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Escape Texas Dead Book 4 in the “Torn Apart Series” is NOW available on Amazon and Amazon Unlimited. Order and enjoy an undead thrill ride. Escape Texas Dead

Chapter 1

Come and Go

Ben seemed more curious than alarmed at the still-healing fissure in his forearm. “Well, Doc? What do you think? Can I keep it?”

“It’s not as bad as it was,” Carrie mumbled while she rotated Ben’s arm back and forth examining the flesh under the glaring light. Finally, she announced. “Well, I only see healthy tissue, but with that said, it’ll still take quite a while to heal. I still can’t stitch it.” She looked up and added. “You should be on IV antibiotics for at least five days more days or longer. You should definitely not be going off into the mountains on a camping trip.”

Ben sighed. “Maybe, but the tribal elders have decided to move the camp, and I have to respect their decision. You’ll just have to give me pills.”

Carrie sighed and packed the wound while she tried to provide a laundry list of reasons to remain close to the lodge, but Ben was just as determined to leave. In the end, she bandaged the wound and gave up any further protests. Carrie disinfected a plastic top and bottom splint, taped them together, and finished the dressing with an Ace bandage to hold both halves in place. She replaced the sling over his shoulder and eased Ben’s arm into the sleeve. “There you go. Now, let me get supplies together while you sit there and rest. I don’t want you passing out.”

Ben laughed. “I’ll try not to litter your floor.”


Liz Jameson watched her father, Will Edmonds, greet Ben’s son, Machn, when he entered the lodge. Machn led a black couple with two teens into the great room. Close on their heels was Tammy Robertson, carrying a single bag. Tammy glanced around as if checking into a hotel that was not meeting her stringent standards.

Liz cringed when she saw Robertson examine the room with such a critical eye. She wondered what her father would decide to do with Robertson, the civil rights attorney. As far as Liz was concerned, Tammy Robertson had not made a stellar first impression.

At a sudden commotion, Liz turned to see John Tilman, and Harry Walters saunter into the great room from the kitchen. Both men dressed in jeans and boots looked like bearded mountain men with sidearms strapped to their hips.

When John and Harry saw the black family, John stomped over to the black man’s side and rested his hand on the man’s shoulder and grinned at Liz and Will. “Folks this is the man I was telling you about, Jesse Burns and his wife, Becka. The kids are LJ and Pattie. Jesse and LJ are both experienced mechanics and Becka cooked at a retirement home.” John winked at Pattie. “The little ‘un is just trouble. Gonna be her daddy’s worse nightmare in a few years when she grows up to be the best looking girl in Texas. Gonna be a knockout.” He laughed and bumped fists with the gawky ten-year-old with skinny arms and knobby knees.

When the child smiled, Liz realized it was probably right. Pattie was all arms and legs at ten, but in five or six years, she would be a real beauty. In addition to a golden mocha complexion, she had large dark eyes and full lips that were quick to smile.

Will stepped forward and extended his hand and greeted both Jesse and Becka. “Welcome. We’re glad to have you with us.”

Liz echoed Will’s greeting, and after handshakes and a few words, Will nodded at John and Harry.

John laughed. “Come on, folks. We’ll get you breakfast then we’ll see you settled in your new home. The two men hustled the family off to the dining room.

Liz turned to Tammy. “Dad, this is Tammy Robertson.” This is going to be interesting.

Tammy Robertson struggled to maintain her appearance of boredom. “Sir. Thank you for accepting us into your little community.” She failed at any attempt to hide her scorn.

Will sighed. “You, Ms. Robertson, present a problem to our little community, as you call us. It seems as much as Ben tried to think of skills you could bring to the table, he could think of nothing you would add to our little community. You can’t cook. You can’t shoot a gun. You can’t even build a fire. You admitted yourself every plant you touch withers and dies. The fact is I just don’t have a clue what you offer.”

Liz struggled to keep from laughing while Will continued to study Tammy as he waited for a response.

“Well…I…I….” Outraged, Tammy began then faltered.

Will interrupted the stammering, “Add that to the fact, we’ll have another problem with where to put you. You see, we don’t have living facilities for single adults. Only families.”

Tammy glanced over her shoulder at Machn whose face was the mask of indifference. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”

Machn shrugged. “They already agreed to take you. I’m waiting for my father.” He looked at Tammy for the first time since walking through the door. “You are no longer my problem.”

