William placed the gas can in the trunk of the Grand Marquis and set the deck lid down without latching it. He stood there waiting, staring down at the body laid at his feet and cursing himself for his lack of attention; stories of people dumping the infected had been around for more than a month, borne out rumors that the hospitals were euthanizing CNVE patients.
Like most of the rumors William heard about the outbreak, it was stupid, this one all the more stupid considering the crazy and dangerous lengths the hospitals went through to ‘care’ for such ‘patients’. In fact it was only several days ago that William last spoke with Dr Devereaux, the doctor warning that an outbreak in Gary Indiana had been traced to bedbugs in the wards, infecting hospital staff as well as visitors. Long time coming, William mused.
He looked up, relieved to see Chris approaching. “What’s up?” he asked in a low voice.
William pointed at the ground, gesturing to the pajama clad body with the blood-soaked newspaper wrapped around its head. “I got jumped by a fucking biter,” he replied, “Had to crack its head.”
“Job well done,” Chris complimented calmly, poking the unmoving body with his boot. “He’s deader than fucking Abraham Lincoln.” He wrinkled his nose. “Stinks like shit though.”
“No shit, Sherlock,” William retorted sharply. “He didn’t have us to change his fucking diapers.” He bent over motioning for Chris to follow. “Come on, let’s get it in the trunk,” he admonished. Chris frowned, bending over to pick up the dead infected’s feet. “This here is a genuine free-range zombie,” William announced with a false cowboy twang, “Not those domesticated types we’re used to.”
“I wonder what they eat?” Chris asked as they hefted the body into the trunk.
William frowned. “In this case, I think he was planning to eat me,” he answered, snorting a hard laugh.
“Yikes,” Chris replied, placing his hands on the deck lid. “Got everything?” he asked.
William glanced around. “Yep,” he answered.
“Back to work?” Chris asked, slamming the trunk shut.
William looked at him incredulously. “Fuck that shit,” he replied, pulling his cell phone from its belt pouch. “I’m not leaving that stinking thing in my trunk all shift.” He glanced at the display – mercifully, it showed ‘In Service’ – and pressed ‘Send’, Rick more often than not being the last he spoke with.
The call went through, Rick picking up on the first ring. “What’s up?” he asked.
“We got an issue,” he answered, “We have to go off grid.”
“Well, you gotta do what you gotta do,” Rick replied, “Stay safe and call back when you’re en route.”
“Affirmative,” William replied. “You drive,” he told Chris. “I’m still wired.”
“Don’t worry,” Chris replied, taking the wheel, “I know just where to go.”
Chris drove off the grounds and turned south. He turned onto Rosa Parks Boulevard and continued until he came to an abandoned school. He shut off the lights and idled past the dilapidated building and into parking lot, driving over the curb. They followed a two track past a derelict playground, going about 200meters towards the back of the property before Chris stopped. “Give me your heat,” he asked.
William reached into his shirt and into his waistband, pulling out his CZ82. He handed it to Chris and the two got out, moving to the back of the vehicle.
Even as they stepped out, William could already hear the sound of motion in the darkness. “Hurry up,” he whispered, hearing a now familiar moan in the dark.
The two reached into the trunk and pulled the body out, dumping it on the ground. Chris slammed the deck lid shut, a growl sounding in reply, the unmistakable sound of movement in the overgrown grass stirring around them.
“Hang on,” Chris replied, his voice in a conversational tone, “I want to shoot one.”
“Are you nuts?” William asked in a tight whisper. “Get in the fucking car!”
Chris climbed in and turned the vehicle around, the Mercury heaving as it ran over the body. Chris switched on the parking lights as they drove out, William alarmed to see at least 10 pairs of red eyes in the dark, converging on the vehicle. Kid Rock’s ‘Cowboy’ was playing quietly on the radio, the volume turned down on account of their need for stealth.
“Perfect tune,” Chris remarked, turning the volume up before hitting the throttle. The Grand Marquis roared across the field, fishtailing as it went, Chris sticking out his tongue and laughing uproariously.
William looked behind them as they left. What seemed like dozens of infected were already descending on the body, William regarding them with both relief and trepidation as the chorus of the tune thumped out of the speakers.