The last time I saw this town, I was running. It was hard to believe I was willingly coming back to it.
I had the windows up and the A/C on full blast. The SUV rattled and rocked as I drove over the potholes in the cracked road. But I stayed on course, intent on my goal. This was a small town, with little chance of any roaming survivors hanging around. There were probably tons of goodies just waiting to be looted.
I struggled not to sigh heavily. I had picked up a straggler on the road, half-dead and red like a lobster. The guy, Ryan, had been walking for days, and had used up the last of his water supply. He'd just given up right there on the shoulder, miles from any town. Lucky for him I was driving in that direction, or he'd be a nice hot meal for some undead bastards right about now. Once I'd gotten some water in his system, he began to come to. He opened his eyes weakly and smiled at me. The first thing out of his mouth was "you're beautiful." Needless to say, my sympathetic side kicked in and I dragged him along with me.
But lately, he was being a pain in the ass.
"Yeah," I said gruffly. I kept my eyes on the road. It was lucky I'd left my shades in the car the night before the disease really impacted my town; the sun was baking today.
"Got any water?" he asked. I looked at him. His sunburn had cleared up after three weeks of travelling together and applying liberal amounts of SPF 50. I rolled my eyes and reached into the back, tugging a plastic water bottle from one of the crates on the seat. I tossed it to him grudgingly, and he chugged half of it in three seconds.
"Hold it, cowboy," I said warningly, "don't waste it."
"I know," he said, taking a small sip now. He twisted the cap back on and put it in the drink holder. Behind us, Kallie whimpered.
"I know," I said to her. "We'll be there in a sec." I peeked in my rearview mirror to see the golden retriever looking at me with her sad brown eyes. I laughed.
Everything was quiet for a while. We sped down the road, ignoring the dusty cars on the shoulder. We daren't look inside them -- they were mainly filled with half-eaten bodies. Pretty grotesque. The green signs on the side of the road declared that we were getting closer and closer. 50 kilometers... 23 kilometers... I began to buzz with a weird sort of excitement.
We roared into the town at around 3:30. The sun was high over our heads and we were highly anticipating the prospect of food. It was highly likely that, when all the humans were terminated in the area, the undead would have moved on. They liked to stick in packs, so it would be very rare if we saw any zombies. The thought buoyed me as we sped through the streets I used to know so well.
The amount of destruction became evident the moment we set eyes on the town. Blood was splashed on the white siding of houses, bodies of the dead and undead were everywhere. People had obviously put up a fight after I had left. I felt a sense of overwhelming sadness and pride at the thought. The dog began to whine even more as we neared our old house.
A few minutes in, I turned down the street I grew up on. some trees had fallen over, most were spattered in blood. There were fewer bodies here; most would undoubtedly be in the houses. A few toys were in the yards. I pulled up onto the front lawn of my old house.
"Alex," Ryan said again, this time warningly. I jumped out anyways, into the hot sun and dead air. I opened the back door to let Kallie out. She barked happily and jumped out, panting in the heat. I grinned sadly and took off my sunglasses as I looked up at the house, its windows smashed and its door kicked in. I tried not to think of my parents and little sister. I'd already moved on, anyways... it had been about a year and a half since I'd left. I was tough.
I started to make for the destroyed door. Suddenly, a hand was on my upper arm. I whipped around, instinctively hitting it away and holding my hands up in the guarded position. It was just Ryan. I relaxed.
"Don't go in there," he said softly. "You don't know what you might find." I looked into his eyes, and he looked back. There seemed to be something there, something I couldn't identify.
"Ryan," I say gently, "I --"
Suddenly, a shot rang out. I looked around, and everything was over. The bullet nearly missed my right ear. A gurgling noise sounded from behind us. I looked over, and a zombie fell to its knees, a dark hole cleanly between its eyes gushing blood. It fell with a splat to the ground, spraying a mix of dark blood and rotted flesh around it. I looked in the direction of the shooter, and saw a tall, dark-skinned girl standing there, her gun raised. Her blue eyes were calm and a slight wind blew her chin-length brown hair in front of her. She smiled, revealing gleaming white teeth. I quickly made a move to reach for the gun in my back pocket.
"Ah, ah, ah," she said, as if she were reprimanding a young child. "Don't move. I will kill you, if I have to. Hands up." Her voice was so sweet, it didn't fit the image she was presenting us.
"Who are you?" Ryan asked quietly. The girl just smiled.