Thursday, October 25, 2012

The section of the Interstate where George and Kathy lost their car was adjacent to the western end of Midvale. When they emerged from the woods they were at the edge of town. The Westside of Midvale had seen better days. To their right was a subsidized housing project and straight ahead was the old business district, which had suffered when the malls and big box stores came along. Down the street they could see two of those things that the news stories were calling zombies. They shuffled along as if in a daze and seemed to be unaware of the newcomers. George and Kathy slipped quietly across the street and took cover alongside the old brick fire station, out of sight of those shuffling horrors. Kathy had noticed the roly door at the front of the building was up about 3 ft. Getting to the door would require them to go back around the corner and possibly be spotted by those two zombies, but the thought of remaining out on the street caused a paralyzing fear to well up in George. “We’ve got to get off the street now or we’re dead” he whispered to Kathy. They braced themselves, slipped quickly around the corner and crawled under the door.
                                               The survivors approach the fire station
Some light filtered into the ground floor of the station through the windows and under the door but most of the space was lost in deep shadows. Their immediate concern was to get the roly door closed. With no electricity it wasn’t easy but the door was designed for backup manual operation so George and Kathy were able to force it down and lock it. While they were fumbling in the darkness to find the locks Kathy heard a shuffling noise from farther back in the big room. She turned and saw a grotesque figure that had once been a man limping toward her. She screamed and backed away as George turned and froze in horror. His movement caused the thing to notice him and it turned to move in his direction. George fumbled for his rifle but as he got a firm grip the thing was on him. He managed to get the rifle across his body between him and the ghoul. He shoved the thing back with the rifle and then brought the butt around and smashed its jaw. The thing staggered from the blow and then came on again. George countered with an adrenaline fueled blow to the monster’s forehead with his rifle butt. Its skull shattered, the zombie dropped to the floor and remained motionless.  

George dropped to his knees, cradling his rifle. He couldn’t stop shaking. When Kathy sat beside him and put her hand on his shoulder he flinched and, for a moment looked at her as if he didn’t recognize her. They stayed there for a while and gradually George recovered his composure. At last he offered a weak smile and said “I suppose we’d better make sure this place is secure”. The fire station was old and designed to house a single fire engine. The engine and crew were gone and something told the couple they weren’t coming back. The first floor was simply a large open truck bay. They carefully examined every corner of the space and found a well stocked first aid cabinet and vending machines for soft drinks and snacks. The doors were heavily built and secure. The windows were high enough that it seemed unlikely those shambling horrors could get through them. The building itself was a solidly built brick structure. “We could be safe here until help comes” said Kathy. George smiled thinly and put his arm around her shoulder. He was afraid to say it out loud but he was starting to wonder if there was any help coming.
                                            The shabby west side of Midvale, Ohio
They stood looking at the stairs to the second floor for a few minutes. Finally George took a deep breath and said “Let’s do this”. Rifle at the ready, he led the way up the stairs trying, unsuccessfully, to avoid the creaking noise that attended every footfall. Stopping at the top they scanned the area. The second floor was, like the first, a single open space. It was primarily designed as living space for on duty firemen. Sunlight provided some visibility and Kathy suddenly grabbed George’s arm and pointed to a far corner. George swung his rifle around and a heartbeat before he fired they heard a hoarse stage whispered “Wait!”. George’s hands were shaking and it took a conscious effort for him to lighten his finger’s pressure on the trigger. While they stood frozen in place the figures in the corner moved into the light. There stood a man about his own age holding a rifle and, huddled behind him, two elderly women.

“Uh, Jimmy, my name’s Jimmy” said the man as he slowly laid his rifle on the floor. “This is my mom Ellen and her neighbor Beth.” He took a step forward and George instinctively braced himself, causing the stranger to stop and put his hands up. They were shaking as much as George’s, which somehow helped him to relax a bit. He took a deep breath and lowered his rifle. Kathy stepped forward and introduced herself and, suddenly, except for the pistol in Kathy’s hand and the whispered tone, the group might have been neighbors talking at a backyard barbecue.

