Chapter Two: Supplies and Soldiers
I dreamt that night of my father and of the town vet, Albert. We were in Albert's yard, having one of our horses checked out to see if she was in foal. But the dream changed. The horse became a lump of torn flesh and bone on the ground while my father and the vet ate her. I dreamt I stumbled to our pickup and drove into town; only to find it empty, save for one young girl in pyjamas, clutching a teddy. I bent down to comfort her, but I woke up sweating and shivering, Lily still snuggled against me. She woke up and asked sleepily was I alright. She went back to sleep when I told her I was. It took me a while to drift back to sleep.
Madam Hallowat was right. The barflies had turned by the following day. Mr. Orvan and the remaining football jocks two days later. It was a shame really—Orvan and the footballers were the only thing keeping the hordes of the undead away from the gates. Once they turned, the undead masses pressed against the gate on a daily bases. They lost interest and wandered off by nightfall, but returned every morning. Mr. Hallowat, who was a doctor, theorised that it may be residual memory, an impulse, which told them that night-time was home time and the Sherriff's Department was safety. Or maybe it was the smell of living flesh, who knew.
We got into a routine in the following week or so. In the morning, Lily, Dr. Hallowat and the footballer (Jason) would walk the perimeter wall, checking for any breaches on any of the gates leading to our little compound, Madam Hallowat would keep Kevin occupied and I would do an inventory.
In the afternoon we would argue about whether or not we should chance going out for more supplies. It was always seemed to be me arguing for getting more supplies. More fuel for the generator, more drinking water, the basics like toilet paper and tooth paste. I could understand Madam Hallowat and Dr. Hallowat not wanting to go out. Madam Hallowat was pregnant, and her husband wanted to care for her. Kevin was too young, of course, but they didn't even want me going out. Also, I couldn't understand Lily or Jason. They were fast, good with guns and in good health. Not one of them even wanted to talk about the subject, which got me angry. Not one of them was stupid. They could see that with six people, our supplies would soon run out.
Finally, after two weeks, with fraying tempers, it was Lily who finally helped tipped the scales—with a lack of tampons and other hygiene products. This pissed me off. I was telling them for two weeks that we needed toilet paper and tooth paste, but noooo, it was too dangerous. Suddenly, add tampons to the list and BAM, we had to go. Then everyone was on board with the excellent idea of restocking. I had walked out of the office fuming. No one seemed to notice that I had left with Kevin except for Lily.
The following morning, I was checking the two prison transport vans to make sure we had enough fuel to get to Henly and back when Lily walked up to me nervously.
"Sorry Nate," she said, hanging her head.
"For what?" I grumbled darkly, absently rubbing my hand across the dark green paintwork of the van, and across the gold words 'Newcastle County Sheriff's Department'.
"Not listening to you when you said we needed supplies."
"It wasn't just you," I pointed out. She sighed in exacerbation.
"Can't you see how hard it is on us," she exclaimed.
"The whole thing is hard on everyone. We all lost someone and we are all dealing with the undead but no one seems to be worried about making provisions to stay alive but me," I exploded, giving voice to what had being eating at me since this thing had started. Lily looked at me and I couldn't make out the look on her face.
"Nate," she said gently, "me, Dr. Hallowat, Madam Hallowat, Jason—we are meant to be adults. We are meant to be the ones who should know what to do, but then we find ourselves hold up in a one story building and a fifteen year old is making decisions that by all rights we should be making. You know more about how to prepare for this than any of us, and it's unnerving. It's just one more thing that shows us the world is turned upside down."
I looked at her for a long time before saying "Something tells me you are the only one who has come to terms with it!"
The drive to Henly was quiet. Lily sat quietly in the passenger seat, while Jason brought up the rear in another prison transport van. He was having fun with the police radio.
"Foxtrot. Uniform. Charlie. Kilo. Yankee. Oscar Uniform," he babbled happily into his handset.
"Jason, shut up," I barked back.
