Archive for March, 2017

She looked at the double doors and saw multiple pairs of feet outside the sliding doors. She took a deep breath and ran for the stall door. She grabbed the door and swung it across the opening. The infected man saw the movement and changed focus and stumbled toward the opening. She slammed the door and drove the latch home and a clank just as the infected man slammed against the wood.

Releasing the door, she reached for the saddle and grabbed the saddle horn and pulled it from the stall rail. She stumbled back, landing on her butt when the saddled fell against her.  She scrambled to her feet as the sliding door parted and the first of several infected fell into the barn.

Della picked up the saddle and turned toward the distant entrance and the ATV. She was shocked at how heavy the saddle was, but she half drug, half carried the saddle away from the sliding door as two more infected stumbled through.

With her breath echoing in her ears she pulled and hurried as the monsters drew closer. Suddenly the weight disappeared and saw a dark shadow at her side. She raised the machete, and a deep voice called out.

“Run, I got this,” Zack ordered. “Get on the ATV and crank it.”

She turned and ran. Zack stayed at her side with the saddle now slung over his shoulder. They got to the ATV, and while she started the engine, Zack threw the saddle of the pile on the rack and used a bungee to secure the cargo of saddles and bridles.

Zack climbed on the machine, kicked down the clutch and shifted into gear. He gunned the engine just hands reached for them. She swung with the machete. Blood a dark, ugly color spirted toward them as she screamed.

“Faster!” Della screamed.

Zack accelerated, and the front end jumped several inches off the ground, he leaned forward and gave the engine more gas and the pulled away leaving the monsters behind. By the time they got to the road, both were laughing.

The next morning Zack used the ATV to carry Millie down to the corral to orchestrate lessons in saddling, bridling and caring for the horses. Each of the adults took turns saddling and riding. With Darlene, it wasn’t pretty, but she did stay on the horse. When they got back to the cabin, a conversation that had started earlier began again.

“We’re safe here. I don’t know why we have to leave.” Darlene protested again.

“I definitely think we’ve outstayed our welcome,” Steve argued.

“Why would you think that?” Darlene protested. “We have everything we need here.”

“The military boys that rolled into Utopia are probably not the only ones out there scooping up everything they can get their hands on. We’re less than fifty miles from Utopia and half a dozen other communities. Any one of them could be building a power base. ”

“What if we run into them?” Darlene asked.

“I’m hoping we don’t. That’s why we’re taking back roads.” Steve answered. “We avoid populated areas as much as possible. Less chance of groups of infected too.”

“Enough of all this gloom and doom talk. It’s time for us to have our biscuits and gravy.” Millie announced. She set a pan of golden brown biscuits on the table with a skillet of light brown gravy mixed with chunks of raccoon meat from the previous night’s meal.

Three days later, Steve watched as Zack finished loading the few supplies they had come with in the back of the truck. He threw a mesh net over the supplies at the front and tied them down. He waved at Steve.

“Good to go.” Zack grinned. “Are you ready?”

Steve looked down at the prosthetics in his lap. The stumps were still tender and slightly swollen, but the open sores had healed. He extended his right leg and held out the prosthetic cuff to slide in the stump.

“No,” Della ordered. “You can keep them in the front seat with you. Something happens you can put them on in the truck.” She nodded toward Zack and held out her hand for the prosthetics.

“Hey, man, she’s really mean.” Zack climbed the steps and picked up Steve with a wide grin.

Steve frowned and leaned into Zack’s wide arms.

He settled in the front seat and accepted his running legs. He lay them on the floor while Della, Darlene, Penny climbed in the back seat. Both Della and Darlene struggled to keep tears at bay.

Millie stood next to the truck and watched the travelers get settled. “This is a good place to spend my last days.”

Penny leaned out the window. “Come on Granny. We can make room for you.”

“No child, I’m too old for this life. My bones ache, and I’m tired. I got what I need right here.”

“But….” Darlene interrupted. “We’ll find more pills.”

“And in another month down the road, you’ll be lookin’ again, and it’ll be that way until there isn’t any more. Same end.”

“But you’ll be with us,” Darlene argued.

“That’s the point. I won’t have the child see it.” Millie answered.

Steve raised his hand. “Goodbye, Millie.”

He patted Zack’s shoulder, and Millie stepped away to wave with a sad smile on her dark face.

Together they stepped into the shadows of the barn.  The silence was heavy and ominous after the roar of the ATV’s motor.  Della could hear Zack breathing.  As his breathing began to slow, she became aware of another sound.  She heard a shuffling sound and then a gentle brush against wood somewhere deeper in the barn.

