Semester of the Dead 2, Chapter 1

Chapter 1

“If you’re hearing this—-we need your help.  If you’re hearing this, we are stationed at Charleston South Radio station.  Once you’re in the city, you can follow the signs to the airport.  We aren’t too far.  We will let you through the front doors.  If you’re hearing this we need help.  We have no food, no water, and no real shelter.  Stay clear of the airport.  There’s a swarm of Biters there.  If you can help us, please come during the day.  At night the Biters are out.  If anyone is out there, please help us.  This message will repeat in the case for any reason you need to hear it again.  Thank you.”

After finishing the broadcast, I motion my hand across my neck in a slicing fashion.  This lets Iggy know that I am done talking so that he can stop recording.  Iggy hits two buttons before nodding to me, letting me know that I am off the air.

“Perfect,” he states, “Frequency goes out for—-ehh—-500 miles give or take.”

“Should I redo it. I sound like shit—-”

“Nah you sounded good.”

“Good?”

When I ask he turns towards me.  We’d gone through hell to get here.  We’d lost all our food.  I had heard about this radio station from back in the day.  My mother and I drove past it.

Good wasn’t enough.

“It’s OK,” he tells me, “Ay—look at me.  Its OK…this is going to work.”

“We walked 100 miles to get here.  We don’t have any food left.  Any water.  Mitchell—I don’t think Mitchell is looking too good.  All to get to this radio station.  What if I fail everyone?  What if I fail everyone as I failed HIM…”

Iggy knows just who I’m talking about.  He grabs me by my hand.  I feel weak when I start tearing up.

“You didn’t fail HIM,”  Iggy states, “Alaric died knowing how bad things are.  Stop crying OK.”

“I wish I could.”

“Those tears look real good for a guy who is almost dehydrating,” he states, “You keep looking tasty I’ll probably have to eat you.  You know how desperate people get when the world has gone to shit.  Might end up cannibalizing you.”

“Stop.”

I know he’s trying to cheer me up and it works especially when he scoops up my tears and licks it.   Iggy has always been great in trying to make me feel better.  He’s always been the one who protected me and kept me safe.  Times like this was when he didn’t just help my physical well being.  He helped my emotional well-being too.

And I smile.

“Damn that smile does it for me every time,” he admits, in a deep velvet tone.

I don’t expect him to say it.  I don’t expect him to lean forward and kiss me.  It’s a slow kiss.  It’s not the best kiss.  Probably because he’s too nervous and probably because our mouths both taste bad.  It’s not something we can help.  It’s been almost 3 months since we’d come across toothpaste.  Valentina, Iggy’s sister, was constantly complaining about her toothache.  The Apocalypse is the wrong time to have a fucked up tooth.  Valentina can attest to that.

Anyway…back to the kiss.

Oh yeah.  It was well.  It was short. Don’t get me wrong.  The breath or the awkwardness of it doesn’t make it any less special.  The last time he kissed me was a month ago.  A month ago when we were last alone.  We’re barely alone together anymore.  It’s never smart to be alone.

The kiss sends waves through me.  I smile harder than I expect.  Iggy grabs me by my waist and pulls me in.  He cups his hands around my ass.  He’s going further this time.  He’s going further than either of us are really comfortable going.

That’s when the door opens.

“Sunday, your boyfriend is downstairs…waiting with the car, ” the guy named Quest says to us when he opens the door.

I am Sunday. Iggy, well, he’s not my boyfriend.

Quest seems to be more aware of this than anything. His face doesn’t have a reaction.  No reaction doesn’t mean good.  I feel embarrassed as I pull away from him wondering immediately what kind of issue I had just brought to the group.  I shouldn’t have fucking done it.  I shouldn’t have kissed him.  Peace in the group meant everything nowadays.   I knew Quest.  I knew Quest well enough to know he was going to tell my boyfriend.

And shit was going to go from bad to worse…

~

You would think in a world where zombies took over, I wouldn’t be worried about love.  You’re wrong.  I’m in a serious relationship…even at the end of the world.  My group of friends has been traveling forever.  Sometimes—-like in moments like this personal issues break through.  Sometimes was just way too many times lately.

We wouldn’t be able to survive much longer, but then again I’d had the thought before.  This time I may have been right though.   I’d pushed them to the limits traveling further than we’d ever traveled before.  100 miles to Charleston.  It took us almost 5 days just to transmit a frequency.