As if on cue, Carrie led Ben into the great room, unaware of the conversation she was interrupting. “He’s as ready as I can get him.” She handed Machn a large box of supplies. “There’re supplies for cleaning the wound, packing material, and antibiotics. For heaven sakes, use the gloves once and throw them away each time you change the dressings. Do it every day. If it’s not completely healed in two months, come back for more supplies. I didn’t do all of this for you to screw it up.”

Machn smiled for the first time. “You’re the boss. Can he go now?”

“If I were the boss, he’d be turning around and heading back to bed, not chasing off to the mountains,” Carrie answered. “Go, but at the first sign of fever or infection, he needs to come back.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Machn turned to Will and Liz. “Thank you. John says you are familiar with the area we will be calling home. You will always be welcome to our valley.”

Ben shook hands with Will and nodded at each Liz and Carrie in turn. “Will, you and your family have been kind in a cruel world. We all face many struggles in the years to come, but we will always be grateful for your help and offered friendship.” He gave a quick nod, and Machn shifted the box under his arm before guiding Ben out the door. Footsteps crossed the porch, and a few minutes later, the motor of Ben’s truck roared to life. The vehicle drove away.

Will turned to Tammy. “What to do with you is still a problem, but for now, you may as well come and have some breakfast.” He led Liz into the dining room, unconcerned whether or not Tammy followed. She followed, but she failed to hide the frown distorted her face.

When they entered the dining room they found, Harry and John sat at the table with the Burns family. The group laughed as if old friends. John continued a story, “And LJ turned on the main valve with Jesse still looking into the line with the shutoff wide open wondering why it wasn’t working.” John laughed.

Jesse slapped his son on the back with a broad grin. “The first shower I’d had in a couple months,” His laughter boomed.

Pattie pinched her nose. “LJ still needs one.”

“Sorry to interrupt, but this may help that issue, young lady,” Will laughed and handed Pattie a plastic bag of supplies before he turned to John. “Put them in the unit next to your cabin. One of the boys stocked it with some basic supplies yesterday afternoon. Maria and a couple ladies put these together for the women coming in. They said the ladies would like the stuff inside. Stop by the store so they can get clean clothes then get these folks settled. Be sure to show them the golf cart and explain the solar system on the water, so everyone gets a warm shower. Once they get their truck unloaded and refueled, they can put it behind the cabin.”

“Got it.” John gave a thumbs up. “We’ll pick up stabilizer for it at the warehouse.”

Will gave a quick nod, then turned to follow Liz and Tammy to a table with the remains of a breakfast of boiled eggs, ham, biscuits, white gravy, coffee, and juice.

Tammy looked at the buffet. “I don’t eat…”

Will interrupted and stepped up to the table, “Suit yourself. Go sit down, and we’ll join you in a minute.”

Tammy picked up a plate, a biscuit, and a glass of juice. She carried the small meal to the table and settled on a chair looking as if waiting to be sentenced, knowing in a sense, that was what it would be.

Liz and Will stood at the buffet, adding biscuit, gravy, ham, and eggs to their plates. Each carried cups of coffee to the table, then Liz went back for juice for both her and her father. When all three were seated and eating, Will continued his conversation from earlier.

“Young lady, despite all you’ve seen, you seem to have failed to grasp the fact that you have nothing to offer to this brave new world. Now, that said, we offer you a chance to become a productive member of society.”

Tammy looked up from nibbling at the dry biscuit long enough to mumble. “Thank you.”

Liz was enjoying the food. She imagined her child and smiled at the thought of him growing with the high-calorie diet of late. Suddenly she was snapped back to the conversation around her.

“And to ensure you stay on track, my daughter will be the one to guide your development of new skills. She will see that you find a niche to aid our community.”

Liz looked on in horror. “I’m sure…”

Will reached over to cover Liz’s hand with his own. “I’m confident that two mature women will be able to work something out.” He stood. “Meanwhile, I have a lot on my plate this morning. Liz, don’t forget to find her a place to sleep.”

Liz sat, staring at her father’s retreating back. Finally, she whispered under her breath, “Coward.”

Tammy laughed. First, it was a chuckle, then she saw Liz smile, she burst into a full belly laugh. Reluctantly, Liz joined in.

Shaking her head, but still smiling, Liz returned her attention to her plate. Around a piece of ham, she asked.”So, back home, did you live in a condo or an apartment?”

“Neither. I inherited an eighty-year-old three-bedroom craftsman from my great aunt,” Tammy answered. “Mind if I get a bit more breakfast?”

“No. Of course not,” Liz answered.

