The Fast and the Dead - Day 14

The pounding and rocking of the car brought him back, dazed, from unconsciousness. The first thing that his mind seized on was the fine powder over everything. He stared uncomprehendingly at the deflated airbag in front of him. A loud bang to his left grabbed him, and he nearly jumped out of his skin at the sight of yellowing, putrid-looking eyes in a gooey, rot-darkened face staring at him through the glass.

Reacting purely on adrenaline, he slammed his foot on the gas pedal; the car was halfway through the bent and buckled garage door, almost to the dealership’s back alley parking area. With a screech of metal that would’ve woken the dead, had they not already awakened, he jolted the car free of the door and turned sharply to point toward the road. Behind him followed not one but a half dozen of the things, pouring into the light of the late afternoon to join the beginnings of a crowd as the engine’s roar and crashing exit from the bay drew the attention of zombies slowly making their way to the main body of the horde.

Beside him Claire began to stir to consciousness. He looked up the path ahead; there were only a handful coming their way off the street and into the lot. He hit the gas again, less energetically; working cars weren’t a dime a dozen these days.

“Up inland, or down to the water?” He was pretty sure that’s what he said, but his head was still a touch fuzzy from the impact.

“Boat. Try for a boat. With a car we can try to leave the city if we can’t find anything.” Her voice was a little thick; she was still clearing her head too, apparently.

She was right; the inhabited, semi-normal part of the city amounted to little more than 4 square blocks of the downtown core. People crammed into the tallest buildings that over the years had been painstakingly fortified and turned into living spaces. There were even rooftop gardens extending across the city for blocks around the core; fertile soil was the second-most most valuable commodity that existed in the city. Those gardens, with the aid of hydroponics, were enough to keep people fed.

Clean water was the first. Not a lot could be spared for the purpose of hydroponics. It had too many uses. “Water it is then.”

He neither slowed nor stopped for the zombies as they got in the way of the newest source of noise in the area; he avoided them if he could, but if he couldn’t, he left them broken in his wake.

The first couple of minutes were tense and quiet. The sheer number of them was staggering. They couldn’t hear the commotion over the sound of the car, even after they opened the windows, but every walker they passed was headed in the same direction, toward the monstrous horde.

“I’ve never seen anything this big before.” Those they passed were turning to the car, but they sped past as quickly as they could; Ben didn’t check to see if they kept following them or turned back to their interrupted journey.

They were getting closer to the city center and the going was getting slower. Even at the farthest outskirts of the city toward what used to be suburbia the roads weren’t exactly clear. This close to the center of the chaos of the end, they had to go slowly to drive around wrecks, avoid fallen street lights, power poles or other debris, sometimes even turn aside entirely to find different, unblocked routes. There were plenty of routes that were intentionally blocked to prevent or at least slow down exactly the sort of giant cluster they were leaving behind them.