“Wake up, shithead. We’re in New Mexico.” Jerm punched Micah in the shoulder.
“Take the wheel. I’ma get sumthin’ to eat.”
“Fine. You still mad at me about that girl?”
“What do you think, dipshit? You might have been able to get your beauty sleep after doin’ that, but I’ve been up thinking about it for the past few hours.”
“Look, Jerm. I did what I had to. You remember Barbara?”
” ‘course I remember Barb. Nicest fuggin’ lady on the planet.”
“Yeah, but she got bit by a mosquito and turned into a zombie. I couldn’t take that risk.”
“I don’t care if you’re the prodigal doctor, Mike, but Barbara was an old fuggin’ lady. Maybe Jaclyn–”
“I couldn’t take that risk! It’s done, Jerm! Drop it!”
Jerm bit down on his granola bar and stared out the window. He wondered for a moment if he was dead and Hell was actually one big road trip with your older brother. Maybe they’d never get where they needed to go. Everything looks the same on this highway anyway. It’s all shrubs and dust. He and Micah tried turning on the radio but there’s pretty much no reception out here. Place is a shithole. Jerm always thought maybe he’d get into trouble and have to leave the state, but he never thought he’d be running from zombie skeeters. Jerm got thrown against the dashboard. He hadn’t buckled up.
“Micah! What the fuck, man! Why we slowin’ down?”
“Shit! Run it.”
“What? They have guns!”
“Exactly. That’s why we need to run it.”
“Jerm, I ain’t dying for you. I’m sorry. We can talk to these guys.”
“Yeah, and get our asses shot and robbed! Give me that!”
Jerm grabbed for the wheel and the car swerved off road. Micah pulled it back again. The car swerved back and forth until a shot rang out. Jerm smashed his head into the windshield. The busted tire made a few thuds before Micah slowed down to a full stop.
“Out of the car!” yelled a man with a rifle. “Let me see your hands!” Neither argued. The man signalled for some of his men to take apart the car. “What’s it look like?”
“Some food, sir! A lot of bottles back here. Looks like piss, sir!”
“Found a gun in the glove compartment,” another said.
“Good work. Confiscate that for now.” He turned to Jerm and Micah. “Mind tellin’ me who you boys are and where you’re going?”
“Dr. Micah Box. My brother, Jeremiah.” Jerm waved his hand. His head felt sticky and he was a little dizzy.
“You went to medical school?”
“Yes. I’m a physician.”
“I’ll be! Guess we lucked out!”
“If it’s not a problem, sir, we’d rather get going to Albuquerque.”
“Not a problem for me, son, if you want to become zombie chow. Albuquerque’s still getting cleaned out by our men. You’re in Moriarty now.”
“And you are?”
“Sergeant Baron Mash. Men call me ‘Tennessee.'”
“Micah, I think we’ll get along fine, but if you ever call me cute again, I will run my boot so far up my ass, you’ll be pissing leather.”
“Good. These are privates Richard Hatch and Arnold Ball. We call them ‘Dick’ and ‘Ball.’ Our sharpshooter over here is Corporal Mickey Taylor. We’re Border Guard. You stay with us, you’re Border Guard, too. We kill zombies. That’s it. We need more doctors, Micah. We’d be happy to have ya. Your brother handy with a gun?”
“Handy enough,” Micah says, looking over at Jerm. “Move your hand, dipshit.” Jerm takes his hand off his head. It’s and red but it’s not gushing. “You’ll be fine. There’s disinfectant in that bag your men took.”
Mash signalled for Ball to look through the bag and bring it over. Micah rummaged through it and took out some cottonballs and ethyl alcohol.
“See. We’re fine,” Micah whispered into Jerm’s ear.
“I still hate your guts.”
“Some things never change. Hold still, you idjit.”
“Gentlemen, if you don’t mind, let’s get to camp. I’ll brief you on what’s been happening of late.”
“Guess we’re Border Guard now,” Micah shrugged.
“Yee-ha,” Jerm said without a hint of enthusiasm.
“Put more pressure on that cotton ball.”