Champagne Jackson Kicks Zombie Ass
Read The First 5 Chapters
"Champagne Jackson Kicks Zombie Ass" by F Tallahassee is a witty,
entertaining tale of zombies, screw-ups and endless action. Every second of
this book is jam packed with something juicy: humor, sexiness, thrills, and an all-around
gritty, bloody party. Fans love Tallahassee's no-holds-barred style, which is
unabashed in its witty and slightly over the top sense of delight. All the way
through, there's a bit of a tongue-in-cheek tone, which gives the most serious
bits even more weight.
Read The Summary And The First 5 Chapters Below
There are good days, bad days and then there’s the kind of
day where you discover that your husband’s cheating on you, your car gets
firebombed by some jackass and the zombie apocalypse decides to break out in
all its bloody glory. Champagne Jackson has lived in the ghetto all her life,
but is she tough enough to survive the fun and frolics that mark the end of the
She’s a big black woman with a bad attitude and a tendency
to turn the air bluer than a penguin’s butt on the Antarctic ice. She also owns
a pawn-broking store that contains the kind of arsenal that’s tailor-made for
Armageddon. If she can get to it. The streets between her and it are bristling
with coffin dodgers and zombie types. She’s not exactly built for speed, but
she doesn’t lack for moxie, so she makes a mad dash for it. That’s when she
discovers that the walking dead are misnamed. Not only can the fast ones run,
they’re quicker than she is.
Things are looking ominous for our feisty heroine when Mike
Wilkins, a marine with a cool mind and a steady hand, steps in and helps out.
CJ and Mike join forces and soon they encounter two orphaned, but highly
resourceful Hispanic children, Diego and Manuela. Together they try to find a
way out of this urban hellhole, but every exit is blocked.
Tiny Tyler and his all-black gang, The Gravedigger Crew,
have barricaded their sector. They are at war with the white-supremacist
Marauders and the Chicano Death Dealers for control of the city. They will let
no-one in and no-one out.
Our heroes manage to get on Tiny’s bad side, as if he had a
good side, and Mike must face the diminutive, but deadly Lord Slice in mortal
combat. He’s not the only one. The pint-sized psychopath is something of a
chubby chaser and Champagne Jackson is just his kind of woman. It’s a good
thing that she has fists of steel and takes no crap from man nor beast.
Even if they can somehow get past the Gravedigger Crew, they
still have the other gangs to contend with. Not to mention a crazy voodoo
priest and his maniacal followers. Oh, and thousands upon thousands of zombies.
Fast ones, slow ones and mutant monsters. It’s time to kick ass or die trying.
‘Champagne Jackson Kicks Zombie Ass’ is the debut novel from
F. A. Tallahassee, otherwise known as the Florida Ape-Man. It’s a story that
blends horror, action, adventure and comedy. It’s a tale of survival against
insurmountable odds and resilience in the face of a world plucked from a
The novel began life as a short story idea and essentially
the first chapter of the book is that story, but Champagne Jackson is a larger
than life character and she refused to be constrained. She had adventures to
live and insults to hurl and she was suited and booted and ready to rock and
roll. Soon there were bad-tempered midgets, angry giants, religious zealots,
trigger-happy gangsters, ravenous zombies, speed-freak zombies and super
zombies, all determined to have their say too. Yeah, the post-apocalyptic
landscape is no place for the meek and mild. You need to be a badass,
butt-kicking bitch like Champagne Jackson if you want to survive.
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If you could stroll down to your local pharmacy
and pick out emotions in fancy little vials like perfumes, then Champagne
Jackson’s might have been labelled ‘High Volatility’ or ‘Hellcat by the Tail’
or ‘Going to Whale on your Face ’til I’ve Pounded it Bloody’. She was a woman
seriously big and seriously black and her mood might otherwise be titled
‘Midnight Thunder’, ‘Bullwhip Lightning’ or ‘Wrath of an Angry God’.
‘Our wedding anniversary, and here I sit all on
my goddam lonesome again. Jackson, you are a worthless sack of shit,’ she said
to the empty chair, which sat on the other side of the small, round dining
table, which was draped in unaccustomed red cloth. A bead of sweat trickled
from her forehead, down to the tip of her nose and paused in trembling
uncertainty, like a jumper working up the nerve to end it all. Then it took the
plunge and splattered on the table cloth. It was too hot to have the windows
closed but the city was Saturday Night loud even though it was Monday and the
noise had irritated her into slamming them. Probably more damned rioters out
destroying the neighborhood. Like it wasn’t shitty enough already.
Her husband was named Jackson Jackson and she
had often remarked that his parents must have been some imaginative sons of
bitches to come up with that moniker. They must have had ideas falling out of
their imaginative asses. Meanwhile, Champagne’s own mother had written the name
as ‘Shampain’ on the birth certificate, (father having taken the words ‘Elroy,
I got a bun in the oven’ as his cue to run for the hills and not look back).
This spelling choice led to more than a few schoolyard sniggers and Champagne
tended to answer with a slap upside the culprit’s head for educational
purposes. She had always been on the chunky side and her ham hock hands packed
a wallop meaner than a jackass’ hindquarters. There was some pain alright and
it was no sham.
As soon as she was old enough, she had the
spelling changed officially. Not that mommy dearest was round to see it. She’d
died, a needle in her arm and a puzzled expression on her face, when Champagne
was 7, leaving her bouncing round from children’s home to foster family and back.
Her say it like it is and take no shit attitude wasn’t exactly designed to win
friends and influence people. What the hell, if they didn’t like it, then they
could kiss her big black butt.
One thing she wasn’t afraid of was hard work.
She had built up her own little business from scratch. Worked making rich
folks’ houses sparkle for 3 years, gathered enough capital to rent a
storefront, start up a pawnbrokers. Magnum she called it because of both her
name and the .44 she kept behind the counter. Any attempts to negotiate the
price tended to wither under the barrage of profanity that followed and
Champagne’s exhortation, ‘Yo! Marvin Haggler, get your cheap ass outta my store
’fore you make my day!’
