Monday, January 25, 2016

Right Here Waiting

“She's in the building with us,” Rebecca said in a whisper. She fiddled with the arm of her glasses, the right lens cracked along the top. Her warm sweater hung on her, she'd lost so much weight over the last month. Donna was worried about her; there was enough food since the rotters didn't take the canned stuff or anything packaged well enough that it didn't smell like food. The younger woman was simply unable to bring herself to eat often enough. Rebecca had become separated from her daughter and the former Marine who had been looking after the two of them shortly before Donna found her; their secondary goal as a group was to get Rebecca back to her daughter and hopefully bring the former Marine into their group. The primary goal, of course, was living long enough to do so.

Are you sure?” Donna asked. Shorter, more confident, fierce in a fight, she had become a bulwark for the other two women and the de facto leader of their small group. Percy, though he avoided leadership moments, needed less emotional support and was usually content to do his own solitary work. Right now Percy was scouting out the school the small group had holed up in, making sure it was safe enough and checking for food and supplies.

“I heard a door open back that way,” Rebecca said, gesturing to the west of them. “Percy's that way.” She gestured in the opposite direction.

“They can't open doors, can they?” Sherie asked. Freshly bandaged, having been injured in the fight with the strange flu rioter they were currently hiding from, she was sitting in the reading corner rocking chair with her wounded leg propped up on a tiny desk chair. Her hair fell into her face. Usually an endless font of humor and dirty jokes, Sherie looked worn out and the pain of her injury was clear on her face.

“We've got this door pretty secure,” Donna said, giving the chair they had wedged beneath the doorknob a pat. “I've never seen them open a door before, but this rotter is weird. It had a following and it was giving them some kind of orders.”

Percy had been the first of the group to start calling them rotters, originally because he'd been so tired he'd slurred the word rioters one late evening. The name had stuck.

“That was creepy,” Sherie muttered.

“Well, it doesn't have a following now,” Donna said, fire in her voice. “It's alone. We will be just fine.”

“I'm going to write this down while it's fresh,” Rebecca said. She opened her backpack and pulled out her ragged journal. “It's new, it needs documenting. Boss rotters and follower rotters.”

“Thank you, Rebecca,” Donna said. “Anything, any information, we can give the soldiers at the dam is going to be helpful.”

Was planning to get to Vegas sometime,” Sherry said. “Kinda pictured way more strippers and naked ladies in general when I get there, though.” Donna pulled a blanket out of her backpack and covered the other woman up. “Thanks, beauty,” Sherie said.

“Nap,” Donna said. “I'm going to go find Percy and warn him.”

Rebecca looked up in alarm.

“Wedge the door shut with the chair after me,” Donna told her. “If the rotter starts messing with the door, use the airhorn to warn us, and we'll be right here to take care of it.”

Rebecca nodded and set her journal down, moving to do as Donna said. Donna's belly clenched as the door shut between them, her in the hall, the other women safely in the classroom, and she heard the chair being wedged beneath the doorknob again.

Rebecca walked around the classroom, searching for vulnerabilities and supplies. The windows were low and operable as a fire escape, but sturdy and locked. She wasn't sure if the boss rotter was capable of planning to break the windows, so she closed the shades to make less of a target, reasoning she could peek around the shades to keep watch. There was a small, narrow window in the door to the hall, she left that uncovered so she could watch for Donna or Percy.

She found warehouse store sized boxes of granola bars, fruit leather, and cheddar crackers shaped like fish in the teacher's storage closet. There was also a pile of floor cushions and some small fleece nap blankets; she spread out some of the floor cushions to make a mattress and a raised spot for Sherie's foot, then helped Sherie into the closet to stretch out.

“This way we can barricade ourselves in here if the boss rotter makes it through the door before Donna and Percy get to us,” Rebecca told Sherie. “And you can really rest. There's snacks here, and little bitty water bottles. Gonna leave the door open unless there's trouble, though.” She covered Sherie with a couple of the small fleece blankets.

“Keep the airhorn with you,” Sherie reminded her. “Love ya, girl, but it's naptime for me right now.”

“Will do,” Rebecca said, and returned to the main classroom to walk between the windows and the door, watching for trouble.
Percy swept from room to room, silent, eyes adjusted to the interior darkness, club hammer in hand. He had several guns on him, but guns brought attention, both from the rotters and from human survivors, and he preferred to be the one doing the finding in both cases. This hammer lacked the sharp edges of his shingling hatchet, but it was heavier and more easily cracked skulls. Cracked skulls wouldn't always kill a rotter, but it would knock them silly long enough to finish them off.

The old movies used to always say kill the brain, kill the zombie, but that wasn't completely true now that the walking undead surrounded them. You had to kill the creature enough that it couldn't heal before it died, and they healed fast. He'd seen plenty of rotters around missing limbs or with caved in heads. You had to make them dead enough that in the before world, they'd have died before an ambulance arrived.

It's not like they healed in front of you, just that if they didn't immediately die, they'd go hide somewhere until they did heal.

Parts of the school looked absolutely destroyed by fire and smashing damage. The cafeteria was wrecked, tables strewn about with visible violence. Enough of the building stood untouched, though, that locked up, it would be a fairly safe hidey hole for now, until they could move Sherie, had a working vehicle, and built up their supplies again.

He heard soft, careful footsteps behind him and ducked into the deeper shadows of an alcove with broken drinking fountains in it. Carefully, he edged up enough to look toward the footfalls, and saw Donna warily inching along the wall, clearly looking for him.

“Hey,” he said quietly, and she jumped, then hurried to the alcove where he stood.

“Rebecca heard a door open up that way,” she said, as quietly, pointing to the west. “They're barricaded into the class room. I came to let you know, and so we can go check it out together.”

“You don't have to come with,” he said.

“Yeah, I do,” she said, smiling, though her tone was sharper than her expression. “Teamwork, and also not leaving us wondering what happened to you. If she got you, I'd still have to come out to find you.”

“You're the boss,” he said, mildly.

“I guess you're the Enforcer,” she said, grinning.

“The Enforcer is my middle name, actually,” he said. “It was my mother's name.” He glanced down, confirming Donna held her Louisville Slugger. “All right, let's go see what we see. Everything's locked down and empty this way. I blocked any doorway that couldn't be locked that offers entrance into the school from the outside.”

“Anything in the kitchen for supplies?”

“Not at a glance, but there's a couple store rooms yet. I just made sure they didn't open to the outside, I didn't inventory them.”

She nodded, then moved behind him so they could begin the search to the west of the building. Donna felt a moment of gratitude that the building was a small enough elementary school that there was no upper floor, just the main level and presumably a basement.

“Basement secure?” she whispered. He gave her a look over his shoulder, reminding her he'd taught them whispering was easier to hear than careful, quiet speech.

“Haven't run into the basement yet.”



Sherie napped, exhausted, snoring lightly. Rebecca crouched near the door of the classroom, listening. It sounded to her like something was moving around a neighboring classroom, pushing furniture around, making soft noises that could be speech.

She hoped it was Donna and Percy.