Word Count: 1,002
She wandered the streets, alone and afraid.
She was still grieving, of course she would be, it had only been a few days. The wounds littering her body seemed ready to pull her back, to have her sit on a corner somewhere and wait for death to come. She couldn't give up now though, not when she had come so far and she had endured so much. She had one sole focus on her mind the entire time and she was determined to see it through.
She supposed she was lucky, in some sick twisted way. She was alive, for starters and hadn't been bitten. How she had managed to escape was beyond her. The situation had seemed absolutely hopeless but she guessed it was just pure chance that she was still alive and breathing.
Her steps were haggard and her body was slouching from tiredness. It wasn't a surprise that someone mistook her for a zombie.
'I got one,' she heard the whisper behind her immediately followed by the cock of a gun.
She whirled round, quicker than she thought was possible and held both of her hands up. 'Don't shoot! I'm alive!'
Two men stared back at her behind a double-barrelled shotgun. They couldn’t have been more different in appearance if they had tried. One was tall and tan, the owner of the shotgun, and young-looking. He couldn’t have been older than 25. The other was short and stocky with a thick grey moustache and a leather jacket. They both looked surprised as the woman responded and immediately lowered their gun.
‘Jeez lady you nearly gave me a heart attack,’ the older one spoke with a slight southern tinge to his accent and she wondered what he was doing up in Nevada.
‘Sorry,’ she mumbled. She had nearly given them a heart attack? They had nearly killed her!
‘What are you doing by yourself?’ The taller one asked.
‘I’m looking for someone,’ she told them. They both looked at her and she saw pity flash across their features.
‘Well it ain’t safe here anymore, you better come with us.’
‘It’s alright, we ain’t one of those good for nothin’ scumbags. We’re decent people; we have a little group of survivors.’ The older one smiled warmly at her and for the first time she felt hope stir in her stomach. Other survivors meant the possible chance of finding the one person she had dedicated the last few days to. She was tired and her stomach was empty, so maybe she wasn’t thinking clearly, but she decided to follow the men.
They led her back the way she had come, down the desolate road and round a corner into a massive parking lot. A few cars lay strewn about; some on their sides, others with smoke spiralling up out of their bonnets. Windows were smashed in and the sides had been dented in. The whole place was deserted.
They took her over to the building that sat on the far side of the parking lot and then stopped suddenly, lowering their weapon. Simultaneously, they raised they hands slowly into the air and told her to do the same. Scared, she complied. Were people about to shoot them? Did they mistake them for zombies too?
But then a grin stretched out across the younger man’s face and he picked his weapon back up again. Confused, she looked around.
‘Up on the roof,’ he told her.
She followed their line of sight and sure enough spotted a figure laying on his stomach on the roof of the building. He had what looked like a sniper rifle and was signalling at them to go through the doors.
‘Impressive,’ she said. They obviously had someone on lookout at all time and to avoid confusion must have had their own code or secret way to identify each other.
They carried on walking right up to the door and the man knocked three times, paused, another two and a final four more times. Talk about complicated.
Things were being moved about behind the door and it swung wide open and they were all bustling inside.
About ten pairs of eyes stared at her as she walked in. The place was dimly lit, the only source of light being a few gas lamps dotted around the room. Thick fabric and large planks of wood covered all the windows and the doors, except for the one they had come through which she noticed had about four different kinds of locks. They were certainly being cautious.
The room was large and spacious and she went and sat down in the corner, not waiting to be introduced. She was wasting time, right now, and a quick scan around the room told her that the person she was looking for wasn’t here.
People ignored her all night, maybe they were afraid of her or maybe they were annoyed they had another person to share their rations with, but either way she didn’t really care. She would go out again at night; she shouldn’t have followed the men back here. She would rather take her chances out there, every second that passed felt like precious time ticking away. Her window of opportunity was getting smaller.
Sometime later, when most people were asleep, the older man came over with something on a plate. It was a small portion of what looked like stew. She took it and thanked him.
‘The name’s Dave,’ he held out his hand and she shook it.
‘So,’ he sat down beside her. ‘Who is it exactly you’re looking for?’
‘My son,’ she replied. She took a bite of the stew and felt it travel down to her stomach, warming her insides. ‘I lost him a few days ago. Haven’t seen him since.’
‘Really?’ Dave scratched his moustache. ‘What’s his name? I might have heard of him.’
She looked at him, refusing to let the hope rise fully until she had a definite answer.
‘His name is Joe. Joe Hartness.’