Better Late Than Never

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A Zombie Horror Novelette

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Better Late Than Never
a zombie horror novelette
Win Chester

Copyright © Win Chester 2019

Cover Artwork © Stefan Keller

Interior illustration © Yevgeny Murzak

Editing by Jeffrey Alexander Martin

All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.



Better Late Than Never

About Win Chester

Other Books by This Author

Better Late Than Never

A dark red Ford Crown Victoria sped along the Rainbow Bridge across the Niagara River gorge and came to a halt on the other side.

Niagara Falls, Ross Watts thought. I read somewhere that it’s one of the top ten places on Earth to visit before you die.

He got out of the car, walked around the hood and opened the front passenger door. He helped his wife Karen step out and led her along the path to the observation platform, holding her by the elbow. After seventy-two years, Karen Watts was always drained of energy, and she needed assistance in doing simple things, like getting out of a car. Ross was two years older than her and not in the best shape either. Heavy smoking and forty years of police service had gradually done their harm.

Ross and Karen put on yellow slickers to protect their clothes from the water and came up close to the barrier, which separated the roaring waterfall from the observers. There were drops of water in the air. A light, pleasant breeze blew the water spray in their direction. Karen squinted in the sun. She let the mist bathe her face. Good for the complexion, some people say.

For about five minutes they just watched the gigantic cascades of greenish-blue water rush down. They stood without saying a word. The cool summer breeze ruffled Karen’s iron-gray hair.

«Well, what do you think?» he said finally.

«The view is just amazing,» she said. «Finally, our dream has come true.»

There was a slight sadness in her voice.

Ross hugged her, looking at the huge torrent of water below them. «We made it here at last. But you know what they say, it’s better late than never.»

They had rarely left the middle of nowhere Oklahoma. They used to make trips to Florida or New York once a year, that was when they were younger. But for the last ten years, they hadn’t been out of the state. To see the Falls was their lifelong dream. But they had always delayed this trip. There had always been reasons: his job as a state trooper, the mortgage, the birth of their son, the birth of their daughter, her sudden illness and death, long bouts of heavy drinking, his job as a deputy sheriff, working hard to pay their son’s college tuition, the duties of a county sheriff, their son’s marriage, opening up a small family business, running the business, Karen’s long illness. She had been waiting tables all her life. Then, she saved some cash and opened a little café and started up business of her own. When Ross retired he started helping her. Always busy, both of them. Always in search of new reasons to be busy.

It started raining. Rain always reminded them of that summer day when they met each other for the first time, back in 1962. Karen had just finished high school and landed a job as a waitress in a café. She had no customers on the first day because it was pouring rain outside. At the end of her shift, a young sailor walked into the café and her life. It was Ross Watts. He came back to his home town from the Navy and was still wearing his uniform. To encourage the girl he ordered coffee, cup after cup, and he sat there until the rain stopped. This was how they had met. That same year on Christmas he proposed to her. They had lived together for more than fifty years.

Karen had always wanted to travel the world, to visit new places, to see new faces. She was sure that a former sailor was the right companion for such adventures. But, it turned out that Ross Watts returned to his home town to drop anchor and settle down for good.

Niagara Falls was one of the places she had dreamed of going to. Over the years, this place became her obsession. She collected photos and postcards related to Niagara Falls. Then she studied all the books, and VHS documentaries, and DVDs, and Blu-rays. She had never truly understood why the Falls attracted her. And not only her. She had read about Niagara Falls Daredevils doing crazy stunts, going over the Falls in barrels and jet skis. Sometimes, at the cost of their lives. The locals believed there was a power in Niagara Falls.

Year after year the idea of going to visit Niagara Falls attracted Karen more and more. But not Ross. He saw the Falls getting more commercialized. Hotels and restaurants were popping up around that tourist attraction like mushrooms, and the Falls were losing their touch with nature.

They finally set their mind to go north, when they heard that the SSK-6 virus had reached Houston, Texas. It had all started somewhere in Chile or Peru. An archaeological expedition had excavated some weird tomb of an Inca king in the mountains, which was thousands of years old. It turned out that the king’s treasure came with a sinister bonus — a deadly virus, which killed people and reanimated their corpses afterward. The living corpses had no other thought in their rotten minds than to kill people and devour their flesh. Latin American countries could not handle the outbreak. The Mexican and American governments had failed, too. The pandemic was spreading now in the United States like a bush fire.

The rich, the fast, and the lucky postponed their zombie apocalypse. Rich people, having private boats and jet planes, were the first ones to get out of the country. Some of them had escaped to Europe, some to Australia and New Zealand.

