It felt like they had passed one degree shy of forever, while Devon and Icepick waited for Fines and Duggen to light a fire in the giant wash to their north. As the pair listened for the others, they progressed as close to the Autozone as the crowds of zombies would allow them. They made it within a few hundred yards, but a wide, debris filled, five lane road separated them from the AutoZone and the car lot Icepick wanted them to raid.
The tall man’s pale face regarded him as they found relative safety behind a large dumpster. “We’ll stay here until they fire get started,” he whispered.
Devon only nodded while he prepped his steel Mace and let his pistol ride in his left hand.
After ten minutes turned into thirty, Devon was about to suggest they make a move in a lull between passing herds, but then he saw a glow rising from the wash.
“Looks like they finally got it going,” Icepick hissed. “We’ll give it another two minutes, then make our move.”
Devon waited behind the dumpster as the undead noticed the rising fires in the wash. Fines and Duggen must had created a huge pile, for soon the tops of the flames could be seen rising above the lip of the wash.
A bead of sweat rolled down the side of his cheek, but he made no move to brush it aside. As the time to move drew near, most of the zombies headed toward the wash and the street had cleared. Despite his true wishes, he had to admit, Icepick’s plan had proved successful.
Just as that thought passed through his mind, the first scream tore out of the wash. Devon thought it sounded like Duggen. Duggen’s screams continued. He couldn’t tell if Fines had joined in the screaming because they echoed loud enough to tremble his guts.
“Time to go,” Icepick said and a nano later his long legs ate up the space between the dumpster and the AutoZone.
For a couple seconds, Devon contemplated leaving Icepick to succeed on this own, but then he thought of Tracy, In spite of her betrayal, if he wanted to return to where they lived, he would have to see this though with Pick, at least long enough to the evil bastard fall.
The final item, which tipped the scales was he wanted a ride. Whatever he chose to do, when he returned to the complex, all choices would be easier with a ride involved. He’d hide it in the nearest park if he had to.
A handful of undead lingered in the street, but they dodged past them and Devon took down two which got to close.
Icepick slammed into the AutoZone door and then withdrew a set of keys.
As he fumbled through the keys a drew a silver one free, Devon said, “How the hell do you have keys to this place?”
“Just mind your own business and keep the geeks off me.”
Devon took down four who wandered too close before Icepick had the door open. He noted the screaming below had ceased. For a moment, he thought Icepick might leave him locked outside, but he held the door open and allowed Devon to run inside.
“Alright Avis,” he said with a smile as he locked the doors. “We’ll be safe enough while we charge up two batteries. Let’s do it and get those rides before the geeks work their way back over here. We continue with the plan.”
“Yeah, we all have a plan.” Devon said under his breath.
Tune in next Weekend for the next episode of Devon’s mad journey into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath
Night had fallen over the ill-fated group. It had allowed, with the aid of Devon’s scouting, the party to creep through the back alleys and yards and avoid the larger clusters of the walking dead.
It surprised Devon, when Icepick insisted he switch out and take point, but it also led him to believe they must be nearing their goal.
Making sure Duggen kept pace stayed Fallen’s major goal. Devon respected him for his concern. Duggen’s wound had left the man sweating and struggling to keep up, but after a short break and downing a few bottles of water they found, the man had caught a second wind and appeared more determined to see the mission though…whatever it was.
The midnight hour had passed before Icepick called back to him in a harsh whisper. “Come on, you slackers, we’re here.”
Devon led the way to where Icepick crouched down behind some concealing bushes.
“A fucking mall. You brought us all this way for a mall. What the hell is this, Dawn of the Dead?”
“Not the mall, dumbass. See that car dealership located right across from the Autozone? We scouted it out. The place is full of batteries and the gear you need to jumpstart them. We can each grab a vehicle and load up a couple of trucks with all the batteries they can hold. Once we get back, we can have the biggest working fleet in Tucson. We’ll be able to control this burg.”
The others had caught up and were listening. Duggen said, “But what about all the biters? This area is crawling with them. There must be a thousand out there.”
Icepick’s pale face flashed a grin in the darkness. “Relax, you think I’d come all the way out here without a plan?”
“Well, let’s hear it,” Devon said. “We won’t be ruling over shit by our bodies becoming bite sized chunks of flesh riding in zombie bellies.”