Begging for help.

“Did you get it?” Nixon asks me.

He’s been waiting in the car.  My boyfriend is THE Nixon West.  He’d almost been famous.  One of the West brothers.  Hell, he was on his way to real fame when the world went to shit.  He had that movie star look to him even if it was covered in piles of dirt so thick you couldn’t see that natural tan of his anymore.  He was muscular and while the weight loss looked horrible on everyone else it kind of worked for him toning his abs.  Right now he isn’t wearing a shirt, which seems to be his thing.

“Sure did bae,” I tell him.

“That’s what I’m talking baby—POWER GET THE FUCK IN THE BACK!  My bae is sitting up front with me,” Nixon states, “He’s the Shit!”

He isn’t alone.  In the passenger side of the seat is Michael Power.  He is literally the biggest dickhead I’d ever met in my life.  Right now though he is being nice to me.

“I always knew you were right about that radio station,” he states.

“Really, because I swear the comment you made before we headed to Charleston was something like: That fuckin Dumbass Sunday is going to get us bitten or worse,”  Iggy remembers.

Knowing Power I knew that was exactly what he said.  I can see him send over Nixon a stare.  They were best friends and I knew they almost knew a language that only the two of them could understand.  Right now I was sure he was calling Iggy ‘an uptight dickhead who thinks he’s always in charge’ but I also know that Power wouldn’t dare say that to Iggy in his face.  Then again, neither would my boyfriend Nixon.  At least now…

“Everyone good to head back to camp?” Nixon asks, clearly trying to avoid an argument, “Quest you OK?”

Quest is acting weird.  I know why.  That kiss that he saw was on his mind.  Nixon and Power were close but they had a third friend that did everything with them.  That was Quest.

All of a sudden I’m nervous. Nervous as fuck. Quest looks over at me.  If looks could kill I’d be as dead as the Biters walking around, “I’m fine…”

~

We are heading back to camp.  Now I had to have the added pressure of knowing that someone knows that we were kissing.  I look over at Iggy.  He looks back at me silently for a second before playing with his curls.   Iggy Serrano was like my brother.  Growing up him and his sister Valentina helped me through so much of my life.  He is trying to play it cool leaning up to face the sun hoping that it’d penetrate.  Out of all of us, Iggy somehow remained the cleanest.  Don’t ask me how he got his copper skin to glow or his curly hair to look moisturized with the limited amount of water we found.   It was a goddam art is what it was.

He is rolling his fingers through his curls sneaking glances at me through the rearview mirror when we all hear the sound.

The eerie sound of a scream!

“That’s coming from camp!”  I find myself screaming.

We’re close enough to camp that Iggy jumps out.  I’m not surprised.   I AM surprised when Quest jumps out too.  See Iggy’s sister Valentina was left back at camp.  She wasn’t the only one though. Quest’s ex-boyfriend Mitchell was left back at camp too. Seeing how Quest was reacting definitely made me feel like there was more between the two.

I find myself staying in the car and we get there almost exactly the same time as the overzealous Iggy and Quest get there.

By the time we jump out, we see what’s happening.

It was one of them——a biter, that is. The biter has Valentina on the ground!

“HELP!” Valentina is screaming out at the top of her lungs.

We race to save her!  I hear her voice etched with fear as she struggles…

We won’t make it in time…not to push it off.

”Valentina!”

I could feel her fear.  I wish I were faster. I’m not. The biter was nothing much more than a corpse at this point.  The infection had given it giant boils and lungs filled with what looked like a dark green mucus.  It snaps at Valentina below it looking all mangled and battered.  It’s teeth getting so close that I’m shocked she was able to keep it away for this long.

If we were lucky it would kill Valentina. If we were unlucky it would bite Valentina and within a few hours——a day at most——- Valentina would be a biter.

That’s when I hear it.  A bang! Hope that crackles through the fear. Along clapping bang that fills the air.  It’s Iggy.  He’s shot the zombie twice in the head.  If he was just a little off the bullet would have hit Valentina.

Valentina wasn’t going to die. Not today.

Iggy runs over to his sister desperate.

“Are you hurt?” he asks, “Are you—-”

He can’t say it.  I see his face turn red.  Just then I see Michael Power who also happens to be in a very annoying relationship with my childhood friend.  Michael Power wasn’t good enough for Valentina.  Sure they looked like they could go together.  Michael Power was some wealthy Richie Rich type Italian boy with a pompous attitude and Valentina, the sexy but strangely smart Latina sex bomb who was popular in school.  But Valentina was actually a good person.  I wish I could say the same for Power.

