Authors: P. S. Power
Orange Cat Publishing
Electronic Publishing Division
All rights reserved.
Orange Cat Publishing books by P.S. Power:
A Very Good Man
A Very Good Neighbor
A Very Good Thing
The Young Ancients:
Knight of the Realm
Stand alone titles:
A Very Good Man
Jake's stomach hurt again.
Not exactly a big mystery as to why. It wasn't real pain, just fear. Terror really. He knew the feeling pretty well now, that tightening low in the belly that turned to cramps about the time he had to go into a house. Every freaking time. Any house now too, even when he wasn't out with his crew hunting, like they were now.
So at least this time it was probably warranted.
Some people tried to claim that the fear was part of the zombie thing, a side effect of whatever took someone from alive to dead and turned them into an animated human shark, eating the living without end, looking for food if they weren't eating.
Those people were lying to themselves.
No, the fear was natural and part of anyone still sane enough to realize what was going on, and a few people that weren't. Jake knew that now. Admitted it fully. Lying to yourself just got you killed anymore, didn't it? He was afraid, and it had settled deep into his bones, making him want to run away from what lay past the door in front of him. That couldn't stop him though. Not if they were all going to survive.
Someone had to make the zombies go away, and if they didn't do it, who would?
Holding the spear he'd fashioned from an old rake handle, sharpened to a point, but not one too sharp – that made them fragile and the point could shatter – Jake stood in the open front doorway of the little white colored house. Waiting. In front of him he heard her screaming at the top of her lungs. That didn't help the fear at all, Molly doing her job the way she did. In fact, it freaked him out.
Zombies came to human voices like lazy moths to flame and they positively ran toward screaming. Probably trying to get in on the free meal before the others ate it all. So when the cleaners hunted, they used a screamer. Someone, usually a woman since they screamed better than men, made some noise and got the undead going, headed toward their position, waiting for them in relative safety and comfort. Today they were starting on the front porch, but Molly had insisted on going inside. Alone.
Then, the girl was suicidal, so who could blame her?
Most people just stuck a gun in their mouths if they wanted out, but her people had been Catholic when it all started, so she didn't believe in just killing herself like a normal person. No, she just courted death instead, hoping that Jesus would call her home or whatever it was they believed.
Brilliant plan, except that she'd probably end up a zombie, which would mean he'd have to cut her freaking head off himself. Jake really hated having to behead people he knew like that. It was much harder than just shooting them in the first place.
Taking a head always felt so personal, so final. Even from zombies. Plus that feeling, the pull of the knife on his hand while he cut, or the gristly feeling of a machete on soft wet bone stayed with you. Like it lived in your hands and arms, all the time.
Well, at least they weren't sleeping together. Jake had asked if she wanted to, figuring that someone that slept around as much as the chubby brunette did might give him a shot.
Shot right down.
Claimed that he wasn't her type of all things. That had been interesting, because until that moment Jake hadn't known she had a type, or even standards. It was the reason he'd asked.
Well, that was no big. He'd started out a bit thin and rangy looking and six months in the land of the dead hadn't helped much at all there. At the end of the world you kind of expected to get laid though. Wasn't that in all the stories? It seemed to be working for almost everyone else. Even the ugly people were getting action, based mainly on the fact that they were still alive. The bar didn't seem as high anymore. Not for most people. Just him, Jake guessed, a little sourly.
A form rushed him fast and hard. Out of the black interior of the single story ranch style house moving straight for him without stopping. Jake pulled the spear out of the way, since it was Molly, not something more dead yet. His job being sticker for this hunt, a position he'd invented, but that all the groups used now, wasn't that hard. Not really, so he'd move from there to shooting too, if they needed the backup. They being the forty-something Tipper, who swore she was a lesbian and the thirteen year old slightly chubby boy next to her, Dave.
Tipper looked the part she tried to sell him, but went off with a lot of guys too. Not Jake's business, except that she was clearly lying about it to him. That... hurt a bit. He might not be the best looking guy in the world, but he wasn't deformed either. Plus, he'd never given her reason to be untruthful to him about something like that, had he? Yeah, they were friends and yes he'd asked her if she wanted to have sex, mainly because he didn't want to die a twenty-four year old virgin, which didn't seem that unreasonable to him. It had been a while ago, when Jake had asked her. She still maintained she only liked women. Even after they'd saved each other's lives, like fifteen times.
She'd started out looking like a businesswoman, butching her hair off in the second week and dressing like a fighter after the third. More like a lumberjack than most of them did, red flannel long sleeves, two or three shirts under that and heavy jeans. Way too hot for August. All of them were dressed about the same.
