Chapter 19 – Moving
“Okay. We see you on the traffic cam. Head north,” I heard Ellie say to us.
I looked down the road, and the cars were standing there in all directions. It was almost as if keeping right was forgotten, and everybody did as they pleased. Some vehicles had crashed into others. Some were upside down. Doors were open, and in a few cars, the driver was still behind the wheel. It was total chaos. I didn’t see any car on fire, though. Nor were there burned-out cars. Maybe further up the road by the highway where the cars drive faster, it would be different. But what I was looking at now seemed like a scene from the Walking Dead or some show like that. The only difference was no zombies were walking around.
Joel got up and started walking down the street, a little crouched over so we wouldn’t be too obvious. I started following him, and the moment I left our front lawn, I froze. There were dozens of dead bodies scattered around on the ground. Male and female, old and young. No one was spared. And they all looked awful with their mummy-like skin and hairs.
“You’re okay, Mia?” I heard Joel whisper.
I tore my eyes away from the bodies on the ground and looked at my brother’s worried face. I took a deep breath and nodded. I needed to get my head straight and stop looking at these bodies as people. That was the only way I’d make it. It felt like an epiphany to me when I realized it, and it was very liberating to me.
“Yeah. I think I am. These bodies just… Never mind. I’m fine. Honest.”
Joel moved from car to car, making sure we’d be no more in the open than we needed to. I followed him one car behind.
“You’re doing great, guys,” Ellie said. “Just before the green van, there’s an alley to your right. You need to cross the street to get there. But once you’re in that alley, you’re less in the open.”
“Copy,” Joel whispered
I had to suppress a giggle because of this. All of a sudden, he was acting all stealthy and army-like. Ah well, if it works for him. We’ve both been through that alley dozens of times, but now it seemed more like a safe haven instead of a dangerous, dirty alley.
“The road is clear from what we see. According to SHIVR, there might be a car heading your way, but it’ll take at least two or three minutes. By then, you’re way down that alley and can hide from it between two dumpsters.”
Ellie and Adam had talked to us about SHIVR. Joel was very impressed by it and especially liked the autonomous functions it had. I was less impressed. I was mainly worried about getting where we were heading as quickly as possible.
“Three… two… one… Go!” Joel whispered.
We crossed the street quickly and were in the alley before we knew it. The most challenging part about running now was not stepping on a body. As we entered the alley, there were no bodies on the ground. I could see two or three in the distance, but nowhere near as much as on the main road.
“Keep left against the wall,” Ellie said. “That way, you won’t be seen easily, and we can keep watching you on three cameras.”
As we were nearing the end of the alley, we heard the sound of an engine in the distance. There was also another noise, but I couldn’t place it.
“There’s the car. Duck between these dumpsters in front of you.”
We did as Ellie said and waited. We were pressed against the wall but hidden from view by these big containers. I could glance to where we came from through a small gap between the dumpster and the wall.
As the sound of the engine grew louder, so did my heartbeat. In our street, a big army Hummer appeared. On top of it was a large gun with a skinny man holding it. The man was wearing a black coat and an old cap. I couldn’t see his face, but he looked very intimidating, despite his skinny frame. The Hummer just drove over the bodies and banged the cars out of the way. That was the sound I heard.
I had no clue where they were heading but was extremely glad it drove by and didn’t enter the alley. And as quickly as it came into view, it left again.
“Are they on patrol or something?” Joel asked.
“Looks like it,” Ellie responded. “Wait a few moments. We’ll check where they’re heading.”
“That was scary, Joel,” I said, covering my mic with my hand.
Joel just nodded.
“Okay. It’s clear now. You can move on further down the alley and turn left at the end. There’s another main road you’ll have to cross.”
We made good progress, and before we knew it, we were close to Uncle Tyrell’s shop.
“Alright. To your left, there’s a small shed in that garden. The gate and the doors are open. Head in there for a sec,” Ellie instructed.
We entered the shed and closed the door behind us. It was a typical garden shed with gardening tools hanging on the walls and some garden chairs stacked in the corner to be safe for winter.
“Listen, guys,” Adam’s voice came on the phone.
That couldn’t be good. We agreed Ellie would do the talking. And considering we’re about two minutes away from the shop’s personnel entrance, I didn’t want to head back.
