A distant clunking noise woke Camden up.
He lifted his heavy eyelids to see nothing but a thin strip of light ahead of him, his body still curled up in the impossibly small space under the bed. As he rose slowly the events of last night hit him again causing him to fall back. "Dear God, what the hell was I thinking?" Camden moaned aloud to himself.
How the hell had he convinced himself that his older brother was real? That he was with him? There was no way he could have suddenly shown up out of the blue, in the middle of that chaos.
There was no army base nearby he killed three zombies on the staircase, his brother had killed none. No one addressed him plurally they always spoke to him and not Carl because he was the only one there, no wonder Mariam got suspicious.
His insides turned icy cold, he shrinked in embarrassment when he thought about how oddly the others looked at him how accusing their glares were, they were probably looking for him right now. How the hell would he face them? How the hell would he explain that he'd been seeing his brother? How the hell did he explain that he had...?
"NO!" Camden bellowed to himself, he wouldn't let anyone know that, that was private, he was not a maniac, seeing his brother was just a coping mechanism, Yes that was it. That was all. He knew he panicked and in his head Carl appeared to comfort him. Crazy. But not psychopathic. Not scary crazy. He was normal.
He worked as a postman. He was normal.
"I am normal" Camden told himself as he crawled from under the bed his uniform now covered in dust as well as the dried black blood, sneezing himself silly he wiped his nose and left the small room he had fled too.
It was early morning Camden could tell as sunlight streamed from the windows of the flat, the silence made him feel uneasy as odd thoughts began to crop into his head that the group had vanished or left him. "Don't start dreaming them up" He snapped at himself, burying his trauma as he had to keep a solid grip on things. Father was always telling them that his weak was grip and Camden knew a weak grip made for a weak man, He couldn't be weak, not in front of these people. Yet now Carl was gone these were hostile strangers, not cosy friends.
"I told you not to trust them Camden" Carl said striding up to him, looking the same as he did last night. Camden squeezed his eyes shut, trying to clear his head, His hands automatically flying to his head rubbing his cap.
He opened them.
Carl was gone. The silence was complete, with this Camden sighed and walked onwards lowering his hands to his sides he was about to shout for somebody, before a door opened and the old widow (Victoria) stepped out in front of him she heard him and turned to him.
"Oh" Camden uttered.
"Hey" she said kindly, a mass of clothes in her hands.
"Erm, hi, what are you doing with those?" Camden asked hastily.
"Getting them washed, the washing machines are broken, but the sink should do it, and we still have plenty of shampoo, thank the Lord" she explained.
"Yeah" Camden echoed.
"About last night, what happened there?" she asked.
Camden was glad she didn't tiptoe around the elephant in the room, well corridor. But he had not prepared himself for a full detailed explanation of why he acted completely off his head after a few seconds of silence he found an honest sort of answer.
"Well, it's just my brother got killed in action a few years back, I know it sounds mad, but I guess when this thing started I just convinced myself he was there" Camden felt like a dozen weights were lifted from his chest when the woman smiled warmly at him. "It's okay I understand you we all missed love one's" she said kindly as she began to walk with her clothes, Camden followed her closely.
"Have you...?" he began.
"No, I haven't lost any of my loved one's those things" the last word sounding like poison rolling off her tongue. "The husband died a few years back, miss him every day, and my two boys are down in London, I don't know what's happened to them" she had a sad faraway look on her face as she mentioned her missing sons.
"I'm sorry" Camden said.
"Don't be, I'm sure their fine, well I hope so maybe I'm convincing myself their alive just like you are" she sighed looking down to her clothes "I don't think you're crazy Camden, It's natural to care about loved one's".
"Thanks, I honestly didn't know how to approach you guys over it, I must sound insane" Camden mused while smiling lightly. Victoria smiled back at him as he let that off his chest with a puff "Well, explaining to the others what you told me, will help clear the air, trust me" she informed him as they entered the kitchen.
Mariam, Oliver and Stephanie were seated at the table, Victoria greeted them with a merry wave, Camden froze on the spot as the trio looked right at him. "Are you feeling any better?" Oliver asked, in the same "treading on eggshells" tone he took with Camden last night.
"Fine, I just had to sleep it off" he didn't want to approach these people and look into their eyes, but he knew if he didn't he wouldn't clear the air so he sat himself down and began to pour himself some cornflakes.
