I bandaged up Hunter’s shoulder wound, a little bit of blood had soaked through the patch of gauze. He’d been bitten, not by one of them, but by the girl that lay in a coma-like sleep in one of the bed bunk cubbies on the Betty. I looked her way sympathetically, then back to Hunter, his cold sapphire eyes concentrating on the path of uncertainty before us.
Having just hit our first clear stretch of road, it was apparent we were several miles off course, but luckily, we were finally free from the city. Almost every freeway had been blocked by an impenetrable wall of cars, most abandoned by the occupants who had been trapped in the traffic. We watched from the tinted windows of the Betty, as those things ran wild through the city feasting on any survivors remaining. There was a small pack of them that chased us, they tried to climb up the Betty’s side. One straggler had even held on to the back for a mile or two, until Hunter just hopped out and took care of him by hand. His ferocity scared me, and I was thankful the little girl was asleep, she was afraid of him enough as it is. Tzar and I just watched in silence, as he let loose on the infected police officer, that was already missing half his cheek to begin with.
He used a huge wrench from the Betty’s toolbox, as weapon, to bash the man’s head in to the point there was nothing left but blood, broken skull, and brain fragments. When he re-entered the Betty, he didn’t even look at us sitting in the back. I went up to the front cabin and took the passenger seat, my gaze stuck on him as I waited for him to calm down, his body was slightly trembling.
“You gonna be ok?” I asked, placing my hand on his thigh, he felt so tense.
“We needed to save the bullets..” Was his only reply, but he took his hand off the steering wheel and placed it on mine.
He finally seemed to come back to me, the tension I felt had melted away, and the shivering had stopped, but his eyes stayed on the road. That was an hour ago, at the moment I was playing with the radio, only getting the emergency broadcast reel, and they weren’t telling us anything. Just stay in your homes, lock all doors, that the military had a handle on the situation.
Frustrated with the situation we were in, I just cut it off and looked out the window, the sun was rising behind us, so I knew we were heading west. Suddenly I heard sonic screeching of fighter jets in the distance, so I popped my head out the window to see, they zoomed overhead, too fast to even glance me waving my arms. Hunter grabbed me and pulled me back in, clicking my seat belt, then his own. I looked at him in confusion, and was even more surprised, when he started yelling.
“Tzar, get up!! Get into the cubby with Patience, NOW!”
“Wha..Whahappen?!” Tzar mumbled, getting up out of his sleep, sitting up lazily off the couch.
“Get in the fucking cubbie with the kid and hold tight dammit!” He screamed, losing his cool, for once Tzar knew not to argue.
Moments later an explosion shook the earth beneath the Betty, Hunter almost lost control of her, but she held steady. I looked out the back window from my seat, and I couldn’t believe my own eyes, they were bombing the city, New York City! It was when I saw the blast cloud spread, heading in all directions and coming straight for us, that I knew my eyes had never lied. I faced forward and held on tight, hoping we were far enough away from the center of Manhattan, that the blast radius was long behind us. The Betty began to rock and shake again, but Hunter was pushing the Betty to her limit, we could go no faster. I closed my eyes and waited for it to hit, yet thankfully it never came, by the grace of God we had outpaced most of the dust cloud and debris.
“Yo, WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?! ..it sounded like explosions.” Tzar exclaimed, crawling out of the cubbie space, followed by an awaken and afraid Patience.
He looked back and forth, between Hunter and I, waiting for some kind of explanation. Hunter remain silent, eyes focus on the road, he was more determined than ever to get to our destination. He hadn’t even slowed down, the Betty moving as fast as her wheels could take us. I walked over and picked up the crying child, giving Tzar a look that said this conversation would have to wait. I made my way to the back of the Betty, which was split into a small kitchen and bar on one side, a partial wrap around sofa on the other. I sat down on the sofa, hugging Patience tight in my arms, rocking her slightly with my knee.
“Let me get her back to sleep then we’ll talk..” I said to him, as I consoled the child as best I could.
He nodded at me in understanding, as he looked out the slightly cracked back window, eyes locked on the fireball that was once the great city of New York.
It didn’t take too long for the little girl to wear herself out, I’m sure we all wished we could have the breakdown she was experiencing, but we didn’t have such luxuries. I carried her toward the sleeping area, laying her down in the cubby, tucking her in tight. I looked toward the front cabin for a moment, before returning to the back of the Betty, taking a seat at the bar.
