Excerpt from Zombie Apocalypse
Book 4--Kill Ratio
Copyright 2013 by Bryan Cassiday
“We’re completely screwed. So what else is new?”
At the wheel of the pitching twenty-foot sailboat named the Costaguana, Halverson was luffing south along the Southern California tidewater through choppy seas, a smattering of grey clouds racking overhead. For the time being he didn’t see any flesh eaters along the shore.
“I didn’t say anything,” said Victoria, sitting on the thwart in the stern, peering up at him as the water sloshed against the sailboat’s hull.
Painted avocado green, the hull had seen better days. Its paint was peeling in spots and it bore nicks in its wood. The exposed wood was suffering from salt and water erosion. Wedged in a hole in the hull to prevent leaking just above the waterline on the port side was a severed human hand, its fingers extended seaward.
Victoria was wearing a peach blouse and blue jeans with one of the front pockets torn and hanging down like a flap, courtesy of a flesh eater’s attack. She wore it like a battle scar.
The plague that had contaminated the world had not aged her one bit, Halverson could see. She still looked her years—twenty-eight.
“I was talking to myself,” said Halverson.
Clad in jeans and a torn T, he looked at her with his ginger eyes, the color of a lion’s. A few years shy of forty, he wondered if he’d ever reach that age, what with the pandemic.
Hearing the mast creak above her, Victoria craned her neck up and saw two legs in torn trousers kicking spastically. Its arms bound behind its back, the one-handed fortyish male flesh eater was hanging by the neck from the top of the mast and twisting in the wind.
“Why do we have to have that thing up there?” said Victoria.
“To scare away other flesh eaters,” said Halverson. “Like a Jolly Roger.”
“It’s not like we’re gonna meet up with a bunch of them on the ocean.”
“What about when we dock?”
“It gives me the creeps hanging up there.”
“Hopefully it does the same to the flesh eaters.”
“I doubt it.”
“It’s also handy for plugging leaks.” Halverson glanced at the flesh eater’s arm that was missing a hand.
Victoria rolled her eyes. “What’s the point of keeping it alive?”
“The flesh eaters won’t pay attention to it if it’s not moving.”
Head tilted back, Victoria squinted at the ghoul, the sun shining in her eyes intermittently as the creature swung to and fro in the wind. The creature’s jaws were champing the air like it was dying from hunger.
Halverson’s thoughts were elsewhere.
“We’re going about this the wrong way,” he said. “Instead of running away from the walking dead, we should be running toward them.”
Victoria screwed up her face and squinched her blue eyes at him. “The sun’s addling your brains. We’ve been out here too long on the ocean.”
“It’s only been about a month.”
“Seems like a year,” she said, head down, getting depressed thinking about it.
“What I’m saying is, we need to touch base with the people in power. That means we need to make land and then head east.”
“Right into the mouths of the flesh eaters.”
“We have to find out what’s left of the government.” Even as he uttered them, he regretted his words. After all, he had found out the hard way that somebody high up in the government was out to kill him.
She raised her head. “Do you have some messianic complex to save the country?”
“I want to see if there’s any country left.”
“Why does it matter?”
“Sailing out here on the ocean isn’t getting us anywhere.”
“Where do you want to get? We’re still alive. That’s what counts.”
True enough, he decided. As far as it went. “I don’t want a bunch of infected zombies taking over. We have to fight them.”
“Back to your messianic complex. Why do you have to save the country?”
It was his job, Halverson knew. He worked for the National Clandestine Service of the CIA. But he couldn’t tell her that. Nobody knew what he did. She believed his cover story that he worked as a journalist.
She had a point, though. Why did he want to contact the government when he knew they were trying to kill him to silence him on account of what he knew about their involvement in the engineering of the mutated H5N1 zombie virus that had infected the world?
“I don’t want to live like a pariah at sea for the rest of my life,” he said.
Victoria nodded. “I can’t argue with that.”
“We need to beard the lion in his den.”
“Leave it to a journalist to come up with that line.”
“If I didn’t know better, I would think you didn’t like me. We’re not married, you know.”
“And don’t you forget it.”
Halverson could not read her face. He did not pursue the matter.
It was time for them to change their strategy, he decided. Instead of retreating, they needed to attack.
“Are you with me?” he said.
“The two of us against millions of diseased cannibals? You got to be kidding.”
“We can’t give up. If we give up, we’re dead.”
“There’s a big difference between giving up and walking into certain death.”
“We have to get rid of them before they conquer the world. It’s only a matter of time before they take over the oceans as well as the land.”
“How can they take over the oceans if they can’t swim?”
Halverson shook his head. “I don’t know. All I know is, I don’t want to live on the sea for the rest of my life.”
“I wasn’t cut out for a life at sea either,” said Victoria, suddenly aware of her queasy stomach. “I’m a hopeless landlubber.” She massaged her grumbling belly.
“Then you’re with me?” said Halverson, his hand on the wheel.
“We have a snowball’s chance in hell if we land here,” said Victoria, taking stock of the coastline that was, for the moment, deserted.
“I didn’t say we had any chance. I just said we should never give up.”
Victoria sniggered. “Are you trying to talk me out of going with you?”
"We can’t give up.”
“All I can say is, it was nice knowing you.”
Halverson looked confused. “Then you’re not coming with me?”
“No, I am coming with you.”
She searched his face. “Are you sure you want to go through with this?”
Victoria got to her feet and padded toward the gunwale. She stared at the seaweed-infested flint green water lapping against the hull below. She felt sea spray impinging against her cheeks as the sailboat’s prow cut through the water.
“Why are we doing this?” she asked.
“I have no idea.”
She turned to look at him. “Then let’s just forget it.”
“And do what? Float around on the ocean till we’re dead?”
“SSDD, huh? The thrill is gone.”
“We’ve got to do something.”
Her barrage of questions was getting to him. “We just do it.”
“Because you say so?”
“That’s as good a reason as any.”
She peered back down at the ocean. “You’re not convincing me.”
“I can’t even convince myself, let alone you.”
“I can’t think of a single reason to go with you.”
“Don’t you wanna get your face eaten off by diseased cannibals?” he said sarcastically.
“That doesn’t even dignify a response.”
A gull gyred through a quarter of limpid sky, riding the thermals, gliding on snow-white wings.
At least the smoke had cleared, decided Halverson, watching the gull. The fires had stopped burning along the coast. Most of what remained of Southern California lay in charred ruins.
He scanned the coastline and surveyed the rubble that was interspersed with a paucity of buildings that remained for the most part untouched by the fires that had raged over the cityscape when the plague had started.
“We need to reach civilization and defeat the walking dead,” he said.
“It’s just impossible. That’s all. There are a few million more of them than there are of us.”
Victoria didn’t know if she even cared anymore. She had lost her only child Shawna to the plague. Victoria still hadn’t recovered from the loss.
“But we can think, and they can’t,” said Halverson.
Halverson spotted Marina del Rey on his left. Rows of sailboats and cruisers bobbed at the ends of their moorings in the marina. A forest of white masts and rigging protruded from the sailboats.
“What’s that?” asked Victoria, gazing at the dock, her face etched with fear.
Halverson was feeling misgivings. He couldn’t help but think he was making the wrong decision.