re_mybrains: ('Cause I'm a wanderer)
[personal profile] re_mybrains
May 2, 2008

Every once in a while, you meet people on the road.

When all of you are walking, it gets kind of awkward because from a distance it's a little hard to tell the difference between we've been walking for days and we're tired and braaaaaaaaains, and then everyone ends up pointing guns at each other's heads, although usually by the time the other person has a gun out that's a pretty good indication that he or she is not in fact a zombie, but then everyone's pointing guns and it just gets tense, you know?


The group Tom has run into consists of a guy, smarmy and college-aged but friendly, and two girls; one of them, once Tom's non-zombie status was assured, promptly sat him down and started grilling him on where he's from, bright and bubbly and efficient. (The other, who's carrying a sawed-off shotgun over her shoulder and keeping a lookout, keeps giving him looks that suggest he had just better watch it because if he causes any trouble she'll have no compunctions about taking his gun and leaving. It's a little nerve-wracking. He suspects the twitchiness makes him look more pathetic than normal.)

"I, um, Detroit, originally," he tells the bubbly girl, who says her name is Heather (and seriously, what are the odds of that?). "I've been on the road since then."

"Like where?"

"Uh, Pennsylvania--"

"Pennsylvania?" repeats the guy (whose name is Evan, Tom thinks), suddenly losing the smarm in favor of urgency. "Did you go through Pittsburgh?"

Tom shakes his head. "No, man, sorry. I came in from the north and headed into Harrisburg. And if you head that way? Don't go to Harrisburg. I got caught in a building by a nasty shamble."

"How'd you get out?" asks Little Miss Shotugn, whose name Tom still hasn't caught.

Tom opens his mouth and pauses. He hadn't meant to let that slip out. "Waited 'em out," he finally answers, weakly.

Shotgun gives him a look, resettles her gun on her shoulder, and looks out along the road again. "Good thing you skipped Pittsburgh. That's Romero country."

Evan looks upset, rubbing his face. Tom rubs the back of his neck. "Sorry, man."

"No, no, 'sokay."

Heather eyes Evan, then looks back at Tom. "'s that where you're comin' from? Harrisburg?"

"No, uh, I went on to Philly after that, and then New York--"

Heather and Little Miss Shotgun both sit up at that. "How's New York?"

"Shitty. Better than DC, but still shitty."

"You went to DC?" Evan asks, frowning.

"Yeah." Tom swallows. He doesn't like thinking about it. "Ghost town, man. I think New York got hit harder, but DC was just . . . I mean in New York people are, like, surviving, they're getting together, you know? It's scary, but -- it's like people just left DC to the zombies."

He scratches his chin. He hasn't shaved in a week -- couldn't find a safe convenience store to loot razors from -- and he wonders how Evan is staying so clean-cut. "I went 'cause I figured, you know, maybe the feds were still there, maybe they were working on rebuilding, but . . . nada. Just shambles and a couple crazy survivors that I couldn't get close enough to talk to."

. . . Nobody seems to have anything to say to that.

At least not for a minute. Then Shotgun taps her fingers on the butt of the gun and says brightly, "So did you see Ted Stevens shambling around or what? Not that you could probably tell the difference between normal Stevens and zombie Stevens."

". . . Who the fuck is Ted Stevens?"

She waves a hand. "Never mind."

The tension is hardly gone, but it's at least lessened a little. Heather insists on sharing a few rations with Tom, who (after noticing Shotgun's eyeroll and Evan's rueful expression) insists on sharing a few back. They don't offer to travel with him, which he's kind of grateful for and hurt by at the same time -- it's awkward to turn people down, but it's nice to get the offer.

"Where you headed next?" Heather asks, as they all shoulder their packs and stand.

"West, I guess."

"Lay my head tonight on a bed of California stars," Shotgun mutters, looking absent for the first time, then gives him a hard look. "You should get yourself a flamethrower or something. There's a lot of zombies to fuck up between here and the west coast."

Tom blinks at her, suddenly aching somewhere behind his solar plexus. And get a flamethrower. Can you use a manpack?

Why am I still here?

"Yeah, well." He swallows. "I'll see what I can do."

"Good luck," Evan offers, sticking out a hand. Tom shakes it, nodding.

They head north; he heads west. He hopes they make it -- even Shotgun seemed nice at the end there.

And he wonders again, hiking his pack higher on his back, why the fuck he's still here, what the hell he thinks he can do to save the world.

If it gets too bad, come back, Kendra told him. If I have to try every door between New York and here, he told her.

It's not too bad yet, is it? Even after DC? He's honestly not sure.

"I'll just check a couple more cities," he murmurs to the asphalt, and the clouds. Just a couple more.

Just enough to get the big picture.

(. . . He wishes he hadn't thought of it like that.)
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