“We’re sorry if we are,” Boden said. “But I really don’t think we are.”
“I would know if I was infected,” Bishop said. “I would know! And I’m not.”
Stella started crying harder when Bishop shouted, and I just wanted her to get out of there. She’d been bitten, and we couldn’t risk having her around. It was way too dangerous for the kids, not to mention everyone else.
“You need to go.” I stepped closer to her. “We’re letting you live, but if you don’t go, that will change very quickly.”
She nodded, her eyes crazy but sincere. “You will be sorry.”
Bishop turned and ran off through the trees. It wasn’t until she was out of sight that I let out a deep breath. I put my face in my hands, and I just wanted to crumble. Everything that had happened in the past few days was weighing down on me like a ton of bricks, and I wanted to collapse.
“I’m sorry,” Serg said. “I should’ve noticed when we were fighting the zombies. I should’ve seen her get bit. I wasn’t paying enough attention. It’s my fault.”
“No, it’s not your fault,” Boden assured him. “It’s nobody’s fault.”
I turned back around and walked over to Max. He asked me what was wrong, but I didn’t answer him. I just picked him up and hugged him. Suddenly, all I wanted to do was hold him in my arms, to feel the weight of him grounding me here, holding me in this place.
Despite how hard things got, I had something keeping me here, something I needed to keep fighting for. And as long as he was here with me, I had to keep going.
I kissed the top of his head and swallowed back tears. “I love you, Max.”
“She’s following us,” Boden said.
After we sent her away yesterday, we’d walked on without any breaks. Between the zombie attack and everything with Bishop, we didn’t want to risk slowing down for anything. A few times, I thought I’d seen or heard her scurrying around, but it could always be attributed to the wind through the trees or Ripley trailing us.
We slept in a cave last night, a small hole in a ridge. It was cozy to say the least, but it was easy to keep track of everyone. Boden and I traded off keeping watch, but neither of us saw anything more dangerous than an owl.
So far the worst that had happened after Bishop left was Stella crying almost constantly. She calmed down by nightfall, and Max got her to eat. He said she’d been the same way after the compound burned down, but she got over things eventually.
This morning seemed to be a dramatic improvement. She even walked along the trail with us, usually holding Daniels’ hand, but sometimes, she’d hold mine.
While Stella had improved, our situation had not. Bishop was now clearly following us. We could hear her, and I’d even seen her a few times moving through the trees. I kept half-hoping that Ripley would think she was a zombie and pounce on her, thus saving Bishop a lot of pain and suffering. Not to mention helping us out.
“She’s getting bolder,” Boden told me, his voice low in case Bishop was nearby listening. “I just saw her a few feet from us, barely even hiding behind a tree.”
“Did she still look human?” I asked.
“So far. But it won’t be much longer.”
The transformation from human to zombie varied from person to person. I’d seen it happen in as little as a few hours and as much as four days. It just depended. But really, any time now, and Bishop would turn into a monster.
“We need to keep the kids close,” I said. “And not just because she’ll be a zombie soon.”
“Agreed.” Boden nodded.
Without saying anything more, he bent down and scooped up Stella. She’d been walking rather happily beside Daniels, but she didn’t really seem to mind being picked up either.
Either Serg had been listening or understood what was happening, because he crouched down and offered Max a piggy-back ride. Max gladly accepted, and we continued walking.
The mountainous terrain was smoothing out more, which was a nice reprieve for our legs. It probably made it easier on Boden and Serg to carry Stella and Max, too. The trees were spreading out a bit more, and we stopped seeing Bishop.
I’d begun to hope that she had turned into a zombie, a crazy one that gnawed off her own leg. If we were lucky, we’d never see her again. And our luck seemed to be changing.
It began to snow, which in and of itself was neither a hindrance nor a benefit. But we hadn’t heard any death groans since the morning. We weren’t to Canada yet, but maybe we were far enough north that the zombies wouldn’t follow.
We stopped to check the map at a house on the side of the road. The garage door was wide open, so we sat down on the concrete floor. The roof provided enough shelter from the elements, and I could see everything in front of us. The snow was coming down heavier, but it was turning into slush on the ground, making our pants and shoes damp and cold.
It was too early to camp for the night, but Boden and Daniels had done a quick sweep through the house to see if anyone was there and check for food. It was empty of people, zombies, and anything worth taking. The only thing it had going for it was that it was warmer.
“I’m gonna take the kids inside to warm up and eat something,” Daniels said after Boden pulled out the map. “Do you guys want to come in?”
“Nah.” I shook my head. “We’re good.”
I didn’t want to go inside to warm up just to cool down. Truth be told, I was running a fever, and the cold actually felt good. Besides that, I liked being able to see everything with the garage door open.
I think that’s why Boden stayed outside, but I’m not completely sure. He had the map unfolded in front of us, and we were both studying it when Daniels, Serg, Max, and Stella went inside the house.
“We’re coming up to the city,” Boden said. “We’re going to have to go around it.” Using his finger, he drew a half-circle on the map around the dot on the map.
“Do you think that’s far enough away?” I asked. “Or should we go more like this?” I drew my own half-circle about a centimeter out from his.
Boden shook his head. “I don’t think we need to go out that far. We’ll just be wasting time.”
“But after what happened last time we tangled with zombies, I don’t really want to go through that again,” I said. “We’ve lost three people in the last two days, and all our guns. We couldn’t handle something like that again.”