Posts Tagged ‘Liz’

Harry and Liz stacked the supplies inside the kitchen then Harry stepped back out of the camper.

“I’ll be back in ten minutes.” He gave a careless wave as he got back in the truck and drove the pickup back to the sales office.

Liz closed the door and stepped back inside to look at John. Her face mirrored her concern. “I can’t see much.”

“Close the curtains then you can turn on a light.” John answered.

She moved around the camper and pulled the curtains closed on the windows.  When she was done, she turned on a small light and then announced.

“I’m going to make sure the light can’t be seen from outside.” She slipped from the camper and stepped back out into the night. She walked around the camper then walked back inside.

When she got back inside, she walked helped John out of his denim jacket then his shirt. She turned on a second light to get a better look. Half of his chest was splotched with deep purple and abrasions.

“Oh God, John.”

He moaned softly. “I think I hit the concrete divider. I’ll be okay.  Just needs taped up.”

He breathing was reduced to shallow gasps.

After a light double tap at the door, Harry’s harsh whisper announced his return. “Just me.”

He slipped inside the camper and pulled the door closed and locked it.  Harry turned back to straighten the curtain over the window.   “Well, is he going to make it, doc?”

“I’m as far from a doctor as you could get.  The only things I’ve ever treated has been scrapes and skins of a ten-year old but I think he might have a broken rib.”

Liz slid her fingers down John’s ribs and as they grew closer to the purple flesh John cringed. She clinched her jaw and continued the exploration.

John gasped. “You found it.”

“I think it’s only one broken rib.” Liz announced. “I can feel the bone move.”

Harry looked over Liz’s shoulder. “I’ll find something to wrap his ribs.” He disappeared into the back of the camper returning with a sheet in hand. After a few swipes of a knife he began tearing six inch strips of fabric.

“I’ll be fine.” John commented through clinched teeth.”

“When we get that rib stabilized, I think you’ll feel better.” Liz agreed.  “We have Tylenols.”

Harry brought soap and a bowl of water. Liz carefully cleaned the abraded flesh then dried the area and gently smeared on antibiotic ointment.  When she was finished, she pressed the flattened end of a fabric strip against his chest and wrapped it around his chest and the damaged rib again and again. When she reached the end, she grabbed a second strip and began wrapping again. After the third strip was added to the binding she glanced around for a way to secure the wrap.

When she heard a ripping sound behind her she turned to Harry and accepted a strip of duct tape with a tilt of her head.

“What?” Harry pulled a second strip of silver tape from a roll and handed it to Liz. Harry grinned. “I picked it up in the shop when I was in there. See you never know. Duct tape has a million uses.”

Liz smiled and anchored the binding then pressed several more strips over the damaged rib to add more support.

“Well?”  She asked.  “Is it any better?”

“I think so.” John huffed.

After binding John’s ribs he felt good enough to stop at the bathroom to clean up before he went back into the bedroom at the back of the camper to lie down.  He cracked windows on either side of the bed and the heat that had built up began to dissipate.

Harry and Liz gathered the supplies and went to work on fixing an evening meal. Harry stacked the water out of the way by the door while Liz sorted through the boxes.  She found beef jerky, pasta and soup cups, dried fruits, crackers and cheese, and boxes of candies and chips.

Liz opened a cup of dried soup added bottled water to hydrate it then used the microwave to warm it.  She used a box lid as a tray and carried the soup with crackers, and a bottle of water back to John.  She gave him two aspirins and left the bottle of aspirins and a second water bottle next to the bed before leaving.


Harry stood at the front of the camper studying the parking lot through at the side of a window blind. “Looks quiet.” He commented over his shoulder.

“Do you think they’ll find us?” Liz whispered as she handed Harry a cup of soup.

Harry let the privacy curtain slip back into place. They had opened the windows a few inches, and the top vent to let some of the heat escape.  The privacy blinds hid any hint of light from the outside.

Harry shrugged. “Hopefully, they’ll give up. They wanted what we had. They have it now. No reason to keep chasing us. At least, I hope.”

“I’m not tired. Why don’t you try to sleep? I’ll keep watch and wake you around two.”

“That works. John needs to stay as still as possible for a few days to give his ribs a chance to heal.”

“What about you?” Liz asked. “Your ankle?”

Harry stripped off his jacket, and sat down to take off his boots.  He groaned in relief as he pulled off his boot. “It’ll be fine if we can stay put for a few days.” He finished his soup then reached into a bag of dried fruit Liz had opened.  He tossed a handful in his mouth and chewed. After a full minute of chewing he took a gulp of water and scowled. “This stuff tastes like shit. I wish we had some beer.”

“It’s good for you.” Liz chuckled. “Enjoy it while I get cleaned up.” She walked back to the bathroom and filled the sink with a couple inches of warm water. She used a wash cloth and cleaned up as much as the limited water would allow.

When she reappeared Harry grinned. “You smell better.”

Liz laughed. “You don’t. Get cleaned up and try to rest. I’ll wake you up later.”

The next morning Liz woke when a shaft of sunlight invaded the camper at the edge of a lowered blind. She looked around the narrow bed and sighed. She hadn’t slept in a bed since leaving Benny and Hazel’s farm. She curled under the sheet and tried to recapture the dream of her husband and children, but it was lost. All that was left was the stifling heat of the sun beating down on the trailer.

“May as well get up.” Harry called from the front of the camper. He limped to the small table and sat down. “I think John looks a little better.”

Liz found a package of animal cookies and bottle of juice from the supplies and began eating. “How’s your ankle?”

“Not great, but if I can stay off it a couple more days, I’ll be fine.” Harry answered.

“Hmmm. Well, let’s hope we don’t have to run again any time soon.” Liz answered as she handed Harry a bottle of juice.

He took a long drink then flexed his ankle. He winced and frowned. “I was looking at the navigation on the dash. The parking lot backs up to a country road that heads west. I think we could take it to state road 54 then to 180 and head north. That should take us to the Guadalupe National Park area. Then it’s up to you.”

“We can’t just leave my daughters.” Liz protested.

“And where do you think we should look for them?”

“I ….” Liz looked at her clutched hands on the table.

“The girls are in God’s hands. Your son is ours. We’re continuing to Pine Canyon.”

The third morning they woke to the sound of breaking glass in the distance. Harry had nodded off near dawn while John and Liz were sleeping.

John lumbered from the back bedroom rubbing at the stubble on his chin. “Did I hear something?”

“Fucking getting old. I fell asleep.” Harry groused as he peeked out the window.

Liz slipped her feet in her boots. “What is it?” She pulled the laces and made a quick bow in each.

“What are we doing here?” John asked. “What’s happening?”

“Wait.” Harry answered. “Maybe it’s just a lone scavenger looking in the office. That’s why I wanted to make it look as normal as possible. Didn’t want anyone to think there was anything worth breaking in for.”

John answered. “It might have back-fired. Most offices have at least a vending machine or two and a kitchen.” He moved the edge of the curtain aside then let it drop. “I’m going to get a better look. Be ready to take off.”

John adjusted the handgun at his side and grabbed his knife. He opened the camper door and stepped outside, then turned and gently closed the door. He jogged to the back of the row of campers and disappeared.

Harry nodded at the back fence. “I’m going to cut the fence. Get the blinds up so you can see to drive, but wait to get behind the wheel. For now, try to stay out of sight.”

Liz nodded and quickly stowed supplied in the cabinets and behind rails along the shelves. She slowly raised the blinds around the front of the camper and watched as Harry slipped out of the camper.

Harry made his way around the back of the camper and crossed the twenty feet of asphalt to the fence. He made his way to the center of the fencing between two posts and took out the wire cutter. He began at the bottom, cutting each of the wire loops. Each snap of the wire snapping seemed to echo across the yard like a gunshot.  He cut two or three wires then glanced over his shoulder. When no one appeared to investigate he resumed cutting.

When John glanced toward the camper he could see Liz slowly open the screens and ready the camper to leave. He clipped half a dozen more wire loops and heard more glass break, then a terrified scream. John finished cutting the fence then ran back to the camper and reached inside to grab his machete.

“Stay put. Get behind the wheel and duck down. If you see us running, crank this bitch and get ready to get the hell out of here.”

John hurried to the back of the row of camper to follow Harry’s trail. He realized his ribs felt pretty good. He jogged after Harry, looking at each camper for his friend. He rounded a camper parked thirty feet from the office just in time to see Harry enter the building.

John glanced back at the camper and Liz then followed.

Liz stared at the two men standing in front of her.  “He would want me to find our girls!”

Harry moved his head from left to right.  He would want you and the baby safe.  “Your girls are with capable men.  God willing, they will survive and bring them to you.”  He swung a leg over his bike and held out his hand.

Liz stood staring at his hand for a full minute before she slid on the bike with a final protest. “I can’t just give up.”

Harry cranked the engine and slipped it in gear.  “No one is giving up.  We’re protecting this child.”

They left the farm to market road and headed northwest.  The roads were clear of traffic and road blocks.  Few infected seemed to be in the area.  Four hours later, they stopped so Harry could consult a map.  They were getting close to Kerrville, an area rife with back roads, hills and canyons.  It was beautiful country with lakes, rivers and wooded expanses that shut out the ugliness of the past few weeks.

They stood next to the rail road tracks and sipped on water bottle.  Ahead in the distance was a big rig and trailer at the side of the blacktop. The truck was lying on its side as if kicked out of the way like a petulant child.  Liz wondered to the side of the road where vines of dewberries grew.  She stood picking at the lush fruit and eating berry after berry.

“We need to head up to 16 to Ranchero Road to North Valley View Dr. to Rim Rock to Lehmann to Cully Drive. We’ll work our way around Peterson Regional Medical Center then end up on 98 North.”  Harry announced.

They got back on the bikes and slowly accelerated toward the wrecked trailer ahead.  Liz glanced to the left as they rode by and she saw spray painted graffiti.  Suddenly she slammed her hand on Harry’s shoulder and screamed “Stop!”

Harry and John both slammed on the breaks and came to a skidding halt.  Harry turned around to see Liz jumping from the bike.  He studied the massive red heart painted on the smooth metal skin of the top of the trailer.  A red heart with Amy and Claire’s names painted inside.  To the side was three smiley faces, the first with bangs, second with hair on either side of the head and the last bald.

