Obligation

Posted: May 14, 2015 in Book 1 TERROR IN TEXAS
Tags: , , , , ,

“Okay, Matt, where to now?” Larry asked as he plowed over three infected at the entrance of the alley. Two of the bodies fell under the massive tires jerking the wheel and jostling the vehicle from left to right and back again. The Humvee roared from between the brick buildings and hit the front bumper of a Fiat sending it into the front of a glass storefront across the street.

“Sorry. I’ll try to dodge around the next one so you can settle things down back there.”

The baby in Matt’s arms screamed in terror. Matt had no experience with babies and the screaming made his head throb. He didn’t have a clue what to do so he just clung to the squirming bundle trying to keep her from slipping from his grasp.

“Larry, damn it, slow down and stop hitting shit! You’re scaring the shit outta the kids back here.” Matt ordered. “And I need a fucking drink.”

“Sorry,” Larry mumbled over the crying children.

“My mommy? We have to go back for my mommy.” Amy wailed.

Matt sighed as he looked at Amy, then down at the sobbing baby in his arms. He had to get his shit together. When he looked at the men in the front seat, he realized the three of them were the only hope for the two kids. It was time to man up.

Larry slowed the Humvee to a speed that allowed him to dodge around stopped or crashed vehicles but still outpace the roaming infected.

Matt slid closer to Amy and wrapped his arm around her trembling shoulders trying to calm her terror. “We’re going somewhere safe. Can you help me, Amy? Let’s get your sister a clean diaper and calmed down.”

Amy nodded and pulled a pacifier from the diaper bag. She popped it into the baby’s mouth. The baby began sucking the nipple and silence filled the vehicle.

Matt gave a big sigh of relief. Amy unlatched the seatbelt and slid out from under Matt’s arm to reach deeper into the diaper bag. She passed Matt a disposable diaper then settled back and reattached the seatbelt.

Matt accepted the diaper then laid the unhappy baby across his lap on her stomach.

“Not like that!” Amy protested. “On her back. Her head there.” She pointed to his knees. “My daddy can do it like that.”

He carefully laid the baby girl down as instructed and with a little help removed the wet diaper then opened the window and tossed it out. The wind caught the diaper and it flew into the face of an infected man as they passed. Amy giggled.

“Oh, you like that, huh?” Matt asked as he grinned at her. Amy shrugged and grew silent. He unfolded the new diaper. It can’t be that hard, right. He looked to Amy and asked. “Now what?”

“That end goes under her bottom,” Amy advised.

Matt followed the directions then pulled the front up and between the baby’s legs. He pulled down at the top as he wondered about the closures.

Amy leaned over and pulled the tabs up and over the front.

It was done. He sighed in relief. “That wasn’t so hard. You think she’s hungry?” Matt asked.

Amy nodded.

Matt leaned toward the front seat. “Hey Curtis, hold the baby for a minute.” He passed the infant to Jake immediately made faces and baby sounds. It was funny seeing a huge black man playing with the tiny baby girl. Her sudden smile caused her to drop the pacifier and the road sounds were drowned out by a giggle.

Amy helped Matt make a bottle of formula then passed the bottle to Jake. Within minutes, the vehicle was quiet except for an occasional slurp of the hungry baby.

Matt looked at the ten-year-old girl and asked. “What’s your name?”

“Amy.”

“Is this your sister?”

“Yes. Her name is Claire. My daddy is a soldier. How are we going to find my mommy?”

“We’re gonna work on that as soon as we can,” Matt answered as he rubbed at his temple.

When they got a few miles away from the alley, Larry pulled off on a side street with a good view of the surroundings and stopped. After looking around for the infected one last time, Larry leaned over and picked up a radio and depressed the button on the side.

“Three stooges outside the wire. Request FOB?”

Initially, Matt had hated when a smart-ass sergeant had referred to the trio during ranger training as the “three stooges”, now at thirty-two, the moniker never failed to bring a smile to his face. They became fast friends in boot camp and remained together ever since. When men in the unit began referring to them as The Three Stooges, Matt decided if he couldn’t escape it, he may as well embrace it.

