9. Out On The Docks
For the first block where birds sang, streets were eerily empty of the walking horrors as they headed to the marina. The death of the vampire seemed to have a chilling effect on the animated dead. Decaying and partly mummified bodies lay everywhere. The ravens feeding on the dead was, oddly, reassuring to the group. Where the dead walked, birds were absent and silent. Everyone considered the ravens a good sign.
The closer they approached the marina, the air seemed to change. Like a heaviness in the atmosphere they had not noticed before, it suffocated the mood of the armed human centipede. They had started their walk to the marina in the best spirits they had been in days, but the farther they walked, the more melancholy the group became. It was as if the soul of the land they walked on was dying.
Moments later, another group of tattered, half-rotted bodies appeared from around the corner of a cross-street and began to approach the heavily armed group.
“I thought we killed the vampire.” Zac said in a frightened whisper.
“There must be more than one.” Al answered quietly as he walked backwards, protecting the rear of the group as he scanned back and forth with his vertical limbed crossbow. “There ain’t any of those shufflers following us.”
“A range? Like with a cell phone?” Archer asked.
“By deduction there is more than one kind of vampire.” Stormy said, keeping her sound suppressed weapon against her shoulder. “Some more powerful than others. Foot-soldiers, like Renfield in the classic horror novel. You might have some vampires that would be the generals, they would… maybe… channel the power to the lower caste. Then the zombies are the shock troops that are unstoppable.”
“Stormy?” Archer asked.
“You are giving me a panic attack, please talk about something else, something nicer, like how lions eat baby zebra.”
“You killed one vampire already.” Stormy nudged Archer with her hip.
“You weren’t down there with the Yank and me.” Andrea said. “That was a serious piss-fight brewing.”
They began to use the arrows to take down the mob of horror that was approaching as they headed to the marina in a controlled pace. Sound suppressed, special weapons did their jobs brilliantly, but the tinkling of spent brass on the ground rang loudly in the silent area that no bird song could reach their ears or any winged life flew. Even the insects had abdicated flight in the area.
As they approached the marina, Archer pointed out a large ketch with sails rolled up on the booms, well tied up. It would be easy to prepare the boat for departure.
Al jimmied a lock of a barred gate that stood as a silent sentinel across the dock. It opened with a loud shriek of partly rusted hinges and closed with the sound of a steel drum full of marbles.
Looking back over the way they had come, several of the animated dead had heard and were drifting in towards the marina as if they were not sure where the sound came from, wandering aimlessly with ever more gathering in the street between the buildings.
“Okay, it’s safe.” Gail said. “They are not coming at us directly. We need to walk carefully on the dock to keep the noise down, or we will bring all of Brissy down on us.”
Walking down the dock to the sail-yacht, a large man with a side-by-side shotgun stepped out into the open deck of a tour-boat.
“Hey!” He yelled.
Archer and Al stopped and drew their bows. Andrea, Zac and Stormy pointed their own weapons at the armed man, Zac’s shotgun now loaded with sharpened dowels.
“Ahoy.” Called Archer. “We are seeking safety only. We are not looting. Just need to listen to a radio and find a way to travel south.”
“You are under quarantine. Don’t c’me closer, you are no going to pass on dat virus to me.” He shouted.
“We are alive and breathing, when was the last time you saw one aim weapons at you and hold a conversation?”
The skipper paused.
Archer took advantage of the pause and spoke again.
“There is no virus. All this? It’s vampires— They are using the zombies as war dogs.”
“Bah! There are no such things as vampires!”
“There are no such things as the dead zombies that walk, either! But there they are!” Archer pointed at the bodies that ambled up and down the street. Still milling about trying to find the source of the sound that the gate had made.
The skipper swore under his breath.
“C’me ab’ard befer any of doze still walkin’ sees ya. Git below.” He lowered his shotgun. “I didn’ wanna to shoot an’way. I’m down to whut gravel, nails and bolt-heads I c’n scrape up off teh ground. I has lots o’ powder, but nothin’ fer shootin’, I has ta make do with scraps. Bloody awful whut it is.”
The group sat down around the inside of the cruiser. It was medium-sized, but well-appointed.
“I chartered until two months ago. The damned demon-things put an end ta dat overnight. I usually walk ta town ta live, but dis is my home now. Dis is de Maribeth an’ welcome ab’ard. She don’ run, though. The engine is farked fer awhile, I ordered a new fuel pump and waited fer it fer six weeks before dis all started. I don’ think I’ll be gettin’ it in now.”
