“I had to drive through the night.” Katie berated herself.
Katie had been careful to avoid the many wrecks along the highway, however, the deer that jumped out in front of her was a surprise. She swerved to avoid it and ended up smashing into the guardrail and wrecking the van. The front of the vehicle was smashed in and the driver’s side front wheel had been broken off and pushed up into the wheel well. The door on her side was crumpled so badly from the impact that Katie had to get out of the van on the passenger side.
She looked at it and shook her head in disgust. “Why am I even out here? What am I doing and where am I going?”
“Now you are asking the right questions.” came Randy’s voice from the side of the road. He was dressed casually, in his old leather jacket that was a size too big for him. He was smoking a cigarette and looked like he was enjoying the night air.
“When did you take up smoking?”
Shaking his head, Randy answered, “Don’t get distracted, that’s what they want. I haven’t smoked since high school.” He took a final drag off the butt of his cigarette and flicked it over the guardrail into the median between the twin ribbons of concrete highway.
“You’ll start a fire doing that.”
“Pretty doubtful, don’t you think?”
She smiled at that, then hefted her bag from the van and started walking down the road. “I suppose so. For someone who is dead you are looking pretty good.”
“Thanks. You too.”
“Ouch. I cleaned up at the rest area, you saw me.”
“Here we go with the not thinking again. I liked your first question the most.”
Thinking about it, Katie’s brow furrowed and she repeated, “Why am I even out here?”
“It bears thinking on.”
Katie trudged down the road in silence for a few minutes. Finally she asked, “What else am I supposed to be doing? Crying? Hiding in a house somewhere? Heading back to die in Iowa with the rest of humanity?”
“I don’t know that answer. But you still haven’t answered your own question. Try not to get sidetracked.”
“Okay. I feel a need. Yeah, a need to go this way.”
“Is that so? Hm. I wonder why Katie. Don’t you wonder why?”
She waved her hand in the air and answered, “Why? I don’t think it is too important. I am following my instincts. I will survive.”
“If you say so.” Randy walked towards the shoulder of the road, away from Katie at an angle.
“You don’t have to get pissy about it.”
“You’re wrong about that.” He called back, trudging down the grassy embankment by the side of the road and out of sight.
“Fine. Be that way. You’re just my imagination anyway.”
“If you say so.” called his voice as he disappeared from sight.
“I could make you come back if I really wanted to.”
However, as hard as she tried, Katie couldn’t make him come back.
She walked for over an hour before she finally came upon a vehicle she could use. The clear night showed the outlines of the wreck perfectly. Before she approached she pulled out her rifle. Seeing no one she crept forward a few yards, then stopped. She continued to make use of this stop and watch tactic all the way to the wreckage.
The vehicles had been towed to one side of the road and left. Once she assured herself no one was around she poked into each until she found a vehicle in drivable shape, a black sports utility vehicle. Lucky for her no one had taken the keys out of the ignition. She tossed her bag into the back seat, hopped in and tried to start the vehicle, but it wouldn’t turn over. When she got out and looked the car over she noted that the dome light didn’t come on. After some experimentation she found the lights were not working either.
“Battery needs a jump.” Randy said, startling her.
“I hate it when you do that.”
“I hate it when you are ignorant.”
Shrugging Katie smiled and replied, “Lotta hate in this neck of the woods then.”
Katie sighed and pulled her bag out of the back of the car.
“You gonna walk?”
“Car won’t start. I’m not a mechanic. If it were a rifle I could strip it and have it working in a few seconds, a minute at most. But a car? Nope.”
“The battery is dead, all you have to do is jump it.”
“With what, Einstein? If there were another working car around here I wouldn’t need to jump this one.”
“Jeez Katie, no, there aren’t any other working cars, but I bet the batteries in those wrecks work just fine. Find a screw driver and a set of jumper cables. Then we’ll get the car started.”