Champagne was what you might call colorful and
the neighborhood responded to that. She paid better than most of the other
shysters too and she got by alright. And then, one day, gold-tooth glinting in
the sun, Jackson Jackson Esquire stepped into her store. A skinny,
sharp-talking fellow in a suit that had seen better days but which he wore
well. He had been reduced by bitter circumstance to selling a treasured family
heirloom, his beloved mother’s silver brooch, he told her and shrugged and
smiled his most disarming smile. Which she’d had to admit was pretty darned
disarming. Pretty darned dazzling in truth. But not enough to blind her to the
cold hard fact that...
‘Sugar, that trinket is hotter than a bare ass
under an African sun.’
That made him laugh long and loud and somehow
she found herself laughing with him and before she knew it she was falling into
the well of those deep brown eyes and telling him all about herself and somehow
they wound up having dinner together which, of course he’d have paid for if
only he hadn’t fallen on hard times and somehow they wound up back at her place
because his was too low rent for a classy lady like her and somehow they wound
up in her bed and she found out that one thing he wasn’t bullshitting about was
his ability as a lover. He mayn’t have weighed much but half of him was cock
and he knew how to use it.
When he crooned that he was going to make love
to her like she’d never forget, he wasn’t kidding. Champagne had few illusions
about her own attractiveness. She wasn’t a virgin, but boyfriends had been few
and far between and more than one of her one-night-stands was left wondering
how the hell it had come to this, once his beer-goggles had fallen off the
following morning. Their awkward scrambles for the door were enough to pierce
even her rhinoceros-hide.
But come the morning after her night of epiphany
and there was Jackson bringing her breakfast in bed, eggs over easy and bacon
fried crispy, how she liked it and a single red rose on the tray next to the
coffee cup and her eyes welled with tears and she choked over the words, ‘Oh,
He kissed the tears away so tenderly and one
thing led to another and by the time they got round to eating breakfast
everything was cold, but delicious, so delicious. And before she knew it, he’d
moved in and she’d bought him new suits because she wanted her fine man to look
fine and suddenly he was down on one knee and she’d asked, ‘But why Jackson?’
and he’d answered, ‘Cos I love you Cham, cos I love you.’ and then there were
those darned tears again and she tried to say, ‘Then yes, my love,’ and
oh-my-god there was a string of snot hanging from her nose and he wiped it for
her and in short order they were wed.
Jackson had run away from home at an early age
and neither of them had a wide circle of friends, so it was a quick service before
the civil registrar, witnessed by Tyrell, Jackson’s buddy who made her hackles
rise with his constant leer and smutty comments and by her best friend Lavonda
who ran a hair salon and asked her if she was sure she knew what she was doing
because Jackson had hustler written all over his skinny black ass.
But she wouldn’t believe that, couldn’t let
herself believe that.
So about 3 months into their marriage, when she
came home early because it was slow at the store and she was missing her man
and she found Lavonda of all people with her legs wrapped round that skinny
black ass, she didn’t just see red, she saw a blazing crimson. Both their
scrawny asses were plucked from the bed, but she couldn’t bring herself to harm
Jackson and tossed him casually behind her. Lavonda, though, her friend
Lavonda, now that was a whole other matter. She laid both her hands round her
cheating throat, lifted her clear of the ground and squeezed until the bitch’s
eyes were bugging from their sockets and her tongue lolling from her mouth,
while her legs kicked uselessly at the air.
Dimly she was aware of Jackson calling to her
and tugging, pulling, but she had only one focus for her attention. She was
going to snap this skank’s lying neck, she was going to feel her trachea crumple.
Only suddenly she was slipping into a pool of black.
Her beloved had coldcocked her. Hit her over the
head with a baseball bat, not once but 3 times, before she finally let go. And
she had the lumps on her noggin to prove it. Lavonda had slithered back to her
hole and Jackson was all contrition and remorse and begging for forgiveness and
lamenting over his weakness and how he’d let that Jezebel seduce him and how
nothing like this would ever happen again.
It took time, but she couldn’t hold out against him.
She didn’t want to lose him. Anyone was entitled to one mistake.
Unfortunately, Jackson’s love life was one long
string of mistakes. Mistakes with secretaries, stewardesses, shop girls, office
girls, even a lady fire fighter one time. Champagne had cooled that bitch’s
ardor with the ice-bucket housing a cheap bottle of her namesake and chased
them both naked out of the apartment, Jackson’s hose wilting as they went. She
then set to work chopping every one of the suits she’d bought him to shreds.
That was the last time that he had brought any of his conquests home with him.
Jackson Jackson! It had a hole and didn’t put up
much of a fight, he’d fill it. Unless it was hers. He had hardly been near her
in months and the last time he’d shown any real vigor for his labors was their
previous anniversary and only then because she was so mad at him for forgetting
again. She’d vowed then that they were through, told him as much and he’d
begged and pleaded and dropped apologies from his ass, the rich way ideas flowed
from his parents’ rear ends. Promised to mend his ways and laid on the charm
thicker than a jar of molasses and wham, bang, thank you ma’am, a 3, (count ’em
ladies), round knockout that’d won him his reprieve.
But Jackson was an
alley cat. And the only way to stop an alley cat creeping around was to neuter
it. And she couldn’t bring herself to do that. Not yet at least. So pretty much
every night he was out boozing and carousing and playing around. Spending her
hard-earned dollars free as water, though H-2-O was one liquid he’d sooner go
thirsty than drink. Then, come the wee hours, he’d stagger in and flop on the
couch to sleep off his drunk. After his Sunday night card game he wouldn’t show
up until late afternoon or not at all, like today.
Well no more. This
shit ended tonight. He wasn’t sweet-talking, sweet-loving his way out of this
one. It was Crunch Time and Judge Jackson was going to lay down the law before
that No Good ever got a chance to lay down some pipe.
A scrape from outside,
then a trashcan lid crashing to the ground, the sound startlingly loud even
through the closed window.
She stabbed the knife
that she wasn’t even aware that she was gripping, into her untouched steak and
cracked her best china. She stood fast enough to topple her chair and strode to
the window, pulled it open.
She heard Jackson’s
voice say, in whispered panic, ‘Shit girl, take it easy. You trying to wake the
dead? Damn girl, what’re you on?’
More scraping. The
damned trashcan going over with a clatter.
