Zombies - A Love Story Ch. 14byAsylumSeeker©
Cliff was right on time the next morning and picked them up. For Zack and Caria it was the best sleep they'd gotten in ages and it felt so wonderful to wake up rested, excited about their future, and without worries of when they might die. He drove them to a different place and they were shown into a small room with four chairs, two on each side of a highly polished wooden desk.
After being seated on the closest side Cliff disappeared and returned with an older man, frail-looking and very thin, likely approaching seventy years of age if not older.
"This is Glenn, our city elder, and we show him the appropriate amount of respect," Cliff explained.
They both stood up and shook his hand across the desk before they all settled down on the chairs.
"As new citizens of Survivor City you both have all of the same rights as anyone else, and we have expectations of you as well," Glenn told them in a shaky voice. He then reached into a drawer and pulled out several items. "This booklet tells you what these expectations are. Call it our local laws, it's the same thing. These are your monthly rations," he explained before sliding a coupon book toward them. "Good for a limited amount of food, gas and other goods and services. If people want more they usually go out and scavenge nearby towns and barter for what they want.
"And this final pamphlet is a guide to help you select your occupation," he added, giving it to them. "Try to find something you might enjoy doing based on your skills, training, and desire. You have one week to explore your new environs and to determine which direction your future with us will take. At this same time seven days from now we will meet again and decisions will have to be made if you are to stay.
"There's no such thing as welfare here. Survivor City won't tolerate dead weight. The age of liberalism, of entitlements from the state, is long gone. We're carving out a new world and we'd be happy for you to join us as long as you're willing to put in as much effort as everyone else does."
"Thank you sir, we'll do exactly as you tell us," Zack spoke up with a welcoming smile on his face.
"Yes, thank you so much," Caria added. "This is like a dream come true for us all."
Glenn offered her a sly wink. "Congratulations on your pregnancy, young lady. You have no idea what great pleasure it does this old man to see life returning to this crippled world. You're carrying our future inside of you now. You're the most important of all of the residents we have here."
"I like the city elder," Caria mentioned as they sat down on a couch in the modest living room of their temporary two-bedroom, single bath house looking over the brochures. "I like it that he likes babies. I can't wait for ours to come, Zack. It makes me so happy knowing we'll have one of our very own in another five months."
Zack leaned over and kissed the tip of her nose. "Well if he's anything like me he'll be arriving early."
"He?" she asked. "What makes you think it'll be a boy? I think it's a girl. What do you think we should name her?"
Zack playfully suggested, "Butch."
"Butch?" she protested loudly while nudging his shoulder with an elbow. "How about Brenda? That was my mom's name."
He lovingly kissed her forehead this time. "How about we figure out what jobs we want first, then worry about names later? It's not like we don't have plenty of time to decide."
"I like the idea of helping out with daycare," Caria admitted, recalling Cliff mentioning the need with seven babies and toddlers already there and several more coming within a few months' time. "I can use the practice before we have one of our own to take care of. Plus I'll be able to stay with our baby all of the time. What about you?"
He wasn't quick to share his ideas about an occupation for reasons she couldn't quite understand. "Zack, well? Are you interested in construction maybe? There are several different choices. What about a farm hand or an equipment technician?"
"No," he responded, "I wouldn't like those. I'm into killing zombies, remember?"
She sighed with frustration. "Come on, you already heard what Cliff said about that, there are none," Caria told him. "Please be serious. What do you want to do?"
He turned to face her and looked directly into her sparkling eyes. "I want to join the reconnaissance unit," he finally admitted. He held up the booklet and pointed at the listing. "This is me, it's what I've been born to do. I can feel it."
Her eyes widened as a look of horror was written across her face. "No, that's dangerous. I won't have you out there running around playing war while I'm here with a new baby growing inside of me. Don't be foolish with our lives that way."