“What if you took parts from the other boats around.” Andrea asked.
“I dun’ thin’ the other owners would appreciate it, besides, tha’s stealin and what good would I be if’n I were in jail? They’d bust me for sure an’ take me boat.” The skipper nodded. “By da way, me name’s Roberts. Abraham John Roberts. I’m cap’n of this vessel, whut’s left of ‘er an’way.”
“There are no police to arrest you. And the owners of the boats around here are gone. You are not stealing. You’re salvaging.” Archer said slowly.
Captain Roberts looked at Al, then Archer, then to the ladies for a moment.
“Whut are we waiting fer.” He chuckled. “Damn, I is getting old, I could ha’ been salvagin’ all dis time!”
“We would like to listen to the radio, too. Everywhere on the land most power is out and no radio is working on land.” Rachel said.
“Aye, we can do dat. Marine radio and I has a world short-wave radio set built-in. Digital radio is available, too.” The Captain said. “I ha’ no listened to it much. I worry that de sound would bring them, so’s I just walk in ta town ta de stores, avoidin’ them ta hunt up food.”
The women turned it on low and sat drinking the Captain’s coffee. Andrea offering “a cuppa” every few minutes. Captain Roberts told stories of how the world changed from the south up north to the marina. How the changes came from tourists to the biters that came later.
“We get the parts in the morning. This will be hell of a better watch than being here alone.”
“Then we put into Sydney or some other town with an enclave or sanctuary?” Al asked.
“Aye, we can.” Captain Roberts answered. “But fer ta-night? We DRINK!”
“Here here!” Andrea laughed.
Archer, atypically quiet, just sat at the top of the steps. Dusk was more than two hours away.
“Once it’s gone dark, w’ pull all da tarps over de glass and git below. I keep lights ta minimum. I ha’ LED lights that adjust low.” Captain said. Then coughed. “We needs fuel, too, for such a trip. We will need to take on at least three-thousand liters of fuel or we run a chance o’ rowin’ b’fore we get ta where we wants ta be.”
“Hey, what if we just take a boat?” Al asked. “There is a whole fleet of vessels out there that have no one to claim them.”
The Captain stopped talking for a moment.
“Well, I don’ know de other boats as well, but it’ll sure’n satisfy a few cravin’s. We kin upgrade. I never thought about takin’ another boat. Hum…”
Unpacking the maps from the Maribella, the group now including the Captain walked down the moorings assessing each yacht. Finally settling on the Calliope. A luxurious world-class sixty-meter yacht that showed full on all six tanks. Checking the staterooms confirmed the crew was alone on the yacht.
The Calliope, secured and they moved slowly to the unplug the yacht’s power cables from the end of the marina.
“The radio is broadcasting that the area north of Sydney is under quarantine, they are blocking all roads.” Rachel said as the Captain had started the engines warmed them up.
“Here comes the farewell party.” the Sergeant shouted. Shuffling dead were attracted to the sounds of the vessel powering up.
“Dey’ll hold up at de gate.” The Captain said.
“Yeah… no. They have pulled the gate down already.” The Archer said, the sounds of rending metal attracting more walking horror. “Captain, we need to leave.”
The redheaded Yank looked back out the window at the failed gate. “As in now.”
“As in… We has ta get de fark outta here,” Captain Roberts said.
“Agreed,” The Al said. “Forget leaving on the turn of the tide. Let us just cast off now.”
“Bloody hell! If yer’n not cast off now, just cut lines. Theys not organized, theys keep fallin’ off into the water, but I won’ ‘ave any o’ ya out dere as bait.”
Casting off, the sixty-meter yacht pulled away from the dock slowly. The motion was not missed by others on the edge of town. The dead, under control of their masters began to walk down towards the marina stopping only at the edge of water.
“Set a course,” The Captain ordered. “Use dat GPS dere, and indicate Sydney.”
Archer gave a rare smile to Stormy, putting down an arrow from his bow, Midnight.
“You were going to make a stand?” Stormy frowned.
“Stand? Hell no. I was going to shoot that transformer on the pole over there and drop the power line into the water. I’m sure we would be safe, but anything standing in the wet areas would have an exciting moment or three.” Archer winked.
“Wi’ one o’ da li’l sticks?” The Captain asked. “F’k’n’ Bullshit.”
“Captain.” Al said. “With all due respect, that man could do it. I have seen him do things a hundred paces away with those “li’l sticks” that you swear is impossible.”
The Captain shook his head land laughed.
“Den I’s glad ta has yer on my side, Yank.”