Champagne stuck her
head out of the window and the scene below cut through her heart just as surely
as that steak knife would have. There was Jackson leaning back against the wall
and there was whichever rancid skank he’d picked up tonight necking on him. Not
just necking, but going for gold, chowing down like a starving hound. The bitch
so horny she was making low sounds in her throat as she worked.
Champagne spoke aloud.
Not shouting, just talking to herself.
‘Well if that don’t take the mother fucking
biscuit and cover it in gravy.’
‘On my own doorstep?’
‘On our anniversary?’
‘Oh no you didn’t.’
As she talked, Champagne calmly pulled the
pump-action shotgun from the wardrobe, loaded it to capacity and racked a round
into the chamber.
‘Uh-uh, uh-uh. Cannot have it.’
‘You spell Bimbo B-I-M-B-O.’
‘And you spell ho H-O.’
‘And you think you can bring your Bimbo Ho up in
here? All up in my face? Put on a goddamn show?’
‘Why don’t you just shit in my mouth and say
She threw the apartment door open, stomped down
the corridor and stabbed the elevator button repeatedly. Pressed her ear to the
metal to see if it was coming. It was out of operation more often than it was
in, but today it was playing ball.
‘No sir. You done gone and messed with the wrong
sister. You’d best hightail, skedaddle and run like the fucking wind. Cos I get
down there and there is going to be some serious hell to pay. I’m loaded for
bear. I got 2 barrels of fun. I will blow your fool heads off mother fuckers.’
The elevator arrived and now she jabbed the
lobby button like a boxer on the speed bag.
‘Necking on my doorstep? Won’t be nothing but
‘Be a no-good, stepping-out, 2-timing,
running-round, sneaky little shit with no fuckin head on my doorstep. Be an
ass-twitching, come-hither, cheap-trash,
man-stealing harlot with no fucking head on my doorstep.’
Champagne took a deep breath, twisted the latch
and yanked the door open, raising the gun as she did so.
She was greeted by the rampant slut chewing
(C-H-E-W-I-N-G) on Jackson’s throat. Teeth buried in the flesh, muscle-deep,
carotid-pumping claret, her fingers clamped like talons while Jackson twitched
and shivered and his dying-eyes loose-focused on Champagne in a silent scream.
Champagne’s scream was less than silent.
Aborigines near Ayers Rock turned to each other and said, ‘Jesus! What the fuck
was that mate?’
Then Crack Whore Barbie ripped free of Jackson’s
neck, turning her blind-woman’s eyes on CJ. Eyes that were bloodshot and
red-rimmed and leaking bloody tears.
She snarled and let go of Jackson. He dropped to
the floor, limper than erectile dysfunction. Snarled again and lunged.
But she hadn’t braced.
The kickback blew her on her ass.
Then the skanky-ass zombie bitch was on her.
CJ roared and threw her clear.
Scrambled to her feet. Slipped in blood and
landed back on her ass.
She looked round frantically for the zombie
But as it happened zombie skank no longer
represented a problem. CJ had blown her head clear off her shoulders with her
first shot, just as she’d promised she would. It had only been the bitch’s
momentum that had carried her body forward. The stench struck her sudden and
hard. God, that skank stank!
‘What the fuck? What the fuck? Jackson, I told
you all that running round would kill you. And now you went and found your dumb
ass a cannibal? A mother-fuckin cannibal? You’re so stupid you’d drown a fish.’
Jackson began to spasm, sudden and violent.
CJ jumped out of her skin, flew round the moon a
couple of times in a sickening orbit and then crash-landed back in Off-Kilter
Jackson crazy-twitched again and there was a
wet, ripping sound as he filled his pants with shit.
The lids popped open on eyes blank as cue balls.
‘What the fuck?’
Jackson snarled, rolled onto his front and
crawled toward her.
‘What the F-U-C-K?’
His head lolled at an unnatural angle. His jaws
snapped open and shut, taking imaginary bites.
CJ wiggled backwards on her ass and elbows until
she found the wall. She pressed against it, maneuvering herself onto her feet.
His hand clamped onto her ankle.
She screeched and brought the stock of the
shotgun down on his head so hard that bone and cartilage snapped, leaving it to
dangle at a now more than jaunty angle.
But he didn’t let go.
His other hand clamped on too.
And his crazily-angled head kept snapping,
seeking the flesh of her leg.
CJ roared and punted him in the face for all she
was worth. His head jerked to the side and the flesh of his neck tore, leaving
his head attached by spinal cord and a flap of skin.
She broke free, his fingers raking furrows in
her flesh and grabbed the gun.
Somehow, undead Jackson clambered to his feet, a
strange rasping coming from his mouth.
He advanced in a slow, spastic shuffle.
CJ backed away.
‘You’re not Jackson. I don’t know what the fuck
you are, but you are not Jackson.’
She racked the gun and fired, blasting a hole in
The impact sent him back a couple of feet, but
didn’t stop him.
She fired again. Took a big chunk out of his
side. Twisted him right around. He looked for a crazy moment, like he was
pulling a move on the dance floor. Get down! Spin around! Let’s all do the
‘Jackson, what the fuck?’
She pumped another round but at the instant she
fired his hand pushed down on the barrel.
The shot went low, blasting his groin.
The eyes on his crazy-angle head looked down and
he looked sad, as if he knew that now even the most important part of him had
died. And that there was one stiff that wouldn’t be returning.
Then his talon hands were gripping her throat
and he was trying to pull her toward his snapping teeth. He was strong too.
Stronger than rail-thin Jackson had any right to be. CJ racked the gun again,
wedged it into his mouth. He bit down on the barrel hard enough to splinter
She fired. Jackson’s head exploded in a shower
of gore. She recoiled as it splattered on her face.
Then the strength fled from her legs and she
slid down the wall and sat there, trembling and queasy.
‘Well Jackson, this is shaping up to be some
kind of motherfucking wedding anniversary alright. This is a goddam night to
remember. Fuck you Jackson. Fuck you and the ho you rode in on.’
ON MY TAIL
She wasn’t sure how long she sat there, all
zombied out herself. Half-an hour? An hour?
Then she slowly became aware of the noises all
around her. Screams and struggles, gunshots, a distant explosion. Some were far
away and some too close for comfort. There had been riots up and down the
country all week and she was starting to think that they must tie in with what
had just happened here. She hadn’t left her apartment today. She’d taken the
day off, slept late, lay on the couch reading for a while and then cranked up
the music, poured herself a glass of wine and started preparing the ingredients
for a kickass meal that she’d purchased the day before.
