Friday, August 5, 2011

John Baker

“Hey, Mom!” John dug deeper through his open drawer, “Mom!”
From the door of his bedroom, “No need to shout, John, what are you looking for?”
“Oh, hey, Mom, have you seen my hiking boots?” He shut the drawer and opened another.
“Yes, but what are you looking for?”
John looked up, “My boots.”
“In your drawers?”
He straightened and looked down at the drawer he had just opened, “Uh, I couldn’t find them where I thought they would be?”
“Look in the closet, John, that’s where I put them the last time you left them in the living room.”
He opened the closet door and there they were, right where they were supposed to be. “Thanks, Mom.”
“John, you are so much like your father it’s scary sometimes.”
“Good thing you love us, huh?”
She turned away and headed down the hall, “Hmmm.”
He ran to the bedroom door and asked as she walked away, “Mom! Can I borrow twenty?”
She stopped and turned, crossing her arms over her chest, “When you borrow from people there is an expectation you will repay it; do you still want to borrow twenty?”
“I’ll pay you back when I get a job.”
“Uh huh, in my purse on the kitchen counter, but only twenty.”
“Thanks!” He started to step back into his room, but stopped, “Mom! When will Dad be home?”
“Next Thursday.”
“Can I …”
“Come on, Mom, Dad’s out of town, he’ll never know I used his Avalanche!”
“There’s going to be five of us tonight and his Avalanche is the only car we’ll all fit in!”
“What? Do you have any idea at all how embarrassing it is to be the only guy in the group that has to drive a USED Accord?”
“See what good parents you have?” She continued to the end of the hall and stopped at the stairs to the first floor.
“Good parents would buy their only son a decent car, or least let him drive the Avalanche.”
“Good parents teach their children humility and responsibility, you’ll thank me when you get older.” She walked down the stairs and out of sight.
“Shit!” John had wanted to date Amy Sinclair for months and had finally worked up the courage to ask her out; damned if she didn’t say yes. Now he was going to have to pick up her, Roseanne Newlie, and his friend Micah Frontiera, in his Accord? Crap! Amy’s family lived up at the high end of Euclid in one of those big houses that cost millions and she was going to expect a nice ride; not an Accord!
Well, if she was insulted he wasn’t going to get another shot at her; so much for the hottest girl in his graduating class the year before. The one good thing was they were going to a rave up in the mountains, thus the hiking boots; the cost was only five bucks per person for admission and that would leave him ten bucks for drinks. Micah had promised to buy dinner later so he was in good shape there for a change. Maybe he could pull it off, lie and say his Avalanche was in the shop and the Accord was a loaner, or something.
Who was he fooling? She wasn’t going to want to have much to do with him anyway, he wasn’t in her class. She was used to the royal treatment and though his parents were worth a lot of money it hadn’t been handed to them, they had earned every dime. He finished his preparations, collected the money from his mother’s purse, and shouted “bye” as he walked out the door.
Micah lived only two blocks from John’s parent’s house and was waiting out front when John pulled up. He looked the Accord over and shook his head as he sat in the front with John, “Dude, I guarantee this will be the first, and last date, you have with Amy.”
“I know, but my mom said no to the Avalanche.”
“Dude, didn’t you tell her who your date was?”
“No, she started her thing about humility and responsibility, once she starts that nothing matters. Let’s go pick up Roseanne.”
“Micah, stop with the dude shit, okay? It’s getting irritating.”
“Sorry, but I sort of picked it up from Rosanne’s brother, dude.”
“Fuck you.”
“You’d never go back to women if you did…Dude.”
“In order to go back I’d have to have been there before.”
Micah laughed, “For God’s sake don’t say anything like that around Amy, she’s probably looking for a stud… Dude.”
John refused to comment again, so they drove in silence to Roseanne’s and Micah went to the door to get her. When she came to the car John was surprised; she was wearing a mini-skirt, light jacket, and dressy boots. She and Micah climbed in back and they headed for Amy’s place.
“Roseanne, you were supposed to wear jeans and warm clothes, we’re going to the mountains, remember?” John said.