“I think.. No, I know.. The military bombed the city. That means this is bad, that’s means it’s out of control, that means..”
“It’s spreading.” He finished, finally turning to me, his bright brown eyes as serious as I’d ever seen them.
I could only nod in agreement, slightly surprised and low key proud, that he could keep up. Balthazar would never have the reputation, of brightest apple in the bunch, but he’d always been socially adept and streetwise. Able to blend with the most elite of men and the scum of the earth, all at the same party, that’s what gave him his social royalty pedigree. No one knew where he even lived, they probably thought he lived in the Hampton’s and only visited the city during the week when the peasants had to work. He had a way of doing more with less, surviving and adapting with every blink of an eye, Balthazar was resourceful.
“Has your boy toy lost it? ..we don’t have to worry about him too do we?” He said, in a snide tone.
“HE’S THE ONLY FUC..!” I had to stop myself, bring down the volume a notch, Hunter could be listening. I continued again, this time in a stern and hushed tone. “He’s the only godforsaken reason we are even ALIVE right now. How dare you even question that man’s sanity, we are all going crazy, THE DEAD are rising.. This could end humanity as we know it.”
“There’s gotta be somebody out there trying to fix this, other people in this fight to live! We have to find them, find the good factions of the govt, there has to be a safe haven out there. Some place free from this infection.” He said, looking forlorn.
“Well right now we’re headin’ towards Hunter’s Grandmother’s house to see if she’s okay, and his brother is out there too. He’s military, so he might know of a safe zone or something.” I replied hopefully, even if it was a fraudulent hope, it was the only thing I could hold on to.
I got up, patting Tzar on the shoulder, as I made my way towards the front of the bus. When I entered the cabin, I took a seat and looked at the road ahead. I watched the scenery going past, the sign of falls approach was apparent by the golden and auburn hue of the leaves. The nights would soon turn cold, especially since we were heading northwest out of the city. I looked across the dashboard and noticed the Betty tank was getting low, up ahead the turn off showed a fuel station was nearby.
“We need gas, babe” I said, looking to Hunter, wondering if he’s noticed.
“I know, I’ve been putting it off, I wanted to get as far away from the city as we could before he had to stop.” He softly replied, looking at me with these tired and sad eyes. “We don’t know how far this has spread, or if New York is even ground zero, this could have come from the rural areas first.”
“We don’t know how far it’ll be to the next station, we don’t need the Betty to go dry on us.”
“You right Babe, let’s just make this quick.” He concurred, turning his gaze to the road, as he took the next exit.
The fuel station was mobbed by frantic people, cars were lined up, and most were fighting for every last drop from the tap. Good thing the Betty was a hybrid and ran on diesel, but I bet Hunter wishes he had installed those Solar Panels we have in the storage compartment, they would have helped at a time like this.
He pulled up to the truck pumps, which weren’t as crowded, so we immediately got a pump. Hunter told me and Tzar to go inside, mentioning that maybe there was some supplies we could use, he would stay to plug up and pump the gas. I checked to make sure Patience still slept, mighty glad she was still knocked out, but honestly I was a bit worried at the same time. There wasn’t a moment to spare though, for who knew if there were any sick around us. I checked to make sure I had my gun and hopped out behind Tzar, the Betty looked like she’d seen better days, but she still held strong. Blood and other body fragments stained her front grill, a deep red also streaked across her sides.
Quickly, we joined the mob that had over taken the little convenience store, searching for anything of need, I saw a giant roll of toilet paper. So I grabbed a stray cart and beelined toward the display. After grabbing two, I told Tzar we needed to split up, we’d meet back in the center of the lobby in no more than ten minutes. He nodded and disappeared into the fray, I ran past the aisles stopping in the canned goods section. It was packed and people were snatching violently, even so, I was able to get a good amount, maybe twenty or so cans.
I pushed my way past a group of people that had started fighting over things like milk, frozen foods, eggs, and other perishables. I grabbed the last pack of D batteries, and a bunch of AA and AAA. I had seen a searchlight, but this big brown skinned middle eastern guy almost pushed me down over it. I let it slide as I headed to the health and body section. I was cyphering through what was left of the bandages, and grabbed some alcohol and peroxide bottles. I was just about to exit the aisle and try to rendezvous with Tzar, but I bumped into a pale lady with wild curly red hair.
