AaW Chapter 42
When the last bus in the line was slammed into from behind Paige was sitting in the seat directly behind Ken, the driver. Their bus, because it was last in line had two other adults on it, and mostly older kids, although there were still a couple nine year olds that simply wouldn't fit on the other vehicles. They were all armed and prepared when the trip began, but as the vehicle smashed in them the discipline vanished and was replaced by worry.
There were sounds of fighting in the space that had been left at the very rear of the bus, that fighting compartment was invisible to those at the front of the bus, it was divided by a huge pile of boxes, crates and backpacks, not to mention other supplies, which formed a wall between the two areas. After the sounds of fighting the pile of supplies wiggled around a bit as if it were being moved, then one of the wonder twins burrowed through the bags and boxes to appear on the human side behind the last seat.
One minute there was nothing there, the next there was a raging tornado of death swirling about the rear seats. Paige pulled her shotgun in from the window where she had it aimed a moment before. She was the first to get her gun turned around, but not the first to fire. There were too many people fleeing death in her way. The oldest man in Doraville, Sinclair James didn't run from the girl. Sinclair was an old African American with gray hair cut close to his scalp, he was a tall, full man who said he would die fighting if he had to die and Paige watched him prove it. To his credit Sinclair did get off one shot, it flew into the ceiling, tearing a patch of sky there for all to view, then the little zombie girl was on him, smashing with her fists, beating him about the head and neck. The man brought his rifle butt up in a dirty trick move that he had probably learned in the army sixty years ago, this one caught he girl by surprise and deformed her small jaw when it rocked her head back, but it was only a moment's respite. When she came around again she struck Sinclair's legs, one after the other, the man toppled forward and the girl let him fall, while she licked the blood off of one fist.
The zombie girl was too short and there were too many people in the way for Paige to get a good shot at her, even when Sinclair was out of the way. The only other adult was leading the charge for the front door screaming for Ken to open it and let her out, but one of the teenage girls had enough sense to brace her shotgun on a seat and take a shot at the pint sized zombie; that girl was the next to die. Paige didn't see it so much as hear it, she refocused on the pile of baggage at the rear of the bus and waited.
The other zombies in the back appeared to be tossing their supplies and bags out of the emergency door to make a path into the main area of the bus. Idly Paige wondered what had happened to Gus and Cliff, the two boys who had volunteered to sit in the small cleared out space to act as tail gunners, 'Nothing good', she thought to herself as she aimed at the shifting bags. Her patience was rewarded when she saw a head appear behind a moved bag, she fired calmly and despite the movement of the bus she knew she had killed the zombie.
The zombie girl finished up with the teenager and started killing the kids near the back of the pack, grabbing one of the younger ones she tossed him back towards the luggage. The screaming youth slammed into the top of the pile of bags, burst through, taking a half dozen bags with him and then screamed as he tumbled through the open emergency exit and out the back door. Paige didn't flinch, even when she saw Steve run over the kid with his truck.
“Fuck, you are a nasty little bitch.” she said, still trying to get a bead on the girl.
It was no use; the girl had ducked under the seats and pulled another teenager to her doom. With everyone on the bus screaming Paige would have thought she couldn't hear the girl's last frantic yells but, unfortunately, she could. At the rear of the bus she caught sight of two zombies hiding behind the baggage as it slowly settled around them. Paige pulled herself up fully into the seat, sitting on her legs so she wouldn't have the unpleasant surprise of being pulled under like a seal by a hunting shark. One of the zombies back there was Jim Tiller, the other was some super that Paige hadn't seen before. She sighted down the barrel of her shotgun and took four shots at the other zombie, the first missed him by a good margin, the second hit him in the upper thigh, spraying dark zombie blood all over the inside of the back of the bus. The third shot was intercepted by a teenage boy's head as he jumped up into her line of sight trying to escape the little super zombie underneath him. His blood sprayed over the two rows of passengers behind him and onto the ceiling of the bus. Paige didn't let the friendly fire distract her, the kids had all been warned to stay down and there would be time enough for mourning her mistakes later, if she lived.
