I’d like to take a moment here to welcome our newest contributor Kevin Keys to the AKAAWOL team. Kevin is a writer and personal friend from whom I hope we can expect more schtuff in the future. For his first contribution, here we have the first chapter of a story he wrote.
20 April 2010, Deepwater Horizon, a British Petroleum operated offshore oil drilling platform suffers a catastrophic explosion killing 11 workers. Not to mention unleashing hundreds of millions of gallons of Louisiana sweet crude into the pristine waters of the Gulf of Mexico. While it may seem that this is as bad as it could get in terms of mistakes we have made while plundering the planet for its resources. It was the clean-up effort that created the most damage. However this time around...it was the general human populace that would suffer the most significant damage and not the planet. This is a record of my personal observations and as much as I could gather from the TV, radio and internet. That is until those fell silent along with phones, electricity and as far as I can tell...humanity.
April 20th, El Jobean Fl, a tiny fishing village consisting of two hundred and sixty one mobile homes, forty two houses, a gas station, two Tiki bars, a pawn shop, a one hundred foot tall fire watch tower and three bait shops, and as of today my lovely wife Jenn, three boys Spud, B and Antman, two dogs and me. It was a bit cramped being as we had moved into one of the two hundred and sixty one mobile homes. Its saving grace however was that behind the trailer there was a pool with a screened in cage that held the mosquitoes at bay. Not to mention it more than equaled the interior size of the mobile home. From the pool there was this great view of the sun setting behind the fire tower that stood about a half mile away, as the crow flies.
I had conned my old friend Smot into helping us move in with the promise of BBQ ribs and beer. It really wasn't that tough to do, he actually enjoyed helping his friends move...well and ribs too. After the last box was in the house and all of the furniture was in place Smot jumped into the pool with the boys. I basted the ribs and turned them over the grill and was beginning to slop the sauce on them Jenn came out with a couple of beers. We watched Smot picking the laughing boys up over his head and throwing them at the beach ball on the other side of the pool. I loved the sound of their laughter. Suddenly Smot gathered the boys together into a huddle and looked at them with a stone serious look. He made a long exaggerated gesture to the top of the fire tower.
"When the zombies come...you need to get your mom and dad to the top of the tower and wait for uncle Smot," he said, looking them right in the eyes.
"Can we kill the zombies?" Antman asked.
"No you leave that to uncle Smot."
Well over the next few months Jenn and I had a blast watching the boys prepare for the impending apocalypse. Smot told them that code plaid was a Marine Corps secret code that meant the dead had risen to devour the living. So when the boys found the Centers for Disease Control issued zombie apocalypse preparedness guide, well, we all thought it was a gag. Bad call huh? We did however go along with the plan to an extent. Jenn and I figured hurricane season was right around the corner it was time to freshen up the bug-out-box anyway, just in case of an evacuation. The boys and I pulled the big yellow box out of the shed and cleaned it up a bit. Spud and B carried it into the middle of the yard along with a can of spray paint and a stack of four inch stencils then they proceeded to work me on the idea of painting ZOMBIE SURVIVAL KIT across the front of it. Well when I say they worked me on the idea...I mean they said it once. So off they went setting up the stencils carefully taping them to the front of the box and spray painting over them in black. They did a very nice job I was impressed they even initialed it in the bottom right corner "BS." When the paint dried Jenn and I loaded it full with important papers, toiletries, a few changes of clothes and topped it off with a big pile of MRE's that Smot had given us.
"Were gonna need weapons for zombie survival," B said, as he leaned over the box and put his pocket knife on top of the MREs.
"Dad, I want to keep my pocket knife in the box too, you know...just in case," Spud said, looking at me over the top of his round framed glasses. Then Antman put in his favorite Captain Jack Sparrow plastic pirate sword and I put my big Bowie knife in along with a Marine Corps Caber for Jenn.
Summer had just begun and we were in the big round booth at Tiffany's restaurant for Sunday breakfast. B and Spud was arguing about what we would do with the rest of the day.
"Maybe today you can probably teach us to kill zombies? So Mommy won't get hurt."
"That sounds like fun Antman, we can definitely start that training this afternoon."
