Table of Contents
James brought his hammer clanking down on the red-hot sheet of metal. Sparks flew as he pounded it into shape. Before he could finish shaping the steel, it began to lose its glow, so he plunged it back into the forge. “Keep the flame hot, Henry! Work those bellows!”
“Yes, right away.” Henry worked the bellows with renewed vigor, and the flame in the forge began steadily to climb to thousands of degrees. The steel regained its red glow, and after roughly 15 seconds, he pulled it out with his tongs and gave it a few more shaping blows with the hammer. Satisfied with the rough shape of the blade, he plunged it into a barrel of water to cool it very quickly, tempering the metal.
He then took an electric grinder to the metal (side-note: this, like all my others, is a modern-day story) to sharpen the edge further. He added the finishing touches by switching the head on his grinder to a polishing pumice head. His finished blade weighed roughly 17 pounds, but James, being a somewhat large man, was fine with this.
“Grab your bat, Henry. We’re heading out to meet the others.”
“Alright. What about your old axe? Since you have that sword, can’t I use that instead?”
“Hah, in time, Henry. That axe is meant for a man about my size. When you get older you’ll be able to use it. For now, your bat will do.”
“Okay, Dad.” Henry left the garage and went upstairs to his room. On his way back, he stopped in front of his father’s room to stare longingly at the axe for a moment. With that, he’d really be able to give “them” hell.
“I’m back. Are you ready to go, dad?”
James lifted his sword and stood up. “Yes.”
They went out of the front door, being very careful to lock it behind them. They began the 8-mile hike to the safe-house. About two miles in, Henry spoke. “… Dad?”
“Do you think we’re going to run into any before we make it there?”
“I’d give it a 50/50 chance of happening. As long as there aren’t more than 5, I think we can take them.”
“Okay. Do you think anyone else’s house almost got broken into last night?”
“Perhaps. They’re hardy folk though, I’m sure everyone’s fine.”
Silence continued for another 2 miles. “Dad… Dad! Did you hear that?”
“I said, did you hear that?”
“No… No, I heard YOU. I meant what did you hear?”
“Oh. Kind of a scraping sound… and some rustling.”
“They’re surrounding us. Keep your bat up and don’t let any bite you.”
“Got it. Are you ready? How many do you think there are?”
“They’re circling us, so I’m sure there’s at least ten.”
“T-t-ten!? Isn’t that double what you said we could handle?”
“Relax, they won’t attack all at once. They’re going to send their strongest and fastest at us first to wear us out and then they’re going to send everyone else afterward to clean up the mess. If we can take out the first wave of attackers, the rest should be easy. Get ready to defend yourself.”
“Ready, dad.” The first came out from behind a tree. The second stepped into the light of a streetlamp. The third came from behind a bush. The three began to converge on them, slowly, circling them. Then, the one who stepped from behind a tree lunged at Henry. Henry ducked swiftly under the lunge and came up with the bat to snap two of the attacker’s ribs as it sailed over his head. As it continued its trajectory, James whirled around with his sword to decapitate it. It landed two seconds later with a large dent in its side and with blood spilling from the neck.
“One down, nine to go.” Henry said triumphantly. As if his saying that was a cue of some sort, the other two sprinted at James from opposite directions and lunged with the intent of clawing open either side of him. James saw them on both sides and stepped back several steps. They collided and turned to face him. Another one dropped from a tree intending to land on Henry. “I see you!” he yelled, and brought the bat upward with a fierce swing, fatally smashing the skull of the fourth.
The second grabbed the third’s arms and began swinging it around, finally releasing it like a hammer-thrower at James. James fell flat onto his back and as the third sailed over him, he swung his blade through its abdomen, severing it cleanly. James then whirled to his feet from under the third and turned to face the second, who was the strongest of the four that had attacked them so far. This was apparent because it was roughly twice the size of the third, whom, at the time, was crawling on its arms and elbows toward James. “Henry, take that one, I’ve got the big guy!”
