Torn Asunder

Posted: June 3, 2015 in Book I Terror in Texas
Tags: , , , ,

Harry downshifted and the big rig slowed as it rumbled over the narrow speed strips on the side of the blacktop. He steered the rig toward the shade of an underpass.

“It’s time to find a place to stop,” Harry announced. “My ass is gettin’ flat.

Liz protested. “No! We have to catch them.”

Harry answered. “We‘ve only caught a glimpse of the vehicle once, since the alley and nothing after driving past the empty car seat box besides, we can’t be sure it was even them. It’ll be dark soon and we might drive right past ‘em. We can’t just keep driving.”

“But….” Liz protested.

“I agree. We can’t follow a trail we can’t see, Liz”. John argued.

Liz looked back the way they had come. The two-lane road had been pretty clear of traffic since a police roadblock almost five miles behind them. They had eased through the congestion leading up to it using the heavy duty grill on the front of the rig to push cars into the ditch. As they passed, Liz’s eyes were drawn to the empty vehicles. The horror inside each left Liz feeling depressed and hopeless.

Harry pulled the rig into the shadow of the underpass with a hiss of airbrakes. The cab sat in the shade of the overpass when he turned off the engine and slammed his hands against the steering wheel.

“Let’s stretch our legs a little, get something to eat then get some shut eye,” Harry announced. “Keep your guns handy.” He opened the door, leaned out and looked around before jumping to the ground.

John exited the passenger door leaving Liz to climb down on her own. She jumped to the ground then walked around the cab to stand next to Harry. The sun rested at the top of the tree-line to the west painting the sky shades of amber, crimson, and violet. It was a beautiful sight. Standing there in the fading light they were enveloped in a bubble of peace and quiet. No traffic noises, only crickets and night creatures for company.

After John burned the first microwaved meal, he turned over the cooking to Liz. He settled on the bottom step of the truck waiting while she nuked packages of the trucker’s food in the onboard microwave. Harry climbed the side of the embankment to the overpass and studied lights in the distance. After several minutes, he climbed back down to lean against the big rig.

“Nothin’ movin’ out there.” He commented to no one in particular.

“Do you think they’re still ahead of us?” Liz asked as she passed a hot plastic tray of food down using a folded paper towel as a hot pad.

Harry accepted the tray. “Hard to say. They got the kids. I would think they would have to stop. I worry we’ve already gotten ahead of them. It may be hard to keep moving with the baby.”

John accepted his meal. “Liz, knowing they’re with Rangers, you have to know they are being protected. They got a better chance than most kids right now.”

Liz settled in the driver’s seat facing the open door to study the two men leaning on the medium. “I have to believe we’ll find them.” Liz took a bite of the pasta and forced herself to swallow. “After all those years Brian was in combat. I can’t believe he comes home to this nightmare.”

Harry reached up and patted her knee. “Eat up. We’ll do our damnedest to find those girls. Meanwhile, you gotta eat or you’ll blow away.”

Liz tried to smile at Harry as the last remnants of light faded into darkness.

“I ain’t too anxious to be down here since its getting dark,” Harry announced.

Liz tossed her plastic try and turned to Harry. “You can take the sleeper. I’ll take the driver’s seat. It leans back enough for me to sleep there.”

John laughed. “I’ll take first watch. We have to leave the windows open, but I sure don’t figure to be out and about. I can do it from the passenger seat.”

Within minutes, Harry was snoring softly inside the sleeper.

Liz punched at the small pillow she had retrieved from the sleeper and curled up against the door and tried to sleep. The glow of the digital clock announced hour after hour until it glowed eleven. She straightened up in the seat, and nudged John. “Go to sleep, my turn at watch.”

John nodded in the dim light of the dash light. “Get Harry up at three.” He leaned into the door and was snoring within minutes.

Liz’s mood grew dark as the hours slipped away. She knew the chances of finding her children were not good, but she had to keep looking as long as it took. She wasn’t planning to wake Harry, but he interrupted her dark thoughts at three and motioned her to trade places with him.

“I know you’re worried about the girls, but try to get some sleep.” Harry whispered.

Liz climbed into the sleeper and was sure she wouldn’t sleep with the stifling heat but when she laid her head down on the pillow with the lingering scent of Aqua Velva, she closed her eyes and drifted off almost immediately. She woke drenched in sweat to the sound of John and Harry talking quietly.

