The Last Bastion

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 9 (v.1) - Tranquility

Submitted: December 26, 2012

Reads: 148

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Submitted: December 26, 2012

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Chapter 7 - Tranquility

”Are you okay” Terrence had his arm placed on Hannahs shoulder as he tried to keep his focus on both her and the road. She was applying pressure to the gash on her arm but the blood kept pumping out. She recalled the incident. They had been stood in the driveway fighting with their short range weapons. Martin had stood next to her and when he returned his knife back from a swing he had accidentally cut her. She hadnt felt anything at the time. It wasnt until just now that she remembered what had happened. Martin sat in the backseat. He too rememembered.
”Im sorry Hannah.. It was an accident”

”Look dude its not your fault... Things got heated” Terrence pulled the car to the side. They had cleared the city going out the east. In front of them was the winding road and the beginnings of a forest.

Terrence turned towards Hannah. Instinctively he ripped off his t-shirt and took the hand with which she was holding the cut. She reluctantly let go and a stream of blood flowed freely down into her lap. She had lost alot and was looking pale. He took her head with one hand and forced her to look at him. Her eyes were distant like she was someplace else.

”Hannah.. Stay with me girl... Stay with me” his voice breaking into a frantic panicked tone. He wrapped the t-shirt around her arm then exited the car. Martin put his hand on Hannahs shoulder in support. He didnt know what else to do, he felt utterly worthless.

Terrence went to the trunk of the car and started looking through it. After having taken everything out and put it on the road he returned. He went to the front passenger seat door and opened it. Hannah had been leaning against it and fell into his arms. He laid her down on the road. Martin got out and went around the car.

”Stay with me now, stay with me” Terrence's voice was broken. He was forcing himself not to get emotional but all attempts were failing.

Martin saw that Terrence had laid a little medkit on the pavement. Instinctively he crouched down and started looking for a roll of bandage. His fingers touched the soft white fabric and he handed it to Terrence who quickly removed the t-shirt, now soaked in blood, and wrapped the bandage around her arm. He then took the t-shirt and tied it tightly on her arm just under her shoulder.

Hannah looked around. Her eyes were all over the place.

”I.... I dont feel so good”
Terrence smiled as tears streamed down his face. He got her up and sitting and hugged her closely kissing her on her hair.

”Youre gonna be alright girl youre gonna be alright”

Hannah was more conscious now than before. The initial shock had worn off and her arm was hurting badly. She tried lifting it but failed.

”Here drink this.. You need sugar” Terrence popped open a can of soda and passed it to her. It was an orange drink, one of the few they had found but hadnt drunk yet. She took some big gulps and tried to relax.

Martin stood on the road looking down at the couple. His mind was catatonic. He was just staring at them feeling a mix of guilt and anger. Why did he always have to mess things up.
”Look...”

Terrence looked at him and tried to give him a relaxed look.

”Martin.. Dont worry... Bad shit happens but we got it under control now”

Terrence lifted Hannah into the front passenger seat again. He rolled down the window.

”Rest your arm on the window. You need to keep it elevated to stop the bleeding”

Hannah summoned all her strength and after a few attempts she finally lifted her hand into an elevated position. She felt slightly nauseas. With her free arm she reached for her cigarettes. Terrence went round to the back of the car and started filling all their stuff back into the trunk. Martin got in to the backseat and soon they were off again. Terrence was hitting the gas and a stream of cold air came through the window. He looked at Hannah and laughed at her smoking. Good to see she hadnt completely lost it just yet.

They had driven a few kilometers at high speed when finally Terrence slowed down. In the distance off to the left was a small house with a bunch of vechiles parked in front of it. Instinctively he drove up a dirt path leading to this secluded house. They were in luck and hopefully the vechiles was an indication that there were people there.


”Hello?” Terrence shouted from the courtyard. It was a large farmhouse with a barn full of farming vechiles. He was carrying Hannah with both his arms and she had grabbed on to his neck like a small tired child grabs on to its father when he carries it to bed.

”Anyone there?”

There was a rustling in the house. A woman came running out. She wore dirt stained clothes and looked young yet a life of experiences was painted in her face.

”Was she bit?” The woman said.

”No... Look we need some help here... We cant be on the road when shes like this”

The woman hesitated before she spoke. ”You sure its not a bite?”

”Yes.. Are you gonna help me or not?”

A man came round the corner of the building. He was dressed in a brown t-shirt, black jeans and looked like a war torn hero. He was carrying a shotgun in his hand.

”Whats all the fuss Aurora?”

He saw Terrence with Hannah in his arms.
”Was she bit?”

”No for gods sake just help me here”

The woman whoose name was Aurora came down the stairs from the porch and walked towards Terrence.

”Get her inside. Quick. We can do all the pleasantries later”

The man with the shotgun walked up to Aurora as Terrence hurried on inside.

”Look I dont trust theese people...” He said while casually resting his weapon on his shoulder.

”Rick you dont trust anyone”

”All Im saying is we gotta be carefull with shacking up with new people, thats all Im sayin”

He turned around and walked round the house again. Aurora went inside to check on Terrence. He had positioned Hannah at a table and was putting a pile of washcloths beneath her arm.

”Y'all aint from around here are you?”

Terrence looked at her. He hadnt noticed her heavy southern country accent until now. ”Were from around New Nottingham” he said while sitting down next to Hannah.

”What happened?” Aurora pointed at Hannah.

”She got cut by one from our group while we were pinned down”

Aurora sat down and took Hannahs arm. She gently unwrapped the bandages. It was a bloody mess.

”I used to work as a nurse at Jefferson Central” she carefully examined the wound.

”Well its deep. But she'll live. Y'all are welcome to stay here if you want, till she gets back on her feet”

Martin came inside. He had been standing outside as if he had been paralyzed. Aurora got out of her seat and went into the adjacent kitchen.

”I can cook y'all up some food. Itll do her good. Have you eaten at all today?”

Terrence looked towards the kitchen.

”No... no we havent... food would be nice”

Hannah started waking up again. The gash had seized to bleed and the blood was beginning to thicken around the wound.

