I stepped out onto the barge, figuring to cut it loose and drift for a bit while we figured out how to make it work. Contrary to popular belief, it isn't so easy to make things go. People were forever forgetting to leave their keys in the ignition when they abandoned their vehicles, boats, and motorcycles, making it difficult for people like me to fully take advantage of all the leftover cars and planes and such scattered about.
Truth be known, if I could figure out how to get a train running, I'd be set. At least until I had to stop it.
I crossed over the bow of the boat, keeping an eye on the wheelhouse. Nothing stirred up there, so I made my way to the hatch on the side. On shore, Up and Down were untying ropes that held the boat to the dock, and were jumping aboard.
The boat drifted away and flowed very gently with the canal. Down grabbed a pole and was standing on the port (starboard?) while Up manned the starboard (port?) side.
Knocking on the hatch, I waited a full minute before turning the handle and looking inside. It was dark and rank, but I couldn't detect any telltale odors of the dead, with diesel fumes penetrating everything. I flicked on my weapon light and stepped inside.
To my right was a tight stairwell/ladder to the wheelhouse, and to my left was a small hallway. I followed the hallway and saw that it opened up into a small galley. In the center of the hall was a door, and I went back to it to see what lay beyond. A deep pounding sounded like it was coming from the hold, but it was irregular and could have been from debris in the canal. Through the doorway was another hall, and there were four small rooms on the left off the main, crew's quarters by the looks of things. These were tight little cubbyholes, barely big enough for a small bunk and chair. On the other side of the hall was a little recreation room, and a bigger cabin. I figured that one was for the captain, wherever he was.
All the rooms were empty, and this was looking better and better. I went to the end of the hall and found a ladder going down into a very dark hole. I figured the engine room was down there, so I'd better look.
Tossing down a marble didn't create any stirs, so I slid down the ladder as fast as I could. Bringing up my weapon, I quickly scanned around and saw I was in an engine room. behind me were the big twin engines used to push freight up and down the canal. They were sitting lower than the platform I was on, and I could see about two inches of water around their base. Ahead of me was another hatch, and right away the warning signs were there for all to see. Dark hand prints were all around the hatch, and I could see more dark stains around the porthole. The stains were streaks, and I knew what caused them. Zombies always tried to chew through the glass when prey was close.
Knowing that, I figured I could guess what made the splashing sound behind me. I spun around, bringing up my weapon and scanning the darkness. Sure enough, a Z was making his way around the engines, his feet not quite getting out of the water, but enough to make a little noise. When the light hit him, he moaned, a very loud sound in the darkness. His features were very white, and he had long dark hair that was curiously swept back, as if it had been recently brushed. His dead eyes fixed on me as his mouth opened to moan again. I didn't want to fire a shot in the confines of the engine room, since I didn't relish a ringing in my ears. Looking at my options, I slung the rifle back over my shoulder and drew my field knife, retreating around a low table used for maintenance. I had lost my light when I put away my rifle, but I pulled another from my belt and placed it on the table, beaming the light toward my enemy. That little bit of time nearly cost me, as he was quicker than I thought. Raised hands were already reaching for me when I turned the light on, so I thrust quickly with my knife into the open mouth that was coming at me. My blade was long enough that the point came out the back of the Z's head, stopping him in his tracks and dropping him to the floor. I wiped off the fresh goo and went back to the hatch, looking in the porthole.
Looking back at me were about fifteen zombies, all in horrid states of decay. No point in going any further.
I quickly retreated back up the ladder and made my way to the wheelhouse. It was unoccupied, but I wanted to see if I could get the boat started so we could make our way back to the safe zone.
A quick search yielded no keys, so we just managed to secure a tugboat raft. Spiffy.
I got out of the wheelhouse and went forward, explaining to Up and Down our situation. We were drifting in a canal, no way to start the boat, with zombies on board, and hostile territory all around. Every moment took us further from safety and deeper into danger.
Up looked nervous, but Down had thoughts, I could see that. He hunted around the debris on deck until he found a six foot long piece of one by six. Up and I looked dubious, but Down proved his worth by going to the back of the boat and angling the board in the water. Slowly, slowly, slowly, the big boat drifted to the banks of the canal, and when it was just close enough, Up and I jumped clear, with Down right behind us. The tug crashed into the side of the canal, then careened away slowly, difiting off to the other side of the canal before crashing and bouncing off.
Up and Down looked at me and I quickly scanned my map. We were two miles from were we wanted to be, and we had few options to get ourselves back to safety.
We had a long walk through the woods ahead of us, and inside those woods, there be monsters.