Paul’s finger didn’t have the strength to push the restart button, he’d been playing since he got home from work. Food and sleep now, and in that order. The pizza app brought up on the left screen and his usual order placed. Shop reopens in 4 hours, but they had to wait until he’d entered the very last digit before telling him. Another instant noodle box chosen from the pile by the sink, satay, his favourite, then the red cardboard box dropped in the microwave. Two minutes to wait. What time did that pizza place close anyway, I thought they opened all Friday night.
The aroma of the hot meal filled the room before the ding of the machine. At least the packet came with a plastic fork to save the washing he thought as he ripped the top flaps off the hot box to make it easier to eat.
Back at the screens and the game still telling him he’s dead. Country of the Living Dead. “You should try it,” gamer_chick747 said. “It’s only single player yet, the co op will be a few more weeks, but good to practise before the big battles.” Her voice so cute in the headphones but she never turned on the camera, but then neither did he. Sometimes it was better not to know. She was right though, it was a great game and even though he’d never much liked zombie movies, this game was so good.
Saturday 6:22am the bottom of the main screen read. He’d been playing for more than twelve hours. Not a record, but for a game like this, close enough. Bed was only a few steps away and he didn’t bother turning off the game.
Stop using the pick, it often caught in their skulls and took too long to get free and that’s when the rest of the horde could get me. That sleep had really cleared his mind and he knew what to do now, just had to take stock of where he was.
Total Zombies killed – 1833. Lives used – 42. Average 43.6 undead per life.
Not a great achievement. Must do better.
Maybe I should start the laundry first, she was often there Saturday. Thinking of her as he collected the dirty washing had his mouth watering. I should order food first he thought, then he keyed an order for pizza, supreme with extra olives this time. Delivery in thirty five minutes the app said. Plenty of time to get the washing started and wait for the delivery man.
She was there, he knew it. “Going to the protest later?” Her voice so steamy he was ready to go too.
“What’s it for?”
“You need to get out more.” She was leaning against a washer. Just some old jeans and ripped top, but he’d marry her instantly. “It’s against the war.”
“What war? Last I knew we weren’t in a war.”
“The one they want to start. You feel it, don’t you? All that talk about the East invading.”
“You want someone to come with you?” It was worth a try.
“Max is calling for me at three.” That was the brainless jock she fawned over. He could hardly string two words into a sentence but he was able to bash other people on the football pitch. “You should come. We need more people so the government know we don’t want them forcing us into another war.”
“I’ll see,” he said still wondering what a gorgeous bright chick like her could see with an idiot like Max.
His washing left circling in the drier when the pizza arrived. Better to eat it hot. She was gone when he went back to the laundry to check. He couldn’t think of much worse than going to a pointless protest. The government will take no notice. They never do.
- - -
It worked perfectly. Instead of the pick, he grabbed a length of pipe and poked it straight through their skulls, right through the brain. Everyone knew that the only way to kill a zombie for ever was to pierce the primitive part of their brain, the part right in the middle. That’s why you need a long pick to penetrate right through the top of the head, or this pipe to poke up their chins through to their brains. It worked good through their open mouth too. That stopped their hissing! He was past that hard section and powering along until he lost his length of pipe while clambering over a chain wire fence, a hundred undead behind him. That pipe now lying on the ground over the fence beyond his reach. It would have been perfect to poke the horde through the fence and reduce their numbers, but all he could do was run off and try to find another weapon to use.
A beep had him pause the game. One hundred sixty two zombies for this game life so far. New record, but there was an incoming message to check.
“Tried that zombie game yet?” gamer_chick747
“Playing it now. Great game.”
“Can hardly wait till the co op so we can fight side by side.” gamer_chick747
“Me too. I prefer the pipe so far.”
“I’ll try that next.”
Much as he tried, he couldn’t find a sword to use in the game. He acquired a long knife and that worked well, but every business he looked to loot had all the swords taken. When he paused the game to collect the dried washing he heard next door leave to the protest. All this zombie killing had him hungry again so he splurged on another pizza. He was supposed to be saving for a house deposit, but house prices increased more each week than he managed to save and that goal seemed forever beyond reach.
Two hours delay for delivery the app said. He’d never seen that much delay before. Saturday 11.02pm. Maybe everyone wants pizza too. I can wait.
He found a sword. Not the best sword, but it did work enough to show how a good one could work well. Wham! One slice and a zombie’s head was opened and his infected brain sliced in two. Definitely his current favourite weapon. Maybe I should get one for real, be a great talking piece, but I’m sure it won’t be allowed. Our government don’t allow citizens weapons of any type. Even buying a carving knife was difficult so swords would be a prison sentence. And no point complaining, people thought they lived in a free country, but really anyone with half a brain knew it was a police state where normal people had no power at all.
Two hours meant a whole heap more zombies to kill, and they weren’t going to die without him. Fighting left and right and with a horde forever ambling behind, waiting for him to stay still too long so they could sink their infected teeth into his neck. Axe and hammer he bashed them, picking up a long stick at places to stab them from a further distance. The pizza delivery guy had to pound on the door to make him hear over the headphones. One hissing biter got him before he could pause the game. Dead again!
“It’s crazy out on the roads,” the delivery man said as Paul handed him a tip. “Thinking of calling it a night.”
“Maybe. There’s people running everywhere and no one knows what’s happening. No cops in sight either.”
The pizza was hardly warm, the cheese all congealed and the base like cardboard. He ate it anyway. A zap in the microwave and it really wasn’t that bad.
Refuelled, he attacked the horde with enthusiasm, looting a long machete from a fallen and using that to slash, always aiming for the head, but accepting any hit that stopped their advance as a good hit. It did leave the top part of their body still biting, but it certainly slowed their advance.
