Authors: M. Lauryl Lewis
Tags: #Fiction, #Horror
“Boggs!” I yelled.
“To your left!”
Boggs turned without questioning me.
He hit the zombie that I had already shot once, killing it. My own shot missed the other. Before anyone could do anything, the remaining zombie was upon me. It was face-to-face with me, its glazed over clouded eyes only inches from my own. It opened its mouth in a hideous snarl. I tensed and braced myself for the attack that was imminent, but I refused to shut my eyes and hide. To my surprise, it was trying to show me something. It stood there, just watching me, a low growl emanating from deep within its chest. My mind was filled with dark and warmth and the sound of a heartbeat. It was a pleasant feeling, which ended suddenly as I heard the sound of Boggs’ Kahr firing. I stood in shock as the creature now lay at my feet, finally dead. I put my hand low on my belly.
“It just showed me,” I mumbled.
“It just showed me our baby…”
Boggs was already back to shooting the last of the Roamers.
I turned toward the carnage that was around us. The last of the dead fell at Nathan’s feet. My ears were ringing from the gunfire. My nose stung from the stench that was already turning sickly-sweet.
Boggs was by my side suddenly and embraced me.
“Don’t ever do anything that stupid again, Zoe.” He held me tight, showing no signs of letting me go.
“Boggs,” I whispered.
“That one staring at me. It showed me our baby. It knew about the baby.” Tears were starting to fall down my cheeks, remembering the calm feeling I had been ‘shown.’ “It was so peaceful,” I said. “It was beautiful. It was happy in there.”
“Ok you lovebirds, knock it off,” grumbled Gus.
“We need to move on out.”
“Is there rope in the van?” asked Nathan.
“Yeah,” said Boggs.
Let’s grab it and tie it to the back of the Suburban. We can pull the fucking tree out of the way. I want to be out of here within two minutes.”
Gus was already headed to the van.
“Back the SUV up,” he instructed as he walked away. “I’ll meet you there. Zoe, you sure we got them all?”
I focused my mind.
“I swear I don’t sense anymore.”
Once we were back to the van, Gus and Boggs worked together to retrieve the rope and tie it from one end of the tree to the Suburban.
I stood by, keeping my mind open for any intrusions. Nathan drove the Suburban slowly forward until the rope became taut, and then pressed the gas until the log began to move forward at an angle. The goal was to move it off to one side, just far enough to drive the van past. It didn’t take long.
Boggs and Gus climbed into the van.
Nathan untied the rope from the back of the Suburban and the log before reclaiming his seat behind the wheel of the SUV.
“Nathan, mind if I ride in the van?” I asked.
“That’s fine, Zoe,” he said. “Go ahead and tell Boggs and Gus to drive past me and lead the way.”
I kissed Emilie on the cheek and climbed out of the Suburban. “I’ll see you at the cabin, Em,” I said.
“You bet,” she said and winked at me.
I ran the short distance to the step van and climbed in through the passenger side.
Gus was behind the wheel.
“Boggs is in back, Zoe.”
I nodded and smiled at him.
I walked back to the bed of the van and knew instantly that Boggs was irritated with me.
“Please don’t be mad, Boggs.” I didn’t want him upset with me. It was too much to bear right now.
“Zoe, you put yourself and our baby in danger.
You just can’t do that.” He huffed. His loose curls were a mess, his face streaked with sweat and dirt.
“Boggs, you know our survival depends on most of the stuff in here.
We have a long journey coming up. I couldn’t just sit there and not try.”
“Sit down, Zoe,” said Boggs.
Apparently the discussion was over. I sat on one of the mattresses, my back against the metal side of the van. Boggs lowered himself and sat beside me. I sighed, and leaned against him.
“Didn’t you sense them at first?” he asked me.
“No, not at first. It’s hard to explain, but there was only one. It was like it was hiding from me, like it knew I could hear it.”
“Hiding from you?” Gus gave a semi-laugh from the cab.
“Once I knew something was going on, I looked inside my head. Focused, I guess that describes it better. Anyway I found it in there, hiding. Once it knew that I knew it was there, it was like the rest woke up. I wish I could explain better, Gus, I really do.”
Boggs wrapped an arm around me, and drew me close to him.
He kissed the top of my head.
The rest of the drive back to the cabin was made in relative silence with no more untoward events.
The trek took about half an hour or so. I felt a great sense of relief when our little home came into view. I searched the area with my mind and an even greater sense of relief washed over me when I was fairly sure that no Runners were lurking about. I was exhausted from the battle we had just won, and ready to sleep.
We all congregated outside of the cabin.
The wind had picked up and rain was falling steadily.
“Let’s haul just a few things from the van back inside,” said Gus.
“I think we should leave at first light, but we all need a good night’s sleep. We should put the mattresses in the living room and all camp out in there. One box of food. Keep the rest packed up and ready to go.”
“Sounds like a plan,” said Nathan.
“Agreed,” said Boggs.
A part of me deflated.
I had hoped to sleep back in our own bed, in our bedroom, just me and Boggs. I sighed and pushed the thought from my head.
“The temperature’s dropping” said Emilie.
“Let’s get inside.”
“You girls head on in.
Em, give me five minutes to turn the propane tank back on and then light the fireplace? Nathan, if you can help me unload the mattresses I’ll send Boggs in to do a quick sweep upstairs. Girls, don’t go up top until Boggs gives the all-clear, understand?”
Yeah. Thanks, Gus.” Emilie stood on her tip toes and pecked him on the cheek. “For luck,” she whispered.
Susan had already thought to begin unknotting the small rope we kept on the front door.
It was one way we knew the place had not been entered while we were gone. She made quick work of the job and we all filed in behind Boggs and his outstretched Kahr. My mind was empty of foreign bits. Still, I knew Boggs checking the place out was prudent. Especially after today, with my ‘talent’ now in question. While he went upstairs and Emilie got ready to start the propane fireplace, I showed Kelsey and Abbey the kitchen and living room.
Once Boggs had made sure nothing was hiding in the shadows, I took Abbey and Kelsey upstairs to the bathroom while the others were bringing in mattresses and blankets for the night. I knew Emilie would be in the kitchen trying to throw something together for supper.
“It’ll take a little while for the hot water tank to fill,” I said.
“The cold water should work, though, if you want to get cleaned up, Abbey. There’s washcloths and hand towels in the cabinet behind the door. You can have first dibs on a hot bath.”
The girl smiled at me.
“As soon as you guys are done, head downstairs and warm up by the fire.
Gus should have the propane tank turned back on by now.” I yawned.
Kelsey looked up at me.
I could tell she was worried by the look on her face. “We should all try to get a good night’s sleep. Do you think we’ll really leave tomorrow?”
“Part of me hopes so, but part of me wishes we could settle in here.
Just for a while.”
Kelsey wrapped her arms around her little sister and held her close.
“I’ll make sure your books make it inside, Abbey, ok?” I smiled at the girl, who nodded back at me.
I left them alone in the bathroom and walked across the hall to the room I had shared with Boggs for the past several weeks.
It felt like home, minus the mattress on our bed. The room was dark still, but enough light filtered in through the open door behind me to outline the basics of the furniture. It was chilly, so I walked to the armoire and fished out one of the large flannel shirts we had left behind. It was one that was threadbare and missing several buttons. We had taken all of the good ones with in the van. I slipped it on over the t-shirt I was wearing. The floor behind me squeaked, the familiar sound of someone walking across the old wooden floor. I turned, expecting to face Boggs. My heart dropped just a notch when I saw that it was Susan.
“You ok, Zoe?”
“Yeah. I think I’m just tired.”
“It’s like that early on, you know,” she said quietly.
“With being pregnant.”
I nodded in acknowledgement.
“Gus told me.”
“I’m glad for you guys, you know?
You’re giving him what I couldn’t. Wouldn’t,” she corrected.
I smiled, half-heartedly.
I wasn't exactly comfortable talking about Susan and Boggs’ past relationship and mistakes. I knew his heart still ached from her decision to abort their baby, and I knew it always would. “I appreciate you saying so, Susan, really. It’s just too hard to talk about.”
“Emilie was wondering if you want to help make dinner.”
Yeah, sure. I’ll be right down.”
Susan lingered for just a moment, as if she wanted to say more. Thankfully she turned and left the room without saying anything else. I counted to ten silently to gather my thoughts and then followed her down the stairs.
The front door was wide open.
