Inhumanity 2 years, 4 months ago #316
thought John as he struggled to put one knee in front of the other. He thought he could hear them now, the zombies coming for him. They moved fast. It was dark and he could not see anything. The overcast skies hide the stars and moon from view. John's head cocked sideways as he froze for an instant. No, nothing. LPA 4C3. LPA 4C3.
Up ahead there was an off ramp. The lights were still on, however, there were no facilities, just roads with signs pointing to small towns twelve miles one way and thirty the other. From his position on the side of the road, crawling through the grass on his hands and knees John could not see anybody moving. The overpasses were always the worst. They forced him out onto the shoulder of the road. And the traffic, while inconsistent, was always fast. Some of them would shoot at him too; that had already happened once.
He remembered earlier in the day when the State Patrol Officer Kevin York had driven him west past this exit, towards the nearest gas station that had fuel. This overpass was still about six miles from his car, where his family was waiting for him. Officer York had told him going west was a bad idea, but it was closer than going the twenty miles east and back; it was a thirty mile round trip instead of a forty mile trip. Unfortunately, the officer had been on his way to the 'front' to try and stem the tide of zombies coming up Interstate 76 into Nebraska; he would not be giving John a ride back to his family.
John had thanked him for his time and bringing him to the gas station where he and his wife should have stopped at in the first place. In the excitement of getting away from the horde, which they had not seen, they were paying too much attention to the radio and not enough to the car's persistent beeping about being low on fuel. John had a plastic fuel can in the back piled near the bottom of all their worldly possessions. It had been empty. Not even a few drops of fuel remained in the container and no one, but no one was stopping to give them fuel. York had pulled onto the shoulder of the other lane of the highway and offered to bring John back to the gas station. At the time it seemed like a good idea, fifteen minutes to get there, and a hike of two to three hours back unless John caught a ride with some other refugee. He had been optimistic about getting a ride with someone at the Shell station, however everyone he approached turned him down, they were already full, had no room or just didn't want to help him. After wasting a half an hour trying to get a ride John started to jog down the shoulder of the highway back towards his family. Traffic was lighter even then, only a car every five minutes or so buzzing by.
The first time he was shot at he didn't even know what it was, there was a buzzing sound by his left ear, then a bang, then the car when whizzing by, with screaming people in it. After that he kept an ear out for approaching vehicles and would jog out into the grass, if they fired a gun at him he ducked down. There was little cover to be had on the cleared prairie that made up the shoulder of the highway, so his best bet was to duck down and scoot over in the two foot tall grass. No one fired more than once, that was a blessing. After forty five minutes of jogging John was tired and out of steam, his shirt was soaked through with sweat in the hot August air. It was overcast, but the humidity was terrible. He realized he should have taken more than three bottles of water too. He had one bottle left and he was maybe a third of the way back. Finally, a sports utility vehicle pulled over and three men jumped out and beckoned him forward. They were armed with pistols, and one had a rifle; all were pointed in his general direction.
“Hey, you! You a zombie?” asked one of the men, a tall lanky youth with sandy blond hair, probably twenty years old. Johns alarm bells went off. Something about the man was unsettling; it might have been the blood splattered on his shirt, or the fact that his gun, more than the others was pointed directly at John.
“No way. I am trying to get back to my family up ahead, could you help me out with a ride?”
“That can full of gas?” the blond guy asked.
“Yeah for my car I ran out.”
“Good. We'll take it.”
“Wh-what? No! I need it for my car! We're stranded up ahead, it's the only gas we have!”
“Your shit for brains got you where you are.” said blondy, bringing his pistol up towards John's head. “Hand it over. I could just as easily take it after I shoot you.”
Reluctantly, John handed the gas can over to one of the men. This one was also around twenty, with a slight mustache and bad acne. The man took the can and popped the back of the SUV open, revealing four other gas cans. John yelled, “But you already have four cans! Why do you need mine?”
“Ain't nobody going to be making more gas anymore, idiot. It’s the most valuable thing you have.”
