Zombie Gang-Bangers From Utah

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Zombie Gang-Bangers from Utah
By Larry Darling Jr
2013

1.
Fucking Utah.
What am I doing in Utah?
Zombie apocalypse or not, who the hell even comes to Utah?

“Shhhhhh, sweetie,” came from the girl curled up next to me in the passenger seat of the stolen car I was driving.  It was a nice Lexus. I never could have afforded to drive one of these before the end of the world.
“Utah is beautiful, peaceful.  Just wait till you see the Great Salt Lake.  You will understand,” she was saying in a calm, sleepy voice.
God, I must have been talking out loud and not even realized it.
The girl, Sabella, snuggled up close next to me and closed her eyes again, sighing peacefully.
It made me smile a tired smile, against my will.  That is how amazing she was.
Feeling the soft hum of her breath next to me, I looked forward again, out the windshield, at the never-ending stretch of blank highway and flat land surrounding us.
I had been driving for days, and hadn’t even seen a zombie in hours.
Maybe Sabella had been right.
Maybe Utah was the perfect place to go, simply because no one else would think to go there.

A few hours later, the scenery slowly began to change.  We had finally made it through Nevada.  Instead of straight, rocky plains, mountains started to emerge.  I kept driving in silence as Sabella snored softly next to me.
Suddenly, a raw scream from the back seat startled me out of my driving-coma.
I snapped my head around to look at the screaming little kid strapped into the car-seat behind me.
Sabella immediately stirred herself awake and sat up next to me.
She reached her hand into the back seat with the care and confidence of a good Mommy, cooing, “What is wrong, little Mikey? Did my sweetie-pie have a bad dream?”
She was reaching back there and unbuckling his car-seat, pulling him into the front of the car with us.
He quieted down instantly as she placed sweet kisses all over his tiny face.
She reached into a bag and found a bottle to stick in his mouth, and then she was looking at me with wide, scared eyes.
“So,” she said, “Where are we?”
“How the fuck do I know?” I answered, honestly.
She just looked down, didn’t respond.
“I’m sorry,” I told her, putting my right hand on her thigh, “I just don’t know where we are or where we are going…”
I sighed, wishing I hadn’t drank my last beer two days ago.
“It’s okay,” she said, putting her left hand on my thigh, “We are getting close now.”
She was looking out the windows, vaguely smiling.
“This is starting to look familiar.  We’ll be at my brother’s place before you know it.”
She kissed my cheek, then, and I was convinced.
I kept driving.

Even later.
It was getting dark and the scenery hadn’t changed.
Sabella had rocked little Mikey back to sleep, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous.
I just wanted to curl up in a tiny, fetal position in her arms and fall asleep to gentle strokes on my forehead and whispers that everything was going to be all right…
But no.
I was starting to detox, and panic.
I was out of painkillers, and alcohol, and we were almost out of gas.
I don’t think Sabella knew any of that.

I saw a sign for an exit, and decided to pull off the highway and see what we could scrounge up.  It looked like some tiny little po-dunk town, but at least they would have a 7-11, right?
The sun was just beginning to fall behind a chunk of rock on the horizon, and the whole world seemed to be washed in that fading pink glow.
I pulled off onto a bumpy, gravel road, apparently jostling Sabella and Mikey around enough that their eyes snapped open.
In front of us was an old country store, no corporate  convenience store like I had hoped, but I could see a single gas pump standing like a scarecrow, and a flashing neon sign that said  COLD BEER.  That was good enough for me.
I pulled the Lexus up next to the gas-pump, and put it in park, turning to Sabella.
She was looking up at me with those huge, innocent eyes, and so was the baby.
Their looks said, “Help us, please.  Save us.”
No pressure at all.
Sabella didn’t say anything, just continued to look at me, into my soul.  She grabbed my hands in hers and held all four of them together tightly.
I took a deep breath.
“So,” I began, “We are almost out of gas.  And everything else.  This place looks empty, pretty quiet.  And I haven’t even seen any of them since we crossed the state line.  Maybe the Mormons were right all along.  Maybe Utah really is the promised land.”
I forced a weak smile.
“It seems dangerous,” Sabella said, looking out the windshield, trying to see into the store.
I laid on the horn for about 30 seconds.  Rolled down the window and called out, “Hey!!! Anybody in there?  We need some fucking help!!!”
I looked back at Sabella and we both shrugged.
“All right,” I said.  “I’m going in.  Keep the doors locked until I get back.  Two minutes, tops.”
“Okay,” she said, and kissed me sweetly on the mouth.  “But take this with you.”
She reached into the back seat and withdrew a blood-stained baseball bat.
The same one we had used to bash her mother’s brains out with, two days ago, when I had arrived to pick her up for our second date. A lifetime ago, before we had become the people we are now.
Before the world had gone all George Romero on us.
But no sense dwelling on the past, I thought, as I took the bloody baseball bat, and kissed her on the forehead.
“Two minutes,” I promised again, and opened the door.

