crowd of a hundred or so could not be calmed down. The rest of the people guarding the perimeter looked towards the meeting and wondered at the noise and what was going on.

Dora eventually gave as much detail as she could about Jeff's patrol and what they had found, pictures of the National Guardsmen at the gas station, not dressed in their uniforms and ordering zombies around. She went on to say how Jeff, Nadine, Jack and Willy were lost the night of the big fight and was about to continue when a little girl, perhaps twelve years old raised her hands up to get Dora's attention.

"What? What sweetie, Dora is talking here."

"Willy isn't dead." the girl said in a quiet voice.

"No dear he didn't make it."

She shook her head violently from side to side. "No. He did make it. I talked to him two days ago."

Dora stopped smiling and stared at the girl. "Are you sure? Where were you at when you saw him?"

"I was on the west side near the fence. Mr. Parson had to use the bathroom so he set me up to lookout and call him while he, well, you know."

"And Willy came over to you? Alive?"

"Seemed like it, yeah. He was outside and asked me to throw him some water. So I did. I asked what he was doing and he said he was looking for Jack."

"What? Why?"

"They made a pact. If one of them turned the other would find them and kill them. He said he wasn't coming back until he found Jack. He said Jack got bit apart that night when they got back, out in the trench. He said he pulled Jack away but they got stuck in a house. Kind of a bad house, you know, blown up. He said that they heard us fighting, but Jack was hurt really bad. They got tired from being up all night and Willy fell asleep, when he woke up Jack was gone. So he thought he turned and has been looking for him."

"And you just thought to tell us this now?" Dora said, a little bit of anger in her voice. The girl shrank back and the rest of the crowd was busy relaying the conversation in a low murmur.

"Has anyone else seen Willy?" Dora called out.

No one raised their hands or said anything. "Well we are going to have to figure out what that is about later, but from now on if your friend gets bitten come back to town, don't stop in a blown up house. Now, back to our original discussion, if anyone thinks of anything that might help us, look up a council member and tell them okay?"

The meeting ended and the guards were changed, they got the news from other people in town and the council members all retreated to Dora's house, with Steve pulling Tim along by one arm.

As they approached Dora's house Tim screamed out, "No!" Then started kicking and fussing like a two year old denied his favorite toy.

"Goddamn it Tim, stop!" said Steve, who had already taken Tim's pistol away from him.

"No! If I go in there you will kill me!"

"Tim, we could kill you out here and no one would say anything about it." Dora said, stepping up to him.

Realization seemed to dawn on Tim as he looked around at the leaving townspeople. None of them spared him a second glance as they walked away. Tim looked back at Dora's leering face and started sobbing as she took another step closer to him.

"Tim, you made this situation. Not me, that is politics baby, it is a deadly game." by the time she finished her sentence her face was inches from his.

A sharp smell of urine reached her nose and she backed off in disgust as the man wet himself. Steve cried out and pushed Tim to arm's length.

"Oh for Pete's fucking sake, Tim! No one is going to kill you, you wet motherfucker!" Dora was waving her hand in front of her face. "I guess we will deal with you out here as you wanted, I was trying to spare you from any more humiliation, but I suppose you are about as low as you can get now."

"What are we going to do with him?" Mary asked.

"Shoot him, just get it over with." said Steve.

"No, he is a scared pain in the ass, but we can't shoot him. He hasn't killed anybody." said Alex.

"An eye for an eye, huh Alex?" said Dora, "Still I am not in favor of killing him either. Despite what you might think Tim. Why don't we just confine him, keep him out of the way and decide later. It has been a long day and I am tired."

"Where should I put him?" asked Steve.

"Good question." Dora thought for a minute then said, "Oh perfect! We still have handcuffs you got off those cops we found right?" Steve nodded, he had four sets of handcuffs. "Then rig something up next door at Nina's place, Tim can sleep there. Bring him a plate of food, some water and a sleeping bag or blankets. He'll be fine." Turning towards Tim she said, "I…we, the town, can't afford any more distractions, so you will stay there chained to your failed building to think about things. Got it? Until then just think, for once, think about what you can do to get back in our good graces. Here is a hint; it involves pulling your own weight."

Steve took Tim away mumbling about getting him a change clothes and finding a chain somewhere.

The next morning Dora woke up refreshed, she had slept twelve hours and everything was quiet. Getting to her feet she went to Paige's room, but the woman was not there. Going down the stairs Dora saw her sitting at the kitchen table reading a book with a cup of coffee in front of her.

"Good morning!" Dora mumbled as Paige looked up from her reading.

"'Morning Dora. Guess what?"

"Good god, do I have to guess before I have had some coffee?" Dora said as she grabbed a mug by the sink.

"No it's good news!" Dora didn't venture any guesses, so Paige continued, "There were no attacks last night."

Dora stopped, her cup halfway filled. "So. Steve was right then?"

"It looks like he might have been. Oh, that ziplock bag by the sink…" Paige pointed at the counter and Dora picked up a small sized plastic bag full of pills, "Yeah that one, Mary says to take them all with breakfast, maybe only a little toast. They are prenatal vitamins."

"Brilliant. Breakfast. Ugh!"

"It is almost nine! You slept a long time, you feeling sick?"

"Not yet." Dora busied herself making up a couple of pieces of toast, she held up the sliced bread and said, "Who cut the bread?"

"Alex was over, he cut it nice and even. I think Mary made that loaf. It is funny how you miss the simple things isn't it? Like bread, evenly sliced, full of preservatives, bread that was soft even after a week of sitting in your cupboard."

"I think I miss butter more than evenly sliced bread." Dora dropped the slices into the toaster, which turned on when she pressed the lever down. "The power is on! Hurray! Why?"

"Why not? We are leaving in a few days, we can afford to run the power for a while. Leon checked our supplies of diesel and that is one thing we shouldn't have to worry too much about bringing with us, so he fired up the generators and plans to leave them running."

"So any line on the buses yet?"

"They were waiting for you. Get this, there is a bus dealer not too far from here, Midwest Bus Sales. They sell school buses, we were going to hit up a school, but this is about as far so why not go to the source. Steve is ready to go when you are, he would have left already, but Mary told him to let you sleep, you needed it."

"I can sleep all I want when we get out of here." After pouring a cup of coffee Dora doctored it up with sugar and powdered creamer, neither of which were in short supply. Grabbing her toast she had just made it to the table when Steve came in.

"Good, you are up. Paige tell you the news?"

"No attacks last night, suspicious huh?" said Dora grinning.

"We needed the break. I think three quarters of the people here finally got more than six hours sleep at one time. We are going to a bus sales place, did Paige tell you that too?"

Dora nodded and crunched through her dry toast.

"There is peanut butter." Paige said.

Dora shook her head from side to side. "This is fine. You feed Tim yet?"

"Yeah, took care of it first thing."

"Too bad, I wanted to spit in his coffee. He wouldn't have noticed."

Paige shrugged, "That is why I fed him first thing. You would have over salted his eggs or put hot peppers in his coffee. I thought it would be better to remove that temptation. Don't forget your vitamins."

"Yes mother."

"Vitamins? Maybe we all should start taking some? It has been awhile since we had any veggies or fruit that wasn't from a can or dried."

"Doctor's orders for her." said Paige hooking her thumb in Dora's direction, "She is too stressed right now and needs to take better care of herself."

Dora didn't say anything else, but was surprised that Paige and Mary had kept the fact that she was pregnant from everyone else. She finished up her meal and went with Steve out to the others who were waiting for them. There were three vehicles, two full sized pickup trucks and Dora's suburban. There were a couple of juniors coming along with them, plus a couple of the older teens and eight adult men and women.

Steven tossed Dora her keys for the suburban, "You're driving, but Bob is leading in the white pickup, I am driving the black one, we all have walkie-talkies on channel seventeen to keep in touch. The only planned trips are to the bus sales, to a gas station to fill everything up and finally, if we can, to get some motorcycles. The bus sales place is farthest away, we should pass the motorcycle place on our way to it and then we have to go another four miles or so to find the buses. If we get the buses, we come back the same way, only we stop by and load up any motorcycles worth taking."

Dora hopped into the suburban and realized this was only about the third time she had driven it. After z-day they had never done more than pull it out of the garage, for the daily running around they used Paige's car or one of the nicer sedans of the neighborhood. If they went out foraging they had used vans and pickup trucks, but never the suburban. Both pickups had barrels and gas cans in the beds, even Dora's vehicle had a bunch of smaller gas cans in the back. There was also some hosing that she recognized as the portable pump Alex had put together to siphon gas out of the in ground storage tanks at the gas stations. No doubt there were crowbars and other equipment to get the gas station tanks opened tucked away somewhere too. Everyone was well armed with shotguns tending to be the weapon of choice and baseball bats as back up weapons.

Pulling over to the first set of gates on the east side of the houses the group slowly drove out. Steve led the group at a cautious pace, the streets were fairly clear the way they were going and they made it to highway thirty two with no problems. The highway did not have exits or on ramps, it was more like a four lane street in this section of town and it was not clear. Bob was a decent driver and there was a reason he was in the lead; the truck he was driving had the front end reinforced with some welded on metal piping. He could not ram vehicles out of the way, but he could gently shove them and one of the boys with him knew how to disengage parking brakes and put the cars they might need to move into neutral so they would roll easier. It was the wrecks that would cause them the most problem and it looked like there would be plenty of them to deal with.

Dora turned to Ken, a swarthy middle aged man with black hair and a full Islamic beard, "So Ken, you know how to drive a bus?"

"Yeah, I did it for a few years before landing a better job in sales." despite his middle eastern appearance his voice had a Midwestern twang to it that just didn't fit his image. "I know I can drive anything we find, it won't be too hard, most of them are automatics anyway, so I will just show the other drivers how to disengage the air brakes and put the things in gear and we will be back before you know it."

"Sounds good to me. I think I will stick with this though. Anyone see any zeds?"

A chorus of 'no' answered her, "How suspicious, don't you all think?"

"I was going to ask you about that." Ken said, "We heard rumors there were no attacks last night, is it true?"

"Yes. It seems to confirm what we thought. How does it feel to find out you were just part of the herd, Ken?"

