No safety in the skies
Naomi spent the night in a dry culvert. It was uncomfortable and smelled of rot, but it was sheltered and hidden. When the sun came up, she started moving again. Her feet were covered in blisters; her legs were sore in a way she had never known. She was thin, but she was still young enough that it was natural, not the result of exercise. Her body wasn’t used to sustained effort. Every inch of her hurt, every inch of her was exhausted. She was parched, she wished she had a bottle of water, and maybe some food. She was convinced she would kill someone for a bottle of water. There was water everywhere, on day one she’d taken a drink from a stream. The diarrhoea was unrelenting for the next two days. It had made her so much thirstier. Since then she’s barely had anything. Out of desperation, she’d snuck into a convenience store, only to find it looted. She’d managed to find a bottle of some sort of sports drink, something that tasted like chemicals, warm. That was it for four days, and no calories. She was light headed and weak.
She had been moving from first light to nightfall for days. She was exhausted. The airport appeared through the trees, squat buildings deceptively tall, height masked by their breadth, dominating the landscape. She had pinned so much of her hope on reaching this place, and it wasn’t going to work the way she wanted. The area in front of the main terminal building was a broiling mass of the undead, thousands of them. Apparently, on day one a lot of people had tried for this place.
Were there any other options open to her? She was closer to the runway than she was to the main building, and it was heavily fenced. Normally the fence would be a barrier she couldn’t overcome, too many eyes, cameras everywhere, but now those cameras were blind, nothing but dead eyes to watch them even if the power needed to run them still existed. She moved to the fence stealthily. One stumble, but none of the zombies out front seemed to notice. The runway area looked like it was clear, nothing visible moving inside. She skirted the fence, moving away from the terminal. Finally, she found a spot. A tree was growing close to the fence, not right to it, but close enough. She climbed it, slowly, taking breaks. Then it was just a matter of shimmying out onto the closest branch, getting herself close enough, and hopefully not cutting herself on the concertina wire across the top of the fence.
First, she threw her bag over the fence, into the runway area, then she slowly started to move out onto the narrow branch. It was a fair ways above the fence, but it began to bend under her weight, bringing it close. Each inch pulled the branch down further and made it harder to hold onto until finally it touched the top of the fence and got lodged there. At last, a piece of luck going her way. She made it all the way across, never quite losing grip. Her head was spinning from the exertion. Naomi pulled the coiled wire on top of the fence out of her way, so, so carefully. She had it pulled out enough that she was able to get a leg up and over, then she slowly pulled the rest of her body across. The flash of pain was so intense she almost fell off, fifteen feet down to the hard packed ground, but she held it together. One of the wire coils had gotten away from her, and dug into her back, right along her shoulder blade. She took a deep breath and then slowed down even more. Finally agonising minutes later, her other leg was over, and she was climbing down. She had four or five new cuts, including the one in her shoulder. She dropped the last few feet down to the tarmac, almost falling when she hit the ground.
There were a couple of small buildings under construction inside the runway area, on the far side. There were also a few planes, but Naomi didn’t know how to get to the doors and a couple of trucks. She started moving towards the buildings, eager to get out of the open when she noticed movement. They were still a ways off, but there were a few zombies in full ground crew gear. Thick helmets with earphones, orange vests, lurching slowly towards her. Nothing immediate, but far better to get out of the open, get into one of the buildings, preferably one of the ones with a door.
Naomi moved as fast as she could across the tarmac. She was tired and bloody, it slowed her down, but she was still faster than the zombies. She reached the buildings well before they did. One of them was just a shell, no features installed yet, window and door holes open, dark pits into the interior. The next was more of less complete, doors hung, windows in place. She tried the knob; it wasn’t locked. The interior of the building was unfinished, drywall in place but not painted. The building was a single room, storage of some sort maybe, nothing but bags of cement and some old lengths of rebar inside. She shut the door behind her, turning the lock. The windows were small and high, light streaming in. There was a back door as well, she was grateful for that.
So, this was home for the moment. Time to get it stocked. One of the trucks on the tarmac looked like what Naomi thought food transport trucks looked like in an airport. She opened the front door, checked the progress of the dead ground crew. They were close, not right there yet, but too close for comfort, so she ducked out the back door. “Ha, I outsmarted you. Dead fucks,” she muttered under her breath. The sound of a human voice, even her own, was a comfort now. She’d always liked solitude; now she was desperate for any human interaction.
Naomi was a ways from the building before the zombies noticed her, in fact almost to the truck. It had aluminium sides, diamond cut, on the rear section, and sliding panels that opened up. There was also a hatch on the back. First, she opened the sliding panels. The stench gagged her instantly. She almost threw up right there, the smell of rotten food filling her senses. There were rows of trays, pre-packaged aeroplane food ready for loading, all of it spoiled after days in the summer heat. She had to move though, search the truck faster. She opened the rear hatch. There was an open area, full of boxes. Bottled water, chips, snack packs of nuts, even miniature bottles of booze. Too much for one trip. She grabbed a bottle of water from the box and opened it, drank deep, then picked up a box of chip bags. Time to head back home.