Icepick knew about a side door. Devon had noted there was a great deal about this AutoZone Icepick appeared familiar with. After he opened two docking bays, the pale thin giant addressed him.
“Once we have the vehicles, we’ll drive them into these loading docks. A few geeks might work their way in here, but once we get the doors shut they won’t be anything we can’t handle.”
Once ready, they opened the side door and each ran to the car lot with a freshly charged battery under an arm. A sliver of moon illuminated the streets, which stretched as dead as the corpses walking across them. As their feet slammed over the asphalt, Icepick looked his way. “The geeks are pretty thin thanks to the fire and screaming, I’m going for that jacked up white Tundra. Keep them off me until I get the battery in. If anything goes wrong, we’ll meet up at the loading docks.”
More than a few things had surprised Devon over the last twenty-four hours, but when Icepick pulled keys out of his pocket and opened the door to the Tundra.
“Got any more of those?” Devon asked. A fat zombie blocked his path and he brought his mace down like a sledge hammer in the center of its head and it toppled over without so much as a groan.
“Nope, just the one. You know how to hotwire right?”
“A couple of times I’ve been forced…” Devon started to say, but Icepick was inside the cab and popping the hood.
Devon cursed under his breath and took up a defensive position. Their allies sacrifice had helped considerably and made the task possible, but it remained far from easy. At least twenty undead slowly stumbled his way.
Instead of waiting for them to box him in, he charged two and took them down with his Mace. Then he moved to the other side of where Icepick worked on the battery and took down two more. The zombies weaved and were uncertain as to which way to go, just to have him change his position again.
While he fought, Devon spied a jet-black Tahoe. Fighting his way there, he set his battery on the roof of the cab. Hurrying back over to the Tundra, he was just able to strike down four zombies about to lunch on Icepick’s legs. “Are you almost done here? It’s going to be a lot harder getting my ride going without the keys.”
Icepick slammed the hood while throwing a glance his way, after a non-hurried stroll into the truck, he started the engine and looked back Devon’s way. “Then I suggest you get moving.”
Devon felt his mouth hang open as Icepick sped out of the parking lot leaving him alone with a locked truck and two hundred gathering undead.
Tune in next Weekend for the next episode of Devon’s mad journey into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath
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.
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.”
His fingers caught in his grimy hair. Giving up trying to pretend he could be presentable after being out in the desert sun digging through garbage for three days, Devon hurried to the small square Carrie and he pretended to call home.
As he drew near, he heard the sounds of moaning. Could his wife have somehow become infected? How could it be possible if he passed a dozen men between the gate and his room?
Drawing near the door, he knew one of the voices belonged to his wife, but there was another. His exhausted mind and nerves snapped into action and he pushed into their room.
Instead of roaming undead or an epic battle for life, Carrie lay beneath Nathan with her legs spread. Devon wanted to burn out his eyes with a torch when he couldn’t help but fixate on the sight of Nathan entered her over and over again.
A stream of curses erupted from him beyond his control and would be forever forgotten.
With surprising strength, Carrie pushed the much larger man off of her and started to shout something, which would also never be remembered.
Nathan had just enough time to see Devon charging in, before Devon’s right fist cracked him in the jaw. Nathan spun in a half circle and toppled to the floor with a cry.
Devon’s dust covered body pulsed. His finger pointed at her like a weapon. “What? How is this even possible? I fight through hordes, fucking hordes, to bring back a few scraps of food and Mr. PHD, in fucking Humanities, is boning you? I should kill this fuck.”
He had to look away as she started to cry. “You realize that it’s shit like this that could get us kicked out of here. I was just out there. Without our vehicles we would have been done. We don’t have any vehicles, Carrie and you… you fucking cheated on me. I’m out there risking my life and you let this fat fucking leech be with you. I…”
Fearing where his anger could take him, Devon flung the door open.
From behind, he heard Nathan getting onto his hands and knees. “My sister is married to Edward. You’ll be expelled for this,” he forced out past the fingers clutching his wounded jaw.
