Zombies - A Love Story Ch. 12byAsylumSeeker©
Caria woke up before Zack the next morning. As he stirred he watched her moving with a sense of purpose he'd never seen before. He realized after observing her for several minutes that she was excited about what the day ahead might hold for them. Apparently the thought that they very well might reach Survivor City had filled her with an enthusiasm he had yet to witness.
She disappeared into the bathroom lugging a heavy five-gallon plastic bottle of water with both hands. He guessed that she'd filled it up at the stream she and Teddy had visited several times the previous day. The sound of splashing water could be heard as she bathed the best that she could given their current circumstances.
He closed his eyes and tried to go back to sleep knowing that the trip would be a short one. When they reopened she left the bathroom, her long hair and body freshly washed.
"There's a bottle for you too," she said as her legs intentionally bumped the side of the bed in a gesture intended to get him moving.
Zack sighed, rolled onto his stomach and held the pillow over the back of his head. "It's only two hours away. There isn't any rush, you know," his muffled protests sounded.
"Come on. This is the first time in weeks, maybe even months, I've had a reason to be excited. So please don't be selfish on today of all days," Caria complained.
Upon hearing the word "selfish" being used Zack drove himself to get up, but he did so in stages, first sitting up and yawning. Then he scooted to the edge closest to the bathroom and sat there rubbing the sleep from his eyes. As he watched her carrying things out to the trailer he finally stood, saw the full bottle of water near where Teddy and his food and water were located, and picked it up. Then he made his way to the bathroom.
He felt much more alive and enthusiastic about the upcoming trip after getting himself clean and fresh-smelling once more. By this time Caria was pacing the room looking for something, anything, to do. However it appeared that everything was ready to go except for lifting the generator and getting it secured to the trailer, which he did.
"Thanks for bringing the water up, it's nice feeling like I'm a human and not a zombie," he politely thanked her.
"Trust me," she teased as she held her nose closed in a playful gesture, "I did it for me."
Zack double-checked the dresser drawers and closet just to be sure nothing of value had been inadvertently overlooked. "Okay, well it looks like we're ready. Grab Teddy and get inside and we can get started."
Before sitting behind the wheel Zack pulled on the gun belt and made sure that his assault rifle was within arm's reach.
"We'll be passing several towns," Zack spoke up as they drove west on the lonely highway. "I stopped and checked on the gas level of the stations that I saw, which were empty, but there might be some stores off the highway that might still have something useful in them."
Caria turned and looked at him. "What do we really need? I mean we probably have enough food to last us a week, and there are still about a dozen twenty-four packs of water bottles left. Is there anything in particular that you're looking for?"
He didn't want to seem overly cautious but he did explain his reasoning. "I was thinking of maybe picking up a telescope and a pair of walkie-talkies," he admitted. "The motel I picked out is three stories tall. I should be able to find some stairs or a ladder to access the roof. As flat as it is around here I might be able to see several miles, maybe further. I'd be interested to lay low this afternoon after we get settled, hide the SUV and the trailer, and just see what kind of activity that might present itself."
A concerned expression appeared on her cute face. "Do you think we really might be that close?"
He shrugged his shoulders uncertainly.
"Why the walkie-talkies?" she asked.
"Because I don't want any surprises, that's why," he told her. "I'll be defenseless standing at the station topping off the SUV and gas cans. With all the noise the generator makes somebody could see me and catch me off-guard. I'll need your help. I'll have you keep an eye out for me from up there and warn me in case anybody drives down the highway. I'm not sure how close we are to this Survivor City because it's not on any map, you know? This town where you'll be staying at could be a regular looting stop for them. We can't be too careful from this point forward."
She was visibly impressed. "Wow, you're thinking of everything. How did a guy like you get so smart about things like surviving?"
He smiled appreciatively, hugged her slender waist and kissed her forehead. "By 'wasting my life playing video games'," he answered, quoting the words his mom always used when she saw him playing his zombie and any other of his games.
