After leaving Waskaganish, Julie knew that her only option for getting back in touch with us was finding a computer or Smartphone with some charge left and Internet access. We’d already noticed that some of the towers were starting to fail. It was a lot slower that we had anticipated but at this point we were prepared to take anything that we could get in the way of communications.
Thankful that Ben had left his maps in the Escalade, she instructed Eduardo to head south out of the port town. Her aim was to get to the east coast of the US and then figure out a way to get our attention. At that moment she had no way to reach out and let us know that she was alive so she had to get herself and her new team of survivors into a position to be picked up. It wasn’t the best of plans but it was all that she had to work with.
Once they reached the fork in the road south of Waskaganish, she surveyed both options. They had met a few of the Undead but Eduardo was a skilled driver. I suppose making it all the way from New Mexico to Waskaganish in a Ford Pinto taught you a thing or two. Deciding on the left hand path, Julie told Eduardo to go that way. That road would take them through Nemiscau on the way to Chibougamau. From there they would take the 113 to Val d’Or. It was risky taking all of the larger roads but right now, time counted more than anything.
And Julie was banking on the fact that the captain had taken the ship east out of Hudson’s Bay. There was a chance, albeit a slight one that he could have gone to the west. It was a chance she didn’t want to think too much about at that moment. She had people that she cared about seeing again and it was the only thing that was going to keep her going.
Once they had passed through Val d’Or, they took the 117 to the 105, passing through towns like Maniwaki and Gracefield. The towns looked deserted and the travelling was relatively easy. Most of the Undead were moving in random directions, not like what they had seen in Waskaganish. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to their movements which was a good sign and a bad sign. It meant that they weren’t communicating with each other. But it also meant that nothing living had passed through the area recently. It was desolate and isolating. Like you were the last people to survive. Poor Polly kept rubbing her swollen belly frantically, probably trying not to think about the fact that her child would be born into a world that was crawling with the Undead and failing miserably.
During the long expanses spent driving, Julie spent much of the time talking to Jane. Eduardo and Polly were amazed at how Jane responded to the way in which Julie spoke to her. It was like she was a Half-Crazed Wild Girl Whisperer. Within a few hours, Jane had stopped struggling in the back of the Escalade and actually seemed to relax. Now she was even grunting along to the little song that Julie was singing. It wasn’t perfect but it was progress.
A difficult part of the journey was coming up. They were going to have to cross the Ottawa River and that was going to bring them right into Ottawa. There was no way around it really. It was either go through Ottawa or go through Montreal. Julie picked the lesser of two evils. Montreal had the larger population density plus it had the larger urban sprawl. Ottawa was the safer bet. Hands down.
The 105 turned into Highway 5 which brought them across the river and into Ottawa. It was slow going at first but the highway was still passable. Eduardo just had to be careful and slow down. The city appeared to be deserted as none of the Undead came out to greet them.
Merging onto the 417, the main artery of the city was another story altogether. Some might wonder why anyone would take the major highways in an emergency situation but in all actuality they probably are the best bet for that same reason. Most people will reason that way as well and will avoid them in favour of the other roads in town. The highways might be clogged but they still might be passable. And after all this time, if you can get up a ramp, chances are good that you can at least traverse the roadway as well. Not exactly the case on the 417. It was a parking lot. Luckily, Ottawa has a separate and reserved highway system of sorts that runs along the 41 that they use strictly for their transit system. It’s the first of its kind in Canada and frankly a godsend at that moment. A quick reverse down the ramp, into the body of a single Undead woman who had managed to find us and a redirect onto the transit highway.
It wasn’t clear sailing but the going was a bit easier. It was down here however that they found the main concentration of the Undead. They must have already scouted out the contents of the cars above and now that the honking had long stopped they were left to wander aimlessly until they rotted away. I wonder how terrifying it must have been for people to have been stuck in their cars while multitudes of Undead faces and hands pressed up against the glass until the moment that the pressure caused it to implode. How many families trying to escape had died together like that?
Eduardo was careful with his driving and while he did have to go through a number of them, he still managed not to snag the Escalade on anything. Soon they were at the exit to the 416 where they needed to go South. Julie knew that they needed to get out of the city so she told Eduardo to try taking the opposite lanes of traffic. At that time, no one would have wanted to come back into Ottawa so chances are they would be in the clear. The reasoning was sound and it was clear sailing out of Ottawa and down all 76 kilometres of the 416 to the 401.
At the 401, they went east towards Cornwall. At some point they were going to have to pass into the US and this side of Canada only allowed for passage into the US over bridges. There was no other way and they didn’t have the time to backtrack all the back around the Great Lakes and then back again in order to miss them. It had to be done. Julie didn’t share this bit of information with Eduardo and Polly right away mainly because of Polly’s pregnancy.
