I woke up to the sound of gunshots. It was dark, but I had no idea what the time was, only that it was night. The only light was coming from the weak rays of moonlight shining through the boarded windows. The warehouse where we had been staying the past week had been run down long before the outbreak. It was some kind of mill, actually, with large machines and chains hanging from the rafters. The windows were, for the most part, shattered, the broken glass dusting the floors. This made it hard to walk around without my boots. So when I got up to check out the gunshots, I stepped on a shard of glass and swore. This woke up Zeke, who apparently had slept through the earsplitting sound of bullets.
“Four?” he asked groggily. He wasn’t a morning person in the slightest, and it took a moment for the situation to register. I looked over to where the other three survivors slept. Two of them were empty. It’s too goddamn early for this shit, I thought. Zeke’s brother, Uriah, and the girl we had found on her own a few weeks ago, Lynn. She had joined us, but only out of necessity. She mostly kept to herself. The other member went by Eric. He was twenty-one, like Zeke and myself.
“They’re missing,” I said. Uriah and Lynn were gone, along with their shoes and weapons. That explained the gunshots. I grabbed Zeke by the arm and lifted him up. “Put your boots on,” I commanded. “And grab your weapons.” I picked up Eric’s combat boots and threw them in his direction. “You, too,” I said. “We can’t stay here. They’ve given our position away. We have to leave.” I slipped on my own combat boots and retied them. I loaded my semi automatic shotgun. Eric and Zeke loaded their respective weapons. Eric had two 9 mm semi-automatic pistol, one in the each of the holsters on the belt on his waists. Zeke, on the other hand, had opted for his trusty semi-automatic assault rifle strapped to his back. He had had this since he was eighteen, before the outbreak. I grabbed all of the blankets and pillows we had slept on and gathered them into a pile by a window. With the butt of my shotgun, I smashed the wooden boards and opened a space for the air to escape. I lit one of our matches and set the pile of blankets on fire. If they really were here, they’d be able to keep our scent and follow us. They were hunters. And they preyed on us.
“We have to leave,” I repeated. “Go find the others. I think it came from outside. I just have to make sure these burn properly. I’ll only be a minute.” I can see Zeke hesitate. “Zeke, go find Uriah.” He paused, but quickly nodded. He left with Eric close behind him. It wasn’t like Eric would be of any use. Zeke knew it, too. He was weak and scared, and if the time came, I doubt he’d be able to fire those weapons of his. But I needed him out of the way. And Zeke was capable of handling the both of them, if he found Uriah and Lynn. They would survive.
So I kicked the burning blankets around and ended up throwing some of the wooden boards on it. I guess I had hoped the hunters would have a sudden fascination with fire that pyromaniacs do. I would at least stall them. When I was convinced my job was finished, I picked up the cartons of water tied together with rope. I threw that over my shoulders and continued to the door. The gunshots had since stopped, and I wondered if Zeke and Eric had found the others. I checked the safety on the shotgun; it was off. Good. Always be prepared. I walked into the stairwell of the warehouse. We were on the top floor, and the ground floor was two stories down. The stairs lacked windows, understandably, so it was black as pitch. The blinding feeling of the dark definitely upped the fear factor, but we had cleared out the entire warehouse before we had set up camp so, unless Uriah and Lynn had opened the ground doors, Hunters couldn’t possibly be indoors. So I walked cautiously down the stairs, but kept that in mind.
When I got to the second floor, I nudged the door open. It was heavy, probably weighted, so I only held it open long enough to say Zeke’s name. And when I did, it wasn’t Zeke who responded. I pulled the door shut as soon as I heard it. It wasn’t human. It was more of a groan of something dying. Or maybe it was already dead. Either way, I didn’t stay long enough to find out. I moved away from the door quietly, but it didn’t matter. Whatever was in there had seen me, or maybe it had sensed me. It slammed up against the door and screeched. Loudly. The small rectangular window on the door showed its face. This was the first time I had observed one up close. I struck one of my matches and brought it up to the window. I looked at its teeth first. They were rotting, all brown and dirty. They seemed to be disintegrating, as if they had been pulled from his mouth and then reattached. The tongue was missing entirely. I looked at the nose next, which made me glad I hadn’t eaten anything for a few hours. I would have thrown up if there had been something in my stomach. The nose had been mauled, seemingly bitten off, almost completely gone. The area wasn’t red, though, like there had been blood. No, it seemed like there hadn’t been blood at all. Finally I looked at the eyes. That didn’t last long. It became even more enraged, clawing at the window with its broken nails. I worried the glass would break, but I was too transfixed to leave. “What are you?” I whispered, not really expecting an answer. It was more of a question to myself.
There were more gunshots from downstairs. They sounded like they were outside, though. I whipped my head around and flew down the stairs. I sprinted through the ground floor to the exit. The double doors were already open. When I made it out, I was relieved to see the moon, giving light to giant lot. But it also gave light to the scene unfolding in front of me.
Zeke had found Uriah, but they were currently being attacked by a group of seven or eight of whatever was upstairs on the second floor. Lynn was a few yards away to my right, cornered against the warehouse. She had her dual knives out, tearing into two at a time. They were getting dangerously close to her, but when that happened, she would kick them away with her foot. Eric was missing.
I processed this all in a second, because the next, I was being attacked from the left. I brought my shotgun up sideways, blocking the attacker. It grabbed my weapon, but I overpowered it and kicked its stomach. It stumbled back, but didn’t fall. I pointed the barrel of my shotgun at its head. I fired one shell at its head. It fell, dead. Hopefully. I looked back up to reassess the scene. My attention was caught by the rev of an engine. The headlights of an abandoned RV suddenly turned on and lit up the mostly empty parking lot. The door of it opened and Eric hopped out. “Come on!” he shouted across the parking lot. “Let’s go!” He waved his hand in his direction. Lynn was the first to respond. She pulled her knife from the last one and slid them into her belt. She sprinted over to the RV thirty yards away from her. She was small, but her legs moved quickly. I followed close behind her. We covered the distance with ease. She got onto the RV, but came back out quickly with a rag. She handed it to me. “Start wiping down the windshield,” she told me. She turned to Eric. “You,” she addressed him. “Go and help them finish off those last few.” Eric hesitated, but left, pulling his dual pistols out of their holsters. I turned back to wipe down the front of the RV. Lynn went back in and started throwing things out the door. Pillows, blankets, cushions from the benches inside.
“We could use those, Lynn,” I warned her. “I burned the others.” She stepped out reluctantly and gave me a look. She put them back. The gunfire stopped altogether from behind us, and Lynn and I turned to see the three of them running towards us. Behind them, ten or eleven of them were running towards us. Running. I had never seen them do that. They were quickly gaining on them and would soon catch up before they reached the RV. “Have you ever driven before, Lynn?” I asked. I know it was stupid. She looked about seventeen, but I hadn’t known her before the outbreak.
“Nope,” she said, popping the p. She got up into the RV, and I followed her. She sat down in the
driver’s seat and pressed down on the gas. I leaned out and waved the three of
them over. “Sit your ass down, Four!” she yelled at me.
I ignored her. “Get out of the way!” I yelled, still waving them over. “Move!”
They quickly followed the order. Eric ran to the right, while Zeke and Uriah ran to the left. Lynn accelerated before the running ones could follow. I came back in and shut the door, then sat against the wall of the RV. I held onto one of the benches to brace for the impact. I felt each body hit the windshield. It barely slowed us down. When they stopped, we slowed to a stop. The glass was completely covered in whatever we had hit. We couldn’t see anything through it. We stayed like this for a minute in silence, before something hit the door. But it wasn’t a knock. I looked to Lynn to find her staring at me, her eyes wide. She didn’t look scared, just bewildered at the thought that anything could have survived that. I reloaded my shotgun and stood in front of the door. Lynn stood next to me, poised, ready to stab if something attacked me. I leaned forward and opened the door quickly. I stepped back and pulled up the shotgun.
