Going For Crazy

Posted: June 5, 2015 in Book 1 TERROR IN TEXAS
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Steve looked in the rearview mirror at the faces staring back at him. Four overgrown kids expected him to have all the answers and he was sure he didn’t have any at the moment. Stopping to discuss options had brought no clarity. He wondered if Andy got to her car, but knew he’d probably never know. Finally, he cranked the van and shoved the gearshift into drive.

“We’re getting out of town,” Steve stated to no one in particular. “I have a buddy who lives about two hundred and thirty miles from here. We’ll hang out there until this crazy shit is over.”

Della gave Steve a questioning look, but he just shrugged. Finally, he added. “You know him.”

Della looked startled. “Not Randy Matherson! You do know he’s crazy.”

Steve had no answer so he remained silent as he put the van in gear. Finally, he announced. “We have to get gas pretty soon. When we stop, we can get something to eat.”

Steve eased the vehicle onto the street and around unmoving vehicles and past feeding dead. They were forced to creep along at a snail’s pace.  At such a slow pace, they drew plenty of attention.  When the monsters noticed their terrified faces though the glass windows, Steve called out to Jimmy.

“Use your roll of duct tape and the newspaper in back to cover the window. Leave a few holes to watch through. We’re drawing a lot of attention with those things being able to see us. They look at us like a moving buffet.”

Jimmy retrieved the paper and with Zack’s help covered the windows with several layers of newsprint, leaving small flaps to look outside. The interior of the van grew dark and claustrophobic, but no one complained about not being seen or seeing the monsters outside.

Della taped a sheet of paper to the sun visor and let it hang in front of her face. “You think this will help?”

“I guess we’ll see,” Steve answered and the van crept through the clutter of disabled vehicles and monsters devouring those too slow to escape. They had covered his door window and hung paper with spy holes from his visor as well.

It took several hours to make it to the edge of a suburban neighborhood where he turned the van off on yet another side street. They made their way through a neighborhood that had a much more rural look to it.  The curbs had disappeared and lots were bigger. They were seeing only a few infected milling around a white house in the distance. At the end of the street Steve turned the van onto a narrow farm-to-market road.

With no more infected in sight, both Steve and Della tucked the paper above the visor and he accelerated. Houses grew fewer and farther between. Using the side mirror, Steve watched as the infected fell further and further behind.

As they neared a tee in the road, he sped up even more and raced around the corner. He drove another mile, made another turn and headed back toward the highway. All the while, the two boys watched through the back window to see if any infected still followed.

Steve noticed Della’s furtive looks toward his legs from time to time as they drove. Finally, he asked. “What?”

“Your prosthetics? They’re new. I’m good, but you shouldn’t be wearing them for this long.” Della answered. “You know it took a while to get accustomed to your first pair.”

Steve raised his hand. “I’m just sitting here and have been since we got in the van.”

Della sighed. “You have to be careful.”

Steve only shrugged as an answer. “I don’t see I have much choice right now.” Della shrugged and fell silent.

After another three miles, they saw a sign advertising a convenience store ahead. Steve was watching the road and didn’t realize what he was seeing until they had passed it.

“Did you catch that?” Steve asked. After a chorus of negative answers, he ordered they tear the paper from the windows and help him watch.

The terrain opened up and Steve used the hand control to accelerate. Everyone grew excited at the thought of getting out of the van. It had been hours since they had used the peed alongside the road. The two girls had complained and fussed until Della pulled them into the bushed with a stern. The speedometer crept up to sixty miles per hour. Jimmy clung to the back of Steve’s seat looking over his shoulder.

“There!” He called from behind Steve. “We just passed it. To the right on that last road, maybe a quarter mile down, on the right. I saw the Shell sign.”

Steve stopped the van and put the vehicle in reverse. He pressed the gas lever and used the rearview camera to ease back to the intersection. He turned the wheel onto the blacktop facing the afternoon sun.

It was hard to see with the glare, but the road looked empty ahead. Steve put the van in drive and released the break. He accelerated and the van began moving toward the oasis of fast food and gasoline. When they got fifty feet from the driveway they saw two cars and a truck. Two of the vehicles appeared to be customers while the third, an old Camry was parked in the shade of an awning at the side of the building.

The BMW had stopped at the end of the pump island and both doors stood open. The inside of the vehicle was covered in dark brown gunk and red splatters and smears streaked the windows. The late-model Ford truck sat next to the pump closest to the building with no one in sight. It was eerily quiet. No patrons or employees could be seen moving about. The lights could be seen on inside the store.

“I don’t like the looks of it.” Steve glanced down at the gas gauge, he sighed. “But we don’t have a choice. We have to stop.” He reached for his wallet to retrieve a credit card.

