It’s rising 3am when I cross the border.
Not that that means much any more. Miles and miles of desert, with a couple of broken stretches of chainlink marking out where one place ends and another starts. No guards, no guns. Just the sand and the wind and the mountains, like crumpled corrugated cardboard against the blue-black sky and the stars.
Sun, too, in the daylight, hot as hell and twice as vicious. Been trying to avoid it, for all the car’s as blacked-out as I can make it. Find someplace abandoned to hole up – not hard, that – and rest up til dusk comes in. Feels like a river, sometimes, after a day of sweltering in the heat – cold air, sweet as mountain water and smelling of dust. Like to take the time out to enjoy it, take a beer or two, get the feel of the place. No real reason to, mind. Not staying anywhere long enough for it to matter. But it’s the principle of the thing.
Can’t take too long, though. Walkers’re damn good at finding new prey, no matter how much you stick to the shadows. Reckon they can smell you out afore they see you, and there’s precious little showering available out here. Car stinks like a cheap motel room: sweat and beer and cigs. Only thing it’s missing is some flash girl’s perfume. Little enough time for company this trip, even if I’d want her for more than the obvious. Little enough inclination at that.
Steering wheel’s slippery under my hands – condensation, or sweat, or somesuch. Doesn’t much matter. What’d I be hitting out here, save the odd coyote the walkers ain’t got their hands on yet? Don’t understand how they can eat those things, but I’m grateful. If they’re chowing down on dogmeat, means they’re not hunting after me. They can’t outrun a car, not yet, but they’re getting faster.
Not as fast as me, mind. Have to get up mighty early to manage that. But faster than I’d like. Time was you knew where you were with them, back before the bomb. Time was you knew what they’d do next.
Then the bomb happened.
And then they got smart. Real smart.
Rumor has it it was some kinda military thing. Trying to put them back down in the earth, mayhap. Poison ’em, burn ’em up, something of the sort. All it did was make ’em smarter and meaner.
Rumor has it that was someone’s plan(though rumor’s mighty close about whose. Reckon it’s a fill-in-the-blanks for whoever you fancy, myself. One crazy bastard’s pretty much like another). Sabotage. Get ’em moving, get ’em killing, and wait the whole thing out until they’d eaten everything and each other. Man could get to be king of the world like that.
Empty old world, after they’d finished with it. But I guess some guys prefer it that way.
Rising 3am. Chainlink clinks in the wind as I barrel past it, racing the sun to shelter. Couple of walkers look up from whatever it is they’re bending over, mouths red, eyes bright as flashlights. I flip ’em the bird, speed on by.
Somewhere off in the distance, something howls. Coyote, probably. Could be a walker, but they’re no great mimics of anything other’n themselves. One game I still beat ’em at, if they ever bothered to play by the rules. If there was anyone alive to bother mimicking.
I turn on the radio, kick up the bass ’til it’s booming off the mountains and out into the empty sky. Lean one arm out the window, let the night air steal the sweat off my skin. Light another cig. Inhale. Exhale. Keep on driving.
Empty old world, for a guy like me. But you get used to it.
Copyright © 2018 by Finn McLellan. All rights reserved.