“I thought we were going to a rave?” She answered.
“We are, but it’s “Rave at the Stars”, remember?” He looked in the rear view mirror and saw Roseanne punch Micah in the side.
“Micah,” she said. “You told me…”
“I said it was a rave and it was called “Rave at the Stars.”
“I thought you meant STARS, like music stars, or TV stars, or…”
John slowed and turned around, “I’ll take you home and you can change clothes, okay?”
“No, we’ll be late to pick up Amy, besides, Micah is going to be a gentleman and give me his coat to wear, aren’t you Micah?”
“I guess so.”
John made another turn and continued towards Amy’s. When he reached her house he started to pull into the driveway, but he saw her waving to him at the curb. He pulled over and she slid in the passenger door.
“Hi! Are we ready to go?”
“Well,” John said. “I suppose, but don’t your parents want to meet the guy taking you out?”
Amy laughed, “John, I’m nineteen years old! My parents don’t care who I go out with as long as I come home at a decent hour so they don’t worry. Besides, next month I’m getting my own apartment over by CSUN and I’ll be living there until I graduate.”
John glanced at her, “CSUN? I thought you would want to go to one of the Ivy League schools?”
“No, my dad says I can get just as good of an education at one of the State Universities and my mom went to CSUN, so I guess I’ll be going there.”
“Oh, so what will your major be?” Maybe I should think about classes at CSUN, he thought.
Amy laughed, “The same thing my dad majored in the first two years of college, indecision!”
John started to relax, “Yeah, I have no idea what I want to do; I even kicked around the idea of joining the Army so I could earn some credit toward education tuition.”
“Really?” Roseanne said. “That’s what my dad did when he got out of High School.”
“Not me,” Micah said. “My old man would shit bricks if I joined the Army.”
John shifted in his seat as he tried to think of an excuse for the Accord, but before he could say anything Amy beat him to it. “I like your car, most guys rely on their car to make an impression; I’m glad to see you have more confidence in yourself.”

By midnight the four young people left the rave and headed down out of the mountains, John and the girls were exhausted and Micah was shivering his ass off. They found an all-night restaurant, settled into a booth and ordered coffee while they decided what they wanted to eat. John excused himself and went to the Men’s Room, but when he returned his friends were gone and many of the patrons were staring out the window at the street. Looking through the plate glass window, he saw Roseanne and Amy crouched next to a man lying on the sidewalk and Micah talking into his cell phone. He went outside and joined the other three.
“What happened? John asked.
Roseanne looked up, “This man was running across the street and was hit by a car, Micah is calling 911.”
Amy was kneeling next to the man talking to him softly, he looked semi-conscious and his legs looked as though they had multiple fractures. There was a lot of blood on his face and chest, but John couldn’t see any wounds that might account for it. In the distance John could hear sirens; he hoped they were coming here.
He kneeled down next to Amy and asked, “Is there anything I can do to help?”
She looked up and her eyes were glistening, “I don’t think so, he needs an ambulance and paramedics.”
At that moment while she was speaking to John, the man rose up and tried to bite her arm, Amy scrambled back holding the side of her forearm. “Shit! He bit me!” She stepped back from him, “Did you see that? He bit me!”
John moved her hand and saw a piece of flesh the size of a quarter dangling from her arm. “I’m going to get some napkins for that until we can get you to the hospital to get it checked out, okay?”
She nodded and he hurried into the restaurant and pulled a handful of napkins from the nearest table’s dispenser. Returning, John applied the napkins to her now freely bleeding wound. “Hold these in place and apply pressure, it should slow it down some.”
Micah started pushing them backwards, “Look out man, the guy is trying to crawl towards you!”
The man was pulling himself towards the onlookers and John didn’t much care for the way he was looking at them. “Shit, his head must have been injured, he looks crazy, you know?”
Amy backed up quickly and farther, “I don’t want him near me, I want to go back into the restaurant.”
“Sure,” John said. “You guys go inside and I’ll wait for the ambulance and the cops, did the person who hit him stop?”
