Word Count: 1640
This kid was weird. Maybe it was just the grief or something, but he went from fighting with me, to wanting me to pull the trigger, to making me breakfast. I didn’t really get it.
But since we were stuck in this place together, I figured I might as well try and distract myself from… everything.
"So what's your name, then?” I asked through a mouthful of egg, “Unless you want to be known as 'ginger' or 'speccy' forever."
He flashed me a frown, “I’m Joe Hartness. Is your name really Cancer?” he replied, apparently not quite clever enough to realize that the name I gave him this time around was the one I wanted him to call me by. Phil and Rayn were the only people that knew it anymore, and I wished they didn’t.
"No, it's not, but you're not going to be getting my real name out of me, ever, so just leave it,” I told him, closing my eyes against a wave of dizziness. I didn’t want to know how I was going to be feeling when I ran out of my little supply. I’d save the weed for then, I think.
“Why not? I told you my name. What’s wrong? You don’t look so good,” he said. Was it that obvious I was coming down? I touched the tips of my fingers to my forehead, grimacing as they came away slick with sweat.
"No one uses my real name anymore, and I like it that way. Nothing's wrong, I'm fine,” I answered a little bit too quickly, gritted my teeth a little too much.
“Yeah sure you are. You're not gonna turn are you?” I could almost feel his panic; it was going to end up setting me off if I didn’t do anything about it.
"No, I'm just crashing. From the uh... the adrenaline,” I was lying through my teeth, but the kid was too naïve to see it, or was ignoring it.
“Yeah it’s a bit of an overwhelming rush isn’t it?”
I nodded, excusing myself for a moment. Grabbing my bag, I headed off to the toilet to fix the mess in my head a bit. I realize that drugs are the reason my head is a mess, but if we’re gonna get out of this city in one piece, I needed to have a clear head, not be crippled with cravings and withdrawals. There would be time for that someplace else where we were safe. I’d need a good few weeks to recover. I just hoped we found somewhere we could be safe for that long.
Cooking up a hit was autopilot. Drawing up the light solution was over practiced and too familiar. Injecting… Well, by the time it was in my veins, I didn’t care anymore. After about ten minutes, I went back down, feeling much more like myself again. Joe was stood by the door again when I reemerged, looking out of the peephole at the zombies walking around out there.
It was kinda scary how quickly everyone had vanished like that. Either gone or bitten and turned. I guess I probably wasn’t the only one to escape from the hospital, only the ones that escaped before were infected.
Joe looked around when he heard me coming up behind him; he noticed instantly that I wasn’t so tense or sweating out. He must not be as naïve as I thought. “Are you high?” he asked.
“Very,” I nodded, confirming bluntly.
“Is that wise? What if we need to make a quick getaway?” Very good points, but I had my arguments for my case here.
"I'm more likely to be able to function like this than if I'm coming down. We're hardly going anywhere any time soon,” I reminded him. I wasn’t very happy about being stuck in here. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the house hadn’t belonged to a guy that thought it was justice to rape his little boy. Just remembering that made my skin crawl, little memories of Rayn covered in fresh bruises and tears when he came out to play in the park with me. The heroin dulled my anger for the man, but it didn’t erase it completely.
“Do you think they’ll leave?” Joe’s voice snapped me back to reality again. I watched as he peered through the peephole again. “Don’t you have a car?”
“They’ll wander off eventually, I guess. I’ll steal us a car when we get a chance,” I said with a shrug. Stealing cars was easy enough, my dad taught me that one. Just your regular father-son activity, for my family. Joe turned around, staring at me with this look of disbelief written all over his features.
“Okay, so you’re a scammer, a thief and a junkie. Is there anything else I should know about you?”
“I’m very good at killing those things out there,” I said, confident in that one. I hadn’t had to kill many yet, but how hard could it be? The targets had changed, but they goal was the same – ending the life of someone, or something, that wanted you dead. That bit I was good at.
“That makes one of us,” he muttered.
"And I won't hesitate to shoot you if you get bit. There's no room for mercy anymore," I warned him.
“Same goes for you,” he replied, putting on this brave face. His voice shook, as did his hands, but he was trying. I couldn’t help the smile that tugged at my lips.
“You've never held a gun in your life. You'd be better off going for something with a knife or a blunt weapon. Less aiming involved." We didn’t really have the time or ammunition to teach him how to shoot.
“Well the way you were attracting attention in the hotel I'd say the same for you.” I smiled to myself a little, quietly agreeing with him. At least until I could get hold of some silencers. Joe wandered back into the kitchen, sifting through the drawers until he found what he was looking for: a knife. It was a standard, cheap kitchen knife. It wouldn’t last long at all, but it would have to do.
"I'll get you a proper one at some point. If things haven't changed too much around here I know where they'll be," I said, half to myself. I used to know someone who traded weapons illegally – how else do you think I was armed all the time? It’d been a long time since I’d been to Reno, but the guy rotated his warehouses fairly regularly, but only within the same few. Maybe luck would be in our favor for once, and we’d find some weapons we could stock up on. Better guns, knives, ammo. Silencers.
“Of course you would,” Joe said, rolling his eyes.
"Hey, it might well save your life sticking with a guy that knows these sorts of things. You'll be glad when it does."
“You may know how to survive but you'd kill me in a heartbeat. I don’t exactly feel safe around you.” Well at least he wasn’t deluding himself.
"Well it's me or going it alone for now, so I suggest you stop complaining." His jaw tightened a little, which I took to mean he knew I was right.
There was a silence for a while. Well, not a silence, there were still a few of those things wandering around outside groaning to themselves, but other than that, there was nothing. No road traffic, no voices as they walked down the street on their way somewhere, no bugs or animals. Nothing. It was unsettling. I wasn’t putting the TV back on, so I settled for trying to make conversation happen.
“How old are you, Joe?”
“Fifteen, nearly sixteen. How old are you?”
"Twenty three. Christ, you're young," I didn’t want to believe it. He really was just a kid. I remembered him from that time in the casino now, and I’d thought he was at least like, seventeen. Fifteen somehow just felt too young.
“I guess,” he murmured. I could see his train of thoughts taking a journey down a dark, dark track as he opened his mouth to speak again. “Why is this happening?”
"Because people weren't designed to play god with diseases the way they did." Or anything else like that, really. Like food and genes and stuff. It just wasn’t ever meant to be messed with, but somehow people found a way. And now look at what had happened.
“It’s not fair though. What are we? Collateral damage? I knew something like this would happen,” he was getting angry again, “careless people messing about with no care about the consequences,” he ranted. I spied some cigarettes on the TV stand and reached forward to grab them, quite content now to just sit and smoke while he carried on. “I mean what even made them want to test this anyway? This is the zombie apocalypse that we're talking about. What bright spark thought to themselves ‘I know let’s create some fucking zombies’?!” He sighed and sat down beside me on the sofa, “I’m so screwed, there’s no way I’m surviving this.” That’s exactly the kind of positive thinking I wanted to hear from him. Awesome.
Still, there was this strange sort of… I dunno what to call it. I’m not that good with emotions; I’ve never really needed to know what they are before. But I felt… bad for him, in a way. Like I wanted to make sure he got out of this okay. "We'll find a way. You don't have to trust me, or like me much, but I'll help you if you stick with me,” I found myself promising him. Fuck knows why those words came out of my mouth, but they did somehow.