He wasn’t sure how long he ran for. He wasn’t sure where he was, or where the others were. He wasn’t sure who had survived or how close the walkers were to him. He wasn’t sure of anything at the minute except for how much his lungs burned and the way his legs threatened to give way. He was running blindly now, through the dark, over logs and under branches. Twigs snapped beneath his feet and his glasses were misting up from the exertion.
Eventually he stopped, momentarily not caring if he was caught. He collapsed against a tree, taking in deep breaths. He was on the very edge of the forest now; he could spot an industrial estate about fifty yards away.
Footsteps sounded behind him and Joe leaped up wildly, spinning round.
Last time he checked though, zombies didn’t get out of breath. Panting, followed by short sobs and panicked cries. Sophia had arrived. Joe didn’t know if he was relieved that she had survived or apprehensive. How would she react to the fight he had just had with Cancer?
Don’t be stupid. She doesn’t care about that; she just lost one of her best friends Joe's inner voice once again scolded him.
‘Are you okay?’ he stepped towards her.
‘That was fucking close,’ another voice joined them and immediately Joe’s guard was up. Cancer emerged from the shadows, his eyes trained on Joe. He didn’t say anything more though, he just watched him. He put his hand on Sophia’s back as she fought to get her breath.
‘Did Scott survive?’ she stood up, her face drenched with tears.
‘Present and counted for,’ a glum voice responded. Scott appeared seconds later, looking not too different from Sophia. ‘Poor Chris. Those bastards got him.’ His eyes were red and bloodshot.
Everyone was silent for a moment, assessing the situation. Joe felt extremely lucky to be alive, he wasn’t sure how many of the walkers had gotten into camp but the way that they had sneaked up on them was even more deadly. They should have been paying proper attention.
As if he had read his mind, Scott spat in the direction of Joe before turning to Cancer.
‘Well fucking done you two.’ He turned back to Joe. ‘Guess that makes two people that you’ve gotten killed now.’
Joe didn’t think, he just acted. He drew his fist back and punched Scott straight in the jaw. Scott stumbled backwards, clutching his mouth with both hands. Three pairs of eyes stared at Joe in shock. Even he couldn’t believe what he had just done. His hand throbbed; he had never hit anyone before but they always made it look so easy in the movies. He kept it still at his side, not wanting to show weakness.
Cancer seemed to smirk slightly. Sophia just sighed.
‘Joe please just relax okay? Calm the hell down!’
Scott opened his mouth before Sophia held up her hand, cutting him off. ‘You asked for it Scott. Now, everybody needs to chill out. We are NOT going to survive this thing if we carry on the way we are.’
Silence followed as her words seeped in. Joe realized how right she was; he had no reason to lose his temper earlier and he probably was the one that had caused the invasion. He turned to Cancer, about to force himself to apologize before he noticed that he was clutching his arm. His mouth twisted in pain ever so slightly.
‘Are you okay?’ he repeated the same question he had asked Sophia.
‘I’m fine,’ his voice was cold.
Sophia noticed though and she rushed straight to him. ‘Did you get bitten?’
'He got bit?!' Scott cried out. 'He's a threat to the group. He's gotta be dealt with.'
'He is standing right here and he can hear everything you say,' Cancer snapped.
'Why didn't you say anything?' Before anyone could stop him, Scott grabbed his gun and pointed it straight at Cancer. Joe froze to the spot, not for the first time. If Scott fired, god knows how many more walkers he'd attract. Cancer remained unfazed though.
'You do realize that I could kill you before you even pulled the trigger? For one, you've got the fucking safety on.'
Joe let out a hysterical laugh. A nervous reaction.
'Nobody is killing anyone!' Sophia shrieked. 'Don't you think there's been enough deaths to last us a lifetime? May I remind you all that Chris just got brutally murdered?! Scott put the fucking gun down!' She stood in front of Cancer. 'NOW you idiot!'
'Sophia get out of the way.' The fact that he had the safety on didn't seem to deter Scott. He still stood with the barrel pointing at Cancer, although his eyes were scanning the weapon itself, probably figuring out how to actually shoot. 'He's just been bitten. He's gonna be one of them.'
Scott found the safety and flicked it off. The tension in the air seemed to suddenly multiply and even Cancer realized how serious Scott was.
'I got bit before, you fucking idiot. Do I look like a zombie?'
'That's not even possible.'
It occurred to Joe that Scott was holding the gun all wrong. If he did shoot, he'd do a lot of harm to himself and he probably wouldn't even hit Cancer. From the movies, Joe knew that if you were to fire a pistol it's always better to support your shooting hand with your other hand cupped beneath it.
Then Sophia spoke the words that stilled the world: 'I found a cure.'