When the call came, I already knew who would be on the other line. There is only one reason why anyone would be calling at this hour. Any news this late would never be good. I fumbled in the dark silencing it quickly.
“Go for Miles,” I answered alert.
“The snow is in the river,” the voice responded. “This is not a drill.”
I was out of bed in a shot, “Affirmative?”
“Proceed with Plan A,” the voice said. “Use escape route Delta Nine.”
“10-4,” I hung up. This was it: time to see what all the years of drills had done for us. Without turning on the lights, I dressed quickly. I crept as quietly as I could to the front hall closet where I would find my supplies. The pack had been classified as a three day assault pack, but it was packed with enough supplies to last three times as long. Next to it would be a crossbow, a quiver of bolts, a .45 and a titanium crowbar.
As I slipped into my boots, I could hear as the news traveled through the neighborhood. The panic was growing as families were frantically packing their cars. Doors were slamming; children were crying having been woken in the middle of the night. The self-proclaimed hillbillies next door were packing their large trucks full of their worldly possessions. Soon the looting would begin.
Being prepared in advance, I would leave it all. There would be no need for my technology where I was going, though the laptop had its own water tight pouch in my pack. My documents were secured on a small jump drive I carried with me. The filing cabinet was empty of any sensitive information. I stopped in the office one last time and synced one final time. With my data synced I punched in the code. In seconds my life’s work was erased the hard drive scrambled and the computer locked. I gazed across my apartment one last time. Even if I were able to return, it would never be the same.
Strapped into my gear I pushed the panic code into the console on the wall. I would have sixty seconds to get out. The security system would go into lock down and hopefully keep the looters out, at least for a while. I pulled the door shut behind me and the full scale of the panic was before me. I stood almost astounded taking in the scene. A minivan sped down the street, horn blazing. Mothers were screaming from the passenger seat as husbands carried large bags so full they couldn’t be zipped shut. A child stood in a yard across the street wailing.
Best keep off the streets, I thought. Keep a cool head.
Over the years, our drills had been able to construct dozens of ways out of the city. Delta Nine routed me to the Northern Sector near the lake. I would rendezvous with the team at Dock Sixteen where out escape vessel would be. I headed West through backyards keeping to the dark as best as possible. I knew the neighborhood well, having run drills on my own. I knew which houses has security lights and which ones had dogs that could easily be disturbed. I stayed low to the ground, back to the fences as much as possible. The enemy would be out there, crawling in the shadows.
I could see the park just up the way. This was where the real danger would be. There would be limited visibility. The possibility of friendly fire was all too real. The metro parks all connected across the city, I would follow it East Bound until I reached the river that would take me to the lake.
I could hear the panic across the city. The streets were becoming congested with traffic. People frantically trying to get out before it was too late. I was glad to be on foot. Until I heard it.
There was a shuffling that was not human. I loaded my crossbow and knelt in the brush. My heart was pounding loudly in my ears. The shuffling grew louder as it came closer. It came into view just through the leaves. The deep red eyes glowed as it staggered nearer to me. It was alone. Then the smell hit. The putrid scent of rotting flesh assaulted my nostrils. All the drills, the target practice, all the training in the world could not prepare me for this moment right now. I felt a wretch in my stomach. This was an unholy stench, how could something decay so rapidly? At least it was alone. I took aim, only a shot to the head would take this monster down.
It paused, looking around. It opened its mouth and the sound of the devil came out. It began as a low rumble deep in its gut and grew in frequency. It smells me. Exhaling, I squeezed the trigger. The bolt flew out silently and the beast fell to the ground.
I reloaded quickly. I had to move fast. The scent of a dead zombie would signal others to come. I began to run, staying low to the ground trying to keep as silent as possible. As I drew nearer to the river, I could hear the sound of rushing water over rocks. When it came into view I veered North sticking as close to the riverbed as possible without falling in. I could hear the groan of zombies in the distance. They were calling and responding. None too close to me, but the roars were growing over the traffic. There was a horde nearby. I flipped my night vision goggles down over my eyes to keep watch and continued to run up the riverbed. As I passed under the 30th Street Bridge I heard a woman cry out, “Oh my God! What is that thing?”
The groan of dozens of zombies raised above the screams of frightened adults followed by the stomping of running feet as families took off in the opposite direction. I continued north along the river leaving the chaos behind me. It was every man for himself now and I was on a path to freedom.