Aliens Versus Zombies

By Mark Terence Chapman

Sci-Fi, Action & adventure, Thriller

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747
13 mins

Chapter 0

May 2034.
He had no name. He simply was.

Once a mechanic, he was now but a part of The Pack. His filthy, bloody, torn coveralls had a patch on the chest that read Jay. A tattoo of an anchor peeked out of a rip in the right sleeve.

Movement across the street had caught his eye. Jay shrieked and grunted, then pointed. The others in The Pack understood the meaning.

Food!

Another pack had entered their territory. He knew they were not of The Pack. Their cries and hoots were different.

Once, food had been plentiful, but as the easier food was caught and eaten—the two- and four-legged ones, the flying ones—food got scarcer, until the pack began to starve. They soon eyed one another. The hunger gnawing at them was incessant. It had to be quenched.

Now The Pack, twenty-three strong, gave chase. Some raced left, some right, and some straight ahead. They would leave few openings through which the prey could escape. Ahead, three more members of The Pack waited for the prey to be driven toward them.

They closed the trap. The Pack pounced on the seven interlopers. Bloodstained teeth ripped into flesh, tore open arteries, cracked bones.

Eat!

This food fought back with ferocity. Two of The Pack died along with the interlopers.

That made nine foods to eat.

The Pack slept with full bellies that night.

Happy.

* * * *

The end of the world had begun with a neither a bang nor a whimper, but with pain.

March 23, 2033 began like so many other days, with Lao Tse reaching for a sack of rice to throw onto the back of his cart.

“Ow!”

He yanked his hand back and sucked the drop of blood from the back of his finger.

“Damn it!” Must have been a thorn, or a sharp twig.

The wild gerbil that nipped him darted unseen into the nearby reeds. The wound didn’t hurt much after a few minutes, so Lao Tse thought no more of it.

Two days later, while selling his crop in the small marketplace outside Lhasa, Tibet, he began to feel ill.

His sore throat and headache worsened throughout the day. While conducting his business, he coughed on several other merchants, thus transmitting this new mutation of the Tibetan Hemorrhagic Fever virus.

“Spring colds. They’re always the worst,” he said that evening to his daughter, Mei. “I’m going to bed early. I’m sure a good night’s sleep is all I need.”

By the next day, his symptoms had progressed to vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fever. Mei rushed him to the nearest emergency room in Lhasa, but not until after he had infected his family.

“Have a seat over there, and fill out this form,” directed the admitting nurse.

Mei was close to panic. “But, my father is very sick. He needs someone to look at him right away.”

The nurse took a quick glance at Lao Tse, before smiling. “I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about. Probably just a mild case of the flu. Your father should be fine in a few days.”

In the twenty-two minutes before he was examined—coughing and sneezing the entire time—eleven people in the waiting room became infected. All were treated for the injuries or illnesses that had brought them there and left the hospital before they became symptomatic.

Lao’s condition worsened and he passed out during the examination. He was admitted for observation and given intravenous electrolytes and Tylenol to break the fever. However, by morning his temperature had risen to 106ºF; an ice bath did nothing to help and he began bleeding from his eyes, nose, ears, and rectum.

By the time doctors diagnosed hemorrhagic fever and quarantined the hospital, Lao had already infected two doctors, three nurses and an orderly. The doctors and nurses were still at the hospital when the quarantine occurred. However, the orderly had the next two days off and came down with “flu” symptoms while at home and spread the contagion further before seeking treatment.

The government immediately locked down the city and alerted the World Health Organization (WHO).

It was already too late. The merchants Lao Tse had infected days earlier infected others in his village and surrounding ones. Several had traveled to other towns and spread the contagion further.

Lao Tse, Patient Zero, died three days later.

* * * *

CNN headline, April 2, 2033:
“Hemorrhagic Fever virus believed to have originated in Tibet; spread to China.”

CNN Headline News, April 4, 2033:
“Tibetan virus escapes China; thousands infected. WHO warns neighboring countries to take precautions.”

Der Spiegel International (English), April 10, 2033:
“Germany closes borders to travelers from East Asia.”

USA Today, April 14, 2033:
“Virus immune to vaccines.”

New York Times, April 17, 2033:
“CDC: ‘Not Enough Time’.”

Paris Match headline (translated), April 25, 2033:
“112 MILLION BELIEVED INFECTED.”

Chicago Tribune, April 26, 2033:
“President McKinnon dead! Marshal Law declared!”