Harry started laughing.  “Well, well, well.  I guess there is a message.”

Liz reached out to touch the dried paint.  She caressed the swirls of red paint as if by touching it she could feel the soft cheek of her daughters.  Tears streamed down her face.

Finally John spoke.  “Would someone tell me what the hell this is all about?”

Liz looked up and smiled.  “My girls’ names are Amy and Claire.”  She took a deep breath.  “It’s meant for me.  They’re safe.”

Harry nodded.  “I think you’re right.”

Suddenly a moan interrupted the conversation.  The trio looked toward the road ahead and were shocked to see an army of infected stumbling toward them.  Harry cranked his bike and Liz slid onto the seat.

“Head out, John.  We’ve got to head back the way we come.”  Harry ordered.  “They’re coming out of the small communities around Kerrville.”

A infected were drawn toward the sounds of the motorcycles.  They stumbled down streets and from buildings and nearby houses.

“I guess we know what happened to all the creeps from back at that last little cluster of houses.  Bastards follow sound.”  John commented.

“Turn right at the next intersection, John.  If I remember right, it should by-pass the housing section and end up behind what looked like an industrial park.”  Harry ordered over the intercom.

“Got it!”  John answered as he pulled his handgun and fired at the closest monster.  A middle-aged woman in a housedress fell to the ground.

Liz pulled her own gun and fired twice as they pulled away from the moving horde of infected.  As she stowed her hand gun she heard John’s startled yelp.

John’s bike jerked to the side and his handlebars pulled from his hands and he sailed over the front doing a loose limbed summersault then landing on the pavement spread-eagle.

Harry slammed on the breaks just as his bike jerked to the side.  Liz clutched at Harry but in the end both him and Liz were thrown from the machine and off to the side in a tumbling roll.   The world became a blur of flying arms, asphalt shredding denim and driving gravel into her knees and elbows.  She felt Harry bounce against her then slip away.  Suddenly, she slammed against a wall and all momentum stopped.  She lay still gasping for breath.  She heard a distant curse.  John?

“Fuck!”  Harry yelled. “Lizzy?”

Liz reached for the snap on her helmet. “Here.”

“Get up…we gotta get to cover!”  Harry yelled.

Bits of asphalt and gravel ricocheted from the ground as Liz realized they were under attack.  She rolled over and saw she was close to the bike.  She grabbed the strap of both their go-bags then followed Harry as he crawled to the side of a building.

John grabbed his pack from his bike and crawled behind a concrete barrier.  “Hey, you two okay?” He called out.

Liz looked at her scrapped knees and elbows where blood was soaking through the denim.  “I’m fine.”  She turned to Harry and examined a knot on his head.  He nodded slowly.  “Harry’s a little banged up, but we’re good.”

John answered.  “Fuckers killed my bike.  Front end is trashed.”

Shots pinged off the concrete again.  “They’re up high, at least half a dozen shooters.”  Harry pulled his handgun and pointed to the corner.  “We have to get the ammo bags and my rifle. It’s still tied to the back of my bike.”

When Harry made a move to reach across the open area between the wall and the bike, Liz pulled him back.  “I can do it.  You and John make sure no one has a chance to look up.” Harry started to protest. but she interrupted.  “I’m a smaller target and you two are better shots.”

Liz pulled off her helmet.  Harry grabbed her arm and handed her a knife with thick heavy blade.  He stood and took her helmet.  “When I toss this, they’ll fire. John and I lay down some cover fire.  Get out there and cut the gun and bag from the bike then get back here.  You’ll have maybe ten seconds before they figure out what’s happening so you have to get back by then.”

“I got this.”  Liz whispered.

Harry stepped back, and tossed the helmet underhanded across the street to clatter against a dumpster where is hit the lid and fell inside to clatter against the bottom with a loud crash and thud.

At the first shot, Liz ran to the back of the motorcycle.  She squatted down behind the rolled bike and began sawing at the rifle strapping.  While she worried through the leather she could hear both Harry and John returning fire.  The bag and rifle dropped. She grabbed the strap of the bag, hunched over and hurried back to Harry’s side.  When she glanced over her shoulder she saw dozens of infected converging on the street leading to the bikes.

The group attacking noticed Liz just as she slipped behind the corner of the building and two shots pinged against brick sending shards into the back of her leg.  Harry peeked around the wall and fired two quick shots then fell back to release a magazine and slam a fresh one into place.

“You okay?”  Harry asked.  When she nodded, he spoke into his helmet one last time.  Head north, John.  We’ll be right behind you as soon as you’re clear.”

Harry peeked around the building, fired and jerked back before answering fire could find its target.  Liz pulled the rifle from the case and handed it to Harry.  He pulled off his helmet and whispered.  “Get low. Take two quick shots then get back and take the bag and run after John.  I’ll be right behind you after I send a couple rounds at the guy on the roof.”

“Got it.”  Liz took the shots, backed clear then grabbed the bag and ran.

Harry stepped away from the corner with the rifle pressed against his shoulder.  He fired.  A shooter across the street toppled from the top of a two story building to the pavement with a blood chilling shriek.  He fell to the street.  One of the attacker on the ground rushed to pick up the injured man but was attacked by two infected.

Harry retreated and the shooter concentrated their fire on the infected attacking their comrade.  Screams from both attackers ended quickly when a single shot rang out.  Another shot silenced the second voice screaming in terror and pain.

Harry limped to where John and Liz waited.  John slid Harry’s arm over his shoulder and the trio hurried around the corner of the first building with the sound of gunfire still echoing in the distance.

Liz struggled to carry two backpacks and the gun bag but kept her feet moving.  At the first break between buildings, they made a left turn, went half a block then right.

The distant gunfire grew less intense then was reduced to single shots as if the shooters were singling out deliberate targets.  The harried voices had long since faded away.  Finally, Harry pulled away from John’s grasp and rocked back against a building wall.

“We have to find a place to hide out until they give up looking for us.”  John announced.

They each scanned the surrounding buildings looking for a place to call sanctuary.  Harry walked to the end of the building and looked down the row of offices and store fronts.  Wandering infected stumbled into view at the far end of the complex.

“We gotta move.” Harry whispered.

“You can’t, Harry.  We have to stop and clean John up and tape your ankle.”

“Has to wait.”  Harry picked up his pack and limped to the opposite end of the building and took a quick look.  “Come on.”

Liz picked up her own pack and the gun bag and began walking.  John slipped up and grabbed the other strap to take some of the load.  Liz gave a quick nod and followed Harry.

He led them down the alley, around a building then through a maze of single story buildings until they left the business park and entered a wooded area.  After nearly a mile Harry stopped, gasping for air.  “I’m getting too old for this shit.”

After filling gas tanks, Harry led Liz to the bike and pulled her onto the seat behind him. She clung to his black leather jack, too lost in her own misery to speak during the next three hours of riding. She laid her head against his back and let the world slip away.

Dusk was quickly settling around them when John finally slowed enough to allow Harry to pull his bike alongside side. They stopped in the middle of the blacktop.  He kicked the engine out of gear and he turned to speak to Harry.

“We need to find a place to stop. We’re not gonna make it to the Thompson Highway before dark and I don’t want to chance going through a pack of infected in the dark.”

“I know. Look for a place away from the road.” Harry answered then turned around to speak to Liz. “We’ll be stopping soon. Just hang on, Lizzy.”

Lost in the pain of seeing the infected family at the gas station, Liz closed her eyes to the outside world. She trembled uncontrollably as she imagined her own children’s bodies torn and bloodied like the younger reanimated children. Tears ran down her face. She had to find her daughters and protect them.

Harry pointed at a wood-frame house on a nearby hill. The property was surrounded by a pasture fenced in with several strand of barbed wire. A wooden fence separated the yard and buildings and back half of the property from the open pasture.

“That looks good.”

John kicked the bike in gear and eased over a culvert and faced the crossing the cattle guard.  “Let’s do this.”  He gunned the throttle and rolled over the cattle guard with Harry close behind.


They followed the narrow dirt lane toward the house, all the while looking across the open yard. John pointed to a fenced area at the back of the house. A horse and colt roamed the paddock munching on grass.

“What the fuck?” John cursed into the mic in the helmet.  “See the livestock. You think anyone is here?”

The men stopped the bikes at the gate of the fenced barnyard. John walked to the gate and unhooked the chain. He pushed the gate open until it caught on a clump of scrub grass. John rolled his bike through and allowed Harry to follow. Together they rode to the front of the house. Harry stepped off the bike and looked around. Finally, he cupped his hand around his mouth and called out.

“Hello, the house!”

They waited quietly as John looked toward the outbuildings. Chickens roamed the barnyard. An open barn door allowed the birds and animals sanctuary from night-time predators. He turned back to Harry.

“I don’t think anyone is here.”  John commented.

The two men stared at the graying boards.  The house had needed repainting years ago.  The lace window curtain at the side window danced on the light even breeze.  The place felt empty.  It felt deserted without any hint of the people who once lived there.

“I’m gonna check out the house, but I don’t think anyone is here,” Harry announced.

He walked up the concrete steps to the weathered porch and cupped his hand against the screen to look through the glass at the top half of the door.  “Hello?  Anyone home?”

When he heard nothing inside, he stepped back and opened the ram shackled screen door.   He knock on the glass with the barrel of his handgun. The sound filled the small house then faded away to silence again. After a second rap on the wooden door resulted in no response from inside, he turned back to John.

“We’re going inside. Lizzy, you gotta get your shit together. If anything happens, we need you.” Harry announced.

Liz looked up and swiped at the wet streaks on her face with the back of her hand. “I’m good.” She stepped off the bike and pulled the handgun from the back of her pants.

John stepped away from the silent bikes. He slipped his handgun out of the holster on his hip. He nodded at Liz to step behind Harry’s bike.

“If this goes sideways, you get on that bike and get the hell out of here,” John advised.

“That’s not going to happen.” She headed toward the house with a hard look on her face. “Let’s do this.”

Harry placed his hand on the doorknob just as Liz stepped on the porch. He turned the knob and pushed.  The door opened. Warm air escaped the closed up house with the smell of dried rose petals with a hint of dust. Harry stepped inside with Liz close on his heels.

