It has been about two hours since we started retracing the steps Sara and I took. Looking around, I groan in frustration.
“We are just going around in circles”, I say, kicking a rock across the sut.
“Calm down, we don’t need you getting angry right now, we just need to focus”, Rei responds as she looks around, scanning the area, “try looking for signs, maybe tracks.”
I hear a shout and turn to see Nathalie running towards us, covered in blood. Our eyes widen and she shoves through us, continuing to sprint in the direction of the camp.
“Nathalie, wh-” I’m cut off by gurgling and raspy screams and I turn to see creatures coming over the hill. “N-no way, what…” I trail off, dumbfounded.
“Run! Everybody run!”, Rei shouts, breaking the rest of us out of our stupor as the things responsible for the noises begin to run after us. We all begin running away from the pod in an attempt to lead them away from the camp, with Alexandria leading the way, followed by Rei and I, with Jesse in the back.
“Cmon!” Alex yells out as she points to an opening in the side of a mountain. We sprint inside, going as deep as we can. Spotting a light on the other side, we head towards it, but the pounding of our feet and the instability of the cave causes the walls to start collapsing.
“Go! Go! Its caving in!”, Alex screams as she makes it through. As Rei and I get through I hear a thud and turn to see Jesse had fallen. I shout, but he isn’t moving. I look around quickly and make a decision. Taking off towards Jesse, I pay little attention to the fast approaching threat of the growling figures. When I reach Jesse, I bend down and throw his arm over my shoulder, dragging him towards the exit as fast as I can, the walls growing weaker. When she realizes what I’ve done, Rei runs in and picks up his legs, allowing us to sprint out faster, making it out just before the rock collapses completely. We set Jesse down, winded, as Alex checks him over.
“His legs are banged up pretty bad, his knees and palms are scraped, and it appears he has a concussion”, she tells us.
“Great, we need to find some shelter so we can try and make him a splint”, I respond, looking around.
Rei blinks and points off towards a broken down helicopter, almost hidden from view by an overgrowth of plants, and huffs, “Well that’s awful convenient.”
“That’s perfect! C’mon, help me get Jesse over there”, I say, and all three of us pitch in to help carry him over. By the time we arrive, we are all out of breath.
Setting Jesse down for a second, I open the door and grab his arms so we can drag him in. Once he is secure inside, I shut the door and take a break. While the group catches their breath, I scan the interior of the helicopter and hop into the pilot's seat. Looking around at the controls, I spot something shining from the sun. Curious, I look over to see a metal box. I pull out from the floorboards and into the seat, brushing the dust off of it as I go.
“Hey guys, I found something”, I say as I open the box, sorting through the contents. As Alex and Rei peer over, I find water and non perishables, alcohol, which cause me to smirk, a blanket, a medkit, and what appears to be clothing.
“There has to be something in here for Jesse”, I tell myself as I open the medkit. I huff when I find only bandages, medical tape, and painkillers.
“Wait, I have an idea”, Alex says as she grabs piping from the side of the helicopter and rips it off with ease. I blink at the action, amazed, and she just laughs.
“There were no bolts”, she explains, “must’ve been why it crashed in the first place.” I nod and she begins bending the metal back and forth. Though it takes a while, it eventually snaps in half. I take those two pieces and place them on the sides of Jesse’s left leg while Rei takes the bandages and wraps them around his leg, securing the piping. Then, she does the same with the medical tape, until we end with a secure hold. I give Rei a bottle of water and a painkiller to offer Jesse when he wakes up.
When I glance out the window, I notice that the sun has begun to set and turn to tell the group, “Well, looks like we’re staying here for the night.” As they begin settling down for the night, I look through the clothing and notice it is more for protection from the elements than coverage. There were three jackets, to be exact, which leads me to wonder if there were three people in the helicopter before it crashed. I hand the puffy black jacket with caramel sleeves to Rei, and an almost identical jacket to Alex, but with grey sleeves. The last jacket, a black one with red sleeves, I set aside for Jesse.
“What about you?”, Rei asks, concerned.
“I’ll be fine”, I respond, waving her off. “I love the cold, and we have blankets back at camp.”
I yawn, and address the group, saying, “C’mon, we need to sleep if we want to find Bowman and find a way home tomorrow.” I lay in the back of the helicopter, and everyone else follows suit, finding a spot to lay down for the night.
