Authors: Christian Fletcher
“We should have taken a more suitable vehicle,” I whined.
“Quit griping,” Smith barked. “It’s not my fucking fault this route was full of zombies. Cole said it was a clear path to the main gate and at the moment, we’re stuck with it.”
I heard gear cogs whirr and grind
in mechanized denial but eventually Smith managed to find a forward gear that engaged. He switched the headlamps to full but only one beam shone across the grassy ground. The Mustang fishtailed as Smith hit the gas, the side of the vehicle slamming into the leading female zombie and a few more of the undead behind her, sending them sprawling through the undergrowth.
Smith regained control of the vehicle and sped as fast as the damaged engine would allow us. He looped around, through the tangle of trees
and overhanging branches, searching for the solid road surface. I was worried about the loud knocking sound emitting from under the car’s hood. It sounded like a skeleton was trying to punch its way out through the metal.
“How long do you think
this engine can run for?”
“Long enough to get the hell out of here,” Smith growled.
My front view was limited through the cracked windshield glass and I hoped Smith hadn’t become disorientated and heading in the wrong direction. Twenty yards to our left, I saw a glisten of blacktop between two high curbs illuminated in the moonlight.
“Over there, to the left, Smith,” I bellowed, pointing the way.
Smith craned his neck to the direction I was pointing, peering through the hole in the windshield glass.
“Got it,” he snapped and swung hard to our left.
The Mustang slewed sideways, knocking down two zombies in the process. Smith spun the steering wheel left and right, gaining some traction on the soft turf. The front wheels bounced down the high curb onto the road and I heard a sickening scraping noise as the car’s low hung undercarriage grated across the concrete blocks.
“Ooh, shit!” I winced. “There goes the tail pipe.”
Smith flashed me a threatening sideways glance that told me to shut up. The rear wheels bounced down the curb and the whole car juddered. I thought for one horrible second that the whole thing was about to fall to pieces around me like those clown cars you used to see at the circus.
I turned to look out of the back window and saw the main body of the undead crowd still lumbering along the road, around thirty feet behind us. Smith glanced in his mirror and must have seen the same horrific sight. As he attempted to pull away, a horrendous screeching sound screamed from the engine. Maybe the skeleton inside
the hood was now burning his ass on the red hot engine block and squealing in agony.
“I don’t think this car is going to go on much further,” Smith yelled above the rattling and screeching.
“Oh, you think?” I wailed.
The poor Mustang now resembled something I remembered last being driven by a cartoon character called ‘
’ in a TV show called ‘
The aforementioned animated villain usually had an oversized ‘
’ anvil dropped on his car from a great height every week but he always lived to fight another day, or another hilarious scenario. The similarities with my cartoon friend ended there. I never remembered an episode of the show when old ‘
’ was being pursued by a number of blood thirsty zombies.
The Mustang spluttered and coughed and
screeched but somehow still carried on running. Every second it crept forward allowed us a little more space between us and the undead horde. I leaned across the front seats to look at the speedometer and saw we were traveling at twenty-seven miles an hour.
“That’s with my foot right down on the gas,” Smith muttered, flashing me a glance. “I daren’t try and change gear in case it won’t engage. I think it’s in third.”
“We might get lucky when we hit the main gate. Somebody might have left their keys inside a vehicle,” I said in vain hope.
Smith shook his head. “The batteries will all be flat by now
, if they’ve been standing unused all this time.”
“I don’t want to have to get back to the boat on foot,” I sighed. “We can’t carry that damn ammo box all the way back here.”
“Don’t talk too soon, kid,” Smith huffed. “We’re not even at the river yet.”
The Mustang juddered onwards on the scenic road and through the darkness.
I wondered how far we had to go to reach the main gate, remembering the undead crowd that had trapped us on the way in. We couldn’t rely on Milner and his crew to come and save us again. They’d be busy packing the plane, excitedly anticipating a fresh life in pastures new.
The tree-lined route looped around the base perimeter. I saw an empty assault course with vines and weeds growing the height of the thick wooden poles
that formed the structures of the climbing apparatus. Partially overgrown signposts pointed the way to nature trails and the various buildings which shaped the main base hub. A few rabbits scurried across the road in front of us, returning to the safe confines of the woods to our right. We saw the odd zombie milling around between the trees, turning and moaning at us as we drove by.
I pointed to a faded sign on the roadside that read the main gate was one mile away.
“Let’s just hope we get there,” Smith grunted.
“I hope that whole bunch of zombies isn’t still there. No way will we be able to plow our way through that lot in this crippled thing.”
“You’re full of optimism, aren’t you, Wilde?” Smith sighed. “We’ll figure something out. We always do.”
That was my main worry. Our luck had to run dry sometime and with an escape from the zombie infested country only minutes away, I hoped irony wasn’t going to play a cruel hand in our situation.
My breathing rapidly increased as we neared the main gate. I leaned with my head at a crooked angle towards my side window, trying to peer around the roof pillar as I couldn’t see through the splintered windshield glass. Smith struggled to turn the steering wheel to the right off the ring-road and back onto the main thoroughfare. The car’s lone, wonky headlamp picked out the overhanging canopy above the abandoned security offices. There was enough room for our battered vehicle to pass by the immobile vehicles lined up on the entrance and exit road but I could make out some shuffling shapes milling around the canopy.
“Ah, damn it, Smith. There are still a shit load of those bastards still w
andering around out there,” I groaned.
“We don’t have a choice,” Smith muttered. “Keep your weapon drawn and fire if you have to. The bag of spare ammo is on the backseat. You better grab it and keep it handy in case we need it in a big hurry.”
I swiveled around in my seat and grabbed the day sack from the rear and placed it between my feet. The Mustang emitted another rasping splutter as we approached the main gate. Several ambling human forms shuffled out of the shadows in front of us, anticipating our arrival. The undead still had some sense of improvisation as far as prey was concerned. It was hard to miss the sound of the rattling vehicle in the still night.
“Here we go,” I muttered, steeling myself for the inevitable onslaught.
“I’m going to keep us heading through, hold tight,” Smith said, sounding determined.
I didn’t share Smith’s resolute optimism. The Mustang seemed like a coffin in waiting. Something I was so impressed by less than twenty minutes previously, now felt like a death trap. We edged closer to the security canopy, meeting the undead head on.
The nearest zombie stepped off the curb to our right and directly into the one cockeyed headlamp beam. He was once a mailman, still dressed in ragged remains of a pale blue shirt and navy short pants. A blue mail bag with ‘
United States Postal Service
’ logo scrawled in white lettering across the center, still hung pointlessly across his shoulders. The mailman zombie’s shirt was torn open, revealing substantial abdominal injuries, caused by human teeth and hands. His face was a mask of gray snarling aggression.
Smith steered into the mailman, bumping his gaunt
frame with the Mustang’s front wing. The blow was enough to knock the zombie off his feet and sent him sprawling into the gutter.
More of the undead followed the mailman onto the road as we crept further towards the security canopy. We moved by the small crowd, slightly out pacing them.
Smith veered around the lines of abandoned vehicles facing the exit and entrance lanes. We kept to the less densely blocked entrance lane to our right. If things were normal we’d have military guys blowing warning whistles, flagging us down and sternly administering a dressing down for driving on the wrong side of the road.
Smith weaved the Mustang between the stationary vehicles and the concrete traffic calmers, nudging zombies out of our path with the car’s nose. He kept to a fairly slow speed to avoid more impact damage. We moved slowly under the canopy and the undead seemed to
sprawl from the shadows, banging and scratching the roof and sides of our car. Broken, rotting faces leered at me through the side window. I tightly gripped the M-9, aiming the barrel at my would-be killers and expecting the glass to give way at any moment against the pressure of numerous clawing hands.
“Come on, baby, keep going,” Smith bellowed, trying to provide some kind of encouragement to the dilapidated Mustang.
An expression of grim determination engulfed his face as he gritted his teeth and slightly rocked back and forth in his seat.
I slid down my seat in a futile attempt to hide away from the many gruesome faces only inches away and separated by a thin sheet of window glass. Decaying hands pressed against the busted windshield, forcing the splintered glass to buckle and bend inwards.
“They’re going to push out the windshield, Smith,” I wailed.
“No they fucking ‘aint,” he growled.
Smith stomped on the gas pedal and the engine emitted an almost ear splitting, shrill roar. A cloud of steam billowed out from under the hood, masking our vision. The Mustang did at least increase in speed, barging through the undead swarm. I could no longer see their gnarled, rotting faces and hands through the plume of steam and thanked my lucky stars for small mercies. We felt the car jolt every time the wheels bumped over a fallen corpse.
“The temperature gauge is going through the roof,” Smith barked, pointing to a dial on the dash. “The damn engine is going to cook itself anytime soon.”
A cooked engine to go with two cooked guys inside the car. Maybe the zombies would toast us over the red hot engine block and devour our bodies in some kind of grisly barbecue party.
Smith pointed his Beretta through the small hole in the windshield and blindly fired off a hail of shots. The Mustang suddenly lurched forward as though it had found a new lease of life. The night breeze blew the steam across the hood from left to right, allowing us a clearer view as to what the heck was going on outside the car.
Smith violently swerved to avoid a collision with one of the block concrete traffic calmers then steered us back to the lane’s center. I glanced out of the side window and saw we’d passed under the canopy and were now parallel with the UPS truck. The sleek contours of the Mustang made it difficult for any zombie to gain a hand hold and cling onto the vehicle.
Somehow, we slipped free of the grabbing hands and spluttered down the road. Smith slightly raised his foot off the gas pedal, I guessed to try and conserve what little life the Mustang had left.
We moved at a crawl but still faster than your average zombie could muster.
A few undead, lone stragglers stepped in our path, hoping to hamper our escape. Smith veered around them, not wanted to inflict any more damage on our terminally ailing ride.
I breathed out a huge sigh of relief, even though I knew our safety was only a temporary condition. I reached for my pack of smokes, lit two and handed one over to Smith.
“I could sure use a drink, right now,” Smith muttered, before drawing in a huge
puff on his cigarette.
“I think we still have some Bourbon back on the boat,” I sighed, wishing I could take a slug of something strong myself. “You know we have to get by that lot again on the way back? The car will be heavier and even more on the brink of failing. That’s if we make it
back there in the first place.” I was babbling and I knew it. Perhaps it was a release of emotion.
right off the side road and back onto the Highway. The car let out a violent backfire, not dissimilar to the sound of a shotgun engaging, as we turned the corner. A few straggling zombies turned to watch us drive slowly by and began to trundle along behind us.
“They’ll keep following us, all right,” Smith said, glancing in his rear view mirror. “We have to put some distance between us so I can have a look at this damn engine.”