The red dirt hadn’t seen rain in months. Boots kicked up dust.
“You haven’t said anything in a while.”
They walked past the groaning dead with no fanfare.
The farm fell apart weeks ago, two of the group were eaten alive. Spring had arrived, but no rain had fallen. Climate changed really fucked up everything before everything went to shit after the robbery.
They made camp on the roof a convenient store, watching some of the dead stumble and grunt into the storefront, trying to reach the fire on top of the building.
“…Nothing to say.”
Tears hit their sleeping bag that night as their companion slept. They bit their lip until it bled again, to stop from screaming in agony. They hadn’t gotten a full nights rest since that night. They ran on fumes each day, 3 hours or less of sporadic sleep. They could feel Death touch their shoulder with each waking step.
Today, Death had a firm grip on it.
The cold sweat woke them up, the vision of watching their best friend get torn apart by a swarm of the undead as they rode away on the last horse on the farm was forever burned into their memory. They stared at the small bit of concrete in front of them, quickly sitting up when a hand reached up and grabbed onto it. They slid out of their sleeping bag, grabbing a smoldering stick from the diminished fire and holding it like a sword. The hand slowly turned into two, their companion pulling themselves up. They raised an eyebrow at the makeshift swordsman, smirking a bit.
“Nice to know you still got it, I guess,” they grunted, dumping their heavy backpack onto the floor. The former sleeper tossed the stick back into the fire.
“Looks like you got a good haul,” they said, squatting down and changing the subject. Their companion smiled more.
“It’s just beans and veggies,” they replied, handing them a can of beans and a can of peas.
“Well, it’s better than that rabbit we had, what, two days–”
They both sat in silence, the groans of the dead getting louder. They quickly packed up their things, leaning over the edge of the building as they zipped up the last pack.
A horde of 200 or so of the dead came sulking down the street. Their eyes grew wide, having never seen so many at once. They climbed down the other side of the building and took off running down side streets. The sound of the dead seemed to be getting louder and louder in their ears, so they stopped running and fell to their knees. Their companion looked back and turned around, trying to pull them up.
“Get up, they aren’t even close!” they whispered loudly, an ancient straggler moaning at them through the glass of an electronics store.
The one of the ground looked up at them and smiled.
“It’s time,” they whispered back, opening up their food pack and handing them more cans to carry but not enough to slow them down. They also handed over a map, a small box of facial tissues and a king-sized candy bar they were saving.
“Get out of here,” they said, tears running down their face. The one standing was confused, visibly scared but nodded, taking off in a sprint. But not before leaning down and kissing their old friend on the forehead and whispering a soft “I love you”.
The friend of Death slowly stood up, pulling out a knife from their boot and running in the opposite direction. As they made their out of the alleyway, they saw the horde. Their breath caught in the throat. They held onto the handle of their knife tightly, running away from the noise, the dragging of feet. They ran past cars, elbowing the glass out of them and honking the horns, making the horde move faster.
“C’mon, you FUCKS,” they screamed in the middle of the road, another horde blocking their way out. A grin filled with madness crossed their face, followed by unchecked laughter as one of the zombies grunted at them and tried to bite. They stabbed the dead in the side of the head, pushing it into the horde. They kept swinging their knife around, blood and gore, splattering onto their person.
In their madness, they managed to dead 30 or so of the dead. The rush started to wear off when they noticed a flare go up into the air a few miles away. Instinct made them reach for their own flare gun and fire it… Into one of the dead that tried to sneak up behind them. They found a break in the horde and dove through it, running down the sidewalk, pushing them out of the way.
“GET DOWN,” was all they heard as they turned the corner. They covered their eyes, the sun now high enough to blind and backlight the group yelling at them.
“I said get down!”
They got down just as bullets started to fly into the horde behind them.
They didn’t remember someone pulling them into the back of a truck, nor someone trying to get information out of them. They snapped out of it when someone handed them a bowl of food that wasn’t formerly canned. They took the bowl and shoved the hot food in their mouth, tears running down their cheeks.
No one talked to them for hours after they had put them in a room. They continued to cry quietly, the waves of failure and helplessness hitting them hard. They fell asleep on the floor for three days. They woke up to the sounds of chatter outside the door.
“…changed by now…”
They slowly sat up from the bed they had been placed in, staring out the window. They saw the sun coming up from the beach they had no idea was there. They didn’t turn their head when the door creaked up.
“You’re up,” a soft voice said. “Someone was worried about you, you know… I brought you some food. It’s been almost a full three days since you ate anything. How are you feeling?”
“…I’m tired,” was the response.
“Heh, I heard that… Well… Please eat. I’m going to grab you a towel and a change of clothes. We’re going to have a group meeting in the lobby in about two hours. We would love for you to join us…”
The food tasted better than before. The shower was extremely hot and the water was extremely dirty to the point of embarrassing. They change of clothes was a long, soft, button shirt and leggings. They felt… calmer than they had in weeks. They slipped on a pair of clean sneakers and went down to the lobby, where the meeting was already happening. A man wearing a mask was talking to a group of 20 people. He stopped talking when he noticed the clean newcomer. His eyes smiled at them and nodded, before going back to his speech on the safety of the group in this small apartment building.
