Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thirty-Eighth Entry: The Snowbunny

January 24th

Things have been going well, so well in fact that I really haven't had anything to write about for a couple of weeks. It seems that Daisy Lake does have a natural fish population. Maria says that what we have been catching is rainbow trout; all I know is that it is good to eat something that didn't come out of a can once in awhile.

Our daily routine involves fishing, bringing in firewood for the day, cutting more firewood to keep our supply up, and cooking. It's almost idyllic. We still take shifts keeping a watch on things at night though.

We haven't seen a single zed since we got here, and frankly I think we are getting a little sloppy because of it. Still, I guess as long as the ice has really killed the zeds, I suppose we are safe enough. We haven't even seen any signs of other survivors up here. It almost feels like we are the last people on Earth, or at least it did.

Sharon has been doing really well these last couple of weeks. She hasn't had a space out in days now, nor has she tried to kill anybody. She's clinging to me a lot though, which is part of why I haven't been writing, and I don't really know how I feel about that.

Part of me wants to respond, and go for it. To finally be with her the way I always wanted. Another part of me feels that that would be a shitty thing to do; to be taking advantage of her while I'm unsure how mentally stable she really is. Still another part of me believes that Tara is still out there; still trying to catch up to us, and that part feels like I would be betraying her.

The dreams aren't helping much either. I've been dreaming about Tara again. The setting is always the same, Mallville in flames. Sometimes she's kneeling next to the pool of blood where Alex fell, sometimes she's sitting on the edge of one of the potted trees, sometimes she's just standing there, but she's always as I saw her last, her shirt drenched with Alex's blood.

“Don't mess things up again,” she'll tell me, and, ”I want you to be happy, and if being with Sharon makes you happy, go for it.”

“But what about you?”

“What about me?” she'll ask.

“I love you.”

Tara will approach me, put her hands on my face, and lean in, “I love you too, but I made my choice. I'm just sorry that it's you that has to live with it.”

“It's not fair though.”

“You're right, but maybe it's for the best. You've always loved her, and now you have your chance. Don't mess it up,” Tara will say, and then pull away from me, “I have to go now.”

“Please don't leave me again!” I cry after her as she leaves.

“I'm already gone, but maybe you'll see me again.”

It was from one of those dreams that I woke to hear a familiar, but out of place noise earlier tonight; A car engine. I sprung up from my sleeping bag, quickly put my shoes on, and ran out to the front of the house. Maria, Gerry, Sharon, and Beth were already at the front windows. Beth and Maria were both holding rifles.

“What's that?” I asked.

“An engine, “ replied Maria.

In that moment I knew it, I was sure that it was Tara. Somehow she had found us, she had caught up to us. She really was right behind us, we just needed to stop long enough for her to catch up. I was both excited and scared.

Outside the window, I couldn't even see the car. It was snowing lightly,but that's not why I couldn't see it, it just wasn't close enough yet. It's amazing how much farther sound seems to carry now that there is so much less ambient noise.

When it came into view I could see that it was an SUV; what else does anyone drive nowadays, right? It was a small one though, an Acura MDX as it turned out. It was slowly crawling down the long driveway leading in from the road, bumping roughly over the unseen dips buried beneath the snow.

“You take the right, I'll take the left,” said Maria to Beth, who only nodded.

“Wait, what?” I asked.

“We don't know who it is, what they want,” explained Beth.

“So we're going to shoot her?” I asked.

“If we have to,” answered Maria.

“Only if we have to, “ Gerry corrected her. I finally noticed that he was holding a Glock in his right hand.

The Acura looked realy small as it pulled up next to our snow covered Excursions. As it stopped, Maria threw the front door open and rushed out and to the left. Beth followed her to the right, both of them took what little cover was to be had behind the porch railing. Gerry rushed out, and center where he had no cover, relying on the gun to his right and left to keep whoever all was in the car from being stupid.