“Simple, we’re right near the Santa Cruz wash. It’s filed with dry bushes and debris. Fallen and Duggen will work around to the wash and light some giant fires. The walls of the wash are forty feet high so they’ll be safe.”
“Once the fire distracts the freaks, Devon and I will break into the Autozone. We’ll gather the rechargers and batteries while Fallen and Duggen make their way to us. We’ll have four batteries charged up by then. We’ll replace the batteries, load the trucks and go.”
“I can see a lot of things going wrong with that plan,” Devon said.
“You got a better one, Captain Cockolded.”
Devon let loose a grunt which was almost a growl. “Yeah, we head back with our lives.”
“So said the pussy of the group.” Before Devon could retort, Icepick ordered the other two men off. Turning back to Devon, he said, “Come on tough guy, come show me if you got what it takes.”
“I’ll be showing you something before the night is over.”
Tune in next Weekend for the next episode of Devon’s mad journey into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath
Devon kept up the quick pace he’d started and they moved through the gathering undead before they could build into a force strong enough to stop their progress. The snipers concerned him, but soon they had left both them and their zombie fodder behind, but the other undead soon became their real problem.
His mace came up and smashed through half the head of a fat zombie wearing a torn football jersey. He moved to his right and took down three move, but others moved toward them to take their place. His arm started to feel like he carried a railroad tie. He’d already made three runs through the clinging undead before the living snipers took out their ride and with Duggen’s shot arm still leaking blood with each step, they remained only a few degrees faster than the undead following in their wake.
Icepick caught up with him. After smashing the heads off two more lurching zombies, Devon turned and addressed the man supposedly in charge of their already ill-fated mission.
“We need to hole up and treat that arm. It won’t hurt to let us catch our breath either and reassess our situation.”
“Reassess huh,” Icepick snarled over his shoulder as he drove one of his namesakes through an animated corpse’s eye. His pale flesh looked like it glowed in the sunlight as his eyes took in the abandoned buildings surrounding them. “Alright over there. Let’s hit that hotel.”
The hotel had two floors and they headed up to the second. Two of the walking dead were quickly dispatched and then Devon kicked in one of the doors.
The room had two beds. Duggen went to one and the other was placed against the door after they dead bolted it shut.
It didn’t take long for the moaning and banging on the door to begin, but Devon moved toward where Fines had begun to bind Duggen’s wound.
Fines’ dirty face looked up at him and Duggen winced in pain. “The bullet passed through at least. I guess that will give him a chance.”
“A chance…” he let the words hang. “I hope that’ something we all have.”
He moved to where Icepick gazed down at the alley which ran behind the hotel. “It is a bit of drop, but the alley doesn’t appear to hold too many geeks.”
“We can make ropes out of the sheets,” Devon replied. A silence stretched, but then he asked, “So can you let me in on what our mission is now?”
Icepick had eyes like frozen snow and they regarded Devon. “If you live long enough to get me to our destination, I’ll let you in on it. I can tell you one thing, you’re going to want to be part of this.”
Devon walked away. “I serious doubt I want to be part of anything you’re involved with.”
“Just make some ropes from those sheets.”
“Give em enough rope,” he said.
“What did you say?”
Devon turned and looked back at Icepick. “Give a man enough rope and he can hang himself.”
“I’m not sure what’s that’s supposed to mean, Avis, but we’ll see who swings in the breeze at the end of this.”
“We sure will,” Devon answered under his breath before the sounds of tearing sheets began to compete with the growls of the rotting corpses who hammered the door.
Tune in next Weekend for the next episode of Devon’s mad journey into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath
Devon road in the armored SUV with Fines, Duggen, and Hutchins, while Icepick drove. The only good thing about being the runner remained he didn’t have to sit bitch in the back, because he might be asked to sacrifice his life running through the streets at any moment.
He’d already raced ahead to lure the undead away three times. He felt amazed to still be alive, but each time as he hid panting in his sweat soaked clothes, he’d felt even more amazed when the men had bothered to pick him up.
As they drove through the desolate trash ridden streets, Devon noted how quiet the streets looked. “There’s something wrong here, guys.”
“What too you mean?” Fines said from up front in the shotgun seat.
“Where are all the dead? I’ve only seen two over the last 4 blocks, there should be twenty times that number.”
