The impact cracks one of my teeth and shoots a rooster tail of sparks out from underneath Leviathan’s treads as they grab at the abandoned rails beneath us. Steering the beast through the prohibition tunnels in the dark reminds me of iceskating at night back in Virginia. Traction is horrible, and in a matter of seconds the twitchers follow and gain on us.
“Papa, I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“For the first time in a long time, I’m certain.” I absolutely know what I’m doing, just not whether it will work. Somehow Leonid manages to reload and begins picking off the front runners. “Save some bullets. We’re almost there.”
“My supply of hooch.” Lord willing it’s still there. Only a handful of my friends knew about it during the years after prohibition and before the twitch, all of them most likely dead. “We’re going to light it, all of it. I’ll make the mess, but I’ll need you to clean it up.”
We slide around a bend, the right tread chewing into the rock of the tunnel side, bouncing us and spitting gravel. Finally I make out the stash by the glint of sparks bouncing off the glass bottles stacked in wooden crates from floor to ceiling. “Get ready!”
No sooner than the words leave my lips we crash into the wall of vodka and beer, the impact more painful than I had hoped. With nothing to shield the blow, a crate catches me across the forehead. Another smashes into my chest, weighing down Leviathan’s controls. “Now!” I grunt through clenched teeth.
The Winchester barks and a violent woof rushes past us before sucking all the air back toward the fire. I feel the hair on my face shrivel from the sudden heat as hideous howling fills the tunnel.
“Hot damn! I can’t see much, but I think that got ‘em.”
I blink rapidly, trying to bring moisture back to the surface of my eyes and focus again on the glint of the rails before us. Only then do I realize I still have a case of vodka in my lap. “Think these might come in handy?”
Leonid shifts to see the bottles. “For once, yes. I do.”
“Under your seat, there should be some matches and an old shop rag. Get ‘em out now, incase we need ‘em.” I finish the thought under my breath, “I have a feeling we might.”
“Where does this tunnel come out?”
Nothing gets past my Leonid. “That’s the problem. It doesn’t really.”
Fear creeps into my eldest’s voice. “What do you mean it doesn’t come out? It has to—”
“The exit’s just like the entrance, son. But it’s a lot easier to get down than to get up. I haven’t been down here since I lost my legs.” For several seconds I hear nothing but the grating of the treads on the steel rails as we draw nearer to the end of the line. “I’m not gonna’ be able to get back out.”
“Sure you can—”
“Not with Leviathan, not with my chair. Just me, a broken old man.”
“You’re not broken! You’re my Papa.”
I hear the terror in his voice, and it breaks me, but I know I can’t be soft. “And when we get to the top you’re going to carry me? Through throngs of seething twitchers? We’ll both die, and you know it.”
“But we don’t do anything unless we do it together!” He’s screaming now.
“Not dying, son. That’s the one thing I won’t allow. You do that on your own, fifty years from now.”
“You bastard! You make me care for you just to give up and die?”
“For five years I’ve wanted nothing more. I longed for the day you would kill yourself and put us all out of your misery, because for five years you were nothing but a broken, old man.”
“And today I get my Papa back, just to—“ he crumples in a heap.
Leviathan slows to a stop. “We’re here. End of the line.”