I Dreamt of You Ch. 01byrainy_cromwell©
"Dreams last so long
Even after you're gone" -- Jewel "You Were Meant for Me"
All sexual relationships are 18 and above.
They crept forward through the fallen home, their shoes pressing into the soggy, faintly colored carpet. They neared the bedroom whose window faced the barren street outside, creeping forward as quietly as possible when all of the sudden, a foreign noise was heard coming from the entrance of the home. The two boys glanced at each other and quickly retreated into the room, backing themselves into a closet where the younger, smaller boy was hoisted up onto the sturdy top shelf while the other boy, older and sallow with fear, hunched underneath in the moldy space below, his eyes bright with hearing.
They were hidden only by the closet door. The foreign noise crept closer and the two boys realized this with a sickening twist in their abdomen. Why had they come into this rotting, dilapidated, one story home whose disheveled appearance gave no indication of a potentially positive outcome?
An immeasurable fright completely took hold of the hunger that had consumed their thin bodies just a short while ago. They had thought that by leaving camp, by trying to scavenge on their own, they would find something to eat, perhaps something for the older boy's mother or father, hopefully something for themselves and be praised upon their return. They had conferred to each other in secret hiding places whilst the adults were busy, two young boys convincing the other that they had nothing to lose; death would always be their eventual end, it was just a question of when it would come.
Just then, the shield of their refuge was taken down. The closet door ripped open and the older boy whose face was first revealed stared back in the most terrified horror he had ever felt. Every sensory receptor that lived in his body screamed and gripped their nails into his cells, paralyzing his bones. It was a man's face that stared back at the boy, a man with long dark hair and widened eyes. He was even more disheveled than the home and his hands, caked with earth and mud, held the closet door in his hands.
The man's eyes flickered up to the top shelf, immediately finding the younger boy. The man's face, upon which first opening the closet door was riddled with an insane madness, as though expecting to find the very which thing that would kill him, now settled into its lines and just stared at them.
A silence fell between the group of three and the younger boy on the shelf thought to himself that although he and Todd had decided you couldn't evade death, he really rather wished now that his death wouldn't have to be accompanied by deep pain because whatever could be construed by this man's appearance, it was wild and something wild could only result in a rabid death.
The disheveled man was young, although with his current state of appearance, he didn't look it. And it was because of his crusted appearance that the two young boys were kept from realizing who they were deeply fearful of in that moment. This was not the case for the man though.
"Todd," his voice croaked to the older boy and the older boy immediately took a step backwards, hitting the wall behind him, his face terrified as to how this man knew who he was. And then, moments later, his face morphed into bewildered surprise as he remembered a time three years ago.
"Charlie," he exhaled.
Green was a beautiful color, especially when it rained. When the water from the heavy clouds hit the fields and the forests, the green of every shard of grass and crawling moss and fern was illuminated, making it seem like an entirely different world. The green was beautiful and now, it grew everywhere.
"How could you do that? How could you just leave, considering everything we've been through? How could you have been so foolish? How could you not know what the value of your lives are?"
The two boys sat glumly side by side as the older boy's, Todd's mother rained down on them, her face glowering and enraged. This was a hard rain, a violent hail of words that, as the minutes went on, caused their shoulders to slump further and further closer to the ground. This was in mark contrast to the other rain which was occurring simultaneously to the thunder of words. This rain was a simple sort of drizzle, coating the world below it in light dew drops and blanketing the boys' jackets, cheerfully falling onto deer's noses and plopping off of the tips of leaves.
The younger boy's mother had passed away three months ago and it was the remembrance of this that finally exhausted Todd's mother. Her name was Katharine and she closed her eyes, feeling the stress in the pit of her stomach that would never uncoil even at the sight of the return of the two boys that morning.
"Please don't do that ever again, I beg of you. We need people, we can't have you dying in the woods. We'd have to send a search party out for you and what if more people were killed in the process? It would be a waste, a terrible waste," she said, shaking her head. She said this in a softer tone, however and the two boys looked up from their hunched shoulders and nodded their heads, whispering gently that they wouldn't ever dare to disobey, again.
