Only Ones Left

Posted: June 22, 2015 in Book I Terror in Texas
Tags: , , , , , ,

“What are we doing here?” Larry asked as the Humvee moved out.

“What we have to,” Matt answered. “Get us about five miles or so from here then find a place we can stop. We need to know what we have to work with back there.”

They drove for a three miles leaving the horde of infected behind then Matt picked up the radio. “Jenkins?”

“Sir?” Jenkins answered.

“What’s the status back there?” Matt asked.

“We’re checking out the kids and most seem to be pretty hungry and dehydrated. It was hotter than hell in here and the water tank ran out yesterday. If we can find a place to offload the waste tank it would help a lot.”

“You got a bathroom?” Matt asked.

“Think airplane bathroom.” Jenkins chuckled. “The sanitation tank hasn’t been emptied in a while. They did have a few bottles of water or all this would have been a wasted effort.”

“Got it. We’ll be stopping soon. Just hang on a few more minutes.”

“There’s one more thing.” Jenkins began. “Oh, never mind. We can sort it all out when we stop.”

“You sure.”

“Positive,” Jenkins answered.

They stopped alongside the road ten minutes later. After a quick perusal of the area and seeing no infected, Matt and Jake carried two cases of water to the bus. When the door opened, the smell of waste and urine made Matt nearly back into Jake. Two soldiers accepted the water with a shrug and climbed back in the bus.

Jenkins stepped out of the vehicle.

“Holy shit!” Turning away Matt took a deep breath. “We need to empty the fuckin’ tank.”

Jenkins nodded toward the bus. “I know it’s not good, but we gotta get as far away from here as we can. If Bishop starts worrying about survivors and someone reporting him for deserted his post, he might come back to send a rocket up our ass. He’d recognize this bus.”

“There’re some campgrounds southwest of Kerrville. If we take back roads we can be up to the area in a couple hours.” Matt commented.

“A campground would have connections for the water and the sewer line,” Jenkins answered. “If you can spare a couple more cases of water and something for the kids to eat we’re good.”

“I wish we could do something about the waste tank and….” Matt began.

“No worries. We got the windows open. My team has been using an ammo can for the last three days. This ain’t much worse.” Jenkins grinned. “You got us outta a tight spot. We’re grateful.”

Matt and Jake brought back more water and two boxes of snack foods to the bus. As Matt walked away, he turned to Jake and shrug. “I guess you can get used to almost anything.”

“Not me, man. That’s bad. Really bad.”

Three hours and more than hundred miles from the roadside park, Larry turned off the highway onto Goat Creek Road. Ten minutes later, he pointed at a Camp Verde Campground sign. “Should we try it?”

“If you think it’s got what we need,” Matt answered.

“It was pretty rough back in the day. It’s been years since I was out here working at the camps.” Larry answered. “Let’s do it. We have to stop. Those kids won’t last much longer.”

“We should be off the beaten path enough to be safe unless it’s got a bunch of infected wandering around the campgrounds.” Matt answered before he pressed the transmit button on the radio. “Hey, Jenkins, we’re going to check out the campsite. Try to sit tight.”

“These kids can’t take much more.” They need out of here and something more to eat.”

“Roger that. Hang back while we make sure it’s safe.”

Larry guided the Humvee onto a narrow asphalt road. They drove around a narrow curve and faced newly painted sign advertising a secluded, recently upgraded campsite that included electrical hookups, waste and water hookups. Matt nudged him in the arm and Larry guided the vehicle onto a gravel road and up the gentle slope through the open gate of campgrounds.

They found the fenced compound a mile from the highway.  There were only two buildings inside the secured campgrounds. A large concrete structure in the center of the compound had signs advertising public restrooms with showers and a recreational center. Toward the back of the grounds, they could see a small brick building with a sign identifying it as the rental office. Beyond the office they could see a fenced paddock and another outbuilding. The place looked deserted.

“If there’s anyone here, they’ll be in the buildings,” Matt commented. “I don’t see any vehicles.”

“That’s a good sign,” Jake answered.

Larry stopped the Humvee at the front door of the Rec-Center. Matt and Jake slipped out of the Humvee closing the doors.

“You know the drill. Anything bad happens get the hell outta here.” Matt pulled the machete from the scabbard on his gun belt.

