Chapter 28: We Leave At Dawn
"Goooooood Moooooooorning zombie apocalypse survivors!" The static burst filled highly appropriate imitation of Robin Williams startles awake everyone sleeping in the damp concrete bunker. The old man on the other end of the microphone was one of the people White Magic stayed in contact with overnight. "Ernie you scared the crap outta of us dog wasup with that?" White Magic laughs into his handheld microphone. The whites of his blue eyes are red and not from lack of sleep. While the others slept White Magic partook of his time honored relaxation technique. The ashtray on the CB is packed with a healthy amount of ashes and joint butts. "Well I figured since we shared the same time zone that you and your guest needed know the Sun was up." White Magic scans the room quickly seeing the survivors who'd come knocking at his door yesterday. They’re already up and moving in a frenzy. "They are up now and so am I so it's time to get down to business Ernie. I'll talk to you tonight my bro." Magic releases the call button. Big Ben James comes stalking through the chaos right at Magic. Ben has the rifle his father in law gave him slug over his shoulder. "Let's go now!" White Magic hesitates for the briefest second. He takes in Ben's lack of tact and gratitude. Maybe it's the look on the man's face his dark skin sprinkled with sweat already or maybe its empathy. This is something White Magic has lacked for his entire life. He says nothing giving the distraught father a quick nod. "Alright Ern I’m checking out my brother you stay safe today alrighty?" Magic gingerly places the microphone back on the top of the black and chrome CB. "Hey ... hey Magic Man you still out there?" The grumpy old man shouts into the CB. Magic stops pulling the mic back up to his mouth. "Yeah Ernie I'm still here wasup man?!" A squelch of static pours from the ancient radio unit. "Do me a favor young buck. You tell that family with you that I'm not much on faith right now but if I was I'd be praying they find them kids of theirs safe and sound." The voice on the radio goes silent as does the bustling bunker. White Magic looks up at Ben James the man is chewing nervously on his bottom lip. For the first time in the short time he has known the husky black man. Magic sees a crack in the hard exterior Mr. James portrays. He deliberately moves the mic back to his mouth eyes still set on Ben. “I will Ernie …….I will and trust me my brother they appreciate yo concern. Stay safe bro we’ll keep ya posted Ernie.” Magic drops the microphone atop the CB.
“Are you ready Big Poppa James?” Magic asks from his seat behind the desk. “First don’t call me Big Poppa …” Ben rubs his hand impatiently across his lips. “….and second of course I’m ready. Now can we go please?” Magic stands up chest to chest dwarfed by the much larger senior James. His picks up his sunglasses hesitating before placing them on his face. “First you called me Vanilla Ice yesterday Pops. I looked that motherfucker up online last night.” He taps the bulky black laptop with his index finger. “Ha ha very funny … So I figure I can call you Big Poppa James it makes us even.” Magic snorts placing the mirrored shades on his face. He takes his time to look about the room. His eyes settle on Anne and Brandon James. Leaning in to keep the conversation between the two of them White Magic speaks. “Big Poppa look here when I say are you ready? What I mean is you ready for what happens if yo kids aint out there? If we don’t find them man or worse yet bro if we do and…. And …well.” Ben’s burly chest heaves once White Magic takes the opportunity to step back and give the man his space. The rest of the occupants of the underground former bootleggers den stare at the two men in the rear. “No I’m not ready for that but I have to know for sure … for my family.” A look passes between the two men. White Magic pats Ben on his chest pushing past him he picks his Uzi from the rickety desk. The two proceed to the front of the structure joining the main group. Private Sara Lockett has the groups attention focused on her. “Mrs. James with your foot injured we will leave you here where it’s safe with little man.” The girl winks at Brandon who grins broadly his cheeks flushed beet red. “Private Medina will stay here as well. She’s up to holding down the fort but the effects of her concussion are much to pronounced for her to be good on the move.” She motions over to Bianca Fullerton. “Ma’am I assume you’ll want to stay here