He smiled thinking of his friends as young recruits and the strong capable soldiers they had become. If he was going to be caught in a shit-storm, he was glad it was with them.

Larry Benson was five-ten but sported broad shouldered with thick muscled arms. He was a bearish man that kept his wiry black hair cut short and his hazel eyes hidden behind a pair of aviator glasses.

Jake Curtis had put on almost fifty pounds of muscle since basic training and grown into a huge man with a quick smile. When he started losing his hair, he shaved what was left and never looked back. The bald head and massive build made him look fierce and dangerous until he smiled.

Matt was almost as tall as Jake, but didn’t have the bulk of his friend despite the weight lifting and training. He kept his sandy blonde hair short and his face with its square jaw, clean shaven at least until he had started drinking. Over the last year in the Sand Box, a name used by some of the troops to identify Iraq, deep furrows had appeared on his sun-browned face.

Since back stateside, he had become brooding and silent. He spent hours replaying missions over and over again blaming himself for the missions that failed. Only alcohol dampened the need to constantly examine his decisions.

Larry released the button on the mic and waited. Static and distant gunfire was the only answer. After three minutes, he repeated the message and waited again. No response.

Finally, Larry sighed and turned down the volume. “Maybe it’s the range on this radio.”

Jake answered pointedly. “You saw the same things I did last night. We’re on our own.” He bounced Claire on his shoulder.

Matt’s head pounded as if Van Halen’s drummer was doing a solo. He leaned forward to be part of the conversation. “What in the fuck is going on? What is wrong with all those people?”

Jake turned around and looked at Amy pointedly.

Matt grunted and mumbled. “Sorry, kid. I’m a little under the weather.” Matt ignored Jake clearing his throat and continued. “What’s going on?”

Larry spent several minutes outlining the attack and the resulting masses of roaming infected dead.

Matt just kept moving his head from side to side all the while his face growing paler by the minute. “I…I can’t…I don’t…believe this.” He leaned against the window and closed his eyes. He gripped his knees to keep his hands from shaking. He really needed a drink.

Finally, Larry turned to Jake and asked. “What are we going to do?” He jerked a thumb toward Matt. “Shit for brains there, is so hung over he can barely sit up. We’re so fucked now.”

Jake frowned. “Watch your mouth, Larry. We got kids in the vehicle.”

Matt looked at Amy. Her pale and tears streaked face tore at his heart. Ignoring the bickering conversation in the front seat, Matt swallowed the bile at the back of his throat and cleared his throat.

“Turn left here and head to Smith Street. We’re going to the orange storage units just north of West Commerce. I got a unit at the back of the facility. It’ll be a quiet place to regroup.” After a pause, he continued. “I got weapons.”

Larry snorted. “And you got a well-stocked frig in this storage unit?”

The baby began to whimper and Jake turned his dark face around to look over his shoulder and smiled at Amy. “Don’t worry little one. We’ll figure this out. Poor Larry here is a little anxious. Just ignore him.”

“Yes, sir.” Amy answered then continued. “A hmmmm. Mister? That was the last diaper and Claire makes a dirty diaper after she eats.” She shrugged.

“Diapers.” Larry lamented. “Where in the fuck are we going to get diapers?”

Matt raised his hand. “Enough!” He swallowed hard. “There’s both a CVS and a Walgreens about a mile from the units. If we’re lucky we can find what we need, then have a quiet place to hunker down and evaluate our options. Hopefully, the area is quiet.”

“Yeah. That sounds good.” Jake chimed in. “And after that? You know we can’t stay in the city for long. Electricity will be going out.”

“We’ll figure something out,” Matt answered as he picked up the diaper bag and riffled through the contents.

Amy was right. No more diapers. He put everything back except a woman’s wallet he’d found in a side pocket. He ignored the credit cards and cash and looked at the driver’s license. Elizabeth Jameson. She was a nice looking woman judging from her picture. He replaced the license and found a slip of paper with a rural address postmarked through a small town three hundred or so from the city.

Matt turned to Amy. “Your last name is Jameson?” Amy nodded. “Who lives in Pine Springs Canyon, Texas?”