Jake, with a crowbar in hand, went to the door and pressed his ear against one side of the double wooden door of the Rec-Center. He turned back to Matt and moved his head from left to right and placed his hand on the doorknob. He gave his wrist a slow turn. It was unlocked.

Matt pulled a flashlight from his belt and gave a quick nod. Jake opened the door and pointed his flashlight to the left while Matt pointed his to the right. They both peered into the gloom. After a quick scan inside the massive open space, Jake kicked the door-stop in place to prop the door open and followed Matt into the gloom. They made a quick circle through the fifteen hundred square foot room then each headed for a bathroom.

Matt walked into the men’s bathroom with the machete ready to strike when he heard scratching. He stopped and listened. For a full minute, he heard nothing but his own rasping breath then he heard the scratching sound again. He stepped up to the first stall and eased the door open. It was empty.

He made his way from stall to stall, stopping at each stall door and gently pushing it open. Each time there was nothing. He rounded the corner to the showers and stopped mid-step when he realized the sound was really close.

Matt felt moisture slide down his back and wished he had a drink to settle his nerves. He stepped up to each of the curtains, eased it back and peeked around the corner. Each time the stall was empty until he got to the last one. Just as he slid his foot forward, he heard the scratching and a screech. He took a deep breath then peered around the final curtain. The light flashed across a small furry animal as it darted across Matt’s feet to escape up the wall and through an opened window.

“Fuck!” Matt gulped air and fell against the wall.

Matt stumbled from the bathroom still struggling with his racing heart rate.

Jake looked back from the blinds he was opening. Light spilled into the room from the head-high row of windows on both ends of the building. The room was slowly brightening with each blind being tilted open.

“Man you look like shit. What happen?”

“Nothing. Just a fucking ground squirrel scared the shit outta me.” Matt forced a laugh. “I thought I was going to have a heart attack.”

Together they walked to the opposite wall and opened the blinds. The room filled with afternoon light from the high windows.

When they were finished, they walked out into the afternoon sun and waved at Larry to follow them to the manager’s office. When they got to the building they knocked on the front door. The door was locked.

Matt called out. “Hello in the house.”

There was no sound from inside and glancing through the window showed the inside of a small office. The room was neat and clean as if someone would appear at any moment ready to do business.

“Let’s see if the back door is open before we break in.”

Matt walked around to the back of the building and under a covered patio found a sliding door with a folded white sheet of paper taped to the window.

Matt opened it and read. The door is unlocked. We’re leaving and don’t figure on coming back. Use what you can. Generator in back will run the water pump and water heater if power fails. Extra gas in the shed. The note included a few instructions to switch to generator power and a scrawled signature.

Matt slid open the slider and stepped inside the building to see an office, a living room, kitchenette, small table. He walked to the back of the building and found two small bedrooms.

“Dibs on a bed.” Jake laughed.

“Sure. It’s half your size, asshole.” Matt answered as he stepped out the front door and opened it. He waved Larry closer and then called out. “Call ‘em in.”

Matt turned back to Jake. “When they get inside the compound, close the gate and get a couple men to walk the perimeter and make sure that deer fence is secure. I don’t want any surprises walking in on dinner. Larry can get the girls settled. Jenkins and his men can help me get the kids out of the bus and fed.”

Larry pulled the Humvee to a stop in front of the manager’s office. He helped Amy to the ground then released the carrier from the car seat and pulled Claire out of the back seat. Amy retrieved the diaper bag and followed Larry into the house. She stepped into the living room, sat down the bag then made a quick tour of the interior of the house.

Amy looked into each of the rooms, opened doors and looked into closets. Having satisfied some question concerning her surroundings, she sat down next to Claire’s car seat, released her from the harness and laid her on the couch to change her diaper.

Larry carried a case of water, a case of food and box of baby supplies inside then squatted down next to Amy.

“Little Mama, I’m goin’ outside to help the others. Can you take care of your sister?” He walked to the window in the living room and opened it then headed into the kitchen and opened one above the sink. “I’ll be outside if you need me.”

Amy called out. “We’ll be fine. Claire Bear needs a bottle. I can take care of her.”

“There’s water and food if you’re hungry. I’ll be back soon.” Amy gave him a thumbs-up and Larry added. “If it gets too hot inside, you two can come outside once the bus is parked.”

Across the campgrounds, Matt guided the bus around several picnic tables and smattering of trees to a camper hookup near the public building.