The Kyoto Shimbun (English), May 1, 2033:
“Plague Reported in Every Country.”

Daily Record and Sunday Mail (Scotland), May 2, 2033:
“Parliament Abandoned; UK in Crisis.”

Pravda headline (English), May 14, 2033:
“Estimated 1 billion dead.”

Sydney Morning Herald June 29, 2033:
“2.5 billion believed dead.”

Los Angeles Times, July 4, 2033.
“Independence Day celebrations cancelled.”

The Rio Times (English), July 17, 2033:
“Brazil Government Collapses.”

Times of London, August 23, 2033:
“6 Bn Dead. Will Anyone Survive?”

miamiherald.com feature article, September 19, 2033:
Humanity’s end?
By Peter Cseh
Staff Reporter

Miami is a ghost town. Few people remain. I am writing this record for posterity, should anyone survive to read it.

This pandemic is like nothing mankind has ever experienced. Beginning in the 14th century, the Black Death took over a century to kill an estimated seventy-five million victims, a third of Europe’s population. This time, however, approximately eighty-two percent of the human race—more than eight billion people—died within the first six months.

Death from this plague is most unpleasant, with the victims bleeding from every orifice and screaming in pain as necrotic tissue rots on the bone.

Of the eighteen percent of humanity currently living, nearly all suffered through lesser symptoms, including intense fever that resulted in major brain trauma. Scientists say the damage occurs primarily to the frontal lobe—the part of the brain that controls the higher brain functions—and especially the cerebral cortex.

These victims don’t die, yet they also are no longer quite human. Instead, they become ravening feral hordes, hunting for living things to eat: snakes raccoons, people—it doesn’t matter. As long as it has a heartbeat, these “zombies”—for want of a better term—pursue and eat it. However they are not the shuffling, undead automatons of horror fiction. They are something else entirely. They are living, breathing creatures, cunning—and fast.

The estimated remaining eight-tenths of one percent of humanity—fewer than eight million individuals worldwide—seem to be immune to the virus. However, with the collapse of all governments and military we stand little chance of surviving long-term against well over a billion zombies.

This will be the final issue of The Miami Herald. I plan to “run for the hills” as soon as I put this brief issue to bed.

God help us all.

* * * *

On May 19, 2034, fourteen months after the plague struck, a Drahtch invasion fleet arrived in Earth orbit with more than twenty thousand armed ships, two million ground troops, and a half-million colonists.

Chapter 3

October 14, 2030.
Chick Daniels opened his eyes and panicked.

He was flat on his back, in pain, and blind. He rubbed at his eyes, hoping against hope.

No, no, no! Please, God, no…

After an all-too-long moment he saw a glimmer of light, and then another. He kept rubbing.

“Whoa, Sarge! Stop rubbing. You’ll just make it worse.”

“What? Make what worse? Wh-what happened to me?”

“Hang on. You’ve got motor oil in your eyes. Try not to blink until I rinse it out with some saline. It might sting a little, but keep your eyes open. Okay?”

“Y-yeah. Okay.”

Fingers raised his left eyelid. Warm water bathed his eyes and splashed onto his cheeks. After a few seconds, daylight penetrated the gloom.

“Okay, you can blink now.”

He did, and the view cleared.

The medical corpsman peered into Daniels’ eyes. “How’s your vision? Can you see all right?”

Daniels nodded. “It still stings a bit, but I can see.”

“Good. I’ve got some ointment that should help with that. They should be right as rain by tomorrow. Are you hurt anywhere else?”

“I don’t think…wait. My hip.”

The corpsman turned his head to the side to look. “Yep. There’s some blood. Turn on your side so I can get a better look.”

Daniels did so and the corpsman used his knife to cut open the pants over the wound to get a better look.

“Yep. Not too bad. A little shrapnel; not deep, not too much bleeding. You’re lucky. Hang on a minute and we’ll get a stretcher over here.”

“I’m still a bit woozy. Wh-what happened?”

“IED. Two dead, two injured, including you.”

“Shit. Who?”

“Keeley and Bremmer dead. Wojohowicz lost a foot. He’s stable.”

“God damn this place!” Daniels closed his eyes for a moment, shook his head, and then reopened them. “I’ll be so happy when we get the fuck out of this hellhole.”

The corpsman took another look at Daniels’ eyes. “You sure you’re okay? Do you know your name, where you are?”

“Yeah, yeah. Byron Daniels. Afghanistan. Kandahar province.”

