July 12th 2133 hours
We watched the damn thing for most of the evening. Whether it came on during the day or later in the night spurred a lot of debate among my little roving band of vindicators. Lights couldn’t just come on by themselves, we all knew that. But we all also knew what every other city we came upon looked like; devoid of life—except for birds, the dead couldn’t catch birds.
But there it was, glimmering against the horizon like a beacon of hope. We all knew what it was, but my soldiers knew better than to ponder on such naďve dreams of civilization. My people were warriors.
Anyway, we topped a plateau overlooking a river valley. I’d set the course myself, we were in dire need of water—we hadn’t seen the slightest spattering of liquid since we left the boiling Atlantic behind. Systematically, we worked our way across the country, marking dried rivers and empty ponds off my ancient map. Long ago, my ancestors embarked on a journey such as ours. This was our Trail of Tears, except thirst and the walking dead, not soldiers, drove us.
Gordy let loose a howl of triumph when he first looked over the hill’s peak. I mistook it for an attack sign and ordered the unit into formation—back to back in a large circle; we didn’t need cover for fighting the undead.
“Water! I see water!”
Suspicious, I sent Max to confirm Gordy’s report. I trusted Max, she wasn’t given to delusions, and if she saw water, there was water. Some of my people grew delirious on the march and imagined things. Only Max and I remained grounded to reality, most of the time anyway.
Max nodded and moved toward Gordy. She crouched and stepped quickly, always alert for the dead, just how I trained her.
When she moved out of earshot, I heard Majowski mumble something. I had to suppress a smile. Boys will be boys, but colonels must be leaders. “What did you say?”
“Colonel?” His eyes looked scared. And why not? If Max had heard his comment, she might’ve cut his tongue out.
“Zip it,” I ordered. Those men who chose to follow me were loyal. They’d never question my authority. They remembered Burgess’s bloody, beaten body strung up against the brick wall on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, hanging there with the scent of blood all around him, a treat for the enemy. When I gave an order, it was to be followed.
I could hardly blame Majowski though, with the way Max dressed it was a wonder she wasn’t harassed all the time. But I think the men feared her as much as they feared me.
“Affirmative, Colonel. A river two clicks west.” Max said. She’d wrapped her arm around Gordy’s throat to shut him up. The dead weren’t very bright, but even a mindless thing could follow sound.
“Roughriders, move out!” I motioned them forward with my rifle. I had adopted the name, ‘Roughriders’ because that was exactly what we were. Maybe the only combat unit left intact in the entire United States. We earned the right to carry that name.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7