It’s him who announces as though he is responsible for the saving shot, “I got you baby. I got you and you’re not bitten.”

Its a silent relief for everyone when we hear it.

“How did they get past the fence?” Nixon asks.

He had a point.  There was a fence around our hideout.  It wasn’t much of a fence.  Hell, it wasn’t much of a hideout, but we made it last minute while we worked on getting the radio in the tower to work.  Biters were slow. Slow and dumb. We had to be smart on our feet.  This was our last hope for life.

Valentina just shakes her head, seeming embarrassed about what happened, “Let’s not talk about it.  I’m not bitten.  That’s all that matters…”

She didn’t have to.  Her face says it all.  It’s Michael Power who looks like is going to snap.  He walks over towards the hideout.  He looks so fucking heated.

“That little piece of shit!  MITCHELL!”  he screams at the top of his lungs.

No one seems to care when Michael Power walks into the house, finds Mitchell who has been hiding out scared for his life in a corner and lifts him up.  Michael Power is twice Mitchell’s size—-malnourished and all—but is squaring up like they are equals.

“I meant to secure the gate,” Mitchell is pleading to the bigger teenager, “It’s just the fucking Biters. They are getting faster.  They are fucking getting faster.  If it weren’t for Valentina—-”

“And you just fuckin abandoned her?”

That’s when he does it.  He hits Mitchell hard.  REAL HARD.  If there was one thing almost all the guys seemed to have in common, it was the fact that they all seemed annoyed at Mitchell.  I had to admit, Mitchell was a fuck up.   Him not securing the gate when we left was the one thing that Iggy asked him to do.  Maybe that’s why Iggy, our fearless leader has his arms crossed and is just shaking his head.  Mitchell won’t get any help from the one guy who could probably beat Power’s ass. Iggy was staying out of it. He seems satisfied enough that his sister is OK.

Nixon isn’t much better.  He wasn’t going to step in against his best friend on Mitchell’s regard.  There was no way in hell that was going to happen.

Power isn’t done either.  He grabs Mitchell and begins punching him.  He’s punching him right in his fuckin face.  Blood is pouring from the kid’s mouth.  I get why they are upset.  I understand why they are annoyed that Mitchell was dumb enough to not only leave the gate open but also leave Valentina for dead while he hid. But Mitchell was one of my best friends —-coward or not——so I lunge forward.

“Get the fuck off of him!” I demand, trying to pull him off.

What irritates me is that no one helps me.  NO ONE! It’s the opposite.

Nixon shakes his head, “He’s eating up our food, drinking our water and using up our resources.  The least he can do is help defend us.  Or at least fucking scream and go running for help.  ANYTHING.   Honestly, Sunday…I know you’re a good person but your best friend is hopeless.”

Nixon could be such an asshole at times.   I knew it was pointless arguing with him.  He would take the side of Power in a case like this.

That’s when I turn to Quest, “You really going to let him do that to Mitchell?”

Coward. That’s what I thought about Quest. He liked Mitchell but they were over.

Mitchell looks hurt by it.  Almost completely broken actually.  He squirms away bloody and bruised to my shadow clinging to my feet.  The truth is there was a time Quest really cared about Mitchell.  There was a time I thought they would last a while.  That time had gone almost right after we lost Alaric.  Something had broken them up.  Quest never would talk about it.  It was like he refused to speak on it to the rest of us.  But I knew that Mitchell knew what it was.

Quest finally says something to deflect, “You’re the last one who should be worried about loyalty, huh, Sunday?”

I never thought Quest liked me.  Not really.  The feeling was very mutual.

It’s Nixon who acts as the middle man finally and breaks it up, “Ok.  It’s over guys.  We did good today.  We did well.”

~

We are gathered around the fire that night.  It’s not safe to travel at night.  It’s not safe to go to sleep either.  The Biters got in the weirdest places.  They could get to you before you knew it.  If we waited another second Valentina would have been gone.  I look over at her.  She gives me a smile silently assuring anyone who looked her way that she was fine.  Valentina is sitting on Michael Power’s lap.   Not too far from them is me and Nixon.  There is an awkward tension between Quest and Mitchell. It’s something we all had gotten used as they stay close even while ignoring one another.

