Somewhere in western Arkansas, the last two vehicles were low enough on gas that the group had to abandon them. The remaining motorcycle was already near empty from continued scavenging runs. It was two weeks since they had encountered Lucas Waller in the North Carolina mountains and left behind the Ghost Town In the Sky.
They could see the roofs of houses in the distance, so it appeared a town, or some vestige of civilization was up ahead, so they got the RV and the panel truck off the side of the road, gathered some mud and branches, and made them look like they had been there for a while. They also smeared muddy handprints on the insides of the windows, so it looked like there might be undead within the vehicles. Mike secured Henry’s old hunting rifle to the roof of the RV and switched the scope over to his M-16. Everyone grabbed some basic supplies and some weapons and set off on foot for what looked to be about a 2 mile walk to the houses they could see in the distance.
The houses turned out to be a gated subdivision that looked like it had been abandoned in the early days of the outbreak. The neighborhood of nice one and two-story homes was surrounded by a 12-foot high brick wall. An abandoned guard house sat behind a pair of sturdy iron gates. The lettering next to the gates proclaimed the community to be Skyler Estates.
The iron gates of Skyler Estates were secured from the inside by a large tow chain and large Master lock that both looked brand new. From the outside, there appeared to be no residents remaining in the community, but that shiny new lock and chain seemed to indicate otherwise.
Mike climbed to the top of the wall, while Thomas and Trip walked a circuit around the exterior perimeter. As they were walking the perimeter, Mike whistled loudly, which elicited no response from the community, but did serve to summon a few of the local living dead populace to start shambling in the direction of the place.
As everyone gathered before the gates, the lock was picked and the group quickly moved through the gates while they were locked behind them. Most of the initial wave of shamblers received the pointy ends of knives or fire axes before the group moved further into the neighborhood.
Past the enpty guard house, the group saw that every single house on the first cross street had an “X” painted on or near the front door in dayglo orange spray paint. Trip opened the garage door of the first house, and while it didn’t contain a vehicle, it did contain a wheelbarrow, which was used to move a large number of the shamblers outside to the ditch across the street, though more were still arriving as they worked. Finally, they abandoned the corpse removal and ventured into one of the houses near the entrance. They moved carefully, covering both entrances to the house and finally hearing the telltale moaning coming from the master bathroom area of the house. They found the ubiquitous orange “X” sprayed on the door to this room as well. Thomas tried to kick the door in, so he and Bryce could dispatch the shamblers within, but it bounced off one of the undead and rebounded shut, after which those shamblers in the room began piling against the door.
Leaving the house behind, the group began to check others, finding nearly the same scenario, or some variation, in every house in the neighborhood. Every house, that is, except one single story home in the back corner, farthest from the gate. There was no orange “X” on this door.
Entering carefully, Trip took the lead, whistling and talking loudly to himself, trying to project that the group wasn’t looking to harm anyone. The group followed, methodically beginning to clear the house. Sean and Thomas went down the back hall. Sean broke down the first door on the right, which turned out to be a bathroom, but as soon as he went through, Thomas found himself looking down the business end of a shotgun. In close quarters, this looked like it could get really ugly, really fast.
The bearer of the shotgun was an extremely attractive woman, who looked confident and steady as she approached and told the group to drop their weapons. As she advanced from a bedroom doorway, another door opened and two young girls stuck their heads out. The woman told the girls to get back in the room and called out to another person for help. A man responded to the summons, coming out of the same room the woman appeared from.
After a few tense moments, everyone lowered their weapons and introductions were made. The strangers were Caitlin and Jeff Murray and their daughters Barbara and Lina. Bryce and Fabiana soon introduced their daughter, Kimmy, and Tim brought his daughter, Samantha, inside as well. Once Caitlin saw the group had children along, the two sides found some common ground and began swapping stories of the post-apocalypse world and their experiences.
The houses of this neighborhood were all strangely without vehicles, and without most obviously useful supplies. Using a ladder found in a garage, the group set up a watch post on the roof to keep an eye on the undead gathering outside the wall.
The group set up watches during the night, but the only thing that disturbed the group’s peaceful rest came from within the bedroom where Fabiana was having a little slumber party with the girls.
Kimmy and Samantha, and Brooke, who was sleeping on the living room couch, had another of their dreams. In this dream, they saw four men on horseback. One was dressed as a fireman in full firefighting gear, another as a police officer. All four looked friendly and helpful, and gave off a soothing aura. Somehow, the girls knew that they were supposed to go with these men, that if they didn’t go with them and help them, the men would die. Samantha, who was a bit older than Kimmy, and Brooke, also picked up that they could save these men, but doing so could put their own group in some danger. Otherwise, the night passed peacefully, though after the dream, Brooke joined Thomas in the master bedroom.
In the morning, the group decided to send out a scavenging party to check the nearby area for potential fuel and supplies. The group doused any flammable liquids they could find on the living dead that had gathered outside the walls of the neighborhood, and lowered two scavenged bicycles over the wall. Bryce used the crossbow to take out the walkers nearby, and Trip and Sean used the bikes to lure a large number of them away before lighting the horde on fire, which spread to large numbers of them. After turning the undead horde into a flaming undead horde, the two circled back around and were joined by Thomas, Bryce, Brooke, Mike, Caitlin, and Alison, while the rest of the group (Tim, David, Heidi, Sarah, and Jeff) stayed behind with the kids.
About half a mile from Skyler Estates, the group passed a road leading to the south. On that road, just off the road the group was on, were four men on horseback, looking stunned to see a large group of living people on this road at this time. None of them were dressed as police officers or firefighters, but Brooke could tell that these were indeed the men from her dream.
To be continued…