Micah nodded, “Yeah he stopped, but as soon as he saw how screwed the guy is he split.”
“Did you see the license number or the make of the car?”
Micah shook his head, “No license number, but judging from the fact the guy was speaking Spanish, I doubt anyone will see him again. He probably didn’t have insurance.” It was an on-going problem with many of the illegals, they bought cars, but not insurance.
John glanced at the door to the restaurant and saw a man inside the doors talking to Roseanne and Amy who were speaking animatedly back.  “Micah, go see what’s going on with the girls.”
Micah joined the girls and then a few minutes later they returned, “I thought you were going inside?” John asked.
Amy was looking a little pale as Roseanne replied, “The manager wouldn’t let us inside, he said when he called 911, and said the guy bit Amy, the dispatcher told him not to let anyone bleeding into the place, why would they do that?”
John watched as an ambulance rounded the corner with lights flashing and siren sounding, “We’ll ask the paramedics, maybe they know.”
The ambulance pulled to a stop and both attendants climbed out and approached the injured man carefully, “Sir,” one of them said. “Can you tell me your name?”
The man attempted to stand, but when he did one of the bones in his thigh poked through the side of his leg and he fell back to the sidewalk. “Be careful,” Micah shouted. “He bit one of my friends when she was trying to help him.”
The attendants looked at their small group, “Which one was bitten?”
Amy held up her arm, “Me, it’s bleeding a lot.”
“Okay, don’t go anywhere, we’ll take care of you in a minute, just don’t go anywhere.”
The two men circled the prone man who tried to reach for one of the attendants, but the paramedic danced back out of arm’s length as a police car pulled up to the curb. Two officers in riot gear jumped out and both of them jumped onto the man and handcuffed his hands behind his back, once he was restrained, they helped the medics load the man onto a gurney and strap him down. When the man was loaded the cops approached John and his friends.
“One of you was bitten?”
Amy raised her arm again, “Me,” she said.
They led her to the ambulance where the paramedics bandaged her arm and then took her to their patrol car, had her sit in the back seat and closed the door. John ran forward and asked them, “Why are you taking her? She didn’t do anything except try to help the guy.”
The cop on the passenger side of the car held up his hands at John, “It’s okay, she’s not under arrest, she’s in protective custody, so just relax okay?”
John leaned over and said through the glass to Amy, “Are you okay? Are you okay with this?”
She nodded, “Can you get my purse, John? It has my ID and my cell phone in it.”
“Sure!” He turned to the cops, “Just a minute, okay?”
“Okay, but hurry up, we already have calls waiting.”
John ran to the restaurant doors and the manager handed Amy’s purse out through the door and then blocked it so John couldn’t come in. He took Amy’s purse and handed it to the cops in the car.
“Amy! We’ll follow you to the hospital, okay?”
The cop shook his head, “It won’t do any good, she’ll be in isolation until tomorrow at the earliest and then she can call a family member to come get her.”
The cop started rolling up his window and John shouted again,” Amy! Call me when you can alright?”
She nodded again to him as the patrol car pulled out behind the ambulance and the vehicles raced away.
“That was fucking weird,” Micah said.
“Yeah, it was. Let’s take Roseanne home and call it a night, okay?”

John opened his eyes, rolled over in bed throwing off the covers, and then reached down and removed his cell phone from the pocket of his jeans. Opening the phone, he checked the time, quarter till eleven, he scrolled through the contacts list and chose Amy’s name and pushed send. The call went directly to voice mail; she must have it turned off.
“Hey, Amy, it’s me, John. Just wanted to see how you were doing; give me a call when you hear this, okay? Bye.”
He rose from the bed, pulled on his jeans and used his bathroom. After adding a tee-shirt he walked down stairs and into the kitchen, his mother was listening to her radio. “Morning, Mom.”
“How did your date go last night?” She seemed preoccupied with the radio commentary.
“Really good until we went for dinner. There was an accident next to the restaurant and Amy tried to help a guy that was injured, but he bit her on the arm. When the ambulance and the cops showed up they made Amy go to the hospital. It was weird; they said she was in protective custody.”
