Last year, I wrote a novel about a group of people living in a pandemic. A flu is sweeping the world, and some lucky lottery winners get to take an armored bus to safe haven. I got the idea for the Last Ride while reading about a bus that makes a run in Mexico. In one of the areas controlled by the cartel, people ride the bus from one town to another. The bus goes 80-90 mph the whole time. It's so dangerous that it stops for nothing.
That got me thinking about potential story ideas. Swap out Mexico and cartels for the apocalypse, and there was a story. The Last Ride was born.
You can purchase the last ride as an e-book or in paperback.
A killer flu has swept the world. Survival is key. In a city soon to be deserted by the military, a group of lottery winners get to take the last bus out. The armored vehicle will take them to a government shelter. The trip won't be easy. Along the way they will have to face roving gangs and warlords.
Among the passengers on the bus is a young woman carrying the fate of the world in her hands. People will kill to get their hands on what she's carrying. The passengers will have to band together if they're going to survive the last ride to safety.
They’d kill me if they could, Tony Wells thinks.
He moves along the street, his large hand enfolding ten-year-old Sam’s. The boy is a little too big to have his hand held, but it’s for safety reasons.
In the past few months, three kids have been snatched off the street. Sold to slavers and sex traffickers for food. Now that money is worthless, human cargo is the new currency. Plus, they’re marked for winning the lottery.
He sees people peering out of broken windows. Five and six story apartment buildings line the street. A group of men warm their hands over a barrel fire out in the street. They look like they want to gut him alive.
“Keep moving,” Tony says.
“They hate us, don’t they?” Sam says.
“Because we get to leave?”
“That’s about right,” Tony says.
Jake says, “They had just as much chance as us to win.”
“People are bitter sometimes.”
He supposes he would be, too. Those left behind in the old city are likely going to die. There are rumors that the army division guarding the city is pulling out. Their supplies are running thin, and winter is coming. That will leave a ragtag militia to protect a small city. The odds aren’t good for those left behind.
Tony and Sam reach the end of the street, leaving behind the small apartment where they rode out the outbreak. Tony remembers watching bodies in bags being tossed onto flatbed trucks. Flu vaccines ran out after the first six months of the epidemic. The government was decimated. Air Force One crashed over Virginia with the president and cabinet aboard. Civil war broke out between numerous armed militias.
Tony has a .45 semiautomatic in a holster on his hip. He traded three bags worth of groceries for the gun and two magazines in the early days of the outbreak. He hopes he doesn’t need the gun.
They reach the end of their street. He takes a final glance at their apartment building. There’s part of him that wants to turn back, hole up, and stay safe in the confines of 7B, but he knows it’s a death sentence to stay here. They’re the lucky ones.
The two of them pass a group of men seated on the steps of an apartment building. They have on winter coats smudged with grease and dirt. Tattered jeans. Their cheeks are hollow, as if someone has scooped out the muscle and fat underneath. He feels like a gazelle walking in front of a pack of hyenas.
Sam is staring at them.
“Don’t linger,” he says to Sam, nudging him along.
The compound is up ahead. Concrete walls with sandbags stacked on top. Men walk on a parapet behind the sandbags. He can see their heads and shoulders. They all have rifles slung over their shoulders.
Outside the gates sits a tank. It’s painted in camo. The tank has long since run out of gas, but the main gun still works, as does the .50 caliber machine gun mounted on the turret. It is enough to dissuade anyone dumb enough to risk a frontal assault on the compound.
“I’ll bet it’s cool riding in a tank,” Sam says.
“I’ll bet it is. Also hot, dirty, and loud.”
“Think they’ll let me fire the gun?” Sam says.
“Keep dreaming,” Tony says.
As they approach the tank, a guy wearing a big fur hat pops his head from the hatch. Leans on the .50 caliber. “ID numbers for both of you.”
Tony reads off the ID numbers everyone in town was assigned after the outbreak.
The man in the fur hat reaches down in the tank and brings up a clipboard. From his front pocket he takes a pair of reading glasses and puts them on. He thumbs through some sheets and says: “Wells, Anthony. Wells, Samuel, ages thirty-eight and twelve. Photo matches up. Looks about right. Lucky winners. All right. Head to the gate.”
The man raises his hand and makes a twirling motion. The gate cranks open. When it’s fully ajar, Tony sees a machine gun nest fortified with sandbags just inside. Three more men are hunkered around. A guy with brown stumps for teeth sees them and says, “Pass us. Depot is the third building on the right. Get going so we can close the fucking gate.”
“Can I say the F word?” Sam says.
“Not like I haven’t heard it,” Sam says.
“Still a negative,” Tony says.
As they head inside the gate, Tony hears a barely audible “Fuck it” escape Sam’s lips. He smiles and decides to let it go.