Authors: Christian Fletcher
“We’ll be right back,” Smith repeated and slammed his foot onto the gas pedal.
sped out of the parking lot, leaving Batfish’s last words of protest unheard and hanging in the night air. Smith drove onto the narrow winding lanes that looped around the airfield perimeter.
“I hope we’ve done the right thing,” I sighed, taking out my pack of smokes.
“We should be okay but I didn’t want to put Batfish in any unnecessary danger if there’s a way out of all this,” Smith said, taking the cigarette I offered him.
our smokes and buzzed down the side windows slightly. Still in the apocalyptic world, we were worried about the anti-smoking brigade admonishing us for puffing away in the vehicle. I turned on the radio in the vain hope there might be some station playing somewhere. I tuned through all the preset channels but only picked up hissing static.
“I guess all the DJs are on vacation,” I muttered.
I pressed another button to activate the CD player. Somebody might have left a disk in the player. I was pleasantly surprised when
pumped from the interior speakers. The song sounded good and raw, from the opening guitar riff, through the harmonica accompaniment to Jim Morrison’s hoarse vocals. I used to own several ‘
’ CDs, which were now probably gathering dust back in my abandoned apartment in Pennsylvania. 1960’s rock and Blues music were my favorite type of genres. I sang along with the lyrics and Smith drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. Little snippets of my life felt good, like things used to be before the world went to hell. Riding shotgun in a top of the range Mustang and listening to ‘
’ was one of those all too brief, feel good moments.
ended and the play list moved on to the next track, the equally upbeat Doors song –
I couldn’t help but wonder what the 1960’s icon and Doors singer, Jim Morrison would have made of the world in its current state. Maybe he would have embraced the apocalypse or simply driven out into the Californian desert to live out his days as a nomad, quietly singing his lyrics and reciting his poetry to himself.
As if to endorse my musings, Smith muttered, “Jim had it all figured out.”
I dwelled on that statement until
Smith slowed the Mustang when we came to a forked road. The sign pointed in each direction. The route to the right was indicating the way to the main administration buildings at the center of the base, while the alternative sign on the left read ‘
“That’s the way the Chief was talking about,” Smith said, pointing
through the windshield to the sign to our left. He steered onto the road indicating the exit and accelerated up to slightly over forty miles an hour. Long grass sprouted amongst neat rows of pine trees on the banks either side of the exit road. “We’ll bypass the base hub where all those zombies are gathered.”
“Sounds good,” I said, flicking the cigarette butt out of the open window. “We don’t want to be hanging around too long.”
I glanced at the illuminated clock on the dash. It read 04:27.
“Do you think that thing is showing the right time?”
Smith shrugged. “Seems to be around the right time.”
“What time does it get light
A.M. at a guess.”
“That gives us roughly around an hour and a half to get back here. But we need to cut that time down, if we can. We need to be onboard that plane in good time before it takes off.”
“Gotcha, Skipper,” Smith said. He grinned and chopped me off a mock salute.
I laughed. “Sorry man, I wasn’t trying to bust your balls, just trying to put our timeline into perspective.”
Smith glanced at me and grinned. He turned back to watch the road and I noticed the grin not so much slip but fall from his face. I felt the Mustang lurch as Smith stamped on the brake. Smith stared ahead out the windshield with a look of shock on his face.
“Oh shit! What were you saying about that timeline, Wilde?”
I followed his gaze and audibly gulped at the scene ahead of us. Our timeline suddenly took a turn for the worse.
A string of zombies milled in a horizontal line across the narrow back road. They must have numbered around fifty in total and stood shuffling in a huddle
, blocking our route.
“They weren’t supposed to be here,” Smith
“What are they doing?” I pointlessly asked.
“Eating donuts and whistling fucking Dixie,” Smith growled, through clenched teeth. He twisted his head and looked through the back window. “We have two options here. Either go back and try and get through the main route or try and get around these bastards somehow.”
I didn’t like either of our options. The streets amongst the base were teeming with undead and we’d have no clear path through if we were bottle necked. The Mustang was a great car but it stood low to the ground and wouldn’t offer us much protection against a hungry zombie mob. They would soon smash the windows and we’d be sitting ducks stranded inside the vehicle. I remembered how Milner had struggled to maneuver the
armor plated Humvee through the tide of undead as they swarmed around the modified military vehicle last time we were on the base collecting diesel canisters. The Mustang would stand no chance against a similar kind of situation.
“It’s around fifty zombies this route against five hundred the other way,” I stated.
The undead crowd fanned out further across the road and began shuffling towards the headlamps, like moths attracted to a light bulb. The zombie’s mouths opened and closed and I guessed they weren’t singing
‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’
I couldn’t hear their usual monotonous moans over the sound of
on the stereo. I didn’t want to hear that terrible noise any more. One more trip and I’d never have to hear that sound again. The track on the CD moved along to
‘Waiting For The Sun.’
If only we were waiting for the sun. We were more like racing against the sun.
We sat listening to the song for around thirty seconds. Well, that wasn’t strictly true. I was listening to the song and Smith was obviously mulling over his next course of action. He finally slapped the dash with the palm of his hand.
“Fuck it!” Smith banged his foot down hard on the gas pedal and the Mustang’s tires squealed on the blacktop before we shot forward at speed.
I double checked my safety harness was engaged
, as I knew we were going to be in for a bumpy ride. Smith slowed slightly and bounced the Mustang up the concrete curb on our right. The advancing undead were around twenty feet from the front fender. They were already clawing the air, demonstrating what they planned to do to us. The leading zombie was clad in the remains of green combat fatigues and military style black boots. An assault rifle still hung uselessly across his back and the skin on his face was half peeled from his skull.
The Mustang lurched sideways as the tires skidded on the dew damp grass and soft mud beneath. Smith fiddled with the paddle controls surrounding the steering wheel and changed the traction control settings
, using a blue digital on-screen option. The rear wheel driven tires gripped the spongy surface beneath and Smith was able to regain control of the vehicle.
The overhanging pine tree branches rattled the Mustang’s roof. Smith turned the lights to low in an attempt to make us
a less visible target. We moved roughly twenty yards from the road but still traveled on a parallel route. I briefly glimpsed a pair of hands reaching for me through my side window. Bony fingers clunked against the side of the car and I caught sight of an eyeless, rotting face with the jaws wide open. The terrifying image stayed imprinted in my mind’s eye for a few seconds.
Smith couldn’t accelerate away too quickly in case the car’s wheels spun and produced
rutted grooves in the soil that we wouldn’t be able to get out of. The surrounding trees became denser and Smith had to swerve left and right to avoid colliding with the thick trunks. I looked at the speedometer that told me we were traveling at no more than fifteen miles an hour. Quicker than a zombie could move but not fast enough to escape the massed horde.
“Nice and easy, don’t lose sight of the road,” Smith murmured to himself
, increasing the car’s speed.
The foliage from a low hanging pine tree branch brushed over the windshield, obscuring
our vision for a second. When the branch had scraped over the roof, we saw a female zombie standing no more than two yards directly in front of us. Her snarling, emaciated face was captured in the low beam headlamps. Her lower jaw drooped wide open, the skin around her white filmed eyes was mottled and parched. Tangled black hair hung around the sides of her head and she was dressed in the tatty remains of a once white nurse’s uniform. She spread her arms wide away from her body as though she was offering a welcoming embrace.
left to try and avoid the female ghoul, but she was too close. The angled corner of the front fender clipped the undead ex-nurse. I heard glass breaking a fraction of a second before the body tumbled across the vehicle’s hood and crashed against the windshield. A loud cracking noise filled the interior, even above the sound of Ray Manzarek’s haunting keyboard playing on the stereo. The windshield glass fractured and huge spider-web shaped cracks obscured our view of the outside world. I heard the female zombie clatter over the roof and caught a brief glimpse of her grubby, off-white uniform as she was tossed into the long grass.
“Shit!” Smith croaked. He hit the brakes but the car skidded on the dampness. I
saw a tree trunk looming directly ahead of us and braced myself against the collision impact. The crunching and folding of metal and sounds of breaking glass reverberated around the interior. Smith and I lurched forward from the bucket seats, the safety belt dug hard into my shoulder. The front air bags engaged and puffed out in front of us like huge balloons. Dusty powder blew up my nose and down my throat. I coughed and nearly retched and wiped the powder off my face. The engine cut out and the stereo went silent.
I batted the air bag down and looked out of the side window, trying to gauge how close any zombies were to us. Smith wrenched on his own air bag and shoved it out of the way of the steering wheel.
His face and hair were also coated in powder from the release of the airbags but he didn’t seem to be showing any discomfort. From my side window, I saw at least a dozen undead emerge from the darkness, approaching us and winding their way through the trees.
“I hope this
damn thing still drives,” Smith growled.
Luckily, the engine restarted but didn’t sound too healthy.
The music blared from the speakers too loudly. Smith rammed the gear shift into reverse. The airbags gradually deflated and I silently apologized to Jim Morrison when I hit the ‘off’ button on the stereo.
The front of the Mustang creaked and groaned against the tree bark as Smith maneuvered the car backwards. The engine was still running but sound
ed a whole lot different now than before the collision. Something rattled loudly inside the hood and steam spewed from the battered grille. Smith stamped on the brake when we were clear of the tree trunk.
“Those military guys are going to be pissed when they see what we’ve done to their car,” I spluttered, still gagging on the
“That’s the least of our worries, right now,” Smith growled, thrashing through the gears. He drew his Beretta and held the barrel while he
frantically batted the broken windshield glass with the gun’s hand grip, until he’d made a hole big enough to see through.
“Err…Smith, I don’t want to alarm you further, but there are a bunch of zombies closing in on us.”
The gear cogs whined in refusal to engage, no matter how hard Smith wrestled with the shift stick.
“Fucking thing!” Smith seethed through clenched teeth.
The nearest zombie approaching my side of the car used to be female. She rasped in short little growls, as though she was scolding a disobedient puppy, while hobbling closer to my side window. She wore a torn, dark shirt and a conventional skirt. Maybe she’d been some kind of admin worker in her former life. Her long, straight dark hair hung either side of her head, masking her face in shadow. More shambling, once human shapes loomed in the shadows behind her. I reached around my back and drew my Beretta. The thin window glass didn’t offer me much protection but I wasn’t about to open it and start taking pot shots at our attackers.