Saturday, December 1, 2012
Excerpt from the Julie Rayzor Sequel RayzorWire - Enjoy!
Another hour passed. The tension slowly eased, the argument forgotten about for a while. Riding down the highway was boring. We slowed to a walk again and occasionally Horseman moved his horse to the shoulder and following suit, we picked up a canter and made up some time.
Several times he stopped and after saying, “Stay here,” he rode away, disappearing beyond the trees or going several hundred yards into a hay field and stopping for several minutes, looking for something, turning his head one way or the other, sometimes sitting still, perhaps listening to the wind or the earth. Upon his return he said nothing except, “Let’s go,” and he led us again down the highway.
Lopez and I fell back from the others, stopping our horses and letting everyone go by. I pretended that I wanted to show him something and when we were last we walked our horses side-by-side once more. I reached over and took his hand. I looked at him until he caught my gaze, a smile coming to his lips. It was clear that he’d been brooding on his argument with Jim.
“Gary,” I said. He looked at me, his lips taking a crooked worried smile.
I said, “I want to wrap you up and hold you forever.”
His tension eased as his smile widened. He stared silently at me.
“I want you to feel loved and wanted. I want to call you mine and hold your hand and never let you forget me... And Baby, you will always be wanted by me.”
He leaned over, grabbing tight to the horn of his saddle and I leaned towards him and before our horses could swerve with the shifting balance, we kissed. It was just a quick peck for our horses were wondering what we were doing, turning their heads to look and shifting us both off balance. We swiftly separated and laughed together. Some of the others looked back at us and laughed curiously wondering what we were doing.
“This seems like a good time.”
“Time for what?” My smiling staying on my face.
He dug into a cargo pocket and withdrew a ring-box.
“You aren’t going to propose again?” I laughed.
“No. Better. I consider us this way anyways.”
“What are you talking about?”
He popped open the top of the box and handed it to me. Inside were two rings, one above the other. The rings were a matched set, gold and silver inlaid bands. A stepped and jagged rim, formed with interlocking teeth encircled the bottom of one ring. The second ring was a mirror image of the first, formed so that the two rings could be locked together. Words were engraved on both rings.
“I had them made. A jeweler...”
“What do they say?”
“Read it to me.”
I removed both rings, slipping my finger into the bands to keep from dropping them on the asphalt and I slipped the box into a pocket.
Holding the rings up I read on along the words on one band, “Be thee mine.” On the second ring were the words, “As I am thine.”
“I do,” Lopez said with a smile.
I looked into his eyes and saw the handsome and tender person that often hid deep beneath a soldier’s exterior. I nodded and handed him one of the rings.
“For us both?” I asked. “Together even if we were separated?”
“Yes.” He took the ring and put it on his smallest finger.
I fit the companion to several of my fingers and found that it fit my thumb best of all.
“I will wear it for the rest of my life.”
“We have no priest to marry us,” he said.
“We are married in the heart. That’s all that matters.”
“Thank you,” he said, almost sheepishly.
The others intermittently turned their heads or shifted in their saddles to look back at us. They knew we were up to something as witnessed to the grins on our faces, yet we didn’t speak for a long time.
As we rode I caught Lopez glancing at me time and again, on his face was an expression of amazement as if he could not believed that I finally accepted him into my life.
Two miles further up the road we spotted Slick’s oil-truck in the distance, stopped in the median. We brought our horses to a halt and watched the truck. Nothing moved but we were too far away to see any detail, even through binoculars. A thin line of smoke rose up into the air and I wondered if the Scabs had started a campfire. I told Horseman about Slick and how his men stole our gasoline.
“I’ll take my men north over the plains and circle in from that direction. You go south. Once the shooting starts come at a gallop. We’ll get your gasoline back and then some.” He laughed.
Jim and Lopez agreed with the plan and the two men led the way from the road to cross hay fields and putting scrubby brush and low trees between us and the oil truck.