“My grandpa. He used to be in the Army, but now he lives out in the woods.”

Matt nodded. Jameson? He groaned. He knew the kid’s father. He was a good man and had kept him out of a jail cell more than once in the last few months. He was an M.P. on the base. That meant whatever went down he would have been in the middle of it. Captain Brian Jameson was probably dead.

“Is your dad, Brian Jameson?” Matt asked.

Amy smiled. “Yes, sir.”

Matt replaced everything in the wallet except the slip of paper and returned the wallet to the bag. At least it would be a destination that satisfied two requirements; family for the girls and out of the city. Maybe grandpa would be remote enough to protect the kids.

Matt buckled Amy into the seat belt next to him while Larry put the Humvee in gear and pulled from the gloom of the side street onto a boulevard that led to a thoroughfare. He guided the vehicle around a small fender bender and eased down the street toward the warehouse district. They passed gatherings of the undead. Each time the vehicle grew close the faces turned and arms reached out toward them. The infected would begin to follow and Larry would accelerate and leave them behind.

Matt was appalled.  There were hundreds of the mangled and torn dead stumbling around the city. The bodies were walking nightmares.

Matt leaned toward Amy. “Hey, don’t look out the window okay?”

Amy turned to face him. “Claire is supposed to ride in a car seat.”

Matt chuckled. “I guess you’ll have to tell us what we need for your sister.”

Larry used the medium to drive around a roadblock as they got closer to the base. Clusters of the infected dressed in military garb stumbled through the streets aimlessly until they spotted the moving vehicle. As they neared a group of stumbling monsters in the middle of the road, Matt saw they were feasting on two bodies. The world has gone to hell.

Twenty minutes later, the Humvee approached an intersection where three infected dressed in tattered and torn business suits leaned over a body still trapped in a car. The car had been involved in a minor accident crumpling the front fender. Now the windows were broken and the infected were feasting on the remnants of the occupants. They pulled entrails from the trapped corpse and clutching organs against their gnashing mouths. Dozens of infected had been drawn to the accident.

Larry slammed on the breaks. “Ain’t getting through this ways.”

Matt stared at the sight through the windshield then turned back to Amy. “Lay your head down, Amy.” He reached out and pulled her against his chest.

He sobered as he realized the terrible state of the world. He could see when the infected noticed the vehicle. They focused on the sound then sniffed the air like dogs smelling a bitch in heat. Finally, they seemed to comprehend the faces through the windshield and turned toward the passing vehicle.

“Uh oh. I think they’ve noticed us.” Jake commented as he passed the baby over the seat back.

Matt accepted the infant and pulled her close as he ordered. “Back up! Get us out of here, Larry.”

Larry slammed the Humvee into reverse and turned the wheel to the right. He performed a K-turn and headed back the way they had come. At the next intersection, he turned right and stepped on the gas. At the first cross street, he looked toward the right and saw a repeat of the same scene of the previous intersection.

“We’re fucked!” Larry pointed to the intersection ahead. He braked then quickly looked left and right. “Which way? Where do we go from here?”

Matt pointed toward a yard and deteriorating picket fence. “That way! Go right through the yard to the next block.” Matt ordered. He pulled Amy and the baby closer. They jostled around the back seat. “Amy, hang on. This is going to be bumpy.”

Amy grabbed at the handhold of the seat in front of her, her face mirroring her terror. She turned toward Matt and commented. “Claire should be in a car seat.”

Matt cuddled the baby close with both arms and answered. “We know sweetie, but for now, we have to get outta here. Now hang on as tight as you can.”

“Fucking hope there ain’t any pools!” Jake shouted as he braced himself between the door and the array of equipment in the console between the seats.

Larry turned toward the fence and gunned the engine. The vehicle jumped the curb and slammed into the fence. Pickets flew to either side in arcing white missiles. The Humvee plowed through the yard and into the adjoining yard. Larry stirred the vehicle between cemented posts, sending splinters of cedar left and right.

