Ham On the Bone
“No, it’s a pig. I swear it is a pig.”
“How could it be a pig? The Walkers eat up everything that moves,” I replied. “Besides how could a pig be way the hell out here and survive?”
“It’s an animal,” Dennis replied. “Animals can survive in the wild, cause you know, they’re animals.”
“Your logic is infallible, I have to give you that,” Holly said, with her usual trace of bitterness.
“Well, what else could it be?” he continued.
“You’ve a point there,” I said. “Do you have any idea how to hunt down a pig with just the weapons we got?” I gripped the spear in my hand tighter. It was hard enough to kill the zombies with our caveman weapons. Killing a pig that we couldn’t see in a dark forest, seemed like it would be next to impossible. Still, my stomach was tight will hunger and the idea of somehow finding a pig sounded better to me then just about anything else I could think of. Hell, at this point, I would trade an AK for a big pig, that is, if I still had one. We had dumped most of our weapons long ago. There was no sense in us carrying them around any more. I hadn’t even seen a live bullet for months.
There was a strange grunt, then another rustle in the leaves. “I hope it’s a pig and not something worse,” Holly grumbled.
“Of course we hope it’s a pig,” Dennis said, starting to get impatient. Seconds later, he was sliding away from us into the darkness, heading after the sound.
“I think we should keep up with him,” I said, more to myself then Holly, then set off after Dennis trying to stay as quiet as possible.
“I suppose,” Holly said and followed behind me. I really cared for Holly. In most ways she was my girlfriend, or at least as close to a girlfriend as someone could be in this post apocalyptic world that we had been forced into. Sure, I did share her with Dennis, as we shared everything. I knew Dennis and I were lucky to even have a woman to share the rest of our days with, but Holly was almost always in a state of morose doom and gloom. She hadn’t given up the fight, but she had given up her optimism.
The sound of a twig snapping ahead of us brought me back to the present. I stopped and Holly almost bumped into my back. I listened, but only the winds through the trees meet my ears. I had totally lost sight of Dennis and this worried me. It was never a good idea for us to split up. There was an animal noise ahead. Could there really be a pig way out here?
I heard another sound over to my right, a good distance away from the other sound I had just heard. It could have been Dennis, but it was impossible to tell.
“What was that?” Holly asked. Her voice was cracking nervously. She had been through a lot, but traveling through the woods like this at night could put anyone on edge.
“I don’t know,” I whispered, or at least thought I had whispered.
A second later, a horrible groan erupted from the woods to my right were I had just heard the noise. Groans like that could only mean one thing, Walkers. The undead came for us.
I grabbed Holly’s arm and we ran toward the area where we hoped Dennis had headed. A branch whipped my face painfully. Holly panted and clutched my hand like a vise. All her bravado had gone. We had been through scenes like this a hundred times, but we all knew that each one could be our last. Who knew how many Walkers could be out there and we didn’t have bullets anymore.
Ahead of us we heard more thrashing. Holly pulled on my hand slowing us down. “What’re you doing?” I demanded.
“How do we know there aren’t more of them up ahead?” she asked. I could hear the near panic in her voice now.
“Come on, we have to hope that’s Dennis. We need to catch up to him.” I pulled her arm as I spoke. The sounds of groaning grew behind us. She reluctantly followed me and we continued our half jog through the stygian forest.
I heard a louder series of noises up ahead. There was a yell and then a terribly loud shrieking. At first, I thought it was a human, maybe a child, but then I realized it could only an animal. Maybe Dennis had found a pig after all. A moment later, I almost crashed into him in the dark.
He stood over an unmoving pig. In the darkness, I could tell that he was grinning. His white teeth gleamed against his dark face. At his feet a fat pig wiggled a bit and snorted, but remained unconscious.
“You see that?” Dennis bragged. “I got the little bugger. Can you believe it? We’ll eat like kings. We haven’t had a chance to eat this good in months.”
“Yeah that’s great,” Holly whispered still half panting. “And you’re also bringing all of the Walkers in the area down on our asses.”
“What’re you talking about? There aren’t any geeks way out here in the woods.”
As if on cue, a group of a least half a dozen walking dead burst out of the foliage. The freaks we had been fighting all these years were your ‘Night of the Living Dead’ zombies. These were slow and clumsy and went down with a shot to the head. Someone had started calling them Walkers. I couldn’t even remember who it was now, but the name had stuck. We weren’t sure if this was the name others used, but then again, the last time we ran into another group of survivors was over two months ago and they had tried to kill us.
All right, back to the six zombies breaking through the bushes hell bent on eating our flesh. Before we knew it, only about thirty feet separated our two groups.
“Go, go!” I shouted. Holly didn’t need any extra encouragement and was already sprinting off in the opposite direction. I didn’t want to lose sight of her, but Dennis stopped for some reason. “What the hell are you doing?” I yelled.
“I’m not leaving without his pig,” he said, and then cradled the thing against his shoulder like it was an overweight baby.
The Walkers were less then twenty feet away from us now. “It’s not worth your life man!” I shouted at him, as I flung my metal tipped spear at the leading Zombie’s head. I scored a lucky shot and my spear took the bastard in the eye. It went toppling back over, tripping up two of the others hosts slowing them all down.
That was it. I’d done my part and took off running. If Dennis wanted to risk his life for a pig it was his choice. I was without my main weapon now and wanted to keep up with Holly. If Dennis could keep up good for him, but I wasn’t going to risk losing touch with Holly in the dark.
Branches whacked my face as I ran. I heard thrashing behind me. I couldn’t be sure if I was Dennis or the goons. I hadn’t heard a scream, which I took as a good sign. The Walkers were doing their loud groaning thing, which I knew would attract any other zombies that might have been in the area. We were in the deep woods so I hoped they remained too spread out for this to be a big problem yet.
Lucky for me, Holly made a lot of noise when she ran. I had made my choice. I could either stick with Dennis and his pig or I could protect the girl. I chose the girl.
For a moment, I lost her in the dark woods. The sounds of her screaming quickly solved this problem.
When I caught up to her, I found her struggling with a geek which already had a fistful of her long blonde hair. But then I saw the bad news. Maybe ten more zombies crashed through the woods toward her.
Grabbing up a four foot log, I tossed it at theWalker’s face from only a few feet away. This got the undead off her, but also made her cry out as a handful of her hair left with it.
Picking up the same log, I tossed it at the closest walker.
Then, grabbing Holly’s hand, I dragged her back the way we had come.
“What the fuck’s going on?” I managed to gasp out between pants. “Why are there so many Walkers way out here in the middle of flipping no where?”
A wide eyed stare was her only answer. “Come on. If we head back this way, we can help Dennis if the moron is still even alive. That big dumbass always did think with his stomach.”
“And you think with your cock,” I heard him hiss at me. “Big surprise you took off after her when it was me that needed help carrying this pig.”
Already I could hear first group of Walkers crashing through the woods behind Dennis.”
“Whatever, you idiot, I just saved her and there’re even more Walkers that way.”
“What’re we going to do?” panic controlled her voice. “We’re being surrounded.”
“We’ll do what we always do, pick a direction and go for it,” Dennis said. “But we’re still bringing the pig.”
“Drop the damn pig, will you!” Holly screamed. “Is it really worth all of our lives?”
“Great now every zombie in a twenty miles radius knows we are here,” I said.
A building echo of moans quickly confirmed my statement. Dennis had come from the east and Holly and I had just returned from the west. We had originally headed up from the south. So, after grabbing Holly’s hand, I picked north.
Besides a few knives, I didn’t have much in the way of weapons. I still had one oversized steel hand axe however and I let that ride in my other hand as we fled north.
The zombies seemed to be surrounding us, but in the dark it was hard to tell. Yet, just because we were on this side of doomed, didn’t mean Dennis dropped the stupid pig, which currently hung limply in his arms. I wondered briefly is it still lived, but soon had pressing matters to attend to.
