The group was moving fast, faster than they had since the world ended. They got a few kilometres on the highway, then had to take smaller roads. Even so, this was passthrough country, no real towns, a few houses by the side of the road with a sign saying “Welcome to...” and then more empty countryside.
The radio in the truck wasn’t picking up anything so they drove in silence. In about an hour they made it further than they would have over the course of a week on foot. They arrived at a spot where the only way forward was across a bridge. One of the support pillars was half collapsed, and the deck was listing heavily to one side. “What you guys think, should we risk it?” Sasha said.
“Fuck no. You crazy? That ain’t holdin this truck. Don’t know bout you, but I don’t feel like swimming right now.”
They climbed out of the truck and got as much of the contents as they could on their bodies. They had to leave some of it behind, so they sat down and had a picnic before braving the structure.
Matt took on the job of distributing the gear, filling the packs and handing them to people. Jasper noticed that Naomi ended up with mostly lighter things. He didn’t think she realized it.
Jasper hung on to the railing of the bridge as he went, feeling every moment like he was going to fall off. It wasn’t a big drop, only twenty feet or so, but the bridge was shaking underfoot, and every breeze felt like it was going to take the whole thing out. Over the worst section, he was using his arms to hold himself on, his feet struggling to find purchase. Naomi had sweat dripping down her face, and Jasper could see the strain in her arms. She was visibly trembling with effort.
Finally, they reached the far shore, back on solid ground. Naomi collapsed from the strain, gasping for air. She was drenched. “Guys, I’m good. Just give me two minutes, I be back on my feet.”
She was true to her word, after two minutes she stood up, still looking green, and started walking. Matt looked at Jordan, shrugged, and started following her. The rest of them fell in line, Jasper in the back.
They trudged off road most of the time now that they had abandoned the truck. It was hard going sometimes, but still, they were in farm country. They passed fields of corn, and cows wandering wild by themselves.
Late one afternoon they decided to stop at a farmhouse when a gunshot split the air, echoing around them. The bullet hit the ground at Naomi’s feet. “Alright, no need to get upset,” Naomi said, “We go somewhere else. It’s all good.”
They turned and kept walking down the road, confident another option would turn up.
That night they spent in a different farmhouse, one that was closer to a mansion. It had a very large outdoor pool, now full of dirt and leaves, and a well that couldn’t draw water due to lack of power. They distilled water from the pool over a wood stove that was in the house and filled up all their water containers. Like most farmhouses, this one had a fair bit of food in stock. Still no paper maps though.
Days stretched into weeks. The group kept heading north and west. Their wounds started to heal, but they were moving slowly. Infection was a constant risk, and the whipping had left deep tissue bruises. It hurt to draw breath. Jasper had been whipped the worst, so he was the last to heal. Every breath was agony.
They were running into zombies by the ones and two, and even then not often. Sometimes they would go a few days without spotting a zombie. With so few, they were not a real threat. This was the sticks, the backwoods of the province. Most of the homes were derelict. Even before the world ended nobody lived out here.
They almost started to relax. Jasper thought it was late September and the nights were starting to get colder, but the days were beautiful for the most part and the leaves were just starting to change colour. The bugs had started to die off over the colder nights, but they still had lazy flies buzzing near them during the day. There were fields of ripe corn, golden in the sun. As they passed orchards brimming with unpicked apples they ate their fill. It was almost peaceful if you ignored the diminishing food stores, the constant exhaustion from walking all day, and the occasional zombie that wandered close enough for them to need to put it down. Jasper was feeling broken, like he had nothing left to give. He wanted to push on, to try and reach Taylor faster, but he didn’t know how to make himself do it anymore.
Finally, they reached the ocean. They were almost out of supplies and exhausted. The weather began to take a turn for the worse. Rain was starting to come down hard. At first, they thought they had reached a river, the visibility was so bad. There was a bridge across part of the harbour, blocked by two sets of burnt out cars, and some bodies in between them, also burnt and blackened. The cars appeared to have been set up as a barrier, a place to trap people, or zombies, as they crossed. They couldn’t see very far. It wasn’t until they got on the bridge that they realized it was actually the coast, the area was covered in steep hills limiting visibility as much as the rain was.
