Authors: James Harden
He breathes his last breath.
And then he dies in the new world.
And secrets die with him.
And knowledge dies with him.
Doctor Hunter was a parasite. But even
parasites cannot survive in the desert, in this new world.
Kenji covers Doctor Hunter’s face. And
maybe we should’ve killed him all that time ago, all those months ago. Maybe we
should’ve killed him in the morgue of North Sydney hospital.
Maybe that would’ve been the more merciful
“What the hell do we do now?” I ask.
“What do you mean?” Kim says. “This doesn’t
“Yes, it does. He’s still out there. He’s
still alive. How the hell is he still alive?”
I start freaking out. I start to believe
the man in the gas mask is immortal. I start to believe that he can’t be
killed. I believe this because I stabbed him. I stabbed him in the stomach with
a hunting knife.
This knife had a serrated edge, a slightly
This knife would’ve torn his insides apart.
And this wound should’ve killed him by now.
It should’ve at least slowed him down.
And yet when I stabbed him, he showed no
pain, felt no pain. He didn’t scream. He did not flinch. He grabbed the knife.
He held onto it.
Pushed it in deeper.
He is not human. He is a monster. He is
Kenji puts his hand on my shoulder. “He
won’t last long on his own. Not out here. He can’t hurt you anymore.”
I want to believe Kenji… but I don’t.
“Kim is right,” Jack says. “It doesn’t
matter if he’s still out there. It doesn’t change the fact that we need to get
to this town. It doesn’t change the fact that we need to walk through this
desert with almost no food or water.”
“Maybe we should just wait here,” I say,
completely not thinking straight. “Yeah, we can just wait here. They’ll send
out another rescue.”
Kenji shakes his head. “It’s too risky. The
company won’t care who we are. Maybe they take Kim and Maria. And maybe they
let them live. Maybe they let them live for as long as they prove to be useful.
But the rest of us are dead.”
“And what about you?” I ask. “YoshidaCorp
is your father’s company. It might as well be your company. They won’t kill
“It doesn’t matter who I am,” Kenji says
quietly. “I haven’t spoken to my father in a very long time. I don’t think my
life or my safety is a priority for him right now. I don’t even know if he
knows I’m alive. I don’t even know if he cares.”
“And besides,” Kim says. “They won’t come.
They won’t find this. Doctor Hunter said he made the pilot fly off course
before crashing the chopper. He then disabled all the GPS tracking devices. I
know we’re not that far from the Fortress, but it’s far enough. Out here, in
the desert. They won’t find this. Not for a long time. And that’s assuming
they’re even looking. Face it, we are alone. We are so alone.”
Both Kim and Kenji were right. Of course
they were right. I knew this. I knew the company wouldn’t think twice about
executing us. And I knew we would have to walk out of this desert on our own
But fear is clouding my judgement. Fear is
making me panic.
Rational thought is almost impossible at
I take a deep breath. I try and slow my
heart rate. I try and control my fear.
Kim once again confronts Sarah. “Tell me
about this town.”
“There’s not much to tell,” Sarah says.
“And I already told you, the only thing that matters are the walls. They’re
big. They’re strong. They keep the town and the people safe. They’re made out
of… something. It’s not steel and it’s not concrete. But it’s strong, whatever
Kim has a look on her face that says she’s
not buying it. And she’s not going to let Sarah off the hook so easy. Kim wants
to know the specifics. She wants to know everything.
“What’s the name of the town?” Kim asks.
“Can’t tell you that, remember? Can’t tell
“How did they build the walls so fast?” Kim
says, her voice becoming angrier, her patience running thin. “How did they
build them in time to stop the infected? I mean, the Oz virus moved so quickly,
like a goddamn grass fire. The speed of it caught everyone by surprise.
Everyone was completely unprepared. Why was this town different?”
“Did they know what was coming?” Maria
asks. “Were they warned or something? Were they tipped off?”
“They, the townspeople, they didn’t build
the walls,” Sarah answers calmly. “The military did. They flew in these great
big slabs of black… black material. Black diamond. I don’t know what it is.
They raised them in a day. In less than a day. Within a few hours.”
“Why would the military do that?” Kim asks.
“Why this town?”
Sarah shrugs her shoulders. “Beats me.”
“Because the town is relatively close to a
number of military installations,” Kenji says, thinking out loud to himself.
“Like the Fortress?” I ask.
“Among other things.”
“So these walls,” Kim continues. “They go
right around the town?”
“No. Only around a few blocks. Near the
center of the town.”
“What about the rest of the town?”
Sarah shakes her head. “The rest of the
town is just like everywhere else. Overrun.”
“So how did you make it inside?” Kim asks,
her voice now dripping with suspicion.
“I already told you…”
“Tell me again.”
“My sister and I, we got lucky. We ran into
a group of people from the town, from behind the walls. They were on a raid for
supplies. Actually, it was more like a scouting mission. They were looking to
see where they could expand the walls to. Looking to see how much work it would
take. How many infected they would need to clear out. Anyway, they took pity on
us. They took us in.”
Kenji nods along. “OK, so, if we make it
there…” he trails off. “I mean,
we make it there, we’ll have to be alert. We’ll have to be careful as we move
through the outer suburbs and the outer blocks.”
“Exactly,” Sarah says. “Although it might
not be so bad. Like I said, just before I left, there was a lot of talk about
trying to expand the perimeter and clearing out the infected from the town. Who
knows? Maybe they’ve already done it.”
“It’s possible,” Kenji says. “But we should
plan for the worst. We’ll have to assume the town is overrun.”
