Zombies Ch. 02byCorvecoupe©
Authors note: Hey, thanks for taking the time to read this, I hope it lives up to expectations. I know it is really slow starting but I'm enjoying building the characters and don't want them jumping into bed (hehe) together right away. If you're looking for instant gratification come back in a few chapters:) Thanks again for all comments; they really help my focus and motivation. Also I knocked this one out in the middle of the night so if it's a bit incoherent I apologize. Well here goes...
Sunlight streamed through the windows and seemed to shine straight into my face. After hiding my head under the covers for thirty minutes wishing that the sun would just turn off, I extracted myself from the bed and grabbed a pair of running shorts out of my bag.
It had been a long time since I'd gotten any real exercise, living as a recluse in an apartment building for 2 months hardly gives you a chance to show off your athletic prowess. After I was dressed... well sort of dressed, a pair of shorts, shoes and hydration belt, I was ready for my third run in as many days.
I was never exactly the most fit person on the planet, but just before the outbreak I'd been training for the half marathon and was finding it easy to get back into the swing of things; almost ironic really: my entire life gets turned upside down and my body hardly seems to notice!
I slipped a bottle of water into one of the two bottle slots and my crowbar into the second slot; it was just far too unwieldy to run with a shotgun and if what Zoey had surmised was correct, then there really was no danger.
After a few minutes struggling with the chest of drawers barricading the door, apparently it was easier to move it into place than out of place, a quick stretch and a selection of upbeat running tracks from my iPhone, I was ready and took off for a more personal tour of the town than I'd had the chance of the previous night.
The town itself was small, even for rural Australian standards. I doubted if there were more than two or three dozen houses and about half that number businesses. I laughed inwardly to myself, so typical of these towns, don't have a doctor's office, supermarket or even traffic lights, but still manage to have a pub: true blue.
I was enjoying the slight burn in my hamstrings and shortness of breath that accompanied the exercise, like I said it had been far too long since I'd gotten my heart rate up with anything beside stimulants or terror.
After what I imagine would be three or four K, I was just finishing up my loop of the town and returning back down the main strip when I ran into Zoey... literally. I was fiddling with my iPhone, trying to get the music to pause when next thing I know I go from a slow jog to a rather hasty fall.
"Wow shit," I said, arms pinwheeling violently trying to stop myself from going over.
"Haha, easy there big fella," Zoey remarked as she disentangled herself from my sweaty body and backed up so a few feet were between us.
"Sorry, I didn't see you there," I pulled out my right head phone, the music still pumping, and panted softly.
"That's alright, no harm no foul right? Anyway, I'm not sure what your food stocks were like so I thought you might be interested in breakfast?" she held up a picnic basket which, judging by the way she held it, was anything but empty.
"You, my dear, are a shining star,"
"A shining star? The first complement I get in months and that's what it is?" A smile played across her face to match my own. There's nothing like a bit of human interaction to warm the cockles of your heart.
"Well am I wrong? I mean after all you've brightened up my day," I nodded at the picnic basket she held in her left hand.
"Men," she scoffed, "all you ever think about is food."
"Well, I mean you do have certain other qualities like a star I'm sure. Let's see you're golden hair is certainly a match, you appear to have a strong inner fire and... oh yes ofcourse! You're incredibly hot!" I was feeling giddy up until this point but as the color drained away from her face and she took another step back I sobered up immediately.
"Oh god sor-"
"Don't move!" She cut me off and quick as a flash she had whipped out the old army service revolver she had tucked in the back of her jeans. I just stood there, the gun pointed in my direction, a grin still fading from my face.
My breath was racing, only in part due to the exercise, and I still had music pumping into one ear. I raised my hands slowly and started in a slow calm voice, "Woah there.."
That was as far as I got, next thing I knew her finger squeezed around the trigger and I saw a flash of light.
Zoey woke up feeling content, she had fallen asleep on top of her covers and lay naked in all her glory as the sun streamed through the window and played across her young supple body. She reveled in the warm touch of the fiery orb for several long minutes before finally dragging herself out of bed.
