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The Hunt II

The Hunt II

* This is the second half of the story, “The Hunt.” If you haven’t had a chance to read part 1, you can do so by clicking here.

 

The Hunt II

We just need to make it to the other side of the reservoir.

Ashley anchored her collapsing resolve to that one coherent thought. If they could just make it to the other side of the lake, if they could just make it to their awaiting car, they’d be home free.

We can do this. Falling to her knees in the narrow space between the seats, she used her hands to scoop up the water filling the canoe, but each handful she dumped into the lake seemed to rush back through the bullet hole at double the speed. She bit her lip to stifle the wail of dismay pushing up her throat.

When she dared to look up, she saw that a few of the zombies who’d been heading their way hadn’t mastered the art of coordinating arm strokes and leg kicks. Bodies floated face down in the water, swaying to the rhythm of the waves.

Her relief was short lived, however, when she saw most of the others still slicing through the water with alarming speed.

A disturbance near the stern of the boat drew her focus. “Kevin, watch out!”

He turned just as a sneering face burst through the surface of the water. A lesion-covered hand snaked up, grabbed the blade of Kevin’s paddle.

Kevin yelped and kicked one leg out to knock the zombie’s hand free. The boat rocked perilously from side to side with each lurching movement. Kevin reinforced his grip on the paddle, raised it like a baseball bat, and came down swinging. The paddle split as it connected with the zombie’s head, sending slivers of wood into the turbulent water.

Not even momentarily stunned, the screeching monster continued to reach for the canoe.

“This isn’t working, Ash!” Discarding the useless weapon, Kevin grabbed her arm. “We’ve gotta bail!”

Ashley cast one last desperate glance around to see if there were any alternatives, but she knew he was right. Clinging to his hand, she stood in the sinking boat, took a deep breath, and dove into the lake. Her grasp was ripped from his when they made contact with the water.

Icy needles of pain pricked her entire body; she fought against the need to gasp while she clawed her way to the surface. When her head broke through, she glimpsed Kevin several yards ahead of her.

“Swim parallel to the shore until you outdistance them,” he called. “Then make your way back to the bank.”

She followed Kevin’s lead, but he outdistanced her with his powerful speed. Her strokes felt clumsy and slow; she couldn’t seem to inhale enough air. The aggressive splashes behind her told her that zombies were on her tail, but she was tiring too quickly to last much longer. Her heavy layers of clothes, meant to serve as a protective barrier from snapping zombie jaws, now weighed her down. Forsaking the parallel path, she headed to the shore. Water streamed into her eyes, clogging her vision, as she labored to make it back to land.

Just when her foot hit solid ground, she felt a brush of motion by her thigh, then a stabbing pain rent through her calf.

“No!” she screamed.

A doughy face shot up from the water, and the blood filled eyes of an infected man glowered at her. She kicked and thrashed until her foot connected with the zombie’s chest. The man stumbled back and released an inhuman howl when her second kick caught him in the throat, but, undeterred, he lunged at her.

“Help!” Ashley screamed. “Somebody help me!” She struggled to muscle her way through the current until the bank took a sharp slope up and the water grew shallow. “Help!” With giant steps she splashed through knee deep water, ignoring the searing pain that ran up her right leg.

She could hear the zombie closing in on her. In a last-resort search for help, she lifted her eyes to the hills. Her breath caught when she saw a fresh surge of zombies appear from the bumpy ridges of land ahead. She was surrounded.

“Get down!” a man’s voice boomed.

Ashley’s head whipped toward an alcove of trees by the shore. A dark figure sat hunched high in the branches of the closest one. “Get down!” the stranger yelled again.

She dropped to the ground and covered her head, her body clenching at the sudden gunfire that blasted her ears. A heavy weight fell on her leg. With a loud yelp, she scrambled to a standing position, then darted a glance behind her. The burly zombie who’d been pursuing her lay dead at her feet, his massive body riddled with oozing bullet holes.

“I said GET DOWN!”

Out of the corner of her eye, Ashley noticed a tiny object sailing through the air. Before she could register its identity, there was a deafening explosion, one that shook the ground and knocked her off her feet. Debris rained from the sky, and she tucked herself into a protective ball, helpless as dirt and rocks lashed her back.

When the night air seemed to settle, she cautiously lifted her head. A gruesome display of limbs and charred body parts greeted her. They lay scattered across the scorched earth amid patches of fire and smoke, a burning graveyard of monsters at the very entrance of hell.

“Ashley!” Kevin’s distant voice sounded tinny through the ringing in her ears.

As she braced her hands on the ground to stabilize herself, she caught sight of a pair of combat boots to her left. Her gaze traveled up, past muddy jeans and a black leather jacket, until her eyes reached a grim face. The stranger who’d saved her life stared back at her, his dark eyes unreadable, his mouth set in a tight line. A shot gun hung idly in his hand, though the stiff set of his shoulders belied any casual intent. The harsh planes of his face and his dark hair, cropped closed to his scalp, added to the menacing aura.

“Ashley!” Kevin’s voice was closer, but still muffled from her damaged hearing.

The man’s eyes shifted to Ashley’s leg. “You were bitten, weren’t you?”

“What?” She twisted her torso so she could examine her throbbing leg and let out a harsh cry. Her calf showed through the torn, bloody fabric of her jeans. A chunk of it was missing. Her breaths grew thin and shallow. “No, it can’t be –“

“Ashley!” Kevin appeared then. Shaking with nervous laughter, he dropped to his knees next to her, crushed her against his chest, and plastered her face with kisses. “Oh, man,” he murmured between quick pecks to her mouth, “I thought you were a goner!”

“Don’t touch her!” The man barked. “Get away from her.” A round in his gun clicked into place.

Ashley heard Kevin’s sharp intake of breath, felt the warmth from his body recede as he obeyed the stranger and peeled away from her. When Ashley looked up, she saw the barrel of the gun aimed at her face. She quailed at the sight. This couldn’t be happening.

His hands raised in surrender, Kevin pleaded with the stranger. “Please don’t shoot her! She’s innocent. She didn’t do anything. Please!”

The man glowered at Ashley, indecision flickering in his black eyes. The strength ebbed from her body as she begged him silently. Please. Please.

Finally he lowered the gun and looked at Kevin. “Don’t touch her. Get her to a hospital. Let them know she’s infected.” His gaze cut to Ashley, and he backed away from her as he spoke. “They can help you as best they can, put you on sedatives until…” he trailed off.

“Until what?” Ashley rasped, her voice gravelly and waterlogged.

Without a reply, the man melted into a covering of trees.

“Until what?” she called, louder. Thick silence hung in the air.

He was gone.

But Ashley knew the answer.

Until she became one of the very monsters she had hunted.

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  1. Colleen floyd says:

    That is good reading☺

  2. Another great installment! Curious to see if this shotgun toting stranger makes another appearance in the future!

  3. Jeffrey Goff says:

    Looking forward to the book, with all of the stories collected in one place 🙂
    And Hope:239 will be released one of these days, I just don’t know which one.

    • Last month I talked with a literary agent who said her clients’ books were slated to be released in 2017! Such a painful wait, but that’s the publishing world for you. Glad your wait is almost over!

  4. chris kings says:

    tantalizing to read, and I admire a writer who isn’t afraid to let their characters either develop or demise.
    And I agree this is good reading….

  5. I absolutely love this cant wait for more!

  6. Love it!

  7. Derrick says:

    I really enjoyed this story wish I could get the whole story. I would defiantly by the book.

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