”Will.. will she be alright?” Martin said hesitantly.

”Yeah she'll be fine” Aurora stood in the doorway.

”Im Aurora by the way.. Who are you folks?”

”Im Terrence... This is Hannah”

”Im Martin...” Martin sat down at the table across from Terrence. He looked like he had died. The guilt was still haunting him.

”How many are you out here?” Terrence said. His hand resting faithfully on Hannahs shoulder.

”A few... The rest are in the neighbouring city scavenging for supplies”

”Oldham?” Martin said.

”I dont know.... Not that big one. We had our fair share of problems with that one. A small little place further down the road. Its where we do all of our scavenging”

”Where are you from?”

”From around” the guy from before was stood in the entrance. Aurora came out of the kitchen.

”Rick you be nice to our guests... This is Rick”

The newcomers introduced themselves. Rick went straight into the kitchen.
”Aint no time to be cooking dinner Aurora”

”Our guests are hungry so Im cooking them something”

”And we got supplies for that?”

Terrence stood up. ”Look... Rick... We saw the cars and hoped someone alive was in here. We will be going soon”

Aurora came back out. The pans were sizzling in the kitchen. ”You aint going nowhere till Hannah here gets back on her feet. Rick will just have to get used to sharing. He's just weird like that. Been travelling with him for a while now”

”Look its basic survival. That chicks as good as dead anyway”

Terrence's heart sank in his chest as he got back in his seat.

”Rick you play nice now”

Rick walked into the house and past the table. They could hear him settling down in a room next to the dining room.

”Dont mind him, she'll be fine... Poor fella just had a rough time”

Terrence put on a brave smile. He wanted to believe her.

”You said you worked as a nurse before?” Terrence placed his hand on Hannahs lap gently squeezing it to let her know he was still there.

”yeah” Aurora said. She got out a pack of cigarettes and stood up.

”Rick and the boys dont like smoking inside”

”I want one aswell” Hannah said.

”Okay girl” Terrence helped her stand up. She was still groggy but the initial shock had worn off and she was a little bit more coherrent now.

They all walked outside onto the porch and Aurora looked around. Hannah was trying to get out her cigarettes but couldnt seem to. Terrence sat her down on the stairs and got out a pack of his own. He took two cigarettes out and lit one for Hannah.

”Thanks” she smiled at him. He sat down next to her and she leaned her head on his shoulder. Martin came out of the doorway. He looked at the couple and then silently sat down in a bench on the porch itself. The picture of them together had discouraged him. There was no chance in hell he would ever be able to get Hannah onto his side now. He had blown whatever chance he had of being with her and the painful realization was slowly dawning on him. Aurora looked at him.

”Do you smoke?”

”No... no thanks”

”Neither did I.... Seemed like a perfect time to start”

Martin let out a little laugh. ”Yeah there seems to be alot of that around”

Aurora walked past Terrence and Hannah into the yard. ”Anyway... I used to work as a nurse at Jefferson. We got hit pretty badly when the victims started arriving”

”I can imagine” Terrence said while pulsating on his cigarette.

”Yeah... It happened quickly. Even though we were far off from Rotham City”

”This thing has spread like wildfire” Terrence looked at Aurora. She seemed distant. Like she was recalling the incident.
”Yeah... Basically a few days after the outbreak happened they started hearing about infected in Jefferson, the police were the first victims and this hunter came in shortly after. He was worse off for wear, we put him in an isolated ward with two officers”

”Do you have any idea of how it could have happened this fast?”

”I do...” Rick stood in the doorway.

”You lot smoking again... For christ sakes Aurora thoose things will kill you”

”Rick.. Weve been over this..”

”Yeah... Well about that outbreak. You see the government knew what was going on. You ever wondered why the military was sent in so fast, and why they all gave up so fast?”

Aurora sighed.

”What you mean” Terrence turned his head around.

”Well see.. The government had a plan for this. Its like 9/11 all over. They knew something was in the works and they used it to their advantage. Theyre all hauled up in Union City trying to rebuild while the world falls flat on its ass. Its all about limiting the number of people to govern. Thoose folks in Union City they dont know shit about survival. I wouldnt be surprised if they turned down people from the outside”

”Again with this argument Rick. I was there at Jefferson, aint no government cover up”

”Then explain to me why the victims were shipped off to strategic places within the country?”

Aurora tried to formulate a response but let out a sigh instead and focused on her cigarette. They had been over this before.

”No? Well Ill tell you why. They wanted to maximize the spread. Strangle the entire country from the inside. Get rid of all the troublesome elements. Youll see. The military will strike down swiftly upon theese dead people when the time comes”

”And when would such a time be?” Terrence tried not to laugh at the insanity he was presented with.

”When the country is dead. When they can be sure that the only ones left standing are them folks in Union City”

In the distance they could hear cars coming up the long driveway to the farmhouse. Two cars, one which had a trailer attached to it, kicked up a dust storm as they were travelling at rather high speeds.

”Finally” Rick got out into the yard and started walking towards the cars. Aurora looked at Terrence.

”Look dont listen to what he's saying. Ricks a real southener. No trust in our government”

”Yeah that was a bit... insane”

”He cant seem to understand that this is the modern day flood. That by some form of twisted design we were meant to be wiped out. This thing has spread so quickly and has gone completely out of control. I was on hand when the bird flu was raging and that was nothing. It was less contagious and didnt have the factor of people eating people in it”

”Yeah this is completely fucked up”

Hannah had listened to all of Ricks speech and her mind was going a million miles a minute. She knew in her heart that he was wrong but her mind was analyzing it a bit more thorough. What if he was right. What if the government had looked for an excuse to bomb their own people? That would explain why they started dropping bombs on New Nottingham within a few days of the spread. It all seemed illogical but it also seemed to make perfect sense. Her heart started pounding and adrenaline was coursing through her veins.

Aurora threw her cigarette but on the ground and walked off towards the car that were now parked at the far end of the yard. Multiple people got out of the cars. Rick went up to one of them and gave him a hug. One of the new arrivals was pointing towards the porch and Terrence could see Aurora explaining.