The man snorted derisively, "How long did they think we would fall for it?"

"Forever, I guess, eventually they might have come clean, told us they would keep the others away in return for one sacrifice a week or something. Who knows what they were thinking?"

"And all those people they brought back with them? To safety?"

"Dead, we figure. I wouldn't have kept them alive and making them into zombies would be too risky, we might start seeing those who fled show up in the ranks of those attacking us. So they probably just put them down after they ate them."

Ken said a short prayer in another language, prompting Dora to say, "Yo there Ishmal speaka the English please!"

"Just a prayer in the holy language. A fatwa on the ones who did this."

"Nice, Jihad against the zombies huh? Kind of overkill really as we all want to take them out anyway."

Ken nodded, "It can't hurt."

"Are you really Muslim?"

"Are you really an atheist?"

"Touché Mohammad. Let's leave religion alone, okay? I won't kick you in the ass when you are on the prayer mat three times a day and you won't issue any Fatwas against my ass? Agreed?"

Ken laughed and said, "Agreed. I am not a very good Muslim."

"That's okay; I'm not a very good atheist." This prompted a general round of laughter from the car.

They traveled about ten miles west before coming across "Mark's Motorcycles", it was on the right in a good location with a decent sized cross street, the windows of the show room had been smashed in, but there were still motorcycles inside and the building was long and low, promising more out of site. It looked like the place sold on and off road motorcycles and that they could get what they needed from them on the way back. There were more zombies shuffling around this part of town, no doubt the group from Doraville was out of the area controlled by the other group of zombies.

Everything still went smoothly until they got up to highway seven, both lanes of traffic were jammed with wrecks. Highway thirty two was squeezed under another highway and between the rail road on one side and the embankment on the other there was no room to pass the jammed together vehicles. The wrecks had burned too, the tires and even paint were burned off all of the vehicles leaving only skeletal sheet metal frames. Moving the vehicles would take time. The truck drivers had pulled to one side of the road to discuss what to do.

"Go up the on ramp to highway seven there and then cross the median and take the off ramp down on the other side of this mess." said Bob.

"Sure we can get by that way, but what about bringing the buses back?" countered Steve. "Maybe spending a few hours clearing this would save us six hours with the buses coming back. I don't think they would make it across a grassy median."

"What if there are guardrails?" asked Dora.

Both men laughed at that, "No problem, we brought the torches with us." said Bob.

"No, that is what I mean, why bother going through the median if there isn't an emergency crossing somewhere close, just go up, find a spot where the roads are close and cut through the guardrails." said Dora patiently.

The men shut up and then Steve nodded, "Yeah, that would work. And would only take us a half an hour."

"See? You keep me around for a reason, let's go up onto seven Bob and see what is there, with luck we won't have to do anything but drive."

They drove their vehicles back to the on ramp and their luck held, there was an emergency turn around about a quarter of a mile down highway 7. Bob guided them through the median and headed back to highway thirty two, where there were a couple of parked cars in his way across the road. These were arranged end to end across the road, put there on purpose and were just a little too narrow to navigate through. Cautiously the boy named Seth hopped out of the truck and approached them, he got down on his stomach and looked for feet behind the vehicles, then tip toed to the first car and peered inside. He sprang back as a zombie hit the inside window hard enough to crack it. A greasy black stain was left on the inside window as the thing backed off and then slammed the glass again. Seth looked back at the truck and then pointed behind them.

Dora looked in the side mirror and saw a line of undead shambling up over the embankment on the western side of the highway. "Shit, horde alert people!"

Ken turned his head and looked at the oncoming mob. "See any fast ones?"

A gunshot rang out and they all craned their heads around to see Seth put a second shot into the zombie in the car blocking the way. He checked the car out, then reached in and released the emergency brake after a couple of seconds.

The black pickup gently moved against the front side of the car and started pushing forward. Seth ran around the back of the truck climbed into the bed on top of the gas cans, aiming his pistol at the oncoming mob. Ken lowered his window, as did Jane in the back seat, both aimed their weapons at the mob, but did not fire. At the front of the line the black truck had pushed the car around until it was at an angle facing the way they wanted to go, then it reversed into a slow zombie and re-aligned to bump the back of the car, as it started forward a faster zombie ran up and jumped into the bed of the pickup. Seth was ready for it and fired point blank towards the zombie's head. His shot hit it in the lower jaw and passed through the thing's neck, not slowing it in the least. It landed on the boy and continued to roll sideways carrying him out of the pickup and to the pavement below. Seth fell hard and his pistol skidded away, stopping under the slowly rolling car in front of them. As he watched the car's tire rolled up against his gun and stopped, wedging it under the tire.

The zombie lowered its head to Seth's throat, but was not able to bite him, the damage to its lower jaw was not healed yet. Seth screamed and put his hand against the thing's neck and pushed it backwards, even with this leverage he was only able to move the zombie back an inch or so. The zombie started pushing forward against the boy's arm moving closer and closer, Seth watched as the jaw mended itself together and started opening and closing. Screaming incoherently Seth struggled with the zombie as its teeth clamped down on one side of his neck. It had barely torn a hole in his flesh when a gunshot rang out and it jerked sideways from a clean head shot, the noise was deafening. Steven kicked the body off of Seth and gave the boy a hand up. The truck Seth had been in was still moving forward slowly, apparently unaware that it had lost the passenger in the bed.

"You okay?" Steve asked.

Seth put his hand to his neck and pulled it away, bright red blood glistened on his palm. "Oh fuck, he got me!"

Steve pushed the boy's head over to one side and looked at the bite mark. Behind him the people from his truck were shooting zombies with their shotguns, up ahead the lead truck's brake lights came on and it started backing up. Taking a rag out of his pocket Steve dabbed at Seth's wound and said, "I think you are okay, it looks like he just tore it, and didn't get it infected."

"But you don't know for sure!"

"No, I don't know for sure. Give it two days. Dora's suburban pulled up beside them, she rolled down the driver's side window and asked, "He get bit?"

"It tore the skin, we don't know what will happen yet."

Dora looked into the car, frantically trying to find something, she came up with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and tossed it to Steve, who liberally dosed Seth with the liquid. By the time he was done, Dora had bandages to hand to him. When Steve finished binding the wound the other truck had backed up far enough for Bob to ask if Seth was alright.

"No thanks to you, yeah." Dora replied, "What the hell was that, driving off and leaving him there?"

"I didn't see him get hit, I was trying to get the road clear and saw him in the rear view after Steve hopped out to help."

"Well he got tagged by the zed. We are not sure if it is infected or not yet. You need to keep a better eye on him."

"Yeah, yeah. Sure Dora, you think I wanted him bit? Why are you so upset about this?"

"Because we have a human shortage and this kid is important, he is going to be riding one of the motorcycles, right?"

"Well, yeah, that is why we brought him."

"But if we can't even get a motorcycle without him getting killed, how likely do you think the rest of the board is going to be to let him and others his age ride as scouts? They will point at this and say, 'See? The juniors shouldn't be used for this sort of thing', then I will have to fight to use him, and we need him Bob. We really need him."

Shaking his head in agreement, "You're right, you're always right. I'm sorry, I should've paid better attention to where Seth was."

Dora stared at him a moment, as if trying to see if he was just placating her or sincere. Finally she gave him a curt nod and Bob let out a sigh of relief, "Can we get out of here now?" behind the suburban more zombies were falling to shotguns, but the crowd of them was growing faster than they could be killed.

"Yeah, let's get the buses and get back." Dora answered. Seth hopped back into the lead vehicle and the caravan got moving again. The rest of the drive to Midwestern Bus Sales was uneventful. The bus lot had models to view out along the highway as well as many others on a lot behind a chain link fence. They had left the slow zombies behind them by a few miles and there did not seem to be any in the vicinity of the bus store. The front window of the sales office was plate glass to allow a couple of buses to be displayed from inside the building, one of the sections of glass had been broken out, with glass both inside and outside the building. The group used the three parking spaces directly in front of this broken out glass and then cautiously dismounted.

Dora got up to the glass first and then turned to Steve and Bob behind her and said, "You feel like someone is watching us?"

"It isn't just me then?" Asked Steve looking at Bob.

Shaking his head Bob said, "No, it isn't. I feel like I am on a stage for an audience of invisible people. I just wish they couldn't see me too."

"Huh, a good motto, like Jeff kept saying in the video; 'Don't see me, don't see me.' Hey Steve, probably not the time, but I didn't ask earlier, did anyone see Willy last night?"

He shook his head, "No, I think he might have turned, got smart and just misses us."

A cold, calculating look passed over Dora's face, "We could use a spy among them, that could be useful."

"Not if they can read each other's thoughts. It wouldn't work. Plus how could we motivate Willy? Give him a person or two every month as 'pay'?"

"Maybe just common decency? Or maybe he would just take blood instead of killing a person?" Dora stepped across the threshold of the broken window.

"Who is there?" called out a sultry male voice from inside the dealership.

Dora jumped back outside, hitting her head on the top frame of the window and cutting a gash into her scalp.

"Shit. Shit! Damn it! Mary is going to be so pissed at me!"

"I won't hurt you." came the voice again.

Clamping a hand to the top of her head, Dora said nothing. Steve stepped forward and said, "Who are you?"

"My name is Jake. I won't hurt you. I am not like the others."

"So you are one of them, one of the dead?"

"I am infected, yes. I never wanted this. I can control my passion. You are safe from me. I can hold some of the others away too. I can smell her blood. Please clean her up."

Blood was dripping through Dora's fingers and running down her arm, pooling in the jacket at her elbow. "Fucking cut on my head, it had to be the head. I am bleeding like a stuck pig. Ischmel, I mean Ken! Get me some hydrogen peroxide and bandages!"

Turning towards Dora, Steve said, "You better back out of here, go back to the suburban and get cleaned up, let me deal with this."

Dora shook her head slowly, "Me leader. You grunt. Me handle big, bad Jake."

"Good leaders, respected leaders, share responsibility with their underlings and know when it is appropriate to do so."

"Fine." Dora said with ill grace, she stepped back about five paces towards the front of the suburban.