"Ya honey you were in the NAVY you have all of that combat training," Jenn said with a grin.
"I was an Engineman on an antiquated Navy diesel ship that was decommissioned right after I got out, the only thing I was trained to combat was fires and hangovers," I mumbled through a mouth full of eggs.
After breakfast we decided to go to Englewood beach to walk the boardwalk and let the kids swim. But when we got there the bodies of two unlucky swimmers covered with silver plastic foil sheets were being carried on ambulance back-boards to a pair of non-descript white vans by six men in yellow hazmat suits, which Jenn and I found a bit disturbing. We had both seen drowning victims before. They get carried to ambulances by Paramedics. Not in plain old vans by guys in space suits.
"Maybe they'll turn into zombies," said Antman, who had become fascinated with the thought of zombies.
"Maybe they will buddy...maybe they will," I said.
Later that day when the sun hung low in the sky and the temperature outside began to drop to an almost tolerable level the boys gathered all of the brooms and mops in the house and cut the heads off then started fighting each other with them. Jenn made the boys wear football helmets for protection. Spud and B were nine months apart we call them Irish twins, but that's a different story. Anyway, they have always been pretty closely matched, B's wiry frame gives him quite a bit more speed than Spud, but Spud's thickness gives him the advantage of power. They beat the crap out of each other until they were both too battered up to keep going. I told them to take it easy with the seven year old Antman who was much smaller than either one of the older boys. We let them go at it in the front yard until almost nine o'clock. The little guys were so tired and sore that they slept most of the next morning. It's a good thing it was the middle of June and the boys didn't have to go to school the next day because they were covered with stick shaped bruises everywhere that the football helmet and gloves didn't cover.
It was just a couple of days later that Jenn pointed out an article in the paper that said the two drowning victims were German tourists and they had drown after swimming in a red tide algae bloom.
"Wow I've never heard of anyone dying from Red tide," Jenn said.
"I don't think I have either," I replied.
Over the next couple of weeks there were nearly two dozen more drownings that were all linked to some new fatal strain of red tide. That sounded strange to me because our home is just a few hundred yards from the gulf and red tide carries a horrible lung searing smell and causes huge fish kills, we had neither.
July 3rd was a beautiful sunny Sunday morning. After breakfast the boys were running up and down the wide white sand beach, hunting imaginary zombies with the Nerf guns they had gotten as gifts for getting good grades in school. They were mostly shooting each other but there was some collateral damage. As we ambled down the beach we came across more people than I've ever seen at this end of the beach, well unless there was a keg involved.
Just a few feet from us there was a local news station that had a crew filming an irritated young reporter whose brunette hair kept blowing in front of her face.
"Englewood Beach on Sunday morning is usually a calm serene place to relax. But this morning there was what many are calling a Bizarre Beaching. There are more than a dozen dolphins here, beached. But this is not the usual beaching. M.O.T.E. Marine institute researchers have performed examinations on the animals and have issued a statement insuring that they are in fact dead. They however cannot explain why their cold dead bodies are still struggling in the sand and biting at the air. There were sixteen dolphins, either beached or in shallow tide-pools flailing around snapping their teeth at everyone that passed them. "One researcher had her big toe bitten off when she approached one of the twitching animals," Noted the news anchor.
Jenn and I watched in amazement as these poor creatures twitched and writhed on the hot sand. Their ear holes were all oozing a lumpy gray fluid and they had an odd veined look around the blow-hole and eyes. I've seen dead dolphins before but this just didn't look right. The eye color was all wrong, there were clouds moving around in them. But it was only a short time before Marine Patrol officers started to move civilians away from the scene. I pulled out my cell phone and snapped a picture of the huge creature closest to us as we were leaving. I sent that picture to Smot's phone along with a text message that read, "ZOLPHIN!"
Well over the next few days there were news stories of men, women and children flocking into local hospitals by the hundreds. Every one of them complained of severe headache, nausea and respiratory distress after swimming at local beaches. Local news station film crews rushed to the sites of these incidents. The victims that were interviewed were disoriented and had lumpy gray fluid slowly draining from their ears, like the Dolphins had. The weirdest thing was the color change that was happening in their eyes. The camera zoomed in on some of these people's faces to show the iris bleeding its color into the white of the eye. They looked like a frying egg with its yolk broken leaving a gray silver cloudy color throughout the entire eye, again just like the dolphins.
