Chapter Seven Part Six - Lucky..?

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Annalise awoke and made her way outside. It was late morning, judging by how high the Sun was in the sky. She lit a cigarette and moved quickly out of the way as two of the military personnel carried a roll of sopping carpet between them and dumped it on the already very large pile.

Although it was clear both men were military, it seemed to Annalise that all sense of dressing as such had fallen by the wayside. In fact the only thing that distinguished them as soldiers rather than civilians were the dog-tags that hung around their necks. Both wore many and she suspected that aside from one, they all belonged to their fallen comrades.

She watched as another similarly attired man exited the building with a pile of sodden floorboards stacked high upon his shoulder.

“It's not as bad as it looks.” She turned and saw the Corporal. Like the rest of his men he was shirtless and sweating, the heat of the day ensuring that both the former and the latter were unavoidable. “We'll have it done in no time, and I figure there's plenty of wood available in the forest to replace these boards.”

“A man of many talents,” she replied with a smirk, a look that he returned with a smile.

“Not me,” he shrugged a reply, “but a few of the boys took carpentry a ways back. Your man Jack has already commissioned their services to build stables and housing for the animals he came back with last night.”

“That definitely sounds like Jack,” she replied. “The man can't seem to rest even for a moment.”

“I'd say it's no bad thing to have something to occupy your body and mind.” He winked, and continued. “Besides, it's not like we can all sit back and watch Coronation Street.”

“Yeah,” said Annalise, laughing heartily. “Saying that, I always hated that bloody show.”

“Me too,” he said, laughing along. “I guess something good has come out of this zombie fiasco after all.”

Both turned at the sound of multiple voices inside and moments later they were joined in the late-morning Sun by several of the civilians who had arrived the day before. One of them, a middle-aged woman, stepped forwards and spoke.

“Thank you,” she said. “Thank you so much for allowing us into your home.”

“It's your home too, now,” replied Annalise. “You're all welcome to stay for as long as you like.”

“Thank you, and whilst we intend to take you up on that we have no intention of looking for a free ride.”

“I should hope not,”she said, smiling. “If we're going to survive then we all need to chip in.”

“Which brings me to my point. You have a rather small patch of land set aside for growing food. With your permission, we,” she paused, gesturing to the dozen or so people who were with her, “would like to expand that area. There are over two hundred of us here now...”

“...and we're going to need much more food,” Annalise said, finishing the woman's sentence for she knew exactly what she was going to say. “The supplies we have will run out soon enough and yes, whilst meat it reasonably easy to come by, we can't all live on meat alone.”

“We have your permission then?”

“Of course,” she replied, chuckling. “I told you this is your home now. If you want to do something that will benefit the group then I'm definitely not going to stop you, just leave that area as it is.”

She gestured to the make-shift cemetery, a forlorn look upon her face.

“You don't need to worry about that, pet,” said the woman, kindly. “That area won't be touched.”

“Thank you.”

“I'm Karen, by the way.” She scratched at her scalp. At one point her hair was most likely bouncy and luscious but now her red hair was thickly matted, and reminded Annalise of how long it was since she had actually been able to wash her hair. “I used to work on local radio.”

“Annalise,” she replied, forcing a smile. “It's very nice to meet you.”

“She's a good lass, is Karen,” said Simon as Karen led her merry band to set about their task. “I mean they all are, but it does seem that the civvies view her as a kind of spokeswoman.”

“It's good they have that. Makes your job easier, I imagine.”

“I certainly couldn't do it alone. These past few months, losing commanding officer after commanding officer until it's me, a Corporal, in command.”

“From what I can see, Simon, you're doing the memory of your fallen comrades proud.”

“Thanks, now come on... Don't get all girly on me.”

“Fair enough,” she replied with a chuckle. “I'm going to go and have a chat with Craig, anyway. See if I can get anything out of him.”

She turned and marched quickly towards the infirmary, knowing full well that Corporal Simon Daniel was watching her derrière as she did so.

Despite the fact the infirmary had several residents it was still in the process of being set up. There were mattresses upon the floor and clean bedding piled on tarpaulin sheets that were as sterile as they could be.

There did not appear to be anyone too badly injured – certainly nothing worse than a broken limb – and as such the mood within was quite jovial. Army field medics and a handful of nurses worked side by side with those doctors that there were, and Annalise smiled as she noticed that Craig was going around the beds, offering each patient a sip of cool, clean water.

“How is he?” she asked, tapping a nurse gently on her shoulder as she nodded in Craig's direction.

“Physically he's fine,” she replied, quietly. “He's been through some trauma, sure, but nothing that prevents him from carrying out simple tasks. We think he took a pretty bad blow to the head though, which probably explains his limited cognitive function.”

“Can I say hello?”

“Of course, that could do him the world of good,” the nurse replied, kindly. “'Course, it could do nothing. It certainly won't hurt though.”

“Thank you,” Annalise replied, gently touching her hand to the nurse's arm before turning and picking her way through the maze of mattresses towards her friend. “Hey, Craig. All right?”

He turned and looked at her with a blank expression upon his face. As the seconds ticked by she could see in his eyes and furrowed brow that he was attempting to make the connection.

“It's me, 'Lise,” she said. “You remember me, don't you?”

He nodded slowly in reply, and then shook his head. Then, if it was at all possible, he moved his head in a combination of both positive and negative responses.

“You do, but you don't,” she muttered, quietly enough so that no one else could hear. Then, with more volume and clarity, “I'm going to go now, Craig. I'll be back soon though.”

Bye!” he said sharply, briefly waving before turning back to the task of ensuring the patients stayed hydrated.

Annalise turned her back to him and made her way back towards the nurse.

“Hey, erm...”

“Verity,” she replied, not one to leave a girl hanging.

Verity,” Annalise continued. “Could you do me a favour and if his condition changes, for better or worse, then let me know? I knew him before the blow to the head and I hate seeing him like this... It was as if he recognised me, but couldn't place me.”

“I'll make sure you're kept up to date, don't worry, but you know he might never fully recover, don't you?”

“I'm not so sure that's such a bad thing,” said Annalise, turning to leave. When she spoke again she did so quietly, and Verity could only just hear the words. “We should all be so lucky.”

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