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.
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
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
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
As the first zombies made it past the avalanche, Jacob said, “Well whatever you twice damned cowboys want to do, you have better figure it out, right quick.”
Brown and Trevor shared a look, but Brown spoke first. “We’d better put some distance between us and that horde.”
“To’won’t be easy with dem horses,” Jacob said, as he moved to lead the way. “Wez about to hit cliff country.”
“Any way we could skirt the rougher cliffs, hopefully toward the north?”
“Can’t say there is.” Jacob started. “Might be able to cut south, but that would dump us right into the biker’s back yard.”
“Or take us closer to Mexico,” Brown added, “which is where this horde came from in the first place.”
“Well what the hell are we going to do?” Trevor asked his voice rising. As he spoke, the first undead passed through the narrow canyon and drew into sight.
Brown looked up at the towering mountains that blocked out half the night sky to the west and north. “We can’t go back the way we came. We’re going to have to go south. We don’t have a choice.”
“Shit-dandy. If I knew today was gonna be this exciting I wouldduh wore my new suit.” Brown doubted Jacob had ever worn a suit in his life, but he let the little man led them on through the rocky cliffs and gullies.
For the first time in hours, the small party started to descend in elevation. Brown and Trevor still lead their horses, but after a rough section, they dropped into a forested area where things grew more level. The going remained slow in the darkness, but some of the worry over the horses becoming hurt lessoned
A small stream divided the valley they had entered. The pair had just started to guide their mounts through the shallow water when Trevor’s horse struggled against him. The men smelled the foul odor a moment later.
“They’s here,” Jacob said, and Brown knew at once what the old man meant.
And then they came. At least twenty of them stumbled out from the trees and boulders. Rags hung from them and battered feet disregarded the sharp rocks as they lunged their way. As the zombies hands pushed through the thorns of the wait-a-minute bushes, their throats opened and the air filled with their growls. Even in the darkness, Brown guessed they were Mexicans, or at least had been while they lived.
Jacob confirmed his thoughts with a shout. “Goddamn wet back zombies. It was bad enough while they were alive, but we ain’t got no border guards now.” As he spoke he backed up until he drew level with the cowboys. “I hope you boys can handle yerselves, cuz I ain’t got no guns.”
As one, both men drew their rifles from off their horses. Brown also drew an extra revolver and tossed it to Jacob. “It only has six shots, but I hate to see a man unarmed these days.”
Having said his piece, Brown focused on this rifle work. Heads exploded with waves of gore. The blasting of gunfire echoed through the canyons, while smoke started to obscure their vision.
Snarling faces came at them through the smoke and darkness. The horses screamed as Brown’s arms jerked left and right as he put down zombie after zombie. Between the trees, darkness, and the increasing obfuscation of the smoke, he couldn’t be sure if more arrived behind the first group, but he had no choice but to fight on or risk his mounts.
Jacob yelled when one appeared in front of him and he shot it in the face at almost blank range.
A zombie came from their right and charged at Trevor. Before he could bring the gun around, it closed. He got the rifle up between them, but the man-monster grabbed the length of it and fought with him. Brown blew the head off of two more, but then the rifle clicked empty. He moved to the side and kicked the zombie that had Trevor’s rifle in the chest. It went stumbling onto its back but took Trever’s rifle with it.
“Son of a bitch,” Brown growled as more came pouring out of the underbrush. “Trevor, take the horses and just go. Jacob, cover him.”
“I only have three shots left.”
“Then use them damn wisely!”
No more arguing came and Trevor and Jacob hurried to take the horses west.
Brown drew his pistol and emptied it as quickly as he could into those closest to him. He had wanted to grab Trevor’s rifle, but when another dozen came pouring at him, he gave up that goal.
After stuffing his pistol into his belt, he kicked one zombie into two more and then used the butt of his rifle to smash another in the face. He backpedaled a few feet and the half-moon appeared from behind a lingering cloud, he saw that at least forty zombies lurched at him through the forest.
Setting his jaw, Brown turned and hurried to catch up to the others. Before he reached them he heard sounds to the north. The other horde had caught up to them. They were in trouble, some serious trouble indeed.
Come back next weekend to see if Brown and his allies can survive the Eternal Aftermath
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.