“How would they expand the walls?” I ask.
“They wanted to build outer walls,” Sarah
answers. “They would have to make these from whatever they could get their
hands on. Old tires. Cars. Trucks. Sandbags. Whatever building materials they
could find. But then again, maybe the military… or the company, or whoever
built the original walls, maybe they’ve come back, maybe they expanded the
walls. Maybe this is what they’re doing all over?”
This is a pipe dream. This is a fantasy.
“How many infected in the town?” Kenji
asks. “How big was the town’s population before the outbreak?”
“About five thousand people. Maybe more.
Maybe less. I’m not really sure.”
Kim rolls her eyes. “Well that’s real
helpful, Sarah. Thank you.”
“Hey, I’m doing my best here. You guys are
asking me questions, and I’m answering them. What more do you want from me?”
Kim has no comeback.
“That’s what I thought,” Sarah says. “Look,
I know we all got off on the wrong foot. But you have to leave that shit buried
in the Fortress. That place… it’s a different world down there.
You know it is
. You all experienced it.
I did what I did to survive. And you all did the exact same thing.”
Sarah is right. We all experienced terrible
things. We all did terrible things. I killed people. I stabbed people, in the
gut, in the back. And if we hadn’t done those terrible things, we wouldn’t have
made it out alive.
“So what now?” I ask.
Kenji takes a deep breath. “We’re going to
have to split up.”
My eyes go wide and I can’t believe Kenji
just said what he said. “What? You want us to split up? No way. No goddamn way.
Nothing ever good happens when we split up.”
“People die when we split up,” Jack says.
“People go missing when we split up. I nearly got everyone killed when I ran
“I got bitten when we split up,” Maria
Kenji points to Jack’s bloodied leg. “Jack
isn’t going to make it. He can’t walk. He won’t be able to keep up.”
“I can,” Jack says, lying to us, standing
up straighter. “I can make it. I won’t slow you down.”
“You won’t slow us down on purpose,” Kenji
says. “But you
slow us down. And
we can’t afford that. Not in the desert. We’ll die of thirst.”
No one wants to split up. We all know how
dangerous it is. And we all know how much stronger we are as a group. We know
this. We keep promising each other that we’ll stick together.
And we keep breaking this promise.
“So what the hell do you suggest we do?”
Kenji lowers his head. He doesn’t like this
plan any more than the rest of us. But he knows this is a necessary decision.
“Like I said, we’ll have to split up. Some of us will have to travel to the
town. Some of us will have to stay here.”
“Here?” Maria asks. “In the chopper? With
the corpse of Doctor Hunter and four other dead bodies? Are you mad?”
“The chopper will provide shelter from the
sun. You’ll have water. Food. It’s not much, but it’s enough to survive on for
a few days. Enough for us to get help and come back for you.”
“So who goes?” Maria asks. “Who stays?”
Who wants to volunteer to walk off into a
never ending desert?
Who wants to become so dehydrated and
sunburnt that they begin to lose their mind?
And who wants to stay behind, not knowing
if anyone will ever come back for you?
I don’t like these terrible choices, but
this is it. These are our only two options.
So the only question is, the only thing
left to decide is… who goes? Who stays?
I put my hand up because I don’t know why.
“I’ll go. I’ve done it before. I can do it again.”
Kenji volunteers as well.
And Sarah has to go. She’s the only one who
knows the way. She’s the only one who knows where this town is. She’s the only
one who knows the name of it.
And Jack is the only one who has to stay.
Kim and Maria will watch over him.
No one wanted to split up. But in the end,
we all knew we had to. Sarah estimated that it will take three or four days to
get to the town. Maybe more. But once we were there, we could get a car and
come back in less than a day.
So we say our goodbyes. We say them
We split the food and water we found in the
chopper evenly. This is not a lot. The soldiers only packed the bare minimum.
We found a few survival packs in the storage lockers of the chopper. And not
We also relieved the dead soldiers of their
Four rifles. Three handguns.
There is one handgun missing.
And I think to myself that this means the
man in the gas mask took one of the handguns when he escaped.
But why didn’t he take a rifle?
Why didn’t he take more ammunition?
didn’t want them. Because he doesn’t see himself as a killer. He sees himself
as a savior.
And even though he definitely knows how to
use a gun, he is not interested in these old weapons.
I shake my head.
We leave most of the ammo with Kim, Jack
Kenji says if they are attacked, if the
worst happens, they’ll need to defend the chopper like a castle. Like they are
under siege. Because Jack won’t be able to run. And this means they’ll need
Of the four rifles and three handguns, we
leave two rifles and two hand guns with Kim, Jack and Maria. And the majority
of the ammunition.
We take the rest.
Sarah only has a handgun. A small amount of
bullets. She doesn’t mind.
Kenji and I have a rifle each, but only two
magazines. This is better than nothing, but it’s not a lot. Once we’ve finished
dividing the food and water evenly, we realize how close we will be cutting
There’s no time to waste.
We’ll be out of food in a few days’ time.
Completely out of water.
Sarah starts walking.
And just before we leave, Kim grabs me by
the arm and pulls me to the side.
She warns me about Sarah because she still
doesn’t trust her. “You keep an eye on her,” she whispers. “I still don’t trust
“She got us out,” I say defending her. Even
though she did trick us. Even though she separated us, divided us,
systematically and methodically. It was premeditated. It was calculated and
cold blooded. She had lured Daniel and myself into a false sense of security
and trust, she had lured us into one of the warehouses, trapped us and turned
us over to the residential sector survivors. She had turned us over to a group
of survivors who had completely lost their humanity.