I was pretty sure I was lost. I didn’t even know the name of the town I’d been in before, so road signs were no help. I was looking out for familiar landmarks, but if I was going the wrong way, that wouldn’t be any good either.
Still, the rumble of the old American engine was a comfort of sorts. It reminded me of the rust bucket dad used to drive. Y’know, the one I spent more time helping him fix than going to school in. I couldn’t for the life of me remember what make it was. It was just an old American muscle car, and it was a lot like this one.
Actually, thinking about it, my dad only drove me to school in that thing when he got a letter home, complaining about how I was being a shit student. He’d drive me in, berating me all the way there, lecturing me on how important education is. I hated him for that. He never bothered to even enrol me, he left that to my gran. If she hadn’t bothered, I would be totally illiterate – not that my reading or writing is much better than an elementary school kid’s understanding.
I shook my head, clearing it of those thoughts. My knuckles were going white from holding the steering wheel so tight. I slowed to a stop and let the engine idle in the middle of a deserted motorway. I’d seen some CDs kicking around before, and music would go a long way to keeping my head clear while I drove. As long as it was good music, anyway.
When I found the case of CDs, I flipped through them, trying to decide what to listen to. It wasn’t all bad, truth be told.
“Killing the Phoenix? Fuck that,” I snorted to myself, wondering how the old owner of this car had even heard of that band. For the record, Killing the Phoenix is my old band. We never made it very big, and I was pretty sure our only fans were in America. It was on a CD the guy had burnt himself, so I guess he probably pirated it from somewhere. I smiled to myself at the memory of the band. Rayn was the guitarist. He was the one that got the band together in the first place. He’d known Damien, the drummer, and Phil, the bassist, for a while. They’d come over from New York to try their luck in Las Vegas. Rayn had basically grown up in a casino, and needless to say, he knew how to cheat perfectly every time. He stripped those guys of their cash in less than an hour. But, because Rayn’s one of those nice-to-everyone kinda guys, he bought them both a drink – probably with their own money – and somehow ended up becoming friends with them.
By this point, I’d stopped living in Idaho; I think I was about sixteen, maybe. I’d moved to Las Vegas with Rayn to try and start fresh, but I was already hooked on drugs, and so was Rayn. We lived off cheating people of their money in as many casinos as we could get away with it in, and we had more than enough cash coming in to fuel our habits. It was snowballing, getting worse and worse, but neither of us cared.
Aside from cheating and drugs, we were both really into music. We’d both learnt to play the guitar together and with this money, we’d invested in a couple decent instruments to jam with each other. Naturally, when Rayn introduced me to Phil and Damien, music came up. We ended up playing together, and by the time I was seventeen, we’d formed a band and we were playing locally, little bar gigs and stuff.
We stayed together for a good few years, and made a bit of a name for ourselves, but the other two didn’t stay clean very long when they were spending so much time with a pair of addicts, and Damien frequently confessed his love for me, and loudly, when he was out of it. I don’t swing that way, so I was always turning him down and he hated it. I might’ve gotten kinda nasty with him. He wasn’t getting the message, and I tried to ignore that it was causing problems, but that ended up making it worse. Things just fell apart after a while, and none of us would talk. We’d go play a gig, but after the show, we’d all go sleep in different hotels – not even different rooms in the same hotel. Oh no. Things were too far gone for that.
Despite the bad memories, there were a lot of good ones, though. Like being able to buy our first proper tour bus. The attention from the girls. Being in a studio to record an album and then going out on stage to play it to people. The fucking energy. All of a sudden I missed it, and looking up around at the wasteland that I was stuck in, I felt kinda bitter. Zombies had gotten me sober when nothing else could, and I was in my element, being able to take my anger out on things without any repercussions, but it was nothing compared to what I used to have, not really.
I found myself missing Rayn and Phil. Even Damien. After hesitating a moment, I stuck our CD in the stereo and wondered where they all were now, if they were even alive anymore. As I drove, I pretended I was still in Nevada, that we were still all together somehow, making music and fucking around and having fun.
The music attracted a few walkers, but I didn’t care. I left the windows rolled down so I could shoot them if they got too close. I’m not sure how long I was driving for. I must have been going in circles or something, because it took longer than I remember running for to get back. But eventually, I started seeing some familiar scenery. I edged the car into town, turning the music off, just to be on the safe side.
I screwed the silencers I’d found on a couple guns and kept them close to hand, taking down a few zombies that were attracted to the growl of the car’s engine as I went. By the time I reached the camp, it was almost getting dark. I strapped as many weapons to myself as I could, and quietly made my way into the woodland where they’d set up that tree house thing. They’d taken up the rope ladder, but that wasn’t a problem for me, not really.
Turning my attention to the tree closest to their camp house, I started climbing. You can’t keep me out of anywhere, if I put my mind to it. When I was high up enough, I turned and threw myself onto the roof of their house, grinning as I thought of Scott freaking out. I slid down onto the little bit of floor they had outside the door. Pushing it open, I walked in.
“Honey, I’m home,” I smirked.