John looked at the passengers in the rear seat of the SUV, looking for a friendly face. The faces of young women staring back at him were all scared, one brought her hands up above the edge of the seat, just enough for John to see a set of handcuffs on them.
“You got any weapons buddy?”
“No, you think I would let you rob me if I did?”
“Aw, that's too bad. The zombies will get you without a fight then. Tom,” the man said to his other pistol-toting friend, “you got a weapon for him? Something you can spare for the gas?”
The last man, Tom, the oldest of the three in faded black jeans and a beer belly that belied his age said, “I surely do. I got this knife. A family heirloom, but I’m gonna give it to you so you won't be unarmed no more.” Tom pulled a hunting knife in its sheath out of his belt.
John had seen it before, in State Patrol Officer Kevin York's car. The officer kept a box of confiscated weapons in the trunk, things he had found on people he had arrested or that had been turned over to him. He had showed John the box and told him to grab a weapon, just in case he needed it. John had turned down the knife in favor of a short police-like baton, which he tossed away in the grass fifteen minutes ago. Not that a baton would have evened the odds here.
Tom dropped the knife on the ground by his feet and two of the men backed up towards the car, leaving blondy standing in front of John.
“Well, there you go then. You stay back here and lead the zombies off while everyone else gets away. You'll be a hero buddy. I'll be sure to tell your wife.”
He turned to walk back to the driver’s side of the SUV, then paused turned around again, raised his pistol at John's head, then lowered it towards his legs and fired. The next thing John knew he was lying on the ground, with the blond guy pointing the gun at his head, laughing, “The zombies like the smell of blood. They will follow you, now that you can't move faster than they can. Thanks for being a hero, man.” The blond guy then spit on him, kicked him once, and hopped back into the SUV, laughing with his friends.
John sat up as they drove away. Colorado license plate number LPA 4C3. His leg was bleeding, steadily dripping on the shoulder of the road. He got to his feet and screamed at the departing SUV, a primal, insane growl that had no effect on the departing black vehicle. Stumbling forward he barely had enough presence of mind to pick up his fallen water bottle. Taking two steps, he fell forward, head coming down inches from the hunting knife on the pavement. Adrenalin would only take him two steps, or so it seemed. Clawing his way to his hands and knees, he struggled to push down the feelings urging him to run after the SUV. Gaining a sitting position he looked at his leg, his blue jeans were soaked with blood, but most of the viscous liquid was pouring out of the cuff of his pant leg. Touching his leg, brought out a sharp, involuntary scream. John tried to pull his pant leg up to reveal the wound, but the jeans were too tight. Reaching out he grasped the knife and pulled the sheath away from it, revealing the odd blade. This was not a hunting knife purchased from a Wal-Mart or an LL Bean; its style of manufacture appeared to have taken place with a hammer and anvil.
So they left me an antique old blade huh? John thought; Well let’s see if it will cut the fabric away from my leg.
Taking the blade to his jeans, John was surprised how easily the rugged, asymmetrical blade passed through the small hem and slit up the side. He cut it a bit too far, stopping above the knee. The amount of blood was amazing and he nothing to staunch it with. Fumbling through his pockets he came up with a single white napkin, the kind given out at fast food restaurants across the United States. John pressed the crumpled napkin up against the wound. The blood didn't seem to stop. He felt around with his other hand and found a matching, ragged hole in the back of his calf. There seemed to be more blood coming from there so he shifted his napkin around.
He needed a bandage or something to hold the napkin in place. John cast his eyes around looking for anything that might be of use. Getting to his knees he could see a cast off fast food bag about a hundred feet further down the highway, caught in the grass. John tried to get to his feet, but found that walking was next to impossible. He was not a doctor, but it felt like he had a broken bone in his leg. Crawling was slower and hard on his right knee, which no longer had the benefit of denim to protect it from the small rocks and pebbles on the shoulder. A car buzzed by while he was crawling, he tried to wave it down, but like so many others it just passed him by.