Then there is Iggy.  All alone.  He’s silently pacing.

“What is that?” he asks Valentina.

Valentina is watching the fire from her boyfriend’s lap.  She has some meat on a stick.  It looks hard, almost as though it isn’t completely edible.

She looks at her brother harshly and sighs, “Do you really want to know?”

Iggy shakes his head, “I guess not.”

Valentina smiles, “We won’t be in this shit for long. That broadcast had to work.”

Iggy goes silent.  He is in charge for the most part. However, with Nixon, Power, and Quest feeling themselves a lot lately he has been getting listened to less and less.  The three guys always had each other’s back.  Always.

“If it doesn’t work, we are fucked,” Power states.

“It’ll work,” Iggy responds, “That’s enough Power.”

“What’s the problem?” Nixon asks almost immediately, “Power is just concerned.  We don’t have any more food left.”

The dick measuring contest was normal but today was different. Today I got caught kissing Iggy.

“I know that. Sunday knows that…” Iggy states, “He knows that this was a hard choice to come all the way here.  We didn’t have a choice.  The New World Order didn’t want us around anymore.  No matter how much we begged.  We didn’t have a way to be safe.  Stop making him feel bad.”

“This isn’t about Sunday,” Nixon states.

“Can you two please stop arguing?” I interrupt, “This is our last chance.  Power is right.  I have to be right.”

“We’ll find another way if the broadcast doesn’t work,” Valentina states.

Iggy agrees with her almost immediately, “We always find another way.”

“A swarm is coming towards us,” I state, “We don’t have enough gas to outrun it.  There could be thousands.  They are headed this way.”

There is a silence.  It sweeps over me and my friends like a cold chill to wake them all up. They had to know what was at stake. I couldn’t keep it from them any longer.  We couldn’t outrun what was coming.  Even if we wanted to we didn’t have the energy with food becoming scarce.

“How’d you know that?” Power asks me.

“The same way he knew that Atlanta was gone.  The same way he knew that Athens was swarmed too,” Valentina answers at that moment, “The only hypothesis is that Sunday’s connection to the virus means that he can feel large amounts of the Biters together.  He knows where they are.”

I nod.

Valentina got it. She was always smart.  She’d be the one to figure it out.  I’d been feeling it for a minute.  I didn’t want to tell them.  I didn’t want to freak them out.  I didn’t want them looking at me the way that they are looking at me now.

“Are you—-safe?”

This actually comes from my boyfriend.  This comes from fuckin’ Nixon!  He says it and backs up, just a little bit.  It looks like he is really actually nervous about me.  He’s really fucking scared.

“We’ve been around him how long?” Iggy defends me, “Don’t you think if he was going to turn, he would have done it by now?”

“The Virus is in him,” Quest adds.

He was right.  The virus was in me.  It was more than that.  My blood mutated.  It was what caused the virus in the first place.   It’s the reason why my father’s military group decided that it was best that I leave him.  He felt like if I stuck with him, I’d be a target.  Or maybe he felt like his team would be a target.  Who knows?  All I know is that me and my friends have been out on our own.

And I know that they’re afraid of me.

“I’m the reason behind all of this,” I state, tears coming down my eyes, “I’m the reason he’s dead.  I’m the reason Alaric is dead.”

I still remembered the day that he died.  I still remembered how bad it hurt.   At that moment, I look to my left and the first person there for me is Iggy. As always. Iggy grabs me and pulls me close.  He holds me there with him for a second.  Ignacio was always good at comforting. He would tell me that God never made mistakes.  So, I should smile.  What about this virus then?  Was this not a mistake?

Did God want Alaric West to die?

“You want to stop TOUCHING him like that?” Nixon asks.

It comes out of nowhere.  Nixon’s immediate aggression seems to permeate from his pores.  All of us look at one another.  There is a heavy awkwardness.   It’s not hard to know almost immediately why Nixon was snapping.  When I look over at Quest I can see it on his face.  Nixon was snapping because Quest told him.  Quest let him know what happened.

Ignacio’s expression contorts, “Your boyfriend is upset about your dead brother and the only thing you are worried about is HOW I’m comforting him?”

Nixon isn’t backing down.

“This isn’t about Alaric.”

We haven’t come to terms with it.  It was still so fresh.  8 months have passed.  You would think in a world like this communication would be key.  But that communication ended when it came to Alaric.

“We left him to die,” Iggy states bluntly.

“He was turning.”

“We could have waited.  We could have waited until he was all the way gone.  We left him.  And it was because of you, Nixon.  You kept pushing…YOU KEPT FUCKING pushing that we abandon him.  Your own brother.”

“Iggy—-,” I start.

Iggy isn’t having it.  I might as well not have said anything.  He’s upset.  He’d been really to himself ever since the day that Alaric died.

“He was turning,” Nixon repeats, “What the fuck is the point of you bringing this back up?”

I hate remembering it.  I hate remembering the way Alaric’s flesh looked when he died.  I hate thinking about how his veins turned purple. I liked to remember the Alaric from before.  Before his sandy skin tone turned pale as milk.   Before his multi-colored eyes turned a dusty gray.   Before his curly soft beachy wavy curls had begun to fall out.

“What happened that day?” Iggy asks.

“Iggy don’t,” I try to stop him.

“Iggy this isn’t cool,” Valentina responds.

At this point, not even Valentina and I could calm Iggy down.  We were the closest ones to him but something has him worked up.  Something that he isn’t letting go of.  Something that causes him to get into Nixon’s face.  They are well matched.  I’d tell you that much.  Nixon may have been taller but Iggy was strong.  We all knew that.  He’d always been the one to carry the heaviest loads when we traveled.

“We left him,” Nixon states, “I made an executive decision.  I know that my boyfriend cared about my little brother.  I didn’t want him to see Alaric turn into a Biter.”

“I’m not talking about that day.  I’m talking about the day before.  The day he got bitten,” Iggy corners Nixon, “You were with him.  You said that he was dead.  But he wasn’t.  He was bitten.  The day you left him.”

“I thought he was dead.”

“You didn’t say you thought when we asked you.  You said you were SURE he was dead,” Iggy reminds Nixon.

“You trying to turn Sunday against me? Is that what this is?” Nixon asks, “I know about the kiss.”

I notice Valentina’s posture change. Could things be any more awkward?

“This is ABOUT Alaric.”

“No, it’s not.  It’s about Sunday.  You were jealous of my little brother.  The same way you are jealous of me.  This isn’t about Alaric,” Nixon argues, “It’s about the fact that you are in love with Sunday.  And we’re going to settle this now.  Sunday…you need to choose.”

“He’s right,” Michael Power states, “We can’t have this drama in the group.  Sunday, you need to choose.”

That’s when I look over at Iggy.  He didn’t have anyone on his side at this moment.  Not even Valentina.  She liked to stay out of it when the guys were talking.  The revelation of our kiss had caught her off guard.  She was a non-confrontational person for the most part.  Maybe that’s why she just sinks back into her seat.  It leaves me.  All eyes are on me right now.

Do I stick up for Iggy?   Do I support Nixon?

Iggy is desperate to make his point to me, “Sunday.  It’s me.  I’m telling you that something happened that day.  I’m telling you something is wrong with how it happened. You CAN’T tell me it isn’t weird how Alaric died.  They are hiding something.  All THREE of them.  LOOK AT THEM!”

Iggy points at Nixon, Quest and Michael Power who have all somehow managed to share the same facial expression.  It was clear it was them against Iggy.  I guess, in a way, it had always been them against Iggy.  Iggy isn’t backing down though.  That’s not his nature.

“Choose,” Nixon tells me.

Iggy shakes his head, “Sunday, please…”

“No Iggy,” I state, “Whatever we had…it’s over.”

“Sunday don’t be ridiculous.  You TRUST this SLIMY piece of shit?” he asks.

“Stop talking about him like that,” I warn Iggy, “If you don’t respect my relationship we can’t be friends anymore. I choose Nixon.”

I know it’s harsh when the words come out of my mouth.   I think Iggy would have—- at that moment at least—-rather be hit by a bat than to hear the words coming out of my mouth.  Iggy always had a strong structure to his face.  A powerful jawline, outlined by thick eyebrows and full lips.  Right now everything is sucked in.  I can almost see the pain coming out on his expression.

I’ve broken him.

“Sunday…” he starts off seemingly trying to plead or perhaps to make sense of what just happened here.  It seems like he decides against it.

He nods and walks away.  Clearly defeated.

