It had been hours since Felicia had ordered her zombies to stand down. They disappeared into the shadowy streets and when they did Daryl had taken the opportunity to strike off on his own. Noah had remained kneeling by the bloody mess that was Vicky’s body, crying and ignoring Lila’s pleas to leave.
“She’s gone.” Lila said, stepping up to Noah’s side and putting a hand on his shoulder.
All Noah could bring himself to do was rock back and forth, crying and repeating her name.
“Noah, what did I say about grief and mourning?” Lila demanded.
“SHUT UP!” Noah’s head sprang up as he bellowed at Lila. “You shut up and let me mourn! She deserves that much.”
“It’s time to go,” Lila said, pulling at his arm.
“No, we can’t!” He shook his head. “We need to do something with Vicky.”
“We don’t have time. Felicia and her army left but she could come back at any moment.”
“I don’t care,” Noah said, standing up.
“I’m not your babysitter-”
Ignoring her, he ransacked a nearby building for broken wood and other flammable material. He piled his makeshift pyre on the sidewalk and placed the parts of Vicky’s body on top.
Lila asked, “Will we need to do this every time someone dies?”
“Maybe,” Noah replied, sliding his hand over Vicky’s face to delicately close her eyelids. He bent over and kissed her forehead, his lips lingering on her flesh for a moment before he finally pulled himself away.
As Vicky’s bloody remains burned, Noah stared into the flames, transfixed by their dance, their smell and their billowing smoke. His fists clenched at his sides and he remembered the curves of Vicky’s body, the feel of her flesh against his.
Lila huffed and turned to walk over to her bike. “Whenever you’re done, I guess.”
“Why are you waiting for me?” Noah asked, spinning around with a venomous glare.
“What do you mean?” Lila asked.
“Just go, I know you don’t care about this, about any of this.”
“I don’t care?” Lila said, putting a hand on her chest. “Noah, I may not have loved her like you did but I cared about Vicky. Unfortunately, she was selfish and cocky. She got herself into this and now it’s time for us to move on.”
“I know!” Noah yelled into the sky. “I know it’s time to move on. I know we’ll never survive if we let ourselves get stuck on everyone who dies... but that doesn’t make it fair!” He stared again into the consuming flames around Vicky’s body. “I wanna mourn her. She deserves to be mourned. If I don’t, then who will?”
Lila looked around the abandoned city streets and Noah recognized a look of dawning spread across her face. “Where’s Cynthia?”
“What?” he asked.
“Cynthia. Where is she? The beast still wants her.”
Noah suddenly snapped to attention. He’d lost Vicky, but he knew the best way to honour her memory was to protect the girl she’d died fighting for. “Vicky said she was at her old place.”
“Where’s that?” Lila asked.
“I... I don’t know,” Noah shook his head. “I never came to see her while she lived in the city.” He hesitated then looked around. “I know it’s somewhere in this direction though... I think.”
“So... what? We check every building?”
“Well, we can’t just leave her.” Noah pleaded with his eyes and Lila sighed.
“It’ll take forever,” she said.
“We’d better get started then!” He forced a smile, heading for the closest door. Sighing, Lila consented to the search and they began hunting through old empty houses, each converted into low rent student apartments.
“What will we do without the tower?” Noah asked after they’d been searching in silence for hours. “Without Charles? Or Dr. Kent? His research was gonna save the world you know. It was gonna cure... everything. Now it’s all gone, it’s all wasted and what are we gonna do without it?”
“I don’t know,” Lila said, tearing open a granola bar and biting into it. “Whatever it takes.”
He nodded and there was silence for a moment or two more. “Where do you think Daryl and Corrigan went?”
Lila looked around the street as they came up to the next house. Noah knew she still felt a slight sting from losing a bike to them. “I don’t know. Corrigan looked like he was in some sort of trance though. They probably got spooked and ran off to save their tails.”
After a few more hours of searching houses, she turned to him and said, “It’s time to rest.”
“No, we can’t.” He shook his head.
“We’re both on the brink of exhaustion and we’re no good in a fight this way,” Lila said.
“But what if she wakes up and she’s all alone?”
“Well, she’s got that dog. You saw them together. It’s like she can understand him or something. Did the doctor mention anything about that kind of stuff?”
“I don’t know, but anything’s possible. It could be some sort of mind control like the serpent exhibited. Either way, you’re right. I think that dog could protect her better than we can right now.” Noah’s muscles were weary. He and entered the bedroom with Lila because neither of them felt like sleeping alone would be a good idea, but neither was sleeping at the same time so they brought a chair in with them and decided to take shifts. One would sleep while the other guarded, then they’d switch.
“I can’t believe she’s gone,” Noah said as he took first shift and Lila climbed into the bed.
“I’m sorry, I am,” Lila said from her pillow.
He didn’t respond and soon enough he heard Lila’s deep breathing grow into a gentle snore. He sat in the chair in the dark, watching the woman’s body rise and fall as he took a moment to grieve for Vicky, his family, Donovan, Jasper and everyone else he lost. He felt a hollow feeling in his chest which was once filled with the people he knew and loved. The tears were so difficult to hold back that he gasped for air and allowed them to flow while he imagined he smelled Vicky in the air. He thought of the child they could have had, about the ones they’d never be able to have now. With a shudder and a sigh he wiped his eyes with the backs of his hands and centered himself. He’d allowed himself a short moment of weakness and Lila would never have to know. From here on out he’d do nothing but survive. He was determined, strong. Tomorrow morning he’d find Cynthia and then the three of them would escape the city together.
Suddenly there was a loud clap of thunder and Noah leapt into the air. The chair toppled over and he stared out the window from the floor.
“Crap,” he said as Lila stirred in the bed.
“What?” she asked from the pillow.
Noah didn’t answer so she rolled over, brushing her hair out of her eyes as she peered out the window at black sky, lined with a scarlet glow as something twisted and turned inside the thick clouds. “This can’t be happening,” she said, “not yet.”