Zombies - A Love Story Ch. 16byAsylumSeeker©
For the two weeks he was gone he was only allowed letters, and Zack turned out to be quite prolific, writing one every evening before bed.
The days were so exhausting that when the evenings arrived he barely had enough energy to tear into the thick brown plastic of a military-issued Meal, Ready to Eat, more commonly referred to as an MRE, and hungrily devour the cold contents. Fires were not allowed as they would give away their position. There were some hushed conversations but generally the new recruits were so worn out that sleep came pretty quickly.
When it was time they laid down on or inside of their sleeping bags, bodies liberally moistened with bug repellant to limit the number of bites that they would receive as they slept. That was one bad thing about the pandemic -- it killed many people and animals, but it certainly hadn't appeared to make any sizeable dent in the world of insects.
Zack was startled awake when a hand was placed over his mouth. When his eyes immediately snapped open he could see that it was dark. Sarge's face was in his and he was quietly whispering an order to remain absolutely silent. As Zack shook the cobwebs from his brain and dressed, Sarge went to wake Bruce, as Mike was already moving around.
After the three recruits were dressed he made signal gestures indicating he needed them to group up, which the quietly did. They looked at their leader expectantly.
"Motion sensors picked up two approachers not far from here," Sarge quickly briefed them. "They're not residents out for any evening walk, either. Team One is out of position, so it's up to us. Are you men up to this?"
The nervous recruits looked at one another hesitantly. It was Zack who spoke up first. "Yes, sir. But we're unarmed."
Sarge grinned back at him. "No you're not, you have two of them."
They'd been training in hand-to-hand combat over the past several days but Zack wasn't sure he felt comfortable facing hand-to-hand combat in a real-life situation. Sarge searched all of their eyes looking for any signs of fear.
"We'll place ourselves in concealed positions close by," the salty leader continued. "After they pass we'll take them from behind. Any questions men?"
"No sir," Zack spoke up first. "Just show us where we need to be."
Sarge winked at the youngest new recruit. "Okay, gather around."
Pulling a camouflaged poncho around them to silence their words and to hide the illumination from a small penlight, Sarge brought out a map that had already been folded to their current location. He pointed out where they were and the dry streambed just a few hundred yards to their north.
"They'll be crossing the streambed here," Sarge reported, placing the tip of his left index finger about two miles west. "We don't have long, maybe twenty-five minutes. We'll have to move fast but quietly to place ourselves in position before they arrive. Okay, let's get going. We'll need to travel light, just our knives and utility belts. Make sure the canteens are full, I won't tolerate the sound of sloshing water giving us away."
Several hushed, "Yes sir" responses could be heard before the group broke up to make quick preparations. They reassembled when ready less than two minutes later.
Sarge led the team to the edge of the streambed. There was a sharply angled two-foot drop to the bottom. Sarge waved them forward and followed up, but when he attempted to navigate the steep incline he fell, quietly shrieking out in pain as he grabbed one ankle.
"Sarge!" Zack called out as he ran to his side.
"We won't make it, not with me hobbling," Sarge told him. "The team's yours, Zack. You're in command now. Don't disappoint me."
Zack had never been as frightened or as empowered as he was at that moment. The sudden change of plans had his mind reeling. Sarge sensed this.
"You can do this, you know where you need to put the team in position to counter the threat," Sarge encouraged him. "Subdue the threat, do not eliminate it without cause, do you understand?"
"Subdue, not eliminate," Zack repeated as his heart wildly raced.
"Keep your team under control," the crusty Marine instructed. "Make sure they know what to do and when to do it. You men can do this, have to do this, and do it right. Now get going."
Zack approached the others who were waiting nearby. He felt a lump in his throat as he took the intimidating and scary position of being in command.
"Sarge is down, I'm in charge. Let's get moving," Zack commanded.
"You?" Bruce countered. "But I'm older."
"We don't have time to argue," Zack firmly responded. "You will obey or face the consequences. Move, soldier!"
