Authors: Shaun Harbinger
A Zombie Novel
Copyright © 2014 Shaun Harbinger
All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to characters living, dead, or undead is purely coincidental.
A thick grey fog clung to the hull of
The Big Easy
, making it impossible to see anything beyond. As I stood on the sun deck looking toward the bow, sinuous tendrils snaked over my boots. The air was cold and wet and the chill seeped into my bones. We drifted aimlessly, the boat bobbing up and down beneath my feet, gentle waves rocking us like a mother trying to persuade her baby to sleep.
But the only lullaby was a far-off cry of gulls, and the chilly dawn air dispelled any thoughts of comfort.
The bed I had climbed out of half an hour earlier was comfortable. There, I could snuggle beneath the blankets with Lucy and dream of a better time.
A time when my friends were still alive and the world had not yet tipped into the deepest region of hell.
A dream that had startled me awake. There was no way I was going to get back to sleep after that. I had dreamed of my brother, Joe, and my parents sitting in a cage in a dense forest. I was running toward the cage, determined to break them free. But as I approached, the forest suddenly became alive with shambling figures hell-bent on stopping me. Alive wasn’t the right word. They were undead.
As the dream-zombies shuffled closer to me, I snapped my eyes open and realized I was still on
The Big Easy
. No more sleep. So I came up to the deck to stand in the cold fog and think about my next move.
Not the greatest idea of my life. The “Sail To Your Destiny” T-shirt I wore did nothing to protect me from the dawn chill. The insidious fog made the fabric damp and clingy. My face and arms felt like they were covered in droplets of ice.
I wondered if the fog reached to wherever Joe was. A few days ago, I heard his voice on Survivor Reach Out and now I was possessed of one single thought: I had to save him. He was somewhere on the mainland, in a Survivors Camp, and that meant danger. I had already seen what happens in those camps.
The problem was, I had no idea which camp my family was in. And even if I found out, how was I going to break them out of what was basically a military-run prison?
The task of rescuing Joe seemed so impossible, I didn’t know where to start. When I had heard his voice on Survivor Radio, I had turned
The Big Easy
to shore, ready to storm the beaches and fight the zombies, but Lucy had pointed out the foolishness of that idea. I had reluctantly agreed and piloted the boat south along the coast. It was only when I saw the familiar coastline of Wales and the dark buildings of the city of Swansea that I stopped the boat and let us drift overnight.
Now, as I stood on the sundeck, I had no idea how far we were from Swansea. Mike had taught me the basics of piloting the boat but nothing about navigation. The coastline was completely obscured by the fog.
The cold, damp air was too uncomfortable and the chill made me shiver. I went inside the living area and closed the wooden door. I switched on the radiators and put the kettle on. A cup of tea wasn’t going to make anything better but it might warm up my insides.
The small door that led to the bedrooms opened and Lucy poked her head around it, looking for me with bleary blue eyes. Her blonde hair was sticking out and an oversized “Sail To Your Destiny” T-shirt hid her curves but she was still beautiful. As “just got out of bed” looks went, she had the best.
“Why are you up so early?” she asked as she came into the living area and sank down onto the sofa.
“Couldn’t sleep. You want a drink?”
“Coffee.” She looked out at the fog. “Wow.”
“Yeah,” I said, “the weather’s really closed in. Can’t see anything out there.” I made the drinks and passed her a mug of coffee while my tea bag brewed in the cup. I wanted it strong and hot. My skin still felt wet and clammy. I needed warmth.
“You come up with any plans?” Lucy asked. We both knew I hadn’t. What plan could possibly be made other than the plan to go ashore and look for Joe?
Maybe that was the answer. Simple and direct.
And probably fatal.
I looked at the impenetrable grey fog beyond the windows and wondered if I could use it to my advantage somehow. The fog was made up of droplets of moisture so the zombies would probably avoid it just as they avoided rain. It might be safe to go ashore just so long as I avoided the military patrols. The fog could help me with that. If I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me and I could move undetected.
It all sounded so easy but my heart hammered at the thought of sneaking around on the mainland. Too much could go wrong. What if the fog lifted while I was standing among a hundred soldiers? What if zombies wandered in the fog and I went blindly blundering into a group of them?
What choice did I have? If I was going to rescue Joe and my parents, I had to go ashore at some point. The fog provided the best chance of survival.
“I’m going to go ashore,” I told Lucy.
“What? Don’t be crazy, Alex. You have no idea where your brother is. Until you know more…”
“How am I going to know more unless I look for him? Floating out here all day isn’t doing anybody any good.”
“At least we’re safe.”
“Are we? What if we run into pirates? Or a boat full of zombies hits us and they get on board? Nowhere is safe anymore.”
“But wandering onto the mainland where there are thousands of zombies and soldiers is suicide.”
“I’ll be careful,” I said. “I won’t go far from shore. I just want to get an idea of the situation. A reconnaissance mission.”
She shook her head and gave me a thin-lipped smile. “You hate the military, remember? You’re no soldier, Alex.”
I knew that. If playing military video games counted toward an army rank, I’d be a colonel by now but in reality, I was overweight and slow… the result of spending all my leisure time playing video games. Ironic. I could kill a base full of digital terrorists on my console but in real life I was nothing more than a walking target.
