The great hunter
By the next day, Jasper was capable of sitting up. Still not walking, but not on the edge of death. Over the next few days, he recovered strength, until he was finally able to get going again. They were low on food by that point - of course. None of them was willing to go back into Elmsdale though, so they decided to chance it and headed off into the mainland.
As they travelled they tried some frequency scanning on the walkie talkies. For a long time they got nothing, then a scratchy voice came over the line. They couldn’t figure out what it was saying, but the talkies only had a max range of about fifty kilometres, and likely a lot less in practice, so whoever it was, they were close. They kept on that channel, getting short bursts of voice, and followed the path that made the quick squawks louder and clearer.
Eventually, they managed to make out some of the words on the channel. There were several voices, mostly male, all giving quick focused commands or replies. It sounded military, but the talkies they were using were definitely civilian models.
“We need food. I’m going to do a bit of hunting,” Jasper said, grabbing a small hunting rifle from the packs. He was still weak, but functional. Also, he was hungry. They were very low on food. There was only so much they could carry and none of them were feeling up to another population centre.
Jasper found a deer trail and followed it, looking for traces of deer to shoot. Several hours later he decided to try for something more realistic. He spotted a squirrel, fired off a shot, and then cursed as the squirrel took off, intact but scared.
They knew that they only realistically got one shot before having to move on. Who knew if the zombies would come to that noise or not... they left the area as fast as they could.
They kept stumbling into bogs as they travelled, the land suddenly turning into a sodden slog, every step trying to drag them down. The bogs were full of biting insects and thorn bushes, tearing at their skin, tearing holes in their clothes. The landscape was dotted with bogs of all sizes; often they were the only way through an area, cliffs forcing their path.
Naomi kept them to their path though, confident in her sense of direction.
“Hey, Naomi, how the hell do you always know where we are?”
“I was with this fine boy named Tyrell. He was beautiful, but he smart too. Boy was in university, doing astronomy. He used to take me to the telescope, to look at the stars. It was cool, felt like being up in space, way the fuck away from my life. I started getting really into it and shit, reading about stars and constellations and all that. Once I found out you could use them for directions, I was hooked. Read all kinda shit about astronomy, navigation, all of it. Guess I always liked maps too. Mostly I wanted to get out of Nova Scotia, thought it would be easier if I knew where I was going.”
“Anyways, Tyrell, he got this sweet job, but meant he had to move away, down to South America, some observatory in the mountains. He bought me a telescope before he left.”
“Why didn’t you go with him?”
“I was in grade ten. You can’t take no jailbait to another country. I miss that boy.”
Jasper found himself falling into a deep depression. He didn’t know how long they’d been travelling, he’d lost days to the fever, and travel was painfully slow. Snow kept him going, not just because of his tireless friendship and enthusiasm, but because he provided a link to Taylor, reminding him of why he had to keep moving, of what this journey was about. Taylor had named the big husky when Jasper first got him, refusing to even consider a more conventional name. The delays, the lack of progress though, they were sapping Jasper’s motivation. The lack of calories was also taking a toll, leaving him weak and short of stamina.
He knew how to trap, but that involved waiting a few days and checking the traps over and over again. He refused to set aside the time needed, driving himself harder and harder as he started to fail.