Tuesday, November 26, 2013

#C

#7

Dear Diary,

I dreamt about Amy again the previous night. She was standing on one side of the train tracks, and I on the other, separated by a sea of zeds below us. To my horror I saw that they were all on fire. Rather than dying, the fire seemed to be a part of them. Their eyes glowed brightly red as they mindlessly stretched their hands, reaching out for us from below.

For the longest time we stood there, facing each other. Her face had the saddest look that I had ever seen in my entire life, and a feeling of sorrow bubbled inside me. Her signature ponytail adorned the back of her head, and she was wearing the very same shirt that I saw her wear more than four years ago, in a dance studio back in my hostel. However, this time the shirt was stained with blood. Something tore at my heart.

I was still contemplating on what I could do, when Amy suddenly raised her arm. She slowly motioned for me to walk over, pulling me in. It was like a cue for my feet as they began to walk automatically. They seemed to have taken a life of their own. One step after another and before long, I was fast approaching the edge of the track. As my feet left the ledge, I expected myself to fall into the sea of zeds below me. But I did not. I just kept walking, over the gap, and the zeds that were beneath me, as if I was on an invisible bridge. I could see all the zeds beneath my feet, savagely clawing at me.

Amy's hand kept beckoning, drawing me closer. Her mouth moved in silence, and it looked like she was trying to tell me something. When I reached the other side of the track, I discovered that the girl was not Amy at all, but Julie. Her eyes were suddenly swollen and her cheeks red, and her left hand held a bloodied knife. She reached out her right hand to me, and just as I was about to take it, her face turned grey. Malformed flesh seemed to take its place. I screamed when I saw this, but instead of my usual voice, only a throaty zed’s voice came out. The figure standing in front of me was no longer anyone I knew, but rather a hideous figure of grey and lumps of flesh, its yellowish teeth gnashed at me. Her hands, now shaped like claws, rose to swipe me. However just as she was about to do that, something pulled the support that I was standing on, and I fell into the mass of zeds below me. As I landed among them, they tore at my skin and sunk their teeth into my flesh. Before I knew it, I saw myself amongst them. A mindless grey monster lumbering with the thousands of similar creatures around me.

I awoke with beads of sweat running down my forehead. The early morning sunlight was beginning to shine into the train. From afar, the sound of a thousand zeds gathering was clearly audible. It sent shivers down my spine, reminding me of the dream that I had.

Our two new friends were wide awake, and Mike was already busy talking to KM. I could hear them sharing their personal stories from the army, and about how KM’s platoon recently got wiped out from within before they even had a chance to fight. His story of how his sergeant transformed into a zed overnight, even though he did not go for CGT eerily reminded me of James. A cigarette stick each hung from their hands, as they stood near the exit where we came in yesterday. Daniel and Julie were still sleeping near the far side of the train, Daniel's arms wrapped tightly around Julie's body.

“Sweet isn’t it,” came Jack’s voice, when he caught me eyeing them. He was sitting directly opposite me, with a can of sausages in his hand. He took one out and threw it into his mouth. As he munched on it, he asked for my name and the story of our group. We had not been formally introduced, as the most of us went straight to sleep the previous night before after only giving them our names. Our journey on the train tracks had been exhausting. I did not know about Mike though, because even as I was rapidly falling asleep, he was still awake. And now he is up and about even before me.

I told Jack my name, shook his hands as how I would normally, and proceeded to tell him that we were the Zed Resistance Group. At the mention of the name, he sniggered. I could clearly see that he was trying to stop himself from laughing.

“What, you guys actually have a group name?” he asked with a bewildered but clearly amused face.

I was a little offended at his reaction, but then again, I guessed that I would have reacted in the same way too if I was in his situation. Having a group of strangers turning up at your doorstep calling themselves the Zed Resistance Group seemed weird, if not funny. Having a common name to bond us was better than being a loose collection of random survivors, I told him, and after hearing that, he sunk back into his seat. He played with his chin for a while, perhaps contemplating about coming up with a group name as well for himself and his friend. After a while, however, he shouted over to KM and asked him whether he would be interested to join in this Zed Resistance Group of ours. KM replied to say that he was already part of the group because Mike asked him and he thought that it was a cool idea. Jack smiled.

I then proceeded to ask Jack about his side of the story. He told me about how he had spent the first two weeks of the outbreak in his home and how boredom caused him to venture outside, only to be attacked by a zed in his neighbouring house. He killed the zed, of course, his first kill since the outbreak, and how he discovered, by accident, that a stab through the heart is the key to killing zeds. The zed had lunged for him from across the room and purely by reflex, he grabbed a screwdriver from nearby table and pointed it upwards. It went right through the heart. He was lucky to be looking away, he said, or else the flesh and blood from the zed would have ended up in his mouth.