She looked sweaty and her eyes were beady and bloodshot, I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, it could have just been a flu for all I knew. She looked scared and frightened, and looked in my cart, she could see the peroxide and bandages. That was when I peer down at her leg, and she saw me notice, our eyes locked.
“It’s from a car accident, it happened when we escaped from … from those things, I swear it’s not a bite! I just need to clean it, and this is our first stop. Please..” She started to beg, I shook my head and told her to calm down.
I had seven bottles of the peroxide, I could spare one, I gave her a pack of bandages, and some Tylenol I found. She looked genuinely grateful, so I didn’t miss the stuff, there had to be something human left in those of us still alive. I went to the center of the lobby, and looked for Tzar, I heard a scream and a gunshot from the back of the store, where Tzar had run to. Immediately a stampede of people started running out of the store, I couldn’t tell what was happening. That’s when I saw Tzar, he ran right up to me and tossed a twenty four count pack of water, a pack of lighters, and a deck of cards into the kart.
“There was a red headed white bitch with a bitten leg back there, she just started coughing up that black stuff, she turned so fast.. my God, they’re killing each other back there, we have to go NOW Loki, Hurry!” He yelled, his face panic stricken, matching the fleeing shoppers around us.
Thouh I was scared, I wasted no time, we pushed our way through the violent herd of people, everyone in survival mode. There was this redneck in a flannel shirt who started shooting into the crowd, his first shot hit an Asian woman in the face that was a few feet from me, it was clear he had gone insane. He let off a few more shots, hitting people as they fled the infected in the back. Suddenly, a convenience store clerk took a bite out of the back of his neck, ripping the flesh away with his teeth. Ignoring the screaming of terror behind us, we had finally gotten through the door, and it was pure chaos that greeted us, with cars crashing into each other in their attempts to escape. I could also see some of the infected amongst the crowd, people trapped with them in their cars, it was spreading so fast. Tzar grabbed the front of the shopping cart, leading us through the mayhem to where the Betty was parked.
A young blonde boy to my left got jumped on, the darker haired girl on top ripped at his throat, and clawed his chest. I didn’t took to see anymore than that, all I knew was I could see the Betty just ahead. When we got to her, we unloaded our bounty and jumped aboard, Hunter had her ready and purring. Out of nowhere there was a pile up at the entrance, three cars, one looked to be full of infected passengers. Cars came to a standstill, so we were essentially trapped, I looked at Hunter to see what he would do, he could only looked back at me.
That’s when we heard one of the eighteen wheelers go barreling into the cars, crushing unsuspecting innocents, with its weight, knocking others from its path. Hunter saw the opening, quickly squeezing through the newly created pathway, paved with blood and scrap metal. The truck just kept on going, speeding away ahead of us, we didn’t care, that was a good thing I’m my opinion.
I looked Tzar over for bites, fortunately he was okay with not a scratch on him, for safekeeping I let him check me too. We sorted the stuff in the back, and I microwaved some of the soup for Patience, with a sweet Hawaiian roll on the side. I went to wake her up as gently as I could, surprised she could sleep through all that, she stirred slowly and looked at me with these sad eyes, I just tried to smile at her and cheer her up. I smoothed some of her hair, it had gotten a bit tangled and matted, if this wasn’t the apocalypse I would have remembered a scarf for her. I grabbed her hand and led her to the back, where she took a seat at the bar, and smelled the soup suspiciously.
“Take the bread and dip it in, taste that first” I advised her, she followed instruction, and tasted it.
A small smile graced her lips, and I gave her another roll, I smiled back. Tzar was grubbing on a pack of crackers on the sofa, with his feet up. I just rolled my eyes and took one of the breakfast biscuits, which was among the stuff I’d snagged from back home, and tossed it in the microwave. While it was cooking I nibbled on the last apple, and a few bits of beef jerky. When the food was done, I took the breakfast sandwich and wrapped it in a hand towel, I also grabbed two waters, then made my way to the front cabin. Hunter looked up at me, dark rings were under his eyes, so I knew he was tired, we hadn’t slept a wink. I told him to let me drive, so he could eat, he reluctantly complied, taking the passenger seat. I started her back up and he told me what exit to look for.