“Yeah, he-” Icepick began, but got cut off when the front two tires of the ride blew and he struggled to keep the ride under control. “Son of a bitch!”
“You aren’t kidding,” Devon yelled. “Look!”
All around them the doors must have been rigged to open somehow for undead came pouring out of the fronts of over ten stores.
Icepick slammed on the breaks. Once they had skidded to a stop, he yelled, “Grab whatever you can, We’re all runners now.”
Devon was the first out of the ride. As the runner, he traveled light, and besides his leather vest, he only had his medieval mace and single pistol with him. He hurried to try to race through the closing gauntlet of zombies before it grew too late. Screw the others, they can follow me or not. He didn’t care enough about the commoners made criminals to stay to hold their hands through this trap.
He watched as the moaning walls of dead flesh moved to cut off all escape before him. He would be the first to reach the gap, but it might not be enough. He shot two of the lead zombies, to the right, in the head and smacked back another with a left handed blow from his mace.
His actions proved enough for him to burst past the clinging grey fingers before the undead met in the center of the road.
He heard shooting behind him and cursed when a bullet tore past his ear like an angry wasp. He heard Icepick cursing. The cursing grew in volume when living snipers took shots at their group. Devon ducked down and for once the presence of the undead aided him, for they might have blocked the snipers from getting a clean shot on him.
He looked back and saw Hutchins wasn’t so lucky and two blasts took him in the back. This, more than anything else, distracted the undead. They paused to tear his screaming form to pieces, which enabled the four remaining men to race around the corner. Sporadic gunfire spat at them and Duggen cried out and almost fell when a bullet tagged his arm.
Devon turned, but Icepick yelled, “Keep going. Scout a way. Fines, grab Duggen and tell him if he can’t keep up, he’ll be left behind.”
“Shit, man,” Fines started. “We’re heading back to the base right?”
“Fuck we are. We were sent out to see this and we’re not heading back until it’s done. Now get your ass in gear.”
Devon shared a look with Fines, but then jogged ahead to find a way to get them through the gathering undead.
His boots hit the pavement like heavy slabs of wet mud. His mind waffled between hopelessness to rage as he let Fines and his two droogs escort him to Edward’s apartment.
Again, he gritted his teeth, he shouldn’t be allowing himself to become trapped in a situation worse than he already found himself in. He didn’t like Fines, but he’d fought with these men, for more than a while, killing them because of the violent fallout of Tracy cheating on him, might be more than they deserve.
Shaking his head, he figured they deserved worse. He knew these men, but still he held his hand.
He marched in front, with the three guards behind him. Seconds before he reached Edward’s door, the door creaked open revealing a room far too dark for any reasonable human to function.
He saw a flash of long platinum hair and knew at once that the bastard known as Icepick had opened the door for them. Icepick looked paler than a ghost. His ivory skin almost glowed within the stygian room. He favored Devon with a devil’s smile while twirling one of his namesakes with his long luminescent fingers.
Despite Icepick’s unnerving presence, Devon forced his sight to land on Edward. The man looked as grizzled as Icepick remained tight. A wild flowing mass of dark hair couldn’t be distinguished from his ill-maintained beard. This along with his stocky build gave him the impression of a man created from the mating of a madman and a rabid bear. Only his eyes looked sharp, a deep liquid brown that bore into Devon until, he had to fight not to shudder under the gaze.
“Devon, have a seat.”
He moved forward. His legs pushed through small stacks of garbage, most of it consisted of junk food wrappers and half crushed aluminum cans.
After he claimed the chair in front of Edward’s cluttered desk, the man-mountain began. “You and I both know that despite his learning, Nathan is a spoiled fool. We all do stupid things and suffer for our woman. Tracy has made you suffer, but you took it out on Nathan, which since he’s Delia’s sister, means that now I also have to suffer if I want to continue having my bed warmer, but be spared the headache.”
He folded his hands and leaned forward. “So you understand you have some payback in store.”
Edward chuckled and leaned back. He made a hand gesture toward Devon. “To the point this man, isn’t he Icepick?”
“Seems like. Other men might bitch and whine and make excuses. You aren’t going to do that are you, Dev?”
“Is sitting here part of the payback, because I can go and come back when you all figure out what direction you’re headed.”
