• The trip to Brunswick, Georgia took longer than expected. They had driven through much of Tennessee without problems. They had to drive around a few piled up vehicles, but they didn’t have to turn around. That lasted until Birmingham. As the two approached the city limits, they saw more and more cars piled up in and along they highway. A pile of wrecked, twisted automobiles mostly obscured the city limits sign.

    Alex stopped the car for a few moments and look out over the vehicles. He reached down and turned the radio on scan. As he turned the car around, Heather watched the numbers climb through the broadcast channels.

    After a few seconds of nothing but the sound of the car accelerating, the radio began sounding. The broadcast was much like Sarah’s had been. The person on the radio said, “After 18 hours of broadcasting, alone, I am still here. I don’t know where anyone is or if there is anyone else.”

    Alex glanced down at the radio then back at the road. “First person we’ve heard or seen in over 400 miles.”

    Heather smiled for a minute at the possibility of even more people alive. Alex matched her smile as he pulled up the highway on-ramp onto a smaller U.S. route. As they drove down the two-lane highway they listened to the radio. The man’s voice changed, “I can see someone on the video monitor at the station’s front door.” Heather’s smile broadened when she heard, but his shrank.

    The man’s voice changed when he finally saw what it was that had come in; Alex and Heather heard the swivel chair fall backwards hitting the floor as the man jumped from it. “What ever it is that came in here isn’t human,” the man said through a shaky voice. “They are huge. They look taller than I am and I’m six foot, four.”

    Heather pulled her legs up to her chest and held them close to her as she listened to the man on the radio continue his description. “Their faces are hideous. Their eyes are large and wider set than a person’s. Their noses, god, their noses are gone, nothing but a big gapping hole where ours would be. Thank God that glass is unbreakable. Their arms are huge with veins sticking out; bony protrusions are on their elbows and their knuckles have thick hairs on them, like a grotesque Cro-Magnon man.” Alex and Heather hear a loud slicing sound over the microphone. “One of them just sliced through the glass. Their claws must be razor sharp.”

    Alex was too engrossed by the broadcast to see Heather cover her ears at the sounds. Alex heard glass smash followed by loud thuds. “Oh my god, they’ve broken through the glass.” It sounded as if the man had tried to run around his desk but had been stopped by the creatures.

    Alex imagined that the creatures had grabbed the man by the throat and had lifted him up from the gurgling sounds he was now making. In reality the creatures had indeed grabbed him around the neck but instead of lifting him off the floor one of them had just slashed him across the face and neck leaving deep gashes where the claws had entered. The gurgling sound came from the fluid he had begun spitting up as he attempted to breathe. As they had with Sarah's phone, the creatures destroyed the man’s microphone and transmitting equipment inside the broadcasting booth.

    Alex swerved and narrowly missed a car that had stopped in the roadway. He glanced over at Heather who still had her ears covered. When he turned his attention back to the road, Alex reached down and turned the radio off. Alex reached over to Heather and held her shoulder until she responded. She slowly took her hands off her ears and looked over at Alex through tears. “How many more?” she asked.

    Alex shook his head. “I don’t know; too many,” he said. Alex continued driving down the two-lane highway, the setting sun casting a dark red light into the car. “We’ll get a ways from here and find a place to stay for the night, and then we’ll continue to Brunswick and find Mark.”

    They continued on the road for another hundred miles. Heather was silent, huddled against the door; she held the seatbelt tightly as if it were a lifeline. Alex shut off the radio shortly after the DJ’s radio signal had been cut off. He stared blankly out the window paying only enough attention to watch for cars and debris on the road.

    * * * *

    Heather waited in the car, huddled in the seat, as Alex broke into the manager’s office at the motel they had pulled into. Alex walked through the broken glass and behind the desk looking for a key to a room. Like the other motel they had stayed at the night before there was ash all over the desk and chair. Alex reached behind the chair at a pegboard and took off a key to a room in the back of the building.

    Once the two had gotten around to the back of the motel, Alex saw a light in a room a few doors down. As they walked into their room, Alex tapped her on the shoulder. “Heather, there is a light a few doors down I’m going to go take a look,” he said. When Heather began to look terrified he added, “I’ll be right back. If you want you can watch me go down there, but you should stay here.”

    Heather nodded and followed Alex out of the room, and watched as he made his way down to the lit room. The door was slightly open; Alex slowly swung the door the rest of the way hoping that there was someone alive in the room, and not one of the creatures that had been on the radio and television the past two days.

    A grizzly sight, the wall next to one of the beds looked as if someone had begun painting it red and had stopped shortly after they had started, met Alex. Slumped against the headboard of the farthest bed was a man. Near his right hand was a pistol. Alex saw a small hole in the man’s right temple, but as he walked around the bed, Alex saw a gapping hole on the other side of the man’s head.