She stood, unsteadily, closed and locked the
front door. She turned the light off, leaving herself bathed in the dim green
glow of the emergency tube and surveyed the night. There were plumes of smoke
rising from burning buildings, flashes of gunfire. She saw that her car had
been torched and was blazing merrily.
‘Oh you dirty little firebug fuckers! You killed
Then the skinny refuse collector who lived in
the tenement block across the way ran by, screaming, pursued by his fat
grandmother. Her nightgown hung open and her pendulous breasts swung
dramatically and batted against her knees. Half her face had been chewed off
like some kind of anatomical cross-section. She didn’t look like she had bingo
and knitting on whatever was left of her mind.
So the way it seemed, and she felt foolish even
thinking it, but the way it seemed was like this zombie shit was actually
happening. The infected were running around, gnashing their teeth and doing the
whole bite, bite thing and then the chewed-up dead were rising to spread the
plague themselves. And they didn’t seem to stop until their brains were
‘Well if this ain’t a major-league crap fest, I
don’t know what is. I need to reload, get my ass down to the store and armor
Decision made, she hesitated only for a second
and then she was moving cautiously up the stairs. She didn’t trust the elevator
now, didn’t want to be trapped in a stalled metal box while hungry zombies
tried to fight their way in. By the time she reached the fourth floor she was
seriously out of breath.
‘I am not built for this shit’, she puffed.
She sat, got her breath back as she jammed
rounds in with shaking fingers.
In the kitchen, she picked up the largest knife,
wrapped newspaper around it and then jammed it into the waistband of her pants.
She knocked back the last of the red wine from
her glass, peeked outside her door and then jogged down the stairs. Reaching
the lobby, she checked the coast was clear and then she was out the door and
moving through the night.
She kept as close to the apartment block wall as
possible. Reached its corner and stopped. About 20 yards away, 3 zombies were
hunched over their latest meal. There was no cover. The security light
illuminated the area in stark detail. If she went, she’d have to go slow and
quiet and hope that they were too engrossed in their suppertime antics to pay
her any mind.
She inched forward, stealthy as a ninja. Okay, a
hefty ninja. But you know what they say about big people being light on their
feet. Then again they also say they’re jolly souls. She got 3-quarters of the
way to the side gate.
There was a snarl to the other side of her.
Another zombie was loping toward her. And fast.
She fired, remembering to aim for the head
despite her panic.
Bull’s-eye! Annie-fuckin-Oakley eat your hat!
Only now, of course, she had the attention of
the other 3.
They abandoned their meal.
For a big woman, who did not run, she ran damned
But these pesky little fuckers were way quicker
than Jackson had been.
What was that all about?
Was it because he was fresh-turned and not yet
with the program? Was it that they’d just eaten and human flesh was some kind
of drug to them? Feeling run down? Dead on your feet? Try new Revive, it keeps
the undead alive.
She was gasping for air now.
And there weren’t just the 3 on her tail, now
there was a whole posse. She glanced back, saw they were gaining on her.
The ones out front were way quicker than
No-good, undead, sprinting sons of bitches!
She turned her face forward again and…
Smack into a lamppost.
She saw stars.
Dropped the shotgun.
Landed back on her ass yet again.
Oh, Champagne Jackson, you are dumber than
diaper-doo. Now you’ve gone and done it. Your fat ass is zombie chow now. Going
to be party time up in this mother fucker.
The lead zombie leapt for her. Leapt like a
She tensed for the impact.
But instead she got showered in blood and brains
as half the zombie’s head exploded and his limp body collapsed onto her.
Champagne struggled free and got to her feet.
For all of 3 seconds. A zombie in his ‘Big ‘n’ Beefy Burger’ work clothes
barreled right into her, knocking her down again.
She held him off with one oversized hand round
his throat, while her other sought the kitchen blade in her waistband and she
tried not to gag from the intensity of the creature’s stench.
She heard another shot, then a third. Was
someone looking out for her? Did she have a guardian angel?
The zombie was trying to snap at her hand and
his fingers were clawing at her face, scratching blood trails.
The damned knife wouldn’t come free!
The zombie forced himself closer, its
sewer-breath fetid and rotten. She felt bile rise hot in her throat.
Stupid damned knife! Come free! Come free!
She was getting tired.
The zombie lunged closer still.
Drool spilled onto her face and she winced,
And the stupid, damned knife finally came free.
She jammed it with all her remaining strength
into his ear and through his skull into the brain.
He gave a final, mighty spasm and then was
still. She pushed him free and rolled to her feet, panting.
A man’s voice called out to her, ‘Fat lady, you
had better run!’
Under different circumstances, she might have
had something to say about that ‘fat’ bit. And also about the fact that he
appeared to have let himself into her locked store, but a glance behind her
showed not only a bunch of perforated zombie corpses but several ‘live’ ones
coming right at her.
Ran like her big black ass was on fire.
Even so, she wouldn’t have made it if he hadn’t
have taken 2 of them out.
She felt the second bullet whistle hot past her
ear. And a splash of warm wetness on the back of her head.
She jumped through the doorway and rolled until
she came to a jarring stop against the glass display counter, which thankfully
was well anchored and made of toughened glass. Even so, the tape dispenser was
jarred free and cracked her a good one on the top of her skull.
She saw him slam the outer grill home and wrap a
chain round it. Pause, draw a hand gun, one of her 45 Colts if she wasn’t
mistaken and shoot the zombie that tried to bite his hand as he fastened the
Then he closed the door and hammered 2 shelves
he’d torn off the walls in an x-shape across the doorway to compensate for the
lock he must have busted on his way in.
By this time CJ had dusted herself off and was
back on her feet, using a rag to wipe blood and gore from her face and head.
As he turned from his handy work, she said,
still breathless, ‘Thank you. You saved my life. They’d have had me for supper
if you hadn’t been here. There are a couple of things I’d like to know though.
Like who the fuck are you and what, in the name of Sweet Baby Jesus and his
wiggling toes, are you doing in my store?’
