The Nord

by Cameron Neilson


         Stepping out from the somber, dark green of the woods, Sgt. Olaf VanVanderson casually slung his shotgun over one shoulder, pulled the brim of his straw cowboy hat down low on his forehead, and surveyed the surrounding farmland. He was a tall man, standing near seven feet in height, with a shock of flame red hair and a short-cropped beard that darkened towards a brownish hue. The light blue camouflage of his tattered N.A.T.O. uniform stretched tight across his broad chest, and the sleeves were rolled up, revealing thickly corded arms that led to hands strong enough to snap a man’s neck with a simple twist.
         With smoldering blue eyes, Olaf VanVanderson made a quick assessment of the perimeter. A small, single-story farmhouse sat alone at the base of a tall hill, its windows un-boarded and the front door hanging lazily adjacent on a single hinge. The fact that the windows were un-boarded was a good sign that the place was uninhabited…at least by the living. A short thirty feet from the house, at the base of the hill was a barn large enough to house a tractor or truck, and a good half a mile farther down a dirt road was a smaller tin structure, a chicken-coop perhaps or maybe even a slaughter house.
         Olaf knew they were there. He could feel the small hairs of his neck standing up…he could feel the hungry gaze of dead eyes watching him. Pulling a cheroot cigar from his front pocket, he fumbled for some matches, lit the cigar and then took another step out into the open. Inhaling deeply of the sweet tobacco, he fingered the hilt of his machete in anticipation. He had long ago named the three-and-a-half foot long blade of razor-sharp steel, Hrunting, after the epic hero Beowulf’s sword. Hrunting had saved him in many a tight situation, and in most cases where he only faced a few or more dead, the blade was necessary in preserving the precious ammo he needed for his shotgun.
         Pensively, Olaf blew a smoke ring out and watched it dissipate lazily away. Then the moment he was waiting for happened. The front door to the house lurched crookedly open on its one hinge, and the door to the barn swung open. There were two of them, and by the thick droves of flies swarming their bodies, Olaf deduced they had been a long time dead. The corpse of a skinny farmer in loose coveralls came from the barn, stumbling clumsily with jerked movements, like a marionette puppet in a children’s show. Olaf could see the dead, yellow eyes fixed upon him, eyes hungry for a meal of living meat. From the house came the torpid, shuffling figure of a short, bloated housewife in a white dress and a pink apron. Her hair was a hoary heap piled atop her head in beehive fashion, and her skin was peeling away in strips like rotten wallpaper. The zombies’ skin was a sickly blue-green, and when they moved Olaf could hear their bones and limbs, stiff with rigor mortus, creaking with every step. As the housewife made her way down the porch steps, the croaking of fetid gasses escaped from her rotten body, and the Nordic soldier was reminded to get his scarf out and tie it around his nose and mouth. If there was one thing he hated most about the undead it was their stench.
         Setting his shotgun down with his backpack, the tall warrior stepped out across the farmyard towards his foe, his black boots leaving muddy imprints in the wet grass. He decided to take care of the old farmer first. With rigid arms the zombie held his hands out, as most did, seeking to tear into the flesh of the living, but Olaf knew better than to get within the creature’s grasp. He had seen many a man fall who had underestimated the primal strength of the dead, but even more so he was cautious of the long, black nails that grew out from the zombie’s green fingers. The nails of the undead continued to grow, long after their natural lives ended, and Olaf had also seen many men die from the myriad of infections it was possible to catch even from the smallest of scratches from those filthy nails.
         With a wolf grin, Olaf pounced upon his target. Kicking the old farmer square in the chest, he sent the body flying like a rag doll a good six feet back. Running upon his now fallen foe, he swung Hrunting down in a great, glistening arc, and with one motion sent the head of the corpse a good ten feet where it thudded against an old fashioned pump-well and landed in a small, wooden bucket.
         A hole in one! The steely warrior praised himself before turning towards the tortoise-like movements of the old housewife. As she sluggishly waddled towards him, her mouth agape, revealing jagged, blackened teeth, Olaf stopped to tie one of his boot strings. After making sure the boot was tight with a double-knot, he stood and made quick work of the fat, little zombie. With a couple of swift strides he ran around her side to her back, and before her rotten brain could make sense of his disappearance, he decapitated the corpse’s head with a single vicious swing of Hrunting. Like a fallen prizefighter, her body slumped straight down. Tearing the apron off her body, Olaf used the pink fabric to wipe his blade clean.