The old fashion parlor had heavy burgundy drapes partially obscuring the late afternoon light. Harry flicked on a flashlight. He moved the circle of stark white beam from one side of the room to the other.

“Doesn’t look like anyone is here and hasn’t been for some time,” Harry commented. “Let’s make sure then settle down for the night.”

Liz nodded. I’m ready.”

Harry turned to John. “Watch the road.”

Together, Liz and Harry approached each room with weapons drawn. Once the downstairs was cleared, they walked up to the second story to do the same. They entered the first room and saw a guest bedroom and empty closet. The second door was a bedroom still in use. Nothing was out of place. A worn cotton nightgown of flannel lay across the pillow on a sagging double bed. A man’s plaid pajamas lay folded at the foot of the same bed.

Liz looked down and smiled. She could imagine the old couple who lived in the house before the world turned crazy. Then the image shifted to them stumbling through the streets together as one of the monsters, searching for warm human flesh to consume. She frowned.

“It’s clear. Let’s settle in.” Harry whispered softly.

Liz turned and left the room. She followed Harry until he turned to step outside. She headed into the kitchen while Harry went out to the yard where John waited. Liz watched John walk to the front gate and latch it then the two men brought their bike closer to the house.

The kitchen was sparsely appointed, but clean. There was a gas stove, an ancient refrigerator, and sink. The cabinets were filled with carnival glass dishes behind the glass doors. At the side of the sink, a coffee pot rested upside down in a wire drain rack with two coffee cups. A paper had been taped to the refrigerator door. Liz looked closer and realized it was a schedule.

That day, the day the world ended, was circled in red. In ink was written “last chemo”.

Liz picked up a stack of envelopes from the table and fanned through the return addresses. There were nearly half a dozen statements from a cancer treatment center in downtown San Antonio. The owners of the house would not be coming back. She turned away and dropped the stack of paper back to the table.

A sudden noise made Liz jump. She spun around with her gun drawn to face the sound. She stood staring at the kitchen window above the sink when saw a single drop of water fall from the kitchen faucet to ping on a metal pan in the sink.

She walked to the sink and turned a handle, not expecting water to flow, and jumped back when water streamed from the faucet. She turned the water off and looked toward the stove. It was a gas stove. She held her breath when she turned one of the knobs. It clicked twice then lit. She quickly turned off the gas and ran to the back door.

“There’s a gas stove and water!” She called to the two men parking their bikes at the back of the house.

“Fucking A….,” John answered.  “I saw some chickens so I’m going to look for eggs, maybe even catch one for supper.”

Harry laughed. “We’ll eat tonight.”

Liz asked. “Why is there water?”

Harry pointed to several solar panels on the roof of a metal shed at the back of the house. A black cable ran from the panels to a metal pump shed.

“It’s why the animals still have water. That and the infected haven’t found the place.”

Liz kept glancing out windows as she made her way around the house. The house was a time capsule of life before the attacks. In the kitchen, she opened drawers and cabinets. The woman of the house was an orderly housekeeper even down to the junk drawer. Liz pocketed two lighters and a book of matches before closing the drawer.

She opened a side door and stepped out on an enclosed sun porch and saw a freezer near the door. She reached out, her hand shaking as she raised the lid. She gasped at the cold white mist billowing from the depths.

When the air cleared, she smiled at the site of the treasure of food inside. She reached for one of the loaves of home bread. Liz took a loaf out, closed the door and walked back into the kitchen. John grinned as he held out a straw lined wire bucket with a dozen eggs inside.

“Bread!” John laughed. “Thought I’d never have bread again. “

Liz grinned. “It was in the freezer on the sun porch…It has all kinds of food inside.”

Harry walked to the sink and turned the faucet on. “Fucking unbelievable. This place is fucking unbelievable.”

He stuck his hands under the stream of water and sighed deeply when it grew warm. He splashed water on his face and scrubbed at the grime on his hand and face. He stuck his head under the faucet and let water run over it.

Liz glanced around the kitchen and found a hand towel hanging on the back of a chair. She handed it to Harry as he turned off the water.

“I can’t believe water and lights are still on.” She commented.

“It’s a real find.” Harry sighed. “I need a real shower, but we’ve got to do a few things.”

John laughed. “I saw a barrel of cans out back. I’m gonna set up rock cans between the out buildings out back. You find any string? If I don’t find any wire out back I can use it.”

“There’s some in the third drawer left of the sink,” Liz answered.

“Did you figure out anything out about the owners?” Harry answered.

Liz nodded at the table. “They were in San Antonio that day.” She walked to the stove and turned on the front burner. “Give me a couple minutes to fry some eggs then you can get busy.”

A few minutes later, they each gulped down an egg sandwich smeared with mayonnaise. They had run out of food the day before and they all three needed a quick meal that would fill stomachs. The two men were far from satisfied, but it was enough to get them through the next few hours. Liz picked at the egg, gagged then ate only the bread.

“If you catch a chicken we can have it for dinner,” Liz commented.

“Sounds good.” Harry grinned as the trio stepped out of the house.

They crossed the yard to a tool shed. After clearing the small building, Harry riffled through tools and gardening supplies and found a roll of thin wire intended for electrical fencing. He stuck a pair of wire cutter in his back pocket and headed back outside. He began stringing wire at the corner of the shed and headed toward the small barn. He walked about six feet, twisted the wire around the lid of the can, dropped three or four rocks inside and pushed the lid closed.

With a flick of his hand, the rocks rattled against the side of the can. John held the wire taught while Harry repeated the process half a dozen more times. He wrapped the wire around a post twice then secured the end with a twist of his wrist.  He looked back at the knee high red-neck alarms and grinned.

Liz asked. “How can I help?”

“Put rocks in cans and use that string to balance them between the wooden posts out front,” Harry stated. “You only need to put a couple on each section of fencing should do.”

“Try to get done before dark,” John added.

“Got it,” Liz answered.

Liz picked up a plastic bag from the kitchen, walked back to the can pile and filled it with at least a couple soda cans then headed toward the fence.

Liz got to the fence and picked up a handful of rocks. She dropped a few in the can and shook it. She stood up, looped the string around a post, then the can tab of two cans. She pulled the string taught and slipped another loop on the next post. She brushed it with her finger against the string and the stones and cans rattled. Not loud, but in the quiet of night without traffic it should be enough. She finished the “alarm” cans and headed for the house.

She walked past the guys crouched at the side of John’s bike. “I’m going inside and get cleaned up. Don’t be too long.”

Harry threw a wave and answered. “No problem. It’s getting dark so we’ll be in pretty quick. Don’t turn on lights if you can help it. Try to find candles and cover the windows.”

“Got it,” Liz answered.

An hour later, Liz wore a fresh pair of jeans that were too big and a man’s plaid shirt while her own clothes hung on a clothesline at the side of the house. John, good to his word, had spent ten minutes chasing chickens around the barnyard until he finally caught a scrawny looking gimpy hen. He cut the head off then delivered it to Liz with a big grin.

“That’s a pretty sad looking excuse for a hen.”  Liz commented.

“Lucky I caught it. Do you want me to gut it?”

“No, I can take care of it.  Just finish what you’ve been doing and come on inside.  This place makes me nervous.”

“We’re fine.  It’s quiet here.” John walked away glancing around at the deepening shadows.

Liz walked back inside to retrieve a pot of boiling water.  Having anticipating cleaning the chicken, she had filled a huge pot with water and placed it on the gas stove over a bright blue flame as soon as she came in the house.

She had filled a smaller pot with water and set it over the flame when she removed the first pot.  She carried the boiling water outside where the chicken lay on the back steps.

She grabbed the chicken and dunked it in the water, swished it around for a minute then pulled it from the water to tug at a couple feathers. The aroma of wet feathers wafted up from the scalding water.  When the feathers didn’t pull free easily, she jammed the bird back in the pot and sloshed it around for another minute.

When she pulled at the feathers a second time and they came out easily. A few minutes later, the bird lay nude at her feet. She threw out the water, picked up a knife and cut open the back end of the chicken. With a quick flick of the knife, she opened up the cavity and clawed out the organs. She dumped the offal into a bucket holding the feathers, saving the gizzard, liver, and heart. She dropped the chicken into the empty pan with the kitchen knife.

John walked just as she was finishing.  “I wondered if you knew how to do that.”

“You’re a day late…” Liz answered. “Do you mind taking the bucket to the garden and bury the guts.”

“I got it.” John retrieved the pale. “Since you’re cooking and I’m such a nice guy.”

“Well, nice guy, if you hurry up there’s time for both of you to shower while I fix dinner.”

Liz picked up the pot ready to head inside.

Harry opened the door to let Liz enter the back porch and turned to John. “Keep an eye on things while I shower. When I’m done, I’ll relieve you. I know the animals are still around and it’s been safe until now, but I think we need to keep watch.”

Harry followed Liz inside as she asked. “You don’t think it’s safe.”

He answered. “If the place doesn’t get noticed by roaming infected it should be. The flood lights had been turned off. That’s why no one has noticed this place. This house is off the beaten path and probably anyone who noticed it figured it was abandoned, just like us. We need to keep it that way. No lights after dark.”

“Got it. I’m boiling the chicken. There was a package of noodles in the freezer and potatoes in the frig.” Liz answered. “I found a whole box of dinner candles anda  package of emergency candles in the pantry.”

Harry accepted a short candle anchored to a saucer with melted wax. He disappeared into the gloom down the hall.

Meanwhile, Liz cut up the chicken and dropped the pieces in the boiling water. She added onions, salt, and pepper. She retrieved the potatoes from the frig, walked to the sink to peel potatoes. She watched as John appeared from around the corner of the shed with the bucket in hand.

When he stepped inside the kitchen, he set it down on the edge of the sink. Inside were lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers.

“I noticed these in the garden. I thought it would make a decent salad.” He grinned.

Harry walked into the kitchen wearing a pair of overalls at least a full size too small. He could only hook a single strap over the shoulder.

John laughed. “Farmer Harry. Never thought I’d ever see you in a pair of overalls.”

“Fuck you.” Harry raised his hand with a single finger extended upwards. “I take it, all’s quiet.”

“I walked the perimeter. The place is fenced. If anything show’s up the fencing in back of the property will slow them down. Only vehicle access is the drive we came in on.”

