Archive for July, 2016

Tate led the small convoy of rescued women and children to an abandoned country store they had passed on the way to Hondo. Once secured, Tate and Matt ushered everyone inside and closed the building up for the night.

With flashlights in hand, the women combed through the goods for clothes, shoes, bedding, and food. They found several large bottles of water in the breakroom.

One of the kids came out of the bathroom giggling.  “It flushed!”

“There’s water in the sink, too.” Theresa, the short dark-haired woman that had assaulted the leader of the survivalists announced with a grin.

Red stepped up and added.  “Wait until we know how much water we have to work with before celebrating.”

“Yeah. Find clothes and food for now. Let me look around first.” Matt answered.

After a little investigating, Matt figured out the bathroom was hooked to a cistern that collected water from the metal roof. He found a filtering system under the bathroom sink. “You can wash in it but only drink bottled water, ladies.”

He walked toward the back door, but Tate stopped him. “Where are you going?”

“I saw a house up on the hill,” Matt answered.  “Maybe the people that own this place lives up there.”

“You don’t need to go up there,” Tate argued.

“Yes, I do. We’re taking and using whatever we find..  Who knows, we maybe the people up there need help.” Matt countered. “Get everyone cleaned up and fed.  They need rest.  Cover up the windows then put a lookout at each window.”

“Fine.  Go drag a couple more helpless people down here to take care of. I’ll never get my truck, and you won’t get your new Hummer.”

“So fucking be it, then.” Matt sniped back as he slipped out the door.

He stepped out into the dark and took a deep breath.  The silence was so heavy it seemed to insulate him from the world. A house was silhouetted against the night sky as if a dark phantom.  No hint of light could be seen through the windows.

Matt walked up the narrow drive, glancing from side to side.  The open pasture on either side of the lane showed no signs of livestock.

Suddenly he heard footsteps. He drew his handgun and fell to a knee to face the intruder.

“Woo. Easy soldier.”  A deep, gravelly voice called out. “Just me.  Bruce.”

Matt rose and stood to wait for the fiftyish man to approach. “Doc I could have shot you.”

“I don’t think so. If you were going to shot, I would be laying in the dirt right now.” Doc laughed as if a real joke.

“What’re you doing out here, doc?

“I needed to get outta there. Sonja and your friend, Tate are a real pair.”

Matt laughed. “Yeah, Tate’s a strong personality, for sure, but you need to go back inside.  I’m going to up to the house and check on the folks.”

I should go with you.” Doc answered. “Someone may need medical help.”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were afraid of those two.” Matt laughed.

Doc sighed.  “Those women have been through a lot, and I think having a man around right now is the last thing they need. Helen seems to think when they’re cleaned up and get some rest, they’ll be a little more tolerant.”

“Alright.  Stay behind me and do as I say.” He started walking up the edge of the path waiting in the shadows.

After walking for a few minutes, Doc said. “You know there are more women in Grant’s camp.”

“Yeah.  It was one of the reason’s I wanted to take at least one of those assholes alive. Now we have no idea where they’re camp is.” Matt answered.

Doc fell silent. They walked for several minutes in silence.  As they got closer to the house, they realized the place looked deserted.  No vehicles could be seen.  The house was dark.  No light shown through the windows.  Wind chimes hanging on the front porch jingled on the light breeze. Somewhere in the distance, the sound of a loose shutter hinge squeaked.

“No one’s here,” Doc announced.

“Doesn’t look like it.”

“Maybe family came and picked them up.”

Matt stopped at the edge of the porch and sniffed. “No. I don’t think so.”

“You might be right,” Doc answered.  “No point in going inside.”

Matt passed his machete to Doc and pulled his military knife from the scabbard. “We can’t leave infected to attack someone else.”

“You got a point.” Doc conceded.

“Stay here and if anything gets past me, shoot it.”

“Got it,”  Doc answered.

Brian hustled the civilians deeper into the chapel, and Billy closed the door. He used a candle stand to secure the doors. The place was dark.  Billy gathered half a dozen votive candles from the back wall and followed the others to the front of the chapel.  They settle on the cold stone flooring behind the altar and lit two of the candles.

“I’m freezing,” Margo whispered.

Brian hurried to Margo. “Billy, get food and water out. We need to get her warm. She’s going into shock.” He turned to Paula. “Get over her and get her in dry clothes.”

Billy returned with bags. “This is her bag.