I crept into the quiet store, trying to scan in every direction, check every corner.  I had seen all the movies, and there was no denying that this was a real zombie apocalypse.  It had finally happened, just like we had always known it was going to.   At least I was prepared; I’d played all the video games and read all the books.  Nothing was going to jump out at me and rip my throat out, goddammit.
The store was empty, and obviously had been for a couple of days at least.  Some candy bars were scattered on the floor, and a shelf had been knocked over, but there were no signs of blood or bodies.  It was eerily quiet, and I wanted nothing but to gather the supplies and get the fuck out of there.
The power was still on, thankfully, keeping the beer cold.
I grabbed a frosty bottle of Michelob and slammed it down in one long gulp.  My hands had been shaking with withdrawal for the last 2 days, so badly that I was surprised Sabella hadn’t noticed.  Maybe she had, and just not said anything.  We didn’t really know each other that well, after all.
Now what I needed was a pharmacy.  Get some Lortabs or Vicoden in my system and everything would be just fine.  I scrounged around behind the cash register and pocketed some single-serving packets of tylenol and advil ; not even close, but they might ease my headache.
I filled a couple of bags with junk food ; chips and chocolate.  Grabbed some sodas, a gallon of milk, and a case of beer, and I was out of there.
I smiled at Sabella as I made my way back to the car, arms full of loot.  She looked at me gravely at first, then with a warm smile.  I guess I had been longer than two minutes.
“Were there any in there?” she wanted to know, as I unloaded my arms into the back seat.
“What?  Zombies?”
“No. Fucking ponies.”  She rolled her eyes.  “Of course, zombies.  Were there any?”
“Nope.  Not that I saw.  Lucky us, huh?” I said, cracking open another cold beer.
“Christ, did you get enough beer?” she asked mockingly, pawing through the plunder.
“Not fucking likely,” I said, taking a long sip with a smile.
“Did you get any cigarettes?” she asked, throwing her hands up.
“Fuck.”  I forgot the smokes ; the one vice I had actually quit a few years back.
“I’ll go in and get some,” she said, grabbing the baseball bat out of my hand.
“Suit yourself,” I said, popping the top off another Michelob and looking around at the silent evening.  I was feeling better already.
She hesitated.  “You sure there wasn’t any in there?”
She bit her bottom lip.
“What? Ponies?  I’m sure.”
“I hope there is a pony. I have always wanted to beat one to death,” she said, grinning, and disappeared into the store.
“Hey grab a map if you see one.  Maybe we can figure out where the hell we really are.”
The silence was truly bizarre.
The town we had fled from two days ago had been a full-tilt apocalyptic disaster.  Unstoppable undead roaming the streets, everywhere you looked.  Electricity was nonexistent.
Chaos ruled.
Everywhere you looked, someone was bleeding or screaming ; eating or being eaten.
We had barely made it out of Portland alive, stealing a car and flying down the interstate at speeds in triple digits.  Now, here we were, in the middle of nowhere, and all was clear.
I hadn’t had an actual plan when we had hauled ass after beating Sabella’s zombified mother to death.  Shit, I didn’t even know she had a kid until she insisted on running back into her house to grab him.  I had briefly considered leaving them both there for zombie-food and saving my own ass, but my mother always told me to only do what I could live with, and I didn’t think I could live with that.
Besides, we’d had a pretty sweet first date.  Maybe if I saved her and the kid I would at least get to second base, I had reasoned.
So the three of us had hauled ass out of town.
Sabella carrying the wailing child, me carrying the bat.
The city had gone insane by then, fucking zombies everywhere trying to bite everyone.
The Lexus had been parked in a lawn on the corner, still running and car alarm squealing.
The remains of a guy were in the driver’s seat still, missing some important pieces.  An undead girl was munching busily on his face until I swung the bat at the back of her head so hard that it merged into his with a loud crack, and the two bodies fell out of the car as one onto the curb.
We jumped in the car and took off.
I know that I must have ran over at least a baker’s dozen of them trying to get to the interstate ramp.
Sabella kissed me hard and sweet, and told me she had a brother in Utah named Henry and that we should go see him.  He was, by her description, a “fucking nutcase conspiracy-theorist who lived in the woods with a bunker and a shitload of weapons”.
It was better than any idea I had.
So here we were.
Fucking Utah.
Quiet as shit, and, somehow, scarier than hell.
“Hey, asshole, you weren’t even worried about me?”
Sabella was back, lighting up a smoke with a deep satisfied inhalation.  She was smiling.  I fugured that it must have been more of the playful sarcasm that she favored, that I hadn’t exactly figured out how to read yet.
This could still be considered our second date, for Christ’s sake.
“I told you there weren’t any in there,” I said, smiling back.  It seemed to me that she loved this zombie apocalypse shit as much as I did.
“Yeah but that’s always when one jumps out in the movies. Young girl wanders into a deserted store alone…”
She was chuckling as she sauntered up to me, hitting me with a playful punch, then sliding her arms around me.
“Too cliché,” I told her, sipping my beer and returning her embrace.  I wondered if we would have gotten along so well if we’d just had a normal second date.
She laughed, then handed me a folded up map of the area.  “If you can get us to the Great Salt Lake,” she said, “Then I know how to get to my brother’s house from there.”
I nodded and unfolded the map, trying to place where the hell we were.
“Weird, isn’t it?” she said.  “How quiet it is here.  Maybe it never even got here, whatever it is.”
“Zombie apocalypse,” I reminded her, not looking up from the map.
She laughed long and loud.  If I wasn’t more insane than she was, that laugh would have made me nervous.
“Yeah, I know that, but what caused it.  You know ; super-flu, government testing, some crazy viral outbreak, infected test monkeys…where did it come from?” She was looking up at the dark sky, blowing smoke rings.
“What difference does it make?”  I had never cared much for explanations for this shit in the movies.  “All we know is that it happened.  And it may have avoided Utah completely.”
I folded the map back up and opened the car door.  “I’m so glad I asked you out.”
“Why?  My sparkling personality?” she said dryly, looking up at me. “Or the fact that I led us to the motherfucking promised land?”
“The crying baby in the back seat, of course,” I said, winking.
She smiled weakly and slipped away from me.
“I know it’s a big burden, and you would be better off without us.  I don’t know how I will ever repay you.”
“Blow-job in the car?” I suggested.
Her eyes widened with shock, then she laughed slyly.  “Ok,” she agreed, “just not with my kid in the back seat.”
Wow.  She shocked me back.
“Seriously, it’s no trouble.  I’m just glad I could be here for you two.  I was just joking around…” I tried to convince her.
She looked up at me with a sweet smile and trusting eyes.
“Everything is going to be okay,” I promised her.
It was the biggest lie I ever told.