A little later they sat on the floor, backs to
the display cabinet she’d tried to bulldoze, eating, if not enjoying 2 of the
k-rations from his backpack. She was amazed she could eat anything,
particularly this shit, but she was surprisingly hungry.
They watched the zombies milling around outside.
For a while, a whole bunch of them had tried to fight their way in, tearing at
the bars, clawing at the spaces between them. Snarling and carrying on. The
grille held though. CJ hadn‘t skimped on security. It didn’t pay to do that in
this neighborhood. Which reminded her.
‘Hey, how come my alarm’s not going off? Should
be sounding fit to bring down the walls of Jericho right about now.’
‘Yeah. I might’ve had to disable that on account
of it being like a zombie dinner bell and also annoying the living crap outta
After a while the zombies relented. They were
like a child with attention deficit disorder and since there was no immediate
hot food to be had here, they got distracted by fresher sights and sounds and
wandered off in search of greener or perhaps redder pastures.
‘So I think, white boy, you were going to tell
me some things.’
‘Ma’am, if I tell you who I am and what I do,
I’m going to have to kill you.’
‘You could sure as hell try, but not as hard as
you’d have to try getting’ my big black foot outta your little white ass.’
‘Yes ma’am, you are a character. Master Gunnery
Sergeant Mike Wilkins, U.S. Marine Corps at your service.’
Actually he was newly retired but he hadn’t
quite got his head around that fact yet. He held out his hand.
‘Glad to make your acquaintance ma’am.’
She looked at the proffered hand, shrugged and
shook it. ‘Champagne Jackson and if you don’t stop calling me ma’am, we’re
going to be back to that foot-in-the-ass situation.’
‘Yes m...Mrs. Jackson.’
‘That’s Ms. Jackson. I just had to blow my fool
husband’s fool head off. Him and his latest cooze. What you might call a
‘I’m sorry to hear that.’
‘Don’t be. What I had in mind all along. Only
this makes it legal. Kind of. Sort of. I guess. Fucked up as things are, I
don’t guess it matters.’
‘A zombie holocaust does make for mitigating
‘You think that’s what they are too then?’
‘If it looks like an undead duck and quacks like
an undead duck...’
‘Then it must be undead duck-hunting season. Be
vewy, vewy quiet.’
‘I flew in from Germany on an army transport
plane and was sat next to a doctor who had some very alarming opinions on what
we’re facing here. I didn’t understand all of what he told me, but I got enough
of it to scare the pants off me. I just never imagined that it could all turn
to shit so quickly. I figured we’d at least have some time to prepare, a
fighting chance. But it just happened. Like that.’ He clicked his fingers and
‘As to how I came to break into your store, it’s
no secret that your legendary Magnum isn’t the only gun in here. This hunting
rifle you had on the wall pretty much saved your bacon. Throws a little to the
right though. Damn near gave you a center parting with that last shot.’
‘Tell me about it soldier. Now, let me show you
where I keep the good stuff.’
CJ reached under the counter and pulled out a
bunch of keys. She drew back a curtain and they entered a small backroom with
rows of metal shelves, floor to ceiling, on which stood neatly tagged items.
There were guitars, chainsaws, ornaments, TVs, PCs, lawnmowers, all your modern
She pulled a lever and the rear shelving unit
swung out from the wall. Behind it was a metal door. She used a different key
on each of its 3 locks and then, with a grunt, swung the door wide.
‘That is a damned vault door. What kind of
treasure you got hidden in there?’
‘Not the Aladdin kind, but you may find some of
your wishes coming true.’
CJ flicked the light switch.
‘Holy Mary, Mother of God!’
The vault held an arsenal. There were Uzis,
Kalashnikovs, M45s and a whole lot more.
‘You got RPGs. What the hell do you do with
‘I just hold ’em. It’s not my vault. It belongs
‘Well who else is going to have a stockpile like
this? I may not care for the man or the filth he peddles, but I’ve got to live
here, and I am not going to tell him where to stick it and come back, and find
my store firebombed. And right about now it’s starting to look like one hell of
a wise investment.’
‘Hey, I’m not passing judgment. Jesus Christ! Is
that a Tommy gun?’
‘His pride and joy. He gets ammo custom-made for
‘Well tickle my ass with a feather.’
‘Any of these TVs work?’ Mike asked.
‘They all do. You think I don’t try before I
buy? It’s a Jackson tradition. Pretty much my late husband’s motto.’
‘A real snake in the grass, huh?’
‘Sugar, his snake was always in the grass.’
‘We need to find out if this is just a localized
outbreak or already nationwide.’
‘You mean is it just us got to jump high or are
there Ass-Biters everywhere?’
‘Pretty much, yeah.’
‘Well then, let’s break out the big boy and
watch the end of the world in high def. with surround sound.’
They hooked up the 60-inch plasma and tuned
into...a whole bunch of static...and interference...and then some white noise.
‘Isn’t that just the way? A hundred channels and
still there’s nothing on.’
‘I’m hoping that somewhere there’s some kind
‘THIS IS THE E.B.S...’ sounded an authoritative
The words ‘EMERGENCY BROADCAST SERVICE’ filled
the top of the screen and below, in smaller type was the rest of the message.
‘AMERICA IS UNDER MARTIAL LAW. LOOTERS WILL BE
EXECUTED ON SIGHT. STAY IN YOUR HOMES. DO NOT TRY TO REACH LOVED ONES. BARRICADE
YOURSELVES IN. GATHER AS MANY PROVISIONS AS YOU CAN, AND STAY INDOORS. THIS IS
THE ONLY SAFE REFUGE. AN UNKNOWN DISEASE IS SPREADING. THE INFECTED ARE
HOMICIDAL AND CANNIBALISTIC. DO NOT CONFRONT THEM. IF CORNERED, ATTACK THE HEAD
WITH ANY WEAPONS YOU CAN FIND. THE BRAIN MUST BE DESTROYED TO STOP THEM.
THIS IS THE E.B.S. AMERICA IS UNDER MARTIAL LAW.
CJ hit the power button.
‘Well that’s just peachy-keen and super-fine.’
‘They’ve lost control already. This contagion
must have spread like wildfire. At the very least, America is lost and if what
the doc suspected is true, the whole world’s going down the toilet in a fast
‘There you go with that doc shit again. Who the
hell is this mysterious doctor and just what did he whisper in your ear? Did he
tell you why they stink so much? Cos really, those boys are something else.’