Two hours later the rain had almost quit.  The two women sat huddled together resting on the vestments from the church altar.  At first, both were reluctant by then he pointed out the fact there was probably never going to be another service in this church or any other in town. Leon and Juan were both resting with their backs against the altar.

Brian led Billy to the door. “Now that the rain’s stopped I need to figure out how to get outta here.”

“The boats?” Billy asked.

Brian shrugged.  “Until I look around, I hate to commit to the boats. The flooding is pretty bad. Could be a lot of debris piled up downstream and we’d have no way of know until we ended up on top of a bunch of infected.”

“Shit. I hadn’t thought of that.”  Billy answered.

“I hope we’re far enough south to be able to drive out of the city,” Brian added. “Get everyone up and moving. I’m hoping there will be vehicles still around the monastery, a maintenance truck or something. It’s getting light. Keep everyone inside until I come back.”

“Got it.” Bill gave him a quick nod. “We’ll be ready.”

Brian stepped through the door out into the morning gloom.  A hint of light could be seen on eastern horizon amid the trees and distant office buildings.  He looked around. The grounds were damp and glistening from the cleansing rain.

The property was surrounded by a ten-foot tall concrete wall on three sides.  From the chapel, Brian could see several gravel paths leading through the garden.  To the left was a gazebo. To the right were two buildings, one appearing to be a windowed office.  In front of the chapel over a hundred yards away was a fountain. To the left at the front of the compound, was the residence building, a huge affair with dozens of windows at the front of the building.

Brian jogged through the garden stepping around broken branches and storm debris to the front gate. Once he was sure it was secured, he made his way back to the maintenance shed.  He dodged around the shrubs surrounding the drive connecting the residence to the garage and maintenance shed. A white transport van sat in front of the maintenance shed.  An old Ford Ranger had been left near the gate, with the door still standing open. The Ranger was useless, too many people and too little protection.

“Great.  A short bus.” Brian whispered under his breath. “Figures.”

He looked through the window of the maintenance office and took a deep breath. The glass was smeared with blood as was the outside of the door and door knob. He saw a dead Hispanic man slamming his hands against the glass. His khaki shirt and pants were soaked in blood from gaping wounds on his thin arms.  Seeing the man explained the truck being left in the drive with the door open. He knew he had to protect the residents of the monastery.

Brian glanced toward the gate and saw a solar panel above the gate motor.  He made his way to the front of the bus and peeked in the driver’s side window.  He could see a remote on the sun visor but no keys in the ignition. The keys were probably in the office or maintenance garage.

He pulled the machete from his belt and hurried to the door of the room. He swung the rifle around to his back and reached out for the gore covered doorknob with his left hand.  He turned his hand, but the knob moved ann only fraction of an inch then froze. Locked.

“Smart. Wish you had made it old timer.” Brian whispered.

Brian returned his machete to the scabbard and pulled his rifle free. He raised the butt of the gun and slammed it down on the cheap doorknob. He made a quick second blow, and the knob fell down the three concrete steps. Brian returned the rifle to rest of his back and grabbed the machete.

At the sound of the first blow, the infected man inside turned and stumbled toward the door. By the second blow, he was pressing his gnashing teeth against the glass of the door.

Brian placed his shoulder on the door and slammed against the wood.  The infected man fell back, and Brian stepped inside the office.  He slammed the machete into the old man’s head, and he lay still.

“Sorry, old guy,”  Brian whispered.

He glanced around the office quickly to ensure himself he was alone then began searching the room for keys.  He checked desk drawers, cabinets, even the old man’s pockets but found nothing.  He glanced around the room and noticed two doors on the side wall.

He crossed the room, knocked on the first door and pressed his ear to the wood.  He heard nothing so he slowly turned the knob. It was a bathroom.  He stepped inside, opened a bathroom cabinet and grinned.  He found boxes of individual packets of aspirin, eye drops, Tylenol, Ibuprofen. He stuffed the side pockets of his cargo pants with his find.  He pulled the door closed and went to the second door.

Brian looked through the glass and saw a row of nails on the wall with keys hanging from each.  “Bingo.”

He looked into the dark recesses of the maintenance shed.  From the light from two head-high windows across the back of the room he could see lawn equipment, and a variety of yard tools hung on the back wall.  He thought about tapping on the glass but decided a quick grab was better than taking a chance attracting attention.

He studied the keys.  There were three small keys with tags, mowers probably.  The last two were vehicle keys.  He decided to take them both. One would be the spare for the truck, he imagined. The pair of keys should be the short bus.

