Word Count: 1106
“We’re not going back to the hotel,” I shook my head. There was no way in hell we were going back there.
“Please,” Joe begged, “I wanna get my things.”
“Your things,” I growled, trying to resist the urge to stop the car and chuck him out. Sure I felt like I needed to protect him, but the zombies were back at the warehouses, he could get to the hotel from here fine on his own. Just because I wanted him to survive, doesn’t mean I don’t reserve the right to be pissed at him when he’s asking for something stupid. “Things that what? That’ll remind you of your parents? Make this whole thing ten times fucking worse? It’s not happening, kiddo, you can forget it.”
“Please. I need something of them, anything. I’m afraid I might… lose them,” he pleaded with me.
"You know we've got more important things to be dealing with, right?"
“This is important to me,” he replied getting all resentful and angry with me. I was already pretty fucking pissed with him anyway, but his attitude wasn’t helping. Let’s just say I’m not used to people arguing with me. “I’m going either way.”
I let out a growl, a guttural, almost animal kind of snarl. This is where Rayn would find a way of calming me down, or taking me away from the situation so I didn’t flip out, but he wasn’t here to do that. Instead, I tried to think of what he would tell me to do. I could hear him in the back of my head – just take the kid to the hotel, let him get what he wants and try to shut up about it, okay? I tightened my grip on the steering wheel for half a second, wanting to just keep driving and get the fuck out of the city.
“Fuck’s sake.” I knew Rayn’s voice in my mind was right. Reluctantly, I gave in and turned around where I could, taking us back to the hotel. When I pulled up, Joe grabbed a gun, getting out of the car. “Wait,” I said, rolling down the window. I unstrapped my knife from my arm and passed it to him. “You have five minutes. Do you even know how to take the safety off that thing?”
“Yeah, sure,” he scoffed, “it’s… erm…” he looked up at me expectantly. I rolled my eyes. I don’t think I’d ever met someone so innocent in my life. Quickly, I showed him how to take the safety off, reminding him he had five minutes.
He took a little longer than five minutes, but… I dunno. I told myself to leave without him, that he’d been caught by a zombie and that it was hopeless because let’s face it, he can’t even take the safety off a fucking automatic.
But, somehow, the kid made it out. I’d waited with the engine running, just in case, but there weren’t any zombies – or people – nearby. He climbed back in the car, clutching a photo and a small bag. He didn’t look so good, but I didn’t ask any questions, I just drove. He didn’t say anything for ages. He was just staring out of the window, his expression totally serious, eyes glassy and kinda red like he’d been crying.
I left him to it. I was good at seeing when people were lying to me, or if they were hiding something, and especially if they wanted to hurt me. The rest of the spectrum of human emotion was a total mystery to me, and I didn’t intend to spend time I should be thinking about survival trying to fathom it.
My phone rang. For a moment I was too surprised to answer it. Pulling it out of my pocket showed Rayn’s caller ID flashing on the screen. I don’t think I’ve ever answered the phone quicker.
“Cancer?” His voice was bright with hope but he sounded… sad I think.
“Yeah, it’s me,” I smiled into the phone, relieved to hear him at all, regardless of whether he sounded like he might be sad or not.
“Fuck,” he laughed, “I thought you’d never make it out of that place. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. You know me, I always am. What about you? What’s wrong?”
“We couldn’t get out of the country. There was military blocking every route to the sea and when we got past them, there were more waiting at the docks. We got out of San Francisco, but Phil…” the signal crackled and by the time I got Rayn back, all I could hear was him crying.
“I didn’t hear that, Rayn. What happened to Phil?”
“He got bitten,” he sobbed. I didn’t know what to say. There were a few minutes of just him crying down the phone and me not knowing how to make it better. It was like someone had just knifed me in the guts.
“Where are you?” I asked eventually. When he’d said he was on his back from San Francisco, I’d already pointed the car in that general direction, sort of unconsciously planning on meeting him part way.
“Stay where you are, I’ll come get you.”
We left Reno behind as I floored the gas pedal, and after about twenty minutes of highway, Joe finally spoke again.
“Where are we going?”
“Sacramento,” I answered bluntly. I didn’t see much point discussing it. He didn’t have a choice, really – it was following me, or being left to defend himself.
"Rayn. He couldn't get out of the country in time, so he was gonna come back to Reno, only Reno has gone to shit, so we'll see what Sacramento has to offer." If the amount of abandoned cars on the highway going both ways were anything to go by, it wasn’t any better than what was back in Reno.
“You think that's gonna be any better than here?”
“Then what the hell are we doing? We need to be finding help.”
"I need to find Rayn, okay?" I glared at him, making certain my tone warned him not to fucking argue with me. He scowled right back at me, but didn’t say much else on the matter. That little mental voice in the back of my mind told me to stop being an ass, so I drew in a deep breath to calm myself back down before my temper got the better of me. "I've known him since we were in kindergarten. He's the closest thing I have to family. I have to find him."
“Yes well... family is important.”