    As Alex reached for the pistol, he noticed a nightgown on the bed with ash in and around it. As Alex pulled the pistol from under the man’s hand, he heard someone walk into the room. Alex spun around and pointed the pistol at the door. Heather stood at the door staring at the bed opposite the one Alex was kneeling on. Alex lowered the gun and followed her gaze.

    The bed she was looking at was covered in ash. Alex hadn’t noticed when he had first walked in, but the covers had been pulled off the bed and left at the foot of it. The white sheets had been turned brown, every inch of the bed was covered with ash with a number of small piles scattered around it. Alex walked up between Heather and the bed blocking her view, and guided her from the room.

    Alex and Heather walked up to the SUV that was parked in front of now dark room. Heather rested her hand on the side and leaned against it as Alex opened the trunk to look for ammunition of the pistol. As he looked around the back of the SUV he saw a shotgun, a pair of identical rifles, and another pistol. Alex pulled the guns from the back of the truck and continued searching. The search turned up a number of boxes of ammunition for all of the guns. Alex gathered the guns and carried them to their car keeping a rifle in the motel room. He made another trip to move the ammunition to the car and load the pistol and rifle.

    * * * *

    Alex lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling listening to the sounds that were coming from outside. He rolled over onto his side and stared at the closed curtains. Alex was beginning to fall asleep when he felt the bed shift. Heather climbed onto the bed next to Alex and moved as close to him as she could. Alex could feel the back of his shirt getting wet as Heather cried behind him.

    Once Heather had cried herself to sleep behind him, Alex rolled back over and looked at her. Her face was red from the crying, and Alex could see her eyes moving behind her eyelids. He prayed silently that she was dreaming of something good, but he doubted it.

    Alex watched as she began to cry in her sleep. He listened as she began whispering names; Alex heard the name of her brother, his friend. She called for her parents, friends, and other names he didn’t know. As Heather continued calling for people she began to shake. She began to cry louder, the tears began to fall more quickly. Tears formed in Alex’s eyes as he wished for her to dream of something else, a dream where her brother, her parents, and friends were still alive. Alex reached out and hugged heather close to him. As he rubbed her back, Heather began to quiet down, her tears faded, and her whispers ebbed. Alex’s tears continued as he heard Heather’s breathing slow to a more peaceful rate. Alex soon drifted off into his own fitful sleep.

    Alex woke before Heather did and stood in front of the window watching the birds fly and flutter around the parking lot. Out in the woods, movement caught his eye. As he focused on the woods, and the spot where he saw the movement, Alex began to make out the outline of something large moving through the woods.

    Once the figure exited the woods Alex knew immediately what it was. They had been described only once, but not even his imagination had prepared Alex for actually seeing them. Alex rushed around the bed and grabbed the loaded rifle from between the beds. “Heather, you need to get up,” he said as he shook her.

    Heather groggily woke and sat up. Just as she straightened her back, the creature burst through the door sending shards and slivers of wood across the room. Alex brought the gun up and pulled the butt against his shoulder. “Cover your ears!” he yelled out just before he pulled the trigger.

    In such a confined space the blast deafened him for an instant. The round tore through the creature’s left arm making it stumble backwards through the door. Alex ran across the room in time to see the creature stand and stretch to its full height. The sight of the monstrosity towering over him made Alex hesitate for a moment, in that moment, the creature lashed out striking Alex, sending him back through the doorway and hit the television.

    Alex was dazed for a second. Heather screamed as the creature stomped into the room and walked towards her. The sound brought Alex back around and he aimed again at the creature. Alex fired; the round hit the creature in the head, leaving a large hole as it exited. The creature dropped to the ground just short of Heather on the bed.

    Alex rushed to her side and pulled her off the bed. With little gentleness, Alex put her in the car and backed out of the parking space. As Alex looked behind him, he saw three more of the creatures exit the woods. Alex put the car into drive and slammed his foot on the accelerator. The tires made a high pitched sound as the car sped out of the parking lot onto the main road. The car almost went sideways as Alex turned onto another road with out slowing down.

    Alex took a moment to look at the rearview mirror. In it, he could see a number of the creatures behind him shrinking quickly, disappearing as he continued to accelerate. After driving the car at 80 miles per hour for almost ten minutes, Alex slowed to a reasonable speed and was finally able to put his seatbelt on. He glanced over at Heather; she was still braced against the front dash and the door panel. “Are you alright?” he asked.

    Heather nodded as she slowly relaxed and let go of the door and dash. When she looked over at Alex she saw asked, “What about you? Are you ok?”

    Alex adjusted the mirror and looked at the side of his face. Three large, red strips were visible cutting across his left cheek. Both sides of his face were slowly changing color, from a healthy flesh to a light shade of red. “Could be worse,” he said as he rubbed at the scratches. “I’m surprised the thing didn’t take my head off,” he added.

