A Camp Up Ahead
The rest of that morning was pretty quiet. No more snide
remarks from Jessica, no rebellious responses from me, James
didn't say much--as usual--and Nero just seemed to sleep a lot.
Maybe car rides make him sleepy. I found that car rides make me
sleepy too; I had fallen asleep, and when I woke up again, James
had retired the wheel to Jessica.
He was tired, and I could tell. He reclined in the
passenger's seat and leaned the chair back, far enough that I
could see the top of his head. He closed his eyes, and his head
slowly drooped over to one side.
His hair was jet black, and it sprouted wildly from his head
in thick, dark wisps. I touched my own black hair, and grimaced.
His looked soft… and I wanted to see if--
I looked over at Jessica; she wasn't as shaken up as she had
been earlier, but there were still signs of trauma written across
her face. If I even looked like I'd attempt to bother James, I
knew she'd start some kind of scene. So, I sat back and once
again slinked down in my seat.
Eventually, Jessica slowed down and almost immediately,
James sat up, rubbing his eyes.
"Why'd you stop?" he asked, squinting.
I peered around him, looking over his shoulder.
"There's… a person," Jessica said, stunned.
We all looked toward the street and sure enough, there was a
person standing out in the middle of the street.
"Is it…really a living person? Or… is it one of those
things?" I asked, clinging to the back of James' seat.
"I can't really tell," James said. "Drive a little closer…
Try to drive around it."
Jessica put the car in drive and attempted to go around.
"No, stop!" the thing said, waving his arms.
"Ha!" I yelled. "It's a man!"
He ran to the front of the car with his hands held out and
tapped the hood.
James got out of the car, and had words with the man. They
seemed to get along quite well, too. So well, in fact, that I
pushed Nero's head out of my lap, got out of the car, and waltzed
up to the man.
"Hi, I'm Cayleigh," I said, beaming brightly. Then I
extended a narrow hand in the hopes that he would take it.
He stared stupidly for a moment, and I thought briefly about
taking my hand back. But before I could execute the action, he
took my hand and shook it.
"Arthur," he said, then retracted his hand quickly.
His palm was hot; when he withdrew, my hand felt even more
sensitive to the frigid, morning air. I quickly shoved my hand
inside of my pocket and stood behind James.
Jessica got out of the car as well, and she too began to
listen to the two talk. She even joined the conversation every
now and then, but I stayed silent. Arthur's eyes kept swimming
across James' face, to Jessica's breasts--as if he could miss
them--and then to me.
His glances were no ordinary glances. When he looked at me,
he examined me--from head to foot. I noticed that he did the same
to Jessica as well. Second by sluggish second, I found myself
slowly shrinking behind James' slender body. ---
Apparently, there was a small camp--clear of any
attacks--and Arthur was a part of it. He led us through the
drooping, ivy vines and the hanging tree leaves to a nook far
away from the road.
There was someone else--a girl; she had light-brown hair and
too much enthusiasm. But decidedly, I liked her straight away.
She greeted us eagerly and welcomed us to sit down.
"So, what's your name?" I asked.
"Doesn't matter," she said. "You shouldn't get too attached
when either of us could die any second."
"Well, she's right," James agreed, and sat down beside her.
However grim it sounded, she really was quite right. How
could a girl with so much enthusiasm be so morbid?
I grimaced and wandered over to the fallen trunk where James
sat with Arthur's travelling companion; and, I sat on the ground
by James' foot. I leaned against his knee and for a second, I
felt his body tense up. Then just as quickly, he relaxed again.
Jessica sat across from us on another log with Arthur.
"Yea, we've been out here in the wilderness together for
nearly two months, and I still don't know her name," Arthur
proclaimed. "I just call her Bootsie."
"Why is that?" I asked.
Arthur pointed over to her feet, and it was then I saw that
she wore big, black combat boots.
"Oh, I see," I said sleepily. "Bootsie…"
I don't remember much after that. I fell asleep--I
think--but not for long. Bootsie had fallen asleep herself,
leaning her head against the sitting log.
It seemed to be long beyond noon when my eyes fluttered
open, and I felt James gently caressing my hair. I wanted to
pretend that I was still asleep--just to feel his hands stroking
my tresses. And for a moment, I decided that I would… until
Arthur came bursting through the bushes.
James quickly jerked his hand away, and I pretended to be
roused out of my false slumber by their noisy entrance. Damn it…
Arthur, along with Jessica, came over to the three of us,
carrying an arm full of food. Jess eyed me conspicuously, and I
turned my head away.
"You slept all this time?" she asked, noticeably prodding.
"Well, yea…" I said, rubbing my eyes.
"Yea, she's been asleep for a while now," James interrupted,
"and just woke up when you two came trampling through the
"It makes no sense for her to sleep that long anyhow…"
Jessica complained peevishly.
