Another week’s worth of walking found Peter staring at the map. Sitting on the side of I-40, Peter looked at the map in his lap, and then at the sign that stood akimbo nearby. It originally read Amarillo, Population 182,824 but someone had painted, in white numerals, a line through the number and then the number fourteen below it. “The way I look at it, we’re about a quarter of the way to Hoover Dam.”
“Yeah, and winter will be in full effect soon.” Amy pulled the jacket tighter around her as a chill wind whipped through the group.
They had added another cart to their belongings, carrying a number of tents they had scavenged from the wreckage of a few department stores. They had stayed one more night in a house and watched as it too was burnt to the ground after they had departed. Ever since then they had stayed out in the open, fires keeping them warm. They saw a few of the Others, and Zach shot one that approached too close, but for the most part, they kept their distance.
“Mom, it’s cold!” Kyle complained. He refused to wear the pink jacket that they had found for him.
“Then put on your coat,” his mother replied.
“But mom, it’s pink!” Kyle sounded as if he even hated the word.
“Be glad we found you one that fit at all. Look at Zach, he has 2 sweaters on.”
Zach waved a gloved hand at the pair. “Kyle, no one cares that it’s pink. Really, who’s going to know?” They each had the same conversation with the young boy, but he would not budge.
“Amy, Zach, come here.” Peter said, drawing his own jacket, a thin blue windbreaker, about him. Peter beckoned the pair closer as they approached. “We need to make a decision soon,” he whispered.
“About what?” Zach asked.
“We can’t keep going, Amy’s right, winter will be in full effect soon. We might have a few more days of decent walking weather ahead of us, but the nights are getting cold.”
“So what do you suggest?” Zach asked, shaking his arm. Although the wound was completely healed, the cold was causing him problems.
“Well, let’s get into town and find a place to stay.”
“Do you think that’s wise? Don’t you think everyone else should have a say?” Amy asked.
“Yes, everyone gets a say, I just wanted all of the arguments on the table first. If we cannot find Kyle a new coat, he’ll be really bad off soon. Julie will be for finding a place. Brian will go wherever the majority of us go. I see resistance from Chris and Sarah.” Peter risked a glance at the two of them, huddled together, a blanket draped across their shoulders, their heads almost touching.
“What do you think they will say?”
“Well, the same thing that’s in the back of my mind. What happens when they come to burn down the house?”
“And what can we tell them, really?”
“The way I look at it, we have two options. One, we can move from house to house and let them burn each one down, or we can stop them.”
“How?” Amy started as Peter reached for the pistol he kept tucked into his belt. “Oh. That would work, until we ran out of bullets.”
“Yeah, and we would always need to resupply.”
“Ok, so are you guys ok with staying here for the winter?”
Amy and Zach both nodded.
As Peter turned around to face the rest of the group, he almost ran into Brian who had been trying to listen in. “What’s up?” He asked.
“I was just about to tell you.” Peter raised his voice to be heard above the wind that chose that moment to start to howl. “We can’t keep this up. Pretty soon it will be winter and the nights will be too cold for us to stay outside. And if we are unable to find a house when it is dark, well,” He let his voice trail off.
“Ok, then we find a place to stay,” Brian suggested.
“That is what we are asking, I was just talking with Amy and Zach, and they think it’s a good idea to wait the winter out here in town,” for emphasis, Peter pointed at the defaced sign.
Sarah was the first to object, “Where will we stay? Won’t the Crazies burn any place we stay down?”
To Peter’s surprise, Chris countered her argument. “No. I mean they will, but not until we leave. If we settle, they will leave the place alone until we depart in the spring. Won’t they?”
Unsure of who the question was for, peter responded. “Well, that’s how it’s worked, except for the first house. But that was before Graham had called them off.
“Ok, if you guys think it’s a good idea, I will stay.” Sarah gave up much easier than Peter had though she would.
“We’ll still need to find supplies,” Peter said, “So don’t think this will be too much of a break. Let’s concentrate on finding a place to stay first.”
“Yeah, maybe we can find me a coat that isn’t pink!” Kyle said, bringing a smile to everyone’s face.
“Maybe so Kyle, maybe so” Julie bent down and kissed the top of her son’s head.
The group milled around and Rocky barked as one of the Crazies came into view down the road from where they had come. It stared at them for a moment before it continued its northward walk. Rocky made as if to chase the man but came running back when Chris called out to him.
“Ok, what are we waiting for?” Zach grabbed ahold of the cart containing the tents and pushed it down the road, the others falling into line behind him.
“Zach, do you know where you’re going?” Peter asked.
“Yeah, to my dad’s place.”
YOU ARE READING
Hollow WorldScience Fiction
The world as they knew it has ended. Anything running on gasoline has either blown up or will--very soon. Peter and his ragtag group are traveling toward Boulder City while Graham and his band of Ancients head to White Sands. Insert the Pennyman, a...