First Chronicle, Part 3

Posted: December 29, 2012 in Insanity Sublime, Zombie Apocalypse, Zombie outbreak
Tags: , , ,

Trouble Will Follow

Omar had insisted I return for medical attention.  I refused.  They were all grazes, and truthfully, it was my damn ear that hurt the worst.

The last five days we were out beyond the border, the radio crackled almost constantly.  On the fifth day of this, Omar’s Commanding Officer had personally tried to reach us for several hours.  Omar and I decided we had pushed it as far as we could.  I don’t speak Punjabi, but it was obvious that the Colonel was angry as hell, of that I could be certain in any language.  I was worried for my friend.

Knowing I would likely be stripped of everything once we were found, I made two copies of my notes, and paid two separate locals to trek into town and mail them as instructed.  Having an armed Army Captain at my side gave the task an extra legitimacy, and failure an added potential consequence; this infidel may not ever find you, but the angry Indian soldier surely will.  I paid both men enough to feed their families for months to come.

When we finally headed south back into India we were met by a virtual convoy of Indian military vehicles right at the border.  It was not a welcoming committee.

I was arrested, and Omar was taken into custody as well.  Though I never saw my crusading Indian brother again, I did speak with him one time before the End came.

“I’ve been discharged from the Army, my friend.”

I was speechless.  I recall trying to apologize in some way but my throat and mouth couldn’t seem to work together at all.

“Do not trouble your mind, Joe, I beg you.  I knew perfectly well what we were doing, and that something like this could happen.”

“But your career, Omar … your family.”

“I took them to see it, Joe.”  I knew immediately what he meant.  “They cried, my friend.  Each of them; Murret, and the boys too, just like us.  There was no more talk of my decision.  They understood completely.”

“I’m glad, Omar.”

“The governments of the world are keeping this from everyone, Joe; mine, yours, all of them.  Get it out to the people.  You have to tell them that they are in terrible danger, and that they must make their governments be accountable. Do this, Joe.”

“I will, Omar.  I promise.”

How I wish I could’ve kept it.

After 48 hours in lockdown at some obscure facility, I was escorted on a plane, and sent home without a meal or a bath.

My reception stateside was only a little better.

I was “questioned”—aka, interrogated—by a member of every United States acronym ever created.  For three straight days I was “debriefed.”  The subtlety with which I was warned not to publish anything concerning that which was never directly mentioned was unnerving.

Like sitting in front of a big, shiny red button, and having some scary-as-hell NSA spook say, “You need to understand, Mr. Jacobs, what I mean when I say ‘National Security.’  Two words bigger than any man, or any family for that matter … yours included.  Words to be feared, Mr. Jacobs; feared more than any, save two: God, and Damnation, but still running a close second.  Do you understand me, Mr. Jacobs?”  And before I could answer, “So if you find yourself with a tingle in your brain—just a little tingle—that might be the conception of a thought to tell your hand to reach out and do something it shouldn’t,” Meaning press the button. “think of your family, Mr. Jacobs, and think of those two words; ‘National Security.’”  Then he walks out.

In short I was just told that if I threatened National Security I, and even my family would be at severe risk.  What exactly would be a threat to said National Security was left wide open.  Don’t touch the button.  Yup, got that.  But don’t even think about touching the button, or touching anything-fucking-else while you’re at it.

It’s hard to translate, but it left more shaken than the Mujahidin attack.

Once I got some food and sleep, I found I had two words for them as well; Fuck, and You.

But still, all in all, it was a cake walk compared to coming home and facing Peggy.  I had some vain hope that with a passionate oration of my experiences she would fall right in line and praise me, as Murret had Omar in the end.

Nope.

I had promised to be home by Christmas, by God, and I had not even left India until the 11th of January.  I walked through my front door, eight pounds lighter, and eight years wearier at 9:16 ET, on the 16th of January, 2013.  Only about 24 days late.

At home, as I attempted an apology, I was quickly served more threatening words; three in fact:

“Don’t you dare…”

It hit something hard in side of me, and threw off a spark which sailed into the dry tinder that was my weary, threadbare soul, and it only took a few moments of quiet smoldering to burst into flames.

I let Peggy have it; both barrels.  All my anger at who had done this, who was hiding it, the nameless “company men,” and their “two words,” all of it I just blasted into Peggy.  She wasn’t my loving wife who I cherished and respected above all others, or my dear, darling Peggy who had laid on the lawn at Columbia University and stared at the clouds and dreamed of a life we’d come to make together, not anymore … not in those few cruel, and forever regrettable moments.  No, she was the Ugly American who willfully turned her back on the world in need, whose shattered Christmas was more important than 19 million murdered souls.

