Jersey City Dead: A Joint Writing Project

Posted: January 5, 2014 in General

About six weeks ago I posted the opening 200 words for a flash fiction challenge prompted by Chuck Wendig over on his blog, Terribleminds. The three weeks following my post other writers contributed to my initial start. I’ve finally gotten around to completing the tale. I’ve notated each contribution with the author’s name and a link to his or her site.

 Jersey City Dead

 “Casey’s Jersey City crew got careless,” Says Bossman. “Zombies flooded three sites. Two held them back but we blew the third. Horde made it up four flights and we couldn’t risk it. All told, probably lost fifty people.”

Bossman looks at me, gin blossoms reddening. The skin around his eyes draws tight, his hands, resting on the desk between us, clench, unclench. “Go find Casey. You ask him how he nearly lost three buildings. Then, once he answers, you make certain it doesn’t happen again.”

“Yes, sir,” I say.

Boss nods, quick, but the tears never leave his eyes. I turn and make for the stairs. How do I make fifty deaths count for something? These weren’t soldiers or made-men. These were men, women, and children, each under the protection of the Poverelli family. Fifty dead. And I gotta go make it fifty-one.

Name’s Blaylock, but everybody calls me Block. The name suits me. I’m muscle for the Family. It’s my job to make sure none of these mooks foul up and let the dead run riot over our rooftop paradise.

Here, it ain’t the zombies on the streets you gotta worry about. It’s the guy beside ya still breathing.1

I only knock once ’cause I’m a little pissed. I’m standing just outside the door to Casey’s office, gun in hand. Behind me there’s a little crowd of civilians gathering. They’re all lookin’ mean at me—probably because they’re a little fed up with the administration at this point. They’re all quiet-like though, ’cause I was sent by Bossman himself and they knew it.

It took a while to get to Casey’s place, what with the big, still-smoking ruins of the building he lost in the way. Before the screw-up I coulda walked straight over. The buildings had been like a row of teeth, albeit crooked and rotting. But, one of ‘em had got knocked out, so I had to schlep it ‘cross the gap on the ground, which was dangerous.

That was a stressful trip. I am stressed.

So, I only knock once. Then I open the door, see Casey still getting’ out of his chair, and say to him, “Casey.”

“I… I can explain,” he says, but his face says he can’t, so I shoot him before he can bullshit me. His head pops like a soda can that somebody shook up and dropped.

I turn around and hear one of the civvies, actually a soldier I guess, since he’s pointing a gun at me, say, “We’re sick of the Family’s shit.”

I see that they’re all pointing guns at me and frown. I musta underestimated how angry they were.2 

Here’s the thing about Jersey City that some folks forget.

Jersey City folks, they’re used to some gunfire ruining a nice, quiet evening.

Jersey City zombies, well, they ain’t so kind.

There’s a reason my gun’s got a silencer. It’s not that whisper-quiet pchew, pchew bullshit you’d get in the movies, but it’s a damn sight more quiet than, say, a bunch of pissed-off civvies with poorly-maintained firearms.

I duck ’round the corner into Casey’s place when they start unloading. I ain’t gonna lie, being outgunned by just about anybody is pretty scary, and I’m a little scared as I hunker down behind Casey’s davenport. But I got two things going for me.

One, the mob’s more scared than I am, so they hesitate rather than rushing me.

Two, guns without silencers are loud as balls.

“Why don’t you come on out, Block?” It’s the soldier again. Gotta be the leader. “Stop hiding and face death like a man.”

I spot the fire escape outside of the bedroom window, a room and a half away. I’ll never make it with them watching.

Then the zombies start breaking down the door downstairs.

The civvies panic. I make a break for it.3

I throw a glance into the hall as I duck across the doorway and head for Casey’s bedroom. Most of the civvies are headed up the stairs to the roof. Idiots. A few are heading down to try and stem the tide. Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. This place is lost now. The soldier was staring down the staircase, trying to decide his best course of action, but he must have heard me scuttle behind him, cause I caught a last glimpse of him whirling around.

I’m through the door and I slam it closed. I leap the bed and carefully stick an eye over the window sill. Zombies ain’t too graceful in any case, and no way they’d be able to pull down the bottom section.

I’m half way over the sill, staying low, when the bedroom door slams against the wall and a shot breaks the glass over my head. It’s the soldier, of course.

“Put that thing away,” I hiss at him, “and we might get out of this alive.”

The hate he’s throwing my way is hotter than the lead from his cannon.4

With a sigh he stows the weapon and hurries to the window. I climb through to the landing, mindful of the glass falling from the shattered panel. I’d laugh to my dying breath if an opened artery was the way I went. Outside, the stench of rancid meat nearly gags me. Five stories up and the dead still stink. On the street below the wave of bodies crashes against the walls, flooding every opening. Hundreds of zombies. A tide a few handguns won’t stop.

“We gotta move.” I grab the soldier and shove him toward the ladder. He launches himself upward. I hurry after.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

“Kent.”

“Am I right in assuming this is your fuck-up, Kent?”

He disappears onto the roof. I’m up and over and he’s standing there with his pistol aimed at me. I’m sure he thinks the surprise on my face is for him. Asshole.

“Yeah,” he says. “This is an upris–

I pivot and push away. Shots ring out and Kent screams. I don’t look back, just run faster toward the edge and leap hard and far. Time slows as I move over the gap below me and away from the zombies behind me. In my mind I see the cause and effect. Kent approaches Casey, makes an offer, a threat. Buildings are lost. Citizens are scared. Kent talks them down. More buildings. Kent urges the people against Bossman. Damn, I almost feel bad about Casey. Almost.

With a painful thud, time catches up, throws me across the gravel-strewn surface of the neighboring building. Wincing, I sit up and look across the way. No survivors. Nothing but the mindless horde milling from edge to edge. Kent should’ve check his position before putting his back to the roof door. The building was already lost.

I also contributed words to two other stories. You can see how those concluded here and here.

 

 

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Comments
  1. smoph says:

    Good story; gripping.

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