We rode at a trot on the grass for the sound of hooves was lighter and would not give us away. Forming a line we slowed to a walk as we approached the truck. I readied my shotgun. The others drew their weapons also and we prepared to fight. The truck was blocked by a line of trees along the highway, but the smoke still curling upwards told us exactly where to go. We closed to within a hundred yards and I listened for noise. All was silent.
Suddenly someone yelled and then more yelling. I kicked Red into a canter and the others followed, but as I approached, my shotgun lowered, left hand on the pump and the reins, right hand on the stock, finger on the trigger, a man afoot, dismounted from his horse, walked out from the trees. He waved and yelled again. I almost shot him dead and trampled his body under hoof before I recognized Ramsey’s dirty blonde hair and crooked smile.
Reining in Red and raising the muzzle on my gun, Ramsey stepped quickly to the side as I came to a stop. He was swift on his feet and he smiled Horseman’s grin, the family resemblance showing.
I turned to holler but his easy manner told me that everything was okay. I smiled back but I didn’t know why. There were supposed to be enemies here.
“They’re all dead,” he said, still smiling like an idiot.
I turned towards the road and passed through the trees. The oil truck was parked and leaking gasoline on the ground. Smoke billowed from beneath its hood, but worst of all were the bodies of Slick’s men lying on the ground. They might have been sleeping if not for the twisted angles of arms and legs and the sight of growing pools of blood leaking from bashed skulls and hewn open torsos. This was not a zombie attack with injuries formed by claws. The men were killed by prehistoric and primitive weapons. Arrows poked from one man. The broken off head of a bloody sledge hammer lay beside another. The haft was dropped a dozen feet away. Two more men were cut open as if by swords.
I circled the truck, looking at the damage. Horseman and his men rode slowly around, looking at the carnage - no one speaking. Of the twelve of us only Ramsey was smiling his stupid grin.
On the side of the road a horse lay prone on the ground, raising its head to look at us. I steered Red towards the animal but she wouldn’t go. With blood everywhere and I was certain that the smell frightened her. Patting her neck and dismounting, I said, “Easy. Good girl. Peace. Love.”
She listened but when I tried to lead her to the injured horse again she would not go. Rather than fighting her, I handed the reins to Horseman.
“Don’t go over there,” he warned.
“Why not?” I turned and walked towards the horse, heedless of his words.
The horse on the ground raised its head once more, ears pinned back, it looked angry. I wondered if it was just scared, as the bullets holes in its side wept blood, blackening its heavy winter. He was dying.
I walked around to its head. Its eyes were cast in grey, as if it was almost blind. I looked at its forehead for the sunken holes that come with age and found none. It’s tongue hung loose and I glanced its teeth. They were not pointed outwards like an old horse but the top and bottom teeth came straight down. She, for it was a mare, was young. Probably seven or ten years old.
I leaned into patted the horse on the head while I loosened by revolver in its holster. I was going to have to shoot him. It was the only thing left to show mercy to the magnificent animal. I didn’t want to do it. I’d never killed a horse before and I didn’t want to start, but he was in pain and he was going to die. There was nothing we could do.
“Get away from it,” Horseman ordered, not being quiet or polite with his second warning.
I touched the horse’s brow and brushed his mane, rubbing his ears. Some horses don’t like their ears touched and this one shook his head, lunged from the prone position and tried to bite me. His feet flung sideways across the ground as if is effort to trample me.
The sudden movement startled me and I jumped back a step, knowing that he was trying to kill me. His eyes, grey with near blindness were suddenly clear, as if focusing intense anger upon me. A sound like a freight train emanated from its throat - growling, not in frustration or fright, but rage.
I stepped back further and looked from him to Horseman. The man stared at me. The others gathered around watching. It was like a strange movie; woman versus crazy horse.
The horse rolled onto its belly and struggled to rise, looking at me and gnashing the air with bloody teeth. It was then I realized that the horse was zombie. Somehow, some way, the Zomb mutated the virus to infect horses, just as they had done to the dogs from before.
I raised my revolver and drawing an imaginary ‘x’ from ear to eye across its forehead, I aimed and fired. The zombie horse dropped like a thousand pound bag of meat.