Zeke stood outside the door, holding an unconscious over his shoulder. Eric was just behind them, watching their backs in case anything else attacked. I motioned them up and stepped out of the way. “What happened?” I asked while Lynn got back into the driver’s seat. Eric came in and closed the door behind him.
“We turned the other way, but he tripped and hit his head,” Zeke replied. “His head’s bleeding.” I helped bring Uriah into the room in the back of the RV, where the bed was. It smelled like mildew and some of the springs were broken, but it was a place for him to rest until he woke up. Zeke sat down and held Uriah’s bleeding head in his hands. I returned to the hallway and felt the RV start moving. I don’t know where Lynn was taking us, but as long as it was far away from here.
I started looking in the cabinets for some kind of medical supplies when I found a first aid kit. I brought that back to the bed and threw it next to Zeke. “There should be some gauze in there. Wrap his head,” I suggested. “That’s the best we can do until we can find some painkillers or something.” Zeke nodded solemnly and looked down at his brother. Uriah was like a brother to me, too; I had known him since he was born, since we had been neighbors. I don’t know what we’d do without him. I was afraid Zeke would become useless with sadness, so I was determined not to lose him. He had to keep a clear head. “Zeke,” I said. He looked up at me. “He’ll be fine. I promise.” Zeke nodded, but knew how little that meant for him. Promises weren’t worth much anymore. There was no way to know someone could keep them. Not anymore.
“I promise,” I said to Will. “I’ll tell them. Seriously. It’s not like they can argue. This isn’t a democracy. This is a beneficial dictatorship. They knew that when they joined our group.” Will and I were discussing how to tell the group that we’d have to leave soon. He didn’t want to tell them; for fear that they’d hate him for making them leave this place. But they didn’t scare me and frankly, I didn’t give a damn what they thought of me.
So we were at the main dining table, for breakfast, waiting for everyone to show up. Shauna had made Caleb go outside with her this morning and guard her while she gathered some wild berries and fresh water. She added that water to some powdered milk we had scavenged from the gated community. There were a few apples on the table from one of the houses, but not enough for everyone, so I skipped that. Caleb took one for the extra energy since we were planning on leaving the cavern today to find another van or trailer since everyone couldn’t fit in the single van. He was the only one with the knowledge of mechanics. He was slowly teaching it to Will and I in case something happened. And it was just good to know. But today, Will would remain behind to help clear everything up so it would be easy to move tomorrow.
But first, we tell everyone about the move.
I hadn’t been listening, but apparently Caleb had made a joke or something, because those who were at the table, Molly, Lauren, Shauna, and Will, all laughed. I smiled to make it seem like I had heard, but I really had no clue. Then, Marlene and Christina walked in together. Marlene was talking to her in a low voice, like she was explaining something to her. They reached the table and Shauna made them each a small bowl of fruit, while I poured them each a cup of milk. They both thanked us.
“So what was the joke?” Marlene asked. Caleb waved her off. “It was nothing,” he said. She looked to me. I shrugged, just as lost as she.
They quickly included her in the conversation, but I stayed silent. I wasn’t in the talking mood. And Christina had to ruin that by trying to talk to me. And about probably the worst subject.
“Tris,” she said. “You said you’d tell me about the things that attacked us yesterday.” She didn’t necessarily say it loudly, but everyone still heard. They quieted. Well, now was as good a time as any.
“Yeah,” I said. “I guess I did, didn’t I?” She nodded, but it really wasn’t a question. She waited for me to speak and I realized everyone else was, too. Then it hit me that most of the group hadn’t ever killed one. Will and Caleb and I were the only fighters. Marlene had been with us from the start, and she was a medic, really. She had no need to ever fight them when we could. We had picked up Molly and Lauren along with two other guys we had assumed protected them, but they had either deserted or had been taken. We hadn’t seen them for at least two months.
And then there was Shauna, whom we had picked up before Lauren and Molly. She had a similar case to Christina’s. We had found her on the side of the road, tears streaking her face. She had blood on her, but none of the Turned bleed, so it was human. She was unharmed, so it must have been somebody else’s. Probably someone she had held as they died. A loved one. We never pressed the issue. I finished the mental checklist to see that everyone else was staring at me. I answered before they could think I was crazy.
“Well, it’s complicated, Christina,” I told her. “There are different kinds of… them.” She still looked at me expectantly. Caleb got up and left. I wondered if I had said something offensive. I continued. “But there are the Runners. They’re probably the second most dangerous. They can catch you before you make it a quarter mile. And there are the Creepers. They’re scariest because they come out at night, but they can’t run or anything. It’s just the dark that weakens us. We need the light to fight them,” I said. I wasn’t actually sure why. “They’re like vampires. I guess the sunlight either hurts their eyes or skin or something.” I paused, thinking of the others I had encountered before.
“We call the legless ones Limps,” I explained. “There’s nothing special about them except that they lack legs. But don’t underestimate them; they can still crawl quickly on their arms. They’re just as deadly. The ones that are easiest to kill are the ones we refer simply as Turned. That’s when they aren’t any of the others that I named. They’re slow and weak. They die after one shot to the chest or head. Remember, still just as dangerous.” Caleb entered the dining hall again with a book in his hands. I didn’t even know he had a book. But then he handed it to Christina, and she opened it. She flipped the pages slowly, and I realized it was a journal. The entries were detailed descriptions and drawings of the different types of Turned.
“What are the most dangerous?” Christina asked. “The ones most difficult to kill?” She continued turning the pages, skimming the entries.
I swallowed and looked at Will. I wasn’t sure if I should tell them, but he nodded. I sighed at his need to include the group. We had gone this long without telling them. But if he said so…
“Well, those are the Sensors,” I said. She stopped flipping the pages and looked up at me. “They can… sense us, hence the name. They can hunt us, in a way. It’s like they can remember us. Their senses are only triggered, however, if you make eye contact with one. They become more enraged and they fight harder to kill you. It’s like they think you challenged them. It’s difficult to kill them after you become their target. They’ll kill you or die trying. And I mean that as literally as I can.”
She didn’t speak for a while, so I worried I had permanently scarred her. So I tried to fix it. “But don’t worry,” I reassured her. “Caleb and Will and I are the only ones that really ever fight them. The others stay at the shelter. You can stay with them.” I really only said this to comfort her, but truthfully, everyone in the group needed to be trained with a weapon that is purely theirs. In case they’re separated or attacked. And, in all honesty, we needed more fighters in general. If one of us were killed and if the group kept getting bigger, we would still need more people to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves. Maybe she would fight. Training her would have to be for another time, though.I remembered what I was going to say before this conversation. I clear my throat. “On a completely unrelated topic,” I announced to the room. “Yesterday, as you know, Will and Caleb and I went on the scavenging trip to the gated community. You also you we’ve been here for a long while. A little too long. It may be dangerous to stay here any longer, so the three of us have decided that we have to leave.” Marlene looked down at her food, and Molly and Lauren made faces. Shauna was too understanding to disagree. No one tried to argue, thankfully. I continued.
“Caleb and I’ll be leaving the camp to find another vehicle to work,
while Will will stay back to help clear the place up a bit. That means taking
down the shelters and dumping the washing water. Finding all of the lamps and
saving the kerosene in case we need them during the trip. We leave tomorrow
morning. Tonight, we sleep without the shelters.” I addressed Shauna. “You can
take Will out and find the rest of the berries you may not have picked yet. Package
everything that we can take with us. Anything we can’t, we’ll eat today and
tomorrow morning.” I waited for anyone to say anything, but no one did, so I
stood from the table and looked to my brother. I nodded. “Let’s go, then.”