    After a couple of hours of driving, Alex finally realized they had gone the wrong way. “Heather,” he said, “Can you look in the glove box and see if there is a map in there. We’re going the wrong way, and I really don’t want to go back the way we came.”

    Heather reached out and opened the glove box and searched through it leaving spots of blood wherever she put her hands. “Are you hurt, Heather?” Heather pulled her hands out of the glove box and looked her hands over. Blood covered the back of her right hand, and spots and strips of blood were on her left. Her hands began to shake as she continued staring at them.

    Alex pulled into the parking lot of a small gas station, got out of the car, and searched through the trunk of the car for the first aid kit. After finding it, Alex went around the car and opened Heather’s door. He knelt on the ground and began cleaning off her hands. After a few moments, Alex found that Heather had no wounds on her hands at all; the blood had come from the creature Alex had killed. “You’re not hurt, but you should wash your hands with antiseptic soap,” Alex said as he stood and pointed to an outside water faucet. Heather took his suggestion and they both took a few minutes to wash their hands.

    After taking a few minutes to wash their hands, Heather sat in the passenger seat scanning through a road map that had been behind her seat. Alex leaned up against the side of the car listening to the sounds around them for signs of the creatures that had attacked them in the motel room. Alex had become jumpy at any sound he would stand straight up and point the pistol at where he thought the sound came from. It only took Heather a few minutes to find a way back to the road they had been on. Alex got back into the driver’s seat and pulled out onto the two-lane road.

    * * * *

    It took Alex and Heather a few hours to get back to the road they had been on the day before. After a few miles Heather noticed they were entering a small city. “Alex can we stop?” she asked. Alex was surprised, Heather hadn’t said much during their drive, and had not yet started speaking without someone speaking first. “We don’t have any clothes, and we both need showers.”

    Alex laughed. He hadn’t thought about clothes since they had been sleeping in their clothes and hadn’t brought any with them. He agreed that they needed new clothes. After a few miles into the town they came across a small clothing store in a strip mall. Alex pulled in and they both got out in front of the store.

    After pulling a rifle from the back and making certain it was loaded, Alex used the butt of it to break the window in. The two of them walked to the back of the store and turned on the lights. When Alex flipped the switch he was surprised to see a pile of ash near the back exit. Alex picked up a set of keys that were visible in the ash.

    Alex followed Heather as she made her way to the ladies department and began searching for clothes. Heather went from rack to rack picking clothes and either tossing them over her shoulder or to Alex to hold. Alex thought to himself, “If I had known she was going to ‘shop’, I would have gotten a cart.”

    After almost a half hour Heather made her way to the changing rooms. Alex sat and waited as she tried on clothes; coming out of the room to show him what she liked or to ask his opinion.

    Alex began to doze off after the first 7 sets of clothes. Heather kicking the chair he was sitting on awakened him. Jumping up Alex didn’t notice what Heather was wearing. When he composed himself he finally took a good look. He looked from her head down to her legs then back up again, almost in shock. Heather had put on a pair of blue jeans that seemed almost too tight for her to wear. Her shirt was loose but was till tight enough for Alex blink in surprise, he had never seen her in anything like that. He was used to seeing a shy little girl. Noticing Alex looking her over Heather turned around giving Alex a more complete view of her clothes. After he was finally able to compose himself, Alex said, “Alright, can we go look for clothes for me now?” Heather nodded and she followed Alex as he went off to look for clothes for himself.

    After Alex and Heather had gotten their clothes together and loaded them into the car, they began making their way through the city. Unlike most of the other towns and cities they had driven through, this one seemed undamaged but deserted.

    As they turned onto a main thorough fair, they began noticing damage. Vehicles looked as if they had been picked up and thrown across the road. An overturned tanker truck was lying on its side, gashes in the road showing that it had either slid or been pushed across the road and into a ditch running alongside.

    The two continued driving down the main road trying to get through town. As they approached the center of town the damage and debris had forced them onto the side streets. Seeing the damaged homes that reminded her of the family she had lost, Heather searched the yards looking for evidence that someone could have survived.

    Heather looked down one of the alleys and thought she saw something. “Alex, wait. I think I saw someone.”

    Alex backed the car up to in front of the alley. Before getting out to search he grabbed the pistol from the back seat. The homes on either side of the alley had been gutted by fire, smoke continuing to rise from places. As they came to a juncture of two alleyways Alex heard movement coming from bushes along the side of the alley behind them. “Come out slowly,” Alex order. Out of the bushes came a disheveled young man. His clothes had been torn and he was bleeding. “Are you okay,” Alex asked as he took the man by the shoulder.