“Our scouts are on their way back for the last sweep before we move on. With two newcomers, one of them having a map, we will be able to move out in phases as to not disturb the dead and have Ramona–”
The newcomer’s gasped loudly.
“R-Ramona?” they stammered, placing a hand on their chest to keep their heart from bursting out. The man walked over to them after dismissing the meeting.
“What do you know about her?” he asked, sitting them down on the floor.
“…she…” Tears started to form in their eyes. He nodded and sat next to them, looking at the crooked art hanging on the wall in front of them.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “We can talk about–”
“You said there was a newcomer with a map?”
He looked at them and nodded.
“Showed up while you were sleeping. Had enough cans of food for three days. They are with the scouts.”
The lobby door burst open, 6 people scrambling inside.
“SHE’S 10 MILES OUT!”
The masked man stood up and rushed up the stairs, ringing the alarm for everyone to hurry up and pack up.
“WE MOVE NOW.”
The newcomer rushed to their room, shoving their now clean old clothes and boots into a bag, helping people pack up as well, loading up the three vans in the garage. The masked man was the last to get in a van. They drove away just as a group of 50 live people showed up down the street, fighting off the dead.
“We’re missing the other newcomer,” the masked man said, doing a headcount in the van and talking with two other people with walkie talkies in the other vans.
“They said they were gonna go on ahead and try to lay a trap for Ramona,” the driver said, turning onto the freeway.
The clean one sat quietly, listening intently. They suddenly felt naked; no boots, no gun, no knife, no heavy ass backpack. If it was their friend from before, they were probably miles away by now, that fast fuck. They smirked and looked out the window, the trees sprouting baby leaves and flowers. The van started to slow down, the chatter on the radios going haywire.
“Ramona is on your tail,” a voice said. The clean one’s heart jumped. It was their friend. They snatched the radio from the masked man.
“YOU! She’s about 5 minutes behind. Weave through the blue and green Mercedes on your right and keep your head down. I need you to shoot the tank the moment you pass it.”
“On it.” They tossed the masked man the radio back, holding a hand out for his firearm. He handed it to them, eyebrows raised in surprise. Death still had a grip on that shoulder.
They opened the van door, the masked man holding them by the ankles so they didn’t slide out as they weaved through the empty cars on the road.
“Passing that Mercedeeeeessssss… NOW!”
They took a deep breath and slowly let it out, aiming the handgun at the tank of the car. It started to leak gas everywhere.
A rider on a horse came out from behind an RV, holding onto a flare. They stood in the gas leak, watching the horde of live people come toward them.
“I love you, South Side. You be safe out there, alright?”
South Side quickly sat up.
The rider dipped a spear into the pouring gas, setting it aflame with the flare. They chucked it in the direction of Ramona’s band, watching it soar and land into another puddle of gas. The band started screaming when it caught fire, the first wave of people having stepped in the gas. Ramona let out a yell, but her own group of horses were terrified.
“FUCK!” she cried, as she was tossed off. She watched as her group retreated, the fire having burned off the ropes they used to keep hold of the dead they used as weapons. They were eating the group. Ramona hissed and got up, running through the wave of screaming soon to be dead people. She ran until she caught up with the rider.
South Side couldn’t take it anymore. They jumped out the van, rushing toward the rider. The masked man ordered the vans to keep going but hopped out as well after grabbing a sniper rifle and posting up on the RV they passed.
“YOU! THIS ALL YOUR FAULT! IF YOU HAD JUST–” Ramona screamed before a bullet whizzed by her ear. She smirked.
“Of course your little friend is with you,” she whispered, seeing South Side run up behind the rider. The rider didn’t look back but smiled. They hopped off the horse, slapped its ass, sending it off into the wild. They tossed the flare at Ramona’s feet.
“Your feet are wet,” they whispered as Ramona caught fire. Ramona howled in agony but rushed at the rider. Two shots rang out. Ramona fell backward, her skin sloughing off. The rider blinked, looking back at South Side, blood spilling from their chest.
“Oh fuck oh fuck,” the rider whispered, rushing to them. South Side stumbled, falling onto a car. They wheezed, smiling up at the rider.
“West Coast,” they whispered, closing their eyes as their hand pressed against their cheek.
“Hey, hey, stay with me! We… We can fix this!”
The fire behind them spread.
South Side handed West Coast the handgun.
“Don’t… Let… Turn…”
South Side smiled up at them, reaching up and touching their lips.
West Coast laid down South Side, tears running down their face.
One shot rang out.
West Coast walked over to the RV.
“Why did you shoot them?”
The masked man looked down at the ground.
“I didn’t,” he said, walking in the direction the vans went.
West Coast looked back at the firey dead as they ate their friend. They saw Death walk away in their black robes, glancing back at West Coast.
West Coast nodded back, following the masked man.