When she leaned out to join the conversation, Harry asked. “Where were you heading when you had to leave your car?”

“My father’s cabin. He lives up close to a state park out west.” Liz answered. “It’s pretty remote.”

“Did your daughter know?”

“Sure. We talked about it. Amy loves going to the cabin and Brian always said it was a safe place to go if the ‘shit hit the fan’. My father is a bit of a ‘prepare-for-the-worst’ type. Brian and I used to laugh about the cabin.” Liz’s breath caught and she looked away with tears threatening to spill from her eyes.

“What?” John asked softly.

“Brian called from the base when I was shopping that afternoon. He told me to go to my dad’s as quick as I could get there. He said there was an attack on the base and not to wait for him. I started to argue, but his voice got really quiet and said I had to leave immediately to protect the girls. He said not to even stop to pack.”

“Did he say what happened?” John asked.

Liz answered quietly. “No. I heard screaming in the background then the line went dead. I picked up Amy from school and headed out of town. We hit traffic and all the cars just stopped.” Liz sighed. “Hundreds of the infected were headed our way.” She sighed. “The rest you know.”

“Yeah. The creepy sons-of-bitches just came like a wave down the street. People were running and anyone they caught they killed. The dead turned and joined the mayhem.” Harry commented.

“Shhh!” Harry hissed. “I hear something.”

Liz could hear a distant pop, then another and another. Gunfire? The sound grew louder and closer together. Definitely gunfire. As she strained to hear, the roar of heavy powerful engines overtook the pop of gunfire. Liz turned but saw nothing with the trailer blocking the back window.

Harry looked toward the side mirror and cursed. “Fuck!”

He turned the key in the ignition and the big engine thundered to life. He jammed the shift into gear and the behemoth began moving forward. Meanwhile the roar of the coming vehicles grew louder, sounding angry and threatening.

“What is it?” John asked.

“A fucking Stryker!” Harry answered as he shifted to second. The truck moved a modicum faster. “We can’t both fit through the underpass. There isn’t room and that dumbass is not slowing down!”

The Stryker was moving at top speed and obviously the driver intended to crash his way through the opening of the underpass despite the fact a slow moving truck was in his way.

Harry looked toward the side mirror again and gasped. The Stryker, constructed from high-hardness steel with a V-shaped front included a .50-cal M2 machine gun, 7.62 mm M240 machine gun, or Mk-19 automatic grenade launcher. The eight-wheeled vehicle raced toward them at a speed that did not bode well for any other vehicle in its way. Even the big rig and trailer would crumple under the weight and speed of the military vehicle.

Liz caught her first glimpse of the Stryker. They would not get out of the way quick enough. The vehicle thundered toward them without slowing.

There was a deafening roar of acceleration when the vehicle hit the trailer. The renting of metal was painful to hear. The Stryker slammed into the back axle of the cab slamming the trailer forward into the back of the cab. The trailer bounced off the trailer mount and tilted to the left. The V-shaped hull of the Stryker ripped through the side of the trailer and then connected with the side of the tractor itself. The driver of the Stryker roared through the opening he had created by destroying the trailer followed by several more military vehicles.

The cab ripped free of the trailer and slammed into the abutment supporting the overpass, spun around and smashed into the side of the concrete. Harry crashed into the stirring wheel, then the doorframe and as if it was not enough, he was hurled back toward the passenger side of the vehicle. He fell in a heap over the center console.

Meanwhile Liz flew from the sleeper. She reached out to stop the plunge toward the front seat, but the vehicle’s sudden change of directions sent her on a nosedive into the wheel-well at John’s feet. She struck her face against his knee before crumpling into the floorboard hitting her head on the dash on her way down.

John slammed against the dash, then back into the side window where he ended up slumped against the door, stunned by the impact.

“Fuck!” John whispered as the truck settled and stopped rocking. He reached down, wrapping his big hands around Liz and pulled her back against his thick chest. She was out cold.

“Harry? Man, you okay?”

“Fucking assholes!” Harry mumbled as he stared at the Stryker through the shattered remains of the windshield. After a moment, he turned the key and the only sound was a distant click under the hood. The massive engine remained silent.

He watched the convoy of military vehicles follow the Stryker around the wreckage of their truck. It included three troop carriers, two Humvees, and two additional Strykers. Not a single driver slowed or braked. They sped away.

