Monday, May 25, 2015

Part 136


"Stay the F#$% away from me."  Well if that was the way he wanted it that was exactly what he was gonna get.  Geez, what a sore head.  It was not too long after our shift started that that turned out to be just as true literally as it had been figuratively.

I had taken the long way around to my position and climbed the tree outside of the strips of moonlight that laced the forest.  Up in the tree I had a pretty impressive view of the surrounding area.  The deciduous trees hadn't fully leafed out yet and there were enough of them that the evergreens didn't really block my line of sight.  Sound also got carried to me better than had I been stuck in the bushes on the ground.  And when I heard a soft grunt I turned to look in the direction I knew Winton was just in time to see him slump to the ground.  From that point things moved pretty fast.

Two guys came out of the bushes but they were looking in and making hand motions so I knew there were more where they'd come from.  Lucky for me they were over confident and had stepped into a strip of moonlight or I might have thought I was smelling a skunk or something similar.  Man, they really did stink ... but not puss brain stink; this was plain ol' I-haven't-bathed-since-summer stink with a side order of my-clothes-are-so-dirty-they-can-walk-all-by-themselves.  I knew I wouldn't get another chance so when they walked beneath my tree I dropped the whole sack of big rocks on them and then gave a loud, powerful whistle with my fingers.

I almost wasn't fast enough at moving positions.  I'd stirred a hornet’s nest and made someone mad.  They went from super stealth tactics to shock and awe so fast I knew they'd practiced this before.  But then again, so I had I.  It took a little warming up but soon enough the trees were just skinny buildings and the path a crumbling concrete road, the same as it had been in the city.  I hit the ground while they were still shooting into the trees and swiped the rifles and ammo bags from the two fallen smellies as fast as Moe had taught me, running down the path like it was an alleyway leading to safety.

Josie was up and covering my escape and then we both got set behind our perimeter.

Sgt. Shelly whispered calmly, "How many?"

"Two less than they started with," I said laying the rifles out so whoever needed one could grab them.  "The rest stayed in the bushes."

There was a strangely quiet "poof" and then a shout from the down the trail.  "Make that three down," Josie said.

I tried to figure where the shot had come from and from whom when there was another "poof" and another yell, this one a little closer to our camp.  Sgt. Shelly grinned and said, "Guess Pvt. Harris wasn't bragging after all."  She turned to Josie and said, "You know the drill."  To me she said, "Keep an eye on Bedford, and no it isn't babysitting.  Gayle said he needs watching."

I stayed low and crawled over to the gurney.  Bedford was unconscious which I suppose under the circumstances was good for him, but bad for us if we had to change positions.  I heard a couple of more shots from our side and from theirs but no more screams or shouts.  I worried that they would try and come up behind us if they weren't already doing it but Sgt. Shelly was ahead of me and had Corporal Lewiston guarding that side.

Two hours passed.  Every time we thought they had given up and left Sgt. Shelly would force us to give it a few more minutes and sure enough they'd lose patience and show themselves again by shooting a volley at us.

One thing began to bother me.  If this area was so full of puss brains there had to be some close enough to have heard the noise.  The smell of sweat and gunfire got in my nose but I was still sniffing the air every few minutes.

Gayle caught me at it and asked, "Anything?"

"Not yet.  Geez those men stink.  It's hard to catch anything but ..." and then a stiffer breeze than any before it brought with it a scent I knew all too well.  "Oh carp."

Gayle looked at me closely as she reloaded.  "How sure are you?"

"They're close, maybe down by the creek.  You'll hear the screaming soon enough."

Two minutes later there was a barber shop quartet of yells and more gunfire ... but not directed at us.  Josie took that moment to snicker, "A cook and a bloodhound.  We got us a two-for-one this time Shelly."

Without any emotion Sgt. Shelly said, "Shut up and take up your position."  She turned to me and asked, "Can you tell how many?"

Trying not to be irritated or embarrassed I told her, "Geez, I've got a good nose, not infrared vision.  More than a couple, less than a bunch ... I don't know ... enough of them to cause us problems if anybody panics or they run at us en mass.  If you listen you can hear them shuffling through the leaves, making a beeline for the smellies.  The one thing I do know is they're moving like their still fresh and healthy."

Lucky for us the puss brains that attacked didn't seem to have formed any kind of hierarchy.  They were together by accident, not because they'd been organized by a horde leader.  All they wanted was something to eat and they weren't too particular what was on the menu.

