Dobbs: The Barrens


People don’t give me a lot of credit.

They look at me and what do they see? They see a big quiet man, a big quiet man who raises cows, keeps cattle, you know, keeps to himself. They don’t think I see. They don’t think I see what’s going on around me, outside the farm which, come to think of it, can become a kind of lonely kingdom. I get that. But I see more than you might think, and I know why I’m overlooked, written off… I mean…

I get it. I get it. What kind of grown man spends all his time around chickens, spends his mornings, afternoons, evenings shoveling cow shit and thinking about how to improve the feed?

Well, I do. I’m that kind of man. But I see what’s going on. At least, I thought I did. Now I know more, a lot more, and every night before I try to get a minute or two of sleep, I think about how I wish I didn’t know.

When I was a kid, where I grew up, you knew every single one of your neighbors. You knew them because you maybe only had two or three and they were scattered around, miles away, miles and miles with corn or soybeans filling up the space in between. You might know the people in town, you might not, but you knew your neighbors – what they grew, what kind of people they were, whether or not you could depend on them in times of need. But now, now I don’t know a single one of my neighbors. Our land might be touching, we might share a few borders, but we don’t share much of anything else.

They’re not strangers exactly, but you wouldn’t trust your kid with them and you wouldn’t naturally look to them for help or guidance. You might borrow a tractor or a pair of shovels, but you brought them right back, no wasting time, no liberties. My brother says I’m too judgmental. He says they’re men of the land just like me. But I know better. I know that when I look at their farms, their operations, there’s nothing natural about it. And I ask myself, I ask my wife: How do these people look in the mirror and smile at what they see? How do you explain to your boy or your little girl that the animals are all crammed in together like that because it’s efficient, cost-effective? Efficient? A child doesn’t understand efficient. They understand that there’s two or three chickens where there should only be one. They don’t understand market competition or international pressure, but they sure as shit understand nature, more than we think, more than we give ‘em credit for.

So maybe I’m just like a little kid, naïve in a way, but uncompromising.

And so no, I don’t trust these people, those people, whoever. Maybe my brother was right. Maybe I am judgmental, but to hell with him. I got my own ideas about how things should be, how things oughtta run, and how a man should look at an animal and see an animal, one of God’s creatures, not a handful of chicken nuggets, not a dollar bill with feathers.

I’m not explaining this real good. I’m doing what my mother used to call “justifying today what you shoulda known last week.” I hear you, Mom, I do. I hear you calling from beyond the grave, nagging me, telling me I should of known. I should of known about our neighbors; I should have seen the end of the world, of life, coming.

Anyway, I don’t know if it’s good or bad that I went to find my neighbors. When all this shit broke loose I thought: Maybe they need us, maybe they need help, because we sure as hell could use some. The god damn dead are knocking down my door – who couldn’t use a spot of help?

So we went (Maria, Sam Jr. and me) across the fields to check on them; I knew their farm, their family name, but not much else. They took over the acreage from a nice young couple that inherited something they didn’t want, a piece of an old world they weren’t quite ready for. That sad couple parked halfway down the drive when they came, hopped outta their little matchbox of a town car and sold the property in a week. They kept parking the car like that, in the middle of the drive, like they didn’t even want to commit to driving up all the way. They were halfway gone before they even got there.

Anyway, that couple left and some real shady characters took over. I say shady, my wife called them “new school” – that’s a very nice phrase for what they were, very generous, which is how my wife is. Let me explain something you might not already know: If you wanna stick around, last in a cutthroat business doing things the old way, running a ranch the way a man ought to, you gotta know about two things: Animals and people.

When we got to that farm – West Newton Oaks is what the sign said – when we got there I didn’t realize I’d be dealing with something I knew nothing about: People who aren’t people at all. People who are god damn animals.