She looked up, “Really? Have you talked to her this morning?”
“I tried calling, but her phone must be off, it went straight to voice-mail.” He opened the refrigerator and started poking around.
“I see.”
John turned around and looked at his mother, “What?” He knew that tone in her voice, something was wrong.
“There were riots last night and a lot of violence, people attacking others and now they say there is a curfew tonight and no one should be out of their homes unless it’s an emergency.”
“I’m sure the police will take care of it.” He turned his attention back to the fridge, “Do we have any of those frozen omelets left?”
“No, you ate the last three yesterday.”
“Oh.” He pulled out a carton of eggs and placed six in a pan.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m going to boil some eggs for breakfast.” He held the pan under the faucet and ran enough water to cover them before placing the pan on a burner.
“Okay.” She wasn’t really paying attention to him because normally she would have already been asking him what he wanted to eat and started fixing it. He looked at her again and saw the worry lines on her forehead.
“Mom? The cops will take care of it, you’ll see.”
She didn’t answer though; she turned up the volume of the radio and leaned closer. John shrugged and went up to his bedroom to take a shower while the eggs cooked. When he was done he returned to the kitchen and removed the eggs from the stovetop, mixed them with mayonnaise and started eating as he watched his mother.
She suddenly stood and started looking through the fridge and the pantry, then sat down and started making a list. “I’m going to the market and pick-up a few things, is there anything you want me to get?”
“I thought you said the police wanted everyone to stay indoors unless it was an emergency?”
“There are a few things we should have in case this turns into a longer period of disruption.” She looked up from the list, “Maybe you should get your father’s rifle out of the gun cabinet.”
“Mom, the police will take care of it, really.”
“Yes, I suppose, do you want to come along with me?”
He shook his head, “No, I promised dad I would get the lawns mowed and straighten up the garage, I better get it done before he comes home.”
She picked up her purse and walked out the door, a few minutes later she drove out the driveway. John finished his eggs, put the pan and plate in the dishwasher and stood there thinking, his mother never asked him to go grocery shopping with her, she must be really worried. He kicked himself in the ass for not being more aware of her concerns; he should have gone with her. He thought about calling her cell and telling her to come back and get him, but there didn’t seem to be anything really to worry about, she was probably just over-reacting.
He removed the lawn mower from the garden shed, mowed the backyard, and then the front, trimmed the hedge and put everything away. Two hours had passed and his mother still hadn’t returned, so he turned on the TV and was surprised to see the Emergency Broadcast symbol displayed on most of the local channels, what the hell?
He went to the kitchen and listened to the radio, the guy was talking about the violence and how people were being murdered; there were even rumors of the people attacking others actually trying to eat their victims! He remembered his father saying that the news media blew things out of proportion and decided that had to be what was going on. There was the EBS signal on the TV though, and the order for people to stay indoors; he used his cell phone to call his mother, but the call didn’t go through. I should have gone with her, he thought.
He walked out into the driveway and for the first time noticed the smell of smoke in the air and then in the distance he heard gunfire and faint screams. What the hell was going on? He tried to call his mother again, but the call still wouldn’t go through, so he tried calling his father, no luck there either. Shit! Alright, his mother always shopped at the market on the corner of Foothill and Mountain, if she didn’t get home by dark he would go look for her, no he would go now, it might be harder to find her after dark.
He grabbed his keys, locked up the house, and then drove his Accord out onto the street and towards Mountain Avenue; it was the route she would have taken to the market. There was very little traffic, which surprised him and he arrived at the market quickly. There were a few cars parked in the lot and the alarms of several were going, but he didn’t see anyone. He drove through the parking lot and found his mother’s car, good she was still in the store, but then he noticed the driver’s side door was open. He parked the Accord and walked to his mother’s Cadillac.