The shame I carry to this day…

I don’t want to go to Hell, that “G-Man” was right about God and Damnation, but if offered, I will refuse Heaven.

Oh God, had I only known … had I only thought for just a single moment, What if this is the last thing you ever say to her?

Every zombie I have put down in my fight for survival has two faces.  One of them, something deep down welcomes.

I slept in the basement, and did what I do; worked manically and medicated with Scotch and an occasional beer.  I snuck upstairs to get food when I’d hear her leave.  We’d been as ugly as two people can be to each other without violence, the great crime being that we loved each other so.

I spent weeks compiling my notes and writing my report.  I felt it was strong and showed significant evidence to warrant an international media investigation that would really put the pressure on Big Brother; all the “Little Brothers” around the globe.

My Network didn’t agree.  My report, comprised of hundreds and hundreds of man-hours of work, and for which I had sacrificed a piece of my ear, and nearly my life, was shelved.

Outraged, I protested.  Then I was shelved; given an “indefinite leave of absence.”

I had touched a raw nerve, and the shock went all the way up to the very top.  I couldn’t be the only reporter on the entire planet working this thread, and if not, then that mean that each and every one, whoever they were, had also been shut down.

God, it was scary.

In my report I speculated that if indeed one or more non-allied countries had possession of the “Zombie Plague Pathogen” (designated, I later learned, RAV-3075 by the CDC), then mathematically, the chances of another outbreak was about 107:1.  Moderate, but still in the probable zone, and again, we are talking about the probable loss of tens of millions.  If an enemy country had possession; say, a right-wing zealot-driven Islamic country, or—God forbid!—an independent jihadist sect, then the factors increased drastically to the tune of a 5:1 likelihood in the next year, and according to my paradigm, became an absolute certainty within just five short years.

I researched property in remote regions of the U.S.  I engrossed myself in survival tactics, hunting, and wilderness skills.  Only academically, of course, but still with great fervor.  I began purchasing firearms and ammunition, and hoarding water, non-perishable food, and supplies.

Peggy and I hadn’t spoken in weeks.  She was too damned angry, and I was too damned ashamed.  She heard me early one morning unloading yet another mysterious cargo in the basement, and finally came down the stairs to investigate.

The maze of munitions and MREs, Guns and gear, everything imaginable, nearly made her faint.  She was literally speechless.  I looked about too, and realized that I had stocked my entire 1,250 sq. foot basement to the ceiling for the coming Zombie Apocalypse, and could only guess how crazy I looked down there, all sweaty and dust covered in my army surplus BDU pants and boots.  I was just trying to get used to them.

Peggy just shook her head.  Her eyes wandered over the stacks upon stacks of miscellaneous gear, her mouth hung open and her head just shook left-to-right real slow, as she began to form an image, a judgment about the state of her husband’s mental health.

I moved quickly to cut her off at the pass.

I snatched up my real estate brochures from Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and beyond, and handed them to her and told her how we’ll have a beautiful place in the mountains somewhere.  Then I told her how safe we’d be, as I handed her the brochures for military-style bunkers and bomb shelters, and the DIY variety as well explaining how we could all pitch-in and build one as a family.

She shook her head some more, now looking at me, eyes tearful.

I assured her that she would see the dangers of staying—I’d show her—and she’d come to understand it’s the only smart thing to do to protect the family.  She was just afraid of change, and that was understandable.  Yes, it was sudden, but that’s how disasters happen; suddenly, but we’d be prepared and safe.  Because It was going to happen, and we just couldn’t be in population when it does.

“We have to take to the high ground, honey.”  I declared, pointing North.  I am certain that statement is the one that broke her.

Peggy left the basement without a word, and took Kyle that morning to her Parents’ in Richmond.

The last words I ever received from my sweet Peggy were hastily scrawled on a bumblebee post-it note from the refrigerator, and left on the coffee table for me to find:

I’ll come home when you come to your senses.  Your family needs you, Joe! -Peg

I couldn’t have agreed more.  My family did need me, and I was undeterred.  The Goddamned Zombie Apocalypse was coming, and it seemed like only I knew it.

I boarded a plane for North Dakota the morning after Peg left me.  That was February 16th, 2013.

It happened while I was in the air, bouncing about in my third plane of the trip—a Beechcraft Kingair twin engine turbo prop eight-seater loaded with my survival gear—and riding out some hellacious chop.

Sometime around 3:30 that afternoon, while I was taking a bruising ride through the white skies of North Dakota, life on earth changed irrevocably, as the Zombie Plague, RAV-3075, was released across the Western world.

All I cared about, as I road unknowing in that plane as the fate of billions was being decided, was the lumbar damage I was sure I was sustaining to the small of my back.  Was I on a plane or in a fucking rodeo?