“Good. Just another day in the shitty neighborhood. Right, Sarge?”

“Yeah. I’m sick of this place. Nothing but death. They kill us, we kill them. We’ll never kill enough of them to end this.”

“I hear ya. You just lie there for a mo while I round up that stretcher, okay?”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m fine. Do what ya gotta do.”

The corpsman jogged away.

After he left, Daniels looked up at the sky and squinted at the harsh sun. “God? Are you listening? Can we make a deal? If you get me out of this place alive, I promise that I’ll lay down my weapons and never pick one up again. I’ll be a model citizen. Love they neighbor and all that. Deal?”

God was silent on the issue.

* * * *

The quintet had learned to move mainly at night to avoid being seen. The Zoms may have lost most of their ability to reason, but they still had basic animal needs. They had to shit, piss, eat, and sleep—generally at night—the same as any other human being. So, despite their qualms about it, nighttime was actually safer for normal humans. After all, even if the Zoms were awake, their night vision was no better than it was before the plague.

Tonight the group slipped down an alley toward a sporting goods store the next block over. They were low on ammo and Moose’s pistol had begun to jam intermittently. Rather than risk it in a pitched battle, it made sense to just get another one—or two, or five.

The trip so far had been quiet, so Jesse Jefferson took the opportunity to say something he’d been thinking about since Daniels and Chrissy had returned from the Hungry Shopper. He spoke softly.

“You know, I think maybe it’s time to get outta Dodge. Grab a minivan or SUV, cram it with food and stuff, and get the hell outta here. If what you two saw was actually aliens, then we’re in big trouble. If it’s not bad enough that we have to duck Zoms all the time, how are we supposed to duck aliens, too?”

“Dunno, Jesse,” Daniels said. “But if the aliens are here, who’s to say they aren’t everywhere? Besides, we’ve done well enough here so far. There’s still plenty of canned food in the stores. Who knows what the next town’ll be like. Maybe it’s been looted.”

Jefferson shrugged. “Maybe, but at least that would mean more people. We haven’t seen anyone around here in months.”

“Yeah, but other people might not want to share. It’s a case of the devil you know versus the one you don’t. At least we know what to expect here.”

“Do we? Do we know what the aliens might be up to?”

Daniels had no answer to that and the group trudged on in silence.

They reached Sporty’s Sporting Goods and broke the lock on the back door. Their entry was less noticeable than if they’d used the front door.

While working their way toward the counter that had guns and cartridges locked away, Hector Villa started chuckling.

“Something you’d like to share with the class?” Chrissy asked.

“Heh. I was just wondering whether Zoms, you know, do it. Sex, I mean.”

“Yeah, we figured that out.”

“Sure! Why not? As far we know, everything works like before, except for their brains. They bleed when they get shot, they die, so why not sex?”

“What an image!” Chrissy said with a grin. “Two Zoms goin’ at it.”

Chick Daniels laughed, flashing the smile that had earned him the nickname “chick magnet” in his younger days. Maybe his hair was going gray now, and there were crow’s feet beside his world-weary ice blue eyes, but his smile was still as youthful as ever.

“Oh, God!” Chrissy said. “Can you imagine pregnant Zoms running around? Or zombie babies?”

Peter chimed in. “Talk about ankle-biters!”

That pretty much ended any serious conversation for a while.

* * * *

FronCar entered the Medical Hub. As always, he was in awe of the scope of the place. Surgical theaters, state-of-the-art diagnostic bays, research facilities, prosthetic/bionic device manufacturing modules, and much more. The place had hundreds of people working in it, with beds and equipment to treat nearly a thousand patients simultaneously. Under battle conditions that was sometimes barely enough. The soft pale blue glow of the walls gave the facility an ethereal quality that softened the otherwise sterile feel.

He walked down four flights of stairs to the diagnostic bay where Fleet Commanding Medical Officer ZemBleth awaited. FronCar was a soldier, after all, not some lazy civilian who needed to use the lift.

“Doctor?”

“Ah, Commander. Excellent. I was just about to contact you.”

“Do you have anything useful to report?”

“Well, I guess that depends on what you mean by useful.”

Before FronCar could respond, the doctor continued. “Here, let me show you the results of the autopsy. Or perhaps necropsy is the better term. After all, the subject is closer to an animal than a person.”

