Caleb and I had decided to walk from the camp to the highway, where there were more cars to choose from. And the ones we didn't like, we could always take the gas from. So we were making our way through the trees and fallen leaves in the forest, heading towards the van. From there, we could follow the trail to the highway.
“Tris,” my brother said to get my attention. I was a few feet in front of him, leading the way. I was probably the best at memorizing the landscape, and navigating accordingly. I didn't respond, so he continued with what he was going to say. “Tris, I was thinking about what you said this morning.” I scoffed.
“Well,” I joked. “That's dangerous.” From the corner of my eye, I saw him give me a look. I pretended not to notice. “I'm serious. What you said to everyone about the Turned.” To be honest, I was genuinely intrigued about what he was talking about, but I saw the opportunity and I took it. He hadn't said anything since then, and I wondered again if I had said something to offend him. But, he pressed on. “You said something about the Sensors. And I know you don't like talking about them.” He was right. I didn't. “But, we all know they're triggered by eye contact, right?” I nodded, but remembered he was behind me, so I verbally responded, “Yeah.” We passed the covered van and turned to start following the path. It would take us to the highway in a matter of minutes.
“Right,” he continued. “Well, it got me thinking. What if we didn't make eye contact?” he asked. I had a feeling it was rhetorical, so I didn't respond. “I mean, I know we have to see them to survive, but if we could find a way without triggering them, that'd put us ahead of them, wouldn't it?” he asked. That was an obvious one.
“And just how do you suggest we do that?” I asked him. We finally arrived at the highway. I sighed and looked down the road. The sun was almost straight above us, indicating it was close to noon. We hadn't packed food, choosing instead to save our food. We had brought water, though. I decided to take a sip now after the trek through the trees. I offered Caleb some, but he seemed preoccupied. I closed the bottle and brought my bag back onto my back. I started walking up the road towards where the abandoned traffic was heaviest. I assumed he was following.
“Sunglasses,” he finally said. I hadn't realized he had actually contemplated my question. I hadn't actually been expecting an answer. I stopped and stared at him. “I mean,” he paused. “It's just a possibility, I know. And we'd have to test it, but theoretically speaking, it should work. If they can't see our eyes, they won't be triggered. But we'll still be able to see and fight them, right? It's the same science as one-way mirrors.”
I was nodding. I wanted to believe this would work, but he was right, we'd have to test it. And there was the blaring problem that we didn't have any sunglasses, let alone enough for everyone else that would need them. But I played along. “Okay,” I agreed. “Say we did have a pair of glasses to test. Would you test them, or would to volunteer someone else to do it? Like me? Or Will?” I asked. “And even before that, how would you get a Sensor into the right situation without looking at it? Like you said before, it's just a theory.” I dismissed the conversation. But he was persistent.
“Yes,” he said. “But it's a theory worth trying. Don't you agree?” he asked me. He didn't let me answer. “And I'd be willing to be the one who tests it. I would. Honestly.”
“Alright,” I agreed. I really didn’t see the point in arguing with him. He would do it whether I liked it or not. “Fine, but just wait until we’re settled, okay. In the new camp. Not while we’re moving. We have to focus on protecting the group rather than experimenting with Sensors.” Caleb nodded and smiled. I don’t know why he was so ecstatic I had agreed. He would have done it anyway, and I had a feeling Will would be all for it.
We had stopped to argue, but now I continued to walk through the cars, looking for cars that would fit four people in it. A truck would work, and another van would be phenomenal. A trailer would also allow us to take more things with us, but if we were attacked, it would just slow us down, so I decided against that. I told Caleb to look for that kind of thing. He nodded and we split up. I started walking down the rows of cars again. They were the abandoned traffic of those who had tried to escape the initial wave. But they never knew it was airborne. I thought back to when the TVs and radios still worked. Back to when there was still a society at all. For the first few days, it seemed like it was containable. A few of the news reports had claimed it had started somewhere in Peru, but others had blamed the Americans. The United Nations had intervened quickly to try to contain the spread. Anyone who was infected became something else, completely void of humanity. The closest word there was to describe it was… zombie. But those were works of fiction and could never come true. But there was the undeniable proof of the disease. There were videos leaked to the media to try to warn the public, but the reaction was the complete opposite of what they had expected. There was mass panic. It had spread from wherever the origin was to North America in weeks. And the rest of the world had done nothing to help us. In fact, they had quarantined the two continents. We hadn’t heard from them since then. For all we knew, the quarantine had done nothing, and they were all infected, too. We found out later that the disease was airborne, so without the communication, we had just assumed they were in the same state we were in. Or worse.
