February 25, 2019
“Martial law” is such a funny phrase. At first glance, it definitely looks like “marital law”, but “marital law” and “martial law” are too very different ideas.
“Marital law” is something I joke about with Alex* – if you make me a promise, you stick to it.
“Martial law” is what happened to the country after Outbreak Day – a bunch of military assholes come steamrolling into town and take over, ranting about “maintaining order” and some other “here to keep peace” bullshit.
Unfortunately, their version of “peace” is what my political science classes would have described as “militant oppression.” The Federal Disaster Response Agency – FEDRA, if you’re lazy – and what was left of the government set up military rule in every Quarantine Zone nationwide once it was clear the situation was out of hand. We’re still in Buffalo, at the “Canalside QZ”, but we’ve heard about similar set-ups in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Denver, and Boston. Some of them are worse than others, and not all of them are still standing.
I’ve spent the better part of the last 6(!) years in QZ. Once the dust settled at UB, FEDRA raided the campus. I was huddled in that abandoned wing writing “Apocalypse 101”, the Great American Novel. According to the crumpled pages I just found at the bottom of an old bag, I made it to Rule #12 before I was forced into QZ and life regained a deranged sense of normalcy. I stopped thinking about “survival” and started thinking about keeping my head down. I watched FEDRA shoot innocents in the street. People I knew. For no real reason. All in the name of “civility.”
Now, though, it seems like I should start writing again. There’s a palpable sense of unrest in the QZ. They’ve told us there’s a food shortage, and we should only expect to receive half-rations for the foreseeable future. Anyone without the proper ration cards is on their own. Those of us they consider “able-bodied” are drafted and forced to work details inside and outside of the city. I work the wall. Shoot infected on sight. It’s pretty miserable, but these days, what isn’t?
Alex made friends with (smuggles alcohol to) one of the FEDRA agents, and when he drinks, he talks. QZ radio signals are dropping like flies. Recons say it’s hordes of infected and folks who’ve had enough. We’ve heard more and more about a rogue militia group attacking QZ’s, calling themselves “the Fireflies”. They want democracy back, and they want a cure for whatever the hell all of this is. Them and everyone else.
Thing is, if something like that happens here, Alex and I won’t be able to rely on QZ walls to keep us alive anymore. As bad as this place is, at least it’s kept out the infected. Luckily, should we end up on our own, my time faithfully guarding our hollowed grounds has taught me a thing or two about what we’d be up against. I was thinking about jotting down a guide for Alex to have, keep him safe, and then I remembered this journal. So, without further ado, my latest additions to “Apocalypse 101.” For everyone to enjoy. Six years in the making.
Types of Infected and How to Kill Them
There are really only a couple ways to be infected. You get bit, or you breathe in a bunch of parasitic spores that make you hack up a lung and turn your brain into plant-powered, flesh-eating mush. Once you’re infected, there’s no going back. That’s why FEDRA agents normally just shoot suspected infectees where they stand. False positive or not.
If you’ve got that Cordyceps in your system, you’ve got two days left of being you. After that, you’re one of them. You’ll lose control of yourself. Irritable, violent, twitchy. Skin pale, covered in lesions. Eyes glossed over, hair falling out. We call infected in this early stage “Runners“, because, well, they’re still fast. Agile. Erratic.
Runners are the easiest type of infected to kill, so long as you’re able to keep them separated. A horde of them will overrun you quick. It’s too much flailing at the same time. If you see more than a few Runners in any area, approach with caution and take them out silently.
Silence and patience are the keys to everything outside the walls.
All types of infected are triggered by loud noises; they make them go nuts. Most of them can’t see, but Runners can. Stay out of their line of sight unless you think you can take them on. Like I said, they’re pretty easy to bury. Aside from an insatiable need to eat every living thing they can find, they’re still mostly human. That means anything that could kill a person will kill a Runner. Gun to the torso, knife to the throat, baseball bat to the head. You name it.
It’s smart to clear your area of Runners because if you don’t, they’ll become something a lot worse. That being said, killing them has probably been the least enjoyable experience of my life. They’re still mostly human, which means a little bit of who they used to be is still in there somewhere. Runners cry, and they moan, and they screech. They know what they are now, but they can’t stop it. Some of them won’t even attack. They just stand there, hunched over, fighting themselves. It’s horrible. Like putting down a sick dog.
Honestly, my least favorite infected type. Insanely creepy. This is what you become in the weeks and months after infection. Somewhere between human and monster. You’ll likely hear a “Stalker” before you see them, and by the time you see them, it may be too late.
At this point in their infection, the Stalkers have begun growing a sort of fungal armor on their bodies. They’re stronger too, so you’re not gonna be able to kill them with your fists like a Runner, or sneak up behind them for a choke-out. In fact, stealth is probably not an option for you here at all. That’s their game, and they’re great at it.
Stalkers still have a little eyesight and they’ve got their speed. They love dark rooms and places to hide. The Cordyceps has spread to their neck and faces, so they can’t make human noises anymore. It’s just croaking sounds, and they use them as a form of echolocation. Once they know you’re there, they’ll start up their modus operandi. They hide behind corners, in walls, and crouch where you can’t see them. That croaking is the only thing that gives them away. When you turn your back, they’ll sprint to the next hiding spot. Closer and closer.
