Chapter 3: Mark Jones, September 13th, Year 0

After I closed the door and locked it, I went downstairs and immediately pulled up all my surveillance cameras in real-time. My 60-inch flat screen was big enough to show me what was in view of every camera around my house. I had made sure when I installed them that there were no blind spots.

The only zombie action by the house was in the street. In order to protect the privacy of my neighbors, I had purposely not aimed any cameras into any of my neighbors’ homes. I now wished I hadn’t done that. I made sure that the alarms on my doors and windows and the pressure sensors were on, but also made sure to turn down the alarm volume. I had installed the alarm system myself. I could choose three settings: one setting was the typical high-decibel alarm which, if it went off, would likely bring every zombie within hearing distance to my house; another caused the bedroom light to turn on and flicker without sound; and the last would cause Vanilla Ice’s song “Ice Ice Baby” to come on at low volume. This was a song I normally would never play. I set my alarm to Vanilla Ice.

I went to the wet bar next to my futon and poured myself double bourbon on the rocks. I always knew that I was a self-absorbed bastard, but I never thought I’d be so self-involved that I would miss the end of the world. Looking back on the last few weeks I could see that people had been discussing the zombie outbreaks around me, but I hadn’t noticed. None of the people I had talked to in the past month, including the guys I had gone to bars with since the problems had started, had been close friends enough for me to care about what they were saying—to actually listen instead of faking it. I hadn’t dated anyone, much less slept with anyone, for the past six months. Almost every woman I have ever dated called me narcissistic, and I knew I was a little. I now realized that using the adjective ‘little’ was like calling Mount Everest ‘small’.

I opened up a corner of my flat screen to my DirecTV. This allowed me to keep an eye on my outside camera views. I tried to pull up local TV stations. There was no signal. I tried CNN, Fox, Headline News, and every other news channel. I got nothing. HBO and Showtime were still showing movies, as was the Playboy Channel. The History Channel was still on. It looked as if only the channels that were pre-programmed were on. Every channel or network that required live humans was off the air.

I turned on my stereo and for the first time since I installed it, I turned the radio on. I got static on all the FM channels I had pre-set. I tuned the radio to the two NPR stations in Salt Lake City and got an American Emergency Broadcast signal. The only signal I got on an AM channel was a repeat loop recording that listed all the local emergency centers that people in the Salt Lake region were supposed to go to. The closest emergency center to my house was the local high school.

I got back on Google. I put in the search terms Zombie Outbreak and Vampires that had been updated in the last six months and got millions of hits. Almost all of the hits were cached, meaning that the original websites were down and that these had been replicated on Google servers. It took me about an hour to write a C# program that automatically copied all these files onto my own hard drive. I’ve taken a few computer classes and I would never claim to be a programmer, but I can put together a program for something as simple as automating mouse clicks. I have always had a ridiculous amount of digital memory at my house, bought to store thousands of movie files that I had never bothered to use. I didn’t know how long Google would be up. I wanted to make sure I could get access to what Google had amassed, even if Google went down.

You are probably wondering why I still had power. The answer to all the unusual things about me and my house can be answered by three things:

1. I’m a guy.

2. I have more money than I need.

3. I am always looking for ways to kill time.

I bought my house right around the time that global warming became a big deal. To tell you the truth, I’m agnostic about whether global warming is real or not and I don’t really care. But I like fiddling with interesting technology, and renewable energy is interesting. After I bought my house I put in an array of solar panels and solar water heaters that took up my entire back yard and the roof of my 2.5-car garage. I dug up my entire back yard and put in an underground storage facility that I called my lair. I had room in my lair for a 20,000-gallon cistern, a fully stocked woodworking shop, and some basic metal working equipment. Because of my solar panels, I didn’t need a geothermal heating unit but since I put in a well, I had one installed. I even went independent in my use of the internet. I didn’t use a phone or cable line; I had satellite internet access.

I was never a survivalist; I never thought there would an apocalypse. By the sheer coincidence of having too much money and too much time, my house had become the perfect place to survive a zombie outbreak.

I logged back on to my outside surveillance video footage. This time I didn’t focus on Mary. I knew how that story would end. I paid attention to which houses on the street were homes that the families had evacuated on-time and those that were not. Some of my attacked neighbors had guns. Everyone with a gun got a couple shots off, with mixed effects, but was soon taken down by zombies.

About a half-hour after the start of the zombie attack on my neighborhood, a cop car with lights flashing arrived. By this time, all my neighbors had multiple zombies on top of them. The driver used his pistol to shoot at some zombies, but he missed. Another cop was in the passenger seat shooting an AR-15 out the window. He almost always shot a zombie in the head. He was an amazing shot. I forgot about keeping quiet; I started cheering, “Come on man, kill them all.” The driver never stopped. He drove 20 to 30 miles an hour, knocking down zombies, and running over the people they were attacking. I don’t know if he was doing this on purpose but he was probably doing the people a favor.

