So I had this story up. I liked it at first but struggled when I hit later Chapters. I went through and edited some of the story. Added some details, took out some characters, that kind of thing. Please read through and review. I hope to have Chapter 17 up sometime tomorrow. To the ones that have followed/favorited this story so far - Thank you! It means a lot to me.
The gravel crunches softly beneath the tires as the hunter green Jeep Cherokee came to a slow stop on the side of the abandoned highway. In the silence, Autumn Jones can hear the hot, Georgian wind rustle the leaves. I lazily turn my exhausted emerald eyes to the rearview mirror. A sleeping teenage boy with light brown hair is sprawled out in the cargo area. He doesn't even move as I shut the engine off. A warm, clammy hand covers mine and turns my attention to the tall, lanky man seated next to me.
"You guys stay put." Jameson Bennett lazily motions to the sleeping form. "I don't need any of your vigilante BS. Knowing how you operate, you'll shoot one of us instead of the dead." He chuckles as he kicks open his door slowly and pulls out the small handgun he had in the seat beside him. His brother joins him from the backseat.
Jimmy and Isaiah are polar opposites. Isaiah is 27 years old, medium build with a long brown beard and light brown shaggy hair. He's at home in nature. He's taught my son Eli. how to hunt, fish and clean whatever they come up with. His signature camouflage baseball cap perched on his head. Jimmy is 30 years old, tall and lanky. He has gentle gray eyes and dirty blond hair that he keeps short. He used to be a high school English teacher. He often helps with Eli's lessons.
This trip has been beyond difficult. No one has been lost luckily. I'm not even sure why I insisted on traveling across country like this. Thomas may not even be alive at this point. I'm struggling to maintain my sanity while thinking of all the horrific possibilities. At first, no one wanted to join my apocalyptic road trip. Hell, half the time I questioned this trip more than anyone. I found myself wondering if this suicide mission was just something to do; something that kept me occupied while the world went to hell.
Shortly after the news reports of people falling to this illness and attacking others, I talked to Tommy. He tried to reassure me that Atlanta was a safe zone. Then the reports worsened. Entire neighborhoods fell to mass panic and whatever the disease was; it spread like wildfire. Eventually the newscasts and radio stories stopped coming. There was just an eerie silence.
My ex, Mason Callahan and his wife, Rachel moved to my little hometown over a year before the dead rose. We happily shared joint custody of Eli. Convincing Mason and Rachel to join this little trip had been particularly difficult. We argued for at least three weeks before Mason agreed. My next door neighbors Jimmy and Isaiah volunteered to join us after they had lost their older brother to the disease early on. Jimmy's been my best friend since grade school. He's someone I can lean on for support, even when my insane ideas could lead to major trouble.
We take turns sleeping & watching for the Dead. We haven't seen another moving vehicle since the trip started. Jimmy has kept the routes creative; stopping often, moving only during the day so that we attracted the least amount of attention. We scavenged for food and supplies in small towns and forests. Chicago roads were impassable. After passing several highway graveyards, we decided to keep to the back roads. Weeks of struggling on the road and we were now several miles outside of Atlanta.
Mason, Jimmy and Isaiah head slowly down the sloping shoulder to the line of trees a few feet away. I lay my head back and enjoy the peace while waiting for them to return. This trip has been exhausting and my intense need to keep moving didn't help. The group needs a break, sometime to relax and have human moments. My eye lids are growing heavy when the guys return. They had found a place, just ahead. We moved the vehicles off the road, into the trees and pulled into an open clearing.
When camp is set up at last, Mason builds a low fire that everyone gathers around. It is a peaceful night. No Dead attacks. We even enjoy when Jimmy breaks out his guitar and plays. It feels good to have moments like this, moments when reality is a distant pain, moments where it doesn't seem so bleak. They are rare and precious.
Rachel and I agree to drive in the morning if the guys take shifts watching the camp overnight. I head to the large tent I share with Eli. Sleep doesn't come easily. I lie awake in my tent, staring through the window at the sky. The quiet night outside the tent doesn't help me fall asleep. It's not necessarily the quiet; it's the reason behind the quiet. It's almost suffocating. Out here, the reality of what causes that quiet and stillness lingers in the air, it creeps over you and even the cold doesn't make you shiver like that.
As the sun rises over the trees, I abandon my attempt to sleep all together. After Eli wakes up and joins Isaiah for a small gathering trip, I set to work on tearing down camp with Jimmy. I want to get back on the road and have no interest in breakfast or anything else that will delay us. Rachel busies herself making breakfast I help Mason and Jimmy load everything into the two vehicles. Rachel is a meek woman. I have doubts about Rachel's mental state during this trip. We are about the same height Rachel was skin and bones compared to my curvy frame. Rachel has soft brown eyes and long reddish brown hair. She has been great for Mason; helped him calm down quite a bit. She's also taken in Eli as if he were her own child. She never stepped on my toes or intrudes. We aren't close by any means but there is no animosity or awkwardness.
As I close the trunk of Masons' Chevy Lumina, a blaring sound echoes through the trees. Jimmy and I freeze momentarily at the sound of a car horn before creeping up toward the road to investigate. A red sports car flies by our hiding spot in the brush. It rounds a curve and disappears from view, the sound still bouncing around the campsite. Mason joins us.
"What is going on out here?" growls Mason through his teeth.
"Some red car flew by with an alarm blaring. We better move and fast. That's gonna wake the Dead. Looks like breakfast is take out this morning." Jimmy pulls my arm trying to get me to return to camp.
"We should follow that guy?" I whisper. The guys shoot me a puzzled look.
"Did you hit your head? Are you insane?" Jimmy almost yells. "He could be just as dangerous as he is stupid."
"Yeah but we're headed that way anyway, maybe he is staying around here. Or at the very least we can ensure sure that the road ahead is clear, we will hear that guy without having to see him." I argue as we make our way back toward camp. We step carefully through the trees trying to ensure our presence goes unnoticed by whatever may be hiding in the woods.
When we return to camp, Isaiah and Eli have returned. Eli hands me a bottle of water and some food before climbing into the Jeep to wait. Isaiah instantly balks at my suggestion and the group debates following the car for a little while.
"All right, we'll follow him. But, we do it at a distance and without attracting attention." Mason relents.
We hurry to get back on the road. Just as I climb in the driver seat and close the door, a 2nd vehicle speeds past. This one is a cube van. We slowly pull out on the road. I can still hear the alarm in the distance. That is the one benefit of the silence, sound echoes when it actually does exist.