“I’m sorry,” Daniels said, and it sounded like he genuinely meant it. “I don’t make these decisions. I just have to follow orders.”
“You and the Nazis,” I muttered and refused to look at him anymore.
“I’ll do everything in my power to make you as comfortable as I can,” Daniel said. “I can promise you that much. I know what a sacrifice you’re making for us all, and I know you deserve so much better than this.”
I didn’t say anything to that. He reached for my arm again, and I let him take it. He injected me with the syringe, and soon after, I fell asleep. I don’t know if I moaned in my sleep that time, but I woke up with tears on my cheeks again.
Even after the horrors I’d seen with the zombies, unspeakable vicious gore, the worst of my nightmares were of the quarantine’s operating room. Naked and tied down to a cold metal table, with the bright lamp shining down on me.
They were doctors, with scalpels and stiches and surgical precision. But they might as well have been serial killers, torturing me in their basement when I felt the knife slice into my skin, saw my own blood pooling in my naval.
Every time I went into that room, I was never sure if I would come out of it alive. Sometimes I’d pass out on the table, when the pain became unbearable, and I’d hope I was dead. But then I’d wake up to that horrible nightmare all over again.
I got up from where I sat next to Max and went down to the stream. I needed to clear my head. I crouched down on the bank and splashed cold water on my face.
Max had startled me awake, but I remembered the haze of my nightmares. Tonight they weren’t about the quarantine, although the alternative wasn’t much better. They’d been about Blue and Harlow.
The whole time I’d been in the quarantine, enduring everything I had, what got me through was the knowledge that I was doing it for the people I cared about. So people like Blue and Harlow, and Max and Lazlo, could have a better life without monsters roaming the Earth.
But nothing I had done had mattered at all. Daniels hadn’t been able to find a cure. Zombies were doomed to plague mankind until the end of the time. And Blue and Harlow were dead.
I hadn’t had a chance to mourn either of them yet, and I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to acknowledge the ever-growing ache in my chest.
To distract myself from my thoughts, I went over to see how Boden was doing. I walked past Serg on my way over to him, and he appeared sound asleep. He had used his bag as a pillow and draped his jacket over himself like a blanket.
Boden stood at the top of the embankment so his head almost touched the bridge above us. He had his hand up on it, resting against the concrete almost as if he were leaning on it. His gun hung over his shoulder on a strap, and he stared out at the moonlit night.
“Need any company?” I asked when I reached him.
He shrugged. “Sure.”
The storm might have passed, but the night was still chilly, so I wrapped my arms around myself to warm up. Boden was only wearing short sleeves and a threadbare shirt, but he didn’t seem to mind the cold.
“Have you heard anything from him?” I asked and nodded in the direction of Serg.
“Not a peep.” He shook his head, then looked down at me. “I heard you, though.”
I sighed. “It’s just bad dreams, I guess.”
“We all have bad dreams.” He turned back to the long grass blowing in the wind. “This whole world is one long bad dream.”
With the map spread out on the ground in front of us, Boden and I crouched low, both of us scrutinizing the quickest ways to Canada that bypassed major roads and towns. Bishop stood behind us, peering down at it.
“I think that’s the best bet,” Boden said, tapping the paper.
Most of the path he suggested would take us through a national forest, which should be fairly zombie free. But it came out near a city, and I’d been hoping to avoid cities completely.
“I don’t know.” I shook my head. “We’re coming too close to civilization.”
“We’d go around the city,” Boden said.
“We’re still too close,” I insisted. “I don’t like the idea of running into a swarm of zombies.”
Boden smirked. “Nobody does, Remy. But to give it the kind of berth you’d want, it would take us another day or two out of way. We’d be going toward the West Coast when we should be heading north.”
“So what if it’s out of our way?” I asked. “It’s not like we have a deadline when we have to be somewhere.”
“Maybe not, but I for one want to get someplace where we can settle down instead of wandering all over the planet,” Boden said.
“Me too, but not at the expense of everyone here,” I said.
“No, he’s right,” Bishop interjected. “The little ones aren’t going to be able to handle all this walking, not as well as the rest of us.”
I glanced back over my shoulder, where Teddy was helping Stella and Max pack up the rest of their things. The sun had risen about an hour ago, and the morning had been spent eating and getting ready to go. Boden, Bishop, and I didn’t eat anything, but the kids needed to, if we expected them to keep their strength up.
“Besides that, we can’t keep camping out like this,” Bishop said. “We’re too exposed to the elements. We need to find a safe place where we can stay.”
Boden exchanged a look with me, and I sighed. I didn’t like taking risks, at least not with Max’s life, but Bishop was right.
“So we take my route?” Boden asked, and I nodded reluctantly. “Good.” He folded up the map again and shoved it into his duffel bag. “We should get moving then.”
I stood up just as Serg came over to us. He’d woken up roughly the same time as we had, and he’d eaten breakfast out of his own food he carried in his bag.
“I just want you to know that I’m not following you,” Serg said, readjusting the straps of his bag on his shoulders. “But I’m going north, too. I hear there’s less zombies up there.”
“So you’ll be walking in the same direction as us?” Boden asked him.
“Kind of, yeah,” Serg nodded. “I just want to get to Canada as quickly as possible.”
Boden scratched his head and muttered something to himself. “You can walk with us, if you like. We can’t promise you protection, and we won’t share any of our provisions.”