02. Flight to Max

My earlier feelings that I was exaggerating the situation were now firmly gone, replaced by the need to get to Max and make sure he was safe.

I sped down the alley way between the office and the parking garage, no sign of the group that followed me up the stairs in my rear-view.  Driving down Philadelphia St. I began to get a picture of how badly York had been affected, every block or so I saw a house with a zombie beating on the door.  They would look around at me as I drove by, a few of them even took a few stumbling steps towards me.  I was driving about fifty miles per hour down a twenty-five miles per-hour street, and I was well past them before they could make it down the steps and across the sidewalk to the street.  The only thing keeping me from finding out the maximum speed of my truck was the thought of hitting someone running away from one of these things.  There were no cars on the road, other than the ones parked along the side, making it extra difficult to see someone who might run out in front of me.  The Four Runner makes a lot of noise, between the aftermarket exhaust designed to boost the power of its v8 engine and the noise of the off road tires, but who knows if someone would be paying attention to traffic.  I could see people watching me pass out of their second story windows, a look of fear on their faces.

‘How do they all know to stay in their houses?’ I wondered, and turned on the radio to see if I could catch any information.  I scrolled through all of my pre-programmed channels, and heard only music.  On the AM dial, all I heard were the right wingers spewing the same crap they all must get in their daily talking points memos.

Radio off; I started the plan for picking up Max.  My hope was that this mess hadn’t reached him, but given the situation in the city, I couldn’t be sure of that.  I ran down the list of items in my truck thinking about anything I could use as a weapon.

In the cargo area I had my tool box, which probably wouldn’t be much help.  Mostly it contained small tools, at best a lug wrench.  It also had my roadside emergency kit.  There was a flare in it, and a can of wd40 in my toolbox.  My instinct said that a flaming zombie was even worse than a regular zombie, so I decided quickly against that.  I keep a four cell mag light in the truck; I always told Candi it was in case I had to change a tire at night.  Really it was because holding that thing made me feel like a badass.   That was my weapon of choice.

Outside of the city, the houses were set way back off the road.  I eased around two car wrecks noting that none of the wrecked cars had any people in them or any bodies at all.  One car had bloody footprints leading away.

When I finally pulled in to Max’s day care, there were two cars in the parent pickup spots.  I parked in the third and looked in the picture window.  It was bad.  Inside there was a woman chewing on the leg of a child, her shoulder so gnawed that her left arm hung limply at her side.  The child was screaming, even out in the parking lot I could hear screams from further inside.  Wasting no time, without a thought I brought the MagLight up to the picture window and hit it as hard as I could.  The flashlight bounced off the window, leaving just a chip.

The door to the building was always locked.  Under normal circumstances, you rang the doorbell, and one of the teachers came and opened the door for you.  I smashed out one of the smaller panes in the door with no trouble, reached through and yanked the bar to open the door, cutting my arm on the broken glass.  I didn’t even notice it at the time; I was so intent on getting to Max.  I ran inside, towards the back of the facility.

As I passed by the woman feasting on the now silent child, I swung the MagLight in a giant arc and smashed the butt of the flashlight into her temple.  She went over in a heap.  I leapt the baby gate into the back area without missing a step.  One of the teachers was holding Max, another teacher was trying to fend off a zombie with a chair.  The zombie was pinned in the corner by a small child sized chair, but that left it enough room to bite the teacher on the arm.  The teacher screamed and dropped the chair.  The zombie stumbled forward just in time to connect with the back of my flashlight.  I smashed its teeth out, and clearly shattered its nose, but it didn’t go down like the first one.  I wasn’t wasting any time though.  I snatched Max out of the other teacher’s arms and ran out of the building.  I could hear the teachers screaming for help as I ran off.  I’ve always felt a little guilty about not helping them more, but Max was all I cared about at that moment.

I set Max in his car seat and ran around to the front of the truck.

“You forgot my buckles, Daddy!” Max yelled from his seat.

“I know buddy, we’re not safe.  We need to run now, and we have to hurry.  Can you put them on yourself?” I replied.

“Not safe because of the bugs?” asked Max.  Not knowing how to reply, I just said, “Yea buddy, because of the bugs,” as I floored it out of the parking lot.  It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed the two arcs of a bite on Max’s calf.

I yanked the straps off of his car seat and ran him into the bathroom as fast as I could.  I started dumping everything I could think of on his little leg.  He never once cried, even when I drained an entire bottle of rubbing alcohol over the small cuts.  After that I poured hydrogen peroxide, sprayed iodine, slathered it up with Neosporin, and wrapped it in a bandage.

“It’s okay Dad, Micah’s mommy bit me but the bugs can’t hurt me”.

“You’re gonna be fine buddy, I promise.” I said to him, hoping against hope that there was some immunity or that I got it disinfected fast enough.  Knowing I did not. Tears welled up in my eyes.  “Let’s go watch some Wonder Pets.”

“Yay!” Max yelled and ran into the living room. “Wonder Pets, Wonder Pets, we’re on our way!” he sang.

I turned on the TV and found an episode I’ve only seen three hundred times.  “Max, I need you to stay here while I do some work in the basement, call me if you need something!”

“Okay Daddy.” Was all he said, already engrossed in the episode.

