“You’re not going to stop me ?” Millie asked as Chris offered help and she was confused, almost. She wasn’t an invalid and she wasn’t useless like everyone seemed to think, shot or not shot. She nodded to Chris in thanks and took the keys.
“Thank you.” She said, and it was more of s thanks for not rattling to the others or giving her a big lecture about how she should be taking it easy. The council had made up their minds and thenwoman and unborn child would not be joining their community. She wondered how it got like this, people dying from rejection and group turning on their own species. If everyone was united against the foreign invaders that had come, and killed in its millions, then maybe they wouldn’t have this problem.
Millie glanced upnas council members started filtering out of the hall and she sighed,
“Best make an escape.” She said to Chris with a small smile but it was too late as Leon appeared, he didn’t look happy.
“What’re you doing? If Sadie catches you, you’ll be in for it!” He sighed and looked to Chris.
“Look, I’ll come. You can drive Millie but I don’t think you getting out and into it is-“ he cut off at thenlook Millie was giving him.
“I can manage.” Millie said and folded her arms.
“So you can either shut up and come along and not talk to me like I’m a child or you can stay.” She pointed out as she got into the drivers side and turned on the engine.
Leon ran his hand through his hair. Three of them going out for medical and food supplies was a dangerous game so he figured he had to go, it wouldn’t feel right letting two woman go out in this dangerous times by themselves. He booked out two pistols seeing as Millie already had hers attatched to her hip. He got in the back of the car as best he could and sighed.
“If we die I’m blaming you, Mil.” Henpointed out with a small hint of a joke. His decision to vote against letting the outsiders in had logical only, it had not been meant as a personal attack on anyone, especially Millie.
“Let’s try the further away town. They had a supermarket there with a pharmacy. Just take everything we can get.” He remarked as he gestured.
Their run and being outside the car would need to be quick. If they were overrun by those things then there was only three of them and they stood little chance of getting out of it. Plus there could be other groups out there.
Chris followed Millie out. The poor girl looked defeated and the bandages on her shoulder made it look swollen. They must add an inch in thickness to the girl. A slight frown pulls at Chris’ lips as she sees her loading up one of their modified jeeps. The doors were covered in two-by-fours. Nails had been driven into the wood and wrapped in barbed wire. The back window had been smashed out. There was no stopping her. What she did was the right thing to do in a better world. The idea made Chris’ heartache, she hated that there was a ban on having children and that basic human needs had turned into a form of currency. Gently Chris takes a duffle bag from her. It was better that Millie went with her than alone.
“What’s left to go in?” Chris asked meeting Millie’s eyes. She places the bag in the backseat and moves to make more room. The way the girl was packing she expected to be out for a majority of the day.
“What are we looking for?” Chris continued. Her stomach growled lowly and she wanted to eat before they left, but she wouldn’t push the girl to wait. Dark clouds floated across the sky like a blanket. They rolled over each other and promised rain. They would be lucky if the rain waited until they were home, but more than likely it wouldn’t. Chris grabs jackets for them from the supplies, a few boxes of rifle ammo, and a rifle. Strapping a hunting knife to her side, she watches Millie. She looked completely over her head in her stubbornness, but Chris understood where she was coming from. This was a time of giving an inch and protecting the mile with everything you had. Once the jeep had been packed, she offered her the keys.
Inside the hall, the council had voted against the couple entering the compound. It was decided that the baby and it’s mysterious origins was too much of a risk. They were two more mouths to feed that they couldn’t afford.
“That food was from [i my] ration. I made a choice what to do with my ration and I’ll go hungry.” Millie piped up, ever so slightly annoyed actually that her judgement was being called into question. She would never steal from anyone else! She knew everyone needed food which is why she gave her share and no one else’s.
“I’ll go on supplies runs. We can’t just not accept them.” She said to the others but was quickly shouted down.
Leon looked to Millie.
“You can’t go anywhere in your state.” He remarked to Millie and sighed as she thought.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea. At best we send them on their way with some good and water. I’m happy to go on a supplies run tonight with some people. If Sadie needs medical supplies then she can write a list. We’ll go to the city.” Leon said to them all and folded his arms.
Millie sighed, she wasn’t going to sit about and do nothing just because her shoulder ached. She wasn’t happy about this and it showed on her face in a stern frown. She shook her head,
“We’re no better than the infected if we leave them to die.” She muttered and looked around. It was a strong debate and people weren’t happy and it seemed whichever way they went with the decision, people would be annoyed.
“If we turned people away then no one would be here.” Millie added.