"So, why did you see your brother?" Mariam asked right off the bat, her tone slightly calmer than it had been previously Sandy still clutched to her chest like a life jacket. "About that, I... I know this sounds mad, but when this whole thing started, I just saw him there It was like a coping mechanism like I said I know it sounds mad, but I felt like he was all I had" Camden's tone was low and his voice quiet, which portrayed a humbled honesty that made Mariam and Oliver's faces soften.
"I know you wanted to talk to me about it Mariam that's why you told Danny, heck I hardly blame you I needed a reality check" Camden told her, and for the first time Camden saw the warm mother behind the sari.
"I'm glad that's been cleared" she said warmly. "I was just worried because..."
"You thought I was crazy? Don't worry, If I saw a guy talking to himself, I would freak out too, especially if you've got a little one to protect" Camden's tone was light-hearted, and friendly, Mariam seemed fully convinced.
"Well, I can't really judge you, not after what I did" she began sadly.
"Hey none of that" Oliver began gruffly, "and none from you either" he pointed at Camden before he could speak. "Today's a new day, and we've cleared the air, so no harm done". Oliver boomed his last four words as Heather and Quincey walked in, Heather seemed reassured by the words judging by her small smile while Quincey voiced his thoughts.
"So you're not a bat-shit crazy axe murderer?" he asked Camden.
"No, sorry to disappoint you" Camden answered flatly.
"Shame, I wanted to use as a boogeyman figure to get Rose to be quiet when she starts blabbing" Quincey said lightly, Camden could already sense he'd quite like this guy. As he sat he noticed Stephanie was shooting Quincey a very nasty look Quincey picked up on it.
"Don't worry, the kids aren't around they won't hear my foul language trust me" Quincey reassured her.
"That's good" Stephanie answered coldly before her eyes suddenly latched onto Camden. "So you're not dangerous then?" she got out with no hesitation, Camden thought Mariam was the bluntest, but Stephanie just won that award. As her eyes bored into him Camden he felt himself flush slightly embarrassed at the question.
"No, of course not" he answered lightly yet something about Stephanie's hard face told him that she didn't believe him.
"Jeez Steph I try and make a new start for everyone and you just go asking that?" Oliver looked rather haughty as he asked the question.
"Just checking" Stephanie snapped.
"Well, as fun as it's been I wanna show Camden here something" Quincey said rising from his seat, Camden didn't even ask where they were going he followed Quincey instantly. As Oliver and Stephanie began to argue sharing a smile with Victoria before he left, while Heather just sat there seemingly unfazed by the argument. Mariam looked rather stiff.
"She's proper stingy that one" Quincey told Camden once they had reached a safe distance.
"She's just looking out for her kid, no doubt" Camden answered.
"Yeah, but you don't have to go asking people questions like that" Quincey said his eyes on the corridor ahead.
"Where are we going anyway?" Camden asked after a minute of following Quincey along the wooden floored corridors. "I've got a game planned, just follow me and enjoy the surprise" Quincey mused a small smile playing on his freckled face.
As they walked, they past Bradley and Ian who were walking towards the kitchen. Ian didn't seem to look at Camden or Quincey but as he passed them he heard a voice behind him.
Bradley looked as frail as ever, Camden still couldn't believe he was 11 the boy looked 9 to him.
"Yeah?" he answered as Ian paused and waited for his son.
"You're not... mad are you?" he got out.
Camden bent down on one knee to make eye contact with him.
"No, I just got scared because I thought I saw someone who was there and he wasn't" Camden explained gently to the boy.
"You mean Carl? You said he was your brother" Bradley asked, curiosity lined his facial features.
"Yeah, but my brother's been gone a long time" Camden told him vaguely.
"Did, those... things get him?" Bradley asked.
"No" Camden said before thinking about it he saw Bradley's eyes dilate in horror, Camden felt like he had to explain more clearly "He died a while ago, I just got scared thinking what would happen if he turned into one of those things" Camden spoke clearly to Bradley.
"Oh, okay that makes sense" Bradley said. "It was just, scary at the time" he added.
"It was scary for me too, but I won't be doing it again. I promise." Bradley smiled at him before he turned away and followed his father, who was slowly walking down the hall Camden turned back to where Quincey was waiting for him.
"That little dude seems to like you, God knows why." Quincey joked.
"He seems polite for his age" Was all Camden could say on the matter, Quincey enquired no more his mind preoccupied on his "surprise." But there was another truth to as why Camden had grown on the pale, quiet, boy.
It was like he was looking at a mirror image of himself when he was 11, With a lock of shockingly black hair along with the nervous nature, due to these similarities he felt inclined to protect the boy, to defend him.
"Because not having anyone there for you, can lead to consequences" Carl's voice rang in his head.