We woke to brisk, clear silence. I guessed it was sometime mid morning when the three of us finally resurfaced, our grip on consciousness strengthened by a night in a real bed.
We shared the packet of dried fruit we still had in our packs. Thoughtlessly, we ate the entire pack. It just seemed to happen – we were ravenous, and we ate silently, passing the packet back and forth, lost in our own thoughts and worries.
The last of the shrivelled apricots went to Annie.
She stood and walked to the window, peering out and propping Teddy against the glass. I watched her ever shrinking frame, a shadow flitting over my heart. She was so thin and gangly. Her hair hung in thin, greasy strands, framing her shoulders and almost reaching her pointy elbows.
“The satchel,” I remembered suddenly. “We didn’t open the satchel Rachel gave you.”
Jay was on his feet and unzipping his pack in seconds. “I forgot about it somehow.” He said, setting it down in between us as he sat back down. “What do you think?”
I shrugged. Rachel had helped us escape, but the whole experience left a strange feeling sitting over me. The strange look on her face as she let us go, the fate she and her brother may have met…
“Only one way to find out, I guess.” Jay muttered, undoing the clips that held the main pouch together. It had been fairly large and bulky, and he was careful not to send anything spilling out as he opened it.
Supplies. A couple of water bottles – full – and even some food. More tins of chicken, some crackers, several packets of dried fruit and even a container of longlife milk. Jay and I stared at the items for a long, silent moment. We didn’t know what she had risked to get us these things, but we imagined Harvey with his inventory would notice they were gone. Maybe he would assume we’d stolen them ourselves, or he’d find them unimportant after discovering we’d also taken Annie, who he’d wanted to keep so badly.
I felt a surge of misplaced victory – a fleeting triumph that skidded away as quickly as it had come, lost to the fear and worry that hunted it down immediately.
“She saved us again,” I said quietly. At what cost? I didn’t voice that question. “What is it?” Annie had returned from the window now and pushed her way into Jay’s lap.
“Food, kiddo. That nice lady gave us some food.” Jay looked at me over the top of Annie’s head, an unspoken worry lurking behind his expression.
I almost didn’t see the small square of paper folded in the bottom of the satchel, but I reached for it casually while Annie looked over our new food.
Danny is being watched constantly, but he will be removed from the camp in the next few days. Colin insists I’ll be allowed to stay, but we can’t trust them. I don’t even know if I want to stay.
There are rumours of a few other groups of survivors, further out – up in the mountains.
If they don’t kill Danny, he will head for the mountains. They should be a safer group, without Harvey to delude them. If I can get away, I will head the same way – we might meet again.
The note had been written in a hurry – the writing was scrawling, frantic – wide letters, written with a pen with ink that intermittently ran dry and merely scratched the paper.
“What does it say?” Jay asked quietly.
“There are more survivors. Up in the mountains.” I paused. “If Danny isn’t killed, that’s where he’ll go. Rachel is going to try and follow him.”
“Well. Shit.” Jay had opened a bottle of water now and was encouraging Annie to take small sips. “Do you think we can stay here for a while?”
I crept my way over to the window and gazed out around us. Nothing much but overgrown fields and another farmhouse, way out in the distance. There would be more, equally far away, but I couldn’t see the others from this side of the house. There was no unusual movement, no unnatural sounds. The world carried on around us, dramatically changed but completely undeterred. The sun rose and fell, the insects buzzed, the grass grew.
“We have enough food to stretch it out for a few days.” I answered finally. “If we can block off downstairs some more, it might be safer to stay here and rest up then try and move so soon.”
Jay nodded. “I don’t think we have it in us to keep going right now.” He paused. “What do you think, though? About the other group?”
“Jesus Christ.” I could feel a swell of anger rise in my stomach. “After everything that just happened? After Harvey?”
Jay always seemed to want to keep moving – pushing us to keep walking, pushing us to use up every shred of the night to gain distance. My impatience, my anger, fed off my exhaustion and fear of Harvey. I was so angry with Jay for even mentioning the other group that I worked the barricade free from the bedroom door and cautiously edged my way downstairs.
I could ignore Jay for a few hours, ignore his ridiculous questions about other people. We had a plan, at least for the next few days, and I didn’t want to even consider thinking about anything beyond that.
Especially if that meant other people, more unknown strangers with odd agendas.
I set to work, dragging furniture and moving things as quietly as I could. After the first house we’d stayed at, we now knew the life and death importance of strong barricades. I started building up the barricade at the main back door, pulling drapes shut in each room as I dragged things to and from.
Jay and Annie left me alone, and I worked in silence until the anger broke.
I sat on the floor in the living room, every ugly thought and fear rearing its head as I sobbed uncontrollably.