Ayrnham, Alabama had once been a quiet southern town nestled along the languid banks of the Nuderine River. In the aftermath of the Great Zombie Apocalypse, it was even quieter than ever—for the only sound to be heard there now was the sombre shuffling of the ever-hungry living undead.
Today, four bands of survivors found themselves facing that deadly peril.
Helga Frankfurt was Deputy Principal of Miss Congleton’s School for Girls, located on the eastern outskirts of Ayrnham. Together with Head Girl Claire, she was determined to get the three remaining young pupils across the bridge to the southern bank of the river, where she hoped it would be safer. Miss Frankfurt was a stern disciplinarian, and armed with an MP38 submachine gun from her extensive collection of WWII memorabilia. Claire, armed with shotgun, pistol, and field hockey stick, was much more willing to break the rules. Young Samiha carried the school’s M72 light anti-tank rocket launcher (this is, after all, Alabama). Polly carried a baseball bat. Little Lucy always wore a gas mask, which she refused to take off. She had no weapon at all, but was known to have the occasional psychic premonitions.
Little did they know that a group of escaped prisoners from the Ayrnham State Penitentiary were approaching town too, from the west. Although thrown together by circumstances, the group was deeply divided by racial and jailhouse animosities. Abraham “Abe” Abner was their supposed leader, an innocent man imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. His leadership was challenged, however, by Bobby “Dixie” Lee, a white supremacist and car thief. William “Spike” Brown, hot-tempered and argumentative, tended to support Abe, while former bank robber Eric “Shank” Williams backed Dixie. Abe was unarmed, Dixie and Spike carried work tools from the chain gang, and Shank was still in leg irons and manacles. They too had decided to head the bridge, and the supposed safety of the southern side of the river.
Also in town for the day were the Mayhems, an eccentric country family whose small rural farm was several miles south of Ayrnham. Recently their pigs had been stolen, and they had reason to believe they—and possible the thief—were loose in town. The family was led by Aunt Agnes, a formidable woman in every respect, who was as handy with a shotgun as a skillet. Deranged Uncle Wilf loved to hack zombies as much as he missed his porkers, and carried a large fire axe. Finally there was Cousin Alice, whose fragile mental state was unstably balanced somewhere between psychopath and catatonia, with occasional moments of lucidity in between. She was an outstanding shot with her revolver, which, like her stuffed bunny (or possibly actual dead bunny), she carried everywhere. As locals, they were well aware that the southern side of the river was even more dangerous than the north. However, whether they told anyone this was another matter.
Finally, where danger was to be found, Dick could not be far behind—that is, Dick Danger, former star of the presciently-named reality television show Survival: Apocalypse. He was armed with a machete, 0.357 magnum with hollow-point ammunition and a laser sight, and a useless cellphone with which he was known to try to call his long-dead agent. With his show now no longer on the air, Dick was eager for fan recognition, and carried autographs to hand out to grateful survivors.
* * *
The girls moved cautiously towards a general store and gas station on the left side of the road. Sharp-eyed Lucy had spotted a small group of zombies down the road, and Miss Frankfurt thought it was best to get everyone inside. “I’ll climb on the roof,” said Claire as they all hid behind the garage. “Perhaps I can get in that way.”
The teen climbed to the roof, and was surprised to find a little girl clutching a teddy bear. Had she and her parents perhaps sought refuge up here? Judging from the girl’s pallid, bloody face and the two mangled corpses with her on the roof, it hadn’t worked.
What is going on up there, Claire?” barked Miss Frankfurt, who climbed up to check on her sometimes headstrong head girl. She too saw the pathetic undead little girl. “You there, little girl,” she said, “Climbing on the roof is verboten!” With this she pushed the little zombie off the roof and head-first onto the pavement below. It landed with a sickening crunch. “Now, girls, you all must come up here promptly, or you will end up like little zombie girl! Schnell!”
With the help of Claire the rest of the girls climbed up too. They then all lowered themselves into the building through a skylight. The garage was empty.
“We will now advance to the next objective,” said Miss Frankfurt with Teutonic precision. At her signal they opened the garage door and all ran to the wall of the general store.
Unfortunately, their scent had been picked up by a mutant hunter zombie. Miss Frankfurt spotted it as it galloped towards them at a surprising rate of speed. “Nein, you will not take die kinder!” She let off a staccato burst of automatic fire from her MP38, which slowed but did not down the beast. Claire pumped several blasts from her shotgun at it too, slowing it further. Finally it reached them, trying to bite Claire several times before she finished it off with a blow from her hockey stick. “Do not allow yourself to become infected,” said Miss Frankfurt coldly. The school penalty for harbouring the zombie virus was death by firing squad.
