Sound of Salvation

Posted: January 16, 2016 in Book I Terror in Texas
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Tate gave Matt thirty minutes from dawn’s first light.  When he didn’t show up she cranked the engine of the white rig and headed across the highway to the overgrown cattle guard and the road.  Once across the guard the road quickly disappeared. She drove for ten minutes around massive stands of mesquite, rocks and dry gulleys.   Amid the weeds and scrub grass she saw the first signs of blood and gore. The scattering of blood and remains made her breath catch. Tate downshifted and stopped. She grabbed a small pair of binoculars from her bag and studied the scattering of blood and bones.  When she scanned the area she saw several infected surrounding a cluster of mesquite.

At the edge of the cluster greenery, she studied a length of bone.  She saw a split hoof at the end of the leg bone being devoured by an infected.  As she looked more closely, she saw more and more remains of a massive feral hog. Several more infected followed running piglets.  As Tate examined the area, she noticed movement amid the cluster of mesquite where the infected continued to press closer.  She studied movement and thought she saw the pink flesh of a human arm.  She looked again and saw it was a hand lying on something amid the brush.  A finger twitched.

She saw a glint of light.  A ray of sunlight flickered off of glass.  It was a bottle, a liquor bottle.  With a grunt of disgust, she snarled.  “Ought to leave his drunk-ass to be eaten.”

He must have crawled under the mesquite and the dead-heads were distracted by the feral hog and piglets.  She realized there were at least a dozen infected pressing closer to the brush pile.  The rest of the pack of infected were gathered to one side of the mesquite focused on the buffet of pork.  From her vantage point Tate looked as if there was a trail through the brush to the back side of the stand.

She took a deep breath and turned off the engine.  “Come on, dick-head.  Talk me out of this.” She whispered to herself.  “He could be lying in the brush dead.”  She gathered her handgun and machete.  She stuffed an extra magazine in her hip pocket.  “Tell me I’m not doing this.”  She mumbled before she opened the door to the cab.  “Fuck!”

She slid to the ground and quietly closed the truck door.  She bent over and duck-walked toward the back side of the cluster of mesquite away from the infected cluster around a squealing piglet.  She moved slowly between rocks and brush with huge thorns across the rough terrain.

Tate rounded a clump of mesquite and stood face to face with an infected man in a plaid shirt and jeans.  He reached out and opened his mouth just as she slammed the machete into the top of his skull.  He fell like a sack of potatoes and remained still.  Tate jerked the machete free then stepped over him and moved around the next stand of brush.

With the death of the last piglet, the infected were losing interest in the scattered remains.  She picked up the pace and crossed the last fifty feet to the back of the mesquite warren where she had seen the bottle glistening in the morning sun.  She bent down and looked into the narrow passage way.  “Hey, dumbass!  Get your drunk ass out here!”

Matt groaned.  He thought he heard a voice but he couldn’t be sure.  His head ached.  He looked down and remembered d he’d crawled in the mesquite labyrinth and was trapped.  He couldn’t fight dozens of the infected alone.

“Dumbass!  Get the fuck up and crawl this way. We don’t have much time before the lunch crowd come looking for us.”

He knew that voice; the Orange Bitch.  “Hey!  I’m here!”  He yelled.

“Shut the fuck up, you asshole.”  Tate whispered.

Matt looked from side to side then asked.  “Where are you?”

Tate was so frustrated for a heartbeat she considered raising her gun and shooting Matt. “Behind you.  Slink around the back of that brush and make it quick.  The deadheads out in front of you are getting restless.”

Matt grabbed his pack and rifle, turned around and crawled to a thinning curtain of vegetation he realized Tate stood behind it.  He got to his knees and crawled under the upper branches and thorny brush.  “Ouch.  Fuck.  Damn it.”

Tate used the machete to clear branches and moved toward Matt.  The blade came down just as Matt stuck his head out from behind a clump of thorny green.  The brush fell against his face and shoulder.

“Whoa!”  Matt startled. “You almost took off my ear.”

“Come on dumbass.  You’re lucky it wasn’t your head.”  Tate grumbled.

Tate turned on her heels and headed back through the brush and briars.  She didn’t bother to see if Matt followed just expected him to.

“I need a drink.”  Matt mumbled.

Tate stopped and turned around to face him.  “You have all those people counting on you and the first time no one is looking, you get drunk.  I don’t know what kind of dumbass you are, but it’s time for you, man up.” She slammed her fist into his chest.  “If you get me bit, I will shoot you.  Now, shut up and keep up!”

Matt follow as guilt silenced his protest.  She was right.  He was drunk when he led those infected to that road block.  If he hadn’t been tipping the bottle he would have noticed long before he drove up on it.  If any of those people died it was on him.  They had a right to go after him.

By the time Tate worked her way back to the edge of the maze of mesquite two infected were heading their way.  The first was an old man in boxer shorts with the remains of a bathrobe still clinging to his emaciated body.  His belly was distended and a brown sludge trickled down his legs.  Even behind Tate, Matt could smell the stench wafting up from the walking corpse.

“Oh fuck.” He whispered and tried to breathe through his mouth.

Tate walked up to the old man and used the gun to blow a small hole in his forehead.  He went down and a farmer in bib overalls stumbled closer.  Tate fired, took him down and turned to Matt.  “Keep up.”

She started jogging straight for the white truck in the distance.  Matt refused to let the dehydration and pounding inside his head slow his steps.  He felt pretty sure, as mad as the woman was, she would probably leave him.

When they got to the truck, it was all Matt could do to keep from puking.  He stumbled around the front of the truck while Tate climbed in the driver’s side of the big rig and cranked the engine.  Matt opened the door and pulled himself into the seat and slammed the door.  He let his head fall back against the headrest.

Tate reached behind the seat and dropped two bottles of water in his lap.  She picked up another, opened it and took a long drink. She ignored the infected that had started following them and now surrounded the truck and slapping hands on the doors and hood.

Tate glanced at Matt.

“You man, are a grade-A, fuck-up. You have forty people looking to you to lead and protect them and you’re a fuckin’ drunk.  God knows why. You saved my life and now we’re even.  Clean slate.”

“You don’t understa….”

“Can it!  I don’t give a shit what your drama is.  The people at the camp are looking to you to lead them.  Either step up and lead or get the hell out of my truck.”  She looked totally disgusted.

Matt sat there for a long time without saying a word.  Finally he spoke. His voice was strong and succinct.  “You’re right.  Everything you said is true and my shit has cost us the Humvee. I owe you.”

“No. We’re even with who saved who, but you do owe those people better than you’ve been giving.”

“You’re right. I’ll do better when we get back.” Matt answered.

“First you’re going to help me.  And if you’re real good and don’t fuck this up, I know where you can get another Humvee.  A really nice one.”  Tate answered with a grin.

“Okay.  I’m in. What do I have to do?”

Tate grinned.  “First, you call the camp and tell them you’re safe.” She tossed a radio in Matt’s lap.  “Next, tell them we’re going on a supply run. And as for you, the entire fucking state is now considered dry and you better remember it.  I’ll shoot you in the ass if I catch even a beer in your hand.”

Matt called the camp. When Lawson answered he stated he’d lost the vehicle and was going to try to replace it.  Larry got on the radio and asked questions, but Matt shut him down.

“Hamilton and I will be back tomorrow.  Don’t take chances and keep the camp safe.”  Matt instructed. When he was finished, Tate laughed at the hang dog look on his face.  “Can we go now?” He finally asked.

Tate cranked the engine of the white truck. She slammed the beast in gear and rolled forward.  Three bodies slid under the front tires of the rig.  She made a wide circle around a small cluster of mesquite and headed back to the road leaving the remaining infected in the dust.

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