When she came back, Tammy had ham, coffee, another biscuit with packets of butter and jelly. “The house was a mess.” She smiled at the memory as she added.”Probably hadn’t been touched since my aunt moved in when she was a twenty-year-old war bride. The woodwork was beautiful, and just needed a lot of elbow grease. Of course, back then, I was working on a budget, so I did all the painting, water lines, new electrical…oh, I added high-speed internet lines, media, the whole shooting match. It’s amazing what you can learn on Youtube,” Her voice trailed off, and her smile disappeared.

“Sounds like it was a lot of work,” Liz responded.

Tammy chuckled. “You wouldn’t have believed how bad the bathrooms were; crumbling tile, mold, and water damage.” She sighed. “It took three years, lots of nightmares all rolled together. I learned a lot, though. I found out about weight-bearing walls, plumbing, electrical, repairing water damage, installing sheetrock, mud, floating tape. The list goes on and on.”

“You managed the contractors?”

“Contractors, hell!” Tammy laughed. “I did most of the work with the help of a cousin that worked construction off and on. When I had a project, Abe was there. He helped when he could, explaining what to do and why then he left me to it. I know how to do almost anything from electrical, plumbing to tiling.” Her eyes glistened with unshed tears. “Abe was with me. He died that night the bandits attacked the camp. He was the only family I had left.”

Liz responded softly, “I’m sorry.”

Tammy shrugged. “Abe told me to survive. Have a good life. I don’t see how that’s going to happen.”

Liz laughed. “We all lost people we loved. Are you ready for that new life?” Tammy looked up and nodded, then Liz continued. “Alright. You have skills. With that said, let’s get your bag and get you settled. We have a community store for non-food supplies, anything from shampoo to clothes.”

“That’s unexpected,” Tammy commented.

“It won’t be endless, but we cleaned out a couple discount stores. Threw it all in a parade of eighteen-wheelers. We still haven’t cleaned out all the trailers.” Liz sighed. “There was no organization to what they collected. They cleaned out a whole clothing department in two sporting goods stores. All sizes of sports and hunting clothes when they went to get weapons and survival gear.” Liz laughed. “After that, we started created search lists. We didn’t need any more soccer uniforms. You’ll see a lot of kids all dressed the same.”

Tammy laughed. “Never know. You may want to start team sports.”

Liz stood and smiled. “Let’s get you settled.” She led Tammy back in the great room that served as the entrance of the Pine Springs Lodge where Tammy looked around and actually began to appreciate the care and skill it took to create the rustic beauty. At the side of the expanse was the shaved wood stairs and railing leading up to the second level balcony sporting six doors. Liz led Tammy to the front door where her bag lay.

“This place is beautiful. I heard it was going to open as a hunting lodge.” Tammy commented.

“The website went live two weeks before the attack. A few calls had already come in inquiring about hunting trips,” Liz answered. “Now we worry about who saw the site.”

Tammy picked up her small handbag, and Liz led her up the stairs to an open bedroom door. She turned the wooden plaque on the door to read occupied then prompted Tammy inside. “This will be your room, right next to Dad’s. My room is at the other end of the balcony if you need anything.”

“OMG!” Tammy whispered. “Here?” She looked from the dresser with the TV and DVD player to the woodstove, the curtained window, two queen beds with quilts, to the small bath, and closet.

“I can’t say you’ll always be alone since it has two beds, but for now, this is where you can rest your head. We still have six half-finished cabins and expect more survivors to find their way here.”

“What do you mean?”

Liz laughed. “We have the supplies to finished more cabins. Being this remote, Dad had materials brought in by the truckloads. He just completed phase one. It was cheaper to get all the materials at once. Besides, with the storage sheds of supplies, workmen could always find what they needed.”

“Sure, isn’t anything just around the corner up here,” Tammy agreed.

Liz grinned, “Come on. If you’re up to it, we’re going for a ride and pick up clothes, and I’ll show you around.”


John hung on the side of the truck and guided the Burns family down a gravel path a few hundred yards from the lodge. They rounded a stand of trees, and he pointed to his and Harry’s cabin and explained they shared the home with two children. Cody and Trace who now stood outside the bungalow waving excitedly. John directed Jesse to back up to a second cabin nearby. Cody and Trace ran to the cabin after they parked.

“The general imagined anyone coming up here for hunting would come in groups, so the cabins are set up pretty well for families. The construction was scheduled in two stages with eventually a total of sixteen cabins in total projected. What you see nearest to the lodge is the first group, and that first segment of cabins is completed. They’re rustic, and not fancy, but serviceable.”

“Remember, we lived under tarps and on the run for months,” Jesse laughed. “I’m sure what you can provide will be a hell of a lot better than what we’ve been facing for the last few months.”