Her fourth shot hit the zombie in the left shoulder, flinging him back around to stand silhouetted in the open doorway of the bus. Paige didn't fire again, she knew she was out of ammo, while her hands reloaded the gun almost automatically a hail of bullets from the pickup trailing the bus slammed into the thing, a few even hit Tiller, although they did not put the zombie down. The zombie in the doorway was winged in the head, probably not a killing blow, but it was enough to stun him and make him lose his grip. The stunned zombie slowly toppled out of the bus onto the hard pavement below where Steve swerved to run it over. The last Paige saw of the thing was one of his pale white hands reaching skyward as the truck drove over him.
Tiller, meanwhile, had disappeared. Paige guessed that he opted to burrow into the pile of bags like the little girl had done to avoid more gunfire. The kids were still screaming and being slaughtered in front of her as the zombie girl kept pulling them down under the seats.
“Fuck this!” Paige thrust herself up onto the top of the back of the seat, the swaying bus made moving difficult as she crouched down and stepped from seat back to seat back. Beneath her all of the children seemed to calm down now that she was taking action, their cries were muted to a dull roar in her ears.
Paige stepped over to where the boy had disappeared, aiming the shotgun down. Nothing, just blood. She glanced back at the luggage to make sure Tiller had stayed in place and that was when the girl struck. Suddenly, forcefully the boy’s body was thrust up at her from the seat behind where she was crouched, Paige was not caught completely off guard and had started to react as soon as her eyes noticed the movement. As a result the boy glanced off of her right arm, it was enough to twist the shotgun around and point it towards the front of the bus, the gun discharged in the process.
Paige struggled to remember how many times she had fired it; the gun held five shots and she was down to four. The flung body was followed up by the wonder twin herself, the girl leaped up to the seat and seeing Paige's gun twisted around behind her, the zombie wasted no time jumping onto her opponent.
Paige still had one hand braced against the roof of the bus, the wondertwin was in mid leap at her and she knew she could not bring the shotgun around fast enough to fire, so she let go of the gun and reached for the revolver tucked into her belt. Even that was too slow, she managed to fire off one shot that looked like it missed the zombie completely, and then she suffered repeated blows from the little girl. Taking one of the girls fists to her stomach just about made Paige throw up and as the girl slowly pulled her hand back for another blow Paige realized she could not afford to be a punching bag. She also knew that the odds of anyone coming to her aid from the terrorized group of teens was unlikely, it was as if she and the zombie girl were fighting alone.
As Paige was falling backwards onto the seat behind her, she noticed the shotgun spinning onto the seat beside her, and in slow motion the zombie girl's hand descended to pound her again. Lifting her gun hand from where instinct placed it to brace for the impact as she fell, Paige struck the zombie girl's hand deflecting it into the metal of the bus seat. They both still hit the bench and tumbled down between the seats to the floor. Cramped was not the word for it. The zombie girl could barely maneuver in the tight space. The best Paige could do was to keep deflecting the blows raining down on her.
The next punch landed on the floor, going through it, the girl didn't stop and Paige kept deflecting the blows as they were about to land. She took a couple of shots with her pistol, both flew wide and then Paige took a hit to her left breast.
“Oh you fucking little cow! That hurt!” Paige felt even more adrenaline dump into her bloodstream, and wondered why her breast didn't sport a giant hole like the seat did. She blocked the next punch and when the girl's hand was still in the hole Paige threw a punch of her own, sideways into the zombie's arm, it snapped like so much balsa wood. The minor victory cost Paige a ringing blow to the head and then the zombie girl flipped over backwards clutching her arm. Shaking her head, Paige managed to pull herself to her feet just in time for the girl to try and tackle her in the narrow aisle between the seats. However the zombie lacked the mass to knock Paige over, looking down at the little rodent whose shoulder was pressed tightly against her waist Paige laughed. “You don't weigh enough short stuff.”
