CHAPTER FOUR

ON THE MOVE

"Fire!" I yell.

A roar of gunfire ensues, the light crack of the AR-15 intermingled with the throaty growl of the twelve-gauge, mixed with the heavy, deafening boom of the Mosin. The onslaught of zombies is cut through by a hail of lead bullets, steel shot, and hollowpoints. Body parts fly, blood is slung, and corpses fall to the floor, killed for a second time.

"Back door!" yells James over the gunfire.

"Right! Go! I'll cover the rear," I reply, firing five rounds in rapid succession into the crowd. James and Christian turn and exit the living room. I keep firing until I hear them open the back door, and then turn tail and take off behind them. The crowd of zombies steadily floods into the house after us as I drop the mostly spent magazine into my pocket and pull a fresh one from the vest.

"Come on!" says Christian as I pass by him. He fires another buckshot from the shotgun at the persuing living dead.

We exit. "Close it," I command, and James closes the back door.

Turning the corner to the driveway, I see a small crowd of zombies gathered at the gate to the fence. "Other side! Jump it!"

The three of us round the other side of the house and, seeing that it's clear, jump the fence. James covers me and Christian, dropped to one knee with his rifle raised, as we get over the fence. I'm halfway over the fence as a zombie is making its way up the front lawn towards us when a thunderous shot rings out from the Mosin. It's head explodes from the hollowpoint and it falls backwards as I hear James cocking the bolt.

Christian and I drop to our knees, him covering the rear, me covering the front, so James can get over the fence. Once he's over, we head down the front lawn, over the front steps, and land about ten feet from the car. Only half a dozen zombies stand in our path, so the three of us have a clear path in all of eight seconds.

James unlocks the doors, and the three of us pile in. I'm riding shotgun, Christian in the back. James has his Mosin propped up against the dash between us, and I have drawn my pistol, the AR-15 jammed between my legs.

We peel out, speeding down the street, dodging zombies left and right. I swear, this would make the best slalom course ever.

Every so often, I lean out the window and have to put down the occasional zombie that we can't avoid. I swear, aiming one handed with a pistol and shooting out of a moving car is harder than it looks in the movies.

"Okay... Your dad's apartment, right?" inquires James. He brushes a strand of chin-length black hair out of his eyes.

"Uh... Yeah. You, um, remember where it is?" I ask, dropping an empty mag out of my M1911 and putting it in my lap.

"Of course, dude. We've been there like two dozen times," he exclaims.

"Sorry... Stressing and kinda forgetful." I'm rather shaky, the adrenaline still coursing through my veins. It hasn't ceased since we stopped in the middle of the road on the way back from James' grandparents'. I slap in a fresh mag and close the slide.

I open up my pack and pull out the box of .45ACP rounds for the pistol and start loading up the empty magazine again. Hands shaking, I manage to drop a few of the bullets before filling up all eight and putting the mag in the pouch on my vest.

"You know," interjects Christian, "I never would have thought we'd have to use this stuff in actual combat."

"Hah. Me neither," James agrees.

"You know," I say, "I hear that we can put real ballistic plates in these vests."

"What good would that do us?" Christian asks.

"Well," says James, "he's got a point. Think about any disaster. Society breaks down, and you really start to see groups seperate. You get vigilante groups, raiders... We might not only face zombies, but also other people."

"Exactly," I say. At this point I've taken to loading the mostly empty AR-15 magazine.

"I say we arm ourself not only to defend from zombies, but... you know. All sorts of things," instructs James.

There's a soft ding and James looks down at the dashboard. "Son of a bitch," he exclaims.

"What?" we ask.

James chuckles to himself. "You're not going to believe this."

"Don't tell me," I say.

"We're pretty much out of gas."

"Really?" I exclaim, incredulous.

"Dude!" shouts Christian.

"I'm sorry! I don't get paid till the end of this week and I didn't have a whole lot of money!" shouts James, defensively. "Okay, we'll just stop at a gas station cause I don't think we'll make it to the apartment."

"Haha. Good luck with that. Do you know how many people are going to be at gas stations? Or any store for that matter?" I say.

"It's a risk we've gotta take," James says. "Here's one." He points to a Speedway on the right.

"Oh, shit," I say. It's packed. A dozen cars are crammed into the parking lot, zombies stumbling awkwardly through them, trying to get to the store itself.

"Where's the people?" Christian asks.

"Where are they?" I ask again, rhetorically. Nobody, other than those already dead, is in sight.

"Do you really think this is a good idea?" says Christian.