One giant step forward later and Devon’s boot connected with the side of Nathan’s head. “You care enough about who’s married to who, then find your own wife.”
“Devon, I was lonely and confused. I heard your group had been killed.”
He looked over his shoulder once, but stayed silent. The door slammed shut and he did his best to avoid punching things as he stomped away from his room.
He had gathered enough goods to sit in the half-assed apartment the Collective dared to call a bar. Warm Bud Lights approached his idea of hell, but after the Collective’s fifty percent, he still had plenty for battering and he would be double damned if Carrie was going to see as much as a can of beats.
He had just started his third tepid nightmare, when three of Edward’s strong-arms made a triangle around him.
“You shouldn’t had done that, Devon.” Their leader, Fines, looked like a diseased goth who run out of dark hair dye and was stuck having his bright orange mule lick dangle over his face.
“Could anyone do different?”
“I suppose not, but I gotta take you with us. Edward wants to talk to you and Devon, I’ll just tell you now. He’s steaming over this. You hurt Nathan pretty bad.”
“I could have killed him.”
“Dev, it isn’t funny. You know all Nate’s got is his brains and you hit him in the head twice.”
Devon took a long pull on his crappy beer.
“You going to come with us, nice or not?”
Devon thought about all the things he could have done. He could have tried to fight his way past them. He could have made a break for the gate and maybe grabbed Carrie despite of what an…
His chair made a load screech as he got to his feet and he marched in between the men toward Edward’s apartment.
Tune in next Weekend for the next episode of Devo/s mad journey into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath
Dane took a step forward and his outline became visual in the near darkness. A lighter flicked to life illuminating the sneer on his face before it moved to ignite two half used candles. Outside of the door they just passed through, the first sounds of the arriving zombies could be heard. Moans mixed with bangs filled her will a deep fear, but right then she would have traded the zombies for Dane.
“Wanted to ditch me, huh? I bet you wish I had ended up like Buzz. Didn’t work that way did it?” Turned toward Davey, his voice grew louder. “What were you thinking, you little fag? Opening the door and letting them in on purpose and for what, to save this slut’s dignity. I doubt there’s a bitch on this whole planet with any dignity at this point.”
She glanced at the candles and an idea came to her, but she needed to stall for time. “Maybe we should just try to work together so we can all survive this.”
He gave a dark laugh. “Why should I work with the fucker that caused this problem in the first place?” He eyed Sara. “I might consider saving you though. I haven’t even gotten a taste yet.”
She needed a little more time.
She lowered her voice. “Is there a way to escape?”
“Of course there is. The window in this room leads to a hallway with a back door. But I’m not happy about it.” Glaring at Davey, he continued. “We’ve been collecting gear for almost a year and now we might have to throw it all away just because we were going to get some puss. What’s the problem, you liked getting my cock so much she made you feel jealous?”
Davey let out an animal yell and charged Dane with his dagger in the murder position.
Dane stepped forward and used a sideways block. He kept the blade from being driven into his chest, but the tip caught his forearm drawing an angry line of red along it. A string of curses erupted from him. With a growl he gave Davey one of the meanest right hooks Sara had ever seen. Davey went down hard and she heard the knife clatter across the floor.
“Get something to bind this,” he said while inspecting his wound. “If you help me, I’ll make it sure you get out of here breathing.”
She waited. He looked her way when she didn’t answer. That was when she grabbed both candles and dashed two strings of molten wax into his eyes.
He drew back with a cry.
She ran toward him with her dagger.
A lucky swing with his arm knocked the knife out of her hand.
“You fucking bitch!”
Just as he turned toward her, Davey’s small form crashed into Dane. He stumbled back a pace. They started wrestling, but Dane got the upper hand at once.
While the young men fought, Sara tried to find a knife in the darkness. Her hands came upon one of them she thought it was Davey’s. She grasped it just as she heard a foul snapping.
“Ha, one less wuss in this world.”
She heard Davey’s body hit the floor and Sara let out a little whimper.