Harry nodded then ordered. “Get your sorry ass upstairs and cleaned up. I hadn’t noticed how bad you smell until now.”

Liz smiled as she stuck a fork into the boiling chicken. “Don’t be long. Dinner will be ready as soon as I put the salad together.”

She opened the bag of homemade noodles and dumped them into the pot with the chicken and turned up the heat.

John grinned as he walked away. “Ten minutes top.”

She put two scoops of flour in a bowl, added a couple tablespoons of shortening, salt and added water with powdered milk. Liz spooned dumplings into the boiling chicken and noodles and replaced the lid.

Harry with a little help from Liz put the salad together. He set it on the table just as John appeared in an identical pair of overalls. Unlike Harry who barely fit into the faded denim, John buttoned both straps and even wore a borrowed white t-shirt under it.

Liz scooped up the dirty clothes, walked them to the porch and started the washer.

Liz sat the pot of chicken and noodles on the table beside a big bowl of mashed potatoes.

“I think I died and gone to heaven,” John commented as he scooped a pile of potatoes on his plate. He ladled noodles and dumpling on top and let a skinless chicken thigh slide to the plate.

“Looks mighty good, Lizzy,” Harry commented.

Liz sat picking at a slice of bread until she finally pushed the plate away.

“Harry watched her as he brought spoonful after spoonful of food to his mouth. “Lizzy?”

Liz looked up. “Sorry. I guess I tasted too much.”

She rose and walked to the window and looked out. The room had grown dark with only a single candle on the table. She pulled the blind in the window down making sure it touched the windowsill.

“I’ll check out front and make sure the door is closed.” She disappeared into the gloom of the front of the house. As she walked from window to window, she marveled at the darkness outside. With the stand of trees around the remote farmhouse, they wouldn’t see anyone until they were nearly at the door.  She stared out into the gloom.

“What’s the matter, Lizzy?” Harry asked from the dark doorway behind her.

“Nothing. I need to find my family.” She answered in a whisper.

“That’s not it.” Harry answered.

“You know as well as I do what the world is like out there. How could three men take care of them? Babies cry. If Claire cried, it could be death for all of them. A ten-year old can’t keep up with grown men if they have to run. How can we find them?”

“Lizzy, it’s turned into a really a dangerous world.” Harry shrugged. “But that’s not the problem, is it? We need to get you to your old man’s place. You can’t keep riding around on that damned bike. Not now.”

Liz placed her hands on her lower abdomen. “I have my girls to find before I can worry about this child.”

Harry blew out a breath. “No. We’re done. You’re girls are in God’s hands. We’ve been chasing around the country roads looking for military vehicles that we can’t even be sure passed this way.”

“But….” Liz protested.

“We can’t keep taking chances now. If you don’t survive, neither will this child. The girls will have no one to come home to.”  Harry turned to walk away then turned back and added. “What would your husband want you to do?”

Harry looked toward John. “Okay, this is what we do. We stop on the edge of the parking lot…rev engines and it should bring ‘em out or around the building. Then we’ll know if this is more than we can handle. If it doesn’t look too bad, we pick them off one at a time.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Both men slipped their bikes in gear and made their way down to the remote café. They watched the infected cock their heads then turn toward the sounds of the bikes. They rode toward the infected focusing on the pair of machines approaching the parking lot.

As soon as Harry stopped Liz raised her gun and fired. The bullet peeled back the side of the face of a man stumbling toward them. He fell to his knees then got to his feet and continued toward them.

Harry pulled his helmet off and put his hand on Liz’s leg. “Easy, Lizzy. Take your time.”

She took a deep breath then let it out slowly while she pulled the trigger again. The infected man’s head exploding with a spray of red gore that fanned out to shower across two infected following a few feet behind.

Swallowing back the bile, Liz sited on another monster and fired. The woman fell, just as a shot from Harry’s gun took out another man. John took three quick shots and two more bloody corpses fell to the asphalt. A small female with half her face ripped away and two small children with horrific wounds to their arms and legs joined the pack.

Liz stared at the dead children stumbling toward her. Her muscles refused to respond despite the terror that screamed at her to fire. The children had been near her daughter’s age when they died so horribly. She stared as tears filled her eyes. Racking sobs stole her breath. Her hand with the gun still clutched in it hung limply at her side.

John took a shot at another infected adult with gaping abdominal injury. His insides spilled out tripping him from time to time. A bullet hit him in the middle of the face. It tore out the back of his head it sending bone and gore fanning out in a fine mist to paint the vehicle behind him.

Harry fired his handgun and took out a waitress. She slipped to the ground as if a marionette with the strings cut. The children stumbled past the body and headed for Liz and Harry.

Harry yelled. “Fire that damned gun, Lizzy!” He fired at yet another late comer that appeared from the back of an F-150. “Damn-it Lizzy, fire that gun or we’re going to be dead.”

Liz aimed at the young boy and a crimson bloom appeared in the middle of his forehead a split second before he fell. Hesitating only a second, she moved the muzzle to the left and fired again. The young girl collapsed in a heap of legs and arms. Her blonde hair falling over her face hiding the damage done by the bullet.

Silence filled the parking lot. Harry and John surveyed the damage done in less than three minutes.  The bodies of ten adults and two children lay in the parking lot.

Liz stepped from the bike and walked to the bodies of the children. “I can’t do this anymore.” She whispered as she squatted next to the small bodies.

“We don’t have a choice,” Harry whispered. “If we’re going to find your girls, we have to keep on doing what we just done.”

Liz gently wiped the blonde hair from the face of the girl. “She was someone’s daughter. She should be smiling and laughing, not lying in the dirt.”

John rolled his bike to the pump at the end of the island, removed the gas cap, and poked the nozzle in the gas tank. He jammed a credit card in the machine and after completing the required information, he selected unleaded and pressed the handle to start pumping gas.

Harry pulled Liz to her feet. “You’re right, but that isn’t the way the world is now.”

She followed him as he rolled the bike to the second pump and repeated John’s actions. She stood staring blankly as he filled his gas tank.

“Lizzy, the world we live in now sucks…no doubt about it, but that don’t mean we quit. You got your girls to find and protect.” Harry took a deep breath. “John and I are old men. One of these days, we might not be there to protect you. You don’t have the luxury of checking out, again.” He pulled her face up to look at him. “Do you understand me?”

Liz squared her shoulders and took a deep breath. “I got it.” She pulled away. “I’m going to the bathroom.”

Liz walked away feeling both John and Harry’s eyes following her. Harry was right. She had checked out. She walked toward the sign with an arrow pointing toward the restrooms. She stepped to the door and knocked on the barrier.

She listened for a full minute then repeated the knocking only louder. When she heard nothing, she raised her gun and eased the door open to find an open room barely five foot square with a toilet and sink. She did her business and flushed. She stood staring at the paper swirling around the bowl. She hadn’t realized how much she missed using a simple convenience like a toilet.

At the sink, she turned the handle and water spilled from the faucet. She pulled her t-shirt over her head and used paper towels to wash as much exposed skin as possible. She dunked her head under the running water and then squirted hand-soap into her palm. She soaped her hair and then rinsed the suds from her short hair. Her hair would be dry as straw, but it would be clean she decided.

She finger combed her shorn hair and then looked into the mirror. Her face bore fine lines that had not been there a few weeks ago. She looked terrible she decided as she pulled the t-shirt back over her head. Would her husband even recognize her? She refused to think about Brian or his fate. If she thought about Brian, she would give up. She had to concentrate on the girls. They needed her and she needed to find them. With that, she clinched her jaw and jerked the door open with the handgun held up and pointed to the outside.

Harry pushed the barrel of the gun aside. “Damn, Lizzy, you scared the shit out of me. I was about to come in after you, you been in there a long time.”

“Sorry,” Liz answered.

“You look better. Do you feel better?” Harry asked.

“I won’t freeze again,” Liz answered.

The three bike riders looked at the road sign verifying they were fifty miles to Kerrville Texas.

John nodded at the sign and spoke into the helmet mike. “It’s going to be bad going into Kerrville. We need to find a way around it.”

“I think we should just head west on some of the farm-to-market roads,” Harry answered.

Liz interrupted. “We can’t do that.” Harry raised a brow and Liz continued. “We don’t know the roads and if we go that way, there’s a good chance we won’t be able to find more fuel. I’ve flown over it and you can drive hundreds of miles and see no sign of people.” Liz sighed. “When I say nothing, I mean nothing. It’s dry, desolate terrain, with scrub brush and dead end roads. If we break down out there, we die. Between dehydration and the heat, we wouldn’t have a chance of walking out.”

John joined the conversation. “The maps we have won’t include the private roads and trails we could end up on by just heading west. As much as I hate to say it, we could end up running out of gas in a box canyon and be buzzard bait.”

“The alternative is not much better. We’ll be going through the small burgs and suburbs around Kerrville. There’s a good chance it will be crawling with the dead.” Harry advised. “But I don’t see any way around it.”

“Alright, then we take sixteen to the Bandera Highway then skirt around Kerrville on the south side of the Guadalupe River on highway ninety-eight,” John answered.

The riders had been on the narrow country road for four hours before they stopped on a rise overlooking a small rural community. They stepped off the bikes to walk to a trio of roadside tables under a massive live oak tree. The small park overlooked a narrow creek behind developed neighborhood. The water spilling over the rocks in the creek bed was clear and fast moving.

The tranquil scene was a brief respite from the horrors of the open road while they looked across the water toward back yards with swing sets and sandboxes until the infected appeared. One by one men, women, and children, all horribly maimed and injured focused on the trio and stumbled toward the small park.

“I guess we wore out our welcome.” John sighed as they got back on the bikes.

Harry moaned. “My ass is too old to be riding this hard.” His machine roared to life and he motioned for Liz to climb back on the bike.

Liz climbed up behind Harry. “I don’t know how much longer I can sit on this bike. I’m so tired.”

They tried to stay relatively close to the Interstate, but they were continuously being forced to detour down narrow blacktop roads to avoid large groups of the infected. It was nearly one in the afternoon when they stopped to rest and hydrate under an overpass.

The silence of a world without speeding cars and SUVs or the roar of massive eighteen wheelers climbing the hills of the Hill Country was eerie.  Even the buzz of a mosquito seemed lurid so when they heard the rumbling of engines, it seemed an assault on the hearing.

