Chapter Sixty-Nine

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The house came up beyond the trees sooner than I was expecting anything to. As the two of us walked through the snow, I had been wondering how we'd find somewhere to stay. With the total destruction that had ruined my own neighborhood, I'd assumed that most other places had also been destroyed.

I apparently had been wrong.

The cabin looked homey from afar. My immediate thought was that it reminded me of the house I'd seen Claudia and John in, but as we got closer, I realized it wasn't nearly as big, and it didn't seem like anyone was living there anymore. It was made of strong, tan wood, with a few glass window, and a broken solar panel hanging off the building's roof. The roof was flat with the exception of the area that the solar panel had been set on.

I turned to Axel, who was also inspecting the building, with eyebrows raised in question. After looking it over multiple times, he finally nodded, and we made our way towards it.

The door of the cabin at first was stuck, and it took a bit of force to actually get it to move. But with Axel's help, we were able to open it. Beyond the door was a small living room containing a leather couch and fireplace. Further down the hall, there was a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. It would work for the moment.

I wondered where the original owners of the cabin went, but decided not to question it too much. I had a feeling that I knew exactly what had happened to them.

I sat down on the couch, staring at the dead ashes leftover in the fireplace. For the first time in weeks, I felt relaxed. The habits I'd fallen prey to in the complex were over now. We just had to figure out some way to get the rest of them out.

Axel had walked down the hallway to do a more thorough check of the other rooms. It wouldn't end well for either of us if someone had secretly been hiding out back there, and came to attack us when we weren't ready. Now, he returned to the main room.

"It's all clear," he muttered, before sitting down, two cushions away, on the same couch. I could tell he wasn't comfortable around me. Out of everyone else I'd met, he seemed the one who didn't like being near me the most.

I continued staring at the ashes and dust. The house was completely silent for a moment, neither of us stating the obvious. We needed to come up with a plan. The longer we waited, the more time they had to do God knows what to the rest of our group.

"How are we possibly going to get them out....?" I asked, feeling my voice shatter the silent calm of the house.

I waited a couple of seconds for him to answer, but he said nothing. I wasn't sure if he was just ignoring me, or if he genuinely did not have any ideas. I sighed and stood up from the couch to instead go to the kitchen. The last thing I'd eaten was breakfast. Now, it was late afternoon, and I was starving. Usually, I'd be able to survive off a meal idea like I had to when I was alone. Yet eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday for the past weeks changed my habits and I couldn't help the hunger I felt.

When I walked into the kitchen, I could barely see. I used my hands to feel around in the pantries for something left over. I hoped that the family who'd previously occupied the house would have thought to keep some canned goods on hand. Fresh water would be nice, too, but that was a bit much to hope for. Everything was probably frozen.

It was freezing in the house.

That was something I'd just become so used to that I stopped noticing it anymore.

As I kept searching around the kitchen, the back of my hand banged into something hard. I tried to squint into the darkness to see what it was, but it was difficult to make out anything. There were no windows in the kitchen. I reached out and grabbed the side of what I'd hit, and realized that it was a teapot.

I let go of it in disappointment. Even if there was something inside of it, the liquid would be extremely old, and too bacteria-filled to drink. I walked back into the main room, giving up on my quest to find something to eat. I'd just have to get used to not eating much again.

As I walked back in, Axel suddenly stood up from the couch like it had electrocuted him. "What? Is something wrong?"

He met my eyes. "I think I know how to get everyone out."

I walked towards where I'd sat before and sat down once more, before nodding at him to continue. "Go on."

"I got out because they sent me out to shoot you and I happened to reach you before you were killed. I know that they wouldn't leave their soldiers out past sundown, for fear of losing some. So they must have pulled everyone else back into the complex. But if we go out to the edge of the forest, and they spot us, they'll send people back out again. And hopefully, that will include everyone we need it to. They won't want to waste a single soldier...even if they know some of their people are connected to us. When they want someone dead, they want someone dead."

I tried not to let my fear show at the idea of walking directly into a shooting field. I'd been there once, and it was only a miracle I had yet to be killed. " would we get all of them to come to us? We can't message them, can we?"

Axel just shakes his head. "No, we can't...we'll just have to hope they realize our plan. Then we can bring them all back here. It's relatively far enough away that nobody else will journey out from the complex far enough to find it. We just have to remember where it is, based on our surroundings, though. If necessary, we can mark up trees so we can find our way back."

The plan was better than anything I would think of. There was a lot resting on hope, but there wasn't much else that we had. We couldn't plan some full scale invasion of the complex, since we had no weapons and two people. And we couldn't form one with those inside, since we had no way of communicating with them.

The room once more descended into an uncomfortable silence. Again, I had that feeling that Axel secretly had a problem with me. "Did something wrong?" I asked Axel, unable to remember when the awkwardness between the two of us had started. I'd never been close to him, but sometimes it felt like that was because he was avoiding me.

Axel's jaw tightened at my question, and I knew then that there was something he wasn't saying to my face.

"I'm sorry...for whatever it is. I wish you'd just tell me, though. Maybe we could at least attempt to be okay with each other..," I mumbled, looking away from him. He'd become less and less talkative since Cammie's death.

Axel leaned back against the couch and crossed his arms over his chest. His face betrayed no emotion. "Fine. If you really want to know, I'll tell you. I don't get along with you because you're too trustworthy and blind. You just so happen to meet Jadyn, Asten, and I in a store and apparently you think it's a good idea to band together? You don't seem to understand the reality of this world. Not many people here do! Does it not run through your brain that the majority of people on this Earth are dead? And pretty much everyone not dead will literally do everything and anything in their power to not get killed?!"

He suddenly stood up, accentuating his frustration. "I'm half tempted to leave the entire group behind. That's something I'd never say to any of their faces, but its true. I only stay for Jadyn. She's too social and can't stand a life alone with just me. She's always looking for the good in people. And I trust her, because she can fight and kill if necessary. But if I had my way, I'd be long gone, and I'd suggest you do the same. You don't understand the risk you're taking by still staying with these people. You don't understand the world now. Maybe you were alone for a while like the rest of us were, but it apparently didn't teach you enough. It seems that after a couple days of renewed human interaction, you decided you could go back to how you were before the entire apocalypse happened. But that's not how the world works. The world is dead. And you still haven't seemed to have caught up with that."

With that, Axel stood up and stormed out of the room.

I stared at the spot on the couch where he'd been sitting, thinking through his words.

The worst part of his rant, was the fact that he was right.

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