The country had been turning more arid as they drove, the river was an oasis. Off to the north giant plumes of smoke blanketed the sky, seeming to spread across the entire length of the horizon. They had both wondered what it might be. Lana had checked the map and she though it could be Yellowstone or something close to Yellowstone.
Shops, stores, and even an RV park had sprung up around the interchange. They foraged for food in the late afternoon and gassed up the truck before evening began to take the sunlight. The air had a bitter, hot smell to it, the river flowed sluggishly, the water gray, and a scum of yellow white foam and ash rode the slow current. They sat in the truck and ate quietly while the map lay open across their legs and the seat top. Their eyes would drop to the map and then jump back up to scan the area. It had seemed too quiet, and there were no bodies anywhere. No sign of life either, and the stores and shops had not been looted. Some were still locked up. Empty RV’s in the park when they rolled slowly through it. Neither liked the feeling, the whole place felt wrong.
“Johnny,” Lana waited until his eyes left the map and met her own. He lifted them to follow her own gaze. “The silver building over to the right. The door just opened and then closed.”
Johnny frowned. “Not something the dead would do, is it?”
“We didn’t think they would come out in the daylight,” Lana said.
As Johnny watched he saw the door edge open slightly and then close just as slowly. “Saw it… I don’t like it. Dead or alive they know we’re here and they’re checking us out.” He dropped his eyes back to the map.
“Okay,” he said after a few moments. “Let’s get off the road, run a ways out… Follow the highway. That takes us away from civilization to a degree, but eventually that will bring us into Phoenix.” He waited for her to nod her understanding. “There’s a lot of desolation between here and there, at least on the map.”
“Desolation is fine as long as the dead aren’t there.” Lana said quietly.
“Less likely to be,” Johnny agreed.
A few minutes later they were running through the desert that ran alongside I 10. There were not a great many cars or trucks there, but in several places there had been wrecks that closed lanes down. With no one to clear them they would have ended up in the desert anyway. And there seemed to be a dirt road that ran beside I 10 for as far as they could see.
The landscape in the distance had been changing as they drove the day away, but with the sun setting a few hours after they set out once more it was hard to tell what the surrounding countryside was like. Johnny dropped speed and flicked the trucks high beams on. A short while later Lana was sleeping, her head heavy against his arm. He drove through the night and into the early morning before she woke again. …
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