I Dreamt of You Ch. 01byrainy_cromwell©
Despite the fact that Mathilda and she were incredibly close, they hardly ever discussed the aspects of more difficult things. Once they emerged from the darkness, they would laugh again about the need to shave their legs or would cut each other's hair with new techniques they'd created themselves. In addition to that, Mathilda was having relations with a boy named Carson Mathers, another inhabitant of their camp, and when one is lost in that heavenly state of love, it is hard to understand the pain of another's loss.
"We'll just see what happens, I guess," Kaden replied, not knowing what to say.
Charlie ate his bowl of slop ungrudgingly. He was hungry, he was always hungry, everyone was. This was a decent sized camp, there being almost fifteen people and the members had decided back when Charlie was still a part of it three years ago that everyone would pitch in to make one big meal, rather than separate groups making separate meals. They did this in hopes to make it fairer and evenly distributed. However, he distinctly remembered his parents muttering that they ought to break loose because rationing for the fifteen people was not an easy feat in the slightest. His older brother was always quick to remind them thought that on the other hand, fifteen people could find more food than just them and so they still stayed, despite the constant complaints.
Todd and Harry, his friend, the little one who had hidden in the top shelf of the closet he'd found them in, were sitting beside him. They ate quietly except for a few murmurs, which were probably about some more mischief they were going to find themselves in. They were kids but they lived in a world completely unlike anything any of them had known. It was free of school, television, internet. The goal his teachers and parents had told him to reach for was a good education, a stable, well-paying career, a nice house, a wife, children, retirement plants, were all things Todd and Harry were growing up without. Sure, there was the possibility that survivors would round together, that a solution would be found, whether it be by a cure or mass murder of the infected, and that some semblance of a community would be created so kids like Todd and Harry could somehow also have a future like Charlie had expected to have for himself.
On his other side, Todd's mother Katharine settled herself down next to Charlie, letting out a long exhale. She'd spent the day cooking and finally got to eat herself. Before the infection, she'd actually been to culinary school, although she joked that she never thought back then that later on finding a can of beans would be like finding the most prized truffle in all the land.
"How is it being back?" she asked him.
"It's not bad," he said.
There was a silence between them, he knew she probably wanted him to go on but when he didn't he could feel her smiling. "You were always the talker," Katharine said to him.
He smiled crookedly. "I know."
"I taught Kaden how to kill a rabbit. She was not happy about it, not at all," she reminisced, letting out a laugh.
At the sound of her name, Charlie's body yearned for her. He wanted to find her immediately and wrap himself around her like he used to, smell her hair, hold her close to him. He wanted to see her face close up, he wanted to hear her voice whispering in his ear. His throat constricted with the sudden gasping need to be around her. But he kept himself still yet relaxed, not wanting anyone to know what he was thinking.
He nodded as he poured down the remaining slop down his esophagus. "She always liked animals," he finally replied.
"Yes she did," Katharine said gently, watching him as he stood, his long limbs stretching up in front of her, walking away.
"He's staying in Todd and Harry's tent. Well, that makes sense. Katharine and Tom knew him and his family."
Mathilda paced back and forth in front of the tent, revealing her newly found information while
Kaden watched her out of one eye as she tried to knit a scarf. Kaden's mother had been big on arts and crafts and was talented too whereas Kaden had never had any interest and now her scarf was suffering greatly from it. One of the other women, Lindsay, had been trying to teach her and although she understood the gist of it, her knots just wasn't as precise and clean as her mother's.
"Uh huh," she said.
"Don't you want to know about this? Oh god, Carson's walking over here. Do I look alright? No, of course I don't. I'm a cavewoman. Shit, fuck, oh hell." Mathilda continued her roll of expletives until Carson made his way over to their tent and she shut up, smiling angelically and nervously at the same time.
She needn't have said anything. Before she could even look up again, they were both gone. Well that was quicker than usual, Kaden murmured to herself, sighing. She knew that sooner rather than later, her friend wouldn't be around as often. Soon enough, Mathilda and Carson would have their own tent and no longer would it be Kaden and Mathilda but it'd be Mathilda and Carson.