“Got it!” Henry pounced on the third and opened its head with his bat. He gave it a second smash to ensure it would no longer try to attack. A fifth, sixth, and seventh emerged from behind plants behind them, and Henry glared at them with determination.
Meanwhile, James had sliced off the second’s left forearm and was using the severed appendage as a shield against the blows from the right fist. The second then aimed a kick, which James ducked under, and he then used the opportunity to sever its leg. The second proceeded to topple with the absence of its leg to support it.
The severed leg skidded to a rest a few feet from where Henry was fending off his three attackers. The fifth, who was the smallest, was being thrown at Henry by the seventh while the sixth attempted to sneak up on Henry from behind. Henry, in one fluid motion, scooped some gravel from the road and tossed it into the air. He then, using the whirlwind batting technique pioneered by Freddie Wong (a god among men) a few years previously; hit the pieces of gravel into, first, the eye of the seventh, and then he smashed the bat into the side of the fifth’s head seconds before it would have made impact. He continued his whirlwind to smack a piece of gravel into the face of the sixth, and another piece he hit at the second, where it sliced across its throat. He finished the whirlwind by bringing the bat crashing down on the sixth’s (who was at the moment falling forward as the piece of gravel knocked it off balance) neck, violently and decisively snapping the neck. He then turned to face the seventh.
“Thanks, Henry!” James yelled after the piece of gravel hit by Henry’s bat sliced his opponent’s neck. Of course it didn’t bleed, but it gave James the opportunity to decapitate it. An eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth converged from different directions on James’ location. “Henry, get over here, there’s five more of them!”
“I’ve got it, Dad!” Henry at that moment was locked in a duel with the seventh, who was a surprisingly agile fighter, even with only one good eye. It ducked under one of his blows and delivered a punch to Henry’s knee. Henry cringed momentarily in pain but came back swinging, breaking the seventh’s other arm on its blind side, which was left vulnerable during the punch. The seventh then rose to its feet and started to swing its broken arm in circles, like a mace (it, of course, felt no pain from doing this) aiming for Henry’s side. Henry was the clenched fist coming and so blocked it with the bat. He followed this maneuver with an upward swing into the seventh’s chin. The seventh was left reeling from the severity of the blow. “Let’s see you bite me now, you piece of crap!” Henry then ended the fight with a severe blow to the seventh’s neck. “Coming, Dad!”
It was about time, too. In the time it took Henry to defeat the seventh, James had already cut open the ninth and decapitated the tenth. The eighth and twelfth were currently double-teaming him lunging at him from opposite directions. “Get over, quick!” Henry arrived and cracked open the head of the eighth just as the eleventh, a veritable midget, began its sprint toward Henry. James, meanwhile, concerned himself with the twelfth. He swung the sword at the twelfth’s neck in a severe slice which was stopped by the twelfth’s arm, which was a prosthetic limb made of steel. It then proceeded to attempt to deliver an uppercut aimed at James’ throat. James dodged (barely) and took the opportunity to sever the prosthetic at the shoulder, which was flesh. Once the prosthetic was out of the way James was able to methodically hack the twelfth to pieces.
While this was happening, the eleventh found itself being hit in the face with Henry’s bat repeatedly. It was small and fast, but Henry was still very good at baseball, and small and fast things were what he was used to hitting with his bat.
“Is… Is that all of them?” Henry asked, completely out of breath.
“Yeah… I think any of them left would be the weaklings they would have sent to clean up the mess. And the only mess here is zombie meat.”
“Yeah… They probably got scared away.” They began their hike to the safe house. “I wonder if anyone else got ambushed.”
“Maybe. It’s pretty possible. When this outbreak first started, zombies were exactly like you’d see in the movies. Slow, weak, and mindless. Their only strength was in numbers… But now… It’s almost like they’re getting smarter. They’re starting to develop self-preservative instincts. A couple of years ago, the little ones would almost certainly have rushed us. But now… They don’t fight unless they think they can win. I’ll definitely be bringing this up at the meeting.” They walked the rest of the way in peace and in silence.
