Josh Benton loved speeding down Turtle Pond Parkway at three in the morning. He had the convertible top down and drove with one hand on the wheel and the other curled around the handle of a baseball bat. He stared down the road where his headlights pushed back the dark.
He was looking for Zoombies.
Nobody was really sure where they’d come from, these creatures who jerked people out of their cars. They ran around oozing brown puss from every opening in their bodies. They were lanky and smelled like horse droppings.
Usually you thought of your average zombie as slow and slobbering. But not these babies. They came in gangs and ran up to your car as you slowed for a turn. They ripped open the door and pulled you out. Or they peeled your roof and reached inside. They threw you onto the road and started biting until you passed out. When you woke up, Presto! You’re a Zoombie too.
Josh tightened his grip on the bat. He saw some kind of white smudge moving down the road ahead of his lights. He sped up.
Everyone figured that Armageddon would bring mushroom clouds and nuclear winter. No one imagined a weapon that toppled buildings but left cars and roads intact. No one was prepared for that kind of attack, or the armies of flesh-hungry ghouls roaming the streets in the aftermath. Some hunted them down like the animals they were. Others, too broken by the attack, let the Zoombies take them.
It was all about the oil companies, Veronica told him. Disaster was good for business. It drove up gas prices. That’s the only reason there was any gas left, she said. Somewhere, someone was making a killing.
Josh grimaced. Make love to a chick once and she wants to explain the whole world to you. Whoever was making a killing, he thought, it wasn’t him.
Josh hugged the curves and let the engine’s torque pull him along. He was trying to keep up with whatever was moving beyond him down the road.
Veronica had a lot to say about a lot of things. First it was solving the problems of the world. Then it was her family and how her mother was driving her crazy. She eventually got around to Josh. She never tired of that subject. It exhausted him, all her constructive criticism about how he should do this or do that, how he needed to open up to her, how she wasn’t trying to tell him what to do. She never shut up.
Josh slowed the car. The white mist beyond his headlights grew brighter, moving back toward him. It broke into the glow of his high beams in a lanky, stinking mass of churning arms and legs.
Zoombies. He hit the brakes and fishtailed the car so he was facing the way he came. He popped the trunk and hopped out, bat in hand, scampering around to the rear. He put down the bat and reached into the trunk and hoisted hog-tied Veronica out. He dropped her to the ground and put a knee to her back and pulled on the knot at her wrist. Her legs fell back and her arms came free. He pulled the handkerchief gag off her head and stood back, picking up the bat. She sputtered into action, scrambling to her feet and taking a swing at him.
“You crazy…” she said, missing badly. He swung the bat and hit her on the knee and she gasped and crumpled to the asphalt.
Josh vaulted over her and into the car. The Zoombies were close, very close. He could taste the sour stink of horse manure. He slammed the car into drive and stomped on the accelerator. A hand grabbed at his neck and he swung the bat blindly. Turning, he saw Veronica, bleeding, tumbling off the car like a drunken gymnast, landing with her legs splayed, bouncing on the road once, twice.
Then they were on her, a swarming white mass engulfing her like a collective blob. In the rearview Josh saw her eyes, wide and accusing, and her mouth open in a silent scream. Then she was gone. Josh sped on, driving back to the dilapidated shelter he used as a home. He checked himself over for scratches and bites. Nothing. He double-checked the door and windows, then climbed into bed and fell quickly into a deep, untroubled sleep.
A month later, Josh Benton was driving down Turtle Pond Parkway again. Life had taken a predictable turn since the night Veronica disappeared. He’d met a new girl. She would be good for him, she said. Everybody needed somebody. Besides, she teased him, he was such a sad sack. He must have a lot of sad stories to tell. She would coax them out of him. She would get him to open up.
Josh Benton loved driving down Turtle Pond Parkway in the early morning. Something about the moonlight made all things seem possible. He drove with one hand on the wheel and tried tuning in a station with his free hand. Nothing, of course. There hadn’t been anything since the attack. Josh chuckled. She was a real winner, all right, this new girl. If anyone could straighten him out, it’d be her. Or so she said.
A dull thump came from the rear tire well. Could be the road, Josh thought. But then a series of thumps erupted, each louder than the next. Josh grabbed the baseball bat on the seat beside him.
Soon, he thought, soon he would open up the trunk. For now he was content to zoom along, staring down the dark road for the first sign of the white smudge that would be his deliverance.
Copyright: © 2009 Robert Meade
Copyright: © 2009 Robert Meade
----------------------------------Robert Meade is a transplanted Bostonian now firmly rooted in Mohegan Lake, in Westchester County, NY, with his wife and three children. He teaches at Loyola School in Manhattan. He won the Wordweaving Award for Excellence for his book, Daily Bread: Seven Days to aHealthier Soul. A published author of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, his recent work has appeared in Angels on Earth magazine and online at Guideposts and Apollo’s Lyre.