Her purse was resting on the passenger’s seat, and there were bags on the rear seat, but she was nowhere to be seen. Where was she? She wouldn’t leave her purse unattended, and she certainately wouldn’t leave the car door open with her purse sitting in plain sight; he looked around, but couldn’t see her anywhere, so he took her purse and locked it in the Accord before jogging to the entrance of the store and walking through the automatic doors; as soon as he walked in he was approached by a man with a tag on his shirt identifying him as the assistant manager.
“Hi,” John said. “I’m trying to find my mom…”
The man nodded, “Was that her car I saw you at?”
“Yeah, her purse was there, but I can’t find her; I thought she might be in the store.”
The man had a concerned look on his face, “She’s not in here, three people chased her from the car and up Mountain. I tried to call the police, but I couldn’t get through to them.”
John started walking backwards towards the door, “Up Mountain? Are you sure?”
“Yeah, sorry I couldn’t help her, but it looked like she was getting away.”
John ran for the door and shouted over his shoulder, “Thanks!”
He drove the Accord out onto Mountain Avenue and headed north as he scanned the area; finally he noticed something that made his skin crawl; a body lying on the sidewalk only a few hundred yards from the store. He slowed down as he approached and was horrified to recognize his mother lying on her back. Stopping the car, he jumped out and kneeled beside her.
“Mom?” His voice broke when he saw her condition. She was lying in several small puddles of blood and her head looked as though she had hit the concrete sidewalk extremely hard. The worst thing though was the multiple bite wounds on her arms and legs. “Mom? Can you hear me?”
One of her hands twitched and then she groaned, he scooped her up in his arms, carried her to the Accord and placed her on the passenger’s side and buckled her in. After he got behind the wheel he drove straight for the hospital, but he never arrived. A block from the hospital emergency room there was a roadblock of police cars and when he pulled up they pointed rifles at him and waved him away.
Rolling down his window he shouted, “I have my mother in my car and she’s hurt really bad, I need to get to the emergency room!”
One of the policemen approached the car and looked inside, “Has she been bitten?”
“Yeah, please, she’s hurt really bad!”
The cop shook his head, “Sorry kid, but they’re not taking any more patients, especially those that have been bitten.”
“But she needs a doctor, she’s hurt!”
“Listen,” the policeman’s face was wrinkled with concern. “Take your mother home, there’s nothing the doctors can do if she has been bitten, but when you get her home, restrain her because when she wakes up she is going to be violent and she won’t know who you are. For your own safety, tie her up so she can’t get loose.”
“What? What are you talking about?”
The cop looked at him, “Haven’t you been watching the news? If she’s bitten, she’s infected. People who are infected become violent when they wake up and try to kill other people by biting them. If you get bitten you catch the disease and spread it to others, do you understand? Now turn your car around and take your mother home and restrain her, it’s for your own safety.”
“No! She needs…”
The cop stepped back and raised the shotgun he was carrying to John’s face, “Go home kid before you end up with more trouble than you can handle!”
John glanced at his mother and then back to the cop, “Please…”
“Go!” The man said. “Go now!”
John turned the car around and drove slowly down the street watching his rearview mirror, hoping they would relent and wave for him to come back, but they didn’t. He stopped in the road and watched as they watched him and then he noticed a group of people running down the street towards his car and in the direction of the road block, he decided to wait and see if the police allowed them through, if they did he was going to turn around and go back. The only problem was, the group of people didn’t run to the roadblock after they noticed him and his mother in the Accord, they ran straight at the car and started beating on the windows and trying to get in the car!
John froze for a moment as he looked at them, some were stained with dried blood and others still had fresh blood on their hands that left bloody smears on the windows, finally he jerked himself back to reality and stomped on the gas plowing through what appeared to be a growing crowd. He raced home and carried his mother to her bedroom and laid her gently on her bed before he gathered the first aid supplies and tried to treat her wounds himself. Everything he did was to no avail; she was burning up with fever, her breathing became shallower and her heartbeat fainter until she was gone. John kneeled by her bed and began to cry.
