This is zombie short story. Violence, gore, and bad language.
Once, I was a writer. Once, I could go to the grocery store and buy whatever I wanted. Once, life was simple and I wasn’t afraid of anything. But when the virus began to spread through the United States, I knew there was only one safe place I could hide until this thing blew over because these always did. I left Cheyenne in early January just as the hospitals had their first case admitted and went to my grandfather’s cabin in Eagle’s Knee. I really thought I could be safe there and life would return to normal.
The wind blew wildly as I maneuvered the Jeep up the windy path to the cabin. I called Jasper earlier in the day and told him I was on my way up and he didn’t need to take care of the horses. My grandfather raised Appaloosa horses, when he was alive, and since I didn’t live there all year, my oldest friend Jasper took care of them. Eagle’s Knee is west of Yellowstone and it is a town of about 200 and we knew each other and took care of each other. The cabin loomed in the distance, faded by the blinding snow.
Once inside, I lit the fire and the cabin warmed up. The wind shrieked and slammed against the cabin yet even over the wind, I heard something. Wrapping up in my parka, I braved the storm and went to the barn. A horse shrieked. I never heard a horse shriek but that is what it sounded like. The barn door was closed and I didn’t see any smoke so I knew it wasn’t on fire.
I opened the door and went inside. Other horses whinnied and kicked at their stall doors. The shrieking reverberated from the back. Slowly, I walked to the back of the stalls. Minestrone, my blue ribbon stud was in the pen next to his. The other horse was down on the ground underneath the mighty hooves of Minestrone. The stud looked at me. His eyes were vacant. Blood oozed out of his mouth and I could make the shape out of a small foal dangling from his teeth.
Minestrone chewed on the fetus as he watched me. He snarled and stamped his feet on the mare and blood sprung up. Wanting to run, I stood there and watched him eat the unborn horse. He swallowed the baby horse and dove back into stomach of the other horse and surfaced with intestines out of his mouth. I ran. The other horses tried to break free from their stalls. Once inside the cabin, I grabbed my grandfather’s 12 gauge and went back down to the barn.
When I came back to the barn, Minestrone was out in the barn, I raised the gun and shot him in the head. The horse collapsed onto the floor and continued to twitch. I shot him again and again in the head until there was nothing left. The other horses calmed down. I sank to the ground, blood scent filled the air and I puked all over that crazy horse. Could it be the virus? I had to get rid of both horses. I dragged Minestrone out of the barn, rusty blood stained the dirt floor and followed me out in the snow. Then I dragged the other horse and laid her on top of him. In the shed, I had gasoline. Soaking the dead horses with gas, I lit them up. Burnt animal hair and burning flesh overtook the snow.
Once the fire slowed, I went in and tried to raise someone on the CB. There was no cell service up here. No one answered the CB. I made sure I reloaded the gun and waited for the storm to die down.
At sometime in the middle of the night, the storm stopped and I heard more horses whinnying. Forgetting the coat this time because it smelled like death, I went out with the gun. Man footprints were in the snow going to the barn.
“Jasper!” I yelled. He knew I was coming home so maybe he came to check on me. “Jasper, come out.”
No response, I went into the barn and there was a man. Not any man, but my grandfather’s oldest friend. He was like an uncle to me.
“John,” I called. I neared him. He smelled like road kill in the July sun. He turned and stared at him. Instead of the horse he was eying up, he came after me. “John!” I yelled again and again. I aimed my gun and shot him right in the heart. Rancid blood rained on me but he still moved, I shot him again in the head and he fell to the ground.
“Fuck, John. What the hell happened to you?” I said to the dead body. I wondered if I should burn him like I did with the horses. I didn’t have any gloves on so I went to the shed and got on the small tractor. I hooked a chain around John and dragged him out in the snow. I didn’t want the horses to get sick. Maybe they already were. I left the body out in the yard. I was going to town as soon as the sun would rise. I needed answers and help.
