It's a mess in here, but when isn't there a mess since the world went to shit? A line of booths on the wall in front of me, a bar to the right of me, and overturned tables in the middle of this bar. All the windows are boarded up, letting in little light even with the door open. It smells like dust. I go back outside and lookaround the back. A garage, which has a lock on it, sits behind the bar. The woods are a few yards behind the garage. Walkers are always in the woods, which is the worst place besides a large city to be stuck at. I lead the horse around the back and pick the lock on the garage. It's empty and small, but big enough for a horse.
I lead it in and get a bowl from inside and a jug of water in a mini fridge behind the bar. I go back to the garage and water the horse. It drinks it up fast. I let it graze on the dead grass as I watch for walkers. I have three things I need to keep safe. Judith, the horse, and my gun. After half an hour of grazing and only a couple of walkers, I put the horse back in the garage for the time being.
"Let's see what we can find, eh, Judith?" I say, talking to her as I walk back inside.
She just looks up at me. She then starts to play a round of tug of war with my hair. I don't pay attention to it and look around. Behind the bar there is a door. I open it and spot a big safe. This must've been the office, telling by the desk and stack of papers with overdue bills stamped in red on it. The safe in the corner behind the desk is already opened. I open it wider and find two pistols and a box of ammo.
I put the stack of paper in the trash can beside the desk and take out the extra mag in my backpack, carol's gun and her dagger, and my gun. I check the mag in my gun right now, half empty. I smile as I see that the bullets in the box are the same as the bullets in my gun. Ok, so I now have four handguns, two daggers, and a box of ammo. I'm lucky right now. I put more bullets in the mag and put the other weapons in my backpack.
My stomach grumbles. I search my backpack for food. I have run out of food for the both of us. Shit fuck. I check the bar, which usually has snack foods. Nothing. I go around back and see a few walkers clawing at the door of the garage.
"Get away from my horse!" I shout.
That draws them to me and I cover judith's ears as I fire. They are all dead. I know there will be more. I get the horse out and ride off. It's noon now. I look around for a safe place. Judith starts to whimper. I look down and she tugs on my hair.
"What? what's wrong?" I ask as I slow down.
She squirms in the sling. I stop the horse on the side of the road and get down. I take her out just in time as she pukes. I rub her small back and pat it, trying to comfort her. I search my backpack again and almost cry in relief. A packet of crackers sits at the bottom. I get them out and hand one to Judith as I settle her back in the sling.
As she naws on the salty cracker I spot a trail veering off the side of the road. I see a pair of footprints. I decide to follow the footprints. The dirt path takes us to a small suburb. I look around.
One road, seven houses, and a group of walkers. I screw my silencer on my gun and shoot them all. Three houses of different sizes line the street, with a grand two story house at the end on the street.
"Ah!" I hear someone shout.
It sounded like it came from a backyard to my right. I flick the reins and speed off to the person.
"Maggie?" I say when I see the woman standing over a dead walker.
"Charlotte?" she says back, looking up at me on the horse.
"Is that Judith?" she asks.
"Yeah. I got her out in time." I say, revealing the baby to her.
She smiles. We were in a home garden. The boxes of soil are filled with mostly rotten vegetables. Beside maggie is a basket of carrots and broccoli.
"Do you have any others with you?" I ask.
"Yeah, Sasha and Bob. We are camped out in the house next to this one." she explains.
"Do you know where Glenn is?" I ask.
The horse flicks its tail, shooing the flies away. She glances down at her wedding ring and shakes her head. I nod.
"Can I stay with you all?" I ask, trying to clear the tenseness in the air with the previous question.
She nods and says, "Follow me."
I get off the horse and follow her, one hand holding the reins, the other hand holding my gun. Judith ate half the cracker, crumbs on her onesie.
She looks confused and I smile at her for reassurance. We go to the end of the street to the big house. It's white with four windows on top and four on the bottom, now broken and boarded up. A screened in porch, the screens are tattered now, and a set of double doors.
"Anywhere the horse could stay at?" I ask, not wanting to leave it out here for even a minute.
"Out back. I'll take her for you. Why don't you go in and settle on a room, we have a spare one." she takes the reins and leads it out back.
I mutter a thanks and open the right door of the two. I'm greeted by the skeletal remains of a chandelier hang above me.
"Sasha? Bob?" I call out.
Sasha comes from the right. I see the back of a couch and a fireplace.
"Charlotte. Glad to see you again." she says relived.
She smiles, "And Judith. I was worried if she made it."
I nod and awkwardly go for a hug. We break away when we hear a throat being cleared. Bob stand against the doorway that Sasha came out of with a bandage on his left shoulder. I raise my eyebrows at the dressing.
"Gun shot," he states.
I nod. Sasha leads me into the living room. To my left, two of the four windows I saw outside are here, boarded up and covered in heavy blackout curtains.
A chair and the couch block the little light from the fire that is barely above embers. A stack of branches and wood are beside the brick fireplace. To the right is the kitchen. I walk in. White tiles, deep red painted walls, and marble counters with white cupboards. To my right in the kitchen is a set of stairs.
"Backway to the rooms upstairs." I hear Maggie say from behind.
"Were there any walkers?" I ask, not turning around.
"No, it was deserted when we got here." she explains.
A cold breeze blows through the curtains. I shiver some. I take off my backpack and sit on the couch. I dig out my army green jacket, a gift from my father, that is warm on the inside and a bit big. I put it on and smile some.
"Is the horse secure?" I ask Maggie, staring at the fire.
I check my watch, almost five. Almost sunset.
"Yes, doors and locks and food." she reassures me.
I feel reassured. I lean back and take judith out of the sling and fold the sling, putting it in my bag.
"I'll take the couch." I say.
"Ok, I'm gonna chop up the vegetables and find something else for a stew of some sort." Maggie explains, motioning for Sasha to help.
Now it's just me and Bob. Bob leans against the wall of the fireplace.
"How'd you wind up here?" he asks.
"Saw the trail and the footprints. Decided to follow them and heard maggie scream. The rest is up until now." I tell him, letting judith play with my hair.
"And before that?" he asks.
I remain silent, staring into the fire.
"What about you? How'd you guys end up here?" I ask, changing the subject.
"We ran. I almost bled out," he says.
A silence fills the air, besides the cracking of he wood in the fire and the commotion in the kitchen.
"Supper's almost ready y'all." Maggie announces to us.
She carries in a pot and a wooden spoon for stirring. She crouches down in front of the fire and reaches for something on the side of the fireplace. A crane that hold things, perfect for pots.
"Used to be a slave plantation house. The slaves would cook the meals with this for their master and his family." she explains as she puts the pot on the crane over the fire.
She adds a log and pokes at the embers, coaxing it to consume the log into the fire, wrapping the flames and burning it. Judith squirms and I set her on the floor in the kitchen under close watch.
I tug my jacket around me tighter. Tomorrows priorities are to find food for Judith and keep this house standing, also to find some water that isn't contaminated with walkers.
"Supper's ready now." Sasha says.
I scoop up Judith and head into the living room. I get a bowl and share with her, blowing on it before letting her slurp it noisily out of the spoon. After dinner, we just sit around in silence, listening to the wind, which is picking up outside, and the moans from a distance.
Maggie taught me the correct way to change Judith. I was getting my pillow out of my backpack when carol's dagger clatters on the floor, gleaming in the low light of the embers. I know they are looking at me. I stuff it back in and put my pillow against the side of the couch. I unhook my bed roll from the bottom of backpack and roll it out.
"I'm heading to bed now." I say to them.
"Ok, see you in the morning." Sasha says.
The others leave and go upstairs. I slip into my bedroll and stare at the dying embers, fading and loosing heat. I'm against the back of the couch while Judith is in the wooden crate swaddled beside me, facing the fireplace asleep. I wonder where Carl and Rick are. I hope Rick is okay, last time I saw him he was clutching his leg behind the overturned bus. He must've gotten shot. I let my worries slip away as my mind succumb to sleep.