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Fiction – Ruth’s Story #35 Eating lunch within the barricade on Lake City Way still surrounded by zombies after the SHTF

May 22, 2012

The inside of the restaurant is decorated in far too much red and gold for my tastes. The dark red carpet is reminiscent of spilled blood, something that I have seen far too much of lately. From the roof hang numerous Chinese-inspired crystal and red tasselled chandeliers with small energy-efficient LED lights that bathe the dining area with a soft light.

A small lacquered red and gold temple sits unobtrusively in the far corner on a shelf. The temple is adorned with several small offerings and is obviously well cared for. In front of the small temple, several burning sticks of incense give a delightful aroma to the room; which complements the smell of the cooking food.

The magnificent smelling restaurant causes my stomach to immediate state its displeasure at being denied for so long.

Carol apparently heard my stomach grumble as she turns around to look at me with raised eyebrows. I give her a sheepish smile and wish that my stomach would be quiet.

A tall, exceedingly thin elder Asian male with a pencil thin, silver-streaked goatee dressed in typical cook’s wear walks out from behind a pair of double red lacquered doors at the rear of the restaurant. His smooth black cap is pulled low on his head. A large Chinese dragon in red and gold thread running from shoulder to wrist is embroidered on each sleeve of his clean, white knee-length smock. He has his hands clasped together in front of his chest covered by his long sleeves in the manner of the Chinese.

He speaks with a slight Asian accent; Chinese I assume. Despite my affinity with languages, my specialty is Middle Eastern languages, so I am not that sure of the Chinese region that his accent would represent.

“Please sit anywhere you would like at the table. Today we are serving General Tso’s Chicken with your choice of steamed white rice or chow mein. Hot green or black tea, coffee, or cool water are your choices for refreshments. There is no ice at present. If there are any critical food allergies, please let me, or one of our wait staff know immediately.”

The long single central wooden table is sparsely furnished with a striking solid red table-cloth and nothing else. Looking from one end of the table to the other, I notice that there are no condiments, silverware, or any kind of decoration on the table.

As I sit at the table beside Carol, with Nikola on her right I glance at our fellow diners. Most appears to be former soldiers from the caravan, with a few Caucasian males of indeterminate age dressed in street clothes mixed in.

As the diners start to settle in at the table, the elder Asian male walks back through the red lacquered double doors. The double doors flutter back and forth reminding me of saloon doors from some of the old classic Western movies Amy was so fond of.

Interestingly enough, I notice that all three women from our caravan are eating at the same time. The female wheeled mechanic is to my left on the opposite side near the end of the table closest to the entrance. Her silver-streaked, mousey brown curly hair has a serious case of helmet hair.

The butt of the female wheel mechanic’s black Beretta M9 in its tan leather tanker holster on her left side peeks above the table occasionally. Seeing the black antenna of her radio sticking out of her left breast pocket makes me realize that shit, I forgot my own radio.

Just as, I get comfortable, Jamal walks in and sits at the table across from me. I note that Jamal did not forget his radio. He places his radio on the table between us and then slides my Motorola radio to me with a nod and a grin. I smile thanks at him and slide my radio within my immediate reach leaving it lying on the table.

Carol and I are sitting beside each other with Nikola on her right. As we sit waiting for whoever is going to serve us, more former soldiers, as well as members of the barricade stroll in. I notice the barricade members are all carrying a civilian general mobile radio service (GMRS) or Family Radio Service (FRS) radios.

Another intriguing thing I note is that the number of barricade personnel in the room is exactly equal to the number of former soldiers from the caravan. Curious.

The GMRS/FRS radios are decent FM UHF radios and most seem to be made by Cobra. Most of the Cobra radios are bright colors with chrome accents although there are a few camouflaged ones similar to the ones they used to sell to the big game hunters.

I wonder what Carol and Nikola think of the radios carried by the barricade people. Nikola says something to Carol and he gets up. His exit seems to alarm some of the barricade guys who watch his exit with interest.

