For your reading pleasure, here is fourth installment of Mel Odom’s Hellbound Express. If you haven’t yet read the first two chapters, here (chapter 1, chapter 2, and chapter 3) are the links for them. Enjoy.
BY Mel Odom
These days, the silence of the cities Gant visited bothered him more than anything. He’d grown up in Tyler, Texas, which boasted a population of nearly a hundred thousand. He’d also visited Dallas and other major metro areas.
The thing he remembered most was the traffic noise on the streets, the chatter of jackhammers, the warning beeping of construction vehicles on the move, the hiss of airbrakes, and the conversations that had filled restaurants and shopping centers.
Now the steady growl of the motorcycles’ engines beat into his ears, muffled only slightly by his combat helmet. He kept his head on a swivel as he entered the city. The team had come into Winslow along Highway 87 and skirted the stalled and wrecked vehicles that had dotted the two-lane road. When the highway had split and become East Second Street and East Third Street, he’d stayed with his original plan and gone down East Third Street.
He’d watched Homolovi State Park as they’d rolled by, thinking that if anyone had stayed close to the city, they’d have hold up there. However, the RVs and fifth wheels there looked forgotten and unused. Some of them had open doors and it was probable they’d already been searched for salvage.
Despite the solitary and still look of the vehicles, he couldn’t help thinking about the things probably still trapped inside those vehicles, people who’d died inside them and become undead before escaping. Now they were predators just waiting for the chance to feed.
A normal corpse would have rotted and fallen apart, but the things turned by the virus somehow clung to life for years even when they didn’t feed. Peress had formed a theory that whoever had designed the killer plague had also designed it to lie dormant, and somehow that RNA resequencing had changed the overall organism so that it could draw hydrocarbons from the environment and subsist. Now they were like the moth larva inside Mexican jumping beans, able to subsist more or less on nothing.
Till they hunted. Then they expended energy until they lapsed into comas till they regained enough strength to hunt again.
The thought, even though it wasn’t a new one and Gant had faced the animated corpses on several occasions, caused a chill to thread across his shoulders. He shivered a little.
“Something wrong?” Jenni yelled as she rode ten feet away from him.
They stayed well apart so a single flesh-and-blood attacker couldn’t easily take them both out. Gangs were a different threat.
“I’m good,” Gant replied.
“You looked like something was wrong.”
“Hey, I’m not going to kill you,” Gant growled. “Don’t watch me. Keep your eyes on the streets.”
Jenni drifted a couple more feet away in response. Gant ignored that. He’d hurt her feelings, but she’d get over that. If they made it back to the train—when they made it back, he amended—she could yell at him then for being a jerk. In the meantime, his sharp words might save her life.
Noise attracted the living dead, pulled them from wherever they laid up, or from whatever compass point drew them across vast distances to wherever they ended up, and they searched for food.
Stalled vehicles filled the street. Gant passed a minivan that had wrecked into a building. A small group of young teenagers in baseball uniforms lay broken and dead.
They’d been on their way to a game that would never be played, or one that was already in the books. In the end, everybody had lost.
As he passed the minivan, a thump from within the vehicle startled him. He closed his left hand around the Taurus PT 92 9mm holstered under his right arm and pulled it free. He kept the motorcycle rolling and leaned away from the vehicle as he brought the pistol up.
The pallid gray face of an undead teenager pressed against one of the side windows. The corpse beat at the glass with clenched fists as its mouth opened wide. The eyes looked like glacial ice chips, cold and colorless and alien.
For a moment, Gant considered putting a round through the thing’s head and releasing it. Then he remembered that whoever had dwelled in that body was long gone. He pushed out a tense breath and holstered his weapon.
Self-consciously, he glanced at Jenni. She stared at him.
“I’m fine,” he said. “Keep your eyes on the streets.”
Gant twisted the throttle and shot ahead, forcing her to follow him as they rolled on into the dead city.