Returning to his backpack, the warrior pulled his scarf down and contemplated his find.
         Aside from the two inhabitants of the farm, he doubted there was another walking dead for miles around. The nearest town, Clearwater, was over fifty miles away and it had been reduced to ashes by a rogue paramilitary unit over two years ago. Still, if he was going to stay here for any amount of time he needed to take precautions. Olaf was a soldier by trade, and the thrill of battle was in his blood…he wasn’t a man who liked to settle down and stay in any one place for a long amount of time. But this was the find of a lifetime. With a good perimeter of claymores on the dirt road leading to the farm, and some flash-bangs spread throughout the woods, he could kick his boots off and relax for a short little holiday.
         Looking forward to what he might find in the house and the barn, Olaf began work on securing the surrounding acre against surprise intruders. Dead or living, he was prepared for both, but the truth was he preferred the dead. Sure, the creatures were gruesome to look upon, and often the mere smell of their steaming rotten bodies made him retch, but the dead couldn’t pull a trigger. Emptying out his backpack he counted his supply of explosives: four claymore mines, five grenades, and a bag of twenty flash-bangs. Aside from those he had a carton of thirty shot-gun shells left, as well as a box of 9mm rounds, even though he had no 9mm gun. Any ammunition he could find he kept, as the stuff was the most valuable commodity at any survivalist trading post.
         It took him over an hour, but sitting down on the high front porch of the farmhouse Olaf was satisfied. Two mines were set to go off if anything man-sized or larger came down the road; and the surrounding woodlands behind the house and behind the barn were littered with flash-bangs. Several grenades and the rest of the flash-bangs were rigged along the wood-line facing the house, and in the front yard he had one more claymore rigged with a long line of trip-wire.
         The corpse of the farmer he sat against a tree-stump by the side of the road, and the housewife he had put a good twenty feet back in the woodlands behind the house. A strange thing about the undead was they tended to keep away from unanimated corpses…bodies that had their brains damaged enough to cease movement. The undead only had a taste for the living, and the odd repulsion they had towards the real dead worked towards the survivalist’s advantage. Many communities of the living lined their walls with corpses staked to posts or hanging from the trees. Regardless of this fact, the grizzled veteran knew that wandering bands of ten-to-fifty undead could often sense a living man from miles away, and a few rotting scarecrows wouldn’t keep them away. There were enough traps set up that he could now relax and get to the important business of exploring the old house and the barn.
         First he went to the barn. Pushing the great wooden door back he let out a bellowing laugh of joy at what he found. There, in fine condition was a three-wheeled John Deer tractor. Behind it was a long, four-wheeled cart big enough to tow a car on. Against one side of the barn was a wooden shelf lined with a myriad of mechanical tools, and spread throughout the barn were the other tools necessary for keeping the farm in shape. There was everything here from shovels to rakes to a propane blowtorch and an electric table saw. Olaf VanVanderson realized that if he could get any of this to a settlement he was going to be richer than his wildest dreams.
Rushing through the barn, he tossed oil rags, rakes, shovels, and various flotsam aside, looking for the most important thing of all. Then, when he saw the twin, brick red barrels marked diesel fuel he let out another deep, rumbling laugh. Both barrels were full, and with this much gasoline he could drive the tractor all the way to what was left of New York if he wanted. Shutting the barn door and latching the simple lock into place, he took an extra precaution and rigged a grenade to go off if it was forced open more than a foot.
         The inside of the house was in much better shape than he thought it would be. The undead housewife had been using a comfort-chair to sit in for the past few years; its cushions were covered in dried body fluids and a dozen or so maggots. Setting his supplies down, Olaf easily hefted the chair up and tossed it out into the front yard. The remainder of the house was relatively clean save the thick blanket of dust that had settled down over everything. He found two bedrooms fully furnished with beds, dressers and closets, and the third room was an office.
He decided to start in the kitchen. He figured he was bound to find preservatives, and he was right. He had hit the gold mine. Rows upon rows of canned peaches, apples, and pears lined several bottom shelves and in a small side pantry canned vegetables were stocked in a bountiful supply. He didn’t open the refrigerator, as there was bound to be rotten food inside, but went through the rest of the upper kitchen shelves. There was a decent supply of flour and wheat, nibbled on here and there, but otherwise relatively untouched by the mice.
