Fighting the Dead:The Last Town #4By: Stephen Knight
The rest of the small house was much like the kitchen. A neat living room with an old tube TV, a sofa wrapped in plastic like in the old days, newspapers on the coffee table, a well-used easy chair and ottoman. A single bathroom, so clean and bright that it almost looked alien to him—the lack of institutional hues struck him almost right between the eyes as he regarded the gleaming porcelain and the spotless glass of the sliding shower doors that sat above the tub. Two bedrooms, one with a pair of single beds that looked like they’d never been used. The second was the master, and it held a freshly made queen bed and smelled of lavender and sandalwood. All in all, the small residence made Doddridge think he and his crew had taken residence inside one giant doily.
“Okay,” he said to the others as he returned to the living room. “Let’s get us squared away. Let’s see what the old lady has to eat.”
“I’d like to use the bathroom and take a shower,” said the pasty-faced white boy who had pissed himself on the bus. His voice was soft and almost sibilant, the way an extremely shy person might speak. Doddridge didn’t know anything about him, other than he had whimpered the entire trip from northern California.
“What’s your name?” he asked the white kid.
“Bruce,” the kid said.
Doddridge motioned to Shaliq. “You gonna tell me you’re nineteen, too?”
Bruce shook his head. “No. I’m twenty.”
Shaliq clucked his tongue and shook his head. “Shit, I’m still the baby.”
Doddridge nodded toward the bathroom. “Yeah, sure, Brucie, knock yourself out. You smell like piss, anyway.”
“Hey, hold on.” Big Tone stood by the low-lying coffee table. He tapped the newspaper he held in his hand. “You gotta see this.”
Doddridge scowled. “I ain’t got time to read no paper,” he said. The truth of the matter was, Doddridge was pretty much illiterate. While he could read at the first-grade level on a good day, going through something like a newspaper article was roughly akin to him grappling with the theoretical possibilities posed by quantum physics.
Tone tapped the paper again. “There’s some sort of plague going on, man. People are dying all over. New York City’s burning down. Check it.” The older Latino turned the paper around so that Doddridge and the others could see it. The full color picture showed half of Manhattan island on fire, emitting huge columns of smoke that dwarfed those that had erupted during the attacks on the World Trade Center.
“Holy shit,” Auto said.
“That real, man?” Shaliq asked.
Tone shrugged. “Fuck if I know. It’s in the paper. Says that a few million people have died across the world over the last few days.” He shook his head. “LA’s getting it, too. Army’s mobilized. Food riots. And get this, people who die, they’re saying they ain’t really dead. They get up and start biting other people, spreading the plague.”
“Bitin’ people?” Doddridge asked. “What, like they’re some kind of damn zombies?”
Tone seemed to go pale at the word. “Look, I don’t know.”
Shaliq pointed at the television. “Let’s find out.”
Hell yeah, I could watch me some TV. “Go ahead,” Doddridge said. Shaliq moved to the television and switched it on. The old lady had a satellite subscription, and Shaliq turned it to CNN after consulting the viewing guide.
Sure enough, New York City was on fire. And so was Chicago. And Los Angeles.
“Holy shit,” Doddridge said after staring at the TV for less than thirty seconds.
The picture showed a horde of shambling people attacking cops in New York. The attackers didn’t appear to be bothered by tear gas or riot rounds or even real bullets. They just kept on coming, walking through the shit storm the cops sent their way. The only time one went down was when a leg had been hit, but even then, the crazies came at a crawl. They stopped for good only if they were hit in the head.
“Man,” Tone said, and his voice was small and weak. Doddridge glanced at him and saw the Latin King’s face was ashen as he crossed himself.
“Fuck, man—I got to get back to Seattle,” Auto said suddenly.
“No one goin’ anywhere,” Doddridge shot back. “We gotta sit tight, learn about this shit. If somethin’s going down in the world, we need to know about it before we do shit.” He glanced at the thin white guy. “But you can go take your shower, faggot. Please.”
“Okay,” Bruce whispered, staring at the television with blank, blue eyes. “Thanks.”
Doddridge ignored him and looked at the TV for a few moments, listening to what the anchor was saying about the violence they were watching. Some sort of plague that actually reanimated the dead? People eating each other? No cure, no vaccine, no defense, but the president urged calm?
What the fuck? I finally get outta prison, and this is where my black ass fucking lands?
“We’ll need to start weapons training once the outer defenses have been finished,” Corbett told the council. “Everyone needs to know how to shoot. Everyone needs to learn how to defend themselves.”