He walked toward her. “Can we put all this crap behind us now? I’ll still let you live girl, but you are going to owe me huge after all this.”
He reached down and grabbed her by the hair.
She stabbed him in the stomach.
He released her hair and stumbled back with a gasp. “Oh shit, why?”
“You’re worse than the flesh eaters,” she said and rushed toward where she had seen the window. His voice called at her in the darkness. She heard him crashing through furniture.
Somehow her hands found the window and slit it open. His hands grabbed her ankle as she tumbled through the opening. With a yell she kicked back and her heel hit his face and he released her.
For all she knew the hallway was full of zombies, but she didn’t care. She rushed down it, with the sounds of Dane’s screaming at her back. A small window let in some illumination and she embraced it running toward the dim light. A door was bolted from the inside.
She stopped for a moment and caught her breath. She had no weapon, food, or even a canteen. Running is where she had started and she was about to have to do it again.
She opened the door and headed out into the night.
Hope you enjoyed Sara’a battle. Come back next Saturday as a new hero continues his quest to survive into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath
Sara looked from Davey’s wide eyes back into the room beyond the window. More zombies spilled into the warehouse and the careless plodding of the undead toppled most of the candles. Only dark grim shadows could be seen. Hunched black outlines loomed over Buzz’s quite dead form and clawed into his flesh. His screams had long since been replaced with growls and horrid chewing.
“We can’t get out the door we came in,” she said. “More are walking in that way every minute. Is there another way out?” She wasn’t sure why she was forced so be the one spurring them into action, but the idea of slowly starving to death while zombies looked on seemed worse than a living hell.
When the small teen didn’t say anything she grabbed him. “Come on. We have to move now while they’re distracted and haven’t spread out over to every inch of this place yet.”
“There’s a back way,” he hesitated, “But I don’t want to go back out there.”
“We have to,” she said. “Look, if they reach this door then we’ll have to fight. I’m more of a runner than a fighter. Trust me, I’ve been doing it for a while.”
He picked up his steel bat from off the table and handed her long knife. Moving to the door, he said. “Alright, you ready?”
He dashed out into the darkness and she stayed on his heels. They quickly left what little light remained behind and plunged into complete darkness.
Sara’s foot hit something and it clattered to the floor making a loud series of noises. Some of the zombies heard it and let out moans as they turned in their direction.
Davey cried out and she realized that a stray zombie had made his way into the hallway before him. It fought Davey, but it remained impossible to see anything in the darkness.
She felt forward.
Her hand inched toward the struggle. She had images of snapping mouths finding her flesh. Instead a body collided with her fingers jamming two of them painfully.
She pulled back. The zombie growled and she thought it had Davey pressed against a wall. From behind she could hear others coming. She didn’t have much time.
Working herself behind the big zombie, she found the courage to use her left hand to feel where it was. She grabbed onto its shoulder, placed the knife against its spine, between two vertebrae, and pushed. It let out a wet moan and toppled to the ground.
“Oh man, thanks,” came at her from the darkness, but the moaning of the other undead drew near, so they hurried off again. They reached a door, but found it locked.
“Oh no, oh no,” she chanted as her panic rose.
“Don’t worry, I have a key,” he said and scrambled to find it in the darkness. Shuffling feet approached. The darkness made everything worse. She couldn’t tell if they were twenty feet away or right on top of them.
Just when she could feel their foul breath in her face, the door flew open and Davey dragged her into the room and slammed the door shut.
For a moment they stood there panting, but then the fire of a lighter flared in the darkness as a figure lit a cigarette. The cherry grew red as the smoker inhaled and then Dane even voice said, “What took you?”
Come back next weekend and discover if Sara can survive the horrors of both the living and the dead as she battles into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath
Dane’s strong fingers continued to dig into her arms as Buzz attempted to pull her jeans down over her flailing legs. “You had better calm down, bitch, or we’ll put the hurt on you. We don’t have to hurt you to have a little fun, but if you make us, we will”
She screamed and from the sounds of it, her yelling had lead a group of zombies to the door they had passed through, for between her cries and whimpers, the moans and banging of the undead could be heard.