Zack wasn't sure where that had come from. He was just as scared and disoriented as the others after having been unexpectedly awakened in the middle of the night facing a potential combat situation they were ill-trained and ill-equipped for, but they had to keep Survivor City safe from outside threats.
Pushing Bruce forward the team, now down to three, hurried toward their goal. They stopped after a mile for a rest, at which time Mike drank heartily from his canteen before passing it to the others. It had to be kept either full or empty, so they'd gotten into the habit of sharing one canteen until it was drained.
Two minutes later the three men were hurrying along again. Sweat was leaking from their brows from the physical exertion. Zack glanced down at his watch, noting they were still on time to get into a defensive position at the appointed location as long as they maintained the same brisk pace.
It was another ten minutes before the streambed began to make a northerly curve, indicating the place where the approachers should be crossing. Zack knelt down on one knee as did the other two.
"This is it, we'll conceal ourselves along the south side of the bank," Zack told them. "Five yards apart. Bruce, you go there," he said, pointing out a location where some brush provided concealment. "Mike, there. I'll be between the two of you."
They quietly moved into position and waited, but not for long. The sound of two men's voices could be heard approaching, along with their footsteps. Zack made silent gesturing commands to his two men, indicating for them to prepare. They pulled their knives from the scabbards and waited for the intruders to walk down the embankment.
"...two Jewish guys in Mexico on vacation. One asks the waiter if they have any Mexican Jews there. The waiter tells him no. The Jewish guys are shocked because they thought there were Jews all over the world, so they have the waiter ask the manager if this is true. So the waiter does and comes back and tells them they have no Mexican Jews. They have orange Jews, tomato Jews, grape -" the first man said with a brief laugh until he was cut off.
The second man interrupted with, "Watch it, there's a steep slope coming up."
"Damn, it's hard to see in the dark," the first one complained.
"Yeah, and that makes it harder for them to see us," the second man pointed out.
It wasn't long before they reached the edge and the strangers' feet began negotiating the steep bank, sliding on the sand. One of the two walked past Zack within a few feet and he feared he'd be spotted, but the two were so engrossed in conversation that he went unnoticed.
The first man asked, "Do you really think we can capture this place? They have to have security around somewhere."
The second man answered, "That's what tonight is all about."
Just after they passed by Zack signaled to Mike and they made their move, quietly closing the short distance between them. Just as they'd been trained to do they hugged the men around the shoulders while simultaneously pressing the sharpened blades of their combat knives against their throats in a threatening manner.
A few moments later they heard a rustling noise behind them. Zack was hoping that Bruce had their back as he'd been ordered to watch the flanks and rear.
"Very good," Sarge's voice called out as his hands also clapped in approval. "You've just passed your first test."
Zack was stunned by the revelation.
"Zack, meet Charlie of Team One."
The youngest recruit was still struggling to understand what had just happened as he withdrew his knife and nodded towards Charlie. They shook hands after the knife was returned to its scabbard.
"Don't get cocky, I could've easily taken you out," Charlie told him in a confident tone that had Zack believing every word of what he'd just been told.
After brief introductions were made, the two men from Team One climbed back up the embankment and walked off into the darkness. A minute later they heard an engine starting up, the unseen vehicle driving off.
"The training phase of hand-to-hand combat basics is officially over," Sarge announced, "but it will be an ongoing event. It takes practice, and lots of it, before you'll be good enough to defend yourselves.
"Okay, so you're probably wondering what's next. Well, tomorrow morning we'll sleep in an extra hour and wait for the helicopter to resupply us... and bring in the weapons and ammunition."
A brief cheer went up from the recruits who'd been anticipating this from the start.
"Have your letters ready in the morning. The helicopter will get them back to City Central and Cliff will hand-deliver them," Sarge continued his impromptu briefing. "Okay, let's head back to camp."
As they walked back Zack was curious about one part of the conversation he'd overheard. "Sarge, do you really think somebody might try and invade Survivor City, take it over?"
He thought about it for a few moments. "It's always something we have to consider. It was a bigger concern before we established the buffer towns and set up all of the remote monitors, but it's still a possibility we're aware of. We've put a lot of signs out there with a huge open invitation for anyone to come join us. How hard would it be for the wrong kind to see one and decide to try and claim it for themselves?