"The irresponsibility of you boys," she said to them, looking levelly into their eyes, "could kill us all."
By the early afternoon, his hair cut away with Molly's pair of scissors, ragged beard shorn down by Easton's snippers and mud washed away from his flesh with the creek's streaming water, the man named Charlie was no longer recognizable as the crazed face man the two small boys first set eyes upon. By becoming unrecognizable from his previous state, Charlie became recognizable.
He didn't smile as the morning progressed and simply nodded at those who helped him, murmuring a thank you when he was fed. His throat was constricted, unable to speak. Naturally, he wasn't someone who chatted easily and here, the burden of possibly knowing something he didn't want to know made him even more unable to converse. Soon enough, however, the camp of approximately fifteen was on its way again. You didn't have to move when the camp started moving but if you didn't, nobody would wait for you.
A few different people noticed Charlie and eyed him cautiously but most were too tired and hungry and fatigued to truly care. They trudged on, their eyes on their feet to make sure their right and left toed extremities were still moving. They wouldn't be walking far but they'd been at the camp for over a week, so it was time to distance themselves from any attention they may have brought.
She saw him before he saw her. A glimpse of the profile of his face and she went slack jawed, almost tripping on a hole she would've foreseen if her mind hadn't been taken aback by the shock. But she'd always been observant, a deer amongst humans and as her friend obliviously heaved one sludge drenched boot after another beside her, she quickly returned her gaze to the scenery in front of her, trying to still herself into doing what was normal behavior for camp moving day.
It was three years ago the last time Kaden saw him. She'd been innocent, naïve and genuine and in her mind, forgivable still. But now, so many days and months had passed and her innocence had worn away, she'd been used in a way that a woman tends to be used and that was just it, wasn't it. In defiance yet it had happened, she had become a woman.
She and Mathilda trekked on.
The drizzling had ceased and the sun peaked out overhead, causing the flesh of their backs, heavy with luggage, to stick to their clothing. Kaden's father, despite being a thin man without much stature, had been strong and would carry the brunt of their family's weight. He would grunt as he heaved their equipment onto the slant of his backside, face hard and set, as he focused on the weight of their belongings.
Although others were surprised that it would be her father to die before her mother, Kaden wasn't. Her father, despite his capability of lifting large loads, wasn't strong in the name of mentality and he quickly perspired in the hopelessness that infected them all.
After all, you couldn't help but be infected by it. There was just over fifteen of them and like a contagious disease, hopelessness spread easily in their person to person vicinity. It was what you did after you were infected with the bug of despair, how strong your immune system was, how clear your mind was, that decided your fate.
The camp was set up after about five hours of walking. Several squirrels watched them unfurl their shelters as they nibbled on walnuts from their perch in their conifer. As they watched the people, Kaden watched the squirrels, being unable to smile when two of them got bored and shared a nut.
"Did you bully him into it?" she heard an older man ask.
"No, we both decided on it," a younger boy responded. "We planned it together."
"He's younger than you, you're suppose to look after ones that are younger than you. I understand you were trying to do it for good reasons but I'm rather disappointed in your shortsightedness, Todd." The man paused, scratching his beard and he frowned. He looked altogether worn and defeated. "Although you did bring Charlie back," he said in a thoughtfully melancholy tone.
"We brought back Charlie," the boy agreed.
Kaden felt her body go rigid at the sound of his name.
That night, Kaden laid on the floor of the tent, her body curved into a C shape formation for containing warmth, facing Mathilda's back. Mathilda's older sister breathed heavily on the other side of Kaden's body and the heated air warmed her back, if only in just one spot. Before all the tragedies occurred, she'd always thought that one of the most soothing sounds in the world was hearing the rhythmic inhaling and exhaling of a sleeper so close to you. Their presence had soothed her and yet now, feeling like the only one awake frightened her. She was the only one on alert, the only one to hear the groaning of the tree branches and the pitter patter of rabbits as leaves crunched underneath their paws. Kaden closed her eyes, trying to conjure up a dreamland. It was her gift to herself to try to lull herself to sleep.
