Judgment Day: Part 22

You know, I really should be editing these before I put them up.  But…oh well!  If you’re like me, you spiked your 6am coffee and now the world is strange and scary.


The further from DC, the more the traffic began to thin out. By the time 270 squeezed down to two lanes in either direction, things started to feel normal again. The abandoned cars were still there, as were the dead, but that wall of traffic, the frozen rush hour, was gone. Molly didn’t speak again until they were nearly upon the exit for Sugarloaf, and then it was an incongruous random comment. “It sure does get country pretty fast out here.”

Daryl couldn’t help but smile. Were they going on a picnic or fleeing a post-apocalyptic city?

State Route 109 led to Sugarloaf, and he pulled onto the empty exit ramp, slowing down. He was used to driving small cars and the shimmy of the van on the wet pavement spooked him. He was creeping along well before he hit the turn. The exit wrapped down and beneath the interstate, the rain stepping up slightly, but he still saw the 18 wheeler just fine and came to a skittering halt, glancing subconsciously in his mirror for fellow commuters following too close. Of course, there was nothing, but that solid moment of automatic response was beautiful. Instincts in command and the apocalypse forgotten.

Check your mirrors, watch for traffic, back off asshole, fuck, why are these people tailgating me?

Strange things happen in moments of tragedy. Strange thoughts. Daryl found himself wishing for some tailgating jackass to go into a skid and slam into him. Some cell phone jabbering asshole to get out and scream at him. A rainy day fender bender.

He looked back at the 18-wheeler. Another abandoned truck, but this one had stopped at the base of the exit ramp. Damned inconvenient. The only way to pass would be if he eased the van over the curb and onto the grass, which had been soaking nicely for a few days. He knew his little car would climb right into the mud and never get out. The van would probably be worse. He shifted to reverse and turned around in his seat. The other ramp would be clear.

Backing up onto what was usually a high-speed highway was a thrill, and he spun the wheel, eased across the narrow median, and then pumped the gas and went down the ramp on the opposite side, grinning at Molly. Then he saw another 18 wheeler blocking the ramp and he hit the brakes, the wheel jerking as the van slipped into a fishtail on the rain swept pavement. He eased off the breaks and tried to control the fishtail, but the van really was a different sort of beast. The rear hit the sidewall and metal screeched and growled as it raked along the concrete barrier. Daryl wrestled with the wheel for a moment and eased on the brakes again, trying not to panic. He brought the van to a stop about a foot from the rear of the truck.

Molly gripped the dashboard and looked over at Daryl with wide eyes.

“Sorry,” he muttered.

He looked at the truck. The rain was driving down now, everything silent except for a soft rumbling in the distance.

“Two trucks don’t add up.” Molly muttered.

Goddamnit, she was right, too. He threw the van into reverse again and backed up into the wall, then cursed under his breath. He fumbled with the gearshift, put it in drive, pulled forward and straightened himself out.

“Something’s wrong,” she mumbled to herself.

“I know something’s wrong!” he shouted back.

Daryl shifted back into reverse just as the rear doors of the truck burst open, two creatures hanging onto the back of each. He froze, the van in gear, and both he and Molly stared blankly back at them. Two more leapt out of the dark interior, one balanced perfectly on the retaining wall, slinking towards Daryl’s window, the other landing in the road and ran up beside Molly’s door. Daryl slammed onto the gas and the van reversed, crashing into the front of a police car that had slipped down the ramp behind him. Shaken, he looked in the mirror. Two grinning men stepped out of the squad car, one with a rifle and the other with a shotgun. They weren’t like the creatures. They were survivors.

“Oh, right.” Daryl barked, slamming the van into drive and hitting the gas pedal. The creature on the retaining wall launched itself onto the hood and dug broken fingers into the metal, but he quickly slid off onto the pavement. The other creatures spun away as Daryl scraped the side of the truck and bounced onto the grass.

With a shout, Molly produced the gun and started rolling down her window, but they were already past the creatures and onto the grass.

“Wait!” Daryl screamed.

The van dug down into the mud, then jerked and popped free, spinning crazily towards the road just as Molly leaned her head out the window. The gun went flying and she cracked the side of her head against the doorframe, falling back into the seat while Daryl tried to keep control. In the side mirrors, he glimpsed the creatures watching calmly while he spun onto the pavement of SR 109 and came to a rest, facing away from Sugarloaf, the van idling in the rain and Daryl’s hands shaking on the wheel. Then a gunshot shattered one of the side windows. It exploded inwards looked like something movie prop guys would put together. Daryl stared dumbly for a second, feeling like he was staring at a movie screen in front of him. Then everything closed in around him: the rain and shouting pouring through the window, Molly unmoving and his pulse pounding. He slammed on the gas and took off with screaming, spinning tires. Smoke and mud sprayed out in all directions for a few beats until the van lurched and sped off down the road. Two more gunshots fired in the distance, but they didn’t connect. At least, he didn’t notice anything as he pressed the gas pedal against the floor. The blacktop flew by, the countryside turning into a blur of speed and panic. Then, in his mirrors, he saw the police car, followed by the truck. The squad car was closing fast and, in the narrow column of speed, another shot rang out and his mirror was gone.

Daryl was hugging the double yellow line, screaming down the center of 109, the van edging up to 75, the engine roaring, smoke spilling out from the mud-covered undercarriage, the wheel shuddering in his hands. He didn’t know how to stop the thing on a wet road, afraid of the speed and what was behind him. In the passenger side mirror, the police car was on his bumper, the truck was a goliath in the near background. The van’s speedometer jumped off the little piece of plastic at the max mark, the engine an animal-like whine in his ears. Molly moaned softly and put a hand against the dashboard.

“You okay?” he shouted, his eyes glued to the road.

She didn’t reply. He reached out towards her, and then the wheel whipped out of his hand. The van jumped off the road and into a field, slicing through mud and water and leaping over a curb to come slamming into the side of a gas station island. Molly’s head whipped hard against the dashboard, then back, and he felt, momentarily, pinned in space by the seat belt.