"Stop," Jude said, voice pitched low, and his four companions did so without question. They had learned to trust each other out here. "Do you hear that?" he hissed, cocking his head to the side to capture the sound better. A rumbling growl echoed faintly through the burned-out buildings on either side of the road the five of them were walking down.
"Biters?" Marcus asked, glancing around.
"No, definitely not," Liam, muttered. "The noise is too consistent."
"It sounds like a bunch of motorcycles." Jasmine said. "Ever been to Daytona Beach during Bike Week?" she asked with a chuckle.
"Can't say that I have," Marcus replied.
“It’s getting louder,” Jude said. “We should probably get off the road.”
“We’re not gonna find food if we don’t follow the road,” Liam argued. Technically that wasn’t true. There were plenty of things away from the road that could be food. The problem was that none of them knew how to hunt or forage them. They relied solely on what they could scavenge from cars, stores, houses, and other buildings. Which typically meant they followed the road.
“Well, we’re not gonna be alive to eat any food we might find if another group kills us first, now will we?” Jasmine said, backing up Jude. Liam sighed and they veered off behind some buildings, towards a group of trees in the distance that was probably some kind of park, putting some distance between themselves and the road as they went in the opposite direction as the noise.
They hadn’t been walking for long before they saw the first of the walkers coming out of the trees they were headed toward. The girls were in the front, and they started forward to take them out since there were just a couple of them. Jude pulled his combat axe from his belt and got ready, just in case. Then he saw the movement in the trees, and realized there was a lot more than just a couple. It was just a blur to him, but he knew what he was seeing. The girls saw it too, and they froze before they’d taken more than a few steps.
“Holy fuck,” he breathed as the herd began to stumble out. There were only a small handful that were close enough for him to see clearly without his glasses, but the blurred shapes moving in the distance across the open grass, and the reactions of his group, told him all he needed to know. He gripped Samantha’s hand tightly in his as they started to run in the opposite direction. Back toward the road and the noise of the other group. It was too late to hide from the dead, now, they’d already been seen.
“So, just to be clear,” Liam panted as they ran through the buildings, “we’re heading towards what is presumably a group of bikers in the hopes that they’re a safer choice than a group of walkers?”
“I guess so, yeah,” Jude gasped back.
“What if we’re wrong?” Marcus asked from ahead of them, out-pacing them all.
“It’s not like we have much of a choice,” Samantha said with a grim look on her face. “They’re right behind us and there’s nowhere safe to hide!”
Their shoes pounded on the pavement as they hit the road running. Jude could see a warehouse up the street with a truck, van, and a handful of those damn noisy walker-magnets parked near it. There was also a car parked on the road. At least the group was large. Hopefully that meant they’d stand a chance. He didn’t want to think about what would happen afterward, not now. They’d cross that bridge when they came to it.
What a sight they must be, sprinting up the road with a swarm of corpses behind them. Jude only hoped the group didn’t shoot them on sight.
Instead of running right up to the warehouse, though, and startling the people who were there, the group veered off the street, weaving through alleys between buildings along the same street the warehouse was on and coming out onto the street behind it.
Leading the walkers right to food, so they could get away clean while the other, larger group fought them off.
The herd attacked the group at the warehouse behind them, just as they'd planned. Some of the guys outside were taken out quick; they could hear the screams and gunshots. Jude and his group were beginning to tire, but threading through the alleys helped to disperse some of the herd that was still chasing them.
They slowed down a bit, gasping for breath. Jude let go of Samantha’s hand and swung around to meet the biter that had been right on their tail, cracking its head open with his axe as it lunged.
“Fuck,” Samantha breathed when she turned around and saw how close it had been, her hand tightening on her hammer as she stared at it, other hand reaching out blindly to grab at Jude’s arm, reaching for his hand again.
“We need to keep moving,” Liam said, pushing them both forward lightly.
They trotted down the street, ahead of the small group that was still following them and veering toward the buildings on the other side of the street to look for shelter. At the end of the street, ahead of them, a couple of lowriders sped across the intersection, headed in the direction of the warehouse.
“What is this, a gang war?” Jude said incredulously.
“We’re not sticking around to find out,” Liam muttered as they veered into another alley. They’d taken a few steps down it before they realized there was a low wall at the end that didn’t look like it would be easy to climb. It was too late to turn back now, though, the herd was right behind them.
They sprinted for the end of the alley. Liam was up and over the wall before anyone batted an eye. Jude didn’t fault him for it, just huffed in dark amusement as he leaned down to boost Samantha over after him.
Jasmine, their best marksman, had drawn her gun and she was stepping forward to take out the biters that were nearing. Jude winced at the sound of the first gunshot, knowing it would draw unwanted attention. Six more came after that, taking out nearly half of their small herd, but Jude was counting bullets, and hoped she was, too. She didn’t have many more left. Not enough for the amount of walkers that were left, anyway.
“Baby, come on,” Marcus urged, pacing back to her anxiously.
Jude hesitated, not wanting to go over the wall without them.
“Jasmine, let’s go!” he called. She popped off two more rounds and two more biters fell. She had two rounds left, by his count. The walkers were steadily streaming into the alley, though. More than he’d first thought. Way more than they could handle.
Jasmine had used her last two rounds and seemed surprised to be out already. Marcus took out a biter who lunged for her while she was distracted, and then the two of them raced for the wall. Jude helped her over, but before Marcus could climb up, the herd reached them, taking Marcus down. Jasmine screamed for him and tried to reach down for him. Jude pulled her back, over the wall with him, knowing they couldn’t help Marcus, murmuring apologies and reassurances to Jasmine to get her to cooperate.
Samantha was crying, too, as she grabbed Jasmine’s hand and pulled her forward. Jude couldn’t let himself feel Marcus’ death right now, they had too much to worry about. He’d gotten good at compartmentalizing his emotions like that. Later, when they were safe, it would hit him hard.
Liam lead the way through the alley and into the street on the other side. Jude brought up the rear, making sure the girls didn’t fall behind. They weren’t being chased any more, as far as they knew, having left the herd on the other side of the wall, and the street they were on now seemed a lot clearer than the previous one.
Jude turned in a circle, trying to get his bearings and remember in which direction they’d left the Jeep. They still needed to find gas for it, but they couldn’t forget where it was or the task would be pointless. The distance was just a blur, because of his near-sightedness, but he remembered which way they’d come from, and how many turns they’d taken in each direction. They’d have to make a wide circle and go all the way back around the warehouse to get back to the Jeep safely, now that there were so many walkers in the area. Maybe they’d get lucky and encounter some gas along the way.
“That way, right?” Jude checked with Liam, pointing up the road.
Liam nodded. “Seems like it. We’ll take the road on the left and it should bring us back around eventually.”
They could hear gunshots, rumbling motorcycles, and shouting in the distance as they jogged up the road. The sound was magnified by the echoes bouncing off the buildings all around them, making the noise sound like it was coming from every direction at once.