2.
The kid was wailing in the back seat and it was doing nothing for my headache.  We had been driving for what felt like forever to me.
The sun was up again, beating down on us, unmerciful.
Mountains would come and go on either side of us, disappearing into plains, then forming back into mountains again.  We never passed another occupied car, but I’d had to swerve around plenty of abandoned ones and could scarcely avoid the rotting remains that seemed to be everywhere.
I drank and drove, and wished Mikey would stop squealing for more than a minute at a time.
“Wendover!” Sabella cried out next to me, screaming to be heard over the wailing of her child.  “That’s it!  Wendover!  I remember now.”
A green sign announced the town as being ten miles away as we blew past it, and another underneath told of a rest stop just ahead.
Sabella could barely contain her excitement.  “I knew we would make it.  We should be able to see the Great Salt Lake from the rest-stop coming up.”
“Awesome.  I’ve got to piss anyway,” I told her half-hearted and drunkenly.  I had been slamming the Michelobs quite steadily as we drove along the eternal highway.  I should have stopped drinking by now, but it was all that was keeping me from tossing the kid out the window.
She could see my obvious tension and started kneading my shoulders.  She kissed my cheek lightly.
“I knew you would save us.  Thank you so much.”
I loosened up slightly ; at least Mikey had quieted down in the back seat.  Maybe everything was going to be all right…
I pulled off into the rest stop exit a little too abruptly and shook the kid into squealing again.
I hopped out of the car swiftly, to get away from the cries, and empty my bladder.
The smell smacked me in the face, almost knocking me down.
It was death and rot, mixed with heavily salted air and brackish water.  We had never been more mistaken than our hopes that this disaster had somehow avoided the state of Utah.
“Oh my god,” I heard Sabella say next to me, covering her mouth with her hand.
I couldn’t hold it in anymore.  I bent over and retched out everything I had ingested recently.  Candy-bars, Tylenol, and beer-foam.
From the rest area we had an unbelievable view of the Great Salt Lake, that was for sure.
The lake had become a giant tomb, a mass grave.
It was piled high with rotted bodies, floating atop with the lake’s natural salted buoyancy.  The dead lake stretched as far as we could see from our high vantage point, an ungodly mausoleum with bloated dead of such number it suggested the outbreak had actually likely started here, and been going on for months.  A few reanimated corpses wandered sluggishly around the shore of the hideous lake, aimless and lost.
Did they eat their own? I didn’t know, and couldn’t remember from any movies.  Flesh was flesh, I supposed. Brains were brains.
“Some promised land,” I said, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand.
Sabella was fanning the air in front of her face and trying not to breathe in, looking at me with watering eyes.
We got back into the car and rolled up the windows, pulling in deep breaths of reasonably fresh air.
She was crying now, and the baby took up a duet with her.  I briefly considered throwing the car into drive, and rolling right over the cliff to swiftly end it for us all.
Instead I said, “Fuck.  What do we do now?”
She was sobbing next to me, curled up against the passenger door.  “I don’t know.  I’m so sorry.”
I wanted to tell her it was okay, but I couldn’t.
This was light years worse than Portland had been, and infinitely worse than my pessimistic mind had actually expected.  The whole population of Utah was certainly floating on that lake, rotting under the sun.
“Give me one of those cigarettes,” I told her, and lit up in frustration for the first time in years.
She lit one too and tried to get her sobs under control.
“Maybe my brother is still alive…” she was saying, wiping at her tears and exhaling smoke in huge clouds.
“Not fucking likely,” I said, half-empty.
“Well, what are we going to do?”
“I don’t know! You could start with shutting that fucking kid up!”
It had finally all gotten to me.  This was no video game, no shitty direct-to video movie.  We were fucked.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, and all I could see was the corpse lake in my mind.  The smell was still lingering too; it felt like it was seeping into my pores.
Sabella pulled the baby into her arms and rocked him into bearable cries of intermittent despair, and she was looking at me with something like disgust.
“You know what,” she said, not really a question, her eyebrows arching.
“Fuck you.  I don’t know why I ever even trusted you.  We will go on without you.  We don’t need a chickenshit like you anyway.  It has only always been us anyway.  You don’t give a fuck about us.”
She started to open the door and get out, and I was trying to apologize, tell her it would be okay, we would get through this, when a gunshot rang out and the windshield shattered inward, raining glass on us.
I leaned toward her instinctively to cover her and the baby, and we all ended up in a pile on the ground as the passenger door swung open.
“Are you okay?” I asked her as we lay there, motionless.
“No,” she croaked, her eyes squeezed shut.  “What was that?”
“I think someone is shooting at us.”
“You think right,” boomed an echoing voice from behind us.  “Now get on your feet.”
I stood, wobbling, helping Sabella up, taking the suddenly silent Mikey from her and dusting him off.  He smiled up at me innocently, and looked all around with tiny wide eyes.  He was so quiet I was afraid we had crushed him.
Standing behind us, pointing a smoking shotgun in my face, was a huge person wearing ragged military fatigues and a gas mask.
“Oooh, a baby,” he said through the gas mask, clearly pleased.  “They love babies.  Give it to me.”
Sabella grabbed her child away from me, as if she thought I was going to just hand him over.  “Please, sir,” she said through tears.  “Help us.”
“I don’t think so, pretty,” he said.  Even though we couldn’t see his face, I suspected he was smiling.  “Give me the baby and come with me.”
“Or else what?” I asked.  “You’ll shoot us?  Go ahead.  Just get it over with”
“It doesn’t matter to me either way,” he said.  “It’s just as easy to turn her, dead or alive.  And you are just meat.”
What the fuck had just happened? I had just lost any semblance of control.
“The baby, though.  They like them best fresh.  Now hand it over.”  The voice sounded tinny and emotionless filtered through the mask.  He extended his arm and held the shotgun’s muzzle at Sabella’s forehead.
“Fuck you,” she spat, showing more of that self-righteous anger she obviously barely held in check most of the time.  “He’s my child!  You can’t have him.  Why don’t you help us, you asshole?”
The shot rang out deafeningly loud in the silence, and the splatter of chunky blood that flew out of the back of her skull splashed all over the hood of the car.  She dropped to her knees, still holding tight to little Mikey, even as her blood rained down on him.
My jaw dropped in complete shock, and I could not force myself to move.
The man wearing the gas mask swiftly reloaded his double-barrelled shotgun, and bent down to grab the wailing child from her arms before her lifeless body slumped over and dropped him.
He was pointing the gun at my head now, as I stood frozen with horror.
It was unnecessary ; I couldn’t have moved if I tried.  With his other gloved hand he was tickling the baby into peals of haunting laughter.
“Get down on the ground,” he told me, and somehow I managed to drop to my knees next to the slumped body of Sabella.
He walked around to the side of the car and strapped Mikey into the car-seat, as he was muttering something into a walkie-talkie.
I looked at Sabella’s body in disbelief.  Her eyes were wide with shock, and her long black hair was highlighted red with her own blood and gray chunks of brain.  She still had a look on her face like she was about take a swing at the man with the gun.  I should never have questioned her courage.
My own courage , I didn’t think even existed anymore.
With Mikey strapped into the car-seat, the man trudged back around to the front of the car and said, “Get up, tough guy.”
I stood.
“Put her in the car.  The back seat with the kid.”  He held out a mason jar.  “Put the rest of her in here.”  He pointed at the chunks of brain and shards of skull decorating the hood of the stolen lexus.
He pulled off the blood-spattered gas mask, and took a deep breath.  He had a thick, graying beard, and uneven brown teeth that he exposed with a twisted grin.  He lit a cigarette from a pack he had probably swiped from Sabella’s purse.
“I don’t get what the big deal is.  The smell really isn’t so bad once you get used to it.  It’s actually kind of nice.”  He was smiling ; fucking beaming.
I threw up on his shoes.
“You have to learn to adapt to the situations the world hands you, son,” the bearded man was saying to me as I tried to pull myself together.  He dragged deep on the cigarette, then lit another one with the butt.  “Make the best of things, that’s what we always say.  Just know that God has a plan for you, whatever it may be.”
I was gagging again, head spinning, unable to think, and he was laughing his ass off at me.
“Now get to work.  And don’t leave behind any of the brains.  You know they love that shit.”