with your little ladies?” Bianca looks sheepishly at Anne James. “Yes .. Iffff that’s okay?” She says Anne reaches over pressing her hands over Bianca’s. “Its fine honey God knows we could use the company.” “How’s the ankle feeling Mrs. James?” Private Carson inquires. “It’s doing better sweetheart thank you for bandaging it for me.” She responds swiping a blond bang from her face. “So now that we settled that Mr. James the rest of us will be heading out now. I will take the lead Carson will bring up the rear anybody have any questions?” Locket feels her confidence returning thinking nothing of ordering the men gather about her around. “I have a question.” White Magic raises his hand. “I’m hungry can I grab something from my stash before we head out?” Private Lockett‘s mouth curls up at the corner. “No White Cheddar your stash is gone we fed the women and children first thing this morning. Also next apocalypse can you stock more rations than Twinkies, Mountain Dew and cheese spread?” Magic’s displeasure is obvious as he glares about the room pulling his glasses down. “So we…..” Private Lockett begins but is cutoff. “I have another question.” White Magic raises his hand defiantly. “Are you a lesbian?” He blurts as everyone in the groups shoots him disapproving glares. Private Locket chuckles not the first time a man with low self esteem has asked her the same tactless questions. “No White Bread why do you ask are you hoping I am so we can hook up?” Snickers from the adults gathered about the door cause White Magic to grit his teeth. He dramatically pushes his sunglasses back up to cover his eyes using his middle finger. “Seriously your home you lead the way White Lightening.” Private Lockett steps aside. “Oh well thank you my sister.” White Magic offers the girl a black power fist salute. “Now we gots to clear the house before we go outside we might be coming back in a hurry.” He twists the handle pulling the heavy door open with an ear splitting groan of rusted metal. Ben takes this time to head over to his wife kneeling down to kiss her lips. “Bring back our babies please Ben?” She pleads her eyes are glassy and red for the exact opposite reason White Magic’s are. “I will do everything I can baby I swear I will.” He tells her as Brandon dives into his father’s arms. Unlike his parents the tears flow freely down Brandon’s smooth cheeks. “Keep mom and the other ladies safe for me chief ok?” Ben tells his youngest son. The boy tilts his head up at his dad giving him an agreeable nod. “Mr. James we are waiting for you. “ Jamal says softly. Ben places his son down next to his wife. With that the group moves down the dirt corridor to the secret door. “Now check this out peoples this is the most dangerous part. If one of dem fuckers got in the basement last night we are gonna run right into it.” White Magic raps the false door with the stock of his Uzi. The hollow sound thrums through out the packed dirt tunnel. He waits having heard nothing ready to bang on the door again. Carson catches his hand. “Dude your slapping a loaded weapon with its safety off against a wall not smart.” Unlike his tit for tat with Lockett White Magic doesn’t offer up any sarcasm to Carson. Due in part to the fact that the younger Carson is easily twice Magic’s size. “Sorry Captain …” is all he says. Carson pounds the doors with one of his huge fist. They all listen closely “Aight we good.” White Magic pronounces. He reaches down for the handle on the bottom of the door. Those with guns ready them just incase. Jamal takes position at the back of the group holding his metal baseball bat he’d retrieved from the James duffel bag. Magic raises the wall section stepping back allowing it to roll up and back on its own. The group steps out into the dark basement it’s silent and devoid of any of the living dead. Lockett moves to the base of the stairs White Magic is on her heels with the rest of the group falling in line behind them. Once Lockett reaches the tops of the stairs she presses her ear against the wood. White Magic turns to the men following. “Yo check it me and the ball buster here will clear the back of the house. You three take the front and we will meet up there.” Lockett kicks the door with a combat boot covered foot. Lockett points two fingers at her eyes then at White Magic. He returns the gesture with thumbs up. Lockett swings the door wide her M-4 rifle held high moving methodically to the back of the farmhouse. Carson leads Ben and Jamal into the living room.