He continued his story by telling me how he came up with the idea to head for the army camp nearest to his home, thinking that it would be a logical decision to seek refuge there. To his dismay, however, he discovered that the entire camp was already overrun with zeds. It was there where he met KM, and KM would later explain to him how the camp fell and was not able to mount a counter attack when the outbreak broke out. KM told Jack about how the sergeant had transformed into a zed overnight, compromising the camp entirely. They had not expected an outbreak to happen from the inside and when it did, they were ill prepared. The fact that it happened during the night made it worse.

KM was on sentry duty that night, and as usual, he had sneaked off to take a smoke break. Halfway through his break he heard a loud explosion from his camp, and quickly rushed towards it. By the time he reached the source of the explosion, most of his fellow soldiers were either dead or had become a zed, and the others were scrambling to run away. KM wondered why there was no counter attack, but quickly realized why when he saw that the armoury was heavily infested. The soldiers simply were not able to get there without being killed. KM was lucky that he was on sentry duty, as it was compulsory for a soldier to carry a rifle when he is on duty.

Just as KM was contemplating his next move, a zed suddenly jumped on him. He instinctively aimed his gun, released the safety and fired at the zeds chest. What he did was purely a reflex action, something that he was trained to do. Aim for the body part with the biggest mass. Had he been allowed to think, he would have gone for the head first. KM was lucky that the zeds were not anything like the zombies in popular culture.

It was not long before KM discovered that discharging his gun was not a good idea after all. The zeds had heard his gunshot and were now converging on him. KM told Jack of how he began to run, the fastest that he ever did in life, to one of the nearby infantry carriers. He felt the hands of a zed brushed pass his uniform in the process. He did not dare to look behind him to see the number of zeds chasing him. All he knew was to run.

Another soldier was already on the vehicle by the time KM reached, and he quickly climbed up to the top to help the soldier open the hatch into the carrier. The hatched opened after a few seconds and just as they were about to jump in, the other soldier was dragged from the vehicle by a zed and down to the ground. KM of course took up his gun and began to shoot at the zeds, some of whom used to be his friends, in an effort to free the soldier. He emptied an entire clip of ammo at the zeds, but it did not have any effect as he could only watch helplessly as the zeds mauled him over. In the end, KM had no choice but to jump into the carrier alone and lock the hatch behind him. And then, he waited. Two days later, Jack appeared.

Jack told me how he had approached the camp at night, as he noticed how the zeds were more inactive at night by that time. He figured it would be best for him to move at night. When he reached the army camp, he was surprised at how deserted it looked. The front gate was broken open, apparently a vehicle had crashed through it. Aside from the few zeds clearly visible in the middle of the camp, there was no sign of life anywhere. Jack could only assume that the worst had happened. Instead of finding survivors, Jack changed his plans to source for defensive equipment instead.

Jack scoured through the camp, avoiding the zeds as best as possible until he came to the vehicle hangar. A few of the trucks, armour, and infantry carriers still stood there, and Jack wondered if he could use one of them for transport. He was deciding halfway when one of the vehicles’ hatch opened and out popped a figure. Instinctively he dashed to a corner to hide. A light from a flashlight, however, landed near Jack, and he understood that the figure might be a human after all. He took the cue and slowly approached the vehicle, and KM's first words to him was, "Do you have water?"

Jack and KM spent a few more days in the camp, stocking up and deciding on their next course of action. The vehicle that they were in became their headquarters, and slowly, they began to thin out the zeds surrounding in the camp. They would sneak out every night to kill any zeds stragglers in silence using only a sharp melee weapon and books strapped to his arms. He would sneak up to the zed from behind, and before the zed noticed anything, he would press the book into the zed's mouth to prevent the zed from biting anything, and then stab it through the heart. They continued this for several days until they were able to move around the camp freely without the danger of being spotted.

In the end, both Jack and KM were able to reach the armoury and arm themselves and decided that instead of driving a vehicle, they would continue on foot instead. They decided that going by vehicle was too noisy and dangerous, and it did not offer the same flexibility that walking does.

"Did you all follow the horde here as well?" Jack suddenly asked me, breaking his story. I must have looked puzzled, to which Jack replied, "I guess not." Listening to his story, I found it fascinating how, like Julie, Daniel, and Mike, Jack and KM had independently discovered the way of killing the zeds by themselves. They had not met each other before and each of them came from unique circumstances. Julie with her dad, Jack his neighbour and KM his platoon mate. Perhaps this single act of effectively killing a zed on the first try is an important factor in determining who survives and who does not. After all, if you had stabbed the zed in the wrong place on the first try, the chance of you being infected is almost as certain as death and taxes. Perhaps that was the reason all of us survived in the first place. That we simply got lucky.

He continued his story by saying how they had saw a gigantic horde of zeds moving in the same direction a few days after they left the camp, and they decided to follow it from afar. They were curious as to where the zeds were going.

For several days they tracked the zeds, making sure to maintain a distance between the zeds by staying in the buildings. The zeds were going to some place alright, but Jack and KM had no idea where. There were possibly tens of thousands of them, Jack said, and how seeing them from afar was like seeing a sea of grey flooding the streets.

