I’m startled awake by the angry voice of my road trip companion. It is followed immediately by the barking of the furry little creature which had taken up residence on my lap.
“Shit, shit, shit!” he yells again as he bangs his fists against the steering wheel. I notice we are slowing quickly. The vehicle jerks oddly as we pull to the side of the road.
“What’s going on?” I ask groggily.
“I’m sorry, kid. It’s all my own damned fault.”
“What is?” I ask, still confused about whether I’m currently experiencing reality, or yet another dream.
“Gas. I forgot to keep an eye on the gas.”
“Shit!” I yell as I remember that was one of the first things I had intended to do after we had gotten clear of Chicago.
“I’m so sorry, kid. I should have been paying attention, but well, there’s not—“
“No, it’s my fault, Guy. I had noticed it, but forgot about it.”
“Well, either way, I should have noticed. It’s something us professional drivers should do the second we step behind the wheel. Guess the storm got me all distracted.”
“Still, I should have said something.”
“Well, I guess that puts us both in the doghouse on this one. No offense there, Stormy.”
“No sense harping on it any longer, kid. We’ll just have to push forward.”
“Well, how far did we get?” I ask, knowing we shouldn’t have gotten very far with how little gas we had left.
“We’re just outside of Mount Pleasant, right across the Wisconsin border.”
“Really?” I ask in surprise. “That means we’re not that far from Milwaukee.”
“Not too far, but I wouldn’t want to walk there.”
“Well, no, but maybe—“ I cut myself off as I pull my phone out of my pocket. Maybe the big city being so close could mean reception. “Nevermind,” I say as I notice my phone is now completely out of power.
“Well, the storm’s let up a little bit. Maybe we could hop around from car to car and see if anyone else is stuck here on the road that might know the area a bit better. There’s gotta be a gas station somewhere nearby.”
“Not a bad idea,” I say with hesitation. Anyone still sitting in a car has a better chance of being a zombie than being helpful, but I’m not sure what other options we have right now.
Guy jumps out of the driver’s side door, followed by Stormy, and starts looking into the window of each car along the roadside. Stormy begins whimpering.
“Aw, come on now,” Guy comforts the puppy. “If you need to take a leak, just take a leak.”
The sky is beginning to brighten. A glance at the clock on the radio shows it’s already 4am. Pretty crazy to think I’ve only been living this new post-armageddon life for a couple hours. Seems like forever. The realization brings back my dedication to finding Zelda.
“Hey, Bert,” Guy yells at me. “Gonna help Stormy find a spot to take a leak. Be right back.”
I raise my hand at him in response, not wanting to make any more noise. There are a lot of cars in this area, plenty of places for zombies to be hiding. Definitely don’t want to draw any attention our way.
An idea strikes me and I jump out of the cab. Keeping an eye out in every direction, I run to the back of the van and swiftly open the cargo door. Jumping into the hold, I begin digging through everything I can until I come across a box labeled Party Supplies. I grin to myself as I pull out a beer bong.
“Perfect,” I mutter, “now if only I could—“. Looking around frantically, I tip over a plastic shelving unit to find the shelves slide out easily. Grabbing the one on top of the pile, I jump out of the van once again and run toward the nearest car.
I hear a mild groan coming from the ditch on the other side of the car I’m standing next to. It’s not hard to guess what caused it. No time to waste. If I do this quietly, I shouldn’t have any issues. Good thing the gas tank is on this side.
I pull open the door to the gas tank and remove the cap, sliding the hose from the beer bong deep into the vehicle’s fuel compartment. Quietly, I rip off the funnel at the other end and put it into my mouth, sucking slowly to get the gas moving, hoping not to get any in my mouth.
I see the amber liquid coming toward me, but am unable react in time. My mouth fills with the noxious liquid. I barely keep from gagging loudly as I remove the tube from my lips. I hold the hose in place over the plastic shelf below me.
I hear a sound in the distance. Looking down the road, I see lights flashing as a large truck comes bounding down the road. Soon after I become aware of the new addition to the highway, I hear Don’t Fear the Reaper by the Blue Oyster Cult blaring from within. I cringe.
The truck is lit up like a birthday cake as it flies past us. The driver repeatedly honks its obnoxiously loud horn as it passes. He and his male passenger make a big show of waving to me while flashing stupid grins.
I hear the groaning get louder. But the rustling sound which accompanies it shows that the monster is moving away from me, not closer. Perhaps those dumbasses were more of a blessing than I could have guessed. They’re leading the zombies away, instead of making them aware of me sitting here with my ass in the snow.
“What the hell is their problem?” Guy yells at me as he runs to my side. “And what the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Shh,” I whisper, placing my finger against my mouth in hopes he’ll understand the gesture.
“Why the hell do you want me to be quiet? Anyone in the area who was sleeping was already woken up by that damned truck!”
The groan gets louder once again and a hissing sound joins it.
“Well?” Guy accuses in a still louder tone of voice. “You gonna tell me what you’re doing or what?”
“Shut the hell up!” I scream in his face, just as a rattling noise joins the hisses and groans. I turn to look toward the source of the sound. A rotund ex-man appears in front of the station wagon I’m still draining of its precious liquid. A red glow comes from his abdomen. His angry eyes stare us down in the early light of the day’s rising sun.
“Sorry if I woke you, sir,” Guy apologizes in an uncharacteristically jovial manner. “Seems there were some idiot drivers who—“
“Guy,” I yell at my companion as I pull him back from his attempts to near the mobile corpse. “He’s not what you think he is!”
“Nonsense,” Guy laughs. “Sorry there fella’, my friend here’s a bit on edge because of the storm. Seems he’s been separated from his daughter. You understand, right? You look like you’ve got kids.”
The groan stops as the pig-like cadaver lets out an ear-splitting scream and leaps at Guy. I ram my shoulder into my new-found friend, knocking him out of the way as the not-so-dearly-deceased lands face first at my feet.
Shit! That was close. I raise my booted foot and stomp down on the pale-skinned head of the not-so-stiff stiff. A sickening crunch of bones combines with a sound of oozing brain matter as they echo through the early morning air. The unfamiliar sound causes me to look down and become aware of what my foot just did. I once again feel the need to gag.
“What the hell was that?!?” Guy screams at me before I even recognize what I have just done.
“It’s a goddamned zombie!” I cry out in return. “The world’s full of them…or at least Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. Why the hell do you think I’ve been so anxious to get out of here?”
“You’re fucking mad!” Guy says as he lifts his right hand up. Before I register it moving toward me, I feel the world fade away into darkness.
Go to Chapter Eight