The Humvee burst through the last fence but by the time the debris cleared, Larry realized they were racing toward the side of a Cadillac parked near the house. He jerked the wheel to the left and sped between two small trees, before bouncing down the curb and clipping the passenger side tail light with the front bumper. He jerked the wheel to the right and ended up face to face with a horde of the infected.

“Oh, hell, no!” Larry cursed as he slammed on the breaks.

Jake clutched at the handle above his head. “Turn around. One-eighty man!”

“No, shit!” Larry answered as he executed a U-turn in the middle of the street and headed in the opposite direction.

“I know where we are.” Matt leaned over to look around Jake’s head. “Take the next right.”

“We gotta find some weapons. We’re rolling around with all these freaks and we don’t have a gun between us.” Jake commented.

“I got that covered,” Matt answered. He looked down and groaned. A wet spot appeared under the baby and began growing across his pant legs.

“Before we do that, we stop to find some fucking diapers!” Matt groused. The baby in his arms began to cry and he instantly felt like a jerk. “Sorry, sweetie. I know, you’re wet and we’re going to deal with it as quick as we can.” After a soft rumble against his leg, a whiff of dirty diapers filled the confines of the vehicle. Matt laughed. “I deserved that baby girl.”

The residential area gave way to a sparsely occupied commercial zone with blocks of overgrown vacant lots. They drove nearly a mile before they saw occupied buildings in the distance. As they drew closer, the trio realized it was a small strip center with half a dozen stores. Only two storefronts were occupied; one with a Dollar General store and the other a florist.

An infected woman paced back and forth inside the small flower shop. She clutched a wilted rose in one hand while the other hung limp at her side still covered in gore from the shoulder to fingertips. The dead woman just stood at the window staring through the glass. The retail center gave way to several office buildings then the open parking lot of a large discount store.

“Hey, look there!” Jake pointed at the Walmart.

Larry slowed and turned into the parking lot. He headed toward the front door driving slowly through the vacant parking lot. He parked the Humvee about twenty feet from the door and studied a sign on the door. The store was closed the night before for inventory.

“Could be people in there,” Jake commented.

“Yeah, could be,” Matt commented. “Jake, with me. Larry, stay with the girls. If anything happens, get to my storage locker then take the girls to their grandfather’s place.” He scribbled an address on a scrap of paper and passed it to Larry. “If anything goes wrong, head to the storage unit at this address. It has everything you’ll need. These keys will get you in the unit.” He laid a keyring on the center console. I wrote the code to open the gate on the paper.”

He turned back to Amy and passed the baby to her. “Hold your sister while I’m gone.”

He opened the door, got out and reclosed it. He walked around the back of the Humvee, opened the back door and pulled a tire iron from inside the back then reclosed the door.

Jake eased his massive frame from the front seat of the vehicle. He put a hand to his back and stretched. “I guess there ain’t two of those?” When Matt offered him the tire iron, he moved his head from left to right. “I’ll pick up something inside. Let’s do this.”

Amy called out. “Don’t forget a car seat!”

Jake laughed and gave Amy a thumbs-up. “I got it covered, little girl.”

He walked to the front door and pushed on the closed door. When it didn’t budge, he reared back to drive his foot through the glass panel. The glass shattered and fell to the concrete in a waterfall of sparkling shards.

Matt and Jake eased through the opening and disappeared into the dimly lit store. Matt stopped to study the overhead signage. A moment later, he nodded toward the baby aisle. “Get what you think we need for the girls over there. I’ll get water and food. Don’t forget diapers. Pick up something to use as a weapon on the way. There might be infected in here.”

“No worries,” Jake answered as he grabbed a shopping cart and hurried away toward the garden center.

Matt grabbed a cart and headed into the store. Suddenly, he stopped as he neared the end of an aisle. Shuffling feet and a low moan made Matt stop and release the cart handle. He sidestepped toward the shelving of the endcap. He raised the tire iron then slid his foot forward. Peeking around the cases of canned corn he saw the infected making his way toward him. He also noticed a hanging display of the small packages of notepads. He pulled a package from the rack and tossed it to the middle of the aisle.