The ocean looked leaden and angry. Dark waves occasionally whipping into white caps, and the rain was lashing down stronger. They had liberated rain gear from the farm outside of Truro but were all soaked to the skin anyway. The rain was cold, and the wind was strong. They saw a sign for Tatamagouche. Their goal, at least the short term one. Jasper had gradually drifted into the lead again, not by any sort of design, mostly by walking a bit faster, knowing the area a little bit. Naomi kept them on track, so it was usually the two of them side by side, with the rest of the group splayed out behind them.
Jasper said, “I think we need to find a place for the night, ride out the storm. Tatamagouche is small, shouldn’t be too many zombies,” yelling to be heard over the wind and rain.
The group agreed and they started into town on the main road, passing a burnt out car dealership and a couple of houses. One of them had burned to the ground, the other showed signs of fire, but was still mostly whole. There was a sign by the side of the road, clean and intact, as if it was still being maintained. It read “Train Station Inn Country Inn Shop Eat Sleep” and pointed to the entrance to a small side road. Jasper said, “Let’s try it. Maybe it’s still intact.”
Jasper led them down the road just as the first crack of lightning hit. The deep rumble of the thunder filled the air, already thick with the sound of spitting rain. They could hardly see, water streaming down faces. Then they saw the Inn. It was dark, yet somehow inviting. There was a train behind it that didn’t look like it had moved in many decades.
They walked up to the inn and tried the door. It was unlocked. As they opened the door they were greeted by a warm light, cheery and friendly, emanating from a pair of oil lanterns hanging from the wall. They appeared to be in gift shop/lobby area. There was a plump older woman behind the counter, grey hair tucked into an old fashioned bonnet. She had on square spectacles and an old fashioned dress, something right out of the Victorian era.
“Hello. Would you like a room for the night?”
They were taken off guard, first, no light had shone through to the outside and they had not expected a person. Second, the inside was warm and dry. There was a large wood stove, clearly retrofitted into the space, against one wall.
“Um… yes?” Jasper said.
“Alright, you look a fright. Let’s get you taken care of. Don’t worry, things being what they are the rooms are free. We would like a bit of help if you don’t mind though. Need to make sure the place stays ship shape. Come on, upstairs with you, let’s get you settled.”
The woman talked in a singsong accent, somewhere in the UK Jasper figured, and she didn’t seem to need to breathe from the amount she talked. Finally, she said, “Well, look at me now. All talking your poor ears off. Sorry, it’s just we haven’t really had any guests since the dead started walking. I miss the people you know? Normally we would be closing for the season right about now, but there’s nowhere else to go really, and the walls here are good and strong. Harry and Mason make sure the zombies don’t build up too much then, good lads that they are, and people need a place when the road gets too hard.”
She led them up to the second floor and into a room that was completely unexpected. It was a Victorian sitting room with three doors off of it. There was a piano in the room, and all of the furniture appeared to be authentic period antiques. “Don’t suppose any of you play do you? Would be so nice to have some music. Don’t worry, the walls here are thick, won’t carry to the outside. No? No worries. Just nice to have new faces, hear some new voices.”
The three doors all led to bedrooms. The rooms had fireplaces in them, although it appeared that they had been recently modified. Each room had a double bed, and one room had a day bed as well. “Sorry about the fireplaces. They do work, but the rooms get a bit smokey. They converted them to electric a while back, so we had to tear out the electric and hook them back into the chimney. No grid means we do things the old way. Harry is good with masonry. Funny enough Mason isn’t. Like I said, good lads. Supper is in an hour, we have a hog on the spit in the kitchen, so lots for all. Come down once you’re settled.” With that, she was off, never even having given her name.
The group stood in shock for a few minutes, then started getting settled for the night. “Watches? Who wants to keep a lookout while the rest of us get dry?” Jasper said.
Jordan volunteered, he usually did.