Ken hurried forward with a bottle, a clean looking rag and some bandages, he moved Dora's hand and soaked her head with the liquid, then pressed the rag to her cut, lifting it slightly he blanched and said, "You're gonna need stitches. No doubt about that. Mary is going to kill us."

Inside Steve called out, "Okay Jake, what do you want? I got the bleeding woman out of here." He kept his shotgun aimed in the general direction of where the voice was coming from.

There was a doorway leading to some offices just off the showroom floor, from there a tall, lanky man peeked around the corner. His upper body was barely visible, and it was covered in an army fatigue jacket that looked to be a size too small. The zombie's face was white and withdrawn, giving an impression of loose skin over dry bones. Jake's eye's appeared to be coal black and were seated deep within the sockets, an army helmet made of thick kelvar, covered his head, but a trace of gray hair was visible from the front. The most critical thing about Jake was the massive revolver he held in one hand that was pointed at Steve.

"At this stage in my life, I do not need guns to survive, however I find when dealing with you people it is easier if we start at a level that gives you an illusion of parity. So, you came here, to my place, you answer me first. Who are you and what do you want?"

"My name is Steve, my friends are Bob, Dora and Ken. There are others in the parking lot around the cars."

"Good Steve, no lies between us so far. And what do you want?"

"We need two or three buses. I have some living to move out of town and we need something to move them. We looked this place up in the phone book and came over here."

"Shall we lower our guns now?" asked Jake from behind his rock solid grip on the pistol.

"I am game if you are. You seem…reasonable. Can you give us the buses?"

"Without a doubt Steve, I could give you the buses, but what will you use to pay for them?"

Chapter 34

The two lowered their guns slowly, like they were in some sort of western movie, Steve let the shotgun barrel point downwards and Jake tucked his pistol into a massive holster that was hangin on the right side of his belt.

"I don't suppose you would give us the buses out of the kindness of your heart."

"Kindness is in short supply these days."

"That is a nice piece you are toting there, I don't think I have seen a revolver that large before."

Nodding Jake said, "You probably haven't, it is a Smith and Wesson five hundred. It fires a bullet weighing three hundred and fifty grains, achieving a muzzle velocity of over three thousand feet per second. I'd tell you which store I stole it from, but when I went back there the other two they had were gone. The recoil would have made the gun too much for an old man like me when I was alive, but now? Now shooting it ain't nothing. I'd compliment your shotgun but it looks like a cheap, mass produced gun sold at Wal-mart."

"It gets the job done."

"We do have different needs these days don't we?"

"Yes, which brings us back to the subject at hand. We need buses to move our people."

"What can you give me for them?"

"We could leave you alive?"

Jake sighed, "Threats? Steve, why don't you go have a little pow-wow with your folks in the parking lot. Be sure to go around back of the building first, where you can see first-hand what happened to the last group that came in and tried to make good on that threat. It will be real educational."

"How about I just take your word for that?"

"How about you go look, and then talk to your people. I am a snag you were not intending to have to deal with. At least you didn't come in shooting. So you must have had some dealing with what the humans call 'super zombies' before."

"Alright Jake, when we are done, we'll just call out, okay?"

"Suits me fine."

Steve backed off slowly, with Bob by his side they stopped when they got back to the cars, parked about fifteen feet away.

"We far enough so he can't hear us?" asked Bob.

"Probably not, he probably has super hearing too, but it doesn't matter, we only have to decide if we want to deal with him in good faith or go in guns a blazing." said Steve.

"Let's go check out the back, see what he dealt with before." said Dora, who was leaning up against the lead pickup truck while Ken finished bandaging her wounds.

"Fine. But we are battled hardened, I don't know any humans who have fought more zombies than us, in fact I don't know of anyone else who has taken down a super zombie. We might be able to take him."

A moment later Bob, Steve and Dora set off around the side of the building, they were trailed by the unwounded teen a fourteen year old named Becka. Becka's job was to act as a relay between the scout group and the group guarding the vehicles, in case Jake was to attack while they were split up.

"So you think he was telling the truth about keeping the zombies away?" asked Bob.

"We should ask. We should get as much information out of him as possible. Like can he read the minds of the slower zombies? That would be good to know." said Steve.

"Yeah, like we can trust him."

"You have trust issues." Steve said.

"Just because I am paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get me."

"Let's just see how this plays…whoa." Steve stopped speaking as they came around the corner to the back of the bus dealership. Spread out before them were seven cars, some of them had windows broke out by gunfire and most had the tell-tale pock marks of bullet holes, big bullet holes. In front of them, just out of sight from the highway, were four lines of bodies. The youngest was probably nine, the oldest had to be in his sixties or early seventies, Dora counted, there were three rows of eight and a row of five for a grand total of twenty nine corpses. All of them had been shot in the head, some with a large caliber bullet, others with smaller rounds.

"I told ya it would be educational." said Jake's voice from behind the cars.

Dora reacted before anyone else, her gun was out and pointed in the direction of the voice before the word 'told' escaped Jake's mouth. She held her fire, but just barely. Steve's gun was hardly even lifted up and when he recognized the voice he stopped raising it at all. He did cast a sidelong glance at Bob, raising his eyebrow at Dora. Bob, who had not even raised his gun, shrugged and looked at Jake.

The old man was standing in an open doorway that none of them had gotten around to viewing yet. He leaned casually against the far side and looked them over. "I have no interest in killing you. I am, shall we say, sated, at the present time. I do not need you at all, really."

"You could have fucking said something, like 'I will meet you back there!' I just about shit my pants goddamn it!" said Dora.

"My apologies." said Jake, sounding anything but apologetic.

"So if you do not need anything that makes for a bad basis of bargaining. What can we give you?" asked Steve.

"I didn't mean to disrupt your conversation. I said I would give you time to talk and I will, if you still need it."

Steve looked at Dora who glanced over at him and shook her head slightly.

"What do you want Jake?" asked Dora.

"Well I am all set right now, but I have to be thinking about the future, you understand?"

"Well we could spare this one guy, Tim, if he would be enough to keep you fed, what is he worth? A couple of buses?"

"Really?" asked Jake, surprised.

"Dora!" Steve said, "This is no time to be joking!"

"There is never a time to joke anymore, is there?" Dora said dryly.

"I really don't want a person anyway, they draw zombies like a flame draws moths. And then there would be the upkeep, feeding them, keeping them from freezing. Too much trouble."

"Well Tim will be disappointed that he is unable to make amends to the community. So what can we do for you?"

"Where are you planning on heading?"

"What is it to you?" Dora countered with suspicion in her voice.

Jake laughed, "Well if this doesn't beat all. I need to know, because I might be willing to sell you the buses on credit, and collect later."

"How? If we get to where there are other humans, they might not like that too much."

"I don't think they could stop one man coming through, do you? You have to be heading to Des Moines, I went that way a week ago, other than the cattle yard some local zeds are keeping down here, they're the only humans around…." Jake looked at them, closely. "So, the herd finally figured out what was going on."

Dora nodded, "So. Des Moines, yeah let's say we are heading there, you think we will honor our deal if we make it?"

"Lady, if you want to make it to Des Moines I can get you there. And I believe people are good and honorable, you will make good on any deal we strike, if I get the promise from you, personally."

"How could you make sure we get there?" Steve asked before Dora could.

"Because I would go with you."

"We wouldn't bring you into Des Moines!" Dora said.

"No, just to the border, after that you will be on your own. I would look you up later for payment, and who knows I might bring you a trinket or two as well, so you wouldn't feel like the payment was all that harsh."

"There are other places in town to get the buses." Steve began.

"Yeah but we're here now and we could drive away in ten minutes if we make a deal with Jake here." Dora said.

Jake nodded, "Guaranteed."

"What will you take as payment?"

"A pint of blood from every man, woman and child who I help get out. Anyone could pay it, so parents could pay for the kids, or you could pay every six weeks until the debt was settled."

"A pint for a life? That seems like a deal. No one dies?" Dora said.

Jake shrugged, "I am a pacifist at heart."

Dora pointed to the bodies on the ground, but didn't say anything.

Looking at them Jake shrugged again, "Sometimes I'm not a very good pacifist."

Dora cocked her head at an angle and stared at Jake, remembering her earlier conversation with Ken in the truck. Jake just stared back and laughed.

"So let's say I agree with your deal, me and you, I give you a pint per person, that's for those who actually make it to safety, right?"

"No, I won't go that far, I was up that way a week ago, but they were fighting hard and they might not be there, in fact they may all be dead. I will accept the payment to get you to Des Moines, to whatever you find there. I will go for the pint per person who makes it part of the contract, that suits me just fine, so if I lose a bunch of you, I lose my profits. Deal?"

"Deal." said Dora.

They stood there for a moment then Jake said, "For a deal of this magnitude, I think we should all shake hands. I won't require a written contract, but I want a list of every person's name the morning we leave. So, shake?"

"Don't do it." Steve warned as Dora started forward.

Casting a mischievous look over her shoulder she said, "What is the worst that can happen? He'll kill me and you will kill him." Dora continued until she was next to Jake in the doorway, her hand right hand held out.

Jake took it with a tenderness that surprised her, he leaned in and whispered only to her, "I won't even charge you for the baby."

Dora stiffened, "You can see that?"

"Yes, I mean it, I won't kill any more humans if I can help it. I won't even take any blood before you are ready." Jake shook Dora's hand, then stepped inside the building, "C'mon in folks, the buses are right this way. I can offer you some of the latest models with air conditioning and individually heated seats. All ready to drive off the lot right now. And if you are in the market for some used vehicles I have a few of those out back too, so long as you aren't picky about windows and slight body damage."

Dora laughed and called back to Steve, "I could like this guy. Too bad he doesn't know he just made a bad deal."

Jake held the doors for the others and followed them as they went towards the front of the store, "Bad deal? Do tell? You don't think I am up to getting you to Des Moines."

"Oh you will try, but we may have forget to mention we are surrounded by super zombies, who are keeping us pinned into a few square blocks and probably won't take kindly to their livestock trying to leave."

They turned and faced Jake when they got to the showroom floor, seeing how he would react.