Next, to Jesse, Becka sniffled and wiped the back of her hand at the corner of her eye. “It’s perfect. It feels like heaven after the way we’ve been living. She leaned into Jesse and hid a sob. After a full minute, she pulled away and smiled. “Sorry. Guess I’m just a little overtired.”

John laughed. “You haven’t even seen inside.”

Jesse parked the truck, and the family jumped out to find Cody and Trace standing at the cabin waiting and excited to meet the new arrivals.

While the boys played it cool, Trace walked up and grabbed Pattie’s hand. “I’m Trace. You want to be my friend? I have a candy bar. You want some candy?”

Pattie looked shell-shocked, then giggled. “My name is Pattie, I like candy.”

John raised his hand. “Trace, calm down. Pattie and her family are moving in, so you got plenty of time. Let me show the family around then you girls can get to know each other.”

“Yes, sir,” She answered, still with a smile creasing her face. She sat down on the steps with her chin in her hands. “I’ll wait right here.”

“Okay folks. Let’s do the grand tour.” John opened the door with the key and gave it to Jesse. “We’re pretty trusting around here. Of course, none of us have much to steal, so not much point in locking doors when a cabin is not in use.” He stepped inside to the small cabin with a sitting area, a kitchenette with a coffee pot, microwave, a few open shelves with dishes and cups, a sink and back door. John pointed at a darkened hall. “Down there are two bedrooms and up above is a loft with twin beds. There’s a full bath with a shower. Each cabin has a cistern setup that catches rainwater from the metal roof. The water is filtered and used in the showers and toilet. Well, water feeds both sinks and is potable. The water heaters are solar-powered and on-demand. The storage batteries can also be charged by heat from the stove during winter, but you have to remember, you leave a bunch of lights on, and the batteries run out you get a cold shower and are left sitting in the dark.” John laughed. “That’s freezing cold showers in winter. Also, keep in mind, the cistern is the only water source for the shower. Run it dry, and you’ll be hoping for rain and taking spit baths until it does.”

Pattie looked confused. “What’s a spit bath? Sounds, gross!”

Everyone laughed.

“We’ll discuss it later, Pattie. What about meals?” Becka asked.

“All meals are served at the main lodge. Three a day. Breakfast is between six and eight, lunch is served from eleven to one and dinner between five to seven. Now that said, and shit happens, so exceptions are made, and if you come back late, there will be some around to reheat something.”

“Thank you. I think we can work with that. If you need help in the kitchen, I have experience in the area,” Becka volunteered.

“I’ve already discussed that with Will. They’ll be glad to know that you’re willing to help in the kitchen. Now that said, we need to discuss some rules we’ve established around here. If someone gets sick or injured, no matter how minor, they see the doc. Someone goes off-site, they get screened at the lodge. No exceptions.”

“No problem. It sounds reasonable.” Jesse agreed. “Where is the garage? You said something about me and LJ working there.”

“Will agreed it would fill a real void that we have. I’ve been filling in, but I just don’t have the skill, for damned sure,” John answered. “Oh, I almost forgot. Be sure to close bedroom doors at night. Knock and don’t enter until you’re sure the person inside is okay no exceptions.”

“Why?” Becka asked, looking a little confused.

“You know what happens, now. We all have to take precautions. Whether it’s a child or an adult, if a person is sick, be careful about going into a room.”

Suddenly understanding, Becka whispered. “We’ll remember.”

“There’s a battery clock, and a couple LED lamps around. They’re rechargeables, and small solar charger is in the desk drawer. It’s up to you to keep the extra’s charged.” John headed toward the door then turned back. “Jesse, if you want to follow me. There’s a solar-powered golf cart in the garage. The boys rolled it out into the sun this morning so it should be charged up. You can start using it at lunchtime. It’s up to you to keep it charged.”

Jesse stuck out his hand to John. “You folks have done so much. I don’t know how to thank you.”

“You’re part of the community now and will be filling a need,” John answered. “You folks get cleaned up, and familiar with the place. I’ll be at the maintenance shed down by the community store if you want to ride down to pick up some clothes. Otherwise, Trace will be hanging around since she’s excited to have a new friend so if you need anything, she’ll probably know who, what, when, or where. We did clean out a Bass Pro, so we have shoes and clothes. Not much for style, but it’s new.”

Harry added. “We have a lake about a mile back in the canyon that is stocked with trout and catfish if you’re interested.”

Jesse laughed and gave him a thumbs-up. “LJ and I will be ready for that fishing trip when you have time.”

If you enjoyed reading the first chapter of Escape Texas Dead, remember, all the Torn Apart books can be found on Amazon.