They discovered that each room had a washroom of sorts, although only two of the washrooms were full baths. The third was just a toilet and a sink. Each washroom had a large bucket of water. The reason was evident as soon as they turned on the taps. The place didn’t have running water. The fireplaces were also empty, although each one had dry wood, some tinder, some paper, and a box of long matches.
They were suspicious and cautious, but they also needed to get warm and dry, so they started a fire in the largest of three bedrooms and stripped. By this point, none of them was shy around the others. There was a large pot in the room as well. They heated water in it and set their clothes in front of the fire. Each room had towels and a pair of soft white robes, so they dried off and put on the robes. Afterwards, Jordan took his turn. He looked a little blue. It was one of the most surreal experiences of Jasper’s life. One reason for that was the windows. They were boarded up, and the boards were covered with thick black paper. They were completely light tight. The place was lit with oil lanterns and candles, helping to create a cosy atmosphere.
Jasper felt sleepy as soon as he got warm, and was fighting to stay awake. Only the thought of hot food downstairs was keeping him on his feet.
None of them had the energy to get changed back into real clothes. They all tucked small weapons into the pockets of the robes though and went downstairs to find food.
The smell was amazing as soon as the door opened, roast pork and vegetables, with a hint of spices. The old woman greeted them. “Sorry, forgot to mention. My name is Susan. I guess my husband I are the owners of the Inn now. I used to work the guest shop while Jim did odd repairs. After the zombies came our son started working with us. They lived just down the road. We have some livestock nearby, our daughter keeps the farm. Mason, our son in law is a good lad as well, handy as anything most of the time, keeps the place ship shape. Wendy will be joining us with her husband Brent.”
The dining room had originally been a restaurant, but all the tables were pushed together in the centre of the room, making a single long table for them to use.
The hog was whole, head intact. It even had an apple in its mouth. There was dark bread, cheese, butter, it was a feast. The best meal Jasper could recall eating. As they ate they got to know their hosts a bit. Occasionally someone who wasn’t Susan would speak, but for the most part, it was her. Jim was a somewhat taciturn older man, physically fit and wiry. There were three younger men, Harry who looked a lot like his father Jim, Harry’s husband Mason, and Brent. Mason was trim and well dressed, almost impeccable despite the end of the world, while Brent was shabby, obviously more used to working a field than sitting a table. The final member of the family was Wendy. Plump, much like her mother, with clear skin and arresting blue eyes. Her and Brent seemed completely lost in each other, madly in love. The family looked happier than anyone the group had seen since the end of the world.
“We know this is a lot to take in, always is. You folks are welcome as long as you want, but in payment for dinner and lodging, we have a few larger chores that need tending. The boys can do it, but many hands make light work and all that. Tomorrow it’s going to be moving a tree off the back of the roof. I know you probably couldn’t see it today, the weather being what it is, but it could get bad if we don’t deal with it soon. There are a couple of other tasks. Jim has an idea for setting up a gravity flow water system, needs a big tank hoisted with muscle power. Eventually, he thinks we can get ourselves set up for hot showers again. Sorry you missed out on that, it seems like heaven on earth to me, the idea of a hot shower. Look at me, talking my fool head off again. Eat, eat.”
After supper, it took moments for them to fall asleep. They meant to set a watch, but never got to it. Each room had a fire by that point, and between the food and the warmth, they were out cold almost immediately.
They woke the next day a bit later than usual. Jasper was groggy, fighting his way to consciousness. The darkness of the room was a major factor, but so was their long term exhaustion. They dressed and headed downstairs. Susan had a large pot of oatmeal bubbling on the wood stove, fresh berries and cream on the sideboard. There was also a pitcher of maple syrup and a pot of honey to use as sweeteners. “Eat. We have lots and lots. It’s not like any of it will keep for long. We just had a little bit of a harvest, so this is harvest bounty. There’s a couple of cows as well,” Susan kept talking the entire time they ate. After breakfast, the group headed out to help move the tree.
The tree was a small one, but it was resting on the roof of the inn, putting pressure on the shingles. The family had set up a block and tackle, so the job was hard labour pulling ropes and making sure they didn’t slip. Even Naomi pitched in. After the tree was moved they switched their effort and the block and tackle to a large steel tank. Jim said, “It’s four hundred litres. Boys liberated it from an empty farm down the road.”
