The Fast and the Dead - Day 17

Ben ran into the eroded hulk slowly, raising an ear-piercing grinding squeal as the metal undercarriage of the wreck broke and dragged across the pavement. Once he’d gotten it pushed out of their way, he drove around it and headed off down the highway and away from the Core.

They’d gone about fifty meters when their tires blew.

“Oh no. Oh crap.” Ben started sweating. After all that noise, it couldn’t be long until they had company.

“The highway’s raised here, it’ll take a long time for anything to get to us,” Claire said. There was an edge to her tone that suggested she was reassuring herself as much as him.

He let the car roll to a stop and let his head hit the steering wheel, then just sat there. Claire sat and looked at him a moment. “What…”

Ben got out and walked around behind the car. There, stretched across the width of the road, difficult to see from the car in the growing twilight, a long chain of tire spikes like the police used to use. “Where’s a tank when you need one?” Ben asked. Claire didn’t respond, instead moving over to the edge of the highway and peering down to the road below.

“There’s a few starting to gather, but they can’t get up here.” She looked almost … relaxed. Or maybe resigned. He joined her at the edge and looked down and out in all directions. There weren’t nearly as many here. He judged there probably wouldn’t be another huge horde. He also planned to be far away before he could verify whether he was right or wrong.

He sighed and looked at the car. The tires were shredded, and service stations weren’t of much use these days. “Driving like this will destroy the wheels fast,” he said.

“Maybe, but we can’t stay here all night. They’re slow, but they’ll get here eventually.”

He looked back at the chain of tire spikes. There was no rust, he noticed, no worn-away paint to speak of. They’d been put down relatively recently.

“You’re right,” he said. “Let’s go. We’ll keep going till the wheels won’t go anymore.”

They’d gone about a kilometer, roughly a third of the way to the next exit, when they started spotting cars on the road again. They were in as good condition as the ones used for barricades had been; they hadn’t seen a living passenger for many years and the weather had taken its toll.

The wheels made a horrible amount of noise as they ground along the road, but the highway was still raised, and remained so for some time if Ben remembered correctly, so he tried not to worry about it. It wasn’t easy; if this day had taught him anything it was that silence really was golden.

Another loud, painful kilometer later, they stopped. They still had almost a kilometer left to go, but no more road to get there; instead there was just a great sea of ruined cars blocking their way. “Well,” he said, a lump in his throat as he peered into the growing darkness. “I guess we walk.”