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Fiction – Ruth’s Story #23 Parking for the night underneath the Lake City Way overpass

March 29, 2012

Following the snow plow we slowly head north watching as the sun slowly sets in a dark burnt orange sky.

My observation of the setting sun brings to mind a nautical saying that I cannot quite remember about skies. My musings of nautical sayings and sky color is interrupted by a window shattering explosion south of us that shakes cars and knocks zombies over.

I feel some of the heat and wind-driven debris as it enters my little car through my shattered rear window. I hear the debris falling long before I see it behind me. The jets must have destroyed the bridges behind us as I see several chunks of steel have landed in the road behind us.

Most of the steel bits are small, but they are accompanied by larger pieces of gravel, asphalt, and cement falling haphazardly among the vehicles. The falling debris put small dents in the hood and roof of my little car.

Thankfully the larger chunks did not strike any of our vehicles, although I see some of the smaller pieces have struck people in the bed of the snow plow. Injuries look to be minimal with a few bruises, swollen lips, and a couple sore heads.

The noise accompanied by a roaring fireball and smoke which rises higher into the sky has the benefit of attracting all the zombies’ attention. As one, the zombies turn south and begin heading that direction toward the noise and fire of what is left of the bridges. Maybe the destruction will catch more than a few of the zombies.

The snow plow stopped at the sound of the bridge destruction. After a brief check, to assure no one in the bed of the snow plow is seriously injured the truck starts moving slowly forward again with the now familiar bump and grind as its wedge-shaped plow pushes cars out-of-the-way.

Suddenly three MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters scream over head flying very low. Their prop wash knocks several zombies over and stirs up litter and dust as they pass.

We are still being passed by motorcyclists and the occasional bicyclist weaving between the abandoned cars. These suicide jockeys must appear like zombie fast food. The zombies will briefly give chase in the classic shuffling walk that would do Romero proud, but after a few moments, the zombie gives up and lapses back into the common random wandering of the living dead.

I cannot be sure, but I believe the zombies are visually queued meaning that as long as they see the zipping motorcycle or bicycle they are interested in it. However, once the item passes from vision the zombie forgets it and returns to what it was doing before.

Children display a similar concept as infants when they see a favorite toy. Covering the favorite toy, so it cannot be seen to an extremely young child in essence removes the toy from existence. As children mature and their brain develops, they understand that just because the favorite toy is covered and I cannot see it, it is still there underneath the blanket. In children, we call this concept “object permanence.”

The behavior I have observed in zombies makes me compare them to extremely young children in a way. I believe zombies lack object permanence. Once a desirable object passes out of vision, it ceases to exist. Zombies lack the mental capacity to reason just because an object cannot be seen, does not mean that it no longer exists. This observation may come in handy later.

We still have not solved the camping issue for the night. The setting sun is causing the temperature to drop. Because of my open back window, it gets terribly cold in my little car. I crank on the heater and sigh with pleasure as pleasant hot air circles around my feet and legs.

Growing up in a hot Middle Eastern country, I get cold easy. I hated the cold, damp winters in D.C. and especially hated the muggy, sticky summers. I much prefer a drier state like Arizona or New Mexico with its dry clean heat in the summer and cooler winters, very similar to my Israel.

There was not much call for a “security consultant” (a euphemism for “well paid contract assassin with no ties to any political body”) in any of the aforementioned states with better living environments. Despite its faults, D.C. still offered the most jobs for my particular field of work.

I had thought once after retiring maybe to remain in the U.S. rather than return to Israel, but had not made up my mind. I guess the zombies made up my mind for me. The ability to travel overseas has been severely curtailed.

Interrupting my musings of things past is a screaming Ducati motorcycle whipping past my driver’s side door. The fool in bright red leather (matches his bike) lying prone on the crotch rocket suddenly does his best Superman impersonation. His motorcycle came to a stunningly, crashing halt when it got pinched between two late-model sedans.