”We cant stay here” Terrence muttered.

”What?” Hannah sat up straight and looked at him.

”Nothing.... How you feeling?”

”Ive seen better days.... It hurts”

”You go inside and lie down Im gonna go over and introduce myself to theese people”

Hannah got up and walked inside. It was at a slow pace. She had lost a lot of blood and was feeling quite dizzy. Martin got out of his seat and helped her inside.

Terrence took out another cigarette and walked over to the cars. He needed something to focus on in case the introduction went bad.

At the cars were around five people. Another girl who looked to be Hannahs age, a little boy about 12 years old and three men.
”Hey there”

The man who had received the hug looked up at him like he was sizing him up for a fight.

”Im Terrence, me and my group just arrived here today, we got an injured girl with us”

The man looked like he was gonna say something but Aurora cut him off.

”And I let them stay here 'till she gets on her feet”

”Fine Aurora... But they are your responsibility. And I wont hesitate to put anyone down if they are a threat to our security”

”She wasnt bitten....?”

Terrence extended his hand to the man.

”Im Christian. Aint a name I like but its what my parents called me so thats what Im sticking to” he shook Terrences hand.

”Look here... Terrence... Were a small group and we've been thru some rough shit. Its best if we dont get too comfortable around each other”

Aurora sighed. A hispanic man walked round the car and up to Terrence.

”Im Diego” he said and shook Terrences hand.

”That there is April and her boy Gabriel, and that there is Jon” he pointed out the rest of the people from the car. Terrence waved at them all. April told her boy to go say hello. The little kid hesitantly walked up to Terrence who crouched down to greet him.

”Im.... Gabriel”

”Hey there little man.. Im Terrence”

Gabriel shook his hand and then stood for a moment while looking back at his mother.

”Dont mind him hes just shy” April said

”Help the guys unload the cars sweetheart”

Gabriel did as he was told, instantly trying to pick up the heaviest things he could find. Christian, who seemed to like the little boy, joked around with him abit about not being strong enough for lifting the heavier things.

”Show me your muscles kid... Whos the strongest”

Gabriel flexed and so did Christian.

”Is he?” Terrence said to April.

”No.. god no.... His father is probably dead. He left us when Gabriel was born, then after all this crap started happening we just sat tight in our home in Victoria until theese guys came along”

”Oh...” Terrence picked up some of the stuff from the trailer. There were alot of hardware supplies, crates of water and alot of random items. It looked like they had done quite abit of shopping.

”Are you guys building something?” Terrence looked at Christian who was more busy loading things onto the ground.

”Yeah on the backside of the house in the backyard. New homes. Christian and Rick used to be contractors so they know a fair bit about building”

”Thats right Taco Bell... Me and my brother are building something for the rest of the group. We figured we'd be settled down here for a while so might aswell try and expand a little bit”

”Dont call me that Christian....”

”Oh Im sorry but all you people and your funny names just dont sit well with my memory. Easier if I call you all the same” He laughed. Terrence couldnt believe what he was hearing. How could this group had made it this far with someone as ignorant as Christian. And what kind of nickname would he come up with for Terrence?

”Look.... Best if you folks let me and Rick here take care of this stuff. Take all the water inside and then just let us be, easier that way”

The rest of the group did as they were told. Terrence took a crate of water. The less time he had to spend with the brothers the better, they hadnt exactly made the best introduction.

April picked up two grocery bags filled to the brim with clothes. Gabriel ran ahead to the house and Aurora and Diego had already started walking. April and Terrence were slacking behind. When they had gotten far enough away from the car for the two brothers to hear April spoke.
”Where you headed.... Terrence was it?”

”Yeah Terrence... Union City... Whats the deal with thoose two”

”Oh.... Lately theyve been getting weird.... Everything was fine until about a week ago when we lost a few people in Oldham I think it was called”

”Oh Im sorry to hear”

”Dont be... Shit happens. But one of them was a close friend of Christian, he spent the next couple of days alone with Rick and when they came back they were all sorts of weird.. You said you had an injured girl in your group?”

”Yeah Hannah.... She took a hit with a knife from another member of our group. He's pretty beat up about it”

”Oh... so Hannah eh... are you and her?”

”Yeah.... Happened a few days ago”

”Was it delibarete?”

”That we?”

”No that he struck her”

”No it was an accident. We were hauled up in a house in Oldham when all theese stiffs came for us out of the blue, in the heat of battle he accidentally hit her with a new knife he had just gotten”

”Oh Im sorry to hear that. But I trust Aurora took good care of her”

”Yeah shes been a real saviour, I have no idea if she would have made it without her”

They walked inside the house were the rest of the carriers were. Gabriel was sat in the living room and Terrence could hear a tv going in there.

”Do you have power?”

”Yeah... Theres a few windmills out back, whoever lived here before was hellbent on not paying more than he had to it seems”

”So that means?”

”Running water, tv, radio, not that theres anything on there theese days”

Terrence walked into the living room. Gabriel was sat in a chair watching the Lord Of The Rings.

”Oh I love this movie” Terrence said. He sat down in the couch were Hannah was lying. She put her feet into his lap and he put his hand on them, gently stroking them. Martin was sat in a chair adjacent to the couch.

”This is the best part” Gabriel said with excitement in his voice. The scene unfolding was that of a massive siege in a big castle nestled in a mountain. One of the characters was sliding on a shield down some stairs while shooting the invading orc force with his bow. Terrence laughed. April sat down in another chair and watched the movie.

”We need to get some new films for you Gabriel”

”But mom this is the best one”

”Yeah but you cant always watch that.... How about something a little less... violent”

Gabriel sighed. His mother laughed.

”I have a movie” Hannah said. April turned her attention to her.

”You must be Hannah”

”Yeah thats me.... Im sorry Im not more presentable”

”Oh thats alright... Focus on healing as of now.... How old are you?”

”25.. and you”

”26... finally someone thats not ancient” April laughed.

