Dead Drive

[WP] You’re scouting the apocalyptic ruins when you happen upon something strange. A couple you knew before they were zombies, who were on the brink of divorce at the time, having what appears to be an argument, just with typical zombie moaning. How much of them is still inside?

The cattle drive is just like all the previous ones, grueling and boring until it isn’t. A pack of wolves run into the heard, scattering them. A rider draws his six shooter to defend them but his horse is spooked and begins to turn away, causing him to lose his hat to the wind in the process. He yanks at the harness, driving his spurs deeper, finally getting the horse oriented back in the right direction.

Several wolves have singled out and leaped onto the back of a cow, driving it to the ground. The rider hesitates, realizing that wolves don’t hunt that way. He pulls back the hammer, then drops it as a plume of smoke peels away. The wolf is jolted by the impact but otherwise continues to gnaw at the cow’s backside. Several more shots follow, and the single wolf finally goes down as the others continue their task.

The rider looks around more gunfire rings out around him. A moment later and the wolves leave the cow as they chase down another cow. The rider dismounts and begins reloading his pistol as he walks over to the dead cow. He looks it over. Its eyes are white and very little blood comes from its wounds, the result of a still heart most like. He holsters his sidearm and walks over to the dead wolf. It smells awful and its fur is matted with something other than fresh blood. A closer inspection reveals its gums pulled away from its teeth and wounds that seem much older than his gunshots.

A mulling sound has him spin and draw his weapon again. He backs away as the cow rocks and tries to regain its feet. After trying and failing multiple times, it seeming to extend its neck to him, he notices that one of the wolves managed to ravage its leg so it cannot stand. He draws the hammer back as he approaches it again. It reaches towards him, and he hears a clicking sound as its teeth chomp together in his direction. His nose wrinkles as he squeezes the trigger, shooting it in the head. It falls still immediately.
Some other riders gallop over to meet up with him. The horses nay and try to pull away as they draw closer. “John,” one of them hollers. “You didn’t get injured did you?”

John pauses to look himself over. “Nah. I seem to be alright.” He turns and raises his hand over his eyes. “I seem to have lost my hat and horse though. Any chance we can round up the heard again before nightfall?”

The rider climbs down and passes his reins to another. He walks up to John as he pulls off his gloves and looks down at the cow. He shakes his head. “We’re calling it John. I think those wolves were infected with that new strain of rabies we’ve been hearing about out west. If you get infected, not even death can cure you. You just keep moving and trying to attack every living thing around you. Me and some of the other boys are heading back to get our own ranches in order. I suggest you do the same.”

John nods. “Any chance, I could get one of you to round up horse? I should have an extra hat in my saddle bag.

“One of the boys is already on it. Just hope those carriers didn’t turn their attention on it.”

A short time later, another rider arrives with John’s horse in tow. “Much obliged partner.”

The rider nods. “A group of us are sticking together as far as the Lancaster Ranch. You’re welcome to join us up until we go our separate ways from there.”

“I reckon I will,” John replies. “Obliged again.” He pets the neck of his horse, it seeming much calmer now. “Easy girl,” he whispers. He gets into his bag to retrieve his other hat. He then replenishes the ammo on his belt and ensures his rifle is fully loaded. He finally climbs back on and nods to the other rider.

The group of them travel at a brisk pace, finally separating at the agreed upon location. John decides to continue into town to acquire more ammo should this strain of rabies turns out to require more ammunition than he typically keeps on hand. Purchasing the extra ammo is going to hurt considering he wasn’t able to collect on this last job but he would need to avoid getting infected if he intended to complete any more drives.

Riding into town is a bit off putting so he stops on the outskirts of town. No one is really moving around the town which is odd. It’s the only town around for over thirty miles so it’s typically buzzing with activity. He only sees the two people standing outside the Sheriff’s station, seeming to argue about something. Several horses are tied to hitching post outside of the saloon, but their reins are all drawn tight as they all lay on the ground. Aside from the arguing couple, the only other activity comes from the tumble weed that crosses the street, disappearing between buildings.

He pushes into town, feeling that he may need that ammo more than he originally believed. He approaches the couple outside of the station, then hears their teeth clacking together as they face one another. He then realizes he recognizes them as the Winchester couple. He knew they were prone to arguing and thought they were having some sort of passive aggressive stare off but then he also recognizes the symptoms of the rabies strain. He wonders if some part of them is still in there somewhere but quickly dismisses it as habits they had established from arguing so frequently.

He dismounts and ties his horse to a post before approaching any further. He draws his firearm and then a backup. He pulls back each hammer and aims at each of their heads. The sequential blasts hit them at a near identical time and they collapse into one another. John looks around as he holsters the backup pistol. He unties the horse again and leads the horse inside the station as he keeps the other pistol at the ready.

Tables and chairs are knocked aside, and a corpse is laid in the middle of the floor, its head a canoe as a V shaped splatter stretches out across the floor. Another corpse is against a wall with a similar stain behind its slouched form. The horse follows along without much fuss, so he releases its reigns to pull a shotgun from a rack. He holsters it in his saddlebag before scavenging ammo and pistols from the corpses. He finishes up, then leads his horse back towards the door, making his way to the general store. He steps out onto the station’s porch, then immediately backs into the doorway once again. The streets have come alive, now something closer to what he was originally expecting, only it’s not the signs of life he had anticipated.