After a few minutes, he went to the linen closet and pulled out a clean sheet and carefully wrapped her body in it, strangely, though he had often heard of how the temperature of deceased bodies cooled after death, his mother’s seemed to stay hot. He didn’t pay much attention to it; it was just a passing thought. Walking downstairs, he tried calling his father’s cell again and like before nothing happened. There must be millions of people trying to use the cell system all at one time, so he sat in the kitchen and kept dialing his father’s number over and over again. Sooner or later the call had to go through.
He gave up eventually, and walked into the den where he turned on the TV, but as he ran through the channels they were either off-air, or carried the EBS symbol until he found one with a representation of the United States and red dots where he thought there were supposed to be cities. There was a Fox News symbol in one corner of the screen; it figured, the only channel on the air was the one that hated the government and reported everything it could that might make the government seem inept.

John jolted awake on the couch where he was slumped, what was that? What had awakened him? On the TV screen he saw the Speaker of the House walk off camera, what had he missed? There! He heard it again! It was a loud thump that had woken him up; was someone in the house? He stood up and looked around while he listened, again, another thump from upstairs! Someone was in the house!
He walked quickly, but quietly into his father’s study and tried the door of the gun safe, it was locked. He looked around at the tools scattered about, his father was remodeling the room and they worked on it together when he was home. He picked up a thirty inch crowbar and then stood at the bottom of the stairs looking up to the second floor. John waited several minutes and then heard it again, another thump on the floor. Starting up the stairs he gripped the crowbar in his hands, if only he had the his mother’s key ring, there was a key to the gun safe on it, but it was all the way down by Foothill Boulevard where he had left the keys in the ignition of the Cadillac.
At the head of the stairs he waited again as he listened and was rewarded with another thump which led him to his parent’s bedroom door. Was someone in there with his mother’s body? He opened the door and saw his mother’s sheet wrapped body squirming on the floor!
 “Mom!” She wasn’t dead! Christ, she wasn’t dead! He ran to her and began to unwrap his mother as her efforts to escape the sheet became more frantic, “Easy, Mom, I’m getting the sheet off!”
He had to roll her over in order to unwrap the sheet and finally he grabbed the edge of the cloth and pulled, she rolled out of the sheet’s confines on her stomach and when she looked up at him he almost couldn’t breathe, the look in her eyes was the same as the man at the accident with the broken legs and the people who had tried to break their way into the car near the hospital.
Her teeth snapped together as she leaped to her feet and rushed him. “Mom! What are you doing?”
He stepped out of the way of her rush and she ran into the doorframe and fell to the floor. John jumped over her and into the hall. “Mom! I want you to stop, just stop!”
But she didn’t, she leaped and came after him again, and again; each time he fended her off she seemed to become more enraged. Finally she crouched in front of him, her fingers extended like claws and screeched at him, he turned and ran down the stairs and out the front door of the house, closing it behind him.
“Shit!” he said. “Shit! Shit!” He heard her slam against the inside of the front door and then the wall and finally the drapes over the front windows. “Jesus,” He muttered. “What the hell am I going to do?”  He realized he was still carrying the crowbar and dropped it on the front walk as he took a couple of tentative steps backwards.
She slammed against the large plate window again and it cracked with an audible snap, when she hit the window again it bulged outwards even farther and John ran, stopped and grabbed the crowbar then ran as fast as he could for as far as he could and he wasn’t going home unless the police went with him. Maybe they could tranquilize his mother, or taze her, anything that might stop her while they controlled her and subdued her, and then maybe they could help her.
John spent the night running and hiding from bands of crazy people, but strangely, it was the ones travelling alone that were the greatest problem for him. Groups of the crazies were easier to notice, but single crazies were harder to pick out and avoid. The problem was, once a single person started chasing you it soon turned into a pack. Eventually he found himself nearing Foothill Boulevard and Mountain Avenue and began to realize the direction he chose to run might not have been the best choice.
He had worked his way south and west from home, and now he was running into groups of uninfected people moving in the opposite direction, back the way he had come. Ahead, down Mountain towards the I-10, were a great number of people moving through the gridlocked traffic on foot. Many were injured and displayed wounds that looked like bites. Stopping one family of Hispanics he asked them what was in the direction they came from.