There were other combinations, of course. The poor that were smart and fast took all the cash they had and bought themselves plane tickets to go to Japan, Russia, China, or wherever. Some of them were not so smart, and not fast enough. They had been robbed and killed on the way. Airports and seaports were soon closed. But people with resources could still use the services of smugglers. But then again, they were often robbed and killed and tossed over the side to feed the fish.

The fast, rich, and lucky had made it out of the country. The slow, poor, and unlucky had to stay.

Ross and Karen were not only slow, poor, and unlucky. They were old and weak. And that was the worst combination to survive.

So, they packed their things into their old Crown Vic and hit the road going north. The traffic was terrible, but they kept on going farther and farther northward. Finally, they reached the border. Ironically, it took a zombie plague to make them see the Falls.

When they reached the border, they chose to stay in the US, hoping the virus would be contained. Fat chance of that. The army of walking dead was moving steadily north. The Russians offered humanitarian aid, but the President’s administration, which had moved temporarily to Quebec, refused it.

Their only son, Chris, was in Kuwait now. Years ago he had landed a high-paid job as an oil engineer and stayed there for the money. He used to come to visit them twice a year, and invited them to visit him in Kuwait, but they never got to go. What’s in Kuwait, anyway? Drinking illegal booze in the desert? Their boy was safe, and that was the most important thing now. As long as the virus didn’t cross the ocean.

They stayed at a motel and enjoyed the view of the Falls every day. They didn’t know that in a couple of weeks the border would be closed, and military helicopters, combat drones, and mile-long barbed wire fences would be added to the scenery.

When fall came, they closed Rainbow Bridge and set a roadblock on it. The Wattses couldn’t go any farther north. The Canadian border had been sealed off. No one in. No one out. Canada was being overcrowded with evacuees from the States. First, the Canadian side had accepted only families with kids, then only skilled workers and useful professionals, like medical doctors, electrical engineers, and welders. Bad news for stock brokers, theoretical physicists, and weak retired people with poor health like Ross and Karen Watts.

Going back south wasn’t an option either. With no gas and slow legs, it was virtually a death warrant. Meanwhile, the plague was already raging in the Big Apple.

Lots of people were being evacuated to Alaska, but the quantity of military and commercial ships available for transporting the evacuees was not enough. The Washington big bosses, sitting in Quebec, finally came to the decision that the American nation should have a chance to survive and agreed to let the Russian and Chinese ships enter the US territorial waters. Hundreds of thousands of people would step aboard the Russian and Chinese ships, to be detained in quarantine, before going ashore in Vladivostok or Shanghai.

All the hotels and motels for fifty miles around were filled. Most of the people would go west soon. And meanwhile, Ross and Karen had to share their room with a young Puerto Rican man and his toddler son, who slept on a futon. The man was not much of a talker. The kid, on the other hand, was an untiring chatterbox, but everything the boy said sounded like gibberish to Ross and Karen, as all of the words were in Spanish.

«What’s your name?» Ross asked the young man.

«Pablo Rubio,» he said. The question was easy. Must be the easiest question in English.

«I’m Ross,» the old man said, pointing at himself. Then he pointed at Karen. «And this here is Karen, my wife.»

Pablo nodded and looked at his son, who was sleeping quietly at the end of a restless day.

«Alberto Carlos,» he said with pride and smiled.

«Nice kid,» Ross said and smiled, too.

«Where’s your wife, Pablo?» Karen asked.

He looked at her and shook his head. «No espeak ingles.»

«Mrs. Rubio? Where’s she?» Karen asked.

Pablo looked at the floor for a spell. «No Mrs. Rubio… Maria… Maria esta muerta.»

Muerta. Dead.

Karen shook her head with sympathy and went quiet. That evening they didn’t ask Pablo any further questions.

Ross walked out of the room to the porch to catch some fresh evening air. He strolled along the sidewalk to the parking lot. Pablo had a panel van parked in the parking lot behind the bathroom block. It was a navy blue Volkswagen Transporter Kasten. Good choice. Less cargo space. Good maneuverability. Particularly suited for heavy traffic. He looked at the front plate. Seven digits. The vehicle was from Texas, for sure. The Lone Star State. The guy and his kid had made a very long trip. The terrible things they must have seen!

Military police were walking around, knocking on the doors of motel rooms and warning people about the forthcoming evacuation.

Ross looked up at the evening sky. There were storm clouds. He could see lightning flashing in the distance. He looked at the highway. A lightning flash illuminated a caravan of vehicles moving on the highway. More refugees. Going west. There were SUVs, trailers, vans, cars, and motorcycles. In peaceful times this place had been visited by over thirty million tourists a year. Now it seemed like all of those thirty million decided to come to visit at once. And more and more people kept arriving every day.

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