(PG-13 - violence)
Two figures lay still in the shrubs and grass. The moon hung in the night sky and lit up the field. The dark clothing the two wore made it hard to spot them in the tree shadows they rested within.
It was at the twenty-four hour awake mark that things started to feel off. Out of sync. He could feel it walking here. Feel of his extremities. He made a fist and squeezed hard as he tried to roll his shoulders as best he could from his position on the ground. His eyes burned and his body felt heavy and drugged. He blinked hard and rolled both shoulders again – trying to fight off the fatigue. Twenty years ago, none of this would have bothered him. Mark would have rolled through the night without blinking. Two nights would barely affect him. But now…
“Two more – there by the oak.” The woman’s voice was low and soft in his ear as the ear piece sat snug within it. “I still think this is a bad idea. What happened to watching out for ourselves here?” He could hear the fear in her voice even through the earpiece. She used the throat mic and kept the chatter down, laying not two feet away from him in the tall grass of the field.
Mark watched as their target became harder and harder to reach. The school bus rocked back and forth in the darkness of the field as those on board screamed - their attackers continuing to surround them. The walking dead stumbling and darting around the bus trying to get their prey within. He eyed the scene as the riders pushed on the doors from the inside and the attackers pushed from the outside. Stalemate so far, but that wouldn’t last long. Why had they kept the lights on inside? It looked like a buffet for the dead.
A rustling came from behind Mark and Linda and they went still and quiet.
Linda turned her head slowly as not to draw any attention to herself. She knew what was there, she just didn’t want to see it.
Stumbling forward, the dead woman that approached them looked confused and somewhat sad. She knew the look well now. It was different than when they saw something they hungered for. Linda summed her up quickly. She was a fresh one which meant she would be a fast one. If she spotted them, they wouldn’t have long to react. She had all her limbs and that meant she was going to be a handful. Linda whispered, “Have one. Right. Fresh.” They kept the chatter down.
Mark narrowed his eyes and remained still, his eyes locked on the destination ahead of them. “Ok...we need to do this now if we’re going to. Vote it.”
Linda spoke first. “No. There’s no exit.” She kept her eye on the fresh corpse as it stumbled closer, then turned and shambled away towards the bus to join the others. “We have a dead bus. I count fifteen people on board. They aren’t moving, right? Why? They are out of gas or stuck, right? What are we going to do with fifteen mother fucking civies?”
Ken’s voice crackled over the earpiece. “Afirm. We get there, do a spray down, then have fifteen frightened people screaming about every dead thing we see. Might as well strap flares to our fucking foreheads. I say we take a pass.”
“And those people?” Mark eyed the bus and tried to keep his head clear.
“They join the casualty count, man.” Linda pulled herself closer to Mark and looked into his eyes.
Mark stared back and saw the fear slipping in around the edges of Linda’s gaze. “We can’t save everybody. We’re miles from camp. We going to load fifteen people in the jeep?”
They were both right, of course. This was a “no win”. They could clear the dead from around the bus and buy the occupants some time, but then what? They’d be down ammo and the bus occupants would be out in the open with no weapons and nowhere to go.
Mark let his head drop, then glanced back to Linda. He whispered, “No go. Ken, climb out of your tree and let’s roll.”
The bus was a mess. The screaming passengers drew more and more attention from the corpses around them. Fresh meat ran to them while the rotts ambled up and joined their ranks. A few people held the front doors shut while others kicked and batted at the dead that had managed to break the buses back door windows. Then, the rest screamed and cried in the center - useless.
Mark frowned and motioned for Linda to get up and move out. The two of them climbed to their feet, then crouch walked away slowly as not to draw attention.
Something sprinted at them through the darkness. At first, Linda thought it was Ken fucking around. Then she saw the missing arm and exposed teeth as the corpse hissed out of the dark.
“Shit!” Linda dropped. “GOT ONE!”
Mark drew his gun as the Thing’s head burst open like a mellon. A spray of gore, blood and bone shot from the right side of the Thing’s head. It ran forward a few steps, stumbled and dropped as Mark’s round struck it’s chest.
Ken stood and shouldered the sniper rifle. “That’s twenty-two.”
Linda let out her breath as Mark nodded towards the road.
Ken waited a moment, looking back at the screaming passengers. “We sure?”
Linda whispered, “I am.”
Mark frowned. “You have any ideas? Make this a win?”
Ken stared at the bus as Mark and Linda scanned the area.
The bus was swarming now. Fresh dead ran around the bus and pounded the sides. Screams called out in the dark as the moon illuminated the scene.
Ken crossed himself. “Fuck no.”
“Come on. Let’s get the fuck out of here.” Linda made her way to the jeep with Mark and Ken behind her.
They didn’t look back.
( edit notes - Carrie Glassmeyer Thank you! )