Della held out her hand, and they both stopped.  “I hear something.”

Zack whispered. “It’s at the other end of the barn.  Let’s get in and out.”

Della gave a quick nod and flicked on a flashlight.  She fanned it across the dark recesses of the long passageway.

“Nothing.”  She answered as she swung it into the tack room. After a quick pass around the room, she stepped through the doorway.

Della pulled a list from her pocket.  She grabbed a burlap bag and walked to the wall on the left.  She pulled half a dozen bridles from the wall.  She walked to a work bench picked up a grooming box and dumped the contents into the bag.  She tied the end with a length of rope and picked up three saddle blankets.  She carried the items to the ATV and settled them on the back cargo rack.

She hurried back to meet Zack carrying two saddles toward her.  “Only two in the tack room.  Got to be a lot more around here.”

“I think I saw at least a couple hanging over the side of the stalls in the barn,”  Della answered as she helped him stack the saddles on the rack.

“Great.”  Zack lamented.

“I have the bridles and three blankets,”  Della answered.

“Let’s get this over with.  I can carry two saddles if you can carry one and the blankets.” Zack answered.

“Sounds good,” Della whispered as she pointed the small LED beam down into the dark.  “There.”

She focused the beam on the closest stall.  Hung over the top board was a saddle with a saddle blanket next to it.  “One.”  She whispered as they walked deeper into the barn.  She examined the next stall and saw nothing.  She quickly moved the beam to the next stall, she hesitated, then added.  “Two.”

“Gotta find one more,” Zack commented.

Della hurriedly fanned the beam to the opposite side of the barn.  “There!  At the end, on the right.”  She let out a long sigh.  “I’ll get that one.  You picked up the other two and let’s get the hell outta here.”

Zack held out a dark hand.  “Be careful.”

“You too,”  Della answered as she quickened her steps.

Della hurried down the corridor of the barn.  She glanced over her should see Zack had gotten to the second saddle.  With a powerful arm, he pulled the saddle and blanket from the top board of the stall.  Suddenly, Della realized the scratching was louder and closer.

She stopped and fanned the beam of light from left to right.  She stumbled when she was clouded eyes staring back at her from the stall holding the saddle.  She kept the beam on the face and stared.  The gate was open, but the infected reached through the slats of the stall.

“Shit.”  She whispered.

Della fought for control of her breathing and her racing heart.  She raised the machete in her hand to hit at the infected then dropped her arm to her side.  The board where the saddle rested was too high to get to the infected person.

She thought about stepping into the stall with the monster but hesitated.  She could pull the saddle down and take a chance of the monster coming through the door after her or do something about the problem.

The stall door opened outward.  If she closed the door, she could trap the monster, pull off the saddle and run. She glanced at Zack as he grabbed for the second saddle.  A slam against the double doors a few feet beyond the stall made her jump.

“Shit!”  Della cursed.

Randy dodged around a pile of shopping carts in the middle of the road and accelerated.

“This street, right?”  Randy asked.

Miguel fired then glanced ahead.  “If it’s open, go for it. We gotta get back on the main highway! If they go for wheels, we’re in trouble.”

Randy waited to break until the very last minute.  As the tires locked up, he took a quick look down the street and changed his mind.  He pulled the wheel back to the left and accelerated again.

“No, go! No, Go! Street’s blocked!”

“Keep going. We run into a blacktop a quarter mile down.”  Miguel answered before whispering under his breath.  “I think.”

“You think?”  Randy asked.

“I’m sure…I think.”  Miguel mumbled as he fired twice then reached for Randy’s rifle.  “I’m pretty sure if we get to the blacktop it will take us back on the highway.”

“We’ve got to get enough of a head start to lose anyone following before the turn off into the canyons.”

“Just drive.  We’re giving enough cover to keep their heads down.”

They lost sight of the attackers and approached the turn-off.  Randy slowed then turned on the blacktop.  He accelerated and raced ahead only glancing up twice before deciding the others were keeping up.

The speed approached seventy, and he held it there until he saw the turn-off.  At the last minute, he slowed, jerked the wheel to the left and steered the big truck onto the highway.  The minute he saw Pablo make the turn he slammed his foot into the floorboard.  The truck sped up and wind whipped through the open windows.

Miguel set Randy’s gun across his lap and reloaded.  He set it aside and began the same exercise with his own.  “You think everyone is okay?”

Randy shrugged.  “Hope so. I don’t think we should stop until we get to the Goodman place.  I hope like hell he’s ready to pull out.”