Dave was in blue, jeans and oversized shirts tucked in and tied down so that nothing would catch if he had to run or fight. In the three months the boy had been on the team he'd gone from a real fatty to merely a bit hefty. Honestly, if he'd looked like this before he probably would have been recruited for school sports teams. The guy handled himself well and built muscle pretty easily, even as they all half-starved most of the time. Inside three more months the kid would probably be stripped down to lean.
Back Before they'd both been first person shooter fans, gaming all the time. A lot of the best hunters now had been. Dave was certainly that. One of the best. Kid or not.
He was also probably a psychopath.
A real one.
He loved killing. Zombies, animals for dinner, people that didn't do what he wanted. Pretty much anything that he didn't think would kill him first. Brave though. Dave said he didn't feel fear at all and after everything, Jake kind of believed it. Watching him work was like looking at ice in a freezer. Cold and with no sign of melting any time soon.
That must be nice. Jake was always afraid now. For instance, at that very moment he felt a deep and abiding fear that Molly was going to run straight up the spear. Moron.
“Behind me!” The large girl bleated loudly, a panicked squeal that easily would have been enough to get any black blooded zombie going after her in search of lunch.
It took a second to get the spear down and he nearly missed the window, since the girl threw herself to the right again, instead of the left like they'd practiced. He'd have called her a retard, but that would be insulting the good mentally challenged people of the world. If there were any of them left. So instead of an instant reaction, up and to his left, then down into the runner behind her, Jake had to jump back and stab desperately into the thing's middle like a spaz.
This zombie had worn a suit to work. That or the guy, knowing he was about to die from a bite, had dressed up in his finest clothes, so that he'd make a good impression later. Rather than take his own head off like he should have. Either way it was a pain in the ass now, because the heavy jacket, once a nice gray coat, now covered with layers of dried blood and filth, caught the spear point, which would have hit in the center if things had gone like they should. He wanted the relatively soft middle, got ribs and fabric instead. Falling back as the man, who'd been older when he died, looking to be in his mid-fifties or so, ran at him full speed. Jake floundered a bit before managing a kick to the middle, a stomp really, with his left foot, which gave him enough distance to re-center and stab again. It was risky, trying to kick a zombie like that, but this time it worked, without any scratching or grabbing.
The spear rode up, the man impaling himself on it almost without notice, there was groaning, but that happened all the time, it wasn't a sign of pain. Or at least not pain that Jake was causing. Once it was about a foot through, just outside of the thing's arms reach, Jake pushed up, hard. Using the wooden handle as a lever. The ichor dripping out slowly, and the stench of death suddenly magnified enough to make him gag a little. The blood of the zombie was black and thick as the guy finally overbalanced and fell back, thankfully into the front room of the house as planned. New ones still had red blood, so this one had been around for a while, even though it looked to be in good shape. Probably trapped inside here then.
“Jesus fuck Molly,” Dave said quietly, menace pouring off his body strongly enough that Jake could feel it ten feet away. “If you want to kill Jake that badly, just grow a pair and shoot him. For now, just get the hell out of the way and stay down, we'll deal with this later.”
Tipper growled, a low sound that wouldn't attract any zombies that might be out and about. That was rare, but it could happen, they'd all lived it at least once. Back when everything first started every second person you saw was already gone. Now, in Westwood at least, it was still true, but there were a lot fewer people, so it was harder to notice.
“Darn straight girl. It's one thing to get yourself killed...” The butch looking woman moved in alongside Dave, who made the first kill with the shotgun in his hand, a single shot to the thing's head.
Then Dave shot again, another one in the room then. Dave rarely missed on something already down. Jumping to his left, he moved back, reloading as he did, smoothly and with an eerie dead eyed calm. Tipper took her turn and two blasts later moved back too, doing the same thing, just like they practiced. Everyone moving their body was supposed to go to the left each time, their own left. It wasn't hard or confusing. They kept going like that, shoot and move back, letting their partner catch the next one as it came. Trusting each other. Like actual friends or something.
Something set his nerves on edge suddenly. Jake didn't know why, he didn't see anything yet and only felt as scared as usual, but... the situation wasn't right. He just knew something was very wrong. Without hesitation he pulled the nine millimeter from the holster on his belt and took aim at the door, waiting. Everyone was outside, which should be safe, roughly speaking. It just didn't work for him here. The situation had gotten creepy. Dangerous. More deadly somehow, which shouldn't have really been possible.
Tipper and Dave handled the four that came at them from the house easily enough, so he turned around just in time to see the other two, both runners, headed straight for them.