For your reading pleasure, here is fourth installment of Mel Odom’s Hellbound Express. If you haven’t yet read the first two chapters, here (chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3, and chapter 4) are the links for them. Enjoy
By Mel Odom
Gant ignored Northland Pioneer College and the Falcon Restaurant & Lounge. Scavengers would have hit those places hard and picked them clean.
He wasn’t certain how long the living residents of Winslow might have held out against the virus and the dead. Some places had held up for a time, but eventually metropolitan areas died. If Yeomra didn’t get them, if they didn’t get infected, then hopelessness, fear, famine, or thirst did.
It had taken time for survivors to know what they were up against and how best to guard themselves against those dangers. Outbreak and infection had racked up the most kills in the second wave. People had tried too hard to save other people. Survivors had learned to police themselves, to stay in small groups so they could move fast and live off the land, and no one wanted to trust a stranger.
Strangers brought potential outbreaks, and too often they were raiders who only wanted to get inside a group and get into position to take everything their would-be saviors had.
Gant had learned that lesson in Afghanistan. He’d learned it again after surviving the initial attrition Yeomra caused. He still bore scars from an attack by three teenaged kids who had taken his supplies, food, and water, then left him for dead.
The people who had thirsted to death bothered Gant the most. He passed an SUV that held a man whose features had ballooned up and turned black from thirst. He wore an Arizona State sweatshirt. His thick, black tongue protruded from his mouth.
Beside him, a corpse in a bright yellow blouse flecked with dried blood leaned against the passenger door. She’d been shot in the back of the head and the bullet had passed through the passenger window. Dried blood and other matter smeared the starred bullet hole.
As Gant drove by, the dead thing behind the wheel turned its head and moaned at him. It closed its jaws hungrily and its teeth severed its tongue, dropped and disappeared.
“There’s a lot of them in the cars,” Jenni said when she pulled up alongside Gant. They turned together and rode north on North Williamson Street. “That’s a good sign, yeah?”
“Maybe.” In other cities they’d scavenged, the dead had been cleared out by people who’d survived the virus. Mostly, though, there’d been no escape. Someone died and the virus flared up again.
“The trucks aren’t going to be able to drive down these streets,” Jenni said.
Gant watched the street and threaded through the cars, which were packed too tightly to allow the big Fords to drive through.
“They don’t have to drive down the streets,” Gant said. “That’s why we brought off-road vehicles. We’ll just scout up the houses, see if there’s anything worth having.”
The trucks waited a half-mile outside town. The other motorcycle team followed behind Gant and Jenni. As planned, they’d come in five minutes afterward and go north on North Berry Avenue.
Their recon the day before had settled on a twelve-block square of residences between Williamson and Berry on the east and west, and Maple and Mulberry to the north and south. The area was away from Winslow Junior High School to the east and Winslow Public Library to the north. Both of those places would have been hotbeds for survivors in the early days of the virus, and they’d have been active sites for scavengers searching for supplies.
The residential area would be quieter, hopefully, and was far enough away to be a little isolated. Also, the streets there ran in straight lines, leaving the view clear except for the trees, bushes, and overgrown yards. Dead or living, potential threats would stand out for blocks along the streets.
The dead that remained inside the houses were the greatest threat. The scouts entered those premises searching for food, medicine, shoes, and clothing.
Reaching the corner of Williamson and Maple, Gant brought the motorcycle to a halt and put out a leg to keep balanced. He slipped the transmission into neutral, released the clutch and brake, and took his helmet off to scan the neighborhood. The motorcycle engines throbbed in his ears.
Modest brick and wood houses, many of them with front yards behind picket fences and straight wire fences, line the street. Sidewalks led up to generous porches and trees stood in overgrown yards.
It reminded Gant of the neighborhood where he’d grown up in Tyler. He put those feelings away before they could take root. He had a job to do.
Four living dead, three men and one woman, shambled from behind the houses to his left. Gant relaxed a little. At least they were adults. He hated dealing with dead children.
“Well?” Jenni asked. “We doing this?”
The dead closed in almost at a run. The way they stutter-stepped sometimes, it was easy to forget how quickly they could move.
“Yeah.” Gant pulled his helmet back on, pulled the chinstrap tight, killed the motorcycle engine, and threw his leg over. He left his pistols in the double shoulder rig, didn’t touch the cut down double-barreled shotguns holstered along his thighs, and pulled the ASP tactical baton from his right boot and the Browning Black Label Shock N’Awe Tomahawk from his left boot.
As a kid, Gant had played videogames where avatars carried multiple weapons. As a Marine, he’d carried an assault rifle, a 9mm pistol, and the tomahawk in lieu of a fighting knife. In war, he’d believed in staying stripped down to those weapons.
But out here in apocryphal lands, he carried everything he could because he never knew what would be needed.
Jenni shook out her own ASP to its full twenty-two inch length as Gant did.
“Ready?” Gant asked.
Gant stepped into the confrontation as he bladed his body and reduced his profile.