As I waited to read Deadline, the final book in the Deadline trilogy by Mira Grant I ended up finding an alternate ending to Feed (read it yourself) and a friend and I decided we needed an alternate timeline with Rick and eventual vengeance for poor Lois, our favorite fictional kitten.
This is the result.
I cursed myself for sleeping through the one biology class I took back in college as I paused to look up yet another unfamiliar term in the intimidating large pile of research notes I had fished out of the University of Washington’s research library – or at least what was left of it. Library’s had already been deemed as old fashioned by most University students pre-rising, unless there was an emergency need for a crappy printer, most trips to the library were in search of a decent place to nap between classes, or as an illicit make-out spot between rows of seldom used reference books. Now a good old fashioned library seemed like a good place to get yourself killed – too many dark corners, plus in a world that’s too scared to walk to the grocery store and bleach baths are a daily occurrence, paper books are a laughable rarity.
Not many are still standing, but this particular section of UoW seemed to have fared OK – as far as class B threat zones go atleast.
Once the rising hit, people seemed to think libraries on college campuses would be a good place to hide. They weren’t of course, most had too many windows and not enough weapons, plus it just takes one moron to try and “smoke out the fuckers” and the whole place burns up.
Not that I knew from experience of course, I was just a kid when dead things developed their fun new trick, but I had a older brother, and when he came home from college I’d listen to him catch up with old friends from my hiding place at the top of the stairs. Nathan was leading some sort of orientation the day things really headed South at good ol’ UoW
I shuttered as I thought through the probability that he had died in this very library I sat outside. However it happened, it must have gone down fast, he never even got a text message or email out to our mom.
I snapped my laptop shut with a determination to push that out of my mind – I still hadn’t found enough notes to make any of these infernal diagrams make sense, and I did not want to stay parked here over night.
I shouldered my shotgun while double checking that my.40 was still snug in its holster, I probably wouldn’t need them, I hadn’t seen evidence of anything capable of movement all day, but still, better safe than undead.
Shawn would’ve scoffed at my meagre weapons supply, before urging me to suck it up and just read my damn notes in the library – it’s better for ratings if viewers think there’s a good chance you’ll die while they’re watching you, but I preferred the relative safety of a reinforced steel door to the long shadows cast by fallen book shelves.
I picked up my flashlight as I slid open the door of the After the End Times news van. Mahir technically owned the site now, but he was in London, and George had given the keys to me – her newly appointed Newsie head – before she offed herself, so it was as good as mine now. Plus I needed it if I wanted to go into the field. I didn’t much care for chasing zombies with sticks – Becks’ team of Irwins handled those ratings grabbers, but there was still some research to find that had never made it online – what between budget cuts and nice old librarians trying to eat visitors it had never need much of a priority, but I needed all the help I could get.
Shawn had died so we could get to the bottom of this, expose the truth and all that. George had apparently had enough of the truth, and slit her wrists before we could get much research time in, so that left me. After leaving the Ryman campaign in the capable hands of what Mahir assured me was the best Newsie-Irwin team in the business (atleast at our price point) I headed out to do some real research. Governor Tate was a moron, and George wasn’t fooled into thinking the conspiracy ended with him. Besides, it didn’t make sense, him as the mastermind, what could he have had against my damn cat?
She left some notes for me to find, and so far they had led me to some scary conclusions, but nothing more shocking than what we already knew from the files Shawn died for. What I was looking for now was bigger than that – if I ever managed to find the right notes to figure out the research that is. If this worked the losses I saw in the last months would be nothing more than a minor speedbump – regrettable losses that could be undone.
I turned the corner down the first book aisle I’d need, feeling a little too carefree for my own good, lost in the past that I almost missed the sandal clad foot stumble into view at the end of the row.
