Read Fall of the Seven Cities Saga (Book 1) Online

Authors: Jay Brenham

Tags: #Zombies

Fall of the Seven Cities Saga (Book 1) (9 page)

BOOK: Fall of the Seven Cities Saga (Book 1)
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Matt readjusted the hammer and leaned on it with all of his weight. He wasn’t afraid of breaking the handle, the way he would be with a normal hammer; this one was steel reinforced. The lock didn’t break but the bracket that held it pulled out of the wood. Both Matt and the lock fell to the deck of the boat with a clatter. The evening was still and the sound echoed throughout the inlet.

The baby moved in Jenna’s arms but didn’t wake. She was just a newborn, born that same morning; she probably didn’t have any more strength for crying. Jenna took the baby down into the inside of the boat and laid her in a pile of blankets on the floor.

“Do either of you know how to sail?” she asked as she climbed back out.

“I’ve never even been on a sailboat before,” Matt said.

Taylor just shook his head.

“I spent some time on my grandfather’s boat when I was a kid. I don’t know much,” she said with a shrug. “But it’s better than nothing.”

The ignition was hidden inside the engine compartment—a place Matt wouldn’t have thought to look right away—but Jenna went there immediately. She flipped the power switch and cranked the diesel engine while Taylor and Matt pulled the lines from the pier. With a steady hand that had more experience than she’d let on, Jenna took the tiller and maneuvered the boat towards the mouth of the inlet.

Both Matt and Taylor sat down at the small seating area near the tiller, while Jenna piloted the boat into the bay. Matt gripped the railing, unable to stop watching for danger until the boat cleared the mouth of the inlet. When the land finally slipped past them, he let out a full breath. The last few hours had been hell and by some miracle they’d made it out.

Jenna piloted the boat a half a mile from shore and, after dropping anchor, went down into the berthing to check on the baby. Thankfully, she’d had the presence of mind to grab formula from the hospital before she left, Matt thought. He didn’t know what they would’ve done without it.

Taylor left his AR-15 on the deck and moved to the bow. After a few minutes, Matt followed him.

Taylor was sitting with his elbows resting on his knees. Blood still covered his chest and arms from the hulking infected man who’d thrown him to the ground. He’d lost so much today, Matt thought. Plus, he still had his family—and Steve’s—to find. All day he’d stood strong, rising to the occasion. He’d been the deciding factor in whether the four of them lived or died. Matt was about to say so when Taylor spoke up.

“I’m infected, Matt.”


What?

“When that big fuck attacked me, I hit the ground and I ripped all the skin right off my knuckles. I probably would have been fine if I hadn’t stabbed him in the throat. Fucker got his nasty blood all over me, right into the open wounds on my hand.”

“No way, Taylor,” Matt said, knowing it was a lie as he spoke. “You didn’t get bit. You’ll be fine.”

“Nope, I won’t be, and there’s no use pretending it’ll be any other way.” Taylor spoke briskly, as matter-of-fact about his own impending death as he’d been about everything else that day. “I’m infected. I already feel different. I’m so fucking hot.” He tore off his shirt and vest. Both the vest and shirt were stained with blood. He threw them into the water.

Matt watched the vest hit the water, wishing Taylor hadn’t thrown away something they might need. He immediately felt heartless just for thinking it.

“We can wait and see what happens. We don’t know if you’ll turn,” Matt said, even though he knew it was wishful thinking.

Taylor just shook his head. “We both know that’s bullshit. There are some things you should know if I turn. Do you have much experience with weapons?”

“Just what I’ve seen in the movies.”

“That’s a no, then,” Taylor said, sounding faintly amused. “Go get that rifle and I’ll show you a few things.”

Matt got the rifle and handed it to Taylor. Taylor told him how to clear a jam and showed him how the weapon operated.

“The key to shooting is a steady trigger pull. Understand?” He didn’t wait for Matt to answer. “The best shooters practice with no ammunition in the gun. That means empty all the rounds from the weapon. Double and triple check it to make sure. Then point it in a safe direction, aim and pull the trigger. You need to pull the trigger straight back; don’t anticipate the recoil. Let me see you do it.”