Leon shook his head, he loved that girl like a sister but she was so foolish sometimes. He looked to Chris as she spoke and sighed. Women and their soft emotions. They couldn’t afford to be soft in these times of need. Everyone needed to look after themself and be wary of outsiders. What if they came from a larger group.
“I’m against letting these people in, they are strangers and could be from a bigger group scouting us out.” Leon said and ran a hand through his dark hair. He knew it would piss some people off but he was doing his best to protect those inside the walls.
“You can hate me but it’s not worth the risk.” Leon said to Millie.
Millie was easily drowned out by everyone arguing but she already knew the majority didn’t want to help and she sighed, walking outside. The fresh air made her dizzy and not eating after being shot would do that to a person. She steadied herself and quickly started to pack up one of the few remaining working cars. She’d do a supplies run, she’d show Leon! Her shoulder pulled uncomfortably as her injury stung and she gritted her teeth as she took a moment and learn against the car for just a moment to catch her breath as it pulled from her with pain. She was being irrational and stupid because going out alone was a dumb idea, especially given she wasn’t good with a gun and wounded, she’d be easy pickings for other groups and single, young females didn’t go to wholesome groups. And then there were the things that walked, that would make her at risk. Still, she was sick of being shouted down constantly.
It didn’t take long for word to reach Chris about the survivors outside of their walls. The mess hall was packed with all that were awake and a few that were sluggishly sipping coffee. Crossing her arms over her chest, she carefully listened to each argument and weighed their options on her own. However she kept her mouth shut. At hearing that Millie had already given the pair food didn’t surprise her. From what she had heard about her from Leon she expected something like that. Part of her agreed with the girl, the world was full of so much evil now that even the smallest kindness they could afford they should give. Any one of them would want someone to do the same for then provided they were in that situation, however no one wanted to admit that when Sadie said they might starve during the winter. The clock was ticking against them and anything they could save should be saved.
“What if it was you?” Someone asked.
“What if that food was going to you?” Someone answered.
The entire situation made Chris frown. She hated that this was a conversation grown adults had to have. It shouldn’t have been a question any of them had to debate. It was worse that a few of the faces in the community belonged to teenagers or young adults. Young people that were learning through example on how to treat outsiders. Chris hugged herself a little tighter and scanned the room. Many sat with their heads bent whispering to each other and a few sat with their lips pursed.
“It was kind of you, but risky and a waste.” Hal finally spoke up. Chris’ skin prickled at the sight of him and her blood ran a little warmer. The room felt colder, many of the faces around the room looked harder. It was as though everyone was wearing a mask and trying to keep as neutral as possible. Of course there were a few in the back that wanted to put a bullet between the woman’s eyes and save her from suffering. Each option was worse than the last.
“Why don’t we let them in? No, we can’t afford it. Yes, it’s a huge risk. But she’s pregnant. The man might have skills we need. The baby could be fine, and it be immune or something. We won’t know until we take a chance.” Chris stepped forward.
Millie was perhaps kinder than most but on this topic she was unsure. She watched the gates close and bit her lip. She quickly dove into one of the stores and took her rations for the day. It wasn’t much, a canned soup and bottled water. She sighed and glanced around. She didn’t want caught doing this because tensions were high but she carefully meandered herself to a spot she could drop the food and water over. She fled the scene before she could be seen by anyone, hopefully and made her way to the community area.
Within hours, people had gathered. Leon and Millie among them.
“We can’t just let any stray enter. They’re two extra mouths to feed and a crying baby, god knows about the child.” Leon spoke up and looked around.
“We don’t know these people, Millie was shot last night, for all we know it could have been them.” He pointed out and Millie rolled her eyes.
Sadie piped up,
“We don’t have the supplies to deal with birth or prenatal care. And we don’t know how pregnancies and the infection work. Babies are prone to be more at risk. Morally speaking, we should help survivors but logically- I’m sorry we don’t have the supplies to care for newborns and even if we did, we should save them for things that happen to our people.” Sadie said and she knew how it sounded but it was a risk.
Millie kept quiet as an older lady seemed to head the meeting.
“We need to ask ourselves if turning away these strangers would be moral or logic.” She remarked.
Millie finally piped up,
“I don’t think we should turn them away.” She said, “I don’t think a pregnant woman shot me. “ she added and a man from the back piped up,
“You already gave them food.”
Millie fell silent at that.
Mason stood at the mouth of the gate, rifle in hand, eying the survivors carefully. A frown twisted his mouth into an ugly sneer. The compound was already buzzing with questions and concerns. Bring a newborn baby into their safe haven was a huge risk Mason didn’t want to take. A part of him hurt for the women. Only god knew how many times she had been turned away or attacked just because of a mistake or hope. The sad truth was that the human population needed to continue breeding to get through this apocalypse, but without trained medical professionals and without knowing a hundred percent that the child wouldn’t bring a greater risk of infection into safe havens it was risk many weren’t willing to take. In his travels he had heard of women being exhiled by their own communities, or killed and made an example of. Some safe havens went as far as to separate men and women entirely. A dark haired man spoke from the back of the crowd that had gathered.