The 401 wasn’t too badly clogged. The shoulders of the road were wide enough to let them pass if need be but the closeness of the long grass was creepy. It hid all sorts of things. Eduardo hit first and then asked questions later. Thankfully everything he hit was Undead.
Finally they came into Cornwall and took the exit for the Seaway International Bridge which joins Cornwall to Rooseveltown, NY and spans the St. Lawrence River. The bridge was worse the Julie had expected. The two lane suspension bridge was gridlocked so there was no way that they could take the car. At the worst, Julie had figured that they would have been able to get the car partway across before having to walk the rest of the way. Now they were going to have to walk the full 4.7 kilometres and hope that nothing was hiding in wait in any of the cars. That and hope that Jane wouldn’t turn out to be a huge problem as well.
Julie had thought that Polly would make a bit of a fuss about having to walk such a long way being pregnant and everything. In all honesty, I think any woman in her condition would have. But Polly was different. She started walking and you didn’t hear a peep out of her. She knew that her life depended on her ability to keep going. She hadn’t stayed alive this long only to die now.
And surprisingly, once Julie took Jane out of the back of the car and tethered her to her waist and explained what was going on she seemed to get it. There was some kind of understanding dawning in the girl and a genuine bond was building between the two of them.
If they were going to take the time to walk across the bridge, the least they could do was look for some more weapons. The one firearm that they currently had was not going to do them much good if they got themselves into a situation where they had to fight. They agreed that they would look in the cars for visible firearms and ammunition and if they saw any, they would try the doors. There would no reason to attract any unwanted attention if there was nothing of use to them.
The bridge was pretty much deserted and the cars fairly devoid of anything useful for the first 2 and a half kilometres. Soon after that, the bloated bodies began to fill the cars. None of them were moving but none of them wanted to take the chance just yet. Just as they could see the end of the bridge, a long figure stood up at the end of it, its tattered clothes and stump of an arm making it quite apparent that it was one of the Undead.
Julie felt Jane tense against her; she grabbed her hand hoping that the small amount of comfort was enough to stop her from running and pulled her behind one of the parked cars. Eduardo and Polly disappeared behind a car on the other side. Julie couldn’t see them but she could hear the shuffled scraping of the soles of the feet of the Undead man coming their way. The smell hit her and she gagged. It was worse than some of the floaters that came into her morgue which seemed impossible but then so did the dead walking around. She pulled her gun, not wanting to use it, afraid that the noise of the shot would alert more Undead in the area and potentially frighten Jane. The problem was that she was pretty sure that it had seen them.
She could hear it getting closer and closer. It was now or never. Without warning, the decision was taken out of her hands. Eduardo had quietly circled around behind the Undead man and had rushed up behind him and just kept going. His aim was to push the frail, stinking, rotting body over the railing of the bridge and into the water of the St. Lawrence 15 feet below. His plan was ballsy but it worked.
In one of the last cars on the bridge they hit pay dirt. Not only did it have an adequate supply of guns and ammunition but the owner had left the keys in the ignition when he had abandoned it. They only had to put a few cars into neutral and roll them off to the side in order to get the car out of its parking spot.
So now that they were in Northern New York State, the idea was for them to get to the coast and then figure out a way to get in touch with the cruise ship. They knew they had to keep on the move but they also knew that they were going to have to keep stopping in order to look for a computer, laptop or Smartphone that worked.
Things with Jane kept improving to the point that Julie stopped tying her up on Day 46. If she wanted to run away after that, there was really nothing that she could do to stop her. But the difference in the young girl was remarkable. She still wasn’t speaking but she was acting a lot more like a young lady should and her attachment to Julie was apparent. If you looked at her, you could even tell that she felt bad about the fact that she had bitten Julie in the shoulder and the pain that Julie was feeling now was all because of her.
In fact, the injury to Julie’s shoulder was getting really bad. The infection was starting to really set in and even Julie knew that was a bad sign. She had nothing to help her fight it off; no antibiotics, no alcohol that she could pour in it. They barely had clean water to cleanse it. She knew her only hope was to get them to the ship before she died. Ben would take care of her and make her better. She just had to get there.
On Day 49, they stopped at a house in Vermont and managed to find a laptop that still had internet access. It was at that point that Julie knew that she had to get to Coney Island. She thought she only had three days at that point but she was willing to travel down the coast and follow the ship for as far as she had to.
In the car, on Day 52 she lost consciousness. Eduardo and Polly raced as hard and as fast as they dared to get her here. If she was going to die, they wanted her die among her friends, the ones that she talked about all the time. It seemed only fair since she’s spent all this time trying to get back to them.
Luckily, the ship never let the waters around Coney Island. And Julie pulled through.
The Next Day