Home > Red Hill (Red Hill #1)(11)

Red Hill (Red Hill #1)(11)
Author: Jamie McGuire

The dead were banging on the boarded windows and the doors. They moved sluggishly and clumsily, but fervently. They were hungry. A vertical trail of bright-red blood was on the west wall. Someone wounded had crawled to the upper level. The mob seemed to be drawn to it.

I understood then why the Toyota had stopped. There were people inside. They’d holed up in the church, and probably had nowhere to go.

“Don’t be stupid,” I said quietly. “Not with that baby in the car.”

The Toyota horn beeped once, and then again, getting the attention of a few of the bloody corpses pounding on the front doors of the church. The horn beeped a couple more times, and then the driver’s side door popped open, and a man stepped out, waving his arms.

“Hey!” he yelled to the corpses. “This way! Come over here!”

A few more turned in his direction, and then immediately stopped their plight to make a lumbering, slow journey to the road. Their shuffling caught the attention of more, and then a whole section of them broke away from the church to trudge in our direction.

“Shit,” I said, my eyes darting between the corpses and the Toyota. I honked several times, too. “Get in the car. Get in the car!” I yelled the last words, banging my palms against the steering wheel.

The man jumped up and down a few more times.

“Get in, John! Get in!” his wife screamed, leaning over the console and grabbing for him.

John jumped back in, and pulled away quickly. I followed close behind, my heart thumping in my chest as I passed the approaching corpses safely.

A dozen or more appeared in my rearview mirror, and then I saw several people—alive people—dart across the street. The green pickup was still a block away from the church, waiting for something.

My heart never settled down after we left Fairview. I was just that much closer to my children, and closer to the obstacles I would likely face to get to them, closer to knowing if they were alive.

Tears streamed down my face as we approached the overpass that would bring us into the edge of my hometown. At first, it didn’t faze me that there were army reserve vehicles of every shape and size parked at the mouth of the overpass. I was too distracted by the mess of vehicles on the interstate below.

“Jesus,” I breathed.

It was as I had feared. Multiple-car pileups and stalled vehicles. Some people were standing outside of their cars and trucks, begging from the on-ramp for the soldiers to let them pass.

The Toyota stopped at what seemed like a checkpoint. John exited the car, and immediately something felt off. The soldiers were antsy, their eyes darting from each other, to the car, to John. Governor Bellmon was in town, so they were probably keeping Anderson quarantined, controlling who came in. Making sure no shuffling dead snuck by and threatened the man who might be the only living member of the state government, especially knowing the state capitol had been overrun.

John tried to shake one of the soldiers’ hands, but the soldier only offered the barrel of his combat rifle. Adrenaline pumped faster and faster through my body, and every inch of me was on high alert. The soldiers were behaving erratically; nervous. John pointed past the soldier, and then to his family in the car. I could see he was becoming more and more agitated.

I looked down. There was a pickup truck upside down on the interstate below. It was full of bullet holes. To my left, a full-sized van, also covered in holes, was sitting about fifty yards off the shoulder in the grass. I put the Jeep in reverse.

“Just get in your car, John,” I whispered.

When the soldier wouldn’t budge, John took a step and shoved the soldier in the shoulder before returning to his car. I could see from thirty feet away it was just out of frustration. John probably had someone inside Anderson that he loved and wanted to get to—maybe an older child. In the end, the only thing any of us wanted was to be with our loved ones.

Thirty feet away was close enough to see the soldier give the order, to see them all point their automatic rifles at John’s car, and light it up. But thirty feet away was too far to warn him.

As soon as John sat in his seat, the soldiers opened fire, filling every inch of the silver Toyota Camry with bullets. Instinctively, I stomped on the gas pedal, so hard that my chest was shoved into the steering wheel.

“No! Oh my God! No!” I screamed, yanking the gearshift into drive as I turned the wheel in the opposite direction. They weren’t letting anyone in, and worse, the entrances were being guarded by scared young soldiers with automatic weapons. They had either been given orders to eliminate anyone who approached them, or they were operating without communication from their commanding officers. The latter seemed more likely—and more frightening.

I could barely see through my tears, quickly jerking the wheel north down a country road. How would I get to my girls? Were the soldiers gunning down everyone in town, too?

I forced my mind to stop wandering and focused on a solution. Getting inside the city limits was the goal. Anderson was my birthplace. I knew the ins and outs better than those soldiers. There had to be a way in.

On the northeast edge of town was a dirt road adjacent to a heavily wooded area. Those woods were nestled between the dirt road and the main road through town. The soldiers would likely patrol there, but on the other side was river, tall grass, and the old Blackwell Street Bridge. If I could get close enough to that wooded area, and then make it across the main highway, I just might be able to sneak across the bridge and follow Blackwell Street almost all the way to Andrew’s house.

The only way to do that undetected would be to wait until dark. The thought of walking around in the dark while those things were shuffling around created an instant sick feeling that came over me in waves, but no matter how terrifying it was, that was the only way to reach my children.

I drove three miles north of Anderson’s eastern limits, and then cut east once I thought I was clear. The Jeep bounced over an overpass not nearly as wide as the soldiers’, and then kicked up red dirt as I barreled toward my chosen point. Three miles was enough to stay out of sight of whoever might have been guarding the north entrance. I didn’t even come across any shuffling things.

The Jeep slowed to a stop. For the first time, I realized that my purse hadn’t made it with me to the Jeep—or my cell phone—and my stomach turned. The phone lines probably weren’t working, but it made me feel sick not to have any way to even try to call Andrew . . . or anyone else. I looked around for shufflers, locked the doors, and then crawled into the back seat. I pulled up the piece of carpet hiding the tire iron. That and a small flashlight were the only things of use.

I waited in the driver’s seat, ready to drive away at the first sight of a shuffler. My ears perked at every sound, and my muscles twitched every time a gust of wind rattled the leaves and grass around me. I hummed a random tune, picked at my fingernails, made sure my sneakers were double-knotted, and then talked to God.

As the sun set, the level of anxiety I was sustaining felt nearly unmanageable. My mind struggled not to revisit the moment John and his wife and baby were murdered. I also fought imagining whatever awful scenes I might stumble upon once I breached the streets of Anderson. The guarded entrances were both helpful and a hindrance. The armed guards, fearful and quick on the trigger, would at least keep the threat of shufflers to a minimum.

Darkness began to paint shadows across the woods, and with the rise of the half-moon came the fall in temperature. I rubbed my hands together, and then wrapped my arms around my ribs for warmth, wishing I had something heavier than a scrub jacket. Soon, I would be walking around in the dark, my ears and a tire iron my only weapon against anything hunting from the shadows, and the tire iron wasn’t going to be much help. Anyone that hadn’t been hiding under a rock could tell you that the only way to kill someone of the dead persuasion was to obliterate the brain stem. I needed a gun or at least something sharp enough to penetrate bone. Beating in the skull of a shuffler would take more time than I could spare.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
Most Popular
» Red Hill (Red Hill #1)
» Among Monsters (Red Hill #1.5)
» Matchmaking for Beginners
» Legendary (Caraval #2)
» Still Me (Me Before You #3)
» A Court of Frost and Starlight (A Court of
» When Never Comes
» Bones Don't Lie (Morgan Dane #3)