I was indescribably relieved when we finally landed on what I can only assume was a runway; all I saw was white blanketing everything.

Max Krager, my guide and real estate agent, was there to greet me when I disembarked.  The wind hit my face like a thousand microscopic daggers.  God almighty, it was cold!

Of course there were pictures of Max on his website, and so forth, and from looking at them it was obvious that he was a big man.  No… Max Krager was not a big man.  He was an enormous man.  Mountain Man Max, or Man-Mountain Max as I liked to call him, stood 6’7” tall and weighed in, I’d guess, at 300 lbs of mountain man muscle.  His full bearskin coat—yes he killed it and skinned it—and thick beard made him look like a giant.  But the man had a look in his eye that made you smile and like him right away.  I read a lot of good things about Max Krager that convinced me to see him first.  My first impression did not disappoint one bit.

We made introductions and then got my gear loaded into his big crazy 4×4 snow truck.  No, not a pick-up truck.  This was like a large SUV with four huge independent snowmobile-like treads instead of wheels.  It was really cool.  It sure as hell sounded like a monster truck though; big 740 hp turbo diesel.  Awesome machine.

After only 10 minutes of chucking my gear I was becoming increasingly convinced I already had frostbite.  Even Max seemed to be feeling the bite of the oncoming winter, though without complaint of course.

He noticed my shivers immediately.

“Jump on in the truck, Mr. Jacobs.  I’ll finished up.”

“N-n-no, I’m f-f-fine.”

“You’ve been out here longer than any of them boys expected.”  He gestured to the single building that, combined with a runway somewhere under the snow, made this an airport.  I could see several people watching through the frosted glass.

“Yeah, w-w-well let’s really sh-shake ‘em up and h-h-have a snow b-b-ball fight.”

Max grunted a laugh.  Then leaned in close—God, he was huge!  “Do you remember reading the part where it says as your guide I give instructions and you follow them?”

Oops…  I nodded shivering.

“This is one of those times, Mr. Jacobs.” He pointed at the truck dramatically.  At first I was put off by it, then I realized he was doing it for me … so I could save face; making it obvious to the gawkers that he was ordering me into the truck.  I wanted to hug the man, I tell you, because I was cold like I don’t remember when.

Max finished loading then climbed in.

“You sure got yourself worked up on this property.  If I thought I could avoid offense, I call ya a damn fool for coming up here in the winter months, Mr. Jacobs.”

“I would take no offense if you did, Max, because I am most certainly a damn crazy fool.  I had forgotten what cold really was.”

“It does remind you real fast up here.”

“Yes indeed.  And please call me Joe.”

“Sure thing, Joe.”

He threw the snow-truck in gear, and off we went over the rolling drifts; no road needed, thank you.

Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Dallas, Detroit, and Washington D.C. were some of the first to get hit with the plague.  Quickly other major cities were to follow, and it just moved on inland, as if multiple persons of unimaginable evil were simply driving down the interstates from coast to coast and tossing out contagion by the handful in every city along the way.

All that preparation I did, and I didn’t even know it was happening, and wouldn’t for days, as Max and I got snowed in, and the shortwave radio was out as well.  The world changed forever, and we were, for the time being anyway, totally oblivious.

Max and I had a good time up at that cabin.  He was what I wanted to be; a man who prepared for everything.  We could’ve been snowed in for two months and done just fine.

We chatted away that first evening as the snow came down outside by the ton.  It’s get dark very early in the day during the winter months up there, and Max brought some Scotch; his preferred libation, he said.

I dug my 25 year old Glenmorangie from out of the depths of one of my bags, and revealed that we already had something important and fundamental in common.

We had a taste and settled back.  The fire was great.  The feel of the rustic cabin—very large rustic cabin!—was just what the soul wanted up here.  Any other type of dwelling would be out of place, it seemed.

Max broke the silence of my revelry.

“Tell me something, Joe, you’ve travelled the world and seen things all over—what makes you want to pack it all up and plant yourself up here?”

I had no desire to breach the subject of my growing zombie hysteria.

“It’s like you said, Max, I’ve seen the crazy world.  Now I’d just like some peace.”

He eyed me from under those thick, bushy brows.

“How about you wife, Peggy, and your boy; are they ready for this?”

“They’ll come around.” I answered lamely, and took a healthy gulp form my glass.

“I like ya, Joe—and I mean that—I don’t much like the city-types who come around here, but you I do like you, so I’m gonna talk straight to ya…”

He paused, waiting for my “go ahead” I presumed.  “Let’s hear it.”