The infected, dressed in a white shirt and black apron moaned as he leaned toward the packet. Matt slammed the tire iron down on the back of a young man’s skull. Bone crunched and scalp split. The body fell to the floor, black goo spilling from the wound. The monster still clutched the note paper in his hand when he twitched one last time.

“Sorry, buddy.” Matt pulled the kid’s legs out of the way and rolled the cart into the hardware department. He grabbed a number of items from the shelves, all in threes. He found multi-tools, large knives and machetes then headed toward the grocery department.

He stacked cases of water on the bottom of the cart then swept the shelves of pre-packaged ready to eat meals and bags of nutrition bars. As an after-thought, he tossed in boxes of Pop Tarts, cereal in bags, boxes of crackers and powdered milk.

He heard Jake on the baby aisle tossing things into the cart. When he arrived, he found Jake’s cart filled with an array of items: cans of dry formula, three huge bags of diapers, baby wipes, cases of baby food, packages of baby clothes, blankets and in his hand he carried a car seat box.

Matt grabbed a rattle from the shelf and tossed it into Jake’s cart. “Let’s move.”

They both turned and headed toward the front of the store door. Matt walked past paper goods and grabbed three boxes of plastic spoons. As they made their way down the aisle, they passed a display of Tylenol. Matt grabbed two bottles and tossed them into the cart. He kept a third box and tore the top off, dumped the bottle out and then twisted at the cap.

When he looked back up, he cursed again. “Fucking headache!”

Jake nudged Matt with his elbow, but Matt ignored him.

“Child proof.” Matt complained.

“Ain’t got time for that,” Jake answered and pointed toward the back of the store.

Two infected appeared from the auto department and began shambling toward them while Matt struggled with the packaging. Jake looked up and reached for the tire iron, but Matt raised his hand.

“I got this.”

He threw the plastic bottle at Jake then dug through his cart and pulled two machetes from the shopping cart he had filled. He tossed one to Jake and ripped the second from the scabbard. He walked away to meet the pair of infected. He jabbed the blade into the left eye of the first, withdrew it then swung the blade in a wide arc at the second monster. The head separated from the body of a young woman in a white jacket. Her hair fanned out as her head spun away.

Matt finished off two more store employees and wiped the blade on the white coat of the pharmacy technician before he slid the machete back in the scabbard. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

Jake rolled his cart to the shattered window, stepped outside then picked up the front wheels and eased it over the window frame. He pulled the cart forward then Matt raised the back wheels over the window frame. When Jake’s cart was clear, Matt moved his cart in position and they repeated the process.

Jake pushed the cart to the back of the truck and began tossing his haul into the back of the Humvee. He tore the car seat box open and tossed the box aside. He pushed the seat into the middle of the back seat of the Humvee. He stepped aside to give Matt access to the open tailgate.

Matt pushed the cases of water toward the back seat, then picked up the cart and upturned the content into the back of the vehicle. He slammed the back door and grinned at Jake.

“Good work, buddy.”

Larry called out. “Better get a move on guy, we got company.”

Matt looked over his shoulder. “Oh, fuck.”

Jake turned just in time to see an infected redneck ready to take a chunk out of his shoulder. He jumped back swinging the shopping cart at the monster. The cart knocked the infected man down and Jake drew his machete. He slammed the blade into the top of the man’s head. The man fell back pulling the blade from Jake’s hand and landed with a crack of his skull against the asphalt. Jake ran to the body, stepped on the redneck’s face and pulled the machete free. He hurried back to the front of the Humvee and climbed in the front seat.

Matt took off half of the second infected man’s head then followed Jake to the passenger side of the vehicle. With the second door slamming, Larry jammed the vehicle into gear and spun out of the parking lot.

Comments
  1. tdhemlin says:

    You know, I’m the fist one who’d defend the fact that a man can change a diaper, but you make it perfectly clear in the third paragraph that Matt has no siblings, or friends with babies…then magically he can change a diaper? Umm, no.

    Other than that, pretty good stuff here. So, is the grandfather dead? I don’t think so…at least I hope not. I’m pulling for the old fart.

    Like

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