There was always something a little different about the young girl, and I could never quite put my finger on it. It was almost.. supernatural in a way.
The sensations and feelings that enveloped you, when she started to sing, it could and often would leave you in an unexplainable trance. Her presence even seemed to have a positive effect on the old woman’s condition, something man made medicinal properties were unable to accomplish.
I was going to say something to break the tense silence, that even Patience was starting to notice, Bloodhound had walked to the back. He didn’t have a shirt on, and it was enough to distract all present, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes while everyone else drooled over him, even the Doctor, despite her earlier prudish behavior.
“Loki, when did you get back?! And who might this be?” He asked, looking at our visitor, up and down suspiciously.
“This, is Serafi, she gave me a ride here.” I answered curtly, getting back to drying my hair.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Bloodhound.” He said shaking her hand, then coming over to sit at the bar next to me. “You were the one showering? I don’t think I need to tell you that proper protocol, especially when comes to water conservation, it’s five minutes for cold showers.”
“I don’t think I need to tell how much I don’t give a fuck..”
“Santiago, just hush.. we talked about this.” Tzar cut in, sitting a mug of tea, in front of the Hound.
“You’re right, I’m sorry, I’m just used to being on top of things. I’m gonna go check on Husk, thanks for the mug.” He gave Tzar a wink, as he got up to leave.
“Damn bitch, you sure move quick, huh.. So when did you two get all familiar and shit?” I asked Tzar, giving him an arched brow look, that caused him to blush. “I mean, first names.. and you got him trained. Chile, Ah’m scared’a you.”
“Well someone had to be there to console me, while my dear darling cousin was playing damsel in distress..” He replied, cutting a look at me, as if to tell me to stop cock blocking.
I threw my hands up, and shrugged, hoping he knew what he was getting himself into. I got up and left him to starting his meal preparations. I went to the closet and dug around for my stash, and swiped a few bags. I grabbed Hunter’s bowl, and held it up for Serafi to see, her eyes lit up like the northern lights. I signaled for her to follow me, and we both hopped off the bus, I looked around and didn’t see the Mercs at first.
Then I could see them talking several yards away, I walked to the hybrid red Mustang she had parked beside the Betty, and sat on the hood, pulling out a couple joint papers. She helped me roll three, two of which we immediately fired up, each taking one to the face.
“So.. am I supposed expect weird shit from all you guys or just you and the little girl?” She asked me, as she let loose a puff a smoke.
“I wish I could tell you, but I don’t even know what’s real anymore.. this world has just gone to shit, and everything is just so chaotic!”
“Well I know one thing for certain..”
“What’s that?” I asked, feeling the warmth of the high, relaxing my nerves.
“We’re real.. You, me, us. We’re here, together, in this same moment in time and space, and wouldn’t you say it’s peaceful?” She said looking up into the sky, at the billowing clouds soaring above. “It’s the most we could hope for, it’s just the way the world is now. We have to cherish the minuscule moments of peace, even more now.. The present has always been the gift of life.”
“I feel you on that.. but girl you sound high as fuck.”
We burst out laughing, trying to stay as low as possible, but failing miserably. I couldn’t help but wish Hunter were around, he would have loved this girl. I lit the other joint and passed it to her, she put her hand up, tapping out gracefully. She leaned back, and I knew she zoned out, Hunter always had the good shit. I smoked it to the face, then leaned back on the car right along with her, both of us stuck within our own thoughts.
“You thinking about your husband..” She asked me, her inky black eyes, set on the sky.
“Yeah, all the time.”
“I think about my dad, all the time, and I think it’s cause I was the one that had to put him down.”
“Every time I close my eyes, I see the moment I pulled that trigger, the moment I took his life, and there was no coming back.. it haunts me.” I looked at her, and I knew she suffered the same.
“Do you think it will ever go away.. this feeling?” She asked, closing her eyes, willing back tears
“The guilt? maybe someday, with time.. but that pain you feel will be long enduring, possibly everlasting.”
We sat there a little while longer, watching the clouds roll by, but we soon caught a whiff of the aroma coming from the bus. The food was ready, so we climbed aboard the Betty, ready to dig in. We dined on saute veggies and grits, Tzar had crafted to perfection over the panel stove. He dished out portions to the women first, then he gave me a portion, I’ll admit it didn’t last long and left me hungry for more.
I noticed the Doctor and Jerry, whispering over on the couch, and I could see Karishma cut her eye quickly to Patience, who was sitting at the bar eating. I remembered what Granny said about them, and it did come across suspicious, I was also feeling a little sketchy about the Doctor’s interest in the young girl. Just when I was about to butt in and see what they were talking about, Buster started barking and howling, a moment later Bloodhound came running onto the Betty and gunshots could be heard outside.
