Cibola National Forest, NM
“The trick is to snap off the point,” Karl said as he spun the handle on the vise. “If you leave too much of the point on it can bend on you and that is def something you don't want to happen.”
“Def? What are you a 15 year old texter?,” John asked while looking at Karl's rapidly graying hair.
“All the shit that has gone down and that's what bugs you, my slang?”
“Yeah run that psycho-babble by me again – I'm probably just not confronting the present difficulties and am lashing out in the wrong direction bullshit bullshit bullshit.”
“You want to learn from my near lethal mistake or not kid?” Karl asked.
Karl held up his hand for silence and cocked his head, listening.
Karl looked at the thin wooden door in the ranger maintenance shed, waiting. The shed had no windows but the walls were thin plywood faced with peeling shingles on the exterior. Karl checked his Timex. 7:14 pm. Dusk. He had found John wandering the trail dragging a mostly empty backpack by one of its arm loops. Karl had thought he was one of the creatures at first then realized the kid was shock. He had gently led him back to the ranger station. It had taken John 2 days to remember his name and he had started to tell Karl about camping with his aunt and twin brother but had stopped and would not speak of it.
In a quieter voice he continued, “it scraped right off her forehead, made an almost funny twanging sound and If I wouldn't have tripped over my cooler she would have bitten me.”
“Can we can the narrative?” John asked impatiently.
“Short version – these steak knives I've fitted to theses handles are crap – the blades bend too much. Hence why I've started to snap the first half inch or so off,” Karl said.
“Makes that much of a difference?”
“Why not the axe or the sledge-hammer there?” John asked loudly, pointing at the implements hanging on the wall.
“Please keep your voice down – I know they seem to be attracted to motion and I am almost 100% sure they are attracted to sound. I tried the axe – almost took my own foot off and I was winded after a few swings. I was very luck it was only one of them. I… used the axe and the sharp end… stuck. I managed to get it unstuck and realized I should use the blunt end. Realized I can't go to the luck well too many times so I asked myself what would be better.”
John sat down on the floor cross-legged and shut his eyes.
“Am I boring you John?”
“A little bit so fast forward and you decided to make a spear, right?”
“Yeah it bent too much on some chick and”
Karl interrupted him – “The chick as you call her was my wife, Jamie.”
John looked up, twisting a small piece of wire he had found on the floor in his hands.
“John I know you lost family too and this is going to be rough but if we are going to survive we need to cooperate,” Karl said.
John stood up and moved over to the vice and nodded.
“So far I've made three but can't find any more screws to help fasten the blades down. I removed the handle from the steak knives, and don't ask why there are steak knives in a ranger station shed, I don't know either. Life hands you lemons you make steak knive spears or something like that.”
Karl gave John a sidelong glance and noticed the half grin on his face, the kind his students used to give him when he made a bad pun – the “we know you made a funny but it's not our kind of funny” look.
“Why the mop handles?” John asked.
“See how the wood is hollowed out at the tip so you can screw a mop or broom head in to it? Weird design – it's usually the other way around but..”
“I see – so you removed the handles from the knives – put it down in to the hollow area and filled it with what?”
“Ummm Shoe Goo – I had some in my backpack,” Karl said.
“Then once it hardens you put some screws through it for support.”
“It's light, quick, and now that I've learned to shorten the blade tip, it won't bend.”
John turned away and yawned.
“I want to go sleep in the station – its cramped and cold in here and-“
“I think that would be a mista-“
Breaking glass and splintering wood could be heard coming from the Ranger station for a few seconds then quiet.
Karl reached down and took John's hand and simultaneously turned off the battery powered Coleman lantern.
“Relax and stay calm John,” Karl whispered. John tightened his grip.
Karl guessed it was one of the two large glass windows that faced on to the small porch of the Ranger Station – precisely the reason he did not want to stay in it.. The Ranger Station would have been too tough to defend.
That's not luck, That's smart – you will survive this
“John I am going to let go of your hand and give you a spear, ok?” Karl whispered.
John uttered a quiet shaky yes and took the spear.
The thin door jumped on its hinges but the wooden latch held.
“SHIT!” John yelped.
Fists drummed on the thin wooden door.
Karl turned the lantern back on and sat it on the floor away from his body.
“John let's hope it's only one of them,” Karl said, raising his voice over the thumping of the door, “ I need to know if you can help but its ok if you can I just need to know if you can't please stay back and don't stab me so I am going to-“
The latch gave way, the door bursting open. Purple black night crowded the doorway along with a shambling silhouette. It lunged forward in to the shed.
Karl had his spear pointed at the door but hesitated. He looked at the face in the doorway then back at John and it almost cost him his life. One face was gray and cold, one was red and crying, but they were identical.
Dirty broken fingernails slashed and missed Karl's face by inches.
Karl jammed his spear up under the zombie's jawline towards the brain. The spear tip sunk deep and the creature fell past Karl in to the shed, it was still.
John let out a scream. Karl turned to try to offer what little comfort he could and realized Karl was not looking down at the body at his feet. He was looking past Karl out in to the night.
“Aunt Jen?” John yelled, pushing past Karl.
Karl started to go after him when he realized John's spear was on the floor. Karl grabbed the loose spear and followed John out in to the night.
Karl heard footsteps on wood and broken glass and ran towards the Ranger station.
“Aunt Jen it's me, me John!”
Karl ran up the two steps to the porch of the station and leaped through the smashed in window.
A pale middle aged lady in hiking boots ( goretex the soles said ) was hunched over John's body gustily gnawing at his mid-section. Karl quickly put the spear in to the base of her skull then pulled it out. She toppled forward on to John's body.Karl pulled her off John and saw the gaping wound. He took an involuntary step backwards. John was sobbing with pain, grasping his side. His skin was clammy and sweat was soaking his shirt. Karl put the tip of the spear quickly in and through John's eye.
Karl ran back to the shed and gathered the few possesions he had. The sound of something, somethings out in the brush made him pause. It sounded like they were headed here.
Off he went in to the dark.
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