Middlesboro, KY. / 08:24 Hours / November 27, 2013
I pull the Chevelle off to the side of the road, just a few miles from the dealer ship. The creatures are unable to match the speed of the Chevelle, leaving them far behind us. Carl and I look in every direction for Jimmy and Kaylee Ann.
I turn to Carl “They must be further up the road. I didn’t see any sign of them back that way.”
“Yeah, let’s head up the road a few miles. I’ll try to reach them on the coms,” Carl suggests, pulling the walkie from his bag.
The sporty rear tires spin wildly, kicking up stones and dust from the shoulder of the country road. The Chevelle hits the pavement and the tires quickly propel us up the road. As we continue up the highway, the world seems deserted, desolate, and dark, even though the sun is high above in the late morning sky. Cars scatter the shoulder of the road, some taking up part of a lane. They weave a story of fear and panic, giving brief glimpses of the horrific last minute of their inhabitants. Some have baggage strapped to the roof, most likely family treasures and cherished items their owners weren’t ready to part with. Clothes stick out of suitcases, indicating the rushed nature of their packing in order to flee before the undead came knocking. However, their attempts were still much too late to escape their final fate. Vehicles are rolled onto their roofs and sides. Their owners tried to pass on the outside, hitting the steep mountain face that had been push back decades ago to make way for the two lane road.
Up ahead the road is blocked, with cars littering the blacktop in a multi-car pileup. The mountain has recessed from the road about a mile back, opening the area around us to rich farmland. I spot a break in the cattle fence allowing us to cut through the field around the wreck.
“Jack you see that?” Carl points up ahead.
I peer out the windshield to see what Carl is so excited about. The jeep sits shaded under a large oak tree with the doors wide open, the image almost seems surreal. He tries the radio again, but is met with silence. We drive through the opening and I place the car in park. We wait for a few moments, observing the jeep for any sign of life.
Carl takes the binoculars from his backpack to get a closer look at the jeep, “Let’s check it out, but be careful, I can see one of those dogs up there.”
I climb out from the Chevelle and drag out my AR-15. Releasing the bi-pod out, I place it on to the Chevelle’s steel roof and take aim. The scope doesn’t magnify. It is a government issued CCO (Close Combat Optic) I picked up at a pawn shop about a year prior. It does have a brilliant red dot in the center however allowing for rapid, accurate aiming. I follow the dog’s head with the red dot, as it circles the rough bark of the old oak tree, and jumps barking up the tree.
Keeping aim, I let out a loud whistle. The beast stops in its tracks and turns towards us, growling, allowing me the split second I needed to take a shot at a still target. I seize the opportunity, exhaling slowly, squeezing the trigger, firing off a single round. The rifle kicks back into my shoulder, erupting with a thunderous boom. A fraction of a second latter a red mist explodes from the snarling mutt’s head. The beast flops over, never to rise again.
I wait. Eyes scanning to the edge of the field, but no other creatures show their gnarly faces. I turn to find Carl focused on the jeep so I click my tongue to get Carl’s attention. His eyes find mine and I nod towards where the jeep sits lifeless under the low-hanging branches of the tree, signaling it appears clear and we should head over. He nods. The two of us duck back into the Chevelle and I press my foot lightly to the pedal. Slowly we creep ahead, scanning every clump of dirt and blade of moving foliage. I pull us up alongside the jeep, keeping the Chevelle’s heavy steel doors between us and whatever might be waiting for us inside the vehicle. Carl rolls down his window to get a better look inside.
“Hey, hey up here,” a voice calls out, taking us by surprise.
I put the car in neutral and set the parking brake. Carl gets out and looks up at the tree.
“Thank god you guys showed up.” Carl can now see it was Jimmy and Kaylee Ann.
Carl smiles, “Glad to see you alive.”
Jimmy and Kaylee Ann begin climbing down from the tree. Carl helps Jimmy with the last hop down while I stand watch, scanning the area for anymore walkers or their canine companions.
“Having fun up there, you two love birds.” I chuckle, my heart-rate dropping slowly now that we’ve found them alive and well.
Jimmy, now on the ground, helps Kaylee Ann climb down while explaining to us how they ended up like cats stuck in the tree. The jeep has a flat along with other, mostly minor, nicks and dings, so I use my Gerber multi-tool to cut the barb wire fence wrapped around the axle. Carl and Jimmy pull the rotten, bloody corpse of a dog out of the back and heave it a few feet from the rear of the jeep.
With the tire fixed we looked over the map for our next destination. I point to the name Meldrum printed in small font next to a tiny black spec denoting the town center. I tap my finger over the tinny letters which signify our next destination and hope it will at least provide a safe place to rest for the night.
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