That’s when Nixon comes over to me.  He walks over to me in the same way as the day that I met him.  He was a dark angel.  Usually shirtless with his dark skin and green eyes.   He scoops me into his arms and at that moment I can feel that a part of him might actually care about me.

“Thanks, baby,” he states, “Thanks for having my back.  Iggy…he’s losing it.  What the fuck does he think happened with Alaric, anyway?  Where the hell was he getting at?  He’s clearly losing it…”

“Yeah.”

They spend the rest of the night talking shit on Iggy.  It’s really bad.  I feel bad that I had to choose a side tonight in front of everyone.  I feel bad that Iggy is on his own.  Valentina goes to check on him but he doesn’t want to talk to anyone.

Everyone is in a shitty mood.  The dirt is getting to us.  The hunger is getting to us.  The thirst is getting to us.  The threat is getting to us.

But worst of all…we are getting to ourselves.

“We have to do something,” I hear Power say to Nixon, “We have to do something about Iggy.  He is losing it.  You know?”

He’s talking to Nixon but he is looking around at the rest of us. I’m not sure what that ‘something’ he wants to do it but I know they are desperate. This argument is the worst it’s gotten.  One thing that was becoming very clear was that this situation between the group of us wasn’t going to last.  It couldn’t possibly last.

Something had to fold.

We wouldn’t survive the Biters much longer.  We wouldn’t survive our hunger much longer.

We wouldn’t survive each other much longer.

“Come to bed babe,” Nixon states, “It’s been a long day.”

Our sleeping quarters weren’t really much of anything. Some dirty blankets that we carried around with us everywhere.  My face had broken out completely from all the dirt and grime.  Other people weren’t faring much better.  Valentina’s tooth was becoming an issue.  Then there was Power who was having issues with his hair falling out probably from malnourishment.   We were suffering and sometimes, like today, they went to sleep early because it helped with the hunger.

“I’ll be in there in a minute.  Just something I have to do.”

Nixon nods.

As soon as he does I find myself waiting until everyone has gone in.  I stay outside.  And then I head back.  I head back to the radio station.

I have no choice.  If we didn’t get help, we wouldn’t be around much longer.

~

Hours later I return.  Hours later when I notice there is a bit of panic around the camp.

“Where the hell have you been!”  Valentina asks I walk over, “You had us all worried sick.”

“I went to the radio station.”

“Alone?” Iggy asks seeming just as pissed as Valentina, “You can’t do things alone Sunday.  You know why.  Out of all of us, you are the most important.  Your blood is important Sunday.   If something happened to you—-”

“Nothing’s going to happen to me,” I argue.

“YOU DON’T FUCKING KNOW THAT!”

Just at that moment, Nixon, Quest and Michael Power come out.  The tension seemed to have died down just for a little bit.   Just long enough for me to get away and return.  Now that I returned though I had news for them.

“Guys—–we’re saved.”

“What?”

“We’re saved.  I have the coordinates,” I state, “A safe house.  They call it Little America.  Supposedly they don’t have biters there.  Supposedly they have food.  They have water.”

They all look at me as though not quite understanding the words that are coming out of my mouth.  For a long second, it doesn’t click to them that I got a response to my SOS message.  Someone had called back.   It is Mitchell who reacts first.  It’s a slow, hard tear coming down his eyes followed by a whining sound.  The kind of sound you don’t expect to hear from a grown man.

“A safe—a safe house?” Mitchell asks.

He’s so sensitive.  He’s so nervous.  That’s when everyone begins to scream.  I hadn’t seen anything like it.  Fuck alerting the Biters.  Fuck alerting possible bandits trying to steal our supplies nearby.   At this moment we were teenagers.  We were back to being teenagers struggling in a world we couldn’t survive alone in.  And we realized there was help.   I notice how Quest hugs Mitchell, despite the fact that they had broken up and things between them were weird.  My own boyfriend hugs me.

Even Iggy lets down his guard and rolls out a stream of deep heavy laughter.

The news was the easy part.

“Guys there’s something else,” I state, “We are going to have to split up.”

“Split up?”

“The coordinates are for two separate locations,” I explain, “I believe I may have heard them wrong.  Here, bring a map.”

We gather around, clearly excited about the idea that this is happening. We had maps galore.  Luckily they seemed to survive the apocalypse really well and we’d lucked out with gas stations.   Maps and gas had kept us alive this whole time.  Even though the cars hardly worked well. Unfortunately one couldn’t really eat maps or gas.  If that were the case we’d be living like kings by now.

I point to the two locations on the map.

“Here…and here,” I state, “This one is Burlington Harbor.  Which is to the south of here.  The other one is an old NASA location just east of here.   I’m assuming it’s more than likely Burlington Harbor.”

“How do we decide who goes where?” Valentina asks.

Iggy shakes his head, “This is Sunday’s plan.  He should decide.”

They’d stuck with me this far.  They all look over at me.  I wondered if anyone besides Iggy really thought my plan to make it this far just to use a radio station and broadcast on short frequency would actually work.  Right now, though, they all seem more than willing to listen at least.

“The toughest members can go to Burlington Harbor since that is most likely the correct coordinates.   Once they get help they’ll be able to circle back and get the rest of us.  That means Quest, Michael, and Nixon.”

“What about me?” Iggy asks.

I think he feels slighted I didn’t mention him as one of the strongest members.

“You heard him,” Nixon quickly reacts, “Our strongest members.   Besides.  This is Sunday’s idea.  Didn’t you just say that a second ago?”

Iggy looks irritated, “Sunday.  If help is most likely at Burlington Harbor…I really…REALLY think I should go.  Please.”

I know why he’s saying it.  It’s very clear.  He doesn’t trust Nixon, Michael, and Quest.  He isn’t being very sly about it.  Maybe he doesn’t think they’d come back for us if they find help.

“I think it’ll be better,” I tell Iggy, “Do you trust me?”

He is silent for a moment but then nods.

“What about us?” Mitchell asks, “I mean Sunday you might be smart but you aren’t really muscle.  What if we get attacked.  Only Iggy to defend us?  What if there is a swarm?”

“There’s no swarm,” I state, “I can feel them remember?  I know exactly where they are going to be at.”

“We don’t have a choice,” Michael Power states, “The three of us will go to Burlington and just to be safe the rest of you go to the other location.  If they are at Burlington we’ll know exactly where to find you guys.”

Iggy looks irritated.  He looks beyond irritated.  He kicks at the fire, “This is a mistake.”

I know that he’s upset.  I know Iggy.  He isn’t going to let this go.  But I’ve thought about this long and hard and I am sure this is the best thing.  This is the only decision at this point.

~

“It’s not fair they got the car,” Iggy is saying, “If they were so fucking strong, why let them get the car?”

I ignore his question.  I don’t want to get into an argument with Iggy.  Not now.  I knew he cared but he was quick to anger.

“You OK?”  Valentina asks.

We’d been walking all day.  We’d abandoned our supplies.  We didn’t have the strength to carry them.  This was all or nothing.  Either what I heard on the frequency was right and we’d be saved or I was wrong and we wouldn’t survive.

“I’m fine.”

“We should have all gone to Burlington. Whose to say we will survive long enough for them to bring back help?” Mitchell is asking.

“Whose to say they’ll bring help back?”  Iggy argues.

Iggy’s still upset at me.  I try to grab him and talk to him for a minute but he pulls away.  He pulls away really fucking hard.  Iggy doesn’t want to have anything to do with me at this moment.  Maybe it’s the fact that I didn’t let him go with Nixon and his group to the Burlington location.  Maybe it’s me turning him down earlier.

“He’s trying his best,” Valentina states, “I hate you two are acting like this.  We’re better than that.”

Leave it to Valentina to try to bring us back together.  Iggy isn’t hearing it though.

“I wish the two of you would stop being so dick-whipped,” Iggy states spitting on the ground, “They did something to Alaric.  If Power cared about you Valentina, really cared about you don’t you think he would have pushed for you to go with him and the so-called strong group?”

“This is Sunday’s plan,” Valentina argues, “And Power does care about me.  Just because you are lonely and miserable…”

“Wow…” is Iggy’s response.

It was a low blow from Valentina.  Really low.  This wasn’t helping.  None at all.

It causes panic.

Mitchell is shaking his head, “We’re not going to make it.   They’ll come back?  Right? They’ll come back.”

“You know they won’t come back for us,”  Iggy states, “Don’t be an idiot Mitchell.  Something happened with Alaric.  His death wasn’t NORMAL!  Mitchell—-you have to know something… Quest never told you anything about that day?”

Mitchell stays quiet, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“So he did tell you something?”

“Iggy, leave him alone,” I state, “You’re not making things better.”

“Fuck it,” Iggy states, “You can be as dumb as you fucking want.  I’m done.”

Iggy walks on ahead.   I look down at the map.  We weren’t far now.  We weren’t far from the location.  Iggy, Mitchell, and Valentina aren’t in their best spirits.  They keep looking at me hoping that I’d have certainty.  I keep repeating the message that I heard to them.  I keep telling them what I heard.  I knew that this was hard.  If Little America did exist though this would be our last chance.

That’s when I start singing.

“All around me are familiar faces

Worn out places, worn out faces

Bright and early for their daily races

Going nowhere, going nowhere…”

I am getting some attention from the other three.   I guess the sadness to the song hits them.  I swear I think Iggy cries a little bit as we’re walking.  Maybe a part of him has come to terms with the fact that we were going to die.

“Alaric always said you had a beautiful voice,” Valentina states.

Tears are in her eyes too.  This situation is hopeless.  Hopeless even more when Mitchell falls over in the next few minutes.  Scabs from heat exposure are all over his body.  He faints. Iggy doesn’t skip a beat, grabbing Mitchell up and throwing him on his back.  That was the kind of person Iggy was.  He’d carry that weight.  Looking at him though I could tell he was on his way to dehydrating too.

“We’re not going to make it,” I hear Mitchell tell the rest of us, “We’re not going to make it.”

We’d survived just two months.  Two months were all we had in us.

All I can do is sing:

“And I find it kind of funny, I find it kinda sad

The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had

I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take

When people run in circles—-

It’s a very, very.

Mad.  World.

Mad.  World…”

That’s what it was. A mad world.  I stop walking.  I can’t take it anymore.  That’s when I look down and see Iggy.  He has his hand out.  He’s looking at me. As mad as Iggy is with me, he isn’t going to leave me. He isn’t going to abandon me.

“Lean on me,” he whispers.

“You already have Mitchell…”

“I’ve always had you Sunday. So lean on me,” he states again, “I’ll carry your weight.”

I am about to cry.  I want to cry.  I know that Iggy can’t do it even if through his mouth says he can.   I know that he won’t be able to take both of us.

That’s when I hear it.

Valentina.

“GUYS! GUYS!  LOOK!”  Valentina states.

That’s when we see it.  Jeeps!

Two jeeps headed our way.  Iggy collapses at the sign of it.  He collapses to the ground taking Mitchell with him.  Mitchell is barely conscious at this point and Iggy isn’t in much better condition.

We were saved…

We couldn’t even celebrate.  We didn’t have the energy.

“Are you looking for Little America?” one of the boys in the jeep says.

He’s younger than I imagined he would be.  Early 20s at the most.  Handsome. Most of the other men in the two jeeps were just that young.

“Help us.”

“Anymore in your group?” they ask.

“No,” I respond immediately.

“Yes,” Mitchell corrects me, “Sunday what the hell?  There are three more.”

“They are over at Burlington Harbor,” Valentina adds.

The men from Little America all look at us.   They are giving us water at this moment.  They are helping us but something about what Valentina didn’t sit right with them.

“Can you send help?” Mitchell asks.

“I’m sorry but if your friends went to Burlington Harbor then they are goners by now.  Burlington Harbor is swarmed…”

“Swarmed?” Iggy asks, “But…”

That’s when Iggy, Valentina, and Mitchell all looked at me.   They remembered at that moment that this was my plan to separate.

I knew the coordinates that Little America had given me.  There weren’t two of them. Only one. Only here.

“You knew…you knew…” Mitchell states.

He looks upset.  Just as upset as Valentina.  I knew they’d hate me for this.  Mitchell still loved Quest whether he admitted it or not and Valentina felt responsible for Michael Power.

“You told me what Quest did, Mitchell.  You told he admitted they were planning on killing Alaric.  The three of them were the reason he’s dead.”

That’s when Iggy looks at me.  He isn’t upset like the other two but he is shocked.

“Damn, Sunday.”

I’d sent Quest, Iggy and Michael Power into a swarm.  I sent them to their deaths.  Because I KNEW what they’d done.  They’d killed Alaric.  They’d killed someone I cared about. I wasn’t going to let them do it again to Iggy.  This place…this Little America was a new start.  I wasn’t going to bring whatever sort of monsters they had become into that new world.

“It’s a mad world,” I sing out, “A mad world…”