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
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
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
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
Brown took one last look at the growing horde of roaming undead to the east and turned his horse toward the west. The sun had just dipped behind the Santa Rita mountain range and he took in a tight breath as he guided his horse up the rocky slope.
It quickly became apparent that the ground was getting too dangerous for a man to stay in the saddle and when the sun set it would just grow worse. Turning to Trevor, he said, “We had better walk the horses from here on out. We can’t risk them getting hurt for multiple reasons.”
Trevor nodded and as he dismounted, he added, “I hear you. I would never want anything to happen to ol’ Smoke, but besides that, we may need their speed to make it back in one piece,” he paused as he looked over his shoulder at the moaning zombies, “and not seven hundred.”
As the light began to fail, the going became harder. Loose stones tumbled under both the horse and human feet. Wait-a-minute bushes and clumps of cactus forced them to alter their path often. The incline also began to take their breath away forcing them to waste time with small breaks every five minutes or so.
Looking back, Brown saw that the terrain took its toll on the walking dead too. Many zombies tripped and fell. Their bodies would roll backwards taking several others down with them, but the rest would plod on. But even those that fell would return to their feet and continue the chase. Where a normal person would be nursing wounds after such a tumble, the zombies would only be delayed. He was pleased to see that some suffered broken legs and other injuries that would take them out of the deadly race, but he also realized that it would also mean that they’d have to go back and put them down later… if they were able to make it to a later.
After cresting another rugged hill, Trevor said, “Should we consider making thing tougher for them. Perhaps an avalanche or two would take some out and slow more down.”
“Might not be the worst idea, but I would like to get them higher in the mountains and further away from our ranch. I also don’t want to lose our lead of them.”
“I hear you,” Trevor said. “You would think with how slow they usually are that we’d be whopping their asses up these hills, but they never need to stop.” He looked back the way they came. “I think they might be gaining on us boss.”
“Yeah, unfortunately I think you’re right.”
They set themselves to quicken their pace. Forty more minutes passed before the shadows of darkness had finished claiming the land. Branches reached for them as if the zombies had somehow found a way to cut them off. Pits of blackness formed under trees and beside the looming cliffs of stone. Trying to press through the imagined dangers, he hurried them along.
When they reached the crest of the next range, they paused to catch their breath and assess how well they did staying ahead of the growing horde. Again Brown found they had mixed success. The mass of zombies had splint into a strange dichotomy as they lumbered after them. Many had fallen behind and struggled up the slope, so that what was once a cluster of hundreds had spread out into different groups of various numbers that covered a space that could have been as large as a mile between the fastest undead and the slowest. The bad news remained that the zombies van guard still seemed to be gaining on their position. Some of them were as close as a few hundred yards.
“I’m almost tempted to swat these horses on the rump and have them find their way back.”
Even in the darkness, he saw Trevor flash him a harsh look.
“But I still won’t. I’d refuse to let there be even a small chance of them being cornered and attacked. Besides at this rate, we may end up on the western side of the range and might need their help getting back.”
Trevor nodded, but didn’t waste breath on a comment and soon the pair took up their journey once more.
They might have gained some ground on the undead, but then they came to a series of cliffs that would have been impossible for the horses to cross and were forced to backtrack. This took them dangerously close to the moving zombies. The horses snorted as the foul odor of death crept through the forest. Brown found it unnerving to be hearing more than seeing them progress closer. Random snaps and moans echoed through the darkness and it became almost impossible to determine how close they were.
They managed to get the horses up a three foot stone cliff that would be difficult for the undead and the pair took a quick break in order to catch their breath. “Once we make it up to the top of this crest,” Brown began, “We’ll hold up there for a while and try your plan of started to waste them with rocks and avalanches.”
“You’ll do no such thing,” an angry voice called out to them. “You bastards brought these flesh bags right to my doorstep and you’ll take them somewhere else or I’ll put a bullet right between your eyes.”
Come back next weekend for the next episode of Brown’s dangerous 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.
Brown looked out over the rolling sun baked hills. A slight wind tossed the yellowed grass covered slopes that led uphill toward the Santa Rita Mountains. He could just see the line where the first twisted trees began to appear to the west, but that wasn’t what he watched.
A cloud of dust had been kicked up to the west of the ranch house he and his friends had called home over the last year. Where some had sought to survive the masses of roving undead by living off the corpse of the old world, he and a handful of others had taken the opposite approach. They had fled the cities and towns, figuring less people meant fewer zombies, which meant less trouble.
The growing plume of disturbed sand drew his attention again. There were many things in the region that could cause such a disturbance. Herds of horses, cows, or even deer could create the cloud. Wind could create such things as well, but Brown had to prepare for the worst case scenario, just to be safe.
