Vol. 2, Issue #20 October 26th - November 8th, 2007

The Gunship: Zombie Killers, Rock 'n' Rollers (Part 1)
By: Nathan Winfrey

The shotgun blast rang out like a thunderclap, powerful enough that they could feel it in their clothes, and loud enough to leave ears ringing long after the deserted buildings around them ceased their game of ricocheting resonance.

A thick tendril of smoke snaked from the barrel of Dave’s sawed-off Mossberg 500 like a ghostly finger tracing an otherworldly symbol in the dust-filled air, the strangely yellow light from the just-risen sun drawing slanting beams through high windows and between the tightly-packed buildings that formed a synthetic canyon down Main Street. Crumpled a meter from where Dave stood, a ruined human form was now a heap of bloody rags and oddly-pointing appendages. A shredded stump, with a splintered column of white bone sticking from its center, hinted at where a head existed moments before.

Behind Dave stood others: Patrick the demolitions expert balanced a heavy rocket launcher on his right shoulder, Dr. Bob gripped a machete in each hand and his brown-haired girlfriend Helene held a compound bow with one hand and steadied a makeshift pillowcase quiver stuffed with homemade arrows with the other.

Behind the dead thing stood a small army. Standing on the hoods of wrecked cars and packed close together in the littered street, dozens of zombies watched the quartet with dead eyes—pale and glassy, yet focused. Their bodies were varying hues of blue, but mostly gray. They were in varying states of decomposition, their skin torn in places to reveal a network of muscles and pale white bone. The stench of death was overpowering.

It had been days since zombies had eaten, and though they were no longer conscious of the passage of time, and were unable to feel the emptiness of their own stomachs or digest what was delivered there, a furious energy buzzed through the horde just the same.

The next three minutes were a slaughter. The four humans fired into the wall of reanimated bodies that ambled toward them, the loud blasting of Dave’s shotgun and the pop, pop of Patrick’s .22 rang out for miles. Rotted flesh parted in a splash of dark, coagulated blood with each impact. Dr. Bob pulled on his goggles to protect his eyes from infected blood and tore into the fray with his dual machetes, hacking off any limb that stuck out.

A dusty, suit-and-tie zombie crept forward on a mangled leg, with clawing fingers outstretched, hobbling toward them with its lifeless jaws working absently. Helene sent a well-aimed arrow through its left eye and its head snapped back, yellow teeth and the near-black roof of its mouth visible before it fell onto the growing pile. The ghouls reached with outstretched fingers and moaned pathetically, but they were dying quickly. None of them really stood any chance against the team of hunters. The undead began to crumple and fall back onto one another, defeated, their brains destroyed or their heads removed completely.

With a sound like a Coke can spewing its contents, a single rocket left Patrick’s tube-like launcher and sailed into the thickest part of the zombie multitude. The fireball erupted like a red orchid blooming in fast motion, and the heat was tremendous. Pieces of steel and fragments of zombies rained down all around them, and on the street, where the zombies bottlenecked between abandoned cars, was now a dark, goopy mess like a fresh oil slick.

The outbreak started on the last day before Labor Day weekend, a day which some now called Dead Friday. It was a virus, they were now sure of that, but its symptoms were unlike any previously known to science, and its origin was still a complete mystery. It seemed to pop up everywhere at once, and when the body succumbed to the fever and reached clinical death, that’s when the bug really went to work. “Zombie” had been a word most avoided at first, but now, nearly two months later and just a stone’s throw from Halloween, it was just about the only word on everyone’s lips.

All major cities were overrun and many were unsalvageable, burned to the ground by looters and lightning storms or irradiated by unmonitored nuclear reactors. The places people ran to first—hospitals, police stations, churches—became the most dangerous, and those who were dumb enough to seek refuge at any of the makeshift military bases that popped up in those first days were quickly drafted for the war against the undead or left in loosely-guarded camps that were quickly overtaken. The world had ostensibly ended on that day, Dead Friday, and now all there was to do was wait. At least, that was the stance most of the survivors had taken. But not The Gunship.

Patrick drove the dilapidated van they’d found just outside of town and managed to start with a few twirls of a screwdriver and a good kick. Dr. Bob and Helene talked quietly in the back and David slumped in the passenger seat, asleep for the first time in two days, his wild blond hair pressed against the window as his dreaming mind took him to places that now only existed in their memories: their home in Moore, favorite hangouts, different venues they used to play at.

