Chapter 3: Three

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 63

AMERICA, JANUARY 10th, 2020, 5:38 PM

 

My life flashed before my eyes. I never saw it coming. In an instant, my gun was a good ten feet away from me, knocked out of my hands by an unseen Cannie. The two were coming at me as I crawled on hands and knees to the Winnebago. I couldn’t lift myself up into it, so instead I rolled underneath it, lying flat on my back.

One of the Cannies ducked down and began clawing at me, fingers just out of reach. I swatted at it with my knife but it didn’t stop the attack. I turned my head and saw the other Cannie, face pressed onto the ground, staring at me, drooling. A low growl escaped its throat, making me shiver. Yellow pointed teeth flashed from its mouth. I let out a shrill scream. I was going to die. 

Instinctively, I closed my eyes, covering them with my hands. I screamed and cried and kicked and-

BAM! BAM! 

The gunshots echoed loudly, each one followed by a heavy thud. I forced one eye open and saw that both Cannies were now dead. Reluctantly, I scooted out from under the Winnebago and peered around. The mystery boy was standing not even five feet away from me. My eyes slowly scanned him over.

He was tall, about six feet tall to be exact. He had short sandy blonde hair and skin almost as tan as Kristy’s. His eyes were a beautiful emerald green and he had a few freckles that were scattered amongst his face. An M1216 revolver hung from his shoulder and a .38 caliber was tucked securely in his belt. The tip of a machete was just barely visible from the hiking backpack that rested on the ground near his feet. He kicked my shotgun over to me, which I immediately grabbed, almost hugging it close to my body. With great effort, I tried to stand up, failed, and settled for sitting on my knees. Within an instant, the boy was hovering over me, arm outstretched, long fingers extended. Reluctantly, I grabbed his hand and he hauled me up onto my feet.

“Thanks.” I said, brushing dirt off of my jeans.

“Come with me.” He grunted, turning around on his heel and walking deeper into the darkening woods.

“I can’t.” I said. “My friends are waiting for me by the highway.”

The boy stared at me, frowning. “You won’t make it there with that gash.

“Huh?” I looked down at my jeans and saw that it was stained a crimson red with blood. It dawned on me then that I must’ve cut my leg while flailing under the Winnebago, though the fear of dying seemed to have numbed the pain. No longer fearful, the pain hit me at once, a big wave of it and it was almost unbearable. I gritted my teeth, tried not to give away the fact that I was in sudden agony, but the boy was not fooled. So, with no better idea, I followed the strange boy because, in the end, he was right. I wouldn’t make it to my friends.

We trudged through the woods, weaving through trees, keeping an eye out for Cannies. After a couple of minutes, the boy stopped before an unlevel patch of dirt and, with a grunt, heaved it open. A hidden door. In the ground. Cool.

At first, I was hesitant to follow him down into the dark and mysterious bunker. But then I thought better of it and descended down the rusty ladder. For a moment, I was enveloped in total darkness, standing in a black void. But then the boy flicked on a light, illuminating our surroundings.

There were shelves full of canned and vacuumed-sealed food. Shelves full of guns and bats and machetes and just about any other weapon in the world. An arsenal. On a different wall, beside a rusting metal sink, were two shelves occupied with medical supplies. That’s where the boy was now standing.

He grabbed a few gauze pads, medical tape, peroxide and other things with names that are still unknown  to me. He motioned to a metal chair and I sat down abruptly as he knelt down in front of me. His seemingly strong fingers gingerly lifted up my right pant leg and I winced in pain.

After thoroughly examining the gash, he poured some hydrogen peroxide on to a small cloth and dabbed gently at my injury, cleaning it. When it was clean. He squeezed out a glop of neosporin out of its yellow tube and spread it around on a gauze pad which he then pressed firmly against my leg. I gritted my teeth, my fingers squeezing the sides of the chair. The boy saw my pained expression and hurriedly wrapped a bandage around the gauze, holding it in place.  He offered me a water bottle which I downed in two gulps.

“Who are you?” I tossed the now-empty bottle aside. “I mean, do you gotta name? Because in my head, I refer to you as ‘The Boy.’”

The boy chuckled. “Jake. My name is Jake Creek. Welcome to my home.”

I nodded my head, then realized I should probably introduce myself. “I’m Kaycee Michaelson.” Using more effort than I thought I’d use, I lifted myself off the chair and slowly made my way back to the ladder.

“Where are you going?” Jake asked.

