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Authors: Greg Shows,Zachary Womack

Crisis Event: Gray Dawn (8 page)

BOOK: Crisis Event: Gray Dawn
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She’d made a calculated risk, and now she was acting as she thought best: the Interstate was to the south, so that was the likely direction the long haired man had come into Youngstown. If she searched in that direction, she could find his bike.

So she hoped.

She’d gone six blocks, and was beginning to question the wisdom of searching for the bike when she found its tracks. The wheels had bitten through the dust and gotten down to the asphalt. A black ribbon had been left exposed in the one-inch blanket of gray.

The ribbon ran north and south, like she’d expected, but then turned east at the place she’d found it—right out in the middle of an intersection, on a street that was choked with abandoned cars.

Sadie followed the tire tracks east until they disappeared—right in the middle of the road. The long haired man had chosen a strange place to get stealthy, but she doubted he could carry a motorcycle in his arms. It was much more likely he’d hidden it somewhere and camouflaged it, then had dragged something over his tire marks. That he would go to such lengths made her even more suspicious about who he might be.

Sadie began to sweep the area, walking a grid-like pattern, first one way and then the other, widening her search as she sought in vain to find his footsteps. She checked her watch again and found it was 3:07.

She nearly panicked then, completely stunned that she’d been searching for over two hours without even realizing it.

What if the people he was meeting came early?

What if she was being watched right now?

She couldn’t make herself stop feeling like she was being watched.

Sadie pulled off her pack to take a drink and a quick rest.

She should probably just take off now, or get to shelter and hide and hope that whoever came looking for the long haired man would miss her. If she could get into one of the abandoned businesses around here and go out the back, dragging a broom or weighted tarp or a flattened cardboard box over her footprints as she went, she could likely escape. Effacing your tracks in dust wasn’t that hard. The long-haired man had proven that. She couldn’t even find a three hundred pound motorcycle in it.

But if they came with a good tracker, that was another story.

Sadie scanned the buildings, looking up toward the sky. Lightning was flickering off toward the west, and it looked like there could be a dust storm coming in. If she got caught out in that she’d be dead for sure.

She re-slung her pack, getting ready to head south on foot, bitter anger and disappointment rising in her chest.

It wasn’t the first time she’d felt that bitter anger since everything had gone wrong, and it wouldn’t be the last. Leaving her car behind had made her feel like she was losing one of her limbs.

But knowing that fact didn’t make her feel one bit better.

The best choice of all the businesses and buildings surrounding her seemed like the thrift store on the corner of the block ahead. It was a short walk, and she would likely find an old coat or dress inside she could rig up with weights to drag along behind her to hide her tracks—or at least disguise them and make them more difficult to follow.

She’d already taken a dozen steps toward it when the flash of blue caught her eye. She turned to look and saw a little blue triangle sticking up out of the gray dust. It was next to a dust-covered Hyundai parked on the side of the street next to a parking meter. Fresh dog tracks surrounded the car.

Sadie ran over to the half-buried car, feeling the excitement growing in her chest, somehow knowing what the triangle signified.

Sure enough, the little blue triangle was the edge of a plastic tarp someone had partially buried in dust to hide it. She gave it a tug, and a thin layer of gray grit cascaded off it, showing her that it was old and faded and full of holes. Shiny metal gleamed through the holes.

Sadie pulled hard at the tarp, and it slid forward, spilling the rest of the dust off and revealing the motorcycle beneath.

The bike was a Honda.

A Nighthawk 750 with saddlebags.

Strapped to the back was a red plastic gas can, half full. The tank was full.

She pulled the key out of her pocket and stared at it.

Moment of truth

When she shoved the key into the ignition and turned it a quarter turn, the display lights lit up.

“Score!” she said softly, and without much enthusiasm. She was happy she’d actually found the thing, but now a warning voice in her head began to tell her to leave the bike and run.

Gasoline started going bad months ago

She noticed the change as she’d travelled, finding the gasoline she’d scrounged to be darker and harder to ignite as she’d moved west. If someone was rolling with fresh gas in their tank, they were probably connected to people she didn’t want to make angry.

Then there was the whole problem of all the attention she’d attract to herself with the bike.

Everyone would want it, and they’d try to take it. But the idea of travelling a hundred or more miles a day, getting all the way to Texas in two weeks or was too much temptation. Despite her grandfather’s admonition to take things slow, she put the bike in neutral and rolled it forward, away from the abandoned Hyundai.

When she got the bike out to the middle of the street she put the kickstand down. She took off her pack again and pulled out one of the long haired man’s masks. It slipped over her head easily, and didn’t feel too bad against her face. Next she replaced the cartridges on the respirator and strapped it over her face.

As her breath huffed in and out in ominous wheezes, she tied her rifle to her pack with paracord and slipped it back onto her shoulders so that she could climb onto the bike.

She felt bulky and uncomfortable when she threw a leg over the bike and stood straddling it. But she knew she’d get used to the feeling, probably long before she’d put fifty miles between herself and this hellhole town.

When she pushed the ignition button the engine roared and rumbled. The vibration between her legs when she sat down was far from unpleasant, and she smiled.

When was the last time she’d felt anything like that?

The image of her useless bohemian boyfriend popped into her head.

“Well, he wasn’t completely useless,” she admitted as she revved the engine.

