By Kevin Jepson
Grid Reference: 102:233 North 4
Target Pre-outbreak name: South Alexander St and Lloyds Ave
Scout Name: Samuel R. Everson
Weather: Partly cloudy, calm and cool, maybe rain later.
Hey Frankie, I got another one for you.
Gotta say it made me think.
I wanted to check out this intersection mostly because I'd hung out there back in the old days. Call it a personal trip if you like, I just wanted to see what became of it is all. I lived there briefly for a few months when I worked contract for the railway. Must have been six or seven years pre-outbreak. It was one of the great "social combat zones" of the old world, the place where the rich guys and gals from the North side of Alexander rubbed shoulders with the working stiffs from the South side. The battlefield weapon of choice was coffee. On the North side there was a trendy looking upscale Starbucks, on the South side an older and very well used Tim Hortons. Lots of snide remarks passed between the two sets of patrons I can tell you. Both businesses did very well in their day, since they didn't seem to compete for the same customers.
I entered the city via the usual route around dawn. Was pretty chilly, so I hoped Zack would be moving slowly. The air scout guys had told me there weren't any horde-sized mobs between the entrance and my target area. So I figured I could get in, check it out, and get back without attracting too much attention.
Approached South Alexander and Lloyds Ave from the East around 7:50am.
Road was surprisingly empty of dead vehicles, some parked along the south side, doors open, windows intact.
Many of the buildings along the street still have intact doors, which are closed. Will need to be checked carefully for lurkers. No sign of Zack on the street.
Got close to the intersection and saw that the Starbucks looked surprisingly intact. Door was open, windows unbroken. Could've been open for business actually, if it wasn't for the leaves drifted into the doorway. Still no Zack in sight.
Approached the Starbucks to check out the inside. Looked fine as it was still in pretty good shape, tables and chairs mostly upright, but lots of leaves on the floor and dust on everything. Tossed a rock into the room and waited, which is S.O.P. of course. Got signs of Zack from behind the counter, scrapes and dragging, but no howl. Couldn't see it, so it must have been stuck on the floor somehow. Didn't bother to check any further inside.
Across the street, on the opposite corner, is the Tim Horton's.
Man, what a contrast!
The windows smashed and the facade of the building trashed. The remains of barricades all around the walls. A police car was right up on the sidewalk in front of the door. The car's windows were broken but the doors were closed.
Back in the old days a cop car parked next to a Tim Horton's would have brought on a lot of knowing looks and giggles, eh?
On the ground around the cop car were dead ghouls. Since Zack doesn't really rot, even after years they still looked "fresh". Several were missing their heads, shotgun blasts I suspect. Others, missing the back of their heads, were shot close range in the face, with a service revolver most likely. Looks like the cops set their car up to block the door and used it like a pillbox. Checked inside the car, nothing but empty shell casings and shotgun shells. The doors were still locked, they must have been pulled out through the windows, poor sods.
The Tim's had big windows facing the street, now smashed, these had been blocked with tables and chairs inside. There's a wide gap in the barricades just behind the police car.
Looked up and down Alexander checking to make sure nothing was moving. It doesn't pay to go into a building if you end up being followed by Zack.
Went and looked into the breach through the barricade. The carnage here is hard to describe, but I'll try. (That's what you want me to do right? I know they always tell me to stick to the facts, be clinical, give the details and all that rot. Sorry Frankie, but you know that's not the way it works for me so bear with me here.)
The inside of the Tim's was dark so it took a moment for my eyes to adjust. Tossed a brick into the room and waited. Silence, no shuffling, no scrapping, not even the scampering of a rat. Once I could see clearly I stepped across the space left in the wall and stopped in my tracks.
I know you have probably read this stuff before, but I have never seen anything like it. There was a fan shaped clear area spreading out from the gap. Around the edges of the fan were dead ghouls, piled three or four high in places. Rough count maybe 50+. They were stacked like the trees and brush that's piled by a flood when it breaches a levy. Most of their heads were caved in, lots of slashes around their arms and hands.
Moved in to look over the pile of bodies and saw the remains of those who had holed up here. There must have been 20 or 30 of them. I can't tell the number because all that is left is heaps of bones and scraps of clothing. If you are bitten by Zack and get away you become one of them, but if you are grabbed by a mob of ghouls you don't get a chance to become one, you get torn apart.
When the barricaded windows gave in they had fought damned hard, being pushed back by the mass of shuffling corpses further into the Tim's. Looking at the remains it seems they fought with hockey sticks, axes, hammers even a cricket bat. They didn't have any guns from what I can see.
Looks like they made their final stand behind the counter, the pile of dead ghouls is highest there. Unfortunately it also looks like Zack just walked up the pile and overwhelmed them. They must have faced the full horde pouring out of downtown. Poor bastards never had a chance.
The door to the kitchen area was off its hinges, pushed in from the front. Picked up a hammer from the mess and tossed it inside and waited. Nothing. When I looked in I saw a lot more bones and a few more dead ghouls. The door to the alley was open, not busted or forced open, so some survivors might have made a run for it.
Stepped back into the main room and had a closer look at what was left of the defenders. God what a mess. From the clothes it looks like there were all kinds of people here, old and young, men and women. Two colours stood out in the gloom though, red and blue. Those were the colours of the two local minor hockey teams, the Falcons and the Triumph. So that explains the hockey sticks.
Headed back out to the street, pausing in the breach to watch for any sign that Zack had wandered into the vicinity. Still nothing moving. No wind either, so in the silence I could hear the ghoul, stuck behind the counter in Starbucks banging and scrapping, but that's it.
Headed back to the entrance at 9:35AM
So Frankie, you can cut this part out if you don't want the Super to see it, but here is what I think went down there.
The old neighbourhood South of Alexander extended all the way to the tracks. It was one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city. The people were mostly blue collar and damn proud of it. There were even small ethnic enclaves nestled in there, Chinese, Korean, Italian, Irish, but everybody was part of the world that was South of Alexander. It didn't have any other name, people just called it "South of Alexander".
North of Alexander was a different story indeed. Redeveloped in the 90s during a fit of "urban renewal" it had been infilled to death with narrow, two and three storied, expensive, cookie cutter, boxes. Filled with people just like their houses from what I remember.
So when all hell broke loose the fine folks North of Alexander simply buggered off at the first sign of trouble. Not that they likely got very far, if the mess on the highways is any indication.
The folks South of Alexander didn't leave.
They didn't leave during the Great Fire in 1872, they didn't leave during the cholera outbreak in 1890, or the Spanish Flu in 1918, they didn't leave when the industrial base collapsed in the 70s and they didn't leave when the dead started walking either.
In my head I can see the cops trying to get them to evacuate as the horde began to flow out of downtown. I can see the families, the hockey teams, fierce competitors on the ice but also devoted to this place in their city, all collecting at the Tim Horton's. Deciding to ride it out like they always have. The cops finally deciding to stay as well, it was their beat after all.
What is it about an old neighbourhood that inspires folks to stand in the face of such horror and kick extinction in the teeth? To go down fighting with their backs to the coffee machines of a doughnut shop. While just across the street everybody had already fled, leaving a bitten barista to cower behind the counter in the empty Starbucks.
I suspect every corner store, ethnic restaurant, gas station, school and firehall, South of Alexander will turn out to be just like this Tim Horton's.
The people South of Alexander deserve better than to have this report as their only testament, but if that is all they get then it's better than nothing.