Page Twenty-One/Chapter Two Finale: Carry Me Home
If things could have been as Eric Mason had wanted them, he could simply blow up the gas station after the others had left. Using one of the liquours stashed from the cabin would have sufficed, along with a road flare and some time by those gas pumps. But that would be unfair, as this building may have been the very thing that saved his groups life in the end. Maybe not everyone, but definitely those who remained, including Brooklyn.
Brooke Mason was a great kid. Sixteen years old with a perk in her step and every bit of enthusiasm one could ask for. After years of gymnastics, cheerleading and being an overrall creative ditz in life, she had come into her own as one of Eric's favorite people on earth. Her heart was one of gold and her soul was one to envy. Eric just wished he knew how to say all of that without making her cry. Still, he tried his best while the two of them stood by the front window of the Qwik-Pik gas station in Natural Bridge, Virginia, located north-east of Lynch county. They stared out into the undead horde, watching as they tried clawing their way into the store to feast on the flesh of the living.
"Are you gonna be one of them?" asked Brooke, her gaze dead set on a riggie who resembled their mother. Eric had only just slaughtered her some days ago back in Roxboro, where he had lived all twenty-five years of his life in the basement. He had finally started working decent hours and was looking into renting his own apartment in downtown Durham. Little dreams die big... he thought to himself.
Eric replied to her, "I don't know Brookey. Maybe if they leave enough of me to stand up I will, but I doubt that. Looks to me like these things swallow you whole, ya know? Brains included." His humor did not stand well with her as she continued crying before turning back to hug him again. He accepted her embrace, not able to help notice that in the back ground the others were preparing to finish packing their supplies up. Matt had retrieved the machete and was ready to lead the group across the lot to the Explorer, taking out any close-calls along the way.
As Eric kissed his sister on the forehead as tight as he could, he could smell a hint of her conditioner drawing into his nostrils like fans taking in fumes. However, what should have smelled sweet and pure quickly turned into something else that Eric could not identify. Had his sister been, bobbing for apples in grease? Dear God... he thought, It's happening.
He released Brooke and looked once more into her eyes for another moment, remembering every good time and especially the bad times in their life... Eric thought how he would like to trade anything to share those moments again with Brooke and his family. He kept holding his breath, hoping to wake up in his dirty bed or in the supply closet at the office, though this was no nightmare and had no ending other than death... it was time to say goodbye.
"You do good by these people. They're your people now... understand Brookey?" Eric asked sincerely. Brooke nodded in response, unable to look away until Eric himself turned back to face Matt who had approached his from behind.
"You sure about this dude?" Matthew asked, "Theres... other ways, you know?" Matt watched as Eric looked to his shotgun, cradled tightly into each one of his meaty fists. Eric looked back up to him and replied with a sarcasm in his voice that Matt had not heard in months, "Nah... thanks, but thats Okay. I think y'all are gonna need me just a bit longer but really... I kinda wanna see how the otherside is."
Josh wiped the tears from his eyes, having finally had a break from packing supplies and getting some time to think about the nights events for the first time. In one night, they had lost the 'weekend warriors' mentor David as well as Matt's incredible mother Heather to some psycho rapists... they'd almost forfitted their belongings to these very same assholes... Anna was nearly raped... and Eric Mason was bitten by a dead one, dragging the very asshole who had tried raping Anna so that Matt could shove a shotgun down his gullet while Eric and himself held the guy down. He was just ready to move on from this death-trap of a pitstop in rural Virginia.
Anna approached Eric next, handing him his signature thirty-two, the gun that from what Matt tells her is the only firearm he is any good with. After killing that bastard 'Chad' for good with it however, she could see why he preferred it's feel above all else. As she handed him the gun, thinking he may want to have it in case he changes his mind about the letting himself turn thing, she wasn't surprised when he pushed it back to her while shaking his head. "You'll like this gun," he said, "I think it fits you very well."
