Saturday, August 6, 2016

Some Nights I Stay Up Cashing In My Bad Luck

Todd and Lewis took the snowplow into town to find the pharmacy. “Truck uses less fuel,” Lewis said, pulling a cigarette out of his chest pocket.

Don't you smoke that in here,” Todd said. “Joy is a lady.”

Ain't no lady got two ugly dudes up in her all at once.”

One ugly dude,” Todd corrected him.

Fine, one ugly dude, but you're ugly enough for any three dudes,” Lewis said serenely.

Now, that is hurtful. What would your mother say?”

She'd say you're ugly enough for about six dudes and one hideous lady.”

Give me a cigarette, asshole,” Todd said, failing to keep an entirely straight face. They rolled their windows down and lit their cigarettes. Todd took a long drag. “I think I'd like your mama.”

Lewis grunted. Todd might have liked his mama, but his mother liked just about nobody back.

Joy uses more fuel, but won't take damage if we run down even a crowd of red-eyed people eaters,” Todd said.

Fair,” Lewis agreed. They rode in silence until they hit town.

Fisher Spring, Population 11,346,” Todd read aloud as they passed the sign into town.

Bodies,” Lewis said laconically.

Possibly several whole zombies as well.”

Fisher Spring had burned to the ground in large swathes. Perhaps rain had ended the burning, because the northwestern part of town still mostly stood. Luckily the pharmacy Todd remembered was in that part of town, tucked in between some elderly multi-use buildings and a fifties era gas station. At some point someone had knocked down enough of the multi-use buildings – storefronts with apartments above – to build this large dime store type pharmacy with a big enough parking lot to park Joy Rider comfortably.

Gonna go over there, see if there's gas,” Lewis said, nodding at the gas station.

I'll rummage around in here and get Marvie's meds.” Todd headed for the pharmacy.

Antibiotics,” Lewis reminded.

Good call, good call.”

The sliding doors into the pharmacy were closed, but responded nicely to Todd's crowbar prying them open. Inside looked like it had been tossed, but aside from food, it seemed most things had been left behind. Probably the zombies had been in and out while the power was still on and the doors still worked.

Todd grabbed a couple Coleman coolers with wheels and a handle and dragged them back behind the pharmacy counter, popping that door open with the crowbar too.

He consulted Marvie's list and grabbed the entire supply of each medicine she'd listed for her health problems. He grabbed Ritalin, just in case they found someone who could tell them how much Ryan needed. The rest of the space in the two coolers he loaded up with antibiotics and pain medications.

After stowing those two coolers in the back bin of the snowplow, he grabbed two more, noting six other coolers scattered around. They seemed like expedient storage and like they could be useful, and he suspected they could handily strap them to the top of one of the campers or scatter them between all the vehicles wherever they'd fit.

Thinking about that, he grabbed a bunch of bungie cords and stuffed them in his pockets. Then he cleared out the first aid section of useful items and over the counter pain medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen. He loaded those coolers in the back of the plow, in the open top bin that usually held salt or dirt or whatever the plow was using to add traction to the road. Before he went back into the pharmacy, he used the bungie cords to secure the coolers shut.

This time inside he started gathering up socks, supplies for Galaxie the yorkie, and underwear. He'd just moved on to coloring supplies to keep Ryan busy when Lewis came bolting in like hell was on his heels. He ran past Todd with a bare nod, grabbed two cans of dog food, and bolted back out of the pharmacy. Todd hurried after him to find Lewis cracking open the cans with his buck knife in front of the open door of the gas station.

Lewis dumped the first can on the ground and backed off a little, crouching down and signaling to Todd to be silent with a finger across his lips.

Slowly, cautiously, a thin hungry hound dog with fur nearly as red as Lewis' bright hair inched out of the gas station building.

Good girl,” Lewis said softly. “Come get some, it's good.”

She whined a little, thumped her tail, and crouched a bit to ease forward until she could gobble up the food he'd dumped out for her. When it was gone she lifted her head and looked at Lewis.

I got more, little girl. See?” He dumped the next can out near his feet.

The hound inched forward again until she could get at the next pile of food. She wolfed that down and looked at Lewis again. Todd could see her fear and hope etched in her posture as starkly as her ribs etched her sides.

Can I pet you?” Lewis asked. He put his hand out for her to smell. She sniffed him, then gave him a long lick up his arm. With that he reached out and picked her right up, standing with her in his arms. She barked joyously.

Todd looked around to make sure nothing heard her, at least nothing interested in attacking them.

