Thanks to Kitten2010 my co-author, and Naughtycouture my sexy editor.
“What does it look like?” Gavin asked, as he watched Pike look over a map he had taken from a gas station.
“Not good. It’s a long way. I think our safest route would be up to Seattle and then hijack a ferry across to Victoria,” Pike replied, pointing to the speck of water on the map. “I went that way once, before all this happened. It took about five hours to get across the water. But, if we go that way, we won’t have to deal with any Drained,” Pike said, still staring at the map.
“Okay. What about getting there?” Gavin asked.
“I think instead of going up north past Sacramento, we’ll cut through Nevada,” Pike said. He had to change his entire route to fit a group now. We’ll walk up the 447,” He reasoned.
“Walk? When you said you were going to Canada I kind of thought you had some form of transport,” Gavin frowned.
“The roads are too crowded with corpses and cars. Unless we’re on a motorcycle, we’re not getting anywhere. Plus, most gas stations are dried out,” Pike said.
“Well shit,” Gavin sighed. “I don’t know if we can make that kind of trip. We’re not exactly a fit group, you know,” Gavin said, pointing to the group behind him. The two kids were eating some scraps of food they had found in the gas station when retrieving the map. The old man, who Pike met earlier, was whispering to his grandson, Rick.
“It’s our only option. Otherwise we’ll be cutting through a bunch of medium to large cities. More supplies, but a hell of a lot more dangerous,” Pike shook his head.
“Well... we can't do anything but try I suppose,” he sighed. Pike stood up.
“I just need to make one thing clear, Gavin,” he said, Gavin listened closely. “I’m not responsible for anyone in your group. You’re all welcome to follow me, but my only goal is to get to Canada,” Pike said.
“I understand. Thank you for letting us come along, though,” Gavin nodded.
“You’re welcome,” Pike said, it felt strange to revert back to manners and common courtesy after all the time that passed. He took a red pen that he had also taken from the gas station, and drew a fat red line on their path. He looked at the map one more time before shoving it in his pocket and sighing. “Let’s get moving,” he smiled.
They hadn’t been traveling more than an hour or so before the group started to slow down. Gavin hoped that Pike wouldn’t be frustrated. While Gavin had no issues keeping up, the children complained of hunger, thirst, and aching feet and Mel was much too old to be making such a trip. “I think we should stop for a minute,” Gavin suggested.
Pike seemed irritated. “This isn’t a good place.”
“I know it’s not, but the kids aren’t going to quiet down unless they get something to drink and I don’t think the old man can hang at this pace.”
Pike sighed, annoyed. “Fine. I’m going to check that gas station,” Pike said. He walked off towards the dust covered gas station, leaving the group standing next to an abandoned car. Mongo ran after him quickly, meowing quietly as he went.
Gavin watched Pike walk away and sighed, shaking his head. He hated feeling like a burden. He pulled his group into a huddle. “Look, I know this is tough, but we have to keep going.”
“Why does he get to decide how fast or slow we go?” Mel grumbled.
Gavin’s eyes darted back to Pike. “Because, he’s the only one that’s made this trip before,” Gavin said.
The truth was, Gavin didn’t want his group to become such a hindrance that Pike would go on without them. Having been isolated so long, it had been a long time since Gavin had been attracted to someone. Pike’s short black hair and brooding expression was enough to drive anyone crazy. His deep green eyes were surrounded by dark half circles, the sure sign of an insomniac, and his pink lips looked perfectly kissable. As dangerous as it was, Gavin was finding himself more and more distracted by the man. He was torn up by it, feeling guilty for having such feelings so quickly.
“Look, it’s safer in a group. If one of the Drained shows up the more of us there are, the quicker we can get rid of the threat. It’s just a fact. Pike has firearms, I have an axe. What else do we have?”
“You’re the one that ruined what we had,” Rick accused. “We had it great there!”
“How much longer did you think it was going to last?” Gavin whispered fiercely. “We couldn’t have stayed there forever. And yeah, sure it would have been nice to have had the chance to plan for this, but shit happens, Rick.”
“Hey!” Pike called from the gas station. He waved them over.
Gavin rushed to him immediately. “What did you find?"
The rest of the group followed and Gavin turned and rushed to silence them. A group of horses were eating the overgrown grass behind the gas station.
“Anyone know how to ride a horse?” Pike whispered. When he looked around at the silent crowd, he rolled his eyes and tiptoed closer to the creatures. One looked up at him, lazily chewing on the grass. Pike shushed the tall animals and tried to get closer without startling the beasts.
Gavin followed closely behind Pike and edged in front of him. “You shouldn’t approach them head on like that,” Gavin said. He grabbed Pike’s hand loosely. “Here, do what I do.”
