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Zombie apocalypse, let me go

April 15, 2018

Yeah. I enjoy the Zombie Apocalypse genre entirely too much. The question on Quora was “What would your last stand be like in a zombie apocalypse? (more details and plot are fine)” What follows is my answer…and a very rough draft of what may be part of a longer story.

***

The old man was tired in a way he had never before experienced. No, that wasn’t right. He didn’t really get tired, anymore, not really, or at least not for very long at a time. Hadn’t for years, in fact; not since he had received the implants. They had seemed like a good idea, years ago and way back then. They froze your physical decay and ensured you could perform at the peak of human abilities for your age when you received them. Even when exhausted, your recovery time was unspeakably short. You didn’t get sick anymore. Your hearing didn’t decay and your vision never degraded. And, of course, you lived for who knew how much longer. People even called them “immortals”.

It was the last part that was the problem.

You outlived everyone you knew. All those you loved aged. They grew old. They died. Mankind had thought to fix that with the implants, but, like with everything else, there wasn’t really a solution, but only a trade-off. In this case the trade-off was madness or sterility. 98% of implant recipients went stark raving mad within the first 5 years. The remaining 2% remained as sane as they were before, but were unable to reproduce. So even if you kept your sanity, you would have no kids unless you had taken care of that beforehand.

Time and disease had taken from him those he loved most of all. First, his wife Kathleen had lost her long struggle with cancer. He had stood with his boys, Conor, Jr, Taylor and Stephen, by the grave, knowing that they were his reason for living. Over the years he had taught and guided them, teaching them to be strong, confident and compassionate. Then, one by one, he had watched time take its inevitable toll as they aged and then died.

The dead had risen almost 50 years later. By then, having grown weary of the attention that went with being an immortal, he had learned to be a “grey man” instead. Drifting from one small town to another, living off the investments he had made so many decades ago, he had become a minimalist and seemingly vanished from anyone’s radar. He hunted. He fished. He grew small gardens and raised a few animals for his meager needs. He spent long, lonely nights talking to his God, the One who had never deserted him. Mostly, he missed his family.

When the zombies appeared and the threat they presented became clear, the word went out for people to band together and hunker down. Apparently, another word went out as well, because shortly thereafter a helicopter had landed in the field of the abandoned farm he had occupied in Hancock County, Tennessee. He could remember vividly the conversation with the one star (“they sent a freakin’ General to talk to me,” he thought) who had approached his cabin.

“Lieutenant Commander Douglas” he had stated, not even pretending he didn’t know who he was.

Old habits, as it turned out, really did die hard. He had responded immediately. “Yes, Sir?”

“Your country needs you, commander. Needs you, your skills and your enhanced abilities, badly.”

He had spent the next ten years looking for survivors and taking them to places of relative safety. He had built quite a reputation for himself as the go-to person when civilians needed extraction from a place others simply could not get into or out of. Thousands of people owed their lives to the old man, not knowing how many times he had been convinced he was on his last mission, that all hope was lost and how he had considered his “failsafe” option. Each time, it was as though the dead knew he specifically was there and were searching for him. Each time, though it got worse every time, he found a way out.

The old man had been making his way toward Abilene, Texas from the northeast, coming out of Arkansas and not even on a mission, when he had encountered them. Cold, hungry and convinced they were on the verge of joining the dead, they had taken refuge in a long-abandoned gas station. The woman and oldest daughter had attempted to blockade the door with what was left of the counter, but it would not have held once the zombies started pushing. Not that it would have mattered. They had no food, so starvation and joining the dead was all that awaited them. That was when he had come upon the scene – the zombies munching on the remnants of their husband and father, the faces of those he had been unable to save watching in that sort of apathetic horror that comes from having seen and suffered too much, too fast.

He had plenty of ammo, but he hated to waste it, so he had drawn his hatchets and waded into the dead, permanently killing them all, including the recently dead man. The family, mom and three kids, Claire, Louise, Tim and Keith, had joined him on his journey to Texas. They had fought zombies and raiders, escaping death dozens of times only because of the old man’s skills and seemingly limitless physical endurance.

And now, here he was.

