|Souls to Save
Author: foxchicka18 PM
Let's not buffer the details -the zombie apocalypse has fallen upon the small town of Maywalk, and Tharin is only certain of the lives of three people. His sister's. His mother's. His own. A generator runs an electric fence, keeping the dead out, but they're running low on fuel. To make things worse, his mother falls ill. Surviving gets harder by the day. How long will they last?Rated: Fiction T - English - Supernatural/Suspense - Chapters: 9 - Words: 29,166 - Reviews: 16 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 02-11-13 - Published: 11-12-12 - id: 3073924
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: I would have posted this yesterday night, when I finished it, but I did need to edit it. Luckily, I don't work until the evening shift today, so I actually had time to do so!
Hope you enjoy :)
Chapter 07: Kylie
Moving forward is easier, with all of us back together and the mood lightened. I feel better as we climb the stairs. One of the emergency lights flicker. Our footfalls echo in the stairwell. But it doesn't seem as scary.
"I can carry the bag, you know," Rhonda offers once more.
"Nah, it suits him," Jake lets out another chuckle.
"Let's stay focused here, you guys," I lead the four of us up the stairs.
"You started it," John nods at my backpack.
"I wanted a laugh out of you guys, not for us to completely drop our defenses," I scowl. I take the bag off and hand it to Rhonda. "Happy?"
"On the contrary, I'm a little sad," Jake sighs.
"Funny, isn't it?" Rhonda slips the bag onto her shoulders. Oddly, the bag doesn't suit her all that much either. Still, no one laughs at her. "How you're the one to make us laugh."
I just keep marching up the stairs, not saying a word. Surprisingly, no one else says anything either. They're quick to realize when they've crossed the line. I truly did it to ease the mood. Because high tension and stress levels drives people insane. I know that because when my uncle was dying of cancer, my aunt began going insane. It started off slow. I didn't really notice it –and I don't think anyone else did either –until the day she shot my uncle… and herself. My cousin –only four at the time, lived with us for a little while. Then my grandmother decided to take him in.
He asked me about them once a few years ago – about his parents. I didn't know what to say. What do you say to a seven-year old? Especially when I had only been fifteen at the time that my aunt had committed the murder-suicide. Old enough to know what happened, too young to quite understand it. How could I explain something that I didn't understand to a boy who was roughly eleven years younger than myself?
I haven't seen him for a few months. Not since my twenty-first birthday two months ago. He wasn't shy, but he kept to himself. It's not like I didn't understand why though. I think it's only natural for a kid who has that kind of past. The good thing was that everything happened on the other side of the country. It wouldn't influence the friendships he built over here, since the newspaper article written about the incident was never made national. That was the good thing about Canada. They kept things on the down-low.
I hope he's doing okay right now. He and Gran both.
Despite trying to keep positive, I can't help but feel that it's unlikely. They lived in the city. I could only imagine how much worse off it was there than here.
"Tharin?" John's by my side. I've stopped climbing the stairs. I glance at him, then look down at the two steps I need to climb to the next landing –the second floor. I lift my feet up, making the distance obsolete. John goes on, "We can stop to rest –the two of us have been go, go, go since early this morning."
"And we'll keep going until we're back at the farm, with Erin, my mom and a doctor," I tell him. "I won't be able to rest until then."
"Look, you've suffered an emotional trauma –" Jake began.
"We keep going," I speak firmly, leaving no room for arguments.
I put my hand on the door, take a deep breath and open it. We enter into a small hallway, lit with emergency lights. Across from us is a door marked "Laundry."
"I thought laundry rooms were usually in the basement," John nods at the sign.
"The basement flooded a couple of years ago," Rhonda shrugs.
"And what's on the third floor?"
"You know, I've never been up there… But I think the third story apartments are bigger than ours," she says, glancing down the hallway. Her hands shake slightly. Scared.
"What's wrong?" I ask her.
"I'm just worried…" she murmurs.
"Nick and Janice," she kicks at the floor, moving the dust. That's when I notice the other footprints through the thin layer of dust. It's only a slight difference between the dusty floor to the swept floor, especially in this lighting. Maybe my eyes are playing tricks on me.
"Well, keep an eye out," I say, turning to the laundry room door. "That's all we can do."
I place my hand on the door, and then wait for John's nod as he readies his nail gun.
I'm sick of opening doors. Not even opening doors, but opening them cautiously. I miss being able to open the door not having to worry about what's on the other side. Except for Erin in a rage, of course. I suppress a smile, thinking of all those times I opened a door just to close it once more. Somehow, she would get a good laugh out of it. Then punch my arm. Then talk about something that happened at school that day; usually whatever it was that had gotten her so mad.
