We pulled up to a gate, and beyond it, was a dock sitting along the coast of Lake Superior. The northern wind was brisk, and we all were severely underdressed for the weather. I had Granny and Patience triple up on their cloths, and we placed an extra blanket over Tzar’s slumbering form.
I had finally stabilized him several hours prior, the task of sewing him up wasn’t an issue, but the increased rate of infection worried me a bit. He looked feverish, and his forehead was a little warmer than it should be, I had given him a dose of penicillin, and a painkiller to help him rest.
Caiden hopped out the front cabin to case the Betty’s damage, and I could only imagine her battle scars. I got into the driver’s seat and watched as he went over to the gate, he took out his gun and shot the lock off. I could see him wait a moment, and I searched from every angle I could for any flesh eaters.
After seeing the coast was clear he gave the okay for me to proceed in, and I navigated the Betty on through. There was a building, and I could see it had a garage, so I brought the RV to rest just outside of it. As soon as I hopped out the Betty, I could see Caiden looking over to the dock with a wary eye.
“When exactly are they supposed to get here? This isn’t the most secure place for us to anchor very long.”
“I actually thought they’d be here by now, but we have them beat by a couple hours, they should arrive by sunrise thou.” Caiden answered, as he looked out into the vast water.
I just nodded, taking him for his word, for whatever it was worth. I hugged myself for warmth and decided to be thankful for the moments peace, who knew how long it would last. I tried to stifle the thought of where we could be right now, what could have happened.. I felt an arm slip around my shoulders, the touch, so strong yet the embrace was so soft, I fought the urge to melt against his body.
“You okay?” Caiden asked me, the genuine concern was written across his face. “What happened back there was some heavy shit..”
“I’m just glad Tzar is okay, I don’t know how I could bear losing someone else..” I didn’t feel like discussing the rape attempt, the emotions still bubbling just under the surface, thou they didn’t succeed I still felt violated something fierce. “And unfortunately you assholes are all I have left.”
“I’ve come to terms with that a long time ago, good to see you’re catching up.” He said jokingly, and I gave him a light elbow to the ribs, suddenly we heard honking behind us.
“Can we go inside now?! The bus is getting too cold with that back window out!” Patience yelled out to us from the side window, I looked to Caiden and nodded, pulling from his arm.
“Yeah, she’s right.. we need to get Tzar and Granny moved inside.”
“After we get everyone situated in the building, I’m gonna see what I can do for the Betty, I’m shocked she’s held up through all this.” He replied, as we approached the the black beauty that had surely seen better days.
“You need to rest soon, doctors orders.” I said, giving him a hard look, to show that was an order.
“I will, I will..” He agreed, barely able to spit the words out through a yawn. “Just let me take first watch. I want to be here at sunrise, in case the group shows up.”
“Okay, but I mean it.” I ordered, and I could swear I heard him mumble under his breath but I ignored it, as I boarded the bus.
When I had awaken, it was a couple hours till noon. The sun was high in the sky, yet it was still almost freezing out, and the billowing winds didn’t help. I decided to put the small shower, in the small office suite, to good use. The water was tepid, but I suffered through it, I couldn’t sit around all funky especially when images of the filthy prison bandits continually flashed through my mind.
There was no kitchen, only a microwave oven and a coffee machine. I heated up a large can of beef stew and split it into two servings, I took one and brought it to the office where we all had slept. There was only one futon couch chair, so we gave that to Balthazar, and the rest of us had taken the floor. I set the bowl of stew and a utensil on the end table, within his reach, but I didn’t want to wake him yet. I took note that his wound would need redressing soon, but he was otherwise fine. Patience and Granny were knocked out on the floor, so I side stepped them on my way from the room.
As soon as I had gotten outside, I nearly gasped and dropped the food in my hand, seeing the Betty in the daylight nearly broke my heart. She had deep scratches down the side of her, and dents to her frame, bullet holes littered her backside like graffiti on the walls within the subway tunnels of New York. I could see the remnants of the deceased, caked in her grill, staining its platinum the color of crimson. Caiden honked the horn to get my attention, I could see him motioning for me to come onto the RV. He met me at the side steps, his eyes looked dry and tired, and he’d started to develop the dark under circles of fatigue.
“Come help me with this, I think I found a solution for the back window..” He said, not mentioning the fact that no one had shown up yet, I guess he put the time waiting to better use.
When I boarded the Betty, I could really see the damage done to her interior, the scorch marks on the furniture seemed only outnumbered by the dried bloodstains upon the floor. Granny, Patience, and I had tried to tidy up, but there seem to be very little we could do without proper supplies. Caiden waved me over, to where he was holding a large metal plate to block the top half of the window, he asked me to hold it up so he could use the power drill to attach it. I set the bowl of stew, on the bar table, and did as he requested. Once he finished fastening it to the window frame, he passed me another one, but he had me leave an aperture of about five inches in between. When complete, we both took several steps back, to take in the effect.
“Hmm… Clever solution, leaves just enough room to aim a weapon through.” I mused, impressed with his bootleg engineering.
“Precisely, I’m gonna put a curtain up, so we can block out most of the cold..”
“No, you’re not. You’re gonna eat that stew over there and get some rest, you’ve been up for way too long. I’ll take watch, so there’s nothing to worry about.” I said, stopping him, because he’d never stop himself.
He gave me a small smile, and picked up the bowl of soup, digging in as he walked away. Once he exited the bus, I checked the fridge and tossed any perishables that had gone bad in the outside dumpster. The sky was overcast with grey clouds, the air was crisp, but thankfully the wind wasn’t blowing anymore. I looked out over the water, and noticed the tide was high, the water came to almost level with the dock. The horizon was empty, there was nothing out there, I tried to stray from thoughts, that the group just might not show up. I was never one to be a cynic, but the world was different now, the worst was the best you could hope for.
I decided to follow Caiden’s lead, there were things that needed to be done, regardless if Bloodhound and his group ever showed up. I found a hose attachment to the side of the building, and used it to give the Betty a good wash down, I tried not to gag as I got to work on her front grill. The fragments of flesh and bone, were caked in deep, and hard to blast out. When I finished, I went to search for some cleaning supplies, the maintenance closet produced a couple bottles of bleach, a mop, and a couple other useful goodies. So I took to task, deep cleaning the Betty’s interior, the bleach working wonders for the floor. I covered the wraparound with one of our more tattered sheets, it was little ghetto, but it had the desired effect. I grabbed the thickest quilt we had, and used the power drill to create a makeshift curtain, I cut two slits up the length for easy access. When I finished, I figured I’d relax a bit, and I used the roof hatch to the Betty, to climb on top.
From up here I could see everything, from the gate to the waterfront, so I placed down a chair and sat with my back to the building. I sat the sniper rifle I’d brought up with me, on my lap, and pulled out Hunter’s bowl. I held the glass in hand and just looked at it a moment, no desire to smoke, I just wanted to touch it. The cold red glass, a sorrowful reminder and a cherished keepsake, was now my most prized possession. I fiddled with it for a few minutes, and looked out to the rough waters of the Superior when suddenly, something to the right of me caught my eye, it was over by the gate.
A flesh eater, in the form of a dark skinned man, at least I thought so, he might have just been dirty and darkened with decay. His cloths were soggy from mud, and his limbs moved sluggishly, he lumbered along in a stiff shuffle. Once he made it to the gate, he didn’t climb it, as the others had with Granny’s fence. He just moaned and hissed, like he could see me in the distance, maybe he could smell me, who knows?
I pulled up the rifle, and peered through the scope, zooming in on the infected dead eyes of the man. Those cracked red eyes seem to see me, he licked his lips like he could taste me, intent with insatiable hunger. The skin of his body had sunken in, and the fat had decayed, till the skin covered only bone in some places. He didn’t seem to be a problem, so I decided to save the bullet, and prevent attracting others with the noise. I kept an eye on him for awhile, but there was no way he was getting through.
I sat there in meditation, maybe for a few hours, and quickly got bored with the wait. I decided to check in on everyone, and quickly hopped down from the roof of the Betty. When I got inside, I could see Tzar had eaten and fallen back to sleep, and Granny was heating up a can of stew for her and Patience, in the break room. I watched the old woman, never knowing what to expect from her, but the past couple days had seen her in a better state of mental stability than back on the farm. I think it might be her relationship with the younger girl, Patience becoming a stabilizing element for her, and the familiarity seemed to stave off bouts of dementia and cease flare ups of her Alzheimer’s. I often caught the young ebony skinned girl singing to the older woman, the two, feeding off each other and bonding in a way, us men never could. I was highly upset, when I first found out Gran had been teaching Patience about the survival tactics needed in a savage world like this, but could we really protect her without giving her the tools to protect herself?
After grabbing some supplies from the first aid kit, I walked over to where Tzar slept, and proceeded to check him over. I was pleased to see the stitches were holding, it had been awhile since I’d even sown two pieces of fabric together, let alone muscle and skin tissue. There was no sign of infection and his fever had broken, so I just gave him a good wipe down with some wet towelettes. He woke up, when I was almost finished, starting to complain and whine. I told him to shut up and go back to sleep, I popped a pill in his mouth and held a glass of water to his lips. He resisted, but eventually dozed off, before he could damage his shabby patch up job. Patience came rushing into the room, she motioned for me to come quickly.
