Word Count: 1819
In that moment, staring out over the fields that lined this tiny town, I felt… angry. Really fucking angry. I didn’t want to depend on other people anymore, and hesitating was only going to get me killed or have me go back there. If I went back, I’d only leave again. It wouldn’t take them long to remind them that they had no room for someone like me in that group.
I kept the creek on my right as I floored the gas pedal and sped away from the place. It was the first time in over a week that I’d felt really properly angry at anything. It almost felt good. Like I was getting back to normal. The old me had been cold and closed off from the world, stronger and capable; changing that had hardly worked out in my favor. I had to be that strong again, without any chemical crutches.
As I went over the bridge that passed over the creek, some weird secondary feeling hit me like a fucking freight train. I had no idea what it was, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. I was expecting freedom and relief.
All I felt was… heavy. Like instead of lifting, all my problems had just gotten bigger.
I tried to shake it off as paranoia, something stupid my mind was telling me, but even Rayn looked like he wasn’t sure about what we were doing.
“I dunno. This feels wrong,” he muttered, not facing me as he said it. It was like he expected me to get angry at him for it. Maybe I would’ve once. But maybe that was what I was feeling too. It wasn’t heavy, it was wrong. I frowned at the road disappearing underneath us. Was leaving on my own such a good idea?
The anger I’d had bouncing around in my head was trying to be heard. Independence was what I wanted. Now I had it… I didn’t know what to do with it. I had no one to keep me company, and it wasn’t like it would take me much to go well and truly insane. Isn’t loneliness that makes most people go mad?
I shook my head. Goddamn fucking paranoia. The sickness was creeping back in too. I was over the worst this recovery could throw at me, but I was hardly out of the woods. How the fuck was I supposed to make kratom tea in the middle of nowhere in a car?
I growled and gave myself a good slap across the face. The sting in my cheek made me blink away involuntary tears. Rayn was looking at me like I’d finally snapped. We were only half a fucking mile from the hospital.
“Shit,” I breathed, leaning my head forward on the wheel.
Frustrated and angry at myself for it, I turned the car back around and slammed my foot down on the gas pedal, shooting back towards the hospital.
“What’re you doing, Cancer?” Rayn squeaked from the passenger seat.
“I can’t do this on my own,” I said, “I wish I could, but I can’t.” He stayed quiet.
When I got back to the hospital, all I could see was a crowd of zombies, ambling around in the parking lot. And no car. Shit. I put the handbrake on, attempting to process what I was seeing.
“SHIT!” I yelled, punching the dashboard. They’d taken off and left me behind. “FUCK. No, no, no, no, NO!” I whacked my hands down on the steering wheel with each word, screaming at the empty parking space.
I don’t remember the last time I’d cried. I’m not sure I’d ever had anything worth crying over like this. But there I was, screaming at the world, angry tears leaking out of me like there was no tomorrow. In my head there wasn’t really a tomorrow. All tomorrows were gone, and what was left was this pathetic, hal recovered junkie on his own in a car all because he was being a stupid asshole. What the fuck had happened that made them leave?
“Cancer,” Rayn put his hand on my shoulder when I’d stopped taking my anger out on the car. I wiped my eyes, embarrassed that he’d seen that. “It’s okay,” he said softly, slipping his arm over my back and pulling me into a hug, “it’s okay. You’ve got me, remember? And if you wanna get back to them that badly, then we’ll go look for them. They can’t have gotten far.”
I nodded, wiping my eyes again. The tears kept leaking out, no matter how hard I tried to stop them. We set off, following the road that split off from the one I’d gone down. I hadn’t seen them go down the road I’d been on, so the only other road out of there close to the hospital was the only direction they could’ve taken. I hoped.
A few miles down the road, we passed what I guessed was Eloise and David’s army truck, abandoned at the side of the road. I s’pose that’s how they ended up in that fucking stupid hospital in the first place. They must’ve grabbed another car and stopped to get supplies, only they got ambushed by zombies instead.
