(Uncle Jeb's POV)
We were on the move again. Things had become too hot at our parents farm. We had been rapidly overrun by both zombies and the remains of the Restoration Movement. That, combined with our dwindling food supply had forced us to move out. We were now back in Pine Creek and it was sad to see how much of the town was actually infected. Doors of houses, or wherever people had hold up, must have been weakened by constant pounding because the streets were flooded with zombies. Beside me, Dr. Raj murmured something in a language I didn't know.
"So, what do you think?" I asked the group at large.
"We should try the hideouts," my brother said.
I grunted. That had always been the plan, but a blow to the head when escaping from the farm had made him forget things. Dr. Raj was nervous about it, but he hid it well.
"Let's get going," I said.
The drive to the bug out location was silent. My nephews were asleep. My sister in law, Judith, was busy cleaning her gun. My brother was in a car behind us with Dr. Raj just in case something happened; Richard and his mother were with them. I knew all this, but my thoughts were elsewhere. They were on Charles and Kurt and what happened to them. Were they zombies? Had the Restoration Movement killed them and dumped their bodies? Had those foul creatures eaten them, or were they simply rotting away somewhere in a swamp along with Nicolai and Tiffany?
I was so preoccupied that I nearly missed the turn off for the shelter. Nothing much had changed on the road—except for fresh tracks. That caught my attention. I let everyone know to get their guns ready. When we reached the outer fence, I didn't know whether to laugh or swear. Someone had repaired the entire thing. The fences were up, the gates were repaired and the area was clear of zombies. I got out of the pickup and gazed in wonder. From the shelter itself I heard someone calling out:
"Tiffany, Babylon be here."
The voice was unmistakable male and had an unmistakable Rastafarian lilt to it, and had he called out to Tiffany? It had to be another Tiffany, my mind reasoned, but a part of me wanted to hope. I was fond of the Tiffany I had known, viewing her as a daughter. I kept my eyes trained on the shipping container nearest me. Finally, a figure appeared on top with a gun while the gates opened. A tall, willowy figure began walking towards us and I felt my heart skip a beat. It WAS the Tiffany I knew.
We all sat around the kitchen table sipping the last of the coffee. Tiffany had filled us in on everything that had happened to them after we had split up. I was relieved. I knew that up until a week ago, Charles and Kurt had been alive. Tiffany and her new group had tried to make a go of it in the city they had left Charles in, but hostile locals had made that impossible. They had left the city and headed for the one safe spot Tiffany knew—here.
"So, you have no idea where Charles is now?" Judith asked her voice thick with emotion.
"None," Tiffany answered silently.
"They could be in the safe zone of Hardwood," Dr. Raj theorised.
"Sorry, what?" Tiffany asked.
"Hardwood. It's a safe town in Texas. It's less than a hundred miles from where you were."
"Could we make it?" Judith asked.
"Firstly, we didn't know anything about the safe zone. Second, I doubt we could make it. The roads are a mess, full of wrecked cars, bandits and zombies."
"Then, what do we do?" Judith asked.
"Stay here and recuperate. Charles is alive, Judith. He can take care of himself. You need to focus on your husband and other kids."
"And this is where we keep the cattle," David said as he showed me round a large shed. "We have ten of them on our land, all with hay and feed stuffs. We had to put them in once the dead began swarming over our fences."
He smiled at me, and I smiled back.
"So, that explains why I didn't see any livestock on the land," I said, looping an arm around him. John was nearby, and I had to keep up pretence.
"What would your boyfriend say?" David murmured, as he leaned closer.
"I hope he understands," I managed to say as David's lips ghosted over mine. I shoved David against the wall and deepened the kiss.
"I hope John enjoys the show, 'cause I sure as hell am," David mumbled in my ear as I moved to his neck. I grinned and was about to respond when someone behind us went "hem-hem."
"Busted," David mumbled. "Looks like you gotta go."
"Yep. I'll be back. Tell your granddad," I whispered.
The drive back to town was quiet until John said:
"You had a lot of fun!"
"Yeah. I got rid of some tension," I answered.
"It would be a shame if Kurt, or anyone with a hatred for you perversion found out," John said.
"Why would they find out?" I asked.
"Well, let's just say I am having trouble with some people. If they aren't taken care of, things could slip out and you could be in trouble."
We drove in silence for five minutes until I saw several zombies shambling towards the road. I braked hard, and John really did slam his nose off the dashboard. I got out, went around the car and dragged John out by his ear. I threw him to the ground.
"I don't like been threatened and I have no intention of been anyone's assassin."
John laughed as he stood up.
"You don't have a choice boy. If you don't, every hard line redneck and religious nut job not devoured by the zombies will know that you are a faggot and you, David and that little cunt you came into town with will be strung up."
I drew out my gun—but instead of shooting John, I used the butt of the gun to pistol whip him across the face. He coughed up some blood and teeth.
"Think you can threaten me?" I snarled.
"Think you're a tough guy because you have a badge?" John asked, and then spat in my face.
I caught the glint of a knife and I jerked backward. The knife lodged in my wounded shoulder and I screamed. I nearly blacked out. John went to grab the knife and I fell against him. I managed to fumble my gun out of the holster. I was still reeling from the pain so I couldn't aim right, I just shot. Suddenly, John wasn't supporting me anymore and I landed on top of him on the ground. I rolled away from him, and when my vision cleared, I saw him curled up in a foetal position. I staggered over to him and dragged him straight. The bullet had entered near the chest. Judging by the colour of the blood, all dark, I had hit the liver. I was vaguely aware of his pitiful sobs. My attention was drawn by another sound—the steady, guttural moan of the approaching zombies. They were close. I must have passed out, because there was no way they could have gotten this close in the thirty seconds it had taken this shitty situation to go down. I could do nothing for him, except one thing. I raised my gun. I could save him from been eaten alive.
"Something's wrong," Kurt stated, in one of the many pauses that punctuated his floor pacing.
Annabelle raised her head from the legal text book she was reading, and sighed. Alright, she would admit it was getting late. The sun was dipping low on the horizon and Charles hadn't returned from his visit to the power station and ranch. Something was up with Nicolai as well. A call had come through on the radio about an hour ago and Nicolai had raced out and grabbed a car without telling them what was going on. She was about to say something comforting to Kurt when Nicolai came wandering into the station, blood caking his shirt. He looked at Kurt with this look Amada associated with an undertaker.
"Kurt," he began, "ve have to talk."
Authors note: So, what do you think? Is Charles dead? Is he alive? Is he infected?