He reactivated the 3D scanners, which projected a holographic image of the indigene into the center of the bay at the doctor’s waist height. He pointed at the transparent image of the torso. “We still don’t know exactly what all the internal organs do, especially with the damage from weapons fire. It would be much easier to tell with a living patient. But some functions are obvious. There are two lungs. Less efficient than our three, but serviceable. This organ, in the middle, pumps the blood. The configuration is different from our two hearts, but it’s larger and obviously does the job. There are several other organs lower down that seem to purify the blood and other bodily fluids of toxins—judging by the quantity of the toxins in the organs—digest food, secrete hormones and enzymes, reproduce, and the other usual functions. There are one or two we haven’t figured out yet. This little one, for example, in the lower right abdomen, doesn’t appear to do anything. Maybe it’s vestigial, like our belj. Their blood appears to use iron-based hemoglobin, hence the reddish color, rather than our cobalt-based coboglobin.”

“That’s all very fascinating, doctor, but is there anything that can help us kill the indigenes easier?”

Dr. ZemBleth shrugged. “Perhaps, perhaps not. I can tell you that they’re shorter than we are, with much denser bones. That’s probably due to this planet’s twenty-percent-higher gravity. Most likely they’re stronger than we are, and faster afoot.”

“That’s good to know.”

“Yes, but the most interesting thing I’ve found is in their brains.”

“How so?”

“The brains are clearly well developed. They’re slightly larger than our own, with two large lobes versus our three smaller ones, and significant folds and wrinkles. Typically, the more convoluted a brain is, the more intelligent the creature. It’s impossible to tell for sure from a dead body, but I would estimate that the intelligence level of the indigenes was approximately equal to our own, give or take ten to fifteen percent.”

“Was?”

“Clearly, there is significant brain damage. I can’t be sure what caused it, disease or trauma, but this creature certainly wasn’t born this way. There is scar tissue and a clear indication of damage. See how some parts of the brain are light gray in color and others are white? But these areas here, here, and here, are darker. That’s where the damage occurred, in what I would estimate to be areas that control the higher brain functions. Some of the tissue appears dead. There are even a large number of lesions—holes and tears—in the brain, mostly in this lobe in the front. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen that before.

“You said these creatures acted feral, like wild animals, attacking your men with ferocity. Obviously the autonomic and basal functions of the brain are unharmed, which leaves only the higher functions. The thinking part. Well, there’s your answer. With this degree of damage, if all the indigenes are like this, you won’t have to worry about them firing sophisticated weapons at you. Rocks, sticks, and teeth are about as fancy as these creatures will get.”
FronCar nodded in thought. “Thank you, doctor. You’ve been most helpful.”

“Anything for the Empire, Commander.”

“Please keep me informed if you find anything else that might be of interest.”

“Of course. By the way, what is the planet like? I haven’t had a chance to get a look.”

FronCar shrugged. “It’s bigger than Draht, mostly water, with several large landmasses, rather than many small ones. Very blue. Pretty, one might say. Extremely hot in places, very cold in others. Not at all like the fairly uniform conditions at home. But the temperate zones are certainly suitable to our kind. Once we eliminate these parasites infesting the planet, we’ll have plenty of room to grow into.”

Dr. ZemBleth smiled. “Excellent. I can’t wait to make landfall and see for myself.”

* * * *

After hearing the sounds of Drahtch weapons-fire in the distance, the quintet got close enough to watch as the golden aliens retrieved their dead. Afterward, they moved in on the warehouse to see if they could learn anything about the invaders.

Taking care, they slipped in after dark. Their flashlights illuminated the immediate area, but wouldn’t be visible from a distance.

Peter DeBerge was the first to spot the blood. “Huh,” he said pointing. “It’s yellow-orange.”

They spread out to follow the blood trails, each wary, listening for the sounds of returning Zoms—or aliens.

“Over here,” Chrissy called out. When the others arrived, she showed them the piece of wet, blood-soaked fabric she had found. “With this blood on it, it should feel cool. But it’s warm to the touch, like it’s being heated somehow.” She passed the piece to Daniels.

“Definitely not like any fabric I’ve ever heard of,” He said. The others agreed when they had a chance to feel it.

A few more minutes of searching revealed only one other thing of note.

Jesse found a dead Zom in the back, still clutching a shred of alien uniform and with a bit of flesh dangling from her mouth. That wasn’t the weird part.

“I don’t see what killed it. Unlike the other Zoms, this one doesn’t look like it has any gaping holes.” He and Daniels rolled it over. There were no wounds on the back, either, just a rash on her face.

