Hollywood was in the rear view mirror, fading into the distance along with Wichita and Little Rock. He had tried to persuade them to head north-east with them to Ohio but Wichita was convinced there was nothing for them in Columbus. Yeah, that stung a little because he thought he had got a good thing going with Wichita after he became her savior at the amusement park. The girls were heading back to Bill Murray's empty mansion, planning on stockpiling as much food and bottled water as they could find and living in Hollywood luxury. He couldn't blame them but....
"Even tinned food has an expiration date," he whined.
The only foodstuff that might survive decades after the zombie apocalypse was Tallahassee's beloved Twinkies, and Columbus knew Tallahassee wasn't planning on sharing any of those - if he ever found any more. For something that had seemed an American staple before the apocalypse, those Twinkies had proved hard to find.
"Got to let her go," Tallahassee stated solemnly. "Woman like that has her own plans."
Of course he could have stayed behind with them and spent the next few years watching movies in their own private theater, living off tinned soup and peaches until the electric grid failed and the back up generator packed up. Then they could have moved on, tried another of the big houses built like a fortress to keep out the crazies - formerly fans and now zombies. Except he needed to know what happened to his parents. They gave him life and a college fund so he kind of owed them.
They came to a gas station and pulled in, testing the pumps just in case.
"Whoo-wee!" Tallahassee exclaimed as the gas began to flow into the tank, surprising both of them as Columbus thought there would have been a run on gas as soon as the zombie apocalypse started.
Even better, the store had a small supply of jerry cans stacked up neatly right outside the door. As Columbus went to grab the one on top of the stack a bloodied hand slapped against the store's window; he jumped back in surprise. Torn and bloodied lips pulled back in a snarl as the zombie of a young guy tried to get to him unsuccessfully. Weirdly it was the first time Columbus had found the opportunity to stand and stare back, taking in the tattered uniform with the name, Carl, embroidered on a cloth patch. Carl was joined by another zombie, a little old lady.
Blinking rapidly, Columbus drew back from the gristly sight and grabbed the top three cans, taking then back to Tallahassee. He noticed Tallahassee eyeing up the store as the cans were filled, licking his lips in contemplation. Columbus retrieved a few more cans, figuring they might as well take as much gas as they could carry as the chances of finding another mother-lode like this on the journey east was slim. Plus it meant they wouldn't have to take stupid risks to fill up elsewhere. On the third trip he spotted the rack of maps just to the side of the counter.
"What do you think?"
"I think there might be a Twinkie inside that store," Tallahassee replied.
They tried the door but it was locked from the inside. Columbus guessed Carl had locked himself into the store with the old lady after he got bit, but Tallahassee didn't let that deter him. He slid behind the wheel of the Chrysler parked at the pump next to them, strapped himself in, and started the engine. He gave Columbus a big, maniacal grin before flooring the gas and heading straight for the glass-fronted store, using what was most likely the old lady's car as a battering ram. Glass shattered and went everywhere, the Chrysler's engine still running furiously even though Tallahassee was already out the door and heading towards the confectionery aisle.
As the store had only a couple of zombies to dispatch he and Tallahassee barely broke out a sweat. The little old lady was mostly harmless having somehow lost her dentures, though Columbus wondered if she could gum him to death. He decided not to give her the chance. Tallahassee left him to deal with her for while he took on Carl, cracking him on the head with a tire iron picked off the shelf. A life time of being told to treat his elders with respect made him hesitate from hitting the little old lady, but as she started to claw at him, her toothless mouth smacking from useless attempts to bite him, he put all those old notions aside. Pushing her back a few steps he swung a baseball bat, downing her in one swing... but remembering the double-tap rule, he swung a second time to crush her skull completely.
The noise would attract all the other zombies in the area so they grabbed what they needed fast, piling water, juice, candy bars, along with whatever other edible items were left on the shelves into a trolley and carrying it out, quickly loading it into the back of the top-of-the-range Jeep Cherokee they'd found in Bill Murray's spacious garage. The first zombie arrived moments later but by then Tallahassee was pulling away. Columbus had grabbed the best looking map book off the display, flipping to the right page before trailing his finger across.
"We taking the I-40 or the I-70?"
Tallahassee cut a glance at him. "Does it matter?"
"I-40 to the I-44 has less major cities but we're heading into Summer. It's going to be hot on the road, and if we break down there won't be anyone for miles, which is probably a good thing... except the long walk under a hot sun might kill us. I-70 has better scenery and will be cooler in the mountains, but we'd have to skirt around Denver and Kansas City, adding time to the journey."
Not that time really mattered much. Columbus knew the odds of finding his parents alive were slim at best, but he figured they deserved to rest in peace rather than wander around until the skin rotted off their undead bodies. He recalled how he had met Tallahassee on a freeway clogged with cars filled with people that hadn't made it to any kind of safety. The Cherokee would be able to negotiate off-road to skirt around the worse of the snarl ups but the I-40 was likely to be clearer, except he couldn't know that for sure. Thousands of people would have tried to leave the big cities at the start of the outbreak, unsure of where exactly they were heading - south into Mexico or north to Canada - so there was no guarantee either of the interstates would be clear.
In the end they decided on the I-40 just to avoid the temptations of Vegas.
The map had some basic timings. It would take them 32 hours nonstop, which was possible if they took 4-6 hour turns at the wheel, but Columbus had already admitted to himself there was no great rush. Plus it would be better if they didn't drive too late at night just in case they came across a bad snarl up and couldn't see a way out in the dark. Better to add a few extra days to the journey than ending up dead, or worse, undead by the side of the road.
Columbus hadn't noticed Tallahassee grabbing a couple of large sleeping bags from the store but they came in useful when the temperature dropped overnight. Somehow they managed to recline the seats far enough to sleep without getting a bad crick in the neck but Columbus awoke to the slapping of hands on the driver's closed window. Tallahassee swore as the former Park Ranger groaned as it pawed at the door, as if part of its brain still remembered it as the means of getting to the juicy, living people inside the Cherokee. Rolling down the window, he stabbed the sun ravaged zombie straight through the eye socket with a steel tent peg. In the distance Columbus could see a small herd of colorfully dressed zombies heading for them, unsurprised when Tallahassee gunned the engine and mowed down a few as he drove through them at speed, scattering them like pins in a bowling alley. They passed a coach hanging half off the road a little while later, which explained where all the zombie tourists had come from.
In the days that followed they had to skirt around a few of the larger towns clogged with cars and their undead drivers and passengers, glad they'd picked the Cherokee with its 4-wheel drive suitable for occasional off-road over rough terrain. It took them most of a day to bypass Oklahoma City, giving it a wide berth before joining the I-44 heading towards St. Louis. More diversions and delays meant they didn't reach Columbus, Ohio for nine days, spending most nights sleeping side-by-side in the luxurious front seats of the Cherokee. He wasn't sure which of them reached out first but in the face of a zombie apocalypse a little light relief from another man's hand seemed unimportant compared to the gut-wrenching pleasure of knowing they were both still alive to enjoy a moment of orgasmic delight. As nothing catastrophic - or rather more catastrophic - happened, they repeated it again the next night, and morning, and the night and morning after that.
Then they reached Columbus, Ohio. It was probably lucky his parents lived in the suburbs as going into the city would be suicidal. Even so the sheer number of zombies dragging their gristly undead corpses around what had once been fairly pleasant streets made the mass attack at the fairground look like a small gathering, and any hopes of finding his parents alive fizzled out. He checked out hi family home with Tallahassee watching his back, eventually finding them locked in the bedroom; the suicide by overdose of sleeping pills had simply left them undead.
"Does this mean we're going steady," Tallahassee asked with a big grin and a twinkle in his eye as he kept both of Columbus's rabid, zombie parents at arm's length.
"I should..." Columbus indicated between his parents and the baseball bat in his hand.
Tallahassee looked hard at him, all levity missing as he nodded and stepped back. At the start of all this Columbus would have gladly handed over the bat and the responsibility to Tallahassee but now he realized it was the kindest, most thoughtful act a son could do for his parents, giving them true death. Still, he was grateful when Tallahassee took his baseball bat and handed him a thin bladed knife instead. It took only seconds and Tallahassee helped him move their fully dead bodies to the bed, pulling a blanket over them so it looked as if they were merely sleeping. He grabbed a few favorite mementos, including a photo taken of them all when he graduated high school, before walking out and locking the bedroom door behind him in the hope they'd remain undisturbed until they turned to dust. Tallahassee ransacked the kitchen of anything still edible - mostly tins and jars - and then they headed out together.
The had to fight their way back to the Cherokee, and Columbus looked back only once before they turned the street corner and he left that part of his life behind him forever.
"Where next?" Tallahassee asked, and Columbus shrugged, suddenly aware it really didn't matter where they went, as long as they traveled that road together.