AT THE ZOMBIE TRAILER-PARK - KENNETH JAMES CRIST
Clark Simpson and Verna McBride—Derby, Kansas
The road was half-covered by blow-sand. That’s what they call it in Kansas. Ever since the dust-bowl era, when drought brought most of the Midwest and plains states to ruin, it’s been a term common to hear and easy on the ear whenever it gets dry enough. Blow-sand. Fine sand and grit that drifts and piles up and gets into everything, sneaks through cracks in siding and BB-gun holes in plate glass windows. Sneaks right up the crack of yer ass, if yer not careful...
I figured I was about to see some major blow-flies, too. I don’t know who invented that term, but I know what they are. And I’m very familiar with the term fly-blown, as in carcass.
There was nothing on this road but a trailer park. The sand ended there, at a turn-around where the land-lord’s trailer sat. I didn’t know if anyone lived here anymore, much less she whom I sought.
Verna had been atypical trailer trash, meaning she was, in fact, trailer trash, but not of the typical variety. She didn’t have the normal dirty-faced kids hanging all over her, as Keith used to say, “Two on the ramp, one at the pump and one in the hangar.” Keith had been Air Force before the shit went down and it definitely warped him. Napalming whole American towns after the shit went down finished the job, and he ate his Beretta one night after we tried to get through two cases of Mickey’s, holed up in a haybarn…but that’s another story and a sad one at that.
Back to Verna…She wasn’t fat and sloppy, far from it. And she wasn’t married to some over-the-road trucker and fucking around on him all the time.
She had been Keith’s for a while, then she was mine for a while longer, then…probably someone else’s, but I’m not sure. Verna was not the type to be without a man for long and her looks and body pulled ‘em outta the woodwork pretty regular. Hell, when she was all tarted up, she could pull ‘em off the I-135 doin’ 95 miles an hour…she was smooth, stacked and pretty, in a slightly grubby, careless and clueless way that fit the trailer park perfectly. She musta had three or four closets fulla whore-clothes, ‘cause that’s all she seemed to ever wear. No shoes that didn’t have at minimum four-inch heels, no jeans that didn’t hang so low that she had to shave her pubes or risk someone’s cigarette setting her on fire down there…no tops that didn’t show a mile of cleavage and I don’t think her belly-button had ever seen shade…plus rings, ankle bracelets, bangles, beads and just the right amount of makeup to get smeared when she was balling some dude…and it got smeared a lot.
She would never smoke because it would make her breath nasty, never eat anything that might put an extra pound on her frame, never drink to excess, because she might miss an opportunity to meet some really cute guy. Her one vice was sex and that was why I was here now. To see if Verna survived and to take her away if she still lived and if she would go.
I killed the engine a hundred yards out and shoved in the clutch, clicking the gearshift into neutral and letting the old Dakota pickup coast silently to a halt. I quietly clicked the door latch and slid out, taking the key and the shotgun. It was a Remington model 870 pump gun in 12 gauge, commonly called a “riot gun” even though it had been a good many years since the damn things had actually been used to quell riots, at least in the USA. I’d stolen it from an abandoned cop car after things started winding down. It was the only thing in the car that didn’t burn up and I took that as an omen.
Double-ought buckshot really does a great job on zombies. Pretty much sprays their heads all over and solves their problems permanently. Keith used to say there were few problems that couldn’t be solved through the proper use of high explosives…that was before, when he still had a sense of humor.
I made my approach, if you could call it that, as stealthily as possible, using the shelter belt to the north for cover. Shelter belt. That’s another Kansas term. They were rows of trees, planted to break up the incessant wind and to mark property boundaries. Consisting of “hedge” trees, really Osage Orange and in some cases cedars, most were left to grow rampantly and this one was no exception. The wind was from the south, so that was good. You wouldn’t think they could smell anything, as rank as they themselves smell, but it’s not so. They can smell fresh meat, as in people who are still alive and walking around. Maybe it’s because we still bathe…
When I got directly north of the trailer park, I could hear a radio playing, the sound drifting in and out on the slight breeze. I wondered if the power was still on here. Most places, it had failed a long time ago. No dogs barked and, other than the creaking of a door left ajar somewhere, the radio was all I heard.
I slipped quietly between the two trailers at the back and stood still for a full minute, turning only my head, using all my senses to see if I was alone, or about to die. One thing about this new world we live in—if you live for very long, you become sharp-witted.
Nothing moved. I looked at the tin box to my left, where the door had been ripped off and was lying on the ground. I made my decision to start there and I quickly moved up and stepped inside. It took me about two minutes to check the place. Finding nothing of note, I moved to the one on the right. Again, nothing to note except that someone had left a fan on and it was still running, mindlessly sweeping back and forth, cooling no one.
As I stepped out of the second trailer, I heard a woman scream. I froze in place, waiting to see if it would come again. Some of them had learned to do that, to suck you in so they could jump you. Most could only make low, strangling, guttural sounds, but some…
When the scream came again, it had a shrill, gasping quality that made it all too human and it was repeated over and over for at least a full minute. During that time, I made up my mind. It was human, it was alive, it was female and it was in pain. I moved my ass, shotgun at the ready.
Charging in like Batman is never a good idea, especially when you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into. I credit combat experience, quick reflexes and my own willingness to shoot, ruthlessly, anything that threatened me, with saving my life that day. As I ran south between the old, scabrous trailers, I was on high alert, every nerve fiber screaming, “Trap! Trap! You stupid bastard, it’s a trap!”
I didn’t care. By that time, the screaming had stopped, but I was sure of one thing. The voice I heard had been Verna’s and she was not one to scream just because a roach crawled across her toe.