By the time the bus was parked, Larry had backed up the Humvee to the picnic area. He opened up the back. Matt and Larry began carrying cases of food and water to the nearest table. Matt pulled a knife from his belt and slit open the plastic wrap. They broke out packages of single serving pasta, plastic spoons and began setting them out at the tables.

As Matt went back for another case of food, he saw the bus door swish open and the first of the soldiers descended the steps each carrying a child and leading another. The first four children were under the age of six. The men set the small children on a bench.

Jenkins rumpled the hair of a little boy with big blue eyes. “Okay, Jimmy. My friends are going to get you something to eat and drink. When everyone is out of the bus we’ll start getting everyone to the bathroom. Just give us a couple minutes.”

Jimmy looked up at Matt and Larry. “Yes, sir.”

Larry opened a package and slid a pasta meal toward the kid. He passed the little boy a spoon. After a few words, the child accepted the spoon despite the far-away look in his eyes. Jimmy walked behind the next child and placed a meal in front of them and placed a spoon in her hand. Like the boy, she sat staring blankly.

Matt handed the two children bottles of water and three more kids arrived at the picnic table. He glanced around and realized there were at least two dozen children from age preschool to teens.

He opened packages of crackers and laid them on the table. The children sat stone-still until Amy, with Claire in her carrier arrived. She settled on the seat next to Matt and sat Claire down next to her. She pulled a tray of pasta to her and Matt gave her a spoon and package of crackers. She picked up the spoon and took a bite of the cold pasta. Amy took a big bite.

Amy turned to Jimmy and commented. “You know, I kinda like it better hot, but it’s not so bad. Besides, I really like picnics.” She turned to another child. “I got Oreo cookies. If you eat all your dinner, we can have some. Mr. Matt lets me have one when I eat all my lunch. Do you like cookies?”

“Ah huh.” The child across from Amy nodded. She picked up the spoon and took a tentative bite of pasta. After a quizzical look, she smiled and took a big bite. Within seconds, all the children including Jimmy began eating with surprising enthusiasm.

“Do I get a cookie?” A child asked from the next table.

Matt laughed. “Sure. Everyone gets to have a cookie. Drink some water, too. That bus was pretty hot and you were in it a long time.”

Half a dozen older teens came out of the bus to settle at yet another table. Amy jumped to her feet to carry meals to the new arrivals while she chatted and offered the prized cookies if the meals were eaten. With tentative smiles and a soft giggle now and then, the kids began eating while she coached them to drink more water.

“You have to drink all the water if you want cookies.” She called out as she headed for the Humvee.

Matt winked at Amy. “Thanks for the help, kid. I’ll keep an eye on Claire Bear if you want to keep doing what you’re doing. All these kids need to eat and drink lots of water.”

When one of the soldiers walked up and placed a small girl on the bench, he announced. “That’s the last of the kids. You need my help?”

“Just keep opening food and water. They’re really dehydrated.” Matt answered.

Three more people stepped from the bus. One of the girls had a tear stained face, the other walked as if in shock. The pair was being pushed toward the table by a third. Each picked up a tray, spoon and bottle of water. They settled quietly at the nearby tables to eat in silence until Amy showed up and began offering cookies.

“You have to drink all your water,” Amy advised each group of children. “If you gotta go to the bathroom, it’s over there.” She pointed at the bathroom entrances. “We got a playground. It has swings and a merry-go-round.”

She hurried to the next table and began her one-sided dialog all over again.

With the meals devoured, most of the children looked around as if confused about what to do next. Finally, a few of the younger children wandered toward the playground to sit in the swings.

Matt had been so focused on seeing the children fed when an adult hand grabbed for a meal, he caught the wrist and growled. “This is for the kids.”

“Yeah. Well, it’s still for one.” The woman shrugged. She looked exhausted but tried to smile as she placed her free hand on the bulge around her middle. “Sorry, I can wait.” She started to turn away, but Matt held out the dinner.

“Sorry. No. Please, take it.” Matt responded.

“My name’s Amanda. You gentlemen saved our lives. The soldiers told us what you did. If we’d spent another day, we would have died in that damned bus.”

Matt shrugged. “It was Jenkins. He and his men fought their way through the infected to get to the bus. They didn’t even know for sure anyone was still alive, but they were determined to try.”

