“Neither of you were bitten?” Boden asked.
“No, we’re both fine.”
For a moment, nothing happened. The gun remained pointed at Tatum and me, and we stood outside of the truck. Then the gun retracted, and the back of the truck went down.
“Ladies first,” Tatum said and gestured for me to go.
I climbed up first, sliding past the man holding the gun, though I still hadn’t gotten a good look at him. In the darkness, I could only make out the shapes of people, but I couldn’t really tell who any of them were, if I even knew them.
But it was definitely crowded. Just climbing in, I stepped on someone, who only grunted in response.
“Get some shuteye,” Boden commanded. “We’re heading out first thing in the morning.”
“Are you doing the watch all night?” Tatum asked quietly, but I wasn’t sure if it was so he didn’t wake anybody or because he didn’t want to attract zombies.
“No. Nolita will take over in a few hours,” Boden told him. “Get some rest. You can have watch tomorrow night.”
“I can watch,” I offered, since I really hadn’t been awake that long.
“No,” Boden snapped. “Sleep.”
I thought about pressing him, but I didn’t think he would change his mind.
I tried to find a place to hunker down for the night that wasn’t already occupied by another body, but it was difficult. I finally found a spot, sitting up squished between somebody’s boots and Tatum’s head. Tatum managed to lie down, and he was out almost the instant his head hit the truck bed.
I, on the other hand, spent most of the night watching the shadow of Boden’s head as he stared out into the night, vigilant against a zombie attack. Sometime before Nolita took over, I fell asleep.
The truck was moving when I woke up. At first I thought it was because someone was driving, but I realized it was because people were getting up. I opened my eyes and saw the other evacuees for the first time.
There were seven of us, counting Tatum and me. The only other two I knew were Daniels, the doctor from the quarantine, and Bishop, the woman who was sorta like the head of the people out in the trailers.
Daniels was still asleep, curled up in the corner of the truck bed, his neck bent at an odd angle so his head was propped up. He’d used a thick green jacket as a blanket, and his dark hair fell over his eyes. His mouth hung open wide, and he snored a little.
Bishop was awake, sitting with her butt on the edge of the truck. Her eyes were steel blue, and they reminded me of a vulture’s, the way they followed everyone around. She had to be in her late forties, with dirty blond hair that hung down to her knees when she didn’t pull it back. In her hands, she sharpened two knives against each other, making a sound that reminded me of nails on a chalkboard.
Sitting next to her was somebody I didn’t know, but he looked familiar. He was unshaven with short brown hair and surprisingly friendly eyes. Nobody had friendly eyes anymore. He yawned and stretched and didn’t look fully awake yet.
A blond guy was sleeping near the end of the truck, his legs curled up to him. Judging from his army uniform, I guessed he was Boden from last night, though his blond hair looked longer and shaggier than I was used to seeing on the soldiers.
Standing watch by the door was a girl, presumably Nolita. She looked a few years older than me, with strawberry blond hair pulled back in a loose bun. Her eyes were tired and sad, but there was something strikingly beautiful about her. Not in a model sort of way, but in a … powerful way. It was the kind of beauty someone got after they’d seen everything horrible the world has to offer, and yet somehow came out mostly unscathed.
“I thought you left,” Bishop said, her eyes on me as she sharpened the blades.
“No.” I sat up straighter, feeling a crick in my back from the way I’d been sleeping. “I didn’t leave. I was in the building.”
“Stockades?” Bishop asked, and I noticed she was chewing on something. Not food, since she hadn’t swallowed yet, so maybe gum, although she looked like the kind of woman who would chew tobacco.
“No.” I shook my head. “It was a … medical thing. Ask him.” I pointed to where Daniels snored in the corner. “He knows.”
“Does he?” Bishop appeared surprised, then she shrugged. “He seems to know a lot about things.”
“You know each other?” The guy sitting next to her motioned between us.
“She came in with that rock star and Harlow,” Bishop explained.
“Oh.” The guy smiled at that. “Harlow makes the most wonderful clothes. She was a real asset to the community.” He leaned forward extended his hand to me. “I’m Teddy.”
“Remy.” I shook his hand uncertainly, but he just smiled tiredly at me.
“What kind of medical stuff?” Nolita asked, suddenly joining the conversation. She was still looking outside, watching in the early morning light for zombies, but she’d turned to face me more.
“Uh …” I sighed and had no clue how to explain it, or if I even should.
“You’re not infected, are you?” Nolita asked, and I noticed a slight Southern drawl to her voice.
“No.” I shook my head. “Nothing like that. It was just … some experiments.”
“Experiments?” Teddy asked, still smiling, and he cocked his head. “I didn’t know they did that kind of thing there.”
“I’ve heard about the experiments.” Nolita narrowed her eyes at me. “I didn’t think anyone survived them.”
“Well, I did.” I shrugged.
“Are we awake?” Tatum said groggily and stretched next to me. “Oh, yeah, the sun’s up. Guess we are.”
“Boden’s still asleep.” Nolita nodded to where the blond soldier was curled up. “We’ve got a little bit before we have to move out.”
“Oh well, I’m up.” Tatum yawned and sat up. “I have to take a piss anyhow.”
He stood and then hopped over the back of the truck, landing on the ground with a thud. Once he was gone, I took the opportunity to use his space to stretch out my back and arms. Between the way I’d slept last night and not being used to using my muscles, I was sore as hell.
“What kind of experiments was it?” Nolita asked, turning to face me fully. “What’d they do to you?”
“I…” I faltered, still having no clue how to answer. “They took blood mostly. Lots of blood.”