Trying to find a group of kids intent on hiding isn’t as easy as one would think. We radioed the other group to tell them what we had found. They were relieved to know that some of the children had survived. They had only just gotten to the hospital and promised to let us know what they found, if anything.
Wanting to cover as much ground as possible, our group of eight split into groups of four. We reasoned that they would likely have travelled into areas where there would have been less people, if they knew which those areas might be. But then children can be children and as their reasoning skills aren’t as highly developed as those of most adults, we felt it was best that we also send a search party in the direction that we least thought they would have picked. We didn’t bother backtracking toward the police station; we already knew they hadn’t gone that way.
Seeing no reason to waste any time, each group set off in opposite directions with our radios. We were quickly losing light and had no desire to test the theory that the hordes had left. Plus we didn’t want to come across any of the crawlers in the darkness. Even to have one of them grab a hold of an ankle in the dark would be sure to render us full of panic!
Our group had chosen to search the direction that we felt the children would have been least likely to go. Even though we had Liam with us, one option didn’t have any better chance at being less dangerous than the other when the factor of the unknown was weighed in.
There were quite a few skeletal corpses that reached out to us as we passed. Not wanting to waste any time in our search for the rest of the children, we didn’t stop to alleviate their suffering. Once we had found the children and the rest of the survivors, we would come back and clean up the city. It just wasn’t possible for us to focus on them at the moment. And as long as you moved during the day, it was easy to avoid the crawlers and as we had yet to come across anything other than that, I hoped that there were no walkers up and about.
As the sun went down, we found a vacant store to spend the night in. Everything had been cleaned out of it long ago and inventoried for the settlement’s use. Luckily there were a number of bottles in one of the backrooms and we used the latent pressure in the pipes to fill them. We had to have water; it was essential to our survival. The amount that we had would last us until we had to stop again. At least that was a positive.
The night passed uneventfully and once the light broke in the east, we were on the move again. As we left the vacant store, Julie noticed the trails of bloody slime smeared into the pavement of the road. Last night we hadn’t seen it in the disappearing light but it was a lead so we chose to track it. If the crawlers were after the children, we had to find them first.
The trail was easy to follow. It lead us down the road, across a parking lot and into an overgrown field. Once I saw the field, I was sure that we were going to lose them. But if you kept your head at just the right angle, with the sun behind you, you could make out the distinct path of at least 7 crawlers all headed in the same direction.
Part of each of us wanted to call the other team, to get them to come and help us search but the truth was, we had no way of knowing if all of the 59 children had stayed together. They could have split into smaller groups like we did, thinking that it was easier to hide in smaller numbers. Perhaps they had figured that they had a higher chance to running into an adult if there were more groups out there; provided of course there were living adults left to run into.
Just as we were about to exit the field, Kevin spotted something ahead of us. It was the group of crawlers that we had been following; we’d caught up to them before getting a good read on where the kids might be headed. Kevin wondered if we could just wait and continue to track them but at the rate they were moving, it could be days before they caught up to the kids or worse, got distracted by something else; likely us.
So we aimed in the direction that they had been heading and continued to search. We weren’t silent either. We didn’t fear the crawlers and figured that the chance of there being any walking Undead was slim to none. So far we hadn’t seen any and the hordes of Undead rodents had reduced the former survivors of the Herber Settlement to the aberrations leaving slimy trails along the ground.
So we walked all day, crisscrossing the former streets of Seattle, calling out to the children in the hopes that they would hear us. We skirted the crawlers as they reached frail arms toward us, and continued to search the city in a grid-like pattern; up one street for two blocks, across the street for a block and then back up the previous two blocks. It wasn’t perfect, but it allowed us to cover the most ground. We even had the foresight to keep track of where we had searched on a street map, just in case we had to come back for any reason.
As it began to get dark on the second day of searching, we found a clue that we might be heading in the right direction. On the street ahead of us, in the offensive arms of a crawler, was a bright pink hoodie. It was too late for us to continue searching but it was a good sign. All of the crawlers in the general area were too large to be any of the children. Good sign indeed.