The fields were full of those things, mean fuckers, slow but determined. They’d surprise you, jump out of the corn fields and get your arm or your leg before you even knew they were there. But we took the truck and I gunned that sucker through fences, fields, sheds, whatever. I saw my cattle being eaten alive by those things, just torn apart; at one point I couldn’t see the animals anymore, just arms flailing all over, blood, and this noise like an elephant going down, a huge, mournful sound that made your hairs stand on end. I seen a one ton bull pulled down by dozens of hands, taken down into a sea of tall grass and clawing fingers and nothing left of it but that echoing sound and a bad feeling in my stomach…

You see that kind of shit, you go for help. I don’t care how solitary you are, you go for help. So that’s what I did. I took my wife, my boy, and we went to the neighbors. Strength in numbers, I thought, lots of us against way too many of them.

But when I got to West Newton Oaks I thought maybe this shit storm had been going on for a long time. How’d I miss a thing like that? Once you got past the nice, blue-painted fences and the friendly clumps of oaks and maples, there were about six sheds and all of them cordoned off with razor wire. Razor wire ain’t meant for keeping out deer around here, it’s meant to keep out people, prying eyes.

My mom and dad, they had lots of sayings. It’s how they taught me and my brother, it’s how they managed to get a single thought through our thick skulls. Repetition, I think, it took slots of repetition and a mean old belt. Anyway, my dad would take us hunting, fishing, things you do to be alone with something bigger than yourself, something primal. He took us hunting, deep into the green, living woods and after we shot a buck and had lunch, when we were full and content and feeling like men, he’d say: “Sons, it ain’t what you do, it’s who you do it to.”

I think he was preparing us for life outside the farm. Me? I never left, but my brother did and maybe that lesson helped him. To me it just meant you don’t take a risk on somebody, you don’t hurt them unless you’re damn certain of the consequences.

It ain’t what you do, it’s who you do it to.

That son of a bitch, Roland was his name I think, he owned West Newton Oaks. I didn’t see him, not right away which was odd. I thought maybe he was dead, so I told my family to keep in the truck, to drive off without me if they had to.

The farm buildings were laid out like a circle of wagons, a bunch of long, low corrugated metal sheds protecting something in the middle. So I went there, straight to the middle looking for Roland. I heard a fire crackling somewhere, smelled it, leaves and something else, something like burnt hair. Bitter. There was a silo in the middle of the buildings and gunshots in the distance, maybe some of his boys trying to pick off the dead walking things in the fields or maybe protecting livestock. The silo sat like a big fat silver bullet right in the middle of the other sheds, and outside was a truck idling, and hitched to the truck was a covered trailer for transporting horses.

He’s leaving, I thought, he’s getting the hell out of here. Smart man. If the dead things like the living, then a farm’s the way to go – lots of hands, lots of animals, plenty of blood.

I tried to go fast; I didn’t want to leave Maria and Sam Jr. for too long. But I figured Roland might have some guns, some ammunition or maybe an idea of what the hell was going on. I didn’t like the place though, didn’t like the feel of it. It was set up too weird, not like a regular farm. And that silo presiding over all the rest of the sheds like a king in his court… It struck me as strange and it struck me as dangerous. I had a pistol on me, tucked into the back of my jeans, and that made me feel a little better but not wholly confident.

So I went inside. I didn’t knock and that could’ve been a mistake. It was dark inside and it took a minute for my eyes to adjust. There was a wet sound like dripping and I looked up; the silo was empty, totally empty, but there was a hatch in the ground like a stairwell leading down to a cellar. We had one like it in our house, but ours was attached to the back of the porch, not hidden in an empty grain silo. That’s when I started to feel real bad, shaky with nerves all over, so I kept one hand behind my back on the pistol and I eased open the hatch. There were stairs, cement stairs going down into a hazy kind of light.

I took the stairs gently and made sure not to make any noise. The bad feeling told me to do that and I obeyed it. That’s when I started to think I should just turn back, go back to my family and get the hell away from that farm. But something wouldn’t let me leave and I had to know, had to see for myself what was going on. I don’t know where that urge comes from, but I wish it wasn’t so strong and so irresistible.