After driving maybe twenty minutes, I saw the turnoff was coming up, so I got his attention. I looked nervously at the road, before the fuel stop, we’d occasionally come across an empty stalled car on the side of the road, but now they were becoming common, and some weren’t empty. We hadn’t seen anything for miles, but knowing they were out there scared the hell out me. I tried to ignore the roadside coffins and kept my head clear, I made the turn off when it came, it seemed to take us into this small town named Black Cedar Creek, I doubt you could find it on the map.
“How come you never spoke of your grandmother?” I asked him, talking in a low tone, I almost thought he didn’t hear me.
“The three of us lived there for a bit after mom died, Zachari was the oldest, but he could barely function those days.. a science wiz in school, but socially, he was a pariah. The other kids often whispered tales of how he’d one day shoot up the school, it was getting bad, but I put a stop to it.” He said, still looking out the window as he reminisced, his handsome face so intense.
“I told those fuckers I’d burn the school down before he could ever shoot it up, and I’d do it with all those bastards locked inside, if they didn’t shut the fuck up. I made it clear I’d be the one to snap, so that Zach never got the chance to, that got’m to stop messing with him.” He laughed, and I couldn’t help but to join him, I just imagined him being a terror back then. “I always had the burden of being the oldest brother, Caiden was just a runt, but he was fast. Gran always had trouble keeping up with him, Zachari too, for that matter. So I had to step up.. take care of the home, or we’d all end up like mom and pop, dead amongst the litter and trash in the streets. Gran did her best, but she was already too old to take on three wild young boys, she did anyway though, she made sure we were alright.”
“She sounds like a beautiful soul, I can’t wait to meet her.” I replied, genuinely pleased to see a smile on his face, seeing him finally relaxed was calming to my own soul.
“Turn on this dirt road here, in the cut!” He instructed, pointing off to the side, if I didn’t look closely I would have missed it.
The Betty took up the whole road, and I was afraid she’d hit a low branch, so I took my time. With some tricky maneuvering, I was able to avoid most obstacles, Hunter had this grin on his face, like the cat that swallowed the canary. I gave him a look that told him I knew just what he was thinking, Betty and I have always had this love hate relationship, she had a tendency to be temperamental when it came to me. Now it was like we were totally made for each other, I cut her to the right, and followed the path until we came out into a clearing.
The road lead to a hill, crowned by a fenced in farm, it was quaint and meticulously manicured. The two story house was white with a lavender trim, a wrap around porch, with violets planted at the base surrounding the whole house. A man was on the porch, I saw him pull a rifle up to see through his scope, no doubt assessing the intruders. He went back into the house, but came right back out when we pulled up in front, he quickly came down the porch stairs, and walked the path to meet us.
I immediately knew this was Hunter’s brother, and not because they looked alike, they actually look totally different when compared to each other. On the other hand, when you introduce their mother, it brings things together, I had seen a picture of her a few weeks ago when I was snooping. I thought he was cheating at first, but then I noticed the tattoos on her ample breasts, that displayed her children’s names in a rose vine of intricate thorns. It was excessive and obnoxious but actually quite tastefully done once it grew on me, there was no doubts about it though, their mother was Ratchet Barbie in the flesh. With her long beautiful blonde hair, lean curvaceous shape, and ample bosom, topped off with lovely aquamarine eyes.
Her downfall, she was just a bad bitch in a good girl’s world. Her sons had inherited all her good looks, but the two oldest resembled their fathers dark features, the youngest was the exception. Caiden’s short blonde hair and pale blue eyes, made him the classic all American golden boy.. no, this was clearly a man. He looked like an Olympic class athlete, with his broad shouldered physique and lean tightly muscled body, clothed in a v-neck white tee, some fitted blue jeans, and some steel toe combat boots.
I climbed out first, with Hunter and Balthazar behind me, making Patience stay behind in the back of the Betty. There was something about the look on Caiden’s face, that just didn’t sit well with me, and my suspicions were soon proven correct. He tossed me to the side, with one arm, causing me to stumble to the floor. He moved fast, giving Hunter a powerful hook to the jaw, knocking him down. Tzar stood there with his hands up, wanting no part of this, and took a step back when Caiden gave him a hard fiery gaze. He took a look back at me, when he noticed I had gotten back on my feet, his eyes were still filled with fury. He let his eyes avert back down to his brother, and went to stand over him, he crouched down and yelled in Hunter’s face.
“I said I would kill the next time I saw you, and here you are to test my words!”