Once the roar of the engines disappeared, the quiet was unsettling. John turned Liz face up and brushed the hair from her face. Blood streamed from her nose and her eyes remained closed. She was limp in his arms.

“Is she alive?” Harry asked.

John pulled a rag from behind the seat to wipe the blood from her face. “Out cold but I think she’ll be alright.”

Harry shook his head to clear the fog then carefully helped John straighten Liz’s legs and arms. His fingers slid down each limb and finally stopped at her face. He pulled the rag from John and held it against the cut at the side of her head.

Liz’s eyes fluttered and she gagged. She coughed blood and John turned her head to the side. Blood streamed from her mouth and nose, she wheezed and coughed a spray of blood across the cab.

A moment later, she jerked fully awake elbowing John in the jaw. When he yelped she stopped thrashing and reached up to the rag. Harry pulled his hand away and she pressed it against her nose. Her eyes focused on the John.

“Sorry.” She mumbled as she slid off John’s lap and balanced on the edge of the passenger seat.

“Give it a minute, Lizzy. You were out cold.”

John opened the passenger door and slid outside to stand next to the rig. Harry pushed her back against the seat.

After a few minutes of Harry fussing over her and John pushing at her hair, she pulled away and balanced herself on the seat.

Harry used a bottle of water to dampen a rag and held it out to Liz.

She dabbed the cloth at her face and whispered. “Assholes! They didn’t even slow down, did they?”

“Nope.” Harry answered. “Just kept going like their asses were on fire.”

She pulled down the sun visor in front of her and peered into the mirror. She dabbed at her damaged nose and the cut on her forehead. The blood flow had stopped on both.  She used the wet rag to clean her face. Harry pulled out a first aid kit from the center console and opened a couple Bandaids.

Liz looked around when she was finished and tried to understand the odd angle of the truck cab. When she looked back at John, she saw he had a goose egg on the side of his head that was quickly growing dark with bruising. Harry was bruised and battered too.

John grimaced as he twisted and his back cracked. “Fuck heads.”

“Let’s figure out what’s the damage for now.” Harry opened the door and slid out of the cab. Before Liz could follow, he looked back toward the trailer and cursed. “We are so fucked!”

Liz eased herself from cab with Harry’s help. John came around the front of the cab. When the trio stood on the asphalt, they could see the damage done to the rig and trailer, too.

“Damn.” John cursed.

Together, the trio walked to the back of the trailer to study the damage. The trailer had jack-knifed off the trailer mount. Two of the tires on the driver’s side were shredded. The back of the cab on the passenger side rested against the concrete wall of the overpass while the trailer tilted at a crazy angle.

Harry sighed. “Should have known it was too good to last.”

“If they scratched my fucking bike.” John hurried toward the trailer door. Harry and Liz stumbled after him.

Harry studied the trailer angle. The front end sat on the ground while the back end was slanted up several feet higher than normal. Liz stopped and stared.

Harry whistled low. “This is going to be a problem. That asshole took out the whole rig.”

Liz looked back down the road in the direction from where the military had come. The road was straight and level for at least a mile where it turned into a stand of trees. Liz ignored Harry and John as they debated the damage and studied the kaleidoscopic of color in the distance. She focused and squinted until she realized what she was seeing. Her breath caught in her throat. She could see a mass of infected stumbling toward them in the distance.

“Guys, we got a bigger problem than a few scratches on custom paint and chrome.”

Harry turned to follow her gaze. “We gotta get moving.”

Liz stood at the back end of the trailer where John had propped open the doors. All their carefully gathered supplies were in a pile at one side of the tilted trailer. The bikes hung suspended in mid-air from the tethers used to secure them at the back of the trailer.

“How are we going to get the bikes over the edge and to the ground?” John asked.

Harry walked back to the back of the cab. He found a heavy box and opened the lid. Inside, he rooted around until he pulled out several tie-downs, a heavy-duty screwdriver and hammer. “We gotta make this quick. Lizzy, grab that canvas bag in the cab to carry food. Fill it with whatever you can find and think we’ll be able to use.”

Liz ran to the truck, climbed in the sleeper and rooted through the previous owner’s cabinets and cubbies. She found the duffle and started pulling out the clothes. When she caught a whiff, she realized it was the driver’s dirty laundry. She dumped the remains of hash-marked, tighty-whities then threw in an army blanket a couple bar towels, first aid kit, firearms and grabbed each of their packs. She climbed out of the cab with a final look and ran to the back of the trailer.

