Chapter 9- Part 2
The clip clop of Nellie's hooves on the road broke the silence. Indie let the horse go at her own pace. She'd chosen the mare due to her calm temperament. On high alert, Indie kept her eyes peeled, not only watching for undead but also animals. So she saw the shambling form in the distance before she heard it shuffle. Strangely the horse didn't seem fazed by the appearance. Indie frowned and decided to test a theory. If things went bad she could either shoot the zombie or kick Nellie into a faster pace and out run the thing. Flattening herself against the horse’s back, Indie let her amble along. As they grew closer, she watched the zombie pause. It was pretty decayed and the smell triggered Nellie to trot, then run as they went by. The zombie, which at one time might have been a woman, gazed at the horse with blank eyes, but it didn't freak out or grab at them. Once they were passed, Indie turned her head to watch the undead. It stopped in the road, weaving back and forth like a drunk, then slowly began moving forward.
Nellie whickered when Indie pulled her to a stop. As Indie debated if she should shoot the poor creature, Nellie danced to the side trying to put more distance between them. Suddenly a flash of yellow darted forward. Nellie neighed and reared as a mountain lion took the zombie down and dragged the struggling thing off the road. Shocked, Indie could only hold on as Nellie bolted. When the horse finally slowed, Indie shook her head, letting out a small laugh to relieve the tension in her chest. Reaching down she patted the horse’s neck. “Guess the DEC was wrong, huh girl?”
Surprisingly she didn't see any more zombies as she got closer to town.
At least moving ones. She saw several piles of what might have been human remains. Each time it sent a shiver over her skin and she forced Nellie to pick up the pace. As houses became more frequent, Indie shifted the rifle across her lap so it was easier to grab.
The sound of a shotgun blast then another in rapid secession startled her. Gun shots meant people, probably people in trouble. She wavered for a moment, unsure if she should ride to the rescue or bolt back the way she came. Her ingrained sense to do what was right won out and she turned Nellie toward the shots. As she turned the corner, Indie came upon a weird sight. Three zombies stood around a truck trying to grab a man who stood on the top of the cab. He swung his shotgun like a baseball bat, trying to hit the zombie on the driver side with the stock.
Several more putrid bodies lay on the ground, skulls destroyed. Stopping Nellie, Indie swung her rifle around and trained the sight on the driver side zombie. Pulling the trigger, she watched gore splatter over the truck as it fell to the ground. The guy looked over and gave a grateful wave as she turned to the other two. Dropping one, then sighting in the other, it turned toward her and she almost dropped the gun. Todd snarled, his face contorted with rage, and made another swipe for the man on the roof. Sweet, fun loving Todd, the guy who called her Baby and who she'd broken up with, was now one of those things.
“It's not whoever you think it is!”
Indie snapped back, swallowing the lump in her throat she pulled the trigger. His head snapped to the side, smashing into the side mirror as he fell to the ground. She drew a deep breath, willing herself not to cry. She could do that later.
“Thanks for your help.” The guy climbed down off the roof into the bed of the truck. “I see you got over your aversion to killing them.”
Indie shook her head. “I'm sorry, do I know you?”
“I ran into you and your boyfriend looting the grocery store.”
Bring Nellie closer, she recognized the guy. “Right. The computer virus guy.”
He chuckled. “Been called worst. Names Regis Hunter. Doctor Hunter.”
Indie held up her hand. “You are totally messing up my stereotypes. Anyway, my name’s Indie, Indiana.”
“So Indie, where's your boyfriend? It's kind of dangerous for anyone to be alone out here.”
“He's around. So Doctor, what can you tell me about these things?” She gestured to the ground.
Regis nodded. “I'd be happy to share my knowledge, but do you think we could go somewhere less smelly?”
Indie gestured for him to lead on. Regis leaped out of the truck, skirted the bodies, and headed out of the parking lot. With one last quick glance toward Todd, she jerked Nellie after Regis.
“Who was he?” Regis asked when she caught up.
“The zombie. You had no problem with the first two, but hesitated on the third so I assume you knew him.”
“Bet that was cathartic.”
“Not really. He was a good guy, we just didn't work.”
“What are you, a shrink?”
He laughed. “No, plastic surgeon. I was just curious.”
“Not much call for that up here is there?”
“No, I worked in New York City and had a vacation house up here. When things went south, I figured it'd be safer up here.”
“Tell me about the zombies.”
“It's a virus. Like I told you, it takes over, makes the victim sick and kills them. It brings the body back to life, such as it is, with the whole purpose to infect others. It's not like the movies. They aren't trying to eat your flesh. At least at first they just seemed to want to infect people. One bite and you'll get sick. You have maybe a week or two. Two to three bites will halve that time, and the more bites you get, the quicker the virus works. But now they seem to be getting more violent. Something's changing, the virus may possibly be mutating.”
“How do they know who's already infected and who's not?”
“Smell, I think. I've been studying them, but there's still a lot I don't know. I can say that the older they get, the less they can sense. The virus seemed to speed up decomposition, originally.” He stopped and leaned up against a Land Rover. “Did you see the mess on your way into town?”
Indie nodded. “I was wondering about that.”
“Yeah who ever made this virus wanted an end date. They wanted to weaken the world. It wasn't just us who were hit, and I don't think they counted on air travel. Shortly after things went crazy here, other countries started to get sick. People travel, I don't think the terrorists counted on people traveling so fast or while sick. I don't think they counted on the mutation, either.”
Indie leaned on her pummel. “Are you saying this backfired and spread where it wasn't supposed to? Then it mutated into something else once it was out?”
Regis nodded, “It's worldwide and everything’s gone down. If there were countries still up and running then the internet would still be going even if it was in Russian. But it's dead. Everything’s dead. And the things that came back are changing. That's the problem with viruses they are always mutating.”
Indie sat up, starting to get a little creeped out. “How are they changing?”
“Like I said their attacks have been more violent, not just spreading the virus but killing people. Mutilating them.”
Indie suppressed a shiver remembering Evie. “Well Doc, thanks for the info, I should find my boyfriend and hunker down for the night.” She tapped the radio on her waist. “We're using channel eighteen if you need to contact us. Are you going to be okay?”
Regis nodded. “Yeah. Be careful, it's dangerous.”
“Will do.” Indie kicked Nellie back the way she came, rolling things over in her head.