Word Count: 1388
I don’t know what I was thinking. I’d stormed straight into the city with just my knife and one round of bullets.
There was a crash as the burnt out building collapsed on my left. Ash billowed out in front of me, leaving me blind. I had no idea what I was walking into, but I was so fucking angry that I just didn’t care. My hand over my nose and my eyes narrowed, I just kept walking forward.
What I walked into was a fucking shoot out. Beyond the buildings that had been eaten away by fire, there was a row of cars across the road, and – thankfully – on the side I found myself on, there were about twenty people, guns in hand. Boxes of ammo, most empty, littered the floor between them as they laid into the zombies on the other side of the cars. I grabbed my own gun, not wanting to take any chances. I’d had enough of people trying to kill me.
“Who the fuck are you?” one man shouted, noticing me.
“None of your fucking business,” I shouted back.
“I’m making it my business. Have you been bit?” he stalked over to me. Fucker stopped when I lifted my gun. A few others glanced over at me, but they had other things to be worrying about. They turned back to the zombies and started shooting again. One guy threw down his handgun and picked up a sniper rifle, sending a handful of zombies to the floor in just a few shots.
"No. What are you doing?" I nodded towards the others shooting, "there's too many of them."
"We're reclaiming our city," he replied gruffly, standing a little straighter. He looked like he was determined to clear out the city whether he had help or not. "Now, tell me who you are."
"Cancer," I growled. The look on his face changed from that stubborn determination to surprise.
"I've heard about you," he laughed. Well, that wasn't the reaction I usually got when people have already heard about me. "I heard you were dead, though."
"I'm harder to get rid of than you'd think." I still had my gun raised. He waved at me to lower it. I didn't.
"You can put that away, y'know. I take it you've come across some of the less than friendly survivors running wild out there, then."
"Less than friendly doesn't begin to cover it." Those guys made me look like a balanced, normal human being.
"Well, we're not gonna hurt you. We just want all the help we can get to clear this city out."
"You can keep looking," I told him, lowering my gun. I didn't put the safety on, though, just in case. "I haven't got the ammo to spare. I just wanted to go for a fucking walk, not get caught up in more fighting."
"You with other people, then?"
"Four days in a car with the same people gets to you," I nodded, explaining before he could ask why I was out on my own.
"I feel you, man," he laughed, "we've all been cooped up in one tiny building together," he pointed to the side of the street that wasn't in ashes, "just up there past the smoke. It's been doing our heads in. Still, we're all alive and kicking, so we're gonna do what we can while we can." He looked at me for a moment, working up to something. "You're sure you won't stay and help? We could really do with someone like you on our side, even for just an hour or two."
I considered it for a moment. I was still angry, and to be honest, shooting the crap out of something sounded like as good a way as any to wind down. "Give me the ammo and I'll stay a bit," I nodded.
When I got back to the gas station, I found Joe and Rayn both sat on the floor, off their faces. Bottles sat between them where they were and I scowled, instantly feeling my bad mood resurfacing. Joe yelled at me for wanting to get high, and then he went and got drunk?
“Fuck’s sake. You two are gonna be hung over tomorrow,” I scowled down at them. If they were hung over, I was going to be left to look after them all fucking day when we were supposed to be moving on first thing.
“Tomorrow… is… not today,” Joe announced like he’d just come up with the answer for the meaning of life.
“Just get high,” Rayn giggled, “join usssss.” It was tempting. I’d been itching for that hit for hours now, and the silence inside the gas station was louder than the noise of the zombies trying to climb over the cars, or the shouting as one guy ran around supplying ammo to anyone that had run out.
“I’m such a hypocrite right now,” Joe laughed, “but I don’t care.” I had no idea what hypocrite was supposed to mean, but I was beyond caring, and Joe was probably too drunk to explain. I wondered if he’d even ever had a drink before now. I went over to the belt and needle where I’d left them on the counter and joined them on the floor, shooting up quickly before either of them could argue.
I think for the first time in the last few days, we all actually had a laugh. Rayn was sat in my lap, messing up my hair because ‘it feels nice’, and Joe was leaning back against one of the refrigerators, staring up at the ceiling.
“What the fuck is happening?” Joe asked eventually, still staring at the ceiling.
“You’re drunk,” Rayn giggled.
The mood in the room was dropping, I could feel it. I didn’t want it to drop, I was happy in my little warm bubble of heroin. Joe shook his head, taking his glasses off. They clicked against the floor as he put them down, lifting his hand to rub it across his face. “Not now,” he said, “in general.”
“Shit happens,” I mumbled, “just gotta get on with it,” I told him. That was when he started getting all emotional.
“I miss my mom and dad,” he whimpered as Rayn stood up.
“Cancer, go look after Joe, I need to throw up,” he said, staggering off to find a toilet. I let out a sigh; Joe had curled himself up in a little ball on the floor. I slid myself across the floor over to him so I was sat next to him. I pulled him up off the floor, letting him lean into me as I hugged him. I’d done this for Rayn so many times I couldn’t begin to count them. Fortunately for me, Rayn had never needed more than this, and I was hoping like fuck that Joe wouldn’t want more from me either; I was too high to deal with anything else right then anyway.
Joe’s tears started to soak into my shirt at the shoulder. I didn’t know what to do with him. I was just sat there with this ginger thing on the floor of a gas station in fucking New Mexico. Everything was so fucked.
“I’m fine,” he sniffed after a couple of minutes, trying to calm himself down. I didn’t believe him, but I was hardly gonna sit there and be all ‘oh, are you sure?’ There was no point mothering him. He was just gonna have to grow up and deal with the fact he wasn’t able to live that easy old life of his in his mom and dad’s house where that psycho kid had been the worst of his problems. “It’s just hard to think about how much everything has changed,” he sniffed again, wiping at his face. I handed him his glasses as he looked around for them.
“We’ll be okay,” I told him, glancing up as Rayn walked back in and went straight to sleep behind the corner.
“I need some sleep,” Joe said miserably over Rayn’s snoring. He looked for somewhere comfortable to sleep, and when he didn’t find anywhere, he just laid down in the middle of the floor.
“Joe?” I asked. I didn’t get an answer, but I carried on anyway, “we’ll be okay, y’know.”