“There’s allot of noise going on outside, sounds like a dog is barking..”
“I’ll go check it out, you girls stay inside and if I’m not back in ten minutes, wake up Caiden. Understand me?” I asked her, I didn’t wait for an answer as I rushed towards the steps, that would lead to the exit.
When I had gotten outside, I immediately heard all the commotion she was spoke of, not only was there a beagle howling and growling, more of the slower and decayed infected had piled up on the gate. There were now about fifteen of them, and a many more could be seen, approaching in the distance. The dog was on our side of the gate, and I wondered how he’d gotten in, I didn’t have much time to ponder, as one of the more freshly deceased flesh eaters began to scale the gate. The dog started to bark and growl, but stayed back from the infected man, rightly fearful of the threat he posed. When the man touchdown on our side, he immediately scrambled to his feet and reached out to grab hold of me. I thought I was ready, but my foot slipped under me, sending me sliding off balance into his grasp.
As he grabbed hold of my shirt collar, the hound hopped into action, taking hold of his sleeve. The dog used its leverage to pull him to the ground, and I took advantage, crushing the back of man skull with the butt of the gun. I didn’t stop till I felt the now familiar crack of his skull, under the weight of my blows. The moans of the dead grew louder and louder, the fence sounded as if could give any moment, and more of the flesh eaters were closing in on our location.
I started running towards the building, I had to get Caiden, I couldn’t make these decisions alone. I whistled for the dog, and he got my drift, coming into a sprint behind me. I gave one final look back at the gate, and ran faster, knowing every eye in the hoard was fixed upon me.
“We can’t wait for them forever! If we leave now, we can just run right through’em with Betty..”
“I know they’re coming, if there’s even just ONE of those guys left alive, the package is safe and they’ll be here!” Caiden yelled back at me in earnest, but I wasn’t trying to hear any of that.
“Well we got Flesh eaters piling up at the gate, and they’re bringing friends to the party. It’s only a matter of time till the gate gives, and the feast begins..” I replied, trying to stress the danger.
The beagle barked, as Patience fed him what was left over from her beef stew, his tail wagged with excitement. Granny was packing up our things, in wholehearted agreement we should be leaving, but Caiden was insistent that we needed to stay as long as possible. I told him I would be moving everyone to the bus, and looked him dead in the eye as I stressed, that I’d leave him here if I had to. It took a little while to get Tzar aboard the bus, he hadn’t yet fully healed, and he was still very weak.
Although, once we were outside, and he could see the imminent danger we were in, he picked up the pace a bit. The girls weren’t far behind, Patience refusing to leave the dog. I saw no need to object, even though he was another mouth to feed, I believed he could earn his keep.
“We won’t last one more night, not if we stay here, what is Caiden thinking? Are these people really worth our lives?!” Tzar argued, lucid and awake, slowly but surely returning to his former glory.
“We have to trust that he knows what he’s doing, and we have to stick together.” I reasoned, though not even believing my own reassurances.
“He isn’t Hunter, not by a long shot, don’t feel like you owe him him anything! If I remember correctly he’s the rea..”
“Don’t You think I know that!” I snapped, everyone grew quiet and looked at me, even the dog.
I sighed and just tried to calm down, us getting all heated, would only speed up our impending deaths. I gave Tzar an apologetic look, and he just at me nodding in understanding, a sad look in his eyes.
“We just.. We just have to stick together, we’re all we got right now, whether we like it or not.”
Suddenly, I heard Caiden calling out to me from outside, his voice was muffled so I couldn’t hear what he had said. I stepped out of the Betty, just in time to catch the second flare streak across the sky.. it was them.
“Where are they?! Do you see the boat?!” I asked, bombarding Caiden with questions, as I ran to where he stood on the dock.
“Just barely, look, check the scope.” He replied, handing me the rifle, and I brought it up to check it out.
When I peered through the magnifier, I could see them heading full speed in our direction, I looked at Caiden and beamed a smile at him.
“They couldn’t have better timing..” The words barely slip past my lips, before we heard honking from the Betty, I could see Tzar at the window motioning towards the gate.
The horde of infected had swelled several score, the fence began to whine from the strain to her frame, in some places the gate was leaning forward at an angle from the weight of the rushing dead. I looked back to Caiden, the smile wiped from my face, and he could only mirror my fear stricken look so I knew we were in for trouble.
By this time, the risen dead could climb over each other, like swarming ants, able to scale the gates at some parts. I brought the rifle up, aimed down the sights, and took out one of them about to make it over. I couldn’t help but to sigh in frustration, as I looked at Caiden with a sneer.
“Like I said, they couldn’t have better timing..”