There was a wooden platform and some connectors built on the roof already. They lifted the tank and nudged it in place, then a second one of the same size, and finally a two hundred litre tank went into a niche that was partially sunk into the roof. The two hundred litre tank was fed from one of the four hundred litre ones. “Bit left to do, it’s all detail work though. Don’t need a big crowd for that. You folks made this a lot easier,” Jim said.
They had a final meal at the Inn. Susan surprised them with a change of clothes each. Not only were the clothes in good repair, they were very close to the correct size. Simple outdoor clothing, the kind used by hikers. “There’s an outfitter in town. A lot of tourists used to come through here, and there’s trails around. The place was empty when the change happened. I got the back door unlocked a few weeks ago and now we get all our clothes from there. It’s so nice to have guests again. Are you sure you don’t want to stay on?”
“Sorry, my daughter was in Charlottetown when it happened,” Jasper said, “I need to get there and find out if she’s okay. Have you checked the Centre yet?”
The Tatamagouche Centre was the kind of place that would be well stocked with food.
Mason said, “Yeah, I went in a while back. There was a group of hippies, doing some new age thing. Nice folks. All of them were turned. It took me a week to take care of all of them. It should be empty now, but I haven’t bothered to check it out in too much detail. We aren’t lacking for anything, it’s just us in the town.”
The journey through town was much, much less tense than expected. There were very few zombies, only the occasional roamer. Mason had a compound bow and appeared to be an exceptionally good shot. He didn’t talk much, it seemed that nobody who spent time with Susan did. Maybe it was just that she was using up their entire quota of words by herself.
They moved through the town and out the other side. There was a small road with a broken down sign listing the Tatamagouche Centre on it. The sign was almost impossible to see, the grass had grown tall around it. At the end of the road was the building. It was low and long, obviously built in the seventies. The parking lot was full of dead cars, broken down and beaten by the weather.
They raided the property. It was dark inside the main building, claustrophobic. The windows should have allowed in lots of light, but they were covered in fallen branches and dirt. The stench inside hit them like a wall. Rot and death were everywhere. They saw signs that the building was being used by huge numbers of rodents. Jasper was worried that the rodents would have destroyed all the food stores, but apparently, they were too busy chewing on the corpses that littered the centre to bother with harder to access things. The kitchen contained large amounts of canned goods, all untouched.
Jasper was happy about the time they had spent in the inn despite the delay. The group was stronger, well fed. He was worried about what would happen when the weather got colder, they were in the best time for harvest, food was plentiful, and even so, they went hungry sometimes. Once snow fell they would need warmth, supplies, shelter. He kept those thoughts to himself, trying to put on a good show, to look like he was still okay.
He was increasingly worried about Robert as well. There were only so many paths to PEI, and who knew how fast Robert might be moving? There was no question the soldiers had better weaponry. Sure, they had a couple of hunting rifles, but Robert and his group had bows if they wanted to stay silent and assault rifles if they didn’t mind making noise.
One day Naomi heard horses. “Something coming. Get off the road,” she said.
They got off the path and hid in the bushes, staying low to the ground. Jasper kept his eyes on the road, ready to stand up and let the riders know he was there, depending on who they were. Once he saw it was Robert he got even lower to the ground.
Robert looked awful. His face had developed scabs and sores. He was twitching and moving constantly. The rest of the soldiers and Mona looked about to collapse from the strain, but Robert didn’t even look tired. Jasper huddled closer to the ground, waiting for the horse to pass by. As much as he wanted, ached, yearned, to kill Robert for what he did to Snow he owed it to the people with him and to the possibility that Taylor was still alive to keep going.
They stayed in place for about an hour after Robert passed, then Jasper said, “I don’t want to chance running into them again. Their guns would make short work of us in the open, we need to make sure they don’t get the chance.”
Matt said, “Let’s stick offroad. It’s slow, but the horses can’t do it, and if we stay a ways off the road we will probably spot them long before they spot us.”
