"Julia!" His voice rang out, loud as a bell, yet returned to him unanswered.
As Luke looked through the rooms of an abandon apartment, ransacking them for any sort of supplies he could scavenge, the memory of his desperate search for Julia kept replaying in his mind like a broken record.
The streets had been forebodingly empty lacking in any sort of signs of life, yet jammed packed with cars, crashed and mangled in with each other much like the corpses trapped within them or strewn across the streets.
He had called her name repeatedly the day he reached his aunts condo. Every time it had come back the same an unrequited echo. He had wandered the streets all morning like someone who had just woken from a realistic dream to find that it was not real--and the dream had been his life.
Luke kicked down the door to another apartment, 12B. He scanned the room as he entered, removing himself from the deadly doorway. It was the picturesque apartment; kitchen, family room and two bedrooms complete with a couch, television set and family size table. The only thing missing were the people.
Luke tried not to think about the family that had once lived here as he sifted through their cabinets. However, it was hard to not think about two things at once, so he chose to think about the family over the thought that he might not see Julia again. He hoped the family had abandoned their home to flee the city rather than having succumbed to the plague.
Luke found two cans of his favorite soup and a packet of matches. He placed these in his tattered duffle and began looking for a can opener when he peered out the west facing window. The sun was setting fast. Soon it would be dark, and he deciding to give up on finding anything else and try instead to find a safe place to hunker down for the night. After he collected the can opener Luke exited the building by way of the fire escape.
As the sky was getting dangerously dark Luke came across a department store. He had hoped for something a little more secure but time was running out and options were scarce. It would be a risk either way. Cautiously, Luke entered the store and picked out a an electronics outlet to hide in; a fond gesture to his childhood fetish.
His years in the Canadian Army had made him very careful. He checked every door, every window and air-vent, making sure he was alone before he let down his guard. Somehow he missed the storeroom and got a frightful shock when, as he was falling asleep, a large man yelled at him.
"Who are you?!" he boomed.
"Keep your voice down!" Luke said firmly.
"What are you doing here?"
"I just came in here to find a safe place to rack out, alright?" he said calmly while his hand searched for something heavy to hit the guy with. Just in case. "Where did you come from? I checked all the rooms."
"I have a key to the store room, which I keep locked." the big guy said, starting to control himself.
Luke stood up when he couldn't find something to defend himself with, the big guy offering him a hand up. "My name is Luke Belanger, what's yours?"
"Ian." He grunted.
"So you aren't sick then?" Luke eyed him watchfully.
"Not sick either. How long have you been here?"
"A couple days. I was on the road when all that crazy shit started to happen. Didn't get very far, so I came back here." He hid his sorrow well, Luke hadn't noticed the fluttering of his heart at the thought of his parents; their bodies still laying in a wrecked vehicle on the highway.
"You work here?"
"Yeah. Well I did. Why? You want to buy a flat screen?"
"Depends on the price I guess."
The two laughed at their absurd conversation. The first time in weeks either of them had done so, it sounded like an old engine being used again.
"Hello?" came a frightened call from somewhere outside the shop entrance.
Ian and Luke ducked behind the big desk, trying to keep very quiet.
"Were you followed?!" Ian asked Luke indignantly.
"No!" Luke whispered back, annoyed.
"Is anyone there?" The frightened voice was coming closer. "I heard someone yelling. Please I need help."
"No one's here." Ian said in a deep voice, causing Luke to screw his eyes up in frustration, gritting his teeth hard enough for it to be audible.
"Who said that?"
Luke shook his head, "I'm going to come out now, don't be scared. See my hands," Luke pushed them up over the top of the desk, "Nothing in them, alright?"
He popped his head, followed by Ian warily over the edge, and saw a young girl with an odd looking head. "Are you sick?" Luke asked as both the guys ducked back behind the counter.
"What's wrong with your head then?" asked Ian.
He heard the girl stamp her foot, "It's my haircut!"
Ian popped his head back over the top and took a harder look. It looked quite floppy, and one side of her hair was shorter than the other, making it look like she had a chunk missing. "Hey I know you. You're that weird chick who comes in here all the time, asking if we have any sewing software, or whatever."
"You must be that guy who never helps me find it," she said flatly.
"That certainly sounds like me," he agreed standing up.
"Do you think anyone followed you?" Luke asked, leaning to see behind her.
"No." she said in a low voice, crisp with a tone of fear and sadness.
"Come on in then." Ian interjected, his expression a twisted shape of reluctant generosity. "I've got some food left we can all share."
They took her in. Ian shared his dwindling food supply with the two people and they prepared for the harrowing experience that was nightfall. As dusk came to a close, the three gave up on their meagre barricade.
Luke sighed. "We've got to set up a watch" He said, glaring at their pile of debris against the doors.
Ian could see in Luke's eyes that he wasn't all there. He had that Thousand Yard Stare, the one you get when you've seen some awful things and couldn't get over it.
They were all completely exhausted, but Luke offered to take the first watch. Ian tried to convince him that they could all sleep in the store room, but Luke just wandered back out to sit behind the counter.
He didn't wake either of them to take over.
Principal Author: ShyahByah