Without opening her eyes, Jude clutched her chest in a vain attempt to calm her racing heart. She tilted her neck to one side, feeling the pinch of a cramp that had settled in while she slept with her head braced against the truck’s door frame. If this keeps up, the zombies aren’t going to kill me.
She took a few deep breaths and squeezed her quaking hands into fists. A heart attack will.
Finally ready to face the day, she opened her eyes and let out a little squeak of surprise. More zombies than she could count were milling about in the road. Good gracious, they’ve got us surrounded.
When they parked the night before, Sky pulled as close as he could to the edge of the two-lane road. On Jude’s side of the truck, the shoulder sloped upward at nearly a forty-five-degree angle. She could get out of the truck, if necessary, but there was no way the truck would make it up the incline.
The less sound they made, the less chance of alerting the zombies to their presence. She placed her hand over Sky’s mouth and brought her lips close to his ear. “Wake up.” She cast an anxious glance at the reanimated corpses. One in particular, in some twisted universe, resembled a female, given the few long strands of hair clinging for dear life to the scabrous tissue of its head.
Sky snorted but didn’t respond beyond a slight twitch of his eyelids.
Jude counted to five under her breath and trailed her finger down Sky’s arm, then selected an inked leaf to pinch. “Hey. Time to get rolling.” If the horde gathered around the truck, they might not get out.
“Dammit.” Sky pushed himself upright, fully awake. He blinked a few times and rubbed the heel of his hand against one eye, then the other. “The pinching’s got to stop.”
“Sky. Shush. Look.”
The motion of Sky sitting up caught the zombies’ attention, and they converged on the vehicle. They pressed their faces against the glass, leaving cloudy smears. It was as if they were trying to peer inside.
“Christ.” He heaved himself over the seat and snatched the keys from the lanyard around his neck. “We better hit it.”
Jude nodded in silent agreement, focusing her vision on the unwelcome callers now banging on the hood. Zombies were creepy, disgusting, and fear made her empty stomach queasy.
When the zombies saw Sky in the driver’s seat, their movements became more frantic. One scrabbled at the glass and lost most of an index finger in the process. Jude’s stomach jumped.
She checked the rearview mirror and stifled an alarmed cry. More corpses had gathered at the back. The increasing weight of their numbers rocked the truck. “They’re behind us too,” she said. “They want to get in.” Though the windows were rolled up, she imagined she smelled the decaying meat of the zombies less than a quarter of an inch away.
He slid the key into the ignition and started the engine. “That’s not going to happen.”
The slight vibration of the engine awakened her bladder, and it began sending out frantic signals it needed to be emptied and now. “Oh…man,” she whispered. “We have to go now.” How many were in front of the truck? She couldn’t count. “Please hurry,” she whispered and squeezed her legs together.
Sky checked the rearview mirror. “Backing up and then going forward will give us more horsepower to knock them out of the way.” He released the emergency brake and flashed her a smile. “Exit through the gift shop.” He geared the truck in reverse, threw an arm over the back of the seat, and stomped the accelerator. The truck leaped backward, knocking the zombies over and grinding them beneath the back tires.
“Good,” he said. “Got ’em.”
Jude hissed through her teeth as the back tires bumped over the bodies, jarring her entire body and testing the integrity of her bladder.
“That’s better.” He slammed the truck into drive and then pressed the accelerator. “Bowling for zombies.” He turned the steering wheel to the left to avoid most of the horde, but the truck blasted through at least seven of the undead, scattering half-rotten bodies and black, oily fluids.
Jude gripped her seat belt and sat like a statue, closing her eyes when dismembered parts slapped the windshield. The back of the truck fishtailed as they pulled away, no doubt the tires seeking traction on slimy, putrefied flesh.
After two minutes or so, Jude opened her eyes and relaxed her tense muscles. A few hundred feet up the road, the truck was clear of the mob. Checking the side-view mirror, she grimaced at the smear of bloody sludge and twitching dead remains left on the road.
Sky spared her a quick look as he steered through the deserted streets. “We’ll stop as soon as we get a little farther away.”
“Keep driving. I can hold it.” There was no way she was going to stop within a mile of those things. It would be just her luck they would catch up to them when she had her pants down.
They drove along in silence until Jude couldn’t manage any longer. “Okay, now. I’ve got to stop.”
Sky pulled over, creating a barrier with the truck and the side of a building, leaving just enough room for Jude to hop out.
Holding on to the truck with one hand, she took a moment to look around. Even weeks after the initial outbreak, the absolute silence of the streets still got to her. The line of stores they’d stopped behind didn’t seem deserted at all on first glance. On closer examination, however, the window displays drooped, a sign hung from one corner, and the whole facade gave off a general aura of disrepair. When she saw one of the stores was a pet shop, tears stung her eyes and trickled down her cheeks. She fought the urge to venture in to see if any had survived, even though she knew the chances were slim to none. Her screaming bladder reclaimed her attention, and she swiped the tears from her face as she searched for a convenient place to relieve herself.
Back in the truck, Sky swallowed the last bites of a granola bar. “Everything okay?” He offered her a foil-wrapped rectangle. “You hungry?”
Jude sniffed and fastened her seat belt. She shook her head and smoothed her hair from her forehead. “Not hungry.”
“You never are in the morning.”
“Then why’d you ask?”
Sky put the truck into drive. “Things change.”
His mild tone, coupled with her jumbled emotions, irritated her. “Nothing changes.”
He gave a little laugh. “You trying to pick a fight?”
Jude snorted. “No.”
“Because I’m pretty good at makeup sex.” He drove around a burned-out shell of a car. “Really good, in fact.”
For someone she’d known such a short time, Sky had the uncanny ability to defuse her grumpy moods, and for that she was grateful. Sometimes she lacked the will to prevent herself from tumbling down an abyss of worry and self-pity, but he did a good job of keeping her often overwhelming anxiety at bay.
Though she cheered a little from his offhand remark, the sight of two human husks stumbling down the sidewalk in a hideous parody of window shoppers snapped her back to scary reality.
“You’d kill me, right?” she asked, her gaze pinned to the wandering undead duo.
“What?” His voice cracked on the vowel. “What are you talking about?”
“If I got infected. You’d kill me like you killed that man back at the house, right?”
Sky inhaled a slow breath through his nose. “So…” He drew out the word. “You’ve been bitten? You’re infected?”
“Of course not!” Jude snapped. How could he ask such a stupid question?
“Then why are we having this conversation?”
“Just in case. To plan.” She jerked her shoulders up in a quick, irritated shrug. “I want to know.”
“Jeez, Jude, come on. Too early for this.”
Giving an impatient sniff at his refusal to answer her question, she resumed her scenery gazing. After a couple of miles, she said in a low voice, “I couldn’t kill you.”
“There you go. So why would you ask me?”
“I don’t know.” She reached for a beat-up paperback belonging to the previous owner of their truck, changed her mind, and sat back in her seat. “I don’t know why I asked.”
They rode in silence for a few moments.
“Look,” Sky said. “Here’s my plan. Why don’t we both avoid getting infected, then we don’t have to resolve this conversation. Deal?”
“It’s either take the deal or makeup sex.” He stuck his hand out. “Or it could be both.”
“We’ll see.” She curved her lips in a reluctant smile, took his hand, and gave it a quick squeeze.