Word Count: 1,016
None of us got a lot of sleep that night. We were all too wired up from what had just happened. Even Cancer didn’t sleep that well, his shouts were what woke me up throughout the night. Rayn was there, telling him everything was okay and it was a little strange to watch the one guy in our small little group who was hardened the most inside, break down.
It reminded me that we were all human.
When the first cracks of dawn appeared through the windows, we packed everything up and continued our journey. By now we were somewhere called ‘Forrest City’ which, on the map, told me that was in Arkansas. I was taking the road trip from hell, travelling halfway across America, seeing places I’d never seen before. It was a shame the world had disintegrated so badly that I couldn’t appreciate the sights around me.
I tried to revel in what I was seeing but it was like death was following us everywhere. Even if there weren’t bodies lying in the streets, you could tell that the apocalypse hadn’t left the Earth untouched. Though there were large tell-tale indications that the human population was dwindling, there was also the smaller things too. I saw a couple of notices pinned up on lampposts and telephone poles about a missing person, dated just one day after the first news report. They weren’t ever going to be found and the chances were that if they had been found, they hadn’t made it.
I saw a broken Frisbee sitting in someone’s front garden and noticed how the grass seemed longer. Nobody would be mowing it anytime soon. Doors hung open; the insides were trashed from what I could see. There was the occasional house that was boarded up to the point where it looked completely impenetrable and I even spotted a big, handmade sign with words painted in black: SURVIVORS INSIDE. SEND HELP IMMEDIATELY. My conscience immediately told me that we should help them but I knew after past experiences they were either already dead, or it was a trap. I shook my head. No help would be coming, my friend. It’s a dog-eat-dog world now and survival of the fittest.
Mind you, if it was really down to survival of the fittest I would have died a long time ago. Before this I didn’t like violence, had never touched a gun in my life before and relied solely on my parents. I still didn’t like violence but I was beginning to get accustomed to it.
I must have fallen asleep at some point because the next thing I knew we were approaching Memphis. We must have stopped off for petrol at some point. Or, as the Americans called it, gas. That was another thing about travelling with people from an entirely different continent: getting used to the lexis they used. I’d say path, they said sidewalk, I pronounced it ‘Mum’ they pronounced it ‘Mom’. I didn’t think linguistics mattered in this world anymore but it was still a little disorientating at times. It made me feel even more of an outsider to this country.
Once we were out of Memphis trouble-free, I began looking out for signs of Atlanta. I didn’t know how far away we were but I can tell you one thing: this journey was one of the longest, hardest, most hectic things that had ever happened to either of us, I was sure of it. Atlanta was so far away. Still, with each mile that we put behind us was another mile closer to what we hoped was permanent sanctuary and some god damn answers.
The car jerked to a stop, rolled for a few centimetres then rested neatly on the side of the road.
‘Fuck,’ Rayn shouted. ‘We’re out of gas.’
I spotted a massive green sign and read it out loud. ‘”Wolfchase Farms”. Is that near Atlanta?’
Rayn pulled the map out of the glove box. ‘We’re less than four hundred miles away.’
It was closer than I thought, I’ll admit that. I opened the car door, already knowing what we had to do. To confirm, I said: ‘I take it we’re gonna have to walk to find some petrol.’
Rayn looked confused for a split second before nodding. ‘Yeah. One of us will have to stay here with the car. It looks pretty deserted.’
I was already out on the concrete before he had finished his sentence. ‘I vote not me.’
Let’s face it, if I was left with the car I’d wind up dead, our belongings would be stolen and the world would carry on spinning with one less ginger British child messing up every time he tried to defend himself. I went round to the back of the car and pulled out a plastic petrol can. After rethinking, I got another one. It made more sense to get as much as we could.
‘I’ll stay,’ Rayn said. ‘You and Cancer can go.’
Cancer grabbed a handful of petrol cans and turned to face Rayn. ‘Stay safe.’
Rayn nodded once and Cancer was off, already striding down the road. I jogged a little to keep up with him. For a long time, neither of us said anything. We walked in silence, always looking out for danger around us. This part of wherever the hell we were was desolate, just empty windows and empty gardens. Anything could be lurking behind those doors though. I clutched my gun a little tighter.
After some time of silence I was the first to speak. ‘Are you okay?’
Cancer looked a little surprised that I had spoken and didn’t seem to understand my words either. ‘Yeah, I’m fine. You?’
I simply nodded and we lapsed back into total silence. He obviously didn’t want to talk about the lab or those weird nurses and soldiers that kept him hostage and for now I was fine to let him remain quiet about it. I hoped that it wouldn’t take its toll though, that he’d snap at some point because he’d let things get bottled up.