I made it to the bridge overpass for Route 17. After a short climb up the wall I’d be a couple miles from my house again. I had to catch my breath. I looked back in the direction of the camp for the first time in several minutes. The full moon cast shadows off every post, off every stoop. Everything looked like a zombie moving through the alley or behind a window. I heard some banging noise coming from a few buildings away. I’d already stayed in one place for too long. The stones of the bridge abutment made for decent grips and I made it up the wall in minutes. I waited to cross over; remembering the events of the foray to the pharmacy explained by Alonzo and Marty. I poked my head over the top, took a quick look then dropped back. It looked clear. There was no going back. I slid over the rail and down next to the wall. I stayed crouched down until I got to the opposite side of the bridge and continued moving west at a slow jog. Once I made it out of sight of town I slowed to a walk. I wasn’t winded but did want to conserve energy incase I had to run or fight.
I walked up to the Buffalo farm. I could hear some snorting in the distance. The Buffalo were still nearby. I heard a bit of rumbling. I figured the cows were gathering their calves in order to protect them in case of an attack. I wasn’t going anywhere near the herd. Running and dodging unthinking zombies was one thing. Buffalo would defend their young and I wasn’t about to volunteer to dodge a ton of angry momma bearing down on me. I also had to keep an eye out for the bulls. I didn’t feel like sleeping in a tree with a bachelor bull huffing and puffing at the base. I picked up a jog long enough to get out of sight of the farm.
I came up upon the intersection of Raccoon Valley and 17. We just motored through here in the trucks before. There are a few houses at the intersection. We didn’t pay any attention at the time. It’s different when you’re on foot. You notice every creak. You see things behind every tree. I could feel myself slowing down. It felt like I’d been running forever. I stopped in the shadow of a utility pole to take a break. I sat down with my back to the pole. The next thing I remember was waking up to the moaning. I rolled away from the pole and jumped up. Three zombies had made their way to within a few yards of me. They weren’t shuffling but they didn’t look like the fastest creatures either. I moved to run down Raccoon valley. One of them was fast enough to block my way. I started jogging toward it. I slowed down as I got close. I let the creature commit to reaching for me. I ducked under its reach stood up behind it and kicked out its right leg before it could turn to me. I started jogging again down the road. I pushed until I could no longer hear the moans.
I was on Brag Rd soon. It was the final stretch. I passed by the truck that Mary was driving when she died. I could hear some commotion in the woods but didn’t see anything. I decided to pick up the jog again. I cut across the pasture and came the crest of the hill. I stopped and could see my home in the moonlight. I walked down the hill passed the semi truck wreckage, passed the corpses and up to the stable. I took the key from beneath the flat rock again and unlocked the TAC room door. I looked around before entering. Everything appeared to be as we left it.
I walked in and shut and bolted the door behind me. I pulled up the floorboard and flipped the switch. I could hear the inverter click on. I replaced the floorboard and flipped on the light. I looked around and nothing had changed. I pulled out the panniers and set out my bed roll. I grabbed my duffle bag and placed the contents on the floor next to the roll. I pulled a smaller roll out of the second pannier. I unrolled that on top of the bed roll. Wrangler jeans, a Henley style shirt, belt, socks, underwear and my oilskin duster. Another look into the pannier and I pulled out my Ariat boots and an MRE. There was more in both panniers but I didn’t need the rest now. A bottle of water from the case under the table and I crawled in the bedroll. I had food, water, protection, clothing and a warm dry place to sleep. I was good for the short term.
As I sat there eating I began to think back over the past couple weeks. The world as I knew it had ended. Family and friends were dead. I was a few hours away from my surviving family and friends and have been stopped from reaching them at every turn. I was on my own. I had to rely on myself and the preparations I made before the Fall. I had food, water, protection, clothing and a warm dry place to sleep. I was also more alive then I’d been in a very long time.