Gavin demonstrated how to approach the horse slowly from the side, keeping his body tilted away from the animal. He continued to hold on to Pike and stopped him when one of the horses appeared startled. Gavin reached into his backpack and found the meager carrots they still had from their garden in the store. The orange roots were about as long as his pinkie finger and about as big around. He made a soft humming sound as he approached. Finally, he was able to get one of the horses to accept the food.
“Well damn, Dr. Dolittle. You sure do have a way with animals,” Pike whispered, in a fake southern accent.
Gavin smiled. “I was a large animal vet before everything started.”
“Well who would have guessed,” Pike chuckled. “A lot more useful than a High School teacher,” Pike rolled his eyes, and winked when Gavin looked a bit shocked.
“Really? Teacher?” Gavin shrugged. “Wouldn’t have guessed. Do we have any rope?”
“Let me check the gas station.” Pike said, and carefully backed away from the horses. Once he was a safe distance, he jogged to the dead building. He returned a few moments later, a piece of thin yellow rope in hand. “This is all they have,” he mumbled, and handed it to Gavin.
Gavin fashioned a halter using the rope and once he was finished he slipped it onto the horse, still moving slowly and cautiously. The horse seemed nervous, but didn’t rear back. He tried leading it a bit and found that it cooperated. The previous owner of the animal must have trained it well. After a little work, all six horses had their own halter and were getting used to the company of people again.
“Well. This was fun and all, and it never occurred to me to use horses, but we need to get supplies. This will make the trip a lot faster, but we still need food,” Pike said. “We’re going to have to split up. I know it sounds so horror movie stereotype, but we need to get everything before nightfall. So, old guy and asshole, you guys are looking for water... as much of it as you can find.” Pike threw an empty backpack at the pair who scowled at him. “The Mister and Misses, you guys are going for food. Find what you can and bring it back here.” He threw them each their own bag. “The tykes can go with you, more hands to carry food,” he said.
Gavin glanced at Pike. “What do you need me to do?” he asked. His tone was good natured. He didn’t mind that Pike was taking more of a leadership role. It was nice having someone to share the responsibility with.
“You’re with me, we’re on weapons duty,” Pike smiled, showing a row of white teeth.
Gavin nodded. “Aright. Let’s go. Stick together and be safe.”
Gavin kept Pike in his peripheral vision as they scoured the rural area. Pike’s face was set with determination. Gavin desperately wanted to strike up conversation, but he didn’t know what he should say. Every time he thought he had something witty to say, he got distracted by the way Pike bent down to examine something. Finally he awkwardly cleared his throat. “So... I’m sorry if we’re slowing you down,” he said.
“It’s fine, I have to agree that there’s safety in numbers. More eyes to watch my back, I guess.” Pike looked up long enough to give a small smile.
Gavin couldn’t help but grin at Pike’s smiling face. He felt like he was in high school again, on that first-crush roller coaster of emotion. “Yeah, it’s safer this way. I know some of them are a little... well, fucking annoying, but they all have their strengths. Hopefully you’ll be able to see that before they drive you completely insane.”
“Hopefully,” Pike laughed. “Hey, I bet we can find something useful in there.” Pike pointed at an old looking hardware store.
Gavin nodded. “Definitely. Let me go in first though.” Gavin kicked the door open. The hinges were so far gone that the entire door crashed down, sending a cloud of dirt and dust flying. Not his smoothest moment, but Gavin hoped that Pike would somehow not notice. He stepped inside the store, floorboards creaking beneath his weight. It seemed quiet and abandoned inside the hardware store and he motioned for Pike to follow.
“Smooth,” Pike mumbled as they stepped inside the dusty building. The air felt thick and clouded. Pike wrinkled his nose and stepped forward. “Since the door wasn’t broken down, and I haven’t seen any broken windows, I think we should be clear of Drained,” Pike said.
Gavin nodded. “Let’s hope so.” He started to scan the items on the shelves. All of it seemed like it could be useful, but he wasn’t sure what would be so vital that it’d be worth the effort to carry it.
“Ugh.” Pike pinched his nose as he stepped over a corpse. A shotgun was lying next to the man, probably the shopkeeper, who had long since blown away most of his head. Pike pulled it out of the man’s hands and checked it for any ammo. “Empty, but keep an eye out.” Pike carried the shotgun with him as he walked around the counter. He picked up a box and shook it. He opened it and put the few shells in his pocket. There was a small hunting knife behind the counter as well. He grabbed it and threw it gently at Gavin, who caught it with ease. “That axe is a little on the big side, that might come in handy,” he said.
