Copyright 2018 W. G. Sweet all rights reserved.
Cover Art © Copyright 2018 W. G. Sweet
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This excerpt contains graphic language and situations and has NOT been edited for content
Jack and Maria
They had both been bothered by a feeling that they had been followed, or were being watched. It was unsettling, and they were constantly glancing around themselves as they walked, but they saw no one.
They were standing on the pavement of a car lot looking over a long line of vehicles, trying to decide which one to take, when the first shot came.
The side window of the truck directly in front of them imploded, covering the interior in small jewel-like chunks of glass. They both reacted instantly, dropping to the ground and rolling towards the rear of the truck.
When they reached the rear of the truck they both crouched low and sprinted deeper into the lot. Another shot rang out as they ran, and Maria watched as a wide hole was suddenly punched through the fender of a truck just a few inches ahead of her. She dropped to the ground and rolled over on her back, raising the machine pistol instinctively in front of her. It was all that saved her life.
Jack was still running deeper into the lot, not realizing Maria was no longer beside him. The sound of the machine pistols chatter behind him stopped him cold, and he turned and ran back toward the front of the lot.
When Maria had fallen, a tall dark haired kid had appeared from in front of the truck, and directly into the steel sight of the machine pistol. He raised what looked to be an automatic rifle, but before he could fire Maria began squeezing the trigger of the pistol, and it jumped and began to bark in her hands. Jack had just come up beside her, and watched as the man toppled over, nearly cut in two. The sound of screeching tires out on the roadway dragged his mind away from the still twitching body of the young man, and as Maria jumped up into a low crouch they both began to run towards the road. Jack stopped only long enough to pick up the automatic rifle from the ground where the man had dropped it.
When they reached the road a small Jeep was moving rapidly away from them, and a blond haired man, not much more than a kid, Jack realized, was crouched in the back aiming a rifle at them, while a dark haired young woman sat behind the wheel. They both dropped once more to the ground, and opened up on the Jeep as the young man began to fire. The slugs from the young man’s rifle ripped into the pavement, tearing huge chunks out of it close to Jack’s face as he fired back at the Jeep.
The blond haired kid suddenly bolted upright, and seemed to jump from the rear of the Jeep. He landed on the roadway, rolled, and then was still. Both rear tires blew out on the Jeep as Maria’s gun continued to speak, and before it had traveled far the young woman lost control, and it flipped several times rolling down the middle of the road. The young woman fell headfirst in a heap on the pavement where she had been thrown, and had then been rolled over by the Jeep as it continued to flip down the road.
Smoke curled up from the overturned Jeep. Within seconds it attracted a small circle of flames from under the hood that grew and began to curl up and lick at the rubber of the still turning front tires.
“You okay?” Jack asked, in a panicked voice as he looked at Maria.
“Aún estoy un poco… conmocionada… Good… A little shaken,” she amended.
They both walked slowly down the road to where the bodies of the young man and the young woman lay, they were perhaps twenty feet apart. Maria had thought that possibly the young woman might still be alive, but she was not. Her neck was broken, and they had quietly carried both bodies off the road and into a field before returning to the lot. They had debated briefly whether they should bury them, but had decided not to. It was not a decision made out of spite, but out of necessity. They had no idea whether the three were alone or not, and if they were not, and there were others close by, it might be best to get back to the lot, pick up a truck, and head back out to where the Chevy had broken down as quickly as they could.
They walked calmly back to the dealership, and went inside. They both felt safer inside despite the wide glass windows that fronted the road.
A huge four wheel drive Suburban sat on the showroom floor nestled in between other cars and trucks that surrounded it. It was obviously a heavy duty truck. It sat much higher than the pickup had, and the tires were much more aggressive, and the open cargo space behind the driver’s area would be an asset to them, Jack realized, much better than the open pick-up bed had been with its flimsy vinyl cover. He walked around the truck, noticing that it was also equipped with a winch as the pickup had been, but this one looked to be a lot sturdier to him, strictly heavy duty.
He walked over to a slightly raised area, where a board filled with keys spanned most of the rear wall behind a small, but long counter top. He gave Maria the keys to a convertible that was between them and the doors, and she moved it while Jack jockeyed the truck around until he managed to get it aimed at the wide glass doors set into the side of the building. He drove it outside, checking the gas gauges as he did.
The truck had dual tanks, and both of them were full. Not that they’ll last any longer than the pickups single tank, he thought, but he was still glad that they were full. They edged carefully around the still burning Jeep, and made their way slowly out of town and back to the pickup, watching the side roads as they went. They were both spooked.
When they were still more than a hundred yards from the pickup, they could tell that they’d had visitors while they were gone. Jack edged the Suburban up carefully to the truck and they searched the surrounding countryside, but decided whoever had been there was gone.
The truck was demolished. Someone or some-ones had attacked it with a vengeance. All the windows were smashed, and the black vinyl cover that had spanned the bed of the truck was slashed to ribbons. The tires had been flattened, and they had dented or punctured nearly every body panel. The camping gear, along with the rest of the venison, was gone. The map they had been using lay ripped and shredded across the front seat, which had also been slashed.
They only walked around the truck once, but it was enough. They both turned without speaking and walked back to the Suburban.
“Doesn’t matter,” Jack said once they were safely back inside the Suburban. “We can pick up more gear down the road. I saw a small sporting goods store about a mile back, it had a little shopping center right next to it.”
“I guess we don’t have to deal with the dead here because these people are here and killed or chased them off. But then we got to deal with people alive trying make more dead out the living… One or the other and no in between, I guess,” Maria said.
Jack shook his head slowly as they drove away.
When they reached the small sporting goods store he pulled as close to the front doors as he could. The parking lot looked deserted, but the dealership had also looked deserted, and he was taking no chances. They looked the huge lot over for better than ten minutes before they left the truck. He wished they didn’t have to stop at all. The sooner they were on the road the better, as far as he was concerned. He supposed it probably wouldn’t be any better stopping somewhere else though. They entered the store and took turns watching the lot as they picked up what they needed. Besides a handful of dead, all head shot, the store was empty. Maria looked over the bodies.
“I guess some archaeologist is going to dig all this up in forty thousand years, if we all survive and have to come up with some explanation as to why so many skulls show evidence of bullet holes… Makes me wonder what they’ll say… Religious practice? Sacrifices to Dios?” She asked.
“Hopefully they’ll never know what this was really about,” Jack said quietly.
By the time they had re-outfitted themselves it was nearly dark. The setting sun casting the lot in deep shadows, and Jack was glad he had parked the truck close to the doors. They debated staying. They could sleep right inside the small shop Maria argued, but Jack didn’t want to, and Maria’s argument was halfhearted at best. They both decided they would rather put as many miles as possible between them and the small town. In the end they left despite the descending darkness, and they did not stop that night at all.
Jack drove while Maria slept, and towards daybreak as they were nearing Fort Deposit the road disappeared into the water. They had stood looking as the sun rose higher into the sky. It was water as far as the eye could see. The air carried the tang of salt. They were both at a loss for words. Finally, Jack angled the truck down off the pavement, turned it around and drove back to an old logging road he had seen a few miles back. He dropped down off the pavement and followed the rutted road into a quiet, forested area and killed the hot motor.
They quickly set up a small camp in the sparse morning light, and then crawled into the tent. They held each other tightly as they drifted off to sleep.
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