Joe: AtlantaMature

Word Count: 883

The walk back to the car was uneventful and quiet. I kept glancing sideways at Cancer when I was convinced he wasn’t looking, waiting for him to snap. He wasn’t handling this well at all; I hadn’t seen him so… lacklustre. He was the most alert out of all of us, never wanting to take chances and there he was not five minutes ago being ambushed, something that could have easily been prevented.

We got to Rayn in one piece; he was sat waiting in the driver’s seat for us. After siphoning the petrol back into the car, I got into the passenger seat and Cancer sat in the back.

It didn’t take him long to fall asleep and I used this opportunity to speak to Rayn. From the way he was glancing in the rear view mirror at his friend, I knew I wasn’t the only one who was a little worried.

‘I don’t think he’s handling this well,’ I said.

‘I don’t think I want to know what he saw in the hospital that’s made him like this,’ a crease appeared between his brows.

‘You didn’t see him at the gas station. He wasn’t thinking; he was nearly killed.’

‘I don’t see what we can do to help him other than just be more alert.’ His face twisted in worry.

‘You should talk to him. He’ll listen to you.’

‘What am I supposed to say Joe?’

That was a good question. What was he supposed to say? I had a feeling that this wouldn’t go away with just a few kind words. He needed to talk about what had happened that much was obvious.

‘I don’t know. Something,’ I sighed in frustration. ‘We can’t afford to make mistakes anymore.’

That’s all it took: one simple mistake and you were dead. You had to be alert at all times, there was no such thing as being too cautious. Better safe than sorry had taken on a whole new meaning now.

Rayn was getting more upset by the minute and I was beginning to think he’d have another meltdown. How the hell was I supposed to handle that as well? It suddenly felt like the whole world was slowly starting to press down on my skinny shoulders. I was only a kid, an inexperienced kid; I couldn’t deal with all of this.

‘I’ll try, but I don’t know what I’m going to say. Maybe his perception of reality got a bit fucked up while he was in there or something, but I don’t know how to fix that.’ He looked like he was going to cry.

How was I the only one who was holding it together?

I paused, trying to choose my next words carefully and have as little curiosity behind them as possible. ‘I’m not asking about his upbringing, but did anything happen to him when he was younger that made him this way? It’s just if I know it may be useful in helping him to get over it.’

He shrugged. ‘The drugs?’

‘I give up. We’re just gonna have to give him time to sort his head out. In the meantime we’ll try to not get him killed.’

There was nothing we could physically do, even if there was the tiniest chance that Cancer would actually talk to any of us what good would it do? He was too fucked up in the head, his mind was just a warbled mess of violence and distrust. This couldn't be fixed with the snap of some fingers.

‘Sorry,’ Rayn’s lip wobbled.

‘It’s not your fault,’ I shook my head.

‘I know but I feel like I should be able to do something to help.’

‘This strikes me as the kind of thing that won’t go away with just a few words.’

Hopefully, if we were lucky, he’d be able to figure it out for himself. He wasn’t a child and I was sure he’d been through much worse than this. If he didn’t get over it anytime soon I had a feeling we weren’t going to last much longer because I sure as hell didn’t want to take on the responsibility of keeping everyone alive.

I was too young.

We drove for another five hours or so before stopping off to stretch our legs. Atlanta was getting closer; I could feel the optimism burning through me. It was a new feeling, not one I was willing to turn away anytime soon. A place called ‘Chattanooga’ in Tennessee was our resting point. A quick check with the map told us we had just over one hundred more miles to go. One hundred and twenty, to be exact. 

We were too keyed up to rest anywhere for long, we just wanted to get there.

The roads were completely empty, with the exception of a few abandoned cars dotted about. We saw plenty of zombies along the way, all tried to run after us, but the Land Rover was too quick for their barely functioning muscles. It was a little surprising that there was barely any danger that we faced but I wasn't going to argue for it.

Rayn sped the car right up on that last stretch of road and before we knew it, we had arrived.

Atlanta welcomed us in.

The End

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