“Don’t go that way,” said the man. “There are crazy people everywhere and Mother of God they are eating people. They chase you down and eat you.” The man pushed by with his family and John saw the bite marks on the back of his wife’s right leg as she limped along.
“Hey, the disease is in the bite, that’s how you catch it.”
The man and his wife looked back without stopping and the woman said, “We know.” Then they walked on, herding their three children. They knew, but they hoped she wouldn’t have it in her. They hoped to find someone who could fix her, to heal her. John watched them leave for a moment, looked back down Mountain to the south, and then turned west on Foothill. There had to be somewhere he could stop and be safe. 
He started for the far side of Foothill and then he saw the people running from another mob. He began to run himself and realized too late that his fast movement seemed to draw the attention of the crazies. With a group running to catch him he began to run in panic, where, where could he go that would be safe?
Ahead, at the entrance of a group of apartments, he saw a man and his family trying to enter the security gate of one of the apartment buildings. He turned towards them; if they could get in, maybe he could also! The man, with a child clinging to his back, tried the steel security gate, and then ran to the next where there were bodies lying about. John caught up with the man as he was trying the gate and whipped out his crowbar.
“Here,” he said and inserted the crowbar into the gap between the gate and the frame, he twisted the crowbar and then pushed as hard as he could, the gate sprung open. He pushed the man with the child through, then the woman, and then himself. When he slammed the gate, it bounced back open and he slammed it closed again.
“Oh shit!” He said.
The man with child shouted, “What?”
“Uh, the gate, it won’t latch!”
The man swung the child down and said to the woman, “Chrissy! Take your daughter upstairs and see if anyone will allow you to come in!” Then he threw his shoulder against the gate as one of the infected slammed into it, “Drop down and put your back against the gate and your feet against the wall!”
John did and shoved against the gate; it held as the man stepped back as if he was ready to throw his weight back against the gate if John couldn’t hold it.
John said, “I’ve got it,” and then held out his hand, “John Baker.”
“Harold Brookings,” the man said. “Good thing you had the crowbar.”
“You wouldn’t have needed it if I hadn’t led these fuckers to your door.”
“Yeah, well things are a little screwed up right now.”  
“No shit.” John looked around, but there was nothing available to block the gate with. “I guess I get to be door stop, huh?”
“For now, I’ll see what we can come with, but you’ve got the gate for now, right?”
“Sure, just don’t forget about me.”
Harold walked away and out of sight, moments later he reappeared, ran upstairs and again disappeared. Another infected person slammed into the gate and John pushed back, his back was beginning to hurt from the impacts and the long night of running hadn’t prepared his legs to continue holding the gate.
Harold came down the stairs with a woman who was wearing a pistol and carrying a rifle, they seemed to draw the attention of nearby crazies and they started trying to force their way through the gate again. “That’s not good,” she said as John shoved back against the gate.
“Yeah, do you have anything we can use to block the gate?” Harold asked.
“I don’t.” She stared at the gate chewing her bottom lip and John began to get impatient, but held his tongue.
“There must be something we can use,” Harold said.
“Do you have any ideas? Can you make something?” She asked.
“I’m an electronics engineer, not a metal worker.”
John shook his head from the floor, “I’m starting college next semester, but I can mow a mean lawn.”
“I don’t know, I mean…wait! Let me go wake up my neighbor and see if he has any ideas. He always seems to know what to do.” She started to turn away.
“Hey, can you leave one of your guns? Just in case.” Harold asked her.
She nodded and handed him the lever-action rifle, and then pulled about ten rounds from the leather bandoleer across her chest. “Take these too.”
“What’s your name?” John asked from where he sat.
“I’m John, that’s Harold.”
She ran up the stairs as Harold glanced over the rifle and familiarized himself with how it functioned. John glanced after the girl, “Nice ass.”
Harold looked up from the rifle, “Nice gun.”