TERROR IN TEXAS and DEAD TEXAS ROADS, 2 books in the “Torn Apart Series” are NOW available on Amazon and Amazon Unlimited. Order and enjoy an undead thrill ride.

Terror in Texas

Chapter 1

The Warning

“Don’t stop, no matter what you see, just keep driving.” Captain Brian Jameson’s voice cracked with emotion. “Get as far from the city as you can, as fast as you can. When you get to your dad’s place, tell the General, they used drones with aerosols to attack the bases. It’s worse than anything we ever imagined.”

“But Brian, I don’t have….” Liz interrupted.

Brian interrupted. “It doesn’t matter what you don’t have, Liz. You and the girls have to leave NOW if you’re going to survive! Remember, I love yo….” The line went dead.

Liz called back twice, but each attempt went straight to voicemail. She tried a third time and got a busy circuit message. She tried texting, but the circuit only produced an error message. Too much cell traffic was not a good sign. She remembered the same issue with the cell phones during the last big storm on the coast.

She pulled her nine-month-old, Claire, from the half-filled shopping cart and walked out of Walmart without looking back. She drove to Fort Sam Houston Elementary School on Nursery Road in San Antonio.

When she looked in the visor mirror, she saw the paleness of her complexion and the panicked look in her eyes. She kept hearing her husband’s voice repeating, NOW, NOW, NOW, over and over again.

When she got to the school, she made her way down the white tile hall to the front desk.

The receptionist looked up from her computer screen. “Hi Mrs. Jameson, what can I do for you today?”

“I need to pick up Amy. We’ve had a family emergency.” Liz answered as she glanced down at her watch. “She’s in Miss Helen’s class.”

“Sure.” The receptionist answered. “Just give me a few minutes to contact her teacher and have her brought to the office.” The woman picked up the phone, spoke to the teacher then smiled back at Liz. “She’ll be here shortly.” She turned back to her computer.

Liz stepped back into the hall. Claire pulled at her mother’s hair and giggled. Liz rocked back and forth nervously. “Ready for a car ride, Claire Bear?” Liz asked as she patted the baby’s back.

While she waited, Liz did a mental inventory of the diaper bag contents: a can of dry formula and a box of plastic baby bottle liners, at least half a dozen diapers, four bottles of water, wafers, a change of clothes, an extra blanket, and three protein bars. If she drove straight through, she could make the ten-hour drive with only stopping for gas and maybe take out from a Micky-D or the gas station.

“Mommy?” Amy smiled questioningly. “Where are we going?”

Liz jumped at the touch of her daughter’s hand against her bare arm. She wrapped her fingers around Amy’s hand.

“Thank you.” Liz made a quick nod at the receptionist, and the teacher’s aid that had brought Amy from class then turned toward the door. She glanced down at Amy and answered. “We have to go see grandpa. We have to hurry.”

When she got to the car, Liz got the baby settled in her car seat with a bottle, Amy belted in her booster seat. She got behind the wheel and pulled out of the parking lot. Liz stopped at the first Shell station she saw, filled up the tank, and grabbed a handful of snack bars and extra bottles of water.

She drove the surface streets to the closest on-ramp and entered the freeway. She turned north on the interchange to out of the city. With each passing minute, traffic slowed and grew more and more congested as more vehicles joined the choked freeway. Sirens screamed in the distance.

Liz studied the traffic. It was a lot more than rush-hour beginning early. They neared the military base and traffic slowed to a standstill. Liz looked around and saw they were stuck behind a row of older retail buildings. The brick structures included half a dozen businesses while the back parking lot was surrounded by an eight-foot hurricane fence. It all looked just a little run down and tired with the dumpsters and trash blowing around the alley and rear parking. From what she could see, the buildings included a bar at the end, a nail salon, retail stores and two buildings that were so non-descript, they could be anything with their overhead doors.

“Mommy, aren’t we going to Grandpa’s house?” Her daughter asked.

“Yes, honey…as fast as we can,” Liz answered. With her foot on the break, Liz looked over her shoulder and studied her daughter. “What are you drawing, Amy?”

Amy held up a sheet of paper. Inside a red heart was written, Claire & Amy. Amy beamed. “See, Claire and Amy love Mommy.” She passed it over the seat to Liz. “I made it for you.”

“Thank you, sweetie. I love it.” Liz smiled and passed it back to her daughter. Put it in the diaper bag so I can keep it.” She gave the sheet of paper to her daughter and turned back at the stalled traffic ahead.

