Chapter 21

Submitted by Zombieman on Mon, 09/18/2017 - 00:13

“Stewart!” Max whispered as loudly as he dared. “Stewart!”

The woman was still on the couch in front of the small dining table. Giving up on her Max went to the open window and called out softly, “Ruben!”

The older man was standing by the side of the trailer, squinting outwards and trying to see through the thick morning fog that had come up during the night.

“You’re up early Max.” Ruben said quietly. “You better not wake up your girl-friend, she was a little cranky when she finally turned…”

“Stop Ruben. There are zombies coming. A lot of them. They are all around the park. Get Javier. I’ll wake up Stewart.”

Bill had already shaken himself awake and was lacing up his boots. Max padded down to Stewart in his socks, juggling his boots and rifle as he went. With an elbow he prodded Stewart, who came awake almost instantly and had her pistol pointing at Max a split second later.

“Wake up. Zombies coming.”

It was almost dawn, the fog was lit in a dim glow that allowed them to discern the shapes of Ruben and Javier before the two came into the trailer.

“How close Max?” Ruben asked.

“Close. Less than a hundred yards.”

“We gotta get into the trucks then and high tail it out of here.” Bill said.

“Did you guys hear anything?” Max asked.

Ruben and Javier shook their heads, but only Ruben answered, “Nothing, just normal animal sounds.”

“Well they’re out there. I can see them. They are closing in, but slowly. There are a couple of the smart ones, hanging back.”

“So the standard way they do things then.” said Stewart, “Do we have time to make coffee and chit-chat or should we be moving now?”

Bill nodded at Stewart, “Good point, move now, talk later. Who wants to ride in the new truck?”

Everyone raised their hands quietly.

Grinning, Bill said, “Can you tell I am new at this? Max, you, Ruben, and Javier go in the old one, with Javier driving. Stewart, me and you will take the new one. We’ll all go out and get into the vehicles together. Stewart and I will get in from the passenger door, you three from the driver’s side. That should make it more difficult for them to get ahold of us.” The evening before, they had parked the trucks side by side near the front end of the trailer.

The five people filed out, with Bill leaving last, he took a quick glance around to make sure they had not forgotten anything before he left.

The fog outside was only faintly brighter as the group slogged towards the trucks.

“Go! We gotta go faster, they are moving in.” Max muttered. Ahead of them Stewart and Rueben started a quick jog to the doors of the trucks. A moment later someone’s rifle went off and Max saw a shadowy form fly backwards in the fog.

Ruben was down on one knee, rifle held to his shoulder, he fired twice more at zombies that glided into view around the hood of the truck. Not waiting to see if his shots were lethal he jerked open the truck door and scrambled into the back, hefting the bomb with him. Javier rested his rifle on the windowless door frame and gestured at Max to get in. Bill and Stewart already had the big diesel started before Max was even in his seat. The zombies closed in around the two vehicles, suddenly becoming visible as gray shades. Max pushed his gun through the window and fired wildly at the closest two. In the back seat Ruben was struggling to get situated with the backpack, cursing loudly as his gun strap had somehow become entwined with one from the pack.

Both trucks lurched forward at the same time, ruining Max’s next shot and causing Ruben to tumble onto the floor on his back. With a sickening crunch Javier side swiped the back of the diesel and was shoved off of the narrow gravel road into the camping area, where the truck smashed over a picnic table and a solid metal grill. The entire truck lurched upwards as they drove over the debris.

“Fuck! I thought I was going first!” Javier yelled to Max.

“I don’t know, I thought we were too…Hey!” Max yelled at the zombie who had grabbed onto the end of his rifle barrel. Shaking it didn’t deter the creature, who clung to the weapon with both hands and practically dragged Max out of the truck. The rifle’s strap was wound around Max’s shoulder and he could not shake the zombie off.

“Help! He’s got my gun!” Max screamed as he was pulled from his seat halfway through the window.

Javier responded by swerving the truck from side to side, which almost threw Max out the window. Ruben’s hand clawed up from the floor in the back seat and had a firm grip on Max’s pants, holding him tenuously in place. Ruben couldn’t raise himself up to get a better grip and Javier was staring at Max’s behind as the man slowly lost the battle with the zombie.