         When he opened the last shelf there was a sudden flurry of yellow fur as a hissing cat sprang out through the air. He barely had time to duck as small, clawed paws swiped at his face. The cat hit the ground and sprang for the living room and Olaf sat back grabbing his chest. He cursed the furry creature, and considered the irony if the thing had given him a heart attack.
         Chuckling, he looked in the cupboard the cat had jumped out of and found a small supply of bagged cat food. One bag had been toppled over and chewed through. Grabbing a can of peaches and a fork from the silver-ware drawer, Olaf wondered if the cat had sensed anything wrong with its owners. In his mind he could see the zombie of the little old housewife sitting in her recliner day after day, while the cat came and sat in her lap, wondering why the old woman no longer stroked its back.
         The peaches were damn good. After eating the juicy sliced halves he drank down every last drop of the sugary syrup and licked his fingers clean. Then he went through the rest of the house. He found a good supply of clothes and piled them in groups. One group for pants, one for shirts, underwear and so forth. The clothes alone would make for good trading in the markets.
In the top of a closet in the second bedroom he found a hunting rifle.
         Handling the weapon as if it were made of crystal he praised the gods of his ancestors at the find. It was a Winchester Model 70 Classic, Super Grade. The old farmer definitely knew his guns. The weapon was 338 caliber, with a barrel length of 28 inches and a 3 mile Tasco scope. It was worth its weight in gold. With a rifle like this Olaf could take a man or zombie out with one shot from miles away. Raising the weapon to eye level, he pointed it out the window and adjusted the scope. A large hill of woods rose up behind the house, and focusing in on the top of the trees he caught a blue-jay in his sights. Lowering the weapon he squinted to find the bird, but couldn’t see it. It had to be over two miles away.
         Searching higher in the closet he found several boxes of 338 ammo and a small cleaning kit for the rifle. Then he went to the office. There he found stacks of old newspapers, national geographic magazines and hunting magazines. Sitting back in the leather chair at the desk, he helped himself to one of the old farmer’s pipes, a time-browned meerschaum. The tobacco in a large green-glass jar on the desk was a little dry, but surprisingly good. Lighting a match he inhaled deeply of the smoke and kicked his boots up on the desk. The old man and his wife must have lived good lives up here in the woods. He wondered what had finally done them in. Perhaps one of them died of natural causes, and then when the corpse rose back to life it had frightened the other to death.
         Reaching down, Olaf grabbed the top, yellow newspaper on the pile. It was dated March 25, 2012, and the headlines read, “Walking Dead Still Attack. N.A.T.O. To Help and U.S. Troops Recalled From Middle East.”

Reports from London to Beijing confirm what we have already experienced here in the United States. What scientists speculate might be the result of electromagnetic pulses from outer space, the corpses of the dead have risen back to life and apparently seek only one thing: to kill and eat the flesh of the living. President O’Brian has declared a nation wide state of emergency and the National Guard has been called up to help with the extermination of the reanimated corpses. It has been discovered that these “walking dead”, as they have been dubbed, can be stopped by trauma to the brain. A single bullet to the head, or a blow strong enough to crush the skull stops the creatures.
An immediate curfew orders that everyone stay indoors until the National Guard secures your area. It seems that in the northernmost countries, the climate is such that the frozen ground keeps the walking dead from rising as easily as they do here in the U.S., and so Icelandic and Norwegian N.A.T.O. troops have been sent into New York City to assist with the crises there. Likewise, Northern Russia has sent troops to assist in Britain, France, and Germany.
All American troops that can disengage with the Arabic Alliance in the Middle East will be brought back to the U.S. as soon as possible. Though the resulting pullback will likely lead to the loss of Jerusalem to the A.A. troops, the President feels that the need for help in fighting the plague of walking dead in our homeland is too great.

         Wadding the paper up and throwing it across the room, Olaf pulled his straw hat off and ran his fingers through his hair. It was hard to believe that he had been in the U.S. for two years now. He wondered how things were going at home, but he had no desire to return to Norway. As a young boy, his grandfather had told him stories of their Viking ancestors, and of the days when men lived by the strength of the sword. He remembered how he wished he could go back in time and join the ax and shield armed reavers in their plundering of the weak men of the south. Now he was living that dream. In New York he had lost his entire unit, and with the collapse of Washington D.C., the whole United States had fallen into anarchy. The country was his for the taking and all he had to do was fight the undead, crazies, and murderous pirates who competed against him and the other survivalists. He even had a dream of plotting out his own piece of land one day and settling down with a wife, but that dream was a long time off. For now there were still too many undead left to kill and too much loot left to be taken.