She glanced at the watch she had left on her chest of drawers the previous night and was shocked to find the time to be 9:13. She rummaged through her cloth drawer and finally emerged from her bedroom clad in her worn and very comfortable jeans with a white tank top to match, it looked like a warm day.
She spent several minutes going about her normal morning routine, brushing her teeth, using the facilities, that type of thing, before heading down into the kitchen to root around in the cupboard for a suitable breakfast.
"I wonder if Charles would like to join me?" she mused aloud, rummaging through the bags and boxes and cans of preserved food she had built up over the months. Eventually she decided upon a bag of muesli, a large carton of long life milk she'd been rationing carefully, half a box of digestive biscuits, a couple of oranges picked from neighbors trees the previous day and two boiled eggs.
She headed briefly into the back garden to restart the fire she kept in a pit there, and when the flames were licking healthily long a couple of short logs, she hung an old fashioned kettle over the center to heat up.
"What about a picnic?" Zoey asked no-one in particular half way through packing the bounty into several large green-reusable shopping bags. For some reason the idea appealed to her, perhaps it was the weather or the newly found company, but regardless she then spent the next ten minutes hunting around in the cellar with a torch looking for the old family picnic basket.
When Zoey eventually found the small little wickerwork basket, it took several minutes and a lot of sneezing to dispel the dust from where it had laid for several years but eventually the hamper looked good as new.
She packed the basket carefully, lining up the boxes and bags so they all fit snugly and the basket was fairly evenly balanced. That was something she had always loved doing since a little kid, even when they went on holiday her favorite part seemed to be packing and unpacking, it was like a puzzle for the real world!
When the hamper was packed she ventured back into the back yard to find the kettle boiling away nicely, a few minutes later she had a large canteen filled with tea and was ready to leave the house. She was halfway out the door before she remembered she had clean forgotten the gun.
"Eurgh it's all the way upstairs," she grumbled to herself and almost convinced herself not to bother to get it when she heard her father's voice 'Can't ever be too prepared' echo around her head.
"Fine, fine fine," she moaned as she set aside the hamper and stomped up the stairs to retrieve the precious little weapon.
It was a luxurious day outside, the sun was shining and a small breeze blew through the town yet it wasn't too hot thanks to it being the tail end of the season. She walked briskly until she reached the high street and was shocked to see Charles already up and about and going for a morning jog of all things!
"Wow," she muttered under her breath. He did strike an impressive figure, his chest was glistening with sweat and she could easily make out his clearly defined pecs and tight stomach, her imagination didn't really do him justice.
She was so stunned by his athletic figure that she stood frozen allowing him to run clean into her. 'Eww sweaty!' she internally squealed and put a few feet between them.
The conversation was fairly standard but made a thousand percent more exotic by the simple fact that it was a conversation with another person. She had to struggle to suppress a blush when he called her a shining star for putting together breakfast.
Charles was halfway through comparing all the way she did indeed resemble a star when something caught Zoey's eye that took her mind clean off the flirting. Out of one of the small alley that entered onto the main street came a stumbling figure of a man but one look was all you needed to know that this was clearly not a well and healthy man.
His jaw flapped eerily in the wind, dislocated by the look of it, a large deep cut ran down his entire left arm, his clothes were ripped to shreds and were only hanging on by the barest of threads, and he was a waxy pale whitish-green color.
All emotion drained from Zoey, the warm feelings she'd been entertaining in the pit of her stomach moments ago dissipated quicker than steam from her kettle and she was left shaking and white.
"Don't move!" She called out to the quickly approaching man and took several quick steps back. Charles only registered in the back of her mind, he had frozen too but she wasn't sure if it was because of her command or he too had seen the... the.... Zombie?
The creature closed in far too quickly for her liking and time seemed to slow, it was barely six feet from Charles now and she found it almost impossible to believe he couldn't have noticed it! What did she do? Her mind and body froze, torn between running and fighting, she was a rabbit caught in the spotlight.
"Oh god," Charles began and that managed to snap her out of her reverie. She reached one hand around her back and pulled out the revolver, holding it in a double fist as she had done countless times before. She took a quick breath and on the exhale steadied her aim and squeezed the trigger.
