“How’s he doing back there?”
Troy had to almost yell over the noise to be heard. The jeep, although it claimed to be an all-terrain vehicle, was running out of any practical terrain to drive on. Rocks, sticks, and whatever else the tires could grab, were churning out the back like it was its job.
“Not good, Troy! We need Medicine, now!” Trace yelled. Trace was in the backseat leaning over a pale thin man who was laid out on his back across the three seats, his head resting on the knee of another man, Xavier. Blood was escaping from a bandage on the pale man, right under his left breast. Trace’s dark skin reflected the bright moon as well as the blood, as she struggled to keep Jason from bleeding to death.
“Dammit,” Troy muttered, “Jason, if you make it out of this, I’m gonna kill you.”
Troy cursed again and sped up, trying to escape the growls in the distance. There was distance between the two but not enough. They’d find them if they stopped. They had to wait until they couldn’t hear the freaks anymore. And even then, paranoia was perpetually present.
Jason groaned loudly in the back causing Trace to try and comfort him. She told him they were going to get Medicine and that he’d be fine, but she knew that that was something she couldn’t guarantee.
Medicine was something that was discovered recently, but it was not a panacea.
Medicine was to be taken through injection in the neck or heart. The pathogen was then prevented from gaining traction in the body system and eventually exterminated. At least that’s what it was supposed to do. None of them that used it knew its origins or how its medicinal properties were discovered, but what is known is that success isn’t always applicable. Most of the time, it just delays the infection, giving the victim the opportunity to tie up any loose ends. A few times it actually cured them. There were, however, several instances where it did nothing, and that was how you knew they were too far along. They all knew that’s where Jason was, but none of them wanted to admit it, fearing that saying it out loud would make it true.
Xavier was pale as well but for a different reason. He couldn’t stand the sight of blood. He was a sergeant in the US Army for going on fifteen years. He felt that as a protector of his country, it was his duty to do what it takes to make sure that no harm fell upon any United States citizen, and to be an example of bravery even when he wasn’t feeling brave. He was on the opposite spectrum of brave at the moment. He and the three others with him had abandoned their squads. They’d more than likely get court-marshaled.
They were part of different squads, himself a sergeant and the others privates just out of training. Their job was crowd control during the evacuation in Tucson but it got out of hand quickly. A group of the zombies had attacked even though there was a perimeter set up. One got through and during the panic several more dispersed among the crowds and pandemonium struck. Xavier had seen people die before, but that was nothing compared to what he saw.
Blood was everywhere in thick sprays, intestines spilled onto the street as the creatures ripped into their prey and ate them. Strangled cries for help were heard above the screaming as briefly as the chirp of a car locking its doors. People turned on each other. Xavier saw the young girl that he was about to wave through kick her boyfriend down when hands pulled at his face from behind as if he were the devil himself. Just after, she herself was dragged down by her hair and was just another casualty. No one turned that night. There was no one left whole enough to turn. The four of them had taken the opportunity to run to the nearest military jeep and high-tail it out of there during the chaos. They all ended up at the same jeep but didn’t ask any questions. Now they were still running from the horde. Getting court-marshaled was the least of their worries.
They had gone west from Tucson and eventually up north toward the Apache National Forest. Surprisingly, national parks seemed to be the safest areas to be. They were all abandoned about a month before the evacuations started. There were wild animals out there but they were easier to deal with than the zombies. They had to be.
In between the trees, ahead a bit of grey could be seen.
Land ho! Troy thought, leaning over his steering wheel. Troy realized his mistake too late.
Where there appeared to be an opening that was large enough for the jeep to traverse through, was a large tree trunk, blocking off the closest path to a steady road.
The front tires hit the trunk full on, causing Troy to slam his head against the steering wheel. The front of the jeep was smashed but the air bags had not received the distress signal and did not deploy. He knew there was no time to try and start the car again. He yelled for the others to run. His head was bleeding, painting the forest red as he ran. Trace and Xavier hauled the now semi-conscious Jason over the fallen log into the field across the road and laid him down. The zombies were distracted by the totaled jeep, now flaming bright against the black sky. They were safe for now.
Jason opened his eyes and stared up at the faces around him. Troy was now supporting Jason’s head in his lap, a bandage around his own, and stared lovingly in his eyes. The two had been best friends since preschool, they were practically brothers. They had a bond that only brothers could have, and now Troy was losing that bond.
“She didn’t make it, did she?” he murmured weakly.
“I’m right here hun,” Trace said, coming into Jason’s field of view.
“Not you, the girl.” Jason’s breathing was labored now.
Trace and Troy looked at him uncertainly. They didn’t know what happened. He was already bit when he got into the jeep. Xavier was on his knees a few feet away signing a cross over his chest several times and reciting bible verses.
Jason looked back up at them and closed his eyes. “I didn’t think she did. You probably don’t even know.” He sighed. “At least I tried, right?” He fell silent for a long time.
Trace spoke up, “Listen, Jason, we can get you some Medicine, there’s a chance we can cure you, a chance that—“
Jason put a hand on her shoulder and watched it fall limply to the lackluster grass. He was beginning to lose feeling. “It’s too late and you know it. You’re just living in a pipe dream. Or nightmare now that I think about it.” He laughed weakly and coughed several times, hard, before ceasing.
“Troy,” Jason called, his chest beginning to heave, his body struggling to maintain life, “Do you-do you-do you remember what we said when we first joined the military?”
Troy nodded, tears falling down his face. “I remember: ‘we’re gonna kill every S.O.B. out there.’ ”
Jason arched his back slightly and continued. “Well these might not be the ones we were talking about, but you’ll do it, won’t you? I guess-I guess by that logic we both should be killed, huh?”
Troy looked at his dying friend questioningly.
“We’re the baddest sons-of-bitches in the army, right?” Jason answered.
Troy laughed bitterly. Barely out of their twenties and already one of them was dying.
“One more thing?” Jason asked in between violent hiccups, “Don’t let me kill anyone else. When I die, make sure that I stay dead. I love you, man. See you on the flip side.”
As if on cue, Jason’s body went limp as his life left him and was filled with the infection that had claimed most of the world’s population.
Troy kissed him on the forehead, and swiftly punctured Jason’s brain with his pocket knife and began to cry.
A small American flag danced in the light breeze at the head of a mound in a field near the border of New Mexico.
Written by supersatan25