Moose said, “I’ve never seen a dead Zom before with no wounds.”

“It doesn’t look old enough to have died of old age,” Jefferson joked.

Before the smiles even had a chance to fade, six Zoms launched themselves through the opening in the back that the aliens had blown in. Three headed for Peter, who was closest to the hole, two for Jesse, and one for Daniels.

Chrissy and Moose charged at the Zoms, knives drawn, and attempted to get them off the others. Moose stabbed one in the chest and Chrissy got another in the back. Daniels gutted his, and Jesse had to kick one in the knee so he had a moment in which to draw his pistol and fire.

Peter was still wrestling with two, having dispatched the other. He stabbed one and Daniels shot the other.

Still panting, Peter dropped his knife and held his right wrist with his left hand. “Goddamn Zom bit me.” His shirtsleeve was soaked in blood, and more dripped down his elbow.

Chrissy tried to cover the worry painted on her face. “Jeez, Peter. It looks like you’ve lost a lot of blood. You’d better let us take a look at that.”

Peter let go of his wrist just long enough to slide back the sleeve. Even that was too long. Blood spurted from his wrist. He clamped down on it, but blood continued to ooze from beneath his hand.

“Artery!” Daniels shouted. “Quick, someone find something we can use as a tourniquet!”

Everyone dropped their backpacks and rummaged inside.

“Here!” Moose said, holding a sock. “It’s not clean, but it should do until we can find something better.”

“That’s fine.” Daniels wrapped the sock around Peter’s arm, just above the elbow and cinched it tight.

“Over here. Sit.” Chrissy led Peter a few steps to an overturned can.

Peter sat. “I’m okay. Just a little dizzy.”

Chrissy and Daniels exchanged worried glances. They didn’t have a doctor, after all.

“Jus’ gimme a min to catch my breath, and then we can go. We can’ afford to stay here. We’re sittin’ du—” Peter toppled over.

Daniels knelt and checked his pulse. “It’s really weak. He’s lost too much blood.”

“We gotta do somethin’!” Moose said.

“Like what? A transfusion? Surgery?” Daniels sighed. “There’s nothing we can do for him.”

He, Chrissy, Moose, and Jesse, stood or sat there, waiting, until Peter DeBerge’s heart stopped beating.

Chrissy dropped to the floor in a heap and sat there hugging her knees. “Shit.” She shook her head and cried softly as the others stood around moping.

After a minute, Daniels sat beside her and put his arm around her.

He sighed. “I know you’re hurting. I liked Pete, too. We’ll take him out back and bury him.”

She nodded and wiped her eyes as she stood. They had lost people before, but she’d been close to Peter. He’d been a teen runaway, just as she had, so they had bonded over that. Now, she had just lost yet another friend. Over the past year, she’d lost way too many friends. Even losing someone she wasn’t especially close to was hard. There weren’t all that many humans left alive. Each one lost brought humanity that much closer to extinction.

She helped carry Peter’s body out the back door and to the dirt yard beyond. Daniels pulled the camp shovel he’d found weeks earlier out of his backpack and began to dig. The shovel was small, so it took a while to make any progress. Sweating profusely, he turned over the chore after ten minutes and the others each took a turn. It took more than an hour just to make a hole three feet deep.

Although Peter deserved a decent burial, that was the best they could do without staying exposed for too long. They placed his body in the hole gently, placed a reasonably clean handkerchief over his face, and then covered him up.

Each of them spoke at an impromptu funeral ceremony. After more than fourteen months of fighting against the Zoms and losing so many friends, at this point they were emotionally numb. The speeches were short.

Chrissy went first. “Peter, you were a good friend. You had a hard life and deserved a better fate than this. I’ll miss you.”

Moose then said, “Dude, I know you’re in a far better place than this. Go with God.”

Jesse followed with, “If my father were here, he’d have a ready speech about how we deserved all of this. That the apocalypse was a sign of God’s displeasure and this was a means of clearing out the sinners and starting over. I don’t buy all that bullshit. You were a good guy and should have been rewarded with a better life than this. At least you can rest now. Your fight is over.”

Finally, it was Daniels’ turn. “I didn’t know you very long, but you were a hard worker who pulled his weight and rarely felt sorry for himself. It’s all too easy to fall prey to ‘why me?’ syndrome. But you stayed cheerful to the end. We’re better people for having known you.”

And then there were four.



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