This is the eighth chapter.
Start at the beginning or read the previous chapter.
Copyright © 2014 by Christian Bergman, All rights reserved.
All people, places, and events are fictional … except when they aren’t.
The Nudist War – Day 48
They ran naked through the streets attacking and eating anyone or anything unfortunate enough to be caught outside. Then they began breaking down doors, climbing through windows, even climbing through the second floor windows. They ate the people where they found them, even drinking the blood so that nary a drop was spilt upon the ground.
~ La Opinion Publica, Albuquerque, New Mexico, November 2, 1892
• • •
Eddy lay in bed shivering, the events of the previous day running through his mind. He tried to imagine the horror and the fear that went through the minds of the airport patrol as they met their death at the hands and teeth of the hoard of voracious nudists. He mused on how the official term diseased had morphed into the Zs, and how MAN’s people now referred to them as nudists.
“So cold,” he thought lying there in the dark. “Heater must be off. Brrr, that ‘blue norther’ really dropped the temperature. Things have gotten so weird in the last few days. That girl. What did Maxine call her? Medium Girl? And my grandmother’s blanket … I know it was there, but then it wasn’t. Am I losing my mind?” He was beginning to question everything.
“Brrr,” he muttered, his teeth chattering. Lying there in the dark he heard footsteps coming down the hall. Soft footsteps, perhaps Jess, or Cindy, or even Maxine. He heard his door open. Someone placed another blanket on him and softly tiptoed out of his room, quietly closing his door.
The extra blanket should have warmed him, but he only seemed to be getting colder. “Why so cold he thought?” He decided to get up and check the thermostat. Eddy reached over and turned on the light. He sat up and swung his feet around and put them on the floor. As he stood up, he looked down at the cot and at the blanket on top. It was his grandmother’s blanket.
• • •
Two floors below, MAN’s people were adjusting to their new settings. Some were sleeping on sofas, others just curled up on the floor where it was carpeted. MAN felt the wet slobbery tongue of Maggie across his face. “That time already girl?” He looked at his watch. Without windows it was hard to tell what time it was. 5:00 AM. “Do you need to go out?”
“Woof, woof,” Maggie replied.
Okay, okay, let me get dressed.”
MAN grabbed a shotgun and the keys to the stairwell and he and Maggie headed toward the roof.
• • •
Eddy screamed. He screamed loud enough that MAN and Maggie heard him as they were climbing the stairs past the eighth floor, MAN unlocked the door and walked in, shotgun ready, just in time to see Jess, still putting on her robe, rushing down the hallway.
“What is it?” MAN asked.
“Is Wolf okay?” Maggie thought.
Seeing MAN startled her, but Jess quickly realized why he must be there. This time Eddy had screamed loud enough to wake the undead. “MAN, er, Matt, it’s Eddy, he has nightmares,” she said as they walked toward Eddy’s room.
She reached Eddy’s door, opened it, and walked in. All of Eddy’s covers, blankets, and sheets were on the floor. Eddy was sitting bolt upright on the cot, buck-naked, with a dazed look on his face. “Another bad dream?” Jess asked.
Before he could answer Maggie flashmobbed him, jumping up on him, knocking him back over onto the cot, thoroughly licking his face.”Okay, okay, Maggie, enough, enough.” Eddy was laughing so hard that tears were streaming down his eyes. He gave Maggie a hug. “Yes, bad dream, but I’m better now thanks to Maggie.”
“Mission accomplished,” Maggie thought.
He managed to push her off of the cot and sit back up again. He looked at the pile of sheets and blankets on the floor. “That explains why I was so cold. My grandmother’s blanket isn’t in there is it?”
They all rummaged through the pile of blankets. “Nothing here.”
“Okay, it was just a dream,” Eddy sighed. “Now if you’ll all just get out, I’ll get dressed. Please close the door behind you.”
Everyone was now in the hallway. Wolf came running up. “Yap. Yap. Yap, yap, yap.” (Hey, what’s going on? Why is Maggie here? Hi Maggie.)
“WOOF. Woof, woof, woof, woof. WOOF!” Maggie replied. (Wolf, are you okay? You’re okay! You’re okay!)
