A thing happened to me this morning as I was doing my routine with Steve and the captive zombies. Well, zombie, in this case. Just one. New Breed, though, and I capitalize the name here because I'm still trying to shake off the experience.
I'm going to make a long story short here, because I've been posting freaking novels lately.
We were in the enclosure with the zombie. He--the zombie, not Steve-- was eyeing us cautiously. Steve stayed well back, near the gate. He's done that the last few days, ready to step up and help but not close enough to make me rely on him. I've taken to carrying not only my trusty gun, but a heavy knife (a thick Randall boot knife my mom gave me when I graduated high school) and one of the custom machetes from North Jackson in a sheath at my side.
I had a round chambered, of course, and held my hands steady. I've managed to ward off the anxiety for the last few days, and even when I felt a tremble of it in my gut today I didn't falter. The idea isn't just to pop off a round and commit the act of killing one of the undead, though just doing that was enough of a breakthrough at first. Keeping my calm while assessing the situation is the goal. Creating endurance.
So I waited until the zombie faked left then darted toward me to throw my right foot back and firmly plant myself in a stance. I pulled the trigger with the same slow squeeze I'd spent long hours practicing.
My gun made a little clicking sound.
Fortune favors the bold as well as the pants-shittingly terrified, which is what saved me from taking a serious injury. I didn't even try to fire a second time, instead dropping back while throwing the now-useless piece of metal and plastic at the zombie's face. Interesting note: even zombies have the gut reaction to pull away from something trying to smash into their eyes.
I tried to pull the machete, but fumbled the clasp and gave the zombie too much time to recover. We went hand to hand.
Which sounds pretty fucking scary if you're one of the astronomically lucky people still alive that have never had the pleasure. And it is, don't get me wrong. But a grapple is one of the few places where a thinking human has the advantage. Even New Breed, smart as they are, don't have much concept of body mechanics. They can run and jump and use tools, but complex things like recognizing the center of gravity and taking advantage of poor balance and the like are beyond them. They focus on clawing, crushing, and biting, leaving you only hands and mouth to worry about.
Thanks to years of practicing what to do when rushed by a thoughtless opponent, I was able to slip to the side enough to avoid getting caught by those claws. I had enough grip on the zombie's arm to jerk him off balance. I didn't let go even as he spun away from me, instead trying to force him to the ground. That didn't really work out since the pain of even a sloppy joint lock doesn't sway the undead. It did let me keep some control, and gave me the second I needed to yank my knife out.
After that, I leaned myself over him and drove us both to the ground, the zombie belly-down. I used both hands to jam the knife into his head as he struggled to get up. It was all over in less than fifteen seconds.
My feet, still very tender from the shredding I gave them during my breakdown, hurt like hell. They aren't stitched any more but the wounds are still healing. I haven't put them up to more than a brisk walk and a little jog since. A fight was more than I reckoned on.
Steve, as it turns out, wanted to start conditioning me to react in less predictable circumstances. That makes sense in the abstract; the real world isn't a safe little fenced area with armed backup.
But he didn't have to take the firing pin out of my gun. That's just cruel. I was briefly upset when he told me that, but my anger only lasted until he pointed out that I didn't so much as flutter an eyelash after the fact. I hadn't needed help. Shit, let's be real, here. I kicked ass.