Eric handed Anna the remaining speed-loads for the thirty-two before she leaned over to hug him. For the first time, they had had a moment to share between eachother that only the two of them could understand on a particular level. However, this new bond was short-lived and ended simply by releasing the embrace for one another. "Take care of him and my sister, got it?" Eric whispered to her. She nodded as she backed up, allowing her mother to hug him next. The older latino woman's scent was one that was leaving something to be desired, but Eric did not care. For some reason, his sinus' had begun clearing out perfectly and he appreciated being able to breathe a little better while feigning his building fever.
After releasing Maria, Josh approach Eric with Matt and the three of them came together, arm-in-arm, putting their heads together as they spoke like football players in a huddle. "You keep the group safe, both of you. Got it?" said Eric first. "You got it dude... I won't let Brookey out of my sight." replied Josh, giving Eric the fear he had long dreaded to discover since the other nights events. He let it go, realizing this kind of attention may be her best chance at outliving the others and as for Josh... she could do much worse.
"Thanks man..." said Eric, a particularly annoyed tone to his voice. "I had my doubts Mason," began Matthew at long last, giving Eric what he had long awaited to hear from his old friend, "But you did it. You're a great leader and I hate to see you go..." Eric looked down at the floor, responding to this with, "You're the leader Matt... always have been you've just needed the confidence to prove it to yourself. Lead these people well, starting with when I slip out of the back window there... I'll take your 30/06 Josh, seeing as how you're doing justice with Dave's hardware... I'll run a distraction. Enough of them peel away from the area, you guys spilt to the cars, take out all of the ones you can on the way and DON'T get split up! Josh, you provide cover with the AR while Maria, Anna, Matt and Brooke carry boxes. You keep a SPECIAL eye on Brookey, she might try something drastic, got it?!"
Matt and Josh nodded to Eric's final command as their leader, breaking the huddle with simultaneous pat across the backs of one another as they lunged back into action.
From the tree line opposite of where the bastard had been shooting everyone, Enrico could see the gas station was overwhelmed by the undead. He knew the others were still alive inside and tried thinking of a way he could help, but came up empty handed. Consuela leaned into his shoulder, now dressed in clothes scavanged from the bandits campsite. It appeared as though they had been collecting all sorts of clothing for men, women and children during their travels. The possibilites as to how and why they'd aquired all this made Enrico sick to his stomach.
"What can we do Uncle?" asked Consuela, her tone matching what would appear to be her new mind frame. It seemed she had just regressed to child hood, talking in baby speech patterns and even sucking on her thumb like she used to as a child. He shook his head in response, unable to come with anything better.
Out of nowhere, from behind the building, gunfire started. Enrico and Consuela watched as a figure carrying the weaker rifle was stepping out of the shadows behind the store and into the streetlights where the undead could see him. He cursed and screamed, firing wildly into the horde that now locked onto him and abandoned the front of the store. The horrible accuracy generated one name in Enrico's mind... Eric...
As young Eric lead the horde of riggies away from the store, he backed his way in their general direction which cause Enrico to panic and lead Consuela further back inside of the woods. "What's he doing Uncle?" she asked softly, her voice pouting with childish innocence. "I, I don't know conchita..." he replied, watching the crazed Eric's every move.
Just as the ensuing event became stranger and stranger, Enrico and Consuela had back far enough away they had begun to climb the natural incline that would lead to their camp. From this new vantage point, Enrico could see the reasoning behind the madness, watching from afar as the survivors within the gas station began piling out and heading to the truck carrying their supplies and weapons. Eric's sister, Brooke, had almost made it before seeing her brother and making a desperate run for her brother. Enrico considered running through the horde to stop her himself, but could not leave his niece behind again. However, she was tackled from the side by the other remaining friend Josh, who had been providing excellent cover using David's AR rifle. He dragged her back to the Explorer as the others finished loading it up.
While some transferred as much as they could from the back of the Avalanche into the Explorer, Matt ran over to aide Josh in pulling Brooke away, kicking and screaming. Even with Josh's hand clasped firmly across her mouth, it seemed the distraction had been short lived and several undead began to wander back their way. Finally, they reached the Explorer just as the others were climbing inside and Matt was the one to yank the girl into the back with him while Josh hopped into the front seat. The engine fired up and before long, the vehicle was spinning around in the dirt and heading forward to highway 60.