The city streets she saw below the freeway were just as congested as the highway. Now they were at a standstill. She couldn’t get off the freeway, and she would have the same problem on surface streets. She turned on the radio.

The station reported a terrorist attack on two bases in San Antonio and two other Texas cities. Within hours of the attack, unusual assaults and soldiers attacking other soldiers was reported. That had to be what Brian was talking about. Liz waffled between wanting to know what was happening and not wanting to alarm or frighten Amy. Liz finally turned off the radio. She now understood the attack had somehow caused people to violently attack anyone they came in contact with. The base was overrun, and the violence was spilling into the civilian communities surrounding the base. They were barely a mile from Ft Houston. They were in trouble. Nothing could change the fact they were in deep trouble.

Frustrated drivers honked and jockeyed for small gaps in the traffic. Liz looked at her phone. The charge had nearly depleted. She pulled a charger from the glove box and plugged in her cell phone.

Traffic had not moved for the last thirty minutes. Liz glanced over her shoulder at the girls while she drummed her fingers against the steering wheel. The baby was sleeping in her car seat, while Amy was reading since Liz had turned off the radio.

Liz watched the fuel gauge slip below the three-quarters tank mark and turned off the air conditioner. She began to worry if they would even make it to the edge of town before she would need to stop for gas again. When the air in the ten-year-old silver Buick became stifling, Liz worried the girls would get too warm. She lowered both front windows to let in the fresh spring air hoping it would cool the car. After a moment, Liz realized the air smelled wrong. She sniffed and wrinkled her nose. There was an unpleasant scent in the air. Something obnoxious mingled with the odor of exhaust, freshly mowed grass and cooking meat from a nearby Bar-B-Que restaurant. The invading stench was a mixture of a slaughterhouse and an open sewer.

Still considering the nasty odor, she heard shouting and a distant scream and turned to look through the windshield. She leaned toward the window to listen.

A massive four-wheel drive truck with oversized tires roared to life several vehicles ahead of her car. The brake light flashed red, and the driver gunned the engine. It was an angry, demanding sound. The driver leaned out an open window and yelled at a Fiat driver directly in front of him.

“Move it!” He waved in frustration. “Get that piece of shit out of my way.”

The truck driver eased the truck, with its off-road tires, forward to tap the back of the Fiat with the front brush guard. He cursed at the Fiat driver then jammed the truck into reverse and slammed into the minivan behind his truck. He raced his engine and yelled, while both the mini-van and the Fiat drivers made tentative efforts to move out of the truck’s way. But they were trapped by the vehicles in front and behind them as well.

The truck driver jockeyed back and forth again and again. All the while, the driver worked on maneuvering the vehicle toward the grassy decline at the side of the highway, but the vehicles in front and behind had the truck wedged in tight. The truck driver yelled and cursed, but neither blocking vehicle could move enough to free his pickup despite the damage he was doing to the other vehicles. Screams of frustration and anger from all three drivers filled the air.

Liz watched the fiasco, but could only see a limited number of vehicles because of the gradual curve of the highway. There seemed to be a commotion taking place around a UPS truck at the beginning of the turn among the furthest vehicles.

Suddenly two men in khaki uniforms appear from the front of a brown panel truck and stumble toward a car directly behind the truck. Both men walked in an uncoordinated, jerky-stagger that made them appear drunk. Their khaki uniforms sported blotches of dark stains up and down the front. Their lower faces were covered in blood.

The large pickup accelerated and roared forward only to hit the Fiat then backed up while the driver jumped from the car and raged at the driver. Each time he shifted from drive to reverse he rammed into an offending vehicle more violently. Terrified by the vehicular assault, the Fiat driver ran away from his automobile to stand at the side of the roadway screaming a string of profanity at the truck driver. Further ahead, the pair of khaki-clad men made their way to the first vehicle behind the UPS truck and slammed their hands against the sedan’s side window.

Liz could hear yells from the female driver with the thuds of the assault against the glass. Even the truck driver stopped his frantic efforts to escape the traffic jam to watch the exchange. Liz’s heart rate began to quicken. What she was seeing was crazy.

The sedan’s male passenger jumped from the passenger side of the car and raced around the back of the vehicle to confront the two men beating on the driver’s window. The man with bulging arms stretching the fabric of his white t-shirt puffed up his chest to face the two men. He raised a fist and began to yell into at the UPS drivers.

One of the khaki-clad men turned on the passenger and pulled him into an awkward, bear hug. The second delivery driver turned from the car and leaned his head toward a flailing arm of the protesting passenger and grabbed it with both hands. He buried his face against the bare flesh. When he straightened up, his face was covered in bright red blood, and his jaws moved up and down chewing at a hunk of flesh hanging from his mouth.