“Yes, please infect us all.” his sarcasm laid a thick blanket over the crowd. Some of the more respected members fought their way to the front of the group. A woman toward the middle added her voice to the man’s.
“You’re a monster!” counter arguments rose and were squashed by logic, while some turned into heated arguments complete with shoving. Hal stepped up onto a ladder leading and bellowed over their heads.
“Enough! We’ll think about it! It’s the only kindness we can afford!” It didn’t take long for frustrated persons to stop away and go back to their jobs. Others continued to banter back and forth, but in quieter discussions. Mason wasn’t surprised to find a lot of the women folk wanted to open their arms to her and her husband. At least he assumed the man was the father. Hal looked to Mason and his cheeks were pale. Turning his head, Hal coughed into his elbow and climbed down from the ladder. Somehow the respected members had remained quiet throughout the scuffle. A tall woman with crow’s feet around her eyes and laugh lines lining her mouth stepped forward.
“We need to talk amongst ourselves, I’m sure you understand,” the gates were then closed and Mason’s heart ached. Passing the rifle to Warner, who had just woken for his shift, Mason excused himself to wander home to sleep.
Leon couldn’t exactly sleep, he was worried for his friend. He paced and muttered to himself consistently before heading down to the canteen.
“Just. Spare me a few whiskies.” He muttered. Of course by the time dawn came around, he was pretty wasted. He was hunched over the table, he wasn’t very good at protecting people and he was failing miserably to keep Millie safe.
He eventually hauled himself up and staggered back towards the house and leant on the door before sitting on the steps and watching as everyone seemed to waken for the day. He didn’t seem with it as he sighed out and lit a crumpled cigarette. He didn’t usually smoke, only when he was worried and stressed more than normal. He’s been rationing them because he wasn’t sure when they would get more. He glanced towards the argricultural part of the community before huffing and rubbing his face.
He decided to try and organise a medical run and food run. It seemed the simplest option and there were towns nearby and they needed more especially with injuries and more mouths to feed. A black coffee, the coffee was awful but he needed to sober up if he was going to convince anyone to come on a supply run.
Millie had slept for a good few hours before waking with a start. She sighed and Sadie was asleep in her room where she watched over everyone and she crept up. She flinched and noticed her shoulder was thickly bandaged and she grimaced. Being shot wasn’t that fun. She was pale and a touch hit to the touch meaning the likelihood was her body was fighting infection.
She headed outside and glanced to the watch tower, Mason had taken over her watch and she sighed as she sat outside the infirmary building, wrapping a blanket over her shoulders. It was cold but it was almost nice. She didn’t remember getting treated but she figured she must have passed out. She should have shot the outsiders when she saw the movement, if she hadn’t paused then maybe she wouldn’t have been in this state. Her head hurt something awful and she got up to find water, taking the glass outside. She sat on a bench and the dull ache in her shoulder was a painful reminder. She couldn’t be useless though, because useless people ended up dead.
Her brunette hair fell in her eyes as she felt sleepy again but she couldn’t just sleep. Who has those people been? She pulled herself in tightly and sat outside the infirmary enjoying the breeze on her as she watched people start to wake. She didn’t feel much up to anything but staying in the infirmary and taking up a bed for someone else didn’t seem wise.
[b “Survivours at the gate.”] Came a call and Millie got to her feet, using the nearest support to help herself up as she trudged to the gate tonsee what was going on.
The sight was strange. A man with a woman who very clearly pregnant. Millie glanced as people started mumbling amongst themselves and she chewed her lip. Pregnant women posed a risk because babies could very easily carry the infection. No one knew how it worked out but it just happened.
Chris heard the gunshot and followed Leon at a sprint. Her heart hammered against her ribs and her braids slapped against her face. Mentally she cursed them. The entire community had turned out to see what had happened. Usually the nights were quiet and outsiders left them alone. Leon pushed himself to the center of the crowd and disappeared. Chris thought about calling after him, but held her tongue. Mason was already climbing the ladder up the wall with his gun in hand. A few men followed him with torches in hand and guns in the other. Chris returned her attention to Millie being carried away at Sadie’s demands. A smile pulls at her lips as she watches the woman. After a minute she find Leon again trailing after Millie.