Their camp consisted of a wide age range, from five years old to a couple in their fifties and there were a few men who had approached Kaden. Some her age, some older, even little Todd had quietly called her beautiful one day. One man in particular, Elias, had held her hand as they walked their miles to another camp and they'd even had sex in his gray, soft tent; he had been her first. But no matter how hard she tried, she'd been unable to muster any love for him. She didn't even know if Charlie was alive, hell, she knew most likely he wasn't but she would still picture his solemn face, dark eyes and messy brown hair, a five o'clock shadow ever present on his pale skin. She truly did try to convince herself to love Elias since he told her he loved her but she couldn't manage it. There was some part of her that didn't trust him fully and so she couldn't give herself to him fully. The more she tried, the more detached she felt. Yet Elias had taught her a few things and it was through him that she stopped feeling like a pining girl and more like a woman who understood her sexuality.
Kaden almost blushed at the thought. But it was true, at least it was more true than when she had last known Charlie. She wasn't a seductress by any means but she wasn't naïve anymore, not like she used to be.
Suddenly, she felt someone plop down on the pop up camp chair beside her that Mathilda or Mathilda's older sister usually sat in.
In disbelief, she saw it was Charlie. But he wasn't looking at her surprised face or any part of her. He sat in the withering yellow camp chair, back bent over so his elbows rested on his lanky limbs and his face stared out into the horizon, unreadable. His dark hair was mussed and unkempt, his nose straight lined and cheeks hollow. He was so handsome it took her breath away. Then he exhaled slowly and turned to her. His eyes met hers for the briefest of moments before they rested on her growing scarf.
"That's a terrible scarf."
Kaden blinked, taken by such surprise she was speechless for a moment. "I'd like to see you do better." She was amazed she'd been able to even come up with that. Thank you, brain, she thought to herself, for not being rendered completely useless.
Charlie grinned. It was a lopsided grin that made him seem boyish and youthful. "I didn't say I could make a better scarf, only that that one is not so good."
Okay, brain, you could've done a little better that time.
"Shut up?" he asked.
Charlie stared at her deadset right into her eyes. "Okay," he said.
Kaden was struck by the situation. Her knitting tools were still clutched in her hands and her lips were parted open in shock yet he still continued to stare at her, not saying a word. Her mind was working a mile a minute yet it also wasn't working at all. She wanted to say a thousand things to him, that she thought him dead or gone, that she missed him, she'd thought of him so often, she wanted to know what happened to him, she wanted to know how he survived on his own or had he survived on his own, were there others, too. She wanted to know everything. Yet her mouth wouldn't cooperate. She was torn between saying the right thing or spilling her guts. Perhaps to him, she'd just been a friend, someone he'd taken care of in a time of need and this was him just coming by to say hello. But for her, he meant so much more.
"I heard you killed a rabbit," he said, breaking the silence.
Kaden breathed out from relief or sadness, she didn't know. She didn't understand why he was lightly bantering but this was a far cry better than not talking to him at all.
"It was horrible," she told him.
"He thought so too," he said, his eyes leveling to hers while his tone was heavy and not joking, implying something greater than what he was saying. She looked at him, searching his face for answers.
"Oh, hey Charlie!" came a voice out of nowhere and both of them turned their heads to see Alanna smiling widely. Not for the first time, Kaden was irked by the fact Alanna and her father set up their tent so close to Mathilda's.
Alanna had come after that day in early December though and so she didn't know of the history behind Kaden and Charlie. Brazenly, she stepped forward to them. "Do you mind if I steal Charlie from you for a bit? My father's asking for help with setting up his radio and he needs someone to trek up a tree for him and I think you're far more adept than measly me." She flashed her smile again, shifting her weight to her other foot.
"Go," Kaden whispered to Charlie and he looked at her, confused. She smiled weakly at him. "Radio is
He nodded and stood up. "Okay, where is he?" he asked Alanna.
Kaden watched the two of them walk away, Charlie's tall, lanky build beside Alanna's lean, athletic one, the pain in her chest grasping tighter and tighter.