The screaming defender thrashed his arms and kicked his feet trying to free himself from his captors. The second attacker leaned into the guy’s neck and shook his head back and forth like a dog tearing at raw meat. When he pulled his face away, blood sprayed across both attackers from the ripped flesh of the passenger’s neck. Suddenly the man’s screams stopped, he quit flailing and slumped against his attackers. The captors dropped the lifeless victim to the ground, and the terrified screams of the sedan’s driver intensified with the attackers redirected their attention at the vehicle’s window.

Liz stared ahead unable to believe what she was seeing. Her breath came in quick shallow gasps. Under her breath, she whispered. “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!”

“Mommy?” Amy whimpered.

Unable to even respond to her daughter, Liz watched as more people appeared behind the delivery drivers. All were covered in splotches of blood and looked horribly injured. They moved in the same halting, jerky gate as the USP men. They stumbled toward the pair that had renewed their assault of the sedan’s window.

Several of the new arrivals began their attack on the windshield. The window glass suddenly shattered and arms reached through the shattered glass into the car to pull the woman from the vehicle. The driver screamed and slammed her fists against her attackers then disappeared into the cluster of bloodied bodies.

Liz looked on in horror as more and more bloodied and injured people stumbled around the vehicles and made their way toward her car. The wave of horribly wounded people lurched past the sedan to the next vehicle. A young male driver threw open his door to run, but one of the monsters had gotten too close and grabbed him from behind. The attacker fell on the youth’s back to bury his face in his neck. The monster pulled his face away with a red, dripping hunk of flesh hanging from his mouth.

More assailants turned their attention to the screaming kid, each tearing flesh from his writhing body. Blood spurted from his arms and legs. Within seconds he stopped struggling. The captors released the body, and it disappeared under the cluster of attackers assaulting the next vehicle. Several monsters got to their feet and stumbled over the bodies toward the next truck.

Bloodied and gore-covered infected pulled the driver of a small pickup from his vehicle and a man in a blood-drenched white shirt grabbed an arm and raised it to his mouth. His teeth dug into the flesh and pulled away with a glob of bloodied flesh. Several of the monsters joined in the assault. One by one they buried their faces into flesh and tore mouthfuls of bloodied meat from live people.

Attackers that couldn’t reach live prey spilled around the victim being consumed to make their way to the next car where a woman had thrown the car door open and was struggling to free a child from a car seat in the back seat. Within seconds, they both disappeared into the mass of bloodied bodies.

The driver of the large truck doubled his efforts to free his pickup of the two vehicles that wedged him into the traffic jam. The massive Ford slammed into the small Fiat, sifted the truck into reverse and stomped on the gas. The truck hit the minivan, and the bumper jumped up the low-slung hood leaving the vehicle with one wheel off the concrete.

The driver turned the wheel and jammed the truck into drive. The rear wheel on pavement burned rubber and caught enough traction to flip the truck to the side crashing down against the guardrail shattering the window and windshield. The driver escaped the vehicle and vaulted over the guardrail and disappeared down the incline.

Liz watched in the waning afternoon light as two more women were pulled through shattered windows. Terrified screams filled the air. More of the infected headed for the next car while a man struggling to release his seatbelt to escape was surrounded and disappeared under the assault.

People threw vehicle doors open and ran from the wave of blood-covered aggressors working their way from car to car toward Liz. They would get to her car in a matter of minutes. They would come for Liz and her daughters.

Liz’s car was trapped. There was no way to pull off the highway with the guardrail at her right and vehicles blocking her in front, back and to her left. There was a tide of murder and mayhem rolling toward them, and she was powerless to drive away. She looked at her ten-year-old. Amy’s face. It mirrored her own horror at the sounds coming closer by the second.

“Mommy?” Amy whimpered.

“We’re getting out of here!” Liz answered urgently.

“I’m scared,” Amy asked. “What’s happening?”

“Unbuckle the baby, now. Hurry honey. Then get the diaper bag.”

Amy unsnapped the car seat harness on Claire then pulled her sister to her lap. Meanwhile, Liz crawled over the console to the passenger seat. She jerked open the door and crawled out of the vehicle. She opened the back door just as Amy reached for the strap of the diaper bag. Liz took the baby while Amy scrambled out of the car dragging the bag behind her.