“She’s in good hands, Leon.” Chris started, jogging to catch up with him. She wanted to stop him, but she knew she couldn’t. Stopping just outside of the med bay, she watches him go. Shrugging to herself she turns and starts back to the farmhouse, she wouldn’t be surprised if Mason didn’t come home tonight. The house was empty and dark when she finally walked through the door. Thankfully Mason had patched some cracks where a draft would have come through. Rolling her shoulders she tries to relax for the night. However her mind was racing and her heart followed it. Pacing the mostly empty living room, she waits for any kind of word regarding Millie. Even though she didn’t know the girl, she knew the friend and that was enough for her.
The night was moonless and the stars were hiding behind clouds that promised rain. Peering into the night yielded nothing. Whatever had shot her had disappeared into the night. Mason took her watch as easily as if it was his to begin with, and no one argued with him. There was something in his face this night that made people unquestioning of him. Mason kept the torch unlit and watched the other smolder out. Thankfully it fell into a rocky area with nothing to burn. Keeping his head on a swivel, he watched every shadow, even raised his gun at a few. The only thing to be seen for a mile was a few slow walking “Waxed” and deer grazing on a forested hill. Raven Rock was surrounded by beautiful forest, a hill and small stream. The water was clear still and close enough for short trips out to gather buckets. Mason frowned the entire night.
Leon listened to her as he worked and he was very careful because he wasn’t very good at this, after all. He watched her for a moment. Everyone had suffered so much loss and heartache. And she was right, some people couldn’t survive it all.
“Me?” He mumbled.
“I grew up next door to Millie most of my life. We were out with friends when the broadcast went out. We went back but... it was too late. We walked for days after the car was totalled. There were other groups but... they didn’t seem safe.” He said to her with a sigh.
“Sorry. Millie is a nice girl, really but sometimes.... I don’t think she’s doing so well but-“ he cut off because it seemed like too much to talk about. Millie was his closest friend and he never thought of her romantically, it was almost like they were too close for that.
Millie watched Mason go and sat on the perch. She was almost sure she could see movement and she stood, grabbing the binoculars which weren’t much help in the dark and she squinted. There were people out there, or those things. She moved to grab the gun that was in the tower and honestly, she wasn’t even sure if she could fire it. She shifted to grab the fire torch and wave it to signal an alarm in silence that she had spotted something to the rest of the watchers but no sooner had she picked it up than a gunshot sounded and a sharp pain shot through her shoulder. She yelled and dropped the torch over the other side of the wall.
The shot sent the alarm on its own however as several people climbed up.
“What happened?! Get Sadie.” One man said and helped Millie down the steps. Leon had heard the shot and gone running to find out what was going on as more shots rang out from the towers to scare the assailant off. He saw the gathering of people and Millie.
“What the Hell happened?!” He yelled as he pushed through the crowds and knelt beside her. Millie was a bit dazed but the bullet had missed anything vital but she was bleeding a lot. Sadie of course was on hand immediately.
“I don’t know- I saw movement and then I went to warn the others and something shot at me.” She mumbled, confused. Leon looked to Sadie,
“She’s going to be okay, right?!” He exclaimed and Sadie rolled her eyes,
“A cut first and now this. You are not having a good day. Get her inside you lot.” She said and bossed them around.
Millie was settled in a bed, finally. Sadie saw to it she was stitched shut and honestly she just felt tired.
“You need to eat something.” Sadie said and ushered everyone out.
“Someone bring her something, sugary tea even to replace her glucose.” She ordered and Millie sighed and sat up.
Leon was sitting outside. They hadn’t had a threat in a long time and for someone to shoot on of their own, that was a problem. He sighed and rubbed his face. Evidently these outsiders weren’t friendly and they had shot his friend. He seemed sort of shocked because Millie would never intentionally shoot an innocent person.
“You’re doing a great job.” Chris smiled, making her way over to him with a gallon bucket in her hands. Setting the bucket down she joins him in shoveling muck into it. “Try to save as much of the dry layer as possible.” She explains. The work was easy, just long and back breaking. The reason Chris knew so much was from watching her grandmother from the kitchen window. Chris and her brother were raised by their grandparents. At one point they owned chickens, goats, and an old donkey. She used to watch her grandmother work in the garden while she was doing her homework and her brother was playing video games. Things seemed easier back then. Leon’s question brings her back to reality.