Then Paige pistol whipped the girl on the top of the head, the zombie was dazed by the blow, which had been heavy enough to crack in her skull and caused a stream of black half-clotted blood to course down her face in an inky black river. Staggering back gave Paige the clearance to bring her pistol up and fire at the girl, however the movement of the bus interfered her accuracy. The little beast still went down with a shot to her neck, but was not out.
“Jim Tiller!” screamed the girl, which caused Paige to switch her aim towards the back of the bus once again. The zombie girl was twitching around on the floor, possibly the neck shot had disabled her for a while. “Jim Tiller!” the girl screamed again.
The zombie came charging out of the luggage where it had been sequestered, in one hand he held a red backpack, overstuffed with someone's belongings, he threw it at Paige, which distracted her enough to miss the pistol he held in his other hand. He fired even as the pack was in mid-flight.
The first shot hit Paige at an angle high on her forehead, the bullet deflected over her skull, ripping a furrow through her hair and exited with a stream of blood out of the back of her skull to strike a screaming teen behind her just under the shoulder blade. The second bullet went wide and hit one of the two nine year old's in the left hand before it ricocheted into the back of Ken's head, the driver slumped sideways and the bus started to drift towards the median.
The next few shots were fired into the crowd at random near the front of the bus as Tiller worked his way forward to his twitching mistress. Paige was on her back next to her shotgun, the revolver still clutched in one hand as she tried to figure out what had happened to her. Blood soaked into the back of her shirt and pants, like water into a sponge. Tiller gathered up the zombie girl and stood over Paige, he lowered his pistol at the young woman and fired.
To Paige it was as if the earth stood still. She saw Tiller standing there, on one hip was the zombie girl, still twitching frantically, calling his name, even though the man already had her. The pistol, when it fired consumed all of Paige's attention, focusing it to a white hot knife edge as the bullet came out, heading for her face. There was nowhere to run, no way to roll out of the way, nothing she could do, she was going to die.
Screaming as if to deny her fate Paige whipped her revolver around, it was empty, she knew that, but she wasn't going to fire it. The bullet slammed into her revolver shattering it and sending hot fragments into her face and hand. Paige flung some small part of it at Tiller, he flinched and backed away a step, then fired at her again, this time there was nothing left to block his shot with. The click as the firing pin fell on an empty chamber was the sweetest sound Paige thought she had ever heard.
With a roar of defiance she twisted around and scooped up the shotgun beside her. Jim Tiller was in full retreat by then and Paige fired a shell after him, then set off running as the zombie staggered under the blow. As they neared the emergency exit, Tiller jumped and wrapped his body around the girl, landing on the passenger's side of Steve's windshield and busting through it to crush the man riding shot gun there.
The impact as Tiller hit broke the bench seat off of its anchor and pushed it back into the passengers section of the full sized pickup cab, which pulled Steve away from the steering wheel and pedals used to drive the truck. As Paige neared the exit she did not pause to think, the bus was swerving sideways and she squatted down to get a good jump onto Steve's truck, the barrel of her gun tracking Tiller's back. Paige landed on the hood, denting it and bouncing into the hole left by the windshield. Behind her the bus rolled into a stalled car near the median and then slowly came to a stop. Steve's truck, continued to coast along straight on the highway, the vehicle was not moving that fast now, no more than thirty miles an hour, but it was uncontrolled and started to drift.
When Paige hit the open side where the windshield had been her shotgun caught the roof and was jerked around to face behind her, going with the momentum, she simply slammed the butt of the gun into Jim Tiller's back.
Tiller screamed and thrust the zombie girl through the back window of the truck, where she landed in the bed and started sliding towards the tail gate. Then Tiller brought his arm around and blocked Paige's second blow with the gun, he slapped her weakly across the face and twisted the gun out of her hands. The gun was too long to use in the cab, so he chucked it over his shoulder into the pickup bed. Paige reached automatically for her revolver, which was gone, her hands did fall upon the hunting knife she had clipped to her belt that morning. She remembered remarking to Dora that she was taking it in case she had to cut one of the shotguns off of a motorcycle. Dora had responded “Good, because if you are taking it to fight with you'll know your shit has really hit the fan.”