“What is it?” Joel asked, clearly worried.
“The big apartment building you need to pass…”
“Yeah… What about it?”
“SHIVR recorded two men entering it about an hour ago. They didn’t come out yet. So there is a slight chance they come out the moment you pass the building.”
“Oh,” was my scared reply. “Isn’t there a way around it?”
“Actually… Not really. Going around it will bring you too close to the highway where the Hummers drive around quite frequently. Or it will take you to a bunch of piled-up cars, which we assume isn’t there because of an accident.”
“You mean people build a barricade?” Joel asked.
“We think so, yeah. So going straight is our best shot. The moment you round the corner, we can’t see you guys. It’s only one block, but you’ll be on your own. After you turn right, when you pass the building, you immediately go left. After a few more yards, we’ll be able to see you again. What do you think? Go on or head back? It’s up to you.”
I looked over at Joel. His face didn’t show too much emotion, but I knew he was scared. So was I. But heading back was also dangerous. We didn’t say anything. We just nodded.
“We’ll move forward. Thanks for the heads-up,” Joel said flatly. “Come on, Mia.”
Joel opened the door, and we walked toward the apartment building. We could stay under the first floor’s balcony, so no one could see us from above. As we reached the entrance, Joel slowed down and looked at me. I gave him another nod, and we softly but swiftly walked past the gate.
We rounded the corner and started crossing the street. Right at the moment, I thought we were safe. But then I heard a voice and froze.
“Hey! Stop, you two!”
We stopped, and Joel glanced worriedly at me. We turned around, and two men walked over to us. Both had a machine gun in front of their chests and tried to look all military. But even to me, it was obvious they were just two wannabes.
“Hello,” Joel said.
“Hello there. It’s nice to see there are more people alive. How are you two?”
“We’re fine, thank you. You?” Joel responded as casually as he could.
I noticed we were slowly crossing the street with these two men following us. We weren’t walking, just taking small steps each time. I knew what Joel wanted to do.
“Stay calm, guys! Keep talking. We’re working on something,” Adam’s voice whispered in our ears.
“All alone out here?” Guy one asked.
He was obviously the brains of these two. The second guy was skinny as hell. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a meth-head. The first guy showed a slight resemblance but was bigger and fatter. He wasn’t fat, just healthier. And older, but didn’t seem too bright either. Both wore camouflage clothing, a white cap with a logo on it with the letters AWA prominently in it.
“Yeah… All alone?” Guy two chipped in.
“No. We’re heading over to our Uncle. He’s waiting for us down the street,” Joel replied, still remarkably calm.
“I think it’s better you guys come with us,” Guy one said, “Don’t you think, Ben?”
“Yeah. I think so too, Curtis,” Ben said.
Well… At least we knew their names now. I was thinking about how we could get out of here. We couldn’t fight them. We probably could handle Ben, but Curtis was too much for the two of us.
“I’m sorry,” Joel said, “But then our Uncle and the people he’s with would be worried. I’m sure you guys have enough troubles as it is without the two of us.”
“Oh no. Not a problem. We’re making sure to gather all survivors in city hall. We’re trying to rebuild some form of a chain of command. We’ve got orders to bring survivors there.”
“Orders? Are you from the army?” I asked innocently.
“Army? You hear that, bro? They think we’re with the army. Ha!” Ben laughed. “No, We’re with the A.W.A. Way better than the army.”
Curtis started laughing, and of course, Ben began to laugh too after that. The resemblance made sense now. They were brothers. I was slowly beginning to panic now as the tension between us grew thicker by the second.
“Well,” Joel said, still annoyingly calm, “I’m afraid we can’t do that. We agreed to meet our Uncle. We’ll come to City Hall with them. How’s that?”
Adam’s soft voice came through the earpiece. “In a few seconds, you’ll hear gunshots. They’re not real, but the moment they start, hide behind the car behind you.”
“Sorry… BOY… Can’t do that. I’m afraid I insist,” Curtis said, gripping his machine gun to emphasize his point.
“Three,” Adam said.
“Sorry, mister,” Joel said, looking straight at him, and I could see the fire in his eyes after Curtis called him boy.
“Listen, you coons!” Curtis shouted with spit flying out of his mouth.