I walked to it, welcoming the cold air that met me. Rain was still falling and a thick fog was rolling in. Most of the snow was gone now, and I wondered where the remains of the body parts in the yard had gone to. I forced the thought from my head and watched as Nathan and Boggs carried one of the mattresses toward me. They were obviously in a hurry to get in out of the horrible weather, so I stepped aside to clear the way.
Can you shut the door behind us?” asked Boggs.
As soon as they were inside, I shut the door tightly and locked it. I leaned against it for a moment and took a deep breath. My hip was screaming with pain, I assumed from the interaction with the dead earlier in the day. I was beyond exhausted, and ready to sleep for a very long stretch. I was dizzy and felt weak.
“Zoe?” I heard Gus ask.
“You ok darlin’?”
I took another deep breath, stood upright, and turned to face him.
I nodded. “Just really tired.”
“Let’s get you over to one of the couches, Zoe,” he said softly.
“I’ll send Boggs in to sit with you.”
“It’s ok, Gus.
I’ll be fine.”
Go. Sit. Now,” he said while he stepped toward me. He took hold of my arm, and guided me to one of the two loveseats in the room.
“Zoe, you’re shaking.
You need to take a breather. And you need to eat. I’ll have Emilie bring you some food and send Boggs in.”
I sat down as instructed.
I wanted to help set up for the night. I wanted to feel useful. I wanted to stay busy, despite being so tired. Gus knelt down, took my shoes off of my feet, and swung my legs up onto the other side of the little sofa. He covered me with a blanket from the closet and walked toward the kitchen.
I heard mixed voices as I laid my head back on the couch cushions.
I was nearly asleep when I felt my legs being lifted off the couch. I looked up in surprise and saw Boggs, who was already lowering himself onto the sofa with me.
“Hey, kid,” he said as he tucked the blanket around my feet and nestled my legs onto his lap.
“Gus said you’re not feeling so hot.”
“Just tired, Boggs,” I said quietly.
“It’s been a long day.”
I took notice that the propane fireplace was lit.
The room felt cozy in its own right.
“Em’s heating up some soup.
She said she’ll bring some in for you.”
“She’s a sweetheart,” I said with a smile.
“I’m glad she’s here with us.”
Yeah, it’s a good group of people,” he added.
“Susan seems happy with Nathan.”
“She does,” he agreed. “I’m glad.”
Our brief conversation was interrupted when Emilie walked into the room, carrying two mugs with spoons sticking out of them.
“Hey guys,” she said. She also sounded tired. “Zoe, Gus told me to tell you to eat all of this. He said ‘no arguing.’” She had mimicked his deeper voice, and it made me giggle.
“What is it?” asked Boggs.
“Chicken noodle. Mmm Mmm Good,” said Emilie with a wink.
She handed one to me first, then released the other to Boggs.
“Thanks, Em,” I said.
I blew at the steam coming from the hot meal-in-a-mug.
“I’ll be back with drinks in a sec,” added Emilie as she turned and walked back toward the kitchen.
I set my mug down on the coffee table.
“Uh, no, Zoe,” said Boggs in a scolding tone. “Gus said you need to eat before you pass out.”
“It’s too hot,” I said, followed by another yawn.
Boggs leaned his head to each side, cracking his neck. I hated the sound. I took notice of the bandage that covered where I had bitten him, and frowned.
“How’s your neck?” I asked.
“It feels better, Zo. Really. Please at least sip at your soup?”
I nodded and picked the mug back up.
I blew on it for a while then sipped at the broth. It felt soothing going down my throat.
“It’s good” I said.
“Just like when I was a kid.”
“My mom used to cook it for me too.
Especially on cold days.”
“Hmm?” he articulated while swallowing a mouthful of soup.
“Would it be rude to take our mattress upstairs tonight?”
“I think it’d be ok. I’ll have Gus help me later.”
“I heard my name?” asked Gus quizzically as he entered the room.
“Zoe wants us to take the mattresses back upstairs for the night.”
Gus was nursing his own mug of soup, and handed me a large glass.
I took it in my free hand and looked inside.
“Susan packed it up for you and Abbey,” said Gus.
My heart melted toward the other woman just a tiny bit.
“That was really nice of her,” I said.
I set my soup down on the coffee table and drank the instant milk greedily.
It was cold from the well water and made me feel better almost instantly.
Gus sat down on the loveseat kiddy corner to us.
“Nathan and I were talking. We think we should hunker down here for a few days. Refine our plans for moving. Rest up. What do you two think?” asked Gus.
My heart soared.
“I like the idea,” I said.
“It would be nice to rest for a few days,” added Boggs.
“I just worry about whatever that shit was in the yard the other day. Whoever did that is still out there.”
“That’s my worry too.”
Abbey and Kelsey filed into the room, with Nathan and Susan behind them.
I could hear Emilie still fiddling around in the kitchen.
“We can take shifts,” suggested Nathan.
“At least three of us awake at a time.”
“Sounds smart,” said Susan.
“That way we won’t be short of places to sleep, either.”
“Do you all mind if I sleep first?” I asked.
“I’m not sure I can stay awake.”
“We all insist, Zoe,” answered Gus.
“Boggs, you go ahead and go with her. Kelsey, Abbey, you two can take our room. Em won’t mind staying up, or she can sleep on the couch.”
“Gee, thanks Gussie,” answered the redhead, who had silently joined us.
I knew by her tone that she was just teasing him.
“Aww, c’mon Red, we’ll have fun,” Gus joked back.
“Oh, I’ll show you fun when we take our turn going to bed and I make you sleep on the floor.” Emilie swatted Gus playfully as she sat down beside him. He stayed in character as a gentleman and didn’t reply or play into her teasing in front of the rest of us.
I looked over at Kelsey, who had settled in beside her sister on the floor by the fireplace.
Abbey’s blood-splattered braids were now undone, her hair clean and falling down her back.
“Abbey, you look nice,” I commented.
“Your hair’s so pretty down.”
“Thanks, Zoe,” she said.
I could tell she was blushing. She must have decided on a cold shower after all. “I found shampoo in the linen cabinet. It smells like strawberries.”
I felt bad for the girl.
She seemed so sad.
“Abbey, how old are you?” I asked.
“Eleven. My birthday was in October.”
“Happy birthday,” I said.
“What kind of books do you like to read?”
“Mostly fantasy and stuff.
“Cool,” I answered.
“Ok, let’s get you all set up for bed,” interrupted Gus.
“Zoe, why don’t you go take a hot bath while the boys carry the mattresses upstairs?
I’ll help Em with cleaning up from dinner,” suggested Susan. I found myself wondering why she was suddenly being so sweet to me. Maybe it was having Nathan around.
“Sounds great,” I said.
“If you don’t mind Em?”
“Of course not, Zoe.
You go ahead. Take Boggs with you. We’ll get Kelsey and Abbey settled and have your bed ready for when you’re done,” said Emilie.
Boggs and I walked the stairway together, with me in the lead.
We turned into the familiar bathroom and Boggs shut the door behind us. He had brought a candle up with us, and lit it while I began to draw a bath.
“It’s so cold in here,” I said quietly.
“I think the temperature’s dropping again. We might end up stuck here for a while.”
“Do you think we’ll ever make it to the island?” I asked.
“Let’s not worry about that for tonight, Zo. Let’s just clean up and sleep.”
“Take your clothes off,” instructed Boggs. “Let’s get soaking.”
“You’re coming in with me?” I asked.
“Yeah, if that’s ok?”
“Sure. That’d be nice, Boggs.”
I watched as he pulled his shirt up over his head.
I took notice that his chest was looking more muscular than just a few weeks back. Between that and the cross tattooed on his chest, something deep within me stirred. Once his head was freed of his shirt, he caught me staring at him. He smiled warmly, a look of longing on his face. He unzipped his jeans and slipped them down his legs. Stepping out of them, he was left standing in his boxers. My heart skipped a beat.
“Zoe, stop gawking and get undressed.”
I nodded and slipped my sweat pants down, my eyes still not leaving the sight of the gorgeous man before me. I slipped the worn flannel shirt off, and pulled my t-shirt over my head. I watched as Boggs took off his underwear and stepped into the warm water. It was obvious that at least part of him was excited to see me undress. Finally breaking my eyes away from him, I turned around and slipped my panties and bra off. I looked in the mirror, focusing on my hair. I untied the braid that fell over my right shoulder and let my loose hair fall down just past my shoulders. I could feel Boggs’ gaze on my backside.