Mike had to agree. It
wasn’t any single nastiness but rather a toxic cocktail of horrible upon
horrible affronts to the nostrils. A witch’s brew of shit, piss, vomit, decay,
body odor, halitosis, spoiled blood and rancid meat. You might as well have
dived into the pleasant waters of a sewage farm and opened your mouth as wide
as it would go. And these boys were fairly fresh. Lord knew what they’d smell
like down the line.
‘The Doc is a scientist who was stationed in a
top secret wing of the Landstuhl Military Hospital engaged in research into
infectious diseases and he had discovered that there was something very strange
about the flu epidemic that hit this winter.’
‘Didn’t come down with it myself, but I know
plenty that did. A lot of folks was laid up for a couple of weeks, even a month
with it. High fever and diarrhea too. They said that folks was dying from it on
the news. More than usually do, they said. People getting turned away by
doctors and hospitals because there were no more anti-viral drugs and the wards
‘Yeah, well I didn’t catch it either, which is
maybe part of why we’re still us and not a part of the great zombie horde. I
was stationed in Afghanistan while all this was happening and knew of it mainly
from news reports. A lot of guys did go down with it even out in the boonies
where we were, but only one guy died and that probably had more to do with his
legs being torn to ribbons by a roadside bomb blast than the disease itself. I
didn’t get out unscathed myself, which is how I came to meet the Doc.
There were no less than 3 bullets with Mike’s
name on that day. The first passed cleanly through his thigh, having the good
grace to avoid any major arteries. A second ricocheted off the wall behind him
and lodged in his biceps. Lucky number 3 punctured his helmet and creased his
skull. It appeared that he was today’s designated target for the Taliban out
here in the wilds of Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
This had started off as a routine patrol out of
Camp Leatherneck by I Marine Expeditionary Force (One MEF to their amigos).
They were passing through a supposedly friendly village when they were ambushed
very neatly indeed. The first inkling they had was when the little shepherd boy
who was walking toward them with his lonely goat, suddenly ran into one of the
houses. The goat was as surprised as they were.
A second later and the first shot from the
rooftop killed Private Smith. Mike took out the shooter but then the rooftops,
doorways and windows of the mud houses were alive with hostiles. They were
caught in a withering crossfire and he had pulled them back in a defensive
formation to the empty stable in which they were currently pinned down.
Anderson, the communications guy was on the
radio calling desperately for backup when he was shot through the throat. Mike
rolled, grabbed the walkie-talkie and took over. Their 12 man squad was already
down to 7 and the hostiles were getting confident, closing in for the kill.
Mike abandoned the radio and levelled his rifle at a young warrior who got a
little too bold for his own good. His injuries didn’t help his aim any but he
still got off a clean shot that took his man down.
This action was answered with a volley of
automatic fire from all sides that had all of them pressed tight to the floor
of the increasingly well ventilated structure. All in all things weren’t
looking too rosy.
Then there was a squawk and a burst of static from
the radio and the next thing they knew, an Apache gunship that had been in the
area and had picked up their distress call, swooped down and let loose its own
barrage with the 30mm chain gun it carried.
Private First Class Miller leaped up at the
sight of the cavalry rushing in and was mowed down in the hail of high caliber
bullets that swept the village. There’s no fire like friendly fire.
Mike’s thoughts were as turbulent as the air
around him. He’d led his squad into an ambush and now half of them were dead.
Sterling work from Master Gunnery Sergeant Mike Wilkins. The real hell of it
was that they were one day away from pulling out. The Americans were handing
Camp Leatherneck and the British Camp Bastion to the Afghan Armed Forces
tomorrow. Not only that. He was one week shy of his 20 years in, about to
retire and become a private bodyguard at a greatly increased rate of pay. If he
didn’t bleed out and die with his boots on. Never mind, they’d probably pin a
posthumous medal on him just for getting so impressively shot up. He found his
vision blurring and the rhythmic thump of the rotor blades carried him into a
dark sea devoid of pain and guilt.
So he’d wound up at Landstuhl in Germany, the
largest military hospital outside the U.S. to rest and recuperate. He spent his
months there in blissful ignorance that the ‘admin block’ was actually a
They did pin a Silver Star on him too and
although he accepted it, he didn’t feel he’d earned it and it certainly didn’t
make him feel any better. The remaining members of the patrol made it clear
that they in no way blamed him for the incident and that his quick thinking had
likely saved them, but he couldn’t help thinking that if he’d been just a tiny
bit more alert, he’d have seen a flash of movement or heard a scrape of metal
on clay and they’d have stopped before the trap closed.
His rehabilitation went well and he was
officially discharged from both the hospital and the Marines. He was scheduled
to return to the States on a Saturday flight and a mini bus picked him up
together with several other soldiers. He was glad he’d reserved his place well
in advance. Over the last few days, worrying reports of rioting in major cities
and towns across America and indeed the world had soldiers anxious to return
home and make sure that their families were okay. He’d already had several
generous cash offers for his spot, but he wanted to check up on his younger
sister, Ella who lived in a rough inner city neighborhood.
A crowd of angry soldiers in civilian and
uniform dress stood outside the gates at Ramstein Airport and they refused to
let the bus through. There were rumors of an imminent flight embargo on traffic
into the States and nobody wanted to be stranded out here. In the end one of
the MPs fired 3 warning shots into the air and they relented long enough for it
to pass. A couple of protesters got through too, before the gates could be
closed but they were subdued. It looked to Mike like things might quickly turn
sour. If they rushed the gates and the MPs cut loose there could be a
Ahead he could see the control tower and the
The bus pulled up and MPs checked everyone’s
papers before letting them into the terminal. One of the passengers wasn’t on
their list and he was pulled away struggling and cursing. The building was
packed and yet more MPs were sorting people into different lines according to
information on their clipboards. Anyone who looked ill was placed in a separate
line. None of these lines seemed to be moving except one and there was a lot of
A diplomatic car arrived and a thin, elderly man
emerged. He reached in and gathered up a huge pile of folders and papers which
he carried with some difficulty. General Macklin exited the far door of the
Lincoln. Mike was impressed. An honest to goodness, 5 star general.
