Chapter Seven Part Three - If It Moves and Tries to Eat You...

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“An activity farm?” Sarah asked as Jack pulled the large livestock lorry into the drive.

Yeah,” he replied. “These places have – well, had – everything. Normally a herd of cattle, pigs, chickens and ducks. Goats and rabbits, too.”

“Well you know farms better than I do,” she replied, glancing to the bench seat behind the two front seats where Fawaz and Richard were both fast asleep. She was hardly surprised as they’d spent the better part of the day driving around the forest, searching for a lorry large enough to carry everything they needed in one hit. She had been rather surprised when they had found the two-storey lorry abandoned in a farm yard down near the coast and even more surprised when the thing had actually started.

“Assuming this place has everything we need, we’ll load the cattle onto the bottom level and then whatever we’re left with can go at the top.”

“If it’s all right with you, Jack, I’m going to have a quick look around here before we wake the boys. I don’t want them coming across a pile of rotting animal corpses, especially after what Fawaz went through.”

“You’re not going alone,” he replied as he pulled the lorry to a slow and steady halt in the centre of the farm yard. The area was surprisingly tidy, and Jack hoped that they weren’t encroaching on someone else’s territory. He reached around the back of his seat and grabbed one of the three rifles that had already been inside the lorry, handing it to Sarah before helping himself to another. If there’s one thing you could always trust farmers for, it was that they knew how to protect what was theirs.

“Stay close,” he said, locking the cab with the two boys inside. “We’ll have a quick scout around and then get loaded up as quickly as we can.”

“We should check the farmhouse first, make sure we’re not stealing from anyone living.”

“Agreed,” he replied with a nod, his rifle at the ready as he followed Sarah towards the cottage. The garden was overgrown, even in early March. As such he suspected that whoever had run the place was gone or most likely, dead.

“Just a gentle tap,” said Sarah, quietly, as she knocked upon the door with the butt of her own rifle. There was movement inside, definitely. The shuffling of feet and heavy, rasped breathing, followed quickly by what sounded like clawing at the door.

“Dead,” said Jack. “Leave them for now. I don’t want to risk attracting undue Zed attention, at least not until we’re fully loaded.”

With a nod, Sarah backed away from the door. It went against everything she had come to know over the last six or seven months; if it moved and wanted to eat you, kill it. Jack was right though. The Zeds had clearly been locked inside the cottage for a good while, and there was no need to risk getting bitten or having a herd of zombies descend upon them having heard gunshots when killing them could wait a couple of hours.

Together they patrolled the rest of the farmyard and the surrounding barns and fields. There were a few dead animals, though not many when compared to the amount of those still alive and kicking. It seemed to Jack that they had been well looked after up until the last week or ten days at which time, he guessed, those living on the farm and taking care of the animals had locked themselves inside the cottage. They had probably been attacked. He found himself extremely grateful that even with the world in its current state, some people were able to think clearly and take care of business as best they could. Jack liked to think that had he been in that situation he would have done the same thing. There are no such guarantees though. You really do not know yourself until you are tested.

“I think we’re good,” he said as he and Sarah made their way back to the enormous lorry that seemed to occupy over two-thirds of the yard. “We’ll wake the boys, then you and they can round up some of the smaller animals; poultry, goats and the like, and get them into the truck whilst I stack some housing right at the back there. Then when that level’s full we’ll raise it up and it’ll take us all to round up the cattle, I think.”

***

It wasn’t at all long, an hour at most, before the top level of the lorry was full. The animals therein made an awful racket, though once the level was raised to allow Jack and Sarah to get the livestock onto the lower level, they did quieten down some.

Jack was impressed with the condition of the majority of the animals. Sure, most of them were looking a little thin but they were otherwise healthy; certainly nothing a good feed and a run out in the fresh air wouldn’t rectify.

“Did you hear that?” Sarah asked, moving closer to Jack whilst at the same time making sure Richard and Fawaz were within sight.

“I did, sounds like gunfire.”

“I can smell smoke, too,” she said, scanning the horizon as best she could from the sanctity of the farmyard. “There, to the north.”

“Ashurst, if I’m not mistaken. Looks like it’s going up in flames,” he said through gritted teeth. “We’d better get finished up here quickly. Those shots and the crackle of a village on fire will draw an awful lot of Zeds this way.”

***

Rounding up the cattle was not an easy task however Jack was persistent. He had worked with the creatures for years and was able to coax them, eventually, into the back of the truck. Sarah and the boys had been following behind, making as solid a barrier as they could so that the cows of various breeds were unable to make a run for it.

He glanced north as he closed the trailer. Smoke was still billowing upwards, and he guessed that the fire had really taken hold. Still, there was no sign of any Zeds making their way across the fields towards the village, which is why Jack considered risking hanging around for a while.

“Did you see the horse-boxes in the barn over there?” Jack asked, nodding in the direction of the metal-framed structure. “We could probably hook a couple up to the back of the truck and take four ponies in one, the bull in the other.”

“It makes sense,” Sarah replied. “We’re going to run out of fuel soon enough, we all need to learn how to ride horses at some point.”

Jack shuddered. As much as he loved animals of all shapes and sizes, the very thought of riding a horse filled him with dread. He could do it, that was not the issue, but he was most definitely not comfortable having such a powerful beast between his legs.

“I’ll sort the trailers,” he said. “Do you want to take the boys and bring us the four healthiest looking ponies?”

“Sure,” she replied. “Come on, boys. Let’s go rope us a steer.”

Jack chuckled as Sarah and the boys hurried off, the younger two laughing and whooping with delight. Once they were gone he turned his attention to the first horse-box. It was easy enough, a simple matter of connecting the tow-bar and he had that done in less than five minutes. The second one was not quite so easy but with a lot of jiggling and brute strength, he managed to hook the second box to the rear of the first in what he hoped would be a secure enough fashion. It would hold, he was certain of that, providing he was able to take his time whilst driving. A bump in the wrong place and the trailer and its contents would spill all over the road.

It was not long at all before Sarah, Fawaz and Richard returned. Between them they were leading four ponies, and the creatures did not appear to be resisting in the slightest. He did not find that surprising. Being raised on an activity farm the animals were used to humans, especially young children who, in Jack’s experience, found it quite impossible not to pet any animal at all.

Taking over, Jack led the ponies one at a time into the first trailer, and then slid the bolt across to keep them secure.

“Right,” he said. “Time for the bull… This is where we have some fun!”

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