“Turn off the engine, and step out of the car, or we start shooting!” Gerry ordered, which would have been a lot more imposing if he had a more serious sounding voice.

“Wait, don't do this!” I cried, knowing for sure that they were going to shoot Tara. She would be so overjoyed to find us that she would just rush out of the car, and they would shoot her by accident before they realized it was her.

The engine cut out, and the only noise I could hear was all of us breathing.

“Step out of the car, and keep your hands where we can see them!” Ordered Beth, sounding much more commanding than Gerry.

The driver's side door swung open, pushing against the piled up snow that the car had driven into. A pair of hands with pink knit gloves appeared over them, and a person stepped out. It was a woman, it had to be, she was wearing a pink puffy ski jacket, a black ski mask with a pink knit hat with what looked like a pair of long pink rabbit ears going down the back, and light blue ski pants tucked into fur lined tan boots. She had her hands raised.

“Is there anyone else in the car?” asked Beth.

The woman shook her head. She was short, shorter than I remember Tara being.

“Step away from the car, and let us see your face!” ordered Beth.

The woman. It had to be Tara, it just had to be, stepped away from the car, and closed the door. She then very slowly and deliberately pulled off her hat, and placed it on the hood of the car. She then pulled off her ski mask.

My heart sank like a hot air balloon that had just been harpooned.. It wasn't Tara, it wasn't even a woman, it was a girl. A mere teenager with long curly hair that was mostly brown, but the last four inches were a deep magenta, like she had died her hair when it was pretty short, and then let it grow out. She was pale, and had a small piercing through her nose, and two rings through her left eyebrow.

“ It's a child,” said Beth in amazement.

“I'm not a child, I'm sixteen, bitch” shouted the girl.

Maria didn't like that. She stood up suddenly, making it very clear that she was still aiming at the newcomer.

“Maria!” hissed Gerry.

“Just because she's a child and says she's alone doesn't mean that either of those things are true!” Maria said, not taking her eye off her gun sight.

Sharon brushed past me, then past Gerry, and went down the stairs towards the girl.

“What are you doing?” asked Maria.

“I'm making sure that she's telling the truth so we can stop treating her like a murderer.” said Sharon. She went down, past our little snowbunny, and opened the door to the Acura, “It's clear!” Sharon called, “she's by herself.”

“Come towards me slowly, “ ordered Beth, “Keep your hands in the open, and come into the house.

“How do I know you're not going to hurt me?” asked the girl.

“You don't,” answered Maria, “Which is why you should have stayed away. Now get in the house!”

The girl didn't seem scared, in fact she seemed more annoyed than anything else. She walked forward, her hands still in the air, her ski mask still dangling from her right hand. Gerry stepped to the side to allow the girl access to the house.

Maria, Gerry, and then Beth went into the house. Sharon grabbed the girl's hat off of the hood of the car, and came back up onto the porch. As she started to pass me to go into the house, she stopped.

“Are you okay?” Sharon asked.

I realized I had been standing there, staring at the young girl as she walked up as if I were in a trance. I did my best to smile, “Yeah, I'm good.”

“You look, I don't know, almost disappointed.”

“No, just surprised to see another survivor, that's all.”

Sharon looked at me curiously, “Okay, but if any thing's wrong, you can talk to me. I know you've been talking to Beth some, but I think I'm better now, or at least as good as I'm ever going to get.” she laughed a little, smiled at me, and went inside.

I went back into the house, and it was only then that I realized that I had gone outside without my coat on, and the chill I had been feeling hadn't just been from inside my body.

When I joined everyone else in the living room, I found that the girl had shed her coat, revealing a pink sweater with little black skulls on it. Beth was searching through her coat. She pulled a small Smith and Wesson revolver out one of the pockets; this was accompanied my the muted patter of a jumble of loose bullets falling out of the same pocket and onto the rug.

“Do you have any other weapons?” Maria asked, still menacing the extremely thin girl with her rifle.

