We moved quickly through the countryside today. I don’t like being out the open for too long or too often because our movements tend to attract the unwanted attention of any the Undead lurking around. Moving through the woods does have its drawbacks as well, but the dense underbrush acts as a warning system of sorts. The Undead don’t have the foresight to move covertly by sticking to the trails. Their progress can be easily tracked and avoided.
Our aim was to get to a place where crossing into the US would be easy. After losing Barbara, we needed to re-evaluate so we planned on paying someone, a local, to take us across. If all else failed, we were just going to ‘borrow’ a boat and navigate the waters ourselves.
Max and I had taken watercraft and boating lessons for this contingency but we couldn’t be sure of the strength of the waters we might encounter. We hadn’t come all of this way just to fail now. Being separated from the infection by water, I feel like I can breathe, at least for the moment anyways. This is the terror we experienced in the last few moments of our lives in Canada.
We chose to cross into the US by traversing the St. Clair River. While most of both sides of the shore are industrialized, there are sections where the urbanization hasn’t been improved as of yet. We picked one of those spots, hoping to remain unnoticed.
The shore was muddy, the dock rudimentary by comparison to those further upstream, and in the twilight you couldn’t even see the opposite bank. There was no one to pay to take us across so we found a boat just large enough to safely hold us along with our gear. We choose something just big enough to handle and give us the peace of mind that we would not capsize. If our aim was true, once across we would be north of Detroit and hopefully have cut ourselves off from the Undead by a few major bodies of water.
There are of course the areas where the border is only just a figurative line. Places where no one guards the entrance into the US. The places where no one monitors the exit out of Canada. In the past, the relationship between Canada and the US has been one of respect and helpfulness to a certain degree. The world’s longest unprotected border does lie between us after all. Sure, there are border crossings with border guards on both sides but at times that’s just a formality. That was of course before 9-11, since then things have changed but that is to be expected. None of that was going to stop us though; border guards or not, we were getting into the US.
In all honesty we could be putting ourselves into more danger. With the way that air travel works, anyone can get anywhere within a matter of hours. Think of the ramifications that could have if even one infected person managed to get on a plane. I remember back to 2001 when a passenger on an international flight caused a huge controversy because they started to exhibit symptoms similar to Ebola shortly after arriving. It turned out she didn’t have it, but the communities she passed through were terrified. The implications of an infected person transitioning from alive to undead aboard a domestic or international flight is truly terrifying. All of those people would have no means for escape. Sure, it’s possible that the Air Marshal could effectively take care of one or two but their mandate is to use lethal force only if no other alternative is available. The confusion in that moment would be high. Would they make the right choice between restraint and death? Firing a gun aboard a plane during flight could be disastrous. What if they missed? What if things escalated and the pilot landed the plane? That could potentially unleash the infection into areas that hadn’t been exposed to it yet. Horrifying to think about but I digress from the topic at hand…
As soon as Max started the craft’s engine, a noise came out of the woods to our backs. As I hurried to release the moorings, I ordered Ben and Bob to get the rest of our gear and themselves into the boat ASAP. I remember thinking, feeling almost intuitively that we didn’t have time to waste. Somehow I knew that noise was made by them.
The noise we were hearing is hard to explain. It was like the sound of a stampede of cattle only softer, more ominous. Ominous only because we know that only a significant number of the Undead would be able to make that much noise. The sound waves pushed at us, allowing us to feel their approach. If this is what it felt like to be on the front line during wars fought on the battlefields of old, I now understand what it must have felt like to stare down your enemy as it marched forward. You knew they were coming.
Then the smell hit us. I work with the dead so I’m almost immune to the smell of decomposition in the sense that I can readily recognize it and then ignore it. There was no ignoring this. We had never smelled them like this before. The cloying scent of decomp was overpowering. It was mixed with the smells of blood and dirt and what was almost sweat-like in odour but I think that’s impossible. How can something dead sweat? And the heat of the past few days certainly hadn’t done anything to help with the stench and in the soft breeze of the evening; it took robbed the breath from you.
I could hear my team behind me trying not to gag but failing as I unfastened the last of the lines securing the boat to the dock. At that moment they burst through the last of the trees along the edge of the shore. There were now at least a hundred or so of the Undead only a few arm lengths away. The shock of that moment was unparalleled in anything that I can recently remember. There were so many of them. I gave the boat a hard shove away from the dock and jumped aboard. Max opened the throttle as the Undead poured from the woods like honey from a broken bottle, their arms reaching for us. They were so close that you could feel the wind from their hands as they just missed you. The boat surged forward, throwing us off balance. How we managed to remain in the boat during the panic of that moment is beyond me.
In their haste and desire to follow is, some fell into the water but their bloating bodies just bobbed on the surface slowly before sinking. I hate to imagine that they are walking to the opposite shore underneath the water as I type this. That they will meet us here. Without the benefit of their senses (if they have any), I hope they are lost forever, that the currents take them far away to the bottom of Lake St. Clair or further along to Lake Erie. Actually, I don’t wish that. I don’t want them contaminating the water supply. There are water treatment plants along the shores and that could be even more disastrous if this situation is somehow brought under control. And we certainly don’t want to think of them as fish bait. I don’t know if the organism, if it is in fact an organism, has the capability to jump species and I would rather not find out.
Once we were on open water, we felt safer. Our journey to the opposite shore was rather uneventful after the earlier tense, terrifying moments. We did lose some of our supplies but they were non-essential so we’re not too bad off. We can restock. The important thing is that we are all still alive.
I hope everyone reading this out there is safe. Please pray for us on our journey. I don’t want to get too hopeful in thinking that we may have gotten in front of the infection but we will be moving further south. Godspeed to anyone else out there on a similar struggle.