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Authors: Higgins,Baileigh

Last Another Day (3 page)

BOOK: Last Another Day
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Morgan posed a problem in her pajamas. Although they were both slim, Morgan was taller and more muscular. Finally, in the spare bedroom, she found old horse riding clothes of Morgan's which still fit.

Kitted out in black tights, knee-high boots, and a navy t-shirt she looked beautiful, taking more after her father than her with thick brown hair, tanned skin, and large greenish-gold eyes. Her mouth was set in a determined line. For once, she looked like the confident, strong woman Julianne knew her to be.

“I'm proud of you, you know? You showed a lot of guts today,” Julianne said.

“You think so? I don't know.” She shrugged and averted her eyes. “At least, you had the courage to give Dad peace. I left Brian like that.”

“Don't be too hard on yourself. You did the best you could, sweetheart.”

“Maybe.”

They packed food, water, batteries, flashlights, and bedding. They loaded their supplies into the back of the Ford, keeping a careful eye out for infected. It looked like Morgan had cleared out the street earlier, and it was quiet for the moment.

To Julianne, it felt like a part of her life was ending. Watching John die and then killing his re-animated corpse was the stuff of nightmares. She could tell Morgan was struggling too, but they both tried to hold it together for Meghan's sake. The little girl was tearful and confused, asking constantly for her Daddy. Julianne had no idea what to tell her.

She pulled on a pair of beige cargo pants and a white t-shirt. With her hair pulled back into a ponytail, she gazed at her reflection in the mirror. No traces of the earlier tragedy showed in her eyes, which surprised her.

I should look different.

She went to the safe and found a small holster she attached to her belt and tucked in the little pistol after reloading it. She gave John's 9mm with its holster and belt to Morgan.

“Time to say goodbye,” Morgan said.

John and Sarah lay side by side on the grass where Morgan had left them, covered in sheets.

Julianne stared at the bodies. Tears welled up and she let them flow, allowing herself the luxury of grief. Meghan was crying too while Princess whined at their feet.

“This is so hard,” Julianne sobbed.

Morgan placed an arm around her shoulder and squeezed. “I’m sorry, Mom.”

“I miss him already,” Julianne added. “Why did this happen? Why him?”

“I don’t know.”

“And Sarah…What about her family?”

Morgan sighed. After a few more seconds she cleared her throat. “We’ve got to go now, Mom. It’s not safe here.”

Julianne nodded.

After one last look around the house, she walked out, leaving a lifetime of memories behind. Locking the door, Julianne tucked the key under the mat and strode along the path, brushing her fingers over the rosebushes she had spent years cultivating.

It's only temporary.

Silent tears trickled down her cheeks as they reversed out of the driveway. She watched her house getting smaller in the rear-view mirror.

Julianne navigated the outskirts of Riebeeckstad, taking in the sights of horror meeting her eyes everywhere. Meghan crouched inside the foot well with Princess, trying her best to ignore the sounds outside.

“Don't worry, baby. Mommy won't let anything happen to you,” Julianne soothed.

Morgan suggested they drive past the homes of friends, but they saw no one they knew, neither dead nor alive.

Julianne didn’t dare stop anywhere for long. The first time she tried, a mob of infected swamped the car. They beat on the windows with their fists, growling and screeching, frantic to get to the warm, living flesh inside.

Julianne panicked and jammed her foot on the accelerator, nearly crashing into a signpost. Meghan screamed shrilly in the back while Morgan clutched the dash, her knuckles white with the effort.

Julianne reversed, crunching over several infected, then raced up the street away from danger.

“Let’s not do that again,” Julianne said once they all calmed down.

Morgan bobbed her head up and down. “Agreed.”

Only as they approached the house of Brian's mother did they get their first break. Brian's dad had passed away three years before but his mother, Joanna, still lived. They inspected the yard and blew the hooter.

Much to their surprise, the curtains in the main bedroom's window swept aside, and the frightened face of Joanna peeked out. After a careful look around, Morgan slid out of the car, holding her gun. She ran over, and they exchanged a hurried conversation.

“She's coming. I told her to pack a bag with the essentials,” Morgan explained as she slid back into her seat. “Let's keep an eye out for danger.”

“I hope she hurries,” Julianne replied.

The minutes ticked by, their impatience growing. Julianne's head swiveled, paranoia consuming her every thought.

This is dangerous.

