We followed an old dirt road out of town and eventually cut through fields. No crops had been planted in them for a very long time, so they were overgrown with weeds, but they still had the patchwork appearance of cornfields.
Stella wanted to hang onto to Max the entire time, even when she started lagging. Eventually she got tired enough that she was willing to let someone carry her, and Teddy toted her on his hip.
Sometime in the afternoon, we came upon a semi-tractor and trailer tipped over onto its side. The cab door was open, and from the ground, I could see the blood splattered across the windows.
The name on the side of the door said it was for a major big-box store, which meant that the trailer could be filled with things we could use.
“Should we see what’s inside?” Bishop asked.
Boden thought it over, then shook his head. “Anything inside it would be spoiled.”
“You don’t know that,” Bishop said, disagreeing with him. “It could have something useful, even if it’s not food. We’re running out guns.”
“I’ll check it out,” Daniels offered and went around to the back of the truck.
Boden shrugged. “Do what you want.”
He set down his gun and duffel bag and went in to inspect the cab. He climbed up the side of it, so he stood next to the door, and peered in.
I followed Daniels around the back. Teddy and Bishop stood off to the side with the two kids, which was probably good since we didn’t know what was in the trailer.
The handles and lock were rusted, and Daniels couldn’t get them by himself so I helped him. It still took a lot of pushing and grunting, but we managed to get the door. As soon as it fell open, we regretted it.
The scent itself was repugnant. It was all rotting flesh, sick and sweet. The whole trailer echoed with the sound of buzzing flies. Maggots were crawling over everything, covering the patches of brown and green blood like snow.
“Holy shit.” Daniels gagged and stepped back, covering his mouth.
I crouched down, trying to see what had been inside. I pulled my shirt up over my mouth so I wouldn’t have to breathe it in directly.
It was too dark in the trailer to get a good look of anything, but from the mess, I doubt there had been any food or anything useful. At least not for a very long time. This all looked like torn up people, dismembered corpses, with dried blood splattered all over the walls.
Then I heard a low rattle, and the lit glinted off the yellow in its eyes. A zombie was only a few feet from the door, and it started crawling toward me.
“It’s alive!” I yelled and jerked back.
I tried pushing up the door to close it, but the zombie was on it, scrambling much faster than I thought something that emaciated could do. It was literally a skeleton with patches of brownish flesh hanging off it. Its shriveled intestines hung out through holes in its stomach.
It crawled crazy fast though, leaving a trail of greenish slime behind it like a slug. I let go of the door and jumped back away from it, not wanting something that gross touching me.
Daniels had been crouched by the door, gagging, and he fell back onto his ass. He pushed himself back on his butt, but the zombie was on him, gripping Daniels’ leg with its bony fingers.
Then Nolita shot it, its head exploding in a mass of rotten brain and bone fragments, and it fell onto Daniels’ lap. Daniels kicked it off and scooted back from it.
“That thing nearly got me,” Daniels said, his voice shaky. He stood up and tried wiping the blood and slime from his pants.
“What the hell?” I asked and walked over to where the zombie corpse lay. I touched at it with my foot, and it was all bones. “How the fuck was this thing alive? How is this even possible? Why didn’t it starve to death?”
“They can’t starve to death.” Daniels seemed to calm a bit, but he kept wiping at his pants.
I turned around to face him straight on. “What do you mean they can’t starve to death?”
“That’s what I mean,” Daniels said. “At first, we thought they would, and that’s how the virus would kill itself out. But we were comparing it too much to rabies, and this is unlike anything else.”
“How do you stop them?” Boden asked, and I glanced up to see him standing on the back of the trailer, staring down at us.
“I don’t know.” Daniels shook his head. “Nobody does. I mean, other than the obvious ways. Destroying their brain or their heart seems to do the trick.”
“But everything starves,” I said, grasping to understand this. “It’s not possible. Everything has to eat.”
“They can’t die,” Daniels tried to explain. “It doesn’t seem possible, and it shouldn’t be. They can rot, but their heart will just keep beating. The virus does something to their brains and their hearts. It won’t let them simply give up and die, the way ours would.”
“So basically what you’re saying is that the only way to stop the zombies is for us to individually kill each and every one?” Boden asked.
Daniels nodded reluctantly. “Right now, yes, that seems to be the only way.”
It suddenly hit me, and I could barely breathe. I felt dizzy and nauseated, and I rubbed the back of my neck. I stared down at the zombie skeleton in front of me and realized that this would never end. There would be no way we could ever kill them all.
“This is never going to be over,” I whispered. “The zombies are never going to be gone.”
“What?” Daniels asked, leaning in to hear me better.
“This will never end!” I shouted, and since I had nothing better to do with my newfound rage, I stomped on the zombie, crushing its gelatinized bones beneath my foot. “They will never fucking die!”
“Remy!” Daniels reached out to me, trying to pull me off the zombie, but I slapped his hands away.
“Shut up,” Bishop hissed and walked around to the back of the trailer. “You’re scaring the children.”
“They should be scared!” I yelled, but immediately regretted it.
I stepped away from the zombie and ran my hands through my hair. I took a deep breath and stared up at the sky. Heavy gray clouds were coming in, blotting out the sun. It would rain soon, and for so long, I’d been certain that I’d never see or feel the rain again.
I exhaled deeply and tried to remind myself that I had things to live for, things to be grateful for. I just couldn’t let myself get overwhelmed by this.
“Sorry,” I apologized to no one in particular.