DAY 44-45

After much discussion, we came to the conclusion that we only needed to venture out of the building one more time, at least for the time being. There was quite a bit of work we needed to do here: finish clearing the apartments, complete Beth’s lab and isolation ward, build the pigeon coops and garden on the roof, and many other minor tasks to make the building livable and, hopefully, self-sustaining. All we needed was the equipment to generate a little more electricity.

Our hope was that if we could remain inside for an extended period, the assholes would no longer find us amusing and they would move on. We would still be at risk if they acquired a high power rifle and tried to shoot us from one of the taller buildings nearby, but since there were only three of them, it seemed unlikely that they would attempt to break in and attack us. We had the home field advantage, so to speak. So we just needed to survive one more scavenging run.

Beth asked a question that prompted a solution to the first problem we had: where can we find equipment to generate more electricity? What she asked was, “Where did the solar panels we already have come from?” I’m not sure how old the building is, but it certainly was built before green energy began becoming more commonplace. We went down to the super’s apartment, searched his office and found his maintenance files for the solar panels. The company that manufactured, installed, and serviced them was local, and we obtained their address. Unfortunately that was the easy part of the problem. We then had to come up with a plan to go out, get the new solar array, and get it back here and inside the building.

The assholes weren’t watching us constantly. We didn’t believe that they had taken up residence across the street. So we decided our best chance was to make our run at night. Bert and I would take my forklift to the company’s location, use it to get into their warehouse, and then haul the equipment back here. Once we had it here, we could take our time figuring out how to get it up to the roof and install it. It seemed pretty straightforward, and the sooner we did it, the less likely the assholes were going to catch us.

We waited until midnight, saw no obvious signs that the assholes were in the area, unless they were using night vision goggles to watch us, and headed out. Neither Bert nor I had made any scavenging runs at night; going out in the dark with zombies running around seemed like a very bad idea. What we learned was that we were mistaken in our thinking. While the zombies may have been monsters of a sort, they were still essentially human, though their intelligence was likely lower than most animals. And all animals, humans included, needed to sleep.

Though we spotted a few zombies moving about on our trip to the solar panel company, most that we saw appeared to have just stopped where they were and went to sleep when the need came over them. The forklift was by no means a quiet vehicle, and any zombies we passed close to were awakened, though few arose to pursue us. There were several zombies along our route that had chosen to sleep in the street, and the forklift’s giant tires made their slumber permanent.

The company was located just outside of the Atlantic neighborhood of Seattle, and right off of I-90 in a small industrial park. The only vehicles in the area appeared to be work vehicles: pick-up trucks, vans, and larger commercial trucks. There weren’t any obvious zombies in the area around the building, and the lack of personal vehicles seemed like a good sign that there would be no zombies inside. There was a single large bay door on the loading dock that we would have to get open. The building attached to our target building belonged to a dog kennel/grooming business and had a smaller bay door with a chain-link gate in front of it; both were open.

Using a crowbar, Bert got the door to the solar company open and we made a quick search of the building to make sure we weren’t going to get any surprises. Everything in the warehouse was neatly organized and clearly labeled, and we found what we needed already palletized. After moving what we wanted next to the bay door, Bert figured out how to open the big door manually, and I got ready to pull our new solar panels out onto the dock. When the bay door cleared my head, I started pulling the loaded pallet jack out.

The sound of growling sent a chill through me and I froze. I was wearing an LED lamp on my head and turned slowly to look over my right shoulder. The concrete loading dock where I stood was about four feet above street level. As I angled my head down, half a dozen sets of glowing eyes looked back at me. The light then revealed the sharp teeth beneath the eyes of the growling canines.

“Oh shit,” Bert whispered from the bay door behind me.

“What do I do?” I whispered back.

“Don’t make any sudden moves.”

“No problem. I’m too scared to move.”

“Very carefully, let go of the pallet jack, and slowly make your way back into the warehouse.”