He shut down immediately afterwards and refused to say anything more about the subject. Caria knew he was serious about wanting to do that, but could she bear the thought of him facing the kind of danger that he might be when she was home alone worrying about him? Before saying anything else Caria decided to ask Cliff about the opening, just to see if her worries were well-founded or needless.
It was late afternoon and her focus shifted to dinner preparations when there was a knock on the front door. Since Zack was out back pouting with Teddy she got up off the couch and answered it. She was surprised and relieved to see that it was Cliff, who'd stopped by to deliver to them a small hybrid vehicle.
"Cliff, can you spare a few minutes?" she asked. "I need to speak with you if that'd be okay."
"Sure, no problem whatsoever," he offered with a smile as he entered the house. "I hope there aren't any difficulties you're having."
"Well, just one," she reported as she led him to the couch where they sat down. "Zack wants to join the reconnaissance unit, but I can't bear the thought of anything happening to him out there. I don't want to hold him back from what he really wants to do but at the same time I have to think of me and the baby."
"You're worried he might be killed or seriously injured," Cliff decided.
With a look of grave concern on her face Caria nodded.
He smiled in an attempt to disarm her fear. "It's not the same as joining the army and going off to a war zone to fight for your country like so many young men did not so many years ago," he began, referring to the action in the Middle East and North Africa that took so long to stabilize and pull out of. "We have a perfect safety record to this day. I'm not saying there haven't been a few sprained ankles or minor cuts and bruises, there have been, but statistically speaking it's safer than construction. So don't let your preconceptions get the better of you."
She remained skeptical and returned a suspicious frown. "Really?"
Cliff briefly chuckled. "Yes, really. And if you're worried about him being gone for long periods of time, which has been an issue in the past, let me tell you what we're looking at doing. With Zack, that makes three young men who are interested in doing this. Those three, plus the five we already have, will allow us to establish two four-man units. Which means sharing the burden of patrolling. Three days out, three days at home. He might be called in from time to time when we detect approachers, but that is fairly infrequent. Can you handle that?"
Feeling tears of relief beginning to well up in her eyes she nodded her agreement.
They both heard the patio door sliding open and the sounds of approaching feet, six of them in all. Teddy let out a yap-yap of excitement at seeing Cliff again and he jumped onto Caria's lap. Zack was a little confused by this unexpected visit.
"Cliff was dropping us off a car to use," she explained. "And we talked about what you want to do. He told me it's safe and you'll be home as much as you're gone. If this is what you want, then I want you to join up."
Zack had been out back stewing, trying to figure out a way to get her to see his point, so this was great news to him. He grinned enthusiastically and gestured his thanks towards them both. Teddy wasn't quite sure what was going on but he clearly sensed their happiness so he wagged his short tail and barked in agreement with whatever had just been decided.
"You still have the week off to consider your options and to get acquainted with Survivor City," Cliff reminded the newest residents. "As for you, Zack, if you're serious about joining the unit then I suggest you use this time to get as familiar with the area as you can before you start training. The more you know the better off you'll be in the long run.
"Here," he added, taking a few coupons from his own ration booklet. "Take these for extra gas. The car gets about sixty miles a gallon but you might need a little more once you set about exploring the place. I never use all of mine anyway, don't have much of a need to drive very far as I live and work within a two mile radius. There's a station in each of the towns we're settled in so finding gas shouldn't be difficult."
Zack gladly accepted them. "Thanks so much, Cliff."
Cliff smiled warmly. "No, thanks to you and your wife for making Survivor City your new home and for joining the unit to help keep us all safe."
"What about my SUV and trailer?" Zack inquired. "You said Donald was going to drive it back but I haven't seen it yet. To be honest i really haven't needed anything on it but there are a few things I wouldn't mind getting back."
"The weapons are in the city armory in your name," Cliff answered. "We took the gas cans and food as community property. We'll provide you with what you need as time goes on. As for the rest, would tomorrow be okay?"
