No one spoke for a few seconds, that is until Lynn began to struggle again. Marlene pulled the knife tighter around her captive’s neck enough to draw some blood. Lynn winced, and I strengthened my poker face. Even so, I was terrified what the dark-haired girl would be capable of. And we were now outnumbered since Uriah and Zeke handed over their weapons. Marlene was silent still, and she seemed to be waiting for Will to say anything.
In that time that it took for Will to speak up finally, I had sorted out the possibilities of what they could have been talking about. But Lynn was the one to voice it.
“The girl,” she said from behind the knife, her voice hoarse. “That bitch whose ass I kicked.” Will spun around to her, and Marlene began to pull the knife tighter, forcing Lynn’s neck to lean back with it. Molly and Laruen still had their weapons on me. No one was aiming at Eric, though. Maybe they forgot about him. I tried to get his attention with my eyes, but he was too busy staring down Lynn.
“Don’t you fucking talk about her like that,” Will shouted at her. “You don’t know her so you can keep your bitch mouth shut.” He came back to face me, and Eric was no longer beside me. He had dropped down to get the surprise advantage. Will wasn’t an idiot, though. He had a steady hand and a calm conscious, and he made a swift motion to follow Eric’s body. He pulled the trigger twice quickly, missing the first, but then hitting Eric’s thigh on the second. It was enough to bring him to the ground, moaning in subtle pain. He clenched his teeth together and held both hands to his wound, but that wasn’t enough to stop or even slow the blood flowing out of his leg. Will had, intentionally or not, hit an artery.
At this point, I was the only one I trusted with a weapon. Will was about to take that away, too. He pulled it up quickly enough, and he was breathing hard. Although he had seemed calm before when he was nearly killing Eric, I wasn’t sure he was capable of controlling himself anymore enough to talk. He was angry now. This Tris girl, the one that we had taken, but who had escaped, she obviously meant something to this group of people.
I took my finger away from the trigger of my rifle and straightened up. I slowly lifted the gun up beside my head in a surrender motion. “I’m done,” I said slowly, trying not to set him off. I bent down to kneel. “I’m not going to resist. I don’t want any more trouble. We don’t have your girl anymore. She ran away a few days ago, miles from here. She’s gone.” I paused a bit, gauging his reaction. I needed to know if I was in the clear yet. But he wasn’t showing any emotion. “My friend here needs help now.” I motioned to Eric with my eyes. Will followed my eyes with his own.
“He does, doesn’t he?” he said patronizingly. Even from here, I knew what he was about to do. And in hindsight, I suppose I should have done something to stop it, to try to help Eric, but in reality, Will was right; there was no way we could have helped him.
So Will did what I might have done in the situation. Will strode over to Eric lying helplessly on the ground and hovered over him for a moment. He then pulled out a seven-inch-long serrated knife and bent to his head. I couldn’t see the exchange from where I stood, but I want to think there was some part of Will that didn’t want to do this. If there wasn’t, he’d be a ruthless son of a bitch that might kill all of us. But there was no way to tell. I looked away long enough to finally turn back to see Will’s arm jerk back from Eric’s head, bloody knife in hand.
He stood and walked back to Lynn and Marlene. He dropped the knife next to them, and he looked at me. I stared back.
When he advanced towards me, I didn’t flinch. He reached up and grabbed the rifle from my hands. He took it back to the van and unloaded it. He hung it on the interior rack and threw the bullets into a bin inside. Lauren and Molly handed over their weapons at Will’s insistence. He did the same with them, all while speaking to Marlene. Obviously, they didn’t care if Lynn could hear them, which made me worry that they’d kill her anyway.
“She should be back by now,” Marlene said, a bit worried. “She’s been out all morning since we stopped. What if something happened to her?”
“She’ll be fine. Shauna’s tough,” he reassured her. “Tris taught her-“ he tried to continue, but Lynn was having a reaction. She tried to spin to face Will, but Marlene had a tight grip on her, one that could kill if she moved much further. She seemed to know this, since she stopped, but remained trying to question Will.
“What did you just say?” she asked struggling. “Who’s out there?” Her eyes darted to the tree line behind us. I looked, too. There was some movement, but I wasn’t sure what it was.
“Shauna,” Lynn shouted. “Shauna, it’s Lynn. I’m here, they’re gonna hurt me!” she shouted even louder. I noticed that she had a bit of a scratch in her voice, so I wondered if it was from emotion, or from the pain. Either way, I hadn’t ever seen her cry. I looked away from guilt. She wouldn’t want us to see her like this.
Will pulled out his pistol again and moved towards the trees, but then someone else burst through the thick trunks. Her feet stumbled onto the dry leaves, making a satisfying crunching noise. She had a woven basket on her side, but she looked up to Will, then to me, then finally to where Marlene had Lynn to her knife. The basket dropped from her grip and tilted over, spilling its contents of what seemed like plain green leaves.
The girl, who Lynn seemed to know somehow as Shauna, began to walk towards her sitting in the van. She made it a few steps before actually noticing the knife being held at her friend’s throat. Anger flashed across her face, but it was soon replaced by confusion. She looked to Marlene and began to advance towards her. I thought she’d fight her, but Will stepped in, seeing the same reaction.
He grabbed her shoulders, and it was a bit awkward since she was a few inches taller than him. But he was stronger, so although there was some struggle, Shauna’s effort wasn’t enough to get away.
“Will,” she objected. “Will, what the hell!? What the hell do you think you’re doing? Let her go!” she shouted. Lynn continued to struggle. I looked to Zeke and Uriah, who seemed more concerned for Lynn’s well being than the situation at hand. I looked to Eric’s body before I remembered he was dead. Shauna continued to struggle with Will, yelling profanities at him.
“Let her go! Let her go!” she shouted. “That’s my sister! Let her go!” After she said that, Will’s grip on her faltered.
“Wait!” he commanded. “Shauna, wait. Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m fucking sure,” she argued. “Don’t hurt her, she’s my sister.” Will looked to Marlene, and I saw their silent conversation. Marlene seemed unsure, but Will nodded to her. She pulled her knife away from Lynn’s throat, and Lynn slid down against the van, landing on the pavement. Will let Shauna run to her sister.
Lynn stood up, brushed herself off and let Shauna embrace her. She hugged back for a while, and they rocked back and forth before Lynn was facing Marlene. She flipped her off behind Shauna’s back. Marlene rolled her eyes and turned back to where their injured friend was still lying in the back of the van.
I figured she was changing his bandages. I moved to Lynn and Shauna. Will did the same. We stood across from each other, glaring. The sisters were the only things separating us. He shouted to Lauren and Molly a few yards away. “Lauren, Molly,” he said. “Take care of that body, would you?” They looked uncertainly towards where Eric lay, but they still moved to him. I was sure they’d done some kind of dirty work in the last few months.
“No,” I argued, stopping them with my voice. “Let my guys do it; he was our partner.” The girls stopped and looked to Will for confirmation. We kept eye contact, but he nodded after a few seconds. Maybe he figured it was best, or maybe he didn’t think arguing with me was worth it. Either way, Zeke and Uriah uncertainly began to deal with Eric. Zeke picked up his body, and Uriah grabbed two shovels from their van. The two of them left the highway and sauntered off into the woods.
“You killed him,” I accused of Will. “You shot him, and it wasn’t even necessary.” Will stared back at me, but didn’t try to defend himself. Shauna looked at her sister, confused. Lynn looked down away from her sister’s eyes, but agreed with me. “He’s right,” she said. “You killed Eric in cold blood; you’re a killer.”
Will looked a bit offended. “Do I need to remind you that you people shot Caleb, our smartest asset and took his sister,” he told us, trying to advance on me, but Shauna held him back with an arm. “So no, I don’t think it was really in cold blood, considering he was leaping to attack Molly, who we all know can’t protect herself for the life of her.”
“Hey,” Molly objected, but Lauren grabbed her.
“He’s not wrong,” she mumbled. Molly stopped arguing, but remained looking pissed.
But during this exchange, I wasn’t really listening. I had stopped after Will had mentioned Caleb’s relationship to the girl, Tris. I had assumed they were dating, but I was realizing that had been a bit heteronormative of me. He had said that they were he was her brother, which meant she was probably available, unless by some cruel trick of nature, she had an actual boyfriend. I was embarrassed when I came back to reality to find that I had actually been so concerned with this issue. But I was still reassured when I made this connection.
“Guys, stop arguing,” Shauna insisted. She looked at Will and addressed him. “Will, Lynn’s a good person. I’m sure whatever she did had a good enough reason.” And then to Lynn, “These people saved me from myself. Remembered that night when everything went to hell? When Hector…” she trailed off. “I thought you died, Lynn. I saw the Biters take you. I had to get out of there. I was certain you were dead. I had been running away for days, not eating or sleeping because of what happened, but these people found me on the side of the road. Tris, the girl you guys took, she was the one that chose to keep me. She saved me.”
“But Shauna, you’re forgetting they took Tris,” Will argued, throwing his hands up. “For twisted reasons unknown. And they lost her, so she could be dead by now-“ Shauna cut him off.
“She’s not dead, Will,” she insisted. She looked at him and grabbed his shoulders. I observed as they stared into the other’s eyes and noticed a tear fall down his cheek.
I knew it, I thought. I knew he wasn’t such a fucking hardass. I stopped myself from smiling at my thoughts. It would seem sadistic to smile at another guy’s tears. I looked away instead.
Far in the distance, I heard a strong motor running. And above the road, I was reminded of the impending storm that would arrive soon. The clouds were larger now, and darker, too. Then about a mile away, I noticed a black dot beginning to take shape. It looked like a motorcycle, with a dark rider driving towards us. He was thin and wore almost all black, and he himself was black. He had sunglasses on, and an old 50s motorcycle helmet on.
Will and Shauna both turned to the figure, but I clenched my fists, wishing I had my rifle, but it was too far away. But neither of them seemed too concerned, so I soon realized he was part of them. Finally the man arrived and drove in a final circle before parking the motorcycle and stepping off. He got up and I hit myself mentally. He was actually a she. Her body definitely took that shape. She swung the helmet off and held it under her arm. She then slid her sunglasses up into her hair. She eyed Lynn and me, but then moved on when she saw the blood stains on the pavement left behind from Eric’s last stand.
Her eyes widened, and she shot a glance to Will. “Where’s Caleb?” she asked frantically.
Will saw what she saw, but reassured her. “No, no,” he denied. “It’s not his blood. He’s still in the van, but he needs professional medical help soon. He’s getting bad.” The girl continued to move towards the van and peer in. She nodded when she saw Marlene leaning over Caleb. She rested a hand on his foot, and spoke softly to him, but in the dead silence between all of us, we all heard it.
“Don’t worry, Caleb,” she said. “I’ve found a place where we can rest. It’ll only be a short drive. We’ll be there in no time.”
“What?” Will asked. “You found something? Where is it? Is it close?” he questioned further.
“Woah, alright, calm down, Will,” she said, holding up a hand. “You skipped introductions.” She motioned to Lynn and me. She moved to us and held a hand out to Lynn first.
“Right, okay,” Will said unsure why this girl was keeping up pre-disease traditions. “Christina, this is Lynn, from the RV, and she’s Shauna’s long lost sister or some shit.” He scratched the back of his neck, uncomfortable with all of this. Lynn shook her hand, but not out of friendliness, but rather because she couldn’t have done anything else. He moved on to me. “And uh… this is-“ I cut him off, capable of introducing myself.
“I’m Four,” I said powerfully, taking her hand in mine. I was expecting to shake a weak hand, but was surprised by her firm grip.
“Christina,” she said evenly, not fazed by my aggression.
Lynn spoke next, “Are you and Caleb a thing?” she asked. “Or would you be too upset if her died?”
“Lynn,” I said, giving her a look. The first question was alright, but the second one was unnecessary.
“Oh,” Christina said, surprised. “What an odd question. Well, no to the first question. We’re not a thing. But yes to the second question. Frankly, I’d be quite pissed if he died. See, he’s a friend’s brother, and she might kill me if he died. And those bastards who actually did this to him should pay, not me, but she’s a stubborn bitch. So what’re you gonna do, right?” She said this all very quickly, so there wasn’t much opportunity to interrupt her. She seemed to realize how aggressive she was, so she calmed down. “I’m just hoping he’s stubborn, too, enough to live anyway.”
“Christina, the shelter…” Will reminded her and trailed off.
She nodded. “Right, that,” she remembered. “I found a place north of here, probably about ten miles. Anyway, there’s this dirt path that branches off from the main highway. There was this chain, but it’s broken. I drove down the path, but stopped at its clearing; there’s this giant mansion.” She pulled up her hands to show how big it was. “I didn’t clear it out, or even look into it, but it seems good enough for at least tonight. And by the look of the sky,” she said and looked up to that darkening clouds. “We should probably get going.” Just then, like in a movie, lightning struck a few miles away, and the thunder was loud enough to make Marlene jump in the van. “Shit,” she swore.
“Like, right now,” Christina said.
I had been driving the four-wheeler for hours. It was now dark, not because it was late, bur rather because it was about to storm. I was starting to regret this stunt of leaving the shelter of the mansion so soon. Al was probably nice and cozy in the family home, but a part of me wanted him to be worried for me. It had been a long time since someone had shown a romantic kind of concern for me. I suppose it was selfish to think this. I had Will and Caleb and Marlene who all cared so much for me. And even Shauna loved me like a sister, probably. They’d all die for me, but for some reason, I didn’t want just that. I wanted someone who would die for me, but also who would live for me. I wanted someone to love me until the day I died, and love me even after that. I wanted someone who would carry my memory on for others to remember me.
It was a lot to ask, especially now, so I often found myself hiding those kind of desperate thoughts, even from myself. With Al, that had ben the first time I had actually registered them, but now they didn’t seem to go away. I knew love was an expensive thing these days, and it would make me weak, so I never went for it. But I couldn’t help but regret rejecting Al. Sure, I didn’t see a life with him; we just didn’t have the chemistry. But in the case that he was the last eligible guy I’d see in the world, I would live to regret my actions, no doubt.
But then there was always the blue-eyed boy from the RV. I prayed to God he was single, even though I didn’t believe in Him. And even if He was, I wasn’t sure He’d answer any prayers of mine. I wasn’t sure if I’d been pleasing the last few months.
At that point, rain had begun to sprinkle down on Zombie and me. I was getting more and more concerned now with what the plan was. I looked behind me, while keeping the four-wheeler driving straight. The dark clouds were a few miles away, but they were full of lightning and swirling clouds. It would catch up quite soon. I turned back and began to speed up. I started looking out for any traffic that would have tried to escape the city, but I was too far away. They cars would be closer to the city, and I wasn’t close enough to even see the cars.
I turned around again to gauge the storm and swore. It was basically on my heels now. I had to hurry. It’d be too difficult to dry my clothes after they got wet. I turned back again and tore at the brakes. I turned the four-wheeler so it began sliding sideways until it came to a stop. In front of me was an eighteen-wheeler tipped on its side. The trailer part had come unattached from the cab par, the cables snapped and frayed. I decided it would have to do. I got off the four-wheeler and yanked the keys out of the ignition, not wanting to waste any more fuel. I went to my supplies and tried to remember if I had packed a crowbar. Of course, I hadn’t because I couldn’t have anticipated this situation. I ran to the cab part, which was actually upright. I pulled out a knife and then pulled myself up to peer into the window. There was a body, but it didn’t look alive. I stepped down and swung the door open. I began to feel the rain water start again, but faster this time. I looked at the trucker, but he was surely dead.
I looked at him further, searching for any wounds or bites that could have killed him, but the only blood I saw on him was two thin trails of blood from his nose leading to his mouth. He seemed to be like Al’s brother, dead but not an undead. He was pale and dry, but he hadn’t turned. I grabbed his shoulders and threw him down to the pavement, urged by the imminence of the storm. He landed hard, and I winced, but I moved onto the cab, looking for the keys, which happened to still be in the ignition. I grabbed them, and then looked in the glovebox. I threw papers onto the ground and finally found a tool I could use in the case that he keys didn’t work: a hammer.
I jumped back out, but seemed to land wrong. I winced, and then fell. I looked at my ankle and saw that it had bent wrong. “Dammit!” I whispered. I struggled to get up and called for Zombie. “Grab him!” I pointed to the trucker. “Grab him!” I commanded again, and demonstrated with my teeth. She turned her head at me, confused.
“Ah, forget it!” I said. I began limping back to the trailer, finally fumbling with the set of keys. I tried two on the padlock before finally getting lucky with the third. It turned all the way and I felt the click. Thankfully, it wasn’t a door that slid up, but rather two double doors. But they were on their sides, so I lifted the upper one, and held it open for Zombie. “Go, Zombie,” I told her. “Jump in!” She hesitated, but I yelled again, and she obeyed. Then I went to the four-wheeler, and grabbed the essentials that couldn’t get wet, including my clothes, blankets, and all of the food. I threw those into the trailer, and considered grabbing the trucker.
On the one hand, I would have to deal with his stench. On the other, he’d get wet and gross, and I wouldn’t be able to examine him anymore. I had to take the first option. I went back and began dragging, which proved to be extremely difficult, considering it was just his dead weight, in addition with my weak ankle. It took about a minute, but in that time, the storm was probably as bad as it was going to get. The rain was coming down like an assault. Lightning struck a few miles away, and I could hear Zombie whimpering inside the trailer. I kicked the bottom door open, causing the upper one to swing shut. I dropped the trucker, and threw myself into the trailer. The rain stop pounding on my skin, but I could hear it echo all over now that it was hitting the metal box I was now inside. I turned over and rested for a second before crawling back and grabbing the trucker by his limp hands. He had gloves on, which gave me an okay grip, enough to slide him in without much difficulty.
I pulled him in and fell back, exhausted. I rested for a little while, before I got cold. Then, I got back up, and moved to pull the door shut. I stood and fumbled for a flashlight from my pack, looking around the interior of the trailer. There were fallen boxes and crates, but they hadn’t fallen open or anything; nothing was spilling out of them.
I dragged the trucker against one of the walls furthest away from the boxes and put him in a sitting position. I sat back and gathered my supplies into a pile near Zombie. I began to strip my soaked clothes. First it was the camo hunting jacket, then the jeans. I finally lost my tank top, but resisted taking anything else off, scared it’d be awkward with Zombie right there. I began limping to a pile of crates. I fixed them up a bit and grabbed one of the blankets from my supply pile. I whipped it out and smoothed it down. I crawled onto it and set the flashlight next to me. I crawled back and leaned against the cold wall, but there wasn’t much I could do about that. I closed my eyes to rest. I’d change my clothes after a few minutes of rest.
I woke up startled, and a bit angry with myself. I hadn’t intended to fall asleep, not at all. I had meant to rest for a few minutes, but now I felt better physically. I wasn’t as tired, but my body still ached, either from remaining in this position, or because of the physical strain I had been putting on my body lately.
I began to sit up before l realized how much time had actually passed… or how little time.
Rain was still beating down on the trailer. Hard. This meant that the storm was still here, and at its full power. Which was weird, because I couldn’t figure what had woken me up. Just then, a pounding came at the trailer doors, but it wasn’t from the rain. My breath quickened; it was even, which meant it was someone or something out there, trying to get in. Dead or undead, I couldn’t tell. I fumbled to grab my pistol from where it lay a few feet away, but in the process, I knocked over the flashlight.
So did the pounding.
The rain continued.
Finally after a few seconds of terror, the bottom door fell open, and I jumped. Fuck it, I thought. Whatever it was knew I was here, and I needed the flashlight. I went straight for it and grabbed it. When I threw myself back to my previous position against the wall, I looked immediately to the doors. My heart sank when I saw a huge silhouette of a man standing at the entrance, and lightning struck right behind him, giving him a sold black color. But I threw the light onto him and let out a sigh.“Al,” I breathed.
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