Friday, July 12, 2013

I'm On A Boat

To the left of the parking lot was a large white building, the doors wide open and the glass broken. The gate to the marina itself stood smashed open as if a car had been driven through it. Beyond the gate, the general lack of boats lent a haunted feeling; those few boats left behind seemed unutterably lonely; as if waiting for a master who would never return.

The family explored a bit, finding little they could use. None of them knew how to hotwire or even drive a motorized boat. Finally, Katrin pointed back towards a Quonset hut.

A sign!”

They pedaled over to it quickly; the afternoon was stretching on and the sunlight would soon begin to dim, making hunting easier for the infected.

A hastily constructed sign on plyboard was tacked to a wooden post. Written in permanent marker with an arrow beneath was:

Everyone that can is leaving. Keys to the storage area are below. Don't think the infected can use keys so the shed should be safe. Help yourself to canoes. We went south.

Be Safe,

The arrow pointed down to a small pouch with a logo for Stand Up Minnesota. Inside the pouch was a business card for a Matt who worked for Paddle Taxi and a single key.

Katrin pointed at the shed next to the Quonset hut. Someone – Matt, one would guess – had drawn a huge asterisk on the door of the shed with permanent marker.

Oh, thank God,” Eve said when they got the shed unlocked and found four canoes stacked neatly inside, with oars and life jackets on the walls. Standing paddleboards rested against the back wall.

I want one of those!” Katrin said excitedly, pushing past Eve to get to one of the standing paddleboards.

Let's go quickly,” Eve said. “We're crossing to Pike Island.” She pointed across the river from them. “There's a foot bridge there that will take us across to the Fort.”

We can't take the bikes in these canoes,” Will said.

We'll load up two canoes with what we can,” Eve said. “I'll take Val and his wheelchair across, you take the other canoe.”

And I'll take a paddleboard!” Katrin said happily.

Need my walker,” Val said.

That's at the house,” Eve said. “We'll find you a new one soon. Wheelchair for now.”

Val gave her a disgruntled look, which remained on his face as she fastened him into a life jacket. He maintained eye contact and his grumpy face while she loaded him into a canoe.

Will loaded up the other canoe with their water and food and packs, with the tools and the two cats. The pet carrier part of Katrin's pet trailer unclipped so he could set the whole thing into the canoe with him. Katrin packed the cats' food in Will's canoe, too.

They all put on life jackets, then Will and Eve put the bikes into the shed and locked it, returning the key to its place.

The water was cold and dark. Eve spent the quick trip across worrying Katrin was going to fall off her standing board and slip downriver.

Not like it,” Val said, glaring at Pike Island.

It will be ok,” she told him.

Ghosts living there.”

No ghosts, Val,” she said. “You'll be ok. I'll be here.”

Zombie living there.”

Keep your eyes peeled,” she said after a moment of silence.

They pulled their crafts up onto the shore of the island. The trail Eve wanted to get them on was right next to the shore and she helped Val wobble his way up to it while Will carried his wheelchair to it. Katrin picked up the pet carrier with the complaining cats in it. Eve, Will and Katrin put their backpacks on, and Val held his pack on his lap.

We'll have to come back for the rest of the stuff,” Will said.

Yep, let's just get up to the Fort itself,” Eve agreed. “If it is dark by then, we'll come back in the morning.”

She pushed Val's chair. At some points the trail was rough enough that Will reached down and pulled the chair forward by the frame.

The family hurried toward the bridge that would take them across the river to the Fort. The only sounds were the river itself, Eve's breathing, and the complaining of the cats. Val pulled out his lightsaber and his light and turned both on, though the lightsaber no longer lit up.

Coming,” he muttered.

This time Eve heard him. “We're going,” she said. “We're going ahead to the Fort, right?”

As they reached the footbridge, both cats fell silent at the same moment. Will's hackles raised and he turned to look behind them.

Shit, Mom, zombie!” He brandished his dented baseball bat. Just visible behind them, creeping up the trail almost as if it was cautious, was one of the infected, an older male, clothes torn and mouth foaming. He made no noise, said no words.

No!” Eve hissed. “No time! Take your brother. I'll stop him at the bridge. You get your brother and sister safe up in the Fort and then come back to help. Them first!”

No, I...”

I will never get Val up the hill to the Fort fast enough!” she said. “You have to take them!”

Will snarled but listened, grabbing the handlebars of Val's chair and taking off at a run.

Mom!” Katrin said, trembling and white-faced.

What do we say to the god of death?” Eve roared.

Not today!” Katrin said, visibly channeling her small sword-fighting idol Arya Stark, and she bolted off after her brothers.