Edward grew fierce and slammed his fist on the table. “Watch your mouth or we’ll give you an extra one! We know exactly what you’re going to do for us or die trying. Icepick has something he needs to acquire. It won’t be an easy mission or a safe one and guess who was just hired to be their runner?”
Devon didn’t answer because he had to try to maintain his composure. A runner was the most dangerous job a man could get. It involved sprinting through the streets which needed to be traveled in order to lure the dead out. They would chase after the runner in order to let the team pass through the area in greater safety.
“Why no vehicles?” he managed to ask.
Icepick answered. “We’ll use them to get close, but where we’re going no vehicles can enter.”
“So what are we doing?”
“You’ll find out if you live long enough,” Edward answered, “Now get the hell out of my face. You have two hours to gather your gear. You’re heading out tonight.”
Enough old construction sites had dumped abandoned supplies into the desert that Brown discovered an old steel bar. He mounted his horse and took it with him to the back of the cinder block wall that surrounded the housing complex the biker gang had taken over.
It remained only a few hours after sunrise and Brown hoped the bikers behaved like most of their ilk and stayed in bed. As the relentless desert sun cooked his Stetson part of him didn’t blame them for having late nights, which would keep them out of Arizona’s deadly heat.
More concerning was the horde that slowly marched toward his back. Instead of the mountains taking its toll, if anything the horde had grown as it met up with more undead migrating north from Mexico. It marched a thousand strong as least and could have been two or three times that number.
He tied his mount, Moonlight, to a palo verde tree, grabbed his sledge hammer in one hand, the steel pole in the other, and hurried to the wall. He circled around and got to a place a two hundred yards from his horse, but closer to where the horde emerged from the foothills.
He cast a final glance over his shoulder as the horrid odor of decaying flesh rotting in the sun reached his nostrils. They stumbled over the rocks and uneven ground, these human monsters made flesh. Bones poked through tattered skin and black wounds covered more parts of their bodies than the clothes they wore.
He wished, he really wished, he had enough bullets to sit on a high cliff and take them out of their misery to the very last one, but he wasn’t near being so equipped, better to have his two enemies kill each other.
Perhaps leading the undead into the compound was a questionable act. With so few breathers left, they should be uniting against a common foe, but if these bikers had been so cruel to wipe out the elderly who had occupied this complex, than he had no doubts what they might do to the girls back at the ranch and Brown would anything to protect them.
He placed the steel bar between two cinder blocks where a crack had already separated them. Sweat formed on his forehead and behind him he could hear the zombies drawing near.
The bar entered further than he thought it might, but it also created more noise than he would have liked. Not one to hesitate, Brown hit the steel bar again and again. It burst through the other side. Moving to the side, he threw his weight against the bar. At first nothing happened and he had to fight away his panic.
Muscles strained and sweat poured into his eyes. He tried harder. A growl escaped his lips as he gave it everything he had. The upper half of the wall fell away with a crash.
He realized at once that it wouldn’t be enough. He needed to take down the lower three feet of wall that remained.
He heard shouts from within the complex and the moaning behind him grew far too close. He ignored them both and drove the pole straight down through one of the exposed cinder blocks. He pulled at the remaining walls. It didn’t give, so he jammed the bar forward.
More yells echoed up from the compound and he could hear the shuffling of clumsy feet as they tore through the desert floor just yards behind him. He pulled the bar back and then jammed it forward again. The top two cinder blocks cracked and then broke apart. He moved the bar two feet to the right and started the process again.
Forward, back, forward, back.
Shots rang out and powder broke away as a bullet hit the wall to his left. Another disturbed the dry dirt before him.
He grit his teeth and a cinder block broke away as he slammed the bar back. At least my friends and the girls will be safe, he thought to himself, but then jerked at the first set of hands clawed at his back.
With a yell, he dove over what remained of the wall. Bullets buzzed around, him and several hit the zombies and their bodies jerked in a foul dance of death. Reaching up, he grabbed the steel bar and pulled it back in toward him. With a crash, the rest of the cinder blocks in the break fell away and the undead came pouring in.
The shouting behind him increased into a frenzy as the zombies entered the complex, but Brown was on his feet and running. Two filthy, dark bearded bikers had drawn in closer to him and appeared to be more set on revenge than holding back the horde. Brown drew his pistol and dropped to one knee as more shouts ripped by him like angry hornets.