“Okay, you two, knock it off.” MAN commanded. “I suppose Wolf needs to go out too. Come on Wolf, you can go with us.” The three of them headed for the stairwell.
• • •
The Brauns were already in the break room when Jess got there. “Another nightmare?” Tom asked.
“This time about his grandmother’s blanket,” Jess replied.
“Is Eddie okay? I mean, beside the dreams.” Cindy asked.
“Hard to say. He has been under a lot of stress lately.” Jess seemed concerned. She made herself a cup of coffee and rummaged around in the pantry until she found a package of Twinkles.
Eddy wandered in and absent-mindedly made himself a cup of coffee. He sat down without acknowledging anyone else in the room. Everyone looked at him waiting for him to speak. When he didn’t, Jess was the first to venture something. “Good morning.”
“Mmmf,” Eddy muttered. His silence remained unbroken.
All eyes turned toward the stairwell as they heard the door unlock and Wolf and Maggie come running in. MAN followed up the rear. “So tell me about these dreams,” he inquired.
That seemed to have gotten Eddy’s attention. “The stress must be getting to me. It’s manifesting in nightmares. They are all Z-related in one form or another. This time it was about my grandmother’s blanket, the one Jess gave to that young nudist girl, the one Maxine called Medium Girl. Others have been about that tall red-haired female nudist, Miss Scarlet. Others are about the nudists in general. They all want to eat me.” Eddy smiled. “Fairly self-explanatory considering the circumstances we’re living under and recent events. Don’t worry about me I’ll be fine. So, MAN, er, Matt,” Eddy changed the subject, “what’s the plan?”
“Yes, that. We’ll round up everyone in about an hour, head back to the compound, see what’s left. Care to come? I don’t expect to come in contact with any nudists. I think this is just a materials recovery trip, based on what happened at the airport.”
“Sure, I’ll go, you might need an extra gunner,” Eddy replied.
“Anyone else?” MAN asked.
Tom responded, “Yeah, why not. Give me a chance to get some fresh air.”
“Me, me,” Maxine begged.
“It’s okay with me, if it’s okay with MAN,” Tom offered.
“It should be safe enough,” MAN said “Well, as safe as anything can be anymore, ” he qualified his statement. “It’s already 6:30. Let’s meet back here at 8:00. C’mon Maggie.” He and Maggie headed back to the stairwell.
• • •
8:00 AM and the break room was filled to capacity with MAN and his folk plus Eddy, Tom, and Maxine. “Coast looks clear on the security cams,” Jess announced.
“Okay, let’s head out,” MAN bellowed over the chatter. They all marched single file into the stairwell and down the stairs with MAN and Maggie in the lead. At the bottom, they filed out of the stairwell and into they’re pre-assigned vehicles. Everyone carried one or more shotguns, ARs, and sidearms plus copious ammo.
Eddy unplugged his car, double-checking to make sure the blanket really was gone. He then opened the back door for Maxine, who was carrying two large ammo boxes. Finally, he and Tom got into the front seats. Eddy would be pulling up the rear of the convoy, so he waited for everyone else to pull out of the garage before pushing the power button.
As the convoy got out on the road, Eddy wondered where the Surf Packs were and secretly hoped that they would not run afoul of MAN’s troops. Despite the nightmares, Eddy felt a strange attraction to Miss Scarlet and a heartfelt concern for Medium Girl. The thought of either of them dying in a hail of bullets from MAN’s revenge-blinded troops was unsettling. In the end, the road trip from the lab to the Seaside proved to be eerily uneventful.
The convoy ahead of Eddy’s car slowed to a stop as the Seaside came into view. He slowly and carefully passed the stopped procession on the left until he was along side of MAN’s pickup truck. Eddy put the car in park and turned if off. Only by its absence did one notice the quiet high-pitched whine of the power inverters. Tom and Eddy got out and walked over to the driver’s side of MAN’s pickup where he stood scrutinizing the Seaside with binoculars. “Well?” Eddy asked.