Eve followed up onto the footbridge, then turned to block the creature's passage. She pulled out and turned on her stun gun and stood, feet wide and braced, stun gun in one hand and her butcher knife in the other.

MY kids,” she growled.

The creature lurched forward faster, seeing the children run. As it came, Eve could see its left leg was injured, the ankle flipping outwards when it stepped too quickly. Its lips pulled back in a soundless snarl, closer, closer, and Eve could see the newly healed scar spread across its throat.

These creatures seemed to heal so quickly.

Then it was on the bridge. She waited until it was out over the river, then dropped her shoulder and charged it, lifting it into the air and hitting it with the stun gun as she'd done with the arm-dragger. It jerked against her, then it was falling. It hit the river with a splash and sank beneath the water, unable to swim while it was still affected by the stun gun.

And FUCK YOU!” Eve shouted at the dark water where the creature had disappeared, not even realizing she'd shouted until she heard an answering shout farther down the island.

I want!” the voice cried. “I want! I want I want I want want want!”

It emerged from the woods. This one was not limping.

Will moved faster than he had ever realized he could run. He'd spent most of his time previously reading or playing video games in slothful indolence. He wasn't overweight, but he hadn't been particularly fit, either. Now that didn't seem to matter. He ran for the Fort, Katrin and the cats at his heels.

Just gotta get you guys settled,” he said through gritted teeth. “Then I'll go back for Mom.”

They turned at last toward the front of the Fort, and were stopped by stairs.

Will swore, then he and Katrin unbuckled Val and he pulled Val up onto his back. They hurried on, leaving Val's wheelchair and his pack rolling slightly back down the trail until it came to a stop in some weeds to the side of the trail.

Will took them around the front of the Fort – no way to open that massive and locked door from the outside – and to a vehicle entrance on the side. He set Val on the ground and Val glared at him, pulling himself up to a standing position against the Fort's rough stone walls. Katrin was right behind them.

Come here,” Will said. “Set the cats by Val.” She did as he said, and he cupped his hands down by his knees.

What?” she asked, confused and a little suspicious.

I need you to climb over this door and open it from the inside,” he said. “There's a latch on the inside that you'll have to lift up, then we can bring Val and the cats inside.”

She nodded resolutely. Grabbing his shoulders, she stepped into his cupped hand and he lifted her upwards. With a grunt she pulled herself up, her hands gripping the top of the wide, tall gate.

Hell's bells, Kat,” Will groaned with the effort of lifting her. “Stop growing.”

I am going to tell Mom if you are calling me fat again!” she said stormily, then she was over.

Will listened for the sound of her hitting the ground, but there was nothing. Katrin's head popped back over the gate and he did a double take.

Barrels!” she said, upset. “There's all these barrels blocking the door! I'm standing on them.”

Will grimaced. “Here,” he said finally, and grabbed the cat carrier. He handed it up to her. “Set them down, then come meet us at the front door to the Fort. Let us in there.” She nodded and took the cats, disappearing again beyond the gate.

Val gave his brother a mutinous glare, but allowed Will to shift him up onto his back, and the two hurried back around to the main doors of Fort Snelling.

The front gates of Fort Snelling were topped by roofed stone walkway. The doors were broad and thick, painted red. Inside the right hand door a single person-sized door was inset; this was the door that swung open as Will and his brother made it to the front gates.

On the other side of the door stood a very old man, and behind him, clutching the cat carrier, was Katrin.

Quickly,” the old man said. “It's getting darker. There will be more of 'em in the dark.” Will ducked in the door so Val wouldn't hit his head and the old man slammed the door shut and drove the bolt home.

The old man stood there, staring at them for a moment.

Come to the gatehouse,” he said at last. “There's a chair for setting him.” He nodded at Val.

Will followed the old man to the gatehouse beside the front gates. It was dark inside, but Katrin fished one of her lanterns out of her pack and turned it on. There was a bed, a desk and a chair inside. Will set Val in the chair.

Wait here,” he told his siblings. “I'm going back to get Mom.”

I'll light them a fire, it's getting cold out,” the old man said. “I won't leave the door open for you. But I'll go up in the walkway and watch for you.”

Val solemnly handed Will his spotlight. Will nodded, man to man, and was off, racing back out of the Fort. He heard the door swing shut and lock behind him and knew the old man or Katrin had taken care of that.

Spotlight unlit in one hand and the dented bat in the other, Will ran back down the trails, back past Val's wheelchair, back down the trail toward the footbridge.

As he approached the footbridge he turned the spotlight on. Before him on the bridge lay three figures. None of them were moving, not even his mother.

1 comment:

  1. Special thanks this week to Donna Triska, to the Watergate Marina, and to Paddle Taxi for their assistance. Please check out the links to the right!