Zack wasn't happy hearing about his property being heisted but he bit his tongue, forced a friendly smile to his lips, and nodded. "Tomorrow would be great, thanks."
"Zack they're probably listening in, please stop bitching about them helping themselves to what's on the trailer. A fresh fish is worth all of it and more," Caria cautioned her husband just before tossing a freshly cleaned and battered trout onto a greased frying pan. "We all have to make adjustments. We're no different than anybody else."
In another pot she was heating up canned corn and peas, and there were biscuits baking in the oven.
"Oh my gosh, we're about to have a real meal," Caria excitedly raved. "I can't wait. How long has it been? How many months?"
His shoulders shrugged uncertainly. "A lifetime ago. This is nice. I haven't seen you looking as happy or as beautiful as you look right now. This is the first time you've looked like a normal wife."
Her nose wrinkled and eyes narrowed as she tried to figure out if that remark was a compliment or something else. She gave him the benefit of the doubt this time and tentatively agreed with his assessment. "It's the first time I've really felt like one... making dinner for my husband, and not too much longer from now I'll be cooking for a family of three. Just like I pictured myself doing so many years ago."
Zack smiled and hugged her from behind as he nuzzled her sweetly scented neck. He made a point of lovingly caressing her growing bump. "And maybe later you can perform your other wifely duty."
"My 'wifely duty'?" she asked, incredulous. "This isn't the nineteen-fifties anymore, jackass! Maybe if you're lucky I'll be in the mood to let you perform your 'husbandly' duties. Just maybe, but don't count on it, not after saying that to me."
"What?" Zack cried out defensively. He was about to complain that he could be killed tomorrow before realizing that claim might undermine his own career opportunity. Cooling down he backed off. "Sorry babe, I was just making a suggestion. I didn't mean for it to sound the way it did."
Caria smiled to herself upon seeing that she had him well under her thumb. "Apology accepted. Now set the table, dinner's almost ready."
He grinned back at her. "Yes, dear."
After enjoying the best, tastiest meal they'd had in a very long time Zack ushered Caria into the living room and asked her to pick out a movie she might like to see. Leaving her to search through a small collection of DVDs he washed and dried the dishes and put everything away, hoping like crazy that this might help to put her "in the mood" for later on.
Things sure are different for us now, Zack thought to himself as he experienced domestic bliss for the first time since their "honeymoon", of sorts.
As he was finishing up she returned, looked through the refrigerator, and picked out a bottle of wine to enjoy. Caria flashed him a sexy smile, grabbed two crystal wine glasses, and walked back into the living room. A few seconds later he heard the opening credits of a movie starting up.
"What are we watching?" he asked as he joined her on the couch, where she handed him a glass of dark red wine.
"It's a chick-flick," she warned him. "You want me in the mood, right? Offering to do the dishes helped, but this, and this," Caria added, lifting her glass, "will really do the trick."
"As long as I get to tie you up." He said this as a joke but Caria flashed her eyes at him as she sipped on the wine that indicated she might actually be willing try something different and allow him to do that.
Zack reached for one of the booklets they'd been given where it rested on a coffee table in front of the couch and he flipped through it. He saw a bus schedule. They apparently offered scheduled routes several times a day, all originating at Survivor City Central which acted as a hub. From here residents could catch a ride to Survivor City South, North, and West. The times looked to match up with the likely start and stop times of work shifts, with gaps of several hours in between.
After turning a few more pages that advertised some of the local stores, daycare, and other services, he came upon an article titled The Mysterious Pandemic Explained. Immediately drawn to this, Zack began reading.
If you're reading this then you must have found Survivor City, which is actually a collection of small communities working towards the same goal of reconstructing our lives and rebuilding all that has been lost. My given name is Alex Reed, but ever since I opened up a medical practice in what we now refer to as Survivor City Central, everyone has always called me Doc.
