We begin making our way along the highway, just inside the woods beyond the northbound breakdown lane. Initially, Zoey begs that we set out on the pavement itself, where we could easily walk twice as fast. But I can’t allow it; we’d also be twice as visible. And this highway, we soon discover, is not all together abandoned.
We soon spot them, standing in the distance like department store mannequins. Scattered about the travel lanes, north and south. Along the grass median and on the embankments sloping down to the wooded verge that we are walking in. We pause, hidden in the cover, watching. After a few seconds of study, we begin to see movement. Some are merely swaying ever so slightly, rocking on their pelvises, draped with filthy clothing and ill-fitting flesh. Others are wandering slowly, aimlessly amidst the abandoned vehicles.
I see one stagger right into the back of another that’s been leaning, inert, against a wrecked car. The affronted zed abruptly straightens up and viciously swings about, raking the face of the other zombie with both hands, pulling off strips of flesh. The other zombie counters, bear-hugging its tormentor, and then buries its rotting teeth into the other zed’s neck. The two stagger around for half a minute, locked together like two inept wrestlers, neither with the skill or even the inclination to bring the other down to the mat.
But these wrestlers are tearing at each other, a mounting pile of skin and tissue accumulating around their feet. And then, just like that, they release each other, turn and go back to their pointless wanderings, the past minutes of furious clawing and biting already forgotten.
It’s odd enough seeing those figures out in the freeway, alongside the mile markers and freeway speed limit signs. But that so many of them are nearly frozen there, almost loitering, unconcerned, is profoundly unsettling. Minute by minute, hour by hour, they go unchallenged for the right to occupy those lanes of asphalt. It somehow accentuates the fact that there is absolutely no traffic on these six lanes of freeway, and likely never will be again.
Except for the zeds, you could now walk out onto that pavement, spit, take a crap, read a book or lay down and go to sleep, without the slightest thought to a hazard any different from what you might encounter in a field, or in the middle of the woods. The sense of desolation, abandonment, is palpable.
I have never experienced a highway quite this intimately. In a car moving along at 70mph, a roadway like this is practically of no consequence, a mere after thought that exists only to allow you to speed along, hour after hour, eating up mile after mile. The only necessary exertion: the effort it takes to stay awake.
But unused and experienced while on foot, the sheer scale of this human contrivance is striking. Down here, on a more native level, with each hard-won mile through these woods a half-hour long endeavor, I see this highway for what it really is: a vast and magnificent ribbon of stone, asphalt and steel, un-spooling over the landscape in either direction, as far as the eye can see. Rising and falling and hugging the belly of the land, from horizon to horizon.
This world will never know anything like it again. As time and the elements slowly reclaim it, it will recede from all memory. How can it not? There will be no one left to recall it, marvel at its scale, stand in awe of its sheer audacity. If a tree falls in the wood and no living thing hears it, did it ever really make a sound? If a vast and magnificent structure is wholly reclaimed by the elements and time leaves no one to remember it, did it ever really exist?
And while motorized vehicles no longer endanger those who would chose to walk along its surface, those lone or clustered sentinels scattered along this abandoned monument to a fallen race do present a very real hazard. Dormant, silent, but not quite inert. They lie in wait for the careless or the desperate to draw too close, seeking an easier path, a faster pace. Close enough to spark awareness, trigger a primal response to the presence of prey. A chance to feast.
So Zoey and I hug the wooded path alongside the highway, always under the trees. We are furtive ghosts making our way slowly, cautiously forward, always watchful, always on guard, always seeking cover. We creep and slog along mile after mile in the wood and the mud and the brush, darting across open fields and stream beds, our hearts in our mouths until we reach the other side and the welcome relief of cover again. Or occasionally, when there is absolutely no other way, we endure a few moments of near terror, alighting the roadway itself, to run along a bridge or overpass.
Last edited by majorhavoc on Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:27 pm, edited 4 times in total.