“Nice combination.” And they both laughed until a woman crazy slammed against the gate and then a male. Both of the infected people shook the gate and then just stared at Harold. It was creepy as shit. A few minutes later Catherine was back with another man in tow; he was shorter than Harold, but stocky and well-muscled with shoulder length hair. His eyes were bloodshot and he looked like he had just been awakened.
He looked at the gate and then said, “Well shit, what happened to it?”
John raised his crowbar up, “My bad, but I’m not going to apologize. We were in a hurry.”
Harold spoke up, “If it wasn’t for John and his crowbar, we’d all be dead, or infected. He did the right thing under the circumstances.”
“Of course,” the newcomer said. “I’m not complaining.” He rubbed his temples for a moment as he seemed think.
“Michael?” Catherine had one hand on the grip of her pistol, the other on his shoulder. “Are you okay?” The infected slammed against the gate again. John slid forward a little as his legs momentarily buckled, but he shoved back.
“Uh, can we get something going here? My legs are getting a little tired.”
Michael closed his eyes, “I’ve got a really bad headache, my neck hurts and I’m not feeling real good.”
Harold raised the rifle and pointed it at Michael’s face, “Have you been bitten?”
John suddenly went cold, does this mean we have to be suspicious of everyone? Will we start killing people we don’t know?
Catherine pushed the rifle away from Michael’s face, “No, he hasn’t been bitten. He was in a bad car crash yesterday and was unconscious for several hours. He probably has a concussion.” Harold swung the rifle back to the infected and John relaxed.
At that precise moment, the female zombie at the gate opened her mouth and a deafening screech issued forth. It wasn’t the first time John had heard one of them make a sound, but he still wasn’t ready for it. Michael pulled a pistol he was wearing on his hip and stepping forward fired one round into the female’s forehead and a second into the head of the male infected who suddenly screamed also.
“John,” Michael said. “Get up and let Mister BDU take your place. Now!” John stood up and Harold took his place.
Harold handed John the rifle as Michael turned to Catherine, “Come with me.”
As they walked away John said, “Dude that was fucking cold.” Dude?
“Yeah,” Harold said. “But at least now we know who should be in command.”
They rounded the corner as John agreed, “Yeah, quick and ruthless might be the best personality for a while.” He thought of his mother, trapped in the house. What if she ran into someone like this guy, quick and ruthless with no concern as to who she was and who she was to others?
Michael and Catherine returned with a short piece of chain which he quickly wrapped around the frame of the door and the metal post the door was supposed to latch to, inserted a bolt and tightened the nut to hold the chain in place.
The man seemed relieved a little, “Okay BDU, you can relax.”
Harold stood up and examined the chain as another zombie crashed into the door. It held. Turning to Catherine’s neighbor he smiled, “Now I see why Cathy has so much faith in you.” He held out his hand, “Harold Brookings, or BDU if you prefer.”
The man smiled a little sheepishly, “Hi Harold, Michael Moore, Mike.”
John shook his hand also, “John Baker.”
Mike nodded, “John.”
“Pretty bad headache huh?” Harold asked.
“Drink a lot of coffee? Had any today?”
“At least a pot every morning, and no, not so far today.”
John was confused, why the hell were they discussing coffee? Did I miss something?
Harold chuckled, “Welcome to caffeine withdrawal. Go drink some coffee and lay down for a while, you’ll be okay.” You can become addicted to caffeine? John thought.
“Later, I have to check the rest of the security gates.”
Catherine took Mike by the arm, “Harold and John can do it.” She turned to the two of them, “Through that doorway and into the garage marked 22A. There are bolt cutters, chain, and bolts. Okay?” Harold nodded, so John did too. John followed Harold to the garage.
“You are going to drink some coffee and then lay down.” John heard her say as they walked away.  John wondered about Amy, did she survive? Did they treat her at the hospital and release her? What about Micah and Roseanne? Were they somewhere hiding from these crazy people? He didn’t know and he had a feeling he might never know for sure, but for now he needed to concentrate on his own survival, and for now this place and these people were a better chance than he had a half hour earlier; he would stay with them and work with them until this whole thing was over, if it ever was over.

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