It turned out to be a real find. It was a huge two-story house, and the first-floor windows were all boarded up. When we got to it, I waited outside with Teddy and Daniels while Boden, Nolita, and Bishop went in to make sure it was all clear. I wasn’t used to being the one waiting outside, but I didn’t have a gun, so it made sense.
Once they were certain there were no zombies or anything dangerous inside, we all went in. While there might not have been zombies in the house anymore, there definitely had been at one time. Everything was torn up and destroyed. Blood, zombie and human, was splattered on the walls, the floors, and the broken furniture.
Bishop was in the kitchen when I came in, looking for food. It looked like it had once been a cute, cozy room, with a border around the cupboards of red roosters. But now plates were shattered on the floor, the fridge was turned on its side, and there was a rotting hand in the sink.
“This is such a waste.” Bishop tsked and held up a box of oatmeal for me to see. It looked fine, except the bottom corner had a small hole nibbled in it. When she shook the box, a few oats and several dark brown sprinkles fell out. “There’s mouse shit everywhere. If there was any food, the damn rodents got it.”
“Do you know what we have for food?” I asked.
The prospects didn’t look good, but I went over to help her anyway, picking through the garbage that littered the floor for anything edible.
“I know what I packed, and it wasn’t much,” Bishop said. “Some fresh vegetables from the gardens, carrots and potatoes mostly. A bag of homemade rabbit jerky. A couple cans of SPAM and a can of tuna.”
“But that’s just what you packed, right?” I asked. “Teddy packed his own.”
Bishop shook her head. “No, that’s all the food we have between me and Teddy. I’m not sure what Boden and Nolita have, though, but I’m sure they have something. And you and Daniels didn’t bring anything.”
“Sorry.” I hated that I hadn’t brought anything. I felt like the weakest member of the group, and that was really pissing me off. “I didn’t have time to really look.”
“No, it’s okay.” She waved me off. “I understand. Sometimes you just have to run if you want to survive.”
Teddy poked his head around the kitchen doorway and knocked on the wall. “Boden’s getting food out if you guys want to eat.”
I was starving but I didn’t want to eat. I knew I had to survive but I didn’t like to take from others when I had nothing to contribute. My only hope was that when we got to the compound, we’d find plenty of food and weapons to make up for my lack of help now.
Bishop and I followed Teddy out to the living room, where we found that he and Nolita had straightened things up a bit. They’d righted the couch and removed most of the garbage. Nolita was lighting a few candles when we came in. The only other light came from the sun shining between the slats of wood over the windows, and the sun was going down.
In the center of the room, newspapers were spread out like a picnic blanket. They looked reasonably clean, and I guessed that Nolita and Teddy had picked the nicest ones they could. Boden sat down cross-legged at one side, pulling food out of his duffel bag and setting it on the newspapers.
So far, it was two bottles of water, three potatoes, a dented can of salmon, and two cans of Vienna sausages.
“Everybody gets half a potato,” Boden explained after he’d set it all out. “And you should all get some protein, either some salmon or a couple sausages.”
Everyone sat around the food in a small circle, and I sat down next to Boden. He cut the potatoes in half while Bishop opened the cans. Boden handed us our potato, then Bishop started passing the cans around.
Boden took three sausages then held the can out to me. I took one, and he gave me an odd look.
“That’s all you’re having?” Boden asked, and I nodded. “You can’t be serious. You need more than that to survive.”
“I’ll be fine,” I insisted.
“Suit yourself.” He shrugged and passed the can to Daniels. “But if you end up passing out from lack of food, I’m not carrying you.”
“I would never ask you to.”
After we ate, we went upstairs to find a place to sleep. As soon as the sun went down, Nolita blew out all but one candle. Light attracted zombies, so we wanted to keep things as dark as possible.
The second floor was in slightly better shape than the first, but it wasn’t great. Boden and Teddy pushed a huge oak dresser out of the master bedroom and put it at the top of the stairs. Boden went through all the rooms, looking for furniture to stack on top of the dresser, and came up with a rocking chair and a chest.
Once he was sure he’d built an adequate barricade, we went to our separate rooms to sleep. There were only three bedrooms upstairs, so Teddy and Bishop shared a room, Boden and Daniels bunked together, and I got a room with Nolita.
Nolita set the small candle on a white wicker bedside table in our room. There were two small twin beds in the room, and based on the décor, I guessed it used to belong to a little girl. The walls were papered with pink flowers marred only by a few bloody handprints.
Dolls and toys were piled up in one corner. Most of them were torn up, with doll’s faces smashed in. The beds were unmade, but the blankets were just balled up at one end.
Nolita pushed a small white dresser in front of the bedroom door after we went in. When she moved it, a music box tipped over and began softly playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” She picked it up, watching the small pink ballerina spin.
I picked the bed on the far side of the room and dropped my messenger bag on it. As soon as I sat on the bed, I pulled off my shoes. My feet were blistered and bloodied, but not bad enough that I couldn’t force them on tomorrow.
The music stopped playing, so Nolita wound it up again, staring at the music box with intense fascination.
While she did that, I dropped to the floor and started doing push-ups. As tired and sore as I was, I had to build up my endurance. I didn’t want to depend on people for my survival – I couldn’t, actually. Not if I really wanted a chance at getting to Max and making it to the end of the world.
“Do you remember music?” Nolita asked, her voice soft and dreamy.
“Of course I remember music,” I huffed between push-ups.
She turned around to face me. “What are you doing?”
“I’m too weak. I have to get my strength back up.”