[note: If you’re new to Oasis, you should probably start with Chapter 1: The Last Shift]
Fire To The Fuel
The shot was much louder than I had expected.
My ears rang, but I could still hear the shot echoing down the streets.
Another shot, loud and echoing.
The knot in my stomach tightened. That was too loud. It probably sounded like a dinner bell to deads six blocks away. We have to hurry. I stole a glance behind me.
Max was examining the dead man in the street, rifle at the ready.
I hurried on.
The shops to the left and right had broken windows and smashed doors. Either infection or looting had torn everything apart. The street was in ruins.
I knew in my gut things were about to get worse.
On the side of the service station stood a bank of propane tanks in cages. Little flags on the doors gave indication of whether the tank inside was full or empty. About three quarters of them were set to “full.” Several of the “full” slots were vacant, looted before our arrival.
Max was gasping for air as he plodded down the street toward me.
I turned to where Max was.
He was almost to the curb of the service station.
Behind him, my fears were confirmed.
From the wreckage of various shops appeared three or four deads, lifeless but walking.
I spun back to the cages. No time to screw around.
A crowbar and a metal post with some rebar parts welded on were scattered around the propane. Someone had already done the breaking in part for us.
I flung open a door and ripped one of the full tanks.
Max arrived and bent over, gasping for air.
I slammed the tank in the cart and went after another.
Max tried to stand up straight. “Get those things loaded, boy.”
The fear I felt for my life pushed aside most of my annoyance at his attitude. Still my mouth has often operated independently from my brain.
I pointed behind Max. “Did you have to bring your friends with you?”
He turned and stopped his gasping. In fact, I think he stopped breathing altogether.
I threw in another tank. No telling where there are more.
Max clenched his jaw and raised his gun.
The nearest dead from that side was still at least a block away.
I tried not to consider the fact that there could be more coming around the corner at any moment.
I reached for Max’s arm. “Don’t shoot!”
“Don’t be an idiot.”
“That’s why these one’s came out. They heard the noise. The more you shoot, the more that’ll show up.”
He shook my hand from his arm. “Shows what you know.”
“We can outrun those ones, but if many more show up, we’ll be trapped.”
He frowned at me then took his aim.
I sprung back to the propane.
I cringed at the noise, but I didn’t bother to look up from my work. I knew he had dropped the closest dead. And I knew deep down that ten more would show up to take its place. Idiot.
Max mumbled a curse and lowered his weapon.
I kept loading.
He turned and squinted his eyes. “You done yet?”
I ignored him and reached for the fifth tank.
A ragged woman stepped into view from the back of the station.
My heart skipped a beat. I dove back, still holding the tank. Its weight jerked me off balance and I stumbled a step past the cart onto my knees.
I ducked further and covered my ears.
I looked up in time to see her body crumple to the ground.
I stood and looked at Max. “Thanks.”
He nodded once.
For the first time, I could see real understanding in his eyes. I loaded the fifth tank.
Max took a few steps and peered around the corner to the back of the station. His face went white.
He took a step back. “Back the way we came.”
I pulled on the cart and looked down the street.
Five deads from the shops shuffled toward us in a loose group.
A loose plan formed in my head. Just decoy them enough to get by. I could move down the right side of the road and then swing around to the left…
Max interrupted my brainstorm.
I noticed we were right in the middle of the pumps. I shot him my best “What in the world are you thinking?” face.
He understood the silent question. “I’m going to clear us a path.”
A vision of the explosion I had seen three nights prior flashed before my eyes. I quickly imagined what it might be like to die in a massive fireball. Better than by the virus.
He set the rifle on top of a pump then pulled out a propane tank.
“You’re going to what?”
He held the tank at the top and bottom and ran into the street.
I still didn’t know what he had seen on the street behind the building. I only hoped it was farther away than the group ahead of us.
He got about fifty feet away and slammed the tank on the ground.
I just stood there feeling dumbfounded and vulnerable. He can’t think this is a good idea.
When he got back his face was red and he was huffing and puffing again. Without even a glance at me, he snatched the rifle and ran back in front of the pumps.
The deads were almost on top of the tank now.
Max held the gun up and sidled a couple of steps toward them.
I crouched down and only had a moment to contemplate the stupidity of hiding from an explosion by ducking behind a gas pump. This is it.
Max pulled the trigger and the gun roared.
The propane tank didn’t explode.
At least, not in the way Max expected.
So how did it explode? Keep reading to find out in “Chapter 28: The Gauntlet“