Hannah turned around on the couch and put her head in Terrences lap so she could look at April while talking to her.

”I feel ancient right about now though... All my bones are aching”

”Hehe.... You sure you havent been out drinking?” April tilted her head slightly and had the look of a concerned mother on her face. But she wasnt able to hold it long and a smile started broadening on her lips.

”Oh if only I was that lucky.. But no... Casualty of combat”

”Yeah shit happens... ”

”Shit does indeed happen” Terrence said and looked down upon Hannah. A big white grin formed on his face.
”What?”

”Nothing girl... Just happy”

Martin sighed under his breath. When he realized what he had done he looked around. Had anyone heard him? April was leaning back in her chair switching from Gabriel to Hannah. Terrence had resumed watching the movie and Gabriel was sat at the edge of his seat. Martin imagined that the kid was cheering for the heroes as the epic battle grew ever more intense and they had to fall back further and further back into the castle. It was an eerie metaphor for the world they were stuck in. Always being pressed further and further back to the brink of extinction. Today they had almost lost a member of their group and he would never be able to forgive himself for being the one that ended her life. The movie sent chills down his spine. He looked around realizing that the others had made the same conclusion. God knows how many times Gabriel had watched that movie and reminded the adult survivors that they were the good guys with their backs against the wall. Only in real life no white wizard turned up to save them all. The army of horsemen didnt come, the fifth day was long gone and the first light at dawn seemed to never show itself. They were doomed. His heart sank in his chest.

”You alright there?” April put her hand on Martins shoulder. He realized he was slumped forward with his head rested in his hands.

”Yeah.... Just... Realized something”

”Oh... That tends to happen”

Hannah closed her eyes and slowly drifted off into the realm of sleep. The bloodloss and the shock of being on the verge of snuffing it was not something she had taken lightly and her body was exhausted. She smiled as sleep embraced her and centered on feeling Terrence stroke her hair.

”Terrence will you hand me that peeler?” Aurora said while brushing an errand hair off her face. He grabbed a hold of the peeler and handed it to her. It was around dinner time and he had agreed to help out Aurora prepare something edible after carrying Hannah to a bedroom where she could sleep uninterrupted.

”So you and Hannah huh” Aurora gently peeled a potato as she spoke. Her voice was soft yet rugged like a true southerner. Her strokes along the skin of the potato showed evidence of her previous life as a nurse. Gentle yet forceful.

”Yeah.. its pretty new still.... but in theese times I welcome stuff like her”

”I figured. How'd you meet again ?”

”Well basically I live in a small town a little away from New Nottingham. One day she just showed up in my kitchen and I cooked her dinner. The rest is history”

”Look... This might sound weird and all but I cant stress it enough. Are you kids safe?”

Terrence let out a burst of laughter. The concept of being safe in a world like this seemed hilarious

”Yeah shes on the pill”

”Good, the last thing you want is more children in this world as is”

”Yeah I agree. They dont belong in this world”
Aurora went to the door and looked into the living room. April and Gabriel had gone elsewhere and Diego was sat there reading a book. She went back to Terrence and spoke with less volume behind her words.

”Just seeing that kid Gabriel... He's a real trooper but what kind of world is he gonna be growing up in”

”Must be tough but his mother seems good enough”

”Yeah... She never leaves his side. Shes very protective of him. She even takes him on runs into town if she needs something”

”Im sure Gabriel will live on to become a stronger man”

”Yeah but you gotta wonder” Aurora seized to peel ”seeing the things that he's seen. It leaves a mark on such a young mind. I mean Im not sure of how I feel about all of this”

”I understand. Im just kicked into survival mode here. Having Hannah to protect.. I dont have time to stop and wonder”

”When we lost a few people in that big city things just... they took a turn for the worse” She resumed peeling the potatoes.

”How you mean?”

”Well I started wondering... What if this is the way it should be? What if things as they are now are just part of a natural order. A way to control population. Ofcourse Rick and Christian have the same ideas although they believe its the government”

”Well thats just... messed up really”

”Yeah.. We went to that city to scavenge some supplies and things went really bad. We got pinned down and in the following escape attempt we lost some people. Ever since Rick and Christian have taken on the role of the overprotective parents. When they arent building thoose damn houses they try and control every aspect of our lives. They seem hellbent on staying here until god knows when. Im not sure I like the idea of living out my life here”

”But the alternatives are pretty limited. Were headed to Union City to meet up with one of Hannahs friends then seek out some island or something within town. The military is supposed to have that on lockdown”

Aurora took a big pot and poured water into it. She dumped the potatoes in and put it on the stove then turned around with her hands resting on the handle to the oven lid.

”I guess we'll just have to wait and see how things pan out wont we”

Terrence laughed. Her optimism was an inspiration in theese trying times.

”Well... April seems to have a goo...”

”I do what now?” April was stood in the doorway to the kitchen. Gabriel went inside and over to the fridge. He took out a juicebox and went back to his mother.

”Oh.... We were just...” Aurora looked over at April trying to come up with a cover story.

”You were just...?” April rested her hand on her hip.

”Gabriel go to the living room and watch your movie”

”Okay mom” Gabriel did as he was told gulping away at his juicebox.

”We were just admiring you really” Terrence said.

”Oh.... why... me?” April started blushing and looked flustered.

”Yeah.... oh well we need to get cooking here so”

April went inside the kitchen and sat in a chair up against the wall. Terrence went to the fridge and got her a soda of which there were plenty. This group had had much the same strategy as his own. Stocking up on anything canned and grabbing bottles of water here and there. He took one for himself and Aurora aswell.

”Thank you” April said and took a sip. Terrence sat on the kitchen counter.

”So how old is Gabriel?”

”11”

”Hows he... dealing with all of this?”

”Pretty well... I keep him sheltered from most of the stuff thats happening though he has seen a fair bit of corpse action”

Terrence laughed. ”Corpse action?”

”Yeah.... You know, corpse on human action” she laughed and took another sip.

”And he doesnt seem to mind?”