But here in the Americas, churches everywhere started preaching the sins of the damned and how they would burn in hell. Governments fell within a matter of days. The majority of the population tried to evacuate, but they found that to be useless. All that did was trap them and make them more susceptible to the infection. It made them easy mass targets for the already Turned. And soon after, there was no civilization. There were only the few stragglers who had barely managed to escape it for the time being. Probably fewer than two hundred million had survived in the whole of the Western Hemisphere. After that, most of the survivors were alone, and therefore weaker. Most of them probably only lasted a week or so. Finally, at this point, I had estimated there to be only a hundred million of us on the two continents. And in America, less than a million, all spread out across the country.
So the few of us that had survived had banded together. Anyone who had survived was worth something. We had all made it on our own at some point and we could all survive that way, but there was strength in numbers. And that went for both the humans and the Turned.
I took a deep breath and smelled the air. It wasn’t a pleasant smell at all. No, it was a mix of old gasoline and death. Which was weird because only the Turned smelled like that.
I felt my eyes widen involuntarily. I pulled my pistol from its holster and aimed it in front of me. I was between a car and a coach bus. I turned my back to the bus and crouched down to the ground. I turned around and held the gun in front of me. Nothing still. I tried to quiet my breathing and calm my heart rate, but there wasn’t much I could do. I didn’t know what kind of Turned it was, and the not knowing was always the worst. If it turned out to be a Sensor, which I doubted, I had to warn Caleb. I would think it would have smelled or heard me. I swallowed and made sure the safety was off again. It was. I gathered my courage and stood up. I looked around once again before turning back to the bus. I had to do this quickly; I couldn’t keep my back to the open for too long. I looked at the bus’s wall for any notches. One of the windows was open. I grabbed it quickly and hoisted myself up. I put my feet on it and my hands on the roof of the bus. I lifted myself completely on the bus and rolled over onto my back. I turned my face to the side and my eyes were met with someone else’s. They were blue and hard. They were the eyes of a female. I opened my mouth to scream, but she brought up her hand. Hard. And her eyes changed. I knew then that she was not one to be trusted.
I tried to shake her off, but she was strong. Stronger than I had thought. I squirmed, but she brought her other arm around my neck and stood up, bringing me with her. We seemed to be the same height and same build. I brought my pistol up to try to hit her head, but she seemed to see it before I could. She knocked it away with the hand that had been previously been covering my mouth. I watched as it fell from my hand to the paved highway below us. I took the opportunity to scream for Caleb.
“Caleb!” I screeched. There was no answer at first, but then I heard him yell my name back. I tried again, but the girl brought her fist up and slammed it into my nose. I let out a groan and held my now bleeding nose. She then nailed her knee into my ribcage. I bent over and fell in pain. She rolled me over the side of the bus, so that I landed on my hands and feet on the road thirteen feet below. My head bounced forward and hit the road. I swore under my breath and felt her land on her feet next to me. I could hear feet pounding in both directions. I lifted my head up and saw someone appear in front of me. I didn’t recognize him. He was dark skinned and thin. He seemed tall from where I was, but I knew my judgment was clouded. From behind me, I heard my brother’ voice. He said my name once, but I couldn’t see him. All I saw was the man in front of me pull up some kind of pistol. He aimed it above me and I heard the shot fire from it. I didn’t see exactly where it went, but knew it had hit its target because behind me, Caleb made an awful moaning noise and I heard something drop to the ground. I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that he had been hit, but my head was so foggy, I couldn’t manage a shout. Blood was now blinding my eyes. I heard some more voices and a little bit of shouting, but it was the same two voices, back and forth. But then it was quiet and I felt strong arms wrap around my torso and lift me up. All I saw as I was taken was the form of my brother, bleeding from the side. I think we made eye contact, but before I could be sure, the entire scene faded and I blacked out.
I don’t know how long it had been, but I knew for a fact time had passed. And lots of it. The blood on my face was dried and crusted. My ribs were sore, but didn’t feel broken. I still hadn’t opened my eyes, in fear of my situation. I didn’t hear anyone, but I sensed someone. Next to me. I opened my eyes into slits, so I could see, but so that whoever was there didn’t know. What I saw made me open my eyes completely. There was a boy, around my age sleeping next to me. He wasn’t the same boy who had shot my brother, but they looked similar. He also seemed to have some kind of head injury, since there was gauze We were in a bed with a dusty comforter. And I couldn’t move without making some kind of noise, either. The springs of the bed were squeaky and the boy could wake up any minute. I swallowed and slowly inched off of the mattress after checking my rest of the room. It looked like a trailer of some kind. The door leading to the main area was closed. I looked to the windows. Their shades were closed and I hesitated to reach for it. I feared the boy on the bed would wake up and try to attack. But he hadn’t moved for a few minutes since I had been up, so I began to think he wasn’t going to. I went ahead and slid one of the short curtains back and peaked out of the window. It was dark, nighttime. So, I was right. At least eight hours had passed. I moved away from the window and let the curtain fall back and cover it. I looked around the room again and something shiny on the nightstand caught my eye. It was by the sleeping boy, so I had to be careful, but I knew it was a weapon. It had a sheath, so it had to be a knife. I couldn’t tell exactly how long it was from here, but it was clear it could do some damage. I silently crept around the edge of the bed where he was sleeping. I grabbed it quickly, and the sudden movement must have triggered his unconscious senses. He woke slowly, seemingly unaware of why. He sat up and leaned on one arm. I brought the knife around his neck and brought my mouth to his ear. “Don’t fucking scream,” I whispered.
And he did the weirdest thing. He laughed. He shook his head, still facing away from me and tried to shrug me off.
“Come on, Lynn,” he said. “Knock it off. I just woke up. I’m not in the mood.” He tried to turn around and push me away again, but I still held the knife in place.
“Neither am I,” I threatened. When I said this, he seemed to realize his situation. He stiffened and I held the knife tighter; he seemed more likely to fight back now, even if he was still weak.
The last thing I wanted was to kill another survivor, but in this case, if he tried to kill me, it was either die or kill the son of a bitch. And I knew which one it would be.
“Who are you?” he asked.
He was right to ask that, I resented the tone of his voice, so I snapped back, “I could ask you the same thing.” Well, I tried to say that anyway. In the middle of my sentence, he brought his hand up and grabbed the handle of the knife, which was excessively long. He had a good enough grip on it that he spun it out of my own grip and held it in his hand. He crawled quickly off of the mattress and stood at the other side of it. We stood across from each other, but the knife was in his hand. He made the first move; his mistake. He jabbed the knife at me, but I grabbed his wrist instead and pulled his forward. He landed on the bed and I saw the knife drop onto the bed on one if the pillows. He flipped himself over before I could stop him, but I got on top of him and straddled his waist. I grabbed the knife and brought it back again to his throat. I pressed it down to show I wasn’t kidding. I saw a small line of blood begin to trail down his neck. He whimpered and a small part of me felt bed, but then I remembered what they did to me. To Caleb.
“Now,” I said. “Let me ask this one thing. Who are you people?” I asked. I made sure my tone left no room for messing around. He tried to swallow, but ended up spitting onto my left cheek. I flinched, but kept the knife there. I considered pressing harder, but surely that would damage him too much. “Alright,” I said. “Fuck you, too, then.” I shrugged.
I dropped the knife and balled my fists. I punched his face twice, rendering him unconscious. Once I was sure of it, I got up and grabbed the blade again and swept off my clothes. I blinked a couple of times to clear my head and tried to make a plan. Yeah, that didn’t really work out. I knew I needed to get back to Caleb and bring him back to the camp. The logical part of my mind knew the chances of him even living after the shot to the side. But the sister part of me had to think he was alive. I had to think Will had come looking for us and found him. I hoped they had left. I didn’t know how many people there were here, or how skilled they were militantly. Caleb was injured and Will couldn’t take them alone, which is how he would do it of course. He wouldn’t sacrifice anyone in the group.
So I had to find them before they found me. I slid open the door that led to the main cabin and looked into it thoroughly. No one was there but a blonde girl’s head sitting in the driver’s seat, but she was turned the other way, so I couldn’t see if she was a threat. She was leaned across the chair in a weird position, so I crept forward towards her. When I was right behind her, I saw that it was the same girl that had attacked me on the coach bus on the highway. I resisted the strong urge to kill her now. She was the reason behind Caleb’s condition, which was still unknown to me. But she was asleep and if I killed her, I wanted it to be a fair fight. So I left her.
I turned to the door that led outside. The knife was still in my hand.
I opened the door and it swung out. I stepped down the stairs before I was met with the dark eyes of a man. He was talking to someone behind him, but while facing the door, probably about to enter. Well then, change of plans.“Well,” he said to me, out of surprise. “So you’re the new visitor.”