Sheriff Tyree's admonition to Chuck seemed a bit condescending in that uneducated-but-smarter-than-you style that flourishes in the rural south, but it was true enough. Shooting them in the head really didn't do shit save splattering a bunch of truly friggin repugnant corruption about. More often than not, the 'about' was likely to be your shoes or your hair. It was sticky and stanky as hell particularly in the hair.
These weren't your garden variety George Romero or Lucio Fulci zombies out there. No, not so lucky. These were Tea Party Zombies. I’d seen ones with their heads blown clean off and they still moved about clutching some inane homemade sign. They would move around, bump into things, and get caught in a corner just like one of those old electric football game players, my brother had as a kid, but they could still cause damage. You needed to put them down once and for all.
"See, they run on bile. So yall hafta be sure and shoot 'em in the liver. Otherwise they likely to just keep comin."
Sheriff Tyree was a walking encyclopedia of practical zombie information and he seemed to delight in the fact that here at last was a criminal element that would never get the benefit of council or require a pesky trial. He liked that the only ‘technicalities’ that complicated his job now were things like the relative advantage of say a Winchester 300 magnum or a 308 Marlin.
Doc Solesky chimed in as well. "Sheriff's right. I dissected one of those hideous creatures and the gallbladder was huge. It was bigger than a softball! Never seen so much bile from one creature." Clearly he'd never met Sara Palin or Rush Limbaugh.
Oh, sorry, I forgot to introduce myself. My name’s Jake. Far as I know, I'm the last survivor in my family.
Chuck and his sister had just shown up yesterday. Their survival alone to this point was nothing short of miraculous. Ralph, one of the token Yankee’s, theorized that the confederate flag plate on the front of their SUV had something to do with it. May have worked as a Bagger smoke screen. Hard to know but here they were. They might come in handy soon, if as nothing more than extra bait. In a tight spot extra bait was a blessing. Creating a target rich environment so to speak. Better odds of escape.
I had learned a lot myself over the last few weeks. I'd fallen into a coma after the 2008 elections and awoke 2 years later in an abandoned room at a rehab center. A lot had changed. The existence of the Tea Party Zombies was a change I'd had a hard time believing in but here they were in the rotting flesh. What actually had caused the Tea Party Zombies in the first place, was open to debate. Nobody knew for sure. Few people bothered to call them Tea Party Zombies. Some used the shorthand of TPZ's. But most just called them Tea Baggers or just baggers. The first ones afflicted by the plague seemed to have been susceptible to an airborne pathogen of some kind that robbed them of any logical faculties. Others succumbed after a bite. There didn't seem to be any rational reason as to why average people had suddenly lost their memories for recent events, gone berserk and paranoid, created raging signs with poor spelling and grammar, and started to eat brains. It didn't matter at this point anyway because they had. Cause and effect didn't matter much now to the survivors anymore than it ever had to the Baggers. Living through the day was all that counted now. Use your head or a bagger would use it for an ash tray.
It had been hard for me to come to grips with the fact that here was a group of creatures that looked sort of human but clearly weren’t. I’d almost lost my own sorry cabbage a couple of times early on when I’d tried to get through to a couple of them, not knowing what had happened. It was no use at all. Reasoning with a brain eating zombie is not a productive use of your time. Better to just shoot them in the liver and be done with it.
Our group was a loose collection of survivors from all walks of life. In addition to me and the others I've mentioned there were about 20 more. A eclectic group. The teen sibs, Tom the grocer, the sheriff, the doc, a couple of engineers, but thank god, no lawyers.
Baggers were everywhere but they really were dense around this place. Just our luck we’d made it to the little shopping center in the dark only to find that a Denny’s, a KFC and a MCL were right next door. Grease matched up well with brains apparently. The group needed to relocate fast. Supplies were running thin at this little urban mall in any case. Plus the baggers were instinctively congregating at the doors in anticipation of Black Friday even though weeks away. Brains weren’t the only things the Baggers wanted to consume.
There was a big city bus a block away that would do nicely as a form of urban tank to get us into the country side. But that meant running the gauntlet through a crowd of baggers. Having a functioning human brain made you a tasty target for their mob. At least they weren’t organized. Each one would fight all the others for the contents of your skull.
We were comparing ideas about the best way to get to that bus. Chuck’s baby sister Cora suggested that everyone could make a sign and pick out some costume from Spencer Gifts.
“That way we might all blend in enough to get to the bus.”
It wasn’t the stupidest idea anyone had heard lately but Ralph wasn’t so keen on that idea.
"That's fine and dandy for all you white folk but I can carry all the signs in the world and it won't fool them a bit!"
Ralph was right about that. The average TPZ's skin had been pretty pale long before they had taken to cranial cuisine.
Outside the locked gates of the mall the baggers slogged about with their signs. Sometimes the spelling was so bad that it was hard to know what they were trying to convey. But what could you expect from brainless zombies. Many chanted religious slogans by rote but I doubted that the answer to the question ‘what would Jesus do?’ had ever been to go forth and eat brains. My last Sunday school had been years ago but I couldn't recall that part.
We talked a while about the best way to get to the bus, but pretty quickly concluded that our standard approach was best. I agreed that it was the best bet but wasn’t all that happy about it for obvious reasons.