He held his breath and hit one in the center of his chest. The other kept firing until Brown’s third shot got lucky and took the man in the eye. He stood up just in time to feel fingers grabbing at his head. They came away with his hat.
A female zombie clutched it in her hands.
“No one touches my Stetson.” He said and blew off her head at point blank range. His left hand grabbed the hat before it hit the ground and he tossed it back on his head as he turned to run.
The undead lurched after him and bullets continued to crash into the cinder blocks as he passed, but he made it to the wall near where Moonlight had been tied. It scared him to see how close a few dozen zombies were to his mount, but he leapt the wall as a fury of bullets came his way.
He freed Moonlight and hopped onto the saddle and with a whoop, he galloped away from the conflict as the horde flooded into the biker complex by the hundred.
Come back next weekend for the climax of Brown’s journey into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath
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.
Rollie tried to wipe the tears from his eyes as Jack hurried him away from the sounds of the zombies feasting on his former lover. Despite his overwhelming trauma he remembered the sniper, who had so recently caused Will’s demise.
When he noticed they headed straight up the road that had so recently been unsafe, he said, “What happened to that damn gunman?”
“Sorry, if you wanted to kill him yourself, I’m afraid I beat you to that punch.”
“I just want him dead. I don’t care who did it.” Regaining some composure, he asked, “Did you learn anything?”
“I learned that some group has put a lot of effort into making sure the water stays in and the zombies stay out. There is a huge wall around the next bend and they have damned up the water.” He stopped and took a moment to look Rollie in the eye. “We aren’t going to be able to get to the water without climbing over the wall and entering their territory.”
“But there was only one guard?’ Rollie asked as they jogged north. He could still hear the sounds of the undead fighting over their feast, but the pair had at least put some distance between them and the horde.
“I only saw one man guarding the wall, but with those shots fired their whole group could be showing up. Who knows how many that might be, but we need to get over the wall before then.”
Matching his words, Jack took up his pace leaving Rollie needing to run in order to keep up. Without looking back, Jack rushed the wall. The sight of it caused Rollie to hesitate.
From the looks of the ten foot high structure, whole sections of houses had been torn away and brought up the old road through the canyon. These ruined sections were attached together by two-by-fours and any other scraps they had scavenged. No gate graced the road. This structure was a permanent blockade. Some group had worked very hard to shut out the rest of the world and for a year at least, it had worked.
Shaking his head, Rollie hurried to catch up for with a leap and a grab, Jack had already thrown himself over. Rollie expected to hear shots or yells, but nothing of the kind occurred.
Rollie had more difficulty climbing the wall, but Jack’s hand reached down and he helped pull him over. Beneath them a freshly killed body’s blood stained the crumbling pavement.
Rollie knelt next to the man that had killed his lover. The first thing he discovered was that it wasn’t a man at all. The boy might have just started high school before the plague began. Rollie doubted he was older than fifteen. Fifteen and he had killed Will. Fifteen, and Jack had cut him down.
Rollie flinched when a loud moan let them know that the undead hadn’t given up the chase. The wall looked strong, but Rollie didn’t look forward to having to fight through hundreds of zombies to get back to their safe house. Part of him wondered why he should go back—or bother doing anything at all. Thoughts of a bloody revenge turned to dust in his mouth as he looked down at the kid beneath his feet.
Jack was looking through boxes and tables that lined the wall. He would want to go back for Sammy, there was no way Jack would abandon her.
A smile crossed Jack’s face and Rollie couldn’t be sure why that would happen, until he saw jack take three huge gulps out of a green canteen. He smiled again and tossed it to Rollie. “The first thing that has gone right today.”
Rollie had just finished some gulps of his own when three young teens, each no more than sixteen years old, rushed around a bend in the road on their side of the fence. Unlike the youth on the wall, these three had no rifles. Two carried metal tipped spears, while the tallest of the trio held a pistol.
The teenager with the pistol started to raise it until Jack pointed the rifle their way. “I wouldn’t advise trying that. In fact drop it and all the other weapons you have or I’ll blast away your knees and throw you over your damn wall.”
Rollie clenched his bat and took a step forward, but felt like a poor sidekick to the heavily armed former bouncer.
The lead youth lowered but didn’t drop the pistol. “Screw you man! What did you do to tuttle?”
