Etna station, p.1
Etna Station, p.1Mark Tufo
Zombie Fallout 11
Copyright © 2018 by Mark Tufo
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Created with Vellum
Dedications: To the missus - we’ve come so far, this is one more step in our journey.
To my dedicated beta readers - Giles Batchelor, Kristen Beltz, Patti Reilly and Vanessa McCutcheon, I truly appreciate all you do!
To the men and women of the Armed Services and the First Responders - You will always have a place in my heart.
To you my dear reader - Thank you for coming on the journey thus far, hope you enjoy the ride!
EPILOGUE TWO OR TALBOTSODE 1
About the Author
Also by Mark Tufo
Also From DevilDog Press
Customers also purchased:
Where does one begin when the end has already happened? The zombie apocalypse has not been at all what I’d envisioned. I thought I was going to be with a group of my best friends, drinking beer on the roof of some sporting goods superstore, keeping score of the heads we blasted off from hordes of the undead, taking bets on who could kill the most, even playing “take a drink” every time you missed or hit or maybe both. What the hell, wasn’t like any of us were going in to work the next day. In this fantasy world, our walls were impregnable, our ammo unlimited, plenty of food, beer, and buxom babes–sorry, hon. There would be a massive underground bunker loaded with all manner of cool, military grade weaponry, and occasionally we would have to fight off some rogue people–all the time swearing and high-fiving each other because we were the good guys. Obviously, I had created this farcical world long before I got married and had a family. It was understandable. Before the z-poc, I was mired in the drudgeries of everyday life: job I could barely stand, paid barely enough to feed us and keep a roof over our heads. Mortgage, credit card debt, expanding waistline…the slow siphoning of my soul through a silly straw as I sat for countless lost days in rush hour traffic. For what?
Gone were the days of reckless partying, sports cars, perceived freedom, hanging with old friends, and God, I missed that easy time. Then it was about kids going back to school, Christmas shopping, all manner of school events, every season’s multiple practices and games, summer vacation going by way too fast. Soak, wash, rinse, repeat; the rut got a little deeper every year. Maybe I had a little wish, just a quietly nagging urge to get out of that rut and take back some of those good times. Then they came. Now I can think of little else but that safe, sweet routine of family and wholeness; I want nothing other than that life back. Yeah, the rut. The traffic. The fucking seasonal decorations–the things that I thought were just about the absolute worst that could happen were, in hindsight, that which I missed the most.
It started more or less how I figured it would. One moment normal stuff, next moment dozens of zombies, then hundreds of them, then thousands. Civilization came to a screeching halt; everyone still human went into survival mode. Some wanted to help, stay human, keep sane. Too many others wanted to take advantage, to live out every sick and twisted fantasy that ran through their diseased skulls.
There was the rise of the super-predator, Eliza, an infected vampire that found she could control the hordes and wield them to do her bidding. Through the looking glass of fate and destiny, the Talbot bloodline became ground zero for her revenge. Yes, to a certain extent we pay for the sins of our father, but for how long are we on the hook? How far back does guilt extend? Are the direct descendants of Benedict Arnold still branded traitors? What about Typhoid Mary? Do her children pay restitution for all she sickened? Centuries ago someone at the very roots of the Talbot tree was a sadistic vampire who turned Eliza, and for all those centuries afterward she had sought out every offshoot and branch of that large, gnarled tree, doing her best to hack to pieces the entire lineage.
We won and we lost, but the cost was exorbitant. So many friends, so many family members gone. Homes destroyed, memories buried, the urgency of living moment to moment at the fore. We lived on the edge, only the fittest survived. We did things that only months before would have been unthinkable. We forged, clawed and carved out an existence; but we kept ourselves intact. I and those around me did our absolute fucking damnedest to keep each other safe against insurmountable and increasingly difficult odds. But I knew it, we all knew it. We stood within a sand castle inches away from the rising tide. Our future was in jeopardy; we had doubts, even of seeing another morning. We were a stranded, marooned bunch and eventually, we would all be voted off the island in the most unpleasant way possible. With Deneaux’s return and the technology she brought with her, we were able to scope out other settlements, fragmented lifelines at best, but it was something to cling to.