“Is this the new place?”
“Yeah, it’s the only place zombies haven’t broken into.” They were standing in front of an abandoned bank safe. The bank around it had of course fallen apart as the years of wear and a lack of maintenance took their toll, and the safe was what was left. The zombies had of course figured out that it was their safe-house, and had tried to render it unusable many times without success.
James knocked on the door.
“Who’s there?” said a gruff voice from inside.
“James, the blacksmith, is here; and my son, Henry made it too.”
“Good. At least someone made it here on time.” The door opened, and inside were a gruff-looking man with a thick beard, a semi-attractive yet masculine woman (the gruff guy’s wife), a tall, lanky-looking guy with shaggy hair leaning on the wall holding a harpoon, a black man with a bristly looking goatee holding a longbow with a quiver on his back, a blonde girl of perhaps 14 (about Henry’s age) holding a sledgehammer, and an old Pakistani man with his wife (both of whom had sheathed katanas in their belts. And yes, I know that katanas are Japanese. They just had always collected antique swords). This was the current composition of “The Survivors.” There were of course a few people who hadn’t gotten there yet, but basically, this was it. It was an oddly diverse and yet truly effective composition for a group.
“First order of business: Was anyone attacked on the way here?” said the gruff man.
The black guy with the longbow spoke first. “I heard some of them coming up the road from behind me, so I climbed a tree and shot them dead. There were four of them. I retrieved the arrows after.” He then produced five blood-soaked arrows.
“I thought you said there were four.”
“There was, one of them was a big one and it took two arrows to bring it down.”
“Alright, very good. Anyone else get attacked?”
The blonde girl raised her hand. “Um… I did.”
“Oh, and what happened?”
“Well, one of them tried to attack me so… Oh, wait, I should start at the beginning. Okay. So, I was walking here with my brother…”
“Where is your brother?”
“Oh, he’s fine. He’s bringing one of the corpses so we’ll have something to eat.”
“Oh. Will he be alright?”
“It’s Gary. Of course he will.”
“Right… So go on?”
“Well, we were walking along, and then seven of them attacked us, two at a time. The first one came out and charged at me, but I got it over the head with the sledgehammer and it got its head flattened so that was one of them, and then two more came out and my brother got them both in the eye with his magnum, and then the noise from the gunshot drew in two more, and my brother smashed in one of the skulls with his bo staff and I got the other one in the ribs and then I hit it in the back of the head, it was pretty gross, blood got everywhere. So that was five of them down. And then the last two came out and I got one of them in the face, and then my brother got behind the second one and tore into the back of its neck with his hunting knife. He kept at it until it stopped struggling. That’s the one he’s bringing back, mostly because his knife got stuck and he needed more time to get it out.”
“Okay. Anyone else?”
“Yes.” The Pakistani man stood up. “Me and my wife were walking and we were nearly here but three of them attacked all at once. We took the heads off of all three no problem, and now here we are.”
“Alright, great. How about you, James?”
“Oh, nothing really. Just about 12 of them attacked us in groups. Henry really held his own back there, I think he killed about half of them and wounded about three more.”
“Did you just say TWELVE?”
“Uh, yeah. Twelve. We’re okay.”
“If Joe the barkeep was still alive, I would buy you a beer for that... and a root beer for you, Henry.”
“Much appreciated, Mr. Leroy.” Henry said.
Just then, a loud, pounding knock came at the door.
“Who is it?” Mr. Leroy asked.
“It’s Gary! We’ve got a problem!” said the voice from the other side of the door.
Mr. Leroy opened the door, and Gary rushed in carrying a zombie corpse with a knife protruding from the back of its head. “They… They’re organizing.”
“Yes. They seem to have elected a leader. I couldn’t understand a word of it, they seem to have created some type of sign language to compensate for the fact that the virus destroys their voice box. But I think this is very, VERY bad news for us. It means they’re definitely not the dumb bags of meat we would kill a couple of years ago. They’re going to wage war.”