Nixon - Part II
I realized I might have made a mistake as the two-lane highway became an isolated causeway over miles and miles of swamp. There were no turnarounds and nowhere to go but forward. I weaved in and out of stalled cars, some with the dead still rotting away on the inside. At this point, they were barely skin and bones. They beat on the windows weakly as I passed. Their fingers clawed for escape. I tried not to cringe as bone met glass in a sickly, nails on chalkboard, sound.
Dead bodies were strewn in my path and I had to slow the bike. The gas had made it this far out of the city, taking out an entire group of the fuckers. They disintegrated where they lay, their bodies already half decomposed before the gas got to them. I slowly rolled over them, the squish of their jellied body parts making my stomach heave.
As the carpet of dead bodies faded to cement so did the tall trees that hemmed me in on both sides. Even though I had never seen a cypress before I recognized the statuesque trees from their dripping leaves and knotty roots. Thick swamp led to a few trees here and there and then finally to open water as the lake that bordered New Orleans to the north came into view.
I had never been good at geography, so I couldn’t remember the name of this particular lake. It had been long and funny, though, I knew that. I wonder if anyone remembered its name? Would one day all of our names fade into unremembered history, renamed and repurposed. When humanity finally got it’s foothold, started progressing and taming the world around them, again - would they look back on us and wonder about our motives, like we did on the ancients?
Would we wonder why we built a lady with a torch in the middle of a bay? Wonder if it was a token to the gods?
Too damn introspective. I was losing my edge since the gas drop. That would be fine and all if the danger was gone, but it wasn’t. The dead still lurked in the hidden bits of this world and the living were doing everything it took to survive. And that usually didn’t mean good things for me.
Gotta stay focused. There was plenty of time to wax poetic or whatever the fuck it meant to cook up crazy ideas in my head, once I bunkered down for the night in a safe a secure hideaway.
The cool wind bit through the leather jacket that was my prized possession. It was October, if my day keeping was accurate, which it might not be. About two-hundred and forty-three days ago I took a header off the side of a bridge trying to escape a very persistent group of fuckers and had hit my head pretty hard. I had crawled into a minivan and passed out. I had come to at day break. It might have been the next day, it might have been a few days. I had been hella thirsty and starving, but I had been alive.
The bridge went up and over and as I rounded the corner I sucked in a breath. The view was amazing. Blue sky stretched over a dark blue lake. Eagles circled in the air, the high pitched screams a dead giveaway that they were the revered bald eagles. As I neared their dark bodies and white heads confirmed what they were and I couldn’t help but smile. The animals that endangered before were now thriving in a world without men. Someone might as well prosper from our downfall.
The highway opened up before me when I reached the midway point of the causeway, stalled cars fading behind me as if the area had been cleared. Pieces and parts of cars were scattered on the ground of the highway, making me wonder if this was indeed what had happened. A side mirror lay on the cement, broken glass scattered across the road. Blood splatters but there were no bodies. Someone had taken the time to clear the highway. But who?
In the distance a highway sign loomed, dark spray paint splattered across it. I figured it was more of the same from the doom and gloom painter from before. But I slowed to a crawl when I could make out the words. In big black letters painted neatly across the sign read:
Safe Zone. New Orleans. French Quarter. Follow the signs.
“You’re not going, and that’s final Reese.”
“I’m not a kid anymore,” I hated when they forced me to be petulant. I hadn’t been a kid for a long time. Hell, I hadn’t been a kid since I watched the first zombie chomp down on fresh flesh. That kind of changed a girl.
But, this town was overrun by military hot heads and I was a skinny teen they had scooped up on the side of the road, screaming for help. I had been carted off and placed with stand-in parents and lumped in with the rest of the brats that were lucky enough not to become zombie chow. There hadn’t been many kids that made it and the ones that aged out of kid status weren’t being allowed to transition into the grown-up jobs.
“Eighteen is still too young,” the shift coordinator, Paul said as he crossed his arms.
“I’m nineteen.” I corrected him, clenching my teeth. “And I’ve been training with the squads for two years. I moved out on my own six months ago, what’s it gonna take to get on a mission?”
“Approval by the council,” he stated flatly.
“This is ridiculous, and the argument for keeping me behind the walls is invalid.” I went for logic. I had gone with anger the first time. Frustration for the second time. Spoiled brat the third. Now that this quarter’s shifts were about to go up, I would go for logic.
“You know they gotta approve everyone I let out the city, Reese and they aren’t going to green light you.” Paul sighed, finally hitting me with the truth. The truth we had both known but didn’t want to admit. It all came down to three people. The Voiters, those damn over-protective asshats. Sure, they had taken me and my little sister in when everything had gone to hell, but that didn’t give them the right to lord their rules and regulations over me. It didn’t help that Hank and Barbara were on the council. Or that Hank’s little brother, the man I called Uncle Romeo was one of the reasons this city existed at all.
“This is dictator bullshit,” I grumbled.
“You can’t be a dictator when you’re one of seven,” Paul laughed, but he quickly tried to cover up his smile when he saw that I wasn’t amused. “Look, Reese, you don’t want to be out there. Stay safe. Stay inside the city.”
I didn’t respond. There was nothing I could say. They didn’t care about my ideas or the fact that I could help this city survive. All they cared about was the past and how so many had died. Sure, it was still dangerous out there, but I could handle myself. Since the world ended I had been training non-stop, learning how to protect myself, learning how to protect my sister, so I wouldn’t lose another family member.
“I need the part, Ryan. And no one’s going to get it to me.”
“Your biodiesel experiment. Anything that runs on gas is out, nothing you can do about it.”
“Says the rest of the city.” I threw up my hands in disgust and huffed off. These fools wouldn’t see past their own agendas. No one would give my biodiesel idea any credit. It was too much work, it was too hard to convert. Blah, blah, freaking blah. I had found a way to do it and I had found the perfect vehicle, all I needed were a few parts. The only problem, from the old advertisements I had found, the place was in Kenner. A city fifteen miles from my location. It would take me half a day to walk it, a few hours if I could find a bike. And now that I was going to do it on my own, a whole lot of courage.
“Screw it,” I said out loud, kicking at the overgrown grass that bordered the street. I had everything prepared, I could make it there and back in two days at most. The only problem would be sleeping arrangements that night. But, I could find a place to hole up. Sure, I had never been out on my own in this screwed up world.
All the zombies had been gassed. What’s the worst that could happen?