“My friends. They’re waiting for me. I really have to go. Thanks for helping me.” I slung my gun over my shoulder and readied myself for the painful journey ahead of me.

“You can’t leave. You’re still weak.” Jake said, now standing right behind me.

“Listen,” I said, whirling around to face him. “Number one rule with my friends is that we all stick together. They’re waiting-” And then it hit me. It had definitely been longer than ten minutes. Possibly almost twenty. Brady had probably persuaded the others that they had to leave. No doubt they were already long gone.

“Fine. I’ll stay one night.” I said with a hit of annoyance. “One. Night. And I get the bed.”

 

My night consisted of pain and restlessness. I tossed and turned and cried out in pain until morning. At some point, after I’d miraculously fallen asleep, I must have rolled off the bed because I woke up on the floor. A blanket was draped over me and I stared at it in confusion.

“You were shivering.” Jake said from the opposite side of the bunker. “I was going to put you back on the bed, but I didn’t want to wake you.”

As I sat up, the blanket slid off of me, sending a wave of shivers washing over me. When I was able to stop my teeth from chattering I asked, “What time is it?”

“Almost noon.” Jake said casually with a shrug.

“What?!” I jumped out of the bed, a movement that caused my leg to ignite with pain. Hurriedly, I began to gather up all of my belongings, which wasn’t much. I slid into my hiking boots, slipped on my jacket, grabbed my backpack and gun and headed for the ladder. When I turned around to say goodbye, I saw Jake stuffing supplies in his backpack.

“What are you doing?” I asked, raising an eyebrow skeptically.

“I’m coming with you.” He said without preamble.

“You’ll just slow me down.” I retorted, but he never stopped packing.

“If anything is going to slow you down, it’ll be that leg of yours.” He shoved a few cans of God-knows-what and water bottles into his bag. “Plus, you said it yourself. Always stick together. I’m not letting you go off by yourself in your condition.” He said firmly, signaling the end of the argument. I simply nodded and continued to watch him stuff supplies into his bag.

At one point he handed me a can of peaches. “We’re going to avoid stopping a lot.” He said. “We’ll eat and then go.”

So I scarfed down the peaches and drank the lingering juice, which dribbled a bit down my chin. When I consumed every last speck of the food, I readied myself for the adventure ahead of me.

Jake was up the ladder first, unsealing the hatch and climbing out onto the leaf-infested ground. He peered left and right, then signaled for me to come up. We headed off in the direction of the Winnebago.

“So where are we going?” Jake asked once we were in the relatively safe vehicle.

“North. I told Brady to go north with the others.” I answered, pacing back and forth, nibbling on the tip of my thumb.

“Where up north?”

I stopped biting my thumb and intertwined my hands together, which had grown clammy. “I-er-I don’t exactly know.” I admitted, my cheeks turning a light shade of red.

“Great,” he said. “I’m following you on a wild goose chase.”

I threw my hands up in the air in exasperation. “You’re the one who insisted on coming with me, remember? Plus, it’s not a wild goose chase. Most likely, they’re heading for the mountains.”

Jake frowned. “What’s in the mountains?” But before I could answer he said, “Let me guess. You heard there was some safe haven where no one is infected and you and your merry band of fools are trying to find it. Correct?” He laughed at my open mouth.

“Typical plot for any apocalyptic movie. Humans are just dumb enought to think it’ll actually work.” He amended with a sheepish smile. “Sorry. I watch a lot of movies.”

I nodded my head slowly, refusing the urge to laugh. “Come on. Let’s get started before it gets dark.”

The two of us set out towards the abandoned highway, stepping through brush and trying our best to evade the bramble. We walked in silence, sometimes respectful, other times awkward. Once out on the highway, we were completely vulnerable, easy targets out in the open, away from the safety of the trees. The sun penetrated our skin, frying us, tiring us out, seeming to be against us. Each step felt weighed down, as if I was walking in molasses. My throat was dry and parched, my stomach growled continuously, but I still nevertheless managed to keep my complaints to myself. We needed as few delays as possible.

So we continued to weave through the jumble of cars, heading north. Our footsteps seemed eerily loud and I winced each time I brought my beat-up soles down onto the pavement. I guess you could say I was paranoid, but wouldn’t you be? Besides, Cannies had crazy good hearing.

