“They’ll be fine.”
“I know.” The girl said. “But it’s been a while.”
“If they were in trouble, they would’ve raised the alarm.” James said just as there was the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs.
“You guys need to come up here.” Cheyenne said as soon as she saw them. She looked out of breath, like she had run all the way down the stairs but her eyes were lit up with excitement.
“What is it?” James asked, following Cheyenne up the stairs. The group was quick to follow.
“It’s something really amazing.” Cheyenne told him. “Just hurry, so I can show you.”
Cheyenne led them up to the top floor and by the time Gwen had stepped off the last stair, she was ready to just sleep for a few hours, but still the others seemed to be having absolutely no problems at all. Gwen was willing to bet they were like those annoying kids in P.E who would overachieve just to impress their peers and teachers.
“Is that-” James asked, and Gwen hurried her step at the incredulous note in his voice.
“Yeah.” Cheyenne said, laughing the slightest bit. “This hospital is like a goldmine. We found heaps of stuff on the floors below but this is the best yet.”
Gwen expected to see something incredible, something big and maybe labelled something like ‘THE ULTIMATE CURE’ or ‘THE MAGIC FORMULA TO SAVE THE WORLD’, but instead she was greeted with the sight of people that weren’t a part of their group. Obviously the were survivors, like them.
Before she could say a word, one of the strangers stepped forward. He was old and his hair like ash and charcoal with a wrinkled face.
“Good afternoon.” He said in a friendly voice, but there was a note of distrust in his voice. “My name is Doctor Liam Staff. I’ve been informed about your situation, and we are considering in assisting you in finding a cure.”
“We appreciate that.” James said. “If you don’t mind me asking, where is the rest of our group?”
“In the back.” The doctor said, before turning and asking one of the members of his group to retrieve them. “They were curious about our provisions.”
“Alright.” James said, though there was an undertone of suspicion in his words. “Would you answer a few questions for us?”
“Only if you were willing to answer some of ours.” He said.
“That’s fair. Once the rest of our group returns we can start answering each other’s questions.”
Liam nodded but there was a glint in his eyes that made Gwen shift uncomfortably. Her experience with the City had taught her that kindness was always closely followed with an ulterior motive.
There was the sound of a slight struggle from where the other members of their group were, and Gwen stepped forward. James shifted the slightest bit.
“What is that?” Cheyenne asked, raising her eyebrows. Her hands were behind her back, clasped in what would look to be a respectful gesture, but they were close to where her gun rested in her waistband.
“There are a few infected in there. I’m sure it’s nothing that your group can’t handle.”
Immediately, Gwen was suspicious, and she could tell that the rest of their group were too. Riley pursed his lips. “Why wouldn’t you move to a different floor? We just went through all of them, and two of them are completely clear of anyone, both alive and infected alike.”
“Well, you see.” Liam said shifting, “We test the infected, and it’s just easier to keep them back there.”
A shocked cry came from the said area, and both Cheyenne and James stepped forward. “Would you mind if we went back there? Just to make sure they don’t need any help?”
“Of course.” Liam said and stepped to the side. James thanked him and the pair quickly walked towards the doorway, but seconds before they walked through. Chris and the rest of their group came into sight. He shook his head rapidly, widening his eyes.
“We were just about to look for you.” Cheyenne said, sounding relieved. “Are you okay?”
“Fine.” Chris said, although his voice was strained. He was pressing a hand to his side, and his features were slightly pinched. “But it’s getting late, and we need to get back to camp soon.”
A glance outside the window told Gwen that it could only be early afternoon, if not earlier, but it seemed like the others had heard something different. She felt the person next to her tense with worry, and the person in front of her reached for the hilt of her knife.
“I hope you don’t mind.” James said casually after he had glanced at his watch. “But we have an early curfew and we must have lost track of time somewhere along the way. We have to leave soon, but hopefully we’ll be able to meet again soon to discuss this.”
“Is finding a cure not more important than returning before curfew?” One of the members of Liam’s group asked, her voice hard though there was a forced smile on her face.
“Trust me, finding a cure is important to every single one of us, but if we don’t return before curfew we’ll be accounted for as dead.” Cheyenne said. “We’ll return soon.”
They didn’t give the other group a second to reply, quickly backtracking and making their way down, covering several flights of stairs in less than a minute. “Get out of here.” Chris called, though he didn’t dare to speak too loudly.
They stopped only once and that was to retrieve Charlie and Rachel, however both were adamant that they weren’t leaving.
“Why not?” Ciara asked with a frustrated note that raised her voice a pitch.
“Because she’s infected.” Charlie said lowly. “And that means I’ll be next.”
“Shit.” Was said by many people throughout the group.
Ciara looked ready to cry, biting her lip hard. “No.” She said, shaking her head, but there was no denying it now.
A closer look at Rachel’s arm told the truth, and she was infected. She was also one of those who got sicker quicker than others, like Ryan had. She was fading fast, would maybe last a week before the disease turned her.
“Don’t let me become like them.” Rachel whispered to them. “Put me down.”
No one argued with her, tried to tell her that they could find a cure, that there was something to be done. There were sobs, but not one person voiced an argument, not even Ciara.
Gwen wondered if they knew that she was also infected, if they realised how close they were to an infected person. Why hadn’t they put her down yet? Did they just assume that the cure had been given to her, and it had worked?
Chris gave a heavy sigh, looking all too much like a man who had been weighed down with the entire weight of the world and then some, but he pulled his gun out of his holster.
“I’m sorry that it has to be this way.” Chris told her, swallowing. “You’ve been a good member of this group, a friend.”
Rachel smiled sadly. “I’m sorry too, but please don’t feel regretful about this. It’s not your fault. It wasn’t ever your fault.”
Chris hand clenched, and Cheyenne gently grabbed his shoulder before nodding towards the exit. It was time to leave, the group slowly moving away from Rachel and Charlie and towards the outside but despite moving away from the scene, Gwen could still hear everything.
“Farewell, my sister. I only hope that the life following this one is easier.”
And then the gunshot drowned out the rest of the noise.