”Not at all, he seems to think its just a game... He used to play alot of Xbox back in the real life so he was quite the warmonger”

”Well yeah you know kids need some sort of entertainment”

”Dont get me wrong he's perfectly normal. He played with his friends, he went to school and all that. But everyone else in his class started talking about theese damn things and I thought Id just give him an xbox and some movies you know... To make him happy. But he was always into all this violent stuff and it doesnt sit well with me”

”Im not judging. Theese days it seems like kids need to be able to blow off some steam in a safe enviroment”

”Yeah... I tried getting him to play all the cozy games and stuff but it never worked. His favorite was something called Left For something”

”Left for Dead” Hannah was now the one to take everyone by surprise. She was stood in the doorway looking rather groggy.

”Look whos up” Aurora said. ”Theres soda in the fridge I think youll need something to drink”

Hannah went to the fridge and got a soda.

”So how are you feeling Hannah?” April said. The concerned mother look was back on.

”Seen better days but I cant complain”

”So whats this left for dead thing?” Terrence said. Hannah moved her way over to him and stood leaning up against him.

”Its a zombie survival game... But really it couldnt prepare you for the real deal.. Wheres Martin ?”

”I think he went for a walk or something” Aurora said, they hadnt seen him for a while.

”Ill go look for him” Terrence moved Hannah gently aside and jumped down.

”Ill go with you” April said. ”Aurora can you look...”

”Sure” April didnt even have to finish the sentence.

”Hannah you want to come?”

Hannah shrugged and yawned. ”Yeah Ill go”

It was the beginning of the evening. The air was cooler yet the sun was still baking the world relentlessly. From behind the house the noises of someone building could be heard. Diego was sat on the porch, where he had moved out after Gabriel had started his movie.

”Hey man.. Did you see Martin walk by here?” Terrence said.

Diego put down his book and looked up. ”Yeah I think he walked by here like a few minutes ago while you where all in the kitchen talking. He said something about wanting to go for a walk”

”What direction did he go?”

”Like just straight really. Look I think somethings up with him, he seems awfully distant and like he's contemplating something” Diego pointed in the direction of the road leading up to the house.

”Yeah... He's had it rough theese past few days. Do you guys have any binoculars?”

”Yeah actually we do. Theyre in the house. If youre going after him you should probably get a hold of your weapons”

Terrence didnt hesitate. He quickly went inside the house without asking where they were located. He made his way to the living room and riffled through some drawers. Diego came inside to help him look, leaving Hannah and April outside. The hot summer sun was mercilessly heating the ground and it seemed as if every tiny speckle of dust rose with the sparse winds and was attracted to the two of them. Hannah looked down at herself. The bandage was holding up nicely and she hadnt bled through it. Her clothes were completely soiled with dirt and dust. A side effect of the world as it were was that you didnt get to do laundry often. She rubbed her arms. Despite it being far too hot for her liking she still felt every wind caress her and a surge of cold krept along her body. An effect of the bloodloss she thought.

”Wonder where he went” April said while scouting the driveway and along the road.

”He probably needed to blow off some steam” Hannah shuddered as another wind brushed across the driveway. April took notice.

”You cold ?”

Hannah nodded. April quickly went inside the house and came back out with a purple hoodie.

”Its not really thick but itll keep you warmer than not having any sleeves”

Hannah took the hoodie and put it on. She zipped it up and put her hand in the pockets. It was soft and cleaner than her own clothes. A scent of perfume hung on it ever so discreetly. She laughed to herself. She hadnt been bothered with keeping up her womanly appearance at all. She brushed through her dirty hair.

”Do you have a hairband by any chance?” She looked at April who smiled back at her gleefully.

”Why yes I do” April reached for her wrist were a plethora of hairbands were strapped on to for a sort of wristband. She handed one to Hannah who proceeded to tie her hair into a ponytail. April laughed. Her own hair hang freely sometimes being picked up by the wind. She had obviously been showering recently as her hair seemed more alive and vibrant than Hannahs. It was sort of a reddish brown color but the red was fading and giving way to more brown. The same color as Hannahs hair.

”Do you dye your hair?” Hannah reached for a cigarette and lit one. She held out the pack to April who took one.

”Thank you... Yes actually I do.. We were so lucky as to run into a store that had dyes, it doesnt seem like people go for the ”obvious” choices when it comes to scavenging supplies”

”No I guess not” Hannah laughed. April took a drag on her cigarette and held it in for a while before exhaling. She closed her eyes and seemed to enjoy it.

”God I havent had a cigarette in quite some time. We couldnt find any stores” She said.

”We have had quite the string of luck to be honest. Ive got loads”

Diego came back out on the porch closely followed by Terrence who had a pair of rather large old school binoculars in his hand. He began scouting the area. After a while he sighed and stopped.
”Any luck?”

”No... I dont know where he went”

”Who y'all looking for?” Christian appeared around the side of the house.

”Our friend.. He left the house without saying a word to anyone”

Christian passed the group on the porch. He looked at the two girls smoking and shook his head ever so slightly.

”He went out back and then past the barn in the backyard. Dont know where he went though”

Terrence looked at Christian and nodded approvingly. ”Thanks man, we will look into it”

”Speak nothing of it, just helping out, be careful out there though, lots of things that would love a piece of theese two lovely ladies” he paused for a minute in the doorway ”despite their.... nasty habits”

April rolled her eyes as Christian went into the house laughing.

”Well I guess we could go check it out then” Terrence said and started moving along the side of the house. The rest of the group followed him. Diego right next to Terrence while the girls took up the rear.

”Is he always like that?” Hannah said softly to April

”Yeah.... But its gotten a lot worse, he is quite the typical redneck man”

Hannah laughed.

The group turned a corner and a lawn started forming. The grass was in bad shape but it was there. Not being watered in this hot temperature was taking its toll and the lushness of the green grass was abit understated at this point. Rick was sat on a raised wooden floor inside a partially finished small house. He looked up at the group as they went onto the lawn. Terrence waved at him but all he got in return was a small upwards nod then Rick went back to picking out grass and playfully picking each straw apart. The group didnt pay any further attention to the clearly frustrated Rick and just went on moving towards a large red barn at the other side of the lawn.

