Mass Extinction Event: The Complete Third Series (Days 46 to 53) (5 page)

BOOK: Mass Extinction Event: The Complete Third Series (Days 46 to 53)
12.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Part Two

Day 47



"What are you doing?" Toad asks as he comes through to the kitchen.

"What does it look like?" I reply, unable to hide a faint smile of satisfaction. "I'm fixing my shoes."

It's a little after sunrise and I've been working for the past hour to patch my shoes together. They started out as an ordinary, slightly weather-worn pair of sneakers, but now they're more like a pair of monster-shoes. I found some old shoes that used to belong to Patricia and the others, and I carefully removed all the soles and then glued them together before adding some stitching and wire. I know I've probably gone overboard, but I figure that's better than not preparing properly, and now I've got shoes that look like they'll last forever.

"Those things are insane," Toad says as he wanders over. He takes one of the shoes from me and examines it more closely. "Maybe we'll make a cobbler of you some day."

"I also cut some tarpaulin down and placed it in layers between the soles," I tell him. "I figured I needed to make them waterproof, but I added some ventilation on the top part, so my feet could breathe. I was worried about getting some kind of fungus or infection if I ended up with too much sweat between my toes."

I pause for a moment, surprised by myself.

"Do you work for hire?" he asks. "These are way better than anything I've got."

"Sorry," I reply, taking the shoe back from him and placing it on the floor. "I don't think I've got time." Slipping my feet into the shoes, I lace them up and then finally I stand, only to find that the extra soles have added a good two or three inches to my height, bringing me almost up to Toad's eye level. I can't help but feel that this is at least a little symbolic.

"Impressive," he says with a smile. "How does it feel to walk on them?"

I turn and make my way across the kitchen, and although the shoes are undeniably a little wobbly, I figure I'll get used to them. It's odd being taller, and I almost walk straight into a set of pans hanging on the wall. Stopping, I turn back to look at Toad and I can see from his expression that he's genuinely impressed. The truth is, I was determined to show him that I can take care of myself, so I guess it's a job well done.

"The weather's not looking good," he says, turning and heading over to the window. "There's rain coming."

"What does that mean?" I ask.

"It means water will fall from the sky," he replies with a faint smile. "On a more practical level, it means we might have to delay the start of our journey. I know we're going to have to deal with bad weather along the way, but we can at least wait until it clears up before we set off. If it hasn't passed by the middle of the day, we're probably better off waiting until tomorrow." He glances over at me. "It wouldn't hurt to be better-prepared, either. We could fix the bags up a little stronger, maybe rethink the food we're taking. Even the slightest mistake could -"

"You don't have to lecture me again," I reply, interrupting him. "I know we're not just going out for a walk in the country. It's going to be hard, it's going to be tiring, and we might not even make it. Before all of this started, the most I ever walked was from the front door of our building to the bus stop. I'm still a little unfit, but it's not going to hold us back. I can do this."

"I know you can," he replies. "Don't take this the wrong way, Elizabeth, but if I really thought you were gonna hold me back..."

I wait for him to finish.

"You'd leave me behind?" I ask.

"I'd have to think about it," he replies.

"I'd do the same," I tell him, even though I'm not sure it's true. "It's every man for himself right now."

"So what about that baby?" he asks.

"What about her?"

"She definitely
slow us down," he continues. "Do you really think it's a good idea to take her with us?"

"What's the alternative?" I ask. "Leave her here to die?"

"I'm just saying, taking her with us is definitely not a good use of resources." He pauses. "Then again, I guess we need to keep a little bit of our humanity, huh?"

"I'll look after her," I tell him. "I'll do it all, and we'll still be faster than you."

"I went to check the pit this morning," he replies with a smile. "You did a good job out there. There's nothing left but a few burned bones." He pauses for a moment. "So who do you think it was?"

"What do you mean?" I ask.

"If someone in the house was infected," he continues, "who was it? We never found out. I don't think it was Patricia or Erikson, or Shauna, which means it must have been Bridger or Thor. I just wish I knew for certain."

"It doesn't matter now," I point out. "They're all dead."

"But none of them really seemed to be acting differently," he replies. "That's what worries me about the whole thing. I want to believe that I could tell if someone had changed like that, but I don't. I mean, right now, I can't even be sure that it wasn't you, and you can't be sure it wasn't me."

I pause for a moment, wondering whether to mention my concerns about Rachel. I keep replaying that moment over and over in my mind, trying to work out whether the look on her face last night was a sign of something worrying. No matter how hard I try to pretend that I imagined the whole thing, there's a part of me that seems to know there was something else happening behind her eyes. Still, I know that Toad's response would probably be to abandon her, and that's not something I can ever accept, so I need to stay quiet, at least until I'm certain that there's a problem.

"I don't believe for a second that it was you," I tell him. "Like you said, it was probably Thor or Bridger. Either way, whoever it was, they're gone."

"I know," he says with a sigh. "I guess I should stop worrying about every little thing. It's just in my nature to want to dig down and get to the truth every time."

"I should go and check on Rachel," I say finally, bending over to take my new shoes off. There's an awkward moment as I untie the laces, fully aware that Toad is watching me, and finally I place the shoes in the corner of the room before heading over to the door. "I guess we just have to wait for the weather, huh?" I say as I slip past him. "I hope it clears up soon. I want to get going."

"You're doing a good job, Elizabeth," he replies as I make my way to the stairs. "A really good job."

"I know," I reply, not looking back at him. "I don't need you to tell me that."

Smiling, he walks away.

"You're doing a good job too!" I call after him, but he doesn't reply. Still, I think I proved my point.



"Stop!" George shouts, banging on the glass window in the back of the truck's cab. "Hey! Stop the vehicle!"

Muttering a few expletives under my breath, I park up at the side of the road. We're not even at the city limits yet, and although the scene ahead looks completely deserted, I want to just keep going and get this over with. As George clambers down from the back of the truck, I can't help thinking that he's starting to become an annoying travel companion.

"Floor it," Joe's voice says suddenly. "Get the hell out of here!"

Suddenly I realize that he's right. As George makes his way around to the front of the truck, it occurs to me that I could hit the pedal and just drive away, leaving him stranded here. For a fraction of a second, I actually consider doing it, but finally I realize that there's no point. He's got a gun, and if I'm going into the city, I figure I should at least have him with me. Sighing, I open the door and climb out of the truck, and I force myself to not imagine how Joe would be reacting right now.

"What is it?" I ask as I wander over to George.

"Look at it," he replies, staring at the city up ahead.

"Look at what?" I ask, following his gaze. All I see is a mass of buildings, with skyscrapers rising up in the distance like tall, thin tombstones. It's strange to think that there's probably no-one alive in there, that whatever the hell is happening to the world has been happening not only in smaller towns but also in the biggest cities. Still, now that we're here on the outskirts, I feel more than ever that I want to keep going and get right into the heart of the damn place; I've spent long enough waiting to see what's going to happen, and I'm ready to go take a look for myself.

"Scared?" he asks after a moment.



"Definitely not."

"What kind of an idiot
you, then?" he continues, with a faint smile. "Only a fool or a blind man wouldn't be scared right now. I'm damn near soiling myself. God only knows what we're gonna find in there, but I don't see any movement. All things considered, I would say that if you're ever gonna be terrified of anything in your life, this would be a good moment."

Taking a deep breath, I have to admit that he's right: the city looks completely still, almost as if it's a model. The empty road stretches away ahead of us, but there's no sign of anyone either coming to, or leaving, the city and its surroundings. I can't help thinking about all the people who are supposed to be here. Either they've left, or they're still in there somewhere, rotting and stinking.

"You ever been to Chicago?" George asks after a moment.