         Rising from the desk he walked over to a hat rack and noticed a clean, white, wide-brimmed Stetson with a band of braided leather and sterling silver disks. Putting the hat on, he turned and looked into a mirror hanging on the wall. The old man knew his hats, just like he knew his guns.
         That night Olaf brought a bed down from the second bedroom and set it up in the living room. He went back out to the barn, disarmed his grenade trap, and found what he needed to fix the broken hinge of the front house door. After making sure every window was locked, the side kitchen door was bolted shut, and the front door was locked, he lit some candles he had found in the kitchen, and selected a book from a dusty shelf in the living room. It was a Louis L’Amore book, “Passin’ Through”, and soon Olaf found himself completely immerged in the western classic. After an hour, the rumbling of his stomach forced him off of the comfort of the bed and he went back into the kitchen. He selected a few cans of tinned tuna, a jar of preserved carrots and a jar of preserved beets. Looking farther back in the cupboards he found half a bottle of vodka and a fifth of whiskey.
         After his feast Olaf kicked his boots off, blew out the candles and settled down with the bottle of vodka. He had positioned the bed so his feet were facing the front door, and all he needed to do was raise his head to look out the front window. He nursed the bottle away in the dark, his pump-action, short-barrel shotgun on his left side, and Hrunting on the other.
         It took him less than fifteen minutes to finish the vodka. It had been a long time since he had slept on a bed, and the thick mattress combined with the liquor gave him the sense he was floating in a billowing white cloud. Dropping the empty bottle over the bedside, Olaf VanVanderson fell into a deep, alchohol laced slumber, his snores rumbling like the ominous promise of a distant storm.

         Morning came in bright, golden beams that cut through the windows and forced Olaf to awaken. Growling with the temperament of a bear awoken from hibernation, he rose from the bed, stripped himself of his clothing and with Hrunting in one hand walked naked out into the front yard. At the well he gave himself a bath of cold, fresh water, and then shook his flame-red hair dry. Stepping further down in the yard he stopped in the middle of the half-acre, raised Hrunting up towards the clear, blue sky and gave out a long, mighty yell. Birds rose startled from the trees as Olaf bellowed his deep cry, and when he finished he smiled upon the land surrounding him. The thought came to him that this would be a fine place to retire, but he knew he was still far too young and too full of wonderlust to succumb to such thinking.
         The feel of the morning sun and the gentle breeze upon his nude body was pleasant, so Olaf strutted about the yard, swinging Hrunting in mock battle. The thick blade whistled as he whirled it about in a figure eight, decapitating imaginary undead that swarmed him by the dozens. After finishing the undead he faced a crazed enemy warrior who gripped a wooden baseball bat with nails driven through the end. The phantom foe swung his bat in a great arc, aiming for Olaf’s head, but with deft footwork that belied his size, the Nordic warrior stepped out of the bat’s range and then rushed in, skewering his opponent through the neck.
         After stomping about the yard, Olaf went back into the house and plopped down on the bed. Looking out the front doorway he decided it would be a good day to hunt, and the prospect of fresh meat caused his stomach to growl ravenously. He could tell by the already warm sun it was going to be hot out, so after putting on his pants and boots he decided to go shirtless.
         Slinging the Winchester 70 over his shoulder, he stuffed a box of 338 rounds in a cargo pocket and sheathed Hrunting by his side. Leaving through the side kitchen door he went behind the house and started picking his way cautiously through the flash-bang traps. Soon he was halfway up the great hill that overlooked the farmstead, and looking back he could see the wooden slate roof of the house and the tin top of the barn. Looking further down the road, he saw the small metal shed he had first noticed when coming upon the farm, and he made a mental note to go investigate it later in the day.
         Trudging up the consistent slant of the hill was tiring, but Olaf used the close proximity of slender birch trees to his advantage by grabbing one after the other to help pull himself up. Before long he found himself on the top of the hill in a large clearing of short, yellow grass and small boulders. Sitting down atop the largest of the boulders he looked out over the hill and woods. A mile away he could see where the woodland ended and the wheat fields began. Beyond several miles of wheat fields was the dirt road that eventually led to the farmhouse, and farther down from the dirt road was a grassy, overrun highway that led to the city.