The cars were wedged together by the snow plow. Rick probably did not have time to react to the sudden appearance of the motorcycle, although he slammed on the brakes, locking all four of the rear tires and tossing the occupants of the dump bed around.

The Superman impersonator manages to fly some decent distance. He makes a limp crash landing into the back of an old pale blue Ford station wagon leaving his bright, red leather-clad ass and little red boots sticking up in the air like some demented, dead fairy.

I can tell Rick is ready to go as I hear the hiss of the air brakes on the snow plow release, and we start slowly moving northward again. I tuck in behind the plow glad this time that I did not dislodge any of my weapons from the passenger seat.

A low rumbling growl from my stomach reminds me that I have eaten darned little the past few days.

I pass the smashed Ducati, which has now, started to burn. The burning motorcycle sets fire to the two vehicles it is wedged between. I wonder how far the Ducati’s rider made it before dying so shockingly.

Passing his corpse a few minutes later, I see the full-size pale blue Ford station wagon contains a couple of hungry zombies having a hell of time gnawing through Superman’s leathers. His bright red, metal-flake shiny helmet with full face visor is cocked at an angle that tells me his neck is probably broken. Few men can touch their left elbow to their forehead.

Human teeth are terribly inadequate for piercing and ripping tough material like leather. I notice that Superman is rather slender and briefly consider attempting to obtain his leathers and helmet. I remember an old Quentin Tarantino movie with Uma Thurman dressed in skin-tight yellow and black leathers wielding one of those Japanese Samurai swords.

Uma looked so fucking hot in that movie! For an old broad, she is still not bad-looking. My skill with a Samurai sword is sadly lacking. I would be a greater hazard to myself and those around me rather than to the zombies. However, observing how difficult it is for the zombies to eat Superman, I wonder how well a similar suit would protect me.

But then again there is the whole leather thing. It does not breathe extremely well, makes me itch and chafes like a bitch. I imagine it is also difficult to get in and out of in a hurry. On second thought, maybe the leather outfit is not such a terrific idea.

We are still passing the occasional encampment beside the road and underneath overpasses. All look to be an unsavory choice although more are obviously occupied the farther north we go. I notice less wandering zombies the father north we get.

Interrupting my observation of the roadside camps and wandering zombies, Rick’s voice startles me suddenly erupting from the passenger seat. “Ruth, take a look to the right” Rick says.

I see as we are going underneath the Lake City Way overpass to the right in the median, to the left in the express lanes and on the road shoulder, is the remains of a large FEMA camp. Litter, bodies, burning abandoned equipment and not just a few wandering zombies (some of them burning as well) are strewn about the area.

The typical FEMA Army-green heavy canvas tents are shredded and scattered around the area in huge piles. The whole area appears as though a hurricane landed on the spot and then someone tossed a couple hundred zombies in the area and for good measure set some of the equipment and a few of the zombies on fire.

Most of the camp is concentrated in the center I5 express lanes – I wonder why? The Lake City Way overpass is parked solid with military vehicles, most of them Humvees and M985 HEMTTs. Other than a few wandering zombies in the main I5 lanes and on the shoulders and berms – nothing else moves. Why everything is piled in the center of the I5 express lanes underneath the Lake City Way overpass I cannot figure out.

I grab the little Motorola radio from the passenger seat mashing the transmit key and ask Rick “What the fuck happened here?”

“I do not know Ruth, but whatever it is I think we should avoid the area,” Rick replies.

We pass the FEMA camp area without further incident. Looking around I realize that I better turn my headlights on; it is getting dark enough to make a difference. Turning on my headlights reveals that I have only one headlight. The right hand light appears to be out; I must have broken it on something.

Turning on my headlights appears to be a grave mistake as numerous zombies heads suddenly whip towards me and the bright light now shining in the road.

“Oh fuck!” I mumble.

Fumbling with the unfamiliar car, I shut off the headlights, just as Rick’s voice comes over the radio, “Ruth, kill that fucking light!”

