The dogs needed to go out.
No matter how much had changed, their routine was still the same. Before they ate their breakfast or dinner–they were only fed twice a day–they went out to take a piss. The little one would take a dump, too. Then it was back inside for the meal, then back outside so the big one could take his dump. Then back inside, where they both got a treat, usually a piece of ice, which they loved.
It worked in his favor now that long ago the two canines had learned to do their business in the back yard, without having to go for walks. The back yard was still protected by the fences, no section of which had yet to be pushed over. Then again, they hadn’t suffered a mass outbreak in their area yet, so there hadn’t been sufficient numbers to push over–or through, as he’d heard reports of–the fence.
His hand touched the SIG on his hip. It never left his side, yet he checked it all the same any time he was going to open the door to the house. It was his constant companion, because he never knew when he might have to use it. And he had had to use it. More than he cared to ever remember.
He picked up the Remington shotgun next to the back door. It was a nearly constant companion, and it had cousins at the front door, the door in to the garage, and in other rooms throughout the house. Because he never knew when he might have to use them. And he had had to use them.
He checked the breech, even though he knew there was a shell in there. He always kept the weapons loaded, with a round in the chamber, safety off, ready to go. Because you never knew when you might have to use them RIGHT NOW, when you wouldn’t have time to shove in a magazine, to pop in shells, to rack the slide.
He tested the flashlight mounted to the underside of the shotgun, confirming it still functioned flawlessly. It had been a worthwhile investment, having saved his hide more than once when stepping out in to the back yard with the dogs.
He lifted one of the blinds, peeking out in to the darkness lit by a pair of floodlights. The deck was empty. The playset was empty. Just as it had been for more than a year now. There was no longer anyone in the house to play on it.
He always peeked out. Just as he did out the front door, just as he did through the peep hole he’d cut in the big metal garage door. The dogs served as excellent early warning systems, but he always peeked just the same. You never knew.
“Let’s go boys,” he said to the mutts at his feet.
Hoisting the Remington to his shoulder, the muzzle canted down, he opened the door. The dogs squeezed past his legs, out on to the deck. They paused for a moment, sniffing the air. Then the larger, and older, of the two stepped off the deck on to the grass, sniffing the ground. The smaller one mulled about on the deck.
He walked outside and closed the door, listening to the falling night. A dog barked in the distance. It was about four blocks over, he knew. It was a dog that hadn’t learned yet, a dog that would be useless to its master in serving the function as early warning system. It was a distraction, and he wished it was kept inside.
He heard some shrieks of laughter, from kids. They should be going inside soon. He hoped their parents were at least checking on them regularly. The occasional auto passed by the main street nearby. Otherwise, it was quiet. Quiet was always good.
Not a zombie wail to be heard.
He walked around the yard, using the mounted flashlight to check the gates. It never hurt just to check. He still wasn’t sure how the three zombies he’d killed in the back yard over the last year had even gotten in. The undead really weren’t known for manipulation of objects, even simple ones like the gate latch.
He’d been really stupid about the first one. It had been something of a surprise; the zombie had gotten in to the back yard through the left-side gate, but then apparently had gotten confused. Or at least confused for a creature without higher-level brain functions. It just stayed in the corner by the gate, and when he’d made his sweep, it turned to face him.
It hadn’t been the first time he’d encountered an undead, but it was the closest he’d been to one yet, and it was the first one he’d put down himself. He’d been shocked, even scared. He’d nearly pissed his pants. But he managed to keep his composure long enough to line up the head in the Remington’s ghost ring and put the slug round through it. He called the disposal hotline before puking in the back corner of the yard, by the telephone junction box.
“First zombie kill?” one of the disposal techs had asked him as he sat in one of the deck chairs, shotgun across his lap, wiping his mouth for the umpteenth time. He’d only nodded, not looking at his questioner.
The tech, to his credit, hadn’t pushed it farther than that. He’d merely nodded and gone back to his work, which included dousing the part of the yard where zombie splatter had sprayed. “You’re going to lose the grass in this section,” the tech told him. He’d merely nodded in reply as the tech dropped a match.
The disposal squad was efficient, and nicely so, considering their area hadn’t seen a large outbreak. Twenty minutes after their arrival, they departed, leaving him shaken on the back deck. The whole time they’d been there, he hadn’t moved from the deck chair. He stayed there another half hour before he felt able to stand. It was another five minutes before he felt confident his legs would move, and he was able to go inside.
Tonight the yard was empty, as it should be. The mutts completed their business, and they all made their way back inside the house. Until the morning…
The above was a stream-of-consciousness quick piece of fiction I banged out a few months back while trying out Writer, “the internet typewriter”. Blame my nightly routine with our two dogs. Blame, at the time, random conversations with Nathan regarding Max Brooks’ zombie books, or the, again, at the time, public consciousness of Will Smith’s I Am Legend. Whatever the influence, it is what it is.