For months, a dwindling band of survivors had struggled to stay alive on the edges of a Norbertville, a small Tennessee industrial town on the banks of the Suskannawatchee River. At the best of times, the town had been fighting a slowly losing battle against rusty oblivion. After the 2008 recession, its collapse had been further hastened by the onset of apocalypse and the murderous consumption of most of its citizens by hordes of voracious undead —a process described by Norbertville’s staunchly Republican mayor as “Obama post-colonial socialism taken to its logical extreme.” (Shortly thereafter, the mayor was disembowelled by his 11-year-old niece.)
While survival had always been tough for the survivors, it became tougher still when a fire swept through town one November evening. No one knew if it has been deliberately started by humans, by some zombie or animal stumbling upon inflammable relics of civilization, or by the weather. Whatever the case, the fire gutted many of the key buildings that had previously been relied upon for supplies. Facing the peril of a long cold winter with little to eat, four of the survivors decided to push on across the river, to try to find better quarters in the countryside beyond.
Mission: gather 15 supplies, then reach the bridge across the Suskannawatchee River.
Survivors: Joe “The Eskimo” Stanowicz (survivalist), Cindy-Lou Bayou (country girl), Polly Butyl (performance artist), Rufus Tottingham (British chartered accountant).
* * *
Cautiously the survivors picked their way through the derelict construction site, their eyes scanning the distance for dangers. Their plan was simple: first check out the old inn and church for supplies, since both had escaped the ravages of the recent conflagration. Then they would cut across the parking lot behind the office building, and climb up onto the bridge.
“Perhaps this wasn’t the best way to come, y’all,” said Cindy-Lou, as she noticed the bloated corpses of a half-dozen former construction workers stirring in the distance. Joe grumbled, and Rufus drew his revolver. “Watch out chaps, it looks like a spot of bother….”
The survivors opened fire as the zombies stumbled forward. One emerged from under a dump-truck to catch Rufus off-guard, biting him in the ankle. Cindy-Lou blew it to pieces with her shotgun, then chambered another round. Meanwhile Polly and Joe kneecapped a few others, slowing their progress.
“Change of plans: let’s bail from this gig” shouted Polly, as she bent down and placed something in the rubble. The group then raced back around the half-finished building with several wounded zombies in pursuit. “What was that you left behind?” asked Rufus as they ran. “Get over that wall, and soon you’ll see,” replied Polly with a grin.
Moments after the four made it over the concrete wall and into the street beyond they heard a loud ringing noise in the construction site. The zombies stopped pursuing, and congregated around the small plastic alarm clock that Polly had left behind. “Clever girl!” said Rufus with a wink. Joe just grunted, plodding towards a truck in the road in his heavy parka and home-made body armour.
Unfortunately, not all of the undead were distracted by Polly’s ruse. One of them was a Hunter, who unerringly continued on the survivors’ trail. Cindy-Lou noticed it first, as it clambered up the wall behind them. She ready her shotgun, but thought better of it when she saw another group of shapes milling about in the distance in a small park. Not wanting to attract their attention, she ran forward to club the Hunter with the butt of her weapon. The others ran back to help her. Polly was injured in the fray, but eventually the creature was reduced to a post-lifeless pulp.
“Hey, Scooby-gang!” called out Polly, as she examined a factory building that stood nearby. “This place has been barricaded… perhaps there’s something good inside!” The other three joined her as she pried off a board that had been nailed across a window.
The four survivors entered the dark building. As their eyes adjusted to the dim light, they saw a figure watching them. Dressed in revolutionary hipster clothes and carrying an assault rifle, this was clearly no zombie but another human being. Cindy-Lou and Polly stepped forward to offer a warm greeting.
The figure, however, stepped back, clearly nervous. He clicked the safety off his weapon, and aimed it at the girls. That was too much for Joe, who promptly shot the unknown survivor in the leg. He fell to the floor, bleeding, but when the group stepped forward he once more became aggressive, standing up and lunging at Rufus. A brawl ensued, which ended with the stylishly-clad young man unconscious on the floor.
“Well, that’s a pity,” said Rufus as he looked down at the prostrate form. “It isn’t like there are so many chaps left these days that we can afford such pointless internecine squabbles.” Joes wasn’t sure what “internecine” meant, but he did know the value of an assault rifle when he saw it–and so he bent down and took the man’s weapon. Rufus found a submachine gun and half a magazine of ammunition sitting on a crate. Cindy-Lou uncovered a small stockpile of supplies under a tarp, just short of the amount needed for their journey. “Y’all, there’s more of this stuff outside!” Sure enough there was a second box of supplies just outside the factory. Unfortunately the noisy fracas with the hipster had also attracted a growing number of zombies. The group hurriedly rebarricaded the breach they had earlier made to enter.
The group bandaged their few wounds. Then, after some discussion, it was decided that Polly, Joe, and Cindy-Lou would make a break for the supplies, while Rufus used his new weapon to mow down a few of the undead from a factory window.
“By George, there are more supplies there, by the stop sign,” exclaimed Rufus as he emerged from the factory to join the others. Joe had no idea who “George” was, and didn’t care. He dropped two zombies with a burst from his assault rifle, and then began to run for the bridge. “We’ve got what we came for, dammit–let’s get out of here!” The others followed
Reaching the bridge, the group hid among the wrecked cars for a moment. The zombies soon lost their trail, and resumed their mindless meanderings in the decaying streets of Norbertville.
With more than enough supplies in hand, the survivors pressed on across the Suskannawatchee and into the rural farmland beyond. After a few anxious days of watching Rufus for signs of impending zombification, it was clear that the bite he had suffered wasn’t infected, and that he had managed to dodge the zed-plague. No one knew, of course, if they would be so lucky the next time…