Suddenly the zombie’s head closest to me explodes like an over-ripe tomato. A few seconds later as the zombie’s body crumbles to the ground I hear the crack of the gun shot. Sounds like a large-caliber weapon.

In quick succession, three more of the closest zombies are dropped in a professional manner. Looking behind, I see muzzle flashes from the Lake City Way overpass almost a mile to my rear. Several more zombies drop dead to the asphalt.

I hear the beeping warning as Rick puts the snow plow in reverse. I pop my little car in reverse and gun the engine. Rick must have the same thought I did; there must be somebody on that overpass!

As I hurriedly back up, trying to maintain my car in the center of the path cleared by the snow plow, Rick apparently is as skilled driving backward using his mirrors as he is driving forward. Unfortunately, the safety beeping noise of the plow in reverse attracts zombies.

If a zombie gets too close a shot rings out from the overpass. Making a shot this distance in failing light from an elevated platform and scoring a head shot indicates someone of exceptional skill possessing quality equipment out of the price range of the average shooter.

The fact that there are several shooters indicates to me a military unit is occupying that overpass. The FEMA encampment is not as abandoned as it appeared! Getting underneath the Lake City Way overpass, I see in the I5 express lanes, in the center of the roadway, a pair of M985 HEMTT trucks with grapple crane arms lift several jersey barriers from the roadway. The HEMTTs were previously hidden underneath huge FEMA tents – sneaky!

Once the jersey barriers are moved we are able to drive from the I5 mainline into the express lanes. I see that both sides of the express lanes in the center of the highway have been blocked by HEMTT trucks hidden under huge FEMA tents. Soldiers miraculously appear and cover all the machinery, restoring the camp so it looks abandoned again. Just as sudden as the action started, all movement and action ceases.

Nestled between the HEMTT trucks are several cots and smaller shelters covered by tarps and pieces of FEMA tents. The soldiers are obeying excellent light and noise discipline. The camp is silent and dark other than an occasional cough and brief whispered conversation.

Sitting in my car underneath the overpass, I wonder what is going on. The soldiers operating the HEMTT cranes replace the jersey barriers and all goes quiet as the soldiers shut off the M985s. The soldiers nod at us as they pass by joining comrades in the small shelters.

Suddenly four soldiers repel down from the overpass over our heads landing lightly on their feet. One of the soldiers I recognize immediately as the young British Special Forces soldier I talked to earlier today.

Rolling my window down I wave at him, and then realize in the dark he probably cannot see it. He walks up beside my car trailed by a second, taller soldier. Immediately I notice the other two soldiers, one-armed with an M4 the other a M249 SAW with an ammo box and vertical, fore-grip who take security positions.

The SAS soldier is dressed as I saw him earlier today but without his primary weapon, pack and web gear. The other, taller soldier, however, is wearing older (not current-issue) woodland camouflage BDUs bloused into shiny, black leather boots. Both men wear their respective Special Forces berets. Carrying nothing but a side arm (too dark to see what flavor but I can make out the general shapes from here); the two soldiers come to a halt by my driver’s side door. The two soldiers providing cover security are in full battle rattle with Interceptor vests, Kevlar helmets, and heavy assault packs. Grenades swing from their load bearing vests which are stuffed with magazines and more than a few ammo boxes for the SAW.

The SAS soldier grins showing that million candle watt smile at me, “Lady I am glad seeing you make it safely. Here, you can stay until morning.”

“Are you in command here?” I ask him. I notice he still wears that damn big Kukri knife as well as a Beretta M9 on the left side of his vest.

He laughs with a hearty chuckle, “No lady, but I am remiss in my introductions. This is Lieutenant Colonel Dashon of 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group currently in command” he says gesturing to the soldier next to him.

This soldier’s choice of side arm I note with interest is a satin stainless 1911 with white, black-speckled grips. King Leonidas’s supposed utterance of defiance to the Persian army’s demands “molon labe” (ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ) appears on the grips of his 1911 written in Ancient Greek black letters. The magazine bottom sticking out of his 1911 magazine well is protected by a hard rubber bumper. I note this soldier wears his .45 in the same location as the SAS soldier but in an old brown leather tanker style holster.

