Camelia Cray opened her eyes to the bright morning sun. For a brief second she thought she had been dreaming about the disaster. First the containment leak, then the explosion and toxic chemicals dispersed into the air. Had it really infected everyone in the fallout? And if so, how did it suddenly affect populations in other states? She blinked her eyes again, the sun almost seeming to burn her retinas. The brightness didn’t just bring pain to her eyes, but made her aware of the searing pain in her shoulder. With a hand she reached for it and her fingers came away with blood. With the blood came sound. Not of her own anguish, but of people shouting, screaming. Rising above the shouts was the voice of the man who had saved her and her boss. The Hispanic. She thought his name was Edward or something. She couldn’t remember. “Turn us around!” he was shouting.
She propped herself up on one elbow and tried to sit up. Pain shot through the injured shoulder and she wondered what in the hell the military bastards had shot her with. The speedboat turned in the water. Vertigo played hell with her and she almost threw up with the motion. She’d never been on a boat of any kind, so the motion of the waves did not suit well with her stomach. The craft surged forward and the motion sent her off her elbow and and flat on her back, the wind getting knocked out of her in the process. The speedboat hit something and there was a crunch, like the cracking of wood except sharper.
“Grab my oar,” she heard Edward shout as the craft decelerated in a swift motion. Someone jumped into the boat and hit the deck with a groan. For a second she thought a zombie had flung itself in an effort to get to her. But then she saw the white uniform and orange life vest. She looked in the direction he had come and saw the side of an immense ship. It looked like one of those huge cruise liners that sailed to the Caribbean and back. She clambered to her feet and the very space she stood in seemed to turn. A wave of dizziness threatened to swarm over her. The sailor grabbed her. “Whoa there,” he said. “I think we both need to sit down.”
And then she saw it. The truth of what she had woken up into. The speedboat was beside a sinking vessel. A lifeboat, by the looks of it, as it was tethered by a huge chain to the larger cruise ship. Looking up, she could see passengers peering over the side, some shouting warnings, others just screaming hysterically.
She noticed the guy in the lifevest looking at her curiously. “Are you bit?” he asked.
She shook her head. Her mouth was parched and dry but she managed to answer. “No,” she replied, “shot,” though it came out in a slow slur sounding like “shawt.”
The shipmate sighed in relief. She could see the cruise line logo on his white, but bloody shirt, and half wondered if maybe he’d been one to get bit. “Get us out of here!” he suddenly screamed to Edward.
The towering rescuer appeared not to hear him. He had one hand on the wheel of the speedboat, another on an oar he was extending to the troubled lifeboat shouting at another man to grab it. This man, in a garish Hawaiian shirt, grabbed it and allowed Edward to pull him across to safety. But the man wasn’t the only one to come across. A zombie had latched on to his legs and was trying to prevent his escape. The man kicked the creature in its face and its head reared back. It did not let go. Even when the man let go of the oar so Edward could swing it at the zombie. The man fell into the boat, rolling onto his back and tried to dislodge the living dead who was now trying to get its mouth at his calf. Three solid punches to the face seemed to slow it down, but its mission was relentless. Bite someone. Anyone. Bite them now.
Suddenly there was a loud pop and the zombie’s eye exploded, followed by bits of skull erupting through an new exit in the back of the creature’s head. Dr. Wills stood there, a smoking pistol in his hand. Small enough to conceal, yet large enough to take out a target.
“Where the hell did you….” Edward began, but the doctor was already turning away, taking hold of the wheel again and throwing the throttle open.
“Hold on!” Wills shouted and the sudden surge of power nearly threw Edward off balance. He caught himself and then turned to the speedboat’s newest passengers.
“Anybody hurt?” he asked.
The crewman, though dashed in blood, shook his head. Then he looked warily at Ethan. “He got bit.”
“That true?” Edward asked, now eyeing Ethan with suspicion.
Ethan nodded. He showed him his arm. The teeth marks were visible but there wasn’t much blood. “Lucky for me zombies don’t have good dental hygiene. Barely broke the skin.”
Edward nodded grimly. “Once we get on this ship, you need to be checked out. I’ve seen enough horror flicks to know how more zombies are made.”
“Fair enough,” Ethan said, noticing Dr. Wills was taking them around the bow of the ship in an effort to get to them to the other side. Ethan looked over at Camelia. “You shot?”
“Yeah. Army bastards got me.”
“You look like you’re losing a lot of blood. Is there a first aid kit onboard?” He didn’t wait for an answer. He took off his shirt and wrapped it around her shoulder and upper arm. He pulled it tightly and Camelia grimaced. Tieing it off, Ethan gave her an apologetic look. “Sorry, my nursing skills are lacking. You guys look like the doctors.”
“Not that kind,” she replied, before Wills turned and gave her a hard look.
“Yeah Doc,” Edward said. “Since when does the medical profession issue guns?”
Wills focused on his steering of the boat and said nothing.
Edward shook his head. “It would have been helpful if you’d used that gun earlier.”
The doctor didn’t look at him. “I was saving it for myself,” he muttered.
No one said anything for a few moments. Ethan looked up as they came along the port side of the St. Fitzgerald. Apparently, the spectators of the lifeboat attack, had crossed the deck to follow the speedboat and were now at the port railing. Others had joined them as well. He spotted the asian guy and teenager who had first alerted him to zombies in the water. Right beside them the man he had been looking for in the first place. The Captain. ‘Hell of a way to get the Cap’s attention,’ he thought.
“Thank you,” Camelia said from beside him. Her voice was weak, but she was a strong girl, holding herself together despite the blood loss.
He turned to her. “For what?”
“The tourniquet,” she replied, nodding towards her wounded shoulder. “It looked like a nice shirt,” she added.
“I hated it.”
She grinned. “Who wouldn’t?” Then, looking around them, a thought occured to her. “Hey, how come there’s no zombies on this side?”
Edward had been watching the lowering of a lifeboat, in which two uniformed crew members sat. Now he looked at Camelia.
“Good question, but if TV shows are right, I’d say they have a pack mentality. Travelling and acting in groups.”
“Like a bee hive?” she asked.
“Perhaps something like that.”
“Well, i hope they are just worker bees then.”
Ethan looked around the speedboat. He could see none of the zombies, and like Camelia it worried him. It was only a matter of time before they figured out their meal had ducked around to the other side of the ship. And if the hispanic was right, and there was a pack mentality, what did that mean for any zombies on shore?
The speedboat came alongside the ship and was met by the lowered lifeboat. “Get the injured on first,” one of the crew members said.
Camelia stood on shaky legs and started to step over. “I guess that would be me,” she said, before blacking out again. If not for Edward, she would have toppled into the ocean.
“Zombie Drift” 2019 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.