The trio stood still listening for a moment until John pointed toward a dilapidated shed in the distance. “Let’s get off the road.”

They mounted the bikes and John led the way as they turned off the road and followed a narrow trail to the building. They pushed the bikes through the tall grass to the gloom of the shed.

“You think it’s Ryder?” Liz asked.

Harry answered with a shrug. “It’s hard to know for sure, so for now we avoid contact. Maybe there are friendly survivors, but after Ryder’s gang we’re playing it safe.

While they waited in the shadows of the crumbling shed, John opened a cloth bag and pulled dried beef strips from inside. Liz bit off a piece with a great deal of trepidation. She was never a fan of jerky and the thought of chewing on beef until it was moist enough to swallow was not something she looked forward to eating.

Hazel and Benny had given them dried beef, dry deer sausage, dried apples, bottles of water and a bag of hard flat bread that looked a little like fat tortillas.

John opened a second bag and pulled flat bread from inside. He looked at it somewhat dubiously as he passed one to both Harry and Liz. He settled on a bale of hay with his own.

John spoke around a huge bite of the dried beef. “We ain’t making much headway.”

Harry bit off the end of the bread. “No, but nothing we can do about it.”

“Why haven’t we seen survivors?” Liz asked.

“Cause most of the dumb shits did the same thing they did when that hurricane was predicted to hit the Gulf Coast. In Houston, everyone lined up on the freeways and Interstates…” Harry took a deep breath then continued. “They probably did the same and were overrun by the infected. Now they’re all part of the problem. They wonder off the highway and overrun community after community. Now the countryside is full of dead fucks. All because stupid people headed out of town and when they ran outa gas just sat there waiting for someone to help them.”

John added. “Most of them couldn’t even read a road map much less plan a trip without GPS.” John continued. “All we can do is head northwest and eventually we’ll end up where we want to be.”

Liz complained. “We’re a long ways from Pine Creek.”

Harry shrugged. “We’re thirty miles closer than we were yesterday.”

When the angry growl of the engines disappeared, they left their sanctuary and continued their journey. An hour later, they looked out in the distance at lettering on a roof. It advertised the Hill Top Café. They stopped to watch the parking lot and saw half a dozen infected men and women stumbled around a dozen vehicles in the parking lot and in front of the building.

“I’m getting low on gas,” John announced.

“Same here.” Harry responded.

“The lights are on. Does that mean the pumps are still working?” Liz asked.

“Should be,” John answered. “But the walking corpses are going to be a problem. I doubt they’ll stand back and let us do what we need to do.”

“We have to take ‘em out,” Harry answered.

“Look how many vehicles,” John commented. “Could be more behind the building.”

“Look, we don’t have a choice. We’re almost out of gas. It’s either doing it, or we walk.”

Liz studied the scene below. “We could take one of the vehicles.”

“No way!” John answered. “I’m not leaving my bike.”

Liz chuckled. “Just a thought.” She pulled the handgun from the back of her jeans. “Well, we’re not getting any younger.”

Thank you for reading the first three chapters of “TERROR IN TEXAS”, Book 1 in the “Torn Apart Series”.
I hope you have enjoyed it.  The book is available in ebook and paperback.
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Leave a review if you’ve enjoyed my efforts.

C. A. Hoaks

Liz dressed quickly, descended the stairs carrying her shoes and the drawn handgun. She saw Harry and John standing at the window looking through the narrow openings between the wood slats on the outside of the glass. She made her way to the parlor and to a worn armchair. There, she sat down and stepped into her shoes.

“What’s going on?” Liz asked as she tied her laces.

Another two shots echoed in the distance. They seemed farther away than the first. John continued to watch the front gate while Harry turned to look in her direction.

“You look better than you did yesterday?” Harry commented then asked. “Are you feeling better?

“Yeah. I felt as bad as I looked.” Liz smoothed her fingers across her shortened hair at the side of her face. “Do you know who’s shooting?”

“Shots came from the other side of that stand of trees across the road.”

“Do we need to go see what it is?” Liz answered.

Harry shrugged. “I don’t know.” He turned back for another look. “I don’t see anything.”

Hazel and Benny came into the room with cups of coffee for each of them. Hazel handed Liz a cup. “You don’t need to worry ‘bout that shootin’. That’s just ol’ Clyde down the road.”

Benny spoke up. “He’s giving peace to those soulless folks coming from the highway down south. That’s why we don’t get many coming up this way. They have to go past Clyde’s and he sits at the window shootin’ anything that walks past his place.” Benny chuckled. “Long as you drive you’re fine. I wouldn’t want to be on foot and walking to slow, though.”

Hazel slapped Benny’s arm. “Now, don’t be scarin’ folks. You know Clyde don’t shoot no one running.”

John chuckled. “In other words, run don’t walk.” He and Harry accepted cups of coffee and settled on two straight-backed chairs.

Benny swigged a mouthful of coffee then settled into his recliner. “You got time for breakfast?”

John answered. “Sure. We don’t have many supplies. Breakfast would be appreciated.”

An hour later, Hazel and Benny stood on the porch waving as the trio pulled away and headed down the driveway.

Liz asked. “Why did you accept all that food? They’ll need it soon enough.”

Harry answered. “No. I doubt it. Benny’s pacemaker battery was scheduled to be changed last week and Hazel is almost out of insulin. It’ll be a toss-up who checks out first.”

“Maybe….” Liz began,

Harry interrupted. “Maybe what? We can’t do anything for either of them. Even if we found insulin, electricity has been off for days. It would be bad. As for Benny, nothing can be done.”

“Liz, we’ll help people that we can, but in this case, we can’t. We leave them in peace. All we can do is hope they’ll die quietly without any help from the rest of the world.” John commented.

Liz sighed as she blinked away tears. They closed the gate and headed down the road toward Clyde’s place.

They rode a mile then saw a well-kept ranch with the house situated a hundred feet from the road. The property was surrounded by a white board fence. A wrought iron gate stood open allowing an old man to drag a body from under a natural rock arched entrance. The man looked up and waved.

“Hello, young fellas.” Clyde dropped the legs in his hands. “My name’s Clyde. Nice day for a ride.”

Harry pulled off his helmet. His gray hair was pulled back from his face with a red bandana around his forehead. He smiled around his grizzled beard. “Not as young as my boyish good looks imply.” He chuckled.

“Well, guess you’re not.” The old man commented. “Excuse me for not shaking hands but got my hands full. World has gone to shit with these dead fucks wandering around.”

John stepped off his bike and kicked the stand in place. He reached down with a gloved hand to grab a handful of pant leg. “I got this ol’ timer.”

He pulled the body off the road and across the asphalt to lie next to two more bodies in the middle of a charred circle. One body was dressed in khakis and a Best Buy shirt and the other in a tattered housedress. All three had grievous wounds beside the holes in their heads.

“Thanks, young fella. Where you boys headed?” Clyde asked.

Liz pulled off her helmet and answered. “We’re looking for my children. They’re with three soldiers in an Army Humvee. Have you seen a military vehicle?”

Clyde looked at Liz. “Guess you ain’t a boy.” He chuckled. “As for your question, only soldiers I seen, blew through here in half a dozen vehicles. Was about three days ago. Had Humvees but they didn’t stop so I couldn’t say nothing ‘bout no kids. Course, I didn’t flag ‘em down, but from what I saw they didn’t look to be the babysittin’ type.”

Harry turned to Liz. “I doubt they would be racing around like that with the kids. I’m sure there’re more military vehicles in this neck of the woods than the Rangers. We’re less than a hundred miles from Sa Antonio.”

Clyde interrupted. “Maybe the military is setting up refugee camps for the people they evacuated from the city.”

“Would they go there? I mean to someplace like that.” Liz asked to no one in particular in a near panic. Her stomach felt queasy at just the thought of her children Wandering around an overcrowded camp without someone to care for them.

Harry answered. “Who knows? But it wouldn’t be my first choice.”

“With communications down now, how would anyone even know where to go?” John answered. “I think our best chance is still our original plan.”

“Those boys are Rangers. They would take it personal and make it their mission to get those kids to family not drop them off in an overcrowded camp. Your older girl knew where you were headed and why, right?” Harry responded.

“Yes,” Liz answered. “She loved visiting my father.”

“They would know as well as we do those camps are a bad idea for a lot of reasons. I still think they’ll head to the Guadalupe Mountains. It makes sense. There’s a place to set up defenses and with the wildlife it includes a way to stay alive.”

Liz nodded. “You may be right, but we still have to keep looking.”

“Well, ol’timer. I guess that means we’re on our way. You take care.” Harry advised.

Clyde laughed. “Hell, you folks are the ones that need to take care. This shit beats all.”

John laughed without much humor. “You’re right about that.” He stepped onto his bike. “You take care.”

Clyde pulled a single shot twenty-two from his belt. “Savin’ one to make sure I don’t end up like these poor bastards.”

Liz frowned. “I hope it never comes to that.”

Clyde shrugged. “I landed on Normandy and survived when a lot better men than me didn’t make it. I spent two years in Korea and a year in Viet Nam with the French. Hell, I’ve been skating on thin ice since I was seventeen. Most likely, I’ll be here when all those poor bastards have rotted to dust.”

Harry laughed. “I wouldn’t be surprised.” He stepped over the seat of the bike and nodded at Liz.

“Goodbye, Clyde. God speed.” Liz called out as she crawled on the seat behind Harry.

“You too, young lady…you too.” Clyde answered.

He picked up a red gas can and walked across the road to the bodies in the blackened circle. He began splashing liquid on the bodies of the dead as they rode away.

Harry called over his shoulder. “Let’s get back to looking for those girls.”

Harry eased his bike around another traffic pile up using the torn and trampled medium between strips of asphalt.

The sound of the bikes brought more and more of the infected out of the shadows. By the time the monsters reached the street they rode on leaving them behind.  Harry and John moved far enough away for any new arriving infected to join the herd following the rumbling motors of the motorcycles.

Harry raised his hand to point toward a side street at the next intersection. They eased down an incline and across a paved parking lot. He pulled ahead and guided his bike down the street to another intersection. They turned at the back of a big brick building and suddenly they were leaving the small town and its cluttered streets behind.