Finally he reached the discarded burger bag. A steady thread of blood led back to where he had started. John's face was dripping sweat, his breathing was labored. Is this shock? he thought. Tearing the crumpled bag open he was rewarded with a half dozen unused napkins along with three empty waxed paper wrappers and a couple of empty French-fry boxes. Rolling over onto his butt, he pulled his leg up and re-assessed the damage. The wound at the back of his leg was far worse than that in the front.
His bloodstained hands tenderly probed the wound as he found the edges. He knew he had to stop the bleeding. The front of his leg was also still oozing some blood; however it had slowed to a trickle. Taking four of the napkins John pressed them to the back of his leg. It hurt. Touching the actual wound almost made him pass out again. He didn't have anything to hold the makeshift band aid to his leg. Thinking for a moment he scooted back until his calf touched the pavement, close enough to hold the napkins in place. He then took the knife and cut a long section of his jeans off below his knee and then cut that into strips. Grabbing the burger bag he pulled out one of the burger wrappers then slowly eased forward, lifting his calf off the ground slightly.
Looking at the wrapper he thought it alone was too fragile, so he pulled the other two out of the fast food bag and flatted all three of them together. He carefully slid this composite under the napkins that were sticking to the back of his calf. Once the wrappers were in place, he did the same thing with one of the four strips of blue jeans he had cut. Finally he took the remaining napkins and the white paper bag and put them over the hole in the front of his leg. All of his work in place, he slowly tightened the denim strip until it held the bandages in place. Once the first tie was done, it was relatively easy to angle his leg up and tie the other three around his calf. There was no blood dripping out of him anymore. Relieved, he lay back and passed out.
Sometime during that long black-out period he was aware of a car stopping. He tried to come back to consciousness, struggled with it, like a nightmare he couldn’t wake from. John vaguely remembered his body being moved, then everything went dark again.
He woke to the feeling that he was inside a plastic bag or some sort of bubble, he struggled feebly with his hands, striking out at the bag and trying to escape from it, the consciousness returned as he tried kicking the bag. John's own scream as the bones in his leg grated together shocked him fully awake. He immediately stopped moving, the pain eased and he could not see. His open eyes saw only darkness, not even the night sky. Reaching up with his hands he felt a plastic sheet that was lying loosely around him. It was a cheap blue tarp. Moving carefully, he pulled the thing away from his head.
The night air came as a cool relief compared to the condensation and heat from his breathing. It was dark out. He was laying in the grass. There was a barbed wire fence about three feet off to his left side that he could barely make out. He realized where he was as a car hurled by on the highway forty feet above him. He was at the bottom of the slope, just down from the shoulder of the road.
Why? Why would someone move me here? he answered himself with the thought that whoever put him here must have thought he was already dead. LPA 4C3. His family, he had to get to them. A rational part of his brain told him he was already too late. If anything had happened to them, it had happened hours ago. However, he had to go, he had to get to them. He checked his leg. He could not feel any bleeding, nothing wet. His bandages were still securely fastened; if anything they were tighter than before from the swelling.
Crawling the forty feet to the top of the shoulder, John couldn't see anyone. No more cars were coming. He spent the next few hours crawling along the side of the road. It was an hour before the first car passed him; one of the people in the car fired a gun at him. After that, whenever he heard a vehicle coming he would crawl four or five feet into the grass and lay quietly until it had passed.
Up ahead he saw the outline of another wreck. He could smell the oil and gas from the wreckage underneath the smoky burnt smell of rubber. In the near darkness he could see children's toys and a large doll that began a rubbish stream that ended at the car. When he had crawled twenty feet further on, his suspicion that the lump ahead of him was not a doll was confirmed. A baby, a toddler left lying on the side of the road.