He laughed, "I'm pretty sure I had that figured out. I'm not too worried about them."

"Not even a pair of little girls so cute you could just eat them up when you see them?"

Jake's face fell a little, "Oh, them."

It was Dora's turn to laugh, "Well we didn't want to make it too easy on you!"

"Well, it is time for my little surprise in our deal, I won't have to get you to Des Moines. Not if you are looking for safety."


"No, when I checked last week the Iowa National Guard was fighting at Bethany, in Missouri. Only about a hundred miles from here. Unless you want to go to Maryville?"

"So who got screwed on this deal, Steve?" Dora asked.

"I think both parties bartered in bad faith and came out about even, objectively I have to say Jake is getting a worse deal than we are. What do you think Jake?"

Jake grimaced, "I lost on it, but at the end of the day I still get my blood, even if I have to kill the albino twins."

"We call them the wonder twins."

Jake nodded, "Good enough, the problem is they have a lot of super zombies. It's no wonder I hadn't seen you around, I steer clear of their area, I tangled with some of their boys before."

"Yeah? Who won?" asked Bob.

Jake looked at him and didn't say anything. Finally Dora said, "Bob, he won, he's here."

Bob laughed and said, "Yeah, right, I put my foot in that one, huh?"

Looking back to Dora and Steve Jake said, "I heard you had questions, I am willing to answer them, if I can."

"Can you read the other zombies minds?" asked Steve.

"Minds? I wasn't aware they had minds as such. But what's there I can't read."

"How do you communicate with them?"

"It's mental, I press my will against theirs, if mine is more powerful I win and I get to make them do what I want, which is why this place isn't crawling with the dead right now. Now I have made a zombie or two in my time and with those I can actually get what they are seeing and hear what they hear. I would know if they lied to me too."

"Shit. Do you remember who you were before you turned?"


"So if someone had created you, they could asked you questions and compel you to tell the true when you answered?"

"Yes, I suppose so, why are you asking?"

"Well most of our group knows we are leaving, so if the wonder twins kill any one of us they will be able to figure out our plans." said Steve.

Jake thought for a moment, "Maybe, but not right away. You would have to approach the level of being able to think and answer questions again. If you were just a newly made zombie, you would not be much good to them. Do you think they keep tabs on you like that?"

"No, how much flesh does it require to gain your thoughts back? A whole person?"

"I don't know, I never brought any of my children back to that level, in fact I don't bring anyone back at all, if I can help it."

"Why is that?" asked Dora.

"I never liked kids."

"Oh." looking towards Bob, Dora said, "Why don't you go get the others and bring them in here, leave the juniors out by the trucks as lookouts."

"Okay Dora." said Bob, grateful to be of some use.

After he left through the window Jake said softly, "Not the brightest bulb in the pack is he?"

"No. He is still alive and he survived this long so he has done something right."

"Fair enough, there ain't anyone alive these days that doesn't have some trick up their sleeves. I think the last of the lucky ones died a couple of weeks ago; luck can only carry you so far."

"I agree." said Dora, rubbing the stock of her gun. The other adults came into the showroom, they were uneasy and Dora kept herself between Jake and them until she could explain the situation. Once she was done, she opened the floor for comments.

"I feel…well Dora I feel a little awkward about paying the price. It's like we are conspiring with the enemy, paying that blood. I don't know if I can do it.", this was spoken by an older woman named Melinda.

"No problem, Jake here is giving us credit anyone who doesn't want to pay, I will pay for. I wouldn't want anyone to do anything against their morals."

"Why don't we just kill him and be done with it?" asked another man.

"Well, first there is no guarantee that we would be able to. If you don't believe me I think Jake has some used cars you should look at behind the building. He says he handled their acquisition all at once. There were more in that group than we have with us now."

"But we have been through a lot, they might have been inexperienced, everyone here is, well, tough." said another man.

"Okay that brings up the second point, Jake is going to help get us to the Iowans. How long we been here Bob?"

Startled Bob looked at his watch, "Um, twenty minutes?"

"Yeah? And how many zombies have caught up with us from the mob back there? Or gathered around us from the area? None. Jake claims he can push them away from us and he has agreed to get us to the front lines. Without him we might have to fight every zombie we come across and risk losing a lot more people."

The group grumbled a bit, but finally one of the men, a younger man named Colton stepped up and said, "I'll pay my pint, you won't have to pay for me."

One by one the other ones, even Melinda agreed to pay the price.

"So now that we are down to the brass tacks, why don't you choose some of the buses and we can get going?" said Jake.

"Well alright, that is what we are here for. Is there a shop here Jake? We need to take some of the seats out of the back to make room for the supplies we plan on bringing with us." said Steve.

"Yeah they have a collision center, the bays all have buses in them right now, but the tools are free, if you just need ratchets and wrenches there are plenty to go around."

"Okay, good, what about gas stations? Any that sell diesel in the area?"

"You won't need them, there is a tank and pump out back. Its gravity fed too, above ground, you should be able to drive the buses up to it and fill them from there."

"Our day just got easier." Steve said happily. Jake showed them where the keys to all the buses were and offered them the weapons he had taken off of the people laying behind the building as a bonus. The arsenal was fairly extensive, with everything from small twenty two caliber derringers up to a large fifty four caliber black powder carbine. All of the guns had ammunition ready for the taking.

Steve set Bob to choosing the best of the guns and then had him wrap the rest of it in some plastic sheeting and tuck the bundle into the furnace room out of sight as a cache. Removing the seats took the longest time, there were enough tools to go around, but it was a lot of work to take the last three rows of seating out of each of the three buses. About an hour and a half after arriving the buses were fueled and ready to go, the diesel tank was sufficient to fill all of the extra gas cans they had earmarked for that purpose. This left them with just a dozen empty cans to fill with unleaded fuel for the motorcycles and other vehicles.

Bob agreed to have Jake ride in the front truck with him, he put Seth into one of the buses with Ken to make room and the caravan set out back to Mark's Motorcycles.

When they arrived back at highway 7 Jake demonstrated his ability to get the zombies out of their way, the horde, which had spread out long the exit ramp by this time, parted from the vehicles like the Red Sea before Moses. After seeing his power demonstrated Bob positively warmed up to Jake, and the others started feeling like they had gotten a good bargain for the help he would be giving them too.

At the motorcycle shop, they picked up three off road bikes suitable for the fourteen year olds to ride, one was a spare. All of the bikes were fairly light weight and did not boast a lot of power. Steve said they would not go too fast either, perhaps eighty miles an hour at top speed. Seth demonstrated his ability to ride by taking his chosen motorcycle for a spin, which led to Becka having to show the group that she could ride too. She promptly crashed her chosen motorcycle into the side of an abandoned car. Dora thought Becka had killed herself, but the girl just rolled away from the bike and got up with a flushed red face. While a couple of the men ran to her aid, she stepped back over to the bike and jerked it up off the ground. By the time the men got to her she had it started again and was ready to ride, this time she didn't run into anything.

"So you think she really could ride a motorcycle?" Jake said softly from behind Dora.

"Yeah, she was just nervous, maybe a little rusty too. Did you see how she got it up and started it on her own? I couldn't have done that, I think she did something with her feet too, brakes or something?"

"Shifting with one foot, the back brake with the right foot." Jake said.

"Still feeling like you got a bad deal?"

"Ask me in three days."

Chapter 35

The caravan arrived back before sunset, stopping only to drop Jake off just out of sight in an abandoned house before getting pulling into Doraville. Dora and Jake thought it might be best to break the news of the deal to the town without him being present, in case there were some serious objections. Dora promised to return the buses if the council would not agree to the deal. Once inside the gates Dora immediately called a council meeting, where Mary railed at her for the head wound. Seth was also in the 'clinic' during the meeting and Mary disinfected his wound and wrapped it up again.

"Alright Seth you are good enough, go on, just rest tonight, no guard duty." Mary said.

"Can't I stay?"

"No." said Dora firmly, "I need you to talk to the other juniors and see if anyone else has spoken to Willy. We need to get in touch with him, so you go find out who saw him last and get back to me after the meeting. And keep your mouth shut about what happened today, okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, you told me already!" grumbled the boy.

Dora and Steve had spoken to the other people who had helped get the buses when they dropped Jake off. They told them to stay quiet until the town meeting later that evening.

Paige had a huge pot of stew heating up on an electric heating element on the granite counter and most of the council members had a bowl in front of them. Mary helped herself to dinner and frowned when she saw Dora didn't have a bowl. She put the bowl she had down in front of the other woman and said, "Eat.", then went and got another for herself.

The other council members watched the interaction, but didn't say anything. Dora grudgingly spooned a little into her mouth, then nibbled on some crackers they had taken in one of their food raids a while back. Everyone from the council was there Mary, Alex, Leon, Paige, Steve and Freddie. They all knew something had happened on the trip to get the buses and were wondering what had caused Dora to appear so animated.

"So," started Leon, "You agreed to this?" He was the first to speak after Dora filled them in on the details of the deal she wanted to make.

"Well everyone there did yes." said Steve.

"He is worth it. He can keep the shamblers off our backs and might be able to help with any of the super zombies we run into, what is wrong with the deal?" asked Dora.

"It's because he is one of them. He isn't on our side." said Alex, "I know I am not giving him Peter's blood, no way." Mary nodded approvingly.

"No one has to, I will pay him off month by month if I need to, but I want him. Steve and I saw first-hand what he can do. It's not even for the buses, we know we could get those somewhere else if we had to."

"I'll pay him. And help you pay for anyone who doesn't want to pay Dora." said Freddie.

"Good, that makes three of us, so that is like fifty pints each at this point." said Dora.

Steven nodded, "So Teflon Freddie, why will you pay? This is the kind of thing you normally get out of."

"Well I didn't say I would pay with my own blood, but I will come up with something." Freddie laughed at their expressions, "Look around, we are in charge here, we are the leaders, we lead by setting the example. I knew when I joined the council that I would have to make sacrifices for the people. That is how government is supposed to work, a thankless job for the leaders. When push comes to shove, I'll do my part." he winked at Dora, who smiled back.

