“Perfectly,” I said.
I failed to mention that I hadn’t asked them join me, but I figured it would be safer if they did. I could always use backup, especially since I didn’t have any guns, and if we could find guns at the compound, it would be really good for them.
We turned and changed directions, heading back toward the main road. Boden had traversed the area frequently looking for survivors and killing zombies, so he knew the way back to the highway. I’d taken US-93 from the compound up to the quarantine, and the plan was to just follow it back.
I wasn’t sure whether going back to the compound would be the right thing to do, at least not for them. I knew what I needed to do, and I’d be damned if I let anyone stop me.
By midafternoon, I’d almost completely stopped missing the sun. It beat down on us mercilessly as the day warmed up.
I wasn’t used to temperature changes anymore, either, since my room had been kept at a cool 65 degrees all the time. Daniels had explained it was better for all the tests and experiments.
It gave me some small pleasure to see that he wasn’t handling the journey well either. At first, Nolita had been encouraging him, almost leading him down the highway. Eventually, she must’ve tired of it, because she walked alone.
Daniels lagged behind, struggling to keep up with me, and I was at the back of the pack. Boden led the way with Bishop a few steps behind him, and Teddy was glued to her side. Teddy and Bishop occasionally exchanged a few words, but nobody else really spoke as we walked.
“I am sorry about what happened,” Daniels said quietly, and Bishop looked back over her shoulder.
Instead of acknowledging him, I quickened my pace. That didn’t amount for much, since the shoes were killing my feet, and my legs ached. Daniels had to scramble, but he caught up with me a few seconds later.
“Remy,” Daniels tried again. “I really am sorry.”
I slowed down because it wouldn’t do me any good to kill myself trying to outrun him. I readjusted the strap on my bag and glanced over at him. He brushed his long bangs out of his eyes, which were definitely too large for his thin face. His nose was puffy and red, and a few drops of blood stained the front of his shirt.
“For which part?” I asked. “Performing useless tests every day that accomplished nothing except nearly killing me? Or leaving me in the building to die while you escaped?”
“I didn’t know you were there. I swear it,” Daniels insisted. I didn’t say anything, so he went on. “And I didn’t want to hurt you. You know everything that happened in there wasn’t personal. It was about trying to save the human race.”
I wasn’t sure whether it was because he was talking, or the pleading tone in his voice, but he was attracting more attention. Teddy and Nolita kept looking back at us. Daniels didn’t notice because he was too busy looking at me.
“I know what happened in there,” I said finally. “And I know why it happened. But it all amounted to nothing. So I’m sorry if I’m still a little pissed off about it.”
“I’m not asking you to apologize.”
“Then what are you asking?” I shot him a glare. “Why are you even bringing this up?”
He looked hurt for a moment, and then shrugged it off. “I wanted you to know the truth. We’re going to be working together, and I wanted you to know that I’d never unnecessarily put you in harm’s way.”
I didn’t know whether I believed that. Daniels had never been malicious or cruel to me, but a lot of what transpired in the quarantine wasn’t pleasant. I had the scars to prove it. Track marks covered my arms, and a lot of my veins were wrecked from all the blood they took.
Daniels and a few other doctors thought the answer to my immunity might be locked away in some of my glands and internal organs. Scars from incisions were laced together all over my stomach, like my skin was some kind of bizarre patchwork, from all their probing.
One doctor had been convinced it was coming from some gland in the base of my skull. He’d wanted to cut open my head and dig around. Daniels had somehow gotten him to drop that idea, so I guess he had saved my life that time. Or prolonged it really.
If I hadn’t left when I did, I wouldn’t have survived that much longer. People can only go so long losing blood and getting cut open before their bodies stop being able to function.
“What’s done is done,” I told Daniels. “We’re out now, and we need to focus on surviving out here.”
“Right.” He nodded. “You’re right.”
He slowed then, dropping a few feet behind me. Nolita had been looking back at us a lot while we talked, and she stopped when she saw him fall behind.
“Maybe we should take a break,” she suggested. “We’ve been walking all morning.”
Boden seemed reluctant to stop. When he turned around, he kept walking backwards. He slowed down a bit, since Nolita had stopped, and Daniels, Bishop, and Teddy had been quick to follow suit.
“How far is it to the compound?” Boden asked me. We were now the only two walking, but neither of us was going that fast.
“I’m not sure exactly,” I admitted. “We drove last time. But I’d say it was at least another day’s walk.”
“This is some detour,” he muttered, but he stopped. “All right. Quick break everyone. I have some water in my bag but not much. Drink only what you absolutely have to.”
He dropped the duffel bag to the ground with a heavy thud. He unzipped it and pulled out a bottle of water and handed it to me first, since I was the closest to him. I wanted nothing more than to chug the entire thing, but I’d heard what he said and only took a quick drink before passing it on to Teddy.
After I’d gotten my drink, I sat on the road, lying back on the warm asphalt. Boden lay down near me, his legs bent at the knee and his arm draped over his eyes to block out the sun.
Nobody asked about food on our break, even as they got comfortable and passed around the water. We’d all been through this before. We knew how low provisions were and how sparingly we’d eat.
Our rest stop ended too quickly when Boden abruptly got up and said it was time to move on. Nobody questioned him or complained, which was nice. We all knew what needed to be done. We hadn’t survived this long by being weak.
As the sun began to set, we had to start thinking of a place to camp out. A farmhouse was about a quarter mile off the highway at the end of a long gravel driveway. Since it would be safer than sleeping out in the middle of the road, we headed toward it.