John didn't want to approach it. He veered off a bit into the grass to be as far away from the corpse as possible. As he angled by he glanced at it just enough to ensure that it was a corpse and not a living being. Even with no training John would have helped the baby had he seen any indication it was alive. With sweat pouring off of his face he made his way up to the car, which was rolled onto its top; half on the shoulder and half in the grass. Dead. There were three others in the vehicle, a white male, a Hispanic female, and someone who was obviously their son, still strapped into his car seat in the back. The kid must have been four or five, and of the three he had suffered the least trauma. The car had not really burned, in the dim light John could see one of the tires was down to the rim and a large section of grass was burnt down to the fence, where some glowing embers indicated it was not fully out yet. The couple’s possessions were scattered about the wreckage, both inside and out of the vehicle.
Thinking pragmatically, John edged his way around the car and over to the woman's side, where the window had broken out. Crawling carefully on the broken glass John looked inside for something to drink and something he could use for a bandage. The glove box was closed. He opened it and several bottles of prescription pills tumbled out. He recognized some antibiotics as the same that he had taken for his strep throat last fall. The bottle was almost full. He also found a medicine he didn't recognize, that had instructions to take as needed for pain, no more than four pills every twenty four hours.
He discarded the other bottles and looked for something to drink. A half-finished Diet Mountain Dew bottle was lying on the ceiling of the vehicle. The bottle came away reluctantly as he picked it up, it had settled in a sticky pool of half coagulated blood. Looking around more, John found a diaper bag. He grabbed the large puffy thing and retreated from the car, heading down the road slightly until he came to clean grass, where he started retching.
When he was finished he opened the diaper bag. Sure enough it was well stocked with baby-wipes and diapers. Plus it held formula, bottled water, extra baby clothing and some children's toys. Taking the baby-wipes out John used them to clean off the bottle of Mountain Dew. Even though it was ‘Diet’ he felt he needed the stimulation of caffeine. At the same time, he cleaned up his hands, which were still flecked with dried blood from when he had fixed up his leg. Finally, everything was clean again. He twisted the cap off of the soda, took two of the antibiotics and one of the pain killers then lay back on the grass, waiting for them to take effect. In no time at all he was asleep.
The cool air woke John gently. His shivering pulled him towards consciousness with agonizing slowness. Then a peal of thunder broke the silence of the night. John shuddered and shook himself the rest of the way awake. It was still dark, and the wind had picked up. Lightning flashed over-head several times, illuminating his situation abruptly. The overturned car was twenty feet down the road from him and his leg oozed pain. He had intended to clean it up before he continued on to his family...
The first fat, cold drop of rain hit his head. There was no other cover available and John crawled quickly back towards the overturned car, dragging his diaper bag behind him. Fighting back the gore rising in his throat he shook his head and kept moving to the car. This was about survival; hypothermia could kill him just as quickly as blood loss.
He was not soaked through by the time he got to the rear door of the mini SUV, however if he didn't take cover quickly he was going to be. He propped himself up on his knees and tried the back door. It would not open. Reaching past the dead woman, pain shot through his leg, but he was able to get the rear door unlocked. As he turned to open the door he saw the little boy staring at him. Stifling a cry, John fell back into the rain, Zombie!
The boy didn't move, didn't reach for him, nothing. He is dead-dead. John thought. He reached out to open the door, it swung open easily. Half crawling inside he clicked the seatbelt of the kid’s safety seat and pulled the boy, car seat and all outside. John sat him upright outside the door.
There was a little debris on the ceiling of the car, not enough to cover the pool of blood. John knew he couldn't bring himself to sit in the puddle of blood, no matter how cold and wet he got. Scrounging around John gathered the family’s clothing and piled it into the car to absorb and cover the blood. He didn't bother to use the clothing to wipe the blood up; he just kept piling more in until he couldn't see blood anywhere. Finally he was able to pull himself and the diaper bag into the car and out of the rain and wind.
John was being watched. The feeling wouldn’t go away; someone was out there, sending chills up his spine. Looking outside through the rain he saw the boy staring at him through the closed window. The rain splattered the boy’s face, running down like tears. Opening the door John stretched out with his good leg, he was barely able to touch the base of the car seat with his toes. Slowly he nudged it around until the child was no longer facing towards him. The door closed and the car seat now only looked like the shadow of a tombstone in the dim light.
