The Dead Are Coming
The car was not quiet as it tore recklessly down the country roads. She had seen no other cars, cars with people in them capable of driving for some hours now, anyway. How long had she been doing this? Ploughing forward unthinkingly. Days perhaps. The sun was her only gauge now and she’d not paid any attention to it. Every petrol station had been dark and fuel- less. Probably more cause to worry but no, no worrying now. The night was soon to begin turning into day and Simone’s eyes were bloodshot and tired. Physically bottomed out, emotionally torn. Fear and insanity had kept her going but her body was now telling her to stop. Just sleep until it gets light she told herself, but Simone knew what that would involve.
Caving in against her will before she crashed the car through inattention, Simone pulled over by some trees leading into a forest which in the dark could have gone on for miles. She couldn’t tell. Strange to think that the forest might, given how small and personal everything felt, particularly in this car. It was now her home. Bedroom, kitchen. Toilet, sometimes. Though more than she’d like to admit. The unknown peered around every tree and piece of brush until it was overwhelming, weighing down on the car. She turned the engine off and looked at the back seat. In this light you couldn’t tell. Sleeping on the floor in the back would put her out of sight. If she pulled the blanket over her, the car would look like any other car, deserted at the side of a road, its owner dead. Moving and rotting or just rotting. Once the headlights were off her eyes needed some adjusting. There was no light in the world, figuratively or literally, she was running both from and to the inevitable.And she knew it.
Sitting forward in the driving seat she stared at where her feet were, although she couldn’t really see them. Her jeans were visible almost to her ankles, or was she making that up, could she imagine she could see them? Not a time for questions of such a nature. Gears whirling, not kissing goodbye to the old world. That was for the past, no need for debate on the nature of reality and perception at this time of night when she needed sleep. Simone was unaware of the exact time as she’d cast her watch away, an act of defiance to the world. The world did not care. The car was so old the clock had stopped years ago. No need anyway anymore, the world is as we see, quiet, dark and unwelcoming.
She was going to have to force herself to sleep but she decided against the back seat, instead reclining the driver’s chair as far as it would go and pulling the blanket from the passenger side over her completely. It made no difference to what she couldn’t see, but would hopefully make her less visible if anything did get too close. It certainly didn’t keep the cold off her skin, she hadn’t noticed until now how the temperature had dropped. Wasn’t it just daytime?
The doors were already locked but Simone slipped a hand out from the cover to double check. All she could hear was her breathing and the wind whipping past the tiny metal and glass shell she hid in.Remember to try not to breathe on the window, deceased people don’t breathe, condensation is a dead giveaway. All the warnings they’d got, experience trumped. The mind likes to toy with you when you really want it to shut down and let you sleep, and all she could see was his face. There was nothing else, just that image burned into her corneas. He stared at Simone with that look of pain and confusion, even still. She couldn’t change it. Look away. Her mind wasn’t so much playing tricks as bullying her incessantly. The more Simone tried to think of something else the more her other fears came into play. Nothing, there is nothing. Focus on nothing. Think of the black and take yourself into the calm. It is black, just trees and more trees.
Rotten and deteriorating the other faces of her mind poked at her through the dark. This was sleep for now and she had best get acclimatised to it. Welcome to the new you, Simone.
In the gloom, with the horror of memory, she had to stop herself crying out loud. In the dark it was not advisable. Quiet was best. Quiet was impossible and hard. But stifled, she slipped,
“Oh. Oh God.”
Simone was suddenly annoyed with herself for uttering the word. But what mattered in this situation? Survival definitely. More than anything her desire was to live. An awful lot of bad things were happening to people everywhere. Survival for now was being two steps ahead of the hoards behind her. Simone knew she was being naïve; the hoards are never two steps behind you. They are three steps. And two. Then one step. They are at once next to you and one step in front of you and they are closing in all the time. In the dark she could never have seen it coming, but she should have.