As we continued our seemingly never-ending journey, I thoughtfully observed Jake. I mentally noted the way he walked, muscles tense, eyes frequently scanning the area. I noticed the way he’d flick off the safety of his gun and bring his eyes to the scope in one fluid motion, seeming surprisingly graceful as he did, as if he practiced it. He did this every time he heard the slightest noise. He was strong, a determined fighter and survivor. But he wasn’t invincible and I liked how he didn’t try to act like he was. Nothing like Brady or Richie, who thought they were hotshots. No, not at all like them. It was a nice change and I decided I liked it.

The highway seemed to go on forever, as if it was endless, as if it just extended and extended to the ends of the earth. At which I played a lone game of I-spy to pass the time, though it didn’t work well with just one person and it sort of made me more bored. So I settled for admiring the beauty of nature, something I didn’t really notice back before all of this. It was strange, really, how man-eating people can really change someone’s perspective. Ironic, really, how the world was still so beautiful as it was ending.

Would there ever be a cure? Would life ever be normal again? Or would I always live in constant fear, always on the move? If there was a God out there, surely He wouldn’t be this cruel? Surely He wouldn’t want his beautiful creations to be destroyed? Ha, beautiful. What was so beautiful about human teeth penetrating human flash, tearing it apart? Where was the beauty in that? For me, it was better to think there was no God at all than having one as cruel as this one. Everyone always said God loved His children but this? All this death and destruction? It wasn’t love, not one bit. This was the Devil’s doing. The Devil that, seven days ago, vanquished the Savior. And now, we were on our own.

“I gotta pee.” Jake said suddenly, breaking through my thoughts. He veered off the road, making his way to a bush. I rolled my eyes and pulled out my journal, using precious ink to write on the seemingly ancient paper. I sat down and leaned against an old Toyota Camry, bringing relief to my throbbing leg.

“What are you doing?”

Shielding my eyes from the sun, I peered up to stare at Jake. “I do this thing where I write down everything that happens. My way of coping, I guess.”

Can I?” Jake motioned to my journal. I gave it to him and watched as he leafed through the pages, glancing down at me every few seconds.

“Who’s Thomas Emmerich?” He asked, handing the book back to me.

“Some kid in Germany. Saw it on the news. He was the first known case.” I closed my journal and shoved it back in my bag, standing up. “Come on. Let’s go.”

We were just about to head out when all of the sudden-

“Waaahhh! Waaahhh!”

“It’s a baby!” I said and Jake shot me a “no, duh” expression.

Hurriedly, I followed the sound of the cries, peering inside every vehicle that I passed. Only when I found the baby did I wish I hadn’t searched for it. Normally, I’d explain everything down to the last detail but this was too grotesque, too terrible. It was obvious that the baby was running out of time. The sight of it broke something inside of me and I began to cry, wracking sobs that seemed to echo through space and time. My legs felt weak, my knees began to shake. I felt nauseous and wanted to throw up. In an instant, Jake was by my side and pulling me away from what was barely recognizable as a human baby.

From that point on, the two of us were completely silent, unable to wrap our heads around what we just saw. So we were mute for the rest of our walk down the highway.

And, I know what you might be thinking: Why not just use one of the many abandoned cars on the highway? It’s simple, really. As soon as the engine would start, it would be Cannie central. My friends and I made that mistake once and I definitely wasn’t about to risk my life more than I already was just so my feet could get some rest.

Anyways, we weren’t going to travel the full length of the highway. Just until we got to exit 92. Then we’d be, well I don’t know exactly where that exit leads to but hopefully it would lead us to food. Any food was better than near-rotten apples and cans of Spam.

The mere thought of food made my mouth water and my stomach grumble. I whipped away the drool and busied myself by wondering what my friends were doing.

Were they safe? Did they ever even make it to the highway? Was Richie okay? What if they thought I was dead? What if they were dead? No, no they weren’t because if they were, I’d feel it, I would somehow know. If the Earth was still spinning and if the sun was still shining, then they were not dead.

I wasn’t the most logical person out there but it made perfect sense in my head. And I now felt myself standing a little taller, walking a little faster, a whole new level of confidence washing over my body. We would reunite. My friends and I would be together again. Brady and I could-no. No, don’t go there. Not yet, at least. But soon, maybe. Maybe we could start over and-

“Kaycee!”

It had occurred to me then that Jake had been saying my name repeatedly. My eyes lifted up to his face and I saw something strange. He was smiling.

“What?” I asked.

He pointed straight ahead. “Civilization.”

 


Submitted: January 23, 2021

© Copyright 2021 H.M. Pierce. All rights reserved.

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