”Terrence?” Hannah said. He turned around and looked at her.

”Yeah babe?”

”How about we split up. Me and April take the barn you and Diego walk a bit further out. Im sure the barn is clear and it'll save time” She wrapped her arms around her body when another wind swept across the lawn. Terrence caressed her back and nodded.

”Sure, but can you..”

Hannah stopped him in his track. She lit a cigarette and passed it to him. He smiled as she had read his mind. They split up and the two girls headed for the barn.

”Have you ever examined that barn?” Hannah looked at April as they walked closer to the red barn. It stood majestically as a giant cubed construction with a lush forest as its backdrop. April rubbed her nose and looked like she was trying to remember when they had last been in the barn.

”Actually no... I dont think we ever did”

”Best we be careful then”

”He's a fine lump of meat that man” April said while looking at her new friend.

”Yeah... Im quite blessed to be honest”

”Its funny how things pan out. Some get stuck with intolerant conspiracy theroists, and others find love” April giggled.

”Yeah... I just wish that... No matter now”

”No what?”

”I just wish Martin would be okay with it”

”He's not?”

”No... He's been quite distant ever since he found out. Granted he wasnt the most social kid back in school”

”You knew each other before all of this?”

”Yeah.. We used to hang out in school”

”Wicked.. And weird... I wish I could meet some of my old friends again, but were too far north and most of them wouldnt stand a chance in this hell. I was lucky I met Aurora when I did”

”Why is that?”

They reached the barn doors. Hannah examined the giant sliding door and grabbed the handle. She looked at April who raised her weapon

”You ready?” Hannah grabbed a firm hold of the handle.

”Yep as ready as Ill ever be”

Hannah took a firm hold of the door handle. It was a flat piece of metal shaped to form a curve then nailed firmly to the door. The cold steel send a shiver down her spine. She was painfully aware that maybe there was stuff hiding behind the sliding door, besides the odd mouse and possibly even some machinery. Her mind was racing, she quickly went through the possible scenarios that could unfold in case of stiffs. Her heart slowly picked up pace and started pounding in her chest. She closed her eyes and rested her head against the red wood that made out the giant door.

”You alright?” April said softly, putting her hand on Hannahs shoulder. Hannah turned around and slid her back down the door and sat on the ground. She rested her arms on her knees and lowered her head breathing slowly and controlled just as she had done a million times before.

”Yeah... I need a minute”

April sat down next to Hannah and put her hand on her thigh gently caressing it. She was baffled that a minute ago this girl had been all smiles and now she seemed off to some dark place. Hannah felt the tears pressing outwards. She regained composure and stood up again. Took a deep breath then nodded at April.

”Ready?”

April nodded and Hannah slid open the door. It flew open surprisingly easy and unveiled a dimly lit barn floor complete with hay and scurrying mice. Hannah quickly scanned the surroundings. A load of dust had been kicked into the air and was now flying about before it would inevitably settle on the ground. They both stepped inside. Their guns were drawn and they were moving ever so slowly.

The barn was in two levels. The floor level was empty and a ladder led upwards to a second level that covered a the back end of the barn. Hannah suddenly stopped. She spun around herself and readied her gun.

”What?” April said as she noticed Hannahs behaviour.

”Did you hear that?”

They both went completely quiet. There was a sound coming from upstairs. A sort of rummaging around in the hay. April went slowly towards the ladder and slowly started ascending. The rummaging was louder and closer this time. Hannah backed away from the ladder and raised her gun towards the hay loft, ready to shoot anything that came at them. Her heart was pounding in her chest and she felt her body jolting with adrenaline. It was a bit of a disturbance and she felt slightly dizzy as she started breath faster and faster. April silently ascended. As she approached the top the rummaging stopped. She peered over the edge of the ladder onto the loft. Hay bales that had been smashed up were all around but there was no sign of the origin of the sound. She looked back towards Hannah.

”Theres nothin.. aaaargh” She let out a shriek as something jumped out towards her. Hannah couldnt see it and thus couldnt get a clear shot. April held her hands up in front of her face as protection and started falling backwards. In the nick of time she caught the ladder and pressed her body forward against it.

”What is it?” Hannah was agitated and still had her gun raised.

A soft meow rung out from the hayloft. It was clear to all that there was no danger.

”Its a cat” April said. She reached forward and grabbed the cat under the belly and began climbing down again. She put the cat down on the floor and it immediately started purring. Hannah crouched down and reached out towards it and it quickly went towards her rubbing up against her hand while purring with joy.

”Maybe the others will have more luck” April stood up and brushed an errand hair off her face.

”With what?”

”With Martin” April put her hand to her side and tilted her head sideways.

”Oh.. yeah... Well we have a cat.. Lets call him... Dinner” Hannah laughed as she said dinner with a sinister voice.

”Oh dont be gross. We cant eat a cat”

Hannah stood up straight again and holstered her gun. Her heart rate had slowed down abit but the adrenaline was skill coursing through her veins. She felt the cold sweat of a certified anxiety attack oozing out of her pores. She let out a sigh and headed for the door. She needed to get out into fresh air and have a sit. April followed suit and the cat stood still for a second pondering why they had ceased to pet it, not seeming totally happy with the lack of attention it was suffering. April stopped in the doorway and looked back at the creature.

”Well come along Dinner” She said as she held out her hand and flicked her fingers softly. The cat got up and ran towards the exit along with its two new friends. The trio headed back towards the house.

”How far you reckon he could go?” Aurora said. They had reached the forest behind the house and the woodlands were engulfing them. All around there were sounds of chirping birds and creeks flowing undisturbed through the wilderness.

”Not too far.. Maybe he just needed to cool off” Terrence scanned around. There were no signs of anyone having come through here recently but then again he wasnt exactly an expert at tracking. He used to hunt with his dad and grandfather but it was more of a relaxed day in the woods than actual hunting. Now, with the comforts of the old world far behind him, he instantly regretted not having paid more attention when he was told about tracking and all the other things that hunters have a knack for.

