Mika opened her eyes slowly, sunlight making her blind for only a moment until she sat up. The others lay around her, or what was left of them. They had lost Carmine and Brian and although she had only known them a short while, Mika felt a sadness in her heart. Her arm throbbed and was stiff. Looking down she saw that she had bled through the bandage that John had applied last night.
The group had stumbled into a convenience store once they cleared out a few of the occupants quietly with knives to the temple as to not attract attention. Ed stood on guard; he had the latest watch because he had fallen asleep before they had even picked a spot to lay down in for the night. So, the group gathered around him by the fridges that held once cold beverages and fell asleep quickly as everyone was exhausted from the long night.
Ed turned his head towards her when she moved. His face was puffy from crying and he did not smile at her as he usually did in the few days she had known him.
She stood quietly, trying not to disturb the others and went to him. He sat on a box labeled peanut butter and from the angle that he sat, he could see out the front window and the circular mirror in either ceiling corner of the small store.
“ We seemed to have lucked out,” she said quietly, grabbing a bag of chips before sitting next to him, careful of her arm. She opened the bag as quickly as she could and offered him some.
He shook his head and looked away from her. “Carmine and Brian are dead. I wouldn’t call that luck.” His words were curt, but true.
“ I’m sorry,” Mika said after swallowing the handful of chips she had shoved in her mouth. “ I didn’t know them very well but you all got along pretty well.” She hoped to drag him away from the negative.
He shrugged his shoulders, still gazing out the window, not meeting her eyes. “ Carmine reminded me of my aunt, always fussing,” she could tell that he smiled. “ And Brian.” He sighed. “ Brian saved my life once.” Ed stood and walked in the direction of the front of the store leaving Mika to finish her chips in silence.
Behind her, the others were beginning to stir. “ I hesitate to call it good, but, morning” Nicole said as she plopped down beside Mika and grabbed a bag of chips as well. “Breakfast of champions,” she groaned as she struggled to open the bag. “How’s your arm?” Nicole asked, a worried look crossing her face when she saw the bandage.
“It hurts like a bugger,” Mika replied.
“Where’s Ed?” John asked coming over to the two women. Mika pointed in the direction he had just left, John nodded. “We will all have to keep an eye on him. I’m afraid he will take last night’s events harder than most of us.”
Mika regarded him. “What makes you say that?” she asked, crumpling the empty bag of chips and tossing it like a basketball into the corner. John went to her side and looked at the bandage. As he removed it to clean the wound he replied.
“Ed hasn’t really seen must, death,” John began. “His boyfriend Kyle was the first person he lost and that was only a few weeks before we met you. Now Carmine and Brian..” he trailed off.
“We’ve all had twelve months of trauma to deal with and he was holed up in some cabin for most of it, until we met them on the road. They had run out of food, and information,” Jane came up behind John.
“ Who we talking about?” she asked groggily. John tipped his chin in Ed’s direction.
“Ah,” Jane said, opening her own breakfast of stale chips.
“Is that how you all met?” Mika asked timidly. “ You just found one another?” John winced as he peeled the soaked bandage and started to clean the cut with water prompting Mika to cry out softly. He could see that Ed sat by the window and that he wanted to be left alone, but still, he stole glances his way every few minutes.
“I was working at one of the refugee centres, if you can call it that.” John began, he laughed under his breath. “ It was just three months ago,” he looked stunned to have realized. “Anyway, the camp was overrun. We had so many new people coming in everyday that security was lax. See, we closed the gates at night, so the last few people got passed over pretty quickly. No one wanted to be the bad guy who left a bunch of innocent children outside to wait until morning, to survive until morning,” he corrected himself. “ That’s how the trouble started. It takes a day, sometimes two for someone to turn after being bitten, so most of them would be settled and away from security when they turned.” He stopped. Mika’s hand was clenched in a fist. She wanted to hear all of this, hear what had been going on when, when…But, she was afraid of knowing.
“ What happened?” she asked when he didn’t continue. He began to re-wrap her arm with a fresh bandage.
“ One night, they all just attacked. From inside, and from outside. I tried to bring as many as I could with me but they couldn’t keep up. Brain was the only one that survived from the people that I got out.” They all sat in silence, remembering their fallen friend.
“ I was there too,” Nicole said quietly after a few minutes.” I wasn’t in John’s group, but I escaped with a few others.” She lowered her head. “ They’re all dead now. That’s when I ran into Brian and John.”
They all looked to Jane, expectant. “ Is this story time or something?” she said defensively.
