* * * * * Bette closed her window as she drove on, a grin on her face, her blond hair sticking up around her head at odd angles. Grabbing Linda’s hand, she kissed it and winked at her.
“Woot!” Linda shouted out the closing window on her side.
“Me, too.” Bette donned a very worn dark green cap. “I swear my insides are quivering.”
Linda pushed up the brim of her beat up cowboy hat and exhaled slowly.
Reaching out, Bette snagged her hand and squeezed. “You didn’t have to come,”she said softly.
Linda looked at Bette very intently. “Oh, yes. I did. Where you go, I go.”
Tears flashed into Bette’s eyes as she pressed a string of kisses to Linda’s knuckles. I’m lucky to be with you.”
“Let’s hope your luck keeps up,” Linda answered, her voice trembling with emotion.
Bette crossed her fingers on both hands and pushed her foot down on the accelerator. Above them, the helicopter swooped ahead, the wind from its enormous blades buffeting the SUV. Linda swallowed hard next and reached for her water bottle.
“I’ve never been so scared in my life,” Linda answered, then gulped down her water.
“We have a problem,” Greta’s voice cackled through the CB radio tucked into the dashboard.
Linda snagged the mouthpiece. “What do you mean?”
“They’re not where they are supposed to be,” Kevin answered, his voice surprisingly calm. “Slow down now.”
Bette immediately began to slow the Durango, her foot pressing down steadily on the brake. The Durango breached the top of the hill they were ascending and both women gasped.
Moving resolutely toward them was a multitude of undead. They filled the road and spilled over into the countryside. They slogged relentlessly forward with mindless determination.
The plan had been simple. Sit at the crossroads of another farm road until the undead came into view. Lure them onto the side road and keep ahead of them, drawing as many away as possible. Diverting the dead to the west seemed the best plan. They would eventually hit the desert where hopefully the elements would destroy them.
The first zombies were already to the crossroads. Maybe ten or fifteen, but they were stumbling along the center of the road.
Linda gasped, not realizing she had been holding her breath. She felt unable to breathe, blink or even move.
“Babe, take a breath,” Bette said again. “We can do this.”
Linda forced air into her lungs, then lifted the mouthpiece to her lips.
“Bette says we can do this.”
Above them, Curtis and Kevin were talking quickly between each other, looking for an alternate route, looking for another viable option, but this intersection had been a major part of their plan.
After a minute, which seemed more like an hour, Kevin’s voice said, “Okay. Go for it. Be careful.”
They quickly kissed before Bette shifted gears and floored the Durango. It sped down the hill and toward the intersection at a fast clip. The zombies slowly became aware of the vehicle and almost in unison, they raised their arms and began to moan loudly.
“We’re going to have to slow down as I take the curve,” Bette said in a quivering voice. “Don’t freak.”
“Okay,” Linda answered. She was transfixed by the sight of thousands of mangled creatures reaching toward them. Usually she was in a vehicle racing away from these things, not toward them.
The deer guard caught the first few zombies and flipped them out of the way as they neared the intersection. Bette slowed down only enough to keep control of the vehicle. The wall of gray, mottled creatures seemed to rise up before them like a nightmare. A few of the undead managed to strike out at the Durango, their rotting hands leaving smears of gunk on the windows.
More zombies moved onto the side road to cross it on their trek and the Durango plowed through them as it gained speed. Linda let out a small scream as the Durango slammed through a small knot of undead, sending the creatures flying in all directions. Bette fought the wheel, but kept on the road, her expression grim.
The Durango sped past the cluster of zombies at the crossroads and Bette fought her instincts to flee and slowed it down enough to keep the zombies interested. Twisting around in her seat, Linda looked back toward the creatures now stumbling after them.
“They’re following,” she whispered, both terrified and jubilant.
“We have runners!” Greta’s voice was so sharp and loud in their headsets that Curtis yelped.
Kevin scrambled to the window and looked down. “Shit! Where the hell did they come from?”
“Ed,” Kevin said, motioning to the grizzled old hunter seated near the door.
The old geezer double checked his harness, then slid the door open. Wind buffeted them and Kevin pressed his clipboard tightly to his chest.
Flipping off the safety on his rifle, Ed took aim as Greta swung the helicopter down low for him to get a good shot.
“What do I do?” Bette’s voice was crackling over the radio as Linda screamed, “Runners! Runners!”
Below them, the runners were now racing alongside the Durango, smashing their hands against the SUV, howling with hunger. There were at least thirty of them.
The Durango lurched forward in response to Kevin’s order, leaving the shambling dead behind, but still being pursued by the shrieking runners.
Linda was fighting her panic with all her might, but she couldn’t help the trembling of her hands. She gulped, twisting around in her chair to look out the back window. The runners were keeping pace. The road was winding and Bette couldn’t risk going too fast for fear of flipping them.
A disgusting, bloody figure kept pace beside the Durango. Its mouth was open as it screamed. The entire lower half of its face had been torn away and its gaping maw was the stuff of nightmares. Its head suddenly exploded and it fell, tumbling along the roadside, before it landed in a bush.
“They’re shooting them,” Linda said, feeling the knot in her chest lessen.
Bette didn’t answer as she concentrated on the winding road ahead and kept a diligent eye on the throng behind them. As the Durango began to take a long slowly arcing curve, Bette’s eyes widened as a large portion of the zombies merely ran into the field, ignoring the road.
“They’re going to head us off,” Bette gasped. “Greta! Greta! They’re going to head us off!”
The helicopter began to zoom as low as possible over the zombies in the field, buffeting the running creatures from above. A few fell, but the more persistent, less mutilated ones, kept their breathtaking sped toward the road. Linda wasn’t sure how many fell from the wind drafts or the sniper shots from above, but quite a few of the zombies fell into the deep grass, disappearing from view.
“Shit! Shit! Shit!” Bette’s knuckles went white as she held firmly to the steering wheel as the first of the runners reached the road ahead of her and charged them.
Linda grabbed hold of the handhold over the door and braced herself.
The Durango slammed into the zombies and there was a sickening lurch to one side as something caught in one of the wheel wells. Bette regained control and the undead were tossed away from the front of the truck like chaff in the wind. Some of them were still smart enough or something akin to that to dart out of the way then leap onto the side of the Durango, hooking their gnarled fingers around the luggage rack.
Linda screamed as one snarled at her through her window and began to beat his free hand against the window with all his might.
More zombies leaped onto the road and managed to avoid being struck outright by the Durango. They, too, leaped onto the truck, holding on, even fighting with each other as they tried to get at the two women inside.
The banging of the bloodied fists and feet against the windows and doors had both women shaken. Trying hard to compensate for the extra weight as she drove on, Bette whispered a soft prayer.
The zombie pounding on Linda’s window was getting more and more agitated, his blows seeming more fierce. Linda took a deep breath, raised her gun, flicked off the safety and placed her finger on the button to roll down the window.
“Babe,” Bette said. “What are you doing?”
She pushed the button. As the glass slid down, she shoved the gun through the gap and fired point blank into its face. The zombie dropped off the Durango and tumbled away into the ditch. But Linda had forgotten that the window would automatically scroll all the way down if she didn’t stop it. When it kept rolling down, she panicked. Grey, bloodied, shredded arms began to thrust in the window at her and she began to scream.