One Last Drink – Part 2

Posted: December 26, 2015 in Book I Terror in Texas
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Thirty minutes later, Matt glanced over his shoulder at the growl of engines in the distance. He figured he was at least four miles from the Humvee and the booze was oozing from his pores. He had guzzled three bottles of water and was fighting the nausea that had crept up with a belly full of water.

With his hands on his knees and his head hanging water and booze exploded from mouth and nose.  He gasped to catch his breath then his stomach clinched and hurled another stream of the fowl mixture across the scrub grass and sand. When his stomach had nothing left to spew across the landscape, dry heaves set in and he fell to his knees.

Still gasping for breath Matt could hear the sound of the engines grow steadily louder.  He recognized the sound of the two ATVs.  The guards were coming after him.

Matt looked up and saw a small rise with a rock formation at the apex in the distance. He climbed to his feet and kicked sand over the evidence of his sickness and stumbled toward the outcropping.  He brushed the blanket in the sand as he walked obscuring his trail.  When he got up the hill, he climbed over a few scattered rocks and worked his way up the sun-bleached stone formation.  He climbed for several minutes and found a turret of limestone to hunker down behind.  He dropped his pack and pulled another bottle of water from his pack.  He threw two white pills back and took a sip of the water to get them down.

The sound of the engines grew louder.  Matt stretched out across a massive flat rock and crawled to a raised ridge. He eased up on his hands and peeked over the edge and saw two dust trails billowing up in the distance. He was right. The defenders were coming after him and were less than a quarter mile away.

He slid down the back face of the rocks and grabbed his pack and lumbered away from the formation.  He began jogging over the rough ground. He felt like shit but still lasted nearly ten minutes before he was forced to stop.  The sound of the engines had begun to fade.  He hoped it meant they had lost the trail.

He took a long drink of water and peeled open an energy bar and bit off a third. It tasted like sawdust and dried crap but he finished it off as quickly as he could chew and wash it down.  He needed the protein and energy after puking up his guts.  He stuffed the wrapper in his pocket and headed north at a brisk walk.

As light faded, Matt thought he heard the engines in the distance then the world faded into night sounds.  Matt watched where he placed his feet while pausing from time to time to listen for the ATVs.  Matt glanced toward the setting sun.

After a few minutes, the engines roared to life. They sound as if they had made it as far as the stone outcropping. Matt worried they might pick up his trail when he heard two shots.  After a minute, three more weapons discharged.  The sound of the engines grew more and more distant.  After a full minute, the sound disappeared entirely.

Matt turned north and began walking.  He walked through the pain and sickness for another hour before changing to a more eastly direction. He imagined the map on the GPS and felt sure he had been about fifteen miles south of the railroad track and blacktop where they had picked up the shipping crates but at least four miles west of the site. He mentally calculated the distance he should be from the Tate’s Orange Bitch.  All he could do was hope Larry and Jake got his message.

The night grew cooler as evening settled over the Texas Hill Country. The cooling temperature was a relief, but the dark left Matt feeling exposed and jumping at every snap of dry twig. The dark could hide all forms a danger: a hole or gully to fall into where he could break a leg, stumble into a nest of monsters, or the men from the roadblock. He saw a cluster of shadows in the distance.

As he drew closer, he realized it was the remnants of a stone house. Only a corner of the structure betrayed the original form. There was a pile of trash at the side of the wall that included cans, a child’s tricycle, a few boards and a piece of plywood. After a couple minutes of considering his options, Matt decided to make a shelter for the night.

He dropped his pack and walked to a nearby mesquite where he broke off a branch. He used the end to brush into the corner to clear any critters that might be lurking and then picked up the plywood from the trash and dropped it in the corner. While he was digging in the trash, he pulled a dozen cans with half-open lids from the pile and set them aside.

He turned back to his pack and pulled out a ball of string from one of the pockets. He walked out into the dark about thirty feet and tied the end of the string to a mesquite about waist high and walked about twenty feet to another mesquite, made a loop to anchor it and walked to another stand of brush, tied it off and did the same thing again and again, until he was back at the original mesquite.

He squatted down and picked up a dozen cans with open lids then walked back out to the string. He stopped at the string and folded the lid over the string. He picked up three pebbles and slid them down the side of the can then walked down the string to repeat the process until he’d hung about a dozen cans.

With the can alarm complete, he used the remaining light to gather five and six inch rocks and tossed them in a random arc about twelve to fifteen feet out form his small corner of the house. He figured any infected approaching would never make it over the rocks without stumbling a few times.

When he was finished, he settled on the scrap of plywood and pulled his pack onto his crossed legs. He pulled another energy bar from the back and his last bottle of water. He stared into the dark as night sounds surrounded him. Each bite of the bar hid the night sounds only as long as it took to swallow the mouthful. He made the protein bar last as long as possible. Eventually he finished it and washed it down with the last of the water. He stuffed the trash back in his pack.  His hand brushed against the glass bottle.  He twisted off the cap and took another pull at the bottle, enjoying the burn as it slid down his throat.  One more swallow, then Matt tucked the bottle back into his bag.

Despite his determination not to fall asleep, Matt jerked awake with a start at the sound of a slight rattle of a tin can. He sat perfectly still and waited. A snort and a snuffle followed by a squeal made Matt reach for a two by four he had found in the trash pile and laid next to him. Matt decided it was a good thing he had made the line waist high.

The sound of the feral hogs behind the wall at his back grew louder. The wild pigs made their way under the string snorting and snuffling. The first of the baby pigs walked around the corner of the structure. The piglets had walked under the string so it was still intact and now the piglet rooted around behind the wall. Suddenly, a terrified squeal shattered the morning quiet. Before the sounded faded pained screeches filled night.

In the dawning light, Matt watched the piglets bolt and run away from the sounds in the distance. All hell broke loose and suddenly the string alarm rattled in multiple directions. Matt jumped to his feet and peaked over the top of the wall. Three infected stumbled after the piglets. Just as he thought he could wait for them to pass, a can in front of him rattled.

“This just gets better and better.” Matt mumbled under his breath.

He grabbed the strap of his backpack with one hand and rifle with the other. He ducked down and hustled past the trash heap into a stand of mesquite. He winced at a jab from a thorn and pushed deeper into the stand. He watched as the number of infected grew.

When day broke, Matt knew he would be visible to the herd that was amassing. He turned from the dozens of infected and studied the tangle of branches. He saw a semblance of a trail through the brush. He knew it would be painful but he had no choice. He dropped to his knees and entered the warren of mesquite.

Matt crawled under a thick branch only to find he had a choice of going left or right. He studied each pathway in the dim light and ended up heading to the left since it seemed to head deeper into the warren. As more light filtered through the leaves and branches overhead he noticed clumps of hair clinging to some of the branches. He was following a wild life trail, probably coyote or badger. Matt figured if he met either it would be bad news.

He flattened himself on the bare dirt and used his elbows and toes to crawl forward. Deeper and deeper he made his way into the maze of tangle of branches and jabbing thorns.  The infected surrounded the grove of mesquite chasing the hogs.  He lay in the dirt smelling animal and listening to the screams of terror and pain when another piglet ran into the arms of an infected.  He was out of water and would probably die in the maze of mesquite.  He spun the cap off the glass bottle.

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