         Squinting his eyes, he thought he saw a cloud of dust and something moving nearer in the distance on the old highway. Raising the rifle he adjusted the scope until he could see clearly. Olaf’s heart sunk in his chest as he focused in on a large group of humans creeping across the horizon. The convoy consisted of around twenty to thirty savage looking men and women wearing anything from military fatigues to simple furs, and armed mostly with makeshift spears, swords, and axes…weapons likely made of car scraps from along the highways. A few of the barbaric looking travelers carried rusty rifles, and several more looked to have pistols slung at their sides.
         At the head of this motley group rode a perversely obese black man on a motorcycle, wearing nothing save a tattered loincloth and a purple football helmet. He carried a long, metallic lance against his shoulder that rose a good ten feet in the air and was tipped with a human skull. At the very end of the caravan came a black van with tinted windows. Banners of human skulls rose from the van, and adjusting the scope Olaf cursed the gods. A red “X” marked the center of each human skull…the widely adopted symbol of a large cannibal cult called “The Fisher of Men.” Such groups scavenged the wastelands like most other humans, but these were not welcome in the survivalist camps.
         The history of this particular cannibal movement in American was an interesting tale, something Olaf had heard about around the late night campfires of several different survivalist groups. Several years after the collapse of the American government, a crazed but charismatic preacher named Matthew Mohannus, started a bizarre occult that was half Southern Baptist and half cannibalistic. The new religion was called “The Fishers of Men,” and their creed was simple…to spread the gospel of cannibalism and Christianity. It was said that when they captured a victim they gave them the choice, to either eat of the flesh and blood of another human and become a convert, or to become a living sacrifice of themselves unto God.
         Olaf hoped that the group would bypass the dirt road and continue down the highway, and so he stood patiently watching them through the long-distance scope. Olaf himself remembered how the top tin roof of the barn was barely visible from the highway, and how a single glint of metal flashing in the sunlight caught his attention. At first it seemed the motley troop was passing by the dirt road without notice, but then the obese black on the motorcycle stopped and pointed his lance directly towards the barn. The others stopped and looked and then took up behind him as he turned his vehicle onto the dirt road.
         Cursing the foul luck that had befallen him, Olaf jumped off of the boulder and picked his way back down the hill. He had been looking forward to a relaxing vacation of hunting and then resting back at the house, but now he had to prepare for an imminent battle with a mob of crazed, cannibalistic occultists. At the speed they were traveling, he estimated it would take them a good thirty minutes to reach the farm. At least he had plenty of time to formulate a plan.
         Once he made it to the house, Olaf opened another can of tinned peaches, and sitting on the front porch he slurped down the tasty slices while musing over his possibilities. Hand to hand combat had always been his preference, so he could hole up in the house and deal with them as they came in…but there were too many of them for that. Besides, he had to take into account that those he killed with non-head wounds would arise as walking dead within the hour. Then he remembered the precious weapon he had found, the rifle. If he could find a perch in a high tree, or possibly on the barn roof, he could pick them off from a half-mile down the road where it turned in a straight line leading to the farmhouse. He knew their kind. With them there would be no discussion, no negotiating, it was simply going to be kill or be killed.
         Finishing the peach juices in one long gulp, he let out a burp of satisfaction and wiped his beard with his scarf. Pulling his newfound cowboyhat down over his brow he set to the business of preparing for his incoming guests.
Twenty minutes later, Olaf lay on the upper slant of the tin barn roof, his rifle pointed towards the point half a mile down where the dirt road turned towards the farmhouse. At his side rested several detonation switches for the claymore mines, and a pile of ammunition, both for the rifle and for his shotgun.
         Using a large piece of cardboard and a can of black spray paint found in the barn he had made a warning sign and placed it at the beginning of the roadway to the farmhouse. It simple read, “Intruders will be shot.” Now all he had to do was wait, and see if the incoming group paid heed to the warning.
         Several moments later he heard the deep rumbling of an automobile and then he saw the van slowly turning the corner towards the farmhouse. The fat man on the motorcycle was no longer in the lead. The van doors were open, and the windows were rolled down, and walking behind each of the van doors, using them as shields, were two men with rifles. The tint of the windows on the vehicle was so dark, Olaf couldn’t make out the driver, but regardless, he knew where the driver was. He waited until the van rolled slowly past the warning sign, pulled the Stetson up some from his forehead, and then took aim through the scope. He fired two consecutive shots at the right front window, in the general area where the driver would be sitting. Instead of penetrating the front windshield, the bullets ricochet off the glass, leaving small shattering marks of impact. What is it with my damn luck? ,Olaf thought, how could such a group of worthless dogs get a hold of bulletproof glass?
