The Last Exit
I never expected to meet a beauty like her while scrounging around town for supplies. I found her in what used to be a rich folks’ neighborhood. She was slate blue and had curves that would’ve put Marilyn Monroe to shame. Finding a car was rare, but a 1966 Ford Mustang in cherry condition was manna from Heaven.
Maybe the car was God’s way of apologizing for making my life shit. All those countless days I’d spent barricaded in that dank mountain cabin with only canned cat food for my meals.
After I hot-wired her she roared like a grizzly bear waking up from hibernation. I lit a cigarette and buckled up. As I threw her into gear I caught a glimpse of my gaunt face in the rear view mirror. My toothy grin seemed out of place, I couldn’t recall the last time I’d felt happiness.
With a full tank of gas and a V8 under the hood, I could get outta here. Head up to Denver, things had to be better there. At least that’s what my girl had said on the phone before the cell phones and land lines went dead months ago.
I stomped on the gas pedal and flew past the vacant houses wrapped with yellow caution tape. I raced by the boarded-up buildings plastered with quarantine signs. The Mustang wove through the abandoned barricades and checkpoints with ease. Her engine rumbled as I drove around the National Guards’ trucks that lay scattered and tipped over like discarded toys.
I headed for the highway, confident that I’d finally caught a break, until a scurrying sound came from the backseat.
My mind reeled in terror when I saw it in the rear view mirror. The fiend’s kidney bean shaped body wasn’t any bigger than a Chihuahua and it crept on spider-like legs. It stared at me with its bulbous black eyes that gleamed with a malicious intelligence that was beyond my understanding. Worst of all was the fiend’s cavernous mouth that was filled with a double row of serrated teeth.
I death-gripped the steering wheel and screamed. After countless days of trying to avoid them, I’d ended up with one as a stow away. I guess God had a sick sense of humor.
The fiend crouched like a cat ready to pounce. I tried to remember what the government had said to do in case of an attack. My muddled memory didn’t offer any answers. My heart pounded in my ears and sweat trickled down my face.
An ear-piercing screech erupted from the fiend as it leapt. I ducked. It landed on the back of my head with the force of a baseball bat. Splotches floated in my vision and my head swam. I struggled to keep the car under control.
The fiend wrapped its legs around my head, and the tiny barbs that covered them burrowed into me like ticks on a hound. Then the fiend wretched, like a cat hacking up a fur ball, and spewed lime-green vomit all over my head.
It reeked like rotted fish guts and I almost upchucked myself. My eyes watered and my nose burned. I wiped my face off and yanked on its legs, but it was like trying to uproot a tree. The fiend hissed like a feral cat and tightened its grip.
My heart pounded like a bass drum and my entire body trembled. My vomit covered head felt numb as did the hand I’d used to wipe my face. Was I poisoned? I remembered a website said the vomit paralyzed people. But there were a lot of rumors online during the early days of the infestation. Maybe that’s why the government shut the internet down.
Whether it was dumb luck or instinct, I jerked the wheel and crashed into a light pole. The crunching metal and shattering glass accompanied the bone-jarring collision. Oblivion flooded my vision.
I woke up with my head on the steering wheel and jabbing pain in my ribs. I was alive, and the fiend was gone. The Chihuahua sized hole in the windshield suggested that it had been ejected violently during the crash.
Laughter sputtered from my lips as I realized I’d avoided getting my brain sucked out by the fiend. A lot of folks hadn’t been as lucky as me thanks to the government messing with that meteor. I didn’t know why I was still alive, but I wasn’t gonna waste my second chance.
Steam billowed from the Mustang’s crumbled hood. A pity to wreck her, but she had saved me. I fumbled with the seat-belt and flung the door open. Nothing was on the tree-lined highway. The car’s flickering headlights revealed the fiend’s splattered carcass a few feet away.
I got out and spit at it. “Goddamn brain-sucking cockroach.”
My triumph was cut short by their screeching. The headlights illuminated more fiends in the trees. The noise of the crash must have caught their attention.
A half dozen of them circled the Mustang and hissed like alley cats. I tore off a shirt sleeve and ran to the end of the car. A fiend jumped onto the hood. I removed the gas cap and shoved the sleeve inside. I pulled out my lighter. They drew closer. I lit the sleeve.
Adrenaline fueled my frantic flight. The screeching of the pursuing fiends filled my ears. The bone rattling explosion threw me to the ground. Scorching heat swept overhead. Debris rained down.
I looked up. The car was a twisted hunk of scorched metal. The trees were torches. Sizzling carcasses littered the asphalt. I howled with laughter. My tears washed my soot-covered face.
I staggered passed a sign that marked the last exit out of town. I ignored the numbness seeping into my limbs. Maybe it was just shock or perhaps the fiend was venomous after all. Either way, I’d made it out of town and that was more than most had managed.