Monday, April 08, 2013

My Time in Zombie Writer’s Camp III: The CONFEDERATION Project

In 2008 James Robert Smith and I collaborated on a project we hoped would turn out to be the Winesburg, Ohio of zombie epics, a mosaic tale describing the communities coming together (and squaring off against one another) in the wake of the zombie apocalypse. For various reasons the collaboration fell apart. Bob took his part of the narrative—which included his idea of a border collie manipulating the other abandoned dogs and zombies—and crafted The Living End. I scuffled around for a couple of more years until I came up with The Saga of the Dead Silencer.

For the benefit of those readers who were following the first part of my saga, Bleeding Kansas, and miss having something nasty-mean to read, here’s the third installment I wrote for the project. Of course, if you like this, feel free to pick up Bob’s completed work. Support your local architects of the apocalypse....

Ranger Richard McCracken of the United States Park Service strode through a campsite in the middle of the loop that comprised Wildwood Holler National Forest Campgrounds. The occupants had already run on ahead, leaving four dogs and three deaders to draw flies.

As if these grounds didn’t stink enough with the breakdown in sanitary practices. The racket of honking automobile horns and cheering people told the ranger it would be a while before he could talk anyone into cleaning this particular mess up.

Ranger McCracken emerged on the other side to see that Mark Danzler and Joe Corey had returned with their trucks—and another two trucks besides. Judging by the shine on them it was safe to say they weren’t more refugees. The ranger saw the tailgate of the last truck bumping along the broken asphalt of the loop, five-gallon jerry cans loaded into its flatbed, two men sitting with them. He didn’t see their rifles but the ranger knew they were there. Someone two trucks ahead was throwing packages to the cheering campers.

So Danzler and his boys found New Bethany. Good for them. The church could have these people. Assuming the church would take them. And assuming they would all go—zombie-stupid as most of these dirtbags were, a few were canny enough to know there would be trade-offs.

No more unsupervised expeditions into ghost towns like Franklin to clean out the liquor stores and loot the houses. (Of course, Franklin had been pretty much picked clean these last few months. Ranger McCracken was impressed it had lasted as long as two years, even as clumsy and disorganized as these people were.) No more drinking, no more unsupervised anything.

Worse yet, they’d be expected to pitch in and work. The church no doubt enforced some variation of Captain Smith’s famous decree to the more imperious Puritans among the Plymouth colony: No work, no eat. This wouldn’t sit well with bully boys like Jim Dozark and Brick Jergens, who enjoyed trading “favors” to others who hadn’t the means or ability to get down to Franklin to bring back canned goods and such. Everyone pitching in for the greater good? The strong helping the weak? Why, that’s downright un-American!

Never mind that there was no America left to be “pro” or “un” about. They never missed reminding him of that when they saw him in his uniform asking them to please pick up their trash and don’t crap near the part of the stream people drink from. But when it came to grabbing all the goods and resources and lording it over everyone else — all rise for the National Anthem.

“So,” Ranger McCracken asked Pam Jeffcoat, who was going through the box tossed into her site, “what’s in those care packages they’re giving us?”

“You mean you ain’t seen your own box yet?” said the wiry, leathery skinned woman.

“I don’t know, I just got over here.”

“Well whyn’tchoo go back on over to your own place and find out?”

“‘Cause I’m over here asking you.”

“Whyn’tchoo juss mind yer own bizness! I expect them church people be wantin’ to talk to you in a little bit anyway. You git outta my campsite!”

“Your campsite?”

“Did I stutter?”

“Did you pay for it?”

“With my tax dollars!”

“Really? And when’s the last time you paid taxes, Ms. Jeffcoat?”

“You go to hell, Ranger Rick!”

“Huh. One look at you and I thought I was already there.”

Pam Jeffcoat glowered at Rick McCracken for a moment then went back to rummaging through her box. He thought he saw some variety bags of flavored corn chips and crackers and beef jerky. Pam must have noticed him looking because she put her scrawny blue-jeaned backside between the box and his line of sight — but not before the ranger glimpsed something that chilled his blood as sure as a zombie’s hungry moan behind him.

He stepped back to look around Pam. Yes. That was it.

Knees weak, his stomach suddenly free-floating and not so hungry anymore, Ranger Rick McCracken watched the trucks turning at the bottom of the loop. People chased and cheered after them while others at the sites ripped through the boxes for something different, something good to eat.

He stepped out into the road and began walking towards his cabin. He resisted the urge to run. No matter what any of the others thought about this, tonight was still on. For him if for no one else.
Hey, some dark woods! What’s the worst that could happen?

Copyright © 2008, 2013 by Lawrence Roy Aiken

The Living End © 2013 by James Robert Smith