Drinking pot after pot of coffee, I tried to call someone, anyone on the CB. At first light, I cleaned off the Jeep and went down to Eagle’s Knee with my gun. The world went to hell real quick and it seemed like the only thing I needed right now was my gun and plenty of ammo.
Eagle’s Knee has a tidy little main street which seemed unusually quiet. There was a general store, a gas station and a bunch of homes. I parked by the police station. The odd silence settled over me, something didn’t seem right, no was out shoveling or plowing the road. I checked the door to the police station and it was locked. Weird.
I went across the street to the general store. The door was open so I went in. “Sam, Carly,” I called. They owned the store. Something rustled in the back. I went closer, “Sam, Carly.”
Something snarled and I whipped around. Sam stood in front of me, dried blood was smeared around his mouth like demented clown makeup. He reached for me but I dodged his grasp. I tripped over Carly and slipped in her blood. Her body was ripped open with most of the organs gone. I left the gun in the Jeep. Sam continued after me. I stood up and he grabbed the back of my pants and had me back down.
He was on top; his breath was hot and rotten. Screaming and struggling under his weight, I kicked him hard and he recoiled enough for me to get away. Gun shots rattled through the darkened store. More blood sprayed over me and in my mouth. Sam collapsed on top of me.
“Pestilence, is that you?” a man called.
“Jasper, it’s me.”
He heaved the body off of me. There was no other person I was glad to see. He held out his hand and helped me up. He also was covered in blood.
I peered into his eyes. “Are you like them?”
I hugged him hard, “what’s going on?”
“I don’t really know. I spent all night answering calls about sick people turning into zombies. And by the time I get there, I had to shoot that person,” Jasper said.
“Zombies aren’t real,” I said.
“What do you call it, Pestilence? This is real life. Last I knew the virus is responsible. I went to Dubois yesterday and there were so many people just sick. And then I came home and there were so many sick people. Then all of a sudden people went crazy and started eating people.”
“Minestrone feasted on a pregnant mare. And then I killed John.”
“Don’t think of it as killing. They are pretty much dead, their soul is anyway, you are putting them out of misery,” Jasper continued. “It’s not safe here. We have to get out of town.”
“ Are there any other people not sick? We have to find them Jasper.”
“I know Pestilence. I’m trying. You have a gun?”
“In the Jeep.”
“Well get it.”
We stepped out together when something at the gas station moved in the shadows. Jasper grabbed my arm and led me to the Jeep. With gun in hand, we went to the gas station. We heard grunts and snarls, I turned and looked there were several townspeople walking down the street. I called to them. Jasper put his hand over my mouth.
He whispered in my ear, “I don’t think they are themselves anymore. Look at how they are walking. Shoot them Pestilence, don’t think twice about it either because they are hungry and we are fresh meat.”
“I don’t know if I can.”
They neared and Jasper raised his gun and shot. One by one they fell, the others stopped and stared at bodies on the ground. One, who I think was Peggy the postmaster reached into the carcass and pulled out a bunch of insides. She shoved as much as she could in her mouth then spit it all out. The group continued toward us.
Jasper shot once more and needed to reload, “Pestilence. Shoot the fuckers.”
I raised my gun and shot. Blood splattered over the snow. Soon the street stood quiet. Jasper handed me shells and reloaded.
“Come on, let’s get inside.”
I followed him as went inside the gas station. He put his finger to his lip and we walked as if we had feathers on our feet. A noise came from the back. We neared it. Jasper opened the door. And on the floor in footed once pink pajamas was Sara. She heard us and whipped around, her mother’s blood over her face. Jasper raised his gun and shot her right in the head. She fell on top of her mother. I couldn’t take it anymore and I puked again. Jasper led me to the police station.
“We should be safe in here at least for a little while. I haven’t seen the chief yet but we need to come up with a plan.”
“Jasper you can stay with me. We can protect each other.”
