"When can I see him?" I stutter between sobs, standing up suddenly. Mandy tries to grab me and pin me down, but I'm already halfway to the door before she's on her feet.
"Not yet," Dad says, standing up. I've reached the door, though, and the knob is already turning. "Seriously, Jay, stop."
One foot out the door, I look back at them. Stephen is moving fast towards me, and I think twice about sprinting out of the room. I wouldn't know where to look. It's a big world out there; Dad could have hidden him anywhere.
So, when Stephen grabs me by the shoulders, pulling me back in the door, I fall limp into his grasp, letting him drag me back to the chair.
"When?" I ask again, gripping the arms of the chair. My body shakes, heart racing in my ears.
"Soon. He's almost ready," Dad says, walking around the desk to stand in front of me. With great effort, he squats down, coming face to face with me, right beside Mandy. "But, Jay, you have to understand, he's not the same person. He's been through some serious trauma."
I hear the gunshots in my head, all three of them; his screams echo between my ears. His face is all I see, empty and white, framed in the red of his own blood.
"Of course he isn't," I say, wiping at my eyes, "But neither am I, Dad."
We meet each other's eyes, and Dad reaches out to cup my face.
"I know this doesn't make things right between us, but it's a start."
I close my eyes, trying to take the moment in, let it feel as good as it should.
"Thank you, Dad."
Ollie claps her hands together, making me jump.
"For now, though, we have to figure out what we are going to do here," she says.
The statement is vague, but seemingly, everyone in the room is on the same page. Who is going to be in charge? What will change? How will be continue to protect the people? What about protecting ourselves?
"I want Compound 4 to feel like the Al-Ma," she whispers, running a hand through her hair, "I want to rebuild this place out of the ashes left behind."
"Don't change too much, or you'll make the people scared," I add in. She nods, thinking.
"Nothing is going to change, yet. I'll take requests from them about new rules and procedures. I'll make this into a democracy, not a monarchy. I don't want to rule these people."
"You should start by lifting the curfew," I say, standing up, "That way the people can at least do what they want at night. Oh, and get the power plant up and running all day."
Ollie snatches a piece of paper off Dad's desk, hunting for a pen.
"Any more?" she asks, scribbling away.
"Curfew. Power. Oh, make the mandatory chores into actual jobs. Make a cleaning crew, an agriculture crew, and stuff like that."
Ollie mouths words to herself as she writes. Outside, the sun has gone down. By now, the gate is closed, the night crew going on about their routes. People should be tucked away in bed.
"Go get some rest, Jay," she says, not looking up, "You deserve it."
Dad insists on taking me to the infirmary to run my vitals and make sure I'm healthy enough to go home, and I don't have the energy to argue with him. Stephen and Clare show Mandy and Ollie to our house for the night, which means everything will be crowded again. I don't mind, though. Not this time.
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...