"Okay, so that is three in favor for certain, Leon, Mary, Alex and Paige you have to decide where you stand, you could still kill this deal." said Steve.

"I think we know enough to decide on it now." said Leon, "I just didn't want to make a decision too hastily."

"I vote with Dora, she has made some fucked up decisions, none more questionable than this one, but in the past she was right." said Paige.

Dora nodded once to Paige, "Eloquent, thanks."

"Then that is it, you have four votes to our three." said Alex.

"When have we ever let you off the hook that easy, every one weighs in, everyone votes." said Dora.

"Hah," said Leon, "it's unanimous, of course. We have to provide a united front to the others. It sounds too good to be true, a zombie to lead us through the other zombies, but I'll pay the price. Alex? Mary?"

"Unanimous. It needs to be. It's probably the last decision we'll make as a council, after this trip we can lay the mantle of governance at the Iowan's feet." said Mary, "Don't think for a second that I agree with feeding this monster, but if it means one more person gets through alive I'm willing."

Alex nodded and said, "I'll go along with it too, despite my reservations. When are you going to tell the others Dora?"

"The sooner the better. How about in twenty minutes before it gets too dark?"

"I'll round everyone up, let's do it half at a time. Maybe Seth will get back with news on Willy by then too." said Paige.

As everyone went about their business Dora approached Mary, "How are Peter and Mike doing?"

"As well as we can expect. I am more worried about Seth. You have someone watching him? If he turns, well we don't need that right now do we?"

Dora shook her head, "No, I don't have anyone watching him, but when he gets back with news on Willy you need to tell him to come back in the morning to eat breakfast here so you can change the bandages again. You should know if it is getting infected by then."

"It has taken up to five days for the infection to show before, remember Kline?" Dora nodded, she remember the old man who was bite early on, the all thought he was going to make it, but he turned five days after a pretty terrible mauling during the height of the zombie tide, "Well, Seth barely got nipped, and the zombie didn't even make it through his cloths. I won't stop wondering about him until the scratches are fully healed, but I think he might be okay. Do you know how you are going to tell the people?"

"Oh probably the brutal truth will be good enough. Are you going to be around for moral support?"

"Yeah, just let me run a bowl of this over to Tim."

"You need any help with that?"

"From you? No. You are the last person he wants to see. He belly aches about you every time I see him. I only let him off his chain when I have someone else to cover me, so there is no danger of him pulling anything with me. Plus I am not even bringing the keys this time and I'll tell him that when I see him."

"Fair enough, but if you're not back in five minutes I am charging over there with my gun out."

Mary laughed, "Yeah that would be great. I am sure Steve would like nothing more than to bring Tim more fresh clothing. I'll be quick."

Dora puttered around her kitchen for a few minutes, it finally dawned on her that she would be leaving it in a day or two. She sat down and had a thoughtful look on her face when Mary and Paige came back through the front door together.

"What?" Paige asked.

"I am going to miss this place."

"Oh, yeah, it will be your turn now, to go through what the rest of us have had to deal with. I hadn't thought about that." said Paige.

"It's funny, I think I've lived more in the past six weeks than I did the entire time I lived here before."

"Well emotions have run higher in the past month and a half than they did before. It will create a stronger memory, passion always seems to." said Mary.

"I suppose you're right, doctor. Are the people ready Paige?"

Paige nodded and gave Dora a hand up from the chair she was sitting in. "How's your stomach today?"

"Fine really, I just eat smaller meals, more often and it seems to do the trick, it didn't stop me from kicking ass on our bus journey, that's for sure."

"Now that you know what is happening you can deal with it better. I still don't think you should have gone; it was too much of a risk." said Mary.

Dora waved her hand in a calming motion, "Water under the bridge sister, I am glad I went. Let's get this show on the road ladies." Together they stepped out to the waiting crowd of people.

Chapter 36

Tim pulled his chain deeper into the double sleeping bags he was cocooned in. No matter what he tried the chain always created a tunnel that seemed to funnel cold air deep into the bag from outside. He was still warm, but always had an uncomfortable cold spot to deal with.

"Would a tent have been too much to ask?" he muttered angrily. He had his head tucked down into the bags and was wearing a thick woolen cap that kept the worst of the cold air at bay. When they got to Iowa and safety Tim was planning to unleash a whole world of hurt onto Dora and the other council members. Mary would get off scott-free, he knew that, she was a doctor, but he was equally certain the others would not be so lucky. They would pay alright; he would make sure of it. Deep down he didn't want to face the fact that he might be as big of a coward as the others said he was. He was just tired, that is all. He had faced zombies before, killed a few maybe. In his mind Tim thought of himself as having shell shock or combat fatigue, not as being afraid. He had put his sleeping bag up against one of the unfinished bits of flooring that was going to make up the great hall when it was finished. It acted as a bit of roof, in case it rained, and Tim felt better having something solid at his back while he slept.

A gentle thump sounded on the plywood above him and he stiffened, listening closely. He could hear nothing more after the initial noise; it must have been a branch or a leaf from one of the many surrounding trees falling onto the plywood. He pushed his head out of the bag until he could look up at the edge of the plywood and see the stars, blazing coldly in the night. It was not all that cold yet, not really, he thought sleepily as he drifted off looking at the stars…abruptly his heart lurched into his throat, above him a small, dark head moved to block out the star light.

"What are you doing out here?" came the quiet child-like voice.

Tim said nothing, only tried to shrink into the beam blocking his way from going completely under the plywood flooring.

"I can see you." said the voice softly.

"Don't hurt me!" Tim finally gasped out.

"I don't want to hurt you silly!" said the still dark blob above him, "I just want to talk."

"I…I know who you are!"

"I don't know you. What is your name?"


"Don't be afraid Tim, I am Andi, it's short for Andrea. Not a lot shorter, but it only uses an 'i' instead of an 'ea'. Why are you out here Tim, instead of in a house where it is all warm?"

Tim lifted his handcuffed arm into the girl's sight, she studied the chain for a moment and shrank back. "Oh, you're a bad man. My mommy told me about bad men, they get handcuffs and have to wear orange clothes. Are you wearing orange clothes?"

"N-no! I am not a bad man, they just don't like me."

"Oh, like Tommy Sandburger! The other boys always push him down at the playground, he just wants to play with them, but they're mean to him for no reason. My mommy says just to be nice to him, because he doesn't have any friends. Do you have any friends, Tim?"

"Not really, no."

"Well I can be your friend, okay? Like Tommy." she leaned forward and put her face near his then took a long pull of air in through her nose, "You don't smell too good."

"I, um, I am sorry."

"Not like Tommy, he smelled like dootie, I think that is why no one liked him. You smell a little bad, more like my daddy on a summer day after he cut the grass. You should take a shower."

"Andi, why are you here?"

"Me? I just want to see what is going on. I miss people, mommies and daddies and barbeques. I come here to get close and see what people do. They do a lot of strange things together. I can watch people through walls if I try hard, my eyes are different since that night my mommy died. I saw you and wondered if you would talk to me."

"I'll talk to you."

"Good. Why don't you like me?"

"You, are… You know what happened to you? That you died and came back?"

The face bobbed around and Tim realized the girl was nodding to him. "Well we don't want to be like you, we want to stay the way we are."

"You can't. Not all of you, we need you. Just a little of you, sometimes!" said the girl with some anxiety in her voice, "I am breaking the rules. Sam Waller says you don't talk with your food."

Confused Tim said, "Sam Waller? Sargent Waller?"

"That is the name he told you. Sam Waller dresses up to talk with the food so we do not have to. Sam Waller says 'do not play with your food Andi'. Sam Waller says 'eat to be strong'. When he is alone and thinks no one can hear him" Andi's voice became even softer and harder to hear, "Sam Waller says 'I will kill those two little bitches someday.' Only he didn't kill me or Mo, he got killed by the food man, Jeff."

"How do you know Jeff's name?"

"Jim Tiller says you always ask your food what it knows before you eat it. Jim Tiller didn't kill food man Jeff right away, he played with it first. Sam Waller wouldn't have liked that."

"Oh God, poor Jeff!"

"Sam Waller says 'the food is not poor, it lives a good life, we protect the food'!" the girl said sharply, "Sam Waller says to kill all the really slow, stupid zombies and keep the smart talking zombies away from the food. Sam Waller says our food will reproduce if we can protect it long enough, then we will always have food."

"I am tired now, Andi. Don't you ever sleep?"

"I pretend to sleep during the day. The others like that. Do you want me to leave you alone now?"

"I would like to sleep, yes. If that's okay."

"That is okay." The little girl pulled her head back over the plywood out of Tim's sight. He didn't hear her leave, but was too scared to climb out and look to see if she was actually gone. Twenty minutes must have gone by and he had just convinced himself that she was gone when her little head popped over the edge again, "You're not asleep."

"No, I have a hard time sleeping with you up there."

"Did you see me? I was behind the board. Can you see through the board like me?"

"No, Andi, I cannot see through the board, I just didn't hear you leave."


"Why are you still here?"

"Sam Waller says 'never leave food that sees you alive to tell other food about you.'"

Tim felt his bladder let loose inside his sleeping bags as he babbled, "No, no, don't kill me! I can tell you things if you keep me alive! Please don't kill me!"

"Sam Waller says not to talk to your food. Jim Tiller says to ask it questions before you eat it." said Andi leaning in closer to Tim's face and shrugging her tiny shoulders. She put one hand on the top of Tim's head and the other under the base of his chin and held him as effectively as if he were in a vice. Tim could not open his mouth and it felt like his teeth were going to break.

"Ewww!" said Andi shoving Tim back and pulling away from him, "Now you smell like Tommy Sandburger! You made yellow and dootie in your bag!" She laughed at him quietly for a moment and then pressed a barely visible finger against her lips, warning him to silence. A moment later Tim heard a couple of people talking in the street out in front of the house, they were not being very quiet, but their voices barely carried to where he was at. For just a moment Tim considered screaming out for help, one look at the girl's pale face and he gave that idea up and cowered back into his sleeping bag.

Chapter 37

Dora woke up early the next day, anxious to get a head start on the projects that had to be finished in order to leave. After speaking with the community last night Dora found that almost everyone wanted to leave as soon as possible, which might even be today. The buses were fueled and ready, the cars, likewise were ready to go, the town had been using them on food raids for the past month and a half and all they required was topping up their fuel tanks.

