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The truck bounced a bit down the highway and she was acutely aware of noise it was making. This wasn’t a necessary trip and it could likely get them killed. She knew this and he knew this and she appreciated his willingness to go along with this regardless of the risk. She could already see the biters rousing on the sides of the four-lane interstate, but they were moving too quick. Her only concern lie three exits ahead and four left turns from the offramp. She wasn’t sure what she’d find, but she hoped against hope that it would be worth the wasted resources.

She had argued against this journey. Too much time had passed and it was unlikely she would find anything good waiting for her there. He had argued in its favor – she needed to know, regardless the outcome. He gained nothing from this, nothing but putting himself in unnecessary danger. They’d already confirmed that his family was gone and those that they had not heard from were even further away, states away, and they may never know their true fate.

But her family.

The knowledge of her family’s fate was now just two exits away.

She took a deep breath. She wrapped her arms around herself and looked out the window. The once-familiar landscape had changed drastically in three months. Smoke rose in various directions and the bodies rose from the overgrown mustard weed as they passed.

One exit.

The last word she’d had from her husband had been back at the beginning, before the cell service had gone down. She’d gotten out one last phone call to him – he’d gathered their son from school and they were holed up in their house. The biters had not inundated the neighborhood yet, but things were breaking down. They’d leave only if they had to, only if supplies ran out or if the situation deteriorated. They’d whispered fervent words of love to each other. She’d heard her son’s voice one more time. She’d wished she could reach through the cell signal and be there to grasp onto him and hold him – them both – close.

The line had died before she could say goodbye.

She kind of preferred it that way.

They’d only had enough supplies for a few weeks, maybe a month. She knew that they were probably long gone.

That was best-case-scenario.

“Junebug.”

She looked up at him. They were idling at the top of the overpass. For a brief moment, there were no moans outside the cab of the truck.

“Four lefts, straight on till morning.”

He nodded and swung the truck to the left.

She put her palms on the dash and stared out the window.

Her breathing picked up the closer they got.

Two lefts. She smelled smoke.

Three lefts. He was breathing fast, too.

Four lefts.

The house at the end of the street, the one that handed out Twinkies on Halloween, had burned to the ground.

There were no biters that they could see. Yet.

There was a wreck halfway up, blocking the road from about three houses away from hers. They would have to go on foot.

Her legs felt numb as she climbed out of the truck. At two houses away, she could finally see around the wreck. His car was in the driveway.

“His car,” she said, to him and to no one at the same time. She didn’t wait for a response.

She took off running.

Time took on a slow quality at that point. She remembered, later, the feel of the wind against her hair as it whipped behind her. She remembered spotting the open passenger door, the biters in her path. She took them down without much thought.

He raced behind her to catch up. He’d seen. He’d hoped he could catch her before she did, too, but she was too focused.

The sight of the body drove her to her knees. The still moving, still biting, squirming body.

She screamed at the sky.

The gauntlet fell.
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strryeyedgrrl

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