Taking a quick glance back toward the lights approaching in the distance, I open the door and step onto the uneven surface of the road. After a few steps around to the front bumper I freeze. Good God.
Bodies. Cold as the grave and collecting snow, a whole slew of ‘em. Just plopped down and left in the road like rotten fruit fallen from a tree. They cover the whole road beyond the straining electric lights.
A rustling in the dark sends a sizzle of electricity jumping through my body. A faint growl encourages me back inside the T. I gun the engine. Bouncing along a road paved by the dead and dying, I notice lights from up ahead, jolting their way toward me while the lights from behind are gaining.
Finally I jerk the wheel onto the rutted wagon trail leading south to the overlook. Ghostly hallucinations dance in my peripheral vision. Mirages of former humans, the twitch infected, are piled in clumps along the side of the road. Tattered clothing flutters from mesquite branches. Ghastly faces, blurred with fury, loom out of the shadows. The countryside burns alive, flooded with spectral images—black flames of plague. And I can’t stop it. Until eventually it’s burning me.
I slam on the brakes and skid sideways, stopping short of the bluff by less than a foot. “Get a grip, you mindless ninny.” I slap myself and take a look about. Perfect. The approach to Antelope Overlook is shielded by a mound high enough to hide the cars parked there. Over the years the road has carved a notch though it like the sight on a rifle, with room for only one car to pass through at a time. Tonight I’m betting that car’s gonna be mine.
Facing out the way I came, I flick the fuel line open to the carbide lights, but wait to hit the electric ignition. I spit the spent lump of gum onto the floor and replace it. Untangling the pull chains that dangle from the two Browning A-5s welded to the roof, I give in to a maniacal smile. Two sets of beams flicker into view, energizing the steadily falling flakes of snow.
I drop the pedal to the cold metal floor, tires digging into the softening earth. The engine roars, overwhelming the duel mufflers momentarily before surging with the power reaped from a billion tiny explosions, harnessed and funneled into moving parts. Exhilarating, the feeling focuses me as well. At the crest of the notch I hit the igniter for the carbide headlights. Primed and ready, they burst into blinding stars.
Bearing down at full-throttle, the company cars falter. I clutch the pull chains and yank. Gunpowder flashes from the tips of the muzzles peeking over the lip of the roof. The windshield of the lead car explodes as the shotguns thunder their fury. Time slips into slow motion, everything happening at once.
The company car jerks wildly off the road, climbing the steep slope of the notch. I slack my grip on the pull chains. The Browning Autos kick out spent shells, loading fresh ones in the same motion. My engine growls, reaching a higher level of performance on level ground. Through all of it a smile curls my lips.
In the span of seconds, I tighten my grip on the pull chains again. Duel flares emerge. Sparking gunpowder hurdles buckshot indiscriminately through metal, flesh, bone—ripping apart the second Model T like an unopened can of beans left in the fire.
Clinging to the hill above me, the first car reaches gravity’s limit and topples over backwards. Barely missing, it smashes into the road behind me. Simultaneously the car in front snaps sideways like a horse’s ankle in a rabbit hole. Losing its purchase, it rolls. Shattering glass mingles with the snow swirling in the headlights as they illuminate the side of the notch.
Closing the gap too fast and no where to go, I choose gas over brakes. Focusing on the tumbling cars’ lights, I beg my T to climb the side of the notch. Almost too late I remember the rubber bulb added for just this occasion. Filled with extra gas for climbing uphill, I give the bulb two quick pulses. Spinning in the dryer dirt while climbing, I turn my head to follow the shattered shell of the company T, dodging it with less than a foot to spare. The wrecked auto’s electric lights finally go dead as I pass.
Letting off the gas for the first time, I pull back onto the rutted path and focus on the two company cars still in the distance. My watch swings subtly from its chain.