A free look at Zombie from Dell Sweet…
Copyright 2017 Dell Sweet all rights reserved.
Cover Art © Copyright 2017 Dell Sweet
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I flexed my hand and looked around the kitchen in the flickering candle light. Writing about it is bringing it all back, like I’m right back there. Lana’s rifle and two spare clips lay on the table top now. I haven’t needed it yet, but the night is young. Who can tell what it will be like in a few hours from now when the light is entirely gone: When all the dead wake in the old barn across the road. My rifle is also loaded, but I have less ammunition for it and it isn’t worth a damn up close. Lana was a lot smarter about weapons than I was… Much smarter.
It’s so goddamn quiet. I hate that. That quiet. These bastards don’t breath, they don’t trip and fall, they aren’t clumsy… You would never know they are there, never know it at all. Jesus, I… Never mind. My mind wanders too much. Too goddamned much. I’ll be back…
I took a walk around. Upstairs I can still see a faint line of sunlight on the far horizon. The yard is dark. I can’t hear any more sounds. It’s unnerving. The boards are all in place, everything seems secure. I’m back at the table…
The cramping is gone from my hand. I guess in the digital age we just don’t write much, but when it’s all you got, it’s all you got. The whiskey is holding out. I’m being careful with it, don’t worry, not that it will make a bit of difference…
We had passed a sign and entered into Arizona. We made great time on the open road…
The country had been turning more arid as they drove, the river was an oasis. Off to the north giant plumes of smoke blanketed the sky, seeming to spread across the entire length of the horizon. They had both wondered what it might be. Lana had checked the map and she though it could be Yellowstone or something close to Yellowstone.
Shops, stores, and even an RV park had sprung up around the interchange. They foraged for food in the late afternoon and gassed up the truck before evening began to take the sunlight. The air had a bitter, hot smell to it, the river flowed sluggishly, the water gray, and a scum of yellow white foam and ash rode the slow current. They sat in the truck and ate quietly while the map lay open across their legs and the seat top. Their eyes would drop to the map and then jump back up to scan the area. It had seemed too quiet, and there were no bodies anywhere. No sign of life either, and the stores and shops had not been looted. Some were still locked up. Empty RV’s in the park when they rolled slowly through it. Neither liked the feeling, the whole place felt wrong.
“Johnny,” Lana waited until his eyes left the map and met her own. He lifted them to follow her own gaze. “The silver building over to the right. The door just opened and then closed.”
Johnny frowned. “Not something the dead would do, is it?”
“We didn’t think they would come out in the daylight,” Lana said.
As Johnny watched he saw the door edge open slightly and then close just as slowly. “Saw it… I don’t like it. Dead or alive they know we’re here and they’re checking us out.” He dropped his eyes back to the map.
“Okay,” he said after a few moments. “Lets get off the road, run a ways out… Follow the highway. That takes us away from civilization to a degree, but eventually that will bring us into Phoenix.” He waited for her to nod her understanding. “There’s a lot of desolation between here and there, at least on the map.”
“Desolation is fine as long as the dead aren’t there.” Lana said quietly.
“Less likely to be,” Johnny agreed.
A few minutes later they were running through the desert that ran alongside I 10. There were not a great many cars or trucks there, but in several places there had been wrecks that closed lanes down. With no one to clear them they would have ended up in the desert anyway. And there seemed to be a dirt road that ran beside I 10 for as far as they could see.
The landscape in the distance had been changing as they drove the day away, but with the sun setting a few hours after they set out once more it was hard to tell what the surrounding countryside was like. Johnny dropped speed and flicked the trucks high beams on. A short while later Lana was sleeping, her head heavy against his arm. He drove through the night and into the early morning before she woke again.
Johnny had eased the truck up onto I10 and the tires bouncing over the broken asphalt had awakened Lana.
“Not a big city… A town from the looks of it. Phoenix is close. Ten, fifteen miles maybe. Can’t really tell from the map,” Johnny said. A gas station loomed out of the early morning gray and Johnny wheeled the truck under the roof that covered the pumps intending to siphon some gas to top off the trucks tanks. He shut off the motor and they both listened to the tick of the hot metal for a few seconds as it cooled.
“Coffee would be really nice,” Lana said. “No way do we want to go into Phoenix… Too dangerous.” She yawned and then covered her mouth and laughed. “Mal aliento, dios… Morning breath.” She zipped open her knapsack, retrieved a bottle of water, her toothbrush and some toothpaste. She stepped down from the truck.
Johnny opened his door and settled his feet onto the pavement. It wasn’t just old pavement, he saw, it was gray, washed out, used up: There was no black left in it. Lana stood slightly in front of the truck, her gun in one hand, the toothbrush working around her mouth on its own. In a blur her free hand was reaching to catch the rifle which was just coming free of her shoulder. Johnny had his own rifle off his shoulder and into his hands before he even saw what had alarmed her. She spit out the toothbrush, pulled her gun and flicked the safety off. Three men stepped out of the shadows of the open garage bay.
They were kids, Johnny saw. Or at least not much more than kids. They walked slowly forward.
Lana raised the rifle and pointed it at the lead kid. “That’s it.” She said.
She didn’t scream it, softly spoke it, Johnny thought later, but the kids stopped in their tracks.
“What’s with the fuckin’ guns?” The lead kid asked.
“Ours weren’t aimed at you until you aimed yours at us,” Johnny said. He hoped he sounded as cool as Lana had.
“Bullshit,” one of the other kids said. “You had it in your hands when I looked at you. That’s why I got mine ready.”
“I don’t want to kill anyone today,” Lana said.
“It really don’t bother me,” The third kid said. His eyes were blood shot. They had interrupted him while he was sleeping, it seemed. He kept rubbing at his eyes, Lana saw.
“I think you’re right… Can’t matter if you’re dead,” Lana said.
“Hey,” the lead kid said, “Maybe all’s we want is to party a little.”
“Well I don’t know if Johnny swings that way,” Lana said.
“Pretty funny,” the kid responded. “Look… It’s our town. We ain’t the only ones here. You shoot there will be twenty more here in seconds. Then everybody dies.”
“Oh… I guess I didn’t see it right,” Lana said. “I can see where it might be preferable to get raped and then murdered instead of getting murdered outright.”
The one in the back, the one with the sleepy eyes, stiffed a yawn and reflexively raised one hand to his mouth as his eyes slipped shut for a split second. Lana shot the lead kid in that split second, Johnny had the second guy a moment later. The third kid opened his eyes to a changed situation.
“Just give me a reason,” Lana said. “Any reason.” The kid released the rifle he held and it dropped from his hands to the pavement.
“Can’t shoot me I ain’t got no gun… Can’t… Can’t shoot me…” He spun and looked off toward a rag tag collection of trailers that lined a dirt road in back of the station. “James!” he screamed. “James! Killers!” he turned back to Johnny and Lana. “Can’t shoot me… I ain’t armed… Can’t…” Johnny shot him…
Zombie: Two survivors set out looking for others during the apocalypse