Bewildering Stories

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Icy Roads

by Eric S. Brown

“The Dead Walk.” That was all people talked about anymore since the first paper to bare the headline hit the stands a few weeks back, though no one really knew what to say. It was a Tuesday in the small North Carolina where Jennifer worked and lived, and she had other problems. Foremost on her mind was the weather. She needed to be at work by 7 a.m. to do her morning paperwork for the store. She’d only recently been promoted to manager and always worried about having it in on time to her boss at the regional office. She crawled out of bed and made her way downstairs, flicking on the radio as she went about grabbing some cold poptarts for breakfast.

School closing were the top news of the morning. Only one school over in Boone somewhere had been closed because of the dead plague, the rest because of the heavy white flakes that poured from the heavens outside her window. Jennifer was deathly afraid of driving in bad weather and sat down at the kitchen table staring at the mess outside. She sipped cold coffee left over from last night and wondered if she should even try to make it in or call someone else who lived closer. She had a great staff and knew Lois could handle it if she didn’t show, yet she felt she had to be there. She stood up and got her coat off the back of the chair she was sitting in and shrugged it onto her shoulders, heading outside into the storm. The morning air stung her exposed flesh as she raced over to her car and fired it up. She headed back into the house to get ready while the car’s heater worked on the layer of ice over its windshield.

A few minutes later she slid into to the now warm car, a cigarette dangling from her lips, and carefully backed down her drive. The car slipped a bit at the end of the drive as it lurched onto the main road but she kept it under control. Setting out a painfully slow crawl, she drove towards town. Fear of wrecking was the only thing that kept her foot off the accelerator. As she reached the main interstate between her home and the store, she noticed a man walking towards her car through the snow as she sat at the stop sign. At first she felt sorry for the poor man and thought of offering him a ride into town but as he drew nearer she realized there was something not right about the way he was walking. As he lumbered underneath the glow of the street lights, she got a clear look at him. Blood caked the edges of his lips and his face was pale, encrusted with ice. His eyes were rolled back in his head showing only white. The three piece suit he wore was dirty and covered in mud and something red. Quickly she hit the autolock button sealing the car tight as he shuffled still even closer to her car. She looked around frantically searching for some else but the interstate was quiet and there was no sign of any other car anywhere. “Oh God,” she thought. “Was he dead?” She had never seen one of the dead up close, only in the papers and on TV. She felt her heart pounding in her chest, threatening to burst. Jennifer floored the pedal and roared out onto the road. She watched the figure growing smaller in her rearview and shuddered. She’d been lucky there was only one of them and she had been in her car.

Suddenly her car veered to the left as she hit a patch of ice. It spun out of control as she screamed, dropping her cigarette to the floor boards. She wrestled with the wheel straining to regain control as the car went off the road. She was flung forward in her seat as the car smashed into the tree line and the engine went dead to the sickening crunch of bone and metal. Jennifer’s blurred vision looked out at the flattened hood of the car and tears welled up in her eyes. Her right leg felt like Hell. Blood was leaking through her dress pants where the white of her bone jabbed outwards. She wrenched open her door and leaned out, vomiting onto the pavement. Her hand found the seat belt release button and she tumbled out of the car onto the road, yelling as her leg felt it was being torn off. She fought not to black out and started screaming for help. Suddenly she remembered the flares in her trunk and started to drag her body towards the back of the car.

She saw him again then. The dead man still working his way down the road towards her. Panic ripped through her veins. She jerked herself to her feet using the car to pull herself up, watching him grow ever closer. She felt the bile rising in her throat again but had no time to be sick again. She abandoned the flares and the car and took off limping down the road away from the man. There was a rest area not too far ahead. Surely someone would be there.

She made it a few steps before a second figure came bounding out of the trees ahead of her. This one a woman, young like herself and so freshly dead that red liquid still poured and steamed from the chewed out holes of her throat. Jennifer tried to shove the woman away as she grabbed at her face. Too long nails managing to slash Jennifer’s cheek all the same.

Jennifer twisted her leg, howling, as she fell to the ground. The woman threw herself onto Jennifer, ripping and biting at her. The woman’s teeth sunk into Jennifer’s shoulder as the man finally arrived. The last thing Jennifer saw as her world went black was his open mouth of yellow teeth dropping towards to her throat.

Copyright © 2003 by Eric S. Brown