“Yeah. Right. My dead partner will help me get a dead car working.” Katie paused, “Sure. Why not? A screw driver you say?”
“Or a wrench. Look around a little.”
Katie saw that the back end of the sports utility vehicle was full of camping gear, heaped in untidy mounds. The automatic release button under the dash didn’t open the rear door and earned her a look of disgust from Randy.
“Hey, you never know!” she protested.
“No power. No power doors. It’s not even as complicated as field stripping a rifle.”
Katie took the keys out of the ignition and used them to manually open the rear hatch, which swung up slowly with no power. Under the camping gear she found a roadside emergency kit, which contained not only screwdrivers, but also jumper cables. She found a good battery in the station wagon that was on its side a few car-lengths into the wreck and with a few quick turns of her borrowed screwdriver she pulled it out. With Randy directing her she sat the battery down by the side of the car, ran the jumper cables to its battery and gave the ignition a turn. It started up on the second try.
“Nice. I owe you one.” Katie said.
“Take off the black cable on this car first and then the other black cable…”
Katie grabbed the center of the cables and pulled, jerking the clamps off of all of the battery terminals at once.
“Or that works. Not the recommended method though.”
Katie lowered the hood on her car, tossed the jumper cables into rear seat and got in behind the wheel. The vehicle couldn’t have been more than a year or two old, everything looked new, even if it had lost the ‘new car’ smell.
They drove in silence for a while, Randy looking out the side window, while Katie scanned the road ahead for wrecks and deer.
“What’s it like, being dead?” Katie eventually asked.
“I can’t complain. You?”
She shook her head, “I still don’t get you sometimes.”
“Where are we headed?”
“Some place warm. I am thinking Florida. I can get down in the Keys, find me an island, pure white sand, blue ocean and palm trees. I could go for that.”
“You know it. Just me and you buddy. Drinking a few beers, maybe fishing a little and heading to the mainland every once in a while to stock up on food.”
“What brought this plan on?”
“You made me think about it a little. I know it’s summer now, but the weather isn’t going to last. Soon it will be cold and snowy. How would I heat anyplace up here? If I go where all I need is a sweater I should be fine.”
“What about hurricanes?”
“Don’t be a dream squasher.”
Randy shook his head. “Okay. So…Florida, island, hammock. Any other plans?”
“The world has ended. Do I need more than that?”
“What about the zombies?”
“I am going to kill every one of them I see. Every fucking one.”
“Hey can you check and see if this tub has a map in it?”
“Sorry, being dead has its limitations. There probably is one in the glove box. If not just pull up to any gas station you see, they’re bound to have one.”
“Good point. I’ll just stay on this road. I have to go south as it is, then pick up a map when I stop for fuel.” Katie said.
“I wonder where the guy who owned this car is? I mean, it wasn’t wrecked. It was just sitting by the side of the road.”
“Probably got dragged off and eaten. You know how it is.”
“Well, not really, I didn’t turn.”
“That’s right, you jumped first, fucker.”
“Either that or stay and eat you.”
“It wouldn’t have been the first time.” Katie said.
“It would have been the last though. I don’t think you’d have capped me. What happened after I jumped.”
“Why’d you care?”
“Just curious. Don’t you remember?” asked Randy.
“I shot the target. Service before self.”
“Then what?” pressed Randy.
“I called down the artillery.”
“Jeezus Randy, why the third degree? I got out, went down into the building and almost got blown up, my clothes were gone, I woke up in an office somewhere…” Katie was having a hard time remembering what took place on the top of the building, concentrating she closed her eyes and tried to bring back the memories of what had happened.
“Katie!” Randy yelled.
She opened her eyes to see three deer on the highway in front of her. She hit the brakes and skidded to a stop within touching distance of the lead animal.
“For fucks sake!” the deer didn’t move. Katie honked the horn and the three animals bounded off into the woods. “Jeezus, good thing you were keeping an eye out, I’d have slammed into them.” When Katie looked beside her the seat was empty again.