It takes the survivors several minuets to clear the house from top to bottom. Back down in the center of the living room light beams in from various points. Lockett stows her rifle at her side. “Carson run back down stairs and let them know the house is secure. Tell them we are going to lock the door back and not to take chances.” Private Cody Carson takes off back downstairs as ordered. “White Rice do you have a plan as to how we are going to hit this sub division?” Ben can see the frustration brimming in the young man’s face. He taps Lockett’s elbow hoping she will relent or at the very least ease up until he no longer needs the boy’s help. White Magic goes into a side bedroom peeling back the curtain covering the window enough to see the battered white cargo van. “Well you guys brought company but they seem to have thinned out.” He holds the slit wider leaning back for everyone to see. About twenty zombies mill about in the general area of the stalled van waiting to catch the scent of the living. “The second we are exposed they will be drawn to us like flies on stink.” Ben says. “There is no way we can make it safely down there with them chasing us. I was hoping we could gas it up Magic I don’t relish the idea of walking. What if we have to go farther away from the farmhouse?” Magic lets the curtain go as Carson comes up from the basement. “Big Poppa don’t fret playa I have no desire to go for walk out there either. In the farm out front is my grandpa’s beat up ass pickup truck.” They move back to the front room of the house. Magic produces a set of keys jingling them seductively. “I know it runs cause I fired it up yesterday. We check the front of the house head out to the barn hop in our chariot pull out lock the barn and get down there and back here. I don’t want to be outside long I need to be near my lights and bunker.” He announces holding up his wounded arm. The white gauze is filthy with a deep blackish stain surrounded by a wide brown ring. “Hey bro let me clean that for you it’s looking kind of ratty.” Carson offers his first aid skills having reentered the living room. “Nah ….” Magic looks at his arm the white gauze was indeed grimy looking. “It’ll be fine I hope it’s healing well.” Magic catches the look passing between Lockett and Carson. “You two got a problem or something’?” Magic steps up defensively. Carson does a double take at the dreadlock covered cliché puffing his chest out. Carson tells White Magic. “Look I don’t give a shit about this whole zombie thing your theory on turning is as sound as anything else I’ve seen low these last few days. I need to make sure you’re healthy you’re not invincible you can still succumb to an infection. We and the James family need you healthy and on point that’s all we care about understand?” Magic and Carson size each other up briefly tempers getting the best of them. Ben steps between the pair asserting his male dominance. “Hey tone it down I need to get to my kids and I need you both so put your nuts back in your pockets.” Private Lockett snickers moving past a confused Jamal who clearly doesn’t understand the metaphor he’s just heard. She kneels down looking out of the filthy window. “Hey White Wash …….I’m sorry White Magic can we do this? The smell up here is really getting to me and we need to get this mission underway.” An angry sigh from the young man shows that her needling is having an effect on their host. “Yes ….” He forces through gritted teeth. “Hey Bigfoot you bring up the rear pull the door shut and giggle the knob to make sure it’s locked ok?” Carson opens his mouth to speak but Ben stifles his words with a paw to his chest. “Shut your mouths and open your damn ears.” Ben’s words are low and fierce. He takes time to stare into the eyes of each member of his rescue party. “My fucking children are out there somewhere and right now unfortunately you guys are helping me find them. However let’s be clear about one thing I don’t need you to help me I am going out this door with or without you fine people.” His speech brings all present back to reality. “We are going out in to what is essentially an apocalyptic wasteland. So if not for me at least for yourself pull your heads outta your asses and pay attention. Not a one of us is immune or guaranteed to make it through today alive get it?” Ben moves up besides the front door cocking the bolt on his hunting rifle. Lockett avoids eye contact with Ben James moves up placing a hand on the cold bronze doorknob. Magic crouches behind her as Jamal and Carson bring up the rear. Ben whispers to Carson. “We three will hit the ground running Carson you will secure the door and Jamal you will watch his back ok?” Carson signals yes with his head as Jamal answers “Yes Mr. James.” Private Sara Lockett raises three olive gloved fingers in a silent count down. When she hits zero Lockett pulls the door wide and bolts out into the bright crisp sunlight. Magic and Ben follow on her boot heels.