3.
He was driving my stolen car, me in the passenger seat with red hands and an empty soul.  Mikey was in the back seat, unbelievably grinning happily next to the bloody body of his mother.  The jar full of Sabella’s brains and blood, her life and thoughts, sloshed in the seat between the driver and I.
I wanted only to die.  I felt so useless and filled with shame and sickness, I could hardly bear to keep my head up.  I had failed, failed miserably.  The old man who had won had sized me up after I had finished scraping Sabella’s insides from the hood of the car.  He looked like he was considering tying me up, but decided that it wasn’t even necessary.  I was beaten.  Just another walking dead.
He was talking into the walkie-talkie as he drove, laughing merrily and bragging to someone about his catch.
“I think the guy shit himself,” he was saying, bellowing laughter.  “And the woman, just wait till you see her!  God is good!”
He laughed again at something I couldn’t make out from the other end, nodding and saying, “Yeah, I will be home soon, and we can play.”
He drove for a while, chain-smoking in silence.  The baby in the back seat was amazingly quiet; whenever he did start to make a gurgle or a cry, the old man cooed him into content silence.  It was unbelievable.
I tried not to just sit there whimpering in the passenger seat, but I could hardly make sense of anything, much less formulate a plan.
After a stretch on the interstate, he pulled off on an exit, then onto a lumpy dirt road.  It seemed like miles we traveled on this vague path in silence, until we came upon a tall razor-wire fence hidden by trees.  He got out and pulled some trees to the side and unlocked a gate, slid it open.  If I’d had any semblance of hope left, I could have slid over into the driver’s seat and drove away.  Somehow that idea seemed even more futile.  Where would I go now, with the dead body of a beautiful woman and an orphan child in the back seat?  All I could think to do at this point was to roll over and die.  It seemed easier to just leave everything in the hands of this man.  At least he seemed to have a plan…
He seemed amused that I hadn’t tried anything when he slid back into the driver’s seat and drove slowly through the gate.
“At least you know when you are beaten,” he said, smiling.  “It won’t be so bad.  Everyone has a purpose.  Yours is just meat.  You should be happy to serve your purpose.”
The thick woods on either side of us disappeared slowly, as the road widened into a clearing and a tall gray industrial windowless building.  Writing on the wall by the front door read: Hill Air Force Base.
“Home sweet home,” the old man chided next to me, giving me a hard poke in the ribs.  I didn’t even respond.  “Let’s go.”
I managed to drag myself to my feet and get out of the car.  I was just ready to die and get it over with.
He unstrapped Mikey and pulled him out of the back seat, smiling his rotten smile at the baby.  He swung the child around as if he were just some weird old uncle who hadn’t seen him in a while.  The baby chuckled and smiled.
“Get the girl and come with me,” he told me.
I bent over and pulled Sabella’s corpse out of the car.  I hoisted her up over my shoulder, trying not to look into her dead eyes.  Her sticky, matted hair brushed against my face, as I hauled her over to the door where the man stood cradling Mikey.  He pounded on the heavy iron door with his gloved fist, rocking the baby in his other arm.  He still kept one watchful eye on me, not to mention his loaded shotgun was always within reach, strapped to his leg.
Another man on the other side wrenched the door open with what looked like great effort, and grinned an insanely joyous grin at his cohort holding the squirming baby.  This man looked less muscular, and younger than the one I had been riding with, and his teeth were sparkling white, eyes darting with mad intelligence.  Maybe I would be able to reason with him.
“Joseph!” he exclaimed.  “Look what you’ve brought us.  You truly are a worthy disciple.”
“Thank you, my lord John,” the older man said, bowing slightly and offering the baby to him.  “I hope I have done well enough to earn a new wife.”
John narrowed his eyes and nodded at my captor, then looked past him to me.  “Well lets see her, then.  She may be to my liking.  As you know I have need of a new wife as well, Joseph.”
“Yes, my lord.”  He turned to me as well.  “Meat, bring her here.”
I had no choice but to do as they asked.
“Who are you?” asked the younger man, John.  “I mean to ask who were you, before you ended up here, in the service of God?”
I shrugged under the weight of the dead woman.  All I could think about is what I should have done for her.  All the things she needed from me that I had failed to provide.
“He doesn’t even know who he was!” John clapped his hands together, cackling laughter.  “Do you see, Joseph?  His place is clear.  He was no one, and had no purpose in his previous life. He serves only to bring god closer to us.  God has delivered us this meat for a reason.  This is proof.”
“I told him as much,” Joseph said, looking like a puppy eager to impress its master.  He got a pat on the head as the other man stepped closer to me and Sabella.
“Yes,” he said, looking closely at Sabella’s body draped over my shoulder.  “She was quite beautiful, wasn’t she?  Too bad about the big hole in her head isn’t it?  Did you really have to shoot her in the face?”
“She wouldn’t shut up,” said Joseph, looking timid.
“Yes, of course.  Live women always tended to have that problem.  Perhaps that is why God saw fit to change all that.  We don’t have to listen to them anymore do we?  They do whatever we want them to now, don’t they?”
He was right next to me now, looking me up and down as he had Sabella.
“Was she your wife in life, Meat?” he asked, close enough that I could smell his breath.
“Did you love her and her running mouth?  Did you think that you would live happily ever after?  We all have a purpose to serve.  Yours was not to live happily ever after, in case you were wondering.”
He stepped away without waiting for any answers and stroked the head of the baby gently.
“Yes, Joseph, I will take her as my new deadwife.  You may use the remains of my last one as you will.  You have served me well.  Take her to be prepared and I will be there after I check on the farm.”  John gave orders with the confidence of someone who had never been denied.  “Give me the baby, and I will show these two to their purpose.”
Joseph handed Mikey to John, and took Sabella’s body away from me.  I could still feel the weight on my shoulders.  He went back for the jar on the seat of the Lexus, and shook it proudly for John as he passed by us , entered the barracks, and disappeared down a winding hallway inside.
“Well, Meat,” he said, smiling brightly at me.  “Let’s get this over with, shall we?”