In his case the worst case scenario would be a group of migrating zombies moving in from Mexico. It had happened more than once, but if the cloud was any indication, he’d never encountered one this big before.
He heard something move to the east and jerked around thinking that another group must have moved in behind him, but he let out a sigh, when he saw that it was Trevor leading his horse named Smoke. Smoke whinnied at Brown’s mount, which he called Moonshine, since it was mostly black, but had streaks of silver running over its flanks.
“I saw it too,” Trevor said, without so much as a hello.
Brown looked his way. “I’d like to think it’s some migrating elk, but I doubt we’re gonna be that lucky today.”
“Yeah it’s something migrating alright.” Trevor paused to remove his cowboy hat, wipe the sweat off his brow, and then toss it back on. “I suppose you want to go have a look?”
“Yes sir, I suppose we should.” Having said their piece the two men mounted their houses and took them slowly over the fields toward the disturbance.
It didn’t take them long to surmount a hill tall enough for the wide expanse of grasslands to open up before them. Looking to the southwest, Brown sighed as a string of curses escaped from Trevor’s lips.
Perhaps two miles away from them easily five hundred dust covered undead slowly marched across the plain. Like spirits of death itself, they left a brown stain in their passing as if anything they touched joined them in their foul state of decay and lifelessness.
“Maybe they’ll miss the ranch,” his friend suggested.
“I don’t think we can count on that.”
“Then what should we do, go back and evacuate everyone up into the hills for a few nights?”
“And what let them eat all our livestock and trample our crops?” Brown said without taking his eyes off the horde.
Trevor’s voice took and edge. “You aren’t thinking about fighting that many. We can gather the horses and probably herd the cattle east before we’re spotted.”
“I might like for you to do that and take Laura and Petty with you, but I was thinking about a third option.”
He had Trevor’s rapt attention. “And what would that be, boss?”
“What if Moonshine and I got in their sights and then lured them away to the west. Once we reached the foothills, I could lead them on a merry little chase and then slip away through the trees and meet you somewhere.”
“I like it, but still see one problem with the plan.”
“What would that be?” Brown asked.
“That I’m not included in the luring,” Trevor said with a smile.
“I’d never be able to focus knowing that the rest of us aren’t in good hands.”
“I hear you, but hear me. I’m not letting you take all the risk and earn all the glory, I might add, without me. James and Cassey can handle the escape. Besides if this plan works they won’t have to leave the ranch anyway.”
“Alright, you’re in partner, but let’s head back and tell the others what’s what. We don’t have much time.”
Trevor looked at Brown as the wind drove the first stench of death their way. “You got that right. Let’s get moving.”
Come back next weekend for the next episode of Brown’s dangerous journey into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath.
Rollie wasn’t surprised when Will road shotgun for Jack. Like usual, he took a back seat to the two men when it came to proving their prowess in this dark, zombie infested world his life had been tossed into.
Rollie didn’t enjoy heading out into the aftermath and tried to avoid it whenever he could. He often got teased for preferring to help Samantha with the dinner instead of heading out on the raids. That suited him fine—he was well used to teasing.
He cried out when the truck bounced over a decaying corpse. Having Will asking him if he was alright only made him more embarrassed. Clenching his fists, he decided then and there that despite his natural inclinations against violence and all things macho, he would do his best to prove himself during this expedition.
He heard Will draw in a breath and quickly realized that his challenge might be coming faster than he expected. Ahead of him was a massive pile up of wrecked vehicles. A sandy drop off on one side of the road and a roughed cliff on the other would make it impossible for them to drive around the obstacle. Undead also covered the area. Like eternal guardians in hell, they marched their listless bodies before the jumbled pile of cars. Bones and skulls protruded from the twisted mess creating a double wall of death.
Jack slowed the truck even as the moaning increased and the zombies headed their way.
“What now?” Will asked. His voice made it sound like he really hoped someone had an answer.
“We’re close to Sabino Canyon,” Jack said. “We could try to find our way around this, but might just run into more of the same. My worry is that if we find water there, without the truck we couldn’t carry much, but at this point we can’t even be sure if it’s flowing. I say we hide the ride and scout it out. If it does have water, then we can take it from there.”
“So we’re going to walk the rest of the way?” As soon as he heard his own timid voice, Rollie wished he could take his words back.
The two men turned and eyed him. Without another word, he grabbed his weapons and when Jack hid the truck, he was the first to head out of the vehicle.
* * *
A half and hour later found the trio heading through the back yards of the luxurious houses that lined the northern foothills of Tucson. The good news was they had remained mostly undetected by the hordes of undead that swarmed the streets. The few that did spot them had been quickly put down by Jack’s sledge hammer and Will’s huge axe.
The bad news was that all the jogging and physical exertion had taken its toll. The blaring unforgiving sun, mixed with their lack of water, soon left even Jack mopping his forehead and struggling for breath.
