They took two of the picnic tables and set them in front of the double metal doors at the opening of the lodge. With that, we were essentially closed off from the world and probably the safest we’d been in a long while.
We all ate supper quickly, without really saying anything. The day had exhausted us. According to Boden’s calculations based on the map, we’d walked nearly forty miles. That was quite a feat, considering how much we’d walked the day before, and the day before that.
Stella hadn’t walked as much as the rest of us, but she was falling asleep while she was trying to eat. Bishop made up a bed for her, using some of her clothes for a pillow and blanket.
Shortly after that, everyone else started hunkering down for the night. lay laid next to Stella, and Bishop, Teddy, and Serg were asleep pretty quickly.
Boden, Daniels, Nolita, and I stayed up, sitting around the fire in a semi-circle. I wasn’t sure whether Boden meant to keep watch again tonight, although I didn’t really feel like we needed it. After the nightmares I’d had last night, I wasn’t eager to get to sleep, not until I would pass out cold, too deep asleep to moan or make a sound.
I’m not sure why Daniels and Nolita were staying up, but they sat awfully close to one another. Nolita had packed a thin army blanket with her, and they shared the one blanket between the two of them. It was wrapped over their shoulders like a shawl, and she rested her head on his shoulder.
They’d been doing that kind of stuff all day. Every time I saw them interact, they were touching or whispering something to each other. It was gross.
And I say that not just because I had feelings of revulsion for Daniels. Something about flirting during the apocalypse felt disgusting. It felt wrong to fall in love when people were dying all around you.
That’s part of the reason I’d refused to feel anything for Lazlo for so long. That and because of how things had turned out. We’d been separated, the way I’d always known we would, and one or both of us would probably end up dead soon.
When I thought of him now, I tried not to feel anything. The best way to do that would be not to think about him at all, but I hadn’t mastered that yet.
“How much longer until we hit Canada, do you think?” I asked.
“A week.” Boden shrugged. “It depends on how fast we go. Maybe a week longer until we’re far enough north for the zombies to stop following.”
He sat cross-legged with his hands held out toward the fire, warming them. I was leaning back, stretching my legs out, and with my arms propped beside me. It put too much pressure on my abdomen when I sat up normally. When I put my hand over my shirt, the incision felt swollen and warm.
“You think the zombies are following us?” I asked.
“They definitely are,” Daniels said. “That’s what I was saying at the quarantine. They’re following people wherever they go.”
“They won’t find us here, will they?” Nolita asked, her Southern accent sounding alarmed.
“Eventually.” Boden put his hands down and rested his elbows on his knees. “Hopefully not tonight, but we’re pretty well boarded up if they do.”
“What do you suppose happened to the people that were staying here?” Nolita looked around, admiring how closed off the lodge was. “Why do you think they left?”
“Probably for the same reason we left the quarantine,” Boden said. “The zombies surrounded the place. Given enough time, they would’ve gotten in. It’s better to run while you still have the chance to.”
“Maybe they did get in,” I said and motioned to the dried blood on the fireplace. “And there aren’t any bodies because they’re all zombies now.”
“One thing’s for sure,” Boden said sadly. “Zombies will always find a way in.”
“How much do we really know about them?” I asked, turning my attention to Daniels. “You’re the resident expert. What do you actually know about them?”
“I spent more time studying the virus itself than the actual zombies.” Daniels attempted to shy away from the question. “Anything I say about their behavior is sheer speculation.”
“But it’s your speculation that caused us to the leave the quarantine,” Boden said.
“No, a brutal zombie attack did that,” Daniels corrected him.
Boden’s expression hardened. “You’re arguing semantics. You’re the one who said that the zombies weren’t going to stop coming, that there were too many of us together making our scent too strong.”
“Yes, that is what I believe,” Daniels said. “But I can’t say that it’s an absolute fact. I can’t say much for certain about the zombies.”
“Well, what do you believe then?” I asked.
“They’re attracted to us, possibly by our pheromones, possibly by something else that we don’t even know about.” Daniels stared off as he spoke. “They’re getting smarter, and they communicate in some way more than sounds.”
Nolita gazed up at him, her face aglow from the fire, and she had an expression of pure unabashed reverence and love. She took his hand in hers and squeezed it, but Daniels didn’t seem to notice. He was too lost in thought.
“They do talk to each other,” Boden said. “We’ve heard their death groans and howls.”
Daniels shook his head “The death groans are just sounds. I think they make them unconsciously. The howls they do to alert the others when they’ve found food, but they have to have another way to communicate with such a vast group and to organize in the way that they are.”