As for Claire, she was desperate for a smoke. Her nicotine cravings were hard to satisfy while she was constantly under the iron gaze of the Vice Principal.
The group checked out another garage and the general store. There they found a small amount of food and some ammunition. There was shooting somewhere in the distance. “Ahh, this is good,” said Miss Frankfurt with a calculating smile. “It will draw the untoten away from us!”
* * *
The convicts moved warily towards the small warehouse beside the railway tracks, and wrenched the doors open. They had hoped for some tools with which to remove Shank’s manacles, but found something just as good: a shotgun and a couple shells for it.”I’ll take that,” said Shank. He glared at Abe, who had headed off to check out another nearby building. “I may need it later…”
They ran southwards across the road, and from there to the rear of a small strip mall. They forced the rear doors to one of these and searched it for useful items. Abe found a crowbar, which he then used to break the locks of Shank’s shackles.
They saw a car drive out of the mall’s small parking lot and into town, but decided not to investigate. Instead they moved across the lot to the next row of shops, and broke into those too.
About ten minutes later a man came running up to the door. “Hello, I’m Dick Danger! Danger is my middle name.”
Dixie recognized him immediately from television. They all chatted for a moment. Dick offered some helpful survival tips, for which they thanked him. He then gave them all signed autographs, and headed off in the direction of the bridge.
* * *
The Mayhems moved into the city, cautiously approaching the heavily-fortified post office. “I don’t see anyone, Pa.” said Agnes. They forced the rear door and entered. It was empty. They then headed up to the roof for a better view of the area. Alice stayed outside, beheading daisies.
“I hear a pig, Pa!” said Agnes. “Over there!” she pointed towards the strip mall. Wilf’s attention, however, was drawn to the sight of a couple of zombies headed towards his daughter. If there was one thing he hated more than pig thieves, it was undead suitors for Alice. He rushed back downstairs and attacked the first one with his axe. Alice was walking carefully along the tracks, muttering something about rainbows. Mid sentence she pulled out her gun, and shot the other zombie straight through the skull. “That’s my girl!” said Wilf proudly.
The family then headed south towards the oinking sound they could hear in the distance. Sure enough, there was one of the missing porkers. “Yeehaw!” Wilf exclaimed as he scooped it up. “We’ll be eating bacon again!”
Suddenly there was the sound of a powerful engine in the distance. Moments later a late-model BMW sped into sight, tires squealing and loud music playing. A handsome middle-aged man with chiselled features and silver-grey hair leaned out the window.
“Do you folks need some help? I’m Dick Danger. Danger is my middle name….”
* * *
Dick Danger was having a good day. First he had crept through a small alley and into the parking lot of an abandoned strip mall—much as he had done so in Episode 11 (“Infiltration Tips for Commercial Areas”) of Survival: Apocalypse.
He found both a car and a truck parked in the mall’s parking lot. The truck had gasoline, but no keys in sight, while an attractive late-model BMW had keys in the pocket of its long-devoured owner but was out of gas. Using the method he had perfected in Episode 22 (“Emergency Automotive Scavenging”) he built a rudimentary siphon from hosing and the anti-freeze tank in the truck, and transferred some gas to the BMW. It started at once, and purred like a tiger on barely-legal steroids.
He then cranked up the music, and drove towards town.
Shortly thereafter he came across the Mayhems and immediately offered his help. They were thankful to have it. Official “Dick Danger” autographs were handed out. The pig was loaded in to the trunk of the car. Dick got in the back so Wilf could drive, and they prepared to head out.
Before they could do so, however, a couple of zombies rushed around the corner and threw themselves on the vehicle. Wilf tried to drive away, but was unfamiliar with an automatic transmission and lost precious moments looking for the clutch. As the zombies began to tear the vehicle apart, they all got out.
Dick looked at the zombies. He could kill them–he was good at that. But that was boring. And he had just spotted the convicts breaking into a travel agency at the mall. New fans! He abandoned the Mayhems, and trotted off after the distant figures in orange jumpsuits.
* * *
Wilf started swinging the axe, bringing down undead. From time to time Ma and Alice threw a few punches, or fired off a round or two. Five, six, seven…—the zombie toll kept climbing. However all the commotion—and Wilf’s tendency to charge any zombie he saw—meant that no sooner had they killed some than still more appeared. Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen… First Wilf then Alice and Agnes were wounded. Alice screamed–attracting still more undead.
And then she went down as a zombie ripped out her throat. Pa froze. Not his darling psychopathic daughter! Even more zombies rushed towards him.”Save yerself, Ma!” he shouted as he readied his axe one last time. He would go down swinging…
* * *
Led by Miss Frankfurt, the girls moved left the General Store and headed carefully into town. There were zombies everywhere, and it was difficult to stay out of sight. Finally they took shelter in a computer store as undead prowled about outside. Along the way Polly befriended a feral dog, which she had named “Cuddles.”
