By Dwayne MacInnes
Brady sat in the old farmhouse's kitchen at the table with his face buried in his hands. He had been crying all night hardly aware of anything that was happening around him. Sarge had to pry Nori's body out of Brady's arms when he and Cooper came running over from the outfitters. The last night had been a complete blur as Sarge led them all to a secluded farmhouse outside of town. Brady did remember Sarge quickly looking over the situation and assessing Nori's wounds after he entered the office and saying that he would take care of everything and everything would be all right.
Brady was totally lost inside himself. He kept reliving the whole attack and cursing himself for not being more cautious. The "only ifs" and "what ifs" kept replaying themselves as he sat at the table. He was only able to snatch a few hours of sleep before he'd awaken from a nightmare of Nori turning zombie with her lifeless eyes locked onto his.
"Brady," a soft voice said next to him.
Brady quickly looked up thinking that it was Nori. Instead it was only Cooper. Brady started to put his head back into his hands to hide his bloodshot eyes when he shot his head up again.
"Coop?" Brady asked stunned.
"Sarge says everything will be OK," Cooper quietly replied.
Brady didn't know what to say. Cooper talking and Nori's condition were both fighting to be the first question out of Brady's mouth.
"Nori's OK," Coop said softly. "It wasn't a zombie."
"What!?!" Brady asked even more surprised.
"Sergeant Ronald said it wasn't a zombie, just some stinky crazy man." Cooper said.
Brady found he still did have tears and they started to flow uncontrollably down his dirty cheeks.
"Don't cry. Nori is going to be fine." Cooper said concerned.
Brady looked up at Cooper with a big smile on his still crying face. He reached out and grabbed Cooper and pulled him into an embrace. Cooper hugged him back.
"I'm glad to see you are coming around," Sarge said as he entered the kitchen.
Brady looked up at the sergeant smiling. Then he pointed at Cooper and said, "Sarge, I'm not the only one."
Ronald was astonished to see Cooper turn and embrace him around the waist. Then he started to laugh. They all started to laugh. After a few minutes everyone regained their composure and seated themselves around the kitchen table.
"How'd you know he wasn't a zombie? He sure smelled bad," Brady finally asked.
"Well, if he was a zombie there would be little if any blood from a head shot. The blood has to still obey the laws of gravity. Now if you shot a zombie in the foot... Well, that'd be a different matter. Plus, the blood was warm and uncongealed unlike what you'd find from a rotting corpse.
"It appears that our friend stayed behind to help himself to the contents of the medical cabinet. Nori surprised him when she walked in on him. He's probably been high the entire time everyone was evacuated. In any case, you can guess as to what his design was for Nori before you let something else enter into his head." Ronald said with a slight chuckle.
"Sorry, a little gallows's humor. Now Nori has lost a lot of blood and is still unconscious. She'll be bed bound for a few days. So we have to get this place prepared for anything. I've rounded up the supplies we'll need. Plus, I also found an old Dodge truck in the barn out back that still runs. I've everything loaded in it in case we need to make a hasty retreat," Ronald continued.
"One last question before we get started. What's your name Coop?" asked the sergeant.
"Thomas Cooper, you can call me Coop if you want," smiled the young boy.
The three of them went to work on boarding up the house after a quick breakfast. The farmhouse had shutters on the window that Ronald and Brady closed up and then nailed down. They then gathered some spare planks and doors off rooms inside the house to further reinforce the windows and back door from the inside.
The upstairs' rooms were left relatively intact. Sarge wanted the party to be able to use them for observation and defense if need be. Every once in a while someone would check on Nori. She still slept soundly in the clean bed. Her head was neatly wrapped in a bandage and color started to return to her face. Her breathing and pulse were returning to normal.
While Sarge took care of the unpleasant chore of emptying Nori's bedpan Brady went about preparing lunch with the help of Coop. They had to eat a cold lunch so as not to attract any unwanted attention that a smoking chimney would provide. With the shutters closed up, the downstairs was lit with a single candle.
After the lunch was prepared, Brady and Coop brought the food upstairs to the bedroom that Nori was recuperating in. Sunlight lit up the room from the window overlooking a large green lawn. Sarge was in the process of washing his hands in a washbasin.
"How is she doing?" asked Brady.
"Still unconscious but her vital signs are strong," Sarge replied drying off his hands.
"How is it that you know so much about medicine?" Brady returned offering Sarge a sandwich.
"Every soldier knows how to do battlefield first aid," the sergeant responded as he sat in a chair next to Nori's bed and started to devour his sandwich.
"I've taken Advanced First Aid in college and we never covered half this stuff," Brady continued.
Sarge let out a long sigh and looked down at Nori's sleeping form as he began speaking. "My wife used to be a nurse. Now, don't be so surprised that I'm married. At least I still consider myself still married."