"Well, neither of us got much sleep the other night; I
needn't point out what happened with Aaron," James mentioned
Jessica rolled her eyes and came to sit on the log.
"I guess so," she said, running her hands through her short,
tawny hair. "I could use some sleep too."
She leaned her head against James' shoulder and nuzzled the
side of her face into his arm. I wanted to protest, but instead,
I rolled my eyes and stood up from the cool ground.
"Something wrong? Are you alright?" Jessica asked, brushing
her chest against James' arm and back.
His face was slowly turning red. He tucked his bottom lip
under his top one and said, "Are you?"
He obviously loved big breasts…
"Yea, I'm fine."
I walked by a still slumbering Bootsie and down into the
shallow grove of trees from whence Jessica and Arthur had come.
I sat alone for what seemed like an hour. And pretty soon, I
began to feel so… tired, all over again.
I reclined back into the frozen, crumpled leaves and pulled
my jacket tightly around me. The tension in my arms, my legs, my
entire body just… diminished. I was calm. I was at ease… And
pretty soon my mind also drifted.
* * *
I dozed off a little, but it wasn't for very long. I parted
my eyes a bit, and I could see the scarce light of the sun
filtering down through the leaves. I rolled over and hugged
myself, rubbing my arms and neck. It was getting colder, and no
one had come after me yet.
Maybe they had realized that I needed space? Or, maybe they
had come looking for me and let me be when they saw that I was
I rolled over onto my back and gazed up through the trees.
"Arthur?!" I gasped, grabbing at my jacket collar and
hugging my arms. "Wha--where did you--?"
"I didn't mean to scare you," he said sincerely.
"But--why--how--? How long have you been sitting there?"
Arthur looked embarrassed. He stood up from the broken trunk
that he had been leaning against, walked over to me, and extended
"Are you gonna take it?" he asked, holding out a steady
I reached out and grabbed it. He pulled me up swiftly--so
swiftly that when I got to my feet, I stumbled forward and fell
into his chest.
"Sorry," I quickly responded.
"It's fine…" he said, still holding my hand.
I pulled away. "You never answered my question."
"Oh… I was making sure that--that nothing happened. It was
stupid of you to run off into the woods alone. So, I went after
"Oh," I replied, thinking to myself that he still hadn't
answered the one question I had asked. "M-maybe we should get
back to the others."
Arthur nodded, and I quickly walked past him and headed
toward the camp.
* * *
Things with Arthur only continued to get more awkward. That
night, we had to camp outside, but not quite…
There were two tents, and Bootsie offered to share her tent
with Jessica and me. To James, Arthur wasn't as generous. He'd
never volunteer his tent to anyone if of his same gender.
His eyes were squinty; he stood as tall as James, but he was
significantly more robust. He was sturdier than James. And
because of his reddish-blonde hair, I speculated that he had a
very short fuse. Creepy bastard.
He and Bootsie were noticeably older than the rest of us--by
maybe three or four years.
You see, Arthur was a man's man. And, he didn't seem to do
more than he thought a "man" should be expected to do. He only
offered to share his bed and rations with women, and he never
volunteered a helpful hand to another man.
James brushed it off. He seemed to take 'not having a place
to rest pretty well. If there was enough room in our tent, we
would have been more than happy to let him inside.
"You know, Arthur, you're just full of shit."
Everyone stood silently and looked over at Bootsie. I really
liked her now. She was very outspoken even though she kept mostly
"An honest piece of shit," Arthur said in his own defense.
Bootsie rolled her eyes and stamped towards Arthur's tent.
"You can just have my spot in the tent. I'll brave one night
with this smartass."
"No, it's fine," James insisted. "I can sleep outside. I've
fallen asleep in worse places."
"Worse places than this?" I thought aloud.
"I'm not asking, I'm telling you. Take my place."
After that, Bootsie retired to the tent with a smiling
Arthur only seconds behind her.
"We could always switch," Arthur said to James, peeking his
"Heh…" James mouthed softly, noticeably un-amused.
I crawled inside of the other tent; Jessica and James
followed. It was awkward getting our positions right, but it
didn't take long. It was decided that James would sleep in the
Jessica fought to lay behind him. So, I was left to lie in
front by the opening. Damn, more cold air.
Before lying down, I could see the dim tinge of red slowly
creeping across James' cheeks. Hm… I peered across to Jessica.
Her chest was loosely pressed against his back. It's gonna be a
I separated myself from them, and I could feel the cold air
creeping through the tent and slowly slithering inside of my
jacket. I curled into a ball, as best I could, and hugged my
arms. Slowly, but surely, I fell into a shallow slumber.
In the middle of the night, I woke up surprisingly warm… To
my realization, James had moved closer. His pelvis was near to my
back, and his chin rested just above my head.
I blushed, and forced myself to think rationally for a
second. A cold body would move toward another if it needed
warmth, right? Satisfied with the excuse I concocted, I curled
back into a ball. And James, in a quick act of impulsivity,
slipped his leg between mine. I panicked.
"James?" I whispered. But, I received no answer. "James?"
I settled down again and decidedly enjoyed the warmth that
that was being created between us.
* * *
The next morning was warmer than the previous day, but it
was still fairly cold. I rolled over and got a full glimpse of
Jessica's cleavage. She was curled into a half moon and clasping
the floor of the tent between her fingers. I sat up and sleepily
looked around the tent. James was nowhere to be found.
I crawled out of the tent and saw Nero. He was curled up at
the base of a tree. Arthur and Bootsie's tent still seemed to be
I walked through the shrubs and hanging branches, down the
path where Arthur had first led us. At the end of the trail, I
saw a confused James, pacing up and down the ground and staring
at the side of the car.
"Cay--?" James said turning around, noticeably startled by
"What are you doing?"
James scratched his head and backed away from the car.
"Listen," he said, walking towards me with both hands now in
his pockets, "about last night…"
"What about it?" I replied with a nervous smile, attempting
to spare us both the embarrassment of his explanation.
James let out a nervous bit of breath, which sounded mixed
between a laugh and a sigh; and then, he proceeded to explain
"I, um… You see," he began, " I have this thing… Where… I
sleep wildly sometimes. And, I just--You see, with my last
girlfriend, she--we--" he seemed at a loss for words. "I just do
things in my sleep sometimes… I'm sorry if you were
uncomfortable, but--I just tend to huddle closely to things in my
Who does he think he's fooling? I thought to myself a
moment. Alright. He huddles closely to whatever's laying beside
him. But, Jessica was closer than I had been, and he decided to
reach for me--not her. Maybe he likes me after all…
James' cheeks went bright red, and up close, I found it to
be adorable on such a pale face. Not that it wasn't cute before
when Jessica had made him blush. --It's just--this time, his
emotion had depth. And, we both shared the same feeling.
"That's okay," I said, my face more rubicund than his, "I
was cold anyway."
James turned back around and moved toward the car. The blush
slowly trickled down from his face and emptied into his throat;
soon, it was no longer visible, and he was pale once again.
"What are you looking for?"
"We should've gotten another car after hitting that thing…"
he said, a twinge of remorse clouding his sympathetic eyes.
"Why? What's wrong? It won't start?"
"I wish that was the problem…"
I bit my bottom lip. "Then, what is it?"
"When we--when we leave later on today, we have to leave
James' eyes went cold, and his lips began to tremble.
"He must've gotten curious… I should've fed him as soon as
we got here," he said, tensing up his jaw.
"What are you talking about…?"
"I caught him, this morning, licking blood and pieces of
flesh off the underside of the car."
I gasped and clasped both hands around my mouth.
"Are you sure?"
"I mean, he could've just been--"
"Damn it, Cay, I said I was sure!" an enraged James snapped.
"I wiped the damn blood from his mouth myself."
"They say you shouldn't give dogs blood... It makes em
wild... But, zombie blood..?" James winced. "I thought twice
about… just acting like it never happened--and just letting him
tag along until--just to see if…"
His voice trailed off, and his eyes lowered.
"I'm so sorry…"
The corner of his eye glistened. "Well, anyway," he said
almost too loudly, and wiped the corner of his eye with his
sleeve, "it'd be too much of a risk."
"I--promise not to tell… if you decide to bring Nero along,
"You--you would do that?"
"I mean… yea. I know how much he means to you."
"Yea," James said sleepily, staring blankly into space. His
eyes were filling with nostalgia. "We've been through a lot
"Even before, with my family--"
"Why the hell did you two leave me behind like that?!"
Jessica burst out of the bushes with leaves and dew
littering her dark hair; she was furious.
"We were just checking out the damage," James said quickly.
"Never leave me behind with that creepy guy, ever again!"
"Arthur? Creepy? No…" I replied with cynical disbelief.
James eyed me conspicuously. "She started it…" I mumbled.
"I'll deal with you later," James replied, then turned his
attention back to Jessica. "What happened?"
"That creep!" she wailed, eyes filling with water. "He was
staring at me! Just staring! And when I caught him, he just
grinned and said, 'g'morning girls'."
"Nothing's so bad about that," James tittered.
I rolled my eyes. "So what! He mentioned your breasts in a
sentence… And now, you're upset that he was talking to your boobs
instead of your face? You should be used to people doing that by
"Cay," James scolded, signaling me to be quiet by putting a
finger to his lips. "Is that all, Jess?"
Jessica sucked up her tears and began again, "I wasn't all
that upset at first, no… not until--until I looked down and saw
"My breasts were out!" Jessica bawled.