I have learned a lot about what has destroyed so much wildlife, the human population, and forever changed life as we once knew it. My occupation placed me front and center when the sickness first began and I was neck-deep in the illness as people started dying by the hundreds. I believe I have discovered the cause, although I can only say that this is my best guess based on the limited research I have been performing since this all began.
The suddenness of it raised many questions in my mind. With most airborne illnesses the first symptoms usually show up within three to five days, depending on the strength of a person's immune system. In this case the symptoms began on a worldwide basis within the space of two weeks.
Any attempt to isolate the sick and delay travelers had little to no effect. Therefore I believe this was a militarized biological weapon intentionally designed to have a much longer incubation period, likely six to eight weeks. This would allow its global spread before the first sign of it was discovered, thereby making its isolation ineffective at best. There was no stopping this one.
There is no smoking gun in any one country's hand. It could have been China as easily as the United States, or North Korea, Japan, many countries had this capability. It could have even been a terrorist attack by some rogue nation in retaliation for all of the Middle East and North Africa conflicts we were involved in.
There was even some speculation that Somalia purchased it from Russia after the infamous bombings on Somalia-based port cities that killed so many civilians but finally destroyed the pirate trade. In the end it doesn't really matter where it originated, because its devastation is irreversible. Now the best we can do is to rebuild and hope that it doesn't mutate and kill off the small percentage who had a natural immunity to it from the beginning.
Not all who developed the illness died. Towards the end several competing immune-boosting drugs were tried and discovered to be highly effective. Sadly it was in limited supply and so it could only be used where available. While it did save the lives of some people, it also rendered them infertile. Only the survivors with a natural immunity have been found to be capable of reproducing.
This is all a best guess on my part, but one that I feel has significant merit based on personal observations and the collection of facts that I have discovered. It might not be the answer you're looking for, but knowing this we can at least move forward and look towards building ourselves a brighter future together.
On the next page Zack found a different but equally interesting article. It was titled The Brief History of Survivor City.
He glanced over at Caria who appeared to be engrossed in the love story, one hand resting on and intermittently caressing her mildly expanding tummy as Teddy sat curled on her lap. Convinced that she didn't mind him reading he returned his attention to the next article.
Survivor City, as it is now called, started out as more of a squatter's town. Eleven people were left and we did the best that we could. Hi, my name is Doc. In case you are new to my name then please read the previous article before continuing.
We were all numb and confused by the events that transpired all too quickly. There were so many dead. But I knew we had to burn or bury the bodies if we were to survive the disease the rotting corpses would bring, so we went about the grisly task of doing what was required. I'd like to forget the horrors we saw and were forced to endure so I will avoid getting into any of the sickening details. It took a week but we accomplished what we'd set out to do. What is now called Survivor City Central was ours.
It didn't take us long to realize that if we were to have a future we needed to plan for it, and this meant food. Contacting the survivors to the south was imperative, as it was, and continues to be, our local food belt. A few farmers were left and we formed a bond, assisting all we could, providing resources and some labor to enable them to continue their important, life-sustaining task. We also manned and kept the trout fishery going.
Electricity was our next focus, and luckily we had a couple of experienced men who turned the power back on for us. Feeling invigorated by these few successes we decided to draw others here. When there was skepticism about the intent of the people we might attract we decided to set up buffer towns with electronic monitoring, which has served us well in most cases.
Afterwards when some of the residents left to look for distant family members we asked them to erect signs along the way inviting other survivors here. The signs went up in key locations on interstate and state highways to advertise what we have to offer.
We experienced our fair share of scares. A few had gotten through who had ill intentions and several of our residents were robbed and brutalized, two of them even killed. Shortly after this a small military unit was established as well as an internal security force. Right now Survivor City is as safe, secure, and comfortable as can be expected in this daunting post-apocalyptic age we are now living in.
Welcome to Survivor City. We hope you intend to stay and add your skills to a growing community of residents who are determined to make the best of the worst. Or as my mom used to tell me so many years ago, to learn to make lemonade from lemons.