Andrea and her boyfriend Brad, along with their new friend Sean and the young boy Danny, escaped from zombie infested Lynnwood to a quiet, cozy farm. After three months, the zombies seem to have thinned out and the four of them are getting used to their new life.
Except they are slowly running out of food, and they haven’t got a clue about how to butcher a cow.
When a prison bus carrying a close-knit family stops in their driveway, they invite them in for dinner. but soon, they discover the family harbors a terrifying secret.
And Brad still can’t shoot.
I lay in bed, next to my fiancé, Brad, and stared out through the window of our confiscated farmhouse, our refuge for the last three months from a world overrun with zombies. All I could see through the window was the cold gray morning fog. If it was anything like the last week’s weather, the fog would burn off by midday, turning the sky clear, but still cold.
I sat up. The chill in the house ate at my arms and my face, almost as if ice crystals had taken up residence.
I rubbed my face with my hands to warm up my cheeks. No ice crystals yet.
I glanced over at Brad, where he lay asleep, snoring. He had crawled into bed only hours earlier, after his shift on watch had ended. His hair had grown even longer than he had worn it three months earlier when the madness started. I liked it, though it did need a trim. He’d let his beard grow out, too. I didn’t blame him. I found myself wishing I could grow a beard, just to keep my face warm.
Unfortunately, he still had his clothes on, as did I. It was the only way to keep warm in late November when you didn’t dare light a fire.
Across the room, Danny, the ten-year-old boy we rescued that crazy night, still slept, too. He had his hand wrapped around the wrought iron fireplace poker we’d given him for defense. It wasn’t a gun, but it was better than nothing. We didn’t want him with a gun in his hand while he slept. He was covered in a pile of blankets we had scrounged up for him. It was one of the few nights he hadn’t tried to squeeze his body into bed with Brad and I.
I slipped off the bed and tucked the covers back down around Brad. I felt like giving him a kiss and placed my lips on his forehead, light enough that he wouldn’t be disturbed. He needed his sleep.
I went in search of Sean.
I found him sitting on the front porch, a sword in his hands, the shotgun propped up against the wall next to him. The ankle he had broken when jumping from his apartment balcony to the hood of the Humvee that first night had healed, for the most part. It still hurt him when standing or walking on it for too long. He tried to hide it, but could not keep the grimaces from his face. He had bundled himself in a thick, blue coat we’d found in the farmhouse. His face was just as scruffy as Brad’s. I never thought I’d be living with mountain men.
“Andrea,” he said, acknowledging me as I stepped out on the porch.
“Quiet?” I asked.
I looked out. It wasn’t fog that kept the morning light gray. Thick, dark clouds carpeted the sky. By the looks of them, we were in for rain, or snow, if it was cold enough. I wished we had a thermometer, like I imagined most farmhouses did. The one that had hung outside the front door of our farmhouse had shattered long ago.
Off the front porch, within easy reach, sat the Hummer, for all the good it would do us. The fuel had run out a month earlier.
It was safer than the house, though.
“What do you think, Andrea? Are we going to sit here all winter?”
“I’m not sure what else we’re going to do. We’ve got enough food, here,” I said.
Brad wanted to go rescue his step-mom, the only person he had left in his family besides me, but we hadn’t found a vehicle within walking distance that wasn’t smashed, and finding fuel had proven problematic.
And we didn’t even know if she was still alive. The phones had all died within two weeks of the zombie emergence.
“It doesn’t feel right, just sitting here,” Sean said.
“You sound as restless as Brad.”
“I am. My ankle’s mostly better, probably as good as it can get. We haven’t seen a zombie in days. Maybe…”
“They’re not gone,” I said. “We’re in the middle of nowhere out here. The cities will be teeming with them.”
“I’m not saying we should go to the cities,” Sean said. “I just think we should try to find some other survivors.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “You just want your own girl.”
Sean laughed, too. “It’s not that funny. You and Brad, you get to share the warmth. It’s cold sleeping alone.”
“You could go sleep in the barn with the cows,” I said. “It’s always warm in there.”
“Right. I smell bad enough as it is.”
He did. We all did. The water wasn’t running, either. We were surviving off bottled water and juice we’d scrounged from convenience and grocery stores.
The farm did have a hand pumped well, but the water came out pretty muddy, which meant we had to wait for the silt to settle before we could bathe in it. Most of the time, we just didn’t bother. What I wouldn’t give for a hot shower, but feeling clean wasn’t exactly worth the effort, the wait, or the chill of an unheated bath.
We hadn’t dared to drink the water ourselves, but we did pump it for the cows. We had decided to keep them alive as long as we could, hoping that someone would happen along that might know how to milk or butcher them.
It had surprised us, when we arrived, that the cows were still out in the fields munching on grass. It took a few encounters and a bit of observation before we noticed that the zombies seemed to avoid them. They pretty much avoided anything that wasn’t people.
“What’s for breakfast?” I asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “It’s your turn. I’m tired of making breakfast.”
Sean laughed. “You know I can’t cook.”
“Fine, give me the shotgun, you go get the eggs.”
Brad had been right about finding a farm. It had taken us longer than we had anticipated to find one that wasn’t burned out, looted, or so covered in blood that you couldn’t even breathe inside.
When we finally found this one, with the Hummer almost out of fuel for the fortieth time, it had come with a bonanza of farm animals, including the aforementioned cows, and chickens. Dozens and dozens of chickens.
They’d all be dead, soon. We were running out of feed and we were down to the last eight. Once we realized we’d lose them all at once, we started killing and eating them. I hated all the plucking that was necessary, but after a couple tries, it didn’t turn out too bad, and it beat canned beans every night.
It would be time to slaughter another one soon, but not today.
“Fine,” Sean said, “I’ll go get the eggs.”
He stood up and handed the shotgun to me. He kept the sword for himself and stepped off the porch.
Right after I heard the first crunch of dirt from his heel, I thought I heard a low hum, like that of a motor.
The motor sound disappeared. Whatever it was, it had been far away.
We waited in silence for a few moments.
I heard the chickens clucking away in the coop, though, and a cow chose that moment to throw out a plaintive moo.
I just about told him to go get the eggs when the sound came back. It was louder, now, and clearly a motor, a vehicle motor.
“Forget the eggs,” I said. “Wake up Brad and Danny.”
Even with the urgency that might be necessary, you didn’t shout. You never knew how far away the zombies were.
Sean clambered back up onto the porch and hurried inside.
I stepped off the porch and ran for the Humvee. It might not go anywhere, but the gun still worked.
This was our fucking farm, and I was not about to let someone come in and take it without a fight.
We didn’t have much ammo left for the big gun, a dozen rounds at most, but our visitors wouldn’t know that. The gun had been a lifesaver when Brad’s father used it and some quick thinking to extract me from the nightmare my apartment had become. Unfortunately, he had used up most of the rounds.
On our trip to the rural areas north of Seattle, we had conserved what we could. We weren’t likely to find any more ammo for the gun. We had stumbled across a couple of gun shops on our trip, but they had been stripped bare. The weapons we had were pretty much it, unless we could get back to Brad’s father’s place, or we got lucky and stumbled across an abandoned survivalist compound—where the word abandoned means the people turned into zombies and left, leaving their weapons behind.
Brad thought we might find one or two out here, but we had had no luck.
The sound of the motor grew louder.
I swiveled the gun around to point down the gravel encrusted driveway. I had a quarter mile of unobstructed view to the road, a two lane strip of pavement that wound along the base of a tree covered hill. That quarter mile would give me more than enough time to decide whether or not to open fire on our visitors, should they decide to turn down the driveway.
And I didn’t doubt they would at least think about it. They weren’t driving fast. They were looking for something.
The door to the house opened behind me, and feet rumbled on the porch. I chanced a peek and saw Sean and Brad and their weapons. Brad was still rubbing at his eyes with one hand, but carried a sword in the other. Despite my efforts to teach him, he was still useless with a gun. He hadn’t really mastered the sword, either, but he’d become proficient at dispatching zombies with it, and for the most part, that’s all that mattered.
It worried me. I would have preferred he take them out at a distance, but he couldn’t hit anything farther away than about ten feet.
He looked up at me and pursed his lips into a kiss.
God, I loved him. He was always thinking of me.
I just wished he could shoot.
The sound of the motor grew suddenly louder, and I spun back around. It wasn’t a car at all. A school bus, painted white and gray, emerged from behind a copse of trees beyond the cow pastures. Even from where I was, I could see that the windows were either painted or armored.
“Shit,” Brad said.
“What?” I asked, even though I felt the same way. A bus could be carrying a lot of people.
“It’s a prison bus,” he said.
“Damn,” I said. “Get off the porch. Where’s Danny?”
“I left him asleep,” Sean said.
“Go get him,” I said. Leaving Danny alone in the house during this confrontation was only a marginally worse idea than having him with us, but if we had to run, I wasn’t leaving him behind.
Brad jumped off the front porch to crouch behind the Humvee. Sean ran back inside.
I ducked down into the Humvee.
The last thing we needed was to have a bus full of ex-cons see us and think we were easy prey. We weren’t, but it would be better off if they didn’t see us at all. It made me wish we could hide the Humvee and its gun, but it was too late for that.
I found myself wishing Brad was in the Humvee with me. He could drive, I could shoot. We could take out that bus without a problem, if only we had fuel.
The shooting would draw zombies, though. Hell, the sound of that bus was likely to draw a few.
The bus slowed as it approached the turn to our driveway.
They were thinking about it.
They were probably looking for loot, and if that’s what they were looking for, we had it.
The bus came to a stop.
I opened a compartment behind the front seats and pulled out a pair of binoculars.
With the closer view, I could see that the bus was definitely armored with something, but there was no logo on the side. I couldn’t see very well through the door, as it was armored, too, but I saw well enough to see a shadow move inside. They were scoping us out, or at least, checking out the Humvee. They were probably looking for activity.
The bus rolled forward, and then it made a slow turn into our driveway.
Hiding had not been the answer.
I pushed myself back up into the sling for the gun and showed myself.
“Come out, Brad,” I said.
Now that they had rolled down our driveway, we needed to show them we weren’t to be fucked with.