Chapter 9: Hiram Rockwell, March 2nd, Year 1

The dogs were chasing two deer toward us. I made eye contact with Frank Burns. He nodded back. He and I would take the deer.

We were on what used to be a quiet neighborhood street on the east foothills of the mountains bordering Salt Lake City. The deer were being chased toward us by dogs. Before the zombie outbreak there had already been deer in the suburbs. In the last 6 months, the deer population had exploded. After we cleared the zombies, abandoned yards and household gardens became ideal grazing ground for deer. Deer had no reason to stay high in the mountains when there was a massive increase of perfect lower elevation habitat.

The deer came into view. I took the one on the left. I must have hit the heart because it fell immediately. Frank doesn’t miss; his dropped too. I turned and smiled at my men. It was a great day.

Until February of this year, people had been focused purely on survival. Fresh food wasn’t a high priority. In the last couple of months, we had finished fortifying our town and didn’t have to worry about day to day survival. My men and I were out for fresh meat. With the two I had just nailed, we had 4 deer. The Salt Lake Troopers were going to have fresh venison tonight.

Pedro called in the dogs and we rewarded them with the deer intestines and brains. Everything else including the liver, heart and kidneys were saved. Americans in the past didn’t eat organ meat. Things were different now. Fresh food of any sort was hard to come by. Nowadays, nothing was wasted.

Before I met Pedro, I had no idea that there had been sheep herders all over the American west. Most of these herds were owned by Basques from Spain who had immigrated to the States decades ago. The Basques were getting too old to camp out in the mountains so they imported herders from Peru and Chile. Pedro was Peruvian. He had been at Park City for 2 years when the zombies broke out.

On the morning of September 11th, he had been camped out with his animals up in the mountains surrounding Park City. He heard the emergency broadcast on his radio so he stayed up high avoiding everything: zombies, vampires, and other people. Pedro got rid of his sheep shortly after the outbreak. He decided that sun-dried mutton jerky was more useful than live sheep. Mutton jerky and his dogs helped keep him alive. His dogs could smell the Zombies before they came in sight.

His dogs caught rabbits and chased deer toward him. He didn’t have a gun but he made a spear and used it to catch a few deer. He didn’t eat well but he wasn’t starving when he found us. Vampires are attracted to large groups of people. By staying away from other survivors, Pedro avoided vampires. Pedro didn’t even know vampires existed until he found us.

In early December, winter storms had hit the highlands hard. Pedro had drop down to a lower elevation. When Pedro hiked down into Salt Lake City, he found a zombie trap. The outbreak caused massive destruction. There were fires and explosions throughout the city. Homes and buildings burned down to the foundations. We cleared the debris out of foundations and then built three foot high walls around them. Dead zombies were then thrown into the pits to attract live ones. Once a zombie got into a trap it couldn’t get out. Every zombie trap had instructions and a map painted on its walls describing how to find us.

I’ve never been a dog person. As it was, being active duty military with multiple deployments, I couldn’t have a dog. Before the outbreak, most dogs were pets. Very few pets out-survived their owners. The feral dogs that learned how to live without human help were big animals. Dumb humans don’t survive long when surrounded by zombies. The same weeding out process went on for dogs.

Pedro started a business capturing feral dogs and training them. I don’t know how good he was as a sheepherder but he was amazing as a dog trainer. His dogs were taught to bark if they smelled vampires and to silently warn humans if they smelled zombies. The dogs could also point out game and herd them back to hunters.

Pedro loved working with dogs; he tolerated working with people. He refused to sell his dogs to anyone that he thought was unworthy. He told me that any idiot can love a dog. It took discipline and constant work to keep a dog trained. He complained that it was a hell of a lot easier to train dogs than to find people who could be trusted to take keep them properly. Pedro was out with us training four men he selected as having the potential of becoming good K9 troops.

The plan was to have dogs out in the field with the SaLTs at all times. Since the Outbreak we used a thermal camera to look for vampires; vampires have a body temp of at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit. We employed the camera to look through walls to make sure that a vampire couldn’t ambush us. The problem was that we only had one camera. Dogs could smell a vampire from a couple hundred feet away and there were plenty of dogs.