Me and Erin were always close. We had our fights, but each and every day, at the end of it all, I was her big brother that looked after her. But I couldn't do that from all the way out here in town. So I needed to get back safely.
So I needed to keep opening these doors cautiously.
So I do. I open the door to the laundry room tentatively, and cast a quick glance around before John enters, nail gun raised high. The blinds on the windows are open, and natural light fills the room. To make noise, I hit the bat against the wall just inside the room. Nothing stirs. Nothing moves.
"Clear," John says, circling the room.
"So, left or right?" I turn back to Rhonda.
"Right," she says, nodding down the thin hall. "I'm fairly certain in that hallway, there's a doctor and a nurse."
"Right it is," I nod, exiting the room and heading in that direction.
"Divide and conquer?" John asks.
I hesitate before shaking my head, "Not if what Rhonda and Jake says is true –if Nick and Janice are still around, just as crazed as before, then I'd prefer it if we stuck together. Half of us are unarmed –"
"Are you kidding?" Jake lifts a switchblade. "I'm armed now."
"I'm not sure if I feel a whole lot safer," Rhonda jokes forcefully.
"We'll find you a weapon soon," I promise her.
"Maybe I'll just find a skillet," she shrugs. "I'll be like Rapunzel from Tangled."
"She certainly proved it to be a useful," I agree. I watched it with Erin –the things my sister suckered me into. Though I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it. Because, sadly, I did. Which is why I didn't complain when Ericka forced me to watch it a few weeks later.
"So we'll find her a skillet," Jake sighs. "I'll need to find a weapon that I can use without being up so close to them."
"It'd be ideal," John says.
"We'll think about it all later," I tell them, standing outside the wing door. There were a lot of heavy doors in this place, though I think it was just in case of a fire, to prevent it from spreading to the whole building.. "Let's just find the doctor. And maybe lunch," I add as my stomach began to rumble a little.
"We can always eat that cereal," Rhonda gestures to her Dora backpack.
"Let's save it," I say. "Who knows what else we can find."
"You guys found cereal?" Jake asks. "Awe, man, it feels like forever since I had a bowl. Do you have milk at the farm?"
"Un-skimmed and unpasteurized, but yes," I nod. "And we keep our cows in top shape so that the milk doesn't give us any diseases."
"Good to know," Rhonda smiles.
"Great to know," I counter. "Pasteurized milk kills disease causing bacteria and allows it to remain longer on the shelf. Fresh, raw milk isn't bad, but the longer you take to drink it the more likely you'll get sick."
"Farm-boy knowledge," Jake jerks a thumb at me with the hint of a grin on his face.
"Farm-boy knowledge which will come in handy when we get back to the farm," John points out. Then he sighs, "Let's just keep moving forward, shall we?"
Beyond the door, the space is pitch black. No emergency lights, no light coming in from the window. Nothing is visible. Whatever fear we had forgotten seems to creep back up our spines as we glance at each other in the dim light we stand in. Silence reaches our ears. I find myself holding my breath. I exhale slowly.
"Ladies first?" a strained joke from Jake.
"Yeah, fuck you, too," she mutters.
"I'll go first," I murmur. "Note to self. We need flashlights."
"Don't know why we didn't think of it before," John comments.
"Just stay here. I'll open the first door and let some light in." Hopefully.
Next time I'd be sure to grab my dad's LED flashlight from the garage. I go to bang my bat against the wall, but think better of it. While it could attract the zombies to come forward, it could attract crazed people like Janice and Nick, too.
So instead, I stand just inside the doorway, begging for my eyes to adjust quickly as I try to pick out shapes in the hallway. I was never scared of the dark. My farmhouse was creepy at night, and it creaked and made sounds like any old building. My uncle, Vincent -not the same uncle who developed cancer -often told me and Erin ghost stories about the place. But it never scared me to walk through it alone at night. Not even when no one else was home. But it was hard to take a step further into the darkness in front of me. I won't say I'm scared of it. But I'm definitely wary. Between zombies, Nick and Janice, and who knows what else, it does give this impenetrable feeling.
I can hear them breathing behind me. Waiting patiently for me to step forward. Jake coughs, and I glance back at him. He lifts a hand in an apology. I turn back to the black and close my eyes. When I open them, I force myself to pick out shapes. After a while, I see the door, a rectangle shadow nearly hidden in the dark. The emergency light glints slightly off if its handle. Slowly, that's where I head. I grab the handle, easing the door open and breathing a sigh of relief as light filters down the hall from the translucent blinds.
A glance back into the hallway tells me that the entire length of it is empty. I wave the three of them forward, though they've already started coming my way. Rhonda and Jake enter first, John taking up the rear.
"Watch the door," I tell him.