There was a lantern at the bottom of the stairs and it was wet down underground, clammy like the side of a water pitcher. It smelled like pennies and sweat and mud and the lantern didn’t do much but it was enough to get me going for a few steps. There was a sound like crying, or screaming and when I looked on either side of me I saw pens, animal pens, but there weren’t any animals in them, just empty pens with buckets and little silver dishes. There was another lantern hanging a few feet on, like a marker, and I walked toward it. The crying got louder and I heard a voice, an angry voice shouting and cursing.

“Go get the truck ready,” one was saying, I couldn’t see them yet.

“I’m not going out there, are you fucking crazy?”

“You do what I fucking tell you. Go!”

I got out of the light real quick, falling back against the wall and into the shadows. Someone walked by and I just caught a glimpse of him as he walked beneath the light, saw his wide-brimmed hat and I saw the sawed-off in his right hand. If he saw my family he might get violent, but if I tried to follow he might get surprised and shoot… So I stayed, and I waited until he was gone, my back pressed against the slick wall. Then I went forward again, trying to stay on the edge of the light, out of sight. I got closer, close enough to see just what exactly was going on.

“Alright everyone listen up,” he said but the crying kept on. “I said listen! Shut up you fucking bitches!”

He cocked his gun, the sound ringing in the hollow darkness. The lady voices quieted down for a while then.

“I can’t take all of you,” he said. “Just a few, there’s no room, do you understand? NO EL ROOMO. Just four girls, you understand? Quatro ladies.”

He was wearing a plaid western shirt with a suede yoke sewed onto the neck and shoulders. He had a sawed-off like the other man and as cuffed up pair of boots. His back was to me and peering around him, their eyes gleaming like wet marbles, I saw the girls, a line of them all huddled up, pressed together against the back wall. They were filthy, streaked with mud and grit on their legs, arms, faces… They were crying again and one of them was babbling in Spanish, shaking one of the other girls.

It ain’t what you do, it’s who you do it to.

I don’t know quite what happened then, what came over me. It all sort of dawned on me at once, like a brick falling on my head right outta the sky. What he was doing… What he wanted to keep doing… I lost my mind a bit I guess, I grabbed my pistol and stood up straight and tall and marched right up to him. I plugged the gun between his shoulder blades, hard, so he knew I was serious.

It was the ranch owner. Mr. New School. Roland.

He was maybe five and a half feet tall, just a gangled shrimp of a thing, but he hefted that gun like he was something big and terrifying, like he was gonna survive me. He thought that gun made him something special. I may only have a small gun by comparison, but I’ve got eight years of playing football, of being one big, mean sack of muscle and bone and steel and when I need to put some grease behind my wheels, let me tell you, I can turn into something nasty.

My nickname in school was Bunny. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? I got it my freshman year, me, fifteen years old and already over six feet of gristled, muscled farm boy. The name Bunny came from me getting knocked by a defensive lineman in the face. He damn near tore my front teeth out, and after that they looked a little crooked and had a gap. The other guy, well he had to get stitches and the scar I left would of made a Roman legionnaire proud.

“Stay still,” I said, jabbing him with the pistol again. “It’s loaded and I ain’t gonna miss.”

“What the fuck? Now just slow down, who the fuck are you? Police?” He was shaking a little now, the gun rattling in his gnarled little hands. I smiled, he couldn’t see it but I hope he felt it.

“You’re gonna let these nice girls go, understand?”

“Fuck you.”

“Fuck me? I don’t think so, friend. If there’s one of us getting fucked today, it’s you and I ain’t in the mood for being gentle,” I said. “Now you do what I say, you let these girls go and maybe I’ll go easy on you.”

“Fuck,” he whispered, shaking his head, “Fuck!” He fumbled for his pockets and I let ‘im. He wasn’t goin’ anywhere. His right hand came up with a key ring and I heard the girls sigh in chorus. I poked him with the gun.

“Go on,” I said. “You do what you have to.”