He slowly approached the pumps closest to the road. No one appeared from the front of the store or the vehicles. When the van was stopped he turned to the back seat. “I’m going to get gas then we can check out the store.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” Sandy commented.

“Me too.” Chimed in Martha and Della.

“Okay, but we do this smart. First, we get gas then check out the store. Stay in the van until then.” Steve ordered. “All of you keep an eye out and let me know if you see anything move.”

Della nodded. “Got it.”

Steve eased open his door, then teetered his way to the gas pump. He slid the card in the reader hoping the pump was turned on and would accept payment. He punched in the appropriate zip code on the keypad and selected the grade of fuel then stuck the nozzle into the gas tank. He set the release control open then stepped back to the van door.”

“Any movement?” He asked Della.

“Nothing. Isn’t that kinda strange? A little weird with the car doors open.” Della answered.

The only noise was the steady clicking of the gas pump as it measured out gasoline. “When the tank is full, I’m going to take a look,” Steve announced.

“No. You can’t. If anything happens to you, we’re all screwed. I can’t drive your van and neither can anyone else.” Della retorted.

“Yes, you can. The gas and break peddles are still functional.” Steve argued. Just ignore the hand controls.

“Okay. That may be, but we need you. I don’t know where Randy lives.” Della paused then continued. “When you’ve got gas, maybe we can drive closer to the door and take a look.”

Steve answered. “No. I don’t want to limit our maneuverability. I’ll pull the van away from the pumps then you and I can walk back and check out the store. If it’s safe, we use the head and get eats.”

The pump clicked off and Steve hobbled back to hang up the nozzle. He closed the gas tank cover then started the van engine. He made a right turn after the pump island and stopped about twenty feet from the glass door.

When the vehicle stopped, Della told the kids. “Stay here.”

“Jimmy get behind the wheel, if something happens, drive away. Just use the floor controls.” Steve ordered over his shoulder as he opened the door and began to ease out with a steel rod in hand.

Della opened the passenger door and walked around to meet Steve at the back of the van carrying her own stainless steel rod with the ceramic knee joint on the end. They approached the storefront glancing from side to side as they walked.

“You’re getting better on the blades,” Della whispered.

“Don’t have a choice. I didn’t pick up my walking legs.”

“I did. They’re in the bag I’ve been lugging around.” Della answered.

Steve paused and looked toward Della with a grin. “We’re running for our lives and you stop to pick up legs? I thought it was food and water in the bag.”

Della shrugged and nodded toward the glass door. “There is some of that. I just threw in those too.” She looked toward the convenience store. “How do we do this?”

“You pull open the door then stand back while I check it out. If anything happens, get to the van and get the kids outta here.”

Della nodded then placed her hand on the door handle. She looked into the gloom of the store. “Even with the lights are on I can’t see anything.” She whispered.

Steve stepped inside using the doorframe to steady himself. He looked from side to side then deeper into the recesses of the store. A thick coppery smell hung heavy in the air. Amid the smell of blood was the odor of voided bowels mingled with the stale beer. A quick glance toward the register and counter provided no hint of the clerk’s whereabouts.

“I’ll clear the store then you can signal the kids,” Steve called over his shoulder.

He took another couple steps into the store and saw the reason for the heavy scent of alcohol in the air. At the end of the counter-top, a six-pack of beer bottles lay shattered on the floor. Steve raised his weapon when he looked behind the counter and saw a man slumped at the end of the cigarette display. He clutched a petite girl in his arms. The back of her head was damp with blood. Next to him, lay a handgun.

The man looked up when he heard Steve behind him. “Fucking bitch killed my Sadie. The woman in the BMW was sick and attacked my girl. I shot her, but when I was pulling the body off Sadie the man came from the back of the store and bit me.” He moaned.

Steve hadn’t heard Della come into the store and walk up behind him. He jumped when she spoke.

“We have to help him.”

“Stay back, Della.” Steve watched the man as he took a deep halting breath. He looked around for the other people the man mentioned.

“I threw their bodies out the back door. I have to get Sadie home before she turns.” He sighed deeply. “I’m bit. I’m not going to last long.”

Della stepped around Steve and pulled a bottle of water from a display. She grabbed a handful of paper towels and poured the water on it. She wiped at his face and offered him a drink. He smiled back at her sadly and shook his head.

He struggled to his feet. “I can’t stay.” He grabbed the young woman under the arms and pulled her to his chest. With a grunt of pain, he pulled her into his arms. Della stepped forward, but he waved her off. “I got this.”

When the young woman’s arms fell away Della saw a small engagement ring on her left hand. “I’m sorry.” She whispered.

The man looked up. “I’m taking her home. Take what you want, the world has gone to shit anyway and I don’t give a damn.”

Without saying anything more, he shuffled out of the store and to the open door of the red truck. He eased Sadie inside then slipped in beside her. He slammed the door and fired up the engine. He spun out flinging gravel across the parking lot and pulled out on the blacktop. With black smoke billowing from the muffler, he sped down the road and disappeared over a small hill.