Then his attention was grabbed by commotion from
the next line over. A large man dressed in civvies like himself was jabbing his
finger in front of an MP’s face.
‘So what’s so special about those guys? How come
they get fast-tracked? I’ve been here for hours and haven’t moved. So screw you
and screw this bullshit. I’m getting in that line.’
The MP tried to stop him but was brushed aside.
More came running He had one on each arm and the original guy on his back, but
he kept moving. The guy was strong. There were shouts of encouragement from
around the terminal. 3 more MPs weighed in and finally brought him down but the
whole mess of them collapsed on top of the old man and his papers went flying.
Mike hurried over and helped him up.
‘Are you alright Sir? Do you need medical
‘I’m fine. But my work!’
The man was concerned only about his documents.
‘Don’t worry Sir, I’ll collect them for you.’
Mike gathered up the papers trying to keep them
as orderly as possible, but some had burst from their folders and these he just
shuffled together into whichever file he assumed they’d come from. Everything
seemed to be marked as classified. Mike rose with the bundle as the man was
trying to convince one of the MPs of his bona fides.
‘Sir, this flight is being strictly vetted. I
have to see your documentation before I can ascertain whether you should be on
‘But the general has all my papers. I’m not sure
what’s happened to him.’ said the elderly man.
‘If it’s of any assistance, I can vouch that
this gentlemen came out of the same car as General Macklin.’ said Mike.
‘I still need to see the paperwork. Security’s
extraordinarily tight today.’ said the MP.
‘Yeah, we’d noticed.’ said Mike.
Just then the General bustled in and the MP
‘Come on Tompkins. I’m not lining up. Rank does
have its privileges.’
He took the old man’s arm and started leading
him to the front.
‘But my papers!’ said the man.
‘What? Oh!’ The General turned and said, ‘Well
don’t just stand there man. Bring them over.’
Mike did as he was asked and while the General
was showing his documents at the desk, the old man asked, ‘What is your name?’
‘Follow my lead Mike.’
‘All done, let’s go.’ said the General.
‘What about Wilkins, my lab assistant?’ the
‘Fine. Show your papers Wilkins. Quickly.’
Mike did and the soldier at the check-in said,
‘Wilkins? I can’t see it on my list.’
‘Yeah, that’s what I was trying to tell the
other guys. There’s been a screw-up. My name somehow wound up on the other
The soldier searched and said, ‘Yes I see it,
but I really need authorization.’
‘For the love of God man, I’ll authorize it.
What do you want a Presidential order?’ said the exasperated General.
Mike winked at the clerk, dumped his shoulder
bag on the counter and hurried after the other 2, clutching the pile of papers
They boarded the plane, popularly known as the
Patriot Express, which flew regularly between Ramstein Airbase and the
Baltimore/Washington International Airport. Macklin went off to talk with a
lowly Major General.
‘Thank you. Really. I’m not sure I’d have got on
at all without you.’
‘Well you helped me. I doubt if even half those
men will make it though. High ranking officers and scientific personnel have
‘You know what’s going on here?’
‘I’m one of the few men who knows exactly what’s
happening and I have to tell you that it’s not going to be pretty.’
‘I understand if you can’t talk about it.’
‘Such distinctions are purely academic at this
stage in the game. The General would likely disagree, but I can’t see what harm
it will do. It probably won’t do you any good either, but there’s not much I
can do about that. Also, it’s useful for me to try and explain this to a
nonscientist because I’m very shortly going to be addressing an audience of the
most powerful men in America and I need to put my case across in commonplace
terminology. My name is John Tompkins, by the way and I work in C Block.’
‘The Administration Section.’
‘That’s what the sign says, but no. I’m the
chief research scientist there. We mainly investigate the threats of biological
weapons and create vaccines to counteract them when possible. Most recently
though, we’ve been concentrating on Eboflu.’
‘What the hell is Eboflu?’
‘The stuff of nightmares. As far as we can tell,
an Ebola victim in Guinea was bitten by a mosquito and somehow the virus
hijacked the malarial protozoa and now you had mosquitos that carried not only
malaria, but Ebola as well. Something Africa could have well done without. Then
a flu sufferer was bitten by such a mosquito and something horrible, but
remarkable happened. The RNA of the 2 distinct viruses merged and mutated into
a new strain of virus altogether. No longer Ebola or influenza but the rather
unimaginatively named Eboflu.’
‘You see viruses are clever because they’re
stupid. They make frequent mistakes in gene replication. This leads to mutant
viruses and is called antigenic shift. It is an evolutionary advantage because
it allows the virus to elude detection by the immune system of the infected
organism. The antibodies that the host produces to fight the infection are
looking for the original invader not the new mutant. Small errors change the
configuration of proteins on the surface of the virus particles sufficiently to
render them temporarily invisible to the immune system. This prolongs the
period of infection.’
‘Type A flu virus for example is constantly
changing and is the type of influenza that causes pandemics when a major
mistake occurs in its gene replication. An animal, let’s say a pig, is infected
with 2 flu strains simultaneously. Inside a cell of this pig, genetic material
from one virus gets accidentally mixed up with that of another and a whole new
influenza virus is born. If this crosses the species barrier as swine flu did
in 2009 and infects humans, then nobody has antibodies for it because nobody
has encountered it before. Despite the mass panic, that particular pandemic was
responsible for no more than 300,000 deaths. Most victims made a full recovery.
Eboflu is something far more deadly.’
‘The most alarming aspect of the Eboflu virus is
that it’s airborne like influenza. You don’t have to have direct contact with
the bodily fluids of the infected as with Ebola, now they can cough and sneeze
and really spread it. Had we acted when Ebola spread across Africa, maybe we
could have avoided the situation, stopped it before this mutation occurred. But
we turned a blind eye until our own citizens became infected and even then our
response was too limited.’
‘The thing is that at first Eboflu seemed to be
relatively benign. Certainly it was nowhere near as deadly as Ebola. The early
symptoms of Ebola are very much like flu anyway and Eboflu didn’t ring alarm
bells until it was too late. Under the electron microscope it even looks like a
flu virus, but that’s not what it is.’