“I know what PFC Jenkins and his team did. I also know without your help they would never have made it to us or even had a chance to save us.” Amanda spooned a mouthful of tomato sauce-covered pasta into her mouth. She brushed away strands of greasy hair from her face.

Matt handed her a bottle of water. She took a long drink and settled on the end of the picnic table. “We’re all dirty and smell. Is there any chance we can pull whatever luggage is in the bus and then shuffle kids through the showers?

The soldiers with Jenkins came up to the table and picked up bottles of water. Jenkins asked. “Enough food for us to have a meal?”

“Sure.” Matt looked over his shoulder toward the Humvee. He knew their supplies were disappearing at an alarming rate. He looked at each of the soldiers and realized two of Jenkins team were female soldiers.

The kids began to wander away to the bathroom then found a quiet place to rest in the shade. Jake and Larry walked up and grabbed a meal each.

Matt broke out boxes of cookies and walked from table to table. He studied each group and realized there were seven or eight kids under the age of ten, six eleven or twelve-year-olds and six older teens. And then there was the pregnant woman, Amanda.

He sighed. “When we get done eating, I want two of you breaking out any luggage still on the bus. Try to find things for the kids. Amanda, if you and Privates Lawson and Pierce can organize showers and clean clothes for the little ones it will make the kids feel a lot better. The older kids can take care of themselves. We need to be sure they all get rehydrated while we get the power on and water heater working.”

“Yes sir, we can sort that out.” Lawson and Pierce responded in unison then headed toward the cargo doors at the side of the bus that had been moved to a camper pad where one of the men had hooked a hose to empty the waste tank.

Amanda followed at a sedate waddle.

Matt turned back to the remaining soldiers. “I need someone to get the power on.”

One of Jenkins men raised his hand. “I’m pretty good at stuff like that.”

“There’s a shed behind the house with the generator. See how much fuel is on hand.” He handed the soldier the paper.”

The soldier looked at the paper and grinned. “Nice of the owner to leave directions.” The man took off at a trot.

Matt turned back to the remaining men. “I know we’re all tired, but we’ll need to go on a supply run and it has to be now so we can get back before dark. We just depleted half our supplies.” He nodded at Larry. “I’ll take Jake, Jenkins and one more of your men. The rest of you, get with Larry. Put the supplies from the back of the Humvee into the manager’s office then get the generator running. Set up guard posts and secure the compound. Look around. See if there is anything we can use.”

Larry led his team away and Matt pulled a map from a pocket of his pants leg. He spread the map on the table placing bottles of water on each corner. After a few minutes, he pointed at a point on the map.

“We’re here. We have three towns within thirty miles. Any thoughts here, Jenkins?”

He pointed at a point on the map. “No point in going that way. That town had half a dozen fires burning when we drove through. How in the hell it happened so fast is beyond me.” He studied the map a minute. “Maybe, Martinsville. Bishop was heading north and I think it would be smart to avoid him. Besides I don’t really want to be brought up on charges for killing the asshole. If I run into him, I will shoot him.”

Matt nodded. “Martinsville is further west so we shouldn’t have a problem.”

A piercing scream shattered the quiet of the afternoon.

Matt and all of the men drew weapons and raced toward the sound of terrified shrieks and shouting. Another shriek and someone began screaming over and over again.

“Jenkins!” A woman’s voice called out.

Matt and the crew at the table were the first to race around the front of the bus. Lawson was flat on her back struggling to hold back the gnashing teeth of an infected juvenile on top of her. She was shoving against the monster’s throat while Pierce stood aside screaming. Blood poured from a long gash in Pierce’s arm.

Jenkins made it to the infected first. He grabbed the kid’s belt and threw him off Lawson. While he was still down, he made a quick stab of his ka-bar to the kids head. The child laid still, a thick black fluid leaked from the wound. Jenkin’s reached down and pulled Lawson to her feet.

“You hurt?” Jenkins asked.

“No, but Pierce got bit.” Lawson rushed to Pierce.

Pierce had quit screaming and cried softly while Jake wrapped a field dressing around her hand. “I thought he was just scared. I thought he’d been locked in the luggage compartment and all.” Pierce sniffed. “I reached for him and….” She took a breath and sighed. “I don’t want to turn into one of those things.”

Lawson led her away from the bus and sat her on a picnic table away from the others.

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