With the machete in hand, he toed open the door and grabbed.  He placed his finger through the ring of the single key then reached out for the last two keys.  Before his fingers found the keyrings a crash at the back of the shed shattered the silence.

Brian froze for a fraction of a second, zeroing in on the source of the sound.  Suddenly there was a brush against his leg.  He jumped, dropping the key in his hand and knocking the last two keys from the nail to skitter across the floor.

He looked down to see a black and white cat sliding against his leg.  At a mewing from the cat, there were at least two weak answers from kittens.  The mother cat wandered back into the gloom.

“Well, mama, I wish you luck, but I got shit to do.”

He fell to his knees and swept his hands from left to right searching for the keys on the cold concrete.  Finally, he found one, then another. He dismissed the last key, got to his feet, and pulled the door closed.

He went to the door and pressed the lock on one of the key ring.  The parking lights blinked on the van.  Brian hurried around the side of the van and pointed his LED light at the chapel. The door opened, and Billy led the two men and two women across the garden path to the van.  Each of the five survivors carried, cases of water or containers of food.

With the side door open, Brian opened the back of the van to start accepting supplies. When Paula went to hand him her pack, he shoved it back in her hands.

“Keep it with you, always.”

Billy and Leon handed him cases of water and a buckets food. “Leon and I are gonna go back for the last two cases of water.”

“Be quick,” Brian answered as he stacked the second case of water in the van.

John poked at the dying fire. “They blocked off some streets, kinda random like.  We didn’t suspect a thing.  They strung cable across the street low down.  I think it was supposed to catch up in the wheels of a regular vehicle and stop it. Instead, it threw us for a loop.  We managed to pick up a couple guns and packs off the bikes and limp off. We made it to the edge of town and hung out at the camper lot until Jack and his kids broke in. I think they were running from the same people that attacked us.”

John continued. “There was a dead fuck in the cashier’s booth with a case of water and a couple candy bars.  The kids hadn’t eaten in a couple days and were hungry. The kid’s father broke in and got bit.”

“That’s tough.” Randy answered as he rose. “Well folks, let’s get some rest, we got a big day tomorrow.”

Randy led the caravan of three vehicles to the hill overlooking Dell City. It wasn’t much of a town. Main Street was barely half a dozen blocks long. At one end of town sat the school, a small drug store and Quick Stop while at the other was t veterinary clinic, a single island gas station and Rosita’s Cafe advertising fry bread and taquitos, in between a dozen or so houses and empty store fronts and a couple metal buildings.

Vehicles were stopped haphazardly up and down the streets.  In the distance they could see, a heavy duty truck had been driven straight into the side of the school.  There were neither people or infected on the streets. The small town was eerily quiet.

Randy, Harry and Miguel met in front of Randy’s truck.  “Where is everyone?” Harry asked in a hushed whisper.

“I don’t see a soul. This can’t be good.” John added.

“I don’t know if we’re lucky or not with the vet and gas station across from each other.” Harry commented.

“We’ll go to the veterinary office while you gas up that gas guzzler first. You roll into the station and with your crew. Pablo and his son will keep watch.” Randy announced.

“Sounds good. After we fill up, we’ll get inside the store and see what we can salvage.” Harry added.

Liz clung to Randy. “You don’t know how glad I am to see you.” Liz whispered. “My father? Is he alive?”

Randy laughed. “That old goat is just fine.” He stepped back to get a better look. “You’re skinny as hell, but at least you’re alive! So glad to see you and the girls got off the base. Where are they?”

Liz leaned into his arms. “They’re gone.” She sobbed against his chest. “I couldn’t save them.” Her knees buckled and she collapsed.

Randy held her limp body and reached under Liz’s legs and pulled her into his arms. She hung there, limp as a dishrag. Randy looked to Harry and John for an explanation.

“What in the hell is she talking about? What’s wrong with her?” Randy demanded.

“It’s a long story. I think she exhausted and then add worry about the kids. We’ve been on the road since the day this shit happened.” Harry answered. “Let’s take her into the camper to lie down then we can talk.”

Randy made a curt nod then followed the two strangers toward the camper. On the way, he nodded at Miguel. “Take the trucks back to that stand of Pin Oaks down the road and set up camp.  Leave room for the camper to pull alongside. Be sure to use a Dakota Fire.  I don’t want the fire being seen after dark.  We don’t know who’s out there looking to pinpoint survivors.”

“Sí, Senor Randy.” Miguel answered then jogged back to the other three men standing at the vehicles.

John stepped into the camper and called out. “It’s okay kids. Come on out.”

Cody and Trace appeared in the back bedroom doorway looking a little like deer in headlights.

“These are friends of Ms. Lizzy’s. Come sit down so we can put her in the bed.”

“Is she dead?”  Trace asked.

“Harry laughed. “No. Of course not. She’s just not feeling well and really tired.”

John added. “She’ll be right as rain, soon enough.”

Randy deposited Liz in the bed and after taking the time to lay a damp cloth on her forehead, walked to the sitting area at the front of the camper.

“My names Harry Walters, this is John Tilman. Lizzy has had a tough time of it.” Harry began. “She told us about her dad’s place up in the mountains. I take it you know each other.”

Randy nodded.  “Couple years now. What happened to the girls?  Are they really dead?”  Randy asked.

Harry sighed. “We got no way of knowing, for sure. Lizzy had to put them through a fence to protect them and led the infected away. By the time we met and made our way back they were being picked up by three soldiers. It was pretty fucked up with the infected, men yelling and gun fire. We tried to follow, but we lost ‘em. We’ve been trying to find them but they seem to have disappeared around Kerrville.”

“In other words, they’re probably dead.” Randy answered.

“No. We don’t think so. We saw a message on a trailer. It was something Lizzy recognized.” Harry continued. “Before we could check out the area we got ambushed and had to spend some time in the camper yard recuperating. Then the kids and their father showed up. Things got complicated and we ended up here.  She can’t keep going on like this. I put an end to it for the baby’s sake.”

“Baby?”

“Yeah. She’s pregnant.” Harry nodded.

“What about her husband?” Randy asked.

John folded his arms across his chest. “No idea. He warned her. Who knows what happened to him after that. I know from everything we saw on television early on, the base was overrun early on. We have no idea if he survived.”

“All I know now is we need to get someplace safe.  We got an exhausted pregnant woman and two malnourished kids that just lost their dad.” Harry lamented.

Randy nodded. “We’re only sixty miles from canyon. We’ve been out searching for supplies. Tomorrow we’re making a quick trip into Dell City then we’ll be heading back to Pine Springs Canyon.”

Harry glanced through the windshield toward collapsed house and dying fire. “Sounds good to me.”

John added. “We got less than a quarter tank of gas we could maybe find enough to get to Pine Springs.”

Harry chuckled. “Yeah. This is a gas guzzling bitch for sure.”

Randy directed Harry toward a stand of Pin Oak clustered together about half a mile from the highway.  They parked the camper and John opened the side door to expose the waning light. A cooling breeze was a welcome relieve from the stuffy camper.

Randy slapped his hands on his knees.  “It’s settled then. Let’s get busy. My guys will set up some traps. If you two don’t mind, we’ll split the watch three shifts, two each for four hours.”

Harry nodded in agreement. “Sounds like a plan. We can take care of that while Lizzy and the kids get a good night’s sleep. When we hit that town tomorrow we’ll get filled up while you get your supplies then we’ll be ready to head out.”

Liz stood in the doorway watching the two men frowning. “So, I guess you have it all worked out?” She said crossly.

Both men turned toward her looking a little guilty.

“Now, Lizzy. We’re just….”

“I know what you’re doing. You’ve decided I don’t get a say in what happens to me and the kids.” She railed. “This is not circling the wagons protecting the women and children time.”

“Now Lizzy. You’re in the family way and all.”  Harry began then grew quiet when he saw the scowl on her face.

“I think it’s time I see to making the camp safe.” Randy pulled himself to his feet and headed across the camp with Harry and John on his heels.

When they were gone, Liz dropped to the seat next to the table. She felt tears threatening and bit at her bottom lip. The ache in her side was crushing.

“Ms. Liz.  What’s wrong?”  Trace asked sadly.

Liz took a shallow breath and squared her shoulders.  “Nothing.  Let’s see if I can get you two clean shirts. You can get cleaned up and I’ll get your clothes washed. They’ll be dry by morning, but in the meantime Trace, you can wear an oversized t-shirt and Cody can borrow a pair of pants to wear around camp tonight.”

An hour later the kids were clean, the camp was set up with two men on watch and the rest sitting around a small campfire getting to know each other.

“Spyders?”  Randy asked. “You got that far on tricycles?”

“Fuck you, asshole.” Harry laughed. “We did alright until some assholes waylaid us on the outskirts of Odessa.”