But tonight it would be to no avail. Her dark eyes flashed open, thinking of Charlie, his face, his brown eyes that could be so gentle one moment as they shared a joke or stoic and deserted such as when another death occurred. He was so close now in some other tent. He hadn't noticed her, didn't know she was there. But he must know, didn't he, that this was where she'd last been?
Kaden scoffed at herself. Hell, they hadn't even slept together! What importance would she hold in his mind? He'd had three years of who knows what of fear, of rampage, of isolation. He'd survived though. And so had she.
Humans would always be their own worst enemy. They couldn't help it, it was written in their blood, in their bibles and lawful testimonies. Something good would happen and they'd find a way to bash it, picking out a clause and flaw in every piece of its woodwork. They would get sick and blame the doctor and the disease, the pollution and the improperly manufactured food and eventually, as they ran out of things to blame, they blamed those with the disease.
Charlie mucked over this thoughts as he washed his arms and hands in the stream, quickly splashing water into his hair, even cracking a smile at something Easton had said. He'd always liked Easton, everyone always liked Easton.
The glare of a beam of sunlight hitting the surface of the water caused Charlie to look away from his washing, the glistening rays blinding him for a moment and causing him to look down the stream into the sight of a girl's hair tucked behind her ear, an ear whose tip was pink from the morning cold. She turned, surprised to find him looking at her. Then, a slight, sad smile from her greeted his obvious stare. She didn't walk towards him, he'd never have expected her to and she turned away to quickly finish her washing while the girl beside her, a red-head, continued to chat away obliviously. He felt the warmth of someone else's eyes and he raised his head away from the sight of Kaden, finding an expression of torn nostalgia on Easton's weathered face.
Easton, however, didn't say anything to him and so Charlie didn't bother to ask. He already presumed to know what the older man would want to say.
The small ripples in the water lapped at his hands, the coolness of the temperature wrapping around his fingers. He had wondered if she was still alive and had had numerous and continuous nightmares about the possibility of encountering her in the woods as one of the infected. If that had really occurred, Charlie would've had to puncture her brain in order to protect himself. He used to be unable to bear the thought, roaring at the fact that he didn't know the unknown and would be hunched over and shaking like the madman he had truly become in the middle of the woods. The loss of her meant the loss of his hope, the loss of living life as more than just survival. It had been one of the reasons he'd been scared to actively search for his old camp after that day in early December -- he didn't want to know in case she had been lost. The remembrance of her smile, crookedly teasing him or the angles of her bones as she elbowed him after Mrs. Tenbow scolded him on his lack of conversation at the dinner table, all his memories of her made him never want to face the prospect of reality.
Yet when he saw Todd's face back in that old ramshackle house, the slack had gone out of his muscles. It had been three years. Physically, when it came down to food and water, he'd be able to survive and go on but emotionally, the isolation was crippling. Even though he'd always been the quiet sort, he was also human and needed the presence of others.
And now he saw her alive, her dark hair tucked behind one pale ear. He knew from her sad smile that she hadn't survived unscathed. No one had in these conditions. But her brain was still hers, her heart still beat and her hands were warmer than the walking dead's. There were differences about her -- her hair was shorter than before, though still past her shoulders, and she was thinner, her clothes hanging off of her more. But she was still the pretty girl he'd noticed three and a half years ago when they first met, still the girl who caught his eye.
"Seriously, I'm reverting to caveman status. Or cavewoman status. No one ever talks about having to shit behind a tree or how hairy your legs get. I'm turning into a monkey-girl! I guess all sexuality goes out the window when it's the end of the world."