“Pestilence, you and I both know that is a bad idea. You don’t know what the government is planning. They could bomb every state or some state near by but if they know where survivors are, maybe they won’t.”
“It seems like you already know what is going on,” I replied.
“Come on, you have seen movies before. Survivors do better in groups. I think we should go to Vegas.”
“I want to stay.”
“Pestilence, I will bring you back. You know when you we were younger all you talked about is getting out Eagle’s Knee and now it’s the end of the world and you want to stay. I need you to come with me. I can’t do this without you.”
“Okay, we will go to Vegas but as soon as we can, I want to come home. What about the horses?” I asked.
“We let them go. We can’t save them all. And at least they have a fighting chance. We need survive, we need to be other people because there are more of them then there is of us.”
I slumped back in the chair, “okay we what about the survivors?”
“By my count, all of them are dead. It’s just us. I think we should get what we need from town and then we will go back to your cabin and get a couple of horses in the trailer because we may need to ride them,” Jasper suggested.
I nodded. With guns in hand, we went back to the general store. He grabbed a cart and loaded with bullets and canned food. I grabbed another coat.
“Jasper, why aren’t we sick?” I asked.
“I don’t know but I’m glad I’m not the only one.”
“I have a couple of cans of gas at the cabin,” I said. He nodded and pushed the cart out into the sunshine. Someone staggered out of the house. We stopped. It came closer.
“It’s me, Jasper, are you okay?” Jasper called.
We waited and then the person charged toward us. Jasper wasted no time and pulled the trigger. We loaded the Jeep up and went back to the cabin. Once there, we showered and dressed. I chose two horses and he hooked the trailer up to the Jeep. He loaded the horses onto the trailer and I set the rest all free. Tears crawled down my cheeks as each one ran from the barn. With everything we could possibly carry in the Jeep, Jasper got in the driver’s side and we were off. Outside of town, there is a large wooden sign that says “Welcome to Eagle’s Knee. Funny town name, friendly people.”
Jasper pulled off the road and took a can of spray paint and wrote over the sign, “Pestilence Eagle-River Jasper Kennedy to Vegas. All others dead”
“Jasper, I have to go to Cheyenne first. I need something at my apartment and at the bank.”
“Come on Pestilence.”
I touched his arm, “please Jasper, I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t important. If this is the end of the world then I want to get a couple of things.”
“Okay, we will go. We’re going through Dubois and the reservation and look for others. I don’t think I would feel right, if we left good people.”
He drove in silence and smiled some.
“What are you smiling about?” I asked.
“Remember our senior prom, you remember the song you slow danced with me?”
“I’ll stop the world and melt with you,” I answered. Jasper was my best friend and he wanted more- always did. We grew up together and I was pretty sure the town already had our wedding banner made but then I moved to Cheyenne didn’t come back to Eagle’s Knee as often. Jasper seemed happy even without a special someone. Maybe I had some bad relationships and damn if I didn’t know what love was, but the only thing I was sure of was- I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else but Jasper.
“Funny, in a way all these years later, it’s you and I against all of them.”
Up ahead, smoke rose above the trees. Jasper slowed down and continued onto to Dubois. About 5 miles outside of town limits, fire roared.
“Well I guess we don’t have to worry about Dubois. If someone was here, they are not because they set the town on fire,” Jasper said. He turned off the main road and traveled down a snow-covered road.
It was late afternoon when we pulled into Wind River Reservation. The casino shimmered in the setting sun. Driving slow, Jasper took the main road to the casino. Bodies lined the road, there were no other cars on the road. He parked in front of the casino. We grabbed our guns and opened the door. Sick, dead meat invaded our senses. I wanted to puke but held it back.
Slot machines blinked off and on. We walked cautiously. Jasper tripped over a body and his gun went off. I helped him up and we looked around. He went over to a machine and popped in a quarter. The lights and bells went off.
