The man was a father of three. He had two sons and a daughter, and a wife that he left when he found out she was cheating on him. The only relief the man found was that in the trial he had wiped his wife out. He had not been cringing or fearful, his wife had destroyed the beautiful family they had together, and he was going to make her pay. With the money from the divorce the man was able to send his sons to fantastic boarding schools. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but he had not seen them in over a year, and his last conversation with his oldest child had been eight months ago. With the divorce the man had also won the summer home. The man had tried everything he could think of to get in contact with his sons to get them to come home after the Virus broke out. Nothing had worked. So the man had reinforced his fortress, built up supplies, and waited.
He watched his daughter sleep. It did not take much to tell she was adopted, an Asian child in a black family, but the man’s wife had wanted a girl. When he laid eyes upon her his heart ripped itself apart. The father could not see her without remembering his other children, he could not look upon her without knowing she would be next. She was sick. The man prayed that he would not be forced to outlive all his children.
Four houses and three more viral. Abal twirled her ax against the ground, it felt lighter than when she had first picked it up. Food and a small amount of upper body exercise were fortifying their muscles. Abal was feeling healthy and fit, food was no longer an overriding and unrelenting thought every hour at the back of her mind. She was sitting with the three men in the fading daylight in a new house. The building would not do for more than a day and the fireplace was electric, but for one night it would shelter the survivors. Abal was downstairs doing push ups. In a few hours she would be trying to get to sleep in the downstairs master bedroom with one of three potentially horny comrades by her side. Abal knew that if it was James he was going to try something, she could just feel it. She didn’t mind, a mild rebuke and some name calling was all it seemed to take to dissuade him. She was not working out for the sake of the living.
“I have a surprise for you guys,” James announced out of the blue. Three pairs of eyes jumped from pages onto the suspicious hooligan who was beaming with the knowledge of his gift. “It must be about Christmas so I have a present we can all enjoy, so let me just go grab my bag of goodies and I’ll be down the chimney in a moment,” without another word he was gone. Abal exchanged a confused smile with Max. She thought the improvising Santa was funny and maybe even a little cute, if she had met him before the Virus, he might have had a chance. James reentered with one hand behind his back.
“You missed the chimney,” Abal said.
“Santa didn’t approve of my gift,” James slowly took the bag out from behind his back. Abal recognized the substance and felt a strange sort of wonder. She had seen marijuana passed in front of her, but it looked different not being burned. The only fact Abal felt sure about was that the drug was less dangerous than public education made it out to be but not as helpful as hippies claimed it was.
“I don’t know if we should be really fucked up if something or someone tries to break in here,” Max said. Abal nodded, “But I definitely need to relax, and I’m pretty sure you guys do too,” Max indicated toward Abal and Michael. She continued nodding as if she had thought the whole conversation through before hand and was waiting for them to come to the logical conclusion.
“Well if you need to calm down, join me. We can take the batteries out of the smoke alarms or just send all the smoke out the window,” James said. Abal continued bobbing her head up and down.
Michael had tried a cigarette once. He did not enjoy it but knew it had looked pretty bad ass to his friends. The great appeal of the burning cylinders was how they made the user look, but Michael had never smoked another. He had acquaintances who smoked packs a day, some wanted to stop the habit but couldn’t. Michael inhaled. Weed was a different story. Michael loved it, but knew it was irresponsible to spend too much money on something that wasn’t going to help Tyler.
One joint, soon to be followed by another, made its way across the couch, each member blowing the smoke out of the open window behind their heads. Michael enjoyed the occasional high, his always hellish world faded away for a short time, the difficult past and impossible future did not exist, his mind felt clear and saw a satisfying present. The joint was passed across the couch to the start of the line. It was Abal’s first time, Michael could feel it. She had not coughed but had not held her breath for very long either. He inhaled deeper the second time, it had been a long time since his last high and he had to pace himself. Michael watched the smoke erupt from his mouth; there were no real effects yet, but he was already feeling better.
There was little trace the survivors had ever been in the house when they left after a small meal. Light snow was falling on the morning frost, clouds prevented the sun from melting it all away. There was still a fair supply of non-perishables in the packs but a large amount was macaroni or other types of noodles. Some of them ate packets of ramen raw but experiments with real, uncooked spaghetti proved too difficult for the survivors’ debilitated digestive tracks, swallowing a mouth full was a painful experience none of the survivors planned to attempt again after that morning.
The only clothes the survivors carried were the ones covering their skin. The only extra piece of clothing was in Abal’s arms, a winter jacket. She already had on a tank top, a button down shirt, and a zip up sweater, and did not need the added warmth, but in a few weeks it would be a necessity. Most of the group’s clothing was similar to Abal’s in the fact that it was all buttoned or zipped, something that could be easily removed and left if it got snagged. The four males were still on the look out for a heavy coat for the upcoming months.
James took a hit off a joint. Two fingers for six viral was a good trade but James would be hesitant to elect for it again, the attack had been one of the most painful physical experiences of his life. Years back he had broken a collar bone and received a blow that gave him a concussion, but the fingers, laced with all their nerve endings, would render him helpless if they were torqued. Blunt weapons were useless to him, many requiring two hands to inflict significant damage. James did not know what to consider his decision to make a spear except to know that not having it would make him slightly more prone to death. Since he was injured James had also been given high priority on firearm detail. Tucked into the back of his pants was a glock 18, the 9mm pistol held 17 rounds and was reliable as hell, James had never seen it out of Michael’s possession. James considered how easy it would be for him and Max to sneak away one night with all the food and weapons they could carry. Hiding away in a house would be easy, there were plenty the group had already checked and far too many for Abal, Tyler, and Michael to recheck. With the amazing food supply and less than half the stomachs to feed the pair could last for a long while. James knew that Michael and Tyler were in the same position, and they had never tried to escape or take advantage of the others. James smiled, despite all the opportunities there were, he had no desire to act on them. The five humans trudged around the lake,
Tyler waited until the last person was in their room before getting out of bed. He had a small single bed and room to himself, he just had to be careful in the hallways not to make anyone suspicious. His brother had elected for first watch and was sitting at a chair that had been moved to the bottom of the staircase. He heard Tyler coming and nodded at him as he came down the stairs. The older Mackay was not entirely ignoring his sibling but it was still not enough, Tyler was going to fix it. He was unsteady for a moment standing next to the large man who was temporarily guarding the group, but had guarded had protected Tyler since infancy.
“I’m sorry,” Tyler began slowly, “You were right. Abal told me what happened after I,” small stutter as Tyler wanted to pick out the right word. He had forgotten about the first part of the story and did not want to make an accusation. “After I was unconscious. I’m sorry for what you had to do. I know it was because of me that he suffered. His death should have been easy but I didn’t let you do the right thing. And ever since that day every decision you’ve made has been as perfect as possible. I won’t question you again. I’m sorry.” Tyler turned and walked back up the stairs. He was expecting no response, and he was right. After letting the moon to guide him to bed Tyler fell asleep with relative ease, his job had been done.
The heart beat less than twenty times in a minute. The body was more efficient in some ways than that of a normal human. The cold, if not felt by the skin, was sensed as offensive and the white was considered to be the problem. Anywhere not white would be better. The fists were balled and arms crossed in a base instinct to conserve heat, but there was no energy wasting shaking. There was noise, not normal noise. The body sped up its advance towards the source of the noise, the brain could not recognize the wooden structure as a house. The natural tendency to hunt for food was strong and the viral crawled through a hole in the wall it encountered. On the inside the brain waited a moment for another noise before continuing forward, the remaining eye was alert for prey. The viral caught sight of a body face down in the corner of the room. The thought pattern changed back to a more primitive form of, cold, bad, avoid. It was not specifically aware of survival functions but the brain was doing a remarkably good job keeping the host alive considering the nature of the disease. Repressed pain, basic coordination, energy conservation, even the flesh was poisonous to predators giving the body a defense it was unaware it even possessed. Another human who was not truly alive fell through the broken window, but the first viral paid no attention to its new companion. Instead it walked toward the face down body that was shifting slightly in the corner of the room, with a controlled descent the brain ordered the body on top of the lying figure. The body heat was further conserved when the third viral added itself to the heap, another brain with similar inclinations as its infected brethren came through the window after seeing the second and third enter.