Kaden smiled at her friend's grumbling. It reminded her of the times before everything happened, when the gossiping and laughing of girls was typical and an everyday occurrence. It was true that she would die for a hot shower or a razor blade more often. She remembered a great line from the Diary of Bridget Jones about how if Bridget never put any work into her appearance -- i.e. waxing, shaving, plucking -- she would turn into a cavewoman running amok and now Mathilda was solid proof of it. Whenever the camp stumbled upon a town, she and Mathilda, giggling to themselves, would go to the drug store to dreg up women's essentials, such as razors, tampons, hairbrushes, shampoo and the like. It was a way to pass the days, to return some normalcy into their lives, which no longer allowed the luxury of these things on a usual basis.
They had to be careful of course, especially in the towns. There were more places to hide for the infected, more dark corners and rooms, upon which they could roam out and with surprising strength get a hold of you and bite your flesh in less than thirty seconds. All it took was a mere moment and you were one of them -- a zombie, the walking dead, the infected, the plagued, the gone, them. Whatever you wanted to call them, they were everywhere.
It had been three and a half years since the real panic began and the infection truly spread. However, it'd been four years since the first outbreak although as governments do, nobody took it seriously at first.
The outbreak began in a third world country (as many outbreaks do due to the overpopulation, unsanitized water, lack of efficient waste removal, amongst other variables) and even when the doctors there tried to alert officials, it was quieted down immediately or even ignored. These doctors were labeled as just being spiritual nuts because of the biblical premonition of the dead reanimating. However, there came a point when the truth was realized and as often occurs in history, that point came too late.
Kaden did not know how many people remained on the planet. People had been talking of this sort of thing happening for years. Resources were running evermore sparse, wars were breaking out, not due to oil or economics but due to lack of water, of food. The human population was reaching almost twenty billion. The planet could only sustain so much. Ecology has a curve: the population goes up too high with any species, something will happen to bring it down again. The black plague, yellow fever, thunder struck fires in the plains, these were all things to keep a population in check, be it human or grassland.
"It's not the end of the world," Kaden reminded Mathilda. "Maybe it is for us but not for the planet."
Mathilda, red hair glinting in the sunlight, grunted. "What promising information you give me all the time."
"Well, I've got to keep you positive," Kaden said to her friend.
Without Mathilda, Kaden would have been become a completely different person. She knew this and so was eternally grateful for the meeting of the two of them. Before, she'd been forlorn, neither surly nor cheerful, neither happy nor sad and had lived her life with a slight despondency and vacancy. She'd had friends, even a supposed best friend but no one came close to Mathilda. Mathilda brought out the laughter in Kaden, she brought out the life in her.
"Oh, my God, Kaden," her friend suddenly said, grabbing her arm so tight that Kaden's hand immediately flew to her back pocket where she held her knife.
Kaden looked around, trying to spot the infected being but instead, saw Charlie walking with Alanna, the daughter of an engineer who set up their tent next to Mathilda's.
"It's Charlie!" Mathilda hissed. Kaden could feel Mathilda's pulse thumping into the ground it was so loud. Her friend whipped her head towards
Kaden, her face incredulous in disbelief.
Kaden sighed wearily. "I know."
"What?! You knew he was here?" Mathilda's face was verging on becoming the same color as her hair.
Kaden shifted uncomfortably. "Since yesterday. We haven't spoken or anything," she answered.
"Why is he walking with Alanna? God, freaking zombies are walking the earth and still all she wants is attention from guys."
Kaden couldn't help but wonder the same thing. Why was he walking with her? Alanna was certainly a pretty girl -- blonde, lean and freckled -- and although Kaden knew she wasn't horrible looking either, she still felt a stab of envy and hurt from the sight of them together.
"Kaden... are you alright?"
She looked up at her friend's words. Mathilda's tone was apprehensive, gentle, worried.
"I know... I know you two cared for each other."
That was an understatement and both girls knew it. Charlie had held her all night, every night, after her mother died, his arm hooked around her waist, his body protecting hers. He would kiss the top of her head or the back of her neck and her cheeks when she cried. He was the one who ran the stake through her mother's brain after she was bitten. He was the one who fell to his knees with Kaden after she saw it happen, his eyes so carefully watching her crumpled form, never taking those brown eyes off of her.