“Peter Welmerink found some magic when he moved into the Joe Cross stories to expand his Transport universe. When he created his monsters, both human and otherwise, for BULL, that magic turned dark and I don’t think he’ll ever get it back in the bottle. This book is insane in the way a great zombie story should be.” — Jay Wilburn #CaptainThreeKidneys
Quick set-up: In a POST post-zompoc West Michigan, “feral” undead civilians roaming the outskirts of town can be the least of a guy’s worries when, at gunpoint, he has to take some thugs west of town, into deep rural lands occupied by an angry, mutated bovine abomination…
Excerpt from Peter Welmerink’s JOE CROSS novella BULL
“The thing’s going back home,” Wallace shouted, hanging onto his seat and the A-pillar of the LACV.
“Or get us out in the open for an easier kill,” Joe said over the screeching tires and the roar of Lacey’s engine. He fought the steering wheel, trying to keep them from swerving out of control and flipping. Lacey was a big, heavy girl, and could hold her own; though she’d never played rodeo with a massive, bovine aggressor.
The bull dragged them across the westbound lanes, and over the median. Through a grass-filled trench, they rattled, and then up onto the eastbound lane.
Baxter excitedly hooted and hollered. The vehicle bounced through a deep rut in the road, knocking him off his precarious perch. His jubilee blew out as his head slammed into a storage bin. He fell atop the winch, his shoulder hitting the clutch arm, throwing it into reverse.
To add insult to injury, Wallace leaned back and, with the butt of his sidearm, clubbed the Reganshire scout in the head. “Damn fool’s assured our deaths,” his reasoning.
The giant towed them out onto the eastbound bridge span. Westward and up a rise of land to the roadway’s left side were the remains of the Valley State University-Allendale campus. It had been the compound of the late scientific communal who had lost their minds, and then their lives, experimenting on things that little helped the area when the world flipped on its virus-plagued head thirteen years ago. While the H7N9 strain of the bird flu ravaged the land, killing people outright or turning them into walking cadavers; instead of assisting humankind, they got together and wanted to “play” with the after effects. The biggest and best—and most violent—thing they came up with stomped them into Hell. It now seemed bent on doing the same to Joe and his immediate company.
Aggravated by Wallace Lancaster, Joe shot a glance at the man who sat half-turned in his seat, watching their impending doom. Joe kicked himself for, again, being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Should’ve taken more time before heading out, and waited until both GRCC and Reganshire forces fully cleared the area, he thought. I could’ve talked Nagel into giving me a day while things calmed down.
“Then perhaps,” Joe mumbled, glaring at Wallace, “One more days wait, you’d have been wandering around and eaten by now.”
Lacey bounced across a pair of pot holes.
Albert’s head nod up and down in agreement with Joe’s statement.
Joe raised his voice, growling at Wallace: “Check Baxter, buckle him down, and do the same for yourself.” His eyes returning forward, Joe watched the eastern hills shrink away.
Wallace barely checked the Reganshire scout. He thoroughly checked himself though, making sure he was harnessed in.
Joe glanced down at Albert. “Stay in the cubby no matter what.”
“What? Who?” Wallace said, looking at Joe, down at the stuffed bear, then back at Joe. “What’re you going to do?”
Joe didn’t answer but stomped on the brakes. At the same time, he pulled up on Lacey’s parking brake. Wheels screeched anew.
The vehicle whipsawed sideways as the bull gave another tug and then couldn’t move forward. Its hooves hit the concrete bridge span like lightning claps, and it roared its defiance at being snagged and halted.
“Are you insane? What’re you doing?” Wallace cried, gripping his seat cushion so tight his fingers dug to the seat’s foam core.
“Baxter gave me an idea,” Joe said, still standing on the brakes. He wasn’t sure what the vehicle-to-monster weight difference was, but Lacey appeared to be a good anchor when it stopped being a wheeled, 5,000 pound-plus pull toy. “If that thing has any semblance of wild herd animal, it’s not going to like being lassoed and tamed.”
“Yeah, so, you’re gonna piss it off more, and have it trample the piss out of us!” Wallace slapped his hands on every pocket of his shirt and pants, trying to find an ammo clip for his gun.
The giant bull started to thrash, bucking up and down, roaring. Chunks of concrete exploded at each downward step.
“Yeah, I’m going to make it pissed off,” Joe said.
Joe chewed his lip, voice lowering. “I haven’t thought that far ahead actually.”
Baxter groaned, coming back to life. “Man, my head’s killing me.” He raised a hand to his bloody temple. “Shit, what the hell?”
“Come back to your senses, Scotty?” Wallace said.
The Reganshire scout jerked his head in the direction of the beastial roar. He groaned again at the sudden action and what it did to his bruised braincase. He watched as the massive bovine thrashed, fighting the cable and spear it was anchored to. A body, torn but not decayed, flew, ragdoll, from the tip of one of its horns, and landed violently on the bridge’s weed-infested, concrete surface.
“Bernie!” Baxter yelled. “We got to get him. Bring him home.”
Joe depressed the clutch and threw Lacey into reverse. The tires screamed as she reared backwards, gaining a foot, two, three, much to the beast’s dismay. The bull tried to dig in with its massive hooves, but the roadway: too solid, too smooth. It gained no purchase.
“What’re you doing?” Wallace yelled over the roar of the bull. “You’re as nutty as Baxter.”
“I need a gun. I gotta kill that thing!” Baxter said, ignoring the other man’s statement.
A Joe Cross: Urban Salvage Engineer Tale
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