The trees passed by on each side of the vehicle, which got close to them many times, as the dirt covered ground became more and more irregular.
A bump of the car, harder than the others,made the red-haired woman near him cry out in surprise. She regained control and glared at him.
“Sorry, honey,” said the driver, glancing at her for a fraction of a second, before returning his attention to concentrating on the rough path again , while frantically turning the steering wheel. Calming down, the woman also turned her attention back to the road and became suddenly pallid. Now, not only did she see bigger trees on their path and passing by, but also, something else.
Much more worrying silhouettes, slightly more mobile than the plants she could see. She murmured, “My God… there are already some of them, here!”
A hand touched the back of her shoulder.
This startled her and made her swiftly look back.
It was the small hand of a little, red-haired girl, just like her, with freckles on her face, and whose green eyes showed fear. The child cried, “I’m afraid, Mom…” Her mother gave her a reassuring smile and answered, with a warm tone, “Don’t be afraid, honey, we’re approaching the Community… it’s the end of the afternoon and soon, we’ll all three be sleeping in a comfortable bed, protected behind its high walls.”
“Mom’s right, don’t be afraid!” shouted the father, wiping sweat from his moustache with a hand, before putting it back on the wheel.
He didn’t say anything about the position of the needle on the fuel gauge indicator, which was becoming dangerously low. He turned quickly at a corner and…
braked in front of a tree which had surprised him. The violent braking shook the little family and could’ve thrown them through the windscreen, if ever they had forgotten to fasten their seat-belts. The vehicle was now completely stopped.
“Ron!” shouted the woman, angry. “For God’s sake, be careful!” Looking at him and then glancing at the rough surface of the tree in front of them.
“Sorry…” He slumped over the steering wheel, his heart beating hard in his chest, conscious that he could have thrown the vehicle against a century-old oak tree. And their long journey would’ve ended there. The woman felt bad having shouted at him. After all, he had driven many hours, and was clearly exhausted.
A single-stroke metallic sound startled them. Another, louder, shook the vehicle.
Looking back, they saw the face of one of them.
It was watching them with its strange, red, gleaming eyes, because of the darkness. The sunken face of the zombie reminded them of the face of death.
The creature roared and hammered even harder on the car trunk.
“Oh no!” the driver said, watching the undead begin to climb on the car's trunk, crawling over it toward them. The woman turned her head in the direction of her husband and shouted, “Start the engine!”
“I’m trying, what do you think I’m doing?” shouted back the man who was fighting nervously with the starter key. The engine made a bad noise, and nothing happened. Slowly, the little girl sitting behind them turned around, trembling, and looked back.
The zombie approached the rear window, and its empty eyes observed the small girl through it. Her green eyes met its red eyeballs. Horror was visible on her face.
A prey's fear…
The creature's hand smashed through the window, making the child turn around to protect her face.
“Ruby!” her mother shouted, seeing the skeleton hand of the zombie grabbing her crying daughter’s hair, drawing her behind.
“Nooooo!” her father shouted while looking back.
All of a sudden, the engine finally ignited and roared when he stepped on the gas, while torturing the gear lever, making the car reverse at great speed.
The back bumper brutally hit another tree, crushing the undead between.
Its bones cracked noisily.
The ugly face of another creature made them jump. It had appeared at the mother’s eye-level. It roared, watching her with red eyes surrounded by wiggling worms. It clawed the window's surface, trying to reach her.
The driver switched forward and the little family car leapt ahead, after having jumped over a bump.
A deafening shriek startled the parents again.
Watching behind them, they saw that the zombie was still clinging to their crying daughter’s hair, its torso on the back trunk. The remains of its bony pelvis protruded over the trunk, its legs lost.
The creature crept closer, the child’s head tilted back under the pull, her white, exposed throat now under the thing's gaping mouth. The girl could smell a mix of odors of blood and of decay.
The creature emitted a thunderous roar, advancing its jaw with its yellowish, rotting teeth.
A machete cut the hand of the undead.
A new and violent jerk of the car made the creature with its missing hand fall. It dropped on the ground and rolled in the dust.
Leaning forward, now that her head was freed, the girl saw her mother who was lying on her stomach, over her tilted seat’s back, the machete still in one of her hands. The thing’s dark blood dripping down the blade, the mother watched her daughter with concern and asked, “Are you OK?”
The girl opened her mouth to talk but closed it immediately.
She felt something odd…
The skin on her scalp was scratched. Reaching back, she felt the hand, which was still moving, its fingers closing, putting now some pressure on her scalp. The child fought with the decaying fingers to free her long, red loops.
At last she won the struggle. Turning around, she threw the thing outside, through the broken rear window. Turning forward, she focused her attention on her mother. Their eyes met, and they exchanged a knowing smile, like only mother and daughter can exchange.
A new bump made the woman in a horizontal position literally fly toward the vehicle’s roof.
Her head bumped violently against the ceiling of the vehicle.
“Mom!” the girl shouted, startling her father who looked at his wife, who was now lying unconscious on the tilted back of the chair. He asked, nervousness in his voice, “Are you OK, honey?”
When he returned his attention to the road he saw, too late, another big tree. He veered as much as he could but was unable to avoid it.
The deafening shock threw the driver violently against the steering wheel as his wife was thrown backwards.
Her feet smashed through the windscreen.
The little girl was thrown towards her mother and almost hit her.
The child remained in the backseat, saved by her safety belt, which restrained her. The vehicle was almost instantly immobilized.
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Welcome in a dystopian world, full of adventure, where, more than ever, survival skills are tested everyday.