The pint of blood fee struck many as distasteful, but it came down to living or dying and everyone was pragmatic on that score. Dora had circulated a list to get everyone's names, Jake had wanted that, he said he would look them up individually after they were safe in Iowa, though he would be taking a couple of pints this morning as pre-payment too.

A wave of nausea hit Dora in the stomach as she lifted herself from her bed. With some effort she turned her good morning, 'Oh fuck me' into 'Good morning little baby' as she rushed for the bathroom. The vomiting made her feel marginally better, but she was not fooled, Dora knew unless she got a few calories into her stomach the vomiting would happen again. Cleaning off her face from a bucket of water next to the sink she toweled off, took her morning constitutional and cleaned up again. A few minutes later Dora was dressed in blue jeans, a heavy shirt and gray woolen socks on her feet. Heading downstairs she smelled coffee and eggs. Paige darted in from the front door to quickly turn the pan of eggs, calling a quick "Good morning." to Dora as she darted out again.

Dora smiled and took over cooking the eggs, wondering what had Paige so riled up. A couple minutes later she found out as the young woman brought a dirty, struggling boy in through her front door with Mary's help. Alex brought up the rear, looking rather stern with his arms crossed and a bruised eye. Dora raised an eyebrow at him and said, "What is this?"

"This," began Paige, "is a 'Willy'. He is giving us no end of trouble. Maybe you can calm him down?"

"Willy, do you know me?" asked Dora to the still struggling boy.

He stopped moving so vigorously and said, "Yeah." in a sullen voice.

"Then what is the problem? Why are you fighting us?"

"I am not staying here. Not with you."


"This is so not fucking fair." muttered Alex.

Turning to him Dora half smiled and asked, "What are you talking about?"

Pointing at the group including Willy, Alex said, "This. We have been wrestling with him after cornering him like a rat twenty minutes ago, we get him to you and you get him talking in two seconds. That is not fair. We sheltered him, we cared for him…" Mary put her hand on Alex's fore arm and he stopped speaking.

Turning back to Willy, Dora asked, "Okay then why aren't you staying with us?"

The boy was a mass of bruises, mud and dried blood. He was missing a chunk of his hair above his right ear, that scab was oozing pinkish blood down that side of his neck. His eyes were defiant and tinged just a little bit with something Dora thought of as 'insanity'. Finally he looked at each adult in turn and said, "You're all gonna die."

"Well, yes, we know that Willy, but what has changed?"

"You know?" he asked incredulously. "Then why aren't you leaving? Why aren't you at the fences?"

"Wait, wait, you mean we are going to die today?"


"Let's just back up the bus a bit here, okay? How do you know this?"

"I heard them last night, I was close, to the twins I mean. They had that one guy, Tiller with them, one of the girls, she was talking to all of them. Said you were taking the buses out of here, not today, but tomorrow. She said you knew all about the twins and Tiller and the fake army guys."

"How could she know?" asked Mary, her hand coming up to cover her mouth.

"Yes, how, Willy?" The boy shrugged. Dora asked Paige, "Is anyone missing from last night? The zombie's news is fresh, so they had to take someone last night."

"I will get a head count and see if anyone is gone." said Paige rushing out the front door.

"So why did you come back, Willy, if they are going to attack us?"

"I came to get Beth out."

"Ah, young love! So sweet, so fresh. Can you get her out?"

He nodded his head.

"What if I told you we would be taking the buses and leaving this morning? Would you come with us instead?"

Slowly he nodded his head and whispered, "We have to leave now. They are watching."

"Alex, you better go get the troops out, everybody needs to get up, even those who were on watch last night, half of them on the fence and get the rest loading up the buses, tell them we plan to leave in thirty minutes because it is an emergency. See if you can contact Jake somehow." The plan had been to pick up Jake as they were leaving.

Alex nodded and went to get people moving. Dora turned her attention back to Willy. "You look like shit my little man, I guess that is why Mary wanted to bring you up here and clean you up?"

Mary said, "Yes, but he wasn't cooperating."

"Well now you cooperate Willy, you do everything she says and stop making a fuss so she can get done quick. And when she is done with you, you need to help her get Mike and Peter into the buses, got it? That is how you say sorry for causing such a fuss."

The boy looked at her a moment before his anger turned to fear, then he nodded meekly. Dora smiled warmly and said, "Good! See? We are all on the same side here, we love you Willy and just want what is best for you. Now scoot and let me finish cooking these eggs."

Mary brought the boy over into what used to be the living room, she stoked up the fire and wheeled a privacy curtain between Willy and the front door then told him to strip. The boy protested weakly as his hands started unbuttoning his shirt. Dora could still keep an eye on both of them while she scooped the eggs out into a big bowl, she took a few bites to calm her stomach and made a face at the taste, the eggs were just how Paige preferred them; with no seasoning at all.

Getting into the cupboard Dora took down three cans of bacon and opened them up, she dumped the congealed mass of fatty strips into the still warm pan. Dora started the process of spreading the thin strips around the pan to get them fully cooked. The canned bacon was not as good as fresh, but they would not be taking it with them, so she might as well use it this morning. While that was cooking she got into the cupboard for some spices and liberally dosed a bowl of eggs with onion powder and salt. She brought the bowl over to stand by Mary who was scrubbing the dirt off of Willy while inspecting him for bite marks.

Mary had already checked his pubic region and gotten him into a clean pair of boxers, the boy had goose pimples all over his body and without his clothing on the extent of his wounds was fully revealed. One of his legs was bruised black and blue from just above his ankle to almost mid-thigh. On the right side of his back from just below his rib cage was a long cut that stopped at the belt line, it was scabbed over, but not fully healed yet either. Dora whistled and spooned up a bite of eggs which she held out to Willy, he ate it without thinking.

"You got yourself into a fight or two didn't you?"

"Yeah, I was looking for Jack."

"I heard. Did you find him?"

"Yeah. He didn't make it."

"Did you finish him off?"

Willy shook his head, "Uh-uh. He did. I couldn't find him for a long time, then I went back to where we hid at and started going around in circles, like Jeff taught us and I found another hole, it was just…" Willy held up his hands about two feet apart, "that big and didn't really want to go down it, you know, if there were zombies in there or something. I came back with a light and didn't see anything, but it ended in a basement that was mostly covered over. I found him there, he done himself. I didn't have to. He knew he was turning." Tears came to the boy's eyes, eroding clean white streaks over his dirt clad face.

"Aw Willy, I'm sorry!" said Dora reaching out to embrace him, which caused Mary to squawk in protest, "Sorry Mary."

Willy let Dora hug him for a moment, he even returned it half-heartedly, then he shoved her away and tried to regain his dignity, continuing his story, "Anyway he was done for, but I didn't want to come back in. It was like before when I was alone out there. I didn't mind being on my own and now I know better on how to live, thanks to Jeff and what other people taught me how to do."

"Didn't you miss us?" Dora asked spooning more egg into his mouth.

He swallowed and shook his head. "I felt bad for Beth when I heard the other zombies talking, I mean, I felt bad for everybody, but I didn't know how to get all of you out." He shrugged his shoulders.

"Dora, go get him a bowl of his own, he can feed himself, and if you aren't burning that bacon my nose is lying." said Mary.

Dora went over and stirred the bacon around, then brought Willy his own bowl of eggs, he just wanted salt and pepper on them, no onion powder. By the time Dora got back Mary had sponged almost all of the dirt off of the kid's upper body and was dressing the wound on his head.

"Gimme a second before you give him that." said Mary, she finished cleaning up hole in his skin above his ear and then had him roll over on his belly so she could clean up the cut on his back. "Dora, toss another couple logs on the fire and get a blanket for his legs, would you?"

Dora nodded, handing the bowl of eggs to Willy by the time she had a blanket to drape over his legs the food had disappeared. "Hungry huh? So maybe you miss the regular meals here?"

"No, not really, but the food is better, candy bars get old after a while."

Dora was back with the last of the bacon when Paige came in, she moved over and spooned up some eggs for herself, taking a handful of bacon too. "No one is missing. Everyone is okay. Alex has them loading the buses now and watching the fence. He went to the front gate to try and flag down Jake."

Making up a large plate of food, Dora handed it to Paige who said, "Thanks, I already have a bowl."

"Good for you! This is for our prisoner; you may remember him, next door in Nina's back yard? I wouldn't want him saying we violated the Geneva conventions by not feeding him or something."

"Shit." Paige said, a piece of burnt bacon halfway to her mouth.

Dora looked at her for a second and said, "You didn't check on Tim did you?"

"No." Paige took the plate, grabbed the keys to the handcuffs and headed into Dora's back yard. Dora turned the remaining bacon off and grabbed up a shotgun to follow the other woman out. Paige went up to the break they had created in the wall between the houses and cautiously looked into the other yard.

"Tim?" she called cautiously.

The sleeping back moved.

"Breakfast time Tim, you hungry?"

Tim's head emerged from the sleeping bag. Dora walked up to the opening in the wall, while Paige got closer to the form on the ground.

Tim didn't look good, his hair was matted to his head, his eyes were barely focused and as his head emerged from the sleeping bag Paige recoiled. She set the plate of food down on the floor of the great hall and said, "What the hell happened to you?"

Tim pulled the sleeping bag to his waist and pulled on a jacket that he had been using as a pillow. "I was finally brave, for once." He said this more to Dora than Paige. "I made my own deal with the devil."

"Oh shit." Dora said softly to herself, Tim didn't appear to hear her, he looked at both of them and then grabbed for the plate of food.

"Tim, what happened? We know someone told one of the super zombie about our plans, was it you?"

Tim's hand paused halfway to his mouth, he swallowed slowly and then said, "You left me out here with no protection. They walked right in here and got to me. What was I supposed to do?"

"I don't know." said Dora, "Something brave?"

"She was going to kill me."

"I'm going to…" started Dora only to be cut off as Paige said again, "Tim what did you tell them? Who was here? Tell us what happened."

