This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
“Clem, you hungry?”
“I’m fine, Luke.”
“You haven’t eaten anything in two days. I’m not letting you starve.” Luke applied the brakes to the old, red pick-up truck before putting it in park.
It’s been almost a year since they made it out alive. And in that time, the two have gotten closer together. It’s been hard at times, but they made it through with each other. Just them.
It all pretty much started when they reached the lake that was covered in ice.
“I go first. I can be front.”
“No.” Jane interrupts the Russian man. “Listen, I want to get to that house as fast as possible, but if the ice breaks… I’m saying we should test it.”
“And how do you suppose we do that?” Kenny asks.
“We send out our lightest member.” Jane responds.
“I was afraid you’d say that.” Clementine spoke up.
“Hell no! We are not having her walk on ice!” Luke yelled.
“Do you want to send the baby out?” Jane asks. “If the ice starts cracking under Clem’s weight, then she can come back and we can walk around the lake. That side doesn’t look like that far of a walk.” Jane points the the left side of the lake.
Clementine sighed. “Does it have to be me?”
“I know you don’t want to do this, but I know you can do this. Just go slow, and turn back even on the slightest crack. Okay?” Jane assured her.
Clem slowly started to walk on the ice. She didn’t change her pace or panic over the fact that she’s on top of water. She just walked.
‘You’re going to be fine, you’re going to be fine! It’s just a simple, slow walk.’ she thought to herself.
This continued for a while, until she was a good distance away from her group and they started yelling at her, saying she was ‘doing fine.’ Clem thought she was actually going to make it to the other side, until-
Clementine froze where she was upon hearing the sound. She slowly tilted her head downward to confirm her fears. There was a crack right underneath her foot. She was terrified.
“Clem! Did the ice crack?” Jane yelled at the child after noticing her stopping.
Clementine was too afraid to turn her head, thinking the ice would break underneath her. She just slowly nodded, not losing eye-contact with the crack.
“Then come back, we’ll walk around!” Jane yelled.
The eleven-year-old slowly pivoted on her toes to turn around. After calming herself down over the crack, Clem looked ahead to her group. They weren’t that far away. Relaxing even more, she took one step towards them.
The sound scared her. Clem looked down again to see another crack under her foot. Plus, it connected with the first one. Fear swept over her, realizing this one was bigger.
She hesitated for a moment before taking a larger step.
The rest of her group could hear the ice crack under her weight. Mainly because it wasn’t just one crack, it grew. It connected to the first two, it surrounded her. Even with her longest stride, she’d still step on a crack. She was trapped.
“Clem!” the girl looked at Luke. “We’ll- we’ll figure something out! Just don’t move!”
Clementine looked back down at the cracked ice. She didn’t know what to do. She was scared.
“I- I have to move!” she yelled back.
“Clem, forget what I said about walking! Get the fuck out of there!” Jane yelled.
The kid took a deep breath before she started to run. After only a couple steps, the ice broke. Her legs were in the water. Clem started to pull herself out, but she felt something grab her ankle, trying to pull her into the water. She kicked and pulled to try to free herself, but a walker emerged from the water and started climbing on top of her.
The weight of both of them was too much for the ice, and Clem knew it. It broke, sending them both fully underwater. The walker was on top of her, pushing her to the bottom of the lake. It was shallow in the part of the lake they were in, so the walker did actually push and pin Clem to the bottom. She did everything to try and push it off. In the corner of her eye, she saw the ice pick Jane gave her. With one hand keeping the walker away from her, she used the other to grab the weapon and jab it into the walker’s head. Killing it.
Clem was almost out of air. So she pulled the ice pick out and used her legs to push up from the lake floor and up to the hole. She was almost there, she just had to swim upward.
Just when she was about to breathe in water, she felt something grab her jacket collar and pull her out of the lake. Clementine started coughing, pulling the air into her lungs.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, I shouldn’t have sent you out!” Jane said as she pulled her completely out of the freezing water.
Clem felt herself getting picked up by her savior, before they ran back to solid ground.
“We have to get to the house, she’s freezing!” Jane said before she and the rest of the group ran around the lake.
After what felt like an eternity, they finally made it to the house. Jane set Clem down on a bench near the fireplace before she started looking for firewood and ordering the boys to get out of the house so Bonnie could get her wet clothes off.
Jane found some wood and a blanket for the shivering girl. Bonnie wrapped Clem tightly in the blanket, while Jane used the nail file to light the fire. Clementine was still shaking from the cold by the time the guys came inside. Luke sat down right next to her and wrapped his arm around Clem, holding her close to him. Thinking that it would help warm her up.
He also told her about what happened outside. Kenny blamed Arvo for her almost drowning and freezing to death. Arvo talked back to him, and Kenny started beating the shit out of him. Mike and Luke managed to get him off of Arvo before he killed him.
Eventually Clem passed out from the cold. When she woke up, Jane gave her some food and her now, dry clothes. She used the blanket to shield her from the guys as she got dressed.
Kenny came in, asking if she could help get a truck working. After failing, he sent her back inside, where she talked to Luke. He told her to be careful around Kenny and his temper.
Kenny did eventually get the truck working, then he and the rest of the group got into an argument about where they should go. Clem did talk to Kenny alone in the truck after the fight ended, but she wasn’t able to convince him of anything.
Clem woke up early the next morning, hearing something outside. Upon inspection, she saw that Mike and Arvo were by the truck. Bonnie came around with their supplies and the baby before noticing her. They were leaving her, Jane, Luke, and the main reason- Kenny.
Even though Clem threatened to shoot, Mike disarmed her. Next thing she knew, a bullet went through her shoulder. Arvo shot her. Clementine fell to the ground and quickly passed out from shock, not before hearing shouts, and more gun shots.
When she came to, she was in the back seat of the truck. It was moving.
“Clem, thank God you’re okay.” Luke said as he glanced back at her. He was driving the truck. “How do you feel?”
“It- it hurts.” she responded holding her shoulder.
“I bet it does. The bullet went straight through you. The pain should stop in a bit.” Luke explained.
“Luke, what happened?” Clementine asked.
“Arvo shot you.” he said.
“I know, Luke, but why is it just us?” she asked.
“After Arvo shot you, Kenny, Jane, and I woke up. Kenny was the first one out there, and Arvo quickly shot him. Jane then went out and tried to attack him. Arvo shot her twice. I went around the house to get behind him, but by then he already killed Bonnie, Mike, and… AJ. I attacked him from behind with my machete and killed him. I was so pissed, I thought he killed you, too.” Luke explained. “After I saw that he shot you in the shoulder, I grabbed you and all of the supplies and left. We’re on our way back to Howe’s, I’m hoping to grab more supplies before we decide what to do. What do you think?” Luke looked back at Clementine who was curled up in a ball. He stopped the truck and put it in park before he got out. Luke opened the door to the back seat to join the little girl.
He sat next to her with a hand rubbing her back, trying to comfort her. “It’ll be okay, kid.”
Luke heard a sniffle from Clem. Was she crying? She never cried. But with what happened, he couldn’t blame her.
Suddenly, Clementine wrapped her arms around Luke’s neck, burying her face in his shoulder. Luke wrapped one arm around her waist while his other hand rested on the back of her head, keeping her close. He could feel Clem’s tears on his shoulder as she cried. She was crying. Luke tightened his hold on her, as if it could make her feel better.
“Shh… It’s alright, Clem.” he whispered in her ear. “You’re safe, you’re alive, you have me.”
He could feel Clementine’s hands grip his shirt. “ Damn, I’ve never met anyone stronger than you, Clem.” Luke told her.
Clementine eventually calmed down and fell asleep in Luke’s arms. Once she did, Luke gently picked her up and sat her down in the passenger's seat so it would be easier to can keep an eye on her while he drove.
After Luke got back in the driver’s seat, he put it in drive then stepped on the gas to continue their journey to Howe’s.
Clementine scooped up some beans before eating them and giving the can to Luke. They were finishing off the can they opened yesterday. The two have living in the truck ever since Arvo’s shoot out. Occasionally, they’d find a house to sleep in for the night and live there for a day or two, but they never got rid of the truck. It gave them lots of distance.
Luke drove while Clementine sat in the seat next to him. They would eat and sleep in the back seat, unless it was a nice night. They found a mattress in a garage at one of the houses they stayed at, a bit smaller than the entire bed of the truck. When the weather got warmer and it was a nice night, they would sleep in the truck bed on the mattress. It was nice to sleep under the stars every once in a while.
“Do you think we can sleep outside tonight?” Clem asked.
“Probably.” Luke responded looking out the back window. “You still okay with going west?”
“Yeah.” Clem said.
“I had a friend who went to Washington for college, he said that it’s really nice there.” Luke told her.
“Yep. Just a bit rainy.”
“Have you ever been there?” Clementine asked as Luke handed her the can.
“No, I wanted to visit him, but I never found the time to.” Luke said. “You can have the last of it.”
Clem looked inside the can, there at least one scoop left. “You always give me the last, you have it.”
“No, Clem. You need to eat.” Luke said.
“I did, you can have it.” she insisted holding the can out to him.
Luke sighed before reaching the can with one hand, while the other ran under Clem’s hat and through her hair. “You’re a sweet kid.” The hand on her head slid down to her neck before Luke dug his fingers into it. Tickling her.
“Luke!” she giggled.
The farm boy set the can down before he started tickling her armpits. Clementine leaned back to try and get away from him, but that just gave Luke the advantage. Clem squirmed and laughed as he continued to tickle her. He had her pinned down.
Luke then use one hand to scoop up the last of the beans and shove them in her mouth while she laughed. After doing so, he finally got off of her. Clementine sat up before she swallowed the food. Her intention was to get back at Luke.
Luke figured this out by the look on her face. He moved backwards until he was up against the door. “I know what you're thinking, Clem. Don’t you dare.”
It was too late. The girl lunged at Luke and started tickling him. He fought back by tickling Clementine again.
“Give in now, Clem. You know I’ll win!” Luke said.
“No!” she squealed.
This continued for a while. Eventually, Clementine did give in. “You are so eating the last of the beans, next time.” she huffed, recovering from the tickle fight.
“In your dreams, Clem.” Luke responded, tilting her hat down.
“You can be a real jerk sometimes, Luke.” Clementine said, fixing her hat.
“Admit it, you had fun. I know you did.”
“Okay, I did.”
“Good, I would have tickled ya again if you said no.” Luke grabbed Clem’s hands. “I don’t want you to get any ideas.”
Silence fell between them, faint smiles on their faces as they stared into each other’s eyes. Clementine was straddling Luke’s legs while his back was up against the truck door.
Luke grabbed Clem’s hat and put it on his head. “What do you think?”
“I think you look like a dork.” Clem responded.
“Well, I guess we’re both dorks then.” Luke said. “So, how about Washington?”
“Is that far?”
“Kinda, but we’ll make it.” he said with a smile at the end.
Clem always smiles back when Luke gives her one. It gives her hope.
Something suddenly came over her as she stared at Luke. Clem launched herself at him, letting her lips meet his. Luke was taken aback by this at first, then he closed his eyes and kissed her back. Clementine felt her arms wrap around Luke’s neck, while his hands lightly cupped both her cheeks before they pulled each other closer into the kiss they kept sweet. The longer the kiss lasted, the deeper it got. The deeper it got, the more they forgot about the world around them.
They eventually broke it off, pulling away slowly as they opened their eyes. Light smiles came between them. Luke put Clementine’s hat back on her head before he looked in her golden eyes while she looked in his brown ones. Then realization hit them as they went wide eyed. Clem pushed herself away from Luke and scooted back to the other side of the seat until her back was up against the car door.
They stared at each other in shock for a while, wanting to say something to make it less awkward between them. Nothing came to mind, mainly because they were still processing what they just did.
“So… Washington?” Luke managed to say.
“Ye- yeah…” Clementine responded.
Luke opened the door on his side and got out. He ran his fingers through his hair before getting into the driver’s seat and starting up the truck. Luke looked to his right, expecting to see Clementine in the seat next to him, but she wasn’t there. He looked in the side mirror to find her in the bed of the truck.
Luke rolled down his window and turned his body towards her as best he could. “Are you sure you wanna ride back there, Clem?”
“I’m sure.” she didn’t even look at him.
“Just drive, Luke.” she ordered. Her head rested on the edge of the truck bed with her bent arm hanging off the side.
Luke sighed before turning forward. He adjusted his side mirror so he could see Clementine better. It was weird not having her next to him. Luke put the truck in drive before he slowly applied gas, he didn’t want to jerk the kid around.
He’d occasionally glance at Clem through the mirror while he drove. She almost looked like she fell asleep, if she wasn’t shifting her body every ten minutes. Her cold shoulder made him uncomfortable. What else could he do about it though? Luke just drove, his lips still numb from what happened in the backseat.
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