I look at Carol and catch her eye. “Nicky is going to grab the PRC-210 to see if he can pick up any transmissions while we eat.” I nod at her. “Oh.” I wonder why Nikola decided to go get the radio?

Several side conversations are currently in progress as former soldiers strike up conversations with barricade members and with each other. I try to listen to some of the conversations, as all are talking in English, but there are too many conversations going on at once for me to separate all the chatter.

While I try to catch a few tidbits of the conversations around me, the double red lacquered doors swing open again allowing the entrance of three Asian youths, two boys and a girl who is slightly taller than the boys.

The trio of Asian youths, who might not yet be out of their teens, immediately starts taking orders for food. The boys look-alike enough to be either brothers or close relatives; the girl might be their older sister or close cousin.

The young Asian girl has midnight hair so black it is almost blue, braided in a long pony tail that is nearly as long as mine. Her hair is decorated with several jade-tipped hair pins. Seeing her pretty hair pins causes me to take my right hand and verify that my precious hair pins are still in place – they are, God be praised, I would be crushed if I lost my hair pins.

While checking my hair pins, I observe the young Asian girl is already super pretty and the first female from the barricade people who I have seen. When she reaches maturity, she will be extremely beautiful in that exotic Oriental way. Her long sleeve white blouse with green jade buttons and black slacks look lovely on her. The fluorescent red, black soled Reebok sneakers are a little out of character with her clothing.

The Asian young boys are dressed similar to the young girl, but their long sleeve shirts have black enameled buttons shaped like Chinese dragons. The boys wear similar black trousers, but they are wearing different extremely pricey athletic shoes so popular with inner city youths regardless if they play sports or not. The boys have short hair but their hair is similar in color to the girl’s hair.

As one of the young boys takes my order for white steamed rice with hot green tea, Nguen the Asian male from the deuce walks in and sits beside Jamal. Nguen attempts to strike up a conversation in what I believe is either Mandarin or Cantonese.

I have heard enough Mandarin and Cantonese to be familiar with some of the words, but mostly I just assume they are speaking one of the two dialects as they are the most commonly spoken Chinese dialects. The pretty young Asian girl giggles at Nguen’s attempt.

“Nguen, are you Chinese?” I ask him.

“No, actually I am a second generation Vietnamese born in America, but I speak a little Mandarin.”

“Badly,” the young Asian girl interjects over her shoulder as she walks away with Nguen’s and my order.

As Nguen and I are talking, a tall, balding Caucasian male, with a ponderous beer belly walks in and sits at the head of the table to my left as if he is the lord of the manor. Dressed in faded tight blue jeans, a white button front long sleeve shirt and a pair of scuffed tan leather cowboy boots, the Caucasian male’s manner is as if he believes himself to be particularly powerful. Arrogance oozes off of him. Smooth shaven with the bright red nose of a heavy drinker, I decide to call the Caucasian male Rudolph.

After Rudolph sits, one of the young Asian boys brings him a plate piled high with chunks of chicken and chow mein noodles. The food is accompanied by a six-pack of 16 ounce cans of Budweiser hanging on white plastic six-pack rings.

Rudolph immediately pulls one of the cans of beer off the rings, pops the top and takes a long Adam’s apple bouncing drink from it. Wiping his mouth with the back of his left hand (since the right is holding the can of beer), Rudolph looks around the table like a lord surveying his fiefdom.

“So Jamal have you given thought to where you are going to stay the night, yet?” he asks. “I still wish you boys would still leave some weapons with us. I really would like a M2 carbine like I had when I served in the war. I read somewhere once that it is supposed to be the best zombie killing weapon.”

“Did you serve in the Pacific or Atlantic?” Jamal asks not bothering to look at Rudolph.

“Most likely Korea as the M2 entered World War II very late,” I interject before I think about opening my mouth. Jamal glances at me, and then looks at Rudolph.