Being run over didn’t seem to faze the zombies but, for the most part, put people out of their miseries, either by killing them or sending them into shock. If these creatures were anything like the movie zombies, one bite meant death and all the people he ran over had been bitten. Once the cop reached the cul-de-sac, he dropped his gun and did a bootlegger spin. His pistol wasn’t a loss because I don’t think he had hit a single zombie. All the while his partner was blowing zombie after zombie’s heads off. The cop car blew out of street going at least 50 when it passed the stop sign. It didn’t stop. Man, I hope those guys survived.

The zombies that were still standing all had their mouths open like they were screaming and most of them tottered slowly after the cop car. Within a few minutes, all the zombies that were capable of walking had left my street following the car, except the ones still gnawing on my ex-neighbors. The zombies that stayed were all clean-platers, chewing every bit of flesh off my neighbors’ bodies. When they got to the bones, they chewed on them like they were dogs. Many of them were smashing my neighbors’ skulls against the concrete sidewalk until the skulls burst open, and then scooping bits of brain out with their hands or just burying their mouths into their open skulls. They seemed to particularly like brains. A couple of zombies had eaten so much that their bellies looked like they were about to explode.

Within a surprisingly short period of time, all trace of my neighbors was gone. The zombies with distended abdomens left, but new ones who were still hungry kept coming into view and started eating the zombies who had just had their heads shot off by the cop. I didn’t see any instances of an animated zombie attacking another animated zombie, but it looked like dead ones were fair game. The sharpshooter cop had killed close to 20 zombies. Less than two hours later, all those were eaten.

Once all the free food was gone, the zombie population on my street dropped to just the ‘Harrisons’ and one other zombie that I didn’t recognize. My street had been full of pet dogs and cats. Any time one of these pets showed up on my cameras, the zombies gave a slow motion chase after them and then about an hour later were back on my street. Most of the rest of the footage just showed the three zombies walking up and down my neighborhood. I fast-forwarded through the boring parts but then noticed that the zombies disappeared from view from about 1 to 4 two nights in a row. It looked like zombies slept.

I was close to the end of the video when I heard gunshots outside my house. I switched to a real-time view on my cameras. The Harrisons and the third zombie, who I had named Bob, took off from view. For about 45 minutes I heard shot after shot. A couple of times it sounded like a machine gun or a fully automatic assault rifle was being fired. Thousands of rounds had to have been shot by the time the shooting stopped. I hoped that the poor bastards that were shooting did ok. I wish I could say that I had to fight off the urge to grab my rifle and go out and try to help; I wasn’t even tempted. Some years back, I bought a Springfield M1A, a civilian version of the US military firearm used in the Korean War, because I thought it would be fun to shoot. Around the same time I bought a Glock pistol and a Smith & Wesson revolver. After a few months of shooting I lost interest in guns but I never got rid of them.

I had seen the cops shoot down close to 20 zombies and saw how little that got them. It was clear that shooting a gun would bring every single zombie within hearing distance. In a suburb like Sugar House, this probably meant thousands of zombies. If I was going to survive killing a zombie, I needed to do it silently so I wouldn’t get swarmed. I couldn’t be certain, because I didn’t have sound on my cameras, but it looked like when a zombie was hunting, it screamed. When the Harrisons and Bob took off just now, they had their mouths open. This meant that if I was attacked, I would have to have either a fast way of getting away or would need to kill every zombie in sight very quickly. I had enough food in my house to last me a few weeks, but sooner or later, I would need to leave my house to look for food.

I kept my cameras on real-time views of my empty street while I started reading some of the more relevant Google hits I’d gotten on the zombie outbreak. According to some articles in January, a foundation run by a software billionaire, along with the World Health Organization, announced that there had been a breakthrough in AIDS research and they were going to start human trials in Kenya. Shortly afterwards, there were rumors being spread by Muslim imams that these vaccines were killing people, and that after they died they were reanimating from their graves. These were the same bozos who a few years ago had been telling Muslim Kenyans to avoid getting polio vaccines because they were made with pig by-products, so not much attention was given to it at first. But then, fuzzy poor-quality cell phone videos began to be posted on YouTube, showing people being attacked by zombies. The software billionaire hadn’t gotten rich by being stupid or slow, so he started disassociating himself from the vaccine and pledged multiple billions to help counteract the side-effect of the vaccine. This pissed off the UN bureaucrats that ran the WHO and a PR war started between the billionaire and the bureaucrats. This press-release war distracted the news media for a few weeks.

