“I noticed that you and Max weren’t with the group anymore,” Boden said.
“You didn’t need to come back and risk running into zombies.”
“I don’t leave anyone behind,” Boden said simply. “Not if I can help it.”
“How’d you know we hadn’t been eaten by zombies already?” I asked.
“I didn’t,” Boden admitted. “But I figured the kid had just needed a break.”
“Thank you for coming back for us,” Max said, and I realized that I hadn’t thanked Boden either. “Remy wouldn’t go on without me.”
“And she shouldn’t have,” Boden said, and then looked over at me. “But she could’ve asked for help.”
“Thank you,” I said and lowered my eyes.
It took a little while, but we caught up with the others. They weren’t going as fast as Boden and I were, which made sense because by that time we couldn’t even hear the zombies anymore. We’d left them behind.
We made it to the top of the hill and then went back down again, which was much easier. Boden was even able to put Max down, and he walked down into the valley below. It was dark by the time we reached it, but we kept going until we could find some place safe to camp out.
Fortunately, we didn’t have to walk very long. We found a picnic area and what appeared to be some kind of lodge. It was a huge log cabin with all the windows boarded up. The front door was metal, and it had been left open.
Bishop and Boden went in first to check it out. Using a stick and an old rag, Boden made a torch, and lit the rag on fire with a match. But it didn’t take him long to scope out the inside and see it was all clear.
It was basically one huge room with a linoleum floor. It reminded me of my old high school cafeteria, except for a few stuffed animal heads on the wall and the blood splattered on things.
In the back was a cafeteria-style kitchen, but it was separated by a metal curtain that came down from the ceiling to the countertop. Boden checked that out briefly, and then shut the door to the kitchen, closing it off.
Other than the two small bathrooms, that was it for the lodge. The main room had a fireplace on one wall, and three wooden pick tables lined up in the middle of the room. The only signs that people had once stayed there were a few pieces of clothing, a couple of empty tin cans, and some other garbage. And the splattered blood, of course.
The windows had been boarded shut so well that not an ounce of light got through the cracks. Boden and Serg gathered wood outside, then started a small fire for light and for warmth, since it was getting cold in here.
They took two of the picnic tables and set them in front of the double metal doors at the opening of the lodge. With that, we were essentially closed off from the world and probably the safest we’d been in a long while.
We all ate supper quickly, without really saying anything. The day had exhausted us. According to Boden’s calculations based on the map, we’d walked nearly forty miles. That was quite a feat, considering how much we’d walked the day before, and the day before that.
Stella hadn’t walked as much as the rest of us, but she was falling asleep while she was trying to eat. Bishop made up a bed for her, using some of her clothes for a pillow and blanket.
Shortly after that, everyone else started hunkering down for the night. lay laid next to Stella, and Bishop, Teddy, and Serg were asleep pretty quickly.
Boden, Daniels, Nolita, and I stayed up, sitting around the fire in a semi-circle. I wasn’t sure whether Boden meant to keep watch again tonight, although I didn’t really feel like we needed it. After the nightmares I’d had last night, I wasn’t eager to get to sleep, not until I would pass out cold, too deep asleep to moan or make a sound.
I’m not sure why Daniels and Nolita were staying up, but they sat awfully close to one another. Nolita had packed a thin army blanket with her, and they shared the one blanket between the two of them. It was wrapped over their shoulders like a shawl, and she rested her head on his shoulder.
They’d been doing that kind of stuff all day. Every time I saw them interact, they were touching or whispering something to each other. It was gross.
And I say that not just because I had feelings of revulsion for Daniels. Something about flirting during the apocalypse felt disgusting. It felt wrong to fall in love when people were dying all around you.
That’s part of the reason I’d refused to feel anything for Lazlo for so long. That and because of how things had turned out. We’d been separated, the way I’d always known we would, and one or both of us would probably end up dead soon.
When I thought of him now, I tried not to feel anything. The best way to do that would be not to think about him at all, but I hadn’t mastered that yet.
“How much longer until we hit Canada, do you think?” I asked.
“A week.” Boden shrugged. “It depends on how fast we go. Maybe a week longer until we’re far enough north for the zombies to stop following.”
He sat cross-legged with his hands held out toward the fire, warming them. I was leaning back, stretching my legs out, and with my arms propped beside me. It put too much pressure on my abdomen when I sat up normally. When I put my hand over my shirt, the incision felt swollen and warm.
“You think the zombies are following us?” I asked.
“They definitely are,” Daniels said. “That’s what I was saying at the quarantine. They’re following people wherever they go.”
“They won’t find us here, will they?” Nolita asked, her Southern accent sounding alarmed.
“Eventually.” Boden put his hands down and rested his elbows on his knees. “Hopefully not tonight, but we’re pretty well boarded up if they do.”
“What do you suppose happened to the people that were staying here?” Nolita looked around, admiring how closed off the lodge was. “Why do you think they left?”
“Probably for the same reason we left the quarantine,” Boden said. “The zombies surrounded the place. Given enough time, they would’ve gotten in. It’s better to run while you still have the chance to.”
“Maybe they did get in,” I said and motioned to the dried blood on the fireplace. “And there aren’t any bodies because they’re all zombies now.”
“One thing’s for sure,” Boden said sadly. “Zombies will always find a way in.”
“How much do we really know about them?” I asked, turning my attention to Daniels. “You’re the resident expert. What do you actually know about them?”