”Yeah.. Whats that all about?” Aurora stopped and sat down on a toppled log next to the creek. She reached into the river and washed her face. The water was cool and felt refreshing. She made a cup with her hands and had a drink.

”Well he has been acting abit weird since we found him to be honest”

”Where did you find him?”

”He was hauled up in an appartment complex in the center of New Nottingham” Terrence crouched down in front of the water and washed his face. The sun was unrelenting and he was sweating quite a bit.

”That big city?”

”Yeah.... He locked me out when a bunch of stiffs came and overwhelmed me and Hannah”

”He... locked you out?”

”Yep.... Needless to say my first impression wasnt good. I dont know. Something about that guy rubs me the wrong way”

”Well he does seem to... oh nevermind”

”Seem to what?” Terrence stood up and looked at Aurora with a spark of curiosity in his eyes.

”Well he has this look in his face.. When he looks at her”

”Oh is it that obvious?”

”So you have noticed it?” Aurora stood up and they began crossing the water. The current was mild and the creek was rather shallow.

”Yeah.. But I promised Hannah to get along with him, for the sake of the group”
”Well in this world you dont really get to be picky about who you associate with”

”No I guess not”

”Just look at me.. I wound up with theese two hicks that talk about how the government is keeping everyone down and release a deadly virus in order to repopulate the world”

Terrence laughed and brushed his chin. He badly needed to shave.

”Yeah they seem quite... Intense”

”They have gotten worse. But atleast theyre not like raping us or anything. Theyre nice guys just abit rough around the edges”

”I hear you”

The forest opened up into what looked like an actual trail. There were obvious signs of someone having walked past here recently. Fresh food prints in the mud. Or atleast they looked fresh.

”Looks like he went through here” Terrence crouched down over the footprints.

”What are you doing?” Aurora looked abit baffled.

”I dont know” Terrence stood up and laughed. He had watched his grandfather do the same but had no idea why. It just seemed like the cool thing to do. Aurora laughed.

They had walked for about thirty minutes with no sign of Martin. Terrence had tried paying attention to his sorroundings but so far all he had noticed was alot of stalks of something. A definite sign that someone was walking around damaging the woodlands but it might aswell be an animal eating its dinner. It was around afternoon and the sun was still continuing to heat up everything. They came to a clearing that opened up into a grassy field with some trees thrown around for scenery. In the back they could see a distant ridge of mountains rising towards the sky.

”We should head back” Aurora said as she stopped yet again. Terrence made a halt aswell and quickly scanned around with the binoculars. In the distance he could see the treeline resuming its conquest of the open land.

”Yeah... He will probably find his way back on his own. He might not be my favorite bu...”

”Oh shit” Aurora pointed towards the distance. A tiny shape was coming out through the woodlands followed by another shape. Both of them were shambling towards the pair but hadnt noticed them. Terrence raised the binoculars again and pointed it towards the two shapes. It was two persons but both of them were shambling.

”Stiffs.. out here?” He lowered the binoculars and raised his rifle. He took aim of the first shape.

A shot rang out in the distance. Like a distant echo of a weapon being fired. April sat up in her chair and looked at Hannah.

”Do you think theyre alright?”

Hannah took a sip of her drink. They had gotten some sodas out from the fridge to cool off and were sat in the shade of the porch. Hannah sat up straight and listened carefully. Another shot rang out and broke the silence. A flash of Terrence being bitten came across her mind. She felt the adrenaline coursing again and quickly fumbled for her cigarettes. She lit one and leaned back while breathing slowly and carefully.

”Hannah?” April looked concerned

”Ye.. yes?” Hannah had somewhat regained composure. Whatever was happening out there she was sure that Terrence had it handled. He had his rifle and could pick off stiffs from a distance. But still the doubt was nagging her.

”What is up with you?” April put down her drink and put a hand on Hannahs bare arm.

”Ehm?”

”Oh Im sorry... It... It came out wrong.. I mean... First you melted down in the barn and now this? Im concerned”

”Oh... Dont worry about it... I have some difficulties dealing with stress”

”I see... Well Terrence is fit enough to take care of himself. And Aurora knows what shes doing aswell. Theyll be fine”

”I know.. I just cant make myself believe it” Hannah tried to relax. Her body was tense and the hair on her arm was standing straight. The air seemed cold and unpleasant. She pulled down the arms of the hoodie to try and get warm.

”Well I know what you mean. If anything would ever seperate me and Gabriel I'd be worried sick”

Diego came out onto the porch and looked at the two women.

”Did you hear that?” He said while looking around.

”Yep... Must be Terrence and Aurora, theyre out in the woods”

”God I hope theyre al..” he stopped as April starred at him with a look that could kill. Hannah started feeling more and more tense and her heart started beating. She took another drag at her cigarette and put her head between her hands with her arms resting on her knees.

”Theyll be fine. Dont worry. Hows Gabriel?”

”Oh he barely noticed. He's watching that movie again. When this is all over I wont be watching Lord Of The Rings ever again” Diego let out a nervous laugh. He switched between looking at April then at Hannah. He had obviously stepped in at an awkward time and made a bit of a mess. He pointed towards Hannah and made a face that seemed to question her well being. April shrugged as to signal that she had no idea.

”Oh well. Its getting late so I best be cooking some dinner”

”You do that... We'll wait for the two others here” April said and took a sip of her soda. She looked at Hannah again and Diego silently went back to the kitchen.

”You alright?” She asked her new friend with a soft tone in her voice.

”Yeah... Im sorry... Its just, I really dont want to loose him”

”I understand. We could go meet them?”

Hannah smiled. April seemed in tune with her needs.

”Sure.. Id quite like that”

”Well then” April stood up cheerfully. She was a ball of energy. ”Off your bum then dear” She reached for Hannahs hand and she grabbed it and stood up. The wound was still aching but it wasnt the first thing on her mind at this point.

The two started walking into the back yard and towards the forest.

A shot rang out over the grassy plains. Terrence quickly scanned with his scope and saw the shape in front turn around and fire at the shape behind him. They both continued their shambling.