Gavin nodded his thanks and examined the knife closely. It would definitely be good to have a backup weapon. A small voice in the back of his mind told him that it might be wise to keep the knife a secret. Either he was having a premonition, or he had officially gone insane. He sighed and moved along the shelves. “Do you think a tool kit would be worth the effort?”
Pike thought for a moment. “I don’t know....” he bit his lip. “No, too heavy. We need to travel light,” he said, continuing to search the shelves behind the counter. A small glimmer caught his eye. He turned and his eyes went wide at the sight of a full syringe of Drain. He didn’t know what it was doing there, or how it got there. But without saying a word to Gavin, he grabbed it and shoved it into his back pocket. “Look for tools that could double as weapons though. I’m sure Rick or David could handle a sledgehammer.” He continued on.
Gavin nodded. “Yeah, David definitely could. Of course, don’t underestimate Dana either,” he chuckled. “She’s pretty damn scary, especially when it comes to protecting her kids.”
“Her? Nah, she’s so small,” Pike laughed. He picked up a chainsaw. “Useless without gas, I guess,” he said, throwing it back down with a loud clatter. “What about Mel. I don’t mean to sound cold, but what help is he? He’s like 100,” Pike mumbled.
Gavin struggled to do the diplomatic thing, but he honestly couldn’t think of an answer. “He’s Rick’s grandfather. He doesn’t really do anything, but... I mean, we can’t just leave him behind. That’d be too cold.”
“It’s a cold world now, Gavin. It’s just something you have to get used to. If you don’t......” Pike left the rest hanging.
Gavin shook his head. “I know you’re right, but if I give up on there being good in the world... then why even bother trying to make it to Canada?”
Pike couldn’t help the laugh that came forward. “You know, before this all happened. I think I would have shot myself if I ever said my dream was to run to Canada.” He smiled.
Gavin chuckled. “Fucking Canada,” he sighed. “Do you really think it’s better there? Like... my fear is that we’ll get there and it’ll all be for nothing and everything will turn to shit.” Gavin clenched his fist and then sighed and let it go. “Do you see why I have to cling to my illusions of goodness?”
“Because Canada sucked to begin with. If there’s Drained there too, then I’m coming back to America. If I’m going to die in a zombie apocalypse, I’m going to die somewhere that doesn’t suck,” Pike laughed. “You just have to believe that it’s okay there. Because if it’s not then we’re all fucked,” Pike said seriously.
Gavin nodded. “You know...” He started to speak his mind, but thought better of it. “I guess we’ll just have to hope for the best.”
“That’s all we can do... Oh! Look!” Pike picked up a full box of ammo for the shotgun. He shook it happily and smiled at Gavin.
Dana and David move quietly through the grocery store. It had been looted awhile ago, and most of the shelves were bare. Every now and then there was a stray can, or an overturned box that had been left when the looters had to escape fast. The picked these up quickly, before moving on to the next store. They continued walking through what was once the nice part of town. The many shopping centers and gas stations provided a small, but decent, food supply. Emma and Peter chased each other through the empty store, giggling quietly.
Even after all that had happened, they were still kids. Dana watched as Peter tripped on his own feet, before getting up and chasing after Emma again. David smiled at her as they continued walking through the store, grabbing what little they could find. A lot of the food had expired, but some cans still remained. After so many months, it was nearly impossible to find fresh food anymore, Dana couldn’t help but miss their garden.
Before everything had happened, they had been a relatively happy family. But of course, like any married couple, they had rough patches. They had been married for over ten years. Things were becoming dull, the kids put a lot of stress on them, and they hadn’t had sex in God knows how long. David worked so many hours and Dana was a stay at home mom. They had been about to split up, when the shit hit the fan. Dana had been getting gas after picking up Emma and Peter from a school soccer game. The gas station was bare, and she could only see one clerk inside the mini mart. She had begun pumping gas when she saw a homeless man not too far away. He smelled terrible, even from the moderately large distance. Dana hated it when homeless people would ask her for change. It made her feel like a bitch when she said no, or like an idiot if she said yes. She knew it was rude of her to think of all homeless people as lazy bums, but she couldn’t help it.
She frantically tried to get the dumb machine to accept her credit card, but it was taking forever. As the man headed straight towards her, she silently begged the machine to work. Suddenly, the man broke into a run. As the machine accepted her card, she gave up and slammed the door to the car as she locked herself and the kids inside. The man screamed as he threw himself up against the car door. In a panic, she started the car and drove off. The kids cried in the back seat of the car as she pulled up to their house, only eight blocks away. She hustled the kids inside, grabbing their soccer gear. As she shut the trunk, she could barely make out the sight of the man from the gas station in the distance. She stared for a moment, as he continued to sprint at full speed towards her family.