Liz dropped three bottles of water in the bag and stuffed the bag of snacks in the baby’s bag. Looking over her shoulder at the advancing attackers, Liz grabbed Amy’s hand and pulled her between two cars. At the edge of the highway, they climbed over the metal guardrail. Clutching Claire to her chest, and still holding Amy’s hand, Liz faltered down the steep incline toward the distant fence stretching across the back parking lot of the row of businesses. When she glanced over her shoulder, she saw some of the infected had noticed the escaping throng of people and were beginning to follow.

The infected weaved between vehicles and headed toward the barrier. Liz looked back and was relieved when the monsters seemed baffled by the thigh-high wall. They stood at the railing reaching out but were stymied by the metal barrier. Suddenly, their outstretched arms and leaning bodies overbalanced and they fell over.

They lined up at the barrier and one by one the infected face-planted into the gravel on the other side. The first creature with a shaved head and biker jacket tumbled over the barricade skinning the flesh from half his face. He stumbled to his feet, got overbalanced and hit the ground again. He fell halfway down the incline stopping folded into a cluster of oleanders. One after another of the infected leaned over the guardrail until they fell. More and more of the tattered and torn monsters pressed against those leaning into the barrier until none could move temporarily.

Three of the monsters were halfway down the incline when a large overweight woman in a bloodied housedress fell over the fence and began to roll. She hit the trio. The monsters ended in a huge pile of limbs trapped under the woman when she landed on her back. With her head downhill and with bodies on either side, she rolled back and forth unable to move.

More and more of the monsters fell over the guardrail, got up and began making their way toward those trying to escape. Dozens of people raced past Liz and the girls, but none offered to help them. Liz knew they were on their own and quickly being left behind to suffer a horrible fate.

Liz grabbed Amy’s hand. “Run! Honey, we have to hide!”

They ran from the roadway toward the eight-foot hurricane fence, Liz looked up and down for an opening. She had to find a place her children would be safe. Desperate, she turned toward the end of the fencing looking for an entrance and saw nothing.

Near panicked, Liz saw a dip in the ground under the woven metal fence behind what appeared to be a bar or eatery of some sort. She could see a neon sign at the front of the alley. Boxes surrounded a dumpster midway from the front of the building, near a side door.

Liz dragged Amy toward the divot in the ground. Shoving the baby into her daughter’s arms, Liz fell to her knees and tore at the weeds in the hole. When the grass was cleared, she dug into the soft, wet earth with her bare hands.

After a full minute, she pulled at the bottom of the woven fencing testing the size of the opening. The wire gave way several inches and the opening was almost big enough for her daughters to get through. She dug frantically ignoring the pain of breaking and tearing nails. She glanced over her shoulder. The infected were less than a hundred yards away.

“They’re coming!” Amy whispered frantically.

As the first of the street lights blinked on, Liz realized she was out of time. She jumped to her feet and pulled at the fencing with all her strength. It was now or never. She ignored the guttural moans growing louder and closer by the minute.

“Put Claire down and crawl through the opening,” Liz ordered.

“Mom?” Amy looked at Liz with a puzzled look on her face.

“Now! Hurry, Amy. Do as I say.”

Amy laid her sister on the grass, and the baby started crying.

“Lay down. Slide through head first. Quick, honey.” Liz whispered.

Amy began to cry but did as told. Liz pulled up on the fencing with all her strength creating an opening just big enough for Amy.

“Now! Slide through.” Liz whispered frantically. “Use your heels. Get through as quick as you can.”

Amy lay down on the grass with her head at the opening. She kicked her heels into the ground while she pulled at the weeds on the other side. When Amy was through, Liz released the fence and fell to her knees.

“I’m sorry, sweetie.” Liz cooed as she picked up Claire. She pushed the bag toward the opening. “Pull the bag through, Amy. Hurry!”

Amy gave a tug and the bag caught in the middle of the opening under the fence. Liz pushed, while Amy pulled on the long strap. Her eyes grew large. “Mommy, they’re coming. Please hurry.” Liz scooted around on her butt then placed her foot against the bag and kicked. The bag burst through, and Amy fell to her bottom.

While Amy got to her feet, Liz pulled the baby to her chest and kissed her forehead. She clutched her close as she covered her daughter with the blanket then guided the infant through the hole.

“Sh…shush now Amy, take your sister. Put the bag over your shoulder. Run and hide.” She could hear the dead coming closer.

“Hurry Mommy! You have to get under the fence!” Amy wailed near panic.

“I can’t. I’m going to run now. Head for the building and hide. Stay safe, and I’ll find you.”

Liz turned and ran. Dozens of the dead followed her while still others leaned against the fence reaching out toward Amy and her sister.

“Mommy!” Amy screamed.

Tears ran down Liz’s face as she ran away.