         Taking sight again through the scopes, Olaf aimed at the front right tire and fired. The sound of the blowout seemed to startle the men walking by the van, and with a second shot, he took out the other tire. The vehicle slowed down considerably, but continued inching forward on its flattened tires. Now the men had decided to fire back and were taking pot shots at the top of the barn. Most of the firing was hitting down near the base of the barn, but a few rounds came within several feet of where Olaf’s face peeked over the top. Taking careful aim through his scope and trying to remain calm, Olaf waited patiently until a head bobbed up from one of the rolled-down windows. He squeezed the trigger and was gratified to see a spray of red mist from his target and then the crumpling of a body under the open van door.
         Pulling his head back behind the top ridge of tin, Olaf waited a second. A part of him hoped they would now pull back after realizing he was serious about defending the farm, but the other part knew their kind, and knew that they would fight until every man lay dead. Looking over again through the scope of the Winchester he wasn’t surprised to see the van still plodding along on its flattened tires. It was a good quarter way down the road to the barn, and roughly fifty feet from where he had set up the first claymore. They were still taking occasional pot shots at the barn, but he decided to conserve ammunition and wait for them to get within range of the explosive.
         After it was apparent he had ceased firing, more figures on foot darted from the corner of the road and ran up behind the van. Smiling, Olaf watched as the vehicle came within ten feet of the claymore. He had buried the mine face up in the road, and then had covered the front plate with a thin layer of dirt. A white birch tree to the right marked where he had placed the device. Waiting, he watched the van slowly roll over the mine, and right when he deduced the fuel tank must be above it, he pressed down on the detonation box.
         A searing explosion tore through the road, shaking Olaf on his perch atop the barn. Pieces of smoking metal landed in the yard, and a few small pieces landed mere feet from him on the barn roof. With a smug look of approval on his face, he looked at the wreckage that was left of the van. Various bloody and charred body parts lay scattered amidst the burning frame and surrounding wreckage…it looked like he had hit the vehicle’s fuel tank square on. Through the smoke that surrounded the wreckage he could see more figures running around and shouting. Then there was a long period of silence.
         Pulling a cheroot cigar from his front pocket, Olaf searched for matches and then lit up. Laying his head down against the tin roof he listened, but heard nothing. Hopefully the claymore had knocked the fight out of them…and if it hadn’t then there was the next one, fifteen feet up the road, and the other at the entrance to the farmyard. Raising his head above the roofline he peered through the scope. Gray, billowing clouds of smoke still obfuscated the roadway, and he could see no one moving about. Taking a deep drag on the cheroot, Olaf considered the possibility that they actually had given up the assault already.
         Removing his hat and using his scarf to wipe the beaded line of sweat off of his brow, Olaf froze in place as the sound of flashbangs and then the louder explosion of a grenade trap ripped through the woods lining the front yard. Turning on his back and grabbing his automatic shotgun, he waited for the smoke from the grenade to clear. As the cloud dissipated he saw that several bodies lay mangled across the yard. A moment later four men burst from the tree-line, around the very spot he himself had first entered yesterday morning.
         Three of the men had shaved heads and wore simple clothes of tattered fur and straps of leather and carried various crude weapons of bent and sharpened chrome. The third wore military fatigues and his long, greasy hair was braided in small bones. He carried a small pistol of some sort and when he spotted Olaf on the roof he started firing. Ignoring the pings of the bullets against the tin roof, Olaf casually stood and took careful aim with the shotgun. The blast took the man in fatigues square in the chest and sent him flying several feet back. The others hesitated and then one of them yelled something at the others and pointed down the road at the wrecked van.
         Olaf turned to see the gargantuan negro with the purple football helmet, standing a few feet in the road before the smoldering ruin of the van and hoisting a mini-rocket launcher on his shoulder. Even has he jumped from the roof towards the yard, the rifle in one hand and his shotgun in the other, Olaf could hear the hissing of the rocket as it ignited and launched towards the barn. The explosion caught him in midair and a deafening wave of heat propelled him fifty feet across the yard towards the tree line. The last thing he remembered seeing was a large oak rushing at him before he was knocked into black insensibility.