She hadn’t been on a bike in years, so she wasn’t surprised when she stalled it out the first time she tried to get it into gear.

“Crap,” she said, at the precise moment the little geyser of dust puffed up next to her right foot. The soft “fwoosht” sound came to her a second later—nothing like what suppressed gunfire sounded like on old television shows.

She turned to look behind her and saw the Tall Man. He was on foot four blocks back, but he coming hard, his arms swinging as he sprinted over the dusty street. His children weren’t in sight, but several men in gray camouflage were.

They were aiming rifles.

“Uh-oh,” Sadie said.

The next bullet bounced off the street in front of her, throwing up another dust geyser.

Sadie pushed the ignition button again, and this time she throttled up the engine so high that when she tapped the gear shifter and let out the clutch, her front tire came off the ground and she nearly went over backwards. More gunshots came, some not suppressed, and she heard shouting.

Then she was rolling down the middle of the street, zipping between cars as bullets clanged off them.

The buildings flashed by on both sides of her, and despite the recklessness of putting on speed with so little room for maneuvering or braking, she raced onward.

Soon the bullets stopped coming. She didn’t slow down, though. The wind in her hair felt good, and now that she was out of danger, she felt—happy. It had been so long since she felt like she was feeling now, and she didn’t want to let it go.

After putting another ten blocks between herself and the Tall Man, she slowed and downshifted and turned right. She worked her way through downtown, climbing up onto sidewalks when necessary, walking the bike through hazards that blocked the road, or backtracking to find an open path.

Twenty minutes later she was on the bridge, crossing the Mahoning River, getting ready to make some real time. She weaved between cars and trucks and was soon into south Youngstown.

Within half an hour of finding the long haired man’s bike, she was out of the city, on her way to Columbus, making the kind of time she could have only dreamed about the day before.










































Chapter 7


Three hours later, Sadie was a hundred and seven miles out of Youngstown. Night had fallen an hour earlier, but she’d pushed on, moving at ten miles an hour, her headlight stabbing out into the absolute darkness ahead.

She had to be careful cruising down the middle of the highway. Some of the abandoned their cars were nearly on the center stripe, less than two feet from the cars heading the other direction. Then she had walk the bike between the front and rear bumpers of the abandoned cars and proceed down the shoulder until another gap opened and she could get back to the center.

Part of her wished she’d gone west toward Akron. At least I-80 might have allowed for faster progress. But after her experience with Youngstown, she wanted nothing to do with any cities anytime soon. She might be heading toward Columbus, but she’d be skirting it from twenty to thirty miles out. There would be no more cities in her immediate future.

When her nerves could no longer take the intense stress of her nighttime ride, she pulled off the old highway into an open field full of tall dead grass and shrubs.

She killed the engine.

The headlamp gave her a good look at what was out in the field ahead, and she tried to memorize the landscape in the glow of the light.

Then she cut the headlamp, climbed off the bike, and rolled it forward.

The silence was unnerving after the hours she’d spent with the hum of the Honda’s engine in her ears. Even with the ringing sound echoing in her head, the black and silent darkness made her feel as if she was the last person alive on earth. The only sound left in the world was an occasional wind gust, and the soft rustle as the Honda’s tires, and the thump of her boots crushing the dusty dry grass.

After rolling the bike out into the darkness she found a clump of bushes she’d seen in the glow of her headlamp. The clump would give good cover in the unlikely event anyone came cruising down the road and spotlighting the fields in the middle of the night.

She unslung her pack and pulled her rifle loose. Her arms felt rubbery, and she had to exert a lot of energy to keep from dropping it. She pulled out her 9mm and tucked it into her waist band. A quick walk away from the bushes led her to the short dead tree she’d also seen before she’d turned out the lights. She stood behind the tree and waited as her eyes adjusted to the darkness.

After a few minutes, Sadie could make out the shapes of the bushes where the bike was parked. She settled down to wait, scanning the landscape and road out of the corner of her eyes so that her night vision was enhanced. After ten minutes she felt sure no one was going to come walking up on the clump of bushes. Even if someone had heard or seen her, the likelihood of them being able to find her in the darkness without making noise or showing a light was slim.

She began to relax.

She was in the middle of nowhere—her favorite place in the world—and despite the dead world surrounding her, she could almost imagine what it was like to be out on her grandfather’s land, walking among the mesquite trees and sage plants and dandelions, or resting beneath the tall Live Oaks with their twisted, creepy boughs and branches.

Like all nights these days, it got cold quickly, so after another ten minutes of no movement or light on the landscape, Sadie returned to her bike, spread an old camo tarp over it, and using her multi-tool, hacked branches from the surrounding shrubs and bushes.

She removed the dead leaves and tossed them beneath tarp, creating a pile next to the bike. Then she sharpened one end of each stick and made stakes to hold the tarp in place.

The bike became the ridgeline in her makeshift lean-too, and she hammered the stakes into the ground with the blunt end of her folding hatchet. After folding down the tarp and closing up the back of the bike with another pair of stakes, Sadie threw her pack into the entrance of her motorcycle tent and climbed in. The hot engine warmed the tent quickly, and after she spread a silver thermal sheet over the leaves to provide ground cover, she sat down.

BOOK: Crisis Event: Gray Dawn
10.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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