The best way to combat them is with a strategy of your own. Don’t charge them, or try to fight them head-on. You’ll lose. They travel better than you. Stay back, set traps, and plan every movement. If you can lure them out of hiding and into a pipe bomb, do that. If you can’t, strap up with the heaviest weapon you’ve got and wait until they jump at you. Follow the croaks and the one glowing eye until they’re near enough to fire a shotgun at. Just know what else might be in the room with you, and what the sudden sound of an explosive might do when it goes off.
You can throw bricks and bottles around to confuse them if you’d like. Make them think you’re somewhere else. But that doesn’t always work.
These are the famous ones. The way people talk about them in QZ’s, you’d think they were the only ones. They’re certainly the most annoying. “Clickers” are what you get after about a year of letting human DNA stew with Cordyceps fungus. Stronger than the average person and nastier than a toilet after Mardi Gras.
Clickers get their name from the way they survive. With no eyes, they make clicking sounds to get around and hunt for prey. Echolocation, like the Stalkers. Only at this point, they’re more plants than humans. Shocking to look at. Usually very little clothing, on account of the fungal growths tearing through it all. No faces, just mushroom-like masses on top of wet cryptid bodies. They do have teeth, though. And they’re sharp.
All those growths make for a pretty solid form of protection. You could shoot one point-blank in the head, and the shrapnel wouldn’t even puncture the skull. You either need a lot of ammo or incredible precision to bring a Clicker down. If you can move quietly and get close, you can slip a knife, or shiv, under their fungal plating for an instant kill. This also applies to immaculate arrow shots. With no vision, you don’t have to hide from them. You just might want to avoid making a peep if they’re turned in your direction. Typically, a Clicker will just stand there and claw at it’s own face until it thinks about dinner. If it knows food is nearby, it won’t leave until it’s full.
Like any tree or garden before them, Clickers are very susceptible to fire. A well-tossed Molotov cocktail or fully-functional flamethrower will put an end to their misery if you can manage to get your hands on that sort of thing. Otherwise, it’s recommended you don’t engage unless well-equipped to blow through fungus. Especially if there’s more than one Clicker in the area. That’s just asking to die.
A “Bloater” is a Clicker left to rot for too long. Years of fungal build-up. Incredibly rare, and something you should hope never to see. Their name is well-earned. Massive, big-old turds. I’m talking bear-sized or bigger. Like, “you-stand-very-little-chance-of-walking-away” large.
Most of the tactics that apply to Clickers also apply here, only on steroids. Nobody has the kind of ammo needed to shoot one of these things to death, so your best route of action is to turn tail and get your ass out of wherever you are. If that’s not in the cards, you better hope you have specific, armor-piercing bullets loaded (a hunting rifle is surprisingly effective) or another tank for that flamethrower. Don’t even think about going hand-to-hand with a Bloater. It will literally rip your jaw out of your face and start beating you with it. These guys are brutal, physical, and hungry.
Keeping your distance won’t work against Bloaters either. It’s better than facing them up close, but they’ve got a special kind of growth that feels designed by Satan just to screw with us. A Bloater can grow bulbs of mycotoxin on its body, and if it knows you’re there, it will start whipping them across the room at you until you can’t breathe anymore. Rough.
Their only real weaknesses are these: they’re dumb and slow. You can trick them into hurting themselves if you’re smart enough about it. Let them ram into walls or walk into pools of gasoline. Fun stuff if you’re sick in the head.
We’ve covered the main four stages of infection, but I have heard tell of other variants roaming different parts of the country. “Shamblers” are essentially just soaked Bloaters, which apparently exist in coastal cities. They’re so full of liquid they just spray their mycotoxin directly from their torso, no bulbs required. They explode when they die, too. So stay clear after they hit the ground.
The craziest rumor I’ve heard is that some infected can get all tangled up with each other, and grow into a single terrifying mass. Never seen it myself. No idea how you’d handle that predicament. Would probably have to take myself out if I ever came across it.
Rules #13-17, When You Kill Them Make Sure They’re Dead
Still reading? Good. All of that was wildly important. The infected are no joke, and knowing how to deal with them is one of the most important survival skills a person can have. In order to emphasize this, I’ve grouped the last four rules – each type of infected and how to kill them – under one umbrella. I’ve also named this section of “Apocalypse 101′ after something I make Alex promise every time he sneaks out of QZ. It’s part of our “marital law.”
When you kill them, make sure they’re dead.
*(I guess it’s been a while since I last wrote in here. I’ve got some life updates! Remember that shuffling I heard in the abandoned wing of UB? That was Alex. I wasn’t alone in there. He found himself a hiding spot and stuck to it, only leaving for supplies at night. He’s like a very handsome Stalker, who never once tried to kill me. We agreed to help each other survive, and found ourselves sharing a bed not long after. He’s been the one thing I’ve had since Outbreak Day. My only family. He hasn’t been drafted yet, but he keeps his days busy smuggling supplies in and out of the QZ. Big network of that growing underground. I hate it, but I trust him. We both know what we’re doing.
Almost makes me think we’d be better off living with the Clickers than FEDRA…)