“Why?” Nolita asked, except it sounded more like “whey” when she said it.
I shrugged. “I don’t know. Why don’t you ask the doctor?”
“He’s not really a doctor,” Bishop said, correcting me. “He’s a scientist.” She’d been looking down at her knives, but she lifted her eyes to meet mine. “His expertise is blood-borne pathogens.”
Nolita tilted her head, eyeing me. “Are you sure you’re not infected?”
“Absolutely positive,” I said and stood up. I didn’t like the way both she and Bishop were staring me down.
Outside of the truck, Tatum swore loudly, and it was instantly followed by the death groan of a zombie.
“Oh damn.” Nolita looked out the back of the truck, aiming her gun.
I ran to the back to see what was happening, but I could already hear Tatum’s gurgled screams. When I leaned out, I could see Tatum standing beside a nearby bush. A huge, fat zombie was on him, tearing out his throat.
I leaped out the back of the truck, although I wasn’t sure what I planned to do. Nolita fired her gun behind me, and the zombie’s head exploded – its brains splattered all over the bush as it fell the ground.
The now-dead bloated zombie took Tatum with it, and they collapsed to the ground in a bloody mess.
I took a few steps toward them, jogging, and then I stopped short. Even from the truck I’d been able to see the damage. There was no way Tatum could survive that. The zombie had literally torn out his throat. I didn’t need to go nearer and get an up close view of that.
“Shit,” I said. I put my hands on my hips and stared at Tatum’s body. “Shit.”
I couldn’t think of anything better to do or say. So I just took a step back, then forward again, and kicked at the ground. I wanted to scream or yell or cry or do anything. But… all I could do was stare at him and say, “Shit.”
“Was anybody hurt?” Daniels asked, and I turned to see that he’d climbed out of the truck.
He was tall and lean, almost lithe like a model, and there was no way he would’ve survived the zombie apocalypse if the army hadn’t been protecting him. He wasn’t that much older than me, and his eyes appeared particularly young.
“How did this happen, Nolita?” Boden demanded. He’d woken up, and he was standing at the back of the truck, glaring down at her. “How did you let this happen on your watch?”
“I couldn’t see through the bushes!” Nolita insisted. “It was Tatum’s fault for going that far out to take a piss!”
She was right. There was a small patch of bushes and trees, not a ton, but enough where a zombie could sneak up on Tatum, and that’s exactly what happened. I grimaced and stared out at the foliage, watching for movement from any more zombies.
“Remy?” Daniels had walked closer to me, so I looked back at him. “Were you hurt?”
“Was I hurt?” I asked and laughed darkly. I took a step back from him and rubbed the back of my neck. “The good doctor wants to know if I’m hurt!”
“Remy,” Daniels started, and I could see him gearing up to say something important, maybe even apologize, but I wasn’t in the mood for it.
I took deliberate, quick steps toward him, and then I decked him right in the face. He was taller than me, so it was a weird angle, but I connected squarely with his nose, sending pain shooting down my fist.
Daniels fell back on the ground, holding his nose, which almost immediately began to bleed profusely. As soon as I hit him, Boden jumped out of the truck, but he stood a few feet off, watching our exchange before interfering.
“That was for leaving me in the quarantine to fucking die, you ass!” I shouted at him.
Then, since I could think of nothing better to do, I started walking in a circle, shaking my hand to ease the pain that pulsed through it. It’d been far too long since I’d thrown a punch.
“I didn’t know you were still there,” Daniels insisted, his voice muffled because he was covering his nose. “I thought you’d already left with the other doctors.”
“Sure you did,” I said.
Teddy had scrambled out of the back of the truck and went over to Daniels. He had a balled up rag in his hand, and he held it to Daniels nose, telling him to tilt his head back. Bishop was the only one left in the truck, and she stared down at us all with that weird vulture glare of hers.
“You didn’t need to hit him like that,” Nolita said, glaring at me as she helped Teddy get Daniels up to his feet. “How is he supposed to know where everybody is? The evacuation happened in a hurry. At least he tried to save people. You ought to show him some respect.”
“Respect?” I snapped and shook my head.
“Enough.” Boden held up his hand and stepped between Daniels and me. His back was to Daniels, and his blue eyes were on me, warning me not to push him. “With the shouting and guns and the death groan, and now with the smell of fresh blood, there will definitely be more zombies on the way. We have to move out.”
I knew he was right, so I just took a deep breath and looked away from him. I still needed a minute to calm down.
“Everybody, you need to clear out everything from the truck,” Boden said. “Grab anything you want to take. Everything else gets left behind.”
“What?” I asked. “You aren’t taking the truck?”
He shook his head. “No gas. It was just a place to camp.” He stepped back towards the truck.
I sighed again and looked up at the sun shining brightly above us. It’d been so long since I’d seen it, and I’d almost forgotten how warm it felt beating down on my skin. Even with the chill in the air, it still felt amazing.
It was still cold out, and from the few patches of snow that dotted the landscape, I guessed it was the end of winter, beginning of spring.
A few birds were chirping. They’d fallen silent when the zombie attacked Tatum, but they apparently felt safe enough to start up their songs again.
I turned back to where Tatum lay and swallowed hard. I hadn’t even thanked him for rescuing me, not really. He was a good soldier and a good man, and he didn’t deserve to die this way. Not that anybody did.
Feeling like I had to say some kind of goodbye, I walked over to him. The fat corpse of the zombie mostly covered him, so using my foot, I tried to push it off him. It took some doing, since the zombie seemed to weigh a ton, but eventually, it slid off Tatum with a heavy groan as its body expelled all kinds of gas.