They heard the gunshots and helicopters all afternoon. No one knew what was happening. The grid was smashed. No phones or internet. No television. Dead static… life ground to a halt. Thomas walked around on his front porch and watched the skyline. Helicopters kept buzzing angrily in circles. Periodically, a burst of staccato would echo out across the valley. “Machine guns. Fucking war zone…” he mumbled. Going inside, he spoke to his friend Carl. He had known Carl all of his life. Same neighborhood. Same schools. Same friends. Carl was working on a police scanner. White noise. Nothing forthcoming. “Is it a bank robbery gone bad? A terrorist attack?” They had no idea. The neighbors came over and talked excitedly. Marco — his neighbors son — was already drunk and kept yelling at his sister Anelle. He kept saying, “Zombies.” They pushed their way into the living room in a sweating, fevered mood. “Shut the fuck up!” He yelled at them. Marco was beside himself. “C’mon Thomas, listen! My boys just came back over from Hidden Hills and its bad bro…” He let that news hang in the air. An obscene statement designed to beg a question. “Bad? In what way? What the fuck is going on?” They sat down in the kitchen and voices rose in fear and anxiety. Marco laid it out for them. His friends had been over in Simi Valley and were working their way back to the house when they saw cars just start sliding off the streets. One blew through the front of a grocery store; exploding glass and people spinning into the air. The car entered the front of the building going at least sixty miles per hour. It was carnage. They stared at each other speechless. “Jesus…”
Marco lit a cigarette with trembling fingers. He continued, “One of my bros said that as they drove past to get around the tangled mess of twisted cars and burning chaos, he saw a man run out of the store and drag a woman out of her car. Marco grew quiet. They stared open-mouthed. “What?” Marco then told them that the man bit the woman’s neck in half. “Blood jumped across the side of her car…” Marco said that as the man bit her, his friend saw the man’s eyes. He wasn’t a human. They all sat in the quiet kitchen of a quiet house in a quiet neighborhood in Winnetka. Outside, they could here gunfire and sirens, yet they couldn’t believe what they were hearing. Thomas rubbed his eyes. It was so difficult to believe. “I mean, Zombies?!” He knew that he should tell them to grab whatever weapons they had, stay together and lock down the houses in the neighborhood… but Zombies? No, it couldn’t be.
The afternoon waned. Evening was coming too fast… He had sent everyone home and told them to stay inside, lock up and not to worry. “Everything will be alright. I mean, if something were really wrong, they’d tell us, right?” He didn’t really believe his own words but said them regardless. Thomas then locked the gates out front and checked all the windows and doors. He knew that he was wholly unprepared for anything. His house was virtually open to the street. He recalled Marco’s words and the look on his face. “He bit her neck in half.” Moving into his back bedroom, he pulled an old wooden box from the closet. Old green wood. Dusty. He unlocked it. Wrapped in oil cloth, was his M16A1 rifle. He kept it in perfect condition. He wiped it down and filled magazines with 5.56 rounds. He was glad he had purchased it back in 1982. “Fuckers…” he smiled thinly to himself in the afternoon half-light. The feel of the rifle in his hands made him feel better. Black rifle. Black heart. “Better make some coffee…”
He had gathered flashlights, ammo, filled magazines, placed an ax beside the front door and barricaded the windows with furniture as best as possible. It was just him and Carl in the house. Carl saw the serious look on Thomas’ face, and he just shrugged and started helping him secure the place. “I guess it can’t hurt.” No one knew what was going on and rumors were crazy. People were streaming into the neighborhood with stories of horror. The Ramirez family gathered stuff, threw it all in the car and left in minutes… Junior Ramirez had said that God was coming. This certainly was it. End times. He saw a man fall off a four story building right in front of him. Gory, he got up and shrieked… he lurched down the street grotesquely. His eyes were red rimmed and black. Junior swore that what he saw was the devil. Carl shook his head in disbelief and quietly told Thomas that he thought Junior was ‘disturbed’. “Yeah… but did he see this because of a mental disturbance or was he disturbed because he saw this shit?” Thomas had heard enough. It was time for preparation.
Thomas and Carl gathered old Mason canning jars that his grandmother once used and filled them with lighter fluid and gasoline. They placed these in the back yard by the pool. It was huge and empty. An old concrete monstrosity that hadn’t worked in years. He always swore that he’d fix it up one day. He frowned into the oncoming dark. They cut old t-shirts into wicks and placed them out by the jars. The porch lights were on and outside they heard helicopters coming closer. Gunfire followed. Thomas sipped his coffee and watched out of a window. His M16A1 was propped against the wall beside him. “Whatever is happening out there… will soon be here.” His voice rumbled softly. Carl nodded in the dark and thumbed the pistol in his hand that Thomas had given him. His dark, wet eyes showed no fear. No tension. It wouldn’t be long. They heard an explosion nearby. It had to be only a few streets away. Screams started reaching them then…
They both recoiled as a car careened down the street, smashing and bouncing off of parked vehicles. A fireball of orange and blistering heat reached skyward. It slid to a halt in front of the house where Thomas and Carl crouched. They watched in morbid fascination and complete shock as people moved inside the car … they were on fire. One twitched and spasmed on the ground after crawling out onto the greasy street. It got up then. Its face a mask of obscene terror. Teeth could be seen through the charred cheeks. Its eyes blazed and rolled upward. Nothing should be alive in all of this. They watched the impossible become possible. This burning, mangled thing looked out over the neighborhood and lurched off into the shadows. “Fuck.”
