Alright, here’s a section from my upcoming zombie thriller “REND” which will be released by Permuted Press in March 2016!
*Not edited yet!
22 March, 2349 hrs local
The Wall Security Checkpoint #17
Private First Class Jeffrey Callahan leaned against the brick that made up this section of The Wall and lit up a cigarette to feed his habit. Man this blows, he thought. He’d joined the Army right out of high school with the expectation that he’d be able to see the world, but he was stuck in the middle of some godforsaken backwoods in Maryland. What really sucked was that all of his friends in the unit had deployed and been in combat. They all wore that sweet combat patch and had also socked away a lot of cash while they’d been deployed. Now here he was, working mind-numbing twelve-hour guard details every day and they didn’t even earn any additional pay. Fuck the Army.
Jeffrey had volunteered for everything that a first-year soldier could sign up for. After Infantry training at Sand Hill, Fort Benning, Georgia he’d volunteered to go to Airborne School and gotten himself assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. Once he got there, he’d been able to attend the division’s Pre-Ranger course and was approved to attend Ranger School once he got promoted to Specialist, but then this “deployment” order came down and put a halt to all of his plans.
The division was given a 72-hour notice to deploy to The Wall a little over a month ago and now, here he was. It was midnight and he had another six hours to go on his guard shift. His hand idly brushed against the rough cinderblock surface behind him as he contemplated what it meant. The Wall had been a part of his world for over five years. Construction started when he was in seventh grade, right after the nuclear blast wiped out Washington, D.C., and was completed in a little under a year.
The Wall allegedly acted as a barrier against the zombies trapped inside. What a load of shit, he mused. He’d watched the “true story” about the nuclear attack on Washington and the part about the zombies was such a bullshit Hollywood addition that most people actually believed that there were zombies behind The Wall. No one in the unit that he’d spoken to “fought” in the zombie war, everyone had been on humanitarian aid missions or construction crews. He’d been on this assignment long enough to realize that nothing was alive in there; it was a total wasteland. The government just made up those stories and manufactured some news footage to keep people from venturing inside to take stuff.
The detonation point for the nuke was Bowie, Maryland and The Wall completely circled everything within a 38-mile radius of ground zero. There had been a nationwide shortage of building materials as the government procured everything to construct the nearly 250-miles of ten-foot high wall that surrounded the former Washington, D.C. area. Through sheer determination and stubbornness, President Holmes was able to get the glorified fence completed using the hundred thousand servicemen and women that were already onsite to fight the “zombies” and provide disaster relief.
When it was completed, The Wall ran from just north of the Marine Corps base at Quantico, around Leesburg, Virginia up to Mount Airy, Maryland and over to Towson. From there it angled southeast over the Chesapeake Bay and enclosed about a 5-mile wide stretch of the Eastern Shore of Maryland from Chestertown to Easton before crossing back over the bay into southern Maryland. It bisected Calvert, St. Mary’s and Charles counties before crossing the Potomac River back into Virginia. The government had to force the evacuation of Baltimore due to the radiation fallout area and had to relocate the capital to Denver because of the nuke, not the zombies.
It was funny when he thought about the circumstances leading up to the destruction of the old capital city. Most Americans chose to focus their hatred on the French who’d attacked the U.S. with a nuclear missile instead of on the terrorists who caused the virus that made the French overreact. He was glad that the president bombed that bastard who launched the nuke. Jeffrey had watched a television program in the platoon dayroom before they deployed here that said if the terrorists hadn’t assassinated all those world leaders at the G-8 Summit, then the previous French president probably wouldn’t have launched the missile. He didn’t know about that, but his family hated the French like everyone else in his hometown and didn’t really discuss the terrorists very often.
Private Callahan exhaled a lungful of smoke into the night air. He was glad that they’d finally set up a small shoppette for his unit way out here on the peninsula far away from the action up north. When they first got here, there wasn’t anywhere to buy smokes and he’d run out after a week. For two weeks after that soldiers were trying all sorts of shit to replicate that nicotine high without any success. He was only a private, so he didn’t know all the details, but apparently his battalion was replacing a platoon-sized element out here in St. Mary’s County so the group hadn’t needed as much support as his entire unit did now.
Besides guarding the only gate on the peninsula and ensuring that no trespassers tried to sneak past The Wall, the battalion was also responsible for tearing down any remaining man-made structures on the peninsula. The government had mandated that there would be a three-mile wide clear zone around the outside of The Wall. That meant that every home, business and man-made object—except for roads and sidewalks—had to be torn down and removed to further encourage citizens to stay away from the irradiated area. The remainder of the peninsula in St. Mary’s was declared a wildlife reserve and had to be completely cleared of all structures.