"Yeah. We need the gas." James pulls into the lot as close to one of the pumps as possible. I fire out the window at several of the zombies, killing three of them.

"Come on, let's go," says James.

We open the door, causing the sparse crowd of zombies to turn in our direction and all converge on us at once.

"Fuck, I've only got cash. I left my card at home," James says.

"Joy. Wait, why the hell are we paying for gas at a time like this?" I ask.

"Well, we at least have to turn the pumps on," says Christian. "We're going to have to do that inside."

"Let's go. Don't waste the ammo to kill them all," James says. "Let's just get inside."

He leads the way to the station, occasionally raising his Mosin to obliterate the head of a zombie or two. Christian and I cover right rear and left rear, respectively, keeping them off our backs.

James opens the glass door to the station, walks in, and looks around. He lowers his Mosin to his side. He turns to me. "I don't see anybody." He then looks around again. "Hey! We need some gas." We follow James inside and close the door behind us.

"Get the hell out of here!" echoes a voice from behind the counter.

"We just need to buy some gas," says James.

"I don't give a shit, now get the hell out of my store!" A burly man with a dark beard and small, squinty eyes emerges from a back room and stands behind the counter. He has the muzzle of a sawn-off double-barrel twelve-gauge level with us. Somehow he's procured a bulletproof vest that covers his rolls of fat.

"We'll pay cash," says James.

"I don't want you luring those things to my store! Now I said GET THE FUCK OUT!"

A flash and a wave of thunder burst from the shotgun and a display of candy and snacks explode a half a foot to the left of James.

"Son of a bitch!" James yells, as the three of us dive to the ground and crawl back to the store, hiding behind one of the shelves. Another gunshot and several bottles of antifreez are thrown off their perch into the glass refridgerator. The glass shatters and showers the three of us.

"What the fuck are we going to do?" Christian whispers.

"Remember what we said about fighting humans?" James hints.

"No. Goddamnit, no, dude!" protests Christian.

"Do you want to die here? After that shitstorm of zombies we got out of? You want to be shot at by a crazy hilbilly with a shotgun?" I ask.

"I don't know, okay!"

"Fine!" I say. "You don't have to shoot at him. Just shoot. Keep his attention drawn away from us."

"Ugh... Alright."

Zombies, humans... what difference does it make? I don't want to have to kill this man. I really, really don't want to. But what other choice do I have? It all boils down to the same basic principle. Us, or him. I've never killed another person. I wonder what it will be like? You know, snipers have this saying. What's the first thing you feel after killing a civilian? The recoil of your rifle.

Another salvo of shot whizzes past us, throwing scraps of metal from the shelves and debris over the three of us.

"Alex!" shouts James.

"Yeah," I reply.

"I'm going to go to the left, around these shelves. Do you have armor-piercing rounds in that AR?"

"No, man. Hollowpoints."

"Shit. Okay. You hit him a few times with that. Try to stun him or something, cause it probably won't penetrate his armor. I'll see if... well... if I can finish him off."

"Cover us, Christian," I say.

He nods, halfheartedly, and then slings his shotgun on his back in favor of the AK-74.

"Ready?" asks James.

We nod.

"Go!"

Simultaneously, Christian leans out around the corner, James and I move across the aisles that run parallel with the nut's line of sight, and another shotgun blast flies through the air. I feel an intense searing in my left arm and hear a splatter of blood on the shelf next to me.

"Ah! God DAMN it!" I exclaim, sliding to a halt behind another shelf three rows from my position. I let the AR-15 hang on its sling and examine my wound, the throaty bark of Christian's AK filling my ears.

Blood is slowly trickling down my left bicep. There's a tear in the ACU blouse across the outside of it, and a place on the flesh where it has been torn open by a glancing blow.

Shake it off, Alex. James needs you. I round the corner and see Big Bubba behind the counter. He's plopping two new cartridges into his shotgun. As soon as he sees me, he snaps it closed and raises it before I have a chance to raise my assault rifle. I dive down, concealing myself behind the shelf as the blast roars a mere foot above my head. I hear a second blast and glass shatters to the left of the store. He must've seen James, so I pop up, weapon already raised.

Bubba is starting to duck down behind the counter, his back facing us. I manage to pull off two quick shots and hear one successful thwack of the round hitting armor.

"Ah! You little shit," he exclaims. "I'm gonna kick your ass for that one."

The Mosin booms from across the store and I see splinters fly out of the wooden counter behind which Bubba is hiding. "Ha! Close," growls Bubba. Is he actually enjoying this?