“Here” was a cold, windswept parking structure in the remnants of what had been Abilene, Texas. A stinging, freezing rain was falling, swept sideways by a harsh wind out of the north. They had taken refuge up here, he and the family of four he had rescued, when it became clear they were not going to make it to the newly refortified Dyess Air Force Base. The newest of the government’s steps in taking back the country from the dead, it was, according to the daily government broadcasts, secure and had food, water, medical staff and all those other things that screamed “safety.” It was so very close. And unreachable.

There had been zombies, probably attracted to the same Dyess Air Force Base and all it promised just as the living were. With the mother and children behind him, he had shot, cut, chopped, hacked and stabbed his way through the dead. They fell by the dozen, no, by the score as he and the small family made their slow, painful progress toward salvation. In the end, there had simply been too many, even for him. And so, feeling himself become tired, he had led them to the top of the parking garage, blocking access by pushing cars and rubble onto the ramp. It had been a very near thing, but it was done. The zombies couldn’t get up and they couldn’t get down. This time, there was no way out.

“Father, I am so very, very weary” he prayed silently. Yes. That was it. Weary. The fatigue of his hours-long battle had faded as it always did. The weariness, though, did not. Not this time. “I just don’t know what to do. These four need me to go on, to get them to safety, but I don’t know if I can. I just want to be done.” He looked at the family and sighed. They had trusted him when he had promised to get them to a place of safety. Without complaint they had endured cold, hunger and fatigue and followed him on foot across hundreds of miles and through hordes of the dead. He could no more abandon them now than he could deny or forget his own family. His eyes closed and he shook his head, acquiescing to the requirements of his God and of his own conscience. “Yes, Father. Once more.”

He climbed to his feet. There was work to be done.

“Claire, would you and the kids come here, please”? He opened his pack, pulling out a laminated street map he had picked up long ago, and a small plastic box with a red cross emblazoned on it. Then, he removed his rappeling gear and started assembling it.

They ambled on over.

“Yes, Conor”? It still startled him to hear his own name. Even with his missions to find survivors and mete out justice to raiders, he seldom heard it. “How are we getting out of here”? The trust in her voice hardened his resolve. He would get them to safety.

“In a bit, I’m going to get you guys to Dyess, but I need you to trust me, okay?” They all nodded their heads. After all they had been through, it wouldn’t occur to them to do otherwise. “Good. In this box, you will find four syringes with needles.” He tied off one end of the rope to the rebar extending from a concrete barricade on the side of the parking garage directly opposite the ramp. Looking over the edge of the garage, he made sure there was nothing in the street. It wouldn’t do to impale himself on a piece of angle iron.

Turning toward them, he continued. “When your mom tells you, you’ll need to inject yourselves. What’s in there will give you, temporarily, physical abilities like mine. You’ll be faster, stronger and have greater endurance than you ever thought possible”. The eyes of the kids lit up. That sounded so very cool!

“Now, I’m going to have to create a distraction for the dead. I’m going to do that by rappeling over this wall and making a lot of noise. Like I told you months ago, the nasties seem to know when I am near, so they will follow me. When they do, make your break and run like you have never run before. Claire, you take the map.” He pushed it and the box into her hands, then turned to hug each of the kids. “Save me a place to sleep once you get to Dyess, okay? Now, give me a minute to talk with your mom.” The kids moved on off, eager to get to safety and eager to experience what it was like to be like their hero.

“Claire, don’t take any detours. This stuff will give you several hours, but that’s it. When it wears off, you’ll all be exhausted. You have to be to Dyess before that happens.”

Claire looked at him a long time. “You’re not coming with us, are you? Conor, why?”

He shook his head. “There’s too many of them. Even if I give each of you the serum, you don’t have the skills to fight all the way to Dyess and there’s more of them than I can handle. Each time I face them, there’s more of ‘em. It’s like they know I’m there or something.”

Surviving the apocalypse had taught Claire just how much survival could cost. She accepted it just as she had accepted Conor’s leadership. It was simply part of life. “Will this work, Conor?” That was it. That was the only question that mattered. He thought a moment. Lying would not be an option. Finally, he was able to look her in the eyes and tell her the truth.