They heard screaming coming towards them. They listened and watched as figures moved down the street, breaking windows and smashing doors down. The screams intensified into howls of madness. “What the fuck is going on?” Carl grunted and pointed across the street as a lanky, dark-haired man pulled a teenage girl out of a house. She thrashed madly as she was pulled across the lawn by her hair. That’s when they saw one for the first time. They saw it’s face. Recoiling, they involuntarily moved back away from the windows. It was a face of mind-bending horror. It was human but no longer so. Skin leathery. Its eyes glared out and all of the horrible things that ever were, could be found in its stare. It leaned down and bit into her face. She shrieked in agony as it disemboweled her with its fingers. “Holy fucking Christ.” Carl whispered. They heard movement on the porch. Carl moved towards the front door and quickly opened it a crack. Thomas was about to say “No.” when the pistol roared in Carl’s hand. He had shot the man across the street that was facedown now, feeding on the girls intestines. Madness ensued. It seemed like a million screaming voices came at them in a wave. The man that Carl, shot, slowly got to his feet and stared at him. “Oh man, this is gonna be bad.” Thomas punched the M16 through the glass and started choosing targets. All they could see were crazed, half-human people attacking the front of the house. Teeth and claws. Monstrous and unending. The guns spoke and blood flew everywhere. They kept coming.
An arm came through a gap in the window and they heard something moving on the roof. Thomas beat the clawing hand away and he screamed at Carl to fall back and check the backyard. “Go! Go!” Another one blasted through the glass window and the wood frame crashed down around Thomas. He was covered in glass, wood and old curtains. The figure snapped and hissed as it moved impossibly fast across the room. Its teeth were too long for a person. No one had teeth like that. Then it stood there a moment. Hell in tattered shoes and blood-caked gore. It stank. Feces, blood, vomit. It watched him and rocked side to side. In the light from the burning car out front, Thomas saw its eyes. Black. Pain. Little else. He raised the M16 barrel and his round split its head in two. Blood splattered the walls and the thing continued to crawl around, clawing at the rug. Thomas moved further back into the house. Carl had shouted that there was one on the roof. He shivered in revulsion.
Carl was sitting by the back door and reloading his magazine. “What are those things?” Are we actually shooting Zombies?” The question defied a response. Thomas watched the yard and listened. It became quiet for the moment. “They’ll come back. I know it. They know we are here.” Carl nodded, peering into the dark. Every bush held a horror, every noise a threat. If this was to be the end, then fuck it. They’d take these things with them. He lifted his fist to Thomas. Knuckles on knuckles. Thomas flipped the switch on the wall that turned on the pool light. The old empty pool lit up the yard. It looked like a square concrete bunker of safety. “Let’s go.” They slipped quietly into the yard and down into the empty swimming pool.
The next hour was like a millennium. Forever, these clawing hostile things came at them. They shot everything that moved, and moved they did.They came in clusters of six or so… They roared and threw themselves at the men in the bottom of the pool. Thomas and Carl were looking up and the things were silhouetted against the sky anytime they approached. They tried closing in on them. One that made it into the pool was beaten with an ax by Carl. Thomas quietly called to him and Carl pulled himself from the brink of madness. Feverish and grunting, he had been chopping the thing into pieces over and over. They heard more of the things coming and lit the Mason jars. They threw them into the yard until a wall of flame lit the night time like the day. They stood back to back, weapons raised. They slowly moved in a circle. three hundred and sixty degree coverage. “Look. The fuckers can’t get to us…” Thomas wiped blood and sweat from his face. “Most things fear fire. Stay frosty.” They could see them snarling at the fires edge. It was like all of the worst dreams one could ever have. Except in dreams, you’d wake up in a bed somewhere. Thomas and Carl knew that they’d probably never wake up from this one.
Two of them came through a break in the fire. Thomas was shooting and he heard Carl scream. He was down on his back and one of them was quickly moving towards him across the pool. Carl’s weapon was gone and he pulled his knife out. Thomas shot one that came over the edge and quickly spun to see Carl fighting with it. It smothered Carl with its hate and hunger. Thomas was appalled as the thing bit into his friends groin. Carl’s legs drummed the concrete pool floor and the sound that came out of his mouth was indescribable… It swallowed his dick and balls as Carl died. Thomas shot it through the head and it fell onto Carl’s body. Blood ran everywhere. On the edge of losing his sanity, Thomas fired his weapon, slammed in another magazine and continued firing. He slipped in the clotted guts and blood running in rivulets down the pools surface. He heard movement and twisted around in time to see one let itself down into the deep end from the diving board. He rushed Thomas, arms out, eyes glaring… Thomas shot it in its snarling face and the round went through and struck the pool light.
What started out as a typical pool skating story, quickly became different in my pitch-black mind. We had fun putting it together and my friends all dressed up to take part. Thank you to MRZ for creating these images. Thank you to Tyler, Anna, Dan and Terrell for helping. Skate – Ozzie