Of course, it was worse when I saw what had been done to Tatum. It was a gory mess, his blood covering his shirt, mixing with the zombie’s. His eyes were still open, and they were kind eyes.
Something about that was too much for me. I fell to the ground on my knees next to him, just staring at him. I kept expecting it to get easier when people died, but it never seemed to get easy enough.
“Thank you,” I whispered.
Tangled in the mess of his neck flesh, the sun glinted off his dog tags. I couldn’t bury him. I wouldn’t even be able to mourn him. So the only thing I could think to do to honor him, to remember him in some way, was to take his dog tags.
Carefully, and somewhat grotesquely, I got the dog tags off him. They were covered in blood and zombie goo, so I wiped them off on his clothes. When I’d finished, I held them up in the light, making sure I’d gotten it all.
“You know, if you take the dog tags from every soldier who dies fighting zombies, your bag is going to end up impossible to lift from the weight of them all,” Boden said, his voice right behind me.
“I know. But I think I needed to take these.” I turned to face him and saw he was holding my messenger bag out to me. I took it from him and dropped Tatum’s tags in it. “Thank you.”
“I figured you had a rough morning.” Boden gave me a lopsided smile that was anything but happy. “Did you know him well?”
“Not well,” I admitted. “But I knew him.”
Boden stood over me, dressed in a black T-shirt and camo pants. His clothes were stained, worn, and full of holes. Everything was wearing out and running out.
Something occurred to me, and I moved toward Tatum’s body. His service revolver was still on his hip. I was wondering why he hadn’t used it, but when I reached for it, I understood. It had gotten caught on the worn leather. He hadn’t been able to get it fast enough.
It was a bit of a struggle, but I got it free. Then I proceeded to feel around his pockets and belt, looking for ammo.
“If you’re looking for more bullets, you won’t find any,” Boden said.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because there isn’t any more.”
“Oh.” I faced him, squinting because the sun was shining behind him. “You mean like there isn’t any more on him?”
“I mean like we don’t have an endless supply of guns and ammo stored up,” Boden said. “Eventually they had to run out.”
“There’s no more in the whole world?” I asked, dubiously.
“I don’t know. There might be a billion guns in China, but that won’t do us much good here, will it?” Boden asked dryly. “All I know is that there aren’t more at the quarantine, and we’ve searched all over the area and we’ve used everything we found.”
“So we’re really out?” I asked.
“That’s what I said.” He held his hand out to me.
I checked the chamber. “It has three more rounds.”
“I’m not throwing it away,” Boden said, his hand still out to me.
Sighing, I handed my gun to him. I hated giving up a weapon, but if we were almost out, a soldier might as well have the gun. Especially since Boden appeared to be the soldier in charge.
Once I gave him the gun, he walked away from me, back to where the rest of our travelling companions were waiting by the truck. I wasn’t offended by that, at least not until he handed the gun I’d just taken from Tatum over to Bishop.
“Hey,” I said, scrambling to my feet and slipping the messenger bag over my shoulder. “Why does she get a gun?”
“Because she didn’t just punch somebody in the face for no reason,” Boden said without looking at me. He picked up a green duffel bag and slung it over his shoulder.
“He deserved it,” I muttered, but I knew that was a moot point.
Daniels’ nose had stopped bleeding, but he kept dabbing at it with the rag Teddy had given him. Everyone appeared to be ready, their bags gathered, and they all averted their gaze when I looked at them.
Boden walked around the truck, and he kept walking. He didn’t say anything or tell anyone to join him, but by the way he walked, everyone started to follow him. So I did too.
“Where are we going?” Teddy asked, following right at Bishop’s side.
“North,” he replied simply.
“North?” I echoed and stopped. “I’m not going north.”
Boden sighed and turned around to face me. “What’s wrong with going north?”
“There’s less zombies up north,” Daniels explained. He’d been a few steps behind me, but he stopped when he reached me. “They don’t like the cold.”
“My brother Max went to a compound in Nevada,” I said. “They have lots of people, and lots of weapons. It’s the only other safe place I can think of.”
“He’s in a compound?” Boden shook his head. “If there were a lot of people, it’s gone now. Humans are beacons to the zombies. They’re demolishing everything.”
I swallowed hard, believing him. “Maybe. But I have to go to be sure.”
“Well, we’re not going back that way,” Nolita said. “If you want to go on a rescue/suicide mission, that’s fine. But the zombies will be ten times worse that way.”
“That’s fine.” I nodded, taking a step back. “Thank you for all your help. And good luck going north.”
“You won’t survive without any weapons,” Nolita pointed out, but she didn’t offer me any.
Bishop stopped walking and glanced between Boden and me before saying, “We shouldn’t split up. Not a group this small. We need to keep the survivors together.”
“You can’t just go it alone,” Boden told me when I kept walking. “Stop.”
“Why?” I asked, but I did anyway. “You’re going north, and I’m going back to find my brother and see if there’s any more guns at the compound or any other survivors.”
Boden walked a few steps over to me, eyeing me up severely. “Do you really think they have guns there?”
“I’m sure they do,” I said. “They’d stockpiled a lot of weapons.”
He sighed, then looked back at the rest of our team. Nolita pursed her lips, but nobody else appeared to have an opinion one way or the other.
“Fine.” Boden relented. “We’ll go back down to the compound, to look for guns and provisions. But we won’t go any farther south, even if your brother isn’t there. Is that clear?”