Chapter 2: Meet Hobbs
Tom was still sleeping off the stress from the day before when Brendan took to the roads. The sun just started to rise high in the sky, though the sound of the birds' songs was still absent, proving once again the deception of the bright, happy day.
Brendan turned on the radio, hoping that one station would be up and running, possibly playing some of the classic rock music he loved to listen to as a kid. But it was a pointless effort, and Brendan knew how impossible it was for any station to be up and running at this time, but that didn't stop him from trying.
Little did he know Tom was now awake, the static of the radio causing his head to throb.
"Dude, turn off that fucking radio. I'm getting a migraine." Tom muttered as he slowly turned away from the window. His eyes were open, but the exhaustion in them was as evident as the redness in the otherwise white part of the eyes. It was a mix of fear, disappointment and tiredness, quite a potent mix of emotions.
Brendan rolled his eyes and turned it off, "Fine, be like that."
"You know you sure seem to have a lot of hope for always acting like such a pessimist." Tom said as he looked away from his brother and back out the window at the passing cars.
Brendan ignored it. He always took pride in being the more rational one out of the two. Well, scratch that, he had to be the more rational one. He was older than Tom, and because of that, as well as what his mother had told him, Brendan's job was to protect his brother from any trouble that they might run into. No matter what happened to him, Brendan knew that he had to make sure Tom would be safe.
Because he was the logical one out of the two, Brendan was more willing to accept the possibility that they might be the last two living humans on the planet, something that Tom had been in denial about for the past few months, which was the reason he felt the need to check the back room of the gas station rather than simply ignore it and leave with Brendan.
Now they were one shotgun shell short, and Brendan had another reason to doubt his brother's competence.
This denial was especially the case after they had to go their separate ways from another group of people a month before.
In that group was a girl named Chloe, a girl that Tom not so secretly had feelings for. They were always together in the bank that they all took refuge in before having to bail when the zombies discovered their location because of the two idiot teenagers that were also a part of that other group. These two brilliant boys thought that going up to a "dead" zombie, that was a bank employee, was a good idea. They never considered the possibility that the zombie wasn't really dead and was only injured.
Naturally, they were attacked. The bank zombie also screeched, a noise so ear-peirceing that zombies could hear it from miles away, even when the screech came from inside of a building.
Both of them then succumbed to the virus and began to attack the rest of the group, eyes glazed and blood foaming from their mouth.
A guy that Brendan and Tom remembered as Shep, a burly man with a brilliant shot, put a bullet straight through each of the zombie teens' heads. After that, they left the bank by shooting their way through the couple of zombies that were chasing to get to their cars. Once they reached their vehicles, they sped off.
They evacuated before too many zombies showed up, and finally made it to safety about five miles down the road. While the number of zombies that were running towards the bank as they left wasn't that great, they knew that had they stayed, the number would have been so great that staying in the bank would have been suicide.
Once far enough from the bank, the groups split off, knowing that two cars driving together would draw too much attention. Since Shep was such a great and strong leader, everyone else went with him, including Chloe, something that, to this day, Tom hasn't actually gotten over.
As he looked out of the car window, his mind began to wander when he said something, "I want to find a ham radio."
"Huh?" Brendan asked.
"Chloe said they'll play "In the End" over their radio every night at eight to let us know they're safe." Tom said with a sigh, "She told me to get a ham radio as soon as possible so I can turn to her frequency and know that she's all right."
Brendan nodded; not wanting to damper his brother's feelings by saying how unlikely, with everything that was going on, it was that Chloe would remember such a trivial thing.
"Sure we'll find you a radio lover-boy."
Just then there was a shadow that went over the hood of the car. Brendan didn't have any time to react before a zombie, who was on top of a car that they had just passed, landed on the hood. The creature's eyes were clouded, blood was spilling from its mouth and a horrifying screech coming from his lips, like it was trying to intimidate Brendan and Tom, as well as alert other zombies to their location.
They knew that they had to get out of the area as fast as possible.
Brendan and Tom screamed as the car swerved off of the highway. Brendan managed to re-gain control of the vehicle just before it went into a ravine and managed to turn it back onto the highway only to have the beast smash a hole though the windshield. Brendan stomped onto the brakes of the car.
Tom felt his shirt get grabbed and instinctively fought back, trying to pry the zombie's fingers from the fabric. Brendan saw his brother struggling and reached back to grab his shotgun as it lay on the back seat, having trouble reaching it with the zombie's arm in the way.
"Get him off of me!" Tom shouted as the zombie continued to smash the windshield to get easier access to Tom when suddenly there was a "bang", followed by the zombie falling off of the car onto the pavement. Tom and Brendan looked at each other, realizing that neither of them had fired a shot at the creature and that the bullet had come from another source, they suddenly became both frightened and curious.
They then heard footsteps coming closer to the car and suddenly a "knock" on the driver's side. Both men jumped and turned to see a man in his early thirties looking back at them. He had blonde hair and a crazy look in his sky blue eyes. He also had five-o'clock shadow on his chin, and was wearing a blue and black bandana on his head. Brendan rolled the window down to see the man's smiling face, but was knocked back when the stench of liquor hit him almost instantly.
"I do think you boys were in a bit of a situation." The man said in a foreign accent, almost British, but not quite. Brendan and Tom couldn't quite put a finger on it.