“There’s a horde closing in.. but we can’t leave our position, not without the Eagle and the Wolf.” He looked at us, and I could see from his eyes, that quick decisions were being made. “Alright I want a gun or weapon in each hand, even the little girl. Loki, Serafi, and I are gonna help Husk outside. Tzar, you hold down the fort and back us up from the inside.”
“I’m not going outside, unless Jerry is going.. I’ll be damned if he’s gonna sit there all nice and cozy, while we’re all out there.” I replied, looking at the man on the couch, as he continued to pick at his food.
“Do we really have the time for the dramatics? The man gave you an order.” Jerry said, with an attitude.
“Jerry, grab a gun, let’s go!” Bloodhound commanded, as he passed me a shotgun, and proceeded to lead us outside.
“Patience, please keep Buster by your side..” Serafi asked the girl, before she stepped off the bus, with me right behind her.
Husk had just thrown a grenade, as we touched ground, the blast, clouding the air in dark burning smoke and leaving us on shaky feet. The billowing smoke, was suddenly parted by two rushing bodies, both dressed in dirty overalls. Serafi quickly dispatched one, with a blast to the head, and the Hound snagged the other. The horde looked to number close to a hundred, and the number of fresh ones was a bit alarming, and it meant the infection was winning as the pockets of humanity were thinning out. I turned to Serafi, who looked as if she had wandered in from the old west, with her cowboy boots, and slightly dusty denim attire. Jerry was cowering behind the Hound, and the bastard had yet to take a shot from his gun.
Three stray flesh eaters, were closing in on the Hounds left flank, and he hadn’t noticed them. I ran over, pushing Jerry out of the way, and let off two blasts. Two went down, but the persistent third pounced, and landed on top of me. We crashed to the floor, and I stuck my forearm in the crook of its neck, to hold back it’s gnawing teeth. Some of its saliva was dripping down, about to hit my face, the infected man’s breath smelt of rot and death. He was knocked off of me, as someone punt kicked him in the head, a hand reached down to help me up and I looked up to see the Hound.
“Just returning the favor.. ” He mentioned, as he pulled me to my feet.
“We’re not going to be able to hold them off for long, not with this many of them.” I told him, as the numbers of newly infected, was more than we bargained for. “Our shooting is only drawing more of them in..”
“He’s right, we have to figure something out.” Serafi agreed, as she came running up to us, slightly out of breath.
“Blood, what do we do man, we’re runnin’ outta time..” Husk asked, the higher ranking officer, waiting for a command.
The handsome Hispanic looked so unsure of himself, unable to give us any direction, and I realized our options were dwindling, so was our time. We continued to shoot, but ammo was a scarce resource, that we didn’t have the luxury to waste, it was just as essential as food and water. I heard gun fire from the Betty, and looked behind me to see Tzar, Patience, and Granny on the top of her. Tzar had a rifle, Patience a pistol, and Granny, her trusty Ak47. They joined us, shooting into the fray, and sometimes saving our necks. What was maybe twenty minutes, felt like an eternity, the standoff between us and the undead seemed as if it would never cease to end.
The crowd had thinned a bit, so those of us on the ground proceeded to spread out again across the field. I blasted away at the flesh eaters with abandon, killing by hand if necessary, and it almost looked like we might have gotten the upper hand. An infected dog ran up, but I felt him coming, and on instinct I gave him a blast to the face. That was my last bullet, so I bashed the flesh eater lunging for me, with the butt of the gun. I kicked him to the floor and smashed the back of his head with my heel. I noticed Jerry off to the side, looking like a frightened canary in a cage, he was absolutely useless.
“Jerry, give me your gun!” I yelled to him, but he clutched to it like a lifeline. “Your not fucking using it, so let me make some use of it to save your sorry ass!”
His face grew stern for a moment, then a wicked smirk tainted his lips, as he raised the gun and pointed it directly at me. My eyes grew wide, as I was surprised at the audacity of this son of a bitch, he was gonna take me out. This was the perfect chance, I’d be eaten by what was left of the horde, giving them a second wind of strength.
“You think I don’t know how to make use of this thing?” He asked, unable to wipe the smile off his face. “I’ll show you..”
He pulled the trigger, catching me in my left ear, and I was about to lunge for him, but I felt the body fall against my back, It was a flesh eater. I threw the man off me, and shot Jerry a look, as I held my ear. He had killed the risen, but I knew that fucker meant to shoot me. He said something, but I couldn’t hear it, and he better count his blessings for that, especially if it was shit talk.
My ear burned like fire, so much so, that I just wanted to dunk my head in a bucket of ice water. I was dizzy, as my balance seemed to be affected as well, but that is expected with such an injury. I stumbled through the carnage and heaps of bodies, trying to find my way to the Betty. The bastard had blasted my ear off, but I guess it was tit for tat, considering the hand incident.
