“Migrating,” Travis had said softly when he heard the news. “They’re migrating.”
“You know how they follow the living. Maybe someone was stupid enough to drive by or try to get in,” Katie had offered up.
“The west gate was down. Twisted and bent like a great force went through it,” Kevin had answered. “My bet is that the zombies all pushed against it until it went down and then they were free.”
“Which direction are they going then?” Katie had asked.
“My guess? North. We didn’t see anything between here and the National Guard.”
“But they could come this way. Or another large group like that,” Nerit had pointed out. “If they are not staying put and migrating, as Travis put it, then we could end up seeing a mass gathering of zombies coming our way.”
It was then that they decided to do everything possible to secure the fort from a large invading body of the undead. The fort had already been constructed with the idea of a possible breach. There were strong, reinforced gates for every section. But if a large enough group of zombies came up against the fort walls… “How’s it going?” Travis’ voice asked from behind her.
Nerit turned and gave him a tight smile. “So far, no trouble.”
Travis gripped the railing and leaned against it staring out toward the bulldozers. A good three blocks were now demolished. “Damn shame.”
“The old things are useless to us now,” Nerit answered. “And we need to be able to see anything that approaches the fort.”
“I wonder if we’ll ever live in houses again,” Travis pondered. “Go to the grocery store. Drive to a movie.”
“In time, perhaps. But most likely not you or me. But your children’s children, maybe.”
Travis nodded with a grim expression etched on his face. “But we can hope. And plan. And try to make it happen.”
“Yes,” Nerit agreed. “We are pioneers in a new world. Frightening, isn’t it?
We were so used to the old. Unchallenged. So spoiled. Now we are back to hunting and gathering.”
Below them several large trucks were heading back into town. The hunters had gone out for meat. The cattle population had dropped during the winter in the neighboring ranches, but the deer population seemed to be up. A group of men were now seeing to the care of the cattle. Once the herd was healthy again, beef would be back on the table. But until then, venison was the meat of choice.
“At least we got big guns and ammo,” Travis said after a beat then winked at her.
Nerit laughed. “Yes, at least we have that.”
They both looked out over the town as another house crashed to the ground. Birds were singing in the trees. Wildflowers covered the hills. The sky was bright blue with enormous fluffy white clouds gliding overhead.
Below them, the bulldozers continued to reshape the old world into the new.
Raleigh stumbled as he fled down the access corridor. His teeth snapped hard together and he immediately tasted blood. His hands caught onto a cart shoved up against the wall and he steadied himself, then kept running. He could see Charlie up ahead with the Senator. The soldier had a tight grip on her upper arm and despite her cries that he was hurting her, Charlie kept shoving, pulling and yanking her along.
Glancing behind him, he could see the dark face of Ruben glaring at him as he snarled at him to keep moving. Beyond Ruben, in the dim, sickly light, the undead followed. They were moaning and reaching out for the living, their slow, yet determined stride frightening in its relentlessness.
Ahead, Charlie reached the outside door and hesitated.
Raleigh stumbled on, barely able to catch his breath. The ammo was low so he knew Ruben wouldn’t start firing unless he absolutely had to. The moans and stench of the dead were making his skin crawl. He turned to see Ruben shove some old chairs over, trying to block the dead.
“Just go,” Ruben barked at Charlie over his shoulder.
With the sharp nod of his head, Charlie shoved the outside door open.
Almost immediately gray hands shoved in toward them.
The Senator began screaming as Charlie opened fire, precious ammunition splattering the brains of those creatures trying to reach them. Then Charlie and the Senator were through the door and Raleigh, despite his terrible fear, followed.
Blinking in the harsh sunlight, Raleigh tried to rid his eyes of the temporary blindness that instantly fell on him. Stumbling over the dead bodies near the door, he started to follow Charlie and the Senator. They had been holed up in the theater for days. He felt dizzy and knew that all the sugar in the movie theater candy he had consumed was affecting him.
He had to keep moving. It was almost comical how he reached into his pocket, pulled out a bag of M & M’s and poured most of them into his mouth.
Ruben grabbed him from behind and shoved him down the alleyway. The moans of the undead echoed all around them.
Ahead of them, the Senator was cussing at Charlie, telling him not to be so rough. Charlie, to Raleigh’s great satisfaction, was not listening.
The four of them, the last survivors of the second truck from the mall, stumbled into the street of the small town, and stood on unsteady legs, uncertain of what to do next. Their previous truck had broken down in this small town and they had to run for it when they were besieged by a mob of the undead. The theater had been their shelter until the front doors had given away.
A few vehicles stood in the street, empty of life. Some had flat tires now.
The sun would soon bleach them of color and the elements would begin to slowly corrode them.
Nearby, a gas station stood silent. In the shade next to it was a brand new truck. The paper license plate was long faded, but it had been new when all of this had began.
The four of them hurried down the street, the soldiers holding onto the arms of the civilians. The undead were at least a block away, slowly moving toward them. They had a little time. Thankfully, the zombies were very slow now. But if the humans did not move swiftly and intelligently, that slow moving mob would find them and then… Raleigh felt sick and wanted to throw up, but he kept chewing the chocolate in his mouth. For the billionth time he cursed himself for staying with the Senator. He should have gone to the fort. He should have taken a knock to his fucking pride and joined the rednecks of the area in making a new life. Instead, he was on the run with the Senator, barely keeping alive.
“Keep moving,” Ruben ordered as zombies appeared far down the street.
Raleigh had been stupid and he knew it. He had been so flattered by the Senator’s pursuit of his skills as a campaign manager he had disregarded so much about her. Of course, her brother-in-law’s money had boosted his confidence that he could shape her into a real political threat. It hadn’t been easy. She was a bigot, an elitist and tended to not think before she spoke. She was a person of grandiose ideas with very little concept of how to execute them. People not in her own social circle tended to be disregarded. But he had worked damn hard on her. His whole team had managed to get her elected despite her stupid comment that she liked “brown people” when she was trying to impress the Hispanic vote.
What annoyed him the most was that he had known the Central idea was bullshit. He had sat in on her conversations. He had listened to everything said on the other side, but it was clear she never really understood what was truly happening. She had colored every conversation with her own point of view. She had been so intent on getting to Central, she didn’t seem to understand that Central was barely existing. That is why they had been so desperate to establish supply lines to other survivor enclaves.
Why the hell had he gone with her?
It had been his desire to somehow make it to a better place than that damn mall. He should have realized that was the fort.
Looking around, he knew how terrible a mistake he had made.
Charlie moved swiftly to the truck and checked the doors. One was unlocked and he opened it swiftly. There was no key inside. Shoving the Senator in, he said, “If we’re lucky, the guy is inside the store.”
Ruben motioned to Raleigh to get into the truck and he willingly obeyed.
Then the two soldiers disappeared around the corner.
“How did we get stuck with complete morons?” the Senator huffed. Her usual bouffant hair was flat and her face was clean of makeup. She began to search the truck, feeling under the seats, looking desperately for a key.
Raleigh joined her, uncertain of where to look, but scrounging around anyway. He could hear the moans getting louder.
Raleigh opened up the armrest and was startled to see the car keys. He pulled them out and looked at the Senator in shock.
“At least you can do something right.” She grabbed them from him and turned on the truck. With the ease of any rich soccer mom, she pulled the truck around to the front of the gas station and honked.