~ Chapter Six ~

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They followed Max down a corridor, passing door after door until he halted and grasped the handle of one that adorned two streaks of white paint in the shape of an 'X'.

The door creaked open to reveal a room full of people.

At least thirty survivors.

It might not have seemed like a lot, but to Perri and Gavin, it was the most living people they'd seen in months. After all, it was twice as many as the group they'd left behind.

Everyone stared at them as they entered but soon turned away to chatter amongst themselves.

One person caught Perri's eye. A boy. No older than eleven would be her guess. His sapphire eyes met her emerald ones for a brief moment before she averted her gaze.

It was the first time she'd seen a child in months. Not since—

"Oof." Perri grunted. She'd just walked into Max, not realizing he'd stopped.

He raised an eyebrow over his shoulder at her. He was taller than Perri by at least a foot—just like Gavin—so from her angle, she couldn't see the smirk on his lips.

She and Gavin stepped beside Max.

He'd halted before a man with a bushy, white, full-faced beard.

"Found some more bodies for the cause." Max said by way of greeting the older gentleman whose face remained stony and unreadable.

"Welcome. My name is Carter." Said the bearded man, his voice hoarse and deep. "Please make yourselves comfortable, I need to have a word with Max."

Over by an open crate, stood Terrence. He waved a hand, instructing them to go to him.

Only Gavin had noticed. So, he gave Perri a nudge urging her to follow him.

Terrence was rummaging through the crate which was stocked with MREs. "Hungry?"

"What are those?" Asked Perri.

With low brows, Terrence replied, "What? You've never seen an MRE before?"

Tight-lipped, she shook her head.

"They're meals ready to eat." Terrence handed an MRE to Perri and Gavin. "The military probably meant to hand them out at the safe zones. But, by the looks of it, they didn't get that far. Luckily for us."

"Not so lucky for the people who, no doubt, needed these." Gavin said, a muscle in his jaw flickered and his nostrils flared.

Perri touched his arm but he took no notice. He just stared at the MRE in his hand.

Terrence sighed. "Whatever man. Follow me."

He led them to an open space on the wall to sit and eat.

Perri removed her knapsack and put her back to the wall to slide down into a sitting position beside Terrence. Gavin joined her, on her left side.

Despite all the murmuring in the room, it was relatively quiet. Most people were trying to rest. But, Perri could still feel their curious eyes gawking at her and Gavin.

How long had it been since they'd come across other survivors? She wondered.

After cracking open her MRE she lazily lifted her gaze and was met once again by those sapphire eyes.

The boy was laying on one of the few bunks in the room. He was probably supposed to be getting some shut-eye. Instead, he was staring right back at Perri.

She swallowed and looked to Terrence. "Who is that boy on the other side of the room?"

"Skeet." He replied with his mouth still full of food. "He's the reason we haven't moved on yet."

Her brows furrowed. "What?"

Terrence swallowed and nearly inhaled the last bite of his MRE before answering. "He got separated from his dad a few days ago when we found this place. His dad and a couple others led the infected away so the rest of us could get inside. They still haven't come back. Most don't think they will."

"And what do you think?"

"I think, they're long gone and that we're wasting time just squatting here. The longer we wait, the more of a chance there is that we'll be discovered and eaten." Terrence spat.

Perri looked back to the blue-eyed boy. He'd fallen asleep.

Max cleared his throat to get her attention. He gestured with a finger for her to go with him.

She turned to Gavin to speak to him.

His head was rested against the wall and his eyes were shut. A snore escaped, and she knew he was unconscious. There'd be no waking him now. He slept like the dead.

Perri left her knapsack with Gavin and accompanied Max over to a table. There were two men standing on the opposite side of it.

Carter and a filthy, but well-dressed man.

"Max informed us of your situation. Your names. Where you're going. Where you came from." Carter said as he traced a finger over the map on the table. "We don't have the luxury of wasting time with niceties these days, so I apologize if I come across rudely. I mean only to be direct. Now that, that's out of the way—" He looked to the well-dressed man beside him.

"Oh. Uh." The man stammered, caught off guard as he wasn't paying attention. He extended a hand toward Perri and she took it. As he shook her hand he said, "My name is Doctor Holloway. Ian Holloway. Or... or you can just call me Ian. Whatever. It's up to you."

His hand was sweaty but Perri resisted the urge to wipe her hand on her trousers.

"We found the good doctor outside searching the dead bodies, the night before last." Carter stated.

"I was left behind a week or so ago by the military outfit that was stationed here to protect me. Well, not here. But, at my outpost on the other side of the city." Doctor Holloway commented. "We went out to collect samples but were attacked and I found myself running for dear life and soon I was without my armed escort."

"The good doctor here, is an immunologist." Carter added.

"What does that mean?" Perri felt stupid for asking.

"It means," Carter straightened his back and crossed his arms, "Doctor Holloway is probably the only person left in this world, capable of creating a cure."

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