The three of us move forward through the apartment. The layout is slightly varied from the one Rhonda and I had been in downstairs. While there's a place for shoes, there's no hallway closet by the front door. Instead, beside the bathroom door, which is ajar, there's a small closet for cleaning supplies. In there, there's a broom, a Swifter, and some bottles of basic kitchen cleaning liquids. The same stuff under the kitchen sink at home. I pick up the broom and hand it to Rhonda, but it's one of those flimsy aluminum looking ones. The ones that dent and bend easily. I doubt it'd do much damage.
All the cupboards in the kitchen are open, revealing bare shelves. Completely wiped clean of any food. This apartment probably wouldn't hold much for us.
"Do you smell that?" Rhonda asks as we move into the living room.
I do. It's a smell I could recognize like the back of my hand now. A smell I thought I'd long since grown accustomed to, especially when it's constantly in the air. The smell of death. The fact that I can smell it means either one of two things –there's something rotting nearby, or the air is clearer in the apartments, so the slightest whiff of it brings it to our attention.
We learn it's not the latter when we enter the first bedroom.
"Oh, god," Rhonda turns back immediately, emptying her stomach contents on the linoleum floor, barely missing Jake's shoes.
"Gross," he says, though I'm not sure whether he's talking about the corpse hanging from the ceiling fan in the center of the room, or the vomit that speckles his shoes, though at this point, it didn't matter.
"Should we… cut him down?" I ask, holding my sleeve to my nose and mouth as I enter the room. I walk a fair distance away from the body, suspended by what looks like an electrical cord. It's a man, clad in casual clothes; jeans, a plain blue t-shirt. There are two smells coming from him: death and shit. There are stains on his pants, confirming my thoughts, and I look away. I know who he is. His face hasn't changed at all. But I don't want to associate who he was with his current state. I do find myself wondering just how long he'd been there though.
"This is so sick, dude, can we just leave?" Jake is covering his own nose as he stands beside the door. "There's nothing in here."
"He can't be saved," Rhonda's voice carries weakly into the room.
"I know that," I glance at the closet, which is partially open. "I just want to make sure the coast is clear."
"Let's just close the door and leave it at that," Jake is saying. "There's no reason why we have to play rescue and clean-up crew."
"We don't," I lower my bat to my side when I've cleared the closet. All that was in it was men's clothes. Half the hangers were empty. On the bedside table was a picture –a family of three; the Henrys. They had a daughter, about nine years old. She had such pale blond hair, always hanging in a bob just above her shoulders… Kylie.
I don't know what it is, but I take the photo out of the frame and shove it in my pocket, then toss the square of wood onto the bedspread. I do take a moment to glance underneath the bed, before I walk out of the room, closing the door behind me, and avoid stepping in Rhonda's vomit.
"You okay?" I ask Rhonda, who's now sitting on the ground down the hallway. I crouch in front of her. The stench of throw-up wafts off of her, mixing and mingling with the scent left over from the other room. It makes my own stomach contents churn inside of me, but I hold it down.
"Just… disgusted," she mutters in reply.
"Let's clear the other rooms quickly –then we'll get out of here."
"You really think there's anything here?" Jake asks. He stands by the window, looking out on the street. He has his arms crossed, closed off and thinking.
"Who knows," I lift my hands in the air. "That's why we're checking. There's just the second bedroom left. One room, Jake," I tell him. "And that will finish this apartment."
"Then we move onto the next –and then what?"
"And then we move onto the next. And the next. That's how we find what and who we need. That's how we strive forward," I square my shoulders back.
"Everything okay?" John's voice comes down the hallway. I glance at him. Just as I've told him, he hasn't left from his spot by the entrance.
"Peachy," Jake replies. He goes silent for a second before he runs a hand over his face. "I'm sorry. I'm just… I know why we're doing this. But these are all people we know. There are some things I've never wanted to see. But that's all I'm seeing these days. It's driving me insane. I'm... I'm sorry."
"By the end of today, we'll be back at my farm. I promise," I tell him, patting his shoulder. I understand, I really do. Because I know all these people too. In a town where everyone knows everyone, it's hard to cut off our previous lives and interactions with the reality of the situation now. "But, in the meantime, let's go check out that last room, all right?"
He doesn't say another word, but follows me nonetheless. Rhonda remains sitting there. She's in John's line of sight, so I'm not too worried.
I see the splinting of the wood around the door frame. It looks like someone tried to force the door open, to get to something on the other side. Or get out. But Jake opens the door with ease. He casts a glance my way, and nods as he pulls it open wide. It creaks with the motion. Slowly, I slink into the room, casting a long glance around before lowering my bat. The closet is wide open, and the bed lies flat on the ground. There's nowhere to hide in here.
"Go see what you can find," I tell him. I hear him disappear behind me.