“I don’t like the delay. It’s getting colder, the longer we spend on the road the worse the weather will be. If anything is going to kill us it’s going to be the weather in this fucking province.”
“Yeah, fair, but the brush is pretty thin right now. Not like this is rainforest or something, and getting shot seems like an even worse plan.”
“Okay, I can admit when I’m wrong. Yeah, the woods it is.”
If Jasper had been willing to look directly at what he was feeling he would have realized that he had almost given up hope of reaching Taylor alive. He was going through the motions, but he didn’t have much left inside. He was still moving because he felt a sense of responsibility to the small group who had followed him back at Roberts camp. Most of the forward momentum was coming from Naomi at this point. Every time he was slow to get moving in the morning she was pushing him to get moving. Every time he wanted to stop for the night hours before they needed to she pushed them on.
The season wore on, and the weather got worse. Travel was a crawl, a constant drudgery. They were far from populated areas, and food was scarce on the coast. It was rocky, and the forests were sparse, wind swept trees. They found berries occasionally, not much else. The only positive was that the lack of population meant they didn’t run into many zombies.
One day they were pushing through high cliffs. There was a road that ran between the cliffs and the ocean, winding past crashing surf. The sun was high in the sky, sea birds calling out to each other. They were tired and hadn’t seen anyone for weeks. Food was again low, this time desperately so, and they were incredibly hungry. They had rationed themselves with far, far less food than they needed. That was probably why they took the blind curve without really paying attention. On the other side of the curve was a cluster of more than twenty zombies. They were wandering aimlessly. All of them were dressed in suits or dresses, church clothing. The cluster started moving toward them, shuffling as fast as they were able.
The group backed up, then turned and started running. The zombies kept following though, too close to lose easily.
The road was in very poor repair. It probably hadn’t seen maintenance in a decade or two, and it was pitted all over the place. Jordan hit a pothole badly and went sprawling on the ground. Jasper turned, trying to get back to him, but the zombies were on him before Jasper could reach him. One of the creatures bit deep into Jordan’s calf, blood spurting everywhere. Jasper turned back around and started running again.
Jordan’s death gave the group some space, an extra moments lead time, as the zombies stopped to eat him. The group was stuck on a narrow road, with zombies behind them and dozens of kilometres before the cliffs ended.
Matt spotted a break in the cliff face. Not exactly clear, but climbable. He started up, climbing quickly. “This way, hurry!”
The others followed. Jasper was the last one to start up the cliff, only a few feet up when the zombies came around the bend. Jasper sped up, climbing faster and faster. His hand slipped, as a shower of rock fell down on his head. He slipped down the cliff side, sliding towards the road below, and the waiting zombies. He managed to get his left hand around something solid and felt a strong pull on his shoulder as his arm held him in place. He kept a hold somehow, shoulder straining, almost separating, and found himself hanging by one arm, feet inches above the outstretched arms below him. The smell of the zombies wafted up to him, a mix of stale shit, urine, and fresh blood.
Jasper tried to find some purchase for his feet, and for his other hand. He didn’t have enough strength to hold for long. Even if he got both hands on it, it would only be a matter of minutes before his grip failed. He needed a foot hold. His feet were flailing through empty space, panic was setting in. Finally, he got his foot against something solid and he was able to take some of the strain off of his arm. It gave him enough time that he was able to calm down, to find another hand hold, another foothold. He started back up the cliff.
At the top Sasha was crying. “Oh God. Jordan,” she said with a sob.
They allowed themselves a few minutes to grieve, then took stock of their situation. They were on top of a cliff, with no cover. Jordan had been carrying the travel pack when he went down, so they no longer had their tarps or sleeping bags, and the majority of their rations. The landscape they were on was rock. They could see some scrub brush far in the distance, but there was almost no shelter. It was late in the day, with night coming earlier these days. There was a strong chill in the air.
“Okay, so we’re fucked,” Jasper said, “We have nothing, and I don’t have a clue how to deal with this landscape.”
Naomi started picking up what little equipment they had left. “We’ll get it. This shit ain’t it. We ain’t going out like this. Just get your lazy asses up and fucking walk. You think Jordan wants us dyin’ here?”
They started walking along the cliff, heading for where the scrub brush started. They probably wouldn’t survive the night if they didn’t get some form of shelter. Food and water would have to wait.
There was a large rock jutting out of the landscape, with a small hollow at its base. The hollow was about six feet across and partially covered. It looked like their best bet. It was dry at the bottom, a small channel open to take any rain out so they wouldn’t drown in their sleep.
They shoved their bodies in as tightly as they could manage, relying on each other for warmth and shelter.
The night passed and they didn’t die. The temperature stayed above freezing, and they were wearing layers. Without mutual body heat, they would not have made it to morning.
The next day they didn’t talk, just walked. Eventually, they found a point where the rocks gave way to gentler terrain. There was a stream, just a small one running out of the rocks. They drank from it, not caring if it was safe by that point.
They were drained, the water gave them a tiny bit of life, but not enough. They were starving to death, and with so much of their gear gone, their numbers reduced, they were closer to the edge. Something in Jasper came together at that moment. His resolve, ever weakening since the day Snow was killed, came back. This wasn’t it for him. Whether Taylor was alive or not, he wasn’t going to die.
They were starving. Sleep was a challenge, and water was scarce. Shelter was rare. They travelled all day every day, never pausing. They slept where they could, any tiny nook or cranny. Hollow logs, ditches, anything that provided even a wind break. Shelter was their most immediate priority, water a close second, but in the background was the knowledge that they were taking in less than two hundred calories a day. There was no way they could survive on that. Their gums were starting to bleed, and they all had joint pain. If they didn’t get some food soon they were dead. They were too weak to fight almost any threat, and near the end of their ability to forage. The weather had turned cold, every morning the ground had a layer of white over it, the dirt hard and crisp. It was too wet for easy fire, and Jasper’s hands were so cold they shook whenever he tried to carve out heartwood, he couldn’t get anything to take a spark. The early days of the journey where the weather was a friend and days brought warmth were a distant memory. Nobody was even sure what month it was. Probably into November given the weather, but maybe late October. Jasper was sure that Taylor was dead, that his quest had been hopelessly naive. Didn’t matter though, he would grieve later, he owed Naomi, Matt, Candice, and Sasha.
One day dawned grey, almost like it never dawned at all. The sky was cloudy and angry, rain drizzling down. It was a cold rain, the kind that saps strength and hope, leaving you feeling chilled to the bone. Naomi was shivering so badly she could barely put one foot in front of the other. She was stumbling, dizzy. Jasper noticed after a while when she sat down on a rock and started to take off her jacket. He stopped her and pulled her to her feet. He had enough training to know that she was in fairly severe hypothermia. She had always been the smallest of the group, and now she was severely undernourished as well. She didn’t have enough reserves on her small frame. If they didn’t find shelter, warmth, and food soon she wasn’t going to make it.
“Guys, I have to do a scout. Naomi is pretty much done, freezing to death. Huddle close to her, huddle together. I have to find someplace to keep us warm, don’t let her freeze to death while I do it, okay? Good.”
Over the next few hours, he scouted far and wide, looking for something they could use. The woods were thick, but most of the leaves were gone. He spotted a trail eventually, it looked like it had been maintained until the zombies hit. There were still trail markers in the trees, bits of brightly coloured plastic, signs of the old world. Following the trail seemed like the best option, these places usually led somewhere, and that was better than what he had to work with. Near dusk he saw a building through the trees, a log shape, blending into the forest. It was better than he could have expected, a ranger way station, the doors left unlocked for any traveller who came upon it. The way station had a few minimal supplies, a veritable feast to the group. It also had a wood stove with dry wood, some blankets, comfy if minimal furniture. The trip back to the group was a nightmare, it was hard to see the marking he had made on the trees as he left, and it started to rain harder, a cold bone chilling rain mixed with sleet. By the time he reached them Naomi was unconscious.
“I found a cabin, it has food. Help me get Naomi up, let’s go.”
Matt grabbed Naomi’s legs, swaying badly himself. He was in almost as bad shape as she was. Jasper lifted her under the shoulders, gasping with effort. How could someone so small feel so heavy?