John pulled open the diaper bag and pulled out the wipes and some diapers. Then he pulled all of the napkins and other bandages off of his leg. The wound was still bad, but only a trickle of blood was seeping out of it now. John cleaned it off with the wipes. Inside the bag he found some zinc oxide and some prescription baby ointment for rashes. Thinking it couldn't hurt, he smeared this concoction onto his leg wound, then bound two diapers around his leg. The diapers had small, sticky tabs that seemed to hold them onto his leg well. John didn't trust them to last with a lot of movement, so he secured the diapers with the cords of blue jeans again. Finally, his task done, John looked around for something to eat.
A cooler had overturned in the car. The lid had come off and the contents were scattered about the car. Light was a problem, it was hard to see in the dark space, and it was not like bandaging his leg, where he could mostly take care of it by feel. His luck changed for the better when he found a flashlight, a small LED wind up light, with which he was able to ferret out the various pieces of food that were scattered about. He left the sandwiches alone, but grabbed all of the pre-packaged food he could find, including five bottles of soda. He cracked one of these immediately and used it to pop back another pain pill and two more of the antibiotics. He also checked his leg again now that he had a light. His leg was red and swollen, but he didn't see any streaks of red going up or down from the wound, which he hoped meant he didn't have an infection...yet.
Waiting out the rain was difficult for John. He wanted to get moving, even though his thoughts were telling him that his family had probably moved on already. Finally by four in the morning the rain trickled to a stop. John had transferred everything useful from the diaper bag to the backpack he had found; this included a small bit of food, the remaining soda bottles, the diapers and the rash medicine. He kept the anti-biotics and pain killers in his pants pockets. During the hour of rainfall John had also found a roll of duct tape and using that he had wrapped his leg more firmly, taping the wound soundly until it resembled a large bulge, he didn't know if it would behave as a splint, yet.
Scrambling out of the car John rose unsteadily to his feet, trying not to look at the dead baby, sitting on the wet pavement in front of him. He put weight on his wounded leg and the pain came back. It was broken, it had to be.
John popped another pain pill and looked around for something to help splint his leg. His eyes fell on several items; the cooler lid, the baby's car seat. Then he saw a long piece hard plastic that had broken off of the body of the car. That would have to do. He pulled the piece of wreckage over to him. It was about three inches wide and about three feet long. With some effort he was able to break it in two. He had two slightly uneven pieces to bind on either side of his leg. John was not frugal with the duct tape. He used about half the roll on his splint until he could not see any part of his leg underneath. He had rested the bottoms of the splint along the top side of his shoe and had placed extra padding around his ankle so it would not rub against it too much. His next attempted step was still painful, but due to either the pain medicine or the splinting job, it was bearable. He set out at a pace much faster than crawling would have been, but still slower than walking.
Making better time John marched towards the amber promise of the sunrise. After two hours he had to take another pain pill, but was sure he was almost to his car. Another two hours after that he knew he had passed wherever the car had been. There was no sign of his car anywhere, no wrecks, and thankfully, no bodies.
Only one vehicle had passed him in the early morning, a sedan driving like a bat out of hell heading east. Around nine in the morning John saw a wreck off in the distance; it was the sedan that had passed him earlier. It had barreled into another vehicle that was pulled across the road. John looked and saw that both lanes had vehicles across them, as did the other side of the highway. As he continued to approach the barricade John could see people moving beyond it. Finally a bull horn called out to him, “Raise your hands above your head and approach the barricade slowly!”
Relief flooded through John as he saw a mix of police, military personal and civilians manning the barricade. They did not look very friendly, but they did look like authorities and not like a band of thugs who would shoot him out of hand. He heard several murmurs of 'Zombie', but no one fired at him.
John stopped moving forward.
“What happened to your leg?”