In the kitchen, I grabbed our recycling bin and dumped all the aluminum cans in the trash.  I refilled the bin with all the food from our pantry.  We’d just been to the warehouse club, and were well stocked. I carried that bin down to the garage, opened the garage door and backed my truck into the garage.

One more trip with canned food, and I started grabbing clothing.  Everything from Max’s closet went into a Rubbermaid tub.  My yard work clothes, jeans, Dickies, work shirts, flannels, fleeces, and our heavy coats, even though it was summer, I didn’t think I’d ever see this place again.  I changed out of my suit and into camouflage cargo pants.  They were the heaviest canvas pants I owned, even though it was summer, I wanted padding and layers between me and anyone I had to go through.

From the garage I packed all of my hand tools, and my battery operated DeWalt skill saw, reciprocating saw, and drill combo kit.  My chain saw, my bow saw, my chopping axe and my hatchet.

I stopped at the hatchet for a second, noting that it had a belt loop on the leather sheath. So far, that was the best weapon I had, so I added the sheath to my belt and strapped it to my side.  Feeling better, I continued to pack everything I thought might come in even marginally handy.

Finally I made it to the gray plastic gun case on the back of the shelf.  I owned several guns, but Candi hated them.  When we got married, I told her I sold my two pistols and shotgun; but that was a lie.  Really they were wrapped in oil cloth in a hidden gun safe at my mothers.  I wished I had them now.

I grew up an outdoorsy kind of guy, when I was in my teens and twenties I went hunting a couple of times a year.  I bought the Savage arms 111 FCNS 30.06 a couple of seasons before I met Candi.  It was excessive for deer in the woods around my house, but I’ve always wanted to go elk hunting.  At the time, the salesman had thrown in two extra six round magazines to go with it.  I had two boxes of ammunition, forty rounds total.  I loaded one magazine and inserted it into the rifle I’d always called Sammie, pulled the bolt to chamber a round.  The action was smooth, still oiled up from when I dug it out a year ago to clean and oil it.  It hasn’t been used in many years, but I always tried to take care of it.  It would need a good cleaning at some point, but would be serviceable now.  I ejected the magazine and refilled the empty slot.  I loaded and slipped the other two magazines into one of the cargo pockets of my pants, comforted by the weight there.  I attached the scope to the rail, a Leupold 14mm x 50mm. The case went into the back of the truck.  At one point on a calm day I could hit a two liter bottle from eight hundred yards with this rifle and scope.  It had been a long time though.  I’d always promised Candi that I would keep this gun hidden and locked in its case when Max was born.

The truck was fully loaded with everything I could fit.  It was weighed down, but would make the trip.  I hadn’t checked on Max for a few minutes.  When I got up there he was red, and flush with a fever.  I felt his head, he was burning up.  In the upstairs bathroom, I’d left a few things to pack at the last minute.  I grabbed his bottle of liquid ibuprofen and sucked up a dropper full.  Candi would say, “He only gets half a dropper,” but I couldn’t afford to mess around with this fever, and Max has always been bigger and taller than everyone his age.  He loved the taste of medicine, so it was never a problem to get him to take it.  His show was over, so I started a new episode and called Candi.

“Hey Babe.  I have Max, we’re at home.  How long until you get here?”

In typical Candi fashion, she started off by asking what was going on, and yelling at me for letting my phone battery die.

“Candi, I don’t have time.  Where are you?”

“What’s the matter with you?” she asked.

“You are not going to believe me.  Drive home; do not stop for any reason.  Do not stop.  I’ll explain when you get here. Where are you?”

“I’m about five minutes away.”

“Ok, see you in five.  Do not stop for anything.  Pull your car into the garage when you get here.” I ordered. “I love you the most!”

“Love you too, you’re scaring me.”

I will explain when you get here, just get here.”  As I hung up the phone, I said to Max, “Max, I need to move my truck out of the garage so mommy can get in.  Do you hear me?”

“Okay Daddy.  I’m hungry. The bugs are eating all my food.”

“I’ll get you a snack in just a minute buddy.” I said.

I checked at the door, and no one was in sight, so I pulled my truck out of our one car garage and parked it on the street.  Before I locked it up I grabbed a serial bar out of the back and headed inside.

I opened the bar for Max and picked up my phone again to call my mother.

“Hey Mom. We’re coming down to your house.  There’s some really ugly stuff happening up here, and we need to get safe.”

“Oh my God honey is everyone okay?” she asked.

“We’re fine; Max has a bite on his leg.  He has a fever and is saying some strange things.  I’m worried about him, but I don’t know how to tell Candi.  Mom, its zombies.  No, really, they’re zombies. I watched a man eat another man on the street in front of my office.  Then I watched the eaten man get up and bite the paramedics.”

“Victor, get your family safe, then we’ll figure out what this really is.  Do you need to take Max to the doctor?”

“Mom, zombies.  I’m serious.  The doctor is the last place I want to go.  Do you still have the 30/30 and .410?  If you do, go get them and keep them handy.  Lock the doors and don’t answer for anyone.  If they don’t look right, or don’t speak, don’t go near them.”

I heard the garage door opening, and Candi pulling in the garage.

“Mom, I gotta go, Candi is here. Yes mom, I love you too.  See you soon.” I ended the call.

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