The thermal camera couldn’t pick out zombies because the zombies were cold blooded. Their body temp was the same as the air temp. Zombies for the most part weren’t much of a problem for a trained Salt Lake Trooper. Still a dog’s ability to smell or hear one before a human could was nice. The Troopers were often out on patrol and with the dogs help, often came back with fresh meat. You didn’t have to learn how to track animals, zombies, or vampires if you had a trained dog. People wanted dogs as fast as Pedro could train them. Lucky for us, we were the government. We got first dibs.

We split the deer into multiple pieces and we all carried meat as we ran toward home. We were about four miles from the Fortress when the dogs started to bark. They clustered around a manhole cover. A vampire was in the sewer system nearby. The Heavenly Father works in mysterious ways. Almost all the SaLTs were civilians seven months ago. I was the only one that had any real US military combat experience. Amazingly our officers were as good if not better than the ones I had when I was on active duty. Vampires were holing up in the sewers during the day. We hadn’t done much about this besides reinforcing and locking the manhole covers in the Fortress so they couldn’t use the sewer system to bypass our walls. It would have been suicide to go into a tunnel looking for a vampire. Jim Wright, one of our lieutenants had come up with an idea on how to clear the vampires out. It was a good time to see how it worked.

I pulled out my walkie-talkie, “Sergeant Rockwell, calling Director Jones.”

“Yeah Hiram, what’s up?”

“Got a vampire in the sewer, thought it would be a good time to check out Jim’s idea.”

“Sounds good, it will take time to gather up the men and equipment. Plan on us getting there in an hour.”

I had the K9 guys spread out. Pedro and each SaLT trainer split up. They had the dogs check out every manhole cover in the area. I wanted to know which holes the vampire was using. In the meantime, I had men start up a fire and set up our field cooking gear. It was close to lunch time. Small chunks of fresh deer meat hand rubbed with salt and spices, cooked over an open flame is awesome.

We finished eating when the Director arrived. He sniffed the air. “Man that smells good. I need to go on patrol more often.”

Every manhole where the dogs had scented vampire was opened. A steel wire net was placed over the openings. The Director bought a gasoline fuel tanker with him. We attached hoses to the tanker and pulled them to all the holes. The EMP had destroyed almost all our vehicles. Only diesel vehicles were being repaired. I hadn’t known this before but gasoline goes bad after a few months; diesel fuel stays good for a lot longer and is much easier to clean/refine when it does go bad. We didn’t have the equipment to get the gasoline cleaned up enough to use in cars and trucks. Bad gasoline was being used for other things. It was the fuel of choice to heat the container apartments. Entrepreneurs were selling gasoline furnaces to heat homes and to heat water. Before the Outbreak, thousands of gallons of gasoline were being pumped every hour in Salt Lake. The amount we were using for heat now was miniscule in comparison. We had plenty of gas for our needs.

Half the fuel in the tanker was emptied into the sewers. We then attached thirty feet long steel pipes to the hoses. Six feet from the tip the pipes bent 90 degrees. The steel pipes were put into the sewers. At the count of three every nozzle was turned into a flame thrower. There was a loud thump that was almost a sonic boom and flames exploded out of every open manhole.

About fifteen seconds later, a burning figure flew out of the hole two hundred feet away from us. It was screaming. The vampire tried to charge us; it got tangled up in the steel net. Vampires are tough. It was in the middle of turning the net into shreds when Frank Burns shot it in the head with a .458 Magnum round. The top half of the vampire’s head turned into mist. Jim Wright’s system had worked perfectly. It wasn’t the flames that had forced the vampire out into daylight. The gas flames/explosion used up every bit of oxygen in the nearby sewers. The flame throwers used up the oxygen faster than it could replenish. Vampires need to breathe. Jim figured that if all the oxygen was used up that a vampire would be forced to jump out the nearest hole.

The Director chuckled, “This is the day for a barbecue.”

My men and I started laughing. It was an awesome day.

Chapter 10