"Why, what makes you ask?"
"It was something Charlie said as part of the training exercise," Zack explained. "Is there just us two teams? How many can we fight off?"
Sarge stopped and grinned widely. "It's not just us, Zack, you can rest easy. I'm not at liberty to discuss the details with you, but let's just say there are a lot more surprises Survivor City has to offer than meets the eye."
Cliff stopped by the daycare where Caria worked and turned over Zack's letters. She thanked him. He'd dropped by the house the previous evening to pick up hers.
"So how's this job working out for you?" he asked.
"Well, you know how kids can be, loving and adorable one moment but then they can turn into little hellions a second later," she answered with a smile. "But for the most part they're good kids. I'm enjoying it, I really am."
"And you're getting on fine without Zack, I assume?"
Caria's smile weakened. "Yeah, I'm managing. Teddy keeps me company so I'm not as lonely as I might otherwise be, but I won't say it's been easy. We haven't spent a moment apart since we met just after... you know. But his first week is almost over, and then there'll just be one more after that. And once his training is done, being apart three days at a time will seem easy by comparison."
"Great, glad to hear it. You keep these toddlers in -"
The loud wailing of an infant could be heard coming from another room. "It's feeding time, I better go. Thanks again for everything."
"You're more than welcome," he called back as she headed for the other room and he returned to the front door to leave.
After forming a short human chain the four men worked at off-loading the supplies and arms. Cliff, who'd come along for the ride, delivered incoming mail. One was for Zack who excitedly accepted it. Once they finished the helicopter took off and headed back flying at treetop level to avoid detection and unintentionally giving away their position.
"Okay, take a thirty-minute break and read those letters now, because we have a long day ahead of us and it'll be dark before we're done," Sarge called out to his team.
Zack took the opportunity, drank from his canteen, and settled on the ground away from the others for privacy. Then he opened the perfumed envelope which smelled just like her and removed the enclosed letter. He laughed when a few of Teddy's unmistakable whitish-black hairs and a lock of her dark ones were tucked inside. If he wasn't mistaken he had a hunch that her lock wasn't from her head, either.
I'm enjoying the daycare job. The kids are pretty good, although they do throw tantrums occasionally and the two infants, when not sleeping, require a lot of attention. Luckily there are three of us women here so we manage things nicely. I can't imagine what it'll be like once the other pregnant women give birth, I'm thinking it will get quite hectic here.
We both miss and love you so much, baby. Teddy insists at sleeping in front of the door where he last saw you leave. I'm sure this behavior will continue until you return, and we can't wait until you come back to us. I had no idea how deeply I love you until this separation, which has been difficult but bearable only due to keeping busy at work and playing with Teddy. He's the only thing keeping me sane right now.
You better come back rested and prepared, not dragging your ass, because I will be more than ready for a lot of make-up sex for all that I've missed. I know you think about it it too but your training keeps you so busy you're probably too exhausted to miss it.
This is not the case for me. I lay in bed at night, every night, wishing you were here. I miss everything about you, from watching you taking out zombies with explosive head shots to your kisses and gentle caresses, the feel of your body against mine, filling me, making me feel like the woman that I am.
But you also make me proud. I know what you're doing is important and I'm glad that you're doing it. Who knows, maybe one day you'll make the difference that saves this city. I'd like to think so anyway.
I'm looking forward to getting a letter from you, I know I'll treasure it. I'll be reading it tomorrow, just as you'll be reading this. Please be careful and come back to me in one piece. I'll be more than ready to give you all the loving you can handle. I've already arranged to take off the day after your return, the others are okay with this and understand completely.
Do you remember that one day on our way to Survivor City when we'd decided just to take a day off to play games and make love? Well, you better know the day you get home, or the day afterwards, it'll be even better, I promise.