“Pestilence, I just won the jackpot,” he said. “Wouldn’t you know I win now when money is really no good. Still, wouldn’t mind cashing this in.”
“Well if we find someone maybe, they have some money left over.” I smiled at him.
He slipped his winning paper in his pocket and we continued. Walking over body over body, we went up stairs.
I opened the door to the chief’s office, “Well if it isn’t little Pestilence Eagle-River,” he said.
“Chief White Feather.”
“I am not surprised you are alive. If Lucas was alive, he’d still be up at his place.”
“We are going to Vegas, come with us,” I said.
“You know your grandfather and I had arguments about this place. He was against it of course, he was against a lot of things you know. But he was right where would I be when it’s the end of the world,” Chief White Feather said.
“Chief, Jasper and I are going to Vegas, it should be safer there. You should come with us.”
“This is my land and your land. I’m not running. You understand that. It’s not the money; my wife is buried here, my parents and grandparents. I am staying. I watched our people turn against one another, rip out their hearts and eat them. I watched other people try to run. Some of them did, I hope so anyway. Everything changed so fast. So many dead. Come here, Pestilence.”
I went to his desk and knelt beside him and he held my hand, “I know you are half Shoshone but you know all the stories, you know all about our heritage. Make it to Vegas and start a better world.” He opened his desk drawer and gave me an arrow head. “This is an artifact from the Shoshone tribe. It is thousands of years old. Take it with you. May the spirits guide you.”
Jasper coughed. “I hate to ask you but Jasper wants to cash in,” I said only as a joke.
“Of course.” He stood up and opened the safe and gave Jasper a large stack of bills. “Keep her safe. Go both of you, if there is gas you better get it because soon there will be no power. Leave as soon as you can.” The Chief eyes were distant and sad. He turned his back on us and watched the setting sun from his large office window.
Back outside, I drove us to the gas station. I stood at the pump as Jasper went to turn it on. He fired one shot and came back out. We started our way to Cheyenne. The world darkened around us as I turned onto the main road. Hoards of people walked in our way. I stepped on the gas and shifted through the gears and ran them over. Jasper opened the window and shot at them. Their bones crunched under my tires and the horses stamped against the trailer. Blood splattered over the windshield. I drove fast out of the reservation.
“Jasper, do you think we should go to Cheyenne?”
“There must be something very important if you want to go there so bad. Why?”
“I don’t know if we should go. I really want those things but it’s probably dangerous.”
“Probably. Pestilence you and I both know anywhere we go, we are in danger. You make the choice, if you want to go there or not.”
“It’s just a couple of things. My dad’s 38 is in the bank and my mom’s journal is in at my apartment. I would have taken them with me but I thought this thing would blow over like everything else does. I didn’t know things would get this bad.”
Close to Cheyenne, headlights appeared in front of us. Jasper pulled off the road. The other vehicle stopped. A man stepped out.
“Jasper, you think they can drive?”
“They as in the zombies. No, I don’t think so,” he answered.
We grabbed our guns and got out of the Jeep.
“Matt, is that you?” I asked when I saw him better in the headlights. He came closer.
“Pestilence, you’re okay,” he said.
We hugged briefly, “this is my friend Jasper from Eagle’s Knee. Are you alone?”
“For right now. I had to kill her, Pestilence. My wife, she came at me and I bashed her head in. I didn’t know what to do,” Matt said.
“I’m sorry, Matt, really I am.”
“Are there any others that are like us?” Jasper asked.
“I don’t know man, there are people some are looting and others I just don’t know. I got in my car and I left. Why are you guys heading there?” Matt asked.
“Pestilence needs some things.”
He looked at me square in the eyes, “you will die if you go back there. There are too many of them. It’s not like you can’t come back later on. The highlight of my day was killing that good-for-nothing governor.”
“Come with us to Vegas,” Jasper said.
“What? Leave one big city to go to another one. Are you crazy? Are you trying to kill us all?” Matt asked.