“Remember to keep the lights off, we don’t want company”, I shudder, still shaken up from our encounter with the creatures back at the cave.
“What were those things?” Alex asks.
“I’m not sure”, I say as I shiver, “They looked like people, but they were rotting from the radiation.”
“Zombies”, Rei says as she rolls over, “Now go to sleep please. Like you said, we need rest.” I arch my eyebrow, roll over, and sigh. I close my eyes, and eventually fall into slumber.
I toss and turn for what seems like forever before I wake up, breathing heavily. Rubbing my eyes, I look around to make sure everyone is alright. They group seems to be fine, and I notice that Jesse is awake.
“Hey Jesse, are you alright?”, I ask, sitting beside him in the cockpit.
“Yeah, I’m just sore.”
“Oh, well here”, I say, grabbing the painkillers and bottle of water that had been set aside for him.
“Thanks”, he says, smiling before he pops the pills in his mouth and takes a swig of water. I look out the window and smile.
“At least you’re alive, that’s good”, I say, leaning back in the seat.
He turns to look at me and says, “Yeah, thank you for that, but you didn’t have to take that risk for me.”
I grin at him and chuckle. He rolls his eyes and I’m reminded of his sectoral heterochromia, a condition where a section of his iris is a different color than the rest. I’ve always found it unique.
“You’re right, I didn’t, but I still did, didn’t I?”, I tell him, “You’re a part of the squad, so you’re family.”
“I suppose you’re right, though we can’t say the same about Jakob.” Jess chuckles and this time I’m the one rolling my eyes.
Changing the subject, I look out the window again and ask “Do you think we’ll be able to find Bowman?”
“Yeah, of course”, he responds, a determined glint in his eye, “we just have to look hard.”
I nod and the conversation comes to a standstill before something in the distance catches my attention.
Sitting up straight in the seat, I squint and see what appears be a collection of lights and ask Jesse, “Hey, do you see that?”
Jesse glances towards where I’m looking and nods, answering, “yeah, what is it? How can there be lights here?”
“I’m not sure”, I say shaking my head and leaning back to wake the others.
“Hey, wake up, I see something”, I say. The other two blink awake, yawning. Alex checks her watch and starts.
“I’m sorry, but look, there are lights. Are they… are they coming closer?”
As soon as the words are out of my mouth the group swarms the window and we can make out two cars and someone on a fourwheeler. After that, a dune buggy drives past us, and as we watch, we notice a truck with a cage and someone inside.
“Bowman!”, I shout, “that’s Bowman!” They slap their hands over my mouth to muffle the noise and I squirm.
“Bowman, c’mon please! We have to-” I’m cut off by Rei.
“No, we can’t, there are too many of them”, Rei scorns. I grumble, and they shout, all of them leaving except the guy with Bowman’s cage.
“Fuck it!”, I say and slip out of my groups grasp, taking off out of the helicopter.
“You’re going to get us killed!”, Jesse screams as they follow me out. Because we were mostly wearing all black, we were not spotted as I scrambled to get to the truck. When I reach it, I pull my knife out and pause, taking a deep breath.I sling the door open, grabbing the driver and slitting his throat.
I throw the body to the ground and hop in, everyone else hopping into the bed to try and open Bowman’s cage. I close the door and smirk.
“Alright, let’s get driving!”, I say, turning the key and quickly throwing it into reverse.
“Hang on”, I shout as the car jerks backwards, sending Alex, who is the lightest out of all of us, tumbling towards the back. Jesse climbs through the back window and seats himself in the passenger seat.
“I’m not breaking my other leg because of you”, he explains.
I chuckle and glance back at my squad ass they scramble to get their guns. I put the truck in drive and smash the gas pedal down, tearing out towards the sand dune and over the cliff as the remaining people began shooting at us. Though a couple shots make their way through the window, the adrenaline running through my veins doesn’t allow time to worry.
I keep driving as fast as I can as Rei and Alex try to get Bowman freed. ‘Hang on Bowman’, I think to myself as I make a sharp turn.
It’s been a couple hours still we stole the truck and we finally get close to the pod. I turn back towards the bed of the truck.
“Everyone okay?”, I shout, hearing two ‘yeps’ from the back. I hear Jesse groan and turn my head.
“Jess-”, I start, but I don’t finish my thought. My eyes widen, as I look as his side, wet with blood.
“Y-you’ve been shot”, I say, dazed, before I gather it finally hits me.
“No, hang on buddy you aren’t dying on me”, I say, reaching over to apply pressure as I floor it, speeding up. ‘Cmon, cmon’, I yell at myself in my head.
Pulling around, I park the truck and quickly pull Jesse out, my eyes tearing up.
“You’re going to make it”, I say, seeing the color wash out from his face.
Rei and Alex help Bowman, who isn’t in the best condition either. He has cuts and bruises along with whip marks covering his body.
“We found Bowman! Sara, Olivia!”, I scream.
”Jesse’s been shot!”, I say as I run into the medical tent, spotting Olivia.
Her eyes widen and she says, “Oh no, get them on the mat.” We do as we’re told, and she looks them over.
“Get me water and bandages”, she orders, and I run to get them. As I’m doing so, Sara runs in, and starts at the sight of them.
“Wh-what happened?”, she asked in shock, and Rei speaks up, tears in her eyes.
“Jesse was shot, we aren’t alone out here. There are zombies, and other people wanting to kill us, and use us as slaves”, she says, panicked. She takes a deep breath and tries to breathe. Alex bites her lip, getting emotional as Olivia looks Jesse over.
“He’s losing a lot of blood. Madd-” She’s cut off by me running in.
“Here you go”, I say frantically, handing her the water and bandages.
“Good. Help me roll him on his side.”
With that I take one side and we roll him over. She bites her lip and looks at me.
“There’s no exit wound”, she says, “the bullet is still in there.”
We set Jesse back down and she rips open his shirt.
“I don’t have the tools to do this”, she says as tears begin to roll down her cheeks.
“Hey, hey, it’s okay we can figure something out, get... a knife or something maybe we can use that. I have alcohol, and I have a stitch k-” She cuts me off.
“No, we can’t, unless you want to damage an artery. In case you haven’t noticed, the bullet is centimeters away from his lungs”, she says in anger. She looks at him and checks his pulse.
“He’s not breathing”, she says, panicked. She begins pumping his chest, trying to give him cpr. As she continues, she starts crying and it takes all of us to pull her away.
Stop, Olivia! He’s gone...He’s lost too much blood”, Sara says, and Olivia steps back, tears streaming down her face.
“It’s too late…” Alex whispers and walks out, not being able to take it.
I look over to Bowman, who seems to be handling it okay, but I notice he has a couple deep wounds.
“We need to stitch these up”, I say as I pull out my medkit.
“But Jesse”, Olivia protests.
“Just because we lost Jesse doesn’t mean we’re going to lose Bowman too. He’s going to be fine, he just needs his wounds stitched up.”
Olivia nods and walks over, taking the medkit.
“Give me about two hours, I’ll have it finished”, she assures me and we nod, leaving and giving her room.
I walk back to the pod and sigh, sitting on the entrance ramp and staring into the grass. I glance occasionally over to the guys who are rummaging through the truck, taking all of the parts out to be used as weapons, something for shelter, or just to help us out around here.
Sara comes up beside me and sits down.
“What happened out there?”, she asks. I take a deep breath and look at her.
“It’s my fault he’s dead”, I say, my voice cracking.
“What do you mean?” she questions.
“I was being stupid, and reckless. Squad one....they had Bowman, they had vehicles. I saw them, and when they abandoned the vehicles I went to the extent of killing someone to get Bowman out.” I stop for a minute and take a deep breath before continuing. “I ran after the truck, and killed the guy in the driver’s seat. We all got in, and as we were driving away they shot at us, shooting Jesse”, I finish and hot tears begin to roll down my face.
“If I hadn’t been so reckless he wouldn’t have died”, I say, sniffling. Sara looks at me and hugs me.
“You did what you had to do, yes it was reckless but you saved a life today. Don’t blame yourself for these things”, she says and then lets go.
“I know, but either way, we lost a member of our family, and I killed someone Sara!” I’m a murderer”, I say, pulling my knees to my chest. Sara rubs my back and sighs.
“You are okay, you did no harm, don’t guilt yourself. Jesse wouldn’t have wanted that.”
I stand up. “I’m going to take I nap”, I say and walk into the pod. I find my bed and lie down, wrapping myself in a blanket.