Just where were we? Not far enough from where we buried the body, that was for sure. I gritted my teeth, and my muscles screamed in protest while I tried to stretch in the driver's seat. My back still ached from doing all of the digging. Nobody had offered to help, but then, they weren't supposed to. You buried your own. That was the thing. Good thing we had that bag of salt left over. That would at least keep him...it...whatever, down in the grave.
So long, Skinny Dog!
Cassie had said that would do the trick. And she had never been wrong before. She had been doing this even longer then I had. We had met up with her in Waco. She had been nearly killed by a group of “Them”. We just barely all got away in time. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw her sleeping peacefully. I don't know how she could with that nitwit Bender chanting right behind her.
A radio announcer came on, sounding half-panicked. Sirens wailed as he screamed incomprehensible nothings over the airwaves. Soon there was nothing but the wet sounds I knew so well. I changed the station, not wanting to hear more of that crap, but all I could find was David Soul singing "Don't Give Up On Us, Baby". I left it there, figuring it was (barely) the lesser of two evils. I stated humming along with the strangely prophetic lyrics.
Alicia was still crying and whimpering in the passenger seat. I had to turn the radio up to drown her and Bender out. All her sobbing and whining was really grating on my last nerve. The night had been a total loss, and the last thing I needed to deal with was a couple of loony dope heads and one wigged-out chick.
After all, I'm the one who had to kill and bury his own brother.
(“I’m sorry, Skinny Dog.” No answer, just slobbering and clawing at the cage). Stevie was his name but we had called him Skinny Dog since I could remember. Kid was as thin as a wish. When the virus hit, me and him hit the road shortly after our parents got infected and tried to dig our brains out with an ice-cream scoop.
The whole world had turned to hell overnight.
Rain began pelting the filthy windshield. The storm that the clouds had been promising us for hours was finally unleashed. This was not good. I slowed to a crawl, straining to see the road ahead. The torrential downpour would make it even harder to see “Them” coming. At least the drumming of the rain on the roof served to drown out Bender.
“This is just great.” Cassie muttered, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, kneeling between the bucket seats and laying a cool hand on my knee. “They love the rain. They absolutely freaking love it.” She took the pistol from her waistband and held it ready.
The downpour was obliterating the road beyond and behind us. They could have been surrounding us, eyes wide and dark and salivating at the thought of stripping the flesh from our bones. Of course, we would not even know, they were that good. Cassie was reading my mind. “Stop and douse the lights.”
In total darkness, we sat in the middle of the road, the only noise the beating of the rain and the engine softly vibrating beneath us. She scoured the rain-swept darkness, looking for the telltale shadows, for the lurching movements. I cradled the rifle that I had kept across my lap, my finger nestling securely around the trigger, itching with fear.
Bender fell silent. That made it worse, somehow.
Seconds dragged by. Everyone seemed to be holding his or her breath.
“Maybe we got lucky.” I whispered.
Suddenly Alicia wrenched the passenger door open and threw herself out onto the muddy road. Cassie began screaming her name, as she struggled to her feet and ran sobbing into the darkness. We heard a last scream clipped suddenly, painfully short. Then the wet sounds. Flesh and bone. Meat and blood, bone and gristle. I flashed the headlights and caught images that would haunt me for a long time. I quickly pushed the knob back in, leaving the horrifying images to the dark.
Cassie shut and locked the door, shaking her head. “Stupid girl.” She said softly. I could see the tears welling in her eyes.
This had been a long, hellish week. It was taking a drastic toll on all of us all. The end of the world will do that to you. I was no longer sure of where we were going or what we were even running to. I only knew what we were running from. A relentless nightmare that never ended.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m in a remake of Day Of The Dead. Cassie said. She had been an actress before the Virus. Had just landed the lead in a Spielberg movie. “I just keep waiting for the Director to yell ‘Cut’.”
I nodded, silent. Alicia being pulled apart was still burning its way deep into my memory. Zombies. I’m not sure exactly if that’s what they were. They certainly weren’t human. Not anymore anyway. Demons? Monsters seemed the most accurate.
Our eyes adjusted to the darkness, we could make out the shapes creeping closer to the van. Apparently, they were through with their meal and were looking for dessert. I was grateful that we had sprinkled salt all over the vehicle. They would get close then scuttle quickly back, making that awful screeching sound. It would keep us safe. For awhile.
“Drive.” Cassie whispered. Nodding, I slapped on the headlights, startling a few in front of us. They moved backwards like spiders, getting away from the light. They didn’t like light. It kept them away but not for long. I dropped it into D and touched the gas pedal with my foot, ready to floor it and hopefully splatter a few of them, in the process.
I froze. I looked in horror, wanting to throw up in my lap.
What was left of Alicia was crawling towards us. All of the pieces.
Cassie screamed and the pedal found the floor. We peeled out and shot down the road like a bullet. I winced as we drove over the crawling pieces but I kept my foot down until we were well clear of the pack of creatures.
I didn’t even realize I was screaming until several miles later.