“Because I know, it will be safe there.”
“How do you know, Jasper?” I asked. “You seem so god-damned sure that we will be safe if we get there.”
“Because there is a group of people that were preparing for something like this. The owner of the Pot of Gold Casino has been preparing for some kind of apocalypse. I know that we will be safe there. Please you have to trust me.”
“Jasper, I never realized you were so paranoid.”
“Paranoid? Pestilence it is called preparation. I don’t know what world you fucking live in but something was bound to happen one way or another,” Jasper said.
“Whatever. So what are you doing Pestilence, are going to Cheyenne and die or leave now for Vegas with a chance. Because if you just want to die, I’ll shoot you right here because at least I know it would be quick and painless. I can only imagine being gobbled by zombies is not fun,” Jasper snarled.
“Well take your chances. I’m heading to Yellowstone. I have a cabin up there. I think I can wait it out and if not well then I will already be in heaven,” Matt said. He hugged and wished me good luck.
Once he drove away, Jasper asked me, “What’s it going to be Pestilence? Don’t you think we both lost enough? I need you and you need me right now. Come with me to Vegas we will be safe once we get there.”
Grabbing onto his arm, I looked into his eyes, “Let’s go Jasper. I’m not ready to die. That stuff is only stuff, it’s not going to bring them back.”
He moved my dark hair from eyes, “I’m glad you said that.”
Jasper stuck to the back roads as we made our way out of Wyoming. Sometimes, a radio station would come in with someone asking for help or tell people to stay inside because it is too dangerous. We drove and drove as the rising sun pierced the horizon. Hard to believe it’s only been a little more than a day the world went to hell but it felt like much more. It wasn’t enough that I had to kill people I knew all my life but there was no information. When the power grids began to collapse, I never felt more alone, an alien in my own world.
I put the rest of the gas in the Jeep, while Jasper walked the horses. We were somewhere near the Utah border.
“Pestilence, I need to tell you something very important. If something happens to me and I don’t make it to Vegas . . . ”
“Jasper, why won’t you make it?”
“We don’t know what it’s like. We are heading right near Salt Lake City. I don’t know how much further we can drive before we pull out the horses. If I could, I would drive all the way there. Listen and this is very important. There is a secret entrance to the Pot of Gold. When you enter the city limits, make sure you find the red telephone booth, you know the kind they used to have in England anyway. Go in the booth and dial 911 hang up the phone and walk fifty paces into the alley. There is a red door. It should be unlocked. Make sure no one follows you and go in the door. Just follow the path and I am guessing someone should be there to help you out.”
“How do you know you this is true?”
“Because I got a text message with the directions the other day before you even came home,” Jasper replied.
“Why didn’t you go then?” I asked.
“I don’t know maybe I didn’t want to believe that this was really happening. Maybe, I was just like you and thought that Eagle’s Knee would the safest place to be because we are so far removed from the rest of the world. Maybe I couldn’t leave. My mom sure wouldn’t go. She was already sick and I didn’t know what was going to happen. I had to say my goodbyes. I did and then I killed her. I killed my own mother,” Jasper said and fell into my arms and cried into my chest. I stroked his hair.
“Let me drive. How do you want to go?”
“Take the highway. I don’t want to get lost in Utah while trying to get to Vegas.”
I got behind the wheel and drove right to Salt Lake. The land stretched calmly before us but as we neared Salt Lake, cars were parked alongside the road. I slowed down and Jasper got the gun ready.
“Just take it easy, Pestilence. Don’t drive too fast. There may be survivors in these cars.”
“It’s going to be a bitch getting through with the horse trailer.”
He nodded. The late morning sun began baking everything in sight. The rancid smell corrupted the air around us. We saw a group of them up ahead. They staggered in the sunshine.
“Slow it down. We need as many bullets as we can. I’m going to shoot for the gas tanks.”
