Hayden woke up to a loud bang on the car door. He jumped up in his seat and pressed his back up against the door behind him. On the other side of the vehicle was an ill-looking man with pale, torn skin and an insane, inhuman look in his eyes. He was smashing on the car window with his fists while screaming out like a deranged fiend.
Two more fists landed hard on the window in between bouts of wailing. Hayden reached for his knife and held it out in front of him as if to threaten the beast away. The next fist that landed in a blow smashed through the window and shattered the glass. The other arm came smashing through the broken glass as well and then the face; The man’s skin was torn and peeling off of his body as he climbed into the back seat of the vehicle, reaching for any part of Hayden that he could grab.
Hayden’s heart felt like it was about to burst out of his chest, yet at the moment he instinctively knew exactly what to do and in one fell swoop, he thrust his knife directly into the attacker’s right eye socket, twisting the knife after it entered his skull with a crunch. As he retrieved the knife from his assailant, pieces of brain and eyeball came back out with it. The body of his aggressor collapsed lifelessly in the back seat of his car gushing blood all over.
Before Hayden could even catch his breath there was another maniac smashing on the the window behind him and immediately after a loud crunch from the hood of the car. A crazed woman with torn clothing had jumped onto the vehicle and started to furiously assault the windshield with kicks and fist blows. Hayden jumped into the front seat of the car as quickly as he could and cranked the key to the ignition.
The windshield was beginning to crack and splinter under powerful kicks just as the engine turned over with a roar. Hayden hit the gas pedal as hard as he could, the tires spun rapidly and the back end of the car swayed as it took off rapidly down that dirt road. The lunatic on the windshield hit the roof of the vehicle with a deafening ‘Whack!’ before toppling over and rolling off the back end with limbs flailing like a limp rag doll. In the rearview mirror, Hayden could see the other maniac was still chasing his vehicle down the road and he made the conscious decision right there to keep his eyes on the road ahead, refusing to look back.
It was difficult to see through the smashed windshield, and the dead man’s legs hanging out of the back window shifted and swayed as Hayden hugged the edge of the road around the bends. When Hayden came off of the dirt road and turned back on to the highway he lost sight of his assailants in the mirrors.
Hayden had dealt with others that had been infected with this disease only a few times before. His father had done a good job of keeping him far as far away as possible from those with the illness. When he was living back in the settlement, if a person had been discovered with the infection it wasn’t long before they were isolated and disposed of. From what he had heard and seen, he understood that the disease could be spread through bodily fluids, blood, and especially the saliva in a bite wound. The disease would slowly fester in the brain and the infected individual would begin to lose their sense of reality.
After a few days, a person loses their ability to communicate efficiently and they grow increasingly irritable, hostile and aggressive. Then at the end of the incubation period, the host loses their innate instinct for self-preservation and their ability to rationalize. It’s also been said that something drives the mind into a frenzy of cannibalistic behaviors, encouraging the spread of the disease, but they’ll never attack each other. They retain the ability for basic functions only. They can drink water which they find and use their hands primitively but they lose most of their cognitive abilities. The last that Hayden had heard, there was no cure yet discovered.
A few kilometers down the winding highway, through rocky hills and lush green forests, Hayden stopped the vehicle in a desolate and remote area. He opened the car door, exited the vehicle and walked around to the pair of legs hanging out of his rear passenger window. With a bear hug around the dead man’s waist, he pulled with all of his strength and sent the body tumbling out of the back of the vehicle almost knocking him over in the process. He gave the dead man a vindictive boot to the head and returned to the driver’s seat.
When Hayden was back inside the vehicle he could feel the warm sticky sensation of blood pooling underneath the bandage on his shoulder again. The bullet wound must have opened up when he had hoisted the body. He reached back behind the front seat to his bag lying on the floor in the back, then he grabbed hold of it and placed it beside him on the passenger seat. He took a moment for a swig of water from his dwindling supply and then rummaged through his pack for a small tin containing some thread and a needle.
Hayden pulled his blood-soaked and worn t-shirt off followed by the bandaging underneath and threw both into a pile on the seat beside him. Next, he pulled a silver flip lighter from out of his pack and torched the sewing needle under its flame for a while until it was glowing from the heat. Once he was satisfied with the sterilization of the needle, he gritted his teeth and pushed it into his fleshy skin aside his open wound.
Hayden grunted and swore as he weaved the thread in and out of his tender shoulder. The laceration was about three inches long and ran just below the peak of his shoulder across his lateral deltoid muscle. The blood ran down his arm in thin streams as he sutured the wound closed. He tied it up neatly and poured a bit of rubbing alcohol on to it after. He swore profusely and then covered it back up with a fresh bandage. Afterward, he swapped his half-destroyed bloody t-shirt for a blue cotton long sleeve that he had been keeping in his bag. It was the only other shirt that he owned.
Hayden sat there in the driver’s seat of his banged-up blue Toyota, massaging his wound and wondering what he was going to do now. The gas tank was nearing empty and he still wasn’t sure of where he would spend his night. His car was unsafe with the broken rear window but it might just have to do if all else fails.
Hayden thought about how nice it used to be to have a home with walls, a door, heat, running water and a warm bed to sleep in. It made him feel frustrated at times when he reflected on how much more challenging his life had become over the past few years, yet at the same time, he knew he was a stronger boy because of it. He lay his forehead against the steering wheel and just allowed himself a moment of weakness. In the silence, he began to sob quietly and shed a few defeated tears. This was never the life that he chose, but it was the life that he was given. When he was finished releasing that emotional pressure he collected his courage and wiped his eyes.
Hayden stepped outside of the vehicle to stretch his legs and arms which were stiff from sitting in the car for too long then took a moment to look towards the setting sun. He admired the beauty of the scenery overhead and afar; The evening sky looked as if it were glowing with pinks and purples along the horizon. Birds were still chirping but they were quieter now than they had been earlier in the day. The calm wind jostled his hair and reassured him that he was alive. The serenity of his existence in this one single moment gave him the will to go on that he had so desperately needed.
He decided that he would spend the night there on that peaceful remote roadside. Sitting beneath the evening sky on top of the roof of his car, he drank from his water jug and ate the last of his food from his backpack. Afterwards, he took the small tarp that he had with him from off of his bag and managed to wrap it around the door with the broken window. He closed the door on to it so that it was tightly sealed for the night at least. He slept in the back, with his feet to the tarp and a knife in his hand. He closed his eyes and drifted off, leaving behind all of his cares in this world, embracing the feeling that he had that tomorrow had ought to be a better day.
Click here for Part V..