On March 13th, a CNN news reporter and his entire team were caught on live feed being eaten by zombies. Within a few days the UN, the United States, and all the African countries surrounding Kenya announced a quarantine of Kenya. The US sent a fleet to stop the flow of ships fleeing the Kenyan coast into the Indian Ocean. Ethiopia, Uganda, and Tanzania set up border guards and tried to stop the refugees from getting into their countries. Their attempts probably wouldn’t have worked anyway, but unfortunately, one of the countries bordering Kenya is Somalia, which hasn’t had a functioning government for years. There wasn’t even an attempt to control the border between Kenya and Somalia.

The idea of zombies in Somalia collectively scared the shit out of the world. The only thing Somalis are known to do well is piracy. The thought of infected Somalis in fast boats caused the world to finally deal with Somali piracy once and for all. Every nation with a functioning navy, even North Korea, sent ships to the Indian Ocean and every Somali boat that didn’t turn back to Somalia after one warning was blown out of the water.

After Kenya and Somalia, the next known outbreak of zombies was in Ethiopia, which was unfortunate enough to border both of these countries. Sudan, which borders Ethiopia, actually stopped its civil war in order to try to control its border. The Sudanese government armed every willing man, woman, and child who was able to hold a gun and gave them the order to shoot anyone approaching their border.

George Romero must have been psychic, because the zombies in Africa were exactly like the ones in his first three zombie movies, beginning with “Night of the Living Dead.” They were slow, always hungry, attracted to sound and light, and the only way to really de-animate them was to destroy their brain. Getting bitten by a zombie was a death sentence. It took a while to die, depending how serious the bite was, but as soon as the bitten person died, it reanimated as a zombie. Getting splattered by bits of zombie juice didn’t seem to lead to infection. A group in southern California started a church, claiming that George Romero was Christ reborn and that he was bringing on the end of days.

The existence of zombies was now a proven fact, but rumors started that people were also getting attacked by vampires. The rumors claimed that these vampires were fast and extremely strong. Supposedly, the vamps were able to run down cars going 40 miles per hour, pick up the car and flip it, and then open it like a can of Spam. The vamps went out only at night and didn’t like artificial light. Candles and torches didn’t seem to faze them. Some stories claimed that a flashlight chased them away and others claimed that a flashlight just pissed them off and that they were more likely to kill you if you had one. No one was ever able to show a tape of these vamps and it seemed like no one was actually an eyewitness to any vamp attack. It was always “a guy who knew a guy who saw a vamp” kind of story. The consensus opinion among the experts was that vampires were a form of hysteria brought on by the knowledge that zombies actually existed.

Obama got his wish: we were now living in a post-partisan world. Once Congress had to deal with zombie outbreaks, all partisan politics disappeared. No one cared what you thought about abortion or taxes. Everyone agreed that Americans had to control their borders. This, of course, meant Mexico; no one cared about the Canadians. All the American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan were immediately being recalled from the Middle East to be deployed to the Mexican border. The Middle East was right next to Africa. All Americans, including the most diehard right-winger, wanted our troops back immediately as soon as it became clear that the zombie outbreak couldn’t be contained in Africa.

Anyone who had ever seen a George Romero movie about zombies basically knew how to fight them. The zombies were slow and predictable. It didn’t make sense, once the world knew what was going on, that zombie outbreaks would get out of control in a developed country like the US. In any fair fight between a close-to-equal number of humans and zombies, the humans should win. Before this outbreak there were 300 million Americans and, last I heard, there were approximately 2.5 guns for every American. Utah is a red state. Almost everyone in Utah has a gun. Hell I personally had three. If my neighbors who had been attacked had not been outnumbered 20-to-one, they probably could have beaten off the zombie attack. It made sense that a continent full of completely fucked-up governments, like Africa, would get overrun. It didn’t make any sense at all for the USA to be overrun when everyone in the US who had been paying attention to the news had to know how to kill zombies. This issue was brought up by numerous articles that I downloaded from Google. Something else was going on. All efforts that should have worked to quarantine the zombie virus weren’t working.

I had been looking over my Google hits for a couple hours when the Harrisons returned with hugely distended bellies. Bob didn’t come back. I told myself that the Harrisons could have been feeding on just dead zombies. It sounded like the shots came from a few miles away. They were probably coming from the local Mormon Church otherwise known as a ward. I didn’t think any government-run shelter for civilians would allow people to bring guns, whereas there is no way a bunch of Mormons preparing for zombies wouldn’t have guns. I hoped that the ward was ok, but regardless, there had to be other survivors within walking distance. I needed to be able to get out of the house and explore. The longer I waited to leave my house, the less likely that I would be able to hook up with any survivors.