==========

Dawn was cracking its back and stretching its muscles to start the day when the last body was tossed onto the pyre.

"God all mighty that stinks," one of the men said putting his coat jacket in front of his nose.

I would have snapped no kidding except I completely agreed with him.  The puss brains were worse than the smellies but not by much at all.  A couple of them men looked at the pyre and I could tell they weren't having happy thoughts.  I wonder if they had gotten to this part yet ... what you do after you've stopped a puss brain from being an immediate threat.

I turned to look at Pvt. Harris and he saw me looking and I could tell he didn't know what to say.  I made the mistake of trying to be kind and told him, "You do what you have to and you find a way to live with it."

He shook his head.  "You ... you killed ... two of them.  With just a bat."

"In a firefight I'm not too good with a gun.  My glasses tend to get all fogged up.  Besides ..."

"Besides what?" he asked.

"Besides, you have your way of dealing with what you have to do and I have my way."

"What's that supposed to mean?" he asked almost snapping.

"Don't get offended.  Geez, sensitive much?  I just mean you're really good with a gun.  Even Sgt. Shelly said something about it.  You should train as a sniper or something.  If you can do what you did in the dark I imagine you're even better during daylight."

He shook his head.  "Actually I'm better at night because that's how I learned to shoot ... when Dad and I would go hunting.  The sun wrecks my vision."  He took a breath and I could actually see him making the choice not to be mad.  "So if you weren't kicking at my shooting what do you mean?"

"I mean that ... that you use the weapon you are comfortable with and I use the weapon that I'm comfortable with.  You learned to shoot in the dark, well I learned to put puss brains out of their misery with this," I told him holding my bat up.  "I know what I'm doing and I can do it without hurting anyone else.  And you don't need to tell me I'm strange, I've heard it enough."

He sat looking at me for a moment before saying, "Yeah you're strange ... but if seems to work for you."  I swear guys need to come with an instruction manual.  Like maybe where the off button  or volume is because he started talking again when I was in the middle of making sure all of our supplies were intact.  "Tell me again.  Were you really stuck in the city after Z Day?  The news said they didn't blow the bridges until they were sure that no uninfecteds remained."

I snorted.  "And you believed them?  There were thousands of us still in the city and uninfected."

We continued to "discuss" things and how they happened though Gayle snapped that if we were going to "bicker like a couple of two-year-olds" she'd find us something constructive to do with our time.  We ignored her but did tone it down a little and then stopped all together when we heard the others going through the packs of the smelly men.

One of the men said, "Crazies.  They had to be."

I looked at Pvt. Harris and asked, "Crazies?"

It was Corporal Lewiston that answered for him.  "People that have chosen to get rid of their civilized nature, if they had one to begin with.  In some places they cause more problems than the Infected do."

I grumbled, "More fun and games.  Infecteds, smellies, crazies ... the list just goes on and on.  And I thought being cooped up in the city was bad."  I looked around and then sighed.  "How bad is Winton?  Gayle looks hacked and she usually doesn't have the energy to get this bad until after the first cup of coffee."

Corporal Lewiston growled, "They koshed him so hard they broke his skull.  They half scalped him at the same time.  Damn savages.  He's laid out beside Bedford but I doubt he'll make it back to base.  There's  ... stuff ... leaking out of one of his ears."  He was as foul as Gayle and I don't blame him for it but there was no need to take the conversation the direction he decided to take it.  "How I'm going to explain this to his mother I don't know.  Why didn't you cover his back?"

The question caught me off guard which made me too honest.  "'Cause he told me to F off and leave him alone and because he's the soldier, not me.  I did what I was supposed to and took up my position ... he didn't even go to the position Sgt. Shelly had assigned to him but into the bushes on the other side of the trail."

Lewiston tried to deny it.  "He wouldn't disobey an order like that."

I stood there and crossed my arms and just looked at him.  I wasn't nasty.  I wasn't rude.  I didn't buck his authority.  I just looked.  But he sure did start to squirm.  Finally he turned and walked away; a gloating person might have said he stomped away in a royal snit.  Prissy pants.  They need to plant that guy behind a desk because he sure doesn't belong out here leading a patrol.  I shook my head and went to clean up so I could make something that passed for an omelet even if the eggs were more fake than the spray tan the head cheerleader used to get in the middle of winter.

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