Posted by in Zombie Short Stories | 13 Comments

The Hunt

The Hunt

Ashley wiped her palms against her jeans.

Within seconds her hands were moist again, fear and nervous energy threatening to dehydrate her through pure sweat loss. A breeze lifted in the night air, and waves rippled across the surface of Sweetwater Reservoir, where she waited with Kevin and Robbie for the signal.

She still couldn’t quite believe she’d agreed to this. The past weeks had been harrowing, with San Diego County being placed under quarantine as zombie attacks ravaged Chula Vista and La Presa. The military had set up a grid of blockades in an attempt to stop the spread of infection, but the virus was resilient and found ways to creep through man-made hurdles with devastating destruction.

Ashley should be making her way to the nearest safe zone in Encinitas with the other evacuees. Instead, she’d let herself be suckered into this half-cocked revenge mission that Kevin was determined to see through to the bloody end. When his family had been killed by a group of people infected with the HT virus, he’d lost all sense of logic; no amount of reasoning could sway him from his decision to hunt down and wipe out as many zombies as he could.

And because he was her boyfriend, because she’d do anything for him, Ashley had succumbed to his pleas to help obliterate the zombie population. Just three days ago, the state governor had declared La Presa a “dead zone.” In an emotional speech, he announced that the population of La Presa had essentially been decimated, that all military and police forces were withdrawing from the area, and that the electricity and water would be shut down.

From that point on, Kevin started scheming. The plan was simple, he’d claimed, when he convinced their group of friends to jump on board. Austin and José, the fastest runners among them, would lure roaming zombies from nearby neighborhoods down to Sweetwater Reservoir. There, Kevin would be waiting with Ashley and Robbie – and a cache of heavy artillery – to mow the cannibalistic freaks down. If they ran out of ammo, they would dash to the canoes resting on the shore and paddle their way across the lake until they reached a safe area of land.

It was a foolproof plan, Kevin argued. After all, zombies couldn’t swim, so even if there was a massive horde of them, they would drown in their pursuit of human flesh.

Ashley didn’t share her boyfriend’s level of zeal for vigilante justice, but she couldn’t stand the suffering in his eyes, the permanent scowl that bracketed lines around his mouth, the air of suppressed rage that hovered around his entire being.

Right now, though, he looked devilish with delight. Lips curled up with grim pleasure, he grabbed Ashley’s hand and gave it a fierce squeeze. She reciprocated, hoping that tonight would give Kevin the closure he needed. Maybe then they could move forward with their lives – relocate to a safe area, finish college, get married. Live life again.

“I think I hear them coming,” Robbie whispered at their side. A gun enthusiast, he’d been thrilled at the prospect of shooting up a mob of zombies.

Kevin released her hand and turned to watch the hilly terrain ahead. Ashley wiped the sweat from her palms one more time, then accepted the semi-automatic pistol that Robbie extended to her. She squinted into the hills, and sure enough, she saw movement.

Tiny figures, barely visible under the clouded moonlight, rushed toward them. Ashley clicked the safety off her gun, grateful for all the times her older brother had dragged her to the firing range. She planted her feet into the rocky ground, assumed the stance that had become second nature to her from years of practice, and aimed toward the oncoming zombies. There were a lot more of them than she’d been expecting.

“Remember, don’t shoot at Austin or José!” Robbie yelled.

Ashley almost rolled her eyes at the reminder, but accidents happened, especially in the heat of the moment. She glanced at Kevin, who trembled with anticipation at the prospect of a zombie blood bath. His gun shook in his hands as he homed in on a cluster that was chasing Austin.

“Start shooting!” José screamed, sliding down the hill nearest them. “They’re fast!”

Ashley turned to the four zombies that raced after José. She released the first bullet and almost dropped the gun at the startling blast. Get a grip, Ash, she scolded herself. She’d never done this without protective earmuffs, but she was no novice. Tonight she had to be a zombie killing machine, and her first shot had just missed.

She resumed her stance and started firing again. The second bullet missed again, but the third hit a stringy zombie to José’s left. Settling into a rhythm, she downed the other three, her arms barely flinching each time the gun recoiled.

Behind her, Robbie seemed to be having the time of his life. He let out a triumphant whoop every time he landed a hit. He took down most of the screeching zombies that surrounded Austin in quick, efficient shots.

Kevin, on the other hand… When Ashley turned to check on her boyfriend while she reloaded her magazine, her heart jumped to her throat. Kevin’s eyes were glazed over, hatred pumping in the veins that stood out on his forearms. He discharged his gun again and again and again into the growing onslaught of zombies… and missed every single time.

“Kevin, stop!” Ashley cried. “You’re not aiming right!”

“Kevin, you suck!” Austin yelled over the distance. “Stop shooting! You’re gonna hit me!”