The Gunship started as a rock n’ roll band before the outbreak—with Dave on guitar and singing, Patrick on bass and backup vocals and Dr. Bob on drums, but ever since circumstances drafted them into the war against the undead, along with Dr. Bob’s girlfriend Helene, the four survivors turned their attention to zombie extermination. Now, silence and undetection are the key to survival, making the thought of again playing music to a live audience a fantasy. That was until word of Survivorfest reached them, a music festival in Norman where the living planned to use loud music to draw the dead in for annihilation.

Along the deserted country road on which they drove, stretched all the way to the horizon, marched a relatively organized line of zombies headed for some far-away destination. The chain likely spread for miles, perhaps hundreds. From what little they understood about zombie behavior, they knew the undead operated something like ants. Lone zombies would act as scouts, and as their moaning reaction to a found meal carried on the wind, other zombies would answer the dinner call, which would in turn summon more of them. Since they were creatures that never grew tired nor gave up, such chains could be formed over the discovery of a single living person, if food was scarce enough.

Up ahead, the meandering procession crossed the road. Patrick accelerated and socked through the chain, turning a few of its links into meaty piles of gore with a series of loud thumps. The impact woke Dave, and as his eyes focused on the eerie scene outside their window, he noticed something that caused him to sit up and ask Patrick to stop the car.

“What is it?” Patrick asked as he eased his foot on the brake, curious and slightly annoyed, not to mention a bit uneasy about stopping this close to a zombie meal train.

“That,” Dave said, pointing, “that strange pile of zombies over there, right off the road. Why aren’t they in line with the others?”

The van now at a stop, Patrick looked where Dave was pointing and saw the mound of writhing bodies in a slight recess of earth just off the road like Dave said. Dr. Bob and Helene were now leaning forward, looking as well.

“Are they eating something?” Dr. Bob asked.

“I don’t know,” Dave said. “But look, all around them; look at that mess.”

The long, brittle grass around which the scene unfolded was caked with coagulated zombie blood; it was obviously not human because of its dark, oily color. Scattered throughout the corona of blood was an assortment of body parts—arms and legs, feet, torsos with an appendage or two still attached and a variety of severed heads. It appeared that whoever did the dismembering was now under the ghoulish dogpile, but none of them had ever seen zombies pile up on a kill like that.

Dave grabbed his shotgun and .22 from the floorboard and stepped out of the car. Dr. Bob hesitated, and then did the same.

“Where the hell are they going?” Helene asked Patrick, who watched his friends with matched confusion. “I don’t know, I—” he started to say, but then he heard Helene’s door and noticed that she’d gone, too. Giving in, Patrick unbuckled his seatbelt and gave the handle of his door a yank.

The four now watched together, and the zombies didn’t appear to notice them. Dave aimed his pistol and started shooting the piled-up ones, Patrick, Dr. Bob and Helene using their .22’s as well. The weaker handguns were perfect for dealing with zombies because there wasn’t enough force behind the bullets to make exit wounds. Instead, they would rattle around inside the skull, doing all sorts of damage.

When the bullets struck, the zombies would hang on for a moment or two, and then release their grip and slide to the ground. It didn’t take long to shrink the pile considerably, and none of them expected what happened next: a silver arm suddenly burst from underneath, a bloodied sword lifted triumphantly. They stopped firing and watched as the arm swung the medieval weapon in great arcs, slicing pieces off the zombies that still crowded around the figure beneath. Eventually, they were whittled away and an impressive figure pressed through the remaining few and wobbled to its feet, covered from head to toe in an authentic suit of armor, complete with a sloping helmet and intricate engravings on the breastplate.

After some fancy swordwork on the last five, a final blow split an undead body from the crook of its neck to its navel. The knight fancifully lopped off the zombie’s head with a flourish and sent it spinning like a fleshy comet, a stringy trail of goo arcing through the air behind it. Once the deed was done, the knight raised his visor to reveal a kind face with bushy white eyebrows.

“Thank you!” he shouted, “Thank you for helping me get out from under there. They had me pinned for almost a day.”

His rescuers looked at him with astonishment, then at each other.

“You wouldn’t happen to have any canteens in that van, would you?” he asked politely, as if he’d just rolled down his limousine window to ask for gourmet mustard. “It got very hot under there and it made me quite thirsty.”