“Yes, it will work. It will get you and the kids to safety. Just follow the map and do not stop!” He sighed. “You all have given an old man a reason to live, these last few months. You’re a good mom and your kids will grow up strong and brave, just like you.” He opened his arms. “May I?” In all these months he had never presumed to touch her in any way. She was not his and he was not hers. Today, though, she nodded. The hug was warm, comforting, and the farewell of two campaigners parting ways. “Goodbye, Claire.”

“Go with God, Conor. You’re the best man I’ve ever met.”

He chuckled. “You need to get out more. Now, go to your kids.”

He watched as she walked over to them. Carefully, she injected first herself and then each of her kids. Conor was proud to note not even the youngest cried at the injection. As he waited for the injections to kick in, he softly recited the Rifleman’s Prayer, adding his own to the end.

“Oh Lord, I would live my life in freedom, peace and happiness, enjoying the simple pleasures of hearth and home. I would die an old, old man in my own bed, preferably of sexual overexertion.

But if that is not to be, Lord, if monsters such as this should find their way to my little corner of the world on my watch, then help me to sweep those bastards from the ramparts, because doing that is good, and right, and just.

And if in this I should fall, let me be found atop a pile of brass, behind the wall I made of their corpses.

And Father, grant me that this family of four might make it to safety and that I might see my family, once again. I miss them so very, very much.”

Even from this distance, he could see the change that came over them within minutes of the injections. Their bodies seemed to thrum with power. He waved at them. “You’ll know when to go!” Taking one final look at his hookup, he stepped over the edged and went for the road, yelling as he did so. When he reached the road, he quickly disconnected.

“Come on, you dead, stinking, rotten bastards! Conor Douglas is here!” Pulling his pistol he fired two rounds to make noise. Almost as one, the dead turned his way, even as he saw the family begin its run to safety and even as he began his quick retreat, leading them away from Claire and the kids and leading them toward his final battle.

When he finally ran out of ammo, he pulled his hatchets, killing untold dozens more before first one handle and then the other broke with the fury of his strokes. He was covered in blood and tissue when he dropped the now useless backpack and pulled the bat from where it had long ridden on it. Dozens more fell, their heads pounded into jelly, before the bat, too, gave in to the laws of physics and failed. Ten more, then a dozen and then more fell to his bare hands before he was forced to retreat to a doorway and run upstairs, the dead hot on his heels as the fatigue once again came over him.

There was no where to run, no secure place to rest up. He had perhaps ten seconds lead time when he turned to face them. Sneering at them, he pulled his failsafe from the pouch at his side. The M67 grenade weighed 14 ounces and contained 6.5 ounces of “composition B” explosive. Conor removed the safety clip, pulled the pin and released the spoon. The first zombie had reached out for him when the grenade went off.

The world went white.

The world went black.

Somewhere, in a place that was not a place, and in a time that was not a time, his God heard and answered his prayer…


Claire and the kids had never run so fast or so far. It was amazing! No wonder Conor could face the dead as if it was nothing. What it must be like to feel this way all the time. They reached the heavily barricaded gates of Dyess with minutes to spare, the emplaced machine guns mounted on the enourmous concrete walls covering them as they carefully followed the instructions of the gate guards. They were well inside when the fatigue hit, but that was okay. They were safe.


The sun was very bright when he opened his eyes. He was dressed how he knew he preferred to dress; comfortable shoes, jeans and a short-sleeve shirt. He felt rested, though that seemed odd at first. It seemed like he should be tired and that his clothes should be different.

“Conor, we have waited a long time.”

He turned. A woman stood there, with three men alongside her. They all looked familiar, somehow, but his head was fuzzy. He stared at them a long time, until the fuzziness began to clear.

“Kathleen? Conor? Taylor? Stephen? Am I…Are we…?” His head was clearing, but it was still a lot to grasp.

Kathleen smiled a smile without any hint of pain or sadness. “Yes, Conor. We, and you, are finally Home.” The way she said it made things plain.

“And, is He here, too?’

“Yes, He is. Now come, He wants to talk to you. To comfort you for all your long pain and toil.”

“Where? Where do I go?”

“Over there, dad. That’s where we are all going.” The voice was Taylor’s, but all three pointed toward a small, neat cottage not too far away.

Joined and encircled by his family and by love, Conor Douglas walked across a green field under a golden sun, toward eternity.

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