"You have to promise not to let Dora kill me." Tim said to Paige.

"Why would she listen to me?"

"You're lovers, you have sway with her."

Dora let out a harsh laugh that turned into a full-fledged fit, Paige just put her hand to her mouth and blushed red, before saying, "Tim, we're not lovers. I am not interested in Dora that way."

"You lying whore! Everyone knows you share a bed with her! And she sleeps with Mike too."

Somehow being disparaged by Tim didn't bother Dora in the slightest, in fact it made her laugh more and she was laughing so hard she couldn't speak. Paige turned around and looked at her, scowling, "You're not helping! Go back in the house if you can't control yourself Dora!"

Dora wheezed for a moment, before she pulled herself together enough to say, "I am sorry. I am sorry you lying whore!" Then she started laughing again, she managed to get through the hole in the wall between the back yards before she had to sit down again. Mary came out of the house and found her there laughing so hard she was crying.

"Dora?" Mary asked with concern, "Is everything okay?"

Behind Mary, Willy appeared, wrapped in the thin blanket he looked like a little lost waif from a British remake of 'Oliver Twist'. "I…I'm fine, Tim, he just cracks me up sometimes."

"I couldn't tell if you were laughing or crying. What's happened?" asked Mary, in one hand she still had the wet rag she had been cleaning Willy with, in the other she was carrying an ugly looking revolver.

"It was Tim. He's the one who sold us out to the zombies. They came here last night, got through our watchers and he told them everything, isn't that right, Tim?" this last was called over her shoulder through the wall where Tim was greedily shoving the last of the eggs into his mouth.

Mary went into the yard, followed closely by Willy, who Dora saw was also carrying a pistol; instincts ran deep with the humans who were still alive. The two of them stepped over to stand next to Paige, where Dora joined them after she finally got herself under control.

"So Tim, tell me again, with clear words, how you were brave?" asked Dora.

Paige stepped off to one side of the man, moving back slightly too. She had the handcuff keys dangling from one hand.

Tim looked at Paige and Mary and said, "You have to promise you won't let Dora or anyone on the council shoot me, or I am not saying anything!"

"Tim, no one is going to shoot you, the damage is done, we just want to know what you told them." said Mary.


"Tim, I won't shoot you unless you don't tell me what the fuck you did." said Dora, raising the shotgun and pointing it at the man.

"No you can't shoot me at all, you promise me." Tim said again to the other women.

Paige shook her head, "No, I don't think so. I can't promise that. I don't have any control of her."

"I can't either, I don't want Dora to shoot you. Please don't shoot him Dora, but I can't make a promise I know I can't keep."

Tim started to cry, bowing his head down to his chest he wept like an infant, muttering about how unfair everything was.

"Tim" Dora said firmly, "If you don't start taking we don't have any use for you. How about if I promise you I won't shoot you? Would that work?"

"No! Promise them! Promise them you won't shoot me, you wouldn't lie to them! Promise them you won't have anyone else shoot me either!"

Dora shrugged her shoulders, thinking of what she could do to Tim if she needed to, there were other ways for him to die, after all, finally she looked at Mary and Paige and in a clear voice she said, "Paige, lover, Mary, my good friend, I promise not to shoot Tim or have anyone else shoot him either." Turning back to Tim she asked, "So what did you do?" Dora lowered the gun and pointed the barrel at an angle away from the man.

"I had to tell them. The little girl was here, you call them the wonder twins. She came to me last night when everyone was sleeping. I had to tell her or she was going to kill me. But I didn't tell her the truth about everything. They have names you know, she was called, Andi. She was not right…not right in the head, not stupid, but more like damaged, like mentally ill. She kept repeating 'Sam Waller says' this and 'Jim Tiller says' that. It was crazy."

"It was just one then, not a whole group of them? So what did you lie to Andi about?"

"As much as I could, she had this way of rolling her eyes whenever I tried to tell her something that wasn't totally true, it was like she could see through me."

"Well, honestly Tim…" began Dora before Mary elbowed her in the ribs.

"So I couldn't deceive her very much. I lied about when we were leaving, I told them we needed to fill the buses with diesel today and we were leaving tomorrow. I told her that we couldn't leave today, no matter what because we had people who were too hurt to move and we needed that fuel."

"Well, that's good really, if she bought it." Dora's eyes narrowed, "You told them everything else? That we knew about them keeping us here, knew there were no Iowan's close by?"

Tim nodded once curtly.

"You fucking douche. I mean I knew you were a cowardly little shitbag, but to sell us out so fast? Why? All we ever wanted from you was for you to do your share; that was it. There's little room for 'I' in this new world, the place works together, fights together and dies or lives together and I do not understand how you could still manage to fuck us over chained to a goddamn post in Nina's yard!" Dora raised her shotgun and pointed it in Tim's direction.

"You promised!" screamed Tim.

Dora paused, her voice took on an icy tone, "You told them everything. Giving them bad information only helps us a little. You told them everything. I cannot believe it. I should have shot you a long time ago, you fucking prick." slowly, hands trembling, Dora lowered the shotgun and said, "Paige I think…"

The gunshot rang out in the silence of the morning, it was followed by two more shots, all three of which hit Tim in the upper chest. Mary knocked Willy's arm up and the fourth shot struck the stone wall on the far side of Nina's yard. She wrestled the gun from his small hand and pushed him to the ground where he let go of his blanket and stared back up at Mary defiantly.

Chapter 38

"Oh Willy! What have you done?" Mary said rhetorically as her hands automatically engaged the safety of his pistol. She tossed the gun to Paige and rushed forward to Tim, who was not moving on the ground. Dora was still reeling, she did not know how to react to what had just happened, she wanted to pick Willy up and give him a big hug and a fist bump for doing what she had wanted to do. However, she had not meant for him to be the one pulling the trigger.

"What kind of world do we live in when thirteen year olds can kill unarmed men chained to a post?" Dora muttered to herself as she held out her hand to the boy on the ground to help him up. She got him on his feet and looked him in the eyes, he was a skinny, shivering boy standing barefoot with his overlarge boxers riding low over hips too narrow to hold them up, there was no hint of fear or regret in his eyes. Dora reached down and pulled up his underwear up, saying, "You might want to hold onto those." She bent over and picked up the blanket off the ground, it was wet from the dew on the grass, but she put it around his shoulders anyway and hugged him close, whispering, "Everything will be okay, don't you worry hon, everything will be fine."

"I did the right thing." Willy said with confidence.

Dora held him out at arms-length, "Willy you did the right thing, the thing that needed to be done. But you didn't do it the right way."

He looked confused for a moment before the confidence came back, "No, you were going to do it the old way, everything is different now. Jeff says, well said, that if we followed the old rules we would all be overrun by zeds, that is why he liked you so much. He said we have to rely on our instincts and risk making a bad decision rather than making no decision at all. No decision can kill you just as fast as a bad decision."

"You know I think I should have gotten to know Jeff better."

"He knew all sorts of stuff. Tim was an idiot, he was a, um, traitor? Yeah, a traitor to us. You promised not to kill him. Paige and Mary promised. I didn't promise. I knew I couldn't let you break a promise, that's all we have now, our word. So I did what you needed to do but couldn't; we worked together."

"Fuck." Dora said, flabbergasted at the boy's logic.

"He's dead." said Mary on her knees by Tim's side. She sat back on her behind and rotated to look at Willy and Dora. "What the heck do we do now?"

Concerned voices came from inside Dora's house, several men appeared at her back door asking what the shots were and if everything was alright. Nina's back door finally opened to and the slender woman weaved her way through the piles of construction materials towards the partially built building.

"I don't kno… Fuck! Mary look out!" yelled Dora.

Behind Mary, Tim's body had reanimated and was reaching for her. It latched on with one pale hand and grasped her ankle. Paige had two guns in her left hand, Willy's and the pistol she had pulled out when the first gun shots were fired, she tried to move one pistol over to her right hand to get a shot at the zombie, but ended up fumbling both of them to the ground.

For Dora, suddenly the entire world seemed to shift into slow motion, she looked around at the men coming out of her house yelling at them for help, she looked at Nina, who was moving sluggishly towards them and she looked at Willy who was smiling up at her. "You can do it too?" he asked. "Good." then Dora found herself bringing her shotgun up, taking the ten long steps over to Tim and putting the barrel into his mouth, the mouth that Mary's ankle was being slowly jerked towards. The barrel of the gun beat the slow speed of the zombie's hand and with hardly a thought Dora pulled the trigger. She expected an immediate forceful blast, but what actually happened was like watching a movie on half speed, the gun seemed to want to fire, but it took a moment for the shot to sound out, then Dora watched as Tim's head virtually exploded, behind him onto the boards of the great hall. As quickly as it began everything stopped. Dora found herself standing by Mary shotgun in hand, looking at the ruins of Tim's head.

Paige, still reaching for one of the pistols in the grass, turned her head sideways to stare at Dora, "What the fuck Dora! How did you…?"

Willy just beamed, but turned and walked his cold little body back into Dora's house, brushing past the men who were filing out of her back door.

Mary didn't seem to realize anything was wrong, she just got up and started to thank Dora hysterically. Nina, however had a good view of everything that had happened, she made the sign of the cross before her and stopped when she was close enough to comfort Mary. Mary turned into Nina's arms readily enough, freeing Dora to think about what had just happened. Dora cast a sidelong look towards where Willy had disappeared. This brought Steve, Alex and a couple of the other men into sharp focus. Alex rushed forward to gather up a still crying Mary and Steve looked at Dora and asked, "What happened?"

"Willy shot Tim, killed him, Tim came back. He must have been infected somehow, I just shot him again."


Dora laughed, still a little shaken by what had happened, "'Oh'? That's all you have to say?"

"Well," Steve began carefully, "It is good you didn't kill him, that would've been bad, why did Willy shoot him?"

"We had just finished a little discussion where Tim explained how he sold us out to the super zombies, told them everything he knew. He tried to spin it to us that he withheld critical information. Even Willy didn't buy that."

"Wait." Steve said, then approached Tim's corpse. He unzipped the sleeping bags and revealed the rather pale thin body inside. Tim was nude from the waist down and his sleeping bags were soiled. He also sported a small bite on his upper left thigh. It would not have killed him right away, probably not for several days, but it was enough to infect him and make him return.