Harry and John rigged a pulley system from the roof of the trailer. They threaded tie-downs through the roof of the trailer then created a sling. Once it supported John’s bike, Harry played out the length of the tie-down while John guided the bike over the back edge of the trailer. When the bike rested on the ground, John untied the sling.

“Get a move on, man. We got company coming fast.” John called out.

Liz tied her and Harry’s packs to the back fender of his tri-wheeled bike. John motioned her toward the trailer and made a step up with his entwined fingers. “Get what you can, but hurry while we get Harry’s bike down.”

Liz flung the near-empty bag into the trailer then reached up to pull herself into the gloom. She scrambled around the last bike and scuttled over pallets to bust open boxes. She threw cans of stew, fruit, beans, and meat into the bag. As an afterthought, she stuffed three rolls of toilet paper in an end pocket. She dumped in a box of tampons and a bottle of antibacterial soap then stuffed some odds and ends in another pocket from a pharmacy tote. She pulled the bag to the opening and pushed it over the edge.

With that done, she used the blanket to ease two cases of water over the edge. She stacked the water cases near John’s bike.

“Gotta hurry, folks.” John warned as he looked over his shoulder toward the approaching horde.

Liz turned to see Harry struggling to get the front wheel of the second bike over the edge of the trailer floor. He was having a hard time hauling the weight of the bike up and over the raised lip of the trailer. Liz pulled herself back into the trailer and added her weight to his. With a sudden jerk, the wheel cleared the edge and jerked free. The bike swung out.

“It’s over! Ease it down. Hurry!” John yelled as he pulled the guide strap away from the trailer and toward the ground. The drop was not exactly controlled, but left the bike in one piece as far as Liz could see.

Harry jumped to the ground and reached up, but Liz waved him away. He grabbed the supply duffle and pulled two bungee cords around the bag on the back of his three-wheel bike. John picked up the cases of water and stacked them on his bike and tied them down. They each picked up packs and stowed them.

The trio struggled to ready the bikes as they kept a wary eye on the pack of predators’ getting closer as the minutes ticked by. The infected were barely fifty feet away by the time both bikes were ready to go. Harry threw his leg over the side of the bike and pulled Liz onto the seat behind him.

“Let’s go!” Harry yelled.

John’s bike roared to life, he kicked it into gear and gave it gas. The bike made a slow turn away and began moving away from the approaching horde.

“Come on, Harry…I’m feeling a little exposed here.” Liz yelled.

Harry pushed the starter and machine coughed and failed to crank. “Fuck me!” Harry cursed.

“We gotta go, Harry!” Liz pulled her gun and pointed it toward the nearest infected ready to fire while she clung to Harry’s back.

Harry reached under the gas tank of the bike and gave a valve a twist as he called over his shoulder with a grin. “Forgot the shut-off.”

He pushed the starter again, and the machine coughed then roared to life. The dead were close enough for Liz to see the clouded eyes. She could hear their moans and the stench grew made her gag. It was hard to believe only a few days ago they had been regular people with normal lives.

She saw a woman in a sundress with a sandal dangling from one ankle limping toward them. Behind her was a teen with pink hair and black eyes and a carpenter still wearing his tool belt. A hammer dangled from a leather loop hitting the carpenter’s leg with each halting step.

Harry yelled. “Hang on Lizzy, this is going to be rough!”

He fired a head shot to take out the carpenter. “Cover me!” He shouted as he jammed his handgun in the chest holster and twisted the throttle.

“Go!” Liz screamed as she pointed her handgun, took aim and fired.

The bullet passed through the teen’s neck then hit a smaller child stumbling along behind her. Liz fired again, but the shot went wild and hit a monster still wearing a dress shirt. A chunk of shirt and flesh tore away but the monster barely noticed the impact. The arm fell to the monster’s side barely clinging to the shoulder by a few tendons and flesh but he kept stumbling toward them.

Harry turned the bike around and headed away from the approaching horde. John fired two shots before he holstered his weapon and roared ahead. Harry gunned the engine and Liz was slammed against the seat back. She holstered the handgun as they sped away from the horde.

When they cleared the horde, Harry settled into cruising speed, Liz leaned into Harry’s back and tears slid down her face. She had shot a child. She had seen the boy’s head explode and his body crumple to the ground.

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