Getting the rest of the camp to agree to their plan wasn’t the easiest thing they had ever done. Laura spoke up against Brown leading the horde of zombies away from the ranch with only Trevor there to help him if things badly, but Brown had refused to take more people, because he already felt there wouldn’t be enough left back at the house to protect the place if something went wrong. In the end both Laura and little Petty had tears in their eyes as the two cowboys rode their horses west.
They had only made it a hundred yards before Trevor cracked a half smile and said, “Isn’t the cowboy supposed to ride into the sunset at the end of the story?”
Brown felt more serious and his response reflected his attitude. “Let’s hope they were wrong about it. I’d much rather not be playing hide and seen with these dead bastards in the dark, but sometimes we don’t have a choice in such matters.”
“Never seems to bother them, though, does it? Doesn’t make sense either. You’d think with their rotting eyes, they wouldn’t be able to see a thing.”
“Nothing much makes sense anymore.” Something in his tone let Trevor know that the conversation was over and it had become time to get to work, Brown could only hope that his plan would be successful.
They road north-west for a while giving the horde of five hundred undead a wide birth, but he know they had to hurry, not only were they fighting against time to use what little sunlight remained, but they also needed to be able to distract the undead before they moved into an area where they might be able to spy the ranch house.
The horse’s hoofs clicked under them as they reached the foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains. The wind shifted and they got a dose of the foulness the walking dead brought with them.
Brown drew his pistol as he took in the mass of undead below him. “We’re going to have to get their attention now. We can’t afford to let them get closer to the ranch.”
“I’d prefer to get a little higher into these foothills first,” Trevor said.
“I’d prefer to be relaxing with my feet kicked up with an ice cold beer, but I think this world has forgotten to honor such things.”
Trevor only nodded and then drew his pistol as well. Seconds later the men had fired two shots into the air.
“Strange how hard most of life is, but how easily some things can work,” Brown said, as the mass of zombies moved toward them like a colony of ants following their queen.
“Yeah, but now comes the hard part,” Trevor countered.
“Indeed, but nothing to do but get things started.” Brown put away his pistol and then drew his rifle. He shot down three of them, just to make sure he kept their attentions and then led the way deeper into the foothills.
At once the going became harder. Between the loose rocks and the growing number of trees, the horses stayed hard pressed to make progress up the slopes. They crossed over a few ridges and moved through larger groups of trees. Soon the vegetation grew thick enough that they lost sight of the zombies moving behind them, but when the wind shifted directions, Brown could hear their moans.
“They sound closer than they should be,” Trevor said.
“That’s what I was thinking.” Brown pointed ahead. “See that hill? It looks clear near the top. We should be able to get a better view from up there.”
Without another wasted word, Brown led them to the top of the hill. They dismounted and got out their field glasses. Trevor looked down, while Brown gave the horses some water.
“Oh holy hell!” he exclaimed.
“What is it?”
Handing him the binoculars, Trevor said, “You had better just look for yourself.”
Brown did and drew in a breath when he saw the scene that unfolded below him. The first think he realized was that their pace through the foothills was too slow for the undead were gaining ground on him, but that wasn’t what dismayed him the most. He could see the main group he had spied earlier, which had already moved into the lower trees, but other smaller groups of zombies littered the plains just before the foothills.
“With all those small groups, there must be close to a thousand of those buggers out there,” Trevor said.
“Doesn’t matter how many there are as long as they all follow us up into the mountains.”
“True, but it might make it a lot harder for us make it back to the ranch.”
Brown lowered the binoculars and met his friend’s gaze. “You might be right about that.” As he spoke those words a greater darkness gripped the lands as the last rays of light disappeared behind the mountain range.
Come back next weekend for the next episode of Brown’s dangerous journey into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath.