Instincts

By Garrett Beylerian

A cascade of black covered the sky, the smoggy, mustard remains of the weapons of war covered the gray metropolis, and it was black for the first time. The only kindles of light were drawn from flame, as buildings decayed and melted remains of glass fell to street level. A plague had swept society away and left death and chaos in its wake. There were people who had survived, but who knew how long they’d last before the waves washed them away. The people who were appointed to protect them had lost control, and needed to purify the area. Those were their orders. But good men know when to go against the grain.

The shaking cargo hold blinked slowly, a red glow illuminating the onyx metal. On each side there were seats, each saddled by a different man. They each loaded their weapon, jamming a magazine into the receiver, and pulling the primer back.

“Saddle up, Gentlemen, hitting your drop in three.” The pilot of the aircraft announced over the comm. The Lieutenant looked at expressions on their faces, reading every line and crevice with grieving certainty. He wish it hadn’t of gone this far- fuck, he was looking into the past again. The commanding officer announced with a strong tone. “We’re coming back to protect the motherland, boys, and we are keeping it tight. Our objective is search and destroy. Keep your bursts short, and lethal.” He could watch every head perk up once he began speaking, but he didn’t know how long his leadership would last in the shit. “We have no air support, and there are no reinforcements.” Each pair of eyes looked into his and trusted him; he would be weighted with the tough decisions, to kill any infected team member. The volume of his voice hiked. “Are we ready, RANGERS?!”

“Sir, yes, sir!” His platoon shouted back, and the Lieutenant looked to Evans, a Staff Sergeant armed with a SCAR-H, 20 round magazine, firing 7.62mm. If anything happened, he would be in command. He couldn’t put his trust anywhere else, then Wilson Evans, Army Ranger. They were a family, they were in this together, and he couldn’t have picked a better squad to go to hell with.

“We are at your drop zone, Delta. Good luck.” Each Ranger stood, as an alarm shrieked in the cargo hold. The bay of the plane began opening, and the Lieutenant pulled his gas mask onto his face, and the rest of the platoon did the same. The Lieutenant snapped on his combat helmet, and walked fearlessly onto the gusty, snapping cold wind bay of the plane, and the Rangers followed behind him, as he waved his arm for the platoon to jump. One by one, each member leaped off the plane, and Evans was last. The Lieutenant grabbed him by the shoulder and screamed over the wind. “Will you look after this platoon, soldier?!” Evans announced loudly, his facial expression blocked by the gas mask. “Sir, yes sir!” The Lieutenant patted him on the back, and the Ranger jumped. Now the last soldier on the plane, he hurriedly ran over to one of the large cargo boxes on the plane, containing MRE’s, ammunition and medical supplies, and unhitched it to the deck of the hold. The angle of the plane allowed it to slide right out, and its automatic parachute activated shortly after being launched from the large cargo aircraft. The Lieutenant followed after, jumping into the deep, dark unknown, hoping that he wouldn’t be too far behind his squad.

He yanked on his parachute, and prepared for the yank that would severally slow his descent. Nothing happened. The Ranger quickly patted his lower chest, searching for his second parachute string, as he plummeted toward the earth.  Fuck… His fingers slipped around the second handle, and swiftly pulled the string, praying the parachute would eject as the ground grew closer and closer. Fuck…Fuck, fuck, fuck! 

            Evans swiftly yanked his parachute out of his backpack, and it ejected, releasing the large clothe that would slow his descent to a non-lethal speed. He could see several parachutes gliding in the air below him, and hopefully they would all head towards Charlie. They had been dropped on the southern side of the city, and it was up to the Lieutenant and Evans to make sure the platoon stayed together. Rangers were made to be placed in desperate situations very fast for extended periods; they were made for this situation. Evans had full confidence that they would get it done. As he grew closer and closer to the ground, he noticed that several men were already on the ground, and he could already hear gunfire over the roaring wind in his ears, and small bursts of light distracted him. His eyes looked to the towering buildings, the hollow black sky reflected in the glass giants. The soldier eased his right pull with his tight grip, and his body slowly guided to the left, moving with the parachute. The Ranger’s only fear was catching something on his parachute and launching towards the ground at his current height. His only focus was landing and regrouping with his men.

And all at once, a loud shattering of glass captured his attention, his eyes immediately shooting to a horde of horribly disfigured, destroyed and hungry things. They catapulted themselves out of a skyscraper, and began screaming as they flung towards him, flung towards his parachute. “Oh, shit!”

Countless bodies crashed against his parachute, tangling up and destroying his flight path, sending the Ranger on a quick path to a flattening death. His mind turned to a blur, as he ripped his hands off of the gliders and ripped off his first parachute, detaching himself to the plummeting death machine. He could see the car covered streets, the blood covered road, the hordes. But there was nothing else that mattered in the world. There was nothing that could distract him from the act of desperately grabbing and detaching anything he could get his hands off, looking for his second parachute pull. He didn’t know how much equipment he dropped, but by the time the second parachute slammed out of the backpack, he felt much lighter. Despite the parachute saving his life, he could do nothing to stop his landing zone, which was a sea of cars.

