Pushing Up Gravestones – Chapter 16

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He was like an angel sent down when there was no hope, if angels were blond middle-aged men.

“Keep close behind me,” their savior said in a gruff voice.

The convenience store that he led them through was dark and empty. They followed the man as he maneuvered around the store to a specific destination not far off.

“Name’s Randle,” he said as they neared a barricaded corner.

The girls ducked underneath the shelves and entered a makeshift cave and were shocked to see the guns and ammunition.

Denise squinted around and saw that there was another person in there as well.

Instantly she stiffened and grabbed Tina’s shoulder.

A boy, not much older than Denis, stepped into the dim light with a rifle in hand.

He looked like a miniature Randle with brown hair so light it was almost blond; the hardness of Randle’s face however was softened on the boy.

Denise couldn’t help the thought that formed in her mind.

He’s cute.

She couldn’t believe she actually thought that, something so superficial, considering the circumstances. She looked over at Ferra and judged the way Ferra bit her bottom lip that she also came to the same conclusion.

“This here’s my boy Rory,” Randle continued. Rory gave them a curt nod, although Denise could feel his eyes linger on hers a little bit longer.

The girls seated themselves in the makeshift gun hovel.

“So, what’s your story?” Rory asked, his voice soft.

Before Denise could open her mouth to answer, Ferra jumped at the opportunity and explained to them how zombies chased the group and that they had nowhere else to go.

Randle nodded. “Y’all will be spending the night here. We’ll talk about what we’re gonna do next in the morning.”

With Tina laying beside her, Ferra next to her and the men with guns to keep watch, Denise fell into an exhausted sleep. The first real sleep she’s had in a long time.

***

“We’re hunters,” Rory explained as they all munched on a breakfast of jerky and beans. “We used to hunt deer, elk, whatever, you know before all this happened.”

“Hence all the guns?” Denise smiled.

“One can’t have too many guns in times like these,” Randle sighed.

Rory poked little Tina and handed her a wrapped candy bar.

Tina’s eyes widened at the very rare commodity. “For me?”

Rory laughed a hearty chuckle that made Denise smile.

“Yeah. I was saving it for someone special.”

“Thank you,” Tina grabbed the candy bar and tucked it into her pocket.

Rory was quickly becoming a favorite among the girls.

But before they got too comfortable they heard a large resonating crash. Everyone stiffened.

Seconds passed on like hours.

Everyone held their breath, not a sound was made.

After what seemed to be an eternity, Randle’s hold on his rifle loosened and he nodded.

“The doors won’t hold on for much longer. They’ll be upon us before nightfall.”

“Then we have to get out of here,” Rory said. He looked at all the ammunition. “We’ll take what we can.”

Randle was quiet.

“Where will we go though,” Ferrah poked her head out into the darkened store. “Will we just keep running away for ever? Can’t we stand and fight?”

Randle chuckled. “That’s very brave Red. But there are too many out there and even with all the ammo, they’ll over come us in a matter of minutes.”

The group sat in somber silence.

“But there is a place to go to. A place that will be safe.”

Denise wondered what the man was talking about.

“The military base,” Randle smiled. “I’m willing to bet it’s the safest place out here at the moment.”

Denise nodded. “Yea, that makes sense. But how will we get there? We can’t walked out the front door. They’re waiting for us.”

“There’s a back door,” Rory explained.

“But even if we use the back door they will chase us. It’s not a matter of which door to use.”

Randle nodded in agreement. “That’s why we need a distraction.” He looked at his son and added, “And that’s why I’m not coming with you.”

***

“Dad, this is ridiculous.” Rory tried to fight the tears that were streaming down his face.

They stood outside the barricaded corner to allow themselves some privacy from the girls.

“It must be done Rory.” Randle grasped his son’s shoulders and forced him to look him in the face.

“You take the girls to the back door and I’ll stay back and distract those hounds from hell.”

“You’re gonna died Dad,” The boy sobbed into his dad’s shirt. “How can I let you do this?”

“Just survive.” His said in a hoarse whisper. “Take care of those girls and live so that my life would not have been wasted in vain.”

***

The girls and Rory stood beside the back door exit waiting for the  sign. They didn’t know what the sign was only that, “they’ll know it when it came.”

They carried as much ammo as reasonable possible without it slowing them down.

Rory stood stiffly beside Denise. She knew what Randle was about to do and she could tell that Rory was dying in the inside.

“Rory,” she whispered. He flinched and said nothing in return. Denise didn’t know what made her do it but she held his hand. Her soft palm against his hard callused one. He didn’t hold it back but he didn’t remove his hand either.

Just them they heard a loud CLANG that made them jump.

“Was that the sign,” Farra whispered.

Rory tensed and relied on his ears. He shook his head and pointed in the direction of the front door.

The door had been broken down. In a matter of seconds they could here the zombies grunting and shuffling into the convenience store and still there was no sign from Randle.

Rory softly let go of Denise’s sweaty hand and held his rifle with both hands.

It would be a matter of minutes before the zombies would be upon them.

Should they just run out now?

Was Randle already captured?

Where was the sign?

Just then a loud earth shaking, ear-blowing explosion boomed. The group did not need to ask or wait to know that was the signal.

Rory opened the door and they ran out the store, but not before he turned around in the direction of the explosion.

Randle had blown himself up with the remaining ammo all so his son can live another day.

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