Annalise awoke and immediately wished she had not done so. Sunlight streaming in through the occasional crack where the curtains were not drawn correctly blinded her, a pain adding to her already pounding head.
She attempted to raise her arms to her head and gently massage her temples, though she found that she was only able to do so with her right arm. The left, it seemed, was lost somewhere in the mess of post-coital limbs, the remainder of which belonged to either Joan or Simon.
“Shit!” she hissed, and again having double-checked that she was actually naked. “Shit!”
Ignoring her throbbing head as bet she could, Annalise eased her arm out from between Joan and Simon and scanned the room for her clothes. She found her underwear first, then her jeans and boots. As she hurriedly put those on she sought out her top. She found it, strewn over the bar alongside what looked to be Joan’s underwear and Simon’s boxer shorts. It was still saturated from the day before but as she had little choice, she put it on and cringed at its cool wetness.
“Shit!” she repeated the expletive yet again, then as she lit a cigarette Annalise made her way over to the window.
It was clear. The Zeds that had only a few hours ago been upwards of five score in number were gone, or at the very least they were out of sight and thus, their escape route was clear.
Not wanting to risk the chance that the Zeds would return before they were ready to leave, Annalise quickly hopped off the window seat and scampered over to where Simon and Joan were still slumbering in each other's arms.
She shook both simultaneously, a hand on each of their shoulders, for several seconds until they showed signs of life.
“The village looks clear,” she said concisely. “We gotta' go.”
“Yeah, all three of us,” Annalise replied, unwilling to let Simon finish the question. “Let's leave it at that though, for now at least. We have bigger things to worry about, like making sure we make it out of Minstead alive.”
With a nod both Simon and Joan hurried to their feet and once both had located their clothes, got dressed. None of the three made eye contact with each other. The air was one of awkwardness, although that was to be expected.
“Ready?” It had only taken the two a matter of moments to dress and compose themselves, after a fashion, by which time Annalise was waiting by the door, her sword drawn and rucksack slung easily over her shoulder.
“Ready,” Simon replied, his rifle cocked. Unlike Annalise he had his own rucksack held on both shoulders, the straps pulled tight so the bag itself sat high upon his back.
“Run for the car,” said Joan, levelling her crossbow at the door, waiting for it to open. “I'll provide cover, just in case.”
Annalise flung the door open and she and Simon immediately sprinted out into the open, heading for the car as quickly as they could. The air was fresh with that delicious morning-after-rain smell, and the Sun was already high in a blue sky pocked with the occasional fluff of brilliantly white cloud.
Joan need not have worried for there really was not a Zed in sight. She scanned the edge of the village green, the streets that led to it and the hedgerows and fences of the surrounding gardens, her trigger finger itching to put an arrow into the head of a Zed or two but there was no need. As soon as Annalise and Simon reached the car she too sprinted for it and by the time their rucksacks were in the boot, she was standing beside them.
Annalise slipped into the driver's seat and Joan took the seat beside her, whilst Simon hauled himself into the rear of the four-wheel drive.
“I'm definitely not sorry to be leaving the village of Minstead behind,” he said with a chuckle as Annalise slipped the vehicle into gear and pulled away. She hung a sharp U-turn in the opening of Congleton Close and sped back the way they had first entered the village.
Within moments they were heading south and back towards the hotel. For almost ten minutes the drive took place in silence until Joan leaned forwards in her seat and flicked the radio on, setting it scan for a signal.
“Before I met you guys I used to scan twice a week, just to see if I picked anything up.”
“Did you ever?” Annalise asked, keeping her eyes on the road ahead.
“No, but that never stopped me trying,” she replied.
They waited in silence as the radio cycled through its available frequencies, and were only mildly disappointed when no signal was received.
Joan went to turn the radio off again but Simon stopped her.
“Try long wave, if that radio has it,” he said. “If I was going to broadcast an emergency beacon or something of the like, that's where I'd do it.”
With the slightest of shrugs Joan did as he suggested, and once again she set the radio to scan for any available frequency.
Three pairs of eyes went wide when the cycle stopped and the fuzz of static could be heard over the car's speakers.
“There's something there,” said Simon, quietly. “Turn up the volume.”
The only result of the act was that the static became louder. If there was anything else to be heard on the frequency, the static was drowning it out.
“Tune it manually,” Annalise yelled over the fuzz. Irritating it might have been but to the three of them, it was the sweetest sound they had heard in a long time. “Gently, a little at a time.”
Joan tweaked the knob as one might whilst attempting to find the perfect temperature whilst showering, an annoyance that she had all but forgotten until reminded of it by her current task.
Seconds ticked by and none of those in the vehicle dared breathe, lest the sound of their breath cause them to miss something on the radio.
Then, when they had all but given up hope...
'...ood, water and shelter. We are free of the zombie menace. I repeat, we are free of the zombie menace. Anyone who hears this broadcast, if you are able to do so then make your way to Jersey. We have food, water and shelter. We are free of the zombie menace. I repeat, we are free of the zombie menace...'
Accompanying the broadcast was a simple guitar riff in a minor key. Annalise could not help but feel that it added authenticity to the information contained within the broadcast.
The loop was continuous and they listened to it for over ten minutes before the surrounding woodland was too thick for the signal to get through, and it was lost.
“There were letters pinned to the notice board outside the shop in Minstead, people telling their friends and family to head to Jersey if they could.”
“Why didn't you say something before, 'Lise?”
“I was going to when we got back to the hotel. I intended to gather everyone together and let you all know.”
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ZEDS (Season One) #ZEDSHorror
Survival is key. The natural instinct and will of man is to survive and without it, mankind will perish and the dead shall inherit the Earth. In a post-apocalyptic, zombie infested world, a group of survivors do what they can - and what they must...