"November Oscar," he cheered back. Lily rolled her eyes.
"How the hell did we end up with him?" I asked in a tired voice.
"Bad luck," Lily grimaced. "But you have to admit, he does lighten up the mood in the station a bit."
"The only good thing about him being here."
"Nate, you know I am..." Lily began.
"Please, don't say you are sorry again," I groaned. "We have been over this. It's a big deal for you guys. Madam Hallowat went from being my teacher to me telling her what we need to do to survive."
"Still, she shouldn't have shouted at you that you were a child and you didn't know what needed to be done." Lily said quietly.
"Yeah, I know," I muttered darkly.
We rode in silence for the rest of the way, with Jason making up rude words over the police radio. When we arrived in Henly, we went straight for the supermarket. Most of the shelves were empty, but we loaded up the remaining water, tinned food and hygiene products into one van before moving onto the chemists. All the stuff fit into one van.
"Dude, we didn't need the second van," Jason crowed, about to start laughing.
"We have to go to the gas station, or have you forgotten what Nate told us earlier?" Lily told him. She gave me a look that seemed to say 'I'm with you!' Jason seemed to deflate at the comment. I smirked, and mouthed 'Thanks' at Lily, who smiled.
There were two gas stations in Henly, one on the main highway road, and another used primarily by farmers. We decided to use the one near the highway. As we drove away, a horde of the undead flooded out of alley ways and side roads to fill the space we had occupied. We sighed with relief.
As we got closer, there were more and more empty cars on the road. I had to slow the van down to a snail's pace. The prison transport van could probably ram a few of the cars off the road, but why damage it? The gas station itself was abandoned, its forecourt void of cars except one car barring the door to the shop and several bodies. It looked as if no one had stopped to get gas. When I got out of the van, I saw that the car was a dark blue Sheriffs car with the words 'Lydon County' stencilled across the side. I kept forgetting that Henly was in a different county to my hometown of Newcastle.
"Wahoo, the pumps have power," Jason cried happily. He started grabbing cans out of the back of the second van and filling them, grinning like a kid.
"Happy Christmas," I called over to him. He smiled and winked. Even Lily seemed amused, but she caught the look on my face. I indicated the car.
"As a Sheriffs daughter, you see anything wrong here?"
It took her a moment to figure out what I was talking about. She examined the interior of the car, the opened trunk and the way the car was parked.
"The shotgun and shells are missing and the car has been purposefully parked in front of the door," she answered.
"Bingo," I said, raising the shotgun I was carrying. "We are being watched," I whispered. Lilies eyes widened and for the first time, she seemed to notice the dark shape standing in the shadows, the barrel of an automatic weapon pointed at us. Military, I would say, judging from the camouflage gear it wore, and the insignia I could just about make out. We stared at each other for a few minutes while Jason continued to fill cans.
"You're not infected?" the solider asked finally, startling Jason.
"No," Lily and I responded at the same time.
"Thank God," the figure said. He came out of hiding, grinning wider than Jason had been a few seconds before. He was of Asian descent, his black hair cropped close.
"Private Harry Zhang," he said, looking relieved.
"I'm Nate, this is Lily, and the guy filling the jerry cans is Jason," I responded, keeping my gun raised the same as Private Zhang.
"What are you doing here?" I asked. "I thought the military was pulling back to a more defensible position."
"We were," Private Zhang replied. "Twenty of us were selected to scout around for survivors in the town surrounding Oxford."
Oxford was the town my parents and older sister had gone too.
"What happened to the survivors in Oxford?" I asked.
"Shipped out to a safe zone around Atlanta," Private Zhang replied, lowering his gun a little at the hopeful note in my voice.
"Before you ask, I didn't get all the survivors names, but there were some who said they had some family left in other towns. Maybe whoever you are looking for is among the survivors."
I grinned like a little kid, but then a realisation hit me.
"You said there were twenty of you. Where are the other nineteen?"