But he continued to shoot blindly into the group, stopping only when his weapon was empty.

“They’re still coming!” José called.

Ashley looked up to see more dark shapes emerging over the hill. She drew her gun up. There were so many of them; the ammo wouldn’t last too much longer.

As she fired into the fresh wave of zombies, she heard scuffling behind her.

“Give me your gun, Kev! You’re wasting ammo!” Robbie fought Kevin for control of an assault rifle. Bullets sprayed the ground while both guys grappled for the gun.

“STOP!” Ashley shrieked. “You’re going to get us all killed!”

The gunfire ceased as Robbie wrestled the rifle from Kevin’s hands. A loud snarl caught Ashley’s attention, and she turned just in time to catch sight of a young woman launching at her. She raised her gun and pulled the trigger; the bullet punched through the zombie’s shoulder and knocked her off her feet.

Ashley tried to fire again, but the gun clicked uselessly. “I need more ammo,” she shouted to Robbie.

“We’re out. Let’s get outta here!”

Tucking her gun into her waistband, she ran to the nearest canoe and began to shove it into the choppy water. But when she looked back, she saw that Kevin still stood in his spot, arms akimbo, glowering at the oncoming zombies. “Kevin, snap out of it! We have to go!” She abandoned the canoe and ran to him, all the while mindful of the distance quickly closing between the love of her life and a horde of infected monsters.

Kevin blinked out of his daze when she yanked on his arm. He stared down at her for a second, glanced up at the charging zombies, then suddenly came to life. Grabbing hold of her shoulder, he thrust her to the canoe. She sucked in a breath when icy water sloshed up her jean-clad legs as she and Kevin pushed the narrow boat away from the shore line.

A keening wail caught her attention. She lifted her eyed and saw the girl she’d shot limping toward the water. The young woman’s face was contorted in fury and agony.

They’re monsters, Ashley reminded herself, even as she flinched at the pained screams. They deserve to die.

Kevin yelled for her to hop into the canoe. She stumbled in and grabbed a paddle, then clutched the side of the keeling boat as Kevin plopped in on the opposite side. The canoe settled on the waves, and they began paddling in tandem, using swift, steady strokes to propel themselves into deeper water.

Ashley gritted her teeth as she tried to keep up the momentum. Her arms were tiring from exertion, but it felt like they weren’t making much progress. She twisted in her seat to see how Robbie and the other guys fared. The other canoe was almost to the middle of the lake, and the three men in it glided across the water with the speed of a professional rowing team. “We have to go faster,” she panted. “The others are way ahead of us.”

“We can’t,” Kevin ground out. “There’s a leak.” He pointed his chin down, and Ashley let out a cry when she saw water pouring in from a bullet hole near the bottom of the boat.

She glanced up, her face to the shore, and the paddle slid from her fingers as she made another horrifying discovery. “Oh no.”

“What is it?”

She lifted a quaking hand, pointed to the jerking heads that bobbed and splashed in the water, and answered with a whimper: “The zombies can swim.”

 

 

To be continued…

*The inspiration for this story came from a friend of mine, who joked that – if a zombie apocalypse ever happened – we could easily survive by heading to the open waters, since we live by the ocean. He even offered to start hanging around the docks as a “yacht enthusiast” to buddy up to the boat owners, should we need a quick nautical escape. Our conversation got the wheels turning in my head, and I couldn’t help but think, “What if there were zombies that could swim?”

*Also, I mentioned this long ago, but music often plays a huge role in my writing. While Nickelback seems to be a band that’s ubiquitously hated, their song “Leader of Men” played a big part in the development of this story. (I wouldn’t consider myself a diehard Nickelback fan, but I do like several of their old songs. And I don’t hold active the active contempt for them that so many of my friends appear to.)

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  1. Jeffrey Goff says:

    Another fine installment. I’m very excited to see your promo and your short films. And of course, I’ll be right there to snag the book when it comes out. Congrats. It’s always good to see the results of all the labor that goes into writing. Looking forward to seeing where and how far you go.

  2. Zombies that swim !
    EXCELLENT !!!

  3. Patricia Kelley says:

    This was a great story, you can see it come to life in your head while your reading it! Great Job!

  4. Wow, zombies that can swim! That’s frightening, yet so so AWESOME. I love your work!

  5. Wow, I loved it. I want to read the rest. I am dying to know what happens next. Zombies that can swim what a terrifying thought. Can’t wait to read more. Thank you.

  6. Tish Taylor says:

    So far I am hooked on your stories. Love the swimming Zombies

  7. This is a really great story! The scenes have so much details that literally have me balled up in anticipation!

  8. I loved this!! Looking forward to more!!

  9. melissa brodzik says:

    I just love your writing abilitys,you are very good and i know you will succeed in whatever you write your very talented .Looking forward to reading more.Take care and write on !!!!!

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