Read Mad Swine (Book 2): Dead Winter Online

Authors: Steven Pajak

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Mad Swine (Book 2): Dead Winter

BOOK: Mad Swine (Book 2): Dead Winter
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Mad Swine: Dead Winter

 

 

 

Mad Swine: Dead Winter

Steven Pajak

Published by Permuted Press at Smashwords.

Copyright 2012 Steven Pajak.

www.PermutedPress.com

Cover art by Richard Yoo.

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

This book is dedicated to my brother Brian for allowing me to use his likeness in the novel and for his contributions to the storyline.

 

I’d also like to thank the members of AR15.com, Zombie Central, and Essential Survival Guides & Fiction forums, as well as those at SKSboards.com who took a chance on reading this in its early stages of development and encouraged me to finish this for publication.

 

 

Chapter 1
 
Unplugged
 

It was still dark when I woke and the first thing I noticed was that it was damn cold. My feet felt like ice inside of my thermal socks and my exposed nose felt frigid and numb. The next thing I noticed was that my whole body ached, especially my back and neck muscles, as though I’d just finished a major circuit of weight training. The sofa was quite uncomfortable. It had been bowed completely out of shape over the last three months that I had slept on it.

Tugging both thick quilts into a more comfortable position and squirming and kicking at them until they tucked just right under my feet, I snuggled deeper into the indent my butt left in the sofa and closed my eyes again, impatiently waiting for my body heat to build back up beneath the quilts. After a while, I pulled one of the quilts up over my mouth and nose. For a moment I felt like I was suffocating, but as my nose began to defrost thoughts of suffocation petered out.

I lay that way for another twenty minutes, until the sun finally rose and spilled in through the cracks of the blinds. I was sleeping later these days, although I was not the only one. The cold winter made many of us lethargic. No one looked forward to going out in the cold, but it was still necessary, even if there was a lull in the fighting. I just didn’t trust Providence, and those things were always just outside our walls waiting for us to venture out. Some had even managed to find a way in; we had to increase our patrols which made us all unhappy.

Sitting up and stretching my neck and back felt good and some of the tension in those muscles disappeared when my body was no longer contorted into the sofa depression. I knew I’d have to start sleeping on the floor soon because this sofa was no longer fit for duty as my bed. Although I reasoned with myself that I slept out in the living room because of the fireplace, I knew I was deceiving myself. After Brian shot my wife Alyssa in our bedroom, I just could not face lying in that bed ever again.

Jamming my feet into my slippers and flipping one of the quilts around my shoulders like an Indian donning a buffalo skin, I stood up and checked the fireplace. A small lump of smoldering wood remained, barely clinging to life. I considered stoking the fire and building it back up but I wouldn’t be here long enough to make it worth the effort. Also, I noticed the depleted stack of cord wood beside the hearth. I probably had enough for another fire tonight but after that I’d be without heat or light.

I’d have to get a wood patrol out there. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one running low on firewood. I didn’t like the idea of sending people outside of the walls one bit. It was dangerous…but it was also necessary. We’d already lost two residents to exposure in their own homes and I didn’t want to lose any more to something so trivial that a few burning logs in a fireplace could have prevented.

Leaving the fire alone, I shuffled my way toward the hall bathroom. I glanced at my watch and noted it was just a few minutes before seven. The Seiko was the only watch I owned. The advantage of the automatic watch design was that I would not have to worry about the battery dying. If it stopped, I simply gave it a few shakes and it was good to go. Without electricity, it was the only way I had of keeping time.

We had lost electricity the third week in December, just six days before Christmas. It was a horrible experience and the first few weeks were very scary for everyone. Learning to live without electricity was difficult even for me and I’d spent much time in the service living without; for the others in the community the loss of power was devastating. Most residents of Randall Oaks never quite realized how plugged in they actually were until cell phones, television, cable TV, radio and internet—which had become second nature to everyone—were no longer viable options of entertainment or communication. Over time they would learn to live without these things, and eventually many them would adapt and overcome this new lifestyle. But for now, they were still learning.

What was most difficult now was learning to live without appliances. Microwaves were sorely missed, as were gas stoves and refrigerators. Washing laundry became one of the most despised tasks and many of the residents—including yours truly—become quite fragrant during the winter months. We were becoming used to the smell, though, and no one blamed anyone else for the lack of hygiene.

I relieved myself and flushed the toilet, thankful that we still had running water. I rinsed my hands in the sink and they quickly became red and numb from the ice-cold water. I could only stand it for a few seconds. I did not completely close the tap, but instead left it opened a dribble in hopes the pipes would not freeze. The water was cold and delicious for drinking, even for tap water. For bathing it sucked, though. It also sucked for washing dishes and laundry. Still, I was thankful; finding drinkable water would have been very difficult. I suppose we could have fashioned rain catches and other devices I’d used in service and had seen employed on any number of survival shows, but to have clean water at your kitchen or bathroom tap was invaluable. And in the summer the cool water would be welcome.

Leaving the cold ceramic tile floor of the bathroom for the slightly less frigid carpeted hallway, I shuffled to my bedroom. Upon entering I automatically skirted the hole in the carpet—where my wife’s blood once stained it and Brian had cut out the offending spot so I wouldn’t have to look at it. In my walk-in closet I picked up a pair of jeans from the laundry pile and performed the very scientific sniff test. The jeans passed. I grabbed a black T-shirt that I’d washed in the bathroom sink earlier in the week—so it was still pretty fresh—and went back into the bedroom.

After grabbing some socks and underwear from a dresser drawer, I tossed all of the clothes onto the bed and started to undress. When I pulled off my sleeping shirt the cold immediately clung to my bare skin and my chest broke out into gooseflesh. Instinctively I glanced at the thermometer—which used to be nailed to the wall out on the back deck but which now sat on my dresser—and noted it was a brisk sixty-one degrees in the house.

I remembered hearing stories about soldiers dying of hyperthermia in the caves in Afghanistan. Although hot outside, the interior of the caves could get down below 56 degrees. Soldiers sought shelter from the heat in those caves and never woke up. If not for the fire and double-quilts, I may have fallen into hyperthermia and died. That thought was sobering. I threw on the T-shirt and pulled on my jeans as quickly as possible. I peeled off my old socks which were getting pretty stiff and a bit fragrant. Slipping on the clean socks, I noted holes in the heel of both. If Alyssa, my wife, had seen me wearing these socks, she’d have been embarrassed. But I no longer had the luxury of shame and she was no longer here to see the holes in my socks.

Alyssa and my two children, Mark and Katie, have been dead for three months now. All of them were taken from me by those things that roamed beyond our walls. Alyssa was scratched and infected by someone while trying to break up a scuffle between two fellow shoppers at the local Meijer’s. She had no idea she’d chosen the morning of the apocalypse to do our family’s weekly shopping. I saw her when she transformed into that which infected her. Brian delivered her from her suffering with one shot to the head.

My children suffered a far more gruesome fate. I shuddered even now when I thought about their small bodies torn apart and how in death their small hands were locked in each other’s grip, perhaps comforting each other while they faced a horror unlike any other. Not one day went by that I didn’t miss them fiercely, that my heart did not ache for my babies. Most nights their faces kept me up well into the night until finally pure exhaustion took control and my thoughts shut down.

Trying now to push the thoughts of my loved ones out of my mind, I stuffed my feet into a pair of boots and laced them up tight. The boots were scuffed and dirty and the laces were chewed up, but they still held together well. I had a few other pairs of boots in better shape that I could have worn instead, but I would save them until the Redwings fell apart. Shoe shopping was a thing of the past. Everything we owned had to last now.

In the kitchen I grabbed my cowboy coffee pot and filled it about halfway with water. I scooped two heaps of coffee grounds into the basket and put the top back on. The little glass percolator would tell me when the coffee was ready. I looked at the range but was too tired to get it going. It had once been a gas stove, but with some slight and ingenious modifications made by Paul Dazzo, a former civil engineer who lived just across the street, it was now set up to burn wood.

Instead of using the wood I would have to burn later for heat, from under the sink I pulled out my battered Esbit pocket stove and set it on the counter-top. I’d run out of the fuel tablets a few weeks ago. Now I used cotton balls covered in Vaseline as my fuel source along with whatever else I could burn. I opened the Ziploc bag that I stored inside the pocket stove and fished out cotton balls, stuffing as many as I could fit into the metal frame of the stove. With a wooden match, I lit it up the wad of gelled cotton. It ignited immediately. I set the cowboy coffee pot on the mini stove and let it do its thing. While the coffee brewed, I scrounged around in the cabinets to find breakfast. Nearly all of my boxed and canned goods were gone. I figured I’d be good for two or three more weeks but beyond that I would be in trouble.

Samantha served one community meal per day at the Command Post, but beyond that we were on our own for breakfast and lunch. I wasn’t sure how much longer Sam would be able to feed us all. More often than not, dinner consisted of soup that was mostly broth with canned veggies and some of Sam’s homemade bread. The stores of food we’d pilfered from Kappy’s Restaurant three months prior wouldn’t last much longer. In fact, I was still surprised our haul had even lasted this long. The meats, fish and poultry had been eaten early on, as well as many of the vegetables, before these precious items had time to go bad.

For a while we tried to supplement our supply of meats by hunting game in the woods to our west, but after only two weeks I had put a ban on hunting parties. Any animals that may have roamed the wooded areas that flanked our west side were long gone. I was uncertain if the disease could be transferred to the animals, and in turn to those who ingested its meat. More than that, when we were outside the walls, the crazies hunted us and they were good at their trade-craft. Surprisingly, their hunting instincts where sharply honed, even if they were inhibited by the simplest of tasks. Not only did we lose two men during a hunting outing, the other man and woman who were with them went through two hundred rounds of ammunition trying to kill three of the things that attacked their friends. We could not afford any more casualties, nor could we waste ammunition wholesale.

After taking too long looking over my food stores, I snagged a box of Frosted Mini Wheat’s from one of the top shelves and poured the remainder of the box into a bowl. I tossed the empty box onto the counter with some other recyclables. I had a pretty good pile going there and I’d use the cardboard as kindling for fires. The plastics and the perishable trash was another story. I knew soon I’d have to take those items to our dumpsite south of the community.

BOOK: Mad Swine (Book 2): Dead Winter
5.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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