"I wouldn't hold too much of a grudge against her," Caria suggested. "It's not like anybody knew that this was going to happen. It's a lucky break for me, though."
"It's a lucky break for us all."
After driving for roughly twenty-five miles they encountered the next town. There were exits for others but they were distant from the highway and Zack was reluctant to get too far off-track. He knew he had a supply of gas waiting for him where they'd be stopping at the motel and that was good enough for him for the moment.
"There's room on the trailer so if you happen to see any gas cans grab them, something tells me the closer we get to this Survivor City the more difficult it will be to find," Zack instructed as he left the highway by way of the only exit.
The small town had an even smaller business district as they looked for some type of a department store that might have what they were looking for, but nothing appeared to offer what they needed. Instead, following a hunch, Zack drove back to the larger of the two gas stations, one of which was a truck stop. As he pulled off the road into the parking lot Caria gave him a curious look.
Even before she could ask he explained, "I only checked the tanks, not the store. Sometimes these truck stops have all kinds of things, walkie-talkies included. If nothing else we do have a pair of binoculars I picked up at that sporting goods store along with the winter clothing. Not as handy as a telescope but better than nothing."
Zack checked out the store as Caria walked in a grassy clearing beside the parking lot, shotgun in one hand as she protectively watched Teddy sniffing for an acceptable please to leave a deposit. He opened the front door several times and tossed out four more red plastic five-gallon gas cans and continued his search. After the dog finished his business Caria picked up the cans and placed them on the trailer, leaving it to Zack to strap them down.
When he finally emerged she called out, "Any luck?"
He returned, "Not with a telescope but I did find the walkie-talkies and a supply of batteries. This is good enough, we won't have to stop to search anymore."
"That's great news," she said as he grew closer. "I can't wait to get there."
He smiled and leaned in for a brief kiss. "I know, and I don't blame you. It is exciting. We just have to play it smart, that's all."
She nodded in complete agreement.
Caria was content watching the passing scenery as if memorizing it for future reference, even the road signs indicating the names of the towns they passed by. He smiled to himself as she looked like a kid on Christmas morning looking at all of the presents wondering what they contained. It was cute, he decided, and he didn't spoil her intense excitement with idle chatter.
"How much further"" she asked without looking at him.
Zack glanced down at the trip odometer which he'd thought to reset before they'd left that morning. "Another twenty eight miles, give or take. We made that one stop, so maybe thirty miles left, I'm not entirely sure."
"This waiting is driving me crazy!" she complained as she squirmed in her seat and looked out the passenger side window. Turning to face him she shared, "I really have a good feeling about this, Zack. I think there is a Survivor City and that they're nice people. But we have to be careful too, I'm not saying anything different about that. Teddy looks so happy too."
He briefly glanced at Teddy who was standing with his hind legs on Caria's right thigh continually jumping up to steal glances out of the same window as she was looking out of. She picked him up, held him above the door level and they watched together. It was a touching sight to see them getting along so well. It was as if they'd always been intended to be together, just like Caria and Zack had been destined to meet.
Forty minutes later Zack exited the highway and drove to the motel. Instead of parking out front he continued beyond the front and pulled around back on the far side. They passed by several green dumpsters and parked in front of a service entrance, leaving the SUV and trailer out of sight. Behind the motel was nothing but a large meadow, the closest neighborhood little more than a mile away. He felt confident that they'd be safe here.
After getting out they stretched and Teddy ran to the edge of the grass to make another deposit. Zack reached behind his seat and grabbed a green ammo box he'd stumbled across at an army surplus store. At one time it held a two-hundred round belt of M60 machinegun ammo, but now he used it to store a dozen loaded thirty-round banana clips for the assault rifle and a few boxes of loose rounds. His sense of self preservation had grown in recent days and he wanted to be prepared.
Caria frowned when she saw what he was doing. "Is this really necessary?"
He looked up as he hoisted the heavy load, his free hand clutching the rifle. "I honestly hope not, but I'm not taking any chances."
"Zack, you're scaring me."
