A swarm of zombies filled the narrow canyon on one side of the unlikely pair, but it was the vehicle that roared toward Rollie that had him more concerned. Turning toward the mangy teen he said, “So you’re still going to convince whoever is driving that loud as hell ride that working together to fight these zombies is better than wasting bullets on each other just so the undead can have a warm meal?”
“I’ll do my best, but you guys have shot down three of my friends.”
“There is that,” Rollie said, while shading his eyes against the glare as the vehicle finally came into view. He drew back in shock at the size of the thing. This was no pickup, a full blow semi-truck whipped down the crumbling road toward them.
“Ooo, they’re busting out the big guns for you,” the teen said.
Rollie dropped his empty pistol and held up his hands as the truck raced toward him.
It skidded to a stop with a wild spray of gravel. A second later the window rolled down. “What the hell you doing? Pick up that gun and let’s get going.”
“Who else would it be?” He could see the former bartender eying the approaching horde. “Who’s this kid?”
“Well Chris, if you feel like living, I suggest you come with us. Now grab those containers of water and get your asses in here.”
Rollie lifted two of the containers, which he had luckily already filled, and gave them to Chris. Chris was more than happy to take them and run into the back seat of the rig.
Throwing a look over his shoulder, Rollie saw that the horde was less than a hundred feet away. He bent down to get the last two plastic containers and cried out when a hand grabbed his wrist. He had forgotten about the teen he had shot in the chest and looked on in horror as its form raised itself out of the murky desert pool.
Jack might have yelled something, but Rollie couldn’t hear a word over the loud moan of the zombie that had him. His body had been in an awkward position and he wasn’t able to pull away. The brackish water flowed from its mouth as it leaned in toward him.
Rollie tried to pull his arm back while he fumbled for his knife. He had to abandon that goal when the thing moved in for a bite. He was forced to use his free hand to keep those teeth away from him by pushing against the dead teen’s forehead.
“Son of a…” he started, but then grabbed a hand full of the zombie’s hair and pulled it toward him. The undead had been on his knees and fell forward with a large splash. Water stung his eyes, but Rollie kept pulling and finally his wrist came free.
With the sounds of the advancing horde burning his ears, he yelled, “Screw you!” and kicked the teen in the head. Drawing his knife, he dashed forward and thrust it deep into its left eye while it attempted to rise. The teen fell back with a groan. Leaving his knife there, he grabbed the last two water containers and run to the truck just as a dozen undead reached out their filthy arms for him.
Jack didn’t wait until the door was shut, as soon as Rollie was inside, he floored it into the trashing bodies of the dead. Grim faced and silent, Jack drove over the bodies by the score.
Rollie felt like they road over a field of boulders and thought they’d get stuck more than once, but the ride proved to be big enough to take them through the horde and out the smashed gate. By the time they reached the parking lot the horde had thinned enough that the foul sounding meaty whacks dropped down to only one every few seconds.
Jack broke the silence. “Looks like we made it.”
“But at such a cost, for only twelve gallons of water.”
“You got that right and I don’t think we’ll be able to go back there again.”
“Nope, no one will.”
They road in silence for a while and then Jack turned and favored him with a slight grin. “That’s okay, I always liked Tanque Verde Falls better anyway.”
Come back next weekend when we start a new journey into the second year of the Zombie Apocalypse
The crash of the gate being torn down still echoed though the canyon as Rollie yelled at the two armed teens. “That’s your gate’s coming down. We’re all in a world of trouble, so we have to decide real quick if we’re going to be working together or just providing the zombs with a warm dinner. You guys killed my…best friend, so after everything I think we’re more than even.”
“Even,” one of them yelled. “You just destroyed our home!” The youth ran straight at Rollie firing as he came. Bullets tinged off the boulder Rollie hid behind and kicked up dust when they hit sand.
Rollie had never been much of a shot. He had never learned how to fire a gun before the zombie apocalypse. He couldn’t even be sure how many bullets remained in his pistol, but he was sure that he sent them all at the angry teen.
His last shot hit the charging teen in center of his chest. He looked more surprised than hurt, but then tumbled back into the murky pool.
For a long moment, Rollie stood there just trying to catch his breath. He had never killed a man before and felt like he might faint, but the moans of the approaching horde drew him back to the present.
There was still one teen and Rollie was out of bullets.
“Hey, ah what’s your name kid?”
“Billy, I mean Bill.”
“Do you feel like having the day end without you being either shot or eaten?”
“Can’t say it would bother me.” Bill paused as the sounds of the zombies grew in volume. “I’m going to come out. Please hold your fire.”
“You have my word no shots will come from me.”
The teen, not much more than a boy really stepped out holding his pistol by putting one finger through the trigger guard.
“So how many of you are there and what’s your story?”
“Are you sure this is the best time?”
Rollie found the dead teen’s pistol. And tucked it into his belt while saying, “Give me the condensed version.”
“We were part of a private school that was camping out in the Catalinas. At first there were about twenty students and four teachers. Mr. Fennel brought us down here straight out of the mountains. We raided the area before it got too bad. He knew we’d need water so he set up this wall so we could keep ourselves mostly safe. Two of our teachers died before we finished and Mr. Fennel went out one morning and never came back. Our last teacher died of a heart attack six months ago and we’ve been on our own ever since.”