‘We estimate that 60 to 70 percent of the
world’s population have been infected at some point over the last 6 months due
to modern society’s globetrotting ways and insufficient border controls. Most
of them have seemingly recovered, but that is because the virus has entered a
latent stage. When it becomes active again, it is far more virulent and far
more like Ebola than flu. There’s a day or 2 of fever and then it spreads
through the body with incredible rapidity, no more than 24 hours. It causes
massive internal bleeding and the shutdown of major organs. It is invariably
fatal and we have been able to find no way to counteract it.’
‘That brings us to phase 3. The patient is
declared medically dead. There are no discernable signs of life, no pulse, no
respiration. But after anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, they will revive.
Minimal bodily functions resume. Heart rate and body temperature are all
‘Hold on. Stop a second. You mean to say that people
are coming back from the dead?’ Mike asked.
‘Yes, quite so and they come back aggressive and
cannibalistic. Furthermore, a bite from one of these undead is so infectious
that it greatly accelerates the incubation period of the disease. Often to less
than an hour.’
‘Wait a goddamned minute Doc. You’re talking
‘If you like. As I say they’re not actually
dead, but in a kind of stasis or hibernation, vital signs almost imperceptible.
Until a food source comes in range and then they come alive. And once they’ve fed,
they really perk up. It’s almost as if they’d been shot full of amphetamines.
They’re very fast and incredibly strong. We’ve measured their brain activity
and when they’re at rest, it’s minimal, but put a living person near them and
it flares up. For a short period after they’ve eaten, it’s on fire.’
‘Doc, are you yanking my chain?’
‘It’s not something I’d joke about. You haven’t
heard about it because any news of it has been quashed. They thought that they
could keep it under control. Cases were sporadic and isolated at first. The
corpses were disposed of as contaminated waste. But the incidence has been
increasing and by my calculations are set to go exponential any time soon.
Incidents that are being reported as rioting around the world are actually outbreaks
and the subsequent effort to control them.’
‘Now if there were localized outbreaks, then
probably we could contain it. But because the disease spread in a mild form
initially, it really spread. You can’t control it because it’s set to turn more
than half of the world’s population into mindless savages who are hungry to
feed on the uninfected minority.’
‘My God! How long do we have?’
‘A week, 10 days if we’re lucky. The world as we
know it will very shortly seek to exist.’
‘But how can that be? Isn’t there something we
can do? Can’t we develop a vaccine?’
‘If we had more time. Perhaps we even will
someday. But not soon enough and even if we do, if it mutates again and it has
a very high rate of mutation, higher even than Influenza A, we’ll be back to
square one. Not to mention that the world’s infrastructure is going to collapse
entirely. We simply do not have the facilities or the resources to contain this
‘But you said yourself, it has no intelligence,
how can something so simple defeat us?’
‘Viruses outnumber all other life forms on the
planet. They are infinitely adaptable and while they may lack intellect and
intent in the truest sense, they exert a tremendous influence on the world. An
example, there’s a parasitoid wasp that lays its egg, together with mind
controlling chemicals, in a ladybug. Once hatched, the larva feeds on bodily
fluids until it’s large enough to bite its way out and pupate in a cocoon
attached to the ladybug’s legs. The ladybug acts as bodyguard until the adult wasp
flies out and then it usually dies. Now that’s all quite sinister, but while
the wasp is manipulating the ladybug, its strings are being pulled by a virus
that replicates in the wasp’s ovaries.’
‘The Toxoplasmosis parasite can only reproduce
inside a cat. Not only does it cause serotonin to be produced in the brains of
infected rats, making them more likely to take risks and get eaten, it actually
makes the smell of cat urine attractive to them. It profoundly affects behavior
and recent research has shown that it can make humans more prone to taking
risks too. A good third of us are infected with Toxoplasmosis, caused by eating
undercooked meat or contact with cat feces. We may not be quite as in control
of ourselves or our planet as we thought we were and that lesson is about to be
rammed home with a vengeance.’
When they arrived at Baltimore/Washington
Airport, secret servicemen were waiting to usher the General and his party
through customs. Mike thanked John again and the scientist said,
‘If you have any family or close friends living
in the cities, urge them to leave as soon as possible. Head for the
countryside. Things are going to deteriorate very rapidly over the next week.
Goodbye Mike and good luck. Lord knows, we’re all going to need it.’
CJ had listened to all this in silence. Now she
said, ‘So what are you trying to say, that that’s it? That it’s the end of the
world and there’s nothing we can do?’
‘We can survive.’
‘You bet your sweet patootie we can. There’s no
way that this gal is going down without a fight. I aim to dezombify the shit
outta this town.’
‘And outta this town is really where we ought to
‘Amen to that brother. Army ain’t controlling
nada, no offence. ‘Martial law’ my ass. Only law round here’s going to be the
law of the jungle. Zombies don’t get you, the jackals will.’
‘Transport is the issue. We go on foot, we can
only carry limited weaponry and provisions and we leave ourselves open to
zombie attack at every corner. We take a car and there’s the issue of
accidental and official roadblocks. There may be no clear route out of the
‘Well since we’re helping ourselves to Tiny’s
stuff outta the vault anyway, we might could stop by his warehouse while we’re
‘And what would we find in this warehouse?’
‘Oh, he’s got a tank.’
‘That’s what I said, sugar.’
‘How? Why? What kind of tank?’
‘I look like a reference book to you? It’s a
tank. Got a big gun and armor and lots of wheels and 2 tracks and it’s green
and it’s his tank.’
‘Tiny has a tank.’
‘Yes. Yes, he does. But first we’ve got to get
outta here, run down the street playing Dodge the Zombie and bust the tank out
from under his nose. I don’t think he’s going to appreciate that too much.’
‘Tiny may have joined the ranks of the undead
‘You’re not from round here, are you honey?’
‘No, Ms. Jackson. I came here to visit my sister
and her asshole husband on my furlough.’
‘Any zombie dumb enough to mess with Tiny is
liable to find his teeth so far down his throat he’ll be biting on his own
‘And this is the guy we want to piss off?’
‘Oh, he’s always pissed. You don’t have to do
nothing. Then again, we’re going to be in a tank so what do we care?’
‘Right. Let’s get locked and loaded then.’
‘Yes sir, Gunnery Sergeant, sir!’
Which weirdly enough were the exact words his
sister had greeted him with.
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