For a while Joe just stood there, staring at the dying teenager on the floor. He still clutched the knife in his hand, ready to end it all, but he couldn’t bring himself to do so. Harry writhed on the floor in pain, blood flowing past his fingers, soaking everything it touched.
Cancer came to stand beside Joe and rolled the guy over with his foot. Joe knew what was coming, and he welcomed it.
‘I’m guessing you deserve this,’ Cancer said, bringing his knife up.
A nod from Joe sent the knife straight into the guy’s throat. His eyes went wide, he choked and then he died. Straight and simple. The corner of Joe’s mouth tilted up slightly.
‘Don’t mention it,’ Cancer frowned at him. ‘Do you wanna tell me what that was about?’
‘His name was Harry Acker,’ Joe replied monotonously. ‘He made my life a living hell and then he killed my parents. Drove them straight out to their deaths.’
There was silence for a few moments until Cancer replied with: ‘He did deserve it then.’
Joe wondered briefly if anyone truly deserved to die. Before the apocalypse he would have been certain that no human being deserves that, but now he wasn’t so sure. His faith in humanity was dwindling; he had seen some pretty horrific stuff since it had all started.
Cancer walked over to one of the bodies and tore off some checked fabric from the guy’s shirt, immediately forming a tourniquet round his arm to staunch the flow of blood.
‘We should go,’ Scott said quietly. ‘We need to get out of here, and quick. What if the others come back?’
‘He’s right,’ Sophia agreed. ‘We need to get going.’ She started to walk off but Cancer lightly grabbed her arm. She shook it off immediately.
‘Hey,’ he said, probably only intending for her to hear. ‘You alright?’
‘I’m fine.’ She stepped over one of the dead bodies and led the way. Soon enough they were back outside. It was approaching dawn; the sky was hazy blue lined with streaks of pink. The rising sun kissed the earth in an ethereal glow, tainting the edges of the clouds amber. The fresh air hit Joe like a slap in the face and it was almost disorientating: everything in front of them was so beautiful, but underneath that was a world torn to ruins.
The metallic odour of spilled blood eased when they were outside, but the potent stench of rotting death hit them like a solid brick wall.
‘Man you never get used to it do you?’ Scott muttered.
‘We gotta find a pharmacy,’ Sophia declared. ‘That’s our first priority.’
‘Have you failed to notice that I’m bleeding like a motherfucker over here?’ Cancer growled. ‘The fucking bandages and antibiotics were left back at the camp. But if you fancy going back there then be my guest.’
‘There’s one about ten minutes from here,’ Joe said. ‘At least, I think there is. I vaguely recognize this place.’
‘Stick to alleyways, stay hidden and keep quiet,’ Sophia instructed, leading the way. Scott followed, falling into pace beside her. Cancer regarded them both with an odd expression. A slight crease appeared between his brows and his mouth settled into a firm line. He seemed to notice Joe watching him and shrugged his shoulders.
‘Come on kid.’
Joe winced. He really hated being called a kid.