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.Two sand-colored Abrams tanks with their severe angles and 120mm cannons squatted on one end of the bridge, daring anything to cross.As intimidating as they looked, they were no more than armored skeletons of dead beasts, as dead as the soldiers inside.Nothing moved on the bridge among the carcasses of exploded vehicles, with their burnt innards and metal skin flowering out on rusty petals.The concrete and steel rail at the south end of the bridge was broken through.The rear ends of two cars stuck vertically up out of the water.As we floated under, I looked up and wondered how many bones of how many people lay on the concrete above.Ahead of us, trees grew thick on both banks, and a slight curve in the river kept the North Lamar Boulevard Bridge—the next one we’d pass—hidden from sight.Tall downtown buildings peeked above the treetops, far enough away that it was impossible to tell that anything was amiss.Birds squawked in branches.Ducks swam in twos and threes near the shore.Turtles piled themselves on exposed logs and larger rocks, hoping the hot sun would return.Even the sound of rifle fire and the howls of the hungry infected were absent.Only the rain and thunder remained.The temptation was heavy to forget that beyond the trees was a broken world full of dead humans and white monsters.Succumbing to that temptation, my paddle found its way out of the water and across my lap.I looked up at the sky and closed my eyes, letting the light rain between the squalls drip on my face.I stayed that way for a long time.I realized how tired I was, not just physically but emotionally.I’d been blazing away for weeks in full survival mode, riding a tsunami of rage, vengeance and fear.How long had it been? It was so easy to lose track of the days when all of the calendar-based events in life fell away.The virus hit in mid-August and now it was mid-September, I guessed.I’d survived a month.According to Jeff Aubrey’s equations, I only had to make it another eleven months to earn a real chance at staying in this world long enough to see my hair turn gray.But I doubted I could make it.Thinking about all that happened, I wondered why I was still alive.The wooden paddle across my lap nagged at me to pick it up and put it to use in the now onerous task of pulling it through the water.The weight of my world, so precariously dammed behind my anger, burst through and smashed every bit of desire I had to move forward.The rain stopped feeling good.The bird’s songs were an irritating racket.The turtles were just stupid, slow reptiles whose heads would one day be bitten off in the jaws of hungry Whites.I slumped forward, leaned on my paddle, and wondered how I was going to make it all the way across town to the university campus.“You all right, man?” Murphy was concerned.He sensed the change in my mood.I nodded.What choice did I have but to be all right?Still, I leaned on my paddle and stared at the greenish water, at the splashes of tiny raindrops and little expanding circles, dying as they each drowned in the waves of other circles on the surface of the water.I was one of those circles, and I felt like I’d expanded to my limit.I was waiting to get washed away.In that moment, I would have welcomed it.The absence of the sound of a paddle in the water behind me told me Murphy had pulled his paddle into the boat as well.“Are you okay, Zed?”Sitting up straight, I perfunctorily dipped my paddle back into the water.“I just need to keep moving.”“What?” He heard me.He was one of those many people who use the single word “what” as a request for more information.I stroked the paddle.“When I’m moving, I’m okay.When I stop and give myself time to think, all of this craziness starts to seep through the cracks.” I drew in a deep breath.My confession had a weight of its own.“It’s wearing me down, Murphy.”Murphy didn’t respond immediately.Finally, he said, “You know what I think, man?”I shook my head.“Do I want to know?”“If we see a liquor store on the way, we need to get a few bottles of the hard stuff.And when we get back to the boat, we need to drink ourselves out of all this bullshit for a while.”I turned back to Murphy.“Yeah, that sounds good.” It did indeed.“Some pussy wouldn’t hurt either.”“Don’t start that again.”“Man, I’m tellin’ you.I can’t figure out why you and Steph aren’t bumpin’ uglies yet.”I nearly laughed at that.Murphy did have a way.“Bumpin’ uglies? How old is that expression?”Murphy shrugged.“It’s complicated.”“How complicated could it be? She likes you.You like her.I don’t know if you’re holding out for something better, but in case you haven’t noticed, there’s not likely to be anything else around.You know what I mean, man?”“It’s not that.”“What is it, then? She’s a little on the skinny side for my taste but we’re all gettin’ that way, right?”I smiled and looked down at myself.I couldn’t afford to get much skinnier.“So what is it? Spill the beans.”“I don’t know.” I looked down the river.I looked at the trees.“Sometimes, all I think about is her.Other times, she pisses me off with her bossy bullshit, and all I want to do is go somewhere where I don’t have to listen to her.”Murphy laughed loudly and the sound carried across the water.“You just don’t like being told what to do.”“It’s not that.” It was.“Don’t lie to me, man.”I turned forward again and started paddling.“When you get those bossy ones in bed, Zed, take my word for it, you won’t go away unhappy.”I shook my head.I was steering the boat again.I was doing something.I was moving forward.Murphy was a better friend than I deserved.To our right, the wide mouth of Barton Creek opened up onto the river.The banks of the creek were thick with trees and shrubs.I saw two of the infected squatting among the bushes on the shore.One of them had a canoe paddle over his shoulder, probably one of the many available at another canoe rental business a half-mile up the creek.Both Whites were intently watching a spot in the water just a few feet away from the bank.One of them looked up at us in our canoe and oddly, didn’t seem to have any interest.The one with the paddle smacked it down hard on the surface of the water.The other jumped up and waded in, going chest deep just three steps from shore.As I started to wonder what was going on, the one in the water lifted a sizable turtle out by its back leg and showed it to the one with the paddle.The one with the paddle grinned.Just as I was about to conclude the pair was Slow Burns like me, the one with the paddle made some kind of monkey sound.The one making his way out of the water answered in kind.“What’s that about?” Murphy asked.“Turtle… fishing?”“I can see that.Those ones aren’t afraid of the water [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]