Matt triple checked to make sure the weapon was empty, pointed it toward open water and squeezed.

“That’s good. You aren’t anticipating any recoil because you’ve never felt any. This gun kicks a little bit but not much. Not like a shotgun. You could shoot it all day and it’d still feel comfortable. I want you practicing every single night and every morning when you wake up. It’s called dry firing. If you do that and practice loading magazines as if you’re under pressure—have Jenna time you or something—you might be a decent shot when you need to be. Are you following me?”

“Yeah, I am, but Taylor...”

“Save your breath. We both know what’s going to happen to me.”

Matt nodded unhappily.

Taylor leaned back, propping himself up with his hands. Taylor told Matt where the farmhouse was.

“Steve and I…We were good friends. We knew each other from boot camp and our first duty station. We joined the same police department when our enlistments were up. We were rookies together, got married within a year of each other, and he lived just down the street. Hell, we even vacationed together. Do you have anyone like that?”

Matt shook his head. “Wish I did. That sounds like a real friend.”

“Yeah... Steve was the type of guy who’d risk himself for you—well, you saw how he came to help me. He always had my back. I guarantee he’s sitting up there on some cloud right now, pissed that Eric got the drop on him like that. Not so much mad that he died, just mad about the way it happened.” Taylor gave a half smirk and stared a thousand yards out into the water.

“I’m sorry, Taylor.” It seemed woefully inadequate, but it was all Matt could think of to say.

“Don’t be
. I
fucked up and gave that kid his knives back. I got Steve killed, and for what? That kid never did anything to help any of us. I should have shot him when I first saw him”

“That’s not exactly true. When I jumped out of the window the infected man who’d been trapped in the classroom grabbed me. Eric stabbed him from behind and, when the guy was distracted, I was able to kill him. I know it can’t bring Steve back, but giving Eric his knives back saved my life and maybe Jenna’s and the baby’s.”

Taylor smiled and patted Matt on the shoulder. “Well, I’m glad to hear it. Maybe it wasn’t a total fuck up.” Taylor looked toward the berthing, where Jenna and the baby were. “When this is over I want you to find my family and Steve’s family and tell them how we went. Tell them we were brave, that we did it to save the baby. They’ll understand because that’s the damn truth. If it wasn’t for the baby I might have left you guys. Keep that little girl safe, Matt.”

Matt nodded. Maybe Taylor’s words should have stung, but they didn’t. He felt the same way. Maybe they were all just cowards looking for a reason to be a hero.

“My family and Steve are at his family’s farmhouse, it’s an old brick colonial. The kind with a deck on the top and bottom. His farm is on the north side of Henry Huff Road but east of state Route 1326. Can you remember that?”

Matt nodded.

Taylor took a deep breath. “I want you to do for me what I did for Steve. I couldn’t live with the idea that I could come back and hurt that child. So give me a few minutes and then do what I ask. I’ll be thinking about my family. Don’t tell me when you’re gonna do it.” He smiled. “As much as I like you, I don’t want my last thought to be about you, Matt. Can you do that?”

Matt nodded. “Taylor…I just wanted to say…thanks. I don’t think I could have gotten out of the hospital without you. Jenna’s alive because of you. That baby is alive.” He swallowed and chambered a round. “I’ll do what you’re asking. I’ll find your family.”

“That means a lot to me.” Taylor met Matt’s eyes for a moment before looking away. “Now I’m just gonna look at the city and think a little bit.”

The minutes dragged out as Matt waited. Jenna came up and he went back to the stern to quietly explain what was happening. Tears filled her eyes and she squeezed Matt’s arm before going back downstairs.

Just watching Taylor think about his family while waiting to be killed was enough to make Matt want to crawl inside the boat and never come out. Was he supposed to wait a long time and give Taylor every possible minute? Or should he just do it and get it over with? He was still thinking about this when he saw Taylor start to sway and grab one of the safety stays to support himself. Matt shouldered the weapon. He lined the sights up on the back of Taylor’s skull, breathed steadily and, just like Taylor had taught him, smoothly pulled the trigger until the gun barked.

It wasn’t messy. Taylor’s body fell forward into the water with a splash. He heard Jenna stifle a cry from inside.