Let's go get you a collar and stuff,” Lewis said lovingly.

Who knew Lewis Pentillion was such a softie?” Todd asked in wonder.

Fuck you.”

They got her a collar from the drug store, and a leash, and a dog jacket, since she was so thin. While Lewis stood guard at the front of the store, crouched by the hound and petting her, Todd filled a couple coolers with food for a dog her size. He secured the tops of the coolers with bungies and walked them to the front of the store and handed them off to Lewis, who hauled them out and stowed them, the hound at his side. In this way they loaded up as much of the useful supplies and canned food the zombies hadn't been interested in as they could before dusk began turning to full dark. Lewis had already filled several gas containers and loaded them up in the back of the plow before he'd realized there was a dog present.

The hound sat between them in the cab of the plow, her tongue lolling happily, as they headed back to the camp.

Calling her Scout,” Lewis said. He pulled the unlit cigarette out of Todd's hand and tucked into his pocket. “Can't smoke in the car with her. She ain't well yet. And her lungs are smaller'n yours anyway.” Todd sighed, but fished out the rest of the pack he'd lifted off Lewis earlier and gave it back to the other man.

I like skill names,” Todd mused. “Hunter, trapper, scout.”

Scout like Scout Finch,” Lewis said, sternly.

I didn't know you could read!”


They heard the gunshots well before the rest stop was in sight. Scout stood alert between them, Lewis' hand on her collar.

Todd sped up.

As they came around the corner of the off ramp into the rest stop, they saw everyone was holed up in Marvie's trailer. Two small windows were open just enough to allow gunfire, and a couple of the fifteen million candlepower spotlights shone out of two other windows, probably being held by Marvie and Ryan as it was almost certainly Tim and Kirsten doing the shooting. They could hear the booming report of Tim's .30-06 and the smaller pop pop of Kirsten's little .22 pistol.

Todd stopped the plow to assess, and Lewis pointed to the group of zombies waiting in the shade of an old minivan with broken windows and flat tires, protected from the painful glare of the spotlights.

What the fuck, a group?!” Todd whispered. “They eat each other.”

Lewis pointed again. There at the edge of the wood surrounding the rest stop, shaded from the spotlights by a tree trunk, stood a lone figure, fully upright, watching the zombies and the people. It made some sort of gesture and two of the zombies raced out from behind the minivan and rushed the camper, shrieking at the bright lights.

Shots from inside the camper managed to drop them before they got too close.

Todd switched on his high beams and turned the plow to shine them on the figure in the wood, which stumbled back in surprise, just enough. There was a sharp report from Tim's rifle and the figure fell.

As one the remaining zombies screamed in pain. Shuddering with a horror he barely registered on a conscious level at their eerie response, Todd slammed his foot down on the accelerator and smashed Joy's plow into the minivan, shoving it to the side, smearing zombies all over the pavement. Lewis had his window down by then and slid up to sit on the door, his Colt already out.

Between Lewis and Tim, they managed to destroy any still moving zombies. Cautiously, Tim came out of the RV, his rifle ready, Marvie right behind him holding one of the spotlights. After a quick but careful sweep of the area, the adults all congregated around the fallen body of the figure in the woods.

Marvie held the spotlight on its lower setting on the figure.

Don't look like a zombie,” Lewis said.

He's fully dressed,” Tim agreed, uneasily. “His clothes are dirty, but they're not torn to shit. And his eyes aren't red, and his skin isn't flushed.”

He's definitely dead, though,” Marvie said with relief.

This guy was commanding the others, I'm sure of it. He was gesturing at them when those last two ran out to attack,” Todd said.

A man who can control zombies? Did he train them?” Tim asked.

Worse'n that,” Lewis said sourly. “Ain't going all X-files or nothin', but those Hoosier fucks couldn't see this guy when he gave orders, and I don't think he made a noise.”

Todd felt the hair raise on the back of his neck. “Well, shit.”

Let's have another look around, then take turns keeping watch, 'cause we gotta move out in the morning,” Lewis said. “Sooner we get to Minnefuckingsota the better.”

I knew I'd convert you,” Todd said. “You'll be a real Minnesotan in no time. You and Tim got patrol so I can grab Marvie her meds?”

Got it, boss,” Lewis said, and Todd glanced at him, surprised to find no sarcasm there.

Got it. Make sure we're clear, set up watch, get the hell out of here in the morning,” Tim said.

Make it so,” Todd said.

Goddammit,” Lewis sighed.