Liz looked ahead at the endless line of vehicles stopped on the highway. She could imagine the terrified people trying to escape the infected when they ended up in a traffic jams that went on for miles and miles. She could see a distant rise void of vehicles on the roadway. A disabled vehicle or an accident had caused the massive backup. Everyone behind the blockage had been trapped.

She imagined after hours of sitting waiting for someone to clear the blockage they began running out of gas, the infected arrived and people left their vehicles in a headlong rush to escape. They would take what they could carry and it wouldn’t take long for the infected to catch up. Those attacked soon became part of the wave of monsters on the roadways that followed them.

Evidence showed those too terrified to leave their vehicles fared no better. They ended up trapped. The infected swarmed around vehicles and shattered glass and attacked those hiding inside. In the end, they were devoured or turned. It was an ugly death.

Liz turned away from the long line of cars with a troubled sigh. The blacktop heading away from the interstate was rough and in poor condition. Both men had to go slow enough to avoid rough careless patches on the asphalt.

“We’re getting nowhere fast and it’s almost dark,” John commented through the helmet mic. “Besides, that herd of fuck-heads following us is just getting bigger.”

“We need a distraction,” Harry added. “Something for them to focus on that’s not us.”

When the pavement evened out they stopped at a two-car accident. The front fenders were locked together in a twisted joining of metal. The road ahead looked clear for several miles.

“I got an idea,” John announced. “Harry, can you get a radio or horn going.”

John took a t-shirt from his pack and dipped the end in his gas tank. Harry watched as John stuffed the rag in a gas tank, when he gave a nod, Harry turned the key in the ignition of one of the cars and pushed a couple buttons and a heavy metal band blasted from the custom speakers. He stepped back on the bike and kicked the machine into gear. He raced ahead while John held a lighter to the rag. A heartbeat later, John caught up with Harry and they gunned the engines laughing like a pair of bad kids.

Liz clung to Harry waiting for the explosion. After a full minute, it came. She looked over her shoulder and saw a mushroom of crimson blossom up from the vehicles. Dozens of infected came investigate the noise were hurled into the air from the explosion.

After the first mile, Liz could no longer hear the roar of the fire but she could still see the billowing black smoke. She had no illusions the infected were no longer out there, but there was a morsel of peace in not being able to see them following. The countryside opened up and knee-high cornfields on either side of the road waved in the breeze.

As dusk settled, a gray behemoth of a farmhouse came into view. It was set back from the road on a slight hill. The fenced property was a graveyard of abandoned farm equipment. Outbuildings included a metal shed and tumbled down barn. Harry guided his bike toward the narrow lane.

“Do you think there’s anyone here?” John asked.

“No lights through the windows,” Harry answered. “But the gate is closed.”

After a moment of hesitation, Harry opened the gate and rode through with John following. He refastened the chains used to secure the gate and headed toward the house.

As they got closer, Liz leaned forward. “Windows are boarded up. Are you sure we want to do this?”

They stopped in front of the porch and turned off the bikes. Harry called out. “Hello, inside the house.”

A gravelly voice answered. “What you want?”

“Sorry to trouble you folks but we need a safe place to stop for the night,” Harry answered. “We mean you no harm. If we can just pull into the barn and close the door, that’s all we need. Just a place to be safe for a few hours to sleep.”

Liz called out. “I promise we’re not here to hurt anyone or steal anything.”

A flashlight beam appeared and pointed at each of them in turn.

Finally, a female voice nearly as raspy as the man’s responded. “You don’t need to stay in the barn. Park those motorbikes at the side of the house under the shed. Then you come in and have a cup of coffee.”

“Hazel, you don’t know, they might be infected.” The old man protested.

“Oh, poop.” A frail hand brushed at the old man then turned to the three and asked. “You folks ain’t sick, are you?”

“No mam.” Harry answered.

John turned to Harry and pulled off his helmet. “You think it’s safe?”

Harry shrugged. “From the sounds of them, they can’t be much of a threat.”

They did as told then made their way back to the front porch just as the front door creaked opened. The trio stood in the afternoon gloom and waited to see who would come out.

A diminutive woman well in her eighties with a pleasant face pushed the stooped grandfatherly man aside opening the door out and grabbed at Liz’s hand.

Ignoring Liz’s startled gasp, she announced. “You folks come on in.” She eased the old man aside. “It’s the Christian thing to do to give you a safe place to lay your head for the night.”

John stepped through the door grinning. “It sure is nice to see a friendly face. Last encounter we had nearly got us killed.”

“Both you boys come on in, too. You’re safe here.” She pulled Harry and John into the front room. “Benny, be a dear and lock up the house while I make a fresh pot of coffee.”

She led the trio into a dimly lit kitchen. A single kerosene lamp rested on the kitchen table at the back of the house. She turned up the wick and the room brightened. “Did you folks close the gate? It keeps most of those sick people out of here.” She moved her face from left to right. “Poor folks. Don’t know they’re walking around without a soul.”

Liz looked around and realized no one would be jumping out from the shadows. She took a deep breath asked. “It’s just you two?”

“Yes dear.” Hazel busied herself making coffee in an old fashion percolator. She turned on the gas stove and the flame danced under the metal coffee pot.

“Thank you for taking us in,” Liz said. “It’s a scary world out there.”

“I’ll bet it is, dear. My name is Hazel and that is my husband, Benny Hilton. We’ve lived here for near sixty five years.” Hazel explained as she readied four cups for coffee.

Benny nodded then left the kitchen to settle in a rocking chair in the next room. He picked up a Bible from the nearby table. He turned up a small lamp and opened to a marked page.

Hazel set cups on the table and settled on a chair to wait for the coffee. “Just ignore Benny. He decided when this happened he needed to get right with God. Not that he’s ever been on the wrong side of God. We’re just both closer to meeting our maker than we were a few weeks ago.” She shrugged then smiled at Harry. “Now what about you folks? Where have you come from?”

“San Antonio. Close to the military base.” Harry answered. “We met Lizzy when it first happened and have been trying to find her two girls ever since. We’ve been following three soldiers who found her kids and rescued them.”

Liz asked. “You haven’t seen three soldiers with a ten-year-old and a baby, have you?”

Hazel shook her head and answered. “No, dear, I sorry. But I’m sure those children are in the safest of hands they can be in with those soldiers.”

Harry nodded. “We think so too, but we still need to find them.”

John interrupted when he saw tears welling up in Liz’s eyes. “How have you folks been managing? It’s pretty ugly out there.”

“The property is fenced and we lock up the animals at night. During the day, they stay behind the buildings in a small pen. Only a few of the sick have wandered down the road. If they linger, Benny goes out and gives them peace.”

“You know you have to be careful. A scratch or bite will transmit the illness.” Harry advised.

Hazel nodded at Harry. “Oh, we know. We had television the first few days. The news services had helicopters filming the roadways and the infected. It was terrible. We had some plywood out in the shed. We used it to board up the windows and reinforce the doors. Being out here so far from town, we always kept a lot of canned goods and supplies on hand. Add that to my canning and well, I think we’re fine for now.”

“What about water?” Harry asked.

Hazel shrugged. “We got a windmill. Benny did a bit of hillbilly plumbing and now it pumps into the cistern.” She gave them a gap-toothed grin. “I turn on the faucet and I got water and we can flush the toilet.” A chuckled erupted.

Liz looked excited. “Hot water?”

“Easy enough. You poor dear. I’ll bet you could use a nice bath.” She stood up and started filling pots with water. She placed one on each of the four gas burners of the stove. She turned back to the trio. “Are you hungry?” Before they could answer, she continued. “Of course you are. I’ll get you something to eat while the water is heating.”

Hazel pulled a loaf of home-made bread from a plastic bag and began slicing it. She peeked around the corner into the next room. “Benny, be a dear and go downstairs and get a quart jar of peaches, please.”

Benny crossed the room to a door. He picked up a flashlight then disappeared through a door at the side of the kitchen. The narrow beam disappeared into the black hole. A couple minutes later, he reappeared clutching a jar against his chest. “Anything else?”

“Bring some smoked ham from the pantry and slice some for our guests, please.”

Again, Benny disappeared only to return with a cloth-covered bundle with a string tied on the end. He went to the counter and pulled the cloth from the bundle to expose a ham. He drew a knife from a drawer and began slicing meat. When he was finished, he made a long suffering sigh then disappeared back into the sitting room.

Hazel chuckled. “Poor man. So put upon.”

She set a small bowl of coarse yellow paste on the table. “That’s homemade mustard, but if you’d rather I can whip up some fresh mayonnaise.” She sat a plate of bread, smoked ham, and sliced cheese on the table.

“That won’t be necessary,” Liz answered. “This is a feast. We lost our supplies so anything you set in front of us is great. We’re not picky.”

Both John and Harry grinned in agreement as they began building sandwiches.

Finally, Harry stilled his hands from his sandwich making and looked up. “Hazel, do you know there are some real bad people out there?”

“Of course I do, young man.” Hazel retorted. “I’m eighty-seven years old. Benny and I have seen a lot over the years. We’ve done what we can to protect ourselves but at our age, we’re not changing who we are. Helping good folks is the right thing to do.”

She passed out bowls of peaches and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers to eat with their sandwiches.

Liz laid a slice of bread on the plate, slathered it with mustard then added slices of ham and cheese. She spread condiment on a second slice of bread then closed the sandwich. She groaned with pleasure at the first bite. Once she swallowed, she mumbled a compliment around another bite.

Harry and John wolfed their first sandwich without a word then began building a second. At Hazel’s smile, Harry finally spoke. “Been twenty-four hours since we ate last and it was a three-day-old sweet roll.”

He slurped at the coffee until Hazel poured three glasses of water and placed one in front of each of them.

Liz savored the last crust of bread then smiled at Hazel. “I wish I could make bread like that. That was just about the best sandwich I’ve ever tasted.” She spooned a mouthful of peaches between her lips and sighed at the sweetness.

Steam wafted from the pots on the stove and Hazel called out again. “Benny, dear. Would you carry the hot water to the bathroom, please?”

Liz grinned. She imagined when Hazel requested something of Benny there was no room for argument.

Benny arrived to make four trips back and forth carrying water. By the time he was done, Hazel grabbed Liz’s hand to lead her down the hall.

