I groaned, something didn’t feel right. Actually lots of things didn’t feel right, starting with the fact I seemed to have my skin on inside out. I don’t know if it was the vodka jellies, the vodka shots or possibly the vodka punch. All I knew was my squad slayed our version of ‘Girls just wanna have fun’ at the Karaoke free for all. And possibly I had one too many vodkas, before somebody snuck morning much closer than I expected it.
I swung my legs over the bunk as the klaxon kept on shrieking at me. I had fifteen minutes to be locked, loaded and ready for duty. Thankfully my auto pilot still worked and I appeared to have dropped to my bed fully clothed. Score. I don’t have to get dressed.
I grabbed my kit from the chair where I tossed it the night before and headed out the door as fast as my hung over body dared to move. Which was still surprisingly fast, I knew I was working to a tight deadline. The commander would do far more damage to me than a hangover if I missed the ship.
I ran up the gangplank and took my seat amongst the rest of my crew. The interior of the airship was blessed with darkness for the short trip to the hot spot. I leaned my head against the steel wall, letting the coolness of the metal wash over me. My eyelids closed and I let my mind switch to stand-by, catching a few more valuable minutes of sleep on the journey.
All too soon came the bump as we landed. “Roust!” the commander hollered and we rose as one. The gangplank was still lowering as we charged down and jumped the last few feet to the ground. Soldiers fanned out in the small clearing, the forest stretched before us. The moan rose from within the canopy of trees. A miserable wall of sound hit us as the undead tried to articulate their pain and constant hunger.
I reached behind my back for my faithful Bushmaster. Nothing. My fingers grasped at air. What the fuck?! My nails scrambled at the edge of the leather holster, I finally latched on to something much lighter and smaller than I expected. I drew it over my shoulder and into my field of vision.
A cherry red plastic spork.
“Johnson!” I screamed. I knew it was the bastard in accounting. I should never have super glued Styrofoam beads to every surface in his office. But he deserved it for switching our uniforms from cotton to polyester. Nobody wants to wear synthetic fabrics when you were going into action. I don’t care how much cheaper they were to manufacture or how much easier to launder. I don’t just keep my squad alive, I aim to keep them comfortable.
This was his payback. I faced a rolling avalanche of zombies without my weapon. If they got me I was coming back and chewing off both his legs. Let him spend the rest of his miserable office-bound existence as a Crawler.
I stared at the utensil in my hand and contemplated my impending death. I thought my life would flash before my eyes. It didn’t. Instead the naked image of the hunky new captain of Omega Squad flashed up. I had a bet with my sergeant which one of us would bang him first. That’s one bet I’m determined to collect on.
The zombies broached the tree line, staggering like drunken frat boys trying to get home at 2am Sunday morning. They outnumbered us at least ten to one, and I wasn’t counting the oozing blobs of former humanity undulating along the ground. Not a good place to be if you’re holding a novelty spork instead of your trusty Bushmaster. My mind raced, I needed a weapon more substantial than brightly coloured plastic. I cast my head to the right, and thrust my spork into the thigh of the soldier beside me. Johnson’s cousin squealed like a girl and I grabbed the rifle from his loose fingers.
“Thanks, doll,” I yelled as I joined my squad in mowing down the undead. Heads exploded like over ripe zits, sending brains and blood showering down on us as we held rank and pushed back the putrid tide. They fell like store mannequins but the moaning and groaning never stopped. Their arms continued to reach for us. Fingers dug into the earth to haul their desiccated shells closer, mouths open to howl their insane hunger for our flesh.
Once nothing had legs anymore the BBQ Crew joined us and lit up the earth with their flame throwers, sending the twitching lumps of tissue into eternal rest.
Six hours later and gallons of hot water helped me remove the stench of fried brain from every pore of my body. I shrugged on jeans and a t-shirt before heading to the bar for a well deserved drink with my squad and a crack at Omega’s captain. My hand paused on the bar door, my throat longing for an alcoholic hit, when the scream rent the air. The piercing cry echoed along the narrow hallway.
It was the howl of an accountant who discovered something unexpected in his filing cabinet, and I don’t mean a late tax return. I grinned, he had found my present. A crawler with only a head, a spinal column that flicked like a scorpion’s tail, and one good arm. I had decorated it with the bright red spork sticking out of its forehead.
I laughed to myself as I shoved the door open. “Happy Halloween, Johnson.”