Wednesday 16 July 2014
‘GO! GO! START THE CAR!’ Luke Freeman bellowed as he bolted from the gas station, bag in hand and with Peter Mason following close behind.
‘START THE CAR!’ repeated Mason.
‘Fuck! Don’t tell me you shot someone else, Mason?’
Freeman made it around to the front passenger’s side just as Mason opened the back driver’s side door of the SUV and threw in his bag of new supplies.
‘Zombies.’ Breathless, Mason repeated the single word that spurred Carter into action. ‘Zombies.’
Freeman opened the door and threw his bag to Mason, and then slid quickly onto the seat and slammed the door shut.
‘Lock the doors, Greg. The fuckers here aren’t like the ones at the supermarket. They’re vicious.’
Carter dropped his hand on the central locking button and pressed it with considerable and unnecessary force. The sound startled Freeman and he jumped in his seat.
‘What the hell are you talking about, Luke?’ asked Carter.
‘Dude, now is not the time. Just fucking drive. Get us the hell away from here.’
‘Hate to point out the obvious, but look . . . they’re heeeeeeeerrre.’ Mason moved to the centre of the seat, away from the windows just in case there was a repeat of the window-breaking action from the supermarket.
Carter put the SUV into gear and hit the accelerator. They were five miles away from the gas station before anyone spoke.
‘They’re vicious? And the ones at the supermarket weren’t vicious?’ asked Carter.
‘Fair point,’ Luke sighed. ‘The ones at the gas station were more vicious than the others.’
‘And they move faster too,’ added Mason. His comment grabbed the driver’s attention.
‘How much faster?’
Carter looked over at Luke, who was nodding in agreement with Mason’s evaluation of the speed of the creatures they had encountered at the gas station.
‘What happened back there, boys?’
Mason began the recount. ‘Luke and I went inside, grabbed a bunch of extra supplies, y’know, snacks, drinks, anything we could think of for the vehicle in case of emergency. I was over at the microwave heating up a bunch of burritos for us, and Luke was hanging up at the counter waiting to pay. I went over to him and he was still waiting for a cashier. We called out. We rang the bell. We looked around out back but there was no one there. I needed to go to the john, so I said I’d take a look around outside while I was out there.’
Adjusting his position in the passenger’s seat, Luke leaned against the door and picked up the story.
‘There was no one in the store, Greg. Absolutely no one. I figured I’d throw a few bucks on the counter to cover the gas and the extras –’
Carter interrupted. ‘We robbed a bank, Luke, and you feel guilty about stealing gas and a few snacks and shit? Dude, you have issues. Sorry . . . go on.’
‘Pete was taking his time –’
‘Hey, I needed to take a dump.’
‘I couldn’t leave him there alone in case something happened, so I wandered around, picked up a few more supplies. Got some more medical supplies, a couple of fire extinguishers, some engine oil, coolant, that sorta stuff. Next thing I know, Pete’s running for his life and screaming like someone’s being murdered. I go look out the back door, and there’s a group of those fuckers chasing him from the john and into the store. I grabbed the bags and we ran. You saw the rest of it.’
‘I can attest to the fact that those fuckers are fast.’ Mason moved forward to emphasise his point. Carter held Masons’ gaze in the rear view mirror.
* * * * *
‘Fire at will, gentlemen. Fire. At. Will.’
The words echoed through Private Gus Mason’s head as he lay dying in the mess hall. No amount of gunfire stopped the horde of creatures attacking the base. Sure, they dropped like sacks of dirt when they were shot in the head, but the sheer number of them was overwhelming. Wave after wave approached and attacked, and with each wave, those stationed at the Porterville military installation became fewer and fewer. More disturbing for anyone who saw them occur were the transformations from living to dead to whatever people became when the creatures attacked them.
For want of a better word, Gus remembered thinking when he first set eyes on them that they resembled the zombies he’d seen in so many horror movies during his childhood and adolescence. To begin with, Gus noted, the zombies were slow in movement, lurching off-balance from step to step, allowing Gus and his brothers in arms to get to tactical positions that provided cover but clear lines of sight. But when a few of the boys were cornered and attacked, the transformations saw them become faster and stronger than the previous generation.
‘God, I know we haven’t talked all that much, but I need something from you right now. I need for you to make sure that Peter is safe, away from this chaos. And keep him safe. And if by some stroke of bad luck you can’t keep him safe, or I’m too late with this prayer, make sure that he goes fast . . . that he has the presence of mind to end things himself . . . ’ Gus’ voice trailed off as the transformation began in earnest. He could barely control his body, let alone his right arm and hand in which he held his service pistol.
‘Come on . . . don’t let me down now . . . ’
He struggled against the urges that were building in him to devour and annihilate and rampage, and with a shaking hand he put the pistol against his temple. With one last scream of humanity pushing him on, Gus squeezed the trigger.
The noise brought them to the mess hall, brought them to the corner that Gus had tried to prop himself up in, brought them to feed. Within minutes there would be little left of Private Gus Mason.
. . . To be continued . . .