“A regular Lord of the Flies, huh?”
“I never read that book.” The teen was skinny with a tangled mess of orange hair. He looked like he was about to say something, when the first zombies came into view. “We had better get going.”
“How do I know I won’t be shot on sight?”
“Um, I’ll do my best to stop them, but we can’t stay here.”
“You got that right.” Rollie had just turned to start deeper into the canyon when the sound of a vehicle racing down the old road reached his ears. “Looks like we might be meeting your people faster than we thought.
Come back new weekend for the finish episode of Rollie’s journey into the first year of the Eternal Aftermath.
“I just can’t shoot a kid in the back,” Jack said, as he lowered his new rifle.
“I would tend to agree with you,” Rollie started, as he checked his pistol and found it loaded, “But if they come back with a dozen more kids that are less than happy that we have now killed two of their number, I think we might be in some serious trouble.”
“That and by the sounds of things zombies have already claimed the other side of this wall.” Stopping only long enough to loot a large hunting knife from the still warm body of the teen he’d just shot down, Jack continued. “We have little choice but to follow this through. We’ll never make it past the zombies without water and hopefully more gear.”
Looking in the direction the two teens had fled, Rollie asked, “But what makes our lives more valuable than theirs? There has been so much death already and all of it useless.” The loss of Will came bubbling up and left him barely able to breath.
Jack regarded him silently for a moment. “Death owns this world now. When the living try to assist death by making me join its ranks, I’m more than happy to return the favor and beat them to that punch. Now we need to quit yapping and get going.”
Then, without another word, Jack led the way around the rock formation and they jogged up the old road to the north. On either side of them pristine desert rose from the steaming sand. The area on this side of the wall appeared to be zombie free. Of the teens there remained no sign.
Rollie feared another sniper and the back of his neck prickled as he imagined a bullet hitting him at any moment. The desert cliffs and cactus offered a hundred hidden areas, but so far they made their way without issue.
They pair traveled anther hundred yards and found what they had originally been seeking. It wasn’t large and it appeared murky, but they before them they found more water than Rollie had seen in a year. The pool stretched twenty by thirty feet and may have reached his waist in its center.
Jack dropped his pack to the ground. “First things first, fill the containers we have and then stash the backpacks, but this isn’t going to work unless we find a vehicle and maybe not even then, but a place this organized should have some rides. We’re going to need one.”
“I don’t know, Jack, we could just head into the desert and circle around the horde.”
“And what have to do this again in a week? Screw that, and screw these people that think they have the right to Tucson’s best water supply. I don’t mind them setting up a base, but to shoot us on sight when we’re just trying to survive, fuck that.” Jack’s eyes blazed. “Stay here and fill those in case we have to go with your plan. I’m going to get a ride and I’m going to cut down anyone that tries to stop me.” A mirthless grin crossed his face and he finished with, “And I hope some of them do.”
Rollie stared at the man who was willing to take on who knew how many men instead of just taking their gallons and run. He took the time to dunk his head into the water and take in a few mouthfuls. It tasted brackish, but most likely it would be fit to drink. Then he focused on the task as hand. He spoke under his breath and he filled to big water bottles at the same time.
“I’m not sure what sort of testosterone overload that guy has, but he’s going to…” his voice traveled off when he heard movement in the hills behind him. Damn, he thought to himself, it would be just my luck to have to be the one to have to fight these delinquents by myself.
He listened and kept filing the containers and then put their lids on. All the while he scanned the cliffs with subtle movements. Play in cool, Rollie. Play it…
“Hold it right there asshole,” a young voice cried out.
Looking up suddenly caused droplets of water to arc out from his hair and splash before him into the pool.
There were two of them, but not the same ones who had fled away from him before. Each held a pistol pointed at him, but they were still on the cliffs on the opposite side of the pool—a good sixty feet away.
“Take that pistol off slowly and tell us where the other asshole is!” the one with darker brown hair yelled.
Rollie knew he was a bad shoot, but hoped these teens might be just as bad. He’d always heard that in the real world hitting a moving target with a pistol proved difficult, but if they had been practicing on zombies over the last year it could go either way.
He went for it anyway. Drawing his pistol as quickly as his skills allowed, he got the first shots off as he got to his feet and sprinted to the rocks located on the north side of the pool.
They shot back and bullets ripped through the air like angry hornets. One sparked off a rock before him, but he kept running. Somehow he made it to the slabs of orange sandstone and drove behind them.
He heard no sounds of new clips being driven home. Could these people be low on bullets? Perhaps they left in such great haste they forgot to grab them. He figured if that was the case they probably each only had a bullet or two left in their pistols. Still…one bullet is enough.
“Come out, you stupid thieving coward!” The brown haired teen demanded.
“Oh yeah,” Rollie called out. “Sounds like a great idea. You watched too many cops shows kid. And BTW, if you head toward me, you’ll be the one getting shot.”
The teens found cover and he could just hear their murmuring voices. But then he heard something else. A loud tearing sound disturbed the desert birds and two ravens took flight and soared over his head. Seconds later this was followed by an echoing crash.
“What the hell is that?” the teen shouted.
Rollie called back. “My guess is that all this shooting drew in enough zombs to tear through your gate. Now we can either work together or all die. What do you say?”
Thanks for reading Rollie’s journey into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath and come back next weekend for a new episode.