Brown looked out over the rolling sun baked hills. A slight wind tossed the yellowed grass covered slopes that led uphill toward the Santa Rita Mountains. He could just see the line where the first twisted trees began to appear to the west, but that wasn’t what he watched.
A cloud of dust had been kicked up to the west of the ranch house he and his friends had called home over the last year. Where some had sought to survive the masses of roving undead by living off the corpse of the old world, he and a handful of others had taken the opposite approach. They had fled the cities and towns, figuring less people meant fewer zombies, which meant less trouble.
The growing plume of disturbed sand drew his attention again. There were many things in the region that could cause such a disturbance. Herds of horses, cows, or even deer could create the cloud. Wind could create such things as well, but Brown had to prepare for the worst case scenario, just to be safe.
In his case the worst case scenario would be a group of migrating zombies moving in from Mexico. It had happened more than once, but if the cloud was any indication, he’d never encountered one this big before.
He heard something move to the east and jerked around thinking that another group must have moved in behind him, but he let out a sigh, when he saw that it was Trevor leading his horse named Smoke. Smoke whinnied at Brown’s mount, which he called Moonshine, since it was mostly black, but had streaks of silver running over its flanks.
“I saw it too,” Trevor said, without so much as a hello.
Brown looked his way. “I’d like to think it’s some migrating elk, but I doubt we’re gonna be that lucky today.”
“Yeah it’s something migrating alright.” Trevor paused to remove his cowboy hat, wipe the sweat off his brow, and then toss it back on. “I suppose you want to go have a look?”
“Yes sir, I suppose we should.” Having said their piece the two men mounted their houses and took them slowly over the fields toward the disturbance.
It didn’t take them long to surmount a hill tall enough for the wide expanse of grasslands to open up before them. Looking to the southwest, Brown sighed as a string of curses escaped from Trevor’s lips.
Perhaps two miles away from them easily five hundred dust covered undead slowly marched across the plain. Like spirits of death itself, they left a brown stain in their passing as if anything they touched joined them in their foul state of decay and lifelessness.
“Maybe they’ll miss the ranch,” his friend suggested.
“I don’t think we can count on that.”
“Then what should we do, go back and evacuate everyone up into the hills for a few nights?”
“And what let them eat all our livestock and trample our crops?” Brown said without taking his eyes off the horde.
Trevor’s voice took and edge. “You aren’t thinking about fighting that many. We can gather the horses and probably herd the cattle east before we’re spotted.”
“I might like for you to do that and take Laura and Petty with you, but I was thinking about a third option.”
He had Trevor’s rapt attention. “And what would that be, boss?”
“What if Moonshine and I got in their sights and then lured them away to the west. Once we reached the foothills, I could lead them on a merry little chase and then slip away through the trees and meet you somewhere.”
“I like it, but still see one problem with the plan.”
“What would that be?” Brown asked.
“That I’m not included in the luring,” Trevor said with a smile.
“I’d never be able to focus knowing that the rest of us aren’t in good hands.”
“I hear you, but hear me. I’m not letting you take all the risk and earn all the glory, I might add, without me. James and Cassey can handle the escape. Besides if this plan works they won’t have to leave the ranch anyway.”
“Alright, you’re in partner, but let’s head back and tell the others what’s what. We don’t have much time.”
Trevor looked at Brown as the wind drove the first stench of death their way. “You got that right. Let’s get moving.”
Come back next weekend for the next episode of Brown’s dangerous journey into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath.