Authors: James Davis
Five Days Dead
The Book of the Shepherds
James L. Davis
Five Days Dead
Copyright © 2014 James L. Davis
All rights reserved.
Library of Congress Control Number:
Published by Grayland Books
P.O. Box 1281
Spanish Fork, UT. 84660
For more information about Five Days Dead or the
Book of the Shepherds Series,
visit the author’s website at
Cover Design and Illustrations by Colleen A. Davis
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the written permission of the author.
When I had doubts, you had answers.
Cows on the Road
A pilgrim pounded a fence post into brittle soil on the side of a road leading to nowhere. The clangs of metal on metal echoed dangerously, and Harley Nearwater considered shooting him for making such a racket. When he noticed the sign the man was going to attach to the post, he stayed his hand. He let his motorcycle coast to a stop in front of the pilgrim and his post-pounder and his sign.
The sign warned of cows on the road in large, black letters. The paint had run and most of the letters had tails. It was shoddy work, the sign. The man with the post-pounder pounded three more times, two more than Harley felt necessary, and he again considered shooting him. Instead, he just looked at the man and the man just looked at him and they nodded to each other, perhaps not amicably but not with open hostility either. Harley dipped his fingers into his shirt pocket and brought out a pack of cigarettes and offered one to the man with the post-pounder. He declined with a sour look on his face. Even after Marlboro went and cured cancer, society still frowned on cigarettes. Harley considered it only common courtesy to smoke a cigarette now and then, out of appreciation if nothing else.
"Cows on the road?" Harley tipped his cowboy hat away from his weathered face with his right index finger.
The man with the post-pounder shook his head. "Herefords."
Harley nodded, his dark eyes squinting. "Unfortunate."
He glanced down the dusty highway. Weeds were growing up out of cracks in the asphalt. The road used to be Utah State Route 10 but now it was just a ghost road leading to ghost towns. He nodded again to the man with the post-pounder and finished his cigarette. The man watched him uncomfortably and waited. Harley tossed the butt away and looked back at the man with the post-pounder.
"Nice bike," the pilgrim said, leaning against the post-pounder still saddled on the metal post. "Surprised to see you riding one, what with the Rages and all."
"Ain'tcha afraid of the wind blowing your hat away, riding that motorcycle?"
"If it does I'll stop and pick it up."
"Well, yeah, I was just wonderin' about…. You from down on the reservation?" The man with the post-pounder asked.
"If by the reservation you mean Orangeville, then yes, I'm from the reservation."
The man with the post pounder looked nervously at the sidearm slung low on Harley's right hip. He licked his lips. They were very dry. "Didn't mean any offense, just haven't seen you around before."
"None taken." Harley pinched the brim of his Stetson and pulled it low over his dark eyes. "Maybe you should get out more."
"Be careful of them Herefords."
Harley Nearwater turned the throttle and the bike silently rolled out of the dying town of Huntington, Utah. They had been reduced to posting signs warning travelers of cows on the road.
"Intrestin world," he muttered.
Two miles outside of town, just past Huntington North Reservoir, there was a large field fenced with old mine belting from coal mines closed for decades but never reclaimed. The black mine belting had been laid one three-foot strip on top of the other to create a fence nine feet high. Harley slowed as he approached, his electric Harley Davidson on quiet mode; it made only a whisper as the tires crunched against the battered asphalt. There was an old hay wagon outside the fence, still stacked with five round bales. Harley imagined the rancher probably had a tractor somewhere he used to drop the bales of hay over the fence to feed his cows without being seen by them. If the cows saw you there was going to be a whole lot of trouble. Herefords were a big breed and before the Rages they had been gentle by nature. Not so much now. If they caught a glimpse of you and got caught up in the Rages a fence of old mine belting wouldn't be of much use.
There wasn't any sign of the rancher or tractor and Harley wondered if the field belonged to the man with the fence post-pounder. If it did, then he was a damned fool. Trying to raise cattle like that was asking to be killed. Trying to raise any livestock like that was asking to be killed. If you didn't have the money for automation, then it was time to switch to something less dangerous, maybe pot farming. Plants weren't inclined to kill you at the drop of a hat, but every animal on the planet was, with the exception of dogs. Harley didn't much trust them much either. It was just another little twist in the Rages.
First there was climate change, then the super storms and now every living creature on the planet wanted humanity dead. The Federation had tried to convince everyone it was a world-wide virus, some infection that drove animals insane. Animals would attack any human they saw…any animal. Carnivore or not, when it came to people they were hungry for them. Harley had heard of a man attacked by chickens while he was trying to take a piss on the side of the road. The chickens damn near pecked his pecker off. He chuckled at the thought. That sure would have been something to see.
Since home for Harley was the Wilderness and not one of the Hubs, he had seen more than his fair share of animal attacks over the years. He didn't need any scientific research to know the Animal Rages weren't caused by an infection. The animals weren't rabid. They were cunning; they were ruthless, but they sure as hell weren't infected with any disease.
They were hunting and humanity was the hunted.
One morning, a few years and miles behind him, Harley had made camp on the banks of the Green River and awoke to find himself swarmed by field mice. Field mice for hell's sake! If he hadn't jumped in the river, the little bastards would have eaten him up. He ended up with a small chunk of flesh bitten out of his right cheek and a scratch just below his left eye. He could have used his RTM account to have the scars repaired, but the scars added a fierceness to what he thought was an otherwise broad and plain face, so he left them as they were. A fierce Navajo was better than a broad and plain Navajo. They also served as a reminder that you were wise not to lower your guard in this “intrestin” world. He had been a drifter in the new Wilderness created by humanity's migration to the Hubs for 27 of his 41 years, so he should have known better. Being attacked by mice was one of the more embarrassing moments in his life and not a story he freely shared, but it was a real story, none-the-less.