Just as Jamal opens his mouth to reply he is interrupted by the arrival of his food. As the young Asian girl sets Jamal’s and Nguen’s plates of chicken and chow mein noodles in front of them, I take the opportunity to study the man sitting at the head of the table.

One of the young boys sets a small clear plastic beer pitcher of water with four water glasses in between Jamal and I. Jamal immediately pours himself a glass of water.

I immediately recognized his voice identifying him as Pete the barricade leader. He is several years older than Jamal or Sam, I am guessing in his early to mid-70s. His bald dome and the shaved sides of his head peppered with silvery stubble display a dark tan, so he is used to being outdoors.

The way the shirt hangs off Pete it appears that he has lost some weight since TEOTWAKI. I notice the young Asian girl’s clothing is also a bit loose on her, indicating she too has lost some weight. So much for the American obesity problem, I guess TEOTWAKI was good for something.

As I study Pete (AKA Rudolph) the barricade leader, my food arrives brought by one of the Asian boys. The smell of chicken with its spicy sweet sauce piled on a bed of steaming white rice makes my mouth water. Thankfully a fork and a spoon with a nice pair of bamboo chopsticks are laying on the plate, as well. Grabbing the fork, I prepare to dig into my food with relish, already enjoying the thought of the spicy sweet flavor of the chicken balanced by the cool of the white rice.

Shortly after the arrival of my food, the young Asian girl returns carrying a small, pretty blue ceramic tea-pot and a small gray ceramic tea-cup which she sets in front of me. The smell of the hot green tea is delightful.

“Pete, I have given your suggestion that we stay the night some thought, but I still need to discuss it with Sam and the rest of the convoy members. We are not soldiers anymore and cannot order the former soldiers. While most of the former soldiers still think of themselves as soldiers and will take orders if we gave them, Sam and I are not in a position to order anyone. The decision to stay the night or continue travelling will be decided by vote once all crew members have eaten.”

“Sam, that is your cyclops buddy, isn’t that so?”

Jamal grimaces, his lips forming a thin, straight line before he answers. “Yes, Sam has only one eye. He lost his right eye in the service of his country in Vietnam during his second tour, and I will not have someone deride him.” Jamal briefly looked at Nguen when he mentioned Vietnam.

“Don’t get your panties in a bunch I meant no disrespect to the colonel. I served in Korea at Chosin where things were pretty bad.”

“My apologies then, I am a little touchy and defensive of my friend.” Despite his words Jamal does not seem terribly contrite.

“So you and Sam have no issues with your boy there who said he is Vietnamese. I saw you look at him.” He says this as he points a stiff left index finger at Nguen.

“Hey man, I am Vietnamese by way of Tacoma. I can speak Vietnamese fluently but I cannot read it. I’ve never even been to Vietnam, man. My family fled the communists, my grandfather came here as a young boy.” Nguen seems as if he is used to being compared to the Communists that now run his parent’s former country.

Pete takes another giant gulp of beer finishing and crushing the can he tosses it in the middle of the table and opens another can, taking a deep drink from the new can. “The family that runs this Chinese restaurant is Chinese. The elder great-grandfather served with Chiang Kai-shek in China during World War II. After the war and the rise of the communists, the family fled to Taiwan and then later to the States. They’ve been good neighbors, and we have tried to spare the family as much as we can. This whole zombie thing really took everyone by surprise.”

“I understand, I was in the FEMA camps for a while and saw firsthand the destruction the KCAP virus causes. Before that, I was called in to assist the CDC in Georgia at Druid Hills, where I watched the total destruction of Atlanta and most of the eastern sea board.” Jamal seems unusually tired and worn down.

“Jamal, you said that you are a neuro-ophthalmologist, correct?” I ask.

He nods his head at me, so I continue my line of thinking. “Why were you called in to the CDC and why were you in the FEMA camps? Seems like a place that your particular specialty would not be needed.”