They trudged through the woods, managing to keep their way. Naomi’s breathing was shallow, her dark skin gone pale. Jasper kept hold of her shoulders the whole way. When Matt stumbled and dropped her Sasha took her legs, while Candice held Matt up.
Jasper made a fire as soon as he got in. The place warmed up rapidly, chasing the cold out of their bodies. After a few minutes, Naomi started to stir. There was an old tin of carnation hot chocolate on the shelf, about half full. There were a pair of tin mugs and plates in addition to an old pot. They took turns with the mugs, Jasper gave Naomi and Matt the first round.
Jasper put together a simple meal, something to get some calories in them. They settled on Kraft Dinner with canned spam. In the old world Jasper wouldn’t have touched that with a ten-foot pole, but at this point, it might as well have been a seven-course meal at a five-star restaurant.
Slowly their strength came back. They were woefully under dressed for the weather, of course. They had been on the road for too long, since summer, on foot almost the whole time. Properly equipped the walk should have taken two months or so, but they weren’t any of those things. It was getting so cold out, beyond what they could manage with what they had. This was a way station, so there wasn’t much there beyond the food and furniture. A couple of ratty old blankets that weren’t useful for travel, but at least they provided some cover while they were there.
One thing that was there was a paper map. Even better, whoever had left the map had left a mark on the cabin, so they even knew exactly where they were. They were in Amherst Shore Provincial Park, a small park with some camping. The New Brunswick border was only a day or two away, and the bridge just a week or two past that. Hell, the bridge itself was as long as the trip from where they were to the New Brunswick border.
They stayed put until the food was gone. They talked about carrying supplies with them, but in the end, they needed the rest enough that it was worth the wait. Fire and hot food for a few days made a massive difference.
They headed out of the shelter. Now that they knew which direction to take they quickly found themselves outside of the forest, looking at some small roads and some houses. Not many, just a few. This wasn’t a heavily populated area.
The map showed a few small communities nearby. They explored a bit, to see if they could find any better cold weather clothing, maybe some kind of portable shelter.
Soon they found a couple of farms. It was pretty consistent. Remote farms were the best bet for scavenging. Farmers would have stores of food most of the time, and sometimes they might have things ready for harvest, although that was getting rarer now, as the weather started to turn, most fields were full of vegetables rotting on the ground. The first farmhouse was modest, with multiple greenhouses behind it. There were large fields further back, all the crops rotted on the ground.
The group moved up to the house and tried the door. As was common in these parts the door wasn’t locked. There was nobody on the ground floor, but they heard the familiar sounds of zombies locked in rooms upstairs. They decided to scavenge what they could and ignore the zombies for now. They had been there for months most likely and would stay put for at least long enough for the group to get what they needed and get out.
As usual, they were able to scrounge a decent amount of stored food. In this farm, the food tended towards homemade preserves. It was clear from the decor that the inhabitants preferred a hippie aesthetic. The place smelled strongly of patchouli. There was a lot of spoiled food in the fridge of course, and the bread was green with mould.
They searched the place and found a few backpacks, obviously hippie gear. Also some cold weather clothing in an upstairs closet. It was a weird mishmash, and oddly there were three full sets that fit Naomi and nobody else. Even Candice was a bit too big for those outfits.
For the first time, Naomi was wearing clothing that fit her, matched her body type, and looked good. In fact, she looked great, like a trust fund kid gone slumming. Matt, on the other hand, was in a jacket that was two sizes too large at least.
They raided the next three farms. Nothing was as good as the hippie house, and they had to dispatch the owners of the next two places. Feeling more alive and capable than they had in a very long time they headed out.
By sticking to the road they were able to make it across to New Brunswick in a day and a half. There was a sign letting them know they had crossed the provincial border. It felt like a letdown. They had travelled so far, endured so much, and there was just a sign by the side of the road, no stations, no border, nothing. Of course, the bridge to PEI was still a ways ahead, a week or two at least, and PEI was the real destination, but this was a milestone. They had left the Nova Scotia peninsula.