         A thousand little devils banged an abominable red song inside Olaf’s cranium, the blinding rhythm of pain dragging him out of unconsciousness. Opening his eyes he saw that it was night, and he lay in a great heap of leaves and broken branches, his body mostly covered by the foliage. Now he realized that there was an actual drum somewhere in the distance banging out a primitive beat that intermingled with wild whoops and yells of bacchantic revelry.
         Sitting up, Olaf grimaced in pain, and to his surprise found the only injuries he had sustained from the blast were a few bruised ribs and a large knot on the side of his head. After the explosion the cannibals must have searched for him, but luckily the fallen brush had covered his unconscious body. Having given up on looking for their adversary, the group had most likely written him off as dead and were now holding celebration. Searching about in the dark, the Nordic warrior found his rifle and shotgun, both undamaged save a few scratches.
         Taking Hrunting from its sheath at his side, Olaf cut his shirt into strips and managed to wrap a makeshift bandage tightly around his middle. Searching his cargo pockets he found only a handful of shotgun shells, the rest of his ammunition having been lost in the blast. Noticing something white under the leaves, he pulled out the Stetson, its brim smudged but otherwise in decent shape. Pulling the hat over his fiery mess of hair, Olaf filled the automatic shotgun with the rest of the cartridges, and then with Hrunting in the other hand set out to crash his visitor’s party.

         A small bonfire had been built in the middle of the farmhouse yard, and a ghastly barbeque was in the works as several human torsos roasted slowly above the flames on a great wooden spit. The ten survivors of the assault on the farmhouse rolled about on the grass in various stages of undress, participating fervently in a drunken orgy. Sitting on the porch, like some Neanderthal king on his throne, the stupendous figure of their black leader struck up a heathen syncopation upon a great wooden and human skin drum.
         Olaf burst from the woods like a rabid wolf, his teeth bared in a mirthless grin and his eyes blazing a demonic blue. The first five fell like saplings before the swing of his broad machete, their blood splattered in random patterns across his rock-chiseled chest. The rest of the cannibals formed a line between the sudden assailant and their leader, brandishing a variety of weapons. A small man wearing tight leather pants raised a long-barreled shotgun at Olaf, but the Nordic soldier was quicker to the trigger. With the boom of his weapon the small man’s head exploded like a pumpkin, showering his companions in red gore.
         Screaming like a banshee, a wild-haired woman with a naked torso covered in woad tattoos, ran at Olaf with a long wooden spear, the tip of which was a jagged chrome shard. With savage speed she thrust the spear at the Nord’s face, but with a single deft movement he used the shotgun to bat the spear aside and then skewered the woman through her stomach on Hrunting’s long blade. The next three men dropped their weapons and bolted from Olaf like rabbits before the hound. He took two down with two consecutive blasts from the shotgun, and then threw Hrunting at the third. The blade whirled end over end a good ten feet, the red of the firelight flashing off of the spinning steel, and the man fell screaming in the dirt, Hrunting buried to the hilt in his back.
         Putting a boot on the fallen man’s shoulder, Olaf pulled the machete out and looked about the yard. There was no sign of the leader, and then he heard the sound of the front door to the house banging shut. Olaf crouched down behind the four-foot high bricking of the well and waited. If the man inside had a gun or any ammo left for the rocket launcher, then surely he would have fired out into the yard by now. Holding the shotgun ready for any sudden action, Olaf waited patiently, like a hunter stalking his prey.
         After ten minutes, and no sound from within, Olaf knew that the man wasn’t planning on coming out. To charge in that front door or through a window would be suicide, and Olaf had too much tactical savvy for such a move. Cursing the filthy cannibals for their intrusion, the warrior scuttled over to the fire and picked up the largest burning branch he could find. Keeping low and watching the windows for any sign of movement, he made his way up to ten feet away from the house and then hurled the flaming piece of wood with as much strength as he could muster. After the breaking glass, there was a great cry of surprise from within and smiling to himself Olaf ran back to the well.
         It took mere seconds for the curtains and the living room to spring into flames. Soon thick, black rolls of smoke began pouring from the broken window and Olaf knew that it would only be a matter of moments before the gargantuan leader of the raiders would be forced out. Sure enough, the front door to the house flew open and with a great billowing of smoke the huge black, still wearing nothing save a small loincloth and a purple football helmet, came coughing down the steps.
