It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Wait! Who am I kidding?? It’s just the worst of times…
Travelling through Alabama and Mississippi over the past few days has really reinforced the disparity of our situation. We are alone in a sea of Undead faces. As we pass, they hear the sound of the bus’ engine and come out of their hiding spots.
There are so many of them and so few of us. How can we possibly ever regain the world that we once lived in? It’s only been 85 days since the awakening of Brooks VanReit but already you can see how quickly nature is taking the landscape back. It’s not a hugely noticeable difference but the weeds are definitely gaining a foothold again. And lawns and parks are in need of a good mow as well. There’s no telling what horrors are hidden in the long grass. The scenes of unspeakable violence that are lost forever…
We encountered something odd and ultimately scary in Mississippi. We came upon a large group of the Undead all piled up on top of something. We couldn’t really tell what it was that they were on top of until we got closer to the scene.
It does make sense though when you think about it. With the power off to most places, any electronic locks would have been disabled. Couple that with hunger and you’ve got one dangerous animal on your hands.
But back to what we witnessed. This particular group had managed to down an elephant. And I’m not talking a baby elephant or anything. It was obvious from the size that the specimen had been quite large. And it appeared from the degree of flesh that had been consumed that the animal had not been down for very long. Maybe only a few hours.
Knowing that elephants tend to travel in herds, we thought it was best to keep our eyes peeled for the rest of them. Chances were that they were long gone but you can never be too careful. None of us had any desire to meet the herd and have them view us as a threat and charge us. Our bus wouldn’t survive and the Undead would likely be drawn to the commotion.
This brought up a whole other topic to ponder. The organism or virus that was responsible for the outbreak in the first place had managed to jump species. Remember the chipmunks and small rodents? It was especially frightening to wonder what else might be out there. Considering that a number of the big cats and other carnivorous animals will dine on carrion if there is nothing fresher to be had, there is the huge possibility that they have already partaken of the infected flesh of a DEAD Undead. (You know I’m not even sure if that’s the best way to describe them… But then it works, doesn’t it?) Or perhaps they had waged their own war with a horde and lost.
We all thought that the horde of Undead chipmunks was terrifying but I believe that being on foot and pursued by an Undead cheetah just might make me freeze in abject terror! The classic ‘deer in the headlights’ stance. Of course, we all love to think that we could and would run but it begs the question: what would you do?
We got our chance to find out in the next town over when we HAD to stop for gas. Knowing that there was the possibility that large game-type animals could be lurking around anywhere didn’t sit well with any of us. But the tanks were almost empty and being stranded without a vehicle was a less attractive option.
Julie pulled the bus up to the pump and we all waited. Waited to see what, if anything would come out to greet us. The Undead are usually pretty quick about showing their rotting faces lately. There must be some kind of mutation within the infection that is allowing them to regain some of their cunning and dexterity. Why can’t they all just rot away?
We figured that we were as safe as we were going to be after about 10 minutes of nothing. Not a single thing moved in the area. There was no wind even. An eerie calm. Like a foreboding that something terrible was about to happen. We should have kept driving to the next station. Even though we were in a small town, there had to have been more stations.
A few of us exited the bus, ready to just get down to business and get out of there. It wasn’t going to be easy. With no electricity to the pumps, it was definitely a task to get the gas out of the pump and into the tank. This is where Julie works her magic. I don’t know how she does what she does but we’ve restored so many batteries that we’ve collected along the way using the solar panels that companies and counties are using to power so many things that are out in the open. Things like warning/danger lights on roadside signs to the ticker tape that runs across the top of bus shelters. It’s amazing what you can modify.
We hooked up the pump, careful of course not to create a spark or anything. None of us want to survive this long only to go up in a ball of flames. Within a few minutes, there was enough power in the pump to turn it on and extract the gasoline. Again, I’m not sure exactly how it works, but thankfully it does.
Getting gas is such a stressful endeavour. You’ve always got to watch your back, watch for sparks and monitor how full the tank is becoming. Plus sometimes you don’t know how much gas is actually left in the underground reservoir. It could be full or it could be empty. You took the chance each time that you’d come up empty. We were in luck today. There was gas left in the tank; it was just a question of how much was left.
Just as I was thinking that the bus’ tank should be about full, I heard something behind me. I looked to my right at Lt. Lafferty and she was absolutely frozen. I knew that whatever was behind me wasn’t good. Usually the Undead don’t frighten us anymore to that extent. Sure they’re scary in the sense that they’re Undead and you don’t want to ask one of them for a dance or something. But you get used to them. Like you get used to any pest really. You learn to avoid them as much as possible and when you have to kill one, you do it. Seeing Lafferty frozen like that did absolutely nothing for my insides. I will admit that I was scared to turn around at that point…
The sound was slowly getting closer. Immediately my mind flashed to a lion or a cheetah or something like that. The situation reeked of the feeling of being slowly stalked. Like something you would see on the Discovery Channel. My heart started beating even faster. I was too many steps away from the door of the bus and safety. And Lafferty was a statue standing in my way. I dared a look to my left and saw Harvey looking much the same way as the Lieutenant. This was not turning out to be a good day.
I looked up hoping to get a glimpse of the threat reflected in the glass of the window. I really wish I hadn’t looked. My back was to these things after all and I was going to have to slowly turn around so that I could see them coming when the attack came. My hand released the pumps trigger, stopping the flow of the gas into the bus’ tank. I could see the faces of the rest of the survivors on the bus, all of them trained on the monstrosities behind me.
I turned slowly, trying not to focus their attention solely on me. There were 7 of them. All of them in the early stages of decomposition. Kind of what you might picture a Hell Hound to look like. They were the scariest things I have ever seen. I can feel my heart racing and my eyes welling up just thinking about them. I have stared death in the face many times in the past 85 days but it all paled in comparison to this one moment.
The only male of the group lifted is giant rotting head and roared. It was gurgling throaty sound, filled with the promise of an attack and certain death. It was at that moment that the ladies moved into what I can only label as formation, their matted fur that had once been the golden colour of ripened wheat covered in sores, dried blood and the products of decomposition. The pride of Undead lions was about to make a meal out of us and everyone on that bus was going to get front row seats.
You could hear them growling low in their throats; feel the power radiating from their tensed muscles. They knew they had us at this point, now they were just playing with their food before dinner. The largest of the females moved slightly closer bringing the scent of her death within the range of our nostrils. It was horrifying and nauseating. Not something that you wanted to be smelling at any distance.
It was at that point that I realized I still had the gas pump in my hand. I hoped that there was still some gas in the tanks as I pressed the trigger and unleashed a stream of gasoline onto the beasts staring so intently at us. I had hoped that the liquid would confuse them, hurt them, scare them away, anything! All it seemed to do was make them angrier and more intent on killing us.
It was at that point that I actually felt like I was going to die. The situation was hopeless from where I was standing. I couldn’t get to the doors of the bus. I was going to die at the paws of an Undead lioness and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.
And it was that moment that Lafferty chose to snap out of it. She raised the pistol in her hands and started to take aim. She pulled the trigger 7 times in rapid succession, downing each and every one of them. I’m certain I could not have made the shots but I’m thankful that she did. After a tense moment of waiting to see if there were any more of them ready to attack, I dropped the pump handle and practically dove for the bus doors. I did not want to be outside any longer. Lafferty and Harvey were close behind me. We decided to leave the battery where it was. We had others and perhaps someone else would find it of use.
We pulled out of the station and aimed the bus to get us out of town. The Undead were already making their way towards the noise of the shots. Let them find the lions and feed off of their dead flesh if they so desired. We were heading out of town and as far away as we could get.