Even through the headphones he heard next door return, then a little later there was a lot of loud moaning. Max was certainly getting lucky tonight!
Paul went back on the attack, but he’d lost interest thinking about next door. That should have been him. The next time he died he didn’t restart, lying on the bed and thinking about her. If I had gone with her silly protest would I be getting laid right now? Who would know? They must be really going for it, the moaning hardly stopped.
He dreamt of her. Peering deep into her blue eyes while he was kissing her rose red lips, his right hand sliding underneath her jeans to gently touch the smoothness of her bottom.
“Make love to me,” she purred, and they were naked on his bed. “I love you,” he whispered.
Noises next door woke him. Maybe Max had fallen off the bed and broken his neck, the noises felt like that. Part of him wanted to go to her door and ask if she was alright, but then again he didn’t want to give that loser a chance to flaunt his conquest. Instead he attacked the game again and he was on fire. Every zombie was Max and he needed to be dispatched as painfully as possible. Slashing his thick head into two from ear to ear. Sometimes slicing his legs off so he was down to being half a man before cleaving his head in two, straight down the middle, his pitiful brains split open for all to see. He’d killed him so many times Paul lost count, slashing him every hurtful way he could imagine, and he was imagining very well. The good bit was he never was killed himself. Maybe it was all the practice, or maybe he needed the motivation to make good. The screen said Sunday 8:22am when he finally hit pause. Another twenty four hours and he was due at work. Maybe time to get some more sleep now to replenish his motivation.
Still moaning coming from next door as he laid down. That had been a very long time and he wondered how Max managed to keep it up that long. Lulled to sleep by moaning, and when he did wake there was a flashing message box on the main screen. He lay watching it flash. There really was nothing urgent to attend to, but he was hungry and that had him up glancing toward the message, enough to see it was gamer_chick747, but he’d read it better with food. With a hot box of microwave noodles in hand, he sat in front of the screen again and clocked her message.
The world has gone crazy outside. It might be an invasion. I don’t know what to do. Can you help? Cathy. 157 Oak Hollow Road, Everglade.
No one ever used their address. She’d used the name Cathy before but an address! Straight to the map program and then street view. One fifty seven was a normal looking house. Stucco and shingle. One of hundreds similar lining most streets, but that city was right across the country, thousands of miles away.
Then he turned to the video sharing sites, they had the news first, usually before the government deleted what they didn’t like, searching for Everglade and invasion.
Whoa! Hundreds of short cam captures. People screaming and running from an advancing group. No sign of weapons on either side, but then no one was allowed to own any sort of weapon in this free country. There were so many videos it couldn’t be a hoax. One video left playing while he quickly replied to her message, he even gave her his real name and address.
The message bounced. Service congested. Re-sending in 5 minutes.
Back to the videos, but now there were hardly any to be seen. Censors got them. It was so common these days that most people used other services in other countries, but as he tried to get to his favourite it was not connecting. That told more than trying to find more videos. If they were censoring that hard, it must be bad. Back to her message, he printed a copy and then back to the map program and took screen prints of the house, then back further and further, taking prints each step as a record of how to get there. He got enough views before that program crashed too. It seemed most of the internet was gone now. His hand reached for the LAN cable and ripped it from the socket. It wasn’t beyond the government to brick user’s computers.
Leaning back in his black and red custom gamer chair he thought about what was happening. Her message was still on the centre of the main screen and he now knew what he would do. Never in his life had he had real purpose before. Sure there was things that might be nice to do. Good jobs to aim for. Find a wife. Nice house and then children. All the usual stuff, but no real concrete purpose. Something that had meaning and challenge. Something that had heart and passion. No one had ever really asked for his help with something serious, and though he didn’t really know her, they’d worked many times together with games and they always worked as a perfect team together. Why not in real life?
Still sitting in front of the dead computer he tried to take stock. His life moved between work and the apartment. Five days he endured a third of his life unchallenged at work, then another third he slept, and then for the rest, he gamed. He didn’t even own a car, just the bus to work and shopping. But now he had a real quest and he wasn’t sure what was needed. If it really was an invasion then air transport was out, most likely bus and train the same, but it was a mighty long way to walk.
Every quest had to start somewhere, nothing proceeded without a beginning. All good questers needed supplies and a bag to carry those supplies, then provisions for the trip that they added to as the quest continued. Food and water. Snacks. Clean clothes. Money. Weapons and cyber recovery. Pen in hand he began writing a list, but then realised he had hardly anything on the list anyway.
Beginning with food. Mainly noodles and a couple of cans of beans, that should do to start. A bottle of water and two of beer. A change of clothes and extra undies. “Always wear clean underwear,” Mom said. Money? Two cards and a handful of coins. Not ideal for a long trip, will need to get more on the way. Weapons? What Weapons could he use? The best knife from the kitchen and two long screwdrivers, and his USB recovery stick, it held all his passwords and details to rebuild a life.
Looking at the small pile he thought it was more than most game quests had to start, but he couldn’t help but think it was not enough for a real life adventure. Tipping his old school backpack upside down he replaced the books and disks with the supplies from the pile. There was room for a little more, so he added more socks and another thicker top. His work boots completed the outfit. It would win no prizes for style, but it should work.
One more look at the computer and her message still on the main screen. He reached down and reconnected the LAN cable and watched the system come back to life. No more messages. Hardly any sites accessible, and those that seemed to connect didn’t load fully in the time he gave it. Sunday 4.13pm the screen said before he turned the main power off and the screen died. He felt part of him inside die to.
...o O o...