"It can be a rough place," he replies. "It's like any city, really. There are good parts and bad parts, decent neighborhoods and places you wouldn't send your worst enemy. Two and half million people living and breathing and shitting in close proximity to each other. Mankind just wasn't meant to get so close to his neighbor, that's for damn sure. When my daughter said she was coming here, I was terrified. I thought there was no way she could handle herself living in a place like this, but eventually I realized that she was much more attuned to the way a city works. Some people can handle cities and some people can't. I guess she got it from her mother."

"So you know your way around?" I ask. "I mean, you know which way to go, don't you?"

"I've been coming to the city since I was a boy," he replies, with a hint of pride in his voice. "I never wanted to live here, but I always liked visiting. There was always too much noise and commotion, so after a few days on each trip, I'd feel the need to get out again. I sure as hell wish all those people'd come back right now, though."

"I've never been to a city at all," I tell him.

"We'll go to Melissa's house first," he continues. "That's where she'd have holed herself up if she had a chance. I mean, she's a smart girl, so..." He pauses, and it's clear that he's trying to persuade himself that he might still find his daughter and grand-daughter alive. "She'll be there," he continues after a moment, "and if she's not, she'll have left some kinda note, 'cause she'd know that I'd be coming. She's a..." He pauses, and after a moment he starts coughing. Turning, he has to support himself on the hood of the truck for a moment, and it's clear that this isn't the cough of a healthy man. "She's a smart girl," he gasps, before composing himself and turning to me. "If anyone could get out of this thing alive, it's her."

"Are you sick?" I ask.

"Sick?" he replies with a forced laugh. "Me? Get out of town, boy. Come on, let's get moving."

"You've got blood on your hands," I point out.

He looks down, and as soon as he sees the blood he tries to wipe it off on the legs of his trousers. It's clear that he doesn't want to talk about whatever's wrong with him, and I wouldn't usually press someone, but right now I'm worried that his sickness might have an impact on me.

"Were you sick before all this happened?" I ask, starting to worry that he might be infected after all.

"Anyone ever tell you that you ask too many questions?" he replies, trudging toward the back of the truck. I watch as he climbs up, and it's noticeable that he's barely bothering to keep the gun trained on me anymore. After settling himself back in his old position, he turns to me. "Are you gonna stand there gawping or are you gonna get back behind the wheel? 'Cause I'm telling you, you're only useful to me if you're driving. Asking questions, that ain't something I require."

"You could
overpower him," Joe would say.

He'd be right, too.

"You don't owe anyone," he'd continue. "The way the world is now, you have to look after yourself. Remember that Clyde guy we trusted a while back? Look how that turned out. I'd still be alive if we hadn't tried to be nice."

"No," I'd tell him. "I can't do that."

"Sucker," he'd say, and he'd probably laugh.

Maybe he'd be right about that, too. Maybe I
a sucker. Then again, there's not much hope that any of us are going to live much longer, so I figure I might as well at least try to help. I sure as hell don't have anywhere else to go.

"Lung cancer!" George shouts suddenly, clearly frustrated. "There, you happy now? Fucking lung cancer, that's what's wrong with me. Had it diagnosed nearly four months ago, so it's nothing to do with any of the rest of this bullshit. The doctor said I had a good chance of beating it, but now the doctor's gone and I guess there's nothing that can be done, is there? I just wanna find Melissa and make sure she's okay, and then that's me done. I didn't expect anything else out of this life before, and I sure as hell don't now. All you've gotta do is drive, boy, and I figure that's the easiest job outta the two of us. So come on, let's get going. The sooner we get there, the sooner we'll know where we stand."

Figuring that there's no point arguing with him, I get back into the driver's seat and start the engine again. Up ahead, Chicago stands completely still, like a monument to itself. I keep my eyes firmly fixed on the road, convinced that at any moment I'm going to see some sign of life. There's just no way that two million people could have died in the space of a few weeks, and yet the road seems completely clear. I don't even see any sign of people having panicked. It's as if the whole damn city is dead.

BOOK: Mass Extinction Event: The Complete Third Series (Days 46 to 53)
12.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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