I woke up and thought, “Wow, I’m nice and warm.” That’s what I felt at the time. I was rolled up in my bed roll on the floor of the TAC room in familiar surroundings. I lay there awake for quite a while. I drank some more water and ate what was left from the MRE. I had slid off the sweats from the bus some time during the night. There was nothing I needed inside the house at this point. I should start north again. I might be able to find a working vehicle. I could be at the farm in a short time. I took my time getting dressed. I opened another MRE and ate at the good stuff. Once I was dressed I checked the guns. Both revolvers and the lever gun were loaded. I took a box of shells from the pannier and slid two 12 gauge rounds into the coach gun.
I pulled the Mountainsmith External frame pack from the wall. It was a smaller pack but I could carry everything I needed in it. I had modified the pack with quick release Velcro fixtures to hold the rifle and shotgun on either side. A tug on a release line and the weapon of my choice was in my hands. The revolvers went in the leather rig around my waste. A right-hand-draw in place and a cross-draw on the left. The Damascus Steel Bowie was on my left hip in a front canted scabbard. .45 Colt rounds filled the belt loops.
I filled the pack with water, MREs, clothes and ammo for my weapons. I wrapped the bed roll and coat over the top. It was plenty heavy with the guns strapped to it but everything inside was a necessity. I put on my brown Stetson and started out after I locked up and put the key back under the flat stone. I headed northeast toward Braxton Narrow again. I didn’t like it but the only other bridge to the north was 60 miles out of my way. Haven was south of Braxton Narrow so I would have to cut through the town anyway. Besides, Haven might not be there. That horde of zombies had come right up the highway and I’m sure a few made their way down there.
I hiked cross-country this time. There was no need to stick to formal roads. I was close to 17 when I heard a moan in the distance and then another. I pulled the lever-gun from the pack. Another moan in the distance even further away. Those zeds had got on to something or someone and were moving away from me toward town. I hadn’t heard any shots all morning. I figured that if I came up on someone and could help I would.
I reached 17 and started east on the road. I could see some shambling zombies in the distance ahead of me. I decided to get off the road in case they were coming my way. I walked down a long farm driveway with a mind on avoiding the buildings and heading for the tree line. It ran parallel to 17 and was far enough away for me to go unnoticed. I followed a deer path through a thicket and came out with a view of the back of the big barn. That view was suddenly eclipsed by the biggest damn zombie I had run into yet. It turned toward me and opened its mouth. Nothing came out. Its throat had been torn apart. I was lucky in that it wouldn’t call in any others, I guess. It lunged for me but tripped over a log and stumbled by me. I pulled the Bowie knife and ran up behind it. I tripped it to the ground and followed through by slamming the knife through the back of its skull. I pulled the knife out, wiped it off and returned it to the sheath. He was probably a farmer or something at one time.
I looked back to the barn at the amazing sight that had caught my attention earlier. There were two horses in a small pasture. One of the horses was stomping something on the ground. The other had just kicked a zombie in the head and was running and kicking in the air. I could see plenty of hay under an overhang on the barn and a self waterer by the gate. I looked around and saw about a dozen corpses. They all had their heads smashed and various other bones were broken at awkward angles. I moved closer. The horses looked to be healthy with no bites that were visible. There were a couple zombies walking down through the field toward the pasture. I took off the pack and leaned it against the fence post. I put my hat on top of the pack and started walking toward the zombies in the field. I wouldn’t use the guns unless I got in real trouble. I pulled the bowie out again. The zombies sped up when they saw me walking toward them. I picked it up into a jog. Four slow moving zombies barely made me sweat.
When I was finished I turned and began walking back to my pack. I had planned on just opening the gate and letting the horses run free until I saw the one that had been running around had my hat in his mouth. I climbed through the fence and walked toward the horse. His head was down and my hat was touching the ground. When I got within about twenty feet he bolted across the field with my hat flapping in the wind. Well, I wasn’t about to chase after a horse with this much energy.
I walked back to my pack and pulled it into the pasture. I felt safe with the horses since they hadn’t already crushed my head and stomped me to bits of broken bones. I pulled out an MRE and a bottle of water and started to eat my lunch. As I sat against a fence post reading the ingredients on the Chicken and rice packet my hat hit me in the head. I looked up and the horse was looking at me. I brushed his saliva off the hat and set it on the ground. This horse was a big broad dapple grey gelding. He looked to have some draft in his breeding. I figured he was a mutt. He wasn’t that old but he was an adult. He came closer with his head down and his nostrils sniffing away. I just continued to eat out of the packet. Before I could scoop the last bit of food out the bugger grabbed it in his teeth and took off across the field again. He trotted over to the other horse, stopped and tossed the packet in the air. The other horse sniffed at the packet when it landed. He turned up his nose to it and went back to eating hay. The second horse looked to be another draft cross gelding. He had markings of a spotted appaloosa with long hair feathered around his hooves. Both horses were about 16 hands (5’4” at the top of the withers) and healthy.
I decided it was time to move on. I turned to set the lever gun back on the pack and heard the thundering of hooves coming up behind me. I turned to see the dapple gray coming at me. I stepped toward him and put my hand out in front of me. “No.” I yelled. He dropped his back end and skidded to a stop. I walked toward him and told him “Back, back” While pointing at his chest. He backed up straight as an arrow. I sent him to the left and backed up to my pack to block his way. He stopped again. I sent him to the right and let him go. The Appy came walking directly up to me. He sniffed around my pack as I tried to set it on my back. I let it lay and began to pet him. I took him by his halter and moved into the field. I tried some small maneuvers like flexing his head and neck and disengaging his hind quarters. He was very compliant and “soft”. The gray came over and nudged my back. I let go of the Appy and backed the gray off again. I relaxed and took him by his halter. He was a bit stiffer but still compliant. I flexed him and disengaged his rear end.
Both horses had some training and were old enough to have been saddle broke for a couple years. My idea about letting them roam had changed. I moved my pack and gear outside the fence by the gate. I left the horses in the pasture and walked to the man door of the barn. There were no scratches or sign that anything attempted to get in. It was unlocked. I walked to the large sliding doors and tried them. They were locked from the inside. I opened the man door and walked in keeping my back to the wall. I slid along the wall until I came to the sliding doors. I moved to the center and pulled the bolt then slid one of the doors open.