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So, It Begins...

Novel By: Jennifer Brighton

Unlikely companions wander through a post-apocalyptic wasteland seeking refuge. View table of contents...


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Submitted:Jul 19, 2013    Reads: 6    Comments: 0    Likes: 1   

Chapter 5
A Plan for Survival
After a moment of debating what to do and what not to do with Arthur's unconscious body, Bootsie, James, and Jessica moved him away from the dead creature.
"What do we do with the zombie?" Bootsie asked.
I shuddered. I hated that word. It sent continuous ripples of horror and fright through me. I couldn't fathom something dead coming back to life with a purpose to eat and kill and eat some more.
"I dunno," James said, letting go of Arthur's arms. "We could just leave it and find some other place to go. How hard could that be?"
He walked towards the tree where I was sitting. Then, he knelt behind me and placed his hand atop my head.
"I thought he said that this camp was free of zombie attacks!" Jessica screamed while pointing at Arthur.
I shuddered again. That word…
"It is! Well... it was until the three of you showed up. To be honest, I thought they'd attack us a long time ago--I mean, we're practically asking for it--being out here in the open and all."
"I wonder why they'd want to attack us all of a sudden…" James inquired.
"I know why," Bootsie said. "It's because he's a hungry bastard, and we're just a coupl'a walking meat sticks." She snickered.
I think I'm gonna be sick…
"What I'm most concerned about, though," Bootsie continued, "is how it knew exactly where to find us."
"Hm… well, it was only you and Arthur out here in the wilderness for a little while… either we've all outstayed our welcome, or it's all of our smells combined that's drawing them here all of a sudden."
"Maybe so," Bootsie agreed. "A camp of maybe two or three people is small enough to go unnoticed, but five people--all huddled together--is kinda pushing the envelope."
"Right," James agreed.
"And this bastard can't even handle one on his own," Bootsie said, shaking her head.
She knelt down over Arthur and put a finger in front of his face. He was seriously out of it. She plucked his nose and pulled on his eyelids, but he made no noticeable reaction to any of her taunts.
"I knew that bastard was hiding a bitch on the inside," Bootsie tittered. With that, she nudged him with her foot.
Arthur stirred and grabbed her ankle with one hand.
"Hey," he managed to cough out, "I'm one-hundred percent man."
"Hey! He's back!" Bootsie wriggled out of his grasp and plopped down to her knees. "Did he get you anywhere?"
"No. I don't think so… Unless the piece 'o shit chewed on my skull," he said, rubbing his head. "--Hurts like hell."
I stared over at the corpse lying on the ground. It--he looked vaguely familiar. His hair, the parts that weren't littered with blood, was very fair…
I sat upon my knees and slowly--hesitantly--crawled towards the body. Upon his finger was a jade-green, football ring.
* * *
I can't remember much of what happened next, but I woke up in the backseat. My head was resting in Bootsie's lap.
"Are you alright now?"
I looked at her dumbfounded and sat upright.
"What happened?"
"Shhh, hun', you clocked out back there," Bootsie said.
"But the man--"
"Shhh, do what she says. You don't want to faint again trying to remember what happened."
Wait--Arthur? He was awake and being… caring? --the hell kind of dream is this?
"We think the zombie attack was too much for you to handle," Bootsie said, stroking my hair.
I trembled at the mention of the word. "Stop saying that," I muttered.
"Yea, you can't handle zombies well--"
"Stop saying that word!" I shouted.
There was stillness. Silence. I had made a scene. I held a hand to my head and softly massaged my temple.
The voice came from up front. It was James, looking at me in the rearview mirror.
"Are you alright?"
"I'm fine, just--just tell me what happened."
Jessica intervened, "There was a zombie atta--"
"Shutup, you! Just shutup! You hadn't liked me from the beginning, and now you're pulling this bullshit!"
"Cay, calm down--"
"No! You always take up for her, even when she's dead wrong! I'm sick and tired of it! Why don't you ever stand up for me?"
I looked at James inquisitively. There wasn't much that he could say anyway. It was true. So once again, things grew silent.
Arthur coughed. "Damn, girl. You're that upset over one word?"
"Well, it's kind of a frightful word to be throwing around, you insensitive dumb ass," Bootsie chimed in.
"But, I just don't see why--"
"Zombies… They're the living dead--or whatever--right?"
"Right," Arthur echoed.
"I just don't believe they're dead… diseased, maybe, but not dead…"
"They're mindless eaters," Arthur said.
"But something has to keep them going. Maybe they're not what we think they are."
