A first draft chapter from another book. This will change radically by the time it is a finished chapter, but there are some elements I really like.
Tyson decided that he was a miner. It was a better name than scavenger, or vulture. Yes, he was picking through the bones of a dead civilization, pulling whatever nutrients he could from its decaying corpse, but he was doing it with a pick axe – so a miner.
It was hot, sweltering in fact. Who would have thought that they would run into a heat wave in Cape Breton? It didn’t help that they had to wear dust masks the whole time, something to keep the mold and powdered gyprock out of their lungs, out of their noses. They worked six abreast, swinging picks into the dead structures that used to make up Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Tyson was young, and strong. When the world died he’d been a child, too young to understand what was happening. His entire life was lived in this brave new world, a world of salvage, of carrion. His home, the city of New Hope, was the only place he’d ever seen that had living humans in it. Sydney was not that. The zombies roamed, emaciated and decayed, but somehow still moving, as they had been for twenty years. Still, Sydney was a small place, and there was a fence. A large chain link barrier keeping the zombies away from him and his men.
Tyson yelled to the foreman “Hey, time for a break yet?”
“You work until I say convict” the foreman gave him the finger. Tyson figured that meant it was time for a break. The foremen, Jack, was his best friend. A dick, but fun at a party, hard working, a decent guy over all. Tyson and the others sat down and broke out their canteens.
One thing about the reclamation project, you couldn’t trust the local water. They had to filter and boil all of it, so it was hard to get enough. A day like this, the mercury hovering around thirty, was hard to deal with. They were all soaked with sweat, dirty and tired. Jack sat down with them.
“Good progress today boys. Keep going at this rate and we might have a full load by… 20 years from now?”
“Shut up ya prick. You want things to go faster, grab a pick and get to work.”
“Yeah, I’ll do that. We don’t need anybody to watch the fence, keep an eye out for z’s inside, none of that. I figure we all get eaten it’ll keep you from having to do any real work, should make you happy.”
Break over they got back to it.
The hours passed, they were deep in the building now. They had managed to pull a couple of hundred pieces of rebar for smelting and recasting (and even a couple dozen that might be usable as is). The sun was heading down, so it was time to get back on ship. Working outside was alright, sleeping outside was way too big a risk. They headed down to the shore, to what was left of the dock.
Tyson noticed something moving from the edge of his vision. Zombies, inside the fence. Not a big deal, they were all armed and capable or they wouldn’t have been there. A lot of zombies though. He nudged Brandon , a big guy about his age, and pointed. Brandon tapped Jack . The zombies didn’t seem to be heading toward them yet, so they wanted to be silent if the could.
The zombies were shambling, aimless and grotesque. How the hell had a group that size breached the fence? There were a few hundred of them, far too many to fight. Just then one of them seemed to look their way, and he started to move as fast as he could. Jack yelled “Run.”
They started to move, fast, toward the dock and the waiting boat. The small boat was their way out, their way home. They had left two guys in the boat to watch it. Emile and Rich. Emile stood up in the bow, looked at them, looked at the horde, and did the unthinkable. He cast off.
It would have been close, but Tyson and his crew would have been there before the zombies reached them, Tyson was sure of it. “You fucking cowards, wait. Fucking wait for fucks sake.”
The motorboat was heading out to deep water, to the waiting cargo ship they were using as their home base while they worked. The zombies were coming in from the east, so Jack started running west, fast as he could. Tyson followed, hoping the rest would keep up. They could see the west fence in minutes. It was a no go, there were zombies lined up along it. They turned inland, heading for the south fence. As they ran the numbers were increasing. Somehow they had gotten surrounded. There shouldn’t have been that many zombies here. Initial recon said Sydney was down to a few hundred at most, they were looking at thousands.
Brandon went down, leg caught in one of the many holes in the street. Tyson stopped and started pulling him “Come on man, pull, come on.”
“Fuck, fuck, fuck. Don’t leave me. Don’t let them take me.”
His leg was caught, wedged in tight. Tyson pulled, Brandon screamed in pain. His leg didn’t come free. Finally, the zombies were too close. Tyson said “Sorry, sorry. Fuck. Sorry.” and started running again. He heard Brandon scream as the horde closed on him.
The rest of the group was out of sight. Tyson had no idea where they had gone. He could see the south fence ow. It was as full as the west had been.
He was cornered. This should have been impossible. The boat was there, the fence was there, they should have been fine.
He spotted a hole that looked like it might lead to something, so he jumped into it. No time to look before he leaped. He fell into the darkness, hitting hard ground that knocked the wind out of him. No time to pause, no time to take stock. He stood up, his head wasn’t touching the top of his hole, and he started feeling his way along. He could see a little bit from the fading light filtering through the hole.
The smell down here was overwhelming. Mold and rot were the worst of it, but there were undercurrents, chemical and acrid with a hint of something even worse. Tyson was under a collapsed building, but there was nothing to tell him what kind of building it had been to start. He moved deeper, hoping to find a safe spot before the light failed completely.
Of course he had a basic kit, a few minimal supplies in case everything went wrong, but it wasn’t much. He was already feeling thirsty, after just a few minutes of running.
He spotted a door that was still in a frame, It wasn’t locked, so he went inside, cautiously. There was a zombie inside. Impossible to tell what it had been in life, although from the height Tyson thought it was probably male. He pulled out his blade and casually smashed through its skull.
Tyson closed the door behind him and then pulled out his light. He hadn’t wanted to spark it before, the bright bulb would have attracted any zombies in the area. In here, a small closed space, he was probably safe to use it.
In the harsh artificial glow he could see that he was in a furnace room. It was large, but much of the ceiling had fallen in. It was also cold, despite the heat outside. At that moment the cool felt amazing. Tyson found a small corner and set up a mini camp to wait out the night.