The kickback slammed the pistol up high into the air as the bullet soared across the short space between herself and the zombie. She watched as it passed Charles, missing his head by scant inches, to explode fiercely into the skull of the reanimated corpse.
"What the fuck!" I yelled at the crazy bitch that had apparently just shot at me. Silent tears ran down her face and my ears rang with the shot. It was then that I noticed she wasn't focusing on me, a monumentally stupid thing not to do when you're shooting at a target, and my sluggish brain started to put two and two together.
My nose reacted first, picking up a sickly sweet smell barely distinguishable beneath the heavy odor of gunpowder. I knew that smell far too well, it was the smell of death. I spun around and got the shock of my life, barely five feet from me lay a deceased zombie, head blown open by the force of the round Zoey had delivered into it.
"Oh shit oh shit oh shit," I muttered quickly, ripping the other headphone out of my ear. I felt the shakes coming along and tried to fight them back; when I turned back around to face Zoey I found her with the gun still outstretched doing a far worse job than I at fending off the shakes.
In two quick strides I was before her and then I was hugging her, gently rocking her and making shushing noises into her ear. I gently disengaged her hand from the gun and pocketed it. She stood there like a wet fish, just letting me hold her and tell her it would be alright.
Eventually I got her to lead me back to her house, she was still in shock and I had one arm wrapped around her shoulders whilst I carried the picnic basket in the other. Her house, when we reached it, was a two story, white-panel wood affair, very picturesque. We pushed in through the front door, unlocked which I promptly rectified the second we were inside, and I deposited her on one of the couches in the entry room/living room. I grabbed a blanket off the back of a couch and wrapped it around her.
"I'm just going to find some water," I whispered softly and calmly, before taking the basket and moving into the kitchen at the back of the house to try and find something for her to drink. Upon the bench there stood a large bucket filled with water, a ladel and a collection of glasses, upside down on a tea-towel, presumably drying.
I filled one up and brought it to Zoey, pressing it into her hands. I slung an arm around her and just rocked her silently for long minutes, letting her deal with the ordeal. In a sick twisted way I was almost jealous of her, when I found out about the Zombies I didn't have anybody to comfort me, instead I found salvation in the bottom of a bottle.
Time drifted on and I wasn't sure of the exact passing, the clock on the wall had stopped one day at 3:39, but I judged it would be nearly eleven or twelve.
"Hey," I eventually broke the silence, stroking her cheek where it lay in my lap.
"Hi," she croaked out, apparently on the verge of tears.
"I know you're not okay so I'm not even going to ask, but do you want to talk about it? Sometimes that helps," there was a long pause, so long I thought that we would descend back into silence, but eventually she did speak up.
"I can't... I mean... are they all? Are my parents... my neighbors... how can this.... What... oh god oh god," Zoey descended into sobs and I stroked her cheek again.
"No they're not all... well you know. I reckon anywhere between a quarter and 10% come back. Listen it'll be okay,"
"No it won't," she cried, "Look what's happening to the world!"
"Shhhh," I consoled, "We're still here aren't we? Not all hope is lost, don't ever give up. Never let yourself give up all together."
"How can you be so strong," She whimpered, "you've met many of them and your... it's just so wrong!"
"I know, it's sick and twisted and against everything god meant, but maybe there'll be a cure. Maybe something good will one day come out of this, and until then? Well until then we cry and we shake, and sometimes we laugh, and sometimes we smile, and we never ever give up."
We spoke softly for what seemed to be an age, about everything from whether her friends and family were below ground now scratching to get out, whether I really believed there were others out there that could help, whether we'd seen that movie "I Am Legend,". Eventually our conversation turned to lighter subjects, something which I was eternally grateful, and we chatted about anything and nothing. I was sure she was suppressing the full horror of the events that she had witnessed and I wasn't sure if that was healthy or not, but then again who am I to judge? I know my own coping mechanics are probably a lot less healthy than hers.