“Come dear. Now, that’s all hot water in that tub, so turn on the faucet and cool it down a little. Towels are in the cabinet at the end of the tub. I’ll lay a nightgown outside the door for you and you can wash your unmentionables and hang them up. They should be dry by morning. I’ll put more water on for your companions.”

“You can use the bedroom at the top of the stairs, so I put a candle on the table in the bathroom you.” She smiled then added. “Oh, there’s some proper hair scissors in the medicine cabinet.”

Liz had forgotten about her hair. She blinked away the tears that threatened to spill again. “Thank you.” She whispered as she disappeared into the bathroom.

The scent of lavender wafted up from the steam when Liz stepped inside the bathroom. She reached down and turned on the old style water spigot. In another time, she would have been enchanted by the claw foot tub and handwoven rag rug. She pulled off the leather jacket, shoes, her t-shirt, and jeans. When she was out of her underwear, she used a plastic container to add water from the tub to the plugged sink. She dipped her underwear in and scrubbed them against a bar of soap then dropped them in the water to soak.

She turned off the cold water and stepped into the tub full of hot water. She eased her aching body down into the liquid and let thoughts of the girls wash over her. Sobs of despair racked her body. She imagined her girls in a place without hot water and clean clothes. She prayed the men were protecting them and keeping her girls safe. She slipped under the water; holding her breath while she lay in the tub listening to the silence.

When her chest was near exploding she sat up and took a deep breath. With water dripping down her face, she spilled a small amount of shampoo into the palm of her hand. She lathered her hair and hurriedly completed her bath then stepped from the bath. She was clean for the first time in nearly a week.

Liz looked into the mirror. Her hair was a chaotic mess.  She had a hurried job cutting it and it showed.  She grabbed the scissors and began trimming. When she was done, she had a shaggy cut that resembled the female lead in a popular television show. Her version was far from professional but a lot better than before. She left the front a little longer just in case she needed to impersonate a boy again, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch. When she was done she ran her fingers through the blonde strands and turned from the mirror.

She peeked out the door and found the neatly folded floral print nightgown with smocking at the oval neckline. She picked it up and stepped back inside.  After slipping into the gown, she folded the towel over the rack and gathered her panties and damp t-shirt. She opened the door and faced a smiling Hazel.

“Benny and I will be going up to bed, now. There’s water on the stove for the men. You can use the bedroom at the top of the stairs. I offered Harry and John beds, but they are determined to sleep downstairs in the sitting room. I got them a couple quilts and pillows.” She shrugged.

“I can understand it. We barely got away from some really bad people.” Liz answered. “I think they’re still a little wary.”

Liz retrieved the rest of her clothes and gun from the bathroom and went up the stairs. Once inside the bedroom she draped her damp clothes on the foot of the bed and closed the door. She told herself she was being paranoid, but still propped a straight backed chair under the door knob.

In the darkened room, she walked to the window and looked out over the pitch-black landscape. She was exhausted, her body was sore from riding the bike and sitting in the booth the night before. Sleep seemed so far away despite her aching muscles.

She stood at the window until she could pick out the international space station in the darkened skies. She wondered if the current crew would ever come home. Would the Russians bring them home without the United States paying for it? Would the men in the station even want to return home? And if they were brought back would they be forced to stay in Russia or Europe. How long would it be before those countries were infected? How could even a terrorist not see it would not be contained? The whole world would be lost.

With a deep sigh, Liz made her way to the bed and pulled back the hand-made quilt. She slid between the sheets. The mattress was old and lumpy but for Liz it was heaven. Her muscles relaxed and her eyes grew heavy.

Morning came with the sound of a rooster crowing then the echo of a distant gunshot.

Liz tapped Harry on the shoulder. She spoke into the mic of the helmet. “There. A pawn shop, maybe they’ll have guns.”

They rolled past shattered bodies and remnants of a typical small town in Texas. A flower shop, a bakery and the remains of a boutique baby store. At the end of the block was a sign in fading colors advertising cash for jewelry, guns, and electronics.

There were several bodies in the street around the shop, but none of them were moving. Some wore biker colors while others looked like some of the townspeople. The front window was shattered and remains of a mutilated body spilled over the glass shards. Harry and John eased to a stop. Liz jumped from the bike and hooked the helmet over a handle at the side of the seat.

“Let me do this,” Liz asked. “It’s time I carried my own weight.”

She picked up a tire iron lying at the feet of the body in the window. She ignored the glob of gray matter and hair on the rounded end. Ready to strike, she looked at the door and sighed. The chances of finding weapons were decreasing by the minute.

“Door’s open.” She called over her shoulder as Harry walked up behind her.

Liz pushed the remains of the door out of the way and peered into the store. Finally, she called out. “Hello? Anyone there?”

“Get the fuck out of here! Let me die in peace.” A gravelly male voice called out.

Liz looked at Harry then stepped into the gloom and responded. “We can help you.”

The voice forced a harsh chuckled and whispered. “I’m gut shot. Can’t help this, little girl.” He moaned softly.

“Harry, John. I need help!” Liz called out as she pulled a rag from a shelf and pressed it to the hemorrhaging wound in the middle of an old man’s stomach.

Harry squatted down and moved the hand clutching the rag. “Sorry man.” He told the old man.

“Who did this?” John whispered.

“Fucking bikers.” The man whispered. “Yesterday morning. About two dozen or so mean looking assholes. Leader was ugly, mean bastard with big hair and a do-rag.”

“Ryder and his bunch,” John whispered. “We ran into them ourselves. They cleaned us out. Took all our food and weapons.”

“Bastards.” The old man responded. “You’re lucky to be alive.”

Harry patted the old man’s leg. “We got some payback.” He chuckled. “Led ‘em right into a herd of dead heads. Last we saw, they were getting chewed up pretty good.”

The old man sighed and pulled a key from his pocket and held it out to Liz. “Behind the register. Under the mat. The bag.”

Liz got to her feet and walked to the counter, raised the mat and inserted the key in the metal door in the floor. “Harry?”

Harry stepped to her side and picked up the handle of the heavy door. There was a gun safe embedded in the floor. Among the guns and ammunition was a white canvas bag with a red cross on the side.

Liz picked up the bag and hurried over to the old man. “What can I do?” She unzipped the top.

“There’s morphine in the bag.” He chortled. “It was for the cancer, but I need it now.”

Liz scratched through the bag and found several small bottles labeled morphine. She pulled a syringe from the collection of trauma supplies. She raised the bottle and inserted the needle.

“All of it.” The old man whispered.

She did as he asked, then turned to the man with the syringe in hand. At her look of confusion the man whispered.

“In the vein.”

Liz tied off his arm, inserted the needle then released the tourniquet. The man’s eyes fluttered then his face relaxed.

“My name’s Ed. Ed O’Hara.” His voice slurred, but he continued. “You ran into that bastard Willie Ryder?”

“He took all our supplies and was gonna to kill us.” Liz responded.

Ed nodded. “They’re bad as they come. I took out a couple, but couldn’t stop them from cleaning out my place.”

Harry patted the man on the leg. “Rest easy, we put some hurt on ‘em.”

John walked to the window and looked out. When he came back, he whispered. “Infected are headed this way.”

“Get what you can use from the safe.” Ed whispered. “You have to get moving.”

Harry grabbed Liz’s arm and pulled her to her feet. “We gotta go.”

Liz let herself be guided to the safe. Without speaking, she helped carry ammunition to the bikes. When only a few boxes were left, she walked back to Ed’s side. “Thank you. Is there any more I can do for you?”

He pushed the med-kit toward her. “Take it. I won’t need it.”

She zipped it closed and slung it over her shoulder. “I’m sorry we can’t do anything more.” She whispered.

“Go.” Ed answered. “Please.” He whispered as he looked at John.

John nodded.

Harry called out. “Now, Lizzy! We gotta go.”

Liz ran out of the store with Harry close behind. He forced a gun into her hand and pulled her onto the bike then cranked the engine. Liz turned and fired at a monster less than six feet away. His head exploded and he dropped to the ground.

“John! Now!” Harry shouted.

John fired from inside the store and a single infected fell to the ground. Two more shots and another infected fell. John ran to his bike, cranked the engine and the pair of motorcycles raced from the parking lot to the street and away.

Days End

Posted: July 1, 2015 in Book I Terror in Texas
Tags: , , , , ,

Liz woke to the muffled noise of someone passing gas. She listened to a bombardment of hurled curses and insults at the perpetrator. Slowly the growls and groans quietened and a semblance of quiet returned to their corner of the dining room. Liz finally decided she was awake and wouldn’t be going back to sleep and began moving.

She sat up rubbing at her neck. She looked across the table at John. Harry sat next to him. John slid a box of packaged breakfast rolls across the table to Liz. The lights had been turned back on in the kitchen area and the smell of coffee wafted through the air. John held a steaming cup of black liquid.

“Need a trip to the bathroom?” Harry asked.

Liz nodded. She stood and glanced around the room. Most of the bikers were still snoring. It looked as if they had just collapsed to the floor when they’d had enough to drink. Three men milled around the coffee machine, one of them was Ryder. All except Ryder looked hung over and worse for the night of drinking. From the looks of it, they had finished off the store’s beer supply.

Harry led the way to the restrooms. Once inside the family facility, Liz used a wet paper towel to scrub at her teeth. She gargled with handfuls of water, drank deeply and then used the toilet. Washing her hands one last time, she waited at the door until she heard the gentle knock. She stepped out just in time to see Ryder walk up to Harry.

“You boys sleep okay last night?” Ryder asked as he tried to blink the sleep from his eyes.

Harry answered. “As good as you’d expect.”

“We’ll be leaving in ten minutes so be ready.” He scrubbed at the stubble on his chin. “No excuses.”

Ryder walked away and Liz followed Harry back to the table. They gulped hot coffee and ate sweet rolls and beef jerky for breakfast. Liz stuffed several packages of dried jerky and crackers in her jacket’s zippered pockets when the bikers were not looking.

When Harry, John, and Liz walked out to the bikes and saw their supplies that had been on the back of their bikes were gone. Their bikes had been stripped of anything useful and their clothes left in a pile at the side of the bikes. Liz grabbed the backpacks and stuffed what was left back in the bags. She was glad she had not picked up bras at the resale shop.