More sounds could be heard from before us. It didn’t seem to be too many, but in the dark woods even a few were enough to take out the unlucky.
A large shadow loomed before me. Swinging my axe with an overhand shot enabled me to cut into its skull and I dropped theWalker. Unfortunately, my axe remained lodged in it bone and it was all I could do to keep it from being torn out of my hands.
Two more were lurching at me and with a grunt I pulled on my axe. It didn’t come, so I pulled again. Letting go of Holly’s hand, I used both of mine to grip the handle. With a massive effort the axe came free or at least that’s what I thought at first. However, when I swung the axe at the nearest flesh eater, I found that the entire head had pulled away from the body and was still lodged on the edge of my axe.
“Screw it,” I said aloud and smashed the zombie in the face with it anyway. Both of the heads exploded and my axe was once again freed. I was more careful with the nextWalkerand it went down without entrapping my weapon, but just then I heard Holly shouting a warning. Another zombie was behind me and before I could do more than dread my upcoming fate, it had me by the hair and my collar and was moving in for a bite.
I thought I was a goner until something loose and floppy broadsided the zombie. It went down and when its head hit a tree, it didn’t get back up.
There were still other Walkers closing in, but Dennis rushed over to me, while yelling, “Come on let’s go!”
Looking down, I said, “Man, did you just save me by throwing the pig at it?”
“It worked didn’t it? Now come on!”
* * *
The night of terror continued, but we pressed on and somehow survived scuffle after scuffle without getting bitten or unfortunately loosing the damn pig.
Some strange things were happening. Before long, we had put the zombies that had been plaguing us behind. Although their presence remained a constant reminder that we could never take more than a two minute break, let along get any real rest. The odd thing was that small groups of undead would appear in front of us and this made no sense. Why would there still be undead before us if we were heading deeper into the forest and away from all cities and towns?
As the sun stained the eastern mountains purple, we started to increase the distance between ourselves and the restless dead behind us. We were beyond exhaustion, but images of your fresh being torn off the bone tend to put an extra bounce in your step even under the worst of circumstances.
Another group of three zombies appeared before us and again I wondered what they were doing so far out here. We were about to run around them, when Dennis called out, “hey wait, is that one on the right wearing a side arm?”
Sure it could be empty or worthless, but none of us had even fired a bullet for nearly a year. Even a gun with a few shots could be a huge boon for us. We approached the zombies, as they stumbled toward us. Now that dawn was spreading across the lands we could see them better.
Holly said, “These Walkers are dressed funny. What’s their deal?”
Soiled tie-dyes hung loosely while odd colorful, almost clown pants road low on their dehydrated hips. One of them still sported a Rasta hat which tucked in a set of very nasty looking dread locks.
“What a second,” Dennis said. “Are these guys fucking hippies?”
“I think you might be right,” I said.
They were almost upon us, so I dove forward and chopped the rasta in the middle of his stupid hat. He pitched toward me and if I hadn’t jumped back his teeth might have tagged my arm. Dennis had grabbed a huge log somewhere and was yelling a stream of curses that could have made an inmate blush while he smashed anotherWalkerinto a gore pile. The thing that surprised me was that he actually dropped the pig first.
Holly was tossing rocks and sticks at the last one. Her tactic worked for the meat-bag was distracted enough for me to slam my hand axe into the back of its head.
Unfortunately this meant that Denis got to the pistol before I did and was already strapping it to his waist by the time we reached him.
“Does it have any bullets?”
“Hell yes. This thing is loaded and there’re like another thirty bullets on the belt.”
Holly actually smiled.
“Nice, that should help give us a little-” My statement got interrupted by the sounds of moaning echoing from back the way we had come. The zombies that had been chasing us all night had formed a group that had to be nearly forty strong. But that wasn’t the strange thing.
“Are they all hippies?” Holly asked slowly.
“Yeah,” I answered, “It sure seems that way.”
“Gives a whole new meaning to the word Dead-Heads,” Dennis chuckled and then outright laughed at his own joke.
Then they came.
The grime and leaking gore did little to cover the bright swirling colors of the tie-dyes and chaotic patches. Mismatched clothes fromIndiaandGuatemalahung from the walking corpses. Friendship bracelets that had turned black survived by threads and many of them had pendants and jewelry that still caught the light and sparkled in the rising sunlight.
“Let’s keep going,” I said.
“Won’t get an argument from me,” Dennis said, while heaving the pig over his shoulder. “I got a bacon sack and now I have a gun, this is been the best day I’ve had in months.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re so happy,” Holly grumbled. “By my count you would have to use every one of your new bullets to waste the Walkers following us and you won’t have time to eat your stupid pig unless you do.”
“Whatever, ‘little miss cheery.’ You had better be good or I won’t let you have any ham.” He smiled while grabbing his crouch, “or even any sausage.”
She just stared at him for a moment, turned her back, and then stormed off to the north. I hurried to catch up with her.
* * *
“You have got to be kidding me,” Dennis grumbled, but I could still hear a sliver of awe in his voice.
The three of us were on a rise looking down at a filthy compound. Pallet shacks milled with clusters of trailers that were slowly sinking into the mud. Vehicles, that undoubtedly had seen their last driving days long before the plague began, slowly rusted in the morning mists.
“Is this what I think it is?” Holly asked.
“A nasty white trash stink hole,” Dennis answered.
“No, you idiot, it’s an old hippy commune,” she snipped back.
“Same fucking thing.”
Suddenly out of no where the pig started to struggle in his arms and let out a long loud squeal. If there was any doubt that there were still zombies lingering in the compound it was quickly dispelled when the moaning began and the Walkers started to stumble toward us.
“Puss blankets,” I said for some reason. “We need to get out of here.”
“Wait, wait,” Dennis said while trying to keep the struggling pig under control. “Look that place is fenced in and there’s a gate. That one dead-head had a gun. Maybe they have more. We could stay here and loot the place.’
“First off,” I started, “it looks like that place has at least twenty Walkers in there. Secondly, we still have another forty behind us that will be showing up any minute.”
“Simple, we just play ring around the rosy and then run back in and shut the gates. I’ll hold them off while you two find more guns and then we’ll waste them all and cook ourselves up some bacon, right porky.”
“Ring around the what?”
“My buddy used to have this big retarded brother that attacked us once in a while. We would just run around the house while he chased us. Eventually he would get tired and just sit down and flip us the bird.”
Holly glared. “I guess you’ve always been an asshole.”
He just grinned. “Come on, you only live once.” Then, without looking back, he ran down the hill. Dennis must have pinched the pig, because it squealed. Soon we had no choice but to follow.
Despite how much it disturbed me to admit it, the big goof was right. The Walkers followed us out of the gates. It was then a simple matter to circle the compound while they trudged through the mud behind us. Once we got back to the gate we slammed it shut and quickly chained it closed.
“Well either we just got lucky or we are about to be trapped inside this shithole with sixty or so Walkers surrounding us.”
* * *
When the silly plan worked, I wasn’t sure if I should be laughing or preparing to join the zombies that were at once banging on the walls. It didn’t take long for the ill made wooden structure to begin to be torn apart one board at a time.
“Damn slackers, too stoned to even build a fence right,” I yelled and then grabbed Holly’s hand. “Stay with me. Our only chance is if the granola heads actually did have more fire arms.”
“But weren’t hippies kinda peaceful and anti-gun?”
“Ah, so I’m not the only one that has found the big hole in this insane plan.” Looking around, I saw that there was a modular house that was elevated about four feet off the ground. “That place looks the most secure. If nothing else it could be our fall back, which from the looks of things, we already need to be thinking about.”
Dennis was firing his pistol at nearly point blank range at the ones trying to break through the western wall. He was holding them back, but this still left the north and the eastern side. The southern wall held the gate which was still secure and had less ways for the zombies to enter from that direction.