I was honestly surprised I was still alive in this post-apocalyptic world. Much better people than me had fallen already. I thought of Mike and Elena and felt a hollowness in my stomach.
Gulping down the hot tea didn’t help.
I had come to a decision. No matter how much Lucy tried to talk me out of it, I was going ashore under cover of the fog.
Not too far inland.
What could go wrong?
“This is crazy, Alex,” Lucy informed me as we sailed slowly through the fog, looking for the coast. She stood on the aft deck below me, arms folded, as I sat in the small chair on
The Big Easy’s
bridge and peered out of the window at the thick, grey impenetrable gloom beyond the bow. I had tried putting on the boat’s lights but they had just reflected off the wall of fog. Useless.
I kept my hand on the throttle, ready to pull it back if I saw any shapes beyond our bow. My greatest fear was running into unseen rocks and destroying our boat. We barely crawled along but even so, my hands were shaking and my nerves were on edge. I had thrown on a hoodie and felt insulated against the cold fog but I wasn’t sure if the sweat running down my back and chest was because I was warm or scared. Probably both.
Lucy had a right to be mad at me. I wasn’t just risking my own life with this stupid move; I was risking both our lives and
The Big Easy
. But I was sure the fog would give me the best chance to move about onshore unseen. If I wasted this opportunity, I would be kicking myself forever.
Something dark appeared ahead. I yanked the throttle back and the engines went into reverse, churning the water at the stern. Lucy leaned over the side and gazed ahead to see what had caused my reaction.
A dark shape jutted out into the water like a bony finger. I turned the wheel to steer us clear and saw a second identical shape farther away.
“It’s the marina jetties,” Lucy said.
This was perfect. We needed a rowboat to get to and from shore easily.
We could pick one up here then sail to a more remote part of the coast. I could row ashore while Lucy stayed with
The Big Easy
. I started to feel more optimistic about the plan.
“We can get fuel and a rowboat,” I said. “We don’t need to stay here long.” I guided the boat along the weathered wooden jetty. Through the fog, I could see the bulky dark shapes of moored boats bobbing on the gentle waves. I cut the engine. Lucy jumped onto the jetty with our mooring rope and tied us off when we reached the fuel pump.
I climbed down the ladder to the aft deck and grabbed my baseball bat. “I won’t be long,” I said as I passed Lucy, who was already operating the fuel pump. She didn’t reply. I couldn’t blame her for being angry.
The wooden slats creaked beneath my boots. I held the bat loosely in my hands and crept along slowly, knowing that if there was anyone else on this jetty, I wouldn’t see them until they were a few feet in front of me. I risked a glance backward.
The Big Easy
was no more than a dark shape in the grey. I couldn’t see Lucy.
I peered at each slip I passed, looking for a rowboat. The boats here were mainly pleasure craft, used for fishing weekends or excursions out to sea on sunny days. Some of them belonged to the marina and were hired out to casual boaters. These boats had the slogan “Sail To Your Destiny” painted on the hull beneath the boats’ name and number.
A few fishing vessels were among them, littered with lobster traps and nets, working boats whose work was done forever. Most of these craft would never go out to sea again. Their owners were either dead or shambling around the city looking for human prey, thoughts of sunny pleasure trips far from their rotted minds.
I didn’t find a rowboat until I reached the shore. There, sitting on the pebbled beach beneath the marine supply store, sat a tidy-looking pale yellow wooden boat complete with oars stowed under the seats. She was flooded with rainwater but I could tip that out and be rowing back to
The Big Easy
in no time.
I dropped from the jetty and went over to the yellow boat. The pebbles made a crunching sound beneath my boots. It sounded too loud in the otherwise quiet fog-enshrouded morning. If anybody was around, I had just given away my location.
Standing by the boat, my hands gripping the smooth wood of the baseball bat tightly, I listened. All I could hear was my own breathing and the soft whisper of the waves lapping up onto the pebbles. A far off clunking sound told me Lucy had replaced the fuel line onto the pumping machine.
The big Easy
was fuelled and ready to go.
So was I. My noisy trek across the pebbles had unnerved me. I wanted to get out of here. Now.
I wasn’t even sure I wanted to come ashore again today, even under cover of the fog. The lack of visibility suddenly felt dangerous. There could be a herd of zombies standing on this beach only a few feet from me and I wouldn’t even know it until they reached for me.
Enough scaring myself. I needed to leave.
I laid the bat on the pebbles and gripped the edge of the rowboat, pulling up with all my strength to tip out the accumulated water. It sloshed noisily around inside but it made the boat too heavy to tip. Great. Just great. I stood and stretched my aching back then squatted down and placed my hands against the slippery hull of the rowboat.
Pushing with my legs, I managed to move it over onto its side far enough that water came flooding out onto the pebbles. The oars clattered loudly against the inner hull.
I heard another sound: footsteps crunching on the pebbles behind me. Rapid and rhythmic. Not zombies. But probably still as dangerous.
I dropped the boat as quietly as I could but the oars banged against the hull again.
The footsteps increased their pace toward me.