Roland stumbled forward, aided by my boot to his backside, and he set down the gun and started groping the girls feet, looking for the padlock that secured the chain running through their leg irons. After a minute or two he found it, with the girls squealing and recoiling from him like he was a rat running over their shins. There was a soft click, and then he yanked the chain free.

“Get up,” I said to the girls. Nobody moved. “Vaya, ahora,” I said. “Uh, están todas libres,” I added, wishing Maria was there to help me. “Su arma,” I said, nodding to the shotgun, “Arma, escopeta, toma.” It was enough. The girl that had been babbling darted forward and picked up the shotgun, cradling it like it was made of glass. “Vaya.”

She stood and the other girls followed, creeping after her, watching me carefully like I might change my mind. They filed past, one or two of them touching my forearm. Just a little touch, a tiny thanks.

It ain’t what you do, it’s who you do it to.

“And you,” I said, kicking him hard in the knee, “you god damn piece of human garbage. You’re dead, friend, you’re fucking dead.”

“Those girls,” he stammered, holding up his hands, clambering back toward the wall, “They’re okay, right? I didn’t hurt them! I didn’t hurt them they’re okay, they’re okay oh Jesus, please, they’re not hurt!”

I don’t know these people. Where do they come from? How did we let them slip by? He was my neighbor and I sat on my ranch, looking at my family, my livestock and this was going on. The New School, I think and my hand is shaking uncontrollably, animals in cages, women in cages. These people are animals.

“Yeah I’m sure you woulda seen to that eventually.”

He screams. I shoot his hand, the right one, and then the left one. He wriggles around like a fly losing its wings. I shoot his foot, then the other one. The blood is running fast on the muddy concrete, making for my shoes. I step to the right, letting it flow beyond me into the darkness. Then I shoot him in the side, it won’t kill him for a while, but he’ll get a nice long time to think about what he’s done. Time out, my mother called it, time out.

When I get above ground again the girls are getting into the wagon, the one with the gun is sitting in the passenger seat of the truck while another one dressed in a pink teddy and black swim bottoms gets behind the wheel. They call out to me as I pass, but I can’t hear them, don’t want to.

My wife and kid are out of the truck, surrounded. The dead things have broken through. I watch my wife beat one over the head with a crowbar from the truck. I’m running, sprinting, shooting, but it’s too late, my son is on the ground, clawing deep lines into the earth, a farm hand gnawing on his leg.

I can hear my gun fire and the sound of my heart and I’m too late. I’m too late.


11 Responses to “Dobbs: The Barrens”

  1. Richard Aken Says:

    I’m alone and my battery low. I need to know someone else is out there, I haven’t seen anyone for almost two weeks now. Please keep posting, it gives me hope. If I can’t find a way to charge my laptop soon I’m going to be stuck. Please some news on where to go? I’ll check once every few days for a reply.

  2. I’ve lost track of time. It’s been weeks, maybe a month. Even looking at the date on this laptop, if it’s right, I still don’t know what day it is.

    What I do know, is I was bitten by one of them.

    Another thing I know, I’m not one of them.

    When I was bitten, I was kinda freaked out, and I know Josh was. But we set up a system, I’d lock my ass to the strongest, sturdiest piece of nailed, bolted, or screwed down thing with a pair of handcuffs, all day every day. After about two weeks, not too sure on the timing exactly, the wound turned brown then black. You know, that black that makes you dizzy when you look at it. Deep dark endless pitch, whatever you want to call it. Oh and lemme tell you…. it hurt, but a few days later it started bleeding again, the black faded to brown, then to red then finally, it looked like a good old fashioned scab. The way nature had intended it.