Paige yelled and pulled the knife up in time to block a fist from Tiller. His hand was cut open to the bone, but he used his other one to rabbit punch her in the stomach.
Paige feinted with the knife, punched him with her off hand in the eye then sunk the knife into Tiller's gut. “That really doesn't do anything dear.” Tiller said as he snapped Paige's head back with a series of sharp jabs. Finally he was able to land a full force punch on her jaw that shoved the young woman up against the dash. Using one cowboy booted heel Tiller kicked her in the breast out onto the hood of the still moving truck.
Steve had seen the frantic boxing match and tried to help, however he was caught up in his seat belt and held to the bench seat, which was broken off of its moorings and floating free inside the truck. He realized that he could not steer the truck from where he was nor could he reach the pedals to stomp on the brakes to slow the vehicle down. When Paige hit the hood Steve finally got a grip on the steering wheel. Just in time he steered the truck around another stalled car, as Tiller picked himself up Steve pulled a pistol off of his belt and pointed it right at the man. Tiller swiped his hand to one side, causing the gun to discharge into the passenger door. As Steve brought the gun around again Tiller punched him hard in the neck, pushing the other man against the driver's door causing it to pop open from the force. Steve managed to grab the steering wheel, which caused the truck to swerve sharply, but saved him from hitting the pavement. Tiller raised his hand to chop at Steve's hand and was tackled by Paige who flew off the hood at him. The two of them ended up in the back of the pickup truck with Paige closer to the rear of the truck. The wonder twin was just pulling herself up off of the bed, and croaked out “Jim Tiller.”
Tiller lurched for Paige, who ducked at the last second, then raised up, trying to toss Tiller out of the vehicle. Her ploy worked, Tiller was going over the back of the tailgate, as he flew by he reached out his hand and grasped that of the zombie girls who was laying there, both of them ended up on the pavement rolling as the truck continued slowly away. Paige grabbed the shotgun and fired at the zombies as Tiller stood up, her shots did not have any noticeable affect and she had to stop to reload the gun. Inside the cab Steve had one hand on his neck, trying to get air, and the other on the steering wheel to avoid colliding with anything not moving on the highway. He had pulled himself fully into the truck again and once he had cleared the last foreseeable piece of junk in the road he lowered himself down and pressed the brake pedal with one hand, bringing the truck to a stop.
“Steve, you okay?” Paige asked.
He motioned at his neck; he was still having a hard time breathing and couldn't talk.
“Can you breathe?”
Steve shook his head as the world started to go dim.
Seeing him collapse Paige hopped out of the truck and swung open the driver's side door. She pulled Steve out and laid him down on the pavement, then raised his chin, as if she were going to do cardio-pulmonary-resuscitation on him, by then he was unconscious.
“Don't you die on me! Don't you die!” Paige said, lowering her lips to the man's mouth. She pushed air into his lungs, but it was like blowing up a small balloon, the air was constricted and would not flow evenly passed the swelling in his throat. However after three or four blows some air had gotten in, enough to cause Steve to moan and thrash with his arms. As Paige was breathing in a fourth time Steve started to throw up.
“Oh shit!” said Paige as some of the vomit landed on her face and one hand. “Goddamn it, where’s Mary when you need her?”
Steve's vomit turned into a long, low belch and Paige wiped his mouth off and breathed in again. The sour, acidic taste made her want to throw up too, but she kept at it until the other buses had backed up to her and Mary came to her aid. After a few more minutes Mary performed an emergency tracheotomy right on the road, inserting a clear plastic pipe into Steve's airway. Steve's recovery was remarkably fast once he could breathe again, and though he was clearly in pain, he was climbing to his feet when the third bus, escorted by Becka on her beat up motorcycle, drove up. Dora was driving and she swung up along-side of the group on the road and opened the door, calling out “Anyone need a ride?”