Chapter 12: Mark Jones, September 15th, Year 0

I set my alarm to wake me up with low-volume music at first light. I took the time to make coffee and eat a good breakfast. It was going to be a long day.

I got up to my hunting window. There were seven zombies feeding on my bait. It took ten arrows to kill them all. When I went down to get my arrows, I noticed that the dead zombies weren’t rotting. I remembered reading that a dead zombie’s flesh was still full of live viruses and that, given enough time, a zombie could heal from a head wound. I took my mace and broke in the tops of all the zombie skulls. I’ve never crushed a skull before. It was like smashing melons—you could hear a thunk, followed by a quiet squishy splash. You didn’t quite hear the squish; you felt it. I had a large pile of bodies out in my front yard and I was grateful that I was being spared the stench of rotting flesh. Why didn’t zombies rot?

It was time to explore my neighbors’ homes. I made the decision to use my neighbors’ dining room tables to board up my main floor windows and reinforce my doors. Wooden dining room tables are made up of extremely strong water-resistant plywood. Since I was going to be indoors without a lot of room to run, I put on my leather pants and jacket. I also wore my mountain bike arm and leg armor. I considered wearing a helmet but again decided not to. Having better vision was more important.

As I thought about having to explore unlit houses, my heart rate started to rise. Man, I didn’t want to go up against another vampire. Too bad I couldn’t see through walls. Wait a minute: One of the first things I had done when I started renovating my house was to tear down all the walls so I could insulate it properly. When the house had been originally built in the 1950s, it wasn’t standard practice to use any insulation. I had a drinking buddy at the time who worked as a firefighter. He advised me to use a thermal camera to see where my house needed insulation. He knew about thermal cameras because firefighters use them to look through smoke and walls. Thermal cameras help firefighters find fires in buildings and can also find trapped people. If I could salvage a thermal camera from the local fire station, I would be able to look into a house from the outside and see if there were vampires in it.

When Bob had been alive, he must have had a body temp of at least 120. There was no way something that fast or that strong could have a slow metabolism. Vampires were turbo charged humans. They would need a lot more oxygen than humans. It made sense that nailing a vamp in the heart would bring it down. A vamp needed a constant flow of new oxygen and new fuel all its tissues. This required a constant stream of blood. Shut off the blood supply and the vamp would shut down. With a thermal camera, I would be able to see through walls. I could see the vampire before it saw me.

The closest fire station was on 15 West and 1300 South, which was about two-and-a-half miles northwest from my house. Salt Lake City and its suburbs, like Sugar House, are laid out in a grid pattern. The Salt Lake City Temple is the center and then every street out from the Temple is labeled by its coordinates based on how far north, south, east, or west it is from the Temple. Many streets in Utah are described by coordinates rather than having street names. Before the zombie outbreak, two-and-a-half miles was almost next door to me; now it seemed like a huge distance. I had to decide whether it was better to get the thermal camera first or to explore my neighbors’ homes first. The fire station may not even have a thermal camera. I decided I needed to secure my house and neighborhood first.

When I left my house two days ago, I hadn’t known what to expect. I’d been worried that if a zombie had a chance to scream, I would be attacked by a mass of zombies. I knew now that as long as I kept the sound down to a reasonable level, and took all the zombies out in a couple of minutes, I was good. I needed to start gathering dining room tops. I got a backpack and put some tools and a battery-operated skill-saw in it. I thought about bringing my bow, but how was I going to carry a quiver of arrows, and a mace along with my tools? It was easier in books and movies. You always had the tools you needed without ever worrying about how to carry the damn things. I needed to figure out how to carry my mace and bow at the same time.

I went to my next door neighbor’s house, the one on the opposite side of my house from where I had salvaged the picnic table. I knew the Jacksons had a kitchen table and a nice cherry veneer formal dining room table. The back door was locked. I brought out my bump key set. I learned about bump keys from a documentary. Locksmiths in Denmark figured out how to make a skeleton key that can open any pin tumbler lock. They are called bump keys because you put the key into keyhole and then bump and jostle it to get it to work. I’d checked on the internet and found that these bump keys were cheap. Fiddling around with technology is one of the ways I used to kill time, so I bought a set. Sure, I could have smashed open the door, but there was a good reason to not break through a window or door: noise. I needed to use the skill-saw. If I broke through a window or door, there would be a lot more noise coming from the house.

I opened the door and entered. My mace was ready. I closed the door and moved over to the dining room, which couldn’t be seen from the front of the house. The dining room had a vaulted ceiling that was high enough. I pushed the table over to a corner that backed into two walls and got on top of it. I turned and faced the two openings out of the dining room. I called out, “Hey zombie, zombie, zombie, zombie. Come out to play-ay.” There was no way I was going to be one of those idiots in horror movies that wandered around a dark house just asking to be ambushed. Zombies are attracted to sound. I was going to draw them out where I could see them while I was in an easily defendable position.

When I had looked at the surveillance tapes recorded by my cameras, I tried to see which of my neighbors had left their homes or had been killed. I hadn’t seen any of the Jacksons—mom, dad, or two teenage kids—leave their home.

“Hey zombie, zombie, zombie, come and get it.”

I heard slow footsteps coming toward me. It sounded like all four of the Jacksons had turned. I was glad I had gloves on. My palms were wet. All of the Jacksons arrived. When they were alive, the entire family had been obese. In the past couple of days since they had turned, they looked like they’d all lost weight. It was subtle; maybe it was just the coloration. I guess being grey would make you look skinnier than being white.

I stepped back. They couldn’t reach me without climbing on the table. I brought my mace down on top of Felix’s head. His head collapsed with a crunch and, as he collapsed, I kicked his body toward his dad to slow him down. This gave me the time to hit his sister’s head just as she was getting to the table. Al Jackson had only been slowed for a second by his son’s body. I struck straight down on his head with so much force the head of my mace went down past his nose. I was glad that I had thought to make a mace. If I had used an axe, it probably would have gotten stuck in Al’s head and that would have been bad.

Bashing in zombie heads was a skill like any other. At first, you waste energy and make beginner mistakes. I was learning the exact amount of force necessary to crush a skull. I hit Susan Jackson with a sideways stroke aimed at her left temple. I used the turn of my torso to generate the force. The muscles of my arms were loose. In both golf and baseball, if you try to generate force with your arms you actually lose power. I figured it would be the same with skull crushing. My grip was firm but not overly tight. Yup, it was perfect. Susan’s head collapsed with a minimum of effort.

I called out again and waited. No more footsteps. The skill-saw would be louder than my voice. I walked through the house to make sure all the windows and doors were closed. I did not go down into the basement. It was going to be a long day. I needed another ten table tops.

Chapter 13