When I got to the truck, I looked in the back seat to see Max crying but otherwise Ok, and yanked open the passenger door. Candi’s lifeless body rolled out of the truck onto the ground. I fell to my knees; she had been hit by two bullets, one to the abdomen and one to the right temple.
I sobbed, I screamed, I raged, I yelled at god or the trees or whatever was listening. I wept for what seemed like hours, tears streaming down my cheeks, wondering what I was going to do without her. Imagining trying to survive in this life without my partner, without my team mate. Ultimately, it was Max’s small voice that brought me back to reality.
“Daddy,” he said calmly, “We have to go.” Gathering myself, I kissed her on the forehead, stood and walked around to the front of my wrecked truck. There were bullet holes right through the passenger front fender, front passenger door, and rear quarter panel, but not a single bullet in the rear passenger door. The window was even still intact.
I looked down at the rifle in my hands, an American version of an AK47, 7.62mm bullets; the same size as my rifle, but not quite as powerful. They wouldn’t pass through the engine block, but they’d do a number on all the stuff around it. I jumped inside the truck, turned the key, and miraculously the truck roared to life. From the sound, it had taken a shot to the exhaust manifold. I wouldn’t be sneaking up on anyone, but it would run. I checked on Max, his fever seemed down, but not out, and the bite mark on his leg was closed up. It didn’t look all that bad actually, maybe he didn’t get infected. I handed him the whole box of cereal bars, and he unwrapped one and started eating.
The tire was easy enough, I knew there was a benefit to keeping the spare in the roof basket, even if all my off-roading buddies complained about raising the center of gravity and called me silly for liking the look.
‘Who’s the mall crawler now?’ I thought to myself, thinking back to the derogatory term real “Rock Crawlers” used to describe guys like me. I left the old wheel on the side of the road, a bullet had passed through the tire and out the wheel, and it was useless now. In the back of the truck I pulled a blanket out of one of the plastic storage tubs, and wrapped Candi’s body up in it. I would bury her in the garden at Mom’s, there is a beautiful spot in the formal garden we’ve often talked of having our ashes spread there. Right now I didn’t have time to think about all that; I had to get us across the bridge fifteen miles south.
Heading south at around sixty-five miles per hour along the deserted highway, the wind blowing in Candi’s window was bothering Max, who was trying to sleep after eating four breakfast bars. I had about an hour of daylight left, and I was facing a decision. If this outbreak was in both in both York and Frederick, there was a good chance Leesburg, Virginia was going to be infected as well, and I had to pass through the most heavily populated section. The town of Leesburg was the part of the trip I was most dreading. If I could get across the river tonight, there were miles and miles of undeveloped national forest between the bridge and the town.
My first option was to find a deserted fire lane leading a few miles into the national forest, pull off and camp for the night in the truck, with Candi. My second option was to continue on, with one headlight, one fog light, and the two KC style running lights mounted to the roof basket. It was an hour and a half further to my family home-place after Leesburg. I’d been making pretty good time, and the whole incident at Frederick had only taken about forty minutes total. I was going to have to take it much slower from now on, and Max wouldn’t be able to stay in his seat much longer. At the very least he was going to need to get out to go to the bathroom, and the thought of getting him out of the truck frightened me the most. I can’t afford to make any more mistakes. My heart can’t take any more mistakes like Frederick.
Still pondering, I slowed down and stopped at the last curve in the road before the bridge. I whispered to Max that I was going to get out, but that I wouldn’t go far. I was stopped about a mile from the bridge. I wish I had some high powered binoculars, but my rifle scope would have to do.
I scrambled up the embankment, and a couple hundred feet up the side of the hill into the woods. I couldn’t get too far from the truck, but I needed the elevation and cover of the trees up here. There was enough light to see the old blue-green iron bridge, and see that there was another set of cars blocking both ends. I watched through the scope as zombies walked up and down. I watched for as long as I could, not wanting to leave Max alone for too long. I counted five zombies, four of them walking fairly normally, and one who was stumbling. The four were armed with various assault rifles; I was too far away and not knowledgeable enough in firearms to tell what exactly they were from this distance. They were all pacing back and forth, about half the length of the bridge. I watched the road leading towards me, and saw nothing, I looked in the woods on either side of the river and they seemed likewise clear.
I began to formulate a plan as I headed down to the truck, back to Max, back to my reason for surviving