It was light outside but only just, the pattern of the blanket so close to her face chequered Simone’s sight and she realised again that it was cold. She was also still tired which annoyed her more. The world outside her thin cover was completely devoid of noise. Had she noticed this before? No idea. Maybe, she thought, but this was probably not good news, nothing was anymore. The temptation to try to close her eyes for longer was huge but her fear was more so. It was all she could do not to panic. Re-entering the world, even if such a small action physically, was now the worst thing she had ever had to do; almost. Barely able to tell her body to move, Simone slowly and shakily moved the cover down from her face. Lying back and looking up all she could see was the very tips of those tall trees and dark blue sky. And the top of a head, no two heads!
Don’t scream. Do. Not. Bloody. Scream. Simone sat up enough to see the faces. Two dead faces, both men, slowly turned to her. Like dinosaurs, knowing and menacing. She thought of the velociraptors from the Jurassic Park films she’d seen once, turning toward their meal. Nice and slowly but with widening eyes which exaggerated their greedy acknowledgement of this little tinned food find. Like ascribing emotions to pets, pointless but inevitable. She wanted to scream. It was not possible though, as Simone’s throat shut like a door in a gale. This was no movie. The two dead men ambled toward the car, lolling their heads, opening their mouths and beginning that feeding, or was it mating call, she knew so disturbingly well. Time to move.
Simone sat up sharply, leaving the backrest of her declined seat behind her. In front, behind and all around her was a menagerie of corpses, upright, meandering and putrid. Scattered through the trees and across the small road, they clearly knew something was here for them, but couldn’t see it, until now. They turned to her car. Simone screamed at last, and covered her face fleetingly, before realising the futility of the action.
For what seemed an age Simone hid in her flesh tinted safe place. It wasn’t an age, just mere seconds; enough time for the first few corpses to have reached her car. A mix of newly and not so newly deceased came at her: their determined and hungry frames banged the engine, first. One of them, the one she had seen closest to her when first she stirred was at her door, he was a forty something year old man, a bit chubby and missing a large part of his dry and greying left hand. It had been eaten. His right hand swung and the palm smacked her window. Simone reached for the key in the ignition, her vision was shaky from fatigue and fear but the adrenaline was back, fight or flight. Forget fight, run!
The car engine sputtered to a not unusually slow start but that dead right fist, this time clenched, again hit her window and it cracked. Hyperventilating and trying desperately to get going Simone paused. She drew a deep breathe as the car kicked into life. Her thought process cleared. Clutch. Pedal. Fuck checking the mirrors, fifteen dead in every direction is not worth reminding yourself of. Go! At first the car was gathering speed, and maybe ten pairs of hands had now reached it. Banging and clasping at it longing for the food inside. The moans from the sandpaper throats of those who still had them enveloped her as a mind numbing background noise to her thoughts and the attempts to enter the car.
Simone’s tiny old car knocked the two attackers in front of it down and gathered speed as the tyres sprayed their flesh off and crunched their bones into the country road as it climbed over them. Ironically gaining energy from them. The man in her window was now at the boot, but once the pulverised front two were cleared the car tore through the others in front of it, leaving him behind. One cadaver wandering across the car’s path smacked the engine and windscreen, cracking it. The car was not in a good way but Simone was through the crowd. Her mind clouded again, all she could see was the blur of the trees either side of her and the road ahead. The light was beginning to penetrate properly. Drive Simone. Drive.
Minutes were again flying by and the forest turned to countryside in parts. The world was still and quiet. She saw only one car, its owner a less lucky Simone. The driver had hit a tree, presumably in attempting to escape attackers. The front and side windows were smashed and hand smears of dried blood decorated the white paint of the car. Simone could picture the petrified people inside being ripped apart shrieking in their seats, hoping in vain they would be saved. Such a huge event, but yet nothing really anymore, it was both insanely sad and terrifying. Around the car bones and gore scattered where the hapless people, inside had been savaged and eaten by the road and in their seats. It could even have been the cluster that she’d escaped. In fact, it most probably was. They tend to gather where they think there’s food she had noticed, then they stick together, mindlessly hunting- or wandering together. That moan, that ghastly moan seemed to be the only way they talked. Their only expression, a warning.
The fuel tank said empty. Simone hadn’t even noticed until now. She hadn’t been looking for petrol stations, though given she was trying to stay off the beaten path it was unlikely she had passed one. Angry with herself not for looking hard enough the only option was to push on until it runs out, what else could she do.