“How will we escape, Miss Frankfurt?” asked Samiha. All the girls looked at Vice Principal eagerly.
Miss Frankfurt briefly considered throwing Cuddles into the street to draw the attention of the zombies outside. However, the dog was a wily survivor, and would likely just slink off. No, she needed something louder to distract the horde.
“Samiha, have you ever used an M-72 anti-tank rocket against a multistory residential building?” Samiha shook her head. “Would you like to?” The young student nodded excitedly.
Moments later there was a loud explosion farther down the street as the rocket hit its intended target. Zombies across town stopped what they were doing, and headed towards it. As they did so, the surviving teacher and students of Miss Congleton’s School for Girls demurely slipped out the rear door of the shop and into the alley beyond.
* * *
Having connected with his convict fans. Dick Danger headed off in the direction of the bridge. There were zombies everywhere, but most were distracted by weapons fire elsewhere in town, not to mention the impressive boom of a rocket hitting an apartment building. Carefully picking his way through the abandoned cars, Dick reached the south bank. There were far more zombies here than anyone expected. Briefly he considered heading back to warn everyone, but decided against it.
After all he had new fans to meet.
Dick Danger started to trot (much as in Episode 41, “Danger Jogging”) and headed out of sight down the road.
* * *
The convicts had not seen Dick Danger cross the bridge, but were headed in much the same direction. They broke into a large office building and searched it for a while, finding some food and encountering several zombified office workers. A large runner zombie also burst in the door, but they managed to dispatch it.
The group then exited out of a rear window and headed across the bridge. They had just reached the midpoint when an argument broke out over President Obama, the state of race relations in the United States, and the importance of the Voting Rights Act.
Shank raised his shotgun. Before he could pull the trigger, however, Spike put a pick-axe through his skull, making clear the origins of his nickname. Moments later Abe knocked out Dixie with a blow from his crowbar.
“Hadn’t we better take their stuff?” asked Spike. “Not with this many zombies around,” muttered Abe. “We don’t have time. Let’s get outta here!”
A fast and fearsome runner zombie failed to see them amid the wrecked cars, but two shufflers did. A zombie-clown could also be seen lurching slowly towards them, brightly-coloured balloons in its bloody hand.
The pair struck down the first two zombies, and ran. All that jailhouse exercise paid off, and they both made it to safety along the road out of town.
* * *
“I don’t think we should cross the river, Miss Frankfurt.” said Lucy.”I really, really don’t.” The Vice Principal thought for a moment. Lucy was only seven years old. On the other hand, she often seemed to know things before they happened, and had already twice warned the group of approaching zombies before anyone else had spotted them. She also thought back to everything she had read of experiments with extra-sensory perception by the Third Reich during WWII. Why, her own father had been among the scientists involved (although the version of him in Raiders of the Lost Ark was heavily fictionalized).
“Perhaps you are right, Lucy.” she said after reaching a decision. “We will redeploy to the west instead.” While most of the girls didn’t know exactly what “redeploy” meant, they all seemed relieved not to be risking travel through the zombie-infested approaches to the bridge.
Instead the girls moved quietly through the alleys until they approached the post office. They sprinted across roads one at a time, trying hard to stay out of sight. It was overcast and had started raining, which reduced visibility and made it somewhat easier to not be seen by undead abominations.
Up ahead they could hear gunshots and sounds of fighting. Miss Frankfurt peered around the corner just in time to see a zombie rushing towards a wounded Aunt Agnes. “Girls, you run towards the railway tracks. I will rescue this lady, and she can become our new school cook.” With that she stepped into the street, aimed, and kneecapped the zombie.
Aunt Agnes limped towards her gratefully. Miss Frankfurt looked at her. “Can you cook goulash? Yes? No? Never mind, we will negotiate your wages later. For now, follow my girls.”
With Claire leading the way, the girls ran into the works yard. A single zombie approached and attacked the head girl, biting her. Claire dispatched it with an expert blow of her hockey stick. The girls whispered a rousing school cheer, and they all continued to the west, leaving the city behind them.
* * *
Shortly after leaving town, Miss Frankfurt ordered the girls to tie Claire and Aunt Agnes to a tree. She watched over both with her submachine loaded and cocked until it was clear that neither had been infected. They were then untied, and Aunt Agnes made them all Gulasch mit Eichhörnchen (squirrel stew).
Dick Danger went on to meet new fans, help them, and abandon them as soon as actual danger appeared.
Abe and Spike had no regrets.
The bodies of Uncle Wilf and Cousin Alice did not rise from the dead, but instead were eaten by foraging pigs. Pa would have wanted it that way.