Without hesitance, Patrick reached into the van, grabbed a bottle of water and tossed it to the man. He caught it with a one chain mail gauntlet, shook off his other glove and unscrewed the lid with his bare hand. He tilted his head back and started pouring the lukewarm Aquafina down his throat. The four standing on the side of the road watched in amazement as he drained the entire bottle, screwed the lid back on and tossed the empty bottle back to Patrick.


Patrick nodded.

The knight looked around, seemed to make note of the long line of zombies training into the horizon, and sheathed his sword. He began a slow walk forward, his heavy iron boots finding squishy pieces of chopped-up zombies with nearly every step. He was covered from visor to spurs in gore. Finally, he reached the road and pulled off his helmet. The rest of his face was equally pleasant, his deep crowsfeet and the loose skin of his newly-exposed neck placing his age at about sixty.

“I used to be called Dr. Troxel, by my students,” the knight said, “but now, since I guess titles don’t mean shit and people don’t normally stay alive long enough to learn each others’ last names, you all can just call me James.”

The four introduced themselves, and each of them shook his clean hand, the other hand still housed in a glove glistening with hundreds of tiny chain links and a generous coating of infected blood.

“Your students?” Dave asked.

“Yes,” James said. “I was a professor of humanities at the University of Oklahoma for the better part of the last half-century, and I’d even managed to reach tenure before this all happened. I was headed north to Oklahoma City to see if I could do anything to help the fighting there—assuming there is fighting there—when I stumbled upon this bizarre little procession.” He indicated the shambling trail of slow-moving zombies with his gloved hand. “It seemed I could keep at them until I reached the front of the line, and that was what I had planned to do, until this damned costume tripped me up and they started falling on top of me.”

“You walked from Norman in that suit of armor, all by yourself?” Patrick asked.

“Well,” James explained, “I wasn’t alone at first,” his head dropped a bit and his voice became solemn, “but my friends were either killed or turned, leaving that dreadful, final responsibility resting upon my shoulders. I alone had this armor, you see.” He accentuated the point by tapping his breastplate with his gloved hand. “It’s cumbersome, and I can barely see through the visor when it’s down, but it protects me.”

James pointed to the zombies marching into the distance and his perpetually bright expression turned momentarily dark, his snowy eyebrows furrowed above narrowed eyes, his upper lip curling almost imperceptibly. Then like a passing storm cloud, the moment was gone and he looked back at his saviors with a broad smile.

The band and Helene explained Survivorfest and what its purpose was, and instantly James was eager to participate. They stowed the bulk of his armor in the back of the van, but James insisted he keep his sword with him. It now rested awkwardly between his knees, blade down.

As they sped along the empty road, James riding shotgun while Dr. Bob drove, the distant sky was black with smoke from far away places hopelessly on fire.

“No more fire brigades,” James said somberly when he noticed Dr. Bob looking at the charcoal-like smudges on the white sky.

Dr. Bob nodded. Below the smoke, the zombie parade continued parallel to the road, though it was hard to pick out individual zombies from the fast-moving van. James absorbed the scene with wonder.

“Are you familiar with the artwork of Hieronymus Bosch?” he asked his driver.

Dr. Bob thought for a moment. The name sounded vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t place it. He shook his head.

“He was a famous painter who lived, oh, about 500 years ago, and one of the things he was known for was his interpretations of hell. Dark, ominous skies and gatherings of horrible creatures on bleak landscapes were recurrent imagery. Disgusting things; far worse-looking than these zombies. Snouts and tusks, and hair in places it shouldn’t be. Wings. Thank God they don’t have wings. But I wonder what Bosch would think if he saw this.”

Dr. Bob had no idea what Bosch would think, but he was thankful that there was now someone around who thought about such things. He was glad they found James and were able to rescue him, and that he was with them now.

“You think they’re headed for Norman?” James asked, finally.


“Then I guess we’ll be seeing them all again real soon.”

To find out what happens to The Gunship, check out the second half of this story in our next issue, Nov. 9! Also, be sure to dress up in your grossest zombie costume and attend The Gunship’s tour kickoff show tonight, Friday Oct. 26, at 10:30 p.m. at the Deli, 309 White Street in Norman with Johnathan Owens from Little Rock opening. They will debut their new EP, “Aim for the Head.” Admission is $5 at the door.

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©2007 NONCO Media, L.L.C.