“A guy in a black SUV, license plate LPA 4C3 shot me, stole my gas can and left me for dead. One of them was named Tom. And..and they had a couple of women in handcuffs with them.” John called back.
“Liar!” called out a different voice. “He's lying!”
“Put a cork in it Tom. Someone put a bead on him and go get his friends up too. Get their girlfriends away from them, see if there is any truth to this. You!” this was directed back at John, “Pull that bandage off so we can see your wound. Come a little closer, about five feet.”
John moved until he was about five feet away from the speaker, who got up on the automobile hood to watch.
“It’s duct-taped real good. It might take me awhile to undo it. I think my leg is broken too.”
The man on the hood raised his shotgun and pointed it at John's head, “It'll be the second to last gunshot wound you ever have unless you show it to me.”
John was halfway through getting his leg unwrapped with another man scrambled over the hood. The first man said, “Doc! Doctor Newman, please!”
The new man waved him off saying, “If it’s a bite let’s see it. Right now he is not acting irrationally. He is speaking to us for God's sake, and the zombies can't talk! I'm going to help him and you are going to cover me. Now mister, you lay back there and let me do this, okay?”
John did as directed and Dr. Newman asked, “What's your name?”
“John Trevor Clark.”
“Hm, that so huh? Well Mr. Clark, you will be happy to know we sent your wife and kids on towards Lincoln this morning. They were fine. A passerby stopped and gave them enough fuel to get to the next exit and we intercepted them here. They were not infected or wounded, but on account of the kids we made them drive on to the safe zone we are setting up further east at North Platte.”
The doctor finished unraveling John's leg, then looked up, “Gunshot wound, probably a thirty eight. Looks to me like the leg is broken. Harlin tell the boys to get a stretcher and to bring the ambulance around.” He looked back at John. “We'll get you up to the clinic. You're lucky, you made it, and your family is safe.”
The sheriff ordered one of the cars pulled back out of the barricade and several men came out with a stretcher and loaded John onto it. John gave the medicine he had to Dr. Newman, who looked at it and then told him it had probably kept him moving. As they brought John along to the ambulance Harlin, the sheriff, stopped them.
“He got time to identify these people, to give us his story?”
“No. He is exhausted, his leg is broken and he walked on it for what? Fifteen miles? Plus he has blood loss and it looks like the start of an infection. So no he doesn't have time. Do this later.”
“We do it later we might not get around to it at all. He's awake. He doesn't seem to be delusional. Let’s get it over with. The women were handcuffed to the bumper of the car when we went to fetch Dumb and Dumber here, so that part of John Trevor Clark's story holds up pretty well, plus there were four gas cans in the back of his SUV and the plates match. You said it looked like the wound was caused by a thirty-eight, well, lo and behold look what caliber pistol Dumb here had on him, a thirty-eight! I just want John to look them over, then look me in the eye and tell me he wasn't lying about them. You can do that John, right?”
“Damn straight I can.” John said with less force than he intended. He was getting a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
A mixed group of civilians and military men held the three men who had robbed John at gun point. Two of them were only wearing boxers and one of those men, the one who had shot John, had a bloody nose and a rapidly blackening eye.
“Were these the men who robbed you, shot you and left you for dead?”
Looking Harlin in the eye John said, “Yeah, that's them. I don't want you to do nothing...”
“Thank you Mr. Clark. We will handle this from here. Take him away, Doc.”
The men shoved John into the back of the ambulance and shut the door. The Doctor got in beside him and gave him a worried look. “You'll be fine. Don't worry about it, you will be okay.”
The driver started the vehicle while the doctor put an IV, none too gently, in John's arm, “Sorry, I’m out of practice. Most of the time the nurses start these things. You'll be feeling fine in about…ten seconds.” The doctor started the pain medicine dripping into John's veins.
As the ambulance started to pull away John heard a volley of shots ring out. The Dr. Newman looked him over, gave him a wry smile and said, “We won’t have to worry about that lot anymore. Welcome to the new world order, Mr. Clark.”
Copyright Author: CTales
12 / 05 / 2010
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