“Stop it!” She looked over to where Davey stood near the door. She could see the younger teen visibly shaking. Sara made eye contact and he shouted even louder. “Stop it. I said stop it! Leave her alone!”
The men hurting her laughed. As Buzz struggled to get her pants over her knees, he looked over at Davey and said, “I’d think you be happy that we have a woman to bone, so you’d get a break.” Both men chuckled at their sick joke.
Sara looked toward Davey while wondering if there might be some way out of the horror she found herself in. She had never been with a man and certainly didn’t want such a nightmare to be her first time.
“That isn’t funny!” Davey yelled.
The men stayed too occupied with her to notice, so Sara was the only one to see Davey burst into action and rush toward the door. She knew what he was going to do before he did it. Whether she wished such things or not was a choice would never be forced to make, for Davey didn’t hesitate,
Without a word, Davey flung open the door and then sprinted off into the darkness.
It only took the two men molesting her a few seconds to notice the growling undead spill into the room.
“Holy shit!” Buzz yelled and let go of her legs at once.
Dane wasn’t so quick to unhand her, but she took the opportunity to pull her jeans back up even though he still held her in an iron grip from behind. Despite the danger, she could still feel his erection pressing again her and it made he want to puke.
“Get the guns you idiot,” Dane ordered. “There can’t be-”
Her elbow to his chest knocked the wind out of his words and she struggled to free herself as at least twenty zombies looped their stiff legged walk toward them.
“You little bitch. If it hadn’t been so long since I had pussy, I would just throw you to them.”
Sara had once been a nice sweet girl and keeping her virginity through a whole year of a flesh eating apocalypse confirmed that, but that didn’t mean she hadn’t changed for the quiet highschool girl she had once been. Peter had done everything he could to toughen her up. He had taught her everything he could about self-defense and she had killed more than a few zombies herself.
She wasn’t helpless.
Her heel went slamming down on the top of Dane’s foot even as she slammed her head back into his face. This proved to be enough to free herself from his grip. Once free she ran off without looking back.
She ran from the horrible men and the undead. Darkness enveloped her, but she didn’t stop until she tripped over what she guessed was a stray office chair and went down hard.
She almost wanted to cry, but got herself onto her hands and knees. The stumble had her head ringing, but she didn’t think she’d broken anything. Behind her the shooting began. For a second she though they might have fired on her, but the meaty impacts let her know that they had wisely chosen to fight to survive instead of indulging in vengeance.
She cried out, when hands grabbed her, but she saw it was Davey. “Come on,” he said. Sara remained in a daze from the fall, but let him lead her into a room. Once inside, Davey slammed the door shout and locked it. The narrow beam of a dying flashlight was just enough to let her know that they were probably in what was once somebody’s office.
A scream replaced the gunfire. It sounded like Buzz and went on a long time.
The shots ceased and their sounds had been replaced by a foul tearing noise.
“We need to leave?”
She saw his wide eyed stare. “But they’re all over the place out there and this room is a dead end.”
Come back next weekend and discover if Sara can survive the horrors of both the living and the dead as she battles into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath
The sounds of the approaching undead faded as the steel door slammed shut making the darkness absolute. She could hear nothing over her own ragged breathing, until and tearing sound of a match coming to life sparked to her right. The circle of dim fire illuminated the young male face for a moment before it dipped to light a round, half used candle. Another of them, this one no more than in his late teens, lit a second candle.
The small flames sent out just enough light for Sara to be able to see the third youth, the one that had lead her along, walking over to where she stood. “You okay?” he said in a voice sounding more rough that concerned. When she couldn’t bring herself to answer, he went on. “What’s your name?”
“Sara,” she said and the sound of her own voice startled her and she wondered briefly how long it have been since she had spoken.