The world had turned to chaos but it wasn't as quickly as one would have imagined. There were a few people who made an early departure to deserted cabins up in Canada with full stacks of food and these guys were the people who wanted to be safe rather than sorry. Most of the others, after hearing of supposed scares like AIDS, swine flu, bird flu, SARS, were far more reluctant. The media always built things up after all, everyone thought they would once again be fine once this disease ran its course.
Eventually, though, everyone realized what it truly was. The president appeared solemnly on live television that appeared on every channel. He'd cleared his throat, shuffled his papers and declared it a pandemic. That was when people flipped out, which was understandable given the premonition of the walking dead, of this disease that not only killed but brought your body back to life to kill others.
People began looting, shooting, stealing. Charlie's parents called him back from school and told him about Mrs. Tenbow, a woman in their neighborhood who was organizing a group to stick together in one big house, this being her mansion, because the government wasn't doing near enough. The more people they had on guard, the better. Most people in their district heard Mrs. Tenbow's idea and spat at it, finding it ludicrous. No, they would stay in their homes safe and sound thank you very much. But Charlie's parents had been sold on the idea. They were older, more frail and Charlie's older brother had been sick for awhile. They stood no chance against the mindless, strong infected.
"Please Charlie, come with us. You're young, you'll be so useful," his mother had told him.
His ivy league school was already closing down. He didn't like the idea of sharing living quarters with a bunch of people he didn't know but this was his family's best shot at survival. Hopefully, these people weren't lunatics.
Mrs. Tenbow ended up being surprisingly strong-willed and direct. She wasn't a nutcase, nor dimwitted, she was efficient and had everyone installing steel bars into every potential window. Although some may have labeled her as being exceptionally generous for giving those around her a place to stay, most saw through it. She was a woman in her sixties and although she had a fighting spirit, her sprawling mansion was easy prey to the walking dead. They could have infiltrated the home easily had it not been for the efforts of the others she brought in to put the steel bars up, to garner all of the locks, to set up cameras around the "fortress."
This was where he first met Kaden, the dark haired girl who caught him staring at her. She'd looked back at him, their eyes meeting fleetingly and then just as quickly she flickered her eyes elsewhere, turning to hide her face.
And now it'd been three and a half years since then. The Tenbow residence, although first appearing seemingly bulletproof, ripped to pieces when one of the men, who had snuck out to check on his parents to see if they were alright, returned with a bite. He had hidden his infection for two days before screams were heard in the night -- he had bitten his family after dying and reanimating. They killed the initial man but didn't know what to do with his family, two daughters and his wife. They were bitten, obviously infected yet they hadn't died yet. The community decided to wait it out until they died as well, to finish them off.
They should have had more people guarding them but they didn't. When the girls and their mother reanimated, they tore their guards to pieces. The night was a blur. It gave him a headache to think about it.
After Charlie had helped Alanna's father, he sat outside his tent, despite the darkening hour and everyone else already being inside. He listened to the quiet of the night, the chirping of the frogs and crickets and thought of Kaden's face, of having been so close to her. He had wanted to see her smile, it had been so long since he'd seen that. A smile lit up Kaden's face so brightly, it touched every corner of her mouth and eyes, skin and cheeks. In every zombie whose path he crossed back in the deep of the woods, in every zombie that was discernible as a woman, he wondered if it was her. He wondered if he'd never see her smile again. He'd wondered if all he'd ever hear from her was the guttural moan and groan of a zombie.
After they had had to flee the Tenbow home, they found their way to a campsite right on the edge of Hannigan Forest. It was a well known destination spot for those who had to run for their lives during this time. His parents and his older brother had been gaunt faced, wheezing and utterly out of breath. Their faces were ashen yet it was his older brother, William who didn't look distressed or panicked.
William had been sick since he was a child. His immune system had been compromised as a baby and he was constantly getting pneumonia and asthma attacks. He was thin enough to be considered emaciated and was therefore always considered weak by others. But it was this night that his older brother reached out to place his knobby, bony arm onto Charlie's shoulders.
"Go find her," he'd told him. "We'll be okay."