“There's a crowbar and a hunting rifle in the car, “the girl said, “So what are you going to do, kill me? Eat me? Rape me? What?”

“You came to us, “ Beth answered.

“Yeah, but I didn't pull a gun on you.”

“How did you find us?” asked Gerry.

“Umm, you have a fire,” the girl motioned behind her to the bright flickering fireplace, “It's not like a lot of people have fire going right now, I just followed the smoke.”

“I guess that makes sense, “ I said.

“Are you alone?” asked Beth, putting the girl's coat on the couch.

“Yes. “

“What's your name?” asked Sharon.

“Pippa Webster.”

Once we were reasonably sure that she wasn't armed, we let her sit on the couch in front of the fire to warm up. Sharon and I warmed her up a can of soup that she ate while telling us her story.

It turns out that Pippa is from the bay area peninsula where her and small group had been hiding out in their high school, which Pippa describes as an ancient building that used to be someone's house. Either it's a big house, or a small school, I guess. She told us that everything was going as well as could be expected until late November.

“It was just a normal morning, we were going to go out and try and find some supplies, but when we went to look out the window and see how many of those things we would have to deal with we found that we were surrounded.

“What do you mean by surrounded?” asked Beth, “Like a dozen of them?”

“Like a hundred of them, a whole mob,” Pippa answered.

“A cemetery,” I interjected.

“Huh?”

A Cemetery. I've been calling a large group of zeds a cemetery,” I explained, “you know, like a murder of crows, or a school of fish.”

“But zombies don't come from cemeteries.” Pippa replied.

“And fish don't come from schools,” Sharon came to my defense.

“Okay,” Pippa said, still slightly puzzled, “Anyway, as soon as one of those things saw us, it started pounding on the window. Soon they were all pounding on the windows and the doors. Some of them even had clubs and stuff.”

“So what did you do?” asked Gerry.

“We got the hell out of there. We ran for the auto shop where Tim's van was parked. We could hear the windows breaking in the classrooms around us as we ran. Some of them were getting in. There were so many of them.”

Pippa was started to get a little worked up reliving the incident, “Auto shop was actually in a separate building, but it's a short distance. We figured as long as we kept moving we could get through them.”

“Mario had the keys, we had padlocked all of the exits to keep them from getting in, so he got the lock opened, and shoved the door as hard as he could to try and knock some of them back. We shoved through the zombies and ran. I heard Tamara scream, but I didn't stop to help her. She...” Pippa shook her head sadly, “she didn't make it to the shop building. “

“The zombies were coming after us, I had never seen so many in one place at one time except for on TV before the power went out. Mario couldn't find the right key for the shop building; Tim, and Justin and me, we had guns, and we started firing into the crowd, but it wasn't even making a dent.”

“Mario finally got the door open, and went in, then Marissa. Tim shoved me in, and then came himself. Justin came in last, and one of those things got close enough to bite his arm. He was bleeding really bad when he got the door shut behind us.”

“We all got into the van, except for Justin, I think because he knew what happened to people who were bit. Tim started the van, and Justin opened the garage door. He mouthed something to us as Tim pulled out. He was smiling as the zombies rushed in around the van.”

“What did you do then?” Maria asked.

“We decided that we would go inland, and see if we could find somewhere with less zombies, or maybe find other survivors. There had to be better places than where we were. Right before the power went out, we has seen rumors online of groups of survivors forming, like colonies, and we were hoping to find one. We fucked up going through San Francisco though.

I remember, back when all this began, hearing about what had happened in the big cities, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco. The big cities were death traps; I remember seeing a video online of zeds breaking into a Wolf News studio, apparently live on the air. I can't believe Pippa's friends wanted to go into something like that. I guess when you're scared you make stupid choices though, Lord know I've made my share.