4.
He led me down the long hallway, gently clicking and cooing to baby Mikey, who giggled with content pleasure as he smiled at me from over the shoulder of our captor.
I followed along behind John in silence, passing doorways  on the left and right.
Some were closed and locked, some curtained, and some open a crack.
Inside one I glanced over at was a red splatter and an unmade bed covered in assault rifles.
On the right I saw a group of dead eyes staring hungrily through a window.
“Come on now, keep up,” the man in front of me was urging, winding along this neverending corridor.
Savage grunts and moans were coming from an open doorway ahead on the left, and I shook my head, telling myself not to look.
I tried to force myself to move along with tunnel vision, but a voice from inside the room called out “John!” and the man in front of me stopped and turned toward the room, his hand still gently stroking the back of Mikey’s head.
“Ah, yes!” John said with a grin. “Brother Frank! Are you enjoying your new wife?”
Inside the room was a crazed sweaty man, breathing heavy, and forcefully thrusting himself in and out of what could only be described as the remains of a person.
It was a torso, at least, no arms or legs, but chains suspended it from the ceiling, and spread it’s leg stumps wide open for this man. The face was hard to make out under a crust of blood and bodily fluids, but I saw it’s eyes roll back in it’s head and the moans were coming from it as the man happily humped away. There were no teeth in it’s mouth, and a long line of pink drool dripped to the floor.
Frank groaned and spasmed, then pulled away from his toy, zipping his pants up messily and rushing over to John.
“Oh, she is wonderful!” Frank said, on his knees now in front of John and myself, pulling at the cuffs of John’s pant leg. “Thank you for all you have done!”
The zombie torso suspended from the ceiling in the room looked right at me, still a long trail of drool stringing from her toothless mouth.
John put his hand on the man’s forehead and told him to run along, then gestured for me to follow him.
Frank ran back into the room excitedly, his pants magically back around his ankles as he returned to his dangling undead toy. He punched her right in the face, squealing with glee, then looked over his shoulder at me and cackled laughter. Then he was behind her again, and the thing’s dead eyes were still locked with mine, holding the same empty expression as before.
“Come along, Meat,” John was saying.
“Some men just need their basest needs met to find joy. Brother Frank there is a simple man. Isn’t it nice that he has found happiness?”
He glanced back at me, the baby now asleep on his shoulder, and quickly wet his lips like a lizard.
“Well,” he said, “Isn’t it?”
“Nice,” I said. “Yes. Real nice.”
John smiled and walked on, urging me forward to a door that opened outside to a small abandoned airstrip. A few junky vehicles were parked haphazardly around the yard, and I saw that my stolen Lexus was now parked amonst them.
All the shrubbery and grass was tall and overgrown, and the stink in the air was heavy. A bit off in the distance I could see smoke reaching for the sky and a glint of orange fire.
“This way,” he said, heading toward a circle of large tents.
We passed a small fenced-in group of lethargic zombies, idly shuffling in circles. They were all the remains of males, groaning disinterestedly.
“Not a very excitable lot,” he said as we passed, waving his arm broadly at the contained monsters.
He smiled to himself then, looking up at me with dangerous eyes.
“Check this out,” he said, elbowing me in the ribs, more like a mischevious child now than a maniacal religious fanatic.
He shook the poor sleeping baby awake, and the cries instantly perked the interest of the shuffling zombies. They flocked over to us, on the other side of the fence, now moaning hungrily and groping at us.  John laughed gleefully, as the helpless child wailed.  At least thirty of the groaners were there now, on the other side of the fence, the allure of fresh baby flesh apparently enough to wake energy in all of the undead.
“Stop it,” I said weakly. “What is wrong with you…?”
He shot me an angry look, clearly offended.
“Wrong with me?” He snorted back a laugh. “There is nothing wrong with me, friend. I don’t want to eat this baby. Clearly there is something wrong with them.”
He waved his arm at the group of clamoring undead trapped behind the fence.
“Just let us go, please.”
“No.”