His feet slammed into one roof of a silver sedan, turning him around in his parachute and sending him crashing into the next. The black cloth of the parachute landed in the street. Despite his hard landing, the adrenaline in his body allowed him to focus on his training, focus on the thing that would keep him alive, his instinct. The Staff Sergeant reached for his weapon, the gun he stripped apart, cleaned, fired and slept next to for years of dedicated service to his country, only to feel empty space. The Ranger heard the groans and cries of an impending enemy. His trained hand reached for his sidearm, the Beretta M9, 9mm semi-automatic handgun. Evans drew the firearm, looking to each side of him, noticing the barrier type shape of the vehicles around him. The bloody, open doors of the cars, but empty of corpses or signs where they were made him believe a truth he didn’t want to accept. “What did you do to our city…?”

The male immediately glared at the noise of a pair of feet hitting a sedan, seeing a blood covered teen jump from the car roof to the street, stalking towards the Ranger.

“Stop! Get the fuck on the ground!” The teen heeded no such command, gnawing at him while releasing the foulest stench from his throat. The solider aimed his black steel firearm at the teen’s forehead, noting his green iron sights pointed between his eyes, both of his trained hands gripping the weapon with experience and confidence. “You need to fucking stop!”

Once he was too close for comfort, the Ranger squeezed off his round, and closed his eyes as the blood squirted across his face. Evans let his hand slowly drop, as the bullet ridden head of the undead dropped to the ground, blood pouring at the soldiers’ boots. His eyes took in the scene, and didn’t have the pleasure of thinking about the life he had taken.

“This is Delta, Sergeant Jenkins, Oscar mike to Charlie. Are there any friendlies out there, over?”

Various shots could be heard, as another replied. “This is Solomon,” A scream of blood-lusting agony cut him off. “Fuck, being overwhelmed by hostiles! On the corner ofWashingtonandGreenwich, need assistance!”

Evans hopped on top of a car roof, staring at the end of the street, reading the street name. He pulled the radio to his mouth, and quickly replied. “Come back toAlbany, Solomon! I’m Oscar mike to you, over.” The soldier began hopping from car roof to roof, navigating the street much easier. Various bodies caught sight of him and began pursuing, but were too slow to keep up with the adrenaline pumped Ranger. “Roger that! Over and out!” The staff sergeant could hear the echo of automatic fire, and once he reached the end of the street and looked south, he saw that the street was quite sparse with vehicles, and he leaped off the black SUV he was on to the ground, running to the sound of gunfire. His combat boots tapped off of the tar, and blood began pumping through his temples.

Once Evans reached Solomon, he was on the ground, viciously beating a hostile off him with his sidearm, his assault rifle discarded to the side, a full auto M4 Assault rifle armed with a red dot sight. Evans ran to the side of Solomon, swiftly booting the undead off of his comrade, and after noticing Solomon’s arm wound, retrieved his M4A1 off of the ground and turned to the group of hostiles pursuing him, aiming the weapon into their heads, and fired short, controlled bursts. Feeling the stock of the rifle push against him as each bullet exited the chamber. He counted three, breath, pause, hold breath, three. The cases of the 5.56 millimeter poured out of the receiver and clinked onto the concrete, smoke emitting from the discarded cases. Once Evans confirmed every lifeless body dropped to the ground, his body instinctively turned to his six, and he began reassessing his odds. A blob, consuming the entire road from sidewalk to side walk lurched forward. They’re bodies were broken, bloody and defied all logic. Dozens, hundreds even, diversified and united for the cause to feed. They were slower, much slower, but so was Solomon.

“Jesus Christ…” The Sergeant announced, but Evans had already slung his newly retrieved assault weapon over his shoulder, the black strap keeping it tightly on his body and grabbed the Ranger by his good arm, pulling him to his feet. “Come on.” Their painfully loud moans almost drowned Evans out. “I didn’t land too well, my leg’s fucked up.” Solomon grunted and had his arm placed around his superiors’ shoulders. The Ranger helped Solomon limp in the opposite direction of the horde, heading back towardsAlbany. He drew his M9 with his free hand, making sure to be ready if they were ambushed by something faster. Once he turned to look at the following zombies, he knew that he wasn’t going to outrun them with Solomon.

“This is Staff Sergeant Evans, and Solomon, requesting any and all assistance on the corner ofGreenwichandAlbany, repeat, broken arrow!”

There was a lengthy pause, but a response did come through. “Roger, this is Jenkins, on my way, over.”

And another. “This is Williams and Green, Oscar mike as well. Over.”

