Puncture 1.7

Tate was in great shape thanks to his position of power. Water and food was in good supply, and he fought in the pit at least three times a week. I’m the best. I ain’t dyin’ out here. Tate had tried to salvage what he could from the two overturned trucks that had failed to capture James and his vamper. Now that it was night time, Tate was grateful the pair was going the other direction.

There hadn’t been any edible supplies, as they hadn’t planned on chasing James so far away from camp. Only one survivor was well enough to limp with Tate back to camp. Gina had the same red tattoos as the other raiders, but Tate could still make out the shiny blood in her face and bare torso.

Gina’s bust was enough to distract most straight men. She had even claimed her breasts had been major assets in the fighting pit. “Slows down a man’s reaction time,” she had said.

Tate pulled Gina over the next dune. She let out a sharp yip, and they rolled to the bottom of the slope. Tate rolled to his back as soon as he reclaimed his light machine gun. There was just enough moonlight for Tate to adjust his eyes to.

Gina was biting her bottom lip as she tightly clasped her right knee. Tate quietly kicked some sand at her for attention. When she looked, he nodded his head to the three crossbows they had dropped. An expression of sharp pain crossed her face as she released her knee to claim a weapon in each hand.

Bottom of a small pit, not the most tactical placement. Tate held his palm out to Gina, motioning for her to stay. The slightly older woman nodded and seemed to relax. Tate carefully laid the gun down, and crawled on his belly back up the slope they had rolled from.

Peeking over the dune, Tate squinted to see a few pale figures meeting together. Fuckin’ vampers don’t give up. Tate and Gina had managed to immobilize two of the hunters, now he saw five following their trail. Tate pounded his forehead in the sand. Gina’s bleeding you fuckin’ idiot. Of course they’re still tracking us.

Judging the distance, Tate figured he had time. He quietly slid back to Gina’s side and whispered, “How’s the knee?”

“Stings like a heart-broke bitch.”

“Just sit tight, those assholes we chased have a buggy nearby. I’ll bring it right back.”

“When we get outta this, I’m gonna fuck you sideways.”

Didn’t we fuck already? If she was good, I’d probably remember. Unless I was stoned, I get a little forgetful. Tate realized Gina was staring at him. He plastered a fake grin and nodded, “Can’t wait. Now I’m gonna sneak over the next few hills and make a distraction, then I’ll break for the buggy and come right back to you.”

Tate started to get up, but she grabbed his arm. “How will you find me?”

He gripped her shoulder, “I have an excellent sense of direction.” Most of the time. The teenager could see the fear in her eyes. “Do you have any idea how many vampers I killed? Plenty. We’re going home Gina.”

“It’s Genie. Like from a lamp.”

“Just a nickname girl. I’ll be right back.” Smooth.

He smiled until Genie smiled, and snuck back to his gun. Tate lightly tapped the gun to shake some sand out. Russian-made. It’s fine. Tate silently crawled his way south, with the vampers moving in from the east.

Tate fought the urge to peek over his shoulder to check on the vampers. They’re hunting in a pack, I’ll know when they’re close. The machine gun was a sturdy, reliable model. Heavy as shit. Sliding the gun along the base helped alleviate the weight and lowered the chance of gathering sand in the mechanical parts.

Strong gusts of wind began to wail. Tate slid to the bottom of another small dune, but the sand was slamming him from every direction. Dust storm might be good. Clog the vampers’ nostrils maybe? Cover up my noise maybe.

Sharp howls filled the air, even louder than the gathering sand storm. Tate rolled on his back and pointed the gun where he expected the pack to follow him from. Not here. Genie’s scream added to the maniacal roaring. Shit.

Tate pushed himself up and crawled up a larger dune as quickly as he could. Visibility was low. Moonlight was heavily obscured by the moving wall of sand in front of Tate. The wind died for a moment, allowing Tate’s hearing to catch a rustling sound behind him.

The teenager stopped climbing and dipped his head down to look down between his arms and legs. A hunter vamper was following Tate’s trail, quickly closing the distance. Tate rolled to his back and laid the machine gun between his knees, aiming down the slope. He glanced up further and barely saw the other four monsters piled around Genie’s location.

Tate double checked his safety. Fuck, it’s gonna be loud. These are anti-aircraft rounds though… Tate figured he could remove a few limbs with his gun, if it didn’t jam. Twenty-six rounds, five vampers. I can’t miss.

Dammit. Tate set the gun gently to his side, and claimed the hooked rod from his belt. The weapon was nearly as tall as Tate, with sharp pieces of warped metal at each end. He still had the bullet-proof glass shield in his right hand. The handle in the shield was thin enough that he could handle the pole at the same time, but he set it down as well.

The naked, horribly pale creature looked straight up to Tate. The former human looked younger than Tate, with fresh blood shining in what little light there was. Roaring wind picked up the same time the frail hunter howled in the air. Sand picked up again, concealing the other four hunters.

Tate pushed himself to his feet and raised his very long club overhead. The vamper climbed the hill much quicker than Tate could run. Tate tried to time his swing, but reflex took over regardless. The plastic-metal alloy slammed into the creature’s skull and spine.

