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So far, it was two bottles of water, three potatoes, a dented can of salmon, and two cans of Vienna sausages.

“Everybody gets half a potato,” Boden explained after he’d set it all out. “And you should all get some protein, either some salmon or a couple sausages.”

Everyone sat around the food in a small circle, and I sat down next to Boden. He cut the potatoes in half while Bishop opened the cans. Boden handed us our potato, then Bishop started passing the cans around.

Boden took three sausages then held the can out to me. I took one, and he gave me an odd look.

“That’s all you’re having?” Boden asked, and I nodded. “You can’t be serious. You need more than that to survive.”

“I’ll be fine,” I insisted.

“Suit yourself.” He shrugged and passed the can to Daniels. “But if you end up passing out from lack of food, I’m not carrying you.”

“I would never ask you to.”

After we ate, we went upstairs to find a place to sleep. As soon as the sun went down, Nolita blew out all but one candle. Light attracted zombies, so we wanted to keep things as dark as possible.

The second floor was in slightly better shape than the first, but it wasn’t great. Boden and Teddy pushed a huge oak dresser out of the master bedroom and put it at the top of the stairs. Boden went through all the rooms, looking for furniture to stack on top of the dresser, and came up with a rocking chair and a chest.

Once he was sure he’d built an adequate barricade, we went to our separate rooms to sleep. There were only three bedrooms upstairs, so Teddy and Bishop shared a room, Boden and Daniels bunked together, and I got a room with Nolita.

Nolita set the small candle on a white wicker bedside table in our room. There were two small twin beds in the room, and based on the décor, I guessed it used to belong to a little girl. The walls were papered with pink flowers marred only by a few bloody handprints.

Dolls and toys were piled up in one corner. Most of them were torn up, with doll’s faces smashed in. The beds were unmade, but the blankets were just balled up at one end.

Nolita pushed a small white dresser in front of the bedroom door after we went in. When she moved it, a music box tipped over and began softly playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” She picked it up, watching the small pink ballerina spin.

I picked the bed on the far side of the room and dropped my messenger bag on it. As soon as I sat on the bed, I pulled off my shoes. My feet were blistered and bloodied, but not bad enough that I couldn’t force them on tomorrow.

The music stopped playing, so Nolita wound it up again, staring at the music box with intense fascination.

While she did that, I dropped to the floor and started doing push-ups. As tired and sore as I was, I had to build up my endurance. I didn’t want to depend on people for my survival – I couldn’t, actually. Not if I really wanted a chance at getting to Max and making it to the end of the world.

“Do you remember music?” Nolita asked, her voice soft and dreamy.

“Of course I remember music,” I huffed between push-ups.

She turned around to face me. “What are you doing?”

“I’m too weak. I have to get my strength back up.”

She stood next to her bed, watching me. The music box had fallen silent, and she set her gun on the dresser next to it. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her taking off her uniform and stripping down to a black tank top and underwear before she slid into bed.

“Do you think there’ll be music again?” Nolita asked.

“What?” I paused to catch my breath and look over at her.

“Do you think we’ll ever get to a point where we’ll make music again?” Nolita asked. “Or movies or books? Do you think we’ll ever have time for that again, or will we always be rushing to survive?”

“I don’t know.” I went back to my exercise, pushing myself harder and faster now because I didn’t want to think about what Nolita was saying.

Nolita rolled onto her side, so she could watch me. “How did you get so weak, anyways?”

Instead of answering her, I flipped over onto my back and started doing curl-ups. That actually wasn’t the best idea, since it hadn’t been that long since the last time Daniels and his crew had cut me open.

“What’s the deal with you and Daniels?” Nolita asked. “What happened with you guys inside?”

“He was a doctor, I was a patient,” I said. “Except he wasn’t trying to make me better. He was trying to find out why I wasn’t sick.”

She wrinkled her nose. “What does that mean?”

“Why don’t you ask him? I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Hmm.” Her forehead scrunched up as she thought for a moment. “Are you going to do that all night?”

“No, just a little bit longer.”

“Can I turn out the light?” Nolita asked.

“You can do whatever you want.”

She rolled over and blew out the light. I finished my workout in the dark, but I didn’t actually mind that much.


The river meant we weren’t too far away. I remembered crossing it as we drove away from the compound.

We’d left the farmhouse shortly after dawn, continuing our trek down the highway to the compound where I hoped to find my brother alive and well. The journey was as silent as it had been yesterday. Nolita and Daniels spoke a little, and of nothing of any interest to anyone else.