The roar of Harry's bike from behind the shed tore the tense silence that had gripped the camp since the fights last night. The high pitched wail of the motor echoed around the nearby low-lying hills. Without time to react, let alone intervene all I could do was watch as John sped the bike through the nearest gate and off into the hills.
I couldn't for the life of me figure out what was going on, I turned and quickly glanced up at Harry. He was standing tall on his branch, staring after his disappearing quad-bike, obviously just as surprised as I was.
Averting my gaze before Harry could catch on to my knowing of his whereabouts, I decided it couldn't hurt to investigate. Gritting my teeth, I grabbed my shotgun and strode quickly around behind the shed, where John'd been before his rapid exit.
I couldn't pin-point what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't a huddle of people, all standing incredibly tight-nit engaged it what seemed desperate, terrified conversation. None of them had seen me yet. I rested the butt of the gun in the grass and, as if I were scratching an itch, lifted my foot and carefully brought it down over the small latch, unlocking the safety on the gun.
Now, somewhat more armed and ready, I cleared my throat loudly, hoping they wouldn't shoot me on sight. They all jumped, as if my polite cough was the climax of symphony from a horror movie. Three of them, all at once dropped down to the ground hands desperately scrabbling for something they'd dropped, but I couldn't see what.
"You guys know anything about that.." I nodded off in the direction John'd disappeared.
A mumbled chorus of negative answers responded.
"Right..." I trailed off, unsure of where to go with the awkward, tense standoff that'd formed around me. "Whats that you've got there?" I asked with a friendly tone and a smile, in an attempt to break the ice between us.
"You ask too many questions." A voice from the crowd whispered at me, with quiet menace.
"Is that right?" I tightened my gaze and my grip on the gun. "I don't have any fight with you, and I don't want one. So, I'm going to go now." I started to back away "Please, don't do anything stupid."
Their eyes followed me all the way until I'd disappeared back behind the corner of the barn, and it wasn't until I was hidden from their gaze that I fell back against the wall and released the shaky, pent up breath I'd been holding.
I ran my hand through my hair, messing it away from it's usual flop. It was an old habit, but a hard one to brake. Quickly dashed away the stress-sweat from my brow and I was ready to step back into the public eye.
The tension from earlier remained unbroken and it wasn't until now I realized how outnumbered we were, should the silent standoff end and evolve into a fight. It wasn't even a decision I made, it was just a fact cemented in my head. Without John, we were severely disadvantaged, and that could mean our death. It was simple, I had to go and find John, and simply pray that the camp didn't turn violent in our absence.
I ducked inside the shed, over to my car where I grabbed my hiking pack. Shoving in my personal first-aid kit, a few bottles of water and some snacks from my personal, private, almost-depleted stash of food.
Shouldering my pack over myl eft shoulder, so as to avoid pressuring my broken right rib I stepped out into the open. I couldn't go and tell Harry my plan without giving away his position, so I resolved the only solution to be announcing the plan publicly, within ear-shot of him.
I stepped out into the open dirt of the driveway, the border between the two sides of the groups.
"I am going after John. I'll keep walking until Dusk, or until I find him, then I'll turn back." Only silence met my remarks. I figured the message had gotten across, so with no further words I turned my back on the group, and made for the hill where I'd last seen John disappear.
I'd been walking for less than two minutes when something pulled at the edges of my senses, I paused, and held my breath waiting for it again. It was a voice, words snatched away by the wind, coming from the direction of the farm.
I looked back, and saw her. Jogging quickly down the hill with a pack of her own over her shoulder. She vaulted over the small creek splitting the hills with ease, and started soldiering up the hill to where I was standing.
The time I spent while she made her way up to me wasn't wasted. She was from the new group, yet had always seemed at odds with them, which did nothing but raise my opinion of her after last night. Unfortunately she reached me before I could recall her name.
"Hey" she said, between heavy breaths.
"Hi," I responded with a smile.
"Feel like company?" she asked, with what almost seemed to be nervousness, as if she half expected me to turn her back.
"Sure." I beamed, then extended my hand. "We haven't been introduced, I think." I laughed, and she took my outstretched hand in a light but firm grip. "My names Jayden."
She laughed, "Yeah, I know. Michalea." Ah, that was it. 'Michalea.'
"...and then, she said 'why don't you go-' " My story was cut short, and a deathly silence settled between us as we both stopped and listened. The scream we'd heard wasn't a scared scream. It was a 'I'm in agony and terrified' scream.
"Oh no." I said quietly under my breath and ran up the last hill. We were barely ten minutes from the camp and I could see smoke from the fires when I looked back that way. I was lost for words at the scene in it's final stages of unfolding in the grove just below me.
Augustin's femur was snapped clean in half, and had broken clean through the muscle and bone so that it was sticking out in what could only be absolute agony. A thick piece of wood had been speared in above the wound and one of his hands was clearly mangled beyond repair.
John, covered in dust and blood was walking away from the broken body, I turned instinctively trying to stop Michalea from coming up and seeing the bloody mess in the grove below, but I was too late.
A look of pure horror was written across her face as she looked down, and her eyes were stricken wide. I turned back around, shout ready but it died on my lips as I saw something I'd missed the first time.
Dozens and Dozens of the Undead were closing in on the grove. Before I could do anything, John dropped the boulder he'd retrieved down onto Augustin's head. I started sprinting down the hill, but fell as the first few jolts sent lightening agony through my ribs.
From my position on the ground I screamed out to John, but he didn't hear me. Swearing back the pain, I manage to pull myself back up onto one knee. Bringing my gun up, I swung it around and took aim at a clump of them, far enough from John that he wouldn't get caught in the spray, but still in range.
I fired, and instantly regretted it. The kickback bounced directly onto my fractured rib, bringing me to a whole other level of pain. I fell back, stars dancing across my vision, unable to breath and a loud ringing echoing constantly inside my skull.
I was down for the count, and useless in possibly our most dangerous situation yet.