I looked at everyone around me and wondered how long it would be before they were dead. I tried so hard to protect Blue and Harlow, and they were both gone. I didn’t know where Lazlo was, or how long it would be until he was gone.
The zombies weren’t dying. It would only be a matter of time until they killed everyone, including me.
Boden’s boots on the trailer interrupted my thoughts, but I didn’t look over at him. Not until he shoved a piece of paper in my face.
“Here,” he said, so I took it from him, and he sat down next to me.
“What is it?” I asked, but I could already tell that it was a map.
“I got it from the glove box,” Boden explained. “It’s a map of North America. I figured we’d need that if you want to meet up with that guy in Canada.”
“I’m not really gonna meet up with him.” I set the map down between us. “Even if we make it to Canada, I’ll never find him. And the zombies are probably going to get us first.”
“It’s colder, and they hate the cold,” Boden said. “We’ll fare better up there than we will staying down here. It’s our best chance of surviving.”
“But for how long?” I asked him honestly. I turned to look at him, his soft gray eyes meeting mine. “How long can we really hope to survive?”
“As long as we can.” He smiled simply. “That’s our only option, Remy. Unless you want to give up and die here. That’s it.”
“No.” I sighed. “I don’t want to do that either. I just …”
“I know.” He stared out the storm clouds rumbling in the west. “It’s a hard life, but it’s the only life we have. And sometimes – ” he pointed to a bright flash of lightening, its jagged light stretching from the sky to the ground, “– it’s still beautiful. Sometimes you find something that makes this all worth it.
“And when you do, you hang onto for it as long as you can.” He turned to me, shrugging one shoulder. “That’s the best you can do.”
I looked down at Max, who’d gotten Stella to laugh. Boden was right. The zombies might end up winning this war anyway, but I’d fight for Max, and even Stella, for as long as I could. I’d go on until I couldn’t anymore. And that was the best I could do.
“Come on,” Boden said, getting up. “We should go eat before the rain comes.”
And the rain did come, sweeping across the land in sheets. At least it didn’t start until after we’d finished eating and packed up our things. We were on the move again, looking for shelter.
First the wind came up, turning icy when it had been warm. We were all rushing by then. So he could run faster, Teddy carried Stella on his back, her arms latched around his neck and her legs wrapped around his waist.
It started with a few scattered drops, but it turned into an all-out downpour within seconds. By the time we got out of the rain, we were all completely drenched.
We found sanctuary under a bridge on a country dirt road. A wide stream flowed underneath it, but the embankment was high enough that it didn’t appear we’d have to worry about flooding.
Even though it was only afternoon and we usually pressed on until nightfall, we decided to camp out here. The rain didn’t look like it would let up anytime soon, and it would be better to stay somewhere dry.
And with the storm, the zombies would be less likely to find us. The rain would mask our scent, and the noise would drown us out.
Once we were safe out of the rain, we started setting up camp. Boden got a fire going, which was a nice treat since we usually avoided fires because they could attract zombies.
Bishop had packed a rope in her bag, and she strung it along the embankment from the bridge. From that, she hung up wet clothes to dry out. Stella changed out of her soaking clothes, and Bishop wrapped her in a rather dry sweater that had been shoved deep in one of the bags.
I took off my shirt and wrung it out before putting it back on. There wasn’t much more I could do until my other clothes dried. Boden simply took his shirt off, and he was actually probably warmer that way.
Something about the stream got Max talking about going fishing. Bishop and Teddy made him a makeshift rod using a stick, a bit of string, and a bent safety pin. I’m not sure if he’d be able to catch anything in here, but it didn’t hurt for him to try. It’d give him something to do, and we could use the fresh food if it worked.
Daniels apparently used to fish a lot, so he volunteered to help him. He sat down next to Max on the bank, right close by the stream. I didn’t like him doing anything with Max, but Max seemed to like him.
Even though Daniels had hurt him in the quarantine, doing the kinds of tests he’d done on me, Max had never held it against him. He thought he was a doctor trying to help, and that was good enough for Max.
I was off to the far side of the bridge, using the rain water to try to get dirt and blood out of my clothes, but my eyes were locked on Daniels and Max. I was too far away to hear them, and they had their backs to me, so I couldn’t even read their lips.
Ripley was on the other side of the river, sprawled out on the rocks and licking herself. Lions were social cats, so I think she liked being around us. It was in her DNA to search for a pride. But at the same time, she was still a wild animal, and she liked having some space between us.
Nolita sat by the fire with Stella wrapped up on her lap. I was surprised that Stella was letting Nolita hold her, but Nolita seemed to dote on her, and Stella liked that. Teddy was sitting next to them, also keeping warm.
Boden and Bishop were near me. Bishop was catching the fresh water in bottles, since it was clearer and cleaner than any other water we could find, and Boden was standing watch, the way he always seemed to.
“They’re just talking,” Bishop said.
I glanced back over my shoulder at her, but only for second, then my eyes returned to Daniels and Max. Instead of answering her, I scrubbed hard at the blood on my jeans.
“What do you think he’s going to do to him?” Bishop asked.
I shook my head and shrugged. Daniels must’ve said something funny, because Max laughed loudly, the sound echoing from the bridge. Daniels even laughed a little, too. He looked back, smiling, but when his eyes landed on mine, his smile fell away and he quickly turned around.
“I met him a few times back in the quarantine,” Bishop went on. “He didn’t seem that bad. Distracted and devoted to his work, but not bad.”