"Good," he barked back at her like a drill sergeant as he moved his face to within inches of hers. "Scared is a good thing when you don't know what you're getting yourself into. Makes you think twice before doing anything."
This nearly brought her to tears, but Teddy came to her defense and began complaining too. Yap-yap-yap! Yap-yap!
A guilty expression crossed his face. "I'm sorry, but we need to be scared. We have to be careful. And most of all we have to know what we're getting ourselves into before proceeding forward. I hope like hell that I'm overreacting. Maybe it's the zombie game that has me so on edge, I don't know. I love all of you and I want to be sure that I don't get anyone hurt or killed, okay? This is a burden I never imagined would be placed on my shoulders and I'm doing the very best I can!"
She wiped a few tears as they ran down her cheeks. "Okay, I get it! Damn!"
He handed her one of the two keys he'd grabbed off the pegboard the previous day. "We're in two-oh-seven, just like the number stamped on the key. Go on up, I'll bring along what we'll need."
"I may be pregnant but I'm not fucking helpless!" she called out, her anger evident as she lifted a box of water off the trailer.
Zack sighed. "Caria, I'm -"
"A jackass!" she finished his statement.
"Yeah, a jackass," he muttered under his breath as she stormed off headed for the stairs, her attractive ass swaying unintentionally seductively from side to side. "A jackass that's totally in love with you and the baby you're carrying."
Caria returned to the trailer a few times to make her point, even if it was only to make an appearance and locate a few items to carry upstairs they had no real need for. She avoided him as much as she could. Once they'd moved what they'd need into the room Zack picked up his rifle, the ammo box, and the binoculars.
"I'll be on the roof," he informed her. "You should be safe but keep the shotgun close at hand just in case."
She was sitting on the far side of the bed looking away from him but nodded her acknowledgement of his statement.
"Look, I -"
When she made a finger gesture he stopped talking and left the room in a huff.
It didn't take long to find a way to the roof. All one had to do was to follow the signs advertising access points for firefighters. The next thing he knew Zack was on the flat black-topped surface walking towards the front of the motel, a soft crunching sound accompanying each step. He could see for miles unassisted by any visual devices, but the binoculars extended that range appreciably.
He sat down behind a waist-high ledge, raised the binoculars to his eyes, and kept a lookout along the highway. His eyes shifted from east to west. He waited there patiently for over an hour when he heard an engine approaching from the east in the early afternoon. He bided his time and watched until a pickup truck came into view with two occupants, both of them men. It used the same exit he had but instead of turning right towards the motel it turned left toward the gas stations. He curiously watched as the events unfolded.
Just as Zack had the previous day they stopped at the closest station, got out, and checked the tanks. Finding them dry they spray-painted a red X over the covers as a reminder that these were empty. Then they got back inside the truck, drove over the median separating the north and southbound lanes, and stopped at the next station. Finding those drained as well the red X's were sprayed once more. With their eyes set on the third station a few hundred yards further south they continued their search.
"Oh no, damn, I was counting on using that for us," he murmured under his breath as he watched the two men celebrating their find by slapping their hands together in a "high-five" gesture.
One of them grabbed a coiled hose and uncoiled it. The other straightened a long, thin stiff steel wire of some type. After feeding the wire through the hose they hooked it onto the bottom of what appeared to be a cork. As one held onto the hose the other one pulled the cork through it to the bottom. There was another similar wire attached to the other side of the cork. After using the first wire to pull the cork through the hose it was detached.
They fed the hose into the tank that still contained a small amount of fuel. As one knelt at the opening and held the hose in place, the other man pulled on the wire and slowly drew the cork, with gas following behind it, through the hose. Once the cork was pulled completely through the gas started flowing out. The man used his thumb to block the flow and leaned over one side of the bed, filling up tanks that Zack couldn't see. After topping off the truck's tank the one guy on his knees pulled the hose back up.
"Very clever," Zack whispered to himself.
Afterwards the two men searched through the convenience store and left carrying a few bags of snacks. They got back into the truck headed towards the highway as the passenger reached out of the open window and began randomly firing a pistol. The sound of shattering glass could be heard along with faint, rowdy laughter. They headed west by driving up the eastbound exit and over the median.