I did what he asked and we came up on them. Something hit the horse trailer and the horses whinnied. More pounding. I looked in the mirror and they were attacking the horses.
“Jasper, they’re getting the horses,” I said.
“Let them go. It may be our only chance.”
My hands shook against the wheel and watched a couple of them pull the head off one of the horses. The other horse was pulled out of the trailer. The group in front of us stopped and turned around. The smell of fresh meat was too much for them. The group devoured the horse, pulling the intestines out and shoving the bloody innards in their mouths like fresh-cut spaghetti.
“You’re doing fine just keep going.”
But the group in front of us wanted their meat too. And attacked. They clawed at the Jeep’s soft top and beat the windows. I kept straight ahead with my foot on the pedal a little harder each time. Jasper opened his window and beat some of them with the butt of his gun and shot at a car. Nothing. He shot again and the car exploded. More of them came from other cars.
“Go, Pestilence just go.”
I stepped on the gas. They clawed at my windows. One of them broke it, glass shattered all over the inside. One of them reached for me, their claws tore at my skin. Jasper shot the gun right into my attacker’s head. Blood splattered all over. I screamed but my voice sounded so far away. I wished I had my dad’s gun. Jasper continued to shoot at them and I drove over what I could. More blood showers spilled over the Jeep. There were so many of them when would it end. The road ahead was swarming with them. He reloaded and spent the bullets and reloaded some more. Up ahead there was an opening that took off the highway into the flat lands. I sped up. More of them tried to reach but soon they were grabbed by the tires and smashed against the road.
The Jeep bounced as I careened off the highway.
“We have to get rid of the trailer,” Jasper said finally being able to breathe. They were still coming after us but they were still far behind. I stopped and Jasper got out and unhooked the trailer. Once he was back inside. I sped away.
“Jasper, we are almost out of gas.”
“Just go until we can’t go anymore.”
The group shrank in the mirror and finally the Jeep sputtered on the last of the gas. We grabbed our packs and the guns and started walking.
“Lets keep going this way as along as the highway is to our left we should be okay.”
We walked in the hot sun and found ourselves in Red River, Utah. Sweet little houses lined the streets which were littered with bodies, baking in the hot sun. I stopped and puked.
“Come on, let’s get inside somewhere,” Jasper suggested.
He tried a house and entered. I followed. The house was dark and there was broken glass and furniture scattered about. Jasper held my hand as we went through the house. When out of the shadows someone cocked a gun.
“Who the fuck are you? Are you one of them?”
“I’m Jasper Kennedy and this Pestilence Eagle-River from Eagle’s Knee, Wyoming. We are on our way to Vegas.”
The man stepped out of the shadows. He was built like a grizzly bear, but with a soft, trusting face with tender blue eyes.
“I’m sorry. I’m not like this. Name is Teddy. Sorry about the mess but my kids they were here for the weekend. And my girl she attacked my boy. When I came in, she had gutted him clean. I grabbed my gun and killed my little girl. Then the other fuckers tried to come in but I got rid of them. At least for right now.”
“Well we don’t normally come into other people’s houses. We’re sorry,” I said.
“This is a different time, Miss Eagle-River. So what’s in Vegas?” Teddy asked.
“The Pot of Gold Casino. It is a safe place. I know it is. Come with us,” Jasper replied.
“How do you know?”
“Because there is this group in Vegas who was prepared for the end of the world. I know it’s a long shot but I got a text the other day with instructions on how to get into the secret entrance of the casino.”
Teddy sat down, “well I don’t see why not. I’ve been watching them. They are more active in the daylight then in the night. It’s almost like they are still need some kind of sleep. I watch them, they are so still and just stand in little groups like they are protecting each other from us. Like we are the enemy.”
“Maybe, we are. We don’t know what it is going on in their mind,” I said.
“Okay if we do this, what do we need?” Teddy asked.
“Got a car or something?”
“A pick-up, I know you’ll all be cramped but it’s something. I just got gas in it the other day. It should have a full tank,” Teddy replied.
