Sunday, June 23, 2013


They started out the next morning with Katrin in a three-wheeled recumbent bike that neutralized her balance issues and allowed her to go faster. She pulled a lightweight pet trailer with the cats, her backpack, and supplies for the cats inside. Eve had what looked like a pedicab with Val riding in the passenger seat behind the driver's seat. On the seat near Val were bottles of water, as many as they could reasonably fit without making the pedicab impossible to move, and socks. She was certain socks were important. There was an awning they left retracted for the moment, but Eve was relieved he'd have some protection if it started to rain. Will had a slim, light, expensive bike with a price tag well over a thousand dollars, and pulled a one wheeled cargo trailer with the wheelchair in it and the rest of the gear, since Eve's bike with Val in it was heavy enough. He'd added handfuls of batteries for the radio, and he'd handed Val a startlingly bright handheld battery operated spotlight.

“Shine this in their eyes, if you see one, Val,” he said.

“Eyes-formsitave,” Val said, saluting.

Will strapped his baseball bat to the handlebars of his bike, and seeing that, Eve strapped the crowbar to her handlebars, keeping the stun gun in her jacket pocket. Unbeknownst to the children, she still had her best butcher's knife in her inner pocket. Katrin strapped her walking stick behind her seat.

“I wish we were at an REI,” Eve said, thinking of the camping supplies and the easily cleaned camping clothes.

“We can find one after we get to Fort Snelling,” Katrin said firmly.

Eve glanced behind her at Val. “Comfy?”

“Lellow!” Val said excitedly, noting the color of the pedicab.

“Lellow,” she agreed. “Will, Katrin, we ready?”

“Lellow!” they called out in unison.

“Lellow!” she said again, and they were off, having lifted all their equipment and then Val out of the smashed front window and consulted their maps. This time Eve took the front, and Will took the back, keeping Val, Katrin and the cats between them.

As they turned south again, they heard a garbled hoarse cry.


Eve glanced back at the Brood.

“Shouter,” Katrin whispered.

“Time to boogie,” she agreed, and they sped up, Will and Eve with their heads low over their handlebars.

As they began to head down a hill toward the Mississippi and the trails along the river that would hopefully shelter them, Eve caught movement on the flat roof of an apartment building. Slowing down to get a better look, she noted the glare of sun off something metal.

“Ahoy the road!” called a human voice.
“Ahoy the roof!” she called back cautiously. They all slowed to a stop, Val twisting around in his seat to make sure Shouter was not behind them.

“What's your middle name, Mother?” the voice called. The voice seemed male, and as wary as Eve felt.

“Elizabeth. Who are you?”

The metal flash moved, disappeared. A middle aged man with a snap front tweed hat that reminded Eve of Andy Capp leaned over the half-wall around the apartment roof. “I'm Gary. You all seem uninfected for the moment. At least you know how to use full sentences.”

“You got a gun up there?” Will asked, intrigued and nervous at the same time.

“Couple. Won't shoot uninfected. Why are you out?”

“We're heading to Fort Snelling,” Will said, loud enough to be heard, hoping it wasn't loud enough to attract infected attention. Behind Eve, Val pulled out his lightsaber so he held that in one hand and his spotlight in the other.

Eve gave Will a look, trying to warn him to be more careful of the information.

“Eh,” said Gary of the tweed flat cap. “Not a bad plan, if it's clear of infected. They're bad news.”

“Not like them,” Val muttered.

“How do you like Gary?” Katrin whispered, leaning closer to her brother.

Val looked up at the stranger. He shrugged. “I think he not bite people.”

Eve hesitated. “You gonna be all right up there? You want to come with?”

“Tell you what,” Gary said. “You get to Snelling and it's clear, I'll see about heading over.”

“How will you know?” Will asked.
“Come on up quick,” Gary said. “I have a good walkie set. I'll send one with you.” Will started to climb off his bike, and Eve stopped him with a hand on his forearm.

“Maybe we'll take our chances you'll guess correctly,” Eve said.

Gary laughed. “You'll do, Mother. Here, I'll lower one down. Gimme a moment.”

Eve nodded, half smiling. “Name's Eve.”

Gary laughed. “It would be, wouldn't it!” He disappeared back behind the half wall while Eve and the Brood warily watched around them for any other movement. Shortly the older man was back, with a bit of twine tied to a plastic grocery bag. He lowered over the side down to the small grass lawn, and Eve stepped off her pedicab bike to go retrieve it.

Inside was a brightly colored and surprisingly heavy walkie talkie, and several packs of batteries.

“Mother – Eve,” Gary said quietly, so just she could hear. She looked up at him and he nodded toward Val. “Your young guy over there... he infected?” Val was rocking back and forth, gently, his weapons clutched close to his chest.

“My son. Val. No, he's always been delayed like this. He's not infected.”

Gary nodded. “Good. Got no problem with the special kids. It's infected I don't like these days.”

Eve pointed to the kids in turn. “That's Val, that's Will, and that's Katrin. And in the trailer back there are Cassiopeia and Leah, the cats.”

“You got cats?” Gary said, leaning just a bit toward the trailer, wistfulness beneath the surface of his voice.

“The two,” she said.

“My Benjamin went out just before the riots. I haven't seen so much as a hair of his tail since.”

Eve's heart pinched again and she gave him a feeling look.

“I'm gonna keep an eye out a bit longer,” he said. “Benjamin's a tough old shit. Smarter'n most my neighbors, too.”

“Now or before?” Eve asked, and Gary snorted.

“You better be off, Mother. There's at least one infected around here, to the East some there.”

She nodded, getting back to her bike, and handed the bag with the walkie talkie in it to Val to tuck beside him. Val peered curiously in the bag before settling it in with the water bottles.

“Lellow!” he chirped. “Lellow phone!”

“Lellow,” Eve said. She waved up at Gary, he saluted the family in return.

“Lellow,” Val whispered to his sister. “Phone is lellow too!”

“Lellow!” she said, grinning.

They made it the rest of the way to the actual bike trail without running in to another living human being. A few cats bolted away from them, Will even saw a dog, but no human showed its face. As they turned onto the trail, they slowed down. Eve pulled up next to a bench and stopped, and they had a break for bottled water.

“It's a bit twisty from here, but it should be clear of cars and... people,” Eve said, meaning dead bodies in specific.

“Need snack,” Val said.

“It's only been twenty minutes,” Eve protested.
“Still hungry.”

“It's time for second breakfast!” Will said, and Val grinned.

“Takin' hobbits to Isengarg!” he said.

“The hobbits, the hobbits, the hobbits!” Will said, and Val laughed.

At the end of his chuckle, he gave his mother a steady stare. “Still hungry.”

“Fine, fine,” she said. “We should be ok with food. You can have a couple granola bars.”


“Fine, chips instead.”

“Chips too. Chips and 'nola bars. Five.”

She raised her brow at him, but opened a snack sized bag of chips and two granola bars for him. Katrin checked the cats to be sure they still had food and water.

“About fifty minutes now, even as slow as we're going,” Will estimated. “Trip's only supposed to take thirty.”

“Thank you for the update,” Eve said, brow still raised. “I don't think that took current traffic conditions into consideration.”

“My bag chips!” Val said, snatching his food away from Katrin.

His siblings each grabbed a small snack from the stash and devoured them quickly. Even so, before they were done, Val was alert and staring back in the direction they came from.

“Go now,” he said quietly. “We go now.”

The hair raised on Will's neck. “Yeah. We go now.”

And just like that, snack time was over and they were off down the trail.

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