We have the advantage now. He's hiding, and if James is thinking the same thing as I am, we're both aiming at him. A trick that the Marine Corps teaches you, it takes three seconds to come out of cover, engage a target, and fire. If you catch your enemy in the first two seconds, you can end a fight.

"Have a taste of Big Bertha," Bubba grumbles. I see him suddenly raise up behind the counter. He begins to bring his shotgun to bear, but hesitates for a split second, seemingly unsure whether to aim at me or James.

I fire off three rounds. All three score hits on the mid torso, causing Bubba to stumble for a split second. Then, the Mosin does the talking and it's all over. Bubba falls to the ground, clutching his stomach. Gore is sprayed over the counter, the displays of cigarettes, the cash register.

I hear a gun clatter to the ground over from James's position. Oh my God, he isn't hurt, is he? I hurry over to James. He's sitting against the glass refrigerator, knees pulled up to his chest. I hear his troubled breating.

"James? Are you alright?"

He sucks the snot out of his nose. "Yeah... Yeah. I'm good."

"Dude, we did what we had to do."

"I didn't want to kill him!"

"I'm sorry. I didn't want to either. We... he would've killed us, man."

"I know. I know. Just give me a second."

Christian walks over to us. "Is he alright?"

"Yeah, he's alright." I extend a hand to James. "Come on man." He takes my hand and I pull him to his feet. James wipes his face off.

Christian is staring off outside the store and his expression goes pale.

"What?" I ask.

"Um, guys... Sorry to interrupt, but we gotta get out of here."

James and I look over to the glass and see what Christian is so concernedly staring at. About forty zombies have taken to clawing at the long row of glass that makes up the front wall of the gas station.

"Shit, we're trapped," I say. Glass shatters left and right, and the crowd of undead begin crawling their way through the window frames.

"No," says Christian. "Gas stations have loading doors in the back." He looks around. "Come on. Through here."

He ducks through a door that leads behind the refrigerators. A cheezy, neon sign labled "Beer Cave" hangs above the door. We follow him in and are surrounded by case after case of beer.

"Well, too bad we're not alcoholics," I say.

"Over here," he says, standing next to a large steel door. "Ah, shit. It's locked!" He claws at a padlock on a chain, holding the door shut.

"Dude." James and I both stare at him.

"Oh, sorry," Christian says, chuckling. He raises the Mossberg, fires, and the lock jumps, shattering into a hundred pieces. The chain falls to the floor. As Christian pulls open the heavy door, I turn around and see several zombies stumbling in through the door into our little beer haven after us.

I raise my AR and hear James do the same to my left. We both fire, taking down five zombies before Christian manages to get the door open. The three of us exit and jump off the loading dock, finding the back of the store pleasantly zombie-free.

"James, do you think we can make it to the apartment with the ammount of gas you have?" I ask.

"Maybe. I dunno."

"Well, we're sure as hell going to try."

Our group creeps around the store; I have point, Christian in middle, and James covering the rear. Reaching the edge, I tell them to halt and I look around the corner.

"Okay," I say to the both of them. "They seem to all be trying to get into the store. If we move quickly and quietly, we should be able to make it to the car undetected."

They nod silently.

"Go," I whisper. Moving at a low crouch, the three of us silently traverse the ten meters across the parking lot to the Camaro. James opens the driver door, causing several zombies to look our way. They moan, change course, and start stumbling towards us.

"Hurry, James," I say in a deceivingly calm voice.

He unlocks my door, and Christian dives in back, I sit down and close the door.

James fumbles with the keys for a second, then I hear a clatter. "Shit," James mutters, reaching down into the floorboard.

The crowd is now closing fast on us. They're about eight meters away, now, swaggering side to side, almost as if they were intoxicated.

"Come on," I urge, drawing my M1911 from its holster and taking aim through the broken window.

"The keys fell between the seats!"

I decide to shut up and concentrate on killing zombies, leaving James to get the keys. The pistol bucks in my hand, spitting fire, lead, and brass. Eight rounds fly by, and before I know it, I've hardly made a dent in the onslaught and a whole mag is empty. Drop that mag, slap in a second one and close the slide.

"Duck your head," says Christian.

I oblige and the car is filled with the gutteral bark of the AK-74, pounding in my very ribcage. The acrid stench of smokeless powder fills my nostrils. I feel the singing heat of the muzzle blast on the back of my neck.

"Got it!" James exclaims. He shoves the keys in the ignition and the engine roars into life.

"We are out of here!"