    The man turned to Alex and looked up at him. His eyes were blue, and yet seemed almost vacant, as if there was no mind behind them. After looking at Alex a few seconds the man grabbed Alex by the shoulders. “We must leave now, or they’ll get us!” he said shaking Alex.

    Alex didn’t need convincing. He threw one of the man’s arm across his shoulders and helped walk him the car. After Heather opened the back door and Alex put the man in the car, Alex and Heather got into the front and drove off. Alex paid no attention to street signs, or speed limits, he just drove as fast as he could out of town.

    A few miles out of town Alex looked in the rear-view mirror and asked, “What happened, do you know?”

    The man was silent for a few moments, seeming to collect his thoughts. “I don’t know,” he answered. “My girlfriend and I woke up three days ago. We didn’t notice anything was wrong until we went outside. No one was around, no sounds, no wind even.” Heather turned in her seat and listened to the man’s story.

    “The next morning there was something wrong with my girlfriend. She became real sick and started vomiting and shaking. I brought her into our bedroom and lay her on the bed. A few minutes later,” the man stopped his story and began to sob. “She began to change. I really can’t describe how she changed; she became violent and stronger. She pushed the dresser around like it was nothing. When she threw me out the window I ran. I’m glad we lived on the first floor.”

    As the man continued they came upon road construction that had started a few weeks earlier, the man said, “After a few minutes I heard her voice, she was calling for help. I followed the voice but I came across some monster. I don’t know how, but I was able to get away and started hiding from any sound I heard, even my girlfriend’s voice. I was beginning to feel sick when I heard your car come, and I tried to make it out to the road, but I lost my strength and could barely move. I don’t know why.”

    Heather was watching the man when he leaned forward and grabbed his stomach. “Oh no, it’s happening to me,” he said. “Stop the car!” Alex skidded to a stop and the man burst out of the car. He leaned forward and vomited on the side of the road.

    Heather ran out of the car and was about to pat the man on the back to help him until Alex grabbed her by the wrist. “No, don’t touch him,” Alex said. The man reached out with his hand waving for them to get back while nodding.

    The man dropped to his knees and continued vomiting. Alex and Heather watched as the color of it changed from pale to dull red. Seconds later the man dropped to the ground shaking violently. They watched as his skin began to change color.

    Alex ran back to the car and pulled the pistol from the center console of the car. He pointed it at the man and waited, hoping that it wasn’t needed. Heather and Alex watched in horror as the man’s physical appearance changed. The man screamed from the pain causing Heather to ran back into the car and slam the door shut.

    After a minute the man, or what he had become jumped to its feet and stretched to its full height, towering over Alex. He ran back a few feet from fright, but Heather’s cries from the car broke him out of the fear. He straightened up and aimed the pistol at the creature’s head. After cocking the pistol, Alex pulled the trigger twice sending the rounds into the creature’s face and spraying blood across the side of the car. The creature took a few more steps forward then dropped to the ground.

    Alex stared at the creature that lay at his feet. As he looked down at it Heather banged on the window and called out to him. “Alex, get in the car,” she yelled out, “please!” He looked up at her and saw that she wasn’t looking at him but at something behind him. Three of the creatures were running down the roadway towards him.

    Alex ran around the car and jumped into the driver’s seat. Heather was turned in her seat staring out the back window at the quickly growing creatures. When she had called out to Alex they had been tiny, but had grown much larger in the few seconds he had taken to get into the car.

    Alex pulled the shift lever back and floored the accelerator. Just as the car started off the rear end dropped down and scrapped on the pavement. One of the creatures and jumped on to the back of it and began pounding on the roof. Alex swerved sharply to avoid a derelict truck in the road sending the creature over the side of the car. Heather screamed when she saw that the creature was still holding on.

    As the car sped past a row of orange barrels, Alex pulled the car closer to them. After a few seconds they were hitting the creature in the back making it howl in pain. The creature began pounding on Heather’s door.

    Alex pulled even closer. The barrels began nicking the car and hitting the creature in the head. After a few more seconds of it, the creature let go and bounced off the road into a back hoe breaking the hydraulic scoop in the front. Heather turned and watched the now shrinking creature stand.

    “Are you alright, Heather?” Alex asked. Heather continued staring out the back window. When he reached out and touched her on the arm she jumped. “I guess not,” Alex thought to himself.

    Heather wrapped her arms around herself and began crying. Alex listened for a few seconds trying to think of what to say. “It’s alright,” he began, “we know that there is someone still alive.”

    “No it isn’t,” Heather said softly. She looked over at Alex. “What if what happened to the man has happened to Mark?” She looked down at the floor, “What if it happens to us?”

    Alex stared out the window. He hadn’t thought of it happening to them, or even to Mark. He pulled onto a high-way on ramp and accelerated. “I don’t know, Heather,” he finally admitted. Heather tilted the seat back and turned onto her side, her back to him.