Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Thirty-Third Entry: Where Do We Go From Here?

December 28th

After a long discussion yesterday, it has been nearly unanimously decided that we will leave Covenant and head north. I say almost unanimous because Sharon abstained from voting.

Our hope is that the ghouls' apparent dislike of the cold means that they won't be active where it's colder. Of course if we're going to go up into the snow, we are not going to be able to take the vans, as I am pretty sure that the snowplows aren't running.

In order to help prevent a repeat of the incident a couple of days ago, Gerry and Beth went and found somewhere nearby that is hopefully secure enough to hid the vans. I suppose anywhere that Gerry can get into isn't really all that secure, but it's got to be better than leaving them out in plain sight as an advertisement.

Of course with Beth and Gerry gone, that left me and Maria with the task of cleaning up the mess that Sharon made in the alley. The first thing we realized as we were out there was that we need coats. Even though it has been raining the last few weeks off and on, it hasn't really been that cold. It's getting cold now.

Alex remembered pretty much everything we need in the back of those vans except winter gear, but who knows how many months ago he packed those up? If he packed the vans in the summer, it may just have not occurred to him that winter would eventually be an issue... or maybe he just didn't think we would survive this long.

“I don't see why I'm stuck doing this.” complained Maria as she dragged Cassie's body down the alley towards the dented green dumpster at the other end of the building.

“Because you can't pick locks,” I answered, dragging Vince's cold remains by his feet. Much of his head stayed where it had been on the surface of the alley, “and because you're such a nice person, and you like me.”

“Beth should be doing this, not me,” she complained again, and then stopped her dragging, “No, actually Sharon should be doing this, she made this mess.”

It was kind of weird hearing Maria complain like this. She's not usually a whiner, that's kind of my position, but she has been a little off these last few days. She's been short with everyone, and even a little mean.

“Sharon's not well,” I answered.

“None of us are well. I notice she's well enough to eat and take a shit on her own now though.”

That much is true, if not exactly tactful. Sharon is still acting like she doesn't see us, but she has been eating and drinking on her own, and getting up and shuffling her way to the bathroom (thank God, I did not really want that job) a couple of times a day. She's also stopped crying, so maybe she'll come all the way back to us soon.

I think this behavior of hers is freaking out the others more than when she was just sitting there and doing nothing. At least then the idea of her putting herself, or us, in danger was just an idea. With Sharon up and about it becomes more real. She might decide to just let herself out quietly and walk off. She might decide to let some zeds in. I'm not giving voice to these ideas, and no one has voiced them to me, so maybe they're not thinking about it too much.

“Maria, if you want, I can do this myself,” I said, heaving Vince another couple of feet. For such a skinny guy he sure was heavy.

“I'm almost done now,” she replied, “and I am going to let you deal with the chunks over there,” she motioned to pile of Vince's skull and brains by the back door to the store.

Maria finished dragging her body over the the dumpster, and dropped Cassie's legs unceremoniously on the ground in front of it.

Vince was a bigger guy than Cassie, and Maria is probably actually stronger than me, so I was having a little more difficulty. It took me a bit longer, but I got there. I dragged Vince's body to the side of the dumpster, and dropped him there.

“Do you think we should put them in?” I asked

“I don't think anyone's going to be by to empty it anytime soon.” Maria replied.

“Just leaving them on the ground seems disrespectful somehow.”

“And you think throwing them in with the trash is better?”

I shrugged a response; it was a good point.

”And you're on your own with that. I'm not getting any of that crap on me,” Maria said, pointing to the reddish trail leading from where I had dropped Vince's body back to the pile of drying gore that used to be his head. The moist air was not doing anything to help his neck stump dry out, but then again the cold was probably also helping to keep him from getting too smelly.

“What am I supposed to clean that up with?” I asked.

“I don't care, but if I step in it you'll be cleaning my shoes,” answered Maria as she walked back to the door.

I don't know what crawled up her ass and died (and presumably then rose from the dead), but she's acting noticeably different; noticeably to me at least. Maybe she doesn't like being relegated to holding down the fort. I know I'm not keen on it, but I'll do it for Sharon's sake. Maybe she's just tired; if I thought life was stressful since the end of the world, it's gotten at least a couple of times worse since last week.

I am surprised to find out how much worse living in the post-apocalypse actually is without lights, heat, clean clothes, and a proper bed.. I guess you just don't realize how bad your life can suck until you lose everything.

I ended up using a dustpan to scrape up Vince's brains and dispose of them, and the dustpan, in the dumpster. I briefly considered finding a hose and hosing down the alley, but then decided to let the rain do it; it's not my store, and we're only going to be here a couple more days anyway. It was a good call, it's been raining most of the afternoon, so I'm sure there's not much left out there by now.