”What the hell” Aurora looked at Terrence. Both of them started running towards the two shapes who were edging their way closer and closer. After a few moments Terrence stopped, took aim, and fired a shot into the shape that was the furthest back. It fell over and ceased its pursuit. The shape in front dropped to its knees and stopped moving. Aurora started running towards it with Terrence walking slowly behind her.

”Martin?” Aurora yelled as she approached. A raspy voiced man acknowledged her as she got closer.

Martin was sat on his knees. His legs were muddy and he had a lot of cuts on his face.

”What happened?” She said as she stopped in front of him. She dropped to her knees and started examining his wounds

”I... I was out walking and fell down a slope into some mud”

Terrence reached the two and went straight over to the corpse he had shot. It was dead. The bullet had went clean through its eye and out the back of its head. It was a woman around 25 years old with long brown hair that was completely covered in mud and branches. He rolled the corpse over on its back with his foot. Her white eye wasnt moving and her face and most of her entire body was badly cut, by thorns and other wilderness nasties no doubt. Her shirt was torn and exposed most of her torso.

”I wasnt bit” Martin said while trying to regain control of his breathing.

”I climbed up from where I was and then I picked up that thing there” He pointed back towards the lifeless stiff.

”I ran as fast as I could but my ankle was acting up. Got hit by branches and all sorts of stuff”

Terrence hung his rifle on his back and went over to Martin.

”Lets get you home... What were you doing out here”

”I wanted to....” he tumbled onto his back and held out a bunch of wild flowers he had picked ”For Hannah.. To say..... Im sorry”

”Oh thats a nice thought” Aurora said. She stood up straight and looked down at the exhausted Martin.

”Did you see any more of them in there?” Terrence looked towards the tree line.

”No... That one was the only one. I thought the woods would be safe”

”So did I” Terrence said. He reached out his hand for Martin who grabbed it and raised himself up again. He was limping and didnt seem to be able to support his left foot. Terrence grabbed him around the waist and Martin grabbed him around the shoulder. They started walking back towards the house. Martin was clutching on to the flowers but occasionally dropped a few. Aurora grabbed them and picked up the ones that fell down.

”Theese are really beautiful. You have good taste” She said as she smelled the bouqet of wild flowers.

”Thanks”

”Yeah man thats a really nice thought. I think she'd appreciate that” Terrence said as they shambled onwards

”Yeah.. Its the least I can do after the mess I made”

Terrence laughed. ”Yeah that car is done for” The mere thought of having to manually clean all the blood off of the seat was exhausting.

”Oh my god.. Hannah come quick” April yelled. Hannah had taken the rear as she was still abit tense and tried to regain her composure.

”What?” Hannah came running through the bushes with her gun drawn, ready for anything.

”A creek! This will surely lead to like a big lake or a river of some sort” April was in the process of taking off her shoes and socks.

”Oh god you scared me half to death” Hannah holstered her gun and sat down on a rock. April was in full swing with frolicking in the water.

”Its so nice. You should come in”

”Im not really a water person”

”Oh.. well itll cool you off!” April went walking down stream to find something that was a bit more deep. Hannah reluctantly took off her shoes and socks. Might aswell wait for the others here and then make the most of it. She went into the cool stream and instantly felt the embrace of the water around her. Her feet were slipping slightly on the comfortable small stones and pebbles that were at the bottom of the creek. She looked over at April who was in full swing dressing down. She had gotten rid of her t-shirt and was stood in her bra and pants.

”Come Ive found the deep end, its really good over here” She said cheerfully while getting out of her pants. Hannah went over to her and her enthusiasm was inspiring. After a few seconds both of them were sat in their underwear in the cool water. The deeper end was surrounded by rocks in neck height. The water wasnt deep enough that they had to swim but deep enough that they could sit down and with a little sliding down they could rest their heads on the rocks surrounding the small lake.

”This is nice aint it” April said while taking a sip of her soda.

”Yes, quite, I cant smoke though” Hannah laughed. She tried best she could to keep her arm over water as to not get the bandages wet but soon it seemed like too much effort. She sunk into the water as far as she was comfortable. April on the other hand lowered her body to below the water and emerged with wet hair that hang heavy on her head. She brushed it away from her face.

”Try it” April said as she regained her breath.

”No.. I... No” The mere thought of submerging herself in water scared her.

”Oh come on... Not all the way, just a tiny bit”

”Oh like I havent heard that before”

April burst into laughter. The two girls sat there for a while and relaxed when shambling footsteps were head from within the woods. Hannah sat up straight and grabbed her gun.

”Its probably them” April said and leaned her head back to rest on the rocks.

”Yes, but better safe than sorry right”

”I guess youre right” April said. She grabbed her gun and climbed on top of the rocks. Water was dripping down on the hot stone and both of them were silently aiming towards the origin of the noise.

After a few moments Aurora came through the woodlands followed by Terrence who was still supporting Martin. Hannah dropped her gun and ran towards them, tears streaming down her face. She nearly jumped into the arms of Terrence who hadnt seen her.

”Hey there girl” He said as he hugged her with his free arm. Hannah clasped onto him and refused to let go.

”Why... are you naked?” Martin said curiously.

”We found a lake, we went for a dip” April said. She had moved towards the rest of the group. ”And besides were not naked you silly thing”

Martin started blushing.

”Were gonna get him back to the house” Terrence said as he gently kissed Hannah. She reluctantly let go of him and felt slightly embarassed for being exposed like this in front of a stranger.

”Theese are for you Hannah” Aurora handed Hannah the flowers that Martin had picked. She blushed yet had a look of confusion in her eyes.

”Wha..”

”From Martin” Aurora smiled at her. ”He picked them as an apology for the whole cutting you business”

”Yeah I did” Martin said ”And I also seem to have lost the ability to speak with my injury” he laughed.

”Oh yes.. Sorry” Aurora looked away abit embarassed to have played the mother part. ”Force of habit”


© Copyright 2020 KasperHorndrup. All rights reserved.

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