He led me on to a large tent, with a bug-eyed young man standing guard at the entrance.
“Evening, sir,” the guard nodded at John, and stepped aside to let him enter the tent, watching me closely with a sneer.
The inside of the tent was set up like a very dirty hospital waiting room.
There were gurneys everywhere.  Some were empty ; some with red lumps covered in blue sheets.
A man in scrubs and a mask over his mouth rushed over, and I could see instant compassion for the child in his eyes.
“Evening, Doctor,” said John, gently handing Mikey to the man.
The doctor called out for someone named Jan and motioned for her to come take the baby. Two more people dressed in scrubs rushed over and then were gone with the child through an opening in the back of the tent.
“Wait, wait! Where are they taking him?” I asked, but then someone was behind me, grabbing me by the arm and leading me away from John and the doctor.
“None of your GD business, Meat.” A man said into my ear, and it was Joseph behind me, squeezing my arm too hard and dragging me off to a corner. A few large dog kennels were stacked up in the corner of the tent, crouched and bent shapes stirring inside them. A large rusty bird cage stood empty in a corner, and Joseph pushed me into it, slammed a padlock on the door, and told me to “Shut the fuck up.”
“Good, she’s here,” John was saying to the doctor. “Let’s get her ready.”
John pulled the sheet from the gurney in front of them and revealed the body of Sabella, the woman I had failed to protect, still and pale.
She was stripped naked, and the hole in her skull was wet and black.
The doctor wheeled a cart over next to the gurney, and pulled out a hammer and adjustable wrench and handed them to John, who looked over at me with a glint of feverish excitement in his eyes.
The doctor leaned in and peeled Sabella’s dead lips back, revealing her teeth.