As the orange Avalanche left the beams of the tungsten street-lights from above, the engine faded off into the distance with an echo piercing across the area. Enrico and Consuela could only watch as Eric, finished with his ammo, began swinging the rifle as a club into the approaching undead until finally, he began to howl in pain. Enrico clenched his eyes shut and made Consuela turn away, leading her back into the forestry back towards camp as the howls turned to choking gurgle and eventually... nothing.
"I want to go home, Uncle Rico..." muttered Consuela softly as they slowly treaded through the forest. "Carry me home, pwease?" Enrico took this in and hoisted the girl into her knees, lifting her up like she was giant throw pillow as he headed back into the woods for the camp.
As the sunrise began to make it's latest appearance since the world ended, Josh just kept barreling down the back road as fast as he could. There were hundreds of roadblocks, people on the side of the roads and abandoned vehicles lining the highway from where they'd come from. As far as he could tell, getting anywhere was going to be a struggle, let alone Canada.
The radio buzzed around the stations for a few minutes as Maria worked at the old-school tuning dials, seeking out any kind of broadcast that might give them some sign of hope.
In the back, sitting atop the boxes of supplies and weapons they'd been able to retain from the store and truck, Matt had found a spot in the backseat next to Anna with Brooke on his other side. Uncomfortable as it was, both women had been able to conk out somewhere around three a.m.
Matt stared ahead diligently before noticing the gas needle on the Explorer had been on empty for the last several miles. "What are we gonna do man?" asked Josh nervously. Matt thought it over for a moment, noticing the sign for Washington DC pass by, stating the US Capitol was only forty miles away. Before he could answer however, Maria finally found a solid station that displayed a message from the CDC;
We interrupt this radio transmission for an important announcement... the CDC in coordination with US government and military personnel have officially quaratined the Capitol. Any persons within the area must be willing to relinquish weapons before passing the gate. Food and medical staff will be on hand. This is a recording---- We interrupt this----
Maria switched off the radio and looked back to Matt as Josh continued driving as far as he could before the inevitable could possibly happen.
Matt looked over to Anna's gorgeous face, softer than it had been in days as she lulled against his broad shoulder. He then looked to Brooke, her head against the window as she had been for the last several hours upon exhausting herself from screaming and struggling with him. "We go to D.C." he finally said, deciding that safety in the Capitol at this point would be the best chance they could possibly ask for. Josh glanced back, a puzzled look across his boyish face, "Really?! I thought we were on our own dude..."
"Who said we're going to the quarantine? I'm just thinking about being in the area. If Eric was right, things are just gonna get worse. They won't keep us out forever."
Finally, the truck's tank began to click that horrifying sound of doom as it's tank had taken it's final swallow of diesel. If they were lucky, another station would be around and the area would not have been as frivolus with the diesel as in the previous counties. Hell, most city folks now drove the Hybrids and they took regular or premium themselves. Worst case scenario, they'd be walking to a gas station to steal some containers and syphon fuel from the abandoned vehicle.
"I'm gonna let it coast as far as it goes dude," said Josh, letting off the gas just as the speedometer hit seventy and began declining. They'd gotten lucky to pass the highway as far as they did, let alone find a long stretch of road like this one that had gaps in the number of vehicles left behind.
As the Explorer headed for the curve ahead, Josh began to take a deep breath as the horrifying events from before were now only a memory and things must have been getting better.
"Ay dios, mio..." said Maria, looking ahead as the Explorer passed the bend of the back road into a small little country town. One of the towns used as a Virginia historical site with old colonial stores and shops that attracted tourists passing by on the highway. Matt could remember taking the 5th grade field trip here with Eric and their class years and years before. This time however, instead of the cobble-rock streets being filled with tourist, students, employees acting as in character as humanly possible and families... it was now infested.
"What the FUCK!" shouted Josh, slamming on his brakes. Brooke and Anna woke up to this, staring ahead in confusion for a moment before realizing what had to be a mirage... from the hilltop leading into the town, the entire area was swarmed with an overwhleming crowd of at least one hundred riggies, each one moaning and groaning about in the same direction in passing until seeing the Explorer stopped dead on the road.
- End Of Chapter Two. To Be Continued.