I don't have time to ask her what she means. My jaw is still on the ground, eyebrows still raised when Isaac comes back, brandishing his clipboard in the air.
"You're all clear, Jane. Head to the storage blocks," he says, giving the woman a thumbs up. The woman, Jane, nods, turning back to the steering wheel. Her crew is back in the back of the truck, some holding small boxes and others leaning on the bigger ones.
Isaac and I watch her leave, watch her wave at us.
"Isaac, who was that?"
"Jane," he says, heading back to the ladder.
"Jane who?" Talking to him makes me want to hit him.
"Jane Clayton, I think," he replies, beginning to climb. I follow close, hoping he isn't done. "She's captain of the 3-to-4 route. I see her about once a month." We sit back down, and my legs shake as I fidget.
How did she know my name? What did she mean when she said it was well known? Outside the compound walls?
Nothing makes sense. There's nothing outside the walls. Nothing but devastation and emptiness, ruins and the infected.
I can't ask Isaac any of this; he wouldn't know the answer, anyway.
"Isaac, why are you MU?"
I regret it the moment it slips out. It's rude to ask someone that. It's like asking them why they are crazy or why they can't function normally in society. Most MUs can't hold a job and don't survive in the compound; they end up going crazy in the research facility. Isaac takes a deep breath, staring out into the nothing outside the wall.
"I was transferred to Compound 4 a few years ago," he says, finally, not really looking at me. He's looking in my direction, but his eyes aren't focused. "I started out in Compound 5."
He's quiet for a moment, and then he hands me his sketchbook. Not knowing what to do with it, I flip it open to the first page, where there's a sketch of a person, or rather the remnants of a person. In the picture, the human doesn't have any arms, bones protrude from the empty shoulder sockets. There's chunks missing from it's legs; eyes are sunken in. It's hunched. Behind it, a huge black shadow looms, empty white eye sockets staring down. For a black and white sketch, it's incredibly gruesome.
I flip the page, grimacing at the next few similar pictures. Endless scenes of the infected in their last stages, falling apart, feasting on others, scaling the compound walls, and basically terrorizing the sane humanity.
"When the virus broke out, I was seven. I didn't have parents; I lived in this really nice boy's home in the city. We lasted maybe a month before everything sort of fell apart. Long story short, I spent a few years on the streets before they found me and brought me in," he says, taking his sketchbook back. "I couldn't sleep. I would wake up screaming about monsters. Eventually, they gave me sleeping medication, but when we started jobs trainings, every time I heard a gunshot it was like I was having flashbacks again. It was a mess.
"The captains didn't want someone who couldn't hear the sound of gunshots working in a compound that specializes in weaponry. The president signed my transfer papers. So, they labelled me MU and sent me here."
I stare at the side of his head as he stares at something else.
All I can think of is: what a pair we are.
"I shouldn't have asked," I finally say, breaking the silence.
"Don't worry about it."
He opens his sketchbook, pencil already moving. That's my signal that the conversation between us is over. That's all the clarification I need that he won't know the answers to my questions, which means I'll have to find Jane later and ask her myself.
YOU ARE READING
"I live in a place called Compound 4. We are one of ten different compounds placed at strategic locations around the US. It's been thirteen years since the virus overtook humanity, turning about ninety percent of us into zombies. I'm not sure how it...