John raised the hammer and smashed it right into her mouth with a wet crack. The doctor’s gloved hand was reaching into her mouth and scooping out teeth and blood.  John leaned in with the wrench and one by one pulled the remaining teeth from their sockets.
“Sick, isn’t it?” a voice next to my bird cage whispered.
I looked down at a thin trembling man crouched in the dog kennel next to me.
“What the fuck are they doing?” I asked him.
“They use them for sex slaves, wives, don’t you know anything?”
“But she is dead, already.”
“Not for long.”
“But they shot her in the head. Blew her brains right out.” I shuddered, remembering how I had scooped them into the jar.
“Doesn’t matter. That’s what all those old zombie stories got wrong. Brains don’t matter. They function even better with out them. These are simply walking corpses. No brains, no chance of thoughts.”
Another doctor was rolling over a cart with a large metal contraption on top of it. John and the man in scrubs sat Sabella’s limp body up as two other nurses put the metal frame on her shoulders. It looked like some kind of primitive form of dental braces, a huge contraption meant to align teeth. They screwed it into her forehead, chains with hooks in her lips pulling her toothless mouth wide open.
It was sickening.
“Easy access,” the man in the cage next to me was whispering.
“Now they can put whatever they want in her mouth, with no danger.”
I think he was laughing, but I couldn’t tell.
“I want to keep the legs on this one,” John was saying now, holding a bone saw with one hand and stroking the tattoos on her left thigh with the other.
“The arms can go, though,” he said, and started sawing roughly at her armpit.
I closed my eyes hard, and tried to shut out the squeal of saw against flesh and bone, but when I opened them again I was still locked in a dirty old birdcage, and the woman I had tried to protect was now armless, toothless, and bloody ten feet away from me.
“A work of art,” John was saying, as he stood over the bloody remains of my date, and smiled proudly. I thought I heard the weasely man in the cage whisper the same words at the same time.
“Now, bring in ol’ Grampa!”
Another nurse rushed in with a zombie behind her on a chain with a muzzle. He was old, rotting horribly, missing patches of flesh all over his body, but still intact. Arms, legs, and teeth. A kind of sad knowledge lingered in his washed out eyes.
They led him over to the bed of the mutilated Sabella, and took the muzzle from his rotten mouth, and everyone stood back watching. The prisoner zombie leaned over her, sniffing at her and reaching into the gaping hole in her head, licking his bloody fingers.
Then he leaned in and bit the stump of her shoulder hungrily, and stood back up chewing happily on a chunk of her dead flesh.
John, Joseph and the nurses stood back and watched Sabella excitedly in strange silence as the old zombie chewed and swallowed, and reached out for more. I guess they did eat their own, after all, but she was already long dead, surely this wouldn’t bring her back.  If the zombies could in fact bring the dead back with a bite, then the world was truly doomed…
Sabella sat up with wide eyes and a loud moan, mouth held wide open with hooks, armless and undead.
“Beautiful,” said John, unzipping his pants.
“No. God, no,” I said under my breath as the weasel crouched in the cage next to me giggled and snorted.

5.
Some sort of violent commotion outside erupted suddenly, and I could hear the very clear sound of several gunshots in quick succession.
John was fumbling with his zipper as Sabella leaned toward him, her toothless jaw working hard and tongue reaching.
“What the fuck was that?” he asked the doctor next to him, panicky, and the doctor shrugged.
Suddenly a man wearing a gas mask, and holding a pistol in each hand burst through the entrance of the tent.
In between quick short breaths, he said , “They’re loose.”
“What?” screamed John, his cool composure lost, “How can this be?”
The man with the pistols shook his head, pulling the gas mask up to his forehead. “Something got the ones in the cage all riled up, and they broke it down. They are coming this way.”
Sabella caught his eye, squirming on the blood-soaked gurney in front of him. She grimaced through the wires, pushing her mouth toward him now.
Recognition was there in his eyes, and a very deep sadness, as he turned them up from Sabella to red-faced John.
“Where did you find her?” he asked, grabbing John by the collar. “Where?”
“Joseph brought her to me. You can have her if you like, just get those others rounded up before we lose control of this situation…”
“That is my sister, you fuck,” the man spat. “I can’t believe she made it all this way, and look what you did to her –”
He was obviously barely holding his emotions in.
“Oh my,” said John, shaking his head. “Your sister, huh. That is a predicament. Well, she was already dead when Joseph brought her to me, if it makes you feel any better…”
Outside the tent, a raw scream and bursts of automatic weapon blasts could be heard.
Sabella fell off the gurney, lunging at her brother, and rolled around on the dirty floor, bloody, pathetic and armless, still determined to bite someone.
The man, Sabella’s long lost brother, quietly lifted the pistol in his left hand and fired point blank into John’s eyeball, spraying red wetness from the back of his head.
The rest of the company in the tent gasped in horror, and Joseph screamed out “No!” and lunged directly at Sabella’s brother only to catch three bullets right to the throat. He fell to the ground with a thump and gurgled his last breaths.
“Jesus,” he said, under his breath, looking down at Sabella’s corpse rolling at him, gumming at his shoe with her deconstructed mouth. The two other doctors in the tent were slowly backing away, and the zombie John had referred to as “Grampa” was shuffling aimlessly toward the corner of the tent.
“What the hell is happening here?” someone called from the rear entrance of the tent, and Jan re-entered, holding a bottle in little Mikey’s mouth and gently rocking him.
Sabella’s brother quickly spun, pointing both pistols directly at head of the nurse holding his nephew.
“Don’t!” I called from my ridiculous birdcage trap, and he turned half of his attention to me, one eye and one gun.
“You’re Henry, right? Sabella’s brother?” I managed to ask.
He quickly looked at me with both eyes, narrowed them.
“Who the fuck are you?”
“I’m Nick. I came here with her.” I nodded at Sabella’s body, flopping around there on the floor. “We were looking for you. She thought you could help us.”
He sniffed back something big, and squeezed his eyes shut for a brief moment.
“I should have,” he said, shaking his head.
I pointed over at Jan, trembling, nervously frozen in place. Something outside the tent exploded.
“That baby there is your nephew, his name is Michael.” I tried to smile, but I’m sure it must have looked horrifying.
He narrowed his eyes at me then, and slowly walked toward my rusty prison, still one eye on Jan and little Mikey. He looked right into me.
“This is ending now. I can’t believe I went along with it for this long. It’s all over now.” He was shaking his head, lips trembling. “They are coming.”
“Let me out of here,” I pleaded. “At least I can try to get them out of here before it all falls apart.”
He shook his head gravely and motioned with one of his pistols for Jan to come over to us with the baby.
“Give me my nephew,” he said, grabbing the child from her with a disgusted look. “Now, run for your life.”
Jan hesitated for a second, then tore off through the rear entrance of the tent. A few moments later we heard the screams, then silence.
He stood there cradling the child for a moment, looking down with an awkward half smile. The tent was vacant now, aside from Mickey and myself, the shady characters in the cages around me, Sabella rolling around on the floor moaning, and “Grampa” still idly shuffling in the corner.
“Do you have a plan?”
“No,” I admitted. “But I have a car. We could have a chance if you help to clear the way. Joseph had the keys to the car. And this cage.”
I nodded at the hulking lump of Joseph’s body, bleeding on the floor.
He bent over and sifted through the dead man’s pockets, withdrew the keys, and opened my cage.
“All right,” I said. “Let’s get out of here.”
“No, ” Henry said, shaking his head and handing Mikey over to me. “Get them out of here.”
“What? Come with us. We can all get away.”
“No point,” he said, bending down to help his flopping undead sister to her feet. “I deserve to die as much as the rest of them. I am no better than they are.”
He took a deep breath.
“Get them out of here. I will help you clear a path, at least.”
“Fair enough,” I said, and headed for the tent’s exit, Mikey under my arm, and tugging the remains of Sabella on a chain behind me.