I could feel my ear growing back, but I was frightened at the speed of the process, the mutations were happening faster and faster. There was a sudden ringing in my ear, that only kept getting louder by the second, it made me feel as if my head would explode. I almost fell to the ground, but suddenly two arms wrapped around me tight, causing me to panic. I fought at first, but when I turned I came face to face with Caiden.
The blonde clutched to me tight, not caring about the carnage going on around us. It would be a lie, if I said the feeling of his touch, hadn’t caused me to melt. I knew I’d feel the guilt later, but in the moment, I relished in the warmth of his embrace.
“I take it, you’re happy to see me..” I asked, smiling at him.
“You’re alive! I can’t fucking believe it, we were searching everywhere!” He exclaimed, his squeezing, cutting off my breath a bit. “I don’t know what I would have done if I lost you to those motherfuckers..”
“I’m ecstatic to see you too, believe it or not..” I grabbed his gun from his waist, and shot a woman running up behind him, he seemed totally nonchalant like we weren’t surrounded by mayhem.
“Since everyone is accounted for, it’s about time we get the hell out of here, you two can continue the love fest on the RV..” Bloodhound yelled at us, as he ran past, using his gun to take out two more risen that were clawing their way towards us.
Caiden let me go, looking slightly red in the face, and I gave the Hound a dirty look. He only smirked at me, as we all ran back towards the Betty.
We didn’t stick around long, as the dead were continuing to swarm us. I asked Sera if I could drive the Mustang while she rested on the Betty, and she had no problem with it, promising to stick around at least till we find another space to camp. I told Bloodhound, I’d follow him in the car, and ran off before Caiden could protest.
As I turned the key and revved the engine, Timber Wolf hopped in the passenger seat, and Husk got in the back. I looked at him with a side eye, as I thought I would get some alone time, and he must have caught it.
“Look.. I’m sorry about dropping the ball and letting those guys snatch you.” He said, his eyes showing how genuine he was being. “They caught us off guard, that won’t happen again.”
“No, it’s not.” He said, cutting me off. “Getting you to the compound, has become priority number one, and I jeopardized the mission.. I was careless.”
“It’s not your fault, those bastards had their own vendetta, and they were determined to get to us.. They wanted the girls, but figured I was the next best thing.”
“I can can see how they would think that.” He joked, giving me one of his charming toothy smiles, as Husk laughed under his breath in the backseat.
“Such an asshole..” I said, smacking his shoulder, as we all laughed.
“So did they..” The Wolf asked, once we’d settled down.
“What does ‘not really’ mean?” Husk asked, chiming in, looking for specifics I was trying to avoid.
“You don’t have to answer, if you don’t want to..” The Wolf said, laying a reassuring hand, to my shoulder. “Husk, enough, let’s leave it alone.”
“I bit his dick off..” I said in a low voice, not really meaning to speak the words out loud.
“What?!” They both asked, thinking they hadn’t heard me correctly, but I knew they did.
“One of them tried to fuck me in the mouth, so.. I bit his dick off.”
“Jesus!” Husk yelled, and I could see him grabbing his crotch, in the rear view.
“Yikes..” The Wolf said, his ‘reassuring’ hand, slowly retreating. “Remind me not to let you slob my knob, after an argument..hahahah”
Another round of laughter ensued, minus myself, as I’d never forget the godawful experience for a long time to come. After driving for awhile, Husk laid out on the back seat, and quickly fell asleep. We rode in silence for a bit, before the Wolf pulled something out, and sat it on the dash. It was Hunter’s pistol, the DE, I thought I’d never see it again.
I dropped it when the Twins got the grab on me, and I thought it had been as good as gone. I grabbed it and clutched the cold steel to my chest, and looked at the man next to me, holding back the tears that threatened my eyes.
“This was Hunter’s gun..”
“I kinda figured that from the inscription under the barrel..” He said, looking out the window, at the trees passing by.
“Inscription?” I asked, confused to what he was referring to.
I held the gun upside-down awkwardly so I could see for myself, and lo and behold there it was. I found myself reading it over and over a few times, before I realized I’d been crying.
~~A heavy hand, to protect my heart…~~
“Thank you..” I said to the Wolf, wiping my eyes, while I still tried to pay attention to the road.
“Don’t mention it..”
I held the gun on my lap as I watched the pavement of the path ahead, and couldn’t help but smile, as the ‘Thanks for visiting Michigan’ sign came up on the right. The skies were clear, and the sun shown bright, and proud.
We entered Indiana and for a moment, just a moment.. It seemed like everything was gonna be okay. The present felt more promising, than it had for a long time, and I knew to cherish such a gift from life.