         Seeing that the man’s only weapon was a great wooden club tipped with a human skull, Olaf drew Hrunting out and ran to meet his foe.
Letting out a mighty battle-cry Olaf swung Hrunting down in a glistening arc towards the fat man’s shoulder, and with surprising dexterity for such an obese frame, the black raised his club and parried the blow. Olaf’s blade sunk and was stuck in the wood of the club, and with another surprisingly deft move the man raised a leg as thick as a tree trunk and kicked Olaf square in the stomach. Olaf staggered back and bent forward, held down by the shock of a blow so powerful it felt as if he had been hit by a truck. Trying to keep from passing out from the pain, the Nordic warrior looked up in time to see the massive giant rush at him and raise another thickly obese leg in a great round kick. Olaf tried to duck, but the shin of the black’s leg caught him against the shoulder and the Nord thought he heard his shoulder blade crack.
         Falling to the ground he tried to raise the arm that was hit, but found it wouldn’t move. As Olaf looked up he saw an immense, black foot descending like a great boulder towards his skull. He twisted his whole body in a wild roll to the side and the foot barely missed him and sank with the power of the impact into the soft dirt. Taking advantage of his position, Olaf shot a hand up between the black’s legs and gripping with all his strength twisted the prize he found there. A great howl of agony came out from the purple football helmet, and standing to his feet, Olaf kept his grip and twisted even harder.
         His opponent’s hands found Olaf’s neck, and those black fingers felt like steel cords digging in. But as the fingers tightened, so did Olaf’s grip, and with the sound of breaking cartilage coming from the cannibal’s groin, the great man let slack his grip of Olaf and fell to his knees moaning like a child.
         Seeing the skull-tipped club, with Hrunting buried in it a few feet away, Olaf left the man to retrieve his weapon. It took a good kick to get the machete blade out of the great piece of wood, and then Olaf turned towards the cannibal. The man was bent over know, murmuring incoherently in a soft whimpering tone. With his right arm dangling uselessly by his side, Olaf sat Hrunting down to remove the man’s football helmet, and then picked the blade up again. With one clean downward strike he decapitated the man and stepped back to avoid the spray of blood that shot out from the neck stump.

         With a yell of mixed rage and pain, Olaf pushed his shoulder up until the bone popped back into the socket. Tearing a strip of cloth off of a nearby corpse, he made a make-shift sling for the injured arm. He would have to get to City's Edge as soon as possible, as it was the nearest survivalist's camp where there was a doctor.          Looking around, Olaf realized that the burning house was bound to attract unwanted visitors, both alive and undead. With haste he decapitated the corpses of the cannibals before they could rise again, and then he set about getting everything worth taking with him together. To his relief, he found that the missile shot at him earlier only took off the roof and upper part of the barn, and had left the tractor and the flat-bed trailer unharmed. After filling the tractor’s tank with fuel he fired the machine up and let it warm up for a good ten minutes.
         He found his backpack and boxes of ammo near the front steps of the house, along with a few cans of fruit and some blankets. The scavengers must have been making a pile of loot to take with them. Loading the flat-bed trailer up with the remaining fuel tanks and all the tools and machinery he could find in the barn, Olaf pushed the clutch in and put the tractor into first gear. The John Deere rumbled slowly out into the yard, and fumbling on the front panel, he found the headlights. Pulling away from the burning house and onto the dirt road, he remembered to stop and dig up the last claymore mine he had planted before the barn.
         Starting off again, Olaf pulled the Stetson down on his forehead and searched for his backpack for more cigars. Cursing his foul luck he realized he had run out, but he knew City’s Edge was two days travel south and with all the goods on the trailer bed he would be a rich man. The tractor alone could buy him a motorcycle and enough ammo to last him a year.
         Pushing the vehicle into second gear and picking up speed he smiled at the thought of visiting a few familiar taverns and cat-houses in the fortress. Unlike the disaster this little getaway had turned out to be, there he could kick back and enjoy a real vacation behind the guarded walls and towers.


The End

© 2003 by Cameron Neilson.  Cameron Neilson is a Creative Writing student at Oklahoma State University.  He has had works of science fiction and horror published in various magazines and e-zines, and in the past has had both short stories and poems appear in Aphelion.  When he isn't reading or writing, Cameron can be found at the Gypsy Coffee House in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Look for the handsome fellow with the septum piercing.  He is usually sitting in a corner by himself, reading or typing away furiously on his laptop.