"He was bitten, it's fresh too. Tell me what he told you." Steve said. Dora filled him in while Alex brought Mary into the house to get cleaned up. When Dora finished Steve nodded and said, "So she scares the piss out of him last night, makes the deal and seals it with a bite, promising him, what? To make him a super when he came back? I bet you were part of the deal too, maybe he would get to munch on you. I wouldn't put it past him anyway. Then he cleans up as well as he can and goes back to sleep. Of course what the hell else could he do?"

"He could've kept his cake hole shut and died like a good soldier."

"Would you?"

Dora saluted Steve with a mocking gesture of her hand and said, "Yes sir! For God and my country I will make the ultimate sacrifice!"

"So what do we do about Willy?" everyone knew Steve was talking about what to do about the boy if they made it to some sort of safety, would they turn him in or pretend he had not shot a living man in cold blood.

Dora looked only at Steve and said, "Let's wait a couple days and decide. A lot can happen in a week."

"Fair enough." Steve looked up at the men and Nina, who were still standing around listening, "Alright we know what happened now, go fill everyone in while you work. Give them the short version, Tim is dead, he turned into a zombie, no need to elaborate. Keep working to get us the hell out of here this morning. I will be out there in a few minutes." The men dispersed, Nina stayed until they were gone, prompting Tim to ask, "Yes Nina?"

"Dora…she didn't tell you everything, not all of it."

"I told the important parts." Dora said.

"What did she miss? I thought you were inside getting ready to go? I didn't think you saw anything."

"I didn't see Willy kill Tim. I saw Dora kill Tim when he came back. She saved Mary's life."

"Not to put too fine of a point on it, but this isn't anything unusual for Dora. Hell if we had medals I would pin a few on her myself, she has saved many of us over the last month."

Nina shook her head, "No, that's not what I am talking about." she looked at Dora intently, "What happened? I saw it, don't say you didn't do something."

"What?" Steve asked with some confusion, looking from one woman to the other.

"She moved too fast Steve. She moved like one of them. Dora has to be a super zombie, nothing moves that fast."

"What?" Steve took a step back from both of the women. "What's she talking about Dora?"

"Everything got slow, it was like the world was moving in slow motion and I was the only one moving at normal speed, only I wasn't the only one. Tim was going to bite Mary, I just had to move fast to get to her, to save her and I did. I don't know how."

"That….is strange. Are you sure it wasn't adrenaline?"

Nina shook her head violently, "No Steve. Remember how that super vaulted over the fence three weeks ago, took John Williams by the throat and almost took his head off?" Steve nodded, remembering the incident, "Remember how he was kind of fuzzy around the edges? He moved so fast we could hardly even see him?"

"Yeah, as I recall it was Dora who shot him in the head to finish him."

Dora nodded, barely remembering the incident, which was just one among hundreds that had played out in the six weeks since 'zombie day'.

"Well Dora moved like that, real fast." Nina shrugged, "Maybe faster."

"But Dora is human, the whole council had to test a few days ago, to prove we were all human, I looked at her blood myself, it was living blood."

"I am not afraid of her, whatever she is, she's on our side, but I know what I saw. I can keep my mouth shut…for now. We have more important things going on."

"Fair enough, we'll look into this more once we all get to where we are going, okay? You have my promise on that Nina." Steve put out his hand and Nina shook it before she turned and went back into her house, leaving the two of them alone with Tim's body. Dora leaned over and pulled the sleeping bag back over the corpse, hiding it from view.

"Dora, you said you weren't the only one. I didn't forget that. I don't remember if Nina caught it or not. Who else was moving so fast?"

Dora looked up at Steve, a small smile came to her lips, "Willy. Of course it was Willy. How else could he survive out there on his own. It makes me wonder how many of our children are afflicted with this? It makes me wonder for the future and what our babies will be like." She patted her belly without thinking about it. Steve looked at the gesture she was making and Dora awkwardly patted her thigh before raising her hand to her brush the hair back from her face.

"Thank God we don't have to worry about that yet! I don't know what I would do if any of the women came down with a nine month parasite right now. As much as everyone seems to be fucking anything that moves it is a wonder we don't have a maternity ward set up yet."

Softy Dora agreed, "Yeah thank God for that, Steve."

"What?" Steve looked at her closely and asked, "What?" again. Slowly he seemed to realized what he had said, "Oh my fucking God! You're pregnant! It all makes sense now, you throwing up all the time, being extra bitchy and tired! Why didn't you tell anyone?"

"Fuck. Keep your voice down! I don't want anyone to know, okay? We got bigger things to worry about and this is one of them that can wait until we get to Iowa, or po-dunk-ville or where ever the hell Jake is leading us."

"Jake…you should never have come with us to get the buses. Never; it was too much of a risk, there are not a whole fucking lot of people left Dora and we have to protect anyone who is going to expand the human race."

"See? This is why I didn't tell anyone. I don't need special treatment and I need to do my job, you can't handle me with kid gloves on account of my condition."

"Why the fuck not? Forget what I said, I am thrilled that you are knocked up, I love it the idea that you will be having a baby it is an incredible boost to my morale and everyone else will love the idea too. I wish all the women were pregnant then we would have a reason to fight again. Fighter harder I mean."

"Steve, listen, this is important. If you so much as tell anyone I will kick you in the nutsack so hard you will never have kids of your own."

Steve stood up more straight and shifted around on his legs until they were slightly apart, then gestured with one hand at his crotch, "Take your best shot lady, I am telling them. This will help us through the next day or two."

Seeing the determination in his eyes Dora said, "Fuck. I really do not want people to know yet. I don't want them acting all weird trying to protect me when I am more than capable of taking care of myself. You would treat me differently, you said so yourself; you would not have brought me to get the buses yesterday."

Steve nodded and Dora continued. "Well then you have to ask yourself Steve, would people knowing this, and liking it, according to your belief, outweigh the changes they will make in our fight to leave here? Are people going to make better or worse decisions in combat because they know I am pregnant?"

"I don't…I don't really know Dora."

"Well you were in the military right? Do you change plans at the last minute?"

"You have to get as up to the date intelligence as you can before you go on any mission. This news could make people fight harder."

"Steve, Steve, Steve." said Dora shaking her head, "They are already going to be fighting for their lives, I don't think fighting for mine even enters the equation. I think they'll do fine. When we get to Iowa we can tell everyone and use it to soften the blow that comes from our losses."

"If we make it, Iowa it's going to change everything."

"So you'll wait then?"

With a bit of a frown Steve nodded his agreement, "But only until we get there, once we're safe again I'm telling everyone."

"Fair enough. Now let's get going, I still have to talk to Willy before we head out. Why don't you have him ride with me? And throw that tween Beth in my suburban too, would you?"

"You are on point, I was going to try and have another adult in your car…"

"Who? We 'adults' are spread pretty thin, Willy has a good track record of surviving and with his little girlfriend in the car he won't be tempted to head out on his own."

"Fine. Any other changes to my plans that you want me to make?"

"Now, Steve don't be that way! You know us civilian leaders have to mess with the military plans all the time for political reasons."

"No shit." Steve slid open the patio door to Dora's house and they headed into her kitchen. "Are you going to miss this place?"

"Depends on where I end up, ask me in a year, if we're still around."

"Oh you'll end up on your feet, I don't doubt that." said Steve as he helped himself to a huge plate of eggs and cup of coffee. Dora frowned at him and put another pot on to make more. Steve tried to duck out before Dora made a snide comment about coffee guzzling jar heads, but he didn't quite make it. After she had poured herself a fresh cup she approached Mary and Willy in her living room. Willy was much cleaner than he had been and was getting dressed while Mary packed away bits and pieces of her medical gear into bags on the examining table.

"You need help Mary?"

"Yeah, you busy?"

"I just want to talk with Willy for a minute, want me to get you a cup of coffee?"

"Sure, put it in one of those travel mugs will you? Oh and Alex said he had come back to tell you that he couldn't get in touch with Jake."

"Dammit. We should have left him a walkie-talkie."

"I am sure we'll contact him when we leave. Now go take your minute, it better be a fast one, we need to get moving here."

"C'mon Willy." said Dora dragging the boy with her as she went back over to the kitchen.

He finished dressing by the counter as Dora pushed another bowl of eggs over at him. "Coffee?"

"Is there any cream and sugar?"

"You know it." said Dora pouring him a cup then passing over a bottle of powdered cream and a bowl of sugar. Willy doctored his coffee up until it resembled a creamy white sludge then started in on his eggs.

"You're riding with me today. Up front on point, Beth will be in the car too. That okay with you?" he responded by nodding and grunting his assent. "So what did you mean when you said I could do it too? When we were out there with Tim?"

The young man shrugged and said, "Some of us are faster, like they are. Especially anyone who got real close up to them to kill them. Jeff was about as fast as I have seen, before I saw you this morning. You are way faster. Like car to bicycle faster."

"Why in the hell didn't anyone mention this before?"

"We thought you knew. I saw you fight before, I mean you were faster than normal, you were always where you needed to be, always killing the really bad people who needed killing. I was sure you already noticed or that someone else had talked to you about it."

"No one ever mentioned it. How fast are you?"

"I could outdraw Jeff." Willy reached up and touched the bandage above his ear, "But I'm not fast enough."

"Is there anything else that goes along with this?"

Willy rolled his eyes and sighed, then answered, "How would I know? You're faster, I'm faster, I don't get so tired anymore, I think we get better sooner or don't get hurt as much as we should." he paused, shoveled in another spoonful of eggs, then said, "Oh, wait, stronger too. Much stronger. You can jump farther. That's about it, just try things and see what you can do."

"Good advice, too bad I don't have time. Does it ever go away?"

Willy shrugged, "Not yet, maybe when we stop killing them."

"Which will be never. I get it. Fine. Finish up then come help me with Mary and getting the hurt people into the bus." Dora poured the last of the fresh pot of coffee into a travel mug, then fixed it up the way she knew Mary liked to drink it before heading over to help the other woman finish packing.

Chapter 39