“Thanks, Taylor,” Matt whispered.

That night the city was colored red. The burning skyline lit up the bay like Matt had never seen. He lost count of the gunshots he heard. Was there any order left? Was there anyone alive who wasn’t infected?

Matt slept deeply once Jenna took over the watch. When he woke Jenna had pulled out a chart of the surrounding area.

“Mobjack Bay. It looks like a good place to anchor,” she said, pointing to an empty part of the map, just north of where they were.

“Mobjack Bay it is,” Matt said. He didn’t care where they went, as long as it was away from here.

They set a course, leaving Virginia Beach behind.

 

The End

But don’t stop reading! This may not be the last you see of Matt. The adventure continues on the next page in EXODUS FROM THE SEVEN CITIES.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXODUS FROM THE SEVEN CITIES

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

 

It was a bright, hot day in June. Khalid Abdul Rahman shielded his eyes from the sun’s reflection as it bounced off the water of the Chesapeake Bay. There wasn’t much time left, but he sipped his coffee slowly, enjoying the taste while he gazed down the Virginia Beach oceanfront like he had his whole life ahead of him. He’d been told American coffee was a poor substitute for the rich flavors he was used to in Yemen, but he savored the taste anyway; coffee was one of the few things in America that reminded him of home.

The outlying area of Virginia Beach was known as Hampton Roads and it was comprised of a number of cities that had merged over time. The heat and humidity were overwhelming. Most people associated Yemen with oppressive desert heat, but Khalid was from Sana’a, the capital, known for its comfortable temperature year round. Khalid missed it.

The temperature had been just as hot three weeks ago when Khalid was smuggled, along with fifteen other men, through a tunnel across the Mexican border. His childhood friend Ali had been with him then. The tunnel had been cool, like air conditioning, but as they stepped into the corrugated metal shed that covered the tunnel’s exit, he’d felt the Texas sun beating down. Still, the heat hadn’t tempered his eagerness. It had been a long journey and he was finally in the land of opportunity.

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

 

 

Sam Connor walked past the armed guard and out the front gate.
Five long years
. He inhaled deeply, savoring the moment just like he’d promised himself. The air tasted sweeter as a free man, he was sure of it.

Jill was waiting in their beat-up Hyundai Elantra. Their son, Grant, sat in the backseat, his dimpled legs sprawled out of his almost-outgrown car seat. When they first brought Grant home from the hospital the car seat had seemed impossibly large; it was hard to believe he was nearly two.

Jill smiled up at him. “Glad to be free at last?” She glanced at the dashboard clock. “You’re half an hour early. I wasn’t expecting you ‘til ten.”

“Glad doesn’t even begin to describe it.” He kissed her cheek and glanced over his shoulder with mock nervousness. “Let’s get out of here before someone changes their mind.”

Sam always gave the same scripted response when people asked him how it felt to be getting out of the Navy: “I’m glad I had the opportunity to serve my country. Not knowing where my next paycheck will come from is a little nerve-racking, but I'm excited for the future.”

This wasn’t a lie, per se, but if Sam had been completely truthful, he’d say he felt ecstatic, like he’d just been granted parole.

The air was warm as it blew through the car window and onto Sam’s smiling face. He’d been so excited about today that he’d already removed the base decals from both of their cars. As a result, Jill had had to wait for him outside the front gate, but she was in such a good mood she hadn’t minded. He wondered if this was how he would feel when he hiked the Appalachian Trail in a few days. It had been a dream of his for years, but his work schedule had been too strict to attempt it while he was still enlisted. Now, however, his time was his own.

Fifteen minutes later, Jill pulled into their driveway. Across the street Sam could see his elderly neighbor, Jack, leaning over to inspect his yard for imaginary imperfections. He’d done the same thing every day for the past five years, even though the yard was so perfect it looked like it was from a 1950s sitcom. Jack considered dandelions and weeds to be the terrorists of the horticultural world; his lawn was a slice of Middle America. By comparison, Sam’s lawn was the Korangal valley in Afghanistan—a hot bed of dandelion terrorist activity.

BOOK: Fall of the Seven Cities Saga (Book 1)
3.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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