My parents had always taught me to put hundred and ten per cent into anything I did and to finish what I had started. They had raised me with this attitude right from when I was a baby; it was a large reason why I didn’t just move schools when Harry Acker’s temper had decided to make me his target.
I had always had the motivation to see things through; whether it was a school project or one of the short stories and poems I used to write. It didn’t matter what it was, my moral never altered. And so now, that same matter that had been drilled into me still applied.
I didn’t agree with what Adam had assigned me to do, of course not, but I was determined to do it. I was capable and strong and I could manage it.
My small group stood facing me, uncertainty clear on their faces. It consisted of five people, Robby included. My heart ached at the thought of taking her outside with me, but she had assured me that she would be fine. She was the only one now that had even the slightest glimmer of faith in me.
Cari, an orphaned teenager just like me and Robby, spoke with exasperation. ‘Are we going or what?’ It was very obvious she was trying to mask her fear.
‘Yes, do you remember what I said?’ I addressed them all. Nods went round the group. ‘You stick close to me, do not separate and if we face trouble we leave. Preserve your ammunition, use it if absolutely necessary, but stick to your knives.’ I paused. ‘Is everybody ready? Good, let’s go.’
We set off for our inevitable demise.
I had no fucking clue what I was doing; scouting for supplies had been hard enough when I was with a handful of trained people but now that Adam had given me a group of civilians it was even worse. Trying to focus, but to also keep them alive and aware of their surroundings was proving to be a near-on impossible task. They were scared shitless too; it was written all over their faces.
Robby kept beside me and she was trying to be brave but every sound, every creak, made her jump.
The sky was casting the first glows of sunrise down upon us; a pink hue lit up our way and the amber glow of the sun peeked at us from behind some clouds.
Adam had told us which parts to stick to and which ones to avoid; he seemed to know the city pretty well. It was populous pre-apocalypse which meant we could expect a lot of the dead. We had to rely on his knowledge. He had even marked it out on a map for us which I now had in front of me. It seemed to trigger a memory which now flashed through my mind, like lightening, of when my parents and I had first arrived in Reno and dad had been holding a map right up to his nose while my mum and I teased him about it.
Sharp pains stabbed through my gut and grief clenched my heart in an iron vice at thoughts of my parents. I tried my very best to push it to the back of my mind for the time being. I had a job to do.
No point dwelling on things that could not be reversed.
‘Where are we going?’ Robby whispered beside me.
‘To the hospital,’ even as I spoke it, doubt crept into my mind. We hadn’t had a lot of luck with hospitals recently and it always seemed to be the places you wanted to avoid the most. It was where the most deaths had occurred.
‘Hospital?’ someone repeated behind me. ‘Fuck that. Where did Adam say exactly?’
‘Riverton Memorial Hospital,’ I hissed impatiently.
‘I refuse to go there.’
I whirled round to see exactly who I was talking to. A man, around my height, with a stony expression and folded arms glared back at me. I recognized him as Rhys Muller.
‘We don’t have time for this,’ Cari tugged at his arm. ‘Let’s just go and get this over with, Adam will be expecting us back.’
‘Whatever we decide we can’t stay here,’ Robby said. ‘We’re in the open.’
As if to prove her point, a figure emerged from behind one of the abandoned cars and started to drag itself over towards us. The lower half of its jaw had been torn away completely; remnants of its tongue and arteries spilled out dangling with each raggedy step it took. Rhys pulled his gun upwards and had been about to shoot when I stopped it.
‘Come on,’ I told them. 'Don't bother killing it, it's too far away to hurt us. Remember what I said about ammunition.'
We carried on towards the hospital but I was beginning to seriously doubt Adam’s decision. I had seen first-hand what terrors hospitals held. It was a place to avoid at all costs. But then Adam had to know this city better than anyone, he wouldn’t have told us to go to a place that would cost our lives? Would he?
It occurred to me then that I did not know Adam very well and did not know what he would have done.