“Okay.” I let the jack’s handle rise back up into place and eased my hand off of it as the dogs continued to growl at me. They all looked to be medium to large sized dogs, perfectly capable of doing me great harm if they chose to. Without taking my eyes off of them, I backed towards the bay door, bumping against the crated solar panels. I heard a chain rattle as Bert began to lower the big metal door.

At the sound of the chain links clinking together, one of the dogs charged forward and tried to leap onto the loading dock. It got its front paws and head over the edge, and I heard the claws of its back paws scratching against concrete as it tried to gain purchase and pull itself all the way up. That was enough for me and I spun and bolted for the warehouse. Screaming, I jumped up and grabbed the bottom of the bay door in an effort to use my weight to close it faster. The rest of the dog pack broke and ran for the stairs up to the loading dock.

“Get it shut! Get it shut!” I hollered at Bert.

“I’m trying!” Bert shouted back as he pulled on the chain for all he was worth. My feet touched the ground and I continued pulling the door down, losing sight of the dogs. The bay door slammed to the ground, the crash echoing through the warehouse, as the lead dog collided into it. The pack barked and snarled as I dropped to the ground breathing heavily.

As the dogs scratched at the metal door, Bert sat down next to me and said, “Looks like there’s one more danger we have to watch out for.”

“Think if we just chucked a tennis ball out there we could get away?”

Bert laughed, “You have one?”

“Nope, not on my scavenging list.”

“Not sure it would have worked anyway. I suspect they’ve been dealing with the zombies long enough that they probably don’t trust anything on two legs anymore.”

I thought about that for a minute and then asked, “So shouldn’t they have just run away when they saw us?”

Bert shook his head and replied, “My guess is that when they come across a horde they’ll run. But it looks to me like they’re reverting to their old instincts and pack behavior. They need to scavenge for food just like the rest of us, and when it’s not readily available they hunt. I didn’t notice any smaller dogs out there,” he reported, not having to add that this probably meant they’d been eaten. “And they’ve probably figured out that one or two zombies on their own are relatively easy kills for them.”

“Great, the top of the food chain is starting to get crowded. Any ideas?” The dogs were still scratching and sniffing at the bottom of the bay door.

Bert looked around the warehouse for a few seconds and the light from his headlamp came to rest on an electric forklift. He then said, “They are just dogs, I bet they’ll still scare fairly easily.”

The forklift’s battery still held a charge. Bert drove it up to the door and slid the forks underneath it. When he gave me a nod, I started banging on the door and screaming at the top of my lungs. As he started raising the door with the forklift, I jumped up next to him and he began leaning on the horn and yelling along with me. We both had our guns out just in case, but when the door was high enough we saw the pack hightailing it down the street.

As we got our pallets loaded onto our big forklift, Bert explained that the dogs were still skittish since we weren’t that far removed from the pandemic. But it wouldn’t be long before they lost that fear and became the wild animals that they had once been. It wasn’t that noticeable in the city yet, but old Mother Nature would be reclaiming a lot of things man had attempted to steal from her.

We got the solar panels back to our building and inside without running into the assholes, or any other trouble. I think we’ve only gotten a small taste of what the world has in store for us in the future. Zombies, other humans, now wild animals; surviving isn’t just about finding food and shelter; it’s going to be a daily struggle to hold onto what we’ve already found. I wonder if there will ever come a point when I’ll feel like my only option is to try and take what someone else has found…

BJ

(To see how the pandemic began, and to meet more survivors, check out my novel, The Immortal And The Dead, on Amazon.com. The story continues in my new novel, Dance Of The Immortals.)

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About scottamehlman

Scott A. Mehlman was born and (mostly) raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Having earned both a BS and an MBA, Scott has tried his hand at a variety of jobs without finding one that truly satisfied or engaged his creative impulses the way writing does. He has published his first novel, The Immortal and The Dead, which is the first book in The Immortal Virus trilogy and continues to work on the JAEGER e-book series.

Posted on November 16, 2014, in Fiction and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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