Tate clearly felt the vibration of multiple cracks and scrapes at the other end of the weapon. A weak gurgle escaped the creature’s mouth. Tate kept pressure on the pole as he jumped down to plant both feet near his attacker’s elbows. Then he raised the weapon and slammed it into the back of the vamper’s balding scalp, several times.

Fluids splattered the insides of Tate’s ankles. Up close, Tate got a good look at the boy’s corpse. Zero fat. I think I can see every bone under the skin. He didn’t know vamper anatomy very well, but Tate guessed that the boy hadn’t been infected long, or he hadn’t gotten much blood since being infected. Maybe both.

Tate could barely see the others rushing up the hill. He had to close his left eye with all the sand blasting that side of his face. The young man planted his weapon into the vamper’s back to reclaim his firearm. The rest of the pack roared above the wind’s howling.

The other four vampers had smoother features, presumably a sign of better nutrition. Paler than a moon, with fresh blood dripping from their mouths and claws, the pack looked ageless. No hair or extra body fat, it was tough to guess genders unless they got closer.

Tate waited longer than he wanted to. The figures were still blurry in the sand, but they were grouped closely. “Fuck you!” The gun fired without any problems, but the recoil knocked Tate to his ass. He put a hand on top of the barrel and fired in shorter bursts, keeping most of the blasts horizontal.

Vampers weren’t supposed to feel pain, but their howls did have a distinct, higher pitch when injured. The gun was empty, Tate’s arms and ears were throbbing. Two vampers were still rushing uphill. Tate threw the gun at the one that was limping, easily rolling it back to the bottom of the slope.

The last vamper was missing its right arm and most of its left lung. Tate was fast enough to stomp it in its broad chest, knocking it to its back. The wind died down again. Tate could clearly see the limper running back up. The teenager grabbed his warped staff and reeled it back for a horizontal swing.

The armless vamper was still closer. Tate swung for its skinny ankles and tripped it to its face. He stomped the creature’s neck and readied the next swing for the limper. The second creature screamed as it dropped to its hands, running on three limbs.

Tate’s leg trembled to keep the armless vamper down. Then he raised his staff overhead once again, slamming the limper in the top of the skull. The blow knocked it down, but didn’t slow the creature. “Shit!” Tate stuck the warped end of the pole into the back of the vamper’s rubbery spine. The armless vamp was now clutching Tate’s ankle, crushing it like a vice and also digging its claws in. “Fuck!”

The teen still had a knife in his back pocket, but he needed all his strength in the pole to keep the limper in place. Think dammit, think! Corkscrew! Tate leaned into the pole and twisted the warped metal into the limper’s spongy spine.

Sharp howls signaled pain, or something close enough to let Tate believe he was doing damage. Tate enjoyed fighting. Even a murder here and there. Torturing a man to death wasn’t his style. Even taking this much time to stop a vamper was unnerving. “Just… stop you pale shithead!”

A quick glance down the slope didn’t help. The other two vampers were slowly crawling up. They only had one intact arm between the two of them. He couldn’t see much more except a few random limbs and other pieces scattered behind them.

Tate returned his concentration to the limper below him. Its right arm and legs were twitching, the left side was unmoving. The vibration in the pole felt like he was scraping sand. Good enough?

Reluctantly, Tate released the pole, which seemed to stay in place. He whipped out his pocket knife, the blade no longer than his thumb. Looking down, the armless vamp was licking the blood dripping from Tate’s boot.

Disgust and rage took over. Tate squatted low enough to stab the creature’s only wrist. The knife hadn’t been sharpened for a while, and vampers weren’t easy to cut. With not other options, Tate forced the tip of the blade further and further into the wrist. He eventually hit a harder type of rubbery surface.

Tate figured he had hit a bone or cartilage. He wiggled the knife back and forth constantly. The two crawlers were severely handicapped, but their pace was steady. Tate looked back to his ankle. Too slow.

He pulled the knife out of the wrist, like pulling it from taffy. I love taffy. I deserve some after this. Tate removed the knife, and stabbed the creature in its eye. The vamper howled a sharp pitch that put a shiver down Tate’s spine. The creature only clenched tighter, but Tate stabbed its other eye anyway.

The wind picked up again, obscuring the crawlers and muffling the armless vamper’s cry. Tate grabbed the vamper’s wrist as he stabbed the beast in the ear. As he stabbed over a dozen times, he yelled, “Die dude!”

Tate figured he must’ve hit a nerve or something. The vamp released its grip in time with one of the stabbings. Tate’s eyebrows shot up, and he fell away from the beast. The teen fumbled through the small sand storm for his windshield until he grabbed it by the handle.

The pole he had used was effective, but Tate abandoned it as he climbed to the peak. He looked back and puffed with a laugh. “King of the fuckin’ hill!”

Tate only had the energy to smirk as he used his shield for an actual windshield. He couldn’t see any further, but he kept a lot of sand out of his face and ear as he continued. Loose sand stung the fresh wounds at his ankle, but he limped onward.

Tate would have to make excuses and kiss some asses when he returned to camp. He had just lost a handful of his best people. One name repeated through his mind: James.

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