A strange sound coming from the direction of the company command post startled him from his reverie about The Wall. He leveled his M-4 rifle towards the darkness and called out the challenge word.
“Put that goddamned thing down before you hurt someone, Private,” a gravelly voice echoed from the night.
Jeffrey relaxed his grip on the rifle and let it rest on the sling while he stood at the position of parade rest for his squad leader. “I’m sorry, Sergeant. I couldn’t tell who you were,” he replied.
“Well shit, that’s an even better reason not to point your weapon at someone,” Sergeant Davis said as his form materialized in the guard shack’s watery lamp light. “At ease, Callahan.”
The young soldier’s hands dropped from high in the small of his back to a more relaxed position just above his belt. “You’re right, Sergeant,” he agreed.
“Of course I’m right, Callahan,” the sergeant said. “Who the fuck else do you think would be out here at midnight besides someone in the unit checking up on you?”
“I don’t know, Sergeant,” the private answered dejectedly. “The CO gave that briefing about the treasure hunters going into the city and how it was our responsibility to keep them out.”
“Listen here kid, that’s up north near Baltimore and closer to Washington. There’s not dick going on down here in Mechanicsville, ya hear me?”
“Yes, Sergeant. But the CO said—”
Sergeant Davis cut him off, “The CO is a smart guy, but he’s got no common sense. That directive to stop people from entering The Wall was a division-wide order. It wasn’t meant for us down here. Look, someone would have to avoid the Navy patrols just to get across the Potomac or the Chesapeake to the peninsula, then they’d have to hike four or five miles from wherever they hid their boat just to make it to this gate. Hell, the entire battalion is spread out over the rest of this peninsula clearing out all the structures so this place can be a park one day.
“I don’t care what the Old Man said,” the noncommissioned officer continued. “There’s nobody coming around this guard shack. Hell, why do you think we only have one person on duty at a time? It ain’t outta the kindness of the CO’s heart. It’s because there’s literally no reason to waste manpower here when we can use the rest of the company to assist with the tear down of the abandoned towns. Understand?”
“Yes, Sergeant,” he replied. Not because he believed what the man said, but because he knew that’s what his squad leader wanted to hear. He was certain that the bank on the other side of The Wall would make a lucrative score for anyone who made the effort to get to it.
“I’m gonna turn in for the night,” Sergeant Davis stated. “I just came out here to check on you and make sure you were alright. Do you need anything before I hit the rack?”
“No, Sergeant. I’ve got a full pack of smokes to help keep me awake,” he replied, keeping the fact that he was reading a book on guard duty to himself.
“Alright. Hey, let me see your 3161 while I’m out here,” the sergeant requested as he gestured towards the chart where every significant occurrence at the checkpoint was recorded. He skimmed over the private’s notes and decided that nothing of any importance had happened.
“Here you go,” the older man said while he handed the chart back to the private. “Sure you don’t need anything? No?” When he saw Jeffrey shake his head in the negative he turned away. “Okay, I’m headed back to the company area, make sure you write down in the log that I came out here and checked on you, alright?”
“Yes, Sergeant,” he replied, reaching for his pen. “Good night,” Jeffrey called into the darkness after the retreating form of his boss.
He scribbled the visit down on the log and noted the time as 0021 hours. The private remained outside of the shack for a few more minutes and contemplated lighting another cigarette but decided against it. Even though they had a shoppette, there was no guarantee that they’d stay stocked up on the essentials, so he tried to smoke them sparingly. He settled into the camp chair inside the shack and picked up his book.
Jeffrey had only read two pages when a noise off to the side of his post startled him again and he dropped his book to the floor. He stepped out of the guard shack and peered into the darkness. He started to raise his rifle in the direction of a darker shadow near The Wall, but thought better of it. No way I’m gonna make that mistake again, he thought to himself as he pictured Sergeant Davis’ stern countenance. Instead, he rushed to the radio and picked up the handset. He hated the CO’s decision to only have one soldier on guard duty per shift. It would have made the long hours more bearable if someone else was there and he wished for the comfort of one of his friends near him in the darkness.
He lifted the mike up to his cheek but thought better of that as well. His squad leader was right. What idiot would be out here on the peninsula? He probably just heard one of the deer that ran rampant all over the place since there weren’t very many cars out here to keep the population down. Yeah, that was it, a deer, he convinced himself. God, he’d never hear the end of it if he alerted the company and woke everyone up because a deer spooked him. He carefully set the handset back into its cradle and settled back into the camp chair that served as the guard shack’s only seat.