This wasn’t a video game where I had an endless supply of lives if I made a mistake. One bite from a zombie meant that I would die within a few days. I had to think this through. I had to take out the Harrisons and any other zombies within hearing distance of my house. I had to do this methodically, and count on being swarmed by zombies from time to time. Zombies had a top speed of two miles an hour. I had just run a 100 mile race. I knew I could outrun zombies for a while but I had to have a way to shake them from my trail and I couldn’t afford to lead them back to my home. I needed a way to silently kill zombies from a distance and quickly kill zombies up-close.

For the past 15 years, I have been using a bow to hunt deer and elk. I got introduced to the bow when I was involved in the Society of Creative Anachronisms in college. Dressing up in metal suits, smacking other guys in metal suits with sticks, and trying to talk like medieval knights got old quickly but I found out that I really liked shooting a long bow. I typically practiced for at least 15 to 20 minutes a couple times a week. Most people who don’t shoot bows don’t know that there are silencers for bows. Many bows will make a twanging sound on the release that can spook a deer. If you tie a bit of fur, string, or feathers to a bow string, you can almost completely eliminate any sound on the release. I already had silencers on my bow. I was going to bow hunt zombies.

I needed an up-close weapon for killing zombies. I can’t stand stupidity in movies. A little piece of me dies every time I see an actor in a horror movie suggest splitting up the group while looking for a vicious monster, or starts looking for the monster without first finding a weapon. I can’t stand most horror flicks because the characters in them are so stupid. I guess that’s why the Romero flicks are considered classics; most of the characters in his movies aren’t stupid. If I had no other options, I would fight a zombie with a baseball bat or an axe, but it would be better to have something heavier than a bat and something that, unlike an axe, couldn’t get stuck in a zombie skull.

There is a door that goes from my bedroom into my lair. As I said, I have a fully equipped woodworking shop and a partially equipped metal working shop in the lair. I used all of this equipment when I was remodeling my house and installing all my renewable energy sources.

I took a double-bit axe that the previous owner of my house had used to split firewood and left behind. It was old but still in good condition. I cut off the axe blades near the handles. I drilled a line of holes on either side of the axe head near the handle and then used a hacksaw to cut between the holes. I wound up with 3-foot-long hickory handle tipped with a metal head that was light enough to swing quickly, but heavy enough to be able to crush through a skull without any protruding blades that could get stuck. The ends where I had cut off the blades were ragged and looked mean; just brushing against them would lacerate flesh. This wasn’t an axe any longer; I had a mace.

I had my weapons. I now needed to decide on clothes. I decided on heavy jeans. I chose to wear my running shoes for more speed, instead of my leather hiking boots which would have given me more protection. I decided to wear a leather motorcycle jacket. I put on mountain bike forearm and elbow pads on the outside of my jacket. With the pads on, I could jam my forearm into a zombie’s mouth if I had to, without risking infection.

I put on my leather motorcycle glove on my left hand; I couldn’t wear the right glove because I needed to be able to use my thumb ring quickly. Most archers in the US use the European-style, a three-fingered grip to shoot a bow. I prefer using the Asian method of using my thumb instead of my fingers to pull back the bowstring. The ring made of horn protects the thumb. Part of the fun in playing Robin Hood is shooting off a bunch of arrows as quickly as you can, which I found easier to do with a thumb ring. I decided not to wear my motorcycle helmet because I needed my peripheral vision. It was a tradeoff between protection vs. being able to see.

I needed to create escape routes that made it difficult for zombies to follow me. I decided to use the fact that most Sugar House homes had fenced-in back yards. These fences were in various states of repair but almost all of them were 6-feet high. When I was in my 20s, I would have thought nothing of jumping over these fences at top speed. At age 46, I never jump when I can step down. I could picture myself vaulting over a 6-foot fence and then landing wrong, twisting my ankle or knee, and being eaten because I couldn’t run. That would be a stupid way to die. If I could install a step 3-and-a-half-feet high on either side of the fence, I could put a foot on the step, pull myself up to the top and then step over, easily clearing my inseam (it’s important to me to protect my crotch), and then lower myself down backwards to the other side.

From what I saw on my camera footage, the zombies might be able to climb up a fence eventually, but would be slower than me, even if they were to use my steps. My next-door neighbor had a redwood picnic table in his back yard, and I could break it up and use the wood to build steps. If I cleared out the fenced-in backyards and secured them so that zombies couldn’t easily wander in and out, I could be reasonably certain that the next time I entered, the yards would still be clear of zombies. Zombies didn’t seem to chase what they couldn’t see or hear.

According to my surveillance footage over the last two days, zombies had a quiet period from 1 to four a.m. I would take out the Harrisons right before 1 a.m. and then break apart my next-door neighbor’s picnic table while the zombies slept.

Chapter 4