With all of our love,
He wasn't sure how many times he'd read it, probably four or five times before Sarge told them they needed to get back to work. He took them to what appeared to be a well-worn ATV trail involving hiking, climbing, and running as Sarge fired off an M-60 machinegun for effect, or maybe for the sheer fun of it, he couldn't be sure. The sound of bullets ricocheting off of rocks was unmistakable.
And this was only the start to another long and exhausting day involving more exercise, hand-to-hand combat practice, and finally the coveted weapons training.
After she got back home and warmed up leftovers for dinner, she sat down on the couch and looked through Zack's letters. There were four. They read more like journal entries instead of the love letters she'd been hoping to receive. She didn't hold it against him though, how could she expect him to be able to read her mind? Besides, these were probably the first letters he'd ever written before.
The first three didn't much interest her as he talked about the different types of training he'd been receiving from day to day, sounding excited by it all, so she just skimmed through them. But his last, written last night, showed more of his emotional side.
With Teddy on her lap she read the words aloud, knowing he had no clue as to what she was saying but hoping he at least realized who the letters were from once he'd sniffed them.
Love you so much and our baby growing inside of you. Miss you like crazy, but I also know I have to do this for us, for Survivor City. I know the others are watching over you which gives me a sense of serenity.
It just hit me, if we do have a girl she should be named Serenity. Okay, just a thought. Just in case it's not a boy. But if it is I still like Butch, sounds tough, like he's ready to scrap at any time if anybody messes with him.
Sarge is the one who runs the show around here. Spent twenty-five years in the Marines but he's tough as nails, runs circles around us. He's in great shape and challenges us during the daily calisthenics. Never knew I had muscles where I do, I am so stiff and sore when I go to sleep at night. Since we don't have much equipment to carry he put rocks in our backpacks, he promised we'd be thanking him for this later. I sure hope he's right.
The other two guys, Mike and Bruce, are a few years older than me. I'm thinking I'm the youngest of them all, but I haven't met the Recon Team One guys yet. Sarge say's we'll be Team Two once he thinks we're ready for the challenges that lay ahead. I'm looking forward to getting to know them better, they seem like nice guys but something tells me that they can also be tough if the situation calls for it.
It feels strange wearing this camouflage uniform. I guess I really am in the army now. I can't wait until we get to the weapons training. Thinking about this gets me excited. You know me, I love killing zombies.
Which reminds me, I miss playing my game. Sure miss our bed, and Teddy, but I miss you most of all. Talking with you, kissing you, and enjoying you. Can't wait to see you.
We sleep on the ground by night and train all day. The past two days has been hand-to-hand combat. Sarge says we have to learn the basics first. He assures us that any letters we write will be delivered after the next resupply. Not sure when that'll be but I'm sure it will be soon because we're getting low on water. We go through a lot of it to keep ourselves hydrated while we hike, run, and climb.
Oh, forgot to mention my head is shaved, just like the other two recruits. I'm bald. Hoping maybe this will turn you on?
All my love to you,
P.S. It's morning now, waiting on the helicopter. Sarge woke us up late last night and gave us our first mission. I was scared as could be and it only turned out to be a training exercise with two guys from Team One acting like approachers sneaking in. Sarge faked an ankle injury and put me in charge. We did great. Not sure what it means putting me in charge since I'm the youngest, but we'll see.
Starting weapons training today, wahoo!
Her eyes were misty when she placed the letters down on the coffee table. "I miss you too, baby, I miss you like crazy. Bald or hairy, I'll take you any way you come, just get back here... and in one piece!"
After giving Teddy her undivided attention for several minutes she told him, "Daddy says he misses you just as much as you miss him. He'll be home soon, I promise."
It hurt her heart to see Teddy lying down at the front door as she went through the normal routine when getting ready to close up the house for the night.
"Goodnight Teddy," she called out just before turning off the last lamp and filling the room with darkness.
Caria missed having Teddy in bed, but she also understood that until Zack was home again things would remain out of kilter for them both. Finding her way to bed she laid there tossing and turning, unable to fall asleep. Instead she removed her sleep clothing and returned to the bed nude. She knew what she needed, but Zack wasn't there to give it to her. She'd have to make do on her own.