It was my turn to be the rabbit for roundup. Roundup was our nickname for the standard escape plan. It wasn't the safest job in town. True, the TPZ's were mostly over weight and slow as hell but there were a lot of them and they could pop out of an unexpected hole at any moment. One bite and you were a goner. It wasn't quick and it was ugly to watch. First sign was a fever and chills followed by a memory loss, narcissism, and hoarding. Then paroxysms of shouting made up historical facts. Before long you'd find them slowly creating an error laden sign on a discarded piece of cardboard and you'd better shoot them in the liver by then or the next moment they'd be trying to eat your brain.
The rabbit's job wasn't safe but it was simple. Go out and get the attention of some Baggers and draw them into some kind of kill zone or away from the main body. Depended on circumstances. If culling the herd of baggers was the goal the kill zone could be Claymores, fertilizer bombs, diesel oil and old rags, or tapes of Oprah. Get enough of them in one place to make it worthwhile to blow them up or burn them out. The Harley brothers preferred the 'plinking' method. Get them out in the parking lot and shoot them from the roof. Not real sporting but war isn’t. In a past life the Harley's would likely have supported some of the same causes as were reflected by the Baggers' signs, but when ever would there be open season to shoot people? To them it was best to enjoy it while it lasted.
I’d come up with a variation that was ironic and effective. We had come upon a military convoy with some Claymore’s in boxes and found some DVD players in another truck. We’d set up a claymore right behind the DVD vid screen and play some old Fox News tapes we found and loaded onto some blank discs. The baggers would all fight to get a view of the screen. And in so doing would line up perfectly in the ideal directional kill zone for the claymores. I was glad to get rid of baggers and finally find a constructive use for Fox News.
My rabbit costume was easy. It was an old Obama Halloween mask. It worked great with the baggers. That Obama mask would have rousted them from eating even Noam Chomsky's brain. They could not resist. Particularly if you chanted, "Yes we can!, Allah Akbar!, or kill the fetus!" while wearing it. Get them stirred up enough to chase you and the others could escape. Let them chase you for a while then either give them the slip and double back to the group or deploy the last resort.
It was Ralph who had stumbled upon the last ditch defense when trapped by a mob of the Baggers. He had been cornered in an abandoned camera store at the mall when he picked up a camcorder intent on nothing more than throwing it at them as a last resort when they had all stopped and started flashing their signs into the lens while hollering about tax and spend. It was instinctive - see a camera and start ranting. Ralph was cool and clever enough to slowly exit the store with the camera up to his face as if recording. Once out in the mall he ran like the devil before the Baggers figured it out.
One thing was for sure. Bagger activity was getting worse the closer we got to November 2. Time to get out of the city and into the country. There were still baggers but you could see them from way off and, plink, that was that. Tomorrow we would get the bus and move out.
These baggers had been organized. It chilled me to the bone to realize that. That’s the only way they could have gotten Chuck, the doc, and the Harley boys. We’d been ambushed and never got near that bus. I almost didn’t make it back.
Somewhere out in that mob was something that could control the baggers. They were dangerous enough when they were flitting about on their own agenda. But bring all that brain eating craziness together with focus and we were all screwed. We were dead unless we could figure out what was happening and kill or destroy it.
We were all pretty quiet for the next few days while we tried to regroup. Then it made a mistake that changed everything. I was up on the roof doing some recon when it happened. A bunch of baggers congregated around some shadowed figure about 2 clicks up the road. Next thing I know, this group goes off and a new group assembles. Went that way for hours and each time the little group of baggers seemed like they were up to some organized mischief that didn’t bode well for us. And the thing kept disappearing into a building just out of rifle range.
We argued for hours about my plan. I finally convinced the Sheriff to go along. Once he was on board the rest folded as well. An assault on bagger central. Try and take out that thing pulling the strings. No finesse what so ever. Run straight at them and shoot from the hip. Shotguns primarily. Less chance of missing the liver that way at this range. Anyone left at the end would try to take out the leader. We’d see what happened then. Not much of a plan but the details were easy to remember.
We rushed out and caught them by surprise. They weren’t used to people with living brains coming out firing from the hip. Guess they expected us to always try and talk our way out of trouble or be more subtle. No, this time the direct approach was all we planned. It was rush, run and shoot. Mowing them down in waves. The creature in charge hadn’t anticipated what we’d do. Never expected it. Thought we’d wait for its soldiers to pick us off. Guess again bucko!
We all made it to the building and fought through to a large auditorium where it was surrounded by garden variety baggers. It was hideous in an HP Lovecraft sort of way but it explained a lot. Tom the grocer was right on top of it but he hesitated and the drone baggers were on him before he could move. The leader was a contorted mutant. A full sized adult body carrying a wretched naked imp growing out of its abdomen. It was the hellish little horror that was giving orders while smiling a satanic little grin. It laughed as Tom the grocer was pulled down by the baggers. The grotesque little parasite didn’t see me coming though.
I shot the vile thing in the head. Right between its beady little pig eyes. Then I shot it in the liver. It was dead for good this time. Sheriff Tyree shot it a half dozen times as well. A few others took their turns until it was pretty well pulped. At once, the baggers lost cohesion and turned on one another giving us time to escape. As we trotted away toward that bus the Sheriff smirked at me.
“Jake, boy, why’d you shoot it in the head? You know that don’t kill ‘em.”
I smiled back for the first time in quite a while. “No, but it did wipe that crappy little smile off the bastard’s face, didn’t it.”
Tyree smiled a huge toothy grim and laughed out loud. “Damn straight! Today has been a good day, all in all.”
It was strange but I couldn’t help but agree.