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“She’s not stopping,” Jean said as both men watched Rebecca weave through the stationary traffic.
“I can’t go after her. She stabbed me.” Erik pleaded with the tall man.
“You want me to run after her?”
“Um.. yes.” Erik replied.
“Who do you think I am, an Olympic athlete?”
Erik was cooking up a response when he noticed Rebecca had stopped abruptly. She was nearly one hundred feet away and standing in front of two dark-skinned men.
“Sean and Andrew,” Erik began to limp toward them.
Both men talked to Rebecca as Erik and Jean approached.
“Where the hell you been?” Erik shouted as they stood facing the men.
“What? Are you my father?” Sean replied.
“Why are you letting this young lady take off like that?” He asked.
Erik told the men about the overnight stay and the fate of Rebecca’s grandfather and mother. Rebecca sobbed, no longer ran, and said very little.
“We need to get some food. I’m starve’n.”
“There’s an old fast food restaurant up the street. Not sure what would be eatable but we could try there.”
“This bat is a dream,” Erik says as he clobbers another infected. The thin, pale man falls to the ground.
“It’s not dead,” Jean Claude responds as they walk past.
“They don’t need to be dead,” Erik replied, “Just out of the way.”
“So Rebecca,” Erik looked down at the young lady walking beside him. “What happened? It looked to me like your mother was infected before you all walked into this place. The incubation period of usually a couple days.”
“That’s not to say your experience wasn’t terrifying. I can understand that you are no longer talking to anyone. I just need to know.”
Rebecca continued walking. Stepping a little faster as she stared forward. Erik watched as she stepped away from the group then stopped behind a Volkswagen with grass growing from the partially opened doors.
“We should give her a moment,” Jean Claude said while stopping Erik with his large hand.
“You look familiar to me,” he said.
“I have that kind of face.”
“No..no..,” Jean Claude continued. “You are familiar.”
“Why, do you want to send a post card to your family back home,” Erik shot. His eyes fierce.
“I mean you now harm, brother. Just trying to place your face.” Jean Claude tried to assure Erik as he stepped away from him.
“You can stop trying to place anything. I’m sure I am who you think I am. Erik, the Terrible. The man they blasted on the news for starting the infection. Which, by the way, was not what I did. I did not start it. I did not stop it.. or I couldn’t. It had gone way to far before I was able to activate any of the protocols.”
Erik walked away from Jean Claude and stepped up to Rebecca. Rebecca turned, fire in her eyes, and thrust a small metal barb into his thigh.
Erik stepped back. Rebecca swung and missed with her small fist. Erik walked backward and sat upon the hood of a car. He held his hands against the metal barb, waiting for the pain to subside before he pulled it out. Rebecca stepped toward him. Attempted to swing but Jean Claude stopped her.
“Hey, hay.. stop now. We have a long way to go. This man, as much as you hate him, is helping us. Can we stop this.”
“Can we?” Rebecca shot back. “My father is dead, my mother is dead and so is my grandfather. He did this!”
“I did not,” Erik replied as he pulled the barb from his thigh.
Rebecca thrust herself at Erik. Erik held her at bay with longer arms till Jean Claude lifted her from the ground. “No… no love. Please stop.”
Rebecca fought back. Landed an elbow just below the tall, Haitian man’s rib cage.
Jean coughed and let her go. Erik pulled the barb from his leg and held the wound.
“Rebecca, don’t go,” Erik pleaded as he watched her leave. “I lost my wife and daughter. Please don’t. I do not want another child on my mind everyday.”
An explosion rung through the early morning air. Blood from the infected clung to Erik’s face. The infected lay on the broken concrete and the hood of the old, red Mustang. The hood is bowed downward and covered in gore. The windshield is broken and bloody.
“God, that’s going to bring down my resale value,” he said with a smile. Outside the car, to the right he noticed a group of infected fighting their way through the tall grass toward Michigan avenue. Behind Erik was a simular group struggling to fit through a small space between cars. Erik remembered the duffle bag and grabbed it along with the bat. He tossed it over his shoulder and stepped forward toward the others.
The red Prius was fifty feet ahead of him when he heard the scream. He leapt forward and around another car. He walked up to the Prius slowly as another scream erupted from the car. The windows of the Prius were grime-filled like everything else. He could make out the figure of the young lady in the back seat. She was swinging her arms and struggling with something. Sitting near the passenger-side rear door Erik walked around the Prius. The doors on the passenger-side were closed and locked. He could see Rebecca fighting with an infected woman. The woman had turned around but was still restrained by the seatbelt. Erik banged on the passenger-side window but this only frightened Rebecca and sent her scrambling to the driver’s side. He banged again and flattened his face against the glass.
