“No, I can’t.” He shook his head and tried to look up at me, but his eyes wouldn’t meet mine.
“You’ll get used to leaving the dead behind,” I said.
I grabbed his arm and started pulling him. He was resistant at first, but he gave in, letting me lead him away from her.
I don’t know why exactly I helped him. I just knew how much it hurt to lose somebody you cared about, and it didn’t do any good to get their blood all over your clothes.
We didn’t talk about Nolita. There wasn’t much we could say that everyone didn’t already know.
In the main room, they’d all heard the commotion and were wide awake. Stella was crying, and Bishop was comforting her. When I took Daniels out, I cleaned him up as best I could using a rag and no water. They’d watched me for a while, but eventually, the kids fell back to sleep, and so did Bishop, Teddy, and Serg.
Even Daniels managed to fall asleep. But I stayed awake for a long time. I don’t think Boden slept, but I’m not sure how much sleep he ever got.
In the morning, we packed up to go. When Stella asked about Nolita, nobody answered her. We just gathered our things and left.
Daniels walked much slower than he had before. He tried to keep to himself, staring at the ground and lagging behind the group. But whenever I noticed it, I would grab him and drag him along, forcing him to pay attention and walk faster.
This proved more and more irritating as we went along. The area was heavily wooded and very mountainous. We tried to go around the mountains whenever possible, but the land was still rugged. Dragging Daniels around trees and up hills wasn’t exactly fun.
It was getting colder now, but the ground wasn’t completely snow covered. The cold didn’t seem to deter the zombies, though, based on their death groans. They’d picked up right up on our trail. We might have lost them yesterday, but if Daniels was right about the virus being able to attract the infected, then the zombie that killed Nolita had probably alerted the rest of the pack somehow.
Ripley seemed to be the only one that really didn’t like the cold. Whenever she had to walk through snow, she looked particularly pissed off and confused.
Max was also struggling to keep up. Serg stepped in to help him, which really pissed me off. Not just because I didn’t quite trust Serg yet but also because I was too busy helping Daniels to be able to help my brother.
We took a short break near the top of a smaller mountain. The hike up had been grueling, but it seemed to be the easiest way through. The peak was covered in snow, so we hoped it would at least slow down the zombies.
Daniels refused to eat anything, but that was fine by me. One fewer mouth to feed was better for us all. It’s when we got up to leave and Daniels refused to get up that I finally lost it.
“Oh my gosh,” I sighed. “Is this what Nolita had to deal with all the time? Constantly pushing you along?”
“No.” He glared at me for saying her name. “I went willingly.”
“Good. Can you go willingly now?” I asked.
The others had walked a few feet ahead, but they were waiting for us. Teddy was carrying Stella again. None of us trusted her to be able to make it down the mountain on her own. The path was treacherous at times.
“No. I won’t.” Daniels stood up, his face drawn. “Why don’t you just leave me alone? Why don’t you just let me stay here to die?”
“Because!” I didn’t exactly know why, so I sighed in exasperation.
“Because we don’t leave anyone behind.” Boden stepped toward us, trying to come to my aid. “If you can walk, you can follow us. Now come on.”
“Exactly,” I chimed in.
“No.” Daniels kept his eyes fixed on me and pointed at me. “You. I want to know why you’re pushing me so hard. You don’t even like me. And after everything I did to you and your brother, I don’t even blame you. Why can’t you just let me die?”
“I don’t know why,” I said finally. “I just can’t, allright?”
“No.” He shook his head. “That’s not good enough.”
A zombie made a weird retching sound in the distance. We hadn’t heard one since before we stopped to take a break, so they were gaining on us again.
“Remy,” Boden said. “We need to get moving.”
“Go.” I looked back over my shoulder at him. “We’ll catch up.”
Boden sighed. “Fine. But hurry up.”
They started walking away, and I heard Max asking Boden something about me. Boden spoke too quietly for me to hear his answer, and I turned back to Daniels.
“Why, Remy?” Daniels asked. “Why is it so damn important to you that I live?”
“Why does it matter to you?” I asked. “Why isn’t just living good enough?”
“Because it isn’t anymore.” He hugged himself with his thin arms, and he looked so despondent staring down at the dirt.
“Look, I get it. I’ve been where you’re at,” I said. “But losing your girlfriend isn’t reason enough to quit. We need to keep going.”
“Why?” His voice cracked. “Why do we keep going? Why, when there’s so clearly nothing left to live for?”
I rubbed my eyes, hating this philosophical argument I was having with someone that I wasn’t even sure I liked.
“Dammit, Daniels, you only knew her for a few days. What did you live for before that?”
“Finding a cure. Trying to save us. And that failed,” Daniels said. “I worked as hard as I could, and I didn’t do anything, except nearly kill you. And then I met Nolita, and I couldn’t save her. I can’t do anything, and the whole world’s going to end.”
“Maybe it will. Maybe we’ll all die,” I said. “But that’s not your fault. And we’re not dead now. And that’s why we keep going. We keep living as long as we can, and that’s all there is to it.”
He considered that for a moment, then lifted his eyes to look at me. “Why do you care, Remy? Why are you helping me?”
“You did the best you could, and I know it,” I said finally. “You did the best you could by me in a really shitty, fucked up situation. And maybe it wasn’t always the right thing or what I wanted, but it was the best you knew how to do.
“And this is the best I know how to do,” I said. “And all I can tell you is that shit happens, get over it, and go on. But I can’t keep dragging you over these mountains. So if you want to stay here and die, then… I guess I’ll have to let you.”