Home > Writing > DEAD IN L.A.: The Barricade

DEAD IN L.A.: The Barricade

They happened upon a roadblock a few streets away from the car dealership they had targeted. Bodies and body parts were everywhere, along with the stench of rotting flesh and spoiled blood. Wallace realized they had just happened across a fortified position that had been overrun. Sand bags, razor wire, even military Humvees and civilian sanitation trucks had been arranged to block off access to the entire block. Tattered scraps of paper, plastic wrap, MRE bags, and torn clothing were caught in the razor wire’s cruel embrace, fluttering vaguely in the low, dry breeze. The smell was horrible, and carrion birds gorged themselves on the remains as black clouds of flies hovered over the carnage.

“Oh, God,” Darien said. She sounded like she was going to be sick.

“Keep it together,” Wallace said. He slowly spun, taking a three hundred and sixty degree view of the intersection they stood before. Nothing moved amidst the buildings. More bodies lay in the street, their limbs at odd angles. It took Wallace a moment to understand they had been run down when the remaining defenders evacuated the roadblock. As he watched, one of the bodies squirmed, its bones pulverized by whatever vehicle had crushed it. At the moment, it wasn’t a threat.

But he knew better than to believe they were safe.

“Okay, we have to go through there,” he said, pointing to the roadblock.

Darien looked properly mortified at the prospect. “What? Why?”

“One, where we want to go is on the other side. Two, there may be things we can use in there.”

“Jesus… like what?”

“Firearms. Ammunition. Supplies. Maybe even an operational vehicle.” Wallace took a deep breath and started forward. “Watch yourself. Some of these things might not be dead, and try not to cut yourself on any of the wire or anything like that. A cut could get infected.”

“I’m not going in there,” Darien said.

“Suit yourself,” Wallace pressed on, stepping around several bodies. All of them had succumbed to head shots, which had taken them out of the fight instantly. For Wallace, that was confirmation of something he’d already figured out for himself: it took head shots to stop the dead. Other bodies were literally riddled by bullets, but it was the ones that he struck a skull that had finished them off. Even more corpses appeared to have been blown apart, perhaps by hand grenades or other munitions. He was horrified to see some of these remains were still mobile, and as he picked his way across the kill zone, he even saw a decapitated head, eyes following him as he passed, mouth opening and closing. It was disgusting.

Mounds of corpses had crushed the razor wire fences flat beneath their weight. Again, some of these moved, but they were pinned down by the inanimate bodies on top of them. Wallace took his time navigating around the piles. Not only could a zombie reach out and grab him, but he didn’t want to be cut.

Behind him, he heard Darien following his path. She coughed and retched, but once she had started moving, she didn’t stop. Wallace didn’t turn to look back at her. She would either figure it out by herself, or she wouldn’t. He felt he was running out of time to find Matthew, and that was all he cared about right now.

He made it to the roadblock itself. There, he found the ravaged bodies of several soldiers and police officers that had been overwhelmed by the dead. The bodies were essentially picked clean, their uniforms torn and shredded. Bare bone gleamed in the sunlight, and masses of maggots writhed across the remains. Flies were everywhere, and the stench was almost overpowering. Wallace had to fight not to vomit.

He saw the butt of a rifle sticking out beneath a shredded carcass. Steeling himself, he reached down, grabbed it, and pulled it toward him. The weapon came free, and he shook it to dislodge some pulpy white maggots that writhed on its blue-black surface. It was a military-issue M4 rifle. It took him only a moment to see that the barrel was shot out, ruptured on one side, so he dropped back to the ground. He turned and scanned the ground, looking for another. Expended cartridges were everywhere. A flock of crows exploded into the air, and Wallace turned toward them, pulling his pistol from its holster. It was Darien, who had deviated around the mounds of the dead and managed to find a way past the razor wire barriers on the other side of the street. She had a frozen, pinched expression on her face.

“God, this is so horrible,” she said, and her voice sounded small and tiny, even in the silence.

In response, a corpse groaned beneath one of the piles in the razor wire. A slashed and torn hand flailed about, seeking casting about, hoping to somehow be able to latch onto her. Darien stared at it, eyes wide in horror. Wallace snapped his fingers loudly, getting her attention. He waved her over, then put a finger to his lips. Be quiet. She nodded and slowly walked toward him, eyes sharp as she looked before taking each step.

Wallace found another rifle, still clutched in the hands of a disemboweled soldier. It was empty, but the barrel was in good shape. He pulled two full magazines from the soldier’s vest and slid one into the rifle. He hit the bolt release, and the carrier group snapped forward with a metallic click. As far as he could tell, the weapon was good to go. It would need to be cleaned, but that was something he would attend to later. He moved the firing selector to the SAFE position and slung it over his shoulder. After some more searching, he found more weapons. Only one of them seemed to be in operational condition; the others were either terribly fouled and wouldn’t work in the short term, or their barrels had been shot out from firing magazine after magazine on full auto. He also found a SAW, but its stock had been shattered. He had no personal experience with that weapon, but he figured the rifles would be more useful. While a weapon capable of maintaining a high rate of fire seemed attractive, he was currently surrounded by evidence that it didn’t mean crap.

As soon as Darien caught up to him, he handed her one of the rifles. “You know how to use this?” he whispered.

She shook her head, eyes wide. Whether it was in response to the stinking carnage or because he’d just handed her a military rifle, he didn’t know. She automatically started to put her finger on the trigger, and he stopped her with a shake of his head.

“Don’t touch the trigger unless you need to shoot something,” he said. “Just hold onto it for a while, I’ll show you how to use it later.”

She nodded and looked at him soundlessly, holding the rifle without a clue. Wallace smiled inwardly, then went back to his search.

He found more magazines and spare boxes of 5.56-millimeter ball ammunition. He managed to liberate two relatively unsoiled tactical vests and one rucksack, along with several MREs. Many of the soldiers had CamelBak hydration systems, basically bladders full of water they wore on their backs. All the ones Wallace found were either torn open or covered with so much gore and filth that he wouldn’t risk drinking out of one.

He found a dead policeman who still wore a gun belt, but there was no sign of his pistol. He frowned and looked around the half-eaten body, but the firearm was nowhere to be found.

“Wallace.” Darien’s voice was a tight hiss.

Wallace turned and looked at her. She had sunken into a semi-crouch and looked up at him fearfully. He heard the tinkle of metal as something bumbled into what remained of the razor wire perimeter, and the feeding carrion birds there lifted off in a storm of fluttering wings. As they rose into the air, Wallace looked toward the forward edge of the blockade. A dozen or so pale, pallid faces turned upward, eyes following the flocks of birds as they headed for the rooftops of surrounding buildings. A small zombie horde had almost walked up on them without making a sound.

Wallace motioned for Darien to follow. While the zombies were still distracted by the birds, they pushed further into the blockade and slipped around one of the sanitation trucks to make their escape.

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