“Why haven’t we found them yet?” I whimpered, lifting my hand to wipe my eyes again for the fiftieth time since we’d set off. My hand was so wet now that all it was doing was just moving it around. I wiped it on my jeans and tried again, gritting my teeth. I was being so stupid, crying like a fucking baby. It wasn’t going to help anything. All it’d do is make me look like some dumbass faggot that couldn’t man up for a few minutes.
“We’re not even that far from the town, Cancer. We’ll catch up with them sooner or later.”
“What if I take a wrong turning or something?”
“We’ll be fine. Just drive, okay?”
I did as Rayn said. He was doing his best to keep me calm but every couple of miles I’d freak out again for a minute. What if they’d gone down a different road? How the fuck would I find them then? Where were they heading? What if they didn’t want me back even if I did find them?
I think a grand total of ten or twenty minutes passed before I caught up with a car. I couldn’t see what kind of car it was, but there was this sort of flicker of hope that pushed me forwards. Rayn leant forwards in his seat, squinting at the unknown car as it turned off onto a freeway. I followed it, ignoring all the scrubland that surrounded us on both sides. We could’ve been driving through a sea of rabid zombies for all I cared at that moment.
The nagging worry that this could be the wrong car started bubbling up. I squashed it flat, refusing to listen to it. I could be following anyone. It could be the last fucking thing I did, if they turned out to be the kind of thugs we’d already come across. I didn’t even care.
I sped up, determined to catch up. By the time we were about a hundred meters or so behind it, Rayn was grinning. It was them! I grinned too, for a moment. But then I started questioning things again, wondering if after everything I’d put Joe through, would he still want to see me? Would any of them let me rejoin their group?
I sort of tailed behind them, uncertain. For the first time in my life, I was waiting for someone else to make the first move. I could see Joe’s ginger head turning in the back window, someone in the front passenger seat getting a gun ready. Did they know it was me?
The car started to slow down. I stamped on the brakes, surprised. The sudden stop threw Rayn and me forwards. The steering wheel smacked into my ribs with a loud thump. Winded, I gasped for air, hoping I hadn’t broken anything. I prodded my chest gingerly, breathing a long sigh of relief when all I felt was bruised.
“Cancer, Cancer, look!” Rayn was tapping me on the shoulder and I looked up. Joe was getting out of the car, walking over to mine where I was stopped.
The look on Joe’s face was… odd, to say the least. If I didn’t know any better, and couldn’t see the anger in his frown, I’d have said he looked almost relieved to see me.
“Cancer?” I heard him call.
Uncertain, nervous, shaking from the pain that still haunted me and the expectation that he was going to tell me to fuck off, I got out of the car too. For a second, I forgot about how much of a mess I must have looked.
When he’d almost reached me, I remembered and did my best to wipe away the worst of the evidence that I’d been crying. Now wasn’t the time for tears, or being a little faggot. But somehow, seeing that, Joe’s face softened a little and the irritation seemed to leave him.
“M’sorry, Joe,” I mumbled when he was stood right in front of me. This apology was one that even I knew needed to be said. And while I didn’t enjoy it, even though I didn’t know if he would accept it… I fucking meant it.
I bit down on my lip. He wasn’t saying anything. Why wasn’t he saying anything? Had I not sounded like I’d meant it or something? Did he think I was lying? I didn’t get it. A breeze breathed warm air over us and even that was making more sound than Joe was.
I’m not sure how long I stood there waiting for him to say something. It might’ve been seconds. It felt like hours. I wanted so badly for him to forgive me for everything. I’d been a cunt and I knew it. I didn’t want him to hate me for it.
Eventually, finally, he closed the gap between us. For a moment, I thought he was gonna punch me.
But his arms slid around me. For a shocked moment, I stood there, wondering if somehow this was something my brain had conjured up to protect me again. When I looked up, Rayn was gone, and all that was left was me and Joe stood in the middle of a fucking freeway.
It was real. Fuck me, it was real. I hugged him back, then, pulling him tightly for way longer than would’ve been comfortable any other time. I didn’t think for one moment that he’d forgiven me, but this was close enough for now.
“I’m so fucking sorry,” I mumbled, resting my head on his for a moment, trying to keep myself from cracking up all over again.