I was flushed, and James was speechless. He gained a
noticeable tinge of red in his cheeks.
"I don't know!" She wailed again, "They were just out!"
Damn, I was enjoying this. "They were bound to slip out," I
said smiling. "Just look at how big they are!"
"Cayleigh!" James said, glaring at me. His eyes were cold.
And soon, I knew that I had gone too far. "Maybe you should wait
with Nero at the camp."
"Go wait with Nero at the camp," he said, pronouncing each
word more stern than the last.
I frowned, but obeyed. And slowly, I walked back through the
bushes and trees towards the camp.
I thought minutely about the way I had been acting back
there, and I was a tad disgusted with myself for going so far.
Not because I was wrong, but because Jessica deserved this kind
of treatment and nobody saw that as clearly as me.
Okay, maybe I did kick her a bit too hard while she was down… and
maybe that wasn't such a great thing to do, but she kicks me all
I bit my bottom lip and stamped through the bushes, swatting
away branches and sidestepping thick tufts of grass. I was
getting angry--no, not angry. I was pissed! And, no one
understood my reason for anything.
Well, I really was pissed, until I tore through the brush
and saw Arthur--creepy Arthur--sitting on the log, petting Nero.
"You and ol' Jim done playing nice?"
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, nothing," Arthur said, smiling. "So, what were you two
"Um, the car…" I said, stammering through the sentence,
trying to remember what James had told Jessica. "There was
damage. So, we were checking it out."
"Oh, so the three of you are leaving soon?"
"Yea, pretty soon, I think."
For what it's worth, I actually wished, I prayed, I hoped
that we would be back on the road soon and that we would be
leaving Arthur's weird ass behind. I wanted as many miles between
us as possible. Bootsie, though--she could come. I didn't mind
her at all.
"You hear that, Boots? They're leaving us," Arthur shouted
into the bushes.
The bushes adjacent to Arthur began rustling, but there was
"Boots, got damn it, stop playin' around and answer me! We
know you're back there! We can hear you moving in the bushes, for
"Bootsie?" I called.
Arthur walked towards the bushes, and stretched out his
hands to part the wilting vegetation.
As soon as he attempted stepping through, something came
bursting out. It knocked Arthur down, and he hit his head on the
I stared in disbelief. How could it--? Where did it--?
It was wailing something awful. The sound was so grave that
my ears threatened to bleed from the noise.
It managed to trample over an unresponsive Arthur; then, it
somehow tumbled over the log and landed right on top of me.
"Arthur! Get it off! AAAAAAAAArthur!"
I screamed at the height of my lungs. It reached and clawed
for my neck--for anything it could touch; I swatted and pushed it
away with all the strength I could gather.
Growing increasingly tired, I clasped my fingers tightly
around its arms and continued to scream.
"Nero! Help meee!! Somebody!"
I looked around, and Nero was gone. Some loyal dog he was
after all! And, what exactly was Arthur playing at? Was he
unconscious? Or, was he pretending to be out of it--to keep from
"Please, James! Bootsie! Someone!"
My arms were giving way, and I couldn't hold him off
anymore. So, in one last act of desperation, I pulled my feet up
and kicked as hard as I could and my legs went through! Its ribs
were all mush and spongy flesh.
"Oh, please! Someone, help me!"
I couldn't look around properly, but I could tell whose
voice it was.
The butt of her boot came into sight, and the white of her
leg followed. She raised her heel and stomped down onto its face.
It toppled over, still clawing and wailing as horrifically as it
could--like it could've been in pain. But, I knew it wasn't
hurting--it couldn't have been.
I scooted backward, and I watched as Bootsie reached down
into one of her black boots and pulled out a knife--maybe some
sort of machete--and aimed for his forehead.
She jabbed it in as hard as she could, with as much strength
as she could muster, and then she stepped back.
In vain, it struggled to get up on its knees. Then, it
toppled over into the dead leaves and stopped moving completely.
"Are you alright?" she said, stepping backward and now
"Yea, I think so---"
"Did it bite you or scratch you anywhere?"
"N-no.." I said, briefly thinking of what happens to those
who are injured--those who would become liabilities--those like…
Bootsie walked toward the thing and examined it once over.
It was immobile, but still alive, more or less. Still flinching.
The large knife jutted out of its forehead at an awkward angle.
"Oh, shit… Where did that thing come from?" James asked.
He and Jessica had finally managed to find their way back to
the camp. If I had to rely on them for help, I'dve probably been
mauled and mutilated by now.
"The bushes, I'm guessing," Bootsie answered.
"Is it dead?" Jessica asked.
Bootsie picked up her foot and--almost angrily--thrust her
heel down upon the hilt. Then she retrieved her bloodied knife
from the gaping hole in its forehead.
"It is now."