“One!!” Adam said.
What happened next was utterly unexpected. From inside the apartment building, loud gunshots were heard. It was deafening, considering the dead silence outside.
“Help me, Curtis!” a female voice shouted. Weirdly, it sounded very calm and polite, not panicky.
Joel and I didn’t hesitate. We ran behind the car and hid. From under the car, I could see both men step around, obviously not knowing what to do.
“Who is that, Curtis?” Ben asked.
“I don’t know. I think we need to help her. Call for help and follow me! You two! Stay here,” he shouted toward us.
I could see Curtis’s feet running toward the entrance, and Ben followed him. We got up, and I could see Ben fiddling with the radio as he ran behind his brother.
“Eagle’s nest! This is team Echo. We…” was all we heard as he entered the building.
I glanced over at Joel and saw the smile on his face.
“SHIVR found a satellite feed, and we can see you from above now. Now you need to make a run for it. Every hostile in the neighborhood will go toward that building. That gives you two the time to enter the shop. Now GO!!”
We started running, and at each corner or side street, Ellie called the direction we needed to go. We were at the back entrance before we knew it, and Joel already had the keys in his hand.
“Here!” he said, handing me the keys. “Unlock the door, but do not open it yet. I have to double-check the alarm code first.”
I did as Joel said, and he started scrolling through his phone furiously. It took him only seconds, but it felt like hours. I kept looking in all directions, but no one came into view. In the distance, I could still hear the gunshots.
“Go!” Joel said.
I opened the thick, heavy, blast-proof door. Joel ran in and stopped in front of the keypad. I closed the door as softly as I could and locked it behind us. The beeps that were coming from the keypad as Joel disarmed it was like a train going by. This was probably because of the silence around us.
“There!” Joel said and sighed deeply as the beeping had stopped.
“Are they coming after us, Ellie?” I asked.
“No. They are still inside the apartment building. You’re good.”
“Oh my god! That was close! They would’ve never let us go, would they?” I asked no one in particular.
“I don’t think so, no,” Adam said. “We were lucky SHIVR could help us this way.”
“What happened back there?” I asked, really curious about how they saved us.
“SHIVR scanned online and found seven,” Ellie said but was interrupted.
“I’m sorry, Ellie. I used eight,” we heard SHIVR say in the background.
“Sorry. Eight,” Ellie giggled, ”smart speakers. She played gun sounds as loud as possible on them, and on one of them, she let Google Assistant call out for Curtis. We hoped it would lure them away from you guys. And it did, obviously.”
“Oh wow. Thank you, SHIVR,” I said, very impressed.
“You’re welcome, Mia,” was SHIVR’s response.
“Thanks a lot, you guys! You saved our lives,” Joel chipped in, and I could see he was still shaking all over.
“The adrenaline is still shooting through our bodies. That was fucking awesome! Do you think we’re safe here for the night?” I asked.
“The way I see it, you’re better off here than in your home, Mia,” Adam said.
“So we stay here for the night and head toward you guys in the morning, right Adam?” Joel asked.
“That’s the plan, yeah. No rain, mild winds, and no sun tomorrow. I think they’re the ideal circumstances to move around. Just so we’re clear… We can’t see anything inside the shop. The security system your Uncle used is A-grade, so we can’t hack into it. But Ellie and I will keep watch tonight and monitor the surroundings, so you’re still quite safe.”
“So… We’ll hang up and call again in the morning?” I asked, just to make sure we were all on the same page.
“Yeah. That way, your phones can be fully charged again, and you won’t make too much noise by talking to us. We’ll call you if there’s trouble ahead, okay? Maybe one of you can set their phone to auto answer on our number. That way, we can talk and listen, no matter what.”
“Will do. Thanks! So… if nothing bad happens, tomorrow at eight? There’s enough daylight by then, and we’ll have enough time to reach you guys.”
“Tomorrow at eight it is. Good luck and good night,” Ellie said with a bit of a worried voice.
End of Chapter nineteen
Copyright 2021 – Jason Crow
All rights reserved
My deepest apologies for another plot-only chapter! There will be more sex in the next stories. I promise! But the plot needed this, so that’s why I did it this way. I hope you guys will forgive me…
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