Brady looked at Ronald with confusion clearly evident on his face. Coop just sat at the foot of the bed concentrating on eating his own sandwich.
"I suppose a little bio is in order of the Master Sergeant Ronald D. Greene. I fell in love with Dora in high school and she with me. After school we were wed. I joined the army and she went to school. It wasn't easy for her having to move all the time and transfer to a new school in order to stay with me as the army moved me from base to base. But she did. It was the type of person she was.
"She finished nursing school and was an RN. That's where I've picked up my expertise in bedside manner as well as some pointers on patching people up. It has come in handy over the years for me to know these skills.
"For eighteen years our love never failed. We had a daughter, Julie who was the spitting image of her mom. They were my life. Julie would have been 16 this year. Pretty close to Nori's age," Sarge started to choke up and momentarily stopped his monologue before he continued.
"It was two years ago that I lost both my wife and daughter in a car accident to a drunk driver. Man, I miss them both."
Sarge fell silent and Brady noticed that Sergeant Greene's eyes were misting up. Silence filled the room. The only noise came from the birds singing outside, Coop eating, and Nori's steady breathing.
Brady was about to say something that he hoped would be comforting when Coop softly began to speak.
"My big brother Frank was going to get us to our aunt and uncle in Spokane. Mom and dad made us go. They wouldn't come with us. It was after all the dead people had taken over most of the city.
"Frank always said he was a good driver. He used to deliver pizzas so he knew all the back roads to take to get out of town. We had to stop when the car got a flat tire near the barricade.
"It looked like the army men had left and there were dead people all over the place. Frank told me not to look. He said I was supposed to stay near the floor of the car while he fixed the tire.
"Frank got out of the car and screamed. I looked up even though I wasn't supposed to. There were some of the dead people coming to get him. Frank opened the door and told me to get back down. Then he locked the door and slammed it shut. He started yelling and waving his arms as he ran away from the car.
"He left me alone in the car by myself. He ran away!" Coop started to cry.
"Now, now, son," Sarge said soothingly as he sat next to Coop putting an arm around him. "Your brother didn't run away. He led those zombies away from you so that they wouldn't get you. He did that so that you could live."
Coop buried his face in the sergeant's big arms and began sobbing.
The sun was in the process of setting when the sergeant walked into Nori's room that they all slept in. He walked over to Brady.
"Here's that present I promised you," Ronald said as he held out a wooden Louisville Slugger.
Brady took the bat and hefted it. He had taken softball as a P.E. course at the U. It felt familiar and good in his hands.
"Glad you like it," said Sarge "this will be your weapon of choice for anything that breaks into this house. We have too many people to be firing guns indiscriminately in here."
Then the sergeant pulled a hunting crossbow off his back and sat next to the window watching the sun dip below the still smoking horizon.
"I'll take first watch and you have second. Try to rotate between the windows of these upper rooms. You can't have any light at all. So be careful.
"Now, the door is barricaded downstairs so there is no reason to go downstairs. If you hear anything, wake me up. If those zombies get inside we'll have to tear up the stairs. We can try to escape out the east bedroom window. I have a rope already prepared for that. We head for the barn and drive like mad. It'll be extremely difficult because of Nori's state so I'm going to have to put some more pressure on you."
Brady nodded his head in understanding. Then he stretched himself out onto the blankets he had prepared for sleeping in. The room was bathed in an ominous blood red light as the twilight began to die out.
Sarge quietly woke Brady up for his watch. Brady gathered himself and stood up and quietly walked over to the window. The waning moon offered some light onto the strangely gray landscape. The stars were out and there was just a faint glow from where the city of Seattle used to be a thriving and living metropolis. It appeared that the fires were finally starting to die out. The city would continue to smolder for days yet to come.
As dawn started to approach Brady made another circuit of the rooms looking out each window. The surrounding farmland was turning from the moonlit gray to the predawn blue. A lone rooster was starting to crow. Birds were beginning their morning songs. It was as if the land itself was awakening.
Brady returned to the wooden chair by the window in Nori's room. As the sun began to creep over the mountains behind them the land started to brighten up. That's when he noticed them. First it was one then it was two until Brady made out the shape of what looked like four men walking towards the farmhouse. He peered out the window. They were soldiers. He could see their helmets on their heads. Two had M-16s slung on their backs and one held his by the barrel dragging the butt on the ground.
They were obviously foot weary. Exhaustion permeated from the way they staggered along. "Good God, how long have they been out there," Brady thought. He quickly moved over to Sarge and woke him up.
Sarge shot up instantly awake with his Savage rifle in his arms.
"What is it?" he whispered.
"Looks like soldiers approaching. I don't know if they are friendly or not. They are just out the west window here."
Ronald pulled out some binoculars and approached the window. He focused the binoculars on the staggering soldiers.
Brady smelled it just as Sarge said, "Not soldiers, zombies."