"Hun'… the one you kicked--his entire chest cavity caved in. His insides were rotten, through and through," Bootsie said.
"No, I don't believe it--" I said in a whisper.
"Yea, how can it be alive if it's dead inside?" Arthur said.
I covered my ears and shut my eyes tightly. "I don't believe it!"
"Shh--shh, Cay, quiet down," James said, slowing the car to a halt. He looked around desperately. "Anyone else up for driving? You, Arthur?"
"Well, since you volunteered me," Arthur said, sounding more cynical than he probably intended, "I guess I might as well."
James pulled over and both he and Arthur proceeded to get out of the car.
"Oh, you're serious?" Bootsie said, sounding alarmed.
"Yea, I don't mind driving for a bit," Arthur replied.
"Oh, hell no," she shouted, stepping out the other side. "I'll drive."
"But, I'm already out of the damn car!"
"And that's supposed to matter to me, why?"
Arthur gritted his teeth. "Well, I'm not getting back in the backseat."
"And you sure as hell aren't driving either," Bootsie snapped back.
"Well, you can sit up front with her, if you want," James said, motioning for Jessica to get in the back.
Jessica looked out of the window at Arthur and rolled her eyes. Then, she got out, walked around the car and sat in the back behind Bootsie. James scooted on over to the middle, and I sat behind Arthur.
For the first time, I realized how tired Jessica actually looked. The skin underneath her eyes was noticeably darker than the rest of her tan face.
She closed her pale-green eyes, leaned over, and rested her head against the window.
"James," I said, placing a hand to my thoughtful brow, "that was a man back there--"
"Shh, don't try to remember," he replied.
But, I couldn't help myself. I had already remembered. I had already pictured a man--a dead man--lying amongst the decrepit leaves. Blood littered his fair, downy hair. And, a jade ring was nestled around one of his swollen, discolored fingers.
"That was Aaron back there," I said, with grim realization.
"Cayleigh, don't--"
"You knew, didn't you?"
James sighed. "It wasn't until after you passed out that--that we really noticed."
"We? You mean, Jessica noticed too? So, I'm not crazy… That was Aaron back there…"
"Yea," James said in almost a whisper.
"Do you think--" I stammered. The panic rose into my throat. "Do you think the same thing'll happen to us--if--?"
"Because you can't drive worth a shit!" Bootsie interjected.
She was now yelling at Arthur. The two had been bickering since we had pulled off.
"C'mon, don't be that way."
"Don't be what way? Truthful? Every time I let you drive, you crash into some shit!"
"That was only one time--"
"Only one time, my ass! The first time was with the truck--there was that second time with the tractor--and, I was damn near eaten alive that last time I let you drive!"
"What time was that?!"
"The red jeep! Remember? You took off, and I only had one leg in the got damn car, you bastard!"
Arthur chuckled. "Yea, that was a crazy day…"
Bootsie rolled her eyes. "I'll be damned if I ever let you drive again if I have a say in it."
"Fine," Arthur said snickering. "I see where you're coming from. But, you don't have to be so bitchy about it."
"Oh, yes the hell I do. And while I'm at it," Bootsie said, slamming on the brakes, "Just where in the hell are we going?"
Her tone was noticeably louder. So, it was obvious that she was now talking to either me, James, or us both. I paused for a moment to think. Just where were we going?
I looked at James and shrugged, but he didn't acknowledge my stare. He looked straight ahead, then slowly turned to catch Bootsie's gaze.
"We're just--running away… Wherever the road takes us, that's where we're going."
There was silence. Then, Bootsie spoke again.
"That's the silliest shit I've ever heard."
James smiled wryly. He knew that she was right about his plan being inane and not making any sense, but that was pretty much the only "plan" that he ever had.
Arthur couldn't even conjure up any smart remarks. He looked just as puzzled as the rest of us. I kind of knew this from the beginning, but never fully reckoned with the fact that we were wanderers. We didn't have a set destination, but we all had one common goal. Survival.
"Well," I said, speaking up for the first time in a while, "we should probably stay away from the cities."
"Yea, true," Bootsie echoed.
"But, we're gonna need food, water, and other supplies," Arthur interjected. "And, staying in the damn country ain't gonna work if we plan on eating properly."
"That's also true--to an extent," Bootsie agreed. "Well, looks like James' plan'll have to work for now."
"So, we're gonna wander around this infested countryside--?"
"For now," Bootsie said, cutting Arthur off. "Let's see where this road takes us."


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