Mitch looked over his shoulder just in time to see Brad pulling the trigger on the rifle he had aimed at Mitch’s head. The gun made a dry click.
“Son of a bitch!” The tween cursed, as he worked the action of the gun.
Mitch filled his left hand with sand and whipped around while flinging the dirt into Brad’s eyes.
“You piece of sh-”
He wasn’t able to finish his sentence before Mitch cracked him in the back of his head with the club he still had in his right hand. “Forgot about all the zombies you shot before you starting firing on me didn’t you?” Mitch emphasized last word by swinging again and taking Brad in the chin.
The young man toppled over backwards and landed on a pile of uneven rocks. Brad moaned and made a pained face, but appeared too damaged to make any serious moves on him.
Mitch kicked away the rifle and lowered himself down to one knee. He hovered over Brad and started to search his pockets for bullets. “Don’t start something you can’t finish, boy.”
“I’ll finish you!” Brad yelled as he hands came up and grasped Mitch by the neck. While Mitch struggled against the younger man’s grip, he heard the sounds of undead being drawn toward them by the sounds of their fight.
Brad’s strong fingers closed around his neck as the zombies moved closer. Mitch had dropped his club, but still had his buck knife in his pocket. He fumbled for it with one hand as the other tried to pull away Brad’s fingers.
The knife came free and he flicked it open. A second later he drove it under Brad’s right armpit. Blood gushed like a river and he guessed the blade had hit the biracial artery.
Brad gasped in pain and his fingers went weak. “Why?” he groaned.
“Let’s see. You came into my camp. Insulted me. Stole my food. Took all my gear. Then when I did nothing more than run, you tried to take my life. You don’t shoot at a man if you don’t want to make him have to kill you.”
He saw the three zombies moving in. They crashed through the bushes. Each of their bodies bristled with hundreds of cactus spines. A one eyed former farmer led them and moaned louder as its arms reached out toward the men.
“Oh man, you gotta save me,” Brad said.
“Nope I don’t.”
Mitch backed up and winced when they fell onto Brad. Fingers and teeth tore the boy apart as his horrid screams ripped through the desert stillness.
He could only take so much and while the undead were occupied he smashed each of them on the head with a large stone. But the screaming drew in more. He looked to the west and saw that the larger horde made good time and would be reaching the canyon soon.
Brad still clung to life and coughed up a mouthful of blood.
“I’ll grant you this one blessing,” Mitch said as he drove his knife into the man’s temple. He thrashed for a moment and then lay still.
Mitch hurried to search Brad’s body as a dozen undead began to move in toward him. He found a large hunting knife, a canteen, and a backpack full of gear. Then he hurried to look through his jacket pockets and found what he was looking for.
He had just enough time to reload the magazine before the zombies moved into attack range.
Hurrying over the edge of the rocky cliff that dropped into the canyon, Mitch lowered himself into the rift and made his way to the bottom. His progress remained slow, but at least the zombies above him were unable to follow. He took his time, for a sprained ankle would be a death sentence out in these wilds even without the horde heading his way.
Once he reached the floor of the narrow canyon, he saw the first of the zombies from Tucson pour in from the west. He jogged east until he reached the dead rattler. Drops of blood could be seen in the dust. They headed east.
He knew that Brad’s two friends were still out there and both were armed, but he headed east anyway as the moaning of the zombies grew in volume behind him.
Check in next weekend for the next part of Mitch’s journey into the beginning of the second year of the Eternal Aftermath.