For a long time, no one answered my screaming. Eventually, I ran out of steam, and sat in front of the gate, facing out away from the town. I felt exhausted. I wanted to crawl into bed beside Lou and bury my face in her neck. I needed her familiar smell next to me, her body pressed up against mine, just sharing closeness and feeling like we’re not lost after all the shit that’s happened to us. Not that I was capable of admitting that to anyone else.
I listened to the quiet of the town, the hushed murmur of people shuffling back to their homes.
“You know Will had it out for him,” I could hear a voice getting closer to me, “I doubt he would’ve done anything without being really badly provoked.” I thought at first it might be Eloise arguing my case, but it wasn’t her voice. Not many other people here meant enough for me for their voices to have become familiar. It was a voice that reminded me of the color orange. It couldn’t be Joe, could it?
“I know you trusted him before, but it’s been a long time since I saw you two even talk; he’s changed.”
“Just give me a chance to talk to him, okay?” There was a pause and then the gate rattled and clanged, creaking open. I winced at the noise. That was more than enough to attract some unwanted attention. I pulled out the gun I’d taken from Will’s body. I regretted throwing that silencer away, suddenly. “Cancer?”
I scanned the surroundings carefully before slowly getting to my feet.
Turning, the familiar puff of ginger hair and many times repaired glasses looked up at me.
“What happened out there? The rest of the group came back, only it was four short. They said you went mad and killed Marc, Will and Amy.”
“I did, but they didn’t tell you the whole story,” I said, gritting my teeth at their lies.
“That’s why I’m here. I know you well enough, Cancer. You might be reckless and enjoy violence a bit too much, but you wouldn’t flip out like that without a good reason… would you?”
“It was self defense,” I deflected the question as much as I could, trying to pick a version of the truth that would sit well enough with Joe that he might take my side. He might be able to talk them into taking me back into the camp, but he’d only do that if he was happy with what he heard – he was just like everyone else in that way. I told him how the first guy died, and how Will found me and knocked me out. He listened with a frown as I told him about how I woke up to everyone watching as Will humiliated me. I left out how I killed the girl out of sheer rage and said she just got in the way.
Joe contemplated it for a moment before slipping back behind the gates to talk to whoever was waiting on the other side. I could hear something moving around not so far away, but with the voices so close it was hard to tell where it was coming from. It seemed like there was a thousand rustles and shuffles all closing in on me at once.
“Joe?” I tried to keep my voice steady as I backed myself up closer to the gate, “Joe, let me in.” They ignored me, but I could see some of them now. At least four or five half rotten bodies were making their way towards us. It was like they knew that the gate was open and that this was their chance to rush in for the jackpot. “Joe!” I snapped, banging my fist on the gate, “we’ve got company, let me in and close the fucking gates!”
More of them started staggering out of the darkness and my stomach was starting to tie itself in awkward knots.
“JOE!” I roared. The gate swung open with a gasp of ‘holy fuck’ from someone as I barreled inside, leaving them a nice view of what was coming towards the town. “Someone give me a silencer or a gun,” I snapped, “and go get everyone else that has a gun.” I looked over at the man standing behind Joe. It was Adam. He hesitated a moment before handing me his sniper rifle, half jogging away to find the patrol.
“Someone else needs to make sure there aren’t any coming at the other sides of the camp,” Joe said, glancing at me nervously.
“Well, don’t just stand there, go make it happen,” I said, already making my way up to the top of the wall, already feeling a lot more confident with a gun in my hands. This was where I belonged. Shooting those motherfuckers down, not on a farm.
I balanced the gun on the edge of the wall and started firing like it was my last day on Earth.