0 1 | D E V I N
The light shown from the moon like a crackling fire in the sky. The stars were the flickers of ash and flame that blew away in the wind. The clouds were coming just to take the beauty and comfort away. The clouds resembled them. The greatest fear that anyone should have in a time like this, a time in which there were no bedtime stories to keep one safe at night. There were no sweet dreams to fill ones head when laying down for sleep. There were no pillows for comfort when all one wanted was to cry a pool of tears so grand that it would fill an ocean.
They were referred to as many things, both before and after. Roamers, geeks, Z's, zombies. But Devin liked the term Stragglers. It was true to their name. They just tripped over their own feet as they headed off in a direction that doesn't have an end.
Their skulls seemed softer than she imagined. Did they wear down as their body rotted? Probably. She tried not to think about things like that, but she was running out of other things to think about. Blood? rotting flesh? She tried to keep that stuff off the table, but every time she closed her eyes, it's all she saw.
She saw her mother getting ripped from her grip, being toppled to the floor under a half dozen stragglers. She saw her dad sinking to his knees in despair, just to be dragged away himself. She saw her sister, covered in blood that wasn't her own, almost not crawling quick enough under the vehicles. Almost.
Life quickly turned into a nightmare, but Devin lived day to day like it was some sort of game she was trying to win first prize for. It was sick, disgusting, repulsive. But it was how she had to convince herself to keep pushing through.
Disaster after disaster, death after death, Devin somehow found the strength to keep pushing through. With high hopes and survival instincts she was bound to her place as an overseer.
It wasn't much of a community, but it was something worth fighting for. It was small high school, only one story. With the help of woman, men, children, and the elderly, they all banned together to fortify and provide for the building. They built gates and walls a couple hundred feet from the door of the building. They set an area for crops, an area for live stock, an area for picnicking outside.
It took a long time to complete, but with everyone working together, they got it done. The families and friends came together to make one big community that some call their new family.
The school was quaint, probably didn't hold more than 400 high schoolers. It was surrounded by a small community and a forest just off the left wing of the building. That was the only area where they cut the yard forward and let the wall come up tight to the building. Eight watch zones occupied the entirety of the building, each post offering weapons, food, and first aid kits. The building also had two openings to the outside. The main gate was at the front of the school and had a huge set of double doors that pushed open from the inside. The other door was hidden in the back and was much smaller than the opening of gate. It was their last resort door.
Devin's room was an old biology classroom sectioned off by curtains. Her sister occupied the section in the opposite corner. She shared her curtain with her high school best friend, Olivia. At night they would shine their flashlights on the opposing sides of the curtain to make shadow puppets wander across the sheet. In the last corner was a girl named Rose. She was only middle school aged, the youngest of the four. Her older brother was a tough fighter that worked his butt off everyday. He occupied as much time in the watch towers as he could.
It was the middle of the night. Fire's had been died out for hours and the clouds were moving in. Rain drops had started falling, patting against the sidewalk leading up to the main door of the school building. Devin was sitting outside on the steps, letting the rain start to soak her hair. She stood up, taking another deep breath of fresh air before returning inside. She hoped to be able to sleep better after taking some time to step outside. Her nightmares kept her restless through the night, and she hated to make much noise in fear she would wake the others.
"Dev, what are you doing awake?" She was brought out of her thoughts. Lana, her older sister stood in front of her locking arms with none other than Phoenix Thompson. Devin looked down at her feet, refusing to look up at either of them.
"Just a stroll. Don't you have a watch to take, Lana," she spat coldly, brushing past them to continue down the hall.
Phoenix. Devin had known him since fourth grade when he sat down at her lunch table and asked if she wanted some yogurt. How could he fall in love with her sister? Devin had spent weeks crafting a valentine card for him when they were in sixth grade, but never got the chance to give it to him. She told Lana how much she like that boy and was waiting for him to hopefully feel the same and ask her out, but it never happened.
What did happen was Lana swinging in as a hero when everything started. She took initiative and it seemed as though that's exactly what Phoenix was looking for. She grabbed a small group of them and thought of a safe place, and took them there. Along the way Lana and Phoenix just happened. Devin didn't really know when, how, or why, but the way she viewed them wasn't the same.
Devin put the thought aside and continued to her room, taking a right at the end of the hall, and the second door on the right. The door creaked as she pushed it open. She took herself to her corner of the room, pulling her curtain back. She changed out of her wet clothes throwing on a clean t-shirt and jeans. She changed into clean socks and kept her shoes off as she laid down on the air mattress. She closed her eyes and reluctantly fell asleep.
* * *
She woke up peacefully, light coming in the windows and shining through the curtain. She stretched out her arms and legs, turning to read the time on the battery powered alarm clock. Seven in the morning.
She had plenty to do. There was a group going out and she needed to send them off. Then take watch at three. Maybe there wasn't as much as she thought, and she wanted to do more. She wanted more responsibility like Lana, or Phoenix, or Malikye, the older brother of Rose. She pulled her boots on and pushed the curtain back. All of the other curtains were left wide open and they other three seemed to have already started their day elsewhere.
Devin walked through the hall and out the back door of the building where two trucks were being loaded. "Let's get you guys set," she said to Malikye who was throwing a duffle bag into the backseat of the pickup.
"That would be awesome. Not even Phoenix showed to help load up, can't believe it." That was strange. He was responsible, on time, and efficient.
"That's not like him," Devin agreed, grabbing a gas can from the side and hoisting it up onto the tailgate.
"Do me a favor, would you?" Malikye turned to face Devin, squinting from the sunlight that shown down on them.
"What can I help you with?" Devin had barely ever held a conversation with this guy let alone do him a favor. But of course she was willing to help, he was infamous in the community and a big help. Devin couldn't remember a time where he refused to go on a run.
"While I'm out, it would mean a lot if you'd check in on Rose for me. She's more than capable to look after herself, but I worry about her, you know. I know she stays up late reading. She ignores the other kids her age." Devin noticed some of these things. Sometimes when Devin couldn't sleep she could see a flashlight dimly glowing on the other side of her curtain.
"Of course," Devin smiled back. The two continued loading the trucks. Nearing the end, another community member going on the run, Amelia, came to assist. It didn't take much longer until they were ready to roll out. The trucks were brought to the front gates and friends were saying their goodbyes. It wasn't really a goodbye, more of a 'seen you soon'.
Phoenix was waiting at the gate, holding Lana's hands. She reached up, removing her hands from his, to place her hands on either side of his face. He leaned down, giving her a kiss.
Devin turned away, beginning to walk towards the front of the gates. Within a few minutes Malikye gave her a thumbs up from the front seat of the truck. Devin pushed the doors open to reveal a few stragglers. Herself and a few others cleared them out of the way to provide a safe exit for the trucks.
Devin closed the doors as soon as the trucks went through. The crowd started to dissipate, people heading back inside or to their next job. Devin waited for Olivia to come down from the watch tower so she could takeover. It was a half hour of pacing before Olivia made her way down the ladder. "There's a small heard on the left wing, we might want to get some people out there tomorrow to take care of that. Nothing unusual. I left the gun up there, fully loaded and safety on." Olivia gave Devin a pat on the back before rushing inside.
She climbed up the ladder, settling into the small space looking over the main entrance back into the camp. If she looked through the plastic opening on the left of the canopy she would see the guard tower on the opposite side of the gate.
There was a walkie talkie next to the gun, placed on the other end of the small space. She took a seat on the cushions that allowed her to stare outside and through the field.The sky was almost clear of all clouds and the sun couldn't have been any brighter. But it could have been a little warmer. The spring air still was shocked with bursts of cool breezes.
The day was on the brink of dusk, the sun was barely hovering over the horizon. Devin had ate a few of the snacks and was ready for her guard shift to end in fifteen minutes. Her eyes caught a glimpse of a vehicle moving in her direction. At first she thought it might have been one of their cars, but the heavy artillery on top and the men in the back said other wise. She reached for the walkie, holding the button in. "Tower two, do you read me, survivors nearing the main gate."
"Copy, stay high. Let Lana take the front on this," the walkie screeched back. Devin did just that. She called for Lana over the walkie and grabbed her gun. The truck rolled to a stop and the passenger got out, arms raised. He was a stranger to her, and to the community.
Devin kept her gun pointed and her ears ready to listen in. The gates opened with a group of people, fully armed, to meet them. Devin had an exceptional view of the event from the stand, and an even better view of their heads through the scope of the gun.
"Hey there, we're not here for any trouble, I promise you that," the boy started.
"Can't be too sure now-a-days," Lana respond, lowing her gun slightly, the the crowd behind her continued to hold their guns up.
He explained a trade. His community needed food and first aid items, and Lana explained to him that they needed ammunition and weapons. She let them inside, the entire group of no less than twelve. Devin climbed down from the guard tower and trailed behind, following the group inside.
"Now, we have a collection of people who have a say in what goes on around here, and you seem like nice folks, but I would feel much better if we wanted until some of my group members came back from a run before we make any decisions. Now you can come back in two days, then we'll talk." Lana tried to reason with them, but they refused to go back to their people empty handed.
Lana settled on them staying just until Phoenix and the others returned. Then they would make the deal, make the trade, and leave.
Devin didn't sleep a wink that night, not even after taking a midnight stroll outside. She checked on Rose, who was calm and quiet in her room by the time Devin could see how she was. Rose had looked up at her, gave her a nod, then continued to read by the light of her flashlight.
It was unsettling having a bunch of stranger crashing in their gym. Her head swam with awful thoughts. There was an endless list of 'What would happen if'. She knew they'd only be gone another day or so, but it would be the longest hours of her life. Never in all the time they had that place had any group ever come to them for a trade. Sure they had people knocking at the door
seeking refuge, but never another community.
The inside of the school was still dark and so was the night sky. There were no clouds. This just might work, she hopped.
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