I just stand there for a moment, taking in the child's room. The walls are cream, but everywhere there's Tinkerbelle. On the bedspread, on the window in the form of decals. Her lamp is Tink holding a flower that drooped, working as the lampshade.
Ericka had loved Tinkerbelle. She liked to believe that fairies existed, that good things happened in the presence of a fairy. Her favourite colour was green, and one year, for Halloween, she had bought a short green dress and died her hair the brightest blond –which suited her. And she had glued cotton balls to the tips of her green flats. When she tried to pull the cotton off the next day, it failed, and some of the cotton remained glued to the shoes, ultimately ruining them. She just shrugged. Saying she would just use the shoes for Halloween again next year.
I focus in on the window. Beside the window decal of Tinkerbelle, there's a saying, but it doesn't form English words. I move closer, trying to figure out what language it is, or something.
"seiriaf ni eveiled ob I."
Then I realize the words are backwards.
"I do believe in fairies," I murmur quietly, trying to hide my slight smile. I turn, in hopes of seeing it properly in its shadow on the wall, but instead I see something that stops me in my tracks.
Curled up in the corner, wedged between her nightstand and a chest of toys, is Kylie. From the doorway, I would never have seen her beyond the bed. She looks sickly. Her skin is pale, and her blond hair is plastered to her head. Her eyes are half-opened as she stares at me. And I freeze, not sure if she's alive or dead… or undead.
Then her lips move as her eyes close.
"You guys –" I rush forward, pushing the toy box out of the way and kneeling in front of her. I grasp her hands, which are frigid. Her eyes remain closed. I glance at the doorway to see if they've come –and they have. All three of them.
"Water," my hands are shaking. "I think… I think I need water."
John marches to the bed, dropping his heavy bag onto the pink and purple fairy blanket. He's handing me one of our water bottles within an instant, uncapped, and I'm holding it to the young girls lips seconds later.
"There was nothing in the kitchen," Jake reports, shifting from one foot to the other, not sure of what he can do in this situation. "Empty cans… It didn't look like they had much to begin with. Who knows how long it's been since they ran out."
"They even had a few water bottles... but those were empty, and I know the water in the apartments has long since stopped working," Rhonda adds, casting a glance down the hallway. "We did find some medication in the bathroom though. We got it all."
"We need to find the doctor," I say, watching as Kylie coughs up some of the water. But some of it went down, which was all that mattered right now. She keeps her eyes closed, and doesn't respond as I try to give her more water. But she's still breathing. There's hope.
I recap the bottle and pass it to John. I also pass him my bat.
"What are you –?"
"Taking her with us," I say, lifting her arm up and placing it around my neck as I lift her up into my arms. She's so light. "We can't leave her here."
"I'll carry her," John says.
"No, you're carrying a whole lot already, and I'm not sure anyone could use a nail gun the way you do. Give Jake the bat –Rhonda, go find that frying pan. Ditch the broom."
She nods before disappearing from the doorway.
"The girls safe here, for now. Can't we just leave her here for a little while?" Jake asks, taking the bat from John.
"I'm not leaving her on her own –who knows if we'll even make it back to her side after we've finished scouting the apartments. I'm taking her with us."
"Fair enough," John agrees with me. This case excluded, I wish he would argue and debate with me more. I didn't know if I was doing wrong or doing right most of the time. How am I supposed to know? I had little to no clue as to what the town was actually like until we stepped into it earlier today. And now I was forced to make the big decisions.
I follow John out into the rest of the apartment. Rhonda greets us, brandishing an iron pan. It looked heavy, but I really felt Rhonda could handle it. Leverage over strength, and all that jazz. She'd played baseball all throughout high school, so I'm sure she knew about swinging an object more than I did. I had only ever played in the summer when we all headed over to the March's farm and used a portion of their pasture as a baseball field.
"How's she doing?" Rhonda asks as she approaches. She's unsure of how to carry the awkward, heavy object. Too heavy to hold next to her leg, like the bat. Awkward to carry it with both hands in front of her, always ready to swing, especially when there was nothing to be cautious of in this very moment.
I look at the young girl in my arms, "As good as she can. I don't know what happened here, though I can only imagine. And I can only imagine how upset she'll be when whatever has happened hits her."
"We'll cross that bridge when we reach it, I guess," Rhonda lowers the skillet to her side, reaching with her available hand to brush a strand of hair out of Kylie's face. But it's matted onto her face. Rhonda gives a sad smile as she withdraws her hand.
"We have a lot of bridges to cross," I say, looking past her to the entrance, where John and Jake stood waiting patiently.
"Rickety ones. With a river flowing a hundred miles a minute below us," she adds.
Dangerous. I know that. I'd give anything to just stop now and say "oh well." But it was my mother that needed help. And now this little girl did, too.
I couldn't stop now.