“Ruth you are correct that, in the FEMA camps, I did not work as a neuro-ophthalmologist, but as a general doctor. All specialists start out as general doctors first. At the CDC, I was called in because of my ground breaking work in optometry bionics as well as some of the groundbreaking studies I had done in understanding how the optic neural network operates.”

While Jamal talks my loaded fork floats in front of my chest wavering around a bit. Looking around the table, I note that not one of the barricade folks are eating unusually fast, and I note that Pete is not eating at all, maybe he prefers beer. Putting my now empty fork to the side of my plate, I sip my delicious green tea and listen.

Wow this shit is spicy; I break out in a bit of a sweat. The heavy-handed chef in the kitchen liberally sprinkled the chicken with the little thin, dried red peppers. I do not see any of our servers, or I would ask for a glass of water. I am a bit uncomfortable as I am not used to food this damned spicy.

“We know the zombies can see, and we know they can hear. Our dissections of KCAP zombies showed this thick patch of black thread like nerves that grew from the basal ganglia and encompassed the amygdala, medulla oblongata, cerebral cortex, thalamus, and prefrontal cortex. Somehow, that defies all logic and science, the virus is able to rejuvenate the part of the human brain often referred to as the lizard brain.

Jamal pauses for a sip of water. “The KCAP virus, we think, is a mutated Chinese Cold War bio-weapon that escaped somehow. The virus shows strains of mutated rabies, Spanish influenza, Ebola, and several variants of other diseases similar to mad cow. We even saw strains of two of the human form of mad cow disease known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) and new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD).”

In between discussions I note that Jamal is hardily shoveling his food down. His chicken is not as liberally sprinkled, I notice, with the little thin, dried, dark red peppers as my chicken is. What the fuck is up with that?

Jamal pauses for a longer drink of water this time, apparently the spiciness of the chicken is getting him too. “The KCAP virus may even be a retrovirus, able to integrate its own genome in to the host’s DNA, which just might explain why the living cannibals, primates and swine are able to survive with the virus for a short time. This virus shows adaptability at being a deadly virus in one host and possibly a retrovirus in another. How it switches we were unable to determine.”

“Jesus, zombie bacon, what is the world coming to,” Pete interrupts mumbling into his second can of beer.

Jamal continues his one-sided discussion. “Our studies at the CDC revealed that the virus is incredibly fast acting, the mean onset time after death is about 72 hours. We hypothesized but were unable to verify that the KCAP virus is actually a living being, we may be looking at a new species, one that is programmed to reproduce by any means. The KCAP virus drives the zombies to bite victims spreading the disease and fulfilling its base drive to reproduce.”

Jamal’s monologue is broken by Pete opening another can of Budweiser, tossing the second crushed, empty can in the center of the table.

“The baser functions of the human ‘lizard brain’ are to survive, reproduce, and although the zombies eat flesh they are unable to digest it. I have seen zombies that have exploded from internal rot and body gasses, still eating, the bloody chunks of raw meat falling out of the gaping hole in their abdomen. Since the KCAP bodies still rot and decay in the normal manner, there is no Romero-esque miraculous preservation, the virus has to infect new hosts to continue to propagate.”

Jamal is interrupted by his and my radios suddenly transmitting rapid fire repeating Morse code: -..—-.-..– which repeats so fast it takes a few moments for me to translate the message. I am a little rusty in my international Morse code, but thankfully they teach all Mossad agents and all Spetsnaz operators international Morse code.

Once the message sinks in and everyone is staring at Jamal’s and my radios, I leap on to the table scattering dishes everywhere in my best “slide for home” feet first dive like a missile straight at Pete. I draw my pistol while diving across the table.

Once I reach Pete, I wrap my legs around his chest pinning his arms to his side as if I am giving him a dirty lap dance. I then in the same fluid move jam my pistol muzzle under Pete’s jaw hard enough to cause him to choke and spit nasty warm Budweiser on my face. I am sure he heard me flip the safety off as I brought the pistol to bear; the safety on a Browning Hi Power makes a very distinct sound.