“Maybe we should begin calling it the Z side,” MAN commented with grave humor. “There must have been a million of them. They set off all three rows of the perimeter explosives, but they still got over the outer wall. Okay, I see how they did it. The cars are still pushed up against the boards on the first level, but several of the railings are gone on the second-floor balconies, as are the refrigerators and washer/dryers that were protecting the boarded-up sliding glass windows. The nudists got up on the balconies, ripped off the railings and then pushed the appliances over and off the balconies. After that it was short work to rip off the boarding and break through the windows. LISTEN UP,” MAN bellowed, “turn the cars around pointed away from the Seaside, Halliburton-style. Drivers stay with your vehicles keep the motors running. We want to be able to bug out in a hurry if we need to.”
“Halliburton-style?” Eddy asked.
“That’s just what I call it,” MAN answered. “At well sites, company procedure is to back all cars into the parking spaces, that way if the shit hits the fan, they are pointed in the right direction to bug out.”
“Makes sense,” Tom allowed.
Eddy got in and turned his car around. “Maxine, do you know how to drive?” She shook her head no. “Well, it’s about time you learned. Get in.” Eddy got out and let Maxine get behind the driver’s seat. “Steering wheel, accelerator, brake … that’s all you need to know. Wait here.” Maxine grinned like the cat that caught the canary.
Everyone who was not a driver got out of their vehicles, weapons ready. They fell in behind MAN and began a slow walk to the Seaside. The ground was soaked with blood, most likely nudist blood. All three levels of perimeter explosive had been detonated. The main door was still locked. MAN unlocked it and cautiously stepped inside.
It wasn’t until they climbed to the fifth floor that the carnage became apparent. The floor, walls, and ceiling of the radio room were splattered in blood. The six floor, MAN’s headquarters, was equally bad. But nothing could prepare them for the carnage on the roof. This was obviously the location of their last stand. The gravel roof was soaked in blood, most likely a mixture of human and nudist blood. Shell casings littered the ground. There had obviously been quite a ferocious firefight. The lack of drag marks in the stairwell suggested that the bodies had been simply been thrown over the side, if not consumed on the spot.
“They had to have headed south,” Eddy remarked, “otherwise we would’ve seen them on our security cameras. We can double check when we get back.”
“I’ll grab our camera recordings while we’re here and review them when we get back to the lab.” MAN answered. “OKAY EVERYBODY, LISTEN UP. Grab all the weapons and ammo. Get any other food and supplies that will fit in your cars. I also want to get as much of the gym and strength training equipment as possible loaded onto the trucks. Be sure to get the inversion table. Let’s clean this place out and relocate back to lab.” Man turned to Eddy and said in a softer voice, “I’d prefer not to have to come back.”
There was no returning to the Seaside. MAN had been violated. They collected their weapons, supplies, and equipment and headed back to the CDC lab.
• • •
The drive back to the lab was equally uneventful. Eddy found himself wondering what had happened to the two Surf Packs. Had they joined the marauding horde? Had they been driven away by the intruders? Had they been eaten by the invaders? Perhaps the security cam video from the Seaside would shed light on the matter.
They got back to the lab by mid-afternoon, circled the lab, and then pulled into the garage. Eddy got out, plugged in the car, made another search for the blanket, and opened the door for Maxine.
MAN immediately posted armed guards around the garage perimeter, while the rest of his tribe began preparing to haul weapons, supplies, and equipment up the stairs to their new quarters.
“Let me turn the elevators back on first,” Eddy suggested. “This is too much stuff to haul up five flights of stairs.
“Good idea,” MAN replied. “It was hard enough hauling it down out of the Seaside.”
Tom and Eddy climbed the stairs up to the elevator control room, turned the elevators back on, and rode the freight elevator back down. They then pitched-in to help haul stuff up for MAN. It took several trips to haul everything up to MAN’s new headquarters.
On their last trip up MAN stopped them, “drop that off on five, then come up to six. I’ve got some cold beer in the fridge.”
“As soon as we turn the elevators off again.”
Eddy and Tom hauled the last of the equipment up to the fifth floor, then rode an elevator back down to the second floor to turn the elevators off and climbed the stairs back up to MAN on six. The large table from the Seaside was already set up and in place. Maggie was sleeping soundly under it. When she heard the door open and realized it was Eddy, she came running at full speed. “Whoa, girl slowdown,” Eddy said, but it was too late. She was already standing on her hind legs with her front paws on his shoulders, licking his face with her large wet tongue.