“You don’t have the air of an ignorant man.  I’m guessing it’s because ya covered the news all over the world, and experienced a lot doing it, but you do have a desperate look about ya, Joe, like you can’t wait to run the hell away from something.”

“You might very well be on to something there, Max.”

“Might nothing.  I can see it as plain as a redtail deer against a snow drift.”

“Or a deer in the headlights.”

“That’s you alright.”

We had a good laugh at that.

“Well, whatever ya got on your tail, it’s gonna follow ya, even way up here.  It’s just the nature of things.”

“Not this one, Max m’man.  Not to this place.”

“Oh, it may not be the same vehicle—troubles take many forms—but trouble will find a way back to you.  Always does.”

“You’re losing me, Max … ‘same vehicle?’”

“Troubles are like a plague,” That got my attention. “You never know what or who is going to bring it to you.  But until the basic fundamental trouble is eliminated, there will always be a carrier for it, bringing it right to your doorstep.”

“What if this trouble can’t make it here—I mean, physically can’t make it here?”

“Like I said, it can take many forms; mutate like them plagues.”

“I can tell you have a point that you’re itching to make, Max, so why don’t you make it.”

“If I’m overstepping..?”

“No, I just don’t like talking about plagues.”

“Who does? The scary thing about them is how sudden they come and that no one ever knows from where.  Same with troubles.  What I’m saying, Joe, is that you can run from whatever you like, and it may not be able to make it up here.  But it’ll find a form that will, one you may even bring yourself—that of your wife’s unhappiness, or your son’s, or both.”

He took a swig of his Scotch.  I remained silent, and got more curious about this mountain man every minute.

“Ya see?  It looks like your wife’s lonely, isolated, and unhappy, but that’s just another form of the same trouble that you running from brought to you.  It’s all the same.  In a desperate attempt to find peace in this crazy world, you do just the opposite; bring discord into your family.”

I had to admit that it made a crazy sense, though looking those issues square in the face had not been on my agenda for this trip.

“What about you, Max?  You dissect me, and talk like you know exactly what you’re saying.”

“I do, Joe … I do.  I wasn’t born in these mountains.”

We drank to that, and I ruminated over the shitty choice that was no choice at all.  I had to get Peggy and Kyle somewhere safe.  The only way I’d ever be vindicated or forgiven is if an outbreak really happened, but that’s the last thing I would ever hope for.  The impossibility of my predicament became painfully clearer.

“I had a look at your rifles.  They’re no different than any of your other gear—it’s all brand-spanking new.  At this, you are brand-spanking new.  What did you do, read a few books?  Watch some YouTube how-to videos?  Go to a Bass Pro-Shops seminar?”

I waved off his query feeling somewhat belittled, and poured myself another drink.  Max gulped his down and followed suit.

I was feeling pretty buzzed, and I guessed that Max probably was too, and I began thinking that this isn’t the direction I want this conversation to go between two drunk strangers locked in a cabin.

“I’m not insulting ya, Joe, I can tell you’re hell-bent serious; ya mean to move up here.  What I’m doing, Joe, is asking ya, man-to-man, what the hell happen to ya?”

God I wanted to tell him.  I just wanted a sympathetic ear to unload the unbearable weight.  But a man like Max, grounded in the practical, living up here in this isolated wilderness of simple, straight-forward, life-or-death dangers, what would he think?  I didn’t think I could handle ridicule at this time.

I looked Max in the eyes while I finished my third Scotch, and decided that I didn’t believe Max was the kind of man that would ridicule another for speaking his honest truth.

“I am certain that the disease that broke out in India last year is going to happen again—here, on US soil—and I want to be as far from civilization as I can get.  You’re free to laugh.”

Max didn’t laugh.  He regarded me again in his intense way, but this time it seemed with further scrutiny.  He took down most of his glass in a single swallow.

“What makes you so sure?”

“I went there—to India—infected civilians crossed the borders of Pakistan and China, but are unaccounted for.  I built a program to estimate if and when it could happen again.”

“And?”

I followed Max’s lead and downed my Scotch.  “It’s only a matter of time.”

Max nodded.  “The we better get you situated so we can get your family up here safe.”  And just like that, Max became my new best friend.

 

There is more of this chapter to come…

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Comments
  1. Anonymous says:

    Seriously incredible. I didn’t want the chapter to be over and can’t wait for more…

  2. ltdalin says:

    You’d better hurry up and get the rest of this finished!

    • I agree, it’s been over a week…I’m dying to find out what happens next!

      • Christopher Shawbell says:

        I’m writing three flash fiction pieces. A new novella, and just started new j.o.b. It’ll be here in a quick.
        Thanks so much for checking in and for all the great support!

        ~Chris

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