The indicated Lieutenant Colonel is an unusually tall, heavily muscled white male with salt and pepper hair trimmed in a severe crew cut. He has a crooked (obviously been broke and poorly set a few times) broad nose over thin lips. Covering his heavy, “lantern jaw” is a thick five-o-clock shadow. His pale blue eyes are deep-set with heavy bags underneath. I note with interest that his left eye is made of glass and is an exceptionally decent copy of his real eye. If it were not for the fact that his glass eye does not move, I would not have realized he was missing one eye.

Waves of weariness roll off this old soldier. I note with interest a thick, blood soaked military style Army green bandage on his left shoulder supraclavicular muscle. If he notices my interest in his wound, he gives no indication of it.

I notice the colonel is also missing most of his left ear. The left side of his face is badly scarred around his jaw and ear. It appears to be an old wound, and I wonder where he received such a wound.

Despite the weariness of the colonel, he still stands ram rod straight and looks every bit the Special Forces commanding officer. He has a lot of chest candy, some of them I recognize – pathfinder, halo jump wings, expert infantryman badge (AKA extra infantry bullshit badge), air assault, and a couple of others I am not sure about. Unlike current Army regulations where the soldiers wear removable metal pins, the Colonel’s chest candy is made of cloth “tapes” and sewn to his uniform in the older style. His faded old uniform is obviously well cared for; I can see the fold creases and smell the starch from here.

The colonel appears to be sizing me up as I am sizing him up while sitting in my little car. He folds his arms across his chest, which gives him, an even sterner appearance. He has large hands. I notice he is missing about half of his left ring finger. A West Point graduation ring rides on his shortened finger.

He must realize that with his arms crossed he looks like everyone’s disapproving, stern father because he uncrossed his arms after a moment. He leans down to speak into my open driver’s window placing his hands on his knees.

“Ma’am you are welcome to stay the night here. We have a few supplies that we can share with you and your fellow survivors,” he says. His voice is pleasant, not too deep and does not have any discernible regional accent.

He nods at the SAS soldier who salutes him in that odd, British way. The colonel strides away to disappear underneath one of the tarps strung between two of the behemoth HEMTT trucks.

“We will try to get you some warmer clothing and some supplies. Some of the other survivor groups we have also given what supplies we could but many are going to be suffering,” the British soldier tells me as I climb out of my little car.

“Should we just park here?” I ask him.

“Yes, as far as I can tell,” he replies. “I am thinking the colonel intends for you to stay the night here, but no longer. I asked him to permit your stay. We are still making a bivouac here. I am not being sure if it is permanent or not.” With that he also walks off into the dark to disappear underneath a different tarp than the colonel chose.

“Ok,” I mumble to his back and reach inside to shut my little car off. I grab the Motorola radio and tell Rick to shut off the snow plow we are parked for the night. The brakes on the snow plow hiss and I hear the tell-tale diesel rumble as Rick shuts off the engine.

We are here for the night for better or for worse.

  1. John permalink

    Thanks for the quick response for another episode!

    • I had been working on this post for a couple of days now between homework and family. I am trying to get another installment edited and posted in the next day or so (I hope).

  2. phil evans permalink

    good chapter – with detail.
    keeping me interested.
    frequency sucks.

  3. Bob permalink

    I check a couple times a day on Ruth. Thanks for an addictive tale!!!

  4. Oh my gawd! I was about to go into withdrawl. 😉

    Thanks for the new fix…….er…… chapter.

    • I will try to get more chapters up, but real world like school and family have been keeping me a little too busy. I will try to get a little father ahead writing and editing so that when life gets a little too bogged down I can still post. I know frequency sucks as another poster mentioned, I will do as best I can.

  5. Yeah, yeah. Frequency sucks, but the story rocks! Thank you for taking the time and effort to share this tale.

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