Meghan whimpered in the footwell and Princess barked for the hundredth time. “Shut up, Princess,” Julianne hissed, nerves making her short-tempered.

Meghan's face crumpled.

“Oh, God. I'm sorry, baby. Please, be quiet,” she whispered before rounding on Morgan. “What the hell is taking her so long?”

Morgan shrugged. “No idea. She always does this. She'll be late for her own funeral one day.”

“Well, this might be the day because if the zombies don't kill her, I will.”

After an eternity, Joanna appeared around the corner dragging a huge suitcase far too heavy for her slender arms. She was dressed in her best, done up with perfectly coiffed hair and high heels.

“Oh, for goodness sake. Does she have feathers for brains?” Morgan swore, slipping out to help. She grabbed the suitcase and an indignant Joanna, heaving both into the back of the Ford.

Out of the corner of her eyes, Julianne saw an infected racing across the lawn, heading straight for Morgan.

“Get in now!” she screamed, shifting into reverse.

Morgan dove inside, and they pulled out the driveway. This time, Julianne didn't stop until they were well outside of town.

3
Chapter 3 - Logan

Logan fumbled in the Land Rover's cabinet for his sunglasses, squinting into the glare of the rising sun. He'd been driving throughout most of the night and was worn out. A glance at the rearview mirror showed him haggard eyes and stress lines around the mouth.

In front of him, the road stretched as straight as an arrow in the monotonous tedium of the flat, dry landscape, offering nothing to distract the eye. Even this early, the sun scorched all it touched.

He'd never liked the Free State and escaped from both it and his parents the moment he finished school. Now he was back.

In the distance, a man walked beside the road, carrying a military duffel bag. He slowed. The man was a soldier, dressed in field gear and carrying a sidearm and rifle.

Logan sighed. Should he pull over or not? He wasn’t in the mood for company but it couldn’t be fun walking in this heat. The Land Rover rolled to a stop.

The soldier turned to face the open window with a look of wary caution.

“Do you need a lift?” Logan asked.

“Yeah, I could use one. Where are you headed?”

“Welkom.”

“That's where I'm going. I'm Max.”

“Logan.”

Max got in and they settled into an awkward silence as Logan pulled away. Max looked to be in his late twenties, with dark blond hair and green eyes. He was big too—tall with broad shoulders and a serious, clean-cut face.

Typical soldier boy.

Logan had been too much of a free spirit and rebel to tolerate the rigidity of the army. Instead, he found a job as a game ranger. He spent most of his time roaming the bushveld with his rifle and a tracker as his only company.

Max coughed. “Have you watched the news lately? Lots of strange stuff going on, don't you think?”

“I've seen it. It's all over the radio too. Something about a viral outbreak.”

Max was silent for a while as if weighing his next words. “It's real you know. It's not a story, and it's worse than it looks on TV. A lot worse.” His fidgeted with his cell phone, face pinched. “That's why I'm headed home.”

“The army let you go? Don't they need you?”

“I pulled strings for a three-day furlough to check on my family, then I'll head back.”

Logan looked at Max askance, wondering how honest the guy was being about his 'three-day furlough'. Logan doubted the army would let him go in a time of National crisis.

None of my business.

“Besides, I've got a feeling not even the army can turn the tide on this one,” Max continued.

“Meaning?”

“Meaning we're in big shit.”

“That bad?” Logan asked, his voice laced with skepticism. “What are you saying, exactly?”

“What I'm saying is, it might be too late already. This disease is extremely contagious. It kills you then brings you back to life as a cannibal.”

“Brings you back to life?” Logan snorted. “That's impossible.”

Max shrugged. “Believe what you want.”

“You're talking zombies here.”

Max nodded.

“That's crazy.”

“That's what everybody else thought. Until it was too late.”

Silence reigned as Logan digested this information, adding it to what he'd gleaned from the radio and TV. It was ludicrous. And yet...

Logan’s mind drifted back to his childhood. None of it had been pleasant, but at least, the intervening fifteen years had done much to blur the worst of it.

His father was an alcoholic and a wife beater. Once Logan became old enough to take a punch, his father hit him too. Logan's mother always made excuses for the man, saying they deserved it by angering him.

As a young boy, Logan believed her at first, trying ever harder to please his father. As time passed, though, he came to recognize his father for what he was—a bully and a coward. He also grew to resent his mother for failing to protect him. After school, he packed his bags and left, never looking back.

Now, with reports of a mysterious disease spreading, he found himself heading back home.

Why?

Love?

Loneliness?

He had no idea.

The small town of Bultfontein loomed in the distance. A small community, it served the farmers in the area and boasted a tiny population. Logan checked his fuel gauge, frowning when he spotted the needle heading towards empty.

The town seemed quiet, even for a Sunday. Nothing stirred when he arrived. He pulled into the nearest garage, waiting for a petrol attendant but no one appeared. A twinge of unease stirred in his gut.

He glanced at Max. “I'll check inside. There has to be somebody around.”

Max nodded. “Be careful.”

Logan got out and walked to the shop. An unnatural silence hung over the place. The hair on the back of his neck prickled.

Something is wrong.

However, Logan knew they wouldn't get far without petrol, so he continued on to the tiny store. He peered through the glass into the dim interior. It was empty. Placing a hand on the handle, he pushed. The door creaked open, the sound grating on his nerves.

Logan paused, listening. The radio was on, a love song wailing in the background. It was deserted.

The till stood open and abandoned, a jar of toffees had overturned, spilling its contents onto the floor.

“Looks like the place has been robbed.”

On top of the counter lay one of the petrol attendant's cards. Deciding to take a chance, he picked up the card and backtracked out of the shop, leaving cash in the till.

Outside, Logan shielded his eyes from the glare. A snarl sounded from behind. He whirled and spotted what must once have been an employee. The attendant sported fleshy pink bite marks on the smooth, dark skin of his left cheek and a hole in his neck. Dried blood stained his clothes, and his eyes were wild, no signs of intelligence remaining.

“No fucking way.”

Max was right.

The zombie lurched forward and tried to grab hold of Logan but he skipped backward, stumbling when a stone rolled beneath his foot. Its fingers were like claws, stretching out to hook him when a shot rang out. The thing collapsed at Logan's feet.

A spray of dark red blood decorated the rough stones and spattered onto his shoes. It had an old, clotted appearance which struck Logan as odd. He realized Max was shouting at him and everything came back into focus.

“Move your ass!”

Logan raced back. He slid the petrol card through the slot, thrusting the nozzle into the tank. The air hummed as the fuel pumped into the tank. Logan eyed the meter, willing the numbers to move faster.

“Come on, come on.”

“Logan. We gotta go.”

“Just a little more.”

“Logan...”

“Almost done.”

“Now, Logan.”

“All done.”

“Oh, shit. They're coming. Get in, get in!”

He glanced in the direction Max pointed, and his stomach clenched. People poured from doorways, alleys and side streets. A veritable tidal wave of crazy rolled towards them at an alarming speed. They'd be overwhelmed within seconds.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

Logan slammed shut the petrol cap, sprinted around the car and jumped in with seconds to spare. They roared out of the lot as bodies slammed into the Land Rover, monstrous faces obscuring the windows. They growled, screeched and rasped until the noise rose to an ear-splitting crescendo.

Logan raced up the street, swerving to avoid stationary cars. The Landie shook and shuddered as it powered through the throng, loud thuds echoing through the interior.

Max clutched the dash. “Shit!”

At last, the buildings thinned and the town's population fell back. When Bultfontein and its undead were finally left behind, Logan let out a deep breath and slumped back against the seat.

“Man, that was close.”

Max was pale, lips pressed into a thin line. “It's spreading faster than I thought.”

Half an hour later, Welkom showed on the horizon, and they stopped to come up with a strategy. They got out to stretch their legs, and Logan pulled two beers out of a cooler box in the back, handing one to Max.

“If the infection has reached this far, we'll be facing a horde of hostile people. We need to be prepared,” Max said.

He reached into his duffel bag and pulled out an R4 rifle, standard issue for the army, a tactical load-bearing vest, or 'battle jacket'.

Strapping it on over his short-sleeved camouflage shirt, Max loaded magazines for the R4 and grenades. If Logan remembered correctly, there was space for eight magazines on each side and nine grenades in the front. At thirty-five rounds per magazine, Max packed quite a punch.

He turned to Logan. “I've got extra guns and ammo.”

“That's all right. I've got my own.”

Logan scratched around in a toolbox until he found a small ax with a sturdy handle. He thrust it through his belt. From behind the seat, he grabbed an old hunting rifle.

“I would prefer to use old trusty here. She and I go back many happy years.” He smiled, running a loving hand over the oiled stock.

“Suit yourself.” Max presented a gun in a holster. “But at least carry a sidearm for back-up.”

“Thanks,” Logan slid the holster onto his belt.

They climbed back into the Land Rover and took off, leaving a cloud of dust in their wake. The town appeared ahead so they turned onto Stateway, the main road. It was quiet for the first few kilometers until they drew closer to the center of town. That's when the trouble began.

Car wrecks, belongings, and bodies littered the road. Infected people were breaking into cars and dragging screaming occupants out to die on the bloody tar roads. Things looked bad, and they were attracting attention.

“We need to get through,” Max said.

“Piece of cake.”

Logan clenched his teeth, drove up onto the pavement and plowed his way through the oncoming infected until he reached a stretch of clear road. He was about to gun it when a shrill scream grabbed his attention. Behind them, a teenage boy came tearing up the road, followed by a bunch of infected.

“Do we stop?” Logan asked.

“Of course.”

“All right.”

They grabbed their gear and got out. Logan braced himself against the door, raised his rifle and sighted on the infected closest to the boy. He shot it in the chest, the slug tearing a nice hole through the infected's back.

It fell to the ground, thrashed then crawled back onto its feet, snarling as bloody spit drooled from its lips.

What the fuck?

He sighted on another—a young woman, growling as she pumped her arms and legs.

“Aim for the head!” Max shouted.

“What?”

“The head. It's the only way to kill them.” A spray of bullets from the R4 proved Max's point as several infected fell, heads exploding like overripe melons.

Logan followed his instructions, and the boy reached them unscathed and out of breath, babbling gratitude in a hysterical voice.

Logan cut him short. “No time. Get in and keep your head down.”

With a screech of tires, they pulled away and Logan set his sights on his parents' house. The battle for the town was lost. Overrun police barricades and crashed anti-riot vehicles littered key points throughout the inner city. The dead roamed the streets, with few living to be seen. Those they spotted, were either barricaded inside their homes and shops or fleeing the city.

Logan was ruthless, leaving a wake of destruction behind him. A blank-eyed girl without a jaw passed by his window as he plowed over a rose garden, leaving muddy tracks on the lawn. He clipped a sedan reversing out of its driveway, ignoring the string of expletives the driver flung at him.

A police car raced past with siren blaring only to collide with another oncoming vehicle. With a hard right, Logan swerved around the crash, observing the bruised and bloody officer staggering from his car only to be pulled down by two infected. Shots rang out as he fired his sidearm blindly in all directions.

A truck blocked the road ahead and once more, Logan plowed over gardens, driveways and infected, crunching over the odd garden gnome and bird bath. Never had the Land Rover worked so hard to earn its reputation as a tough vehicle.

When he drew to a stop in front of the old house, Logan was abruptly brought back to his unhappy childhood, as he once again played in the dusty yard while his father yelled for more beer.

“Ready?” Max asked.

“No.”

“We've got to move fast. More infected will come.”

“I know.” Logan got out, not at all sure if he wanted to do this.

Turn around.

He sighed, remembering his mother's gaunt face.

“Let's go,” he told Max before turning to the back window. “Hey, boy. Stay down and keep quiet. We won't be long.”

The familiar walls of his childhood home closed in around him. His heart thumped in his ears. The faded carpets brought back memories of the hours his mother spent on her knees, scrubbing them because his father refused to replace them.

Everything was quiet, except for a ticking clock on the wall. The furniture gleamed, the air rich with the mixed odors of polish and roast meat. Logan walked through the living room, past the dining room, spotting a half-empty plate of food on the table.

The hair on the back of his neck prickled. He stepped into the hallway, glancing back to make sure Max was still behind him. Much as he hated to admit it, he needed the reassurance.

The main bedroom lay ahead. He rounded the corner with trepidation. There he saw his mother, still dressed in frayed and blood-stained pajamas, chewing on his father's intestines. The old guy was still alive, mouth working as his eyes rolled around in their sockets.

So, she got the old bastard after all.

Logan raised his gun and aimed for his father's head. At the last moment, his father saw him and raised a hand, as if in supplication. His mouth tried to form words but failed as he choked on his own blood.

Logan's mother raised empty eyes to his before snarling, fingers tightening around a rope of innards.

He pulled the trigger twice.

Two shots and he lost the only family he ever had.

With the sound still ringing in his ears, he turned and stumbled outside. At Max's insistence, he handed over the keys and allowed himself to be driven.

BOOK: Last Another Day
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