Word Count: 1569
Half an hour later, Rayn came out with this chocolate cake with chocolate frosting all over it. The frosting wasn’t just on the cake, though. He’d managed to get a lot of it on himself.
“Oh my god,” Joe said when he saw the cake. Or the state Rayn was in. I couldn’t tell.
“Happy birthday,” Rayn grinned, back to his usual bubbly self now he was out of the kitchen. He’d even found some candles from somewhere.
“That’s brilliant. Thank you!”
“Blow the candles out before the wax gets on the cake,” Rayn said, looking worried that his cake would be ruined by a couple drops of wax. Joe obliged, grinning like an idiot. I smiled to myself, glad he was happy. I kind of felt like I’d adopted him as a second little brother like Rayn. It was weird – realizing it sort of turned my world on its head. It had always been just me and Rayn for so long that feeling the same need to protect Joe felt so alien.
I watched as Rayn handed Joe the cake and a knife and sat down, trying not to think too hard and just enjoy the day before I wound myself up. Joe cut the cake up and handed a chunk to each of us. There was a moment of silence as we all stuffed our faces with it.
“This is delicious,” Joe commented around a mouthful of cake. Rayn lit up, looking all pleased with himself. “Was the stress worth it?”
Rayn let out a laugh, “yeah. I’m always like that in the kitchen, didn’t Cancer tell you?”
“He filled me in.”
“What can I say?” he giggled, “I know I’m weird.”
“Where did you learn to bake?” Joe questioned.
“Well,” he looked like he was thinking about how to word what he was about to say, “Cancer was out of the state for a few years and I just found other ways to entertain myself, I guess,” he smiled. That wasn’t entirely true, but I doubted Rayn would ever be entirely honest with Joe about what happened when we were kids. I wasn’t sure if I would, either.
Joe found a tin to put the cake in when we were done eating and put it away, announcing we were taking it with us. “We can throw it to the zombies if they get hungry.”
Rayn laughed, “how dare you? My cooking is fit for a king.”
Eventually we decided it was time to make a move, and get on with our journey. None of us really wanted to, but we ended up in the car anyway, speeding our way through Oklahoma, according to Rayn’s map reading.
“thanks,” Joe said to us as we set off, “it hasn’t been a bad day.” I wasn’t too sure how I was supposed to feel about that comment. I tried to laugh it off instead of getting pissed off at him for being so negative about everything.
“Hasn’t been bad?” It’s been fucking brilliant,” I said, seeing Rayn breathe a sigh of relief in the rear view mirror.
“Can we do something good for my birthday?” Rayn asked brightly, turning on his puppy eyes.
“November’s a long way off,” I laughed.
“Yeah, but I want to do something good for it,” he insisted.
“Sure,” I smiled, just going along with it. He, at least, was always looking on the bright side of things, always had done. None of us knew whether we would even be alive in November. Our chances weren’t good, at any rate.
The sun started to slide down beyond the horizon while Rayn wittered on about all the things he wanted to do for his birthday, all of which included finding some massive stash of drugs left behind somewhere and getting high. I had to agree. We were both running out of smack faster than we’d like. It was alarming how quickly it was going down.
“It’s getting dark,” Joe yawned.
“We’ll be fine,” I reminded him, “we’ll get to the CDC quicker this way, you know that.”
He nodded, half asleep where he was curled up against the window.
“I wish we could get out of America,” Rayn said, climbing through the gap between the seats so he could sit next to me once Joe had fallen asleep properly.
“If there was a way I’d do it, you know that.”
“I know,” he sighed. He was tired and scared and it was beginning to show. I didn’t know how to make it stop, but I wanted it to, just so he didn’t have to deal with all this shit. Christ, listen to me. I sound like I’m in love with the guy or something. I s’pose in a way I do love him, but y’know, not in that way. I’ll stop digging myself a hole.
Less than half an hour after it had finally gotten dark, we had to stop and refill the gas tank. In the dark without the head lights on it was hard enough to see where we were going, it was harder yet to find somewhere safe for us to stop.
I didn’t see the group of zombies nearby as I pulled up on the highway.
“Rayn, go refill the tank for me,” I ordered before the car had even come to a stop.
“Of course I’ll cover you, you idiot.” He nodded and we both left the car, grabbing a couple of those cans and making our way round to the side of the car.
He unscrewed the bung and tipped the can carefully with steadier hands than I would be able to manage. The first one I noticed was less than five meters away from Rayn.
“Shit,” I hissed, putting a bullet in its head. Two more appeared and suddenly they were all over the fucking place. I took down as many as I could, having to resort to using my knife on the ones that got too close. Rayn emptied the second can, spilling some on the floor in a rush to get back in the car. Not stopping to chuck the cans back in the car, we just abandoned them on the road and left them where they were. A couple of the things managed to grab at Rayn’s leg as he got in.
Panicking, he slammed the door on their hands, shouting at me when they didn’t let go. He threw the door open long enough to let me shoot them. As they fell away to the floor, he snapped the door shut again, his face drained of color.
I sped away, getting us away from the fuckers. “You okay?” I asked, “they didn’t scratch you did they?” He shook his head, checking his ankle just in case.
“I’m fine,” he said shakily, hugging his legs up to his chest.
By about two in the morning, I was half asleep behind the wheel, driving at a normal speed just because I didn’t trust myself not to end up crashing. It’d be fucking ironic if we died in a car crash, instead of being eaten though. Rayn was asleep, though, and I didn’t want to have to wake him up. It was only a couple more hours til he’d wake up by himself. I could manage that.
Three AM passed by in a daze; I wasn’t too sure where we were or if I was going in the right direction anymore. I pulled up on the side of a road in the middle of nowhere and sort of planned to have a nap, kicking myself for it.
The sensation of the car stopping woke Rayn up early. He looked around at me.
“Luca?” he asked quietly. I must have looked half dead. “Luca? Are you okay? Oh god, that scratch was infected, wasn’t it?”
“Ugh,” I grunted, letting my head drop forwards onto the steering wheel. “Tired.”
He calmed down after a couple of minutes, testing my temperature by slapping his hand across my forehead.
“Want me to drive?”
“Mm,” I hummed, not wanting to move. He got out and walked around, waiting for me to drag my ass into the other seat.
“You should’ve stopped sooner, you stupid boob,” he tutted, taking us back onto a main road, looking out for signs.
“Where are we?” I asked, half looking out of the windshield, half drifting away from the world around me.
“A few miles outside somewhere called Little Rock.” He glanced at the map that was open on the top of the dashboard, “Jesus, we’re half way across Arkansas.”
“Is that good?” I mumbled. He nodded. For a while, I half dozed, letting the road signs pass me by in a haze.
You can kind of understand why I thought I was dreaming the next part. We rolled into what I guess was Little Rock, slowing down a little as we passed a bunch of abandoned houses and cars, blood stains sprayed across the road that hadn’t been washed away by any rain. We went past what looked like a college or a school. Only it wasn’t deserted like the rest of the place. There were tanks like at that other place and soldiers.
Except these soldiers were alive. I lifted my head and looked up, pinching myself. When I realized I was still awake, I nearly cried with relief, I was so exhausted.