We packed up all that we could carry and left our ghosts behind. It was not an easy decision; there was a comfort and a measure of safety staying at my brother Ron’s house. Though oftentimes, the fortress we created took on the feel of a prison; the cost of security is usually freedom. We were as tied to that house as a beached whale, and you know how that goes, no quarter asked for, no quarter received. We struck out, and now we found ourselves on the road with a mean old crow of a woman, one more deadly than an asp and just as likely to strike. A baby that most likely carries the zombie virus; she will be either the key to unlocking a cure or bringing death to those still alive. As if that weren’t terrifying enough, there is at least one, possibly two, seriously pissed off vampires on our tail, as well as Knox, a despotic dictator wannabe who is out for blood. Needless to say, we’re moving as fast as we can.
We can’t imagine what the future holds, nor what lies ahead but strangely enough, we still have hope, though it seems to be in dwindling supply. We have our will, and it stands oak strong, but we’ve all seen what a really stiff breeze can do to even the mightiest of trees with the deepest of roots. I have family, I have friends, and yeah, even an enemy or two within my ranks, but they’re my ranks and I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure we all make it to Etna Station. At this community in Washington state, we may have a chance to rebuild, to plant some roots, to take back control of our lives, to strike some sort of an accord with whatever deity may exist and find our way back to normality; whatever that looks like now, and if such a thing still exists. One thing I know for certain: I fucking hate zombies. I’m sure there are worse things out there, but right now, for the life of me, I can’t imagine what that would be.
Mike Journal Entry 1
“Seriously, Talbot. I mean at some point; every person has not given a fuck but to live your life like that? Well that’s just unique. A fuck free existence, zero fucks given. Like when fucks were being handed out you went to get a pulled pork sandwich or some shit.” BT was walking around the truck, alternating between throwing his hands to the heavens or smacking them against the sides of his head. This was BT’s usual reaction to just about everything I did.
One inconvenient thing about traveling on the road with no home base is that
We were making horrible time–could barely get out of our own way. There was no doubt that we were going to need to get a bus or an RV with built-in facilities; pulling over every ten fucking minutes? This was too slow and entirely too dangerous. The kids, Trip included, would damn near drop trousers in the middle of the road, none of them had a modicum of modesty. Well, except for Porkchop who preferred to conceal his business behind a small bush or something, but he always seemed to find one that only covered his middle third, his ass and face sticking out as he squatted. I saw his scrunched-up shit-face more times than I care to remember, yet no one ever said anything to him. It’s possible we were all too fascinated; whatever he was eating seemed to be passing like jagged rocks. The adults would usually privy up behind the nearest tree, staying as close to the road as possible. It was Carol that always felt the need to get some fifty feet off the road. It made absolutely no sense; her knees were bad, making the uneven walks painful and slow and even painfully slow. We all dreaded Carol’s nature calls.
No matter how many times I told her that it was dangerous and unnecessary to get that far away from our rides, she would completely blow me off. “It’s either completely private or it’s right here in the car itself.” If she hadn’t been riding with me I would have told her to just go ahead then. She was endangering all of us: herself, her spotter standing guard, and the rest of us as we just parked on the side of the road with an “old lady pissing in the woods,” sign on our bumper. Sometimes I felt like she was doing this on purpose. A fair number of times she would go out, we’d wait, she’d come back and say she had not been able to go. It was like she was a thirteen-year-old girl at her own birthday party not asked to dance; a powerplay for attention, added drama to be noticed.
“Tracy, you need to talk to her,” I said as I leaned against the car. It was our fourth stop of the day and she’d been in the woods for over fifteen minutes. “We can’t keep sitting out here like this. Eventually someone is going to stumble across us.”
“What do you want me to say? She’s my mother. If she needs to go she needs to go.”
“That’s the problem. Half the time she doesn’t need to.”
“And you know this how?”
I looked at her questioningly. “Ew, no, I don’t check. She always feels the need to tell me whether she went or not. It’s like she goes out there to read the Sears catalog or something. She’s making this harder than she has a right to.” I was angry.
“Than she has a right to?” Tracy asked, I could see her building up a little cloud of anger within as well.
“Every time we stop, every time, whether she really needs to pee or not, she has to go damn near a quarter mile into the woods. And she needs help because the ground is about as level as a candy bar-loving teenager’s face, so that’s another person gone into the woods. Then she has to take breaks on the walk out because she gets tired, and it’s even worse on the walk back.”
“A quarter mile?”
“Alright–however far she can get in fifteen minutes. Don’t get hung up on irrelevant details; the rest is completely true and that’s why you’re fighting the minutiae.”
“Look at you and your big words.”
“Ha! That is how I know you know I’m right; you’re not arguing the point, you big straw-manner. She’s going to get herself or someone else killed, Tracy. It’s inevitable if she keeps this up, whatever this is.”