“There had better be water up there,” Will said as he leaned his back against the side of a house while they waited for a group of three dozen zombies to shamble by on the road below. “With this heat, I don’t think we’d need zombies to keep us from being able to make it back.”
“Could we search some houses for bottled water?” Rollie asked.
Jack answered. “Too risky. The level of danger and time wasted wouldn’t counter balance the potential pay off.” He looked Rollie’s way. “I just want to determine if there is water up in the canyon. If there isn’t, we’ll try that idea, okay.”
Rollie just nodded and they soon set out again.
They hadn’t got too far before a loud moan sounded to their left as they hurried across Sunrise road. Looking back, Rollie gasped as he saw a horde of hundreds of zombies migrating their way. A wall of dirty flesh and snapping mouths stretched across the four lanes of road and spilled into the desert on either side. Glassy eyes stared at them as their moans filled the ears of the breathers. Frantic lurching replaced their mindless stumbles as the endless mass of undead hurried toward them.
“Fuck, we need to get back to the truck!?” Will said.
“You can if you want,” Jack shot back, “but I’m not heading back until I know if there’s water up in that canyon.”
Will growled, but when Jack started to jog to the north, he turned toward Rollie. “What should we do?”
“Follow him. Without water we’re as good as dead anyway. We need to see this through.”
Will nodded and a slight smile crossed his face.
Rollie wondered if Will might he a little proud of him as the three men began to run toward Sabino Canyon.
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.
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 cast one last glance over this shoulder to where his two friends clung to the branches of a pine tree over the swirling horde of undead, and then took in the new group just forming out of the mists, which cut off their escape route to the north. More moans to the east let him know that more zombies lurked in that direction as well.
“Come on,” Jake hissed through clenched teeth. “To the canyon, it’s our only chance.”
“What about Tal in that damn tree?” Flack whispered back.
“We can only help him if we’re alive. Let’s go!”
The zombies had spotted them and their groans increased in volume as they moved faster over the soaked forest. The four of them leapt over fallen logs and rushed through clusters of grey stone. The rain still hammered the wooded fields and hit them harder when they neared the edge of the canyon.
Rough stones rose on either side as they splashed into a ravine that led to the canyon. Two feet of water filled the ravine and disappeared into a waterfall landing a hundred yards below.
“Careful here,” Jake said. “One misstep and zombies won’t be your biggest problem.” They made it to where the cliffs of the canyon met the field. Jake led the way and took them toward the southern side of the ravine.
He turned to the others and watched the rain dripping from the ends of their hair and clothes, as he said, “We’re going to need to cling to this cliff face and we might as well head south so we’re closer to Tal. Once we reach the side of the canyon closest to him we’ll try to figure out a way for us all to survive through this.”
“Survive through this…” Tops said, while making wild gestures with his hands, “We’ll be lucky to survive this climb you want us to do?”
Jake moved in closer to the younger man. “Listen up. Our group has only survived because of the cliffs of this canyon. How do you think we have made it through the last year? How did I kill the original horde that followed us here? We’re the masters of this canyon, the Cliffhammers! If we can’t make this happen, we don’t deserve to survive.”
The two men eyed each other until Tops girlfriend, Scent, said, “We have to do something, they’re almost here.”
Jake was an accomplished climber, but the journey proved harder than he would have through. The steep cliffs remained covered in water and everything remained slick. They passed under several spots where the rushing water poured off the fields above in frigid waterfalls.
Once Scent slipped and would have fallen if Flack hadn’t grabbed the back of her jacket, she screamed as her staff when tumbling down the cliff and shattered on the rocks below.
“This is bullshit,” Tops spit past the rain running over his face. “You’re going to get us all killed.”
“What other choice is there?” Jake shouted back.
“We just climb down and head back to camp. Warn them and cut our losses.”
“And leave Tal there?” Flack demanded.
Jake spied an area that had some shelter from the storm and would provide as least a few feet of safety for them to stand on. “Over here is a ledge. Let’s stop there and figure it out.”
No one complained and they reached the ledge without mishap. Once they had all found safe footing, Jake said, “Stay here, I’m going to scout out what’s above us and see how close we are to Tal.”
Without waiting for an answer, he set off. It was a hard climb, but he’d seen worse. Three minutes later he had reached the upper edge of the cliff. Attempting to stay hidden, he peered over. He didn’t like what he saw.
He could see Tal, and it looked like Mooky clinging, to the wet tree branches, but even more zombies had arrived. Jake felt his pulse quicken as more and more undead poured into the clearing. Some town must have emptied out, he thought to himself. But as more and more walking corpses appeared, he wondered how he’d be able to get any of them out of this alive.
Come back next weekend and continue Jake’s dangerous journey into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath.