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Haven Medical Base
The fields became a wasteland in what felt like no time at all. It was as if abandoned cars and other relics of times past simply sprang from the earth like the first plants of spring.
In reality it had been a slow decline over the last two months. The groundskeeper was one of the smarter ones. He took off at the start of the whole thing. Simon hoped it had done him some good. Maybe leaving saved the man’s family from the hell that had devoured Simon’s. Maybe the old guy was holed up in some backwoods cabin with his wife and kids out in Idaho or something; living off the land and all that crap. Probably he was as dead as most people. Most likely his kids were too.
Simon kicked idly at the boulder he stood on. He sighed and squatted down, feeling twice his age as he watched the wind blow through the quiet afternoon. Twice his age, Simon gave a small snort of laughter at that. Really he felt like an old man, which would be four or five times his age. At thirteen, he felt fifty. As if he lived forty years in the last two months. Of course he was lucky to be alive at all. That didn’t make him any less tired.
Simon pushed his glasses up on his nose and shook his light brown hair from his face. He was born in 2038, right at the end of the Syrabian War, the second wave of the war in the Middle East as oil supplies dwindled to nothing. His dad had been in the military, his mom died giving birth. Simon looked down; it always hurt to remember his parents. He had a sister too, a good one, much older than him. It didn’t seem fair that her memory was such a blur to him, while so many bad memories of his alcoholic dad were crystal clear. Before the virus, Simon thought he’d always be with his sister. Instead, here he was; a wizened old man in the body of a child, staring out on the world he inherited when the dust settled.
Simon jumped at the voice, and then smiled self-consciously. He turned to face the other boy.
“Guess so.” Zeke said. He gave Simon the lazy smile of the older boys, definitely high. Simon never asked if Zeke was his real name, or if like some of the others, he chose the name when he woke from his coma. Zeke suited him though; he was tall, dark-haired, and too thin. The kind of kid who most likely kept to himself before everything went to hell.
“Just wondering how long it will be before they figure out how to get over the wall,” Simon glanced at Zeke. That thought was never far from his mind these days. Sometimes he couldn’t sleep, worrying they were already past the walls and coming for him.
“We’ll be ready, I think.” Zeke nodded slowly. “As long as we can talk Matt into giving up his escape plan.”
Simon gave a snort of laughter. “Yeah right. Even if we can talk him out of it, what’s your plan for the wall?”
“Simple,” Zeke said. He shrugged as he pulled out a half-smoked joint from his pocket. Where the weed kept coming from, Simon had no idea. He held the joint in one hand, and formed a gun with the other. He pretended to aim into the distance. “We learn to shoot.” Zeke grinned and lit up. He took a quick puff and offered it to Simon, who shook his head. He hated the way the older guys were smoking away their fear. It reminded him too much of his dad’s drinking. Simon wouldn’t drink or smoke because of it. Zeke shrugged and took another puff. He tried to continue talking and hold in the smoke. “The base has to have guns stashed somewhere. Shooting’s a piece of piss. Point, shoot, bam. Then we got ourselves a party.”
“It was a medical base,” Simon reminded him.
“So?” Zeke stubbed out the joint on the bottom of his shoe and put the last bit back in his pocket. “Thousand to one they still got guns stockpiled somewhere, no matter what sort of face they tried to put on.”
“And what if the hostiles are down there, down wherever the guns are?”
“Zombies, kid. Call them what they are.” Zeke shook his head with a half smile. “Won’t be many down there, if any. They must have the guns locked up someplace safe. Which means it won’t be a place those scrabs are stumbling into. The guns we have now should take out any zombies that found their way in.”
Simon thought it over. Maybe this was why it didn’t bother him that Zeke smoked so much; the guy still had his head on straight. Not many of the kids in the base dared to call the hostiles zombies, but that sure as hell was the truth. It didn’t matter how you looked at it. People argued that it was a virus; that the hostiles never really died. From the start, people wanted to believe there was a cure. There wasn’t. They were zombies.
“Maybe we could talk to Matt tonight,” Simon said. There wouldn’t be a better time.
Zeke nodded. “About time to head in.” He raised his chin toward the sky. It was starting to darken at the edges, sun just below the horizon as another night fell. “Unless you were planning to learn what a hamburger felt like.”
In the distance, figures were outlined in the twilight. Night brought them around like vampires, shambling towards the siren song of the beating hearts and fresh meat behind the base’s walls. They would wait the night out, staring with empty longing at the base’s tall walls, only starting to meander away as the sun threatened the edges of the sky again.
“You ever wonder why they only come out at night?” Simon asked as he slid off the rock. The wind was picking up with the coming night, and Simon had to raise his voice to be heard beside Zeke, who was a good foot taller than him. At fifteen Zeke had already hit his growth spurt, while Simon was still inches shorter than other boys his age. Together, they hurried toward the gate.
Zeke shook his head. “Maybe it just seemed like the zombie sorta thing to do.” Zeke giggled a little maniacally at his own wit. Simon wondered if he should rethink his assessment that Zeke’s head was still on straight. But really, weren’t they all a bit messed up now? Too much had changed for any of them to maintain anything that resembled sanity or anything else from their earlier lives.
When they reached the main gates, three of the younger kids were shoving them closed for the night. Simon’s stomach lurched as he thought of what might have happened if Zeke hadn’t come along. He might still be sitting on the boulder, practically inviting the zombies to eat him. The three kids weren’t older than ten, and though they gave it their all, the gates were heavy and moved slowly under their small hands. Simon and Zeke slipped inside and helped them. The gates slid haltingly shut. Simon didn’t like to think what would happen if they couldn’t shut the gates.
“Thanks, Simon,” one of the boys said with a nod. Simon nodded back. The kid was black, with shoulder length dreads, and big dark eyes. He seemed mildly familiar to Simon, but he didn’t know his name. They all seemed to know Simon’s name however.
Simon had been the first to come out of the coma. He was the one who relayed the last nurse’s story to the others. She had been waiting by his bed when he awoke. She handed him his glasses, and Simon groggily slipped them on. The world sharpened into crisp focus. She told him he was the first to wake. How she knew he would be the first he didn’t think to ask. It could simply have been luck that led her to his bedside. Simon slipped out of the bed and stood in front of the nurse when she began to speak.
She told him the story as quickly as she was able to, with jerking breaths and pausing now and then as she stared off into the distance. When she finished, she slowly and laboriously raised the gun he hadn’t noticed. Simon stepped back; his only thought was that she would shoot him as he stood in his hospital pants, half naked and cold in the dreary hospital room.
She pressed the barrel of the gun to her ear and pulled the trigger before he could stop her. He jerked away, the step back saving him from being covered with bloody brain and bone fragments as they arced away from her skull. Instead, they painted the wall behind her; a crescent of gore against the hospital issue white wall. He stood, unable to move, stunned as he listened to his own blood rushing frantically in his ears and watched her blood drip slowly and steadily to the floor.
Simon stood, staring in shock, his body shaking and otherwise unable to move away from the gore in front of him. He tried to pull his eyes away, he really did, but it was the first time he stood so close to death. He found himself strangely enthralled and captivated by the sight.
After she died there was a familiar smell in the air, and Simon realized with embarrassment that his bladder had emptied all down the inside of the scratchy hospital pants. His cheeks burned with shame at wetting his pants, and he pulled them off. The smell of urine was thick in the air, even after he threw the pants in the trash. He tried the shower, but after a couple hearty bursts of rust colored water there had been only a trickle of clear water. He found a washcloth and a basin of water near his bed. He quickly mopped his legs off, still feeling as if anyone he met would know that he’d wet himself.
After changing into a pair of jeans and shirt he figured were his own, he looked at his intake sheet. It filled in some of the blanks in his memory, but not all of them. He had just turned thirteen, and his name was Simon Davenport. He waited for the first sign of life from the others, the nurse’s gun always in hand.
It had been the worst week of his life.
“We found a whole basement full of canned food,” the black kid was saying as he trailed beside Simon and Zeke. His friends, a red-haired kid and an Asian boy who never talked, hurried to keep up. “Matt said we should pack it for the escape.”
“Matt’s full of bull,” Zeke answered lazily. “It wouldn’t be worth it to pack food for anyone leaving. Sure as hell, come night anyone outside those gates becomes zombie food. You got that, Noah? Outside equals zombie bait, dog food. Out there you’re a damn happy meal.”
Simon was surprised that Zeke knew the kid’s name, but tried not to show it. Noah stopped and gave Zeke a stunned look; the other two stopped beside him. “So we aren’t escaping?”
“Not if you want to live,” Simon answered simply. They continued walking again, leaving the three boys to spread the word.
“Matt has all these little scrabs as good as brainwashed.” Zeke spat onto the sidewalk to punctuate the sentence and illustrate his disgust.
“Dodge and Tech don’t seem to be buying into it.”
“Tech’s a geek.” Zeke shook his head. “Dodge has a chance of changing their minds; he’s got charisma spewing out of his ass.”
Simon smiled. He was surprised how good it made him feel. He felt like he had forgotten what it meant to be happy, which was near true. One of the problems with surviving the coma was the memory holes it left. If you asked any of the thirty surviving kids if they remembered who they were before the coma, not a one could tell you. There were blurred memories, but nothing solid.
Dodge woke up in his dad’s truck feeling shaky and confused near the south gate of the base. The front of the truck was wrapped around a tree while his parents were out cold in the front seat. As night fell, his parents woke from their comas, but they weren’t healed. At close range inside the truck, he had blown holes through both their heads with his dad’s sawed off shotgun. He ran, covered in sweat and blood, to the base wall and climbed over, paying little attention to the boys on guard as they shouted at him. It was only because none of the zombies ever climbed the wall that he wasn’t shot.
“Should we find Dodge and Tech?” Already Simon could hear the dragging footsteps of the half dead outside the wall. Night had fallen quickly, and as always it brought friends.
“Yeah.” Zeke nodded. His eyes were bright as he glanced back toward the noise. He looked as nervous as Simon felt. “Dodge will be over at the rec center. He’ll have some burn too I bet.” They hurried toward the rec center, both eager to be away from the sounds coming from outside.
|Contact me for more information about this novel.
|Read Chapter 2 of Prime