“Slit his throat when he killed our friend,” Jack replied through clenched teeth. “You killed one of us and we killed one of you. I’d consider us even and-”
“Screw you!” the youth yelled and then raised his pistol.
A single shot rang out and the boy’s head exploded into gore and splashed the other two teen’s shirts with arcs of crimson.
They looked at their dead friend and then Jack. A second later they raced away back toward the bend in the road.
Jack raised the rifle, but then said, “Son of a bitch. I can’t shot unarmed kids in the back.”
“But who knows who they might be running off to warn?”
“Rrrrr, you’re right come on!” Jack set off in a fast sprint.
Rollie stopped only long enough to grab the pistol and rushed after him.
I hope you enjoyed this episode of Rollie’s dangerous journey into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath. Come back next weekend for the next part of the tale.
The once clean swimming pool had been converted to a rain catchment area. The main problem, it was dry. Like a dirty eye, covered with dirt and filth, it stared up at him as if mocking his dehydrated state. Being without water within the mid-summer Sonoran Desert was a fate even the animals couldn’t survive, but not only did he need water, so did everyone else. Not just some water, a gallon a day would be good, but they had nothing.
Rollie squinted up into the blazing sun and felt like his mouth chewed on sandpaper. A layer of sweat covered him like an extra set of clothes. He was just wondering if they should try to clean the pool on the off chance it might rain one day, but he hadn’t even seen a cloud in weeks. Turning, he reached for his straw hat and then froze in mid-motion.
He heard the scrapping of clumsy feet grinding through the sand, which covered the road. Gliding toward the wall that surrounded the back yard, he saw a dozen zombies shuffling along the road that ran in front of the house.
He crouched down and remained still. The owner of the house barely tolerated their presence at the best of times and had laid down many rules when they had arrived. First and foremost of these was to never let any of the walking dead discover that living people remained inside of his place. Travis called it his ‘hide first and hide second’ policy. Rollie didn’t knock it, for it had kept them alive through the first year of the zombie apocalypse. But as the undead continued on his way his eyes gazed back to the pool and realized that zombies had lost their status as his group’s chief concern.
His head jerked when he heard the sliding glass door open behind him. His lover Will stepped out into the back yard, but stayed in the shade under the ramada. Rollie moved to join him. He wanted the assurance of physical touch, however the look on Will’s face let him know his boyfriend had other things on his mind.
“Jack’s called for a meeting. He wants us all to be there.”
Rollie didn’t have to ask what the meeting was about. A minute didn’t go by without the torture of not having water plaguing him. “When?”
“Now, I guess.” As Rollie passed him, Will touched his shoulder. “Whatever happens, I want us to be on the same team.” Will had gone through many changes over the last year. The pretty boy Latino had been replaced by a tougher no nonsense warrior. Muscles bulged under his camo pants and shirt, and long gone were his pink shirts and cute hair cuts. Rollie didn’t mind the muscles, but he often missed the easy going nature his lover had once possessed.
“I’d want that too,” Rollie said. He might have said more, but Will headed inside and he followed him.
Jack, Sammy, Travis, and his girlfriend, Barb, already sat at the main table. Inside of the house the heat was stifling and the air smelled ripe and stale.
Jack tilted his head toward them and indicated the free chairs. His sideburns had stayed sharpened to points. At least some things remained consistent, apocalypse or no.
Sammy looked tired and concerned, but still beautiful. She had left her blonde hair stay long despite the potential dangers. No one had been surprised when she and Jack had quickly become a couple.
Travis appeared as grumpy as always. His ratty beard might have made a homeless man wince and his dark eyes darted from one face to the other.
His girlfriend had somehow maintained a plumpness through the horrors they faced, but both she had Travis had been medieval enthusiasts before the outbreak and their stash of weapons had come in quite handy over the last year.
Jack started talking as soon as they sat down. “We obviously all know what this meeting is about. If there was water around here easy to get, we’d already have it. We could get lucky and find some cache somewhere and that would be fine, but the way I see it we have to strike out toward the closest water source we know of and that would be Sabino Canyon.”
“Don’t be so sure,” Travis said. “I’ve seen some summers like this where the river completely dries up.”
“We’ll just have to hope that the rising water tables have kept that from happening,” Jack said. “But I’m not here to talk about where the water is, I’ve gathered us to talk about who’s going to go get it.”
