The dawn woke up the suburbs, a gold yellow warmth crawled up the street to the house. Colin woke up by Bethany in the corner of the living room. She curled her head on his leg. Colin could feel the warmth from a dampness on his jeans. He stared at the back of Bethany’s head, her brown hair shaking and fidgeting. She was still crying. Bethany had been awake the whole time. Colin watched everyone run back and forth across the living room. From the clock on the wall it was 7am. They must’ve started packing, which meant they must be leaving. Colin thought for a second, wondering whether or not they would just leave him and his sister. He stared at the deep dark shade of red smeared on the carpet from Michael’s dead body. They threw him into the shower and filled the tub immersing his body under water. Then they poured the salt in.
Salt. It was one of the most useful weapons against the infected. They were so sensitive to salt that every time their bodies came into contact with it, their skin would bubble up as if they were slugs or snails and they would go belligerent. It didn’t work that well in killing the infected, but it did definitely slow them down. Every time someone died or if there was a dead body lying around it was important to salt it. The scent of blood from open wounds would attract infected and then everyone near that body would just be open targets. If a body is immersed underwater, then they didn’t have to use as much salt. Salt needed to be used sparingly. Along with salt, specific powdered detergents, soaps, and kitchen sprays, other household products would also work to slow the infected down. They just don’t work as well as salt.
Colin tapped Bethany on her shoulder. She didn’t respond. He tapped her again.
“. . . yeah?” she replied back, her voice coarse and tireless.
“I need to get up,” Colin said, “I need to talk to them.” Bethany didn’t move. She left her head on top of Colin’s leg, frozen and lifeless, as if she died. Colin thought about pouring salt over her. He slid his hand under Bethany’s face and lifted her gently. She didn’t fight it. He could feel the warmth from her tears and her wet brown hair as the liquid slid between his fingers. She was older than him by 3 years, yet throughout this whole journey since the outbreak, it seemed like he was becoming more mature and she was becoming less big sister-like and more innocent.
Colin walked across the hall. He saw Peter raiding the shelves in the bathroom looking for any types of prescription medicines, drugs, healthcare products. He threw a tube of toothpaste in a box, and then swiped all the orange pharmaceutical bottles. He looked up at Colin standing in the doorway as he was holding a bottle of Tums in his hand.
“Hey!” he said, a large open teeth smile on his face, “We can’t fight zombies with heartburn now can we? That would just be uncomfortable,” he smiled. Colin laughed. Peter was a good guy. He had a slight Irish accent when he said certain words and bright shiny Irish red hair. Colin turned his head to look at the shower. The tub behind Peter was an open pool of red water. Michael’s Converse shoes slightly hanging on the front edge of the tub.
Colin found Chase, the old man who shot Michael in the forehead, in the garage with open papers and maps on a fold out table. He stood over the papers tapping his pen on top of the table, pressing his old man reading spectacles on his face. He looked up as Colin came closer.
“What are you doing?” Chase said through an untidy white beard.
“What do you mean?” Colin asked.
“Why don’t you grab something?” he said sternly, “Haven’t you noticed we’re leaving?”
“Oh,” Colin said realizing that Chase just answered the question he was about to ask, “I didn’t know if we were coming with you guys.”
Chase stared at Colin, a new sincerity took over his face. On some level he forgot how new this brave new world was. He’d been doing this for months now, raiding apartments and houses, finding food, killing infected crazy brainless cannibals. It was all second nature to him now. He looked at Colin and his almost scared rookie expression on his face.
“Son, I killed your sister’s boyfriend there,” Chase said with blunt affirmation. The honesty wrapped around Colin as it crept up his spine.
“You knew he was turning, you knew he was transitioning. You knew he wasn’t right! Yet you dragged him around and from the look on your sister’s face, you didn’t even bring it up now, did you? He was already gone. Now there’s no known cure for this yet, and there’s a reason you held on so long to that Michael kid. But I’m pretty sure you held on, you put your sister in danger, you denied the whole thing because there’s no one out there anymore. We’re all alone on this. . .”
Chase folded a few papers and rolled up the map that lay on the desk in front of him, “Now that was a stupid move you did there, and I had to kill your friend! Now it’d be a stupid move on my part if I didn’t bring you with us, and it’d be a stupid move on your part if you didn’t come with us!”
Colin stood in front of him with his head down as if he just got lectured for being trouble.
“So what now,” Chase asked impatiently, “Are you coming with us?”
Colin nodded his head slowly, “. . . yeah,” he said under his breath, “I guess so.”
“Okay, grab whatever food you could find in the refrigerator,” Chase said without wasting any time for Colin and his weak response. “Grab any canned food you could find in the kitchen. Find a box and take whatever powdered soap or detergent you could find in the kitchen and give it to Peter, he’ll know what to do with them.”
“Where are we going?” Colin asked.
“Sacramento.” It was 3 hours from San Jose, being that there was no traffic which there obviously wasn’t because there were no people.
“What’s in Sacremento?”
Chase looked up at Colin. Within those deep smug brown eyes surrounded by wrinkled overstressed eyelids, Colin could almost see a pigment of hope in Chase. “More people. . .” he said.
“. . . we’re going to a safe haven.”