Marty jumped down from the cab of the fire truck and took a swig from his water bottle. The sun was out but it was cold, and he buttoned up his jacket accordingly. James had already climbed out of the back and was walking across the road to the car dealership that had attracted their attention.
Julie stood alongside Marty as he gazed across the street.
‘He really hasn’t taken it well has he?’
Marty, who hadn’t really been listening, turned to look at her, thinking about how he had watched James become more and more distant during the last 3 days. The guilt surrounding the deaths of Todd and Gloria was slowly destroying him.
‘Err, what? Sorry.’
‘That’s ok, I don’t think it’s been easy for any of us. I think it’s hit him particularly hard though. He blames himself for Gloria and Todd dying.’
Marty shook his head. He knew his friend and he knew that Julie had summed up the situation perfectly. James had led the group to Walmart and that’s where two people died, and one ran away.
‘It was a group decision, it was a fair vote. I wish I could make him see that but he’s a stubborn asshole when he wants to be and he wants to save everyone.’
As he spoke the words he could see James wandering forlornly among the used cars that remain on the lot. Mike had also headed over the road and was looking through the window of an old Corvette. Marty sighed.
‘I guess we had better go over there and see what they’re up to.
Marty wandered across the tarmac forecourt, looking at the vehicles. He could imagine coming somewhere like this with his father, as he had done when he went out looking for his first car. He had not been able to contact his parents for quite some time. He realised that the chances of their survival were slim, but his Father was once a soldier, so he harboured a slight hope that he would have been resourceful enough to do something about the situation.
He snapped himself out of his daydream so he could analyse his surroundings. The forecourt was abandoned and the office was untouched. So often Marty had found empty buildings full of broken glass and streaks of blood; it was a pleasant change to find one that was just an empty building. His attention was grabbed by the smashing of glass. He froze momentarily before noticing that James had thrown a rock through the door of the office.
‘What the hell are you doing?’
His shout fell on deaf ears so he jogged over, joining Mike and Julie in the doorway. The three of them watched as James rifled through drawers, pulling out batches of car keys.
He stopped, hunched over a desk, and looked up at Marty. He said nothing.
‘What are you doing man?
‘Getting us some new wheels. We don’t need the fire truck anymore; it uses too much gas and draws too much attention to us.’
A fair point. We’re not rescuing folk anymore.
James continued looking at the labels on key rings, tossing several aside before dropping a whole bunch on to the desk, keeping hold of one particular key.
‘This is what I’m after!
He walked straight past the three concerned onlookers and out to the lot, heading for a brown SUV. He put the key in the lock and smiled in satisfaction as the locks flicked open. The group walked over to him as he opened the hood and examined inside. Marty put his hand on his shoulder, and his colleague straightened up and turned around. Marty looked him in the eye.
I don’t like this.
‘I’m going to Atlanta.’
‘Atlanta? What the hell do you expect to find in Atlanta?’
‘There’s a medical centre there, there may be survivors. Medical professionals. There might be a cure for this thing.’
Julie chimed in.
‘That’s suicide dude.’
James pointed angrily at her.
‘Suicide? No more suicidal than going to Walmart!’
So that’s what this is about. This is crazy.
Marty shook his head mournfully.
‘You need to let go man, it wasn’t your fault!’
James slammed the hood down and stepped back.
‘That’s easy for you to say. It wasn’t your idea to go there!’
‘It was a vote, we all…’
‘There blood is on my hands Marty! My hands! Those people died because of me. We were supposed to protect them – they came to us for help!’
‘And do you think we would have helped them by sitting in the fire station waiting to die? Do you think they would have thanked us as they starved to death?’
James kicked out at the car behind him, setting off the alarm.
‘I’m not asking you to come with me this time! I’m going alone, that way I don’t have to worry about looking after anybody else.’
Mike dashed over to the noisy vehicle, smashing the window with a rock and popping the hood so that he could shut off the alarm. Marty approached James.
‘This is insane man, we need to stick together.’
‘Sticking together didn’t do shit for Gloria, Todd or Katy did it?’
Julie slumped to the floor as Mike stepped forward.
‘I’m going with you.’
Marty glared at him.
Shit, we’re not all going to have to go are we? What the hell is happening?
‘Don’t be stupid, we should stick together.’
James shook his head.
‘And go where?’
Marty had no answer, there was just silence. James pointed at him.
Marty pleaded with James some more as he loaded some supplies from the back of the fire truck into the SUV. Julie just sat cross legged on the floor, watching. Marty looked at her.
‘You don’t want to go to Atlanta do you?’
There must be something I can say to stop this.
James looked at Mike, who was about to open the passenger door.
‘Are you sure you want to come with me?’
He nodded. Marty couldn’t help himself.
‘You idiots! This is crazy! You saw how many of those things we found in Athens; how many do you think you’re going to find in Atlanta?’
James shook his head again.
I wish he’d stop that.
‘There might be more freaks, but there will be more survivors too. People that can help us – people that can help everyone.’
‘There’s no guarantee of that.’
‘Please James! I know that you feel guilty but this really isn’t going to solve anything! Don’t go getting yourself killed just because you feel bad!’
James said nothing as he closed the door, put the car in drive and rolled on to the highway.
Marty sat down on the floor next to Julie. She leaned her head on to his shoulder.
He almost laughed
‘I have no idea.’