They didn't appear to take much gas, maybe thirty or forty gallons, Zack thought to himself. There still might be enough for us.
Zack was so engrossed in what was happening that he didn't hear Caria approaching from behind several minutes later.
"I'm sorry," she apologized. "I thought you were being mean. I had no idea..."
Initially startled he turned and saw her standing there with a guilty look on her face.
Still stinging from what she'd earlier said he returned his attention to the highway. "That's okay."
Caria frowned and then closed the distance between them. She sat down beside him as he made a point of avoiding eye contact, a gesture which weighed heavily on her heart. Her hands reached out and gently grasped his left forearm.
"When I heard the gunshots I was so afraid I'd lost you," she told him as she began crying. "Zack, I can't lose you, not ever. You're my whole life. I wouldn't know what to do or where to go."
Her words and weeping softened his heart and he turned to face her. Zack briefly gazed into her glistening eyes as his arms hugged her against his chest.
"Is Teddy okay?" he asked.
She nodded. "I left him in the room. I didn't know what was happening. Where did the shots come from?"
"A couple of guys tapped the station tank I had my eye on, and on the way out they shot out some windows... just because it looked like fun to them I guess," he explained. "You forgot your shotgun, not a good idea when you hear gunfire."
"Yeah, I know. I'm not a very good survivor, am I?"
"You're still here, right?" he disagreed with her low self-assessment. "We're a team, the three of us. We're doing just fine so far. We're almost there, we're so close. We just need to be careful, okay?"
"I was being selfish," she admitted to her earlier meltdown. "I didn't mean to upset you."
They shared a few kisses as they made up.
Zack finally suggested, "Better go back downstairs and calm Teddy, he's probably scared too. I'll be down shortly if I don't see anything else."
Zack had left the generator on the trailer knowing he'd be needing it to power the electric pump to extract any remaining fuel and didn't want to lug it up to the second floor only to have to haul it back down again just a few hours later. Therefore when they got hungry they ate an early dinner consisting of beef jerky, dried fruit, and canned peaches.
"Fresh food is sounding better and better," Caria admitted between bites as she referred to the inviting message that they'd heard earlier on the radio.
He nodded his agreement as he tore into a large piece of jerky. Getting up from the table he dug into a bag and pulled out the boxed set of two walkie-talkies and the batteries, preparing them for use.
"I figure the best is as the sun's setting," he decided. "Won't be light, but it won't be dark either. If anybody's heading west they'll be blinded by the sun and will have a harder time seeing me. Doesn't appear to be anyone heading east as far as I can see."
"Was it just the one truck?"
He nodded. "Yeah, just the one. I'm hoping there's enough gas left for us. I don't know how many might have used it since yesterday afternoon, but we'll find out soon enough."
After dinner they tested the walkie-talkies. She stepped outside and walked a few rooms down and they did a quick radio check. Both of the units transmitted and received.
"Box says they have a three-mile range, more than what we need, and it's a direct line of sight so there shouldn't be any interference," Zack said. "I really think this is unnecessary but I don't want to get careless either. All we have to do now is to wait."
As the sinking sun approached the horizon it took on an orange hue. Zack gestured to Caria and they grabbed what they needed. Kissing once more they parted ways, her heading to the roof as he walked downstairs to the SUV. Getting behind the wheel it revved to life and he drove the short distance to the station and pulled off what he needed to set about the routine task of extracting the vital gas required for their westward journey.
Before starting the generator he requested a radio check, just to be on the safe side.
"Roger that Zack, I hear you five-by-five," she answered back with a giggle as she'd just learned that from him earlier and it tickled her to say it.
Reassured that they had good communications he placed his complete trust in her hands and set about gathering the precious resource. Starting with the new red plastic five-gallon cans they'd picked up at the truck stop earlier he filled these before the SUV's tank, and next topped off the generator as it was still running along with the existing bottles that were still mostly full anyway.