That's what we were today. For a long four hours we were not civilized men, but something more primal. More base. At the end of endurance when survival becomes the only drive left, that base cluster of actions and reactions necessarily takes over.
It wasn't only the undead, though the swarms were more than enough to wear us down. It wasn't just the heat and humidity wringing the energy from us. In truth we were better off than I expected, teams of men and women so successful at pushing the zombies back from Haven we actually took to the field and drove them back as our tanks, those excellent homemade assault vehicles, mowed them down in droves.
It was at the last push on the edge of the woods surrounding Haven that did the trick. We were on the edge of victory, the swarm that began the day several hundred bodies deep left nothing more than a ragtag clan of a few dozen. I was there, pushing for those last few yards, the sense of power and accomplishment running through me. I wasn't in the front, thank God, but acting as a rear guard for our group.
Which is why I wasn't hit when the UAS bullets tore into our ranks. How they managed to circle around and hide without being seen so close to Haven I still don't know. Pure stupid luck saved us from a total loss as the foremost elements of the small UAS force opened fire too soon. The front line of my group fell immediately, the rest of us diving for cover in the tall grass as blood sprayed in a fine mist over our faces.
Even partially obscured, the twenty enemies would have picked us off in short order had the Tank crews been further away. It was the gunners riding in the back who saved us, riding high in their protected enclosures and barking orders for the drivers to stop. Those men and women aimed as their vehicles halted, rifles bleating out death with the practiced aim of people who have to hunt for their food regularly.
It was meant to be suppressing fire, just enough cover to allow our group to retreat. There wasn't a signal that passed between us, nothing in words or action. I can't swear how it worked for the rest of my team, but for me? It was as if a dam broke inside me. The exhaustion, the red-hot anger, the sudden reversal of the elation of victory into abject fear of death. It swirled together and took over. My spear on my back, a machete in my left hand, a gun in my right, I stood. I remember that, but the world was a narrow place. I might have been the first, my example leading others to stare death in the face and spit blood on his pale skull. I don't know if that's true. The rest of the world didn't exist for me.
Only the enemies cowering in shock as return fire caught them off guard. I pushed through the pain, the aching muscles, a tidal wave of rage-fueled adrenaline surging across my body like a junkie with a fix. I felt the soreness and the worried joints, but I didn't care. All I felt was the need to kill. All that registered in my brain was the enemy.
Torn between avoiding the incoming fire from the Tanks and avoiding the bullets flying at them from the apparently suicidal men trampling through blood-soaked fields toward them, the UAS did not react well. A few of them fell into familiar patterns, firing in bursts and taking cover. Smooth, methodical, professional. Others didn't fare so well as they jerked in place, trying to decide the best course of action.
Some of us fell as the rest moved forward but enough of us reached the enemy to end the fight in our favor. As I write this my mind falls back into the place it was in as the violence happened. I can't--won't--describe it to you. What I felt as they died from my hand, how the light vanishing from their eyes affected me. It was one of the darkest moments of my life. What's frightening is how okay with that I am.