If I hadn’t left when I did, I wouldn’t have survived that much longer. People can only go so long losing blood and getting cut open before their bodies stop being able to function.
“What’s done is done,” I told Daniels. “We’re out now, and we need to focus on surviving out here.”
“Right.” He nodded. “You’re right.”
He slowed then, dropping a few feet behind me. Nolita had been looking back at us a lot while we talked, and she stopped when she saw him fall behind.
“Maybe we should take a break,” she suggested. “We’ve been walking all morning.”
Boden seemed reluctant to stop. When he turned around, he kept walking backwards. He slowed down a bit, since Nolita had stopped, and Daniels, Bishop, and Teddy had been quick to follow suit.
“How far is it to the compound?” Boden asked me. We were now the only two walking, but neither of us was going that fast.
“I’m not sure exactly,” I admitted. “We drove last time. But I’d say it was at least another day’s walk.”
“This is some detour,” he muttered, but he stopped. “All right. Quick break everyone. I have some water in my bag but not much. Drink only what you absolutely have to.”
He dropped the duffel bag to the ground with a heavy thud. He unzipped it and pulled out a bottle of water and handed it to me first, since I was the closest to him. I wanted nothing more than to chug the entire thing, but I’d heard what he said and only took a quick drink before passing it on to Teddy.
After I’d gotten my drink, I sat on the road, lying back on the warm asphalt. Boden lay down near me, his legs bent at the knee and his arm draped over his eyes to block out the sun.
Nobody asked about food on our break, even as they got comfortable and passed around the water. We’d all been through this before. We knew how low provisions were and how sparingly we’d eat.
Our rest stop ended too quickly when Boden abruptly got up and said it was time to move on. Nobody questioned him or complained, which was nice. We all knew what needed to be done. We hadn’t survived this long by being weak.
As the sun began to set, we had to start thinking of a place to camp out. A farmhouse was about a quarter mile off the highway at the end of a long gravel driveway. Since it would be safer than sleeping out in the middle of the road, we headed toward it.
It turned out to be a real find. It was a huge two-story house, and the first-floor windows were all boarded up. When we got to it, I waited outside with Teddy and Daniels while Boden, Nolita, and Bishop went in to make sure it was all clear. I wasn’t used to being the one waiting outside, but I didn’t have a gun, so it made sense.
Once they were certain there were no zombies or anything dangerous inside, we all went in. While there might not have been zombies in the house anymore, there definitely had been at one time. Everything was torn up and destroyed. Blood, zombie and human, was splattered on the walls, the floors, and the broken furniture.
Bishop was in the kitchen when I came in, looking for food. It looked like it had once been a cute, cozy room, with a border around the cupboards of red roosters. But now plates were shattered on the floor, the fridge was turned on its side, and there was a rotting hand in the sink.
“This is such a waste.” Bishop tsked and held up a box of oatmeal for me to see. It looked fine, except the bottom corner had a small hole nibbled in it. When she shook the box, a few oats and several dark brown sprinkles fell out. “There’s mouse shit everywhere. If there was any food, the damn rodents got it.”
“Do you know what we have for food?” I asked.
The prospects didn’t look good, but I went over to help her anyway, picking through the garbage that littered the floor for anything edible.
“I know what I packed, and it wasn’t much,” Bishop said. “Some fresh vegetables from the gardens, carrots and potatoes mostly. A bag of homemade rabbit jerky. A couple cans of SPAM and a can of tuna.”
“But that’s just what you packed, right?” I asked. “Teddy packed his own.”
Bishop shook her head. “No, that’s all the food we have between me and Teddy. I’m not sure what Boden and Nolita have, though, but I’m sure they have something. And you and Daniels didn’t bring anything.”
“Sorry.” I hated that I hadn’t brought anything. I felt like the weakest member of the group, and that was really pissing me off. “I didn’t have time to really look.”
“No, it’s okay.” She waved me off. “I understand. Sometimes you just have to run if you want to survive.”
Teddy poked his head around the kitchen doorway and knocked on the wall. “Boden’s getting food out if you guys want to eat.”
I was starving but I didn’t want to eat. I knew I had to survive but I didn’t like to take from others when I had nothing to contribute. My only hope was that when we got to the compound, we’d find plenty of food and weapons to make up for my lack of help now.
Bishop and I followed Teddy out to the living room, where we found that he and Nolita had straightened things up a bit. They’d righted the couch and removed most of the garbage. Nolita was lighting a few candles when we came in. The only other light came from the sun shining between the slats of wood over the windows, and the sun was going down.
In the center of the room, newspapers were spread out like a picnic blanket. They looked reasonably clean, and I guessed that Nolita and Teddy had picked the nicest ones they could. Boden sat down cross-legged at one side, pulling food out of his duffel bag and setting it on the newspapers.