“My brother Devon and I were living in one of the those big conversion vans that ran out of gas on Main Street in GhostTown. We couldn’t find a working pump and most other survivors had sychponed all of the gas. We would go out during the day to try to find food and water, Devon wanted booze above all else. When GhostTown had been picked clean of everything and even the rats had moved on Devon took the last bullet we had, loaded our pistol, and put it through his head. His last words were: “I’m starvin’ to death and this world ain’t worth livin’ in.” A few days later Mason found me curled up next to a rotting body dehydrated, starving, and exhausted. The poor man practically carried my ass back here. Ever since then I’ve done the cleaning and washing at the house and he fixes things, gets most of our food, and protects Alice and me. Alice is my other housemate and one of the cooks in the mess hall. We don’t see her much, we think she’s going to move out to be with her boyfriend. But before my brother and I lived with my grandparents outside of GhostTown on a couple of acres. Before that we lived with in Detroit, Michigan with our mother. The state awarded us to our grandparents after ma got into some legal trouble.” Chris finishes, it all seemed like years ago. Devon moved out of their grandparents’ house after he graduated high school, moved to one of the bigger cities and tried to make a name for himself as a Boost Mobile clerk. Chris stayed at her grandparents’ and took care of their aging grandmother after their grandfather passed. Devon moved back in after losing his job. After that he started drinking and getting fatter. Shaking the memories from her mind and blinking away unshed tears, she turns to Leon.
“He just wasn’t cut out for this world, not many people are. It’s a good thing that he’s gone, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss him. But me missing him doesn’t mean I’m not grateful to Mason for saving my life. I would have died there, just laid there and died or the van would have finally caved in from those things beating on the windows all the time. What about you? Where are you from?” Chris asked.
Mason watched her climb the wall and nodded to her. She could take care of herself, if her feelings didn’t get in the way. Leaving her to her night watch Mason started toward the mess hall to get his daily rations of food and possibly dinner. The sun was going down and fires of every type were being lit along the wall and in areas that were darker than others. Armed guards were waking for their shifts and Mason was glad he wasn’t apart of it tonight. With the sun dipping below the horizon the wind had picked up and gotten chilly. He estimated that it had dropped twenty degrees since the sun started going down. Alice greeted him excitedly as she passed him a cracked dinner plate and his ration ticket. The ration tickets were 50/50 raffle tickets with numbers written on the back. Depending on what color ticket one got depended on what one was rationed. Being someone that constantly fixed the wall, did patrols, even went beyond the wall to scavenge Mason usually had a red ticket. Every once in awhile he passed on his patrols to someone else and got a green one, green meant builder more than guard and different food items were handed out. Making his way through the line, he passes his ticket to Hal who personally oversees rations. The scrawny man nods at him and lifts a grocery bag of rations from its place on the floor.
“Good job this week repairing the wall,” Hal praises, making sure to narrow his eyes at him. Hal was one of those people that needed to be in control and suspected everyone of not doing their jobs. With a smirk Mason nods and thanks him. He moves to where Warner was eating and sat across from him.
“Do we have the support log yet?” He asked, shoveling a spoonful of mashed potatoes into his mouth. Warner shook his head and swallowed.
“No sir. Ain’t got a tree round enough, but I’m starting to think that’s Hal’s doing.” Mason nodded and chewed slowly. Hal had enough push within the community to do that.
“He’s jus’ bein’ a pain in the ass.” Mason returned. The ate in silence for awhile, watching and listening to the others talk about gossip and any good news around the community.
Leon watched the woman and laughed a bit,
“She’s like a little sister, in every way pretty much.” He remarked and shrugged as he watched her working.
“I uh... I’ll drop this egg off and I’ll come back and help. I don’t mind animals, better than humans these days.” He pointed out and jogged back to the house he and Millie shared, quickly putting the egg on the table too with a note explaining it was for her before jogging back out.
Leon has always been a city guy, so he wasn’t sure how much help he would be to Chris but two pairs of hands were better than one. He was out of breath a little as he cane back.
“Uh so what do I help with?” She asked. Even in the apocalypse he didn’t really look like the type of guy who would be good at catching chickens but Chris had shown him some kindness so he wanted to repay the favour, even if it meant that she was able to rest a little earlier because of his help.
“Just tell me what to do and I’ll do my best. Can’t say I’ve much experience with animals.” He chuckled awkwardly as he looked around. He gingerly stepped into one of the pens with a wheelbarrow and shovel to clean it out.
“How’d you get here?” He asked the woman as he clumsily started to clean out the pen. He wasn’t very quick at it but he was trying his very best to be helpful. Leon was a man’s man. He was happy to do the hunting and patrolling and building but when it came to looking after animals, cooking or cleaning he had little experience but he was a good hunter.
Millie looked to Mason as they walked.
“Sounds rough, I’m sorry.” She was more sympathetic than a lot others but she believed kindness and sweetness, and that people weren’t always bad. That was dangerous in these uncertain times and Leon has always said it would get her killed, helping strangers.
“Me?” She thought for a while and sighed softly.
“I don’t remember it all even starting. It seems like a blur but Leon was my neighbour, we grew up together he’s like my big brother. And our families they uh, didn’t make it. So we travelled with a radio.” She said as she thought back,
“And a radio signal came through, how this place was a safe haven and they were building a community and they had weapons and food and shelter. It took us maybe five days to get here.” She said to Mason, seeming a little distant as she thought about it.
“We came across these men and I gave them my water, Leon thought I was mad but I thought we would come across a stream. When I got here I was dehydrated and Sadie got me back to health. I always wanted to help people like she helped me.” She said to him with a small shrug. It sounded silly, that she just wanted to help the living people.
“Leon says we can’t trust anyone.” Millie said as she went to one of the fires that had been lit, warming herself by it.
“I’m on a night watch tonight. I don’t want to keep you awake.” She said to Mason apologetically.
“I’m sorry for cutting myself I know it can be a hassle. I’m clumsy.” She said as she started to climb the wall to the watch point.
“Take care Of yourself, Mason.” She said to him with a smile as she took a seat in the watch tower. It was freezing cold at night and the tiny fire torch didn’t really keep her warm as she watched for any movement out in the darkness.
Hugging herself Chris felt the blood drain from her face. She could understand depression and not having the energy to be positive, but she couldn’t understand how those things were getting through the wall. Countless people walked it everyday and they were always repairing it. In spite of the fear it instilled in her she was grateful for Leon telling her. Those in charge tended to keep things like this very hush hush, at least the best they could. Having been within the walls for a month or so she still had a lot to learn, but she was observant and that had always carried her farther than anything else.
“It seems like you care alot about Millie, she will appreciate the egg or at least the thought behind it. I know I would. I think there is a bigger problem here. How are these things still getting through? I know they are digging under, we would holes. Do you think someone is letting them in?” She asked suddenly, her eyes widening a little. She wanted to believe that people wouldn’t do that, but the apocalypse brings out the worst in people. Chris had learned that lesson that hard way when her own brother turned against her for a few cans of beans. A frown pulls at her lips as she remembers how he had ripped the cans away from her, his loose stomach jiggling. Her brother had always been a big man and the end of the world was the best diet in the world. That day had been the first and last time her brother had hit her as an adult.
More questions than answer rose to her lips and she shook her against voicing them. Walking around Leon was easy in the big kitchen, as much as she wanted to stay and chat she would be missed at the chicken pens. Motioning for him to follow her, she advises him to keep the egg a secret. It was an unspoken rule that any extra food should be returned to the mess hall for everyone to enjoy. Anything unwanted or unneeded was supposed to go back into the community that they had built here, but Chris could give two shits less. She was never good at doing what she was supposed to, and individual kindness would get her a lot farther than sucking up to some PTA moms that thought they knew everything. The icing on her cake however was that Hal swore by giving back, anything and everything, and Chris hated the little man. There was something in the way he talked to her and about her that boiled her blood.
[i “Racist asshole,”] She thought bitterly before leading the way back out to the animal pens. She had work to do and little time to stand around and chat, no matter how much she wanted to. Before parting ways Chris promised to find Leon later and chat more.
Millie’s questions didn’t surprise him, he’d told the story half a dozen times by now and retelling it didn’t bother him. With a soft smile he wets his lips and begins.
“ ‘fore I got ‘ere I traveled to different havens helpin’ those I could and learnin’ new things. I mostly hunted for ‘em and they would give me bullets or lasting supplies. Anyhow I was on my way south from the mountains, a few miles north of ‘ere, when I ran across a band of survivors callin’ themselves Wax Lions. There were five in total, all looked rough and smelled worse than the pigs. They took a likin’ to my grandfather’s rifle and demanded I hand it over. Being a family heirloom I wasn’t like to do that. There was a-,” Mason paused searching for the right words to save the girl from the bloodier details, “Disagreement, if ya will. I’m sure you can fill in the rest of the story from there. I took two down ‘fore I had to run for my life. You’re right, I am lucky I even survived.” Mason’s face was marked by three distinct scars that reminded him of that day. One split his right eyebrow in half and puckered the skin on his cheek stopping on the bone, A small scratch close to his right ear, and the third was the one that divided his lips. He didn’t mind them, he washed them everyday and rubbed the one on his lips every once in awhile. The left half of his face was untouched and handsome. His bright blue eyes often captured women’s hearts. His accent didn’t help matters. In spite of everything he had going for him, he wasn’t looking for love. Or anything that might be mistaken for love.