Everyone grew silent, so the former bouncer continued and looked at him as he did so. “I’d rather not bring Sammy and Travis has already assured me that he and Barb will keep her safe while he guards the fort. So I guess that leaves one of you or both.”
Will spoke for them. “I think we’d prefer both.”
“I probably would too. Normally I might just take my Harley out, but with the need for water, I’m going to have to take Travis’s truck.”
“And you had better bring it back in one piece,” Travis grumbled.
Jack eyed him for a moment but then looked back at Rollie and Will. “So if you guys are down, I suggest you gear up and make any preparations you need, because with the lack of water we will only be getting weaker. I’d like to leave in an hour.”
Will and Rollie met each other’s gaze and they stood up to get ready. From the road the sounds of moaning could be heard again.
I hope you enjoyed the first part of Rollie’s dangerous journey into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath. Come back next weekend for the next part of the tale.
Jake’s sledge hammer swung out and knocked another walking corpse back into the mud streaked gully as the sounds of the gunshots faded into the forested hills.
“Three shots means trouble,” Flack said, as he used his rifle to push two zombies back into the gully. The two took three more with them and they all splashed into rain flooded stream below. “Maybe we should use our guns.”
“I’d rather not lose what advantages we have,” Jake called out. “Let’s just try to do this.” He moved into the fray swinging his hammer as quickly as he could. He tried to hold the bank, but noticed that Scent couldn’t guard her section and had to fall back.
When Tops moved back to protect her, he and Flack were forced to retreat or risk be flanked by the undead.
Flack cut through half of one’s neck, but then turned to him and yelled, “I think we have to switch to guns or we’ll be overwhelmed.”
“Son of a bitch,” Jake said, but then drew his pistol and dropped six zombies with well placed shots.
Flack fired his M-4 in small bursts. The drenched zombie’s exploding heads splashed gore over the churning mud. Corpse after corpse fell until the two men had completed their grim task.
Tops and Scent went through the downed undead putting any survivors out of their misery while the two gunman caught their breath. Overhead the raging lead colored clouds showed no signs of breaking up. Jake sighed when the rain grew stronger and walked over to where Flack loaded more bullets into a spent magazine.
“So what now?” the tall road warrior asked him.
“We were tasked with finding Tal and that’s what we’re going to do.” Flack nodded and Jake clasped him on the shoulder. Once the others had collected themselves, the group headed south.
The run in had sobered them and gone were the lighthearted jokes. The good humor was replaced by careful footsteps and nervous glances into the drenched woods. As they traveled the rain picked up and a thin mist rose from the ground. Within minutes the rain muffled all other sounds as the mists brought down their visibility.
Gritting his teeth Jake led them through the obfuscated forest. Their soaked clothes hung heavy from their arms and back. Each footstep became harder as mud stuck to their soles and created slippery paths through the fields.
They found a thick cluster of trees and Jake had the team stop and get their barring.
“I wish he’s fire three more shots,” Scent whispered.
“Maybe we should fire three of our own,” Flack suggested.
“I’d rather hold off,” Jake started, “because—wait, do you guys hear that?”
“Sounds like a drunk gorilla hitting a drum with a broken stick,” Tops suggested.
“It’s coming from this way,” Jake said. “Let’s go.”
A tree covered hill loomed before them and Jake made for it. To their west he could see they had drawn closer to the canyon. This comforted him, more than a little, for at least he knew nothing could head at them from that direction.
The team made it up to the thick cluster of trees and despite the mists they had no trouble seeing the scene unfolding below them. Scent gasped and Jake felt like joining her when he saw Tal and one other person sitting on the branches of a pine tree ten feet above an undulating mass of easily three hundred undead. The zombies swirled and trashed under his friends like an eternal mosh pit of death.
Flack sounded breathless as he said, “We need to go back and get more people.”
But before Jake could replay, he heard Scent cry out. Looking over his shoulder, he saw her backpedaling toward the huge group before them. At first this confused him until he saw the shapes looming up out of the fog.
Another group of undead had come up behind them.
“Shit,” Flack hissed. “Now we’re cut off from camp.”
“Worse than that,” Jake started, “We are stuck between two packs with no easy escape.”
Come back next weekend and continue Jake’s dangerous journey into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath.
You can explore more of the Eternal Aftermath here!