I swallowed my gasp and quickly stepped backwards, keeping myself lined up against the tall end of the book shelf as I heard a low moan emerge from the creature, now less than 30 yards away. Its uneven shuffle quickened slightly, it must have already seen me. Reaching for my holster I closed my eyes and took a slow, deep breath, listening intently for the sounds of any of its friends approaching. I only had a few second to decide my tactic:
If I thought it was alone, a quick shot would be the end of it. I didn’t want to attract more of them with the noise, but if it was a lone wanderer and trying to infect, letting it within 3 feet of my unprotected face was likely a death sentence. If it was a part of a larger herd, looking for an easy meal, I could dispose of it quietly with a large book and the metal end of the flashlight. Either way, it looked like library hours were over for today.
Fairly confident I couldn’t hear any other intruders, and acknowledging my friend was almost within spitting distance, I released the safety on my gun, stepping backwards past the next aisle, waiting for it to turn the corner.
It turned slowly, bumping into the shelf next to it with its slightly off balance walk, likely due to a brutally damaged left arm. The bone was snapped in half, muscles torn away. Its forearm dangled uselessly, held on by a flap of skin and the remains of the blue cardigan over a faded yellow sundress, the pattern unrecognizable under a thick layer of filth and dried blood. It had clearly been dead a long time, and when it – or rather she, was alive, she certainly wasn’t dressed for field work.
As it took another step towards me, moans turning into a more sinister hissing sound, I raised my gun, aiming for a spot just over the gap that used to be a nose and fired.
It went down as expected, and I stepped forward, puzzling for a moment on how long her undead self must have shambled to find itself this far deep into a hazard zone, before firing one more safety shot between the eyes.
My head shot up at the sound of something large and metal falling over, followed by a distant moan. I holstered the pistol as I stepped over the body. The sound was still in the distance, but I didn’t have much time. I jogged down the aisle I had come down originally, scanning for the titles I memorized in the van. I found them on a low shelf, covered in a thick dust covering, like most of the books here, and stuffed them into my bag, along with some neighbouring books, a vague understanding of the Dewey decimal system taught me that books near each other tended to be related, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to come back anytime soon.
Slightly weighed down with my new reading materials I ran past a few more aisles, towards a familiar corner of the library, pausing occasionally to check around corners and listen for the approaching sound of more bookish zombies I made my way to the restricted use section – original log books and journal entries that, at least at one point, weren’t allowed out of the building. Pulling a wrinkled slip of paper from my pocket I searched for the names I needed along rows of identical boxes. Successfully finding their group work, I had just set about looking for solo projects when I heard the low background growl intensify. They were a lot closer – and were definitely a ‘they’ rather than an ‘it’ at this point. I located the second box I needed, but was out of time. I shoved some other nearby boxes in my bag, hoping to catch a lucky break.
I stepped out of the relative shelter the tall shelves provided, gun raised and eyes alert. The first two were four aisles away now, quickening their awkward shuffle towards me, and I could hear more coming down nearby aisles.
I know turning my back on a heard is dumb, and worse yet, horrible for ratings if I want to upload any of this, but figuring I had the advantage in a maze of bookshelves I ran anyway. I made it through the first two aisles, but as I checked down the corner of the last one between me and the door I came within 50 feet of a big fat bastard, clothed in what looked like a janitors jumpsuit and looking particularly hungry, if that was even possible among these guys.
I paused to press a button on my watch, turning some carefully placed cameras from delayed record to live broadcast. If Shawn wasn’t already dead he’d kill me if I passed up the chance for his newest Newsie head to pull in some Irwin traffic.
Angling my route so it took me between the wall and the fat zombie in front of me, I pulled the shotgun off my shoulder and aimed it at the moaning mess. He lunged forwards towards me as I blasted him in his large leg, dropping him to the ground.
I walked confidently towards the door, willing to believe that I wouldn’t see anymore obstacles between myself and the door. I turned around as I reached my destination, watching the legless giant use his stumpy arms to drag himself towards me. Waiting until he was just close enough to put on a good show, I raised the shotgun and blasted it right through his head.
Resting the shotgun over my shoulder I turned towards the van, carefully scanning the closest walkways for any more signs of movement.
The last 50 yards to the van were uneventful. I unlocked the front door with my thumb, throwing my accessories in the empty passenger seat as I started the engine and shifted into drive.
Blood tests could wait a few minutes. I’d seen enough of this campus for the day.