I was as done as I was going to get by the time that Gerry and Beth came strolling down the alley. Gerry was holding his arms to his body in a vain attempt to keep his body heat from escaping, but the cold did not seem to be bothering Beth.

“Aren't you cold?” I asked.

“I'm from Michigan, this isn't cold.”

“Cold enough,” commented Gerry.

Once we were all inside, we gathered around the cashwrap counter, and continued planning what we needed to get before leaving town.

“The first thing we are going to need is clothes; I need a coat and these clothes are feeling a bit ripe, “said Gerry, drinking a cup of hot water that he had added packets of sugar and coffee creamer to. I don't know why he didn't just make some of that instant crap that was in the van. I suppose he wants to make it last as long as possible.

“I second that, “ I agreed, and motioned to the dried spots of Vince's blood on my shirt, “I would really like to wear something without dried bits of brain stuck to it.”

“You should have packed some clothes in that purse of yours,” teased Maria, but with a smile. It was still her being odd, but at least not outright hostile at the moment.

“Yeah, yeah,” I said.

“Regardless of who amongst us does not have a change of clothes, and I notice you have been wearing the same thing for the last three days as well,” said Gerry, motioning with his cup, “We are going to need some serious winter clothes if we plan to head up to the snow.”

In reality, the only one of us that has clothes with them is Sharon, who had time to grab her backpack before leaving my apartment. Tara had a change of clothes for me in with her stuff, but that didn't really work out so well.

“What are we going to do when we get there, where ever we go, I mean? I don't think we'll last long if we're going to try camping out in tents or the vans,” said Beth, “Aside from how exposed we will be to any attackers, undead or not, we'll be exposed to the elements.”

Maria grabbed the road map off of the counter, and unfolded it, “That much I have an idea about.”

Maria had made a red X on the map over Covenant, and had traced a line up Highway 5 to town identified as Daisy Lake. It looked to be a couple of hundred miles by car, which would normally be a simple three or four hour drive, but life being anything but normal now, who knows?

“When I was a kid, my dad used to rent a cabin up here in Daisy Lake. We would go up there and go fishing and hunting. It's been a few years and all, but as long as there are still fish in the lake, trees in the woods, and a cabin to stay in, I think it could be a good place to wait out the winter.”

Gerry nodded, “Okay. Any other ideas?”

“I don't think that going blindly somewhere is a great idea.” said Beth.

“You got a better idea?” challenged Maria.

“No, I just object to going somewhere when we don't know what to expect. What if there was a forest fire over the summer and the town is nothing but a black smudge?”

“Where could we go that we know what to expect? Other than a couple of scavenging runs just outside of town, where have any of us been since this shit all started?”

“I get your point, Maria, but what if we get there and there's nothing there? What if things there are even worse than here?” asked Beth

“Then we keep going until we find somewhere better?” I suggested.

“We wanted to get somewhere cold, right?” asked Maria.

“Yes,” Beth answered.

“Well it snows there, and it's a lake full of fish and water. As long as there's still a building standing somewhere in the area that has a fireplace, that gives us everything we need to survive. We can figure out what to do next after winter is over.”

“Assuming we don't freeze to death,” added Beth.

“Always assuming we survive, yes.” stated Gerry.

“Plus maybe it'll give the produce over there a chance to snap out of it,” Maria said, motioning in the direction of where Sharon was laying on her sleeping bag.

“My main concern, all of our mental fitness aside, is something that we will not be able to find growing wild by a lake; “said Gerry, “ammunition.”

“I've been worrying about that too,” agreed Beth, “We had access to a good supply while in Mallville, but that's gone now. Between us and the Postmen, there's not going to be any good supplies of ammo left in town. Even the police station was totally cleaned out.”

“We could find some gun nut's house, and take supplies from it.” I suggested.

“Except how easy will that be?” asked Beth, “It's not like he would just put up a sign out front.”

“We're just going to have to find some places on the way to stock up, “said Gerry, “If other towns are anything like here, then there will hopefully be some fully stocked T-Marts along the way. If people cleared out like they did here in Covenant, there shouldn't be a problem there.”

“Covenant cleared out because a lot of people went to Mallville,” Beth reminded us, “I think we may see more survivors as we go. I mean, the people who left town had to go somewhere, right?”

“Or maybe they just died and we'll see more zombies.” suggested Maria.

“Maybe we should just use our guns less?” I asked.

“What do you suggest,” asked Maria, “Archery? Karate? Throw Sharon at them?”

“Store shelves?” asked Gerry, smiling, probably meaning to take some of the sting out of Maria's words.

I ignored both of them.

“Destroying the brain kills them, just like in the movies, right?” I asked.

“I think that destroying the brain kills most things, but go on.” said Beth.