Because the attending Doctors had no idea what was causing these illnesses most of the victims were treated for symptoms of red tide which is caused by an algae bloom in the gulf's waters. It will generally wipe out hundreds of thousands of fish in one fell swoop, but not people. In the most severe cases victims were admitted and kept in quarantined rooms where they later died. Local residents who had fallen victim were sent to local morgues to await CDC examination. Tourists were securely crated up in shipping coffins and were then returned to their homelands, many of them were shipped directly to hospital morgues for autopsies.
July 10th, in keeping with our regular Sunday morning custom we had gotten ready to go to breakfast before taking a walk on the beach. That's when we saw that all of the major roads in town were oddly deserted. There was a jack-knifed tractor trailer just sitting there sideways across State Road 776 which caused pile-ups in both directions. However that didn't explain why so many cars had crashed so haphazardly and were just scattered about as if they were a child's Matchbox cars. Many were without occupants and some had bloodied drivers slumped over the steering wheels. Others had trapped their occupants within them they had gray, vein lined faces and were just pawing at the windows. I thought it odd that there were only a few police cars and no fire trucks, or policemen for that matter. Jenn asked as she pointed out the passenger window toward one strip mall, "Do you see this?" There were people milling about near the strip malls along the access road but they ignored the stores completely, most of which were closed anyway.
I have to say it was all really unnerving and then all of our cell phones rang almost simultaneously which startled us from our dumbfounded stares. It was a picture text message from Smot that had a picture of some guy with flaming red eyes, and read "CODE PLAID!!! CODE PLAID!!!" The reality of this code is that it had once meant "bring bail money" and was an inside joke among the Englewood Wrecking Crew. Which is what we called ourselves back in the days before we all had kids and responsibilities, but I digress, I do that a lot. I thought to myself, What's that fool going to jail for? But Jenn, B and Spud all got the text too, so it couldn't be that. We were still in town, about five miles from home so I decided to stop and fuel up. When I pulled into the gas station I had to pull around a couple of cars that had crashed into each other, still running and with smoke pouring out from under the hoods, again driverless cars.
"Weird," I said aloud.
I stepped out of the car and looked around to see not a single person other than a drunk woman in the passenger seat of a Camaro across the aisle. I stuck in my card and filled the tank with gas then I went inside to get the boys some treats. But when I reached to open glass cooler door I saw that there were three people hungrily staring at me pressed up against the beer cooler door pawing at the glass trying to escape from their cold, beer-filled prison. The thing is, they need to pull but instead they had the whole of their bodies pressed up on the door trying to push it open. I thought to myself, dumbasses.
There were no other people in the store so I grabbed some nutty buddies, tossed five dollars on the counter and got back in the car. It wasn't until I was explaining what had happened inside the store to Jenn that I thought to myself that those people must have been in there for a long time because their skin was a grayish blue color, but I couldn't explain the large wounds that weren't bleeding or why their eyes appeared to be bleeding color from the iris, like the people on the news. Back at the house I called Smot to see what that text was all about. Before I could say a word Smot's voice exploded through the phone.
"Git to the fuckin' tower, take some shit...and fuckin' guns."
Smot's full name is Sergeant Major Oliver Tomkins, which is why we call him SMOT. He can be kind of a bitter pill to swallow sometimes but he is one of the most decent people I know. He's got the vocabulary of a truck driver with Tourette syndrome and he likes to stand real close and talk as loud as he possibly can. He's got kind of an imposing stature with a long blonde Mohawk and a tattoo of a diamondback rattlesnake that completely covers his right arm like a scaly shirtsleeve with the rattle coming over his left shoulder onto his chest. The snake's head covers the whole back of his right hand with its open mouth on his knuckles and fingers, when he balls up his fist he makes a rattle sound. Needless to say he grows on you.
"What the hell is going on? What's up with the code plaid?" I said.
I could hear the diesel engine roaring and his Brother Stan laughing like a hyena in the background.
Editor’s note: Chapter Two coming up next month. Look out for it!