Days End

Posted: July 1, 2015 in Book I Terror in Texas
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Liz woke to the muffled noise of someone passing gas. She listened to a bombardment of hurled curses and insults at the perpetrator. Slowly the growls and groans quietened and a semblance of quiet returned to their corner of the dining room. Liz finally decided she was awake and wouldn’t be going back to sleep and began moving.

She sat up rubbing at her neck. She looked across the table at John. Harry sat next to him. John slid a box of packaged breakfast rolls across the table to Liz. The lights had been turned back on in the kitchen area and the smell of coffee wafted through the air. John held a steaming cup of black liquid.

“Need a trip to the bathroom?” Harry asked.

Liz nodded. She stood and glanced around the room. Most of the bikers were still snoring. It looked as if they had just collapsed to the floor when they’d had enough to drink. Three men milled around the coffee machine, one of them was Ryder. All except Ryder looked hung over and worse for the night of drinking. From the looks of it, they had finished off the store’s beer supply.

Harry led the way to the restrooms. Once inside the family facility, Liz used a wet paper towel to scrub at her teeth. She gargled with handfuls of water, drank deeply and then used the toilet. Washing her hands one last time, she waited at the door until she heard the gentle knock. She stepped out just in time to see Ryder walk up to Harry.

“You boys sleep okay last night?” Ryder asked as he tried to blink the sleep from his eyes.

Harry answered. “As good as you’d expect.”

“We’ll be leaving in ten minutes so be ready.” He scrubbed at the stubble on his chin. “No excuses.”

Ryder walked away and Liz followed Harry back to the table. They gulped hot coffee and ate sweet rolls and beef jerky for breakfast. Liz stuffed several packages of dried jerky and crackers in her jacket’s zippered pockets when the bikers were not looking.

When Harry, John, and Liz walked out to the bikes and saw their supplies that had been on the back of their bikes were gone. Their bikes had been stripped of anything useful and their clothes left in a pile at the side of the bikes. Liz grabbed the backpacks and stuffed what was left back in the bags. She was glad she had not picked up bras at the resale shop.

John’s face flared red and he turned to confront Ryder, but Harry caught his arm. “Let it go. I expected as much.”

“Fucking assholes.” John cursed under his breath.

Ryder strode over to John and Harry just as they started to mount up. “You ride in front. Lead the way or else.” He placed his hand on the handgun on his belt. “The first one I shoot will be the kid if you try anything.”

Without responding, Harry and John got on their bikes and cranked the motors. Without looking back, Harry and John pulled out. One by one, the gang followed. Soon the group roared down the highway in a rough semblance of order.

Once underway, John’s voice came over the mike. “What if the horde is still hanging around the trailer? We’ll be riding right into a clusterfuck.”

Harry answered. “I’m hoping they are. They can give Ryder and his boys something to worry about besides us. With a little luck, we blast through and by the time Ryder and his boys roll into the mix every dead fuck within fifty feet will be on ‘em.”

“But. . . .” Liz interrupted.

Harry continued. “We got no choice, Liz. John, we kick it when we get to the overpass.”

Liz clung to Harry and watched the landscape race by. They got closer and closer to tiny town of Boseman, a typical wide spot along Texas highways.

After two hours, Ryder raced forward to call a halt.

Harry and John stopped and took off their helmets. Harry asked. “What is it?”

“How much farther?” Ryder snarled. “If you’re dicking us around, you’re all three dead.”

Harry raised his hand. “It’s not far now. Maybe ten or twelve miles. There’s a railroad overpass right before the town. The trailer was knocked off the tractor and sitting alongside the road on the backside of overpass.”

“It better be,” Ryder growled.

Harry shifted the bike into gear and he accelerated.

Ryder tossed a beer bottle at them as they pulled away. The glass shattered only a few feet from Harry and Liz as the bike roared by. The assemblage of bikers took their time. Beers were passed around as the riders moved out.

Ryder dropped back to carouse with his cronies. They had started drinking around ten that morning and even forgone lunch for more beer and a couple bottles of JD. Ryder yelled something in their direction that Liz didn’t catch but felt the hair on the back of her neck raise.

Harry cranked the bike and eased further ahead with John close on his heels. “All those loud mufflers are drawing all kinds of attention,” Harry commented.

They passed houses and monsters appeared in the yards. It was easy to see they were being drawn by the sound of the motorcycles. More and more appeared from around buildings and out of doorways. Those trapped in stalled vehicles turned toward the sound reaching out and gnashing teeth.

The gang’s interest in John and Harry faded as they consumed more and more beer. Ryder was handed another bottle after tossing an empty bottle. Bottles tossed against road signs sound like shots from handguns. Laughter boomed above the sound of the motorcycles. More bottles sailed from drunken riders.

Liz glanced over her shoulder just in time to see Ryder hurl a bottle at a monster amid a cluster of his brethren. The bottle hit the monster in the side of the head and the gang exploded in celebration. They were less a mile from the overpass, when Harry accelerated.

Liz yelled into the mic. “No one is paying attention to us. Keep going!”

The gang was drunk and Liz ducked lower against Harry as she waited for the impact of a bullet from Ryder’s gun when he noticed they were pulling ahead of the pack.

“Now!” Harry yelled at John then gunned the engine.

The bikes vaulted forward and raced toward the overpass leaving the gang behind still tossing bottles at random targets. Harry and John didn’t wait to see how soon the gang noticed. Liz watched the roadside flash by. John matched the pace without giving a hint of easing up on the throttle.

A sudden clank of metal and the report of gunfire made Liz duck. She looked back to see guns pointed at them. Another shot whizzed by and she screamed.

“They’re shooting at us!”

“Hang on!” Harry yelled back and opened the bike up with a deafening roar of the oversized motor. John matched the action. Together they pulled away quickly and began the gradual turn toward the overpass.

Liz felt the back wheel on the left rise from the ground and she clutched Harry tighter. He made a guttural sound that was a cross between a laugh and grunt of strain.

Shots echoed in the distance while the closest bikes accelerated to a crazy pace considering how drunken most of the men were. Liz watched as they barreled after them, all the while firing wild shots. More of the infected were drawn toward them as the cacophony of roaring engines and gunfire grew.

Harry dodged a Wandering infected and screamed into the mic in his helmet. “John! First cross street! Take a right!”

John’s bike raced through the underpass with Harry at his back fender. Both men braked. Liz was thrown into Harry’s back then momentum pitched her to the left. If not for Harry grabbing a handful of the leather, she would have fallen from her perch on the back of the bike. Harry pushed her back onto the seat then accelerated again. They raced away from the overpass and the trailer.

Liz looked back at the cross street and saw what could only be described as a cluster-fuck of epic proportion. The first bikes flew through the underpass into dozens of the undead that had appeared around the disabled trailer and overpass at the trio’s passing. Unable to see what lay ahead, the rear bikes slammed into the riders being attacked by the infected. More and more of the monsters stumbled toward the twenty or so bikers fighting for their lives. Motorcycles were knocked over riders were drug from the bikes as the infected overwhelmed the gang.

Harry turned around the corner of a large building and eased up on the accelerator. He and John slowed the bikes. They rode to the end of the business complex, turned a corner and then headed back to the west away from the road. They moved the bikes into the parking lot of a lumber yard and eased around the back of a storage area. Harry killed the motor and John followed suit.

The quiet around them was deafening. They could still hear shots and screams in the distance. Both men pulled off their helmets.

“That was bad,” Liz commented as she pulled the helmet from her head. She took a minute to describe what she had seen. “We’ll never get back through the underpass. Riders were pulled from their bikes and the ones behind them ran into the bikes and bodies.”

Harry shrugged. “They deserved what they got.”

“We gotta find a way to get outta this town and away from Ryder. That is if any of them survived. They were drinking pretty heavy.” John chuckled. “Fucking assholes.”

Harry pulled a map from his pocket. He opened it and studied the colored lines. “We can go north on this farm-to-market road for about forty miles then head back west. I think we need to wait until tomorrow.” He ignored Liz’s look of frustration. “I doubt we have much left in supplies and we need to locate some weapons.”

John searched the saddle bags on either side of his bike then opened the storage unit behind the seat. “Empty. I got nothing.”

Harry stepped off his bike and flipped open his bike’s saddlebags. He grunted then opened his own storage compartment. “Sons-a-bitches didn’t leave us anything. We have to find weapons and supplies before we leave this Podunk town.”

“They were going to kill us,” Liz asked in a hesitant voice.

“Probably,” Harry answered flatly. “They just wanted to make sure we were telling the truth about the trailer. It was the only reason we were still riding.”

The two men pushed the bikes into the shadow of a storage rack and listened to the sound of gunfire in the distance. Gradually the shooting became more sporadic. Then they heard a dozen single shots then silence.

“Do you think any of them survived?” Liz asked.

Harry shrugged. “It’s hard to say, but I imagine so. I think someone was putting down the injured.”

They stood in the shade and listened. The firing stopped and then the sound of motorcycles rumbled to life and faded into silence.

John stepped closer. “We need to find some weapons.”

Liz looked toward the lumberyard. “Maybe we can find something in there.”

Harry led them toward the darkened building. They found an open, door used by employees to access the storage area. As they got closer, they found a stack of construction scraps. Harry and John both picked up pieces of two by fours and Liz picked up a piece of rebar.

Liz noticed only the emergency lights were on in the building when the trio crossed the garden area and stepped into the main building. It was not a chain store so merchandise cluttered the isles. Liz considered a display that she was passing and stopped. She studied the four inch cylindrical tubes in a display then picked one up and pushed a soft rubber switch at the bottom. A light flicked on. Both men stopped and she tossed each of them flashlights and stuffed the remaining three in her back pocket.

John stepped closer to the garden tools and came back with three machetes. He tore open the plastic and pulled the first one free. He used the sharpened edge to quickly open the second two. With everyone armed with clubbing weapons and blades, they made their way deeper into the gloom.

Harry picked up a canvas utility bag and walked over to a drink machine. He pulled water bottles from the shelves.

“Do you think they have a break room?” Liz asked as she stuffed bags of peanuts from a countertop display into her pockets. “Could be food there, if they have a break room.”

Harry shrugged. “John, find some crowbars or hatchets.” He hesitated a moment then added. “Liz, we’ll look for a break room in the back.”

John headed off into the dark and Harry whispered. “Watch your ass!”

Harry and Liz headed toward a hardware display. They froze in place when they heard the first moan. It was distant and a pitiful sound. Liz imagined it a keening of loss and pain. The companion sound that followed was angry and dangerous.

“John!” Harry called out. “Out of here, now!”

Steps could be heard running toward them. John called out. “We got company and he looks pissed. Time to move. Fast.”

Harry grabbed Liz’s arm and turned her toward the garden center. He started running and nearly pushed Liz into an infected man covered in blood from the neck down. Harry elbowed Liz out of the way and swung the canvas bag of water bottles knocking the monster off his feet.

He swung the machete with one hand connecting with the side of the infected man’s head peeling an ear and a connected flap of skin from his skull. The monster righted itself and reached for Harry, still struggling to recover his own footing.

Liz grabbed the machete from the scabbard at her waist and raised the blade in a two handed swing and chopped off both of the man’s arms just below the elbows. The arms fell to the floor with a wet splat. The monster, ignoring the loss, raised his stumps and focused hungry eyes on Liz.

Before Liz could act, Harry cleaved the man’s head open. Harry caught her by her arm and held her still for a moment. “You okay?”

“Yeah. I could have finished the job.” Liz responded. “It’s just…well.” Finally, she shrugged and fell silent.

John caught up just as they jogged through the garden center. “That was ugly. I had to take out the cashier in the break room.” John caught up and continued. “Her legs below the knees were eaten clear to the bone. The rest of her was big as a brood sow carrying a litter.”

Harry glanced over his shoulder at John and commented. “Better pick up the pace, old man. Customer service is heading our way.”

Harry hopped on his bike and pulled Liz up behind him then cranked the engine. He eased forward while John got his bike started and began moving. They put helmets on and led a following of infected as they pulled away. After the first two blocks, they lost sight of their pursuers when they turned around a corner and made their way back out on a main street heading back through town.

“Keep an eye out for a place to pick up some guns,” Harry ordered.

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