“We need ammo and lots of it. And maybe some more gas just in case. Vegas is still quite a bit a distance away,” Jasper said.
“Okay well, a lot of my neighbors probably got some gas in the sheds we can take that. Got no power anymore. I know my next door neighbor hunts so we can we see if he has something or not.”
We continued to plan as the sun began to set. We started out on a supply hunt at dusk. Just with our guns, the three of us walked through the backyards looking for gas. Several had at least 5 gallons of gas in a can. His hunter neighbor only had a little ammo. The group milled around on the main street grunting and drooling.
“So there is a Wal-Mart at the south end of town. We’ll go right past it. We can pick up the ammo there and then get on our way to Vegas,” Teddy said.
We nodded and quietly loaded the truck. Twilight sparkled over the group. They grew more and more still. Jasper pushed the car out of the garage and down the road. Teddy started it and Jasper got in. The hoard moved toward us. Teddy stepped on the gas. He parked at Wal-Mart and cut the engine.
“Should we all go together?” He asked.
“No, You can stay. Pestilence and I will go in.”
The parking lot was empty as far as we could see. Jasper and I walked into the darkened store. The emergency lights were fading and the slight light barely illuminated the store. We crept in the shadows to the sporting good section. Grunts and grumbles came from all around of us. I wanted to run back to the truck, fuck the ammo and just get ourselves to Vegas. Jasper squeezed my hand and pulled me closer to him. Right before the ammo counter, a worker approached us. A very hungry worker.
He came at us. His name was Andy. His name tag was stained with blood. Not wanting to draw attention to us, Jasper swung at Andy’s head and he fell to the ground, grumbling and snarling. Jasper took a piece of broken glass and cut his throat. Blood oozed over Jasper’s hands.
He opened his bag and we filled it with what we could. Jasper grabbed a couple of hunting knives. We tried to creep back out of the store but we were surrounded. Andy’s grunts must have alerted the others anyway. We cut down another aisle. They were closing in us. There were probably about eight of them and they moved quicker then the others.
Jasper grabbed kerosene and drenched the small group. Without much thought, I lit a match and tossed it on them. With a whoosh they went up in flames. They growled in screamed in the flames. We ran. More of them came from all over the store. Outside, others came for the pick up. Teddy started the engine and we got in the back. Jasper and I shot at them as Teddy took off into the night. We drove all night on back roads through the barren world of Utah.
Sometime in the middle of night, Teddy stopped the truck to fill the tank with gas.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“Almost to the Nevada border,” Teddy said.
“Thank god, I hope you are right about all of this Jasper,” I said.
“The information is right, but who knows what will be walking into when we get there,” Jasper replied.
“It seems quiet here, why don’t we stop for a while longer for a rest,” I suggested.
“That’s a good idea. I’ll get a small fire started,” Jasper said.
He took a flashlight to gather wood for the fire. I sat with Teddy on the ground beside the truck. From somewhere in the dark, the flashlight bounced. Gunshots resounded and Jasper screamed. Wasting no time, I went after Jasper with Teddy on my heels. There were three of them. One of them held Jasper down by the shoulders. The other ripped the flesh from Jasper’s leg. And the small boy made a weird alarming noise. They looked at us. Jasper screamed more and more. Quickly, I shot the one holding down Jasper. The body fell on top of Jasper. The other two moved toward us. Teddy shot the child and I shot the other one.
Kneeling beside Jasper, Teddy looked at his wound on his leg.
“Is he gonna be sick?” Teddy asked.
Jasper grabbed my hands, “Leave me Pestilence just shoot me now. Go to Vegas. You’ll take care of her won’t you, Teddy.”
“You are not a fucking rabid animal, Jasper.” I looked at Teddy, “let’s take him back to the truck.”
Teddy lifted him and carried him.