She had never been more scared in her life than on that day. Sure the entire event, even this moment in the grocery store, was terrifying. But there was nothing more horrid than seeing her first Drained. She and David had been very much focused on family time, and the like. So they had never even purchased a TV. After an hour of the man attacking their door, they wished they had. They attempted to call the cops, but no one ever answered. After calling their friends for help, and getting no replies for the first six calls, they finally found out from a friend who was in Italy for a week that this was happening all over. That’s when they had run from their home to look for help elsewhere.
Dana jerked out of her memories when Emma screamed. She ran in the direction her daughter had disappeared in and turned the corner to see two Drained sprinting at full speed from the other end of the long isle. Dana grabbed the first thing available, a metal shelf that had fallen from its rightful place, probably when someone had frantically looted the store. She picked it up, and as the first Drained reached her, swung. There was a sickening sound as the metal shelf destroyed the Drained man’s head. He swung to the left, hitting the other row of empty shelves and falling to the floor. By now, the second Drained had reached her. Recovering from her earlier swing, she sent the shelf flying in the other direction, hitting the Drained woman on the right side of her head. She wasn’t hit quite as hard, and attempted to stand when she hit the empty shelves. She scrambled, emaciated limbs slipping and sliding on the tiled floor beneath her. Before she could stand, Dana took the shelf, and aimed it down. She hit the woman repeatedly in the back of the neck, the sound of bones popping echoing through the store. She notice the first Drained was beginning to stand, recovering from the attack he had received. Suddenly, David slid into the isle, shoes squeaking on the floor streaked with blood. He took a hammer that had been hanging from his belt, and swung at the man. His head crunched again as another trench was added to the once round skull. They continued to beat the two Drained who had been stupid enough to attack their family, until all that was left were two bodies with only bloody mush and chunks of bone as heads.
That was another thing Dana thought was funny. With their relationship being torn apart, and their sex life a bore, this was the thing that had pulled them back together. When they ventured outside the house, they had the unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on how you look at it) experience of killing their first Drained. The homeless man wasn’t the strongest out there, and was an easy opponent compared to what they would face later in the mini apocalypse. But when that first splatter of blood hit Dana in the face, and David heard those first screams of a dying Drained, the fire in their lives had been rekindled. After that, they never had another thought about splitting up. They both loved the heat of the moment, the screams of pain, the spray of blood, and the cold feeling of a heavy weapon in their hands. Maybe they had gone a little crazy once things went to hell, but it usually worked out for the better.
Rick was definitely not happy about the way things were going. He did not trust the new guy at all and he knew that Gavin was just trying to get laid. That was the only reason they were being bossed around by the freak. He sighed as they carefully went to search for water. His grandfather was moving slowly and it was clear he was in pain. They went inside the gas station and started to look around.
Before the Drained really started taking over, Rick was just an average guy. Sure, he owned four too many guns, and drove a beat up pick up. Sure, he had cursed at more than one guy at a bar. Sure, he was on trial for murdering some faggot boy. But he was still just an average nice guy.
His parents had died when he was young, leaving him with his grandfather. The old man was just as big of a monster as he was. He swore at children, and chased off anyone who he thought was “racially diverse”, but he was the nicest guy around. If, of course, you were a drunk white republican. He had been accused many times of being racist, but he couldn’t see how it was racist, if everything he was saying was true.
Rick had been at his court hearing when the Drained finally gotten to be too much for people to handle. He watched as the freaks broke through the doors of the courtroom. The large room was filled with screams as they began attacking people. Rick and Mel dashed from their seats in the court, to the back, where there was a door behind the bench. Rick shoved a Drained off of him, when the emaciated pale man jumped on his back. He sent the drug user flying into the judge. It hadn’t been his original intent, but it was funny as hell as the older man screamed when the Drained bit into his neck. Rick couldn’t help but laugh as the man died in front of him. He showed him, the dumb fuck was going to send him to jail! When the Drained finally took over, it gave Rick and Mel the chance to really live. They didn’t have the rules of society to keep them in check anymore, just that faggot Gavin.
“This is bullshit,” Rick said, once he was sure that no one would hear. “He just thinks he can come and boss us all around.”
“I’m twice his age, no way I’m going to let a little punk like that boss me around. I don’t give a damn what the situation is,” Mel chimed in.
“You know what, fuck Gavin and his little boy toy,” Rick said, turning towards Mel.
“What are you thinkin’?” Mel asked.
“I think we’re going to find a whole hell of a lot more than water on this little trip of ours,” Rick gave a wicked smile.