He picked up his paperback and opened it to about where he thought he’d been. He scanned a few paragraphs that he recognized and skipped forward a couple of pages until he found the spot where he’d been when he dropped the book. Ah, here we are, Trisha just shot herself and Chuck went to find the gun, his mind murmured. He settled deeper into the chair to get comfortable while he read. A stick snapped somewhere in the woods nearby.
He dog-eared the page and cursed to himself. As the FNG, he’d been subjected to all sorts of practical jokes and mean pranks, so there was no way that he was gonna fall for it this time. Another twig snapped near the gate and he began to sweat a little. His eyes lingered for a moment on the radio and he shook his head. It was probably that jerk Thompson or maybe even Reyes, but someone was definitely playing a joke on him.
Jeffrey got out of the chair for the second time in five minutes. Now he was pissed because he was really looking forward to reading that book. What was it with these guys? In school he would have called them bullies, but in the Army culture it was just part of the age-old ritual of testing the new guy until he was either accepted or rejected by the group. He looked out into the inky black darkness but everything outside of the shack’s lamp range was hidden in the night. Another noise near the gate made him snap his gaze from the company area towards The Wall.
What the heck? he asked himself. I bet those losers are trying to sneak around The Wall and scare me. I’ll show them.
He crept from the light into the shadow of The Wall and put his back against the rough blocks. He slid along in the direction of the noises, choosing his steps carefully so he wouldn’t alert whoever it was that he was coming. One of the most important lessons that he’d learned growing up in Kentucky was how to be quiet in the woods, so he was confident that he’d be able to sneak up on those lumbering elephants who were making so much noise. His eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness and he began to discern shapes in the night.
He came up even with the gate and another twig cracked from inside The Wall. “What the fuck?” he whispered aloud. Sergeant Davis said no one was supposed to be in there—maybe I should go call this in, his mind argued with him.
Something that sounded like an asthmatic trying to catch a breath echoed right near him on the other side of the gate. “Very funny, Thompson,” he said loudly into the night. “I know it’s you. Come on guys, you’re gonna get in trouble for being in there. The CO said nobody was allowed to go inside The Wall.”
Jeffrey leaned in close to the lead-lined gate and opened the viewport to see where those losers were hiding. The moan echoed into the night again from somewhere extremely close. “Guys? This isn’t funny anymore, come on. Reyes? You’re starting to freak me out a little bit,” he admitted into the darkness
He pressed his face against the gate’s square hole in an effort to see into the foggy darkness beyond. Two hands shot out of the gloom and grasped his head like a vice. He tried to pull away, but the hands held firm and pulled his head through the opening. Jeffrey began to panic because he realized that if those jerks didn’t quit screwing around his he head would get stuck. “Quit screwing around guys! Oww, that hurts!” he squealed.
The hands continued to lodge his head further into the gate and he began to blackout from the pressure of the metal against his temple. Jeffrey kicked at the gate, which rattled and shook as he tried to pull away while someone pulled him in. His vision started to show bright bursts of light at the edges and he began to get desperate. Finally he grabbed the pistol grip of his rifle and begged for them to let him go or he’d have to shoot. He jabbed the barrel of the rifle through one of the many windbreak cutouts in the gate and thrust hard into the chest of the person beyond. It didn’t make any difference because they kept pulling hard against him.
Then something hard scraped across the top of his head and blood began to pour freely into his eyes. That was the last straw, it was self-defense now. With a practiced motion, his thumb slid along the rifle’s selector switch and rotated it from safe to semi and he jerked the trigger, firing into his attacker. The person didn’t cry out in pain and the pressure didn’t relent. The hands continued to pull his head deeper into the off-limits side of The Wall and the weird moaning continued. He panicked and rotated the switch all the way to the 3-round burst setting and he emptied the 30-round magazine into the shape of his attacker on the other side of the gate.
Finally the pressure eased slightly, but the hands still held on to his head. He tried to pull backwards but was jerked violently forward again. It was enough force to pull his head completely through the viewport. The last thing he saw were several grotesque arms snake out of the night and wrap around his head. The arms twisted in unison and Private First Class Callahan’s head separated completely from his body with the sickening sounds of ripped muscle and burst arteries. The remainder of his body fell lifeless on the safe side of The Wall.
Back in the guard shack, his radio blared with unanswered demands from the company command post about the gunfire and for Security Checkpoint #17 to report his status.