Tracy’s head sagged a bit. Who the hell wants to go and tell their parents they’re being childish, or worse yet, that they have to piss too often? We’d had this conversation in the morning; two hours later when we had to stop again, I was the one that pulled guard duty for her.
We stopped, and Deneaux had some choice words. “At some point Michael, you will need to put the welfare of this group above hers,” I exited the car. That I didn’t immediately tell her to fuck off was all the proof I needed that this little exercise was getting under my skin. I mostly consider myself a low-key individual; BT and my wife would laugh if they knew I said that, but that is how I feel about myself. But shit, I’m still mostly human.
It reminded me of when I was back in cubicle city, working on the other side of a faux wall from Mort. He always talked louder than he needed to, constantly gnawed on hard food and you couldn’t help but hear him crunch since he ate with his mouth open. When he wasn’t talking or crunching he was whistling disco music from the seventies and tapping his pen off-beat. And, wait…the noise wasn’t even the worst of it because when he would finally go silent, it wasn’t a reprieve; that’s when you knew he was concentrating on trying to release some vile gas into the atmosphere as quietly as possible. You heard the vinyl chair squeak as he tried to pull his ass cheeks apart to clear the release valve. Sometimes he was deadly silent; sometimes there was an ill-timed coughing fit just a moment too late to cover up the sound. The worst part–yeah you already know but whatever–his food of choice was some sort of curried bean paste with crispy fried onions on top. The thick fog, if given the opportunity, could completely clog up the nasal cavity.
You knew the cycle was about to repeat when the whistling resumed. Now, he wasn’t my family, so as far as dealing with him, I figured I had three options: quit, (which I couldn’t afford to do), beat the tar out of him (and get fired, or possibly some jail time, and as satisfying as it might be to break a few teeth and return the favor of fucking up his nose, I couldn’t afford to do that either), or go to human resources. And what the hell was I supposed to tell them? He eats, whistles, and farts? Oh, I know a few of you are like. “Nice move d-bag. Why didn’t you just put on your big-boy pants and confront him?”
Well, for your information, judgmental person that wasn’t there and didn’t suffer through this form of work abuse, I did. I talked to him at least a half a dozen times. When I stood up and asked him if maybe he could go outside before he polluted the air again, he lost it, started swearing at me and HE went to HR and told them I was harassing him. That I had singled him out over all others. When I was on an important phone call and could not hear because he was whistling about staying alive or some shit, I stood and asked him if he could lower the volume. Yeah, that went well, like asking a llama not to spit on you or a rabbit not to bite your finger, it’s almost like that’s their whole reason to be on Earth, to just shit on it, I mean. He got louder. I had to give him props though, he was dead on pitch.
When I finally went to HR, it took five times before they would even listen to me and not think that I was just belly-aching or pay-backing. Finally, I got this woman, Margo, the HR assistant, to come down to my desk. I told her to sit in my seat for just ten minutes. Of course, Mort was quiet. She was just starting to look at me as if to say I was full of shit, oh, but I knew what was happening. This was the calm before the storm. There were two or three squelches as he got his ass into position. He missed the sweet spot wildly, the quack from the low flying duck was clearly heard halfway across the office. The lung hacking coughing fit immediately followed.
I held up a finger. “Wait one.”
She turned back to my monitor. First, her nose twitched, her head cocked, then her nose crinkled and a grimace pinched her mouth as she turned away, she stood quickly. “I’ll talk to Denise.” Before she could get far enough away, Mort was whistling the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever at ear-splitting decibels, maybe figuring that if he overwhelmed the sense of hearing no one would be able to smell the death that issued forth from his ass. She turned back and looked at me. “I’m so sorry.”
Want to know the fucked-up part? HR and the company were so fearful about being called out on a civil liberties suit that instead of reprimanding Mort or something along those lines, they just picked him up and moved him to his own fucking office. And, they had to give him some completely made up promotion to justify it. Yep. The fucker farted his way up the corporate ladder; got a raise and everything. It’s the Morts that prove the world is truly turned on its ear. The “Mortimer Maneuver” has even made its way into a few HR manuals.
Where the hell was I going with all this? Oh yeah, Deneaux. Damn Deneaux. She was right. Callous and crass, of course, but she was right, it was time to confront the problem.
“I’ll say something to her tonight,” Tracy said as she came up to my side and touched my shoulder. Carol was already shuffling off to the side of the road.
Etna Station by Mark Tufo / Horror have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes