Heidi was watching the road, cruising along at a higher speed than she probably should have given the wet road conditions. She only looked away for a few seconds and when she turned back someone had run into the road and she had no choice other than to try to not hit them. I couldn’t fault her since this was a natural reaction to seeing anything in the middle of the road. The highway was still slick from the rain earlier in the day and given the speed…she lost control of the steering wheel and we were off the road, front first into the 4 foot deep ditch. We had been lucky that the van didn’t roll, just not lucky enough for all of us to be able to walk away on our own. The van was stuck and there was no way to get it out without a tow truck. That was the least of our problems, Marla added. She had stopped crying and exhaustion and sadness were etched on her face.
Marla went on saying Hunter had hit the wind shield back first and was lucky that his head hadn’t been knocked as well. He was bruised but Heidi had checked him over and saw no signs of serious injury. Time would tell if there were permanent side effects. Marla’s wrist had gotten twisted as she tried to hold Hunter and she likely had a fracture. I hadn’t noticed anything wrong because she was wrapped in the blanket. Heidi had been wearing a seatbelt and suffered a bloody nose from the only air bag and Cal had been similarly lucky, only suffering bumps and abrasions. Tony was worse off by far. He hadn’t been secured after we put him in the van and had been asleep, less prepared than any of us for the crash. He had tumbled head first into the seats, his neck bent forward and this combined with his other injuries was surely going to be the death of him. Heidi confirmed he was alive but hadn’t regained consciousness or moved, even while he was being carried unstably to the cave. My question after hearing all of this was how had we all managed to get here, who were these new comers and what happened to the person that caused the accident.
“It wasn’t a zombie or whatever you’re calling them. It was a person, a 12-year-old girl. I guess I clipped her, didn’t turn quick enough. She was with that older couple, her grandparents and the kid is her brother.” Heidi struggled as she explained what happened. “After I hit her she was swarmed by those monsters, couldn’t get away because I hit her with the van and knocked her down, properly broke her hip or something.”
What the hell had the girl been thinking going into the middle of the road in the dark? Heidi was clearly upset and I figured the kid was running from the zombies so I didn’t press her for further details. Marla continued to recount what happened after the crash, her voice and demeanor becoming steadier as she spoke. Zombies clamoured from the woods in all directions and several attacked the girl before she hit the ground, while more of them went for the van. The doors were pried open by a couple of the men, one of which was still here but several other people who had been near the highway disappeared in the woods on the way to the cave.
When doors were being opened, Marla’s first reaction was to pull her gun and shoot. It turned out to be a good thing she hadn’t as she realized the people were still people and were helping all of us get out. By this point I was unconscious as far as they could tell but I told them I could remember being half aware of what was happening, just not able to understand or comprehend the situation with the hit to my head. One of the strangers pulled me out and from there it was a mess of those still able to move to get Tony and me out and into the woods under the cover of the trees.
“So these people were just at the side of the road?” I wanted to know what they really wanted and why they were there to begin with.
“They were hoping to stop a car, get help. They approached it all wrong clearly.” Anger was obvious as Heidi looked at the fire, a glint of tears in her eyes.
“So they caused the accident and then saved us from the danger they put us in?” My voice carried in the cave.
“It was an accident and my grandchild is dead now. We could have left you there.” One of the strangers, a man by the fire, was clearly not impressed that I was blaming them for the current situation.
“Look man, I’m sorry for what happened to her.” I tried to correct myself for pointing fingers. “None of this is your fault, or her, or ours. We’re all in a bad way here.”
I didn’t mean it, was just trying to keep everyone calm. I was angry that they interfered and caused us to lose our ride and probably contributed to Tony’s impending death. I didn’t want any more people in our group or to be responsible for anyone else. I was tired of outsiders fucking up my plan and causing people around me to get killed.
“Yeah, sure buddy.” He turned back to the fire. “Be quiet and let us get some sleep.”
Marla whispered asshole and I felt a bit of the anger ebb knowing that she thought the same as I did. I wanted to ask them what we should do, if they thought we should get Hunter and Cal and leave here, trusting that Tony would not wake up. I felt bad about the Tony part but there wasn’t anything we could for him, if he even woke up. Heidi made a point before I could propose my escape plan. They had found a cave that was deep and wide enough that we could spread out, start a fire and not be detected, in theory, and it had worked so far. They had covered the entrance with some big branches and rocks to trip up any zombies, and Cal was on guard. Marla said he had stepped up after the incident with Kelly, maybe out guilt or maybe because he knew it was necessary; either way he wasn’t being a pussy anymore. He helped get Tony and me to safety and was the one who set off the flare to start the fire and kill a lot of the zombies on the highway. He had even volunteered to keep watch. I couldn’t forgive or trust him but I was glad he was putting himself in danger instead of us this time.
“This is great, I mean it’s a good place to spend the night, regenerate but we can’t stay here. They’ll find us and we’ll either be trapped in here or when we finally decide to leave, we’ll die as they surround us.” I couldn’t even let us have a moment of peace. I knew I was right and I didn’t think hiding the danger was going to do any of us any good.
“You’re right Louis.” Marla was easy to agree with me either out of blind loyalty or because she actually agreed. “We should leave at first light.”
Heidi nodded then laid back down beside me resting her hand on mine. Marla smiled and leaned back against the wall, pulling the blanket tighter, wincing as she knocked her fractured wrist. Still on my back, I looked around, feeling on edge with this group of strangers; more people I didn’t trust. I felt lost because I could hardly move and I didn’t know what to do. I know what I wanted to do but I couldn’t make myself leave without Marla, Hunter and Heidi. Relaxing my head, I put the urge to run to rest. At first light I would force my weary body to move regardless of the pain and do everything possible to get me, Heidi, Marla and Hunter out in one piece.
© 2015, Denise Pasutti