We walk together in a cone shape, all of us silent. Occasionally, Justin will clear his throat as he tosses another cigarette to the ground. Within seconds, though, he has another one lit, the cherry red spot like a beacon in the darkness. I smell the matches as he stomps them out on the asphalt.
The smell reminds me of Dad, who used to sit out on the back porch and smoke a pack at a time. The thought is still heavy on my mind that he might have been feeding Mom the virus, but how he got ahold of it is beyond me. He's always been a secretive man, but this secretive? I can't be sure.
Stephen taps me on the shoulder about thirty minutes later, pulling me out of my own inner ramblings. He points to the right, down a hill where a subdivision is spread out before us. Glancing up, I read the street sign. Standefer Circle.
"This is the place?" I whisper, walking ahead.
"Yeah," Stephen answers, grabbing the gun on my back. The strap acts like a seatbelt, jerking me back towards him. "Stay with the group."
I scrunch my nose up at him, keeping our pace. As we go down the hill, the houses come into view, casting even more shadows across us. I can hear things inside the houses, banging on the walls and rattling around. None of the houses have windows left, and some of them have holes in the roof. My hands begin to shake; I have never actually come in contact with a late stage infected, spare my own mom.
Stephen pulls a folded piece of paper out of his pocket, showing it to me.
"House numbers," he says, squinting around, "These are all the ones we have already raided for supplies."
There are about twenty numbers on the list, and half of them are already crossed off. He hands me the list, taking off again.
The house numbers are hard to see from the street. Most places have them nailed to the wall beside the front door, but without street lights or flashlights, it is near impossible to see them from the street. I have to trust that Stephen knows where he is going.
After six or seven houses, we stop. Stephen is grinning.
"We ain't been in this one," he says, taking the list back from me. With a pen he digs from his pocket, he crosses the house number off, 214. "You're up, kid."
Clare pats me on the back, giving me a thumbs up. I swing the gun around, holding it tight against my chest.
Every step towards the house echoes on the sidewalk. I play with the safety on the gun, toggling it on and off. The house itself is quiet, and the door is hanging open, broken half way off it's hinges. I step up onto the porch carefully, pushing down with each foot first to make sure it won't fall through on me.
Inside the first room, the darkness only continues. Moonlight falls in through the windows of the porch, but it lights very little space. The curtains blow in from the gentle wind. I'm shivering, despite the fact I'm wearing a jacket. The room is dead quiet, which gives me goosebumps.
"Come out, come out, wherever you are," I whisper as low as I can, making myself chuckle. Once I'm sure there's nothing in the living room, I continue on, checking the kitchen, two bedrooms, and the bathroom. I even open the shower curtain. Roaches scatter as it moves.
Poking my head back out the front door, I wave to the others, and Stephen leads the way in.
"All clear?" he asks me, hands up on the door frame. I just nod, moving to stand in the kitchen, out of the way.
Stephen stands guard with me as Justin and Clare rake boxes of food into their bags. Sometimes, Justin will motion to Clare, waving his hands for a second before tossing whatever he had in his hand over his shoulder. I get lost for a minute, watching them communicate. His words are a mixture of hands and fingers, sometimes his entire body. She replies in the same way, and I have never seen anything like it.
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...