It was no bullshit. Outside the relative peace of the hospital tent, chaos reigned.
The fence that had previously contained the listless zombies was down, trampled into the grass. It seemed like they were everywhere around the courtyard of this old air force base, some chewing on the fresh meat of the dead guards and some merely roaming in circles.
I tried my best to keep Mikey quiet and hidden, but his instinctual fear got the best of the little guy and he let out a long mournful wail.
Suddenly, all eyes were on us.
“Go!” shouted Henry over the chorus of haunting moans. He popped off a few bullets, slowing some of them down but not enough to really make a difference.
I saw the car a few hundred feet away, parked near that heavy iron gate, my sweet trusty stolen Lexus. We made our way along the outside wall of the barracks, trying to ignore the sounds of violence inside the building.
I shushed Mikey as we ran along behind Henry’s gunshots, dropping the intent zombies one by one. He was clearing a path, but the odds were clearly stacked against us.
I dragged Sabella along behind me, hearing her soft gurgling moans in my ear.
The click of the pistols hitting empty chambers was the next sound, and I pushed forward toward the Lexus as Henry started violently swinging the butts of his pistols at the attacking zombies.
His goal was accomplished, he got enough of them distracted from us for us to make it to the car. He shouted “Go! Go!” a couple of times behind us, and a few seconds later he was gone.

The horde was trailing hungrily behind us, and the zombified armless remains of Sabella squirming in the seat of the Lexus next to me, looking at me with her dead eyes and trying to bite at me with her toothless mouth.
I pushed her away repeatedly, cradling Mikey under my left arm and trying to steer with my right.
I managed to get the car started despite my shaky hands, kicked it into drive and ran over two panicky guards. I watched in the rear-view mirror as the zombies behind us stopped to munch on them.
Finally we reached the heavy iron door that hid this madhouse from the rest of the world.
I hopped out with the baby still under my arm, afraid if I left him in the front seat with his mother, that she would fucking try to eat him.
I slid the heavy door open and showed the way to what I had hoped was freedom.
Unfortunately, on the other side of the door was no promised land. There were a group of zombies waiting outside the gate, and the cries of little Mikey drew their immediate attention.
Behind us, too, the ones that had been distracted by the crushed guards were perking up and heading toward us again. Those whack-jobs had been right about at least one thing. These fuckers did love babies…
What kind of life was this kid going to have now?
His mother was now an armless and mindless zombie, and the rest of the world just wanted to fucking eat him.
“Shhh, shhhh,” I told him, watching as the circle closed around us.
Sabella was on the drivers side of the jeep now, bashing her head against the window.
I took a deep breath, wrapped little Mikey up tightly in his blanket, and set him down on the ground about ten feet from the gate.
I got back in the car, pushed Sabella over to the passenger seat with a heavy thud, and didn’t look back.
The zombies in front of the gate paid no attention to me as I jumped back into the Lexus and hauled ass.
Don’t look back, don’t look back.
But the baby’s cries had stopped, and I finally looked back and could only see a huge crowd of zombies chewing and munching happily.
I glanced at Sabella in the quiet car next to me, her toothless mouth held wide open with a cluster of hooks and wires. She didn’t judge me with those dead eyes.
She just wanted to eat me.
The road before me was clear, and the sunrise over the mountains seemed welcoming for the first time in recent memory.
I am not proud, but at least I am still alive.

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