Word Count: 1513
Joe had fallen asleep at some point, but me and Rayn left him to it. The kid looked like he needed the rest, to be honest. Rayn chattered on at me while we drove.
“No one really knew what was going on,” he was telling me, “I didn’t want to leave without you, but it was getting pretty bad. People were getting sick all over the place and no one knew what it was, and what with this thing being on the news, they were all panicking over it. Like, people were going into the hospital and not coming out again. I was really scared that you weren’t going to come out of there,” he looked up at me with his big sad puppy eyes. I didn’t really know what to say to that. It was sweet of him, I guess, to be worried about me.
“Well, uh, you know me. You don’t need to worry about me,” I gave him a smile, more for his benefit than anything else.
“Anyway, I guess a few of the people they were testing on escaped with the… whatever it is in them, and infected other people and they just started dropping dead in the street. The worst part was the first time we saw one get back up. Someone tried to help them, and got a chunk of their neck eaten out for their trouble,” a small frown creased his forehead as the memory played in his head. I reached over and ruffled his hair.
“Try not to think about it, Rayn. You know you give yourself headaches when you think too hard.”
He giggled, grabbing my hand and forcing it back down on the steering wheel. “I do, don’t I?”
After a couple hours, Joe woke back up, blinking his way back into consciousness with a confused look on his face as he saw California passing him by at about two hundred kilometers an hour. “How long have we been driving for?” he asked, pushing his glasses back up his nose.
“Couple hours. So far it’s mostly been clear,” I replied. By clear I mean I went back and found another road around the last couple of blocks we came across, even though they were all smaller. Joe fiddled with the knife he’d picked up at Rayn’s dad’s house, looking like he was working up to saying something.
He dragged a deep breath of air into his lungs; “I need to know how to shoot.”
“I totally agree. Find us a practice range with the ammo to spare and we’ll take you,” I told him.
“Oh well that was easier than I thought it’d be. We have plenty of ammo from that bag of weapons we got from that warehouse don’t we?” I’d forgotten for a moment how innocent and naïve Joe was.
“How long do you think that’ll last us? Practice uses up a lot more ammo than you’d think,” I told him, but he was insistent. I could feel my blood pressure rising steadily, and Rayn saw it. He prodded me in the ribs, giving me this look that told me to calm the fuck down. I’d seen that look on his face way too often.
“I think it’s kind of essential that I learn,” he argued, “what if we have another incident like at that B&B?”
I let out a frustrated sigh, my mood not helped when Rayn joined in, telling me “he’s right though, Cancer.” I gritted my teeth.
“I won’t be so useless then… I’ll actually be able to help,” Joe persisted.
“We’ll find some ammo to practice with, it’s fine, Joe,” Rayn said, totally bypassing the fact I was totally against the idea of using the ammo we had. Yeah, we had a fair bit, but if everything’s gone to shit this quickly, we’re not going to have ammo for very long. Certainly not enough to take on a whole country of walking undead.
“There’s a field just ahead, see where that giant silo is?” Joe pointed it out, jabbing his finger against the glass for emphasis. I glanced over at where he was pointing.
“I see it,” I grumbled. We argued about it until Rayn hijacked the steering wheel and made me pull up on the side of the road. Rayn went around to the trunk and pulled out a hand gun – a simple automatic, the kind I was learning to use when I was a kid with my dad on the shooting range. Like I’ve said, my parents weren’t the best. Still, I can’t fault the old man for teaching me to shoot, it’s come in handy more times than it probably should have.
I reluctantly handed over one small box of ammo, warning him not to even think about using up any more than that.
I climbed up and sat on the roof of the car to watch Rayn and Joe. And to watch out for zombies. Or other people. I’d never gotten on with other people and now it felt justified. They were showing the colors I’d always seen in them. I’m not saying I was any different, we’re all out to survive and I’ve never let anything get in my way. I don’t go around problems, I tend to go through them. I’m no good at reasoning, so I use brute force. Usually works for me.
Rayn was pulling Joe around like a puppet, showing him a proper stance for shooting in. I don’t remember the last time I’d stood like that to shoot.
“It’s heavier than it looks,” Joe commented.
Rayn nodded, “you get used to it,” he said, correcting the way Joe was holding it. The poor kid’s grip was kind of shaking a bit.
“What should I aim at?” Rayn looked around, spotting a few beer bottles that were probably abandoned in the field by some local teenagers. He set them up on the fence, well away from the car.
“I’m kind of scared,” Joe admitted. He looked it too. I wanted to yell at him to not be such a pussy, but I knew what Rayn would have to say to that before I even opened my mouth, so I stopped myself.
“Don’t be scared,” Rayn gave him an encouraging smile, “just go with it. It’ll probably shock you the first couple of times at the recoil, but you just have to try and keep it still.”
Me and Rayn both watched, intrigued as Joe gingerly squeezed the trigger. His shot went wide and the recoil startled him so much he staggered backwards.
Rayn giggled in that inoffensive way of his, telling him to try it again.
“Okay,” Joe breathed, “okay, I’ve got this,” he said to himself, tugging on the trigger. He missed again, but this time at least he managed to steady himself quicker. “God damn it, this is harder than it looks.”
I was getting bored. It’s not hard, kid, you point the end at something and pull the trigger and keep your arm steady. I wanted to get the fuck on with the journey, we needed to find somewhere to stop for gas and if we hung around too long it’d be dark before we fucking knew it.
Joe’s face was slowly turning red, and knowing him that was probably out of embarrassment. He lifted the gun again, really concentrating on his aim and steadying his grip.
I think I was as surprised as he was that his shot hit the bottle and shards of brown glass flying. Rayn grinned widely, giving this kid the same look he gives me when I’ve done something right for once. That might have been a tiny spark of jealousy. Rayn was my friend. I’d never had anyone else around that I trusted before and I often had the feeling he only stuck with me because I was all he’d ever had too. I guess I was always scared he’d give up on me and go find someone less fucked up to hang out with, even if that someone happened to be a skinny ginger kid from England.
“Third time lucky,” Joe was grinning too.
“Keep practicing,” I grunted, “one headshot out of three isn’t going to help us when we’re running out of ammo surrounded by a bunch of blood thirsty walking corpses.”
“Cancer!” Rayn snapped at me, the bubbly face dropping for a second. “Behave.”
“Oh, fuck off,” I grumbled. I could heard Rayn telling Joe to just ignore me because I was a ‘grumpy asshole that needed to go chill the fuck out’. “I heard that.” All I got in response was Rayn poking his tongue out at me.
Joe took a few more cracks at the next bottle, but he kept missing. Frustrated and angry, I pulled my gun out of the waistband of my pants and shot it first time, from further away than Joe was standing. They both looked up at me as the glass shattered. “What?” I growled, “shooting is the easiest fucking thing in the world, it’s pathetic.”