Steve and Della had followed the man outside. Della waved at the kids. The van door slowly opened and the ramp unfolded and lowered. The four kids spilled from the van and hurried toward the store.

Steve turned to Della. “Get all the food and water you can. Look for anything that is usable. I’m moving the van closer to the door then looking for some gas cans.” With that, he stepped out into the late afternoon sun.

A few minutes later, he parked the van in front of the door with the ramp extended. Almost immediately, Zack and Jimmy carried cases of bottled water into the van.

Della and the girls each carried a variety of packaged foodstuff in plastic milk crates. The boys continued to load water behind the back seat while the girls stacked the food crates behind the front seats.

Steve walked through the store looking for any usable items then headed into the storage room at the back where he found two five-gallon fuel cans. He carried them outside and filled them with gas. He called Zack over and together they balanced the cans on the back bumper and used two pilfered bungee cords to secure them. They finished anchoring the can, headed back into the store when Steve straightened and stopped. He cocked his head and listened. After another shot rang out and he knew it was gunfire.

He called into the store. “Time to go people! I just heard gunfire! Della, get everyone in the van, I’m checking the car.”

Steve ran to the BMW and searched the front of the car, opening the glove box, console and reaching under the driver’s seat. He pulled a nine millimeter from under the seat, checked the load then shoved it into his waistband. He pushed the trunk release then hurried to the back of the car and rummaged through the trunk. He found two boxes of shells, a tire iron, a blanket, some glow sticks and a first aid kit.

“Yuppies. Well, they were prepared for everything but the undead, I guess.” He commented with a crooked smile.

He was heading back to the van with the last of his poached supplies when movement at the back of the van caught his eye. His concern ratcheted up several notches as he set his armful of supplies in the floorboard of the van and picked up the crowbar. He headed around the back of the van just as Della appeared in the doorway of the store.

“Look out!” Della yelled.

Startled, he turned back to face a woman covered in blood and gore. A narrow strip of scalp hung from the side of her head and rivulets of blood streamed down her shirt.

The monster stumbled toward Martha leaning in the open van door. She turned at Della warning and jumped back just as Steve grabbed the infected woman’s shoulder and spun the monster toward the cinderblock wall. He stumbled back against the van, slamming the tire iron against the van.

“Get in the van now!” He shouted at the open door.

Steve struggled to get his balance standing still on the blades. He pushed off the van and raised the tire iron. Martha and Sandy stumbled back from the door just as the infected woman raised and turned to attack Steve. He swung the tire iron. It slammed into the side of the bloody head. The woman collapsed on the ramp.

The girls stood inside the stored screaming at sight of the bloody body sprawled across the ramp. Steve grabbed a leg and drug the body a few feet away from the door. “Let’s get moving!”

Della turned Martha from the body and pushed her into the van. “Shush…now, you’re alright, Martha.” The rest of the kids appeared and rushed into the van.

Martha wailed. “We’re going to die.”

Zack pulled Martha toward the back seat. “Stop this shit, Martha. We’re all afraid so get over it.” He pushed her down onto the seat and looked at her with a hardness that hadn’t been there before. “Now get a grip.”

Martha grew silent and slid the back of her hand under her nose while tears streamed down her cheeks. She pointed at the body slumped against the storefront. “Is someone going to bury that thing?”

Zack stepped out of the van and answered.  “No! Get off your ass and help us.”

He and Jimmy picked up the remaining crates of food and loaded them into the van. Sandy and Martha got up and moved the scavenged supplies behind the back seat.

“Anyone need a final bathroom break?” Steve asked. Everyone shook their head. “Well, I have to go.” He stepped around the corner of the building while Zack and Jimmy got back in the van. When Steve reappeared, a sudden boom in the distance stopped him in his tracks.

“In the van everybody!” Steve called out.

“Look.” Sandy shrieked as she pointed to billowing smoke above the treetops.

“Now! Let’s move.” Steve ordered as he raced around the van to the driver’s door.

Della jumped in the passenger seat while Zack slammed his palm against the red button above the side door. The ramp eased up and the door slid closed.

“Should we try to help?” Della whispered. “People might be there.”

Steve steered the van out of the parking lot and toward the billowing cloud of black smoke just beyond a stand of trees. The van raced down the road, with the speedometer reaching nearly seventy miles an hour when they cleared the trees.

A red pickup sat in front of a two-story farmhouse fully engulfed in flames.

Steve reduced speed until he finally drew to a stop. “I guess we know where the guy took his daughter. That must have been him when I heard the shot earlier.”

“Better than turning,” Zack commented.

“We have to find a place to stop for the night,” Della whispered as she moved her right hand in the sign of the cross.

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