“Rebecca, it’s me. Unlock the doors. I need to get in.”
Rebecca looked toward Erik. He wasn’t even sure she recognized him. She pushed herself against the rear driver’s door. Erik shouted again.
Rebecca blinked, paused then attempted to crawl toward the rear passenger door but the infected creature grabbed her hair and pulled. Rebecca freed herself and crawled back to the driver’s side of the small car. Erik pointed to door behind her and attempted to walk toward her but a tall, infected man stood in front of him.
Erik dropped the duffle and stepped back. He squatted and pulled the wooden bat from the bag. Three more infected were very near this one and would be on him in less then a minute. Erik knelt and swung at the tall creatures legs, connecting and blowing it’s knee sideways. The creature fell to the left and leaned against another car. Erik ran around the front of the to the driver’s side rear door. He pulled the door handle and it opened. Rebecca fell backward, into his arms. Erik helped her to her feet and stepped away from the Prius.
She stood silent, staring up at him. Erik searched for meaning, for a reason she was not moving. After a long minute he grabbed her by the waist, lifted her and placed her over his shoulder. He then walked away from the scene. Rebecca struggled but Erik held on to the young lady till they were far enough. Jean Claude, stood watching as Erik stepped past him.
“Thanks for you help,” Erik snapped.
“Looked like you had it,” Jean replied.
“Damn it, I forgot the shotgun.”
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Darkness took over as Erik finished the bottle of wine. Guilt racked thoughts persisted within his head as he looked out a grime covered window.
His wife, her face painted in fear, stared at him. The memory of her death haunted him. The wine, warm and ineffective was now gone. Erik stared forward out the window and watched as the memories paraded by. His daughter, a beautiful, talented young woman stepped forward. Her face fallen and her eyes hollow. The beauty that once encircled her was now gone, replaced by the infection.
“The Deadwood infection…” he began. “A bacteria trigger by research into effector proteins that caused anomalies in plants. Plants! Not children or wives of researcher but plants.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“It is,” Eric replied to his doppleganger. “It’s all my fault. This whole zombie, lockdown, take over the world, new world order, mess is my fault.”
Eric began to fall asleep. His head switching off and his eyelids falling over his world. His leather, seat shaped bed, jerked. Eric looked to the right, cleared the sleep from his eyes and saw an animal grazing near the passenger side door.
“Is that a deer? A four-legged hunted creature within the walls of the city? That’s not possible. This city is surrounded by walls.”
The deer, fawn colored and oblivious to anything around it, chewed on the long grasses beneath it. There was a long knife within the duffelbag, along with a heavy steel chain. To the right of the chain was a small shotgun, it’s wooden stock cut short in a hurry.
Erik opened the chamber and found a round buried within the weapon. He smiled and attempted to open the driver’s door when the deer bolted and disappeared from view. Seconds later the hood of the old Mustang collapsed under the weight of the creature. The windshield cracked. From the left, an infected monster stepped past his window. Erik froze and waited for it to clear the door. That monster grabbed a hold of anything it could and bit down. Blood covered the windshield as Erik watched.
Erik cleared the grim from the Mustang’s driver’s side window and searched for other infected. Seeing none, he slowly stepped from the driver’s door. The noise from the door alerted the infected woman, closest to him but she was distracted by the meal they had fought so hard for. A young and disfigured infected man bolted for Erik as he placed his left foot outside the door. Erik noticed him and attempted to close the door. He screamed in pain as he realized his mistake and allowed the door to open to free his foot. The infected man pounced on the opportunity and pushed open the door.
Erik struggled to close the door but the creature easily beat out any strength he had. The infected man stepped forward and shoved it’s gruesome face into the Mustang. Erik fell backward leaving his legs vulnerable. The creature grabbed a handful of Erik’s thigh just before the shotgun fired a mess of steel bearings from the end of the barrel. The noise echoed through the steel trap Erik sat within. The bearings, that didn’t hit the infected man, shot through the car. Erik hid, as best he could, within the seats. He kicked the monster out and on it’s back. After the ringing in his ears stopped Erik stepped out into the early morning sun to face a new day.