“Stop driving son!” Ruben called, “You gotta stop and pull him back or I am going to lose him.”

Javier slammed on the brakes and Max disappeared into the fog as he was pulled out.

“I didn’t say, slam on the goddamned brakes!” yelled Ruben, finally rising to a sitting position in the back seat. “Pull forward. Slowly! And put the fucking lights on so we don’t run him over!”

Sweat was pouring off of Javier’s face as he struggled to do as the old man said. He drove the truck forward no more than ten feet and stopped when he saw a body on the ground.

“Ruben?”

“What is it? Do you see him? Is he hurt?”

“It’s just…a body.” Javier could tell the body didn’t belong to Max, it was dressed in casual clothing, sweat pants and a t-shirt. Max was outfitted like the rest of them, in fatigues. “It’s not Max, I don’t see Max, only his gun.”

“Oh shit. Turn your radio on, try and contact Bill.”

Javier did just that while Ruben climbed over the seat to the front, “I am too old to be doing this sort of stuff. Humping my ass over seat backs. Crawling under cars. Shooting, goddamned horror movie monsters. I swear the only time I ever climbed over the seat back, there was pussy involved and this is a damn site less fun than that.”

Ruben peered into the fog and said, “I’m going out to get the rifle. You keep trying to raise Bill on the radio. As soon as they know they’ve out distanced us, they will turn it on and try and talk to us.”

Hopping out Ruben felt a twinge in his knee, “Too gawdamned old.” He muttered as he bent to collect Max’s rifle. Off in the distance he heard gunfire, it sounded like two rifles firing in a constant barrage somewhere ahead of him. “Damnit.” In a soft voice he called, “Max? Max, buddy? Are you out there?”

His old hands cocked the rifle and wound the broken strap around his wrist, taking a knee he slowly spun a half circle in front of the truck. The fog was too thick. Bending he examined the ground by the body. The zombies head was smashed in, it was dead for good, there were scuffle marks in the dirt that may or may not have been made by someone crawling away. “I ain’t an indian tracker. How am I supposed to figure this out?” Ruben was quiet for a moment, then muttered, “But if I lose Max I better not show my face to Bill or Stewart again…” Bending he followed the scuffles up into another camp area. Behind him the truck followed at an idle.

The rifle fire continued for several more seconds and then cut off abruptly. It was followed by a crackling from the radio in Javier’s hand.

“Is it on?” Bill’s voice asked.

“Of course it’s fucking on! See if they are there!” came Stewart’s voice, oddly echoing from the radio and the fog in front of Ruben.

“Hello? Ruben? Max?”

“This is, um, Javier.”

“Good…” Bill began only to be cut off by Stewart.

“Where the fuck are they? First he side swipes us, then he stops. I mean did you have to give him instructions on how to drive the truck too?”

“Javier, where are you guys?”

“The zombies got Max. We stopped to get him.”

“What? I didn’t quite hear you.”

“The. Zombies. Got. Max.” Javier said, annunciating each word slowly.

“You got him back, though, right?”

“We’re working on it.”

“We’re coming back.”

“Don’t drive too fast, we can’t be that far away from you.”

Ruben heard the sound of the truck starting up and in seconds saw the headlights pierce the gloom. He waved on arm and Stewart stopped. There was blood on the front grill of the truck. When it stopped a slow trickle ran down the chrome and pooled in the dirt.

“Where is Max?” Stewart demanded, slamming the door as she left the driver’s seat.

“A zombie pulled him out. We stopped, we can’t find him.” Ruben said, meeting her gaze unflinchingly.

“What do you mean a zombie pulled him out of the truck?”

“He had his rifle pointing outside of the vehicle shooting zombies and one of them got close enough to grab his gun. They fought, he got pulled out. It happened right back there. The zombie he was fighting is still there, only dead for real now. Stewart,” Ruben said, holding up one hand, “Max’s rifle was there too.”

“Max!” Yelled Bill into the gloom. “Max! If you can hear me, yell back!”

Silence was their only answer.