Charlie had never been the football star back in school. He was intelligent and tall, he liked books. He played soccer, enough to give him lean muscle but not enough to want to pursue it. He was quiet and solemn, he thought before he spoke, he was not the hero who went out to go find the girl with the dark hair when there were so many people out there that needed saving. But that night he became that person.
It was a miracle he'd even found Kaden's family at all. Well, at first he'd found her father, a man he'd never liked very much to begin with and Charlie nearly shook him to death asking him where his daughter was. The man finally answered that they were separated a few blocks down when they nearly ran into a whole herd of "zombie shits."
When he found her, back pressed up against the wall in silent fear as she tried to ease her way slowly away from a small group of the infected, he didn't hug her or say anything. He grabbed her and luckily for them, they found her mother, as well in close proximity.
He returned them to the camp in Hannigan's field where he departed from the two women without saying anything. He could feel their questioning faces but he thought it better not to stay there with them. Better to look like he was just a guy hell bent on making sure people were safe. He'd never been good with showing his emotions. His parents were both scientists and although they were both kind hearted, they were also straight laced as they came. Charlie didn't believe he'd ever heard the words "I love you" uttered from their mouths or a hug come forth from their arms. It was Will who, in spite of his constant frail, fragile status was the light of their family -- a beacon of smiles and assurances.
It was even present in their appearances: while Will was a blonde, albeit a dark blonde, with light hazel eyes, Charlie was the dark haired, dark eyed lanky son who barely spoke. Charlie's teachers used to frown at Charlie's demeanor yet they couldn't deny his intelligence. He had friends, even a best friend and there were a few girls he went out with or who threw their attentions towards him but nothing could have ever been said to equate to love. Loneliness, sure, but love was a different matter.
Charlie shook his head at himself outside of the tent he shared with the two youngsters. The blackness of the night was fully enveloping everything now, coloring in every last inch of the earth. A few stars twinkled above far in the north but most of the sky was blanketed with heavy, furling clouds, signaling the potential pour of rain tomorrow. He grimaced. Wet clothes were never something he was fond of.
"She's walking around with no clothes on," grumbled Kaden after peering out of their tent to see how hard the rain was coming down, only to be greeted by a barely clothed Alanna, who was "helping Katharine tend today's meal" when in actuality, she was trying to make eyes at Charlie.
For some women, Kaden knew, their life was about how many men they could draw into their lives. It was what fed them, gave them worth, meaning, validation. The more attention, the better. With these sorts of women, Kaden often wondered what would happen as they aged and hit their fifties or sixties, ages upon which there would be far less men clamoring after them.
Mathilda's older sister Beth giggled, as Mathilda rolled her eyes. "Hopefully she catches cold and dies."
"Mathilda!" Beth scolded yet a glint in her eye still remained.
Alanna had certainly had her fair share of men but there seemed to be something else in her interactions with Charlie. She seemed to actually like him. She'd blush around him or watch him as he ate his dinner, biting her lip unthinkingly. Kaden felt glum at the thought.
Suddenly someone was zipping down the front of their tent and Todd's father Tom stuck his head through, his face panicked and stricken. "Kaden, please, Todd is ill." His voice was strained and desperate and Kaden didn't even bother to put on shoes or a jacket as she sped after him towards the young boy's tent.
She found Todd laying flat on his back, wheezing. Puffy, pink hives covered his body head to toe and his throat was swollen, keeping the sharpness of his adam's apple hardly visible. Kaden had been a nursing student right as the outbreak hit and although her school closed down before she'd been able to finish, she remembered a thing or two.
The young boy was going into anaphylactic shock and she needed either a beta agonist or an EpiPen to release epinephrine into the boy's bloodstream.
As fast she could while still properly reading the labels, she rummaged through the duffel bag of medication their camp had thrown together for times such as these. Katharine and Tom had obviously regained the bag for her to find something in, and she thanked her lucky stars when she found an EpiPen. Steadily, she injected it into the young boy, whose breathing had been steadily decreasing due to his bronchial constriction while her own heart raced. Anaphylactic shock could result in death if she didn't have the proper medication. During shock, all of your blood vessels dilate and the body just doesn't have enough blood to compensate.