Earth’s Survivors is copyright © 2016 Dell Sweet. All rights foreign and domestic reserved in their entirety.
Cover Art © Copyright 2016 Wendell Sweet
Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 Wendell 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 persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.
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Joel and Haley
Asheville North Carolina
The day was clear and bright as they skirted what they were certain was Asheville North Carolina and headed toward the Georgia border. They would be in Georgia just a short time before they crossed over into Alabama. Billy and Beth had told them they had not been far into Alabama before the state had disappeared, the highway sinking into the sea.
They were three trucks riding the sides of the roads angling their way across wet areas via whatever high ground they could find. They were close to the Georgia border when the attack came.
The trucks had come around a curve ahead of them and swept past on the other side of a wide highway median. Joel had known by the way the men in the trucks had watched them that this was not going to be a friendly meeting. The trucks had slowed. The center median was flooded, there was no way they would make it across there, but it was less than a mile back to where there was a crossing. The same crossing they had used to get onto this side of the highway. Joel had picked up the CB handset in his truck and told the rest to follow him.
He had no place in mind. It made no sense to go back, forward made the most sense. He picked up as much speed as he could and the other two fell in behind him as he skirted the road, running into the fields where necessary. A half hour bought them in view of a small town off the highway they were traveling. Joel drove off the edge of the highway and crossed through the fields into the town
The roads were rough, most of the town was a shamble, but the streets were quiet and darkened by the overgrowth of trees. The downtown section was full of abandoned cars, Joel spied a garage up ahead and angled into the parking lot. A little work and they managed to cut the locks off the garage doors and raise them. An hour after they had driven into the lot they were hidden away inside the garage. They had left the trucks and were gathered quietly looking through the dirty glass at the deserted streets.
“They will follow our tracks right off the road,” Joel said.”
“And if not they had got us on the road with no safe place to fight from,“ Scott said. “We have concrete block at our back here. They don’t know this is where we went.”
“Maybe,” Joel allowed.
“There,” Haley said and pointed.
One of the trucks they had seen on the other side of the highway idled down the street in low gear. The load exhaust reaching them inside the bays.
“How in hell did they find us so fast,” Alice wondered aloud.
“I don’t know,” Joel said.
“Maybe mud… Wet spots on the road from where we crossed out of the fields and headed down this way,” John offered.
“Dammit,” Joel agreed. “That’s it.”
“Nothing for it now,” Scott said quietly. “Well, do we bring it to them or let them bring it to us?”
John Frowned, Haley spoke up, Cathy right behind her. “I say take it to them. That’s one truck we can take out, out of three, right now. Might make the others think twice about it.”
“You’re sure it’s one of them?” Alice asked.
“Positive,” Joel said.
“Then we got to do it,” Alice agreed. “How?”
“We can’t shoot through this glass… Go around back, out the back, I mean. We’ll take him as he rolls out of the other street corner,” Joel decided at last. The rest followed him out the back door and around the building to the overgrown weeds and shrubs that hid the corner of the building.
A few moments later the truck rolled through the intersection on the opposite side of the garage and they opened up on it. The driver floored it and the truck scorched the pavement as it jumped ahead, but a split second after that the motor died and the truck bounced as it slammed back down to the pavement; drifting across the road headed for a small playground on the opposite side of the street and a construction area just beyond that.
A second went by, another, and the front passenger door opened and three people jumped from inside, stumbled, rolling onto the ground, trying to get to their feet and then began to sprint off down the street as the truck continued on, mowing over the chain link fence of the playground, and then hanging up on a small concrete barrier just inside the fencing line.
Joel led the first man and carefully fired. The man collapsed to the pavement like a rag doll, arms and legs flopping as he tumbled to an awkward stop. The second runner stopped, turned, and opened up on them. Haley felt the wind as a bullet zipped past her face before she heard the shot. At the same time she was pulling the trigger on her machine pistol. A notoriously bad weapon for long distance shooting, but a killing machine in full auto mode. The man seemed to start a slow tap dance for a second and then slowly toppled forward onto the pavement. A pool of blood spread quickly from under him. The last runner turned, a woman, threw down her weapon and raised her hands. A shot rang out and she topped over into the street.
“Oh my God,” Cathy said. She choked back a sob. “I didn’t mean to kill her. I didn’t mean it.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Haley said. “If you hadn’t, I would have.”
“But she surrendered,” John said. “She was surrendering to us.”
“Well, too late. She never should have come after us. We can’t take prisoners. Do you think they would have? No. They would have killed everyone. Maybe not us… Me, Cathy and Alice. That would have been worse. Don’t cry for her she made her bed and she’s dead now. Fuck her,” Haley finished quietly.
“It is what it is,” Alice said softly.
“Hey… Hey, hey, hey,” John said. “More!”
A second later the whole day seemed to come alive with noise. Gunfire crashed non stop as the other two trucks rolled onto the street and began firing. The battle was short lived. The last truck never fully turned onto the street. One of them got it with a lucky shot, the two front tires blew out and it dove for the ground. The huge tires making it seem sloped at a steep angle down onto the rims. The men inside the truck scrambled to get away as the men inside the lead truck continued to fire.
Eventually the gunfire fell off. No one moved. They had seen three men run from the last truck, back down the street. Two had lurched while they were running. They seemed to have been hit, the other might have made it, Joel thought. The silence held. Nothing. No sounds. No shots. Joel looked around and saw Cathy sprawled on the ground, the side of her face missing. He looked away quickly, watching the street carefully. From somewhere farther away they heard a motor turn over slowly, grinding to life. It caught, quit, and then caught again. The idle evened out and a few minutes later the engine rose to a higher pitch, almost screaming as it fled from the small city, east, back toward the highway.
Joel drew a deep breath. “Bring her inside,” He said tersely. Inside they laid her out on one of the work benches, but it was clear in just a few moments that she was dead.
Joel paced back and forth in front of the windows, pausing to listen. Across the street the first truck popped loudly and then burst into flame, a trail of fire running away from the rear of the truck toward the street and the garage where they were.
“Great… Okay, listen, we have got to go. We have got to go right now before that fire turns real bad.” As he spoke a car at the curb in front of the garage caught fire as the pool of gasoline found its way under it. Old oil on the motor, something, it caught fast and began to burn right along with the other truck.
“We should bury, Cathy,” John said.
“We should, and any other time we could, but this time, no,” Joel said. “Either of those tanks could blow at any second. Then we’ll be forced to run. On foot, because there will be no way out,” as he spoke he began yanking up the closest garage door. Scott wrenched another up close to him. Haley shoved up the last one.
“But it’s wrong,” John said. He was frozen in the middle of the floor, glancing back and forth to Cathy’s body. Joel walked quickly from the door to John. He didn’t hesitate, but threw a quick punch at his jawline. “Scott,” he called as he caught him. Scott was there a second later and together they shoved John’s unconscious body into one of the trucks.
Haley, Scott and Joel himself drove. Screeching out of the garage and across the pavement out into the street. The trucks jumping and diving, motors growling, the tires spinning and screeching as they fought for purchase. They were less than two blocks away when something back at the garage blew up. Joel sighed and followed Haley as she made her way out of the small city and southward once again.
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