“MAGGIE! DOWN!” MAN commanded as he walked into the room. “NOW!” Maggie gave one last lick, dropped to all fours, and crawled back under the table where she curled up and promptly went back to sleep.
“She’s just a lover,” Eddy replied wiping the slobber off his face.
“Bad manners,” MAN responded. “Can’t have bad manners.” He set three beers down on the table. “Sit. Drink.”
Eddy and Tom pulled out chairs and sat down. “Another day in paradise,” Eddy exclaimed. Tom winced. MAN smiled.
“I can’t begin to tell you how much it means to me and my people to have a place to stay, and how thankful we are to you and Jess that you opened your home to us.” MAN looked Eddy in the eye. “Thank you.”
Eddie squirmed in his seat. This was truly a side of MAN he had never seen. It made him feel uncomfortable. “You’re more than welcome. But what else could we do? You need a place to live. This place is reasonably fortified, and we aren’t using the lower floors. Besides, we’re expecting your help in improving our fortification level. It wouldn’t hurt to have armed spotters on the roof at all times and I know that you can implement security measures that we haven’t thought of. I am expecting you to begin a security audit as soon as you’re settled in.”
“That I will gladly do, for your sake and for ours. After what we saw at the Seaside we definitely need to harden the access to this facility. We will begin first thing tomorrow morning, We need to have a good look at the elevators. I think that could be your biggest security risk.”
“How so?” Eddy asked.
“We saw what they where capable of at the Seaside. What’s to keep them from prying open the elevator doors and just climbing up the elevator shaft?”
Eddie winced at the thought. It was obvious this was the first time he’d considered this as a possibility. “There goes my sleep for the night.”
“I’ll post armed guards at each of the elevator doors beginning on the fifth floor until we can get the doors welded shut. I’ll also put some men up on the roof.”
The relief on Eddy’s face was visible. “We’re the ones that owe you a debt of thanks.”
MAN reached over and squeezed Eddy’s shoulder. “We’re all in this together now. Another beer?”
“I’m good,” Tom answered.
“Let’s save it till we have something to celebrate.” Eddy replied. “Tom and I should probably be getting back up now. Jess and Cindy will be worried about us. Oh … tomorrow we need to look at those security cam videos. We need to understand what we are up against.”
“Roger that. I’ll see to it that the security camera videos are viewable.”
With that Tom and Eddy excused themselves and headed upstairs.
• • •
Eddy and Wolf headed up the stairs to the roof, where Wolf went bounding out as soon as Eddy opened the door. Eddy was surprised to see that MAN had not yet stationed the promised armed lookouts, but thought nothing more of it.
“Come on Wolf, be quick. I’m tired and I want to go to bed,” Eddie yelled. Wolf did not respond, all he heard was the rustle of the wind blowing in from the Gulf. Eddy walked up the steps to the helipad, opened the waterproof control panel and threw on the switch for the floodlights. They failed to come on. “What now?” Eddy cursed. He flipped the switch up-and-down several times to no avail. “Come on Wolf!”
The clouds overhead parted enough to let the light from a full moon shine down on the scene. Wolf was nowhere to be found, but something was lurking in the shadows. Two dark shapes approached the helipad steps and began to climb them. Eddie backed away from the steps toward the far railing. As the two figures reached the top of the steps, a moon beam brightly illuminated them. Standing in front of him, completely naked, were Medium Girl and Miss Scarlet. Medium Girl handed something to Miss Scarlet. It was his grandmother’s blanket.
A stab of fear ran up and down Eddie’s spine like an electric shock. The tall red-haired nudist unfurled the blanket and walked slowly toward him. She held the blanket wide-open with arms outstretched as if to wrap him up in it. The closer she got, the faster she moved until it seemed like she was running straight at him. She connected with him, wrapped the blanket around his arms, and held him tight so that he could not move as her momentum pushed them both over the railing. As they fell, she stared into his eyes and studied his face. Her lips met his.
• • •