WELCOME TO TWIN OAKS
There is no damn Twin Oaks on this map!
I glance back at the signpost that marks the border of the town. It says Twin Oaks; no doubt about that. It might be dark out but the letters are two feet high and fairly well illuminated by the headlights of the RV. I look back at the large map of California sprawled across the dashboard and drag my finger across the blue line of the I-15. We abandoned the freeway yesterday; we didn’t want to but the road was impossible to navigate with all the abandoned vehicles. It took us the better part of a day to clear a path to the exit, then spent a day and a half maneuvering through a mountain road.
The brown line through the hills; this is where we left the freeway. Up here is the fork where one half heads South and the other North East. The North East route ends after a quarter inch, but I don’t remember seeing any fork in the road. There should have been a turn somewhere leading back down the other side of the mo-
“Holy shit!” I squeal; I’m not ashamed of it. I nearly fly out the side window when a loud thunk smacks into the side of the RV. My head races with images of being torn to shreds and devoured by scabby faced cannibal lunatics in the woods. There is a second thunk, as something pounds on the door. I calm just a little as I realize it’s not a pounding; too rhythmic. It’s a knock.
“Holy…” I take a deep breath, rubbing my eyes with the palms of my hands. I haven’t slept in almost 22 hours so I’m probably just being jumpy. The knock comes again; it’s just a quiet rattle against the door but in the silence of the evening it sounded incredibly loud! I stand and step forward, reaching over the recliner to unlatch the door. John pulls it open and steps inside as I return to the driver’s seat.
“What’s going on?” John asks as he latches the door shut and collapses into the co-pilot chair.
John was one of the first decent people I had come across in a while; he was leading a small group North, out of San Diego. We had run into each other outside Los Angeles as we both set to pillage the same gas station. It was a tense moment at first, but when he realized I was no threat, he offered a mutually beneficial conjoining of parties.
John’s truck and Lucy’s van joined forces with RV to create a Zombie Survival Convoy… Ok, it’s not my RV, I kind of stole it. But! But, the end of the world had already been in full swing for almost 2 whole weeks before I snuck onto that lot, ferreted the keys, and drove off with a hundred thousand dollar luxury home on wheels.
Anyway, in exchange for their expertise (John was a fireman, lucy a construction worker, and Charlie, Lucy’s husband, used to build cars as a hobby) I would give more comfortable accommodations to the other two; Claire, a mid-20’s college girl, and Luke, a high-school dropout, probably around 18. I had space for eight people without having to share beds, so naturally, I said yes. The alternative was being murdered and letting them steal my RV anyway.
“Hey, Chase?” I blink in mild surprise and turn to John as he rests his hand on my shoulder and gives me a little shake. “Going off in your head again? I get it; the need to escape from all this, but let’s get this figured out so we can resupply and move on.
I smile up into his bright green eyes. John is so dreamy, always so kind and assuring!
Wait, wait… what?
“Sorry,” I say, shaking my head. I rub at my eyes again and lean over the map. “All this driving,” I offer a half-assed excuse. “Um… yeah, so. I can’t find this Twin Oaks anywhere.
We followed this route here but it dead ends here, with no towns for 80 miles in any direction. Either we’re nowhere near where I thought we were, or-”
“Or,” John interrupts me, poking the map where my finger was. “You’re over thinking this. It could simply be a place not listed on the map. Some roads aren’t on a GPS, some businesses not in a phone book.” He squeezes my shoulder and smiles. “It’s a population of 216. Don’t stress the details. Let’s just get in, resupply, and be on our way.” He pats my shoulder and turns back toward the door. “Besides, such a small, hidden place; for all we know it could be completely untouched.” He chuckles quietly at the concept of a safe-haven and I smirk for his benefit. He steps out, back into the night and toward his truck. I start the engine back up and shift into drive.
A half mile past the welcome sign we find the first evidence that the town was, in fact, not spared; several vehicles rest, abandoned on the side of the road with doors wide open. Some of the windows are broken in a few of them, and one hood is smeared with blood. There are no bodies… there are never any bodies. Not even the ones that stay dead; it’s as though they all just disintegrate in the sun.
Oh, those are some nice cars! Nice cars are much better things to think about than missing bodies. Let’s see; Merc, merc, Beemer, Lambo… is that a Rolls? Nice. I would happily trade my RV for any of those if I didn’t need the extra passenger and storage space.
I lead the convoy around a bend in the road and then suddenly we’re in town. It feels like a very spread out suburbs with very large walls and fences. Every gate has some elaborate monogram blocking a lengthy driveway leading up to giant mansions. I can’t help but notice that a lot of the gates seem to be damaged; either pushed in torn down.
“I think we just discovered some secret society for the super rich,” Charlie crackles over the radio.
I follow the road as it curves through the hills and past dozens of houses. A few roads turn off on the sides but they’re smaller. The one we’re on seems more like a main road so we stay on it. Eventually, another corner lands us in the proper part of town as a row of storefronts line the road on either side. The buildings all seem new and modern. I can see a grocery store straight ahead where the road T-sections, I just passed a sporting goods shop, and there seem to also be a few coffee shops and cafes, art supplies, a gas station on the corner, and several other restaurants. Fr the most part, this whole area looks clean and unmangled.
I stop in the middle of the road; no need to worry about a parking ticket… or someone trying to pass me.
“Where are we?” Luke stumbles up from the back, through the RV and leans over the dash to peer outside. “I thought city’s weren’t safe?”
Claire exits the room at the back, yawning and stretching her arms overheard. “Morning,” she says as she passes by and exits the RV.
“It’s not really a city,” I say to Luke as I smile and nod at Claire. I notice the little group already gathering outside as the door closes behind her. “Come on, meeting time.” I nudge Luke toward the door then get up to follow him outside.
I shield my eyes from the morning sun as I step out of the RV. The steps haven’t been lowered yet so it’s just one big step down. The group is talking amongst itself when Claire and Luke join them. I notice almost immediately that John is not present. I glance about, but he’s nowhere I can see.
“Chase?” I hear someone say. Their tone implies it isn’t the first time they said my name. I notice that the whole group is looking at me, and I offer them a smile.
“Yehp! That’s me. What can I do for you?”
“Where are we?” Charlie asks from the back of the group.
“Uh,” I scratch my head and step closer. “Someplace called Twin Oaks. It’s not on the map. John said it’s probably some secret land of celebrities and rich people? I’m voting secret government city.”
“All things considered, with the cars and the gates, secret celebrity society sounds reasonable,” Claire states.
“It’s also a ski resort,” John chimes from the other side of the RV. I move toward the back of my vehicle and catch him just as he rounds the corner to join the group with a pamphlet in hand. “And a golf resort, spa getaway, horses, wine, blah, blah.” He flips a pamphlet over. “Best-kept secret in California. Join the Twin Oaks community and join the most exclusive of the Elite… It’s a place for people who know they’re rich and want to get away from the rest of us.
“Oh, I hope they got hit hard!” Luke snickers. “Bunch of elitists versus Zombies, I bet their mon-” He is cut short as Claire slaps him upside the back of his head. He glares at her as he ducks away.
“They were all people, too. They were probably just tired of the paparazzi and media hassling them at every turn,” Claire returns Luke’s glare before turning to John. “Chase said there were celebrities?”
“Yeah, a few.” John passes by me and offers one of the pamphlets to Claire. “They don’t list names, but they elude to having a dozen or so A-list celebs.”
John moves through the group to unfold a map across the hood of his truck. “I pulled these from the realtor’s office over there,” he points over his shoulder without looking. “Part of a welcoming package or something. But, anyway; it looks like there is a hunting supply shop up and around the corner. I think what I want to do is split into three groups-”
“Why do we always split up?” Claire interrupts. “Wouldn’t it be safer to keep together?”
“I want to get this done quickly. In and out, and back on the road North,” John responds.
“Sure, but, if we all go in one group to each stop then we would cut our time at each location and let us all transport more in one trip… plus, safety in numbers.”
“I ain’t seen anything to make me think this place is dangerous,” Charlie adds his two cents.
“Bunch’a snobs probably fled the town once they heard the news. Off to wherever rich people go to when there’s danger. Secret bunker in the mountain or whatever”
“Alright,” John steps forward, raising his hands to call for silence. “Alright. In the interest of fairness, we’ll put it to a vote. All in favor of splitting up?” Lucy, John, and Charlie raise their hands.
“In favor of keeping together?” Claire asks, raising her hand. Luke raises his hand alongside hers. There’s a brief moment of silence before they all turn to look at me. I stare at them like a deer in headlights.
“Chase?” John says. “You have an opinion?”
“What? Uh, oh, yeah…. um,” I state, eloquently. “What they said,” I point at Claire and Luke. “Safety in numbers, and such.” I see a bit of disappointment in John’s eyes as he nods.
“It’s a tie,” John says. “So, as group leader, I’ll break it. We split.” He turns and faces Claire. “I get your concerns, but this place is dead quiet right now. If there is an active group they’re not nearby. Best to get this all done before the return or pass through. Besides, a population this size; only a handful would have turned. The rest would have fled or died.”
Claire crosses her arms over her chest and leans on one hip, but doesn’t protest any further. I bite my lip; I hate seeing disputes amongst the group. John is usually a pretty cool guy; open to ideas and opinions and more than happy to accept one if he thinks it’s better. But, the hard part is convincing him it’s better and not just different. Charlie, however, will agree with just about anything John says, especially if it’s in opposition to Claire. For whatever reason, he despises that girl. It was his idea to get her out of their van and have her stay in my RV. I’m guessing if it weren’t for Lucy’s, Charlie would have ditched Claire somewhere a long time ago. He refuses to talk about why, and Claire just says she’s too liberal for him.
I haven’t pressed the matter.
“Claire and Luke, grocery store,” John begins delegating. “Canned foods and anything that isn’t moldy. You know the drill.” Luke nods and Claire just raises a brow to let him know he was heard.
“Chase, Lucy, hit up that gaming shop around the corner; weapons, knives, camping gear, anything that looks useful. Maybe some tools?” I nod. “Chuck and I,” he motions to Charlie, “will head to the police station. Maybe they have arms or body armor. Small town, but a rich town, so who knows what they have stocked.”
John checks his watch and suggests we all meet back in 2 hours before disbanding the group. I notice Claire roll her eyes as she turns. I’m sure she’s probably complaining on the inside about always getting grocery duty and having to babysit Luke, as she puts it. She turns sharply and heads off down the street with Luke on her heels. Charlie moves off to his van, climbing into the driver’s seat, John climbs in shortly after, and they drive off.
I smile at Lucy.
“Get that dumb grin off your face,” she says, grinning at me in return. “Rich people sporting goods; golf and tennis rackets. Not beer pong and hacky sacks.”
I feign a groan of dismay, but immediately perk up and start walking down the street.
“Golf is fun too,” I state cheerfully.
Lucy shakes her head at me and waves ahead of us. “It’s just around the corner.”
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