Jack sits on the edge of the queen sized bed, hunger pains clawing away at his quivering belly. He gets up pacing the room and tries to think. Would the house hold up another night? Should they leave? And even if they did, