The Warning

Posted: April 11, 2015 in Book I Terror in Texas
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“Don’t stop, no matter what you see, just keep driving.” Brian Jameson’s voice cracked with emotion. “Get as far from the city as you can, as fast as you can. When you get to your dad’s place, tell the General, they used drones with arousals to attack the bases. It’s worse than anything we ever imagined.”

“But Brian, I don’t have. . . .” Liz interrupted.

Brian interrupted. “It doesn’t matter what you don’t have, Liz. You and the girls have to leave NOW if you’re going to survive! Remember, I love yo. . . .” The line went dead.

Liz called back twice, but each attempt went straight to voice mail. She tried a third time and got a busy circuit message. She tried texting but the just hung up and produced an error message. Too much cell traffic was not a good sign. She remembered the same issue with the cell phones during the last big storm on the coast.

She pulled her nine-month-old, Claire, from the half full shopping cart and walked out of Walmart without looking back. She drove to Fort Sam Houston Elementary School on Nursery Road.

When she looked in the rearview mirror, she saw her face and hoped no one noticed the paleness of her complexion or the panicked look of her eyes. Her shoulder length blonde hair could use a brush but she didn’t want to take the time. She kept hearing her husband’s voice repeating, NOW, NOW, NOW, over and over again.

When she got to the school she made her way down the white tile hall to the front desk.

The receptionist looked up from her computer screen. “Hi Mrs. Jameson, what can I do for you today?”

“I need to pick up Amy. We’ve had a family emergency.” Liz answered as she glanced down at her watch. “She’s in Miss Helen’s class.”

“Sure.” The receptionist answered. “Just give me a few minutes to contact her teacher and have her brought to the office.” The woman turned to the phone, spoke to the teacher then smiled back at Liz. “She’ll be here shortly.” She turned back to her computer.

Liz stepped back into the hall. Claire pulled at Liz’s hair and giggled. Liz rocked from left to right and back again. “Ready for a car ride, Claire Bear?” Liz asked as she patted the baby’s back. While she waited, she did a mental inventory of the diaper bag contents: a can of dry formula and a box of plastic baby bottle liners, at least half a dozen diapers, four bottles of water, wafers, two changes of clothes, an extra blanket and half a dozen protein bars. If she drove straight through, she could make the ten-hour drive with only stopping for gas and maybe take out from a Micky-D or a gas station.

“Mommy?” Amy smiled questioningly. “Where are we going?”

Liz jumped at the touch of her daughter’s hand against her bare arm. She wrapped her fingers around Amy’s hand.

“Thank you.” Liz made a quick nod at the receptionist and turned toward the door. She glanced down at Amy and answered. “We have to go see grandpa. We have to hurry.”

Liz got the baby settled with a bottle and pulled out of the parking lot. She stopped at the first Shell station she saw after leaving the school. She filled up the gas tank, grabbed a handful of snack bars and half a dozen bottles of water.

She drove the surface streets to the closest on-ramp and got on the freeway. She turned north out of San Antonio at the interchange. Over the next twenty minutes, traffic slowed and grew more congested as emergency vehicles joined the overcrowding.

Liz studied the traffic. It seemed rush hour was beginning early. They neared the military base and traffic slowed to a standstill. Liz looked around and saw they were stuck behind a row of old retail buildings.

The brick structures probably included half a dozen businesses. The back parking lot was surrounded by an eight-foot hurricane fence. It all looked just a little run down and tired with the dumpsters and trash blowing around the alley and rear parking lot. From what she could see, the buildings included a bar at the end, a nail salon, a couple retail stores and two buildings that were so non-descript, they could be anything.

“Mommy, aren’t we going to Grandpa’s house?” Her daughter asked.

“Yes, honey…as fast as we can,” Liz answered. With her foot on the break, Liz looked over her shoulder and studied her daughter. “What are you drawing, Amy?”

Amy held up a sheet of paper. Inside a red heart was written C & A. Amy beamed. “See, Claire and Amy love Mommy.” She passed it over the seat to Liz. “I made it for you.”

“Thank you, sweetie. I love it.” Liz smiled and passed it back to her daughter. “Put it in the diaper bag so I can keep it.”

She passed the sheet of paper to her daughter and turned back at the stalled traffic ahead. The city streets she could see below the freeway had grown even more congested right along with the freeway traffic. Now they were at a standstill. She couldn’t get off the freeway and even if she could, it was no better.

She turned on the radio. The station was reporting a terrorist attack, then unusual assaults and groups of soldiers attacking other soldiers on the base. Liz waffled between wanting to know what was happening and not wanting to alarm or frighten Amy. Liz finally turned off the radio.

She realized the terrorist attack had somehow caused people to become crazed and to violently attack anyone they came in contact with. The base was overrun and the violence was spilling into the civilian communities surrounding the base. They were barely a mile from Ft. Houston. They were in trouble. Nothing could change the fact they were in deep trouble.

Frustrated drivers honked and jockeyed for small gaps in the traffic. Liz looked at her phone.  The charge was nearly depleted.  She pulled a charger from the glove box and plugged in the phone.

Traffic had not moved for the last thirty minutes. She glanced over her shoulder at her daughters while she drummed her fingers against the steering wheel. The baby was sleeping in her car seat and Amy was reading since Liz had turned off the radio.

Liz watched the fuel gage slip below three-quarters tank and turned off the air conditioner. She began to worry if they would even make it to the edge of town before she would need to stop for gas again. When the air in the ten-year-old silver Buick began to grow hot she began to worry the girls would get too warm. She lowered both front windows to let in the fresh spring air hoping it would cool the car. After a moment, she realized the air smelled wrong.

Liz sniffed and wrinkled her nose. There was a scent in the air. Something unpleasant mingled with the odor of exhaust, fresh mowed grass and cooking meat at a nearby Bar-B-Que restaurant. The invading stench was a mixture of slaughter house and an open sewer.

Still considering the unpleasant odor, she glanced through the windshield when she heard shouting and a distant scream. She leaned toward the window to listen but a massive four-wheel drive truck roared to life a few vehicles ahead. The driver held his foot on the break and raced the truck engine. He leaned out an open window and yelled at a Fiat driver directly in front of him.

“Move it!” He waved in frustration. “Get that piece of shit out of my way.”

The truck driver eased the truck with its off-road tires forward to tap the back of the Fiat with the front brush guard. He cursed at the Fiat driver again then jammed the truck into reverse and slammed toward the mini-van behind the truck. The truck driver raced his engine and yelled at the mini-van driver. Both the mini-van and the Fiat made tentative efforts to move, but they were trapped by the vehicles in front and behind them.

The truck driver jockeyed the truck back and forward again and again. He worked on maneuvering the truck toward the grassy decline at the side of the highway, but the vehicles in front and behind had him wedged in tight. He yelled and cursed but neither vehicle could move enough to free him despite the damage he was doing to the vehicles. Screams of frustration and anger from all three drivers filled the air.

Liz watched the cars ahead but could only see beyond a couple dozen vehicles because of a gradual curve of the highway. There seemed to be a commotion taking place around a UPS truck at the beginning of the turn among the furthest vehicles.

Liz watched two men in khaki uniforms appear from the front of the brown panel truck and stumble toward a car directly behind the truck. Both men walked in an uncoordinated jerky stagger that made them appear drunk. Their khaki uniforms sported blotches of dark red stains.

The massive pickup continued pulling forward and backing up while the driver doubled his verbal abuse of the two offending drivers. Each time he shifted from drive to reverse he rammed into the offending vehicles more violently. Terrified by the vehicular assault, the Fiat driver escaped his automobile and stood at the side of the roadway screaming abuse.

The pair of khaki-clad men made their way to the first vehicle behind the truck and slammed their hands against the sedan’s side window. Liz could hear yells from the female driver and the thuds of the assault against the glass when the truck driver stopped his frantic efforts to escape the traffic jam for the moment.

Liz’s heart rate began to quicken. What she was seeing was crazy. The sedan’s male passenger jumped out of the car and raced around the back of the vehicle to confront the two men beating on the driver’s window. He was a muscled man with bulging arms stretching the fabric of the white t-shirt. Liz could see he imagined his physique would be enough to intimidate the two men.

One of the khaki clad men turned on the passenger and pulled him into an awkward, bear hug. The second delivery driver turned from the car and leaned his head toward a flailing arm of the protesting passenger and grabbed it with both hands. He buried his faced against the bare flesh. When he straightened up, his face was covered in blood and his jaws moved up and down chewing the hunk of flesh hanging from his mouth.

The victim, screaming in pain and rage, thrashed about trying to free himself from his captors. The second attacker leaned into the man’s neck and shook his head back and forth like a dog. When he pulled his face away, blood sprayed across both attackers from the ripped flesh of the man’s neck. The passenger’s screams stopped, he quit flailing and slumped against the attacker. The captor dropped the man to the ground and the terrified screams of the sedan’s driver intensified when the USP men redirected their attention at the vehicle’s window.

Liz stared ahead unable to believe what she was seeing. Her breath came in quick shallow gasps. Under her breath she whispered. “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!”

“Mommy?” Amy whimpered.

Unable to even respond to her daughter, Liz watched as more people appeared behind the delivery drivers. All were covered in splotches of blood and looked horribly injured. They moved in the same halting, jerky gate as the USP men. They stumbled toward the pair that had renewed their assault of the sedan’s window.

Several of the new arrivals began their own assault at the windshield. The window glass suddenly shattered and arms reached into the car to pull the woman from the vehicle. The driver screamed and slammed her fists against her attackers then disappeared into the cluster of bloodied bodies.

Liz starred on as more and more bloodied and injured people stumbled around the vehicles and made their way toward her car. The wave of horribly wounded people stumbled past the sedan to the next vehicle. A young male driver threw open his door to run, but one of the monsters had gotten too close and grabbed him from behind. The attacker fell on the youth’s back to bury his face in his neck. The attacker pulled his face away with a red, dripping hunk of flesh hanging from his mouth.

More of the attackers turned their attention on the dying kid, each tearing flesh from his writhing body. Blood spurted from his neck and within seconds he quit struggling. The captors released the body and it disappeared under the cluster of attackers assaulting the next vehicle. Several attackers got to their feet and stumbled over the bodies toward the next vehicle.

More attackers pulled the driver of a small pickup from his vehicle and a man in a blood-drenched white shirt grabbed an arm and raised it to his mouth. His teeth dug into the flesh and pulled away with a glob of bloodied flesh. More of the monsters joined in the assault.

One by one they buried their faces into flesh and tore mouthfuls of bloodied meat from live people.

Those that couldn’t reach live prey spilled around the victim being consumed to make their way to the next car where a woman had thrown the car door open and was struggling to free a child from a car seat in the back seat. Within seconds, they both disappeared into the mass of bloodied bodies.

The driver of the large truck doubled his efforts to free his truck of the two vehicles that wedged him into the traffic jam. The massive truck slammed into the small Fiat, jammed the truck into reverse and stomped on the gas. The truck hit the mini-van and the bumper jumped up the low-slung hood leaving the vehicle with one wheel off the concrete.

The driver turned the wheel and jammed the truck into drive. The rear wheel on pavement burned rubber and caught enough traction to flip the truck to the side crashing down against the guard rail shattering the window and windshield. The driver escaped the truck and vaulted over the guard rail and disappeared down the incline.

Liz watched in the waning afternoon light as two more women were pulled through shattered windows. Their screams filled the afternoon. More of the infected headed for the next car and the man struggling to release his seatbelt to escape, was surrounded and disappeared under the assault.

People threw vehicle doors open and ran from the wave of blood-covered aggressors working their way from car to car toward Liz. They would be at her car in a matter of minutes. They would come for Liz and her daughters.

They were trapped. There was no way to pull off the highway with the guardrail at her right and vehicles blocking her in front, back and to her left. There was a tide of murder and mayhem rolling toward them and she was powerless to drive away. She looked at her ten-year-old. Amy’s faced mirrored her own horror at the sounds coming closer by the minute.

“Mommy?” Amy whimpered.

“We’re getting out of here!” Liz answered urgently.

“I’m scared,” Amy asked. “What’s happening?”

“Unbuckle the baby, now. Hurry honey. Then get the diaper bag.”

Amy unsnapped the car seat harness then pulled her sister to her lap. Meanwhile, Liz crawled over the console to the passenger seat. She jerked open the door and crawled out of the vehicle. She opened the back door just as Amy reached for the strap of the diaper bag. Liz took the baby while Amy scrambled out of the car dragging the bag behind her.

Looking over her shoulder at the advancing attackers, Liz grabbed Amy’s hand and pulled her between two cars. At the edge of the highway, they climbed over the metal guard rail.

Clutching Claire to her chest, and still holding Amy’s hand, Liz faltered down the steep incline toward the distant fence that stretched across the back parking lot of a row of businesses. When she glanced up behind her, she saw some of the infected had noticed their escape and were beginning to follow.

The infected weaved between vehicles and headed toward the barrier. Liz glanced over her shoulder and was relieved when the monsters seemed baffled by the thigh-high barrier. They stood at the guard rail reaching out but were stymied by the metal barrier. Suddenly, their outstretched arms and leaning bodies overbalanced and they began falling over the barrier.

They lined up at the guard rail and one by one the infected face-planted into the gravel on the other side. The first creature with a shaved head and biker jacket tumbled over the barrier skinning the flesh from half his face. He stumbled to his feet, got overbalanced and hit the ground again. He tumbled halfway down the incline where he got caught on a cluster of oleanders.

One after another, the infected leaned over the guard rail until they fell. More and more of the tattered and torn people pressed against those leaning into the barrier until none could move.

Three of the monsters were half way down the incline when a massive overweight woman in a bloodied housedress fell over the barrier and began to roll. She hit the trio. The four ended in a massive pile with limbs trapped under the woman lying on her back. Having landed with her head downhill and with bodies on either side, she was having little luck with rolling over.

More and more of the monsters fell over the guard rail, got up and began making their way toward those trying to escape. Dozens of people passed Liz and the girls. Not on offered to assist. They were quickly being left behind to suffer a horrible fate.

Liz grabbed Amy’s hand. “Run! Honey, we have to hide!”

As they ran from the roadway toward the eight-foot hurricane fence, Liz looked up and down the fence line for an opening. They had to get away. She had to find a place her children would be safe. She turned toward the corner of the distant corner of the fencing looking for an opening and saw nothing.

Near panic, she saw a dip in the grass under the metal fence behind what appeared to be a bar or eatery. She could see a neon sign at the front of the alley. Boxes surrounded the massive dumpster midway from the front of the building.

Liz dragged Amy toward the divot in the ground. Shoving the baby into her daughter’s arms, she fell to her knees and tore at the weeds in the hole. When the grass was cleared she dug into the soft, wet earth with her bare hands.

After a few minutes, she pulled at the bottom of the woven fencing testing the size of the opening. The wire gave way several inches, but the opening wasn’t big enough for her to get through yet. She dug frantically ignoring the pain of breaking and tearing nails. She glanced over her shoulder. The infected were less than a hundred yards away.

“They’re coming!” Amy whispered frantically.

As the first of the street light blinked on, Liz realized she was out of time. She jumped to her feet and pulled at the fencing with all her strength. It was now or never. She ignored the guttural moans growing louder and closer by the minute.

“Put Claire down and crawl through the opening,” Liz ordered.

“Mom?” Amy looked at Liz with a puzzled look on her face.

“Now! Hurry, Amy. Do as I say.”

Amy laid her sister on the grass and the baby started crying.

“Lay down. Slide through head first. Quick, baby.” Liz whispered.

Amy began to cry but did as she was told. Liz pulled up on the fencing with all her strength creating an opening just big enough for Amy.

“Now! Slide through.” Liz whispered frantically. “Get through as quick as you can.”

Amy lay down on the grass with her head at the opening. She kicked her heels into the ground while she pulled at the grass on the other side of the opening. When Amy was through, Liz released the fence and fell to her knees.

“I’m sorry, sweetie.” Liz cooed as she picked up Claire. She pushed the bag toward the opening. “Pull the bag through, Amy. Hurry!”

Amy gave a tug and the bag caught in the middle of the opening under the fence. Liz pushed and Amy pulled on the long strap. Her eyes grew large. “Mommy, they’re coming. Please hurry.” Liz scooted around on her butt then placed her foot against the bag and shoved. The bag burst through and Amy fell to her bottom.

While Amy got to her feet, Liz pulled the baby to her chest and kissed her forehead. She clutched her close as she covered her daughter with the blanket then guided the infant through the hole.

“Sh…shush now Amy, take your sister. Put the bag over your shoulder. Run and hide.” She could hear the dead getting closer.

“Hurry Mommy! You have to get under the fence?!” Amy wailed near panic.

“I can’t. I’m going to run now. Head for the building and find a place to hide. Stay safe and I’ll find you.”

Liz turned and ran. Dozens of the dead followed her while still others leaned against the fence reaching out toward the Amy and her sister.

“Mommy!” Amy screamed.

Tears ran down her face as Amy backed from the fence clutching Claire close. She stepped away from the reaching arms and watched her mother run around a distant corner of fencing and disappear behind a brick building. When she could no longer see her mother, Amy adjusted the strap on her shoulder, turned, and ran toward a blinking neon sign.

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