Jimmy’s group had arrived about a half hour before George and Kathy. They hadn’t seen any zombies in the street and had left the roly door partly open for light. They were checking out the first floor when they saw a pair of ragged legs appear outside the opening and halt facing their way. Apparently, the noise they had been carelessly making had attracted the creature’s attention. They made their way up the stairs as quickly and quietly as they could while the zombie tried to negotiate the low door opening. They heard the thing moving around down there and they heard the struggle that had attended George and Kathy’s arrival but they didn’t know who or what had arrived.
                                         Gangs compete with zombies to control the streets
The first and second floors of the fire station had been secured but there was still a third floor to be dealt with. After a brief discussion Kathy agreed to stay on the second floor to protect the two older women while George and Jimmy checked out the third. They ascended the stairs, George leading the way. When they had gone far enough to see the third floor they saw one zombie sitting on the floor with her back to them. Advancing carefully, they managed to avoid detection as the creature’s entire attention was devoted to a lump of raw meat it was ripping at with its teeth. George didn’t let himself think what that meat had once been. He swung down hard with his rifle butt and struck the thing on the collar bone. He heard a sickening sound that must have been the bone breaking as Jimmy’s rifle butt hit hard into the monster’s back. The thing snarled and tried to rise supported by its arm but it slipped and fell. George’s second strike landed squarely on its head and it slumped over and was still.

“The head! They go down when you smash their head!” said George. Jimmy had already started crossing the room to make sure there were no more of the things lurking in dark corners. The third floor, like the other two was a single open space. An old fashioned brass pole led through holes in the third and second floors to the first. George began a careful search while Jimmy called down through the hole to let the others know the situation. The third floor seemed to be used for storage. A quantity of canned food and bottled water were discovered, as well as heavy duty flashlights, batteries and an assortment of potentially useful hardware. It seemed they were safe, at least for now.

Friday, October 19, 2012

October is Horror game month here in Hilton. We've dusted off the All Things Zombie rules, which my usual gaming partners and I have only played a few times. After two games this month I'm getting comfortable with the rules. As a little amusement on the side I started tinkering with a small solo game on those evenings when normal people are off doing whatever they do. I'm not a big solo game fan because the social aspect of the game is missing. I decided to liven up the solo effort with a little blogging. The first chapter, presented below, is the back story for the two main characters, George and Kathy, two star crossed lovers trying not to be eaten by the dead at the end of the world. No pictures in chapter 1, but stay tuned. There is a nice miniature zombie town in my wargame space that will provide the scene of the action to come. Without further ado, here is...

You are what you eat
Living well in the zombie apocalypse

Chapter 1 The End of Everything

George is a 30 something confirmed bachelor. He has a decent job, a comfortable life and is set in his ways. Kathy, his girlfriend, is about 5 years younger, two years out of a bad marriage and hoping that George, a great guy, will make a commitment. George and Kathy commute to their jobs in Columbus, Ohio from their hometown of Midvale, an outer ring suburb.

It’s Friday evening and George is cooking dinner for Kathy at his place. They have a great dinner, listen to some jazz, talk a while, smoke some weed and then it’s off to bed. The next morning George sleeps in until 10, as is his custom on a weekend. He shuffles into the kitchen, sees Kathy watching TV in the living room.

“Hey babe, you want any breakfast?”

“George, come in here! You have to see this!”

“Bacon and eggs. One time offer.”

“George, you have to see this!”

George enters the living room and drops down on the couch next to Kathy. The local news station anchor is on wearing his tragic story face. It seems a riot overnight in an inner city neighborhood of Columbus has sent dozens of people to area hospitals with severe wounds. The disturbance is ongoing, the police are investigating and the mayor has requested assistance from the State Police. George and Kathy had planned on spending the day in Columbus attending the opening of an art exhibit, Kathy being something of a modern art enthusiast. George is relieved when Kathy suggests they stay home until things settle down in the city.

The story gets stranger with each passing hour:

11:00 AM: The victims of the riot are found to have severe bite wounds, and they are starting to die inexplicably.

Noon:  Similar outbreaks are reported in several other cities in Ohio.

The attackers seem to be in the grip of some sort of madness.

1PM:  State and local law enforcement is overwhelmed, and the Governor has activated the National Guard.

3PM: Reports of similar attacks are coming in from around the nation and overseas.

George goes through the house locking the doors and windows. When he returns to the living room he has his rifle, which he uses to go shooting with his friends at the gun club, and a 9mm pistol which he keeps for home defense. Kathy has never been comfortable with guns but George reassures her that it’s just a precaution. The problem, whatever it is, seems to be concentrated in the urban areas.

By 7PM the first incidents are reported in Midvale.

George and Kathy spend the evening switching between the local and national news as the crisis deepens. They can hear emergency vehicle sirens off in one direction or another on and off all evening. Unsubstantiated rumors coming through the news outlets are getting more bizarre by the hour. Government officials on the broadcasts urge everyone to stay where they are and await further instructions. By midnight the couple is exhausted by the tension. George makes another round of the windows and doors to make sure they are secure and then they go off to bed, taking the guns with them.

At about 6AM Kathy is awakened by a passing ambulance siren. She shakes George, a heavy sleeper, to wake him up and they return to the living room to see if things have gotten any better. The situation has, in fact, gotten worse. A state of national emergency and martial law has been declared. The Guard and Reserves have been ordered to report and the regular military is being deployed to support local authorities in restoring order. Reports of similar situations continue to come in from around the world.

The day is spent in an agony of indecision. Both are originally from out of state and attempts to reach family by phone all day are unsuccessful.   About mid day television and radio broadcasts are taken over by the emergency broadcast system. The government is now instructing people to go to the nearest evacuation center designated on their maps. They watch as the neighbors pack up and go and they see the utter chaos in their immediate vicinity. Reports are now coming in that the assailants are….dead! Incredibly, the dead are rising up and attacking the living! The nearest evacuation center to George’s home and several others in their vicinity are removed from the Emergency Broadcast System list without explanation. George and Kathy agree that their best bet is to wait this thing out in place. They fill the bathtub and all available containers with water. Food will be a problem. There isn’t a lot on hand and popping out to the supermarket doesn’t seem to be an option.

 At dusk a gang of looters in an old panel van starts hitting the houses at the other end of the street. George and Kathy push heavy furniture up against the doors and prepare to defend the house. Kathy gets a crash course in how to handle the pistol. As the looters are carrying a computer and some boxes out of a house a few doors down, a National Guard humvee turns the corner and bears down on them. The looters drop their burden and run for their van but they are cut down by a burst of machine gun fire from the humvee. The Guard vehicle slows down for a visual check of the looters. Satisfied that they are dead, the humvee speeds up and disappears around a corner. Thoroughly shaken, the couple wait out the rest of the night in front of the TV watching what appears to be the collapse of their world.  

At some point George and Kathy fall asleep on the couch. They awake the next morning to total silence. In the distance columns of smoke mark the horizon. Soon they can hear the sound of sporadic far off gunfire. The electricity isn’t working and the feeling of isolation is overwhelming. They decide to make a break for one of the evacuation centers that was still in operation the previous day. Once the decision is made they move with a desperate energy and purpose. They load George’s car with what food they have, the guns and ammunition, clothing and as much water as they can pour into a few empty soft drink bottles from the recycling bin. By mid morning they are on the road and driving toward they know not what.

Pulling on to the Interstate was a mistake. The road ahead is completely blocked with abandoned vehicles. George gets out and scouts a little way ahead but sees no way through. He returns to the car and plans to turn around and head back the way they came. While standing outside the car discussing their next move George and Kathy hear gunfire beyond a bend in the road behind them. George quickly grabs the guns and the plastic bag with the ammo out of the car. He and Kathy climb over the guard rail, slide down a steep embankment and sprint into the nearby woods. They wait there in the shadows for a few minutes until three pickup trucks pull up behind their vehicle. Armed men get out and start rummaging through the car and transferring the contents into their truck. From their hiding place they hear one of the men say ‘Get the gas’. They watch with horror as a looter slides under the car, punctures the gas tank and transfers the contents into a container with practiced efficiency. The other looters have already moved on to other nearby cars to repeat the process. George and Kathy quietly slip deeper into the woods with nothing but their weapons and the clothes on their backs.