“That was the first and last time I had killed another human, that wasn’t infected of course. I’m not sure if we could even call those things human anymore.” Mason holds the door open for Millie as they wander into the med bay. He is careful to stay out of the Sadie’s way as she stitches the poor girl back together. A smile pulls at his lips as she mentions that she’s not built for building walls.
“You did a good job though, you’re a good learner.” Mason found himself praising her. She reminded him a lot of another girl in another haven. The girl’s name was Sierra and she made him eggs and toast every chance she got. That haven was set up in a farming town so they had plenty of food and people who knew how to harvest it. They lacked however the knowhow to build walls, what to look for, and how to govern themselves. The farmers often stayed to themselves and traded for supplies they didn’t have. Sierra had soft eyes and worn hands, her father was a greying man that nearly begged Mason to stay and take care of his daughter. What ifs kept Mason awake at night thinking about the pair and their small farm. Millie reminded him a lot of her. Mason thanked Sadie and gave her a curt wave as they left.
“How did you get ‘ere?” Mason asked. His time for sharing was over and it was her turn.
Leon looked to the woman and was incredibly grateful for her kindness. He knew times could be really hard and she was going above and beyond what she needed to do.
“Thanks, uh sad friend. I figure something like this is what cheers people up these days.” He said with an awkward smile. He wasn’t very good at playing it cool or anything. An apocalypse meant that more important things came first. He watched her and smiled,
“Leon, you’re Chris right? New girl.” He said and rubbed the back of his neck. He was pretty useless with names so it wouldn’t have surprised him if he got it wrong after all that effort.
“Nice to meet you! And thanks, really, I hope it does the trick. I uh, don’t know much about women and what cheers them up these days but this should don great.” He was half trying to convince himself because if it went wrong then Millie would just end up being even more depressed and vacant.
“Don’t suppose you know- I mean, she’s a medic- sort of. She’s being trained up, Millie her name is.” He explained.
“She’s a real joker but uh... I think everything is getting a bit much.” Leon said to her. It was hard for anyone to be ecstatic or happy these days. They had the odd good news, a baby being born, a wedding, Christmas or something like that but it was all over so fleetingly.
“She just stares into space most of the time.” He shrugged and kept a good grip of the egg like it was a gift from the gods. Food was short in supply.
“I would’ve come earlier but I was on patrol and then one got by the wall somehow.” He said, his expression turning to a flash of concern. He had no idea how they did it.
Millie glanced to the man, recognising him faintly and when he mentioned thanking her, she was perplexed and she tilted her head before it dawned on her.
“Oh! Mason right? I remember, you were uh... the first person Sadie let me work on by myself. You got lucky.” She said to him with a small laugh.
“I wouldn’t mind, thank you.” She said, grateful for the company.
“What even happened to you? You were in bad shape, you were lucky there was no infection.” She pointed out as she thought back to it. It had been one Hell of a day and Millie remembered a lot of blood and how deep the wound was. She didn’t really recognise him with a clean face somehow.
“Sorry I couldn’t do anything about the scar.” She pointed out with a small nod.
She made her way to Sadie, an older woman who was incredibly experienced.
[b “What’d you do?”] She rolled her eyes and ushered Millie to sit down, getting some disinfectant, mostly alcohol rub.
[b “This is gonna hurt, lass, sorry.”] She said and offered Millie a right rag to bite on to stop her shouting but Millie refused. Sadie pressed to rub to her cut and Millie cringed, inhaling sharply. Sadie set to work, a couple of stitches for peace of mind and a right bandage.
[b “You’ll live.”] She said to her and Millie grimaced and looked to Mason,
“Sorry. I’m usually more careful than this.” She pointed out.
“I don’t think I’m built for fixing walls. I can fix people, not walls.” She commented.
Chickens smelled worse as the sun rose and cooked the top layer of their shit. Frowning with sweat dripping into her eyes Chris shovels what she can into five gallon bucks. Cleaning the chicken pen was a weekly chore that gave her something to do. Wiping sweat from her eyes she turns to the sound of a somewhat familiar voice.
“Uh, let me see if we missed one. Usually they come and get the eggs around 11 or so.” Chris didn't mind giving out an extra egg everyone once in awhile. The smallest shred of kindness could save someone's life in times like this and she never knew when she would need a favor herself. The birds clucked when they saw her and fluttered their wings. A few pecked at each other and the ground. Food for them was getting scarcer as the weather was getting colder. Returning to him she shakes her head.
“No luck, but I might have one. They give my housemate eggs all the time for his hard work.” Chris motions for him to follow her. Heading out of chicken pen she starts down a worn path between where the animals were kept and the farmhouse. It was an unspoken rule that people didn't steal within Raven Rock's walls. The world was as bad as it could get and those that were left didn't need to worry about their supplies being taken. Another deterrent just so happened to be most people owned guns now, at least one. The kitchen looked as she had left it with little signs of life. Opening the fridge she pulls an egg from its container.
“Whether it's good or not is hit or miss, but it's an egg.” she smiles putting it in the palm of his hand. Running her hand through her braids, she unsticks them from the back of her neck.
“I've seen you before, but I don't remember your name. Mind reminding me?”
Mason turned as he heard someone mentioning a patch in the wall. The girl was slim and was only slightly muscled however she did a good job. Nodding he kneels to get a closer look. Her voice rises above the clatter of other working making Mason tense. The sun hints off her skin as he follows her to a rock. A tall thin woman brings over the cleanest rag she could find. The tall woman meets Mason's eyes for a moment before she scurries away. He vaguely remembered her from somewhere, but exactly where he wasn't sure. Returning his attention back to the bleeding woman he steps forward.
“ ‘ere lemme see a minute. It's not too bad, not great either. I suggest going to Sadie, she'll put ya back together. Wha’ piece you do it on?” the scent of fresh blood attracted whatever was infesting the human population. Mason would have to run some water over the metal to clean the blood off. It wouldn't be too bad of an idea to sand down the edge too to stop anyone else getting hurt. Meeting her eyes he could see the pain in them. The sun warmed his skin as it warmed hers and remembered where he'd seen her before. She had been one of the few to sew him shut when he showed up at the gates bloodied. The scar quartering his lips would never let him forget that day. A soft smile pulls at the corner of his mouth as her name finds his tongue.
“Millie wasn't it? I never got the chance t’ thank you.” straightening he towers over her, “Want me to walk with ya?”
Leon sighed and stretched, he must’ve fallen asleep on the couch and he checked the time.
“Oh shit-“ he wiggled up, he was late for the evening checks. He sighed and grabbed his things before heading out. Millie must’ve already gone out he figured as he jogged down to join the group. Nothing new to report and things were to be tighter following the earlier incident. Thankfully his absence for the first part hasn’t been noticed and he looked around. People were beginning to get scared. He knew it would happen eventually. These parasites, they seemed to be evolving and learning somehow how to avoid being detected. They would need to figure out how to detect them as time went on. He shrugged into his coat and pondered a while.
He headed towards the cultural part. Maybe they would have a couple of spare eggs he could take.
“Excuse me? Anyone in?” He asked, knowing full well not to go sneaking around because that would earn him an injury if people thought he was one of those things.
“Uh, hello?” Maybe they were all out but the animals seemed well care for.
“I’m just wondering if I could take an egg? Not for me, for my friend.” Millie had been rather down lately. Although he did not seek interest in her romantically, h did worry about her like a sister and anything he could do to lift her spirits would mean everyone was happier. He couldn’t really cook and honestly he was pretty terrible with women but things could be so scarce sometimes that he figured even a fried egg or boiled egg or something would cheer someone up. Maybe he would ask for some help on what he could do to cheer his friend up because women were fickle things with lots of feelings and emotions that he didn’t quite understand.
Millie had gone out to help with patching up some small parts in the wall. A few other women her own age were helping.
[i “Do you think they’re going to keep coming?”]
[b “Who knows. That’s three this month by my count.”]
[i “They’re getting better at sneaking in. The one earlier... looked... normal.”]
Millie focused on something else. She had been doing her best to block it all out. Men were walking the wall and noticing any weak spots but somehow she didn’t think they were coming through holes in the walls. She stayed quiet as she worked at patching up one part of the wall, reenforcing it. By the time she finished she was sweating with the hot sun on her back. She eventually stood and stretched her back. She was exhausted but she knew everyone had jobs to do and the only way this place would stay safe was if everyone pulled their weight.
She saw a man walking the wall as she passed and she looked to him. She didn’t really recognise him but he seemed like he knew the wall.
“I patched up that spot over there. It wasn’t too bad just needed a bit of extra.” She explained and gestured to it. She wasn’t really built for strength and manual labour. She didn’t have much strength but she was quick on her feet and usually she would be helping out in the sick bay. She wasn’t a nurse or doctor but she liked to learn just in case. She turned back to the wall and picked up a piece of metal to start screwing it back in but there must have been a sharp piece of rugged edge and she cut her palm.
“God Damnit!” She muttered and sat on one of the rocks, taking some cloth from another girl.
She wound it round her palm to stop the bleeding and sighed. She needed to make sure it was clean because they didn’t have medicine for infections and even if they did, it was in short supply. She tied it off and tried clenching her first, flinching.
“Well, that’s not good.” She mumbled and sighed as she took a drink of water.
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