Eventually she got up to use the bathroom and I took the opportunity to wonder into the kitchen to see if I could sate my growling stomach. I was surprised to find the tea in the canteen still warm and I poured it out into two mugs she had packed. I bustled around for a while but eventually cobbled together something that might have resembled a meal.
Zoey entered, eyes red and puffy but with dry cheeks, and laughed when she saw me humming and dancing around as I prepared lunch.
"You really are a strange guy," she commented, still chuckling.
"Come on, try it!" I danced my way over to her and, taking her hands in mine, spun and twirled her around the small room as I sang words made up on the spot to a melody comprised of a variety of different songs.
"When the world spins and twirls," I dipped her low, "We know that life goes by. When the moon shines and sings, we know that life goes on. When the seas splash and splish, we know that life will ever drift. And when I hoooold you in my arms, we know that life slows down. "
"You my dear sir," she gasped, slightly out of breath from our antics, "are a strange strange man."
"Why thank you madam," I doffed an imaginary hat and motioned to a seat, "would you care to be seated? Luncheon is served."
She took her chair and I made a couple of trips to the table carrying water glasses, the two mugs of tea, and two plates laden with the most bizarre combination of food that you would ever find under normal circumstances.
I'd created a pseudo salad out of muesli and orange, made rough and ready sandwiches using slices of tinned corn beef I'd found and lavish amounts of Branston pickle, whipped up some crackers with a dollop of honey and a few grains of instant coffee, all topped off with a packet of crisps each.
"Wow," She exclaimed as I presented her the meal, "this really is something."
"I'll take that as a compliment then?" I asked, catching her eye and grinning.
"Well if you don't want it," I moved as if to take her plate only to have my hand slapped away.
"Oh get off with you! It looks lovely, thank you," and with that we tucked in to our slapdash meal.
After lunch we washed up in the backyard in a bucket of soapy water Zoey kept there, topped up with boiling hot water from the kettle; then stretched out on the grass, just looking up into the sky. The mood turned serious despite the almost idyllic surroundings.
"What happens now?" Zoey asked, her hand reaching out and finding mine, gripping it hard.
"What do you mean?" I couldn't help but suppress butterflies twisting and turning in my stomach as our skin connected in an act that, to me, was one of the most personal two could engage in.
"Well... just that. What happens?"
I paused for a minute before answering, putting my thoughts and feelings into words, "I suppose we go on living,"
"Just like your song," Zoey cut in.
"Exactly, I'm still thinking of heading out west, go as far inland as I can and try to find some remote section that isn't plagued by this horror. I'm not sure if there is anything but at the very least I should be able to find a farm, maybe I can set up shop as a hermit and live out my days."
"Very lonely existence living alone," Zoey twisted her head and looked into my eyes, her green piercing my brown, "Don't suppose you want a companion?"
"Only if you call me Doctor," I rejoined.
"Sorry?" She asked, clearly missing the reference.
"Don't worry about it: Doctor Who. Do you think you could leave you home?" I asked, brushing her knuckle with a thumb.
"It's not the same anymore," her tone darkened and we both knew what she was talking about.
"I suppose that's true; well I'd love to have you along,"
We made plans that afternoon, nothing fancy just roughly where'd we go and when we'd leave. Surprisingly Zoey was all up for leaving the next day and, although I wasn't strictly against the idea, I managed to convince her to take and extra day or two, pack up a few things, say goodbye to the house, all that sentimental crap. Sentimental crap it may well be, but if you don't do it you'll never really get closure, that much I knew.
As the afternoon darkened and the sun dropped behind the horizon we felt the chill set in and moved inside. We ate a fairly boring dinner, just a bowl of rice we cooked up over the campfire in the backyard flavored with soy sauce, chili flakes and a mixed tin of peas, corn and carrot.
We set the bowls aside to soak for the evening, neither of us having the effort to wash them up, and moved back to the sitting room. It was funny, the hour couldn't have been later than 8 or 9 but before long we were both yawning and struggling to stay awake.
"Well" I said, getting up and stretching, "I should probably make a move." I was halfway to the door before Zoey stopped me.