“I didn't want to; I told Tim to take a different bridge, not try for the Golden Gate, but he swore that it was the most direct route, and that the zombies couldn't get us if we just kept driving,” Pippa laughed humorlessly, “He would have been right too, if the roads hadn't been clogged with abandoned cars. He tried going around, going up on the sidewalk, but the city is like something out of a fucking horror film, they're everywhere; it made that horde, sorry, cemetery, of zombies at school seem like nothing. They swarmed around us, and the van tipped over. We ran, we got separated; I didn't see any of them again.”

“But you made it,” I said.

“Yeah, I made it....”

Pippa explained to us that we are the first living people she's seen since that day. She headed this way because she saw a note stuck to the doors of an Ambition store that she broke into for supplies. It said that cold kills zombies, and to head for the mountains.

“I didn't know what else to do. I didn't really have any other plan than to find somewhere safe, so I figured why not? At least it gave me a goal. Whoever left the note musta known what they were talking about.”

“And you saw the smoke from our fire, and thought you would check it out?” asked Beth.

“ I figured that if it was just some sort of natural fire, which isn't what it looked like, then oh well, but if there were people, I could maybe join up with them , or they would kill me. Either way I wouldn't be alone anymore.”

“Well we're not going to kill you,” said Gerry.

“Can I stay with you guys then? I can fight good, and I know how to drive.” explained Pippa, her attitude cracking for just a moment to reveal hopefulness.

“We need to discuss this,” said Beth, and headed for the front door.

The rest of us followed her. From the front door we could still see Pippa sitting on the couch in front of the fire, but she wouldn't be able to hear us if we spoke softly.

“So what do we all think?” asked Beth.

“We can't turn her away,” whispered Sharon, “She'll die on her own.”

“If she's really been on her own for two months, she must know how to take care of herself,” I said.

“How do we know she's telling the truth? She might have killed her friends herself? Maybe she just wants to kill us and take our supplies,” asked Maria.

Beth defended the young woman, “She's a child, Maria. Stop being paranoid. There's no way she could take all of us anyway.”

“She's not a child, she's sixteen... bitch,” Gerry said with a smirk that earned him a glare from Beth.

“She will be a drain on our supplies. We already go through them too fast.” Maria countered.

“We've barely touched the supplies since we got here. We've been getting our water and food from the lake,” said Gerry.

“And if that stops being enough? Can we catch enough fish for another person?”

“Probably, yes, “I said, “and I'm sure she can help.”

“She had better, we don't need anymore people eating our food who don't contribute,” Maria looked right at Sharon when she said that.

Sharon backed up a half step, as if she had been slapped. I opened my mouth to speak, but Beth cut me off.

“Knock that off right now. There is no one in this group who does not contribute.”

“Yeah, right, and what about the entire fucking month when she didn't?”

Sharon stepped half behind me, putting a hand on my shoulder as if using me for a shield, like she was afraid Maria was going to take a swing at her. I couldn't see her, but I could hear her breathing getting heavier. I clenched my teeth, trying to hold my tongue.

“She was sick,” said Gerry evenly, “We would take care of you if you got sick too. We're all friends here, Maria, I wish you would remember that.”

“I don't get sick, and I don't need friends that are going to get me killed.”

I couldn't take anymore, “Then maybe it's you that should leave,” I hissed.

“Stop it!” growled Beth. The glare she was giving me and Maria was completely different than the one she had given Gerry; this one was a real warning.

“Fine, “ said Maria, putting her left hand up in the air in mock surrender; her right was still holding her rifle.

“Lets vote, “suggested Gerry, “I say she joins us if she wants.”

“Agreed, “said Beth.

“We can't turn her away, “ added Sharon.

“We don't need another mouth to feed.” said Maria.

“She stays,” I voted.

“Majority rules, “said Sharon happily, stepping back out from behind me.

“This is not going to end well,” said Maria.

“It's probably not going to end well whether we send her to her death or not,” replied Beth.

We turned to face Pippa as a group, “Okay,” started Gerry, “We have decided to let you join us, provided that you pull your own weight.”