“So we can use objects like baseball bats, or hammers, stuff like that when we're only dealing with one or two of them at a time. We can save our guns for when we really need them.”

“Not a horrible idea, “conceded Gerry with a shrug.

“Do you really want to get up close and personal with those things?” Maria asked,

“No, but I think they can hear, or some of them can anyway, so maybe killing quietly will keep some of them from following the noise right to us.”

“That's actually a good point, “said Beth, “If we're going to stay in one place it might be a good idea to not advertise our location to the zeds.”

“Alright, alright. We need to make a list of what we need to get a hold of before we move. If we're going to leave soon, we need to be ready.” said Maria.

“Where are we going to be looking for stuff?” I asked, “Ash had a point, we have been a little locust-y on the local supplies.”

“We have a couple of choices there as I see it, “explained Gerry, “We can either go out of town, which will mean having to hope that those areas aren't already occupied or picked over, or we can start going house to house in some of the residential parts of town. There would be less risk of finding nothing or coming across a group who would attack us, but there would probably be a greater risk of zed contact or with a small group of other survivors who may see us as hostile.”

“So we can choose a rock or a hard place?” asked Beth.

“Basically.”

The rest of our discussion was about making up a list of what we need to look for. Clothes, weapons, food, ammunition, fuel (for the vehicles and the stoves), vehicles large enough for us and out supplies, and able to drive through snowy terrain. That sort of stuff.

Not that I would tell anyone else this, but I do feel uncomfortable with the idea of leaving Covenant. I know there is nothing left here for me, but I still kind of want to stay. Maybe it's because I've not really left town much in the last few years even before everything that's happened this year. Maybe it's because I know that when I leave this time it will probably be for good, that I will never see this town again.

Anyway, the plan is to leave on New Year's Eve. So in three more days and It's goodbye to Covenant. As I write this, it's just me and Sharon here in the Snacky Mart again. The others are out looking for our supplies as I write this.

It is unbelievably boring here. Sharon is just sitting there on her sleeping bag and staring off into space. I'm glad that she's stopped crying, it was creepy.

I've been trying to find creative ways to entertain myself. I finished that final issue of F&SF, and don't feel like reading any of the news magazines; not only are they all months old, but they are full of the crap information we were getting when this all started. Part of me thinks reading about what the government thought they knew about the “Zed Virus”would be funny, but most of me thinks it would just be depressing.

I found some decks of cards in a box in the back,, and played solitaire for awhile (I also stuck a couple of decks in my satchel). , and then passed some time trying to make paper airplanes out of the foil-paper hot dog wrappers. That didn't work though (the paper is too light to fly properly), so I made a half a dozen paper cranes instead.

You know, I never gave much thought to it, but a cold and empty roller-grill is a really sad thing. Never again will wieners or breakfast taquitos spin on that grill. Never again will someone get to eat a piece of food that has been spinning there for 12 hours, taunting customers with is salty fatty goodness.

Sharon's up walking.

Okay, I don't know if I feel good about that or not. Sharon just walked up to me, looked through my eyes (which is to say that she was looking me in the eyes, but with that distant stare she's had for the last few days, like she's not really seeing me), and smiled.

“Sharon? Are you okay? Are you hungry or something?” I asked.

Sharon cocked her head a little to the left and kept looking through me.

“Do you want something? Do you even hear me?”I waved my hand in front of her.

Sharon smiled a little then, and without ever focusing her eyes, reached out and hugged me. She pulled me tight against her, and I didn't know how to react. Part of me wanted to hug her back, but this was not a friendly comforting kind of hug, and to respond to it would be inappropriate, you know?

I think if I were a worse person, I could take advantage of her the way she is.

Wow, I kind of feel like a piece of shit for even thinking that, but I think she wouldn't even try to stop me. I could be wrong though, she might beat me to death with a shelf. Of course she could decide to do that anyway. I deserve it for even pursuing this line of thinking.

Just for the record, I limited my actions to just hugging her back in a friendly way, and asking, “Are you still in there somewhere? If you are... if you are, Tara wanted me to tell you that she's sorry for everything that happened.”

Sharon squeezed me tightly one last time, and then let go, turned and walked back over to the soda dispenser and sat back on her sleeping bag.

I really wish there was someone here I could talk with. I need someone to talk to right now, someone who can talk back. I don't feel good. I feel bad for having those sorts of thoughts about Sharon. I feel like I'm betraying Tara somehow. I feel like a pervert.

I miss Tara so much

I feel alone.

I'm tired suddenly.

2 comments:

VoltRabbit said...

I love road trips! Oh what fun lies ahead?

Nicole Howard said...

Is the chapter title a BTVS nod? From "once More With Feeling"?