"Five got infected. Ten went back to Oxford with survivors. The remainder got caught up here by a herd of those things. I thought we were done for this morning when some broke through the window, but then they wandered off. Must have heard you coming into town."
"There are more soldiers inside?" Lily asked hopefully, eyeing the convince store.
"Two more, but are in bad shape. Our sergeant and corporal died. I was lucky I was on the roof trying to set up an antenna."
I got the feeling that Private Zhang wasn't happy at been the only uninjured member of his little band. I looked up at the sky, noticing how late it was getting.
"You can come with us. We are holed up in the Sheriff's Department in the next county. Maybe you can use the antenna there to make contact with whoever it was you were trying to contact."
He seemed to take note of how I was doing all the talking, and how Lily and Jason seemed to be looking to me.
"I gotta check..." he didn't finish the sentence, only indicated with his gun. He jerked the butt of the gun at me as well, and I took it to mean follow. When we were out of earshot, he started talking again.
"How many of you?"
"Six in total."
"This thing is getting worse. At last report, more than sixty per cent of the country was infected. Two days before that, it was only forty five. We had people fleeing to the boarders with only a twenty five per cent infection rate. How long do you think it will take the military to break?" he asked.
"You think the military will turn on civilians?" I asked in amazement.
"We are only human," he said, and he sounded scared. By this stage, we were entering the connivance store through a back door. Private Zhang opened the door, revealing a small store room. Two men in military fatigue were propped against the wall, breathing heavily. They had very prominent bite marks on their bodies. The skin around their mouths and the whites of their eyes were almost completely blood shot.
"I don't think they will survive the journey," I said.
"I know," Private Zhang said in a low voice, raising his gun.
"Wow, wow, what are you saying?" I asked.
"I came back here to give them a quick death," he said sadly.
"Then why bring me?" I asked, anger rising in my voice.
Private Zhang looked at me for a long while.
"How long do you think I would survive by myself? A day? A week? Long enough to get back to base, more than likely. But then I would be back in the same position. I already told you I think the military will break, then I would be part of a small group, if I survive. I have no doubt that the people on my base will turn on each other for whatever supplies the base has. Then we will split up and take other survivors supplies. I'd much prefer to get a head start."
It took me a moment to realise what he was saying.
"You want to join us?"
"If you will have me Nate."
"What makes you think I'm in charge?"
"I saw the way you handled things out front. You are taking charge. You know what to do."
"I'm fifteen and had to argue for two weeks to convince everyone else we needed supplies" I argued bitterly.
Private Zhang favoured me with a small smile.
"Then the people you are holed up with are idiots and I have found someone I may just get along with."
Then he fired.
The drive back to Newcastle was interesting, to put it politely. Jason and Lily were too scared to ride with Private Zhang after they realised what he had done, so he rode with me. I was a little horrified with it myself, but I realised it had to be done. Then I remembered Kevin, and I realised I would have more than likely done it myself it I was in Private Zhang's position. Did that make me a monster? I didn't know, and that scared me. As we rounded the corner, I picked up the handset of the police radio and let Dr. Hallowat know we were at the gate. The horde in front of the gate started to shamble away from the gate and towards us. I ran over those who got in my way and barrelled through the gate, Jason seconds after me. The gate slid shut rapidly. When I got out of the van, Kevin ran out and jumped into my arms.
"I was worried something happened to you," he said.
"I'm fine. You know me kiddo."
Dr and Madam Hallowat were standing at the door, examining Private Zhang.
"We have a new guest," I told them, then realised that it was stupid, they could see that fact. Something in their expression told me it was going to be a long night.
Authors note: Can anyone figure out the words Jason was making out of the police call signs? As for Private Zhang, yes, part of me was thinking of Glenn from The Walking Dead, but another part of me was also thinking of Frank Zhang from The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan. So shoot me for not being very creative, I'm suffering from writers block when it comes to characters. Thanks to truchit71 for the review.