“Shine the light on his leg,” I told Teddy. The gashes were deep. One of them managed to eat down to his shin bone. “I have an idea. If this like a snake bite, we might be able to stop Jasper from turning like them.”
“Build a fire, Teddy but not too big.”
As Teddy started the fire, I went in my bag and took the bottle of whiskey, some clothes and the knives we got at Wal-Mart. I poured the whiskey into Jasper’s mouth.
“I love you Pestilence, you know that right. I don’t want to ever hurt you. Just kill me now,” Jasper said. “Please do this favor. I want you to do it.”
“Jasper, do you have the urge to eat me?”
He smiled “not in that way anyway.”
I laughed a little, “you seem okay to me. Trust me on this, Jasper.”
“I should, the granddaughter of a Shoshone shaman,” Jasper drifted as his body went into shock. It was now or never. And what if it didn’t work, I would have to kill him. Jasper wanted me to kill him. How could I kill him? Teddy would have to do it. Jasper would understand, I knew he would if I couldn’t blow his brains out across the desert. The fire roared and I heated the blades in the flame.
“Teddy, I need you to hold him down. I don’t think he is drunk enough to stay out.”
Teddy held him down. I took the belt off of Jasper’s pants and wrapped it around his leg as tight as I could. Pouring more of the whiskey over Jasper’s leg, I began to saw his leg off right above the knee. Blood oozed over my hands as I cut.
“Teddy, tighten the belt as much as you can.” He followed my directions. The knife ripped away at his flesh. Jasper shrieked. Teddy poured more whiskey down his throat but it didn’t help as much. I put the current knife in the fire and used the other one. Blood gushed out of his stump.
“Help me Teddy. I need to cauterize the stump.” Teddy dragged him over to the fire. Gently, I shoved the stump into the fire. Jasper screamed into the rising sun. And I could see them coming from all around us. I took the leg out and put it back in. With every scream, they moved closer. They smelled his sweet, living blood.
“Pestilence, we have to go,” Teddy said and cocked his gun. I dressed Jasper’s fresh new stump as fast as I could. Jasper cried and muffled his screams as bit into his hand.
“I know, help me put him in the truck.” Teddy laid him in the bed. They started running for us. I tossed our supplies into the bed and Teddy started up and floored the gas pedal. Jasper was in and out of consciousness. I laid his head in my lap and stroked his blood-soaked face. Vegas was in sight and I just wanted to get to that casino. Someone there had to be able save Jasper. I couldn’t lose him. He was the only thing I had left it in this blood-saturated world.
The streets were quiet. Some casinos still blinked and offered high jackpot pay outs. More and more bodies were scattered on the roads. Teddy drove slow as we looked for the telephone booth. In the distance an alarm sounded just as we found the booth. Teddy carried Jasper and I called on the phone.
I led them into the alley. One of them came from the shadows like an Olympic sprinter. I shot at her and shot at her again. There was the red door. More of them began to close in on the alley. Teddy hustled with Jasper over his broad football player shoulder, into the passageway as I continued to shoot what I had in the gun and shut the door.
There was a passageway made from concrete lit with orange tunnel lights. A mechanism barricaded the red door. We walked along the path. At the end were two men with very large guns.
“Is he hurt?” They asked about Jasper.
“He was attacked. I cut his leg off above the knee,” I said. I didn’t know how long it took turn but Jasper was still Jasper.
One called on the radio and then talked to us, “this is a safe place. There is a doctor who can look at your friend. We can’t make any promises though. What are your names and where are you from, so we have record.”
“Theodore Thayer from Red River Utah.”
“I am Pestilence Eagle-River and the injured is Jasper Kennedy we are from Eagle’s Knee, Wyoming. There were no other survivors in Eagle’s Knee.”
They opened another door, “Welcome to the Pot of Gold.”
How long would be safe here? Could all of us start a new world? There were just so many questions but I bent down and kissed the plush shamrock green carpet. At least we had today and we were safe.