Jogging down the porch and across the grass each with their respective weapons raised high. Private Lockett encounters the first zombie ambling forward near a large tree. The armless female moans into the wind alerting other nearby walking corpses. Lockett doesn’t slow unsheathing her polished jagged combat knife. Sara drops the rifle to her side flipping the knife around savagely driving the blade down into the zombie’s forehead. Lockett moves on drawing closer to the barn. She picks up at least four corpses bearing down upon them two from the driveway and two adjacent to the old red barn. Lockett reaches the barn first turning her back on the locked doors she takes up a flanking position on the right of Magic. Ben nervously takes up position on the left he can see Carson and Jamal barreling down off the porch. Now in plain view on the side of house Ben notices the pack of zombies making its way up from his construction van. “We have company coming Magic.” Ben says bringing his weapon to bear on a lone zombie several feet away. Jamal moves in quickly crushing the dead man’s skull before Ben fires a shot. Ben sights another zombie who has wondered into the space between Carson and Jamal. Benjamin aims the rifle muzzle over Jamal’s left shoulder. He’s distracted by a melodic whistle from Carson. Ben freezes as the athletic young soldiers pulls his blade jabbing it under the preoccupied corpses chin by reaching up from behind. Private Cody Carson lifts the slack zombie up off its feet tossing it aside like a garbage bag. “Got it!” Magic shouts pulling the latch on the doors open. Tossing the truck’s keys to Ben he backs into Lockett clumsily knocking her forward into the two zombies coming down from the gravel driveway. Lockett doesn’t panic she drives a boot into the kneecap of the zombie on her left. Simultaneously she lashes out with an elbow pulverizing the nose of the corpse on her right staggering her attacker. Chaining her blows Sara Lockett buries her knife up to the hilt in the eye socket of the undead woman with the crushed kneecap. Snatching the gore covered knife free she flips it in the air catching it with her free hand. Sara slams the blade into the top of the disorientated zombie with pulped nose’s head. Magic is still staring slack jawed at the female soldier whose actions seems fit more Hollywood than reality. The well maintained engine on the twenty year old rusty blue Ford pick truck catches with the first twist of the key. Ben pulls the truck out past the quartet with zombies approaching from their right. “Get in back guys!” Ben screams out the window of the idling truck. Jamal and the pair of soldiers hop into the rear bed of the truck as White Magic hastily secures the barn doors once more. Magic makes it’s to the cab of the pick up jumping in next to Benjamin James narrowly avoiding the grasping fingers of the dead as he tugs the door closed. "Go ... go ... go Big Poppa!" Magic screams leaning over hoping to avoid having the window shatter in his face. Ben drops the pickup in to gear pounding his foot to the floor. The truck peels out fishtailing throwing gravel and dust up as they speed away from the farm.
The two men in the cab flinch as someone pounds on the window behind them. "Slow down ..." Carson yells through the glass. Magic pulls the sliding window section open. "Slow down are you crazy Big Money?" He calls back to the blond soldier leaning in the window. "No I'm not man the house is surrounded by those things. We couldn't see the one's on the other side." Ben brakes hard the truck skidding sideways to a stop. His breath freezes in his lungs when he catches a view of what's behind them in the side view mirror. A zombie horde moves in mass from the opposite side of the house. It overtakes engulfing the smaller pack that was pestering the group as they headed for the barn. The zombies that had chased the survivors from the massacre at the blockade had encircled the house during the night. Ben presumes it was all in a futile attempt to locate the living. "Thank God he stopped me from coming out last night." Ben thinks to himself. "We have to lead them away I'm not for any of that Night of The Living Dead crap." Carson says though the window. “When we comeback they will be waiting on us Mr. James." With that he disappears out the window. Carson stands up in the truck bed placing two fingers in his mouth unleashing a shrill high pitched whistle. Moans go up from the dead their aimless shambling becomes a staggering gait with a purpose. "Hey guys we're heading this way ..." He mockingly waves to the gathering zombies. "Cool now we just have to stay in sight Mr. James. If the can see us I assume they will follow us even from a distance." "Good catch Carson ....." Ben tells the young man who smiles before taking his seat. By the time the beat up pickup rolls to the end of the white gravel driveway. The truck is towing several dozen of the undead begrudgingly behind it. “Big Poppa make this left and we will slope right down into that sub division I was telling yawl about bro.” Ben does as he’s been told following the gravel until it opens to an asphalt road. The road merges seamlessly onto the road that had carried the James children away from the relative safety of their family. “Uh Mr. James can we speed it up a bit please?” Jamal says politely through the window. The zombies at the head of the pack are now less than five feet from them. The truck driving faster crests the top of the slope with the scene spread below them. “There … there Mr. James.” Lockett slaps the roof of the truck motioning in the distance. They look down to the right across the expansive decimated sub division below. In the rear of the sprawling development dead center in the last row of cloned houses they see hive of undead activity. One house seems to be very popular with the living dead. Zombies flock in droves to the front of the besieged house attempting to get at whoever is unlucky enough to be trapped inside.
We find the survivors waking up and rallying to get their search for Chip and Belinda James. The group is apprehensive not knowing what they will find in their search. Ben has to lay down the law with the rambunctious younger members of his troop. What will they find in the house at the bottom of the hill? Will it be Chip and B and will they get there in time to save them?
Come back and read Chapter 29 the week of March 31st.
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