On a normal day with the Undead, getting fuel is a highly choreographed dance of precision with lots of guns. The urgency of being pursued by the unknown and the Undead didn’t alter that dance but it certainly put the choreography off just a bit. When we pulled into the Shell station in Kernville we were relieved to see that there were no Undead milling about. The disadvantage to not being able to take things slowly and cautiously observe any given gas station from afar could mean that we might drive right into a situation rife with walking corpses. And when you’re fuelling up, that’s the last thing you want popping up behind you.
We took the outside pump as usual and waited a few moments to see if any of the Undead would put in an appearance. Knowing that we couldn’t spare much time, Ben, Max and I got out with our guns cocked and ready. Bob blew the horn to the car, a few moments too late if you ask me. He could have done this while we were still in the safety of the car! Even the resonating sound of the Escalade’s horn made us all jump and look back up the road, thinking that the other vehicle had already caught up with us. Looking back at the attached store we were relieved to see that it was empty. None of the Undead had stumbled or crawled their way out to greet us.
Cautiously I went inside with Ben to turn on the pump. After flicking the switch, we gathered up a few needed supplies, mainly protein bars and water and turned to head back out to the car. That’s when I heard the noise. It was a small whimper, like a puppy or a small animal, and it was coming from the back of the store. I motioned to Ben to follow me for a moment. I felt relatively safe in my knowledge that the Undead did not make sounds like that.
On the back wall of the store was a single restroom; the door covered in the bloody hand print slime you can only attribute to the Undead. The whimpering was coming from the other side of that door. I tentatively tried the door handle, hoping that it wasn’t unlocked. That whoever had gotten into that little room had enough sense to lock it behind them. The door was locked and with the quiet noise the turning of the door handle had made, the whimpering went silent.
Not wanting to seem like heartless, I did have a moment where I almost turned around and left what I assumed was a small child locked in that bathroom. In the end, I couldn’t leave. I called out softly through the door, stating that we were there to help and that if they wanted to come out, they were welcome to come with us. I know we didn’t have a lot of time, and I could hear the engine of the Escalade already as it had pulled in to the closest pump after filling the tank.
Tentatively the door to the washroom opened and two pairs of innocent little eyes looked up at me. The must have been fraternal twins: one boy, one girl, maybe 4 or 5 years old with reddish curls and the most adorable freckles. They were filthy and looked hungry. The humanity in me couldn’t leave them here, not after finding them alive in a washroom after God knows how many days. I scooped up the children and started back towards the SUV and Ben disappeared back into the store. He returned moments later with a few cartons of milk, still cold thankfully, and some Lunchables he’d found in the refrigerated section. Bob and Max just looked at the kids and then looked at us, accepting the fact that we now had two charges to care for.
After buckling the children in between Max and Ben, we got back out on the road and hurried north again. The children devoured the cheese, luncheon meat, and crackers as if they had never had anything to eat before and drank the milk like they were dying of thirst. We didn’t want to give them too much too fast for fear that we would cause them to vomit or give them stomach pain. Thank God for Ben; being a doctor, he seemed to know just how much to give them without it being too much. And he was able to check them over for bites while they ate something I should have done before bringing them along with us.
Once fed the little girl, whose name we learned was Lily, started to talk non-stop. All about how her mommy and sister had chased her and her brother Liam away from their house all the way to the store. At first they had thought their mommy was playing a game, until their older sister Sara had come running home and right into their mother’s path. They watched in horror as their mother attacked and killed their older sister, and then watched as she came back to life. So off they ran, dodging their undead neighbours and the undead mailman. All to end up locked in a public washroom in small convenience store off of Oregon State Highway 101. Lily recounted that it felt like their mommy had been outside that door forever, hammering on it for them to come out. But they knew. Somehow these two small children knew that opening up that door was death. When asked, they couldn’t tell us how long they thought they might have been in there. For kids, 10 minutes can seem like an eternity.
For all the horror they’ve witnessed, they’re remarkably well-adjusted and quite friendly. At 4 and a half, these two kids were more intelligent than most of the population of the US…
Looking behind us, we could see that the other vehicle, a black Hummer, had also stopped at the station for gas. It was going to be a long drive up the coast. We all prayed that the tank in their car held less fuel or that their SUV burned more gas than ours. Anything to give us an edge!
Ben scanned his maps looking for way to get off this road quickly but onto another and then another in the hopes of losing them. The only way we were going to be able to find a network of roads like that was to head a fair ways inland again and we weren’t sure that we were willing to do that quite yet.
We have another plan, something potentially safer, especially now that we had the children to consider. We just need the right place to put that plan into action.
The time will come. And it will come soon. The inhabitants of that vehicle are not going to know what hit them. We need to remember that this ultimately is a war of survival and in the end, the last person standing inherits the earth. That might have been a little dramatic but you get what I mean. We need to annihilate anyone that intends to disrupt our chances of surviving… And I mean anyone.