“We don’t have a lot of time Rangers, step on it.” Evans felt Solomon’s legs begin to drag, and they weren’t going to last forever on the streets. But he couldn’t retreat into a building, they would most likely be boxed in, and they didn’t have the firepower to take on that many hostiles that quick. The Ranger could only move forward, and hope that his team arrived with something better than a single M4. The weight of his comrade felt heavy, his left hand tightly gripping the handle of his sidearm, and his right arm wrapped under Solomon’s left shoulder. As he turned once more to gaze at the coming wave, his heart skipped and his feet picked up the pace. The Staff Sergeant past the street on his left, and his eyes quickly scanned the road. A sprinting white female screamed at the military pair, and it took every reflex in Evans’ left arm to lift his Beretta in time. He placed one good shot in her kneecap, causing her to come crashing into the concrete face first, ripping skin and destroying her fragile face. He placed one more shot in the top of her head, and quickly dropped his empty magazine while the defeated females’ brains drained in the road. It was a challenge, but he managed to grab a new magazine from his ballistic vest and load his sidearm.

“Evans… Evans put me down.” Solomon’s skin slowly began to lose color, and his ankles were now dragging against the road. The temporary squad leader looked to his injured soldier, and wouldn’t let him succumb to such a death. “I can’t do that, Sergeant.” He holstered his pistol, and stopped his slight jog, taking Solomon and tossing his body on his shoulders. Evans began a quick jog now, one arm around his neck and the other at the bend of his legs. The weight of Solomon and his equipment was incredibly exhausting, but his life was worth more than the weight on his shoulders. If he had to sprint Solomon to the other side ofNew York Citywith eight million zombies on his tail, then he would accomplish such a feat. The labored breathing of Solomon was evident, and Evans shared a similar breathing pattern. He could only look forward, as he finally reachedAlbany. But there were no Rangers waiting for them. Williams, Jenkins, Green, none of them were here. There were only more of the slow, stupid hostiles to greet him.

Even now, his body was uncooperative, the pressure of the Sergeants body did not lessen, and the energy in his body was quickly leaving him. His mind searched for the solution, and his eyes darted around. But the realization slowly sunk in, and he accepted it.

Evans swiftly jogged his way over to side of the street, where there was a tall shuttle van parked. With a lot of effort, he managed to pick up and push Solomon onto the roof of the van. Once Evans was sure that he wouldn’t fall off or be reached by any undesirables, he reached for the assault rifle that rested on his back, brought the stock up to his shoulder, and aimed down the sights, positioning a headshot. He squeezed the trigger, and felt several bullets leave the barrel as they desecrated his foes’ brains. The small group that had gathered fromAlbanywas now on the ground, blood spilling from the sizeable holes Evans had put through them. But, just a couple dozen feet away was hundreds of undead, white, brown and black skin colors mixed, some in business suits, others in hoodies and jeans. But they all had the same glare, all with the same “Uggghhhh” immerging from their lips. Evans pulled the trigger, and found that his magazine was empty.

He threw the weapon on the ground, and his hand once more retrieved his trusty pistol. He didn’t have enough ammunition to kill half of them. But maybe he could save Solomon. Evans ran toAlbany, emptying his clip into the crowd as he jumped over the various cars sprinkling the road. They took the bait, the live, breathing, sweating, tasty bait. Evans continued his path down the road, reloading and getting as many headshots as he possibly could.

Fifteen minutes later

A pair of urban camouflaged Army soldiers, one armed with a M249 squad automatic weapon, and another with a M4A1 and a M14 EBR designated marksman rifle resting on his back walked down Greenwich, their rifles a second away from being shouldered and blowing every round in their respective magazines and boxes. Though, the only thing they were coming up on were corpses with bullet wounds in between the eyes. As they progressed down the street, and approached whereGreenwichandAlbanymet, they saw a figure huddling over a body. Green looked to William, and William looked to Green. They both placed their weapons on their shoulders, ready to fire if necessary.

“Hey! You!” Green announced, now his eye looked at the person in question through an iron sight of a light machine gun. Once the person turned towards Green, and they got a good look at their face, the pair sighed and lowered their weapons. “Jenkins…”

“Jesus, you gonna shoot me or what?” Jenkins was momentarily distracted by their arrival, but quickly went back to cutting the white fabric and tying it around Solomon’s wound. Green and Williams approached the two, and took a quick glance at Solomon, while trying to keep their eyes peeled around the perimeter. “Is he okay? Where’s Evans?” Jenkins looked up to the other Rangers, a sign of distress in his voice. “Evans isn’t here, and Solomon can’t walk. We’re gonna need a car, or something.”

“Let’s hope-“ Williams was cut off by the sudden sound of the radio switching on, and a voice speaking into it, sounding distressed and tired.

“This is, Wilson Evans, Staff Sergeant, Army Rangers, I ran out of ammo, but.” He paused, breathing heavily into the radio. “But I found soldiers. Dead soldiers. They’re Russian. I don’t, I don’t know where they-“An ear tearing loud scream of death and hunger cut Evans off. “Oh, shit!” His signal cut out.

“What the hell…” Green looked to Williams, and Green saw something past Williams head. He pushed Williams to the ground, and followed screaming. “HIND!”

Rockets propelled past them, exploding the nearby vehicles and lighting the road aflame.

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