"No shit, Sherlock." Tom hissed back, earning a glare from Brendan.
Brendan turned back to the man with a smile, "Um…he-he, yeah I guess we did. Thanks for helping out back there."
"Not a problem, mate." Said the man as he pointed over to a large RV that was parked over on the side of the road. "You two are fortunate I was making my rounds for survivors when I just so happened to find you silly bastards with that there fuck on your car."
The man pointed to the dead zombie, whose leg was still twitching as he lay on the ground.
Brendan and Tom nodded, "Thanks again." Brendan said the man pointed to the RV again.
"Do you want to come back to my cabin? I have some other people there with me, and you seriously can't think about driving around in a car without a windshield, that's bloody insanity."
Brendan looked at the man skeptically; naturally he wasn't the type to just trust anyone, even if he did save Tom and himself from death; was he planning to rob them or something worse? Based on the crazy times, it wouldn't be completely out of the question for somebody to use people's desperation for human interaction to take advantage of them in some horrible way.
Tom, however, was just glad to see the face of someone who wasn't part of the living dead. "That would be wonderful."
Brendan shot Tom an angry look, a look that only an older brother can give his younger sibling when they do something so unbelievably stupid as agree to go with a man they don't know during the apocalypse.
The man smiled warmly, "Wonderful, come on."
He stepped back and let Brendan get out; still unsure about trusting this man. Tom, however, seemed to be just happy that he'd get to see other people. Maybe another girl that he wouldn't have to abandon like Chloe
Once Brendan was outside he could see that the man had a shot-gun in one hand, and a strange contraption on the other that led to a device on his back.
The man stuck his hands out, "The name's Hobbs."
Brendan slowly extended his hand just as Tom walked over, "Brendan."
"Nice to meet you Brendan." The man, Hobbs, said with a grin before turning to Tom.
They both shook hands and laughed a little when Brendan finally managed to spit out a question. "Um Hobbs…what's that on your back?"
Hobbs looked behind him and laughed, "Oh this bad boy? Oh it's just my flamethrower."
"F-Flamethrower?" Brendan asked with a slight hint of fear in his voice, while Tom just seemed fascinated; again, the younger brother.
"Yep, beauty ain't she?" he asked as he started to walk off to the RV, the others right behind him. "It really comes in handy when I'm out of bullets or if I find myself surrounded by a mob."
"Wait? Zombies die in fire?" Tom asked. "I thought they'd be able to still come after you."
Hobbs just shrugged, "Yeah, it's truly remarkable. I had that theory too, until I lit one of the fuckers on fire at my house. She freaked out a lot before collapsing. Now, I always take one of these bad-boys with me." He patted the flame-thrower with a big grin on his face.
"That's lucky it worked."
"Yeah, I mean Karen wouldn't bloody stop trying to bite me so…"
"Karen?" Brendan asked.
"My wife." Hobbs said with a very grim indifference.
Both Brendan and Tom stared at Hobbs.
"You torched your wife?" Tom asked, jaw still handing down.
"Yes…well, more like wife-zombie. It's not like I had a choice." Both Brendan and Tom nod as Hobbs continued, "I think the fire does something to their mind that makes them go crazy before it completely consumes them. Some zombies do still attack when on fire, but their attempts are hindered. Like they are in pain, but are still hungry, similar to a kid who breaks his leg, but still has the munchies. His attempts to get food will be impacted, but that doesn't mean he won't try.
"That's why I only use this as a last resort. That and burn the corpses of the undead to quell the infection. Speaking of which, excuse me."
Hobbs turned and ran back to the dead zombie. Once he reached the corpse he pointed the nozzle of the flamethrower at it and blasted a stream of flames at the creature, effectively scorching it until it was smoky and black as charcoal. Hobbs smiled, "Take that you undead fuck."
And just like that, he walked back over to his RV and got in, both Tom and Brendan too stunned to immediately follow him. They just stared at the charred remains of the zombie as the last bit of flame died out around it, leaving the crispy remains visible to all who passed. Only when Hobbs honked his horn and cursed at them to get into the truck did the two of them snap out of their trance and go into the RV.
The inside of the vehicle was not unlike other RVs; there was a small bed, a table, and an area with cupboards. But there were some noticeable modifications. First off, on the outside of the RV itself, there was a giant plow-like bumper that made going into the streets easier, especially with so many cars in the way. The windows all had metal shades that were down, meaning the only light inside of the vehicle was from the windshield and some lights that lined the ceiling. Also, there appeared to be a door at the top of the RV, not unlike other RV roof doors, but there was also a seat just under it, with a machine-gun lying across it. Apparently, Hobbs had made his own perch to fire at perusing zombies if he ever got someone else to drive for him, he could sit in the chair and fire behind the truck as it drove off.
Hobbs turned to both Tom and Brendan and called back, "Do you like Aerosmith?"
Both men looked at each other, "Um…yeah." Brendan said with some uneasiness.
Hobbs smiled, "Brilliant."
Hobbs pressed the "play" button on his radio and "Dude Looks Like a Lady" began to blast out of the stereo. Hobbs began to sing along to the music, tapping his fingers against the steering wheel, as he drove off with two very nervous-looking men in the back of his truck, not exactly sure what they had gotten themselves into.
Either they had just sided with one of the people who actually knew what they were doing, or they had just joined a maniac who was going to do something terrible to them.