“ We met ol’ crabby boots here about a month ago. She was trying to make a go at it by herself in a Wal-Mart.” Nicole said, promptly receiving a glare from Jane.
“ I would have been fine too if you hadn’t brought all those zombies with you.” She stood and went to where Ed was standing.
“ She still had the bodies of the people she was with in the store with her,” Nicole whispered to Mika. “ They were all lined up as if she wanted to bury them, but just couldn’t.” Mika looked in Jane’s direction, curious. She had an arm around Ed and was talking to him quietly.
“Enough about us, what about you Mika?” John asked as he placed the last piece of tape on her arm.
“ I-I,” she began but before she could come up with an adequate story, Ed let out a cry.
“Zombies!” Jane shouted, dragging Ed back to where the group sat. “ About ten of them.” She grabbed her gun.
“ How far off?” John whispered
“ Just on the road,” Jane answered in the same quiet tone. “They could just pass us by, but if they hunt us like the others last night…” she trailed off, the others shuddering as they imagined another attack.
“ I’m going to check out the back door,” John whispered. Jane nodded and returned to scanning the road. They all watched as the small group of zombies stumbled along the road, a few of them stopping completely, their bodies swaying.
“Come on, just keep walking,” Jane urged quietly. It began to rain, causing the gunk that had gathered on the undead bodies to run to the ground.
“At least they’re rinsing off,” Mika commented causing Nicole to smile. They all watched as the rain increased as well as the zombie’s confusion. The weather didn’t cause them to move on, instead they circled the area reluctant to leave. John came up behind them silently.
“The door in the back is clear,” he said, his eyes on one of the zombies stopped in the middle of the road. “There’s a clear path to the woods and no zombies in the back, yet.” He gave everyone a moment to process the information.
“Did you see any vehicles?” Jane asked.
“None that looked like they work. Looks like we’re hoofing it again, sorry.”
Jane shook her head. “I think we should make a break for it,” she said after a few moments. “These guys aren’t moving on any time soon” Everyone nodded and with one more look outside, began to slink towards the back.
Nicole let out a scream causing everyone to whip around in her direction. A zombie had managed to sneak in the back door behind John and was now cornering Nicole.
“Nicole!” Ed cried and raised his gun.
“No!” Jane and John shouted together, but Ed never heard them as he let off a round that hit the zombie in the shoulder. Everything stopped, except the zombie who bounced back to lunge at Nicole again.
Jane came up behind it and slit its throat with her knife, causing it to drop to the ground, black blood splurting from its wound. This gave her the angle to behead it with repeated stabs to the neck and a kick to the skull.
Mika looked at the window. All that noise had attracted the attention John and Jane had feared it would. Zombies now pounded at the glass, their mouths dragging across, smearing old blood.
“Oh god,” Ed breathed. “Oh god, oh god!” He cried louder as the zombies began to pound on the glass.
“Run!” John cried, grabbing Ed’s arm and pulling him towards the back. Jane went to the back door and peered outside, her gun raised. They were clear.
“Let’s go!” she shouted as she sprinted towards the woods. Mika grabbed her pack as the others had and followed everyone out. Her arm throbbed even more now so that she thought she’d pass out. All the blood loss from last night had weakened her as well as the lack of proper nutrition. Mika stumbled after a few steps and John had to catch her to prevent her from falling.
“This rain isn’t good for that bandage,” he said light-heartedly. He was worried for her as the wound didn’t look very good when he was cleaning it. They caught up to the others who had stopped by a small shack.
“Where to now?” John asked Jane who he saw was scanning the area.
“There aren’t any back here yet,” she said, her eyes dancing around like dragonflies on a pond. “But it’s only a matter of time before they come back.”
“We’ve got to find somewhere to hole up in for a while,” he said quietly to Jane, rolling his eyes towards Mika. Jane nodded. Mika’s skin was pale and she was half leaning against the shack.
“If we walk through the woods maybe we can find a house or something,” Nicole suggested. “I think I’ve been in this area before,” she put her hands on her hips. “It was years ago but I remember there being a few houses off this highway.”
They all looked towards the store they had just left; zombies could be seen shuffling towards them, their moans eager.
“We’ve got to go somewhere,” Jane said and began walking into the woods. The others followed her, John helping Mika along.
“I’ll be fine,” she said pulling away from him. She didn’t like the worried glances he was giving her.
Jane picked up the pace a little so that the group was forced to trot to keep up; she wanted to put as much ground between them and the undead as possible.