The impact of my body into Pete causes us both to topple over with Pete landing on his back with me astride him. The landing winds Pete a bit, and his face turns red as I press the muzzle of my pistol none too gently into the soft spot behind his jaw under his chin.

“What the fuck is going on Pete?” I pull one of my long hair pins from my hair and place the needle-sharp point near the tear duct of his left eye. “Want to look like Sam” I offer to him while pressing the point hard enough against the corner of his eye that a small drop of blood forms around the point.

23 Comments
  1. Anonymous permalink

    wow
    that chapter was great.
    your visual descriptions are endearing..

    • Thank you Anon, but endearing? Are you sure you used the correct word to describe my character visualizations? Not that I disagree with your choice of words but endearing is not one word that I think of when describing my characters. How are my visual descriptions endearing?

  2. Excellent! That was one of your best chapters, full of excellent detail and ending with a great finish. I started wondering about the food–was some of it poisoned? I’m still trying to decipher the morse code message, perhaps from the Spetsnaz friend? I fully expected the message to be “TRAP” but instead all I get are: DKU, TFX and other strange combinations…

    • Thank you Jake. Seems some of my readers had an idea of where I was heading with the story so maybe I have to be a little less predictable. Remember this was International Morse Code which is somewhat different than standard American Morse Code. The message says with no spaces or punctuation: DONTEAT.

      • No, not less predictable…I like the way you ended this. I may have an idea where it’s going, but I’m not sure how you’re going to get there. Less predictability means I’d likely not care whether I see the next chapter or not, but now I’m eagerly anticipating what happens next.

      • Thank you Jake for the suggestions. I am glad that you are enjoying the reading.

      • The last five paragraphs were so good, I keep reading them over & over…

      • Thanks Jake, I hope through this medium to improve my writing.

  3. Mickey permalink

    “The smell of chicken with its spicy sweet sauce piled on a bed of steaming white rice makes my mouth water . . . ”

    Chicken – really? or “the other white meat. . . . it’s what’s for dinner.”

    I think I would focus on eating canned hams and spam for a while.

    • The next installement will explain the culinary delights of the barricade.

  4. Hager permalink

    Usually these part-time stories get a bit boring or fizzle after a while, but this one is really picking up steam! Please, don’t stop.

    • Thank you Hager. Just how do the other stories fizzle out? Do the authors just stop writing? I know my update frequency sucks but I will try to be better.

      • Hager permalink

        By fizzle, generally the frequency of some other authors slows and then ends alltogether, sometimes with the promise of reknewal at some future date. There are many examples of this in the fictional “Scenarios + Stories” section in http://www.whenshtf.com.

      • That web site is one of my favorites but yes it is a shame they quit writing stories.

  5. Jaeger permalink

    I can hardly wait until the next segment of this story!

    • Thanks Jaeger, another installment is in the works. I hope to get final editing done today.

  6. BobOK permalink

    I need my Ruth fix!
    Looking forward to another installment. Makes my day to find another chapter.
    And as always, Thanks for sharing this story.

    • Jared permalink

      Me too! I’m having a hard time staying concentrated…what happens to Ruth?

      • Jared the next Ruth installment should be up shortly. Thanks for the encouragement.

  7. John permalink

    I think your cliffhanger – a hot babe giving scumbag a brutish lap dance with a Browning P35 would make a great movie scene. For some reason I’m thinking the hot Israeli chic from the Fast Five movie should be casted for that role.

    • That Israeli actress is Gal Gadot, and she is quite the celebrity in her home country. She has also graced the cover of Maxim several times both in Europe and the US. She is a little taller than Ruth and her breasts are much larger than Ruth’s but who cares! She is certainly hot and I would be honored if she would play Ruth in some fantasy world where my ramblings get made into some movie that hopefully would not suck.

  8. BobOK permalink

    Shame on me…
    I had to Google search ‘Gal Gadot’. And I am glad I did.
    I lead a sheltered life I guess… Don’t grow old people.

    • Well Bob you got some nice eye candy for the day.

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