A full four minutes later, Miguel pulled back inside the cab as the pickup rolled onto the asphalt of the highway.  “See I told you.”  He announced.  “Hit the gas.  I hear engines.  Sounds like motorcycles.”

“How many did we take out?”  Randy asked. “Enough to discourage them?”

“Maybe. I know I killed two.  I heard shots from Hugo with Pablo and from the Camper. More fell then.  I figured there was at least nine in the group. We killed or wounded maybe half. Add the infected that was congregating on their locations.”

“Maybe the infected took care of the rest for us.”  Randy chuckled.

“De su boca al oído de Dios.”  Miguel mumbled.

Randy drove on.  When the pickup neared the Goodman Ranch, Randy picked up the radio that was the mate of the one he’d given to the old man.

“Goatman.  The doctor calling.”  Randy smiled.

“Goatman?”  Growled a gravelly voice.  “Who are you calling goatman?”

“We’re coming through in about ten minutes. You need to ready to pull out immediately?”

“You sound like you’re in a hell of a hurry.”

“We ran into trouble about ten miles back. Afraid they might be following us.”

“We’ve been ready for a couple hours, four vehicles with two trailers good to go.”

Randy sighed.  “Load up and meet us at the gate.”

Randy slowly pulled away from the two other vehicles.  He squinted into to the sun trying to see ahead before he committed to the path ahead.  It left the main street and wound through what looked to be the beginning of a residential area.  The streets were littered with bodies, refuge and abandoned vehicles.  Despite that, it looked as if they could weave through the debris and make it to a cross street running parallel with the main road.

He moved slowly toward the intersection and the turn-off.  Finally, deciding to commit, he pulled into the intersection and dodged around a stalled sedan with room to spare.

Miguel pointed toward the side street.  “Company’s coming.”

Randy accelerated as he turned the wheel to the left.  “Watch out.  I’m not stopping until we’re out of here and across the cattle guard at home.”

“Got it.”  Miguel pushed the barrel of his rifle out the window and scanned the side street.  “Two blocks down, take a right. It’s the first chance to head north.”

Randy nodded at the rifle in Miguel’s hand. “Keep it quiet for now if we can.”  He steered the truck around a car pushed against a light pole and a length of fencing torn away from the metal post and left in the street.

The car’s driver’s door hung open, and the brush guard sent the sheet of metal flying with a loud crash as they passed.  Half a dozen infected turned at the sound. Randy stepped on the gas until he noticed a pile of red in the road ahead.  As he drew closer, he saw it was a fallen motorcycle.

It was an RS-5, one of Yoshimura’s most popular bikes. It was a real eye catcher with the color and the trapezoid shape melded into a sports bike.  Even laid out on its side, it looked to be in pretty good shape with only a scratch or two visible.

“Poppy!  I sure would like to have that bike.” Miguel chortled as he pointed his machete at a large infected man making a beeline for the truck.

“You want me to stop?”  Randy asked as the three infected drew closer. He took his foot off the accelerator.  By then the infected were less than a dozen feet away.

“No!  Speed the fuck up.”  Miguel called over his shoulder, and he leaned out the window.

He extended his arm with the machete over his head.  As Randy sped between two infected, Miguel swung at a thick bodied woman in a house dress.  The blade connected below her chin snapping her neck.  She collapsed as the truck sped away.

He turned to Randy grinning.  “Next one is yours.”

Randy laughed.  “That was sick.”

The passenger side mirror of the pickup shattered in an explosion of glass and plastic.

“Fuck!”   Miguel pulled back in the cab.

“What the hell!”  Randy shouted as he accelerated.

“Taking fire, man.  Get us outta here!”  Miguel dropped his machete and pulled his rifle to his shoulder.

“No shit!”  Randy answered as he glanced at the side mirror.  He jammed his foot into the gas.  A heartbeat later, the camper and Pablo’s truck lurched forward after them.

Two more shots rang out. One pinged off the hood of the vehicle. Miguel exchanged his machete for the rifle, leaned out the window and returned fire.  He made three quick shots.

Four men appeared from the shadows of a building on the main street in the distance.  They were running toward the truck.  One of the men stopped to raise his rifle, aim, and fire.  A sudden shot from behind the truck exploded, and the shooter in the distance fell to the ground.  When the man fell, his companion jumped behind a stalled truck and began returning fire toward the pickups and camper.

“That was John.  Keep firing.”  Randy yelled.  “We gotta get outta here!”

Half a dozen black-leather-clad men appeared from another alleyway. They ran full tilt from the main road.

“Got more assholes joining the party!”  Miguel yelled as he fired at the running men.