I was surprised to find the door locked. “Break it in,” she said.
“If I do that, then we can’t lock it behind us.” Then I spied a floor mat. “Maybe…” For once luck was with me and I discovered the key hidden there. My hands shook as I hurried to open the door. To the north and the east the zombies were breaking through the fence. Their moanings competed with the noise of the gunfire.
Flinging open the door, almost cost me my life. For a tall zombie reached out and grabbed the collar of my coat and drew my neck in toward its rotten teeth. Strangely enough, it was Holly that came to my rescue. She smacked him with the claw side of a hammer she was holding. The first blow was enough to slow it down and I pushed it away.
The nasty dipping thing still had my jacket and was going in for another attempt at my throat, but this time her blow took it in the eye and in stumbled back against the door jam, hovering a moment, before slumping to the floor. I tossed it off the small porch in disgust.
“Don’t you go dying on me! I don’t want to be stuck with just dumbass to talk to.”
Looking over my shoulder, I said, “If he doesn’t fall back that won’t be much of a worry and why in the hell is he still carrying that damn pig?”
I called out to Dennis to make sure he knew where we were, but the crazy freak just yelled some battle cry and kept shooting. “He won’t retreat until he runs out of bullets and by then it might be too late,” I grumbled. “Now, this might have been their leader’s place. Let’s hope he had some guns. Help me look.”
The living room turned up nothing more dangerous that a TV remote. We each tried a bedroom. At first I saw nothing, but then I checked the closet. “Jackpot,” I said to myself, for I had found not only a polished shotgun, but also a pistol still holstered in a pouch that was attached to a fancy ammo belt.
I grabbed up a box of shotgun ammunition. After dumping the contents into my jacket pocket, I started to load it as fast as I could. I need not have bothered—it was ready to go.
Then I heard Holly screaming.
Coming out of the room, I saw no less than three zombies already inside the trailer. My first shot took off one’s head and the second blasted a six inch hole through another’s midsection and also sent him flying back through the door.
Damn, it’s great to have a gun again!
The third zombie was trying to force its way into the other bedroom and Holly was fighting a losing battle to keep the door closed. I drew the pistol as he turned toward me. “Well, hot damn,” escaped me when the bullet took him between the eyes.
“Come on, Holly,” I yelled. “Grab this pistol.”
She came out right when more zombies were trying to force their way inside. My shotgun went into street sweeper mode and blew them away. But I was worried about Dennis, because I didn’t hear any shooting coming from outside.
Two more blasts cleared the porch and I was stopping to reload when the pig came flying into the trailer with a loud drawn out squeal. Dennis tried to follow, but a zombie tripped him. He was already weakened and bloody and I heard him let out a painful gasp. Even as I watched, a dreadlocked dead-head took a bite out of his calf.
He looked up at me as they started to drag him away. “I’m a goner, man, but promise me one thing.”
Holly was crying and I said, “Anything.”
“Don’t eat Porky! I’m starting to like the little bugger.”
And then he was gone.
* * *
Since we had already wasted over half of the Walkers and had a strong defensive position, Holly and I were able to finish the job without getting hurt. The compound was beyond nasty, but did have two things going for it. The first was its remote location and the second was all the food. The plague must have hit these hippies quick, because they still had loads of caned and dried foods, even if there was way too much granola.
We honored Dennis’ dying wish and kept porky as a pet. We will probably move on one day, but for now we were happy to loot as much as we can and in my free time I am repairing and improving the fence.
Porky proved he was worth more than just being ham on the bone when his squealing alerted us to the first group of eight zombies that discovered us randomly. After that, we promised never to eat the poor guy. Besides after people have been trying to eat you for a few years, you become a bit more sensitive to that sort of thing. As a matter of fact, we were thinking about becoming vegetarians maybe the commune life was rubbing off on us.
“Oh shit, I hear Porky squealing, I better go. Grab up that extra pistol and help us out would you?”