Almost two weeks into following the zeds and observing their behaviour, Jack and KM began to notice a change in their behaviour. Instead of just ambling slowly like they initially did, the zeds in front began to pick up their pace and run. Jack noticed this when he was on the 7th floor of a nearby flat and only when he climbed up to the roof on the 20th floor did he understand why. The zeds had found their prey.

For one whole day Jack and KM watched as the army battled the zeds. They watched as how tanks and jets rained down bombs on the zeds approaching the barricade, and how it shook the very building that they were on. They continued to watch how even with each pass from the aircraft, the zeds continued to run closer to the barricade. They watched as the small arms fire broke out from the area around the flyover bridge. Snipers were stationed on the roof and train station, machine guns on the bridge, and infantry near the barricade. They watched how the soldiers stood their ground for one whole day, firing non-stop air and armour supported. They watched helplessly as the frequency of shots began to die down, to their surprise, and how the zeds began to overrun the blockade. They saw how a few soldiers were able to survive the ordeal and escaped using the tracks, which was why they were here in the first place. However, as the bulk of the horde remained near the train station, they were forced to backtrack and take the track route from Woodlands itself, which was why they were already slow in catching up with the soldiers.

Jack asked me as to our destination and I told him. KM seemed to agree with our reasoning that there might be survivors in the Sembawang naval base and the both of them agreed to join us. By now Daniel and Julie had already woken up, and they were glad to hear of Jack's and KM's intentions. Our Zed Resistance Group had just grown to six members.

We shared a light breakfast together, and decided to wait until evening to begin our journey. We rested as much as we could during the wait, as we would need our energy later. As the sun began to set in the horizon, we picked up our bags and continued eastwards. Our journey towards the naval base was relatively easy, and both our groups exchanged stories about our life before the zeds. The stories consisted mostly of happy stories though, and I noticed how we are all reluctant to share the sadder part of our lives.

It took us more than half a day to reach the vicinity of Sembawang Naval Base, and despite the zed horde near Admiralty, the station before Sembawang, the area around the Sembawang train station seemed relatively empty. It was not until we began to approach the base, that the number of zeds began to grow. Seeing that the sun was almost rising and we were not going to progress any further, Julie asked if we are okay with settling in one the nearby flats for one night, and we all agreed. A part of me was secretly worried that the naval base would turn out to be another disappointment, but I kept my doubts to myself. We had all made it so far, and it would not be logical for me to be the wet blanket now.

To make surveillance easier, we picked one of the highest flats in the area that had a clear view of the sea and the naval base. Of course, a higher flat also meant more work for us as we needed to climb up entirely on foot. We agreed to settle on the 10th floor for today. As usual, it was not easy for us. For every step we took on the staircase, we had to be sure that there were no zeds around us. So far we have noticed that zeds prefer not to hang out in corridors and balconies, but there were exceptions when some of the balconies received direct sunlight for the most of the day. Sometimes we would spot three to four zeds gathering around spots such as these. Luckily for us, there were no zeds on the 10th floor and in the unit we picked, and we quickly settled in. Mike immediately laid on the couch, while I took out the book and pen that I had put in my pocket. Jack and KM announced that they were going to try and take a look at the naval base from the kitchen, which had a better view of the surroundings. Daniel and Julie, meanwhile, said that they were going to scout around our floor.

I was halfway through my previous day's entry when Jack shouted to us from the kitchen, telling us that we should see something. Mike and I quickly dashed to the windows where Jack was standing. KM was still looking intently at the distance.

"I think I see survivors, but I think some of them are actually feeding the others to the zeds," Jack said. I could see how his face was clearly worried. I tried to look at the distance, but without any equipment such as binoculars to help, I could only squint at the small figures standing on top of what appeared to be a platform behind the fences. To my horror, I could see that what Jack had said was indeed true. A man in what appeared to be an army uniform was dangling from a rope as a group of people lowered him unto the ravenous zeds that were below him. One of the man on the platform appeared to be talking to him, what about, I could not know. When the man was finished, the soldier actually spat on the man. We could only watch helplessly when, with a swipe of his hands, the people holding the rope actually released their grip and the soldier fell into the sea of grey beneath him.

"Did they just purposely kill the soldier by releasing him into a sea of zeds?" Mike finally blurted out. We were still too stunned to give an answer but from behind us, came a voice that did.

"You are right, that you are." The voice was not one of ours. A few clicks accompanied his voice and when I turned back, I saw a burly man, dressed in a brown jacket and cargo pants. He had the look of a hearty business owner and beside him, stood three guys with their guns aimed at us. I secretly slipped my book and pen into the pockets behind my trousers.

"Now put your hands where I can see them."


*****

P/s: As this is a work in progress and as I am trying to finish the story before November ends and not forgetting that I have work from 9-6 everyday, there might be grammar errors here and there and if you spot one, I would sincerely apologize for it. I am looking to publish this story, so if you spot any spelling or grammar mistakes, I would greatly appreciate it if you could let me know by dropping a comment after each post. Proofreading your own work is confusing after all. I won't forget your kindness!






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