“Look at you, guiding all the innocence to safety,” Erik’s doppleganger taunted as the group passed another nest. “You know they are not innocent, don’t you? You are not innocent either.”
“Shut up!” Erik shouted out loud as Steve rambled on about accounting to the tall Haitian man named Jean Claude.
“Look at the ragtag group you got here. Remember the group you came in with…”
“Enough,” Erik looked away and noticed all four of the others were staring at him.
“Yea, what of it. I have imaginary friends.”
With that said the others walked a little faster heeding corrections Erik made to their forward momentum.
Michigan Avenue, a grass covered throughway of old, split the large grass fields of the city in half. Nature tried it’s best to erase what it could but what it struggled to remove left a large patch to walk upon.
“This road should help us,” Erik said then added. “Has anyone seen those other two gentlemen?”
The others nodded then began the long trip toward the worn and overgrown buildings downtown.
The walking infected populated the road ahead, hanging out near the cars like teenagers parked on a Friday night.
“I wonder what they talk about,” Rebecca said.
“Who, the infected? There’s no conversation going on?” Erik replied noticing he was left alone with the young girl.
“Look at them, they stand next to each other. I bet they hang out with their friends.”
“Your dreaming little girl. The infected have no friends.”
Erica looked back. Noticed the young lady talking to Erik and called to her. Rebecca smiled politely and sped up to catch up with her mother.
“It’s getting a bit dark,” Erik said after about an hour. “We should really hide out for the night. The cars are not the safest, but it’s all we really have.”
Steve, Erica and Rebecca settled for a Red Prius. They locked the doors and settled in as much as they could. Steve and Erica were in the front seat and Rebecca the back.
Erik found an old red Mustang, surprised to see such a prize within the walls of this infected city. Inside, the vehicle Erik found a black duffel bag, a wooden bat and half a bottle of wine.
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“What do you know of these creepers,” Jean Claude asked as they exited the back of the Corner Store.
“They are some sort of mutation from the original bacterium that made up the infection. I’m not sure how that happened.”
Jean Claude walked silent, listening. Erik’s doppleganger began to appear ahead of him in several locations.
“The are small tells within the tall grass. The creepers make a nest-like circle so the first thing would be to notice an unusual space.” Erik noticed his doppleganger stood within several of these nests. He stopped, picked up a small stone from the ground and threw it. It struck the old man in the back forcing him to stop and turn around. The young lady, his granddaughter, was closest to nest.
“Are you insane,” shouted the old man. “What the hell was that for?”
The sudden noise triggered the Creeper and it leaped for the young lady as her mother screamed. Erik bolted forward, followed by Jean Claude.
“Follow me, closely.”
Erik used his doppleganger as a guide and ran around the nests, within the grass. He stopped and stood behind the old man and the girls mother.
“Jean, we have to wrestle with the Creeper. Let’s get behind it.
The Creeper was entangled in the grass forcing both men to grab and pull the tall grasses at the roots. The young lady struggled and kicked, successfully delaying the creature. Erik found the creatures legs, broken and useless, and pulled. The skin and muscle weak stretched. The Creeper ignored Erik’s attempt to pull it away and tightened it’s grip on the girls legs.
Jean stepped within the nest and stood over the Creeper. He grabbed the creatures chest and lifted it up. The Creeper released his grip on the young girl and turned it’s attention to Jean. Erik dropped the creatures legs and stepped up beside the tall man. The Creeper struggled but it wasn’t trying to free itself. It was trying to grab Jean. It twisted it’s chest and spine. It swung it’s dirt-covered hands, grabbing at Jean’s head. It connected at times but never able to hold on. “Your lucky you have little hair,” Erik commented and searched for anything to end the life of this creature.
A sudden thump did the job as Erik looked up. The old man had struck the creature with the remains of a wooden plank. Jean dropped the creature, stepped back then watched as the old man crushed the creatures skull.
“How’s your granddaughter,” Erik asked after the group collectively swallowed an anxious breath.
“Rebecca’s fine,” He said. His voice shaking. “Thank you for the help. I wish you would of hit me with that rock a little sooner.”
Erik smiled. “So do I. My name it Erik.”
The old man shook Erik’s hand and introduced himself as Steve. His eldest daughter as Erica and the young lady as Rebecca.
“Very nice to meet you. This is Jean Claude.”
“We met,” Steve says.
“Of course,” Erik replied. “Follow me, I can lead you past all these Creepers.”