He nodded. Although his face remained masked in shadow, she could tell he was the biggest of the three. Broad shoulders met strong arms covered with corded muscles. She supposed she might have considered such a man handsome a year ago, but his sight only filled her with terror.
She couldn’t help but contemplate if she might have been better off with the zombies.
He smoothed some of his ragged hair back over his head and said, “I go by, Dane. The guy over near the door is Buzz and the little dude is Davey.”
She might have moved her head. Sara attempted a smile, but doubted it came out looking that way.
Dane went on. “So you have been out there surviving on your own all this time?” As if in answer to his question, the loud mournful moan of a zombie reached their ears.
“I…we, I wasn’t always alone. We ran into some gang, the Rips.” She saw Dane a Buzz share a silent glance. “They shot up some of us and the biters took the rest. I only survived because…” she couldn’t bring herself to finish as the memories of her cowardly actions came flooding back to her. Would things have been different if she had stayed and tried to help them instead of just thinking for herself and running off? Peter had been shot in the leg. She felt twin tears stream down her cheeks. Maybe if she had helped him…
She was jerked back to the present when Dane put his arm around her. She flinched and tried to move away, but he held on. “Don’t worry, you’re okay. Everything cool, you’re safe now.”
She didn’t like the way he held her. “Thanks, but maybe I should just leave. I have some friends out there I need to find,” she lied.
His grip grew tighter. “I thought you said, they were gone. Besides, there’s no way we’re going to let you go back out there. It’s too dangerous.”
She tried to move away again, and couldn’t. “It isn’t up to you to decide what I do.”
The candle light exposed a grin that held no humor. “That’s where you’re wrong. We can make you do whatever the hell we like.”
She tried to struggle harder, but he grabbed her from behind by both arms. Buzz had hurried over and he said, “Help me get her clothes off.” He leaned in and whispered in her ear. “We could have played it cooler, but you knew this was going to happen either way, so you might as well try your best to roll with it.”
She noticed that Davey hadn’t moved to him the others. She pleaded to him with her eyes, but he looked away.
It wasn’t until Buzz pulled at her jeans that she started to scream.
Sara ran as fast as her legs allowed. She’d been running for as long as she could remember. The soldiers and the police used to protect her. Then her family had tried, but they couldn’t. She was alone. No one could help her, not even herself.
She figured it had to be almost over. Part of her, a big part, just wanted to admit the inevitable and just give up. If the horror had to happen, she would rather just get it over with. If nothing else the burning in her chest and the ache in her legs would be over. If she owned a pistol she probably would have used it on herself, but giving up as she was would mean minutes of horrible agony. She couldn’t face that. She couldn’t imagine letting them eat her. Feeling them biting off pieces of her from everywhere, all while she still lived.
Sara ran by the dull facades of fast food restaurants and strip malls that surrounded grocery stores. Her stomach ached almost as badly as her legs and each former restaurant she passed taunted her. Like a sick slap to the face, they reminded her of what she had once had, things so easy and normal—a whole life just torn away.
She had tried not to look behind her, but when a growl grew louder than the others, she couldn’t help herself. Over two hundred of them lurched and moaned in her wake. Foul rotting things. Many of them were naked and the sun had baked them into roasted, taunt moving death. Teeth clanked as they snapped open and shut and even though she remained a hundred yards ahead of them, filthy fingers reached and grasped for her.
They dogged her steps. Sara should have been able to outrun them, but she had run for so long and food hadn’t passed through her lips in days, but the worst of it remained the water.
Without water she knew she couldn’t last much longer. With each additional step she felt herself shutting down and growing weaker.
They would catch her soon.
She screamed when she looked back away from the mob and saw two dozen more of the horrid zombies blocked her path. She had almost run straight into their curled claws.
She ran to the left and figured it would only be a matter of time before they had her, but she couldn’t bring herself to give up.
She had almost made it into a parking lot when one of the faster undead grabbed a handful of her blonde hair. It pulled back savagely.
She screamed again as the other zombies drew in for a kill.
This would be it. She was done.
Shots rang out, first one and then many.
Her hair was released, but she could only take two steps before her legs gave out and she fell to her knees.
A hand grabbed her arm with rough fingers. She thought it was another zombie until it spoke. “Come on move, we aren’t out of this yet.”
The voice sounded young, but full of power and confidence. She could see that three men had rescued her, they seemed barely older than boys really, but soon she felt herself being dragged along.
The next few minutes stayed a blur as they forced her to run much faster than she had the strength to do. After a frantic series of twists and turns through alleys, they moved behind a dumpster a slammed a door open.
No words were spoken, nor permission given, before she was dragged into the darkness.
Come back next weekend and Discover whether Sara has been rescued or faces a worst fate as she continues into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath
Brown knew something was wrong long before he could see the ranch. Zombies stumbled and lurched in packs of twenty strong and covered the grassy hills of northern Sonita like moving icons of death. They moaned and reached at him on the back of his horse, but he just galloped past.
Trevor called to Brown, but with him carrying Jacob too, there would be no hope of keeping up.
Moonlight took to his speed. His sleek body tore up tuffs of grass as he raced them through the clusters of walking corpses. More undead hobbled to intercept them every hundred yards. The zombies moved into their path, but Moonlight needed no guidance. He well knew they needed to be avoided. He also knew where he headed, home. But unlike his mount, Brown dreaded what he would find.
His worse fears appeared to be confirmed as they rose over the last crest and saw the zombies everywhere around the ranch. All the livestock, all the animals were dead and by the looks of things the feasting had long sense ceased. He galloped Moonlight toward the ranch while shouting words he would never remember. He was only a hundred feet away when he saw the front door leaning open.
“Jesse! Linda!” he screamed even though he knew it was useless. He was too late.
Why had he left them? Luring the large horde away from the ranch had seemed to be the right thing to do, but when those smaller groups met up with them from the south, he should have known. He should have known that more could have come up this way.
Did they not even have time to bar the door? What had happened? Nine people had been left at the ranch. Had they all…
Then he saw her walking out through the front door. Jesse had only one bite he could see. She must have fought hard, but suffered bad luck. Had she holed up as the sickness took her hoping he would return in time? Had it been she or someone else that opened the front door of the ranch house after they turned?
She looked up at him with milky eyes and let out a loud mournful moan.
“Oh God, Jesse…”
As he watched her stumble his way, he heard Moonlight grow nervous as the undead began to surround him.
It was over, why try now? They had worked and struggled so hard to provide something decent. He wanted Linda to live like a girl should. They had tried.
The sounds of gunfire overroad the constant moans. Five of the undead closest to him were cut down. Their rotting grey matter spread over the dry grasslands. “Brown, snap out of it,” Trevor yelled. “What the hell are you doing and then Trevor saw. “Holy damn.”
When Brown made to move to cut down the approaching zombies or flee. Trevor went on. “Come on, let’s get down there. We can fight our way into the ranch and hold them from there.”
“No, I can’t set foot in there. I’m not sure what I’ll ever be able to do again.”
“Oh shit,” Jacob said, from the back of Trevor’s horse.
“But the ranch, our supplies.”
“The dead own them now. I can’t go back there. I never want to see this place again.”
A decayed hand reached for Moonlight. The horse cried out and something snapped within Brown.
He had been all but ready to let the undead tear him apart until he put a pistol into his mouth, but he realized Moonlight didn’t deserve such a fate. He loved his horse and couldn’t let him end up like that. He considered dismounting and letting him run, but knew Moonlight might refuse, so instead he turned and started to trot north.
“Let’s get the hell out of here.”
Trevor followed without comment and even Jacob kept his mouth shut. They headed north and then west into the sunset, but Brown felt like this was anything but a happy ending. Hiding out was over for him. Maybe some people fought back. He would find them and join their war. It was time to take back his world or die trying.
Thank you for reading Cowboys, Dust, and Death. I hope you enjoyed sharing Brown’s tragic path into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath
Come back next weekend for a new hero’s journey into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath