EARTH’S SURVIVORS: APOCALYPSE
Copyright 2009 Dell Sweet all rights reserved.
Cover Art © Copyright 2018 Dell Sweet
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This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.
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Off to their left the city was easy to spot. There were fires all through it. In some places huge sections were on fire, in others it was scattered fires. There were no areas that didn’t seem to be affected, and with the fires it was easy to track the edge of the cities as they drove.
Lana laughed. “So they just added names. Well, couldn’t the same be said about Los Angeles? About any large city as it grows? Isn’t that the way it works?”
“I guess… I hadn’t thought it out.”
“Going to have to cut through part of the city,” Lana said a few moments later.
Johnny looked up from the map as the truck rolled to a stop. “A river.”
“Probably a canal…” Lana said. “Either way we can’t drive over it… Does it break anywhere?” She turned the truck and began to run along the side of the canal heading for the city once more. In the distance several fires burned, but the fires seemed to be several miles distance, nothing close. “Like a housing development or something,” Lana said a few minutes later as the truck bumped up onto a road that was paralleled by a brick wall. The wide concrete gutter was bone dry, the pavement smooth after so much time in the desert
“Not on the map…” He shrugged. “I just don’t know, Lana.”
Lana had stopped on the edge of the housing development. It was dark, lit only by the headlights of the truck. Cars and trucks sat neatly in driveways. The streets were empty. Heavy dust seemed to blanket the whole scene. Little trails cut from place to place.
“Spooky,” Johnny said. “Volcanic ash?”
“Probably… What do you think the trails are?”
Johnny frowned. “It has to be the dead.”
“It doesn’t have to be the dead… Could be small animals raiding house to house… No garbage any more so they have to get into those houses and get what they can or starve… Or it could be the dead.”
“Great, you had me ha…”
Something hit the truck hard and it rocked on its springs. The smell of death hit them about the same time, and Lana hit the gas, mashing the pedal into the floor boards.
A rotting hand came through the open back window and fastened around Lana’s throat, her hands left the wheel as she was yanked backwards; the truck spun hard to the left and accelerated, her foot still mashed on the gas.
Johnny lifted his gun and shot the zombie in the face. It seemed slow motion at first, the face exploded as it fell away into the back of the pickup, Lana drew a deep breath and tried to grab the wheel, but it was too late. Everything sped up to real time and the truck roared forward and slammed into the side of a house, continuing on through the wall and into it. Her foot had slammed down on the brake and the truck finally stopped several feet inside the house.
Johnny hit the dashboard hard and then rebounded and slid under the dash as the truck plunged into the house. Seconds later he scrambled out from under the dash, the smell of gasoline was strong, the smell of the hot motor equally strong. He looked over at Lana but she seemed dazed, her eyes unfocused, a trickle of blood running from somewhere under her hairline, mumbling softly under her breath. Johnny levered his door open with a little help from his foot, it screeched as it opened. The screech of metal was very loud in the silence of the house. The headlights were still on, illuminating what looked to be a kitchen.
The smell of death came to him over the smell of gas and hot motor.
“My God, Lana, we’ve got to go,” Johnny said loudly. He reached down, gabbed Lana’s rifle where it had fallen to the floor and then shoved his gun into his holster. He was surprised he had the presence of mind to actually pull the strap over the hammer and snap it in place to hold the gun in. He reached over and pulled Lana to him, she came willingly. A second later he was outside the ruined truck and staring out the hole it had punched through into the house. He saw no dead, but he could smell them. He debated only briefly and then ran for the hole and the moonlit night outside.
The dead were all around, pulled from their wanderings by the sound of the wreck and the smell of the living. Johnny shifted Lana’s weight more fully onto his shoulder, and lifted the gun, but before he could fire, the truck blew up behind him and he felt himself pushed by the blast out into the street where he struggled to stay on his feet. A warm rush of air moved rapidly past him and Johnny got his feet moving only a second later.
The dead scattered. They made an odd clicking sound, a sort of strangled scream, which Johnny supposed was all they could do with no air to move their lungs, as he ran they slowly disappeared into the hiding places they had stumbled from. An SUV loomed out of the darkness, illuminated by the flames and the moonlight: Dusty, sitting in the driveway of a house three houses over from the one they had plowed into. A second later and Johnny had the door open and he tumbled Lana inside onto the passenger seat. He ran around the car to the other side and fired a quick burst at three of the dead that came from the side of the garage and started toward him in their stumbling, dragging way. They all three went down, but they were back up again almost as quickly as they had gone down. He was too far away for head shots. He got the handle open and jumped into the car pulling the door shut behind him.
He sat, his breath coming in ragged gasps and pulls. His lungs hurt, there was a stitch in his side and his heart felt like it just might explode at any second. He looked over at Lana, but her head was rocked back against the seat back. A sob escaped his throat, but he bit down on it, breathing hard, and checked the ignition.
No keys, but that was what he had expected. What he hoped for was gas. The car should start, the gas was the important thing. He reached to the floorboards for his knapsack and a screwdriver to jimmy the ignition and that was when he realized he had nothing to get the truck started with. All he needed was a screwdriver to hammer into the ignition, pop the cylinder, and then start it, but he had neither the screwdriver nor a way to get it into the ignition in the first place. He fisted his hands and slammed them against the wheel. His head sank onto his hands.
“Smash it,” Lana said. It was not much more than a whisper, but it bought Johnny’s head up fast. Outside the truck the dead were gathering. Just three or four, but they could smell them, and it wouldn’t be long until more showed up. He focused on her face which was ashen and blood slicked, unsure if she had really even spoken. She turned her face to him, eyes heavy lidded, unfocused. “Smash it, Johnny… Rock… Rocks by the driveway… Saw them… Smash it.” Her head sank down to the dashboard and stayed there. A trickle of blood ran across the dusty plastic and rolled toward the edge of the dash before it slipped over the edge and continued down into darkness.
“Lana. You’re hurt bad, Lana.”
“Johnny… Johnny, shut up and get a rock… Get it, Johnny. Stop whining, get the rock.” Lana told him. Her words were muffled, whether from the effort or the position she was in he couldn’t tell. He picked up the rifle by the barrel and looked through the glass at the dead that were trying to figure out a way into the truck. He waited for the one near the driver’s door to slip backwards along the side of the SUV and then he threw the door open and jumped from the truck.
He landed bad, on the very same rocks Lana had been talking about, and nearly went all the way down before he caught himself and slammed his knee into the pavement to stop himself. He had been unable to close the door as his ankle twisted and he fell away. The one that had just slipped past the door was already turning to get inside. He couldn’t shoot, if he did he might hit Lana. He launched himself at the shambling wreck instead and dragged it backwards and to the ground. They were both snarling he realized a moment later when he shot it in the head.
A second one came around the back of the SUV. Johnny took two steps and shot it in the head. The third was on the opposite side of the truck and seemed frozen, unsure what to do. Johnny turned, picked up a large rock, and tried to step back into the truck. The ankle collapsed and he went sprawling, losing the rock, barely holding onto his rifle as he once again slammed his knee into the ground to stop himself from planting his face on the steel door sill of the car. The zombie on the other side made up her mind, stood to her full height, and sprang to the roof of the car. Johnny heard the metal buckle as she landed.
A second later he forced himself to his feet, adrenaline flooding his body, leaving that sour electric taste in his mouth as it did. The zombie stood to her full height once more, nothing but tightly stretched skin and protruding bones, but determined to have him. Johnny raised the rifle and shot her under the chin. She collapsed on the barrel and he turned as she spilled past him and burst open onto the driveway behind him. Johnny took two shambling steps of his own, ankle and knee screaming, pain so hard that it made him stop and double up. He vomited, losing control for a brief instant, the pain was so hot. A second after that the adrenaline kicked back in and he finished his shambling travel, managed to stoop and pick up another large rock and get back inside the SUV. He slammed the door on the hand of another zombie that had come out of the darkness. He heard the bones snap, and the fingers fell away into the SUV as the door thudded home. Johnny collapsed against the steering wheel. He couldn’t seem to catch his breath. He waited for his heart to slow down.
The dead seemed to be everywhere when he lifted his eyes a few seconds later. One was inches away, staring into his own eyes through the glass. Dozens of others milled about as if waiting to be told what to do. His heart staggered once more, and the rifle was coming up before he realized he could do nothing. He lowered the gun and raised the rock that was still clutched in one hand. He smashed it down on the cheap plastic that surrounded the ignition built into the side of the steering column.
Outside the zombies went crazy. Sounds did that to them, but to Johnny it was almost as if they knew he was about to escape. The one next to the window stepped back and cocked it’s head. Johnny looked back at the column, smashed the rock down again and the pieces of the ignition fell to the floorboards of the SUV. A splinter of plastic cut his hand as he jammed his fingers into the opening and pushed down into the hole the cylinder had once occupied. It took a second to find what he was searching for, but once he found it his finger pressed down and the motor began to turn over. At nearly the same time the zombie dropped from sight outside the window.
The motor coughed to life just as the zombie shot up with a rock in its rotting hands and smashed it down on the glass. Johnny let out an involuntary scream as the rock skittered across the glass and flew across the hood. The zombie did it’s odd little scream and then fell out of sight once more. Johnny slammed his hand forward, caught the shift lever and yanked it down into reverse. His foot was already mashing the gas pedal down, the engine was revving and so when the zombie came back up with yet another rock the front fender slammed into him as Johnny spun the wheel, and the car began to race backwards, turning as it went. The zombie and several behind it flew away from the side of the car, the wheels hopped as it bounced over them and then caught. The car rocketed out into the street. Johnny locked the brakes up to get it stopped and nearly stalled it as it ground to a stop. A second later he dropped it into drive and plowed through a group of a dozen or more of the dead as he fumbled for the headlight switch and roared off down the road.
The dead flew up over the hood. One smashed into the glass hard enough to spider web it as it hit and then tumbled over the roof. He could hear them bumping as they slammed into the roof and fell into the night behind them. A few seconds later and all he could hear was the scream of the motor as he accelerated down the street. He forced himself to slow down so he didn’t wreck. Lana was holding onto the dashboard in a death grip.
The truck left the pavement and flew out into the desert once more. Johnny mashed down the pedal a little more and began to put some space between themselves and the housing project. He reached over and pulled Lana away from the dashboard. She rocked back into the seat, her eyes closed, blood still running from under her hairline and slicking her face…
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