    Since those days… I’ve been running for my life. I heard that Allison ran off to find a doctor with a rag-tag group of … assholes. Yeah well… I wasn’t looking for assholes, but they sure as hell found me. I’m not entirely sure what the fuck they want from me, but they sure as hell ain’t gonna get it. Ain’t right you know, living fighting living while the dead are roaming around. Sick bastards, I know I shot a couple of them, bet I slowed ’em down enough to get fucking eaten. I know it’s wrong, but somehow it makes me feel good knowing that those … gene pool diminishing assholes are getting eaten by some dead, half rotten unfeeling things. Fitting punishment, the unfeeling being eaten by the nonliving.

    I guess what I’m really here to tell you all about… Josh… he gave his life to save mine. We ended up in a large sewer system, how we got there isn’t really important and I’m not sure I’d remember it right anyway. Anyway, I remember thinking that the smell of shit was better than the smell of rotting body, I even made a comment to Josh, and we shared a good laugh. Something I think we needed then more than ever.

    We wandered down this tunnel for hours, taking left turns and right turns randomly. For the record, random is bad when wandering in the sewers, especially if it was all built at the same time. Everything looks the same.

    Eventually we got tired and decided to find a place to hole up for a while, up. Yeah, zombies can climb stairs, I’ve even seen a few manage to climb up some pretty steep rubble, but sight range is key. We climbed up the next access ladder we found, Josh went first.

    Once we got to the street, we realized how bad a decision that access ladder was. We were in the heart of a huge business district, and the only thing that comes to mind recently about “huge” and “business” is pretty straightforward… “Lots of Them”. We weren’t disappointed.

    Not entirely sure how, but we got separated in the confusion, and somehow we both ended up on top of two separate box vans, zombies clawing at the sides, howling and moaning. Josh yelled these words exactly, “You have to live. If anyone is going to find a weapon against these fuckers, You have to Live” weapon, since we had already discussed that even if you “cured” one, they’d just die from their wounds. Without waiting for me to say anything back, he jumped off the top of his van screaming for me to run, and shot the door of a nearby car, setting off the alarm. Turns out… they *are* attracted to high pitched sounds.

    I ran.

    • Jason Reeves,survivor in Dallas, Texas Says:

      I don’t use gun they just give off sound and light, you kill one braindead mother fucker, and 20 more come after you cause they hear the gunshot, my group and I, Jack, kristy, and, Dax go subtle, we gather supplies as quietly as possibil, and if we are spotted, I use my Bat, kristy has a golf club, Jack has a fireaxe and Dax has another bat, and we are all above average atheletes, so we can run for a long time, we have a safehouse, we took a hotel room and fortified the 2nd floor room we share with cast iron, iron, steel, and wood, and as luck would have it, kristy was in training as a paramedic, jack was in the police force, Dax and I both played football for our highschool,so god be praised I fell in with a skilled group such as this, be safe allison and all you other survivors, and Good Hunting.

  3. I miss the days when we got a new Allison story everyday! I still check everyday 🙂

  4. Richard Aken Says:

    Need info, lost. battery about to go out. please.

    • Midwest Help Says:

      I can tell you the only advice that has worked for me… Search out every place a sick twisted solitary misfit might run to. Start with Radio Shack. The infected seem to shun the location at all costs.

      • Richard Aken Says:

        I can’t thank you enough, with the help of a crank powered emergency radio and some basic supplies from Radio Shack, I was able to put together a recharger of sorts, took most of the last two days to get it to work. Trial and error. Hey though, the same situation exists though, I am at a loss on where I should be heading. I need to avoid all these religious cults and crazies, not sure I’d fit in so well. Hey, did have something strange happen yesterday. I know I wasn’t dreaming this, but I went an entire day without seeing one of “Them”. Not sure what to make of that.

  5. sarahofthedead Says:

    two updates in two months. what’s happened allison? where are you?

  6. Jason Reeves, Survivor in Dallas, Texas Says:

    Jake is mad that I put “Dax” instead of jake…I apologize if I caused confusion, Dax was a dear friend of mine who I witnessed eaten alive…or atleast he would have been untill I crushed his skull with my bat….that was 3 weeks ago, and I still have nightmares about it, I forgot he was no longer with us, I miss him so much.

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