Pippa looked at us, and all of a sudden the mouthy young woman who showed up on our doorstep was gone; in her place sat a teenage girl who was too thin and too pale. She had become a girl whose haunted eyes only hinted at the horrors she had seen and the loss that she has felt; horrors and loss that we can all relate to.

“Are you sure? I mean, I mean thank you for the food, and all, but I can get back on the road,” she looked panicked suddenly.

“Where would you go?”

“ I don't know; keep heading north, I guess. I heard there's a survivor camp up in Washington; a place called Lovelock. Maybe I'll head for there.”

“With the weather like this?” asked Beth, “You'd never make it. The roads are going to be blocked by snow farther up.”

“If she wants to go, we can't make her stay,” added Maria.

“Really, I don't want to be a problem,” Pippa said.

“I'm sure you won't be a problem as long as you put in work like the rest of us,” said Gerry, “but as Maria said, we're not going to force you to stay.”

“Why don't you sleep on it?” asked Sharon.

“Huh?” asked the pale girl.

“Sharon's right, you don't need to make a decision right now,” I said, “Stay here tonight, and you can decide what you want to do in the morning.”

“Umm, okay, if that's alright with everyone,” said Pippa, a nervous smile on her face.

We all kind of glanced at Maria to see if she would say anything, but she only shrugged, turned, and left the room.

“Well then, “started Gerry, “I think this calls for a celebration!” and then he left the room too.

It turns out Gerry's celebratory idea was hot cocoa. He boiled some water on the fire and we each had a cup while we talked. Well, to be totally honest, Pippa did most of the talking. I'm not surprised; two months alone is a long time to not talk to anyone. I'm surprised she didn't end up killing herself or going crazy like Ash.

Pippa told us of her adventures. How she ended up getting out of San Francisco by boat. She stole a motorboat from the marina, and managed to get away without damaging anything too badly (apparently she did forget to untie it from the dock, and ripped a chunk out of the side of the boat). She took the boat up what I guess must be the Sacramento River until she was almost out of gas.

Realizing that she would be washed right back to San Francisco if she let herself run out of fuel, she “docked” (her term, as it frankly sounded more like she crashed) at what she said is “Sherman Island”. I've never heard of this place, but Pippa says it's some sort of recreational area for camping and stuff. I've never liked camping, which is probably why I've never heard of it.

“Sherman Island was, like, totally deserted. There were no zombies or nothing.”

“Sounds ideal, why didn't you just stay there?” asked Maria.

“I did for awhile, but there's only like ten houses on the place, and no place to get anymore food or water. I packed up what I could, and hit the road. That was probably in, like, the middle of December. “

Pippa ended up talking until after midnight. She stopped for what we thought was dramatic pause, or maybe to gather her thoughts, but after a minute of silence we realized that she had fallen asleep. It's probably the first real sleep she has gotten in months. I cannot imagine being able to sleep if I were out there on my own without someone to keep an eye on me.

Everyone else has gone to bed now; I'm staying up on guard tonight. Being on guard here is a lot easier than it was in the city. The snow and twigs and stuff out there should give away anything moving. Of course that would include deer, wouldn't it? Do deer hibernate? I haven't seen any up here.

I think Pippa will stay. Maria aside, why wouldn't she? It'll be good to have someone new with us; I wish we would find more people because I don't like even the illusion that we are the last ones alive. I know we can't be, but seeing other people would be a nice reminder of it.

I am still sad that it wasn't Tara in that car. I was so certain that it was her, but I realize now that it was just because of that dream. She could still be out there though. She could just be a few miles down the road... maybe she'll see the smoke too.

1 comment:

VoltRabbit said...

Seems they found themselves a nice winter oasis. I wonder if we will see Tara again? After all, I find it hard to believe a healthy fighter like herself would have given up her life so easily.

Spring is coming someday, lets see what comes out of hibernation (muhaha)