John’s face flared red and he turned to confront Ryder, but Harry caught his arm. “Let it go. I expected as much.”

“Fucking assholes.” John cursed under his breath.

Ryder strode over to John and Harry just as they started to mount up. “You ride in front. Lead the way or else.” He placed his hand on the handgun on his belt. “The first one I shoot will be the kid if you try anything.”

Without responding, Harry and John got on their bikes and cranked the motors. Without looking back, Harry and John pulled out. One by one, the gang followed. Soon the group roared down the highway in a rough semblance of order.

Once underway, John’s voice came over the mike. “What if the horde is still hanging around the trailer? We’ll be riding right into a clusterfuck.”

Harry answered. “I’m hoping they are. They can give Ryder and his boys something to worry about besides us. With a little luck, we blast through and by the time Ryder and his boys roll into the mix every dead fuck within fifty feet will be on ‘em.”

“But. . . .” Liz interrupted.

Harry continued. “We got no choice, Liz. John, we kick it when we get to the overpass.”

Liz clung to Harry and watched the landscape race by. They got closer and closer to tiny town of Boseman, a typical wide spot along Texas highways.

After two hours, Ryder raced forward to call a halt.

Harry and John stopped and took off their helmets. Harry asked. “What is it?”

“How much farther?” Ryder snarled. “If you’re dicking us around, you’re all three dead.”

Harry raised his hand. “It’s not far now. Maybe ten or twelve miles. There’s a railroad overpass right before the town. The trailer was knocked off the tractor and sitting alongside the road on the backside of overpass.”

“It better be,” Ryder growled.

Harry shifted the bike into gear and he accelerated.

Ryder tossed a beer bottle at them as they pulled away. The glass shattered only a few feet from Harry and Liz as the bike roared by. The assemblage of bikers took their time. Beers were passed around as the riders moved out.

Ryder dropped back to carouse with his cronies. They had started drinking around ten that morning and even forgone lunch for more beer and a couple bottles of JD. Ryder yelled something in their direction that Liz didn’t catch but felt the hair on the back of her neck raise.

Harry cranked the bike and eased further ahead with John close on his heels. “All those loud mufflers are drawing all kinds of attention,” Harry commented.

They passed houses and monsters appeared in the yards. It was easy to see they were being drawn by the sound of the motorcycles. More and more appeared from around buildings and out of doorways. Those trapped in stalled vehicles turned toward the sound reaching out and gnashing teeth.

The gang’s interest in John and Harry faded as they consumed more and more beer. Ryder was handed another bottle after tossing an empty bottle. Bottles tossed against road signs sound like shots from handguns. Laughter boomed above the sound of the motorcycles. More bottles sailed from drunken riders.

Liz glanced over her shoulder just in time to see Ryder hurl a bottle at a monster amid a cluster of his brethren. The bottle hit the monster in the side of the head and the gang exploded in celebration. They were less a mile from the overpass, when Harry accelerated.

Liz yelled into the mic. “No one is paying attention to us. Keep going!”

The gang was drunk and Liz ducked lower against Harry as she waited for the impact of a bullet from Ryder’s gun when he noticed they were pulling ahead of the pack.

“Now!” Harry yelled at John then gunned the engine.

The bikes vaulted forward and raced toward the overpass leaving the gang behind still tossing bottles at random targets. Harry and John didn’t wait to see how soon the gang noticed. Liz watched the roadside flash by. John matched the pace without giving a hint of easing up on the throttle.

A sudden clank of metal and the report of gunfire made Liz duck. She looked back to see guns pointed at them. Another shot whizzed by and she screamed.

“They’re shooting at us!”

“Hang on!” Harry yelled back and opened the bike up with a deafening roar of the oversized motor. John matched the action. Together they pulled away quickly and began the gradual turn toward the overpass.

Liz felt the back wheel on the left rise from the ground and she clutched Harry tighter. He made a guttural sound that was a cross between a laugh and grunt of strain.

Shots echoed in the distance while the closest bikes accelerated to a crazy pace considering how drunken most of the men were. Liz watched as they barreled after them, all the while firing wild shots. More of the infected were drawn toward them as the cacophony of roaring engines and gunfire grew.

Harry dodged a Wandering infected and screamed into the mic in his helmet. “John! First cross street! Take a right!”

John’s bike raced through the underpass with Harry at his back fender. Both men braked. Liz was thrown into Harry’s back then momentum pitched her to the left. If not for Harry grabbing a handful of the leather, she would have fallen from her perch on the back of the bike. Harry pushed her back onto the seat then accelerated again. They raced away from the overpass and the trailer.

Liz looked back at the cross street and saw what could only be described as a cluster-fuck of epic proportion. The first bikes flew through the underpass into dozens of the undead that had appeared around the disabled trailer and overpass at the trio’s passing. Unable to see what lay ahead, the rear bikes slammed into the riders being attacked by the infected. More and more of the monsters stumbled toward the twenty or so bikers fighting for their lives. Motorcycles were knocked over riders were drug from the bikes as the infected overwhelmed the gang.

Harry turned around the corner of a large building and eased up on the accelerator. He and John slowed the bikes. They rode to the end of the business complex, turned a corner and then headed back to the west away from the road. They moved the bikes into the parking lot of a lumber yard and eased around the back of a storage area. Harry killed the motor and John followed suit.

The quiet around them was deafening. They could still hear shots and screams in the distance. Both men pulled off their helmets.

“That was bad,” Liz commented as she pulled the helmet from her head. She took a minute to describe what she had seen. “We’ll never get back through the underpass. Riders were pulled from their bikes and the ones behind them ran into the bikes and bodies.”

Harry shrugged. “They deserved what they got.”

“We gotta find a way to get outta this town and away from Ryder. That is if any of them survived. They were drinking pretty heavy.” John chuckled. “Fucking assholes.”

Harry pulled a map from his pocket. He opened it and studied the colored lines. “We can go north on this farm-to-market road for about forty miles then head back west. I think we need to wait until tomorrow.” He ignored Liz’s look of frustration. “I doubt we have much left in supplies and we need to locate some weapons.”

John searched the saddle bags on either side of his bike then opened the storage unit behind the seat. “Empty. I got nothing.”

Harry stepped off his bike and flipped open his bike’s saddlebags. He grunted then opened his own storage compartment. “Sons-a-bitches didn’t leave us anything. We have to find weapons and supplies before we leave this Podunk town.”

“They were going to kill us,” Liz asked in a hesitant voice.

“Probably,” Harry answered flatly. “They just wanted to make sure we were telling the truth about the trailer. It was the only reason we were still riding.”

The two men pushed the bikes into the shadow of a storage rack and listened to the sound of gunfire in the distance. Gradually the shooting became more sporadic. Then they heard a dozen single shots then silence.

“Do you think any of them survived?” Liz asked.

Harry shrugged. “It’s hard to say, but I imagine so. I think someone was putting down the injured.”

They stood in the shade and listened. The firing stopped and then the sound of motorcycles rumbled to life and faded into silence.

John stepped closer. “We need to find some weapons.”

Liz looked toward the lumberyard. “Maybe we can find something in there.”

Harry led them toward the darkened building. They found an open, door used by employees to access the storage area. As they got closer, they found a stack of construction scraps. Harry and John both picked up pieces of two by fours and Liz picked up a piece of rebar.

Liz noticed only the emergency lights were on in the building when the trio crossed the garden area and stepped into the main building. It was not a chain store so merchandise cluttered the isles. Liz considered a display that she was passing and stopped. She studied the four inch cylindrical tubes in a display then picked one up and pushed a soft rubber switch at the bottom. A light flicked on. Both men stopped and she tossed each of them flashlights and stuffed the remaining three in her back pocket.

John stepped closer to the garden tools and came back with three machetes. He tore open the plastic and pulled the first one free. He used the sharpened edge to quickly open the second two. With everyone armed with clubbing weapons and blades, they made their way deeper into the gloom.

Harry picked up a canvas utility bag and walked over to a drink machine. He pulled water bottles from the shelves.

“Do you think they have a break room?” Liz asked as she stuffed bags of peanuts from a countertop display into her pockets. “Could be food there, if they have a break room.”

Harry shrugged. “John, find some crowbars or hatchets.” He hesitated a moment then added. “Liz, we’ll look for a break room in the back.”

John headed off into the dark and Harry whispered. “Watch your ass!”

Harry and Liz headed toward a hardware display. They froze in place when they heard the first moan. It was distant and a pitiful sound. Liz imagined it a keening of loss and pain. The companion sound that followed was angry and dangerous.

“John!” Harry called out. “Out of here, now!”

Steps could be heard running toward them. John called out. “We got company and he looks pissed. Time to move. Fast.”

Harry grabbed Liz’s arm and turned her toward the garden center. He started running and nearly pushed Liz into an infected man covered in blood from the neck down. Harry elbowed Liz out of the way and swung the canvas bag of water bottles knocking the monster off his feet.

He swung the machete with one hand connecting with the side of the infected man’s head peeling an ear and a connected flap of skin from his skull. The monster righted itself and reached for Harry, still struggling to recover his own footing.

Liz grabbed the machete from the scabbard at her waist and raised the blade in a two handed swing and chopped off both of the man’s arms just below the elbows. The arms fell to the floor with a wet splat. The monster, ignoring the loss, raised his stumps and focused hungry eyes on Liz.

Before Liz could act, Harry cleaved the man’s head open. Harry caught her by her arm and held her still for a moment. “You okay?”

“Yeah. I could have finished the job.” Liz responded. “It’s just…well.” Finally, she shrugged and fell silent.

John caught up just as they jogged through the garden center. “That was ugly. I had to take out the cashier in the break room.” John caught up and continued. “Her legs below the knees were eaten clear to the bone. The rest of her was big as a brood sow carrying a litter.”

Harry glanced over his shoulder at John and commented. “Better pick up the pace, old man. Customer service is heading our way.”

Harry hopped on his bike and pulled Liz up behind him then cranked the engine. He eased forward while John got his bike started and began moving. They put helmets on and led a following of infected as they pulled away. After the first two blocks, they lost sight of their pursuers when they turned around a corner and made their way back out on a main street heading back through town.

“Keep an eye out for a place to pick up some guns,” Harry ordered.