So seeing an old pilgrim with a sign warning of cows on the road was something he didn't take lightly. Field mice were one thing, a mad bull and a couple of cows was another. The Rages had made cows not only mad, but downright sneaky. Harley blamed McDonald's.
He let his bike coast. SR-10 hadn't seen any traffic in a number of days. Sand obscured patches of the road and the wind chased tumbleweeds. He followed the cracked river of black, with Gentry Mountain and the Wasatch Plateau to his left and the wind-chiseled deserts of the San Rafael Swell to his right. The battered highway was the middle ground where generations of settlers had carved out a life praying for rain, digging for coal and growing what they could in thirsty soil. But that was years before and now the only crop harvested was despair and the only holes dug were graves.
In Castle Country the mountains didn't reach for the heavens, the valley shrank from them.
At the far end of the field, there was a section of damaged fencing hastily repaired. It was there Harley found the battered remains of the tractor he had wondered about. It looked like a truck had hit it, or a large and angry bull. Multiple times.
Five miles out of town the road climbed up a small hill and at the top was the old Huntington City Airport. The deserted airport was not terribly different than it had been before the Exodus.
As the town faded behind him, the tension in his broad shoulders began to ease. He slowly increased the throttle and let the bike pick up speed. Something dark flashed past his face and he ducked down, almost lost control of his bike and looked up just in time to see claws reaching for him. He threw up his arms and felt the bike slide out from under him as he hit the pavement hard and skidded down the asphalt. He forced himself to roll, tucking his head into his arms. When he came to rest, he felt the sting of pain from road rash but was quick enough to realize he had survived the crash far better than he would have if he had been up to full speed. With an easy agility that came from years of survival in less than hospitable environments, he pushed himself to his feet, crouched low to make a smaller target and scanned the horizon.
The attack came from the air again and this time the crow latched onto his left shoulder, striking out with its beak like a sword. Harley's jacket and backpack saved him from injury. The bird was large and angry and screamed as he grabbed it by one of its wings and threw it into the air. It flipped end over end but before it could touch ground Harley drew his pulse blaster and fired. The energy pulse caught the bird as it flipped and blew it into pieces. Black feathers scattered in the breeze as Harley crouched and fired again at another crow coming at him from the opposite direction. This bird didn't disintegrate, but it was missing a wing as it hit the pavement.
Harley stood just as he heard a snort of anger behind him. He dove off the pavement as one of the largest Hereford bulls he had ever laid eyes on charged, missing him by inches. The great red beast started to turn as Harley climbed to his feet and looked back to his bike on the road. The two cows the man with the fence post pounder had warned him of came over a small hill and trampled his motorcycle, stomping on it over and over again.
"Those cows hate Harleys."
Harley pointed his blaster at the big bull charging his way and squeezed the trigger. The pulse caught the Hereford between its great horns, but didn’t appear to faze it. Harley had time to wonder if he might find himself explaining to Saint Peter how he had survived so much in life only to die by a large helping of hamburger. He fired off two more quick bursts and the beast's legs crumpled beneath it. The Hereford skidded toward him and Harley used it as a step and nimbly climbed over its massive belly. The cows had stomped his bike into something barely recognizable by then. When the bull died, they turned toward him, snorted and charged. He took them down with two shots between the eyes.
He walked past the dead cows and went to survey what was left of his motorcycle, holstering his sidearm as he went. There wasn't a great deal, his survey concluded. His right jaw flexed as he ground his teeth and looked back at the cows, his dark eyes even darker than they usually were. His hat lay in the dust, upside down. He picked it up and slapped it against his pants before putting it back on his head.
"I loved that bike."
He pulled his blaster and walked back to shoot each cow four more times in the head.
He removed the saddlebag from his bike and made a quick survey of the contents. Nothing was too badly damaged, all things considered. In his backpack, his eyeset had been protected from the slide down the pavement by two changes of clothing and clean underwear. The powerband on his left arm was unharmed, but it was virtually indestructible, so he didn't worry very much about it. His body would wear out long before the powerband did. Strapped to one side of the now destroyed bike were a sword and scabbard, and he pulled it free and made a quick examination. The cutlass was undamaged and he strapped it to his waist as he looked north, then south. He didn't need the Link to know it was roughly 16 miles back to his home in Orangeville and 16 miles north to Price. He was stuck in the middle without a ride. He could walk back to Huntington he supposed, but he would surely kill the man with the fence post-pounder, and that would just put him in a sour mood.
If he started walking and kept walking he could make Price before sundown. Since he had to go through Price to get where he was going, he would go that way. It was the best place to find another ride. He considered for a moment grabbing his eyeset and connecting to the Link to order a new bike. He wasn't sure he had the funds in his RTI account to buy one and it would take hours, maybe even a day or more to be delivered this far out in the sticks, so he decided against it.
He walked past the dead cows that had destroyed his bike and the dead crow with the missing wing and considered the fact that the crows and the cows had been working together. They had ambushed him. He wondered how the Federation with all their scientists and their Hubs and their amazing Link would explain that little factoid.
He went another 50 paces, cursed and marched back to the dead cows, drawing his sidearm. He shot them six more times. Each.
"Can't abide you cows."
He pointed his boots toward Price.