When the first lurching, shambling form stepped out from between a trailer and an old, tin lawn building, I swung and fired, not even raising the shotgun to aim. I had done this enough I was becoming quite the cowboy hip-shooter. I had just a flash of a rotting face and black, syrupy stuff drooling from its mouth before the buckshot removed its face and blew its skull apart. Stinking brownish brains slid down the pocked wall of the lawn building. Just then a hand clamped on my shoulder and I smelled rotten breath from behind me. I dropped and rolled, firing as soon as I could bring the gun to bear, and while on my back, I cycled the action and fired again. The first shot was too low, catching the old dead woman in the breasts. Spectacular, but not effective. The second shot cleaned her off from the eyes up and I mentally congratulated myself. Two down—another million or so to go.
There were more coming and I would soon run low on ammo if I stayed there and merely killed zombies. I rolled again, this time up onto my feet and continued my run, now yelling, calling Verna’s name over and over. The time for stealth had definitely passed. Faintly, from my right, much deeper into the squalor of abandoned tin homes, I heard her feeble voice. She wasn’t screaming now. What I heard was a monotonous repetition… “Help me…somebody help me… please…help me…”
I zeroed in on the sound and at last determined that it was coming from inside the oldest and nastiest unit in the park. Through a broken window, I could now hear her clearly, though the window was above me and I was unable to see her. As I stepped up to the door, zombies were turning the corner less than fifteen feet away. Then another one came out the door, almost bowling me over. I stepped aside and he stumbled by. I cracked him across the back of his neck with the shotgun barrel and then fired two more rounds at the ones closing in.
Fishing in my vest pockets for more shells, I rolled in the door, looking in the gloom for Verna and at the same time shoving shells into the magazine of the gun. In a few seconds the five-shot magazine was full again and a round chambered.
I followed the sounds of whimpering toward the back of the trailer, down a hallway barely wide enough for my shoulders, conscious the entire time that I was now trapped back here—in a few seconds I would be cut off from any way out. In the semidarkness I stepped on something relatively soft and I kicked it ahead of me until it slid into a beam of sunlight coming through a crack in the wall. It was a human foot, size eight, toenails painted a lovely shade of lavender.
I heard myself begin to giggle, starting to lose it, and I clamped down mentally, something I’d learned to do early on, when all this crap started. I took a deep breath and steeled myself for whatever was coming next, then I stepped into the back bedroom.
Verna was bound to the bed. Which one of them still had enough smarts to tie knots, I was never able to determine. Her leg was bleeding from where the zombie I met coming out had cut off her foot. Getting himself a little snack, I reckoned. Her foot had been the last appendage she had left. For the immediate future, they would continue cutting off pieces and staunching her bleeding, saving her for food as live humans became more and more scarce.
The stench in the room was pretty incredible. Not everything that they had cut off her had been eaten and rotting flesh was everywhere. Apparently, she was not the only one they’d been stockpiling. Combined with the smell of urine and fecal matter on the bed, the odor was indescribable.
I reached behind me and quickly slammed the door and slid a dresser across to barricade it. I knew it wouldn’t hold them for long, but I didn’t need a lot of time. Verna wasn’t going anywhere.
The really wondrous part was that Verna’s face was as lovely as ever. Even in her pain, which must have been unbearable, she managed a weak smile and she whispered, “Hey, Sailor…where ya been all my life?”
“Looking for you, Dollface…” It was a greeting we’d used many times when we were still an item. When we’d spent our nights drinking Bud longnecks and humping each other’s brains out. Now, I looked at her and my heart broke as she said, “Do me a favor…lover…”
“Anything, Sugar…you name it…”
“Kill me?…kill me quick? Kill me good…so I can’t come back…”
I smiled at her, a totally false smile of camaraderie, as if we shared some great secret. And maybe we did. I bent down and, in spite of her awful breath, I kissed her one last time. Then I put the shotgun to the side of her head. She didn’t even close her eyes…she stared right at me as I popped her, nothing but love in her eyes…
Took me a while to fight my way outta there. I wound up kicking my way through a flimsy-ass wall and expending the rest of my ammo killing every walking dead piece of garbage I could. I did it through a veil of tears that made my vision swim and my usual deadly aim just a bit off. Once I managed to fight my way clear, I ran like hell for the truck and got away from there.
Back at my compound, I took a long shower while my three Bull Mastiffs stood guard, and while supper was cooking, I hoisted a long-necked Bud in a toast to my old lover.
There is something to be said for finishing things right and to honor. I toasted both as I toasted Verna…
“At the Zombie Trailer Park” was previously published in Yellow Mama, an online magazine from Fossil Publications. It will be one of the stories in a forthcoming book of similar sickening prose, called “Groaning for Burial, The Carrion Men Chronicles.” Kenneth James Crist is Editor Emeritus of Black Petals Horror/Science Fiction Magazine. He has published over 100 short stories in the small press and online in venues raging from Skin and Bones to The Edge, to Kudzu Monthly. He has published two books of short stories, Dreaming of Mirages and The Gazing Ball, both still available from Fossil Publications. Kenny is very active with the American Legion Riders and the Patriot Guard. He is an avid motorcyclist and a competition handgun shooter. He is also a retired Wichita, Kansas police officer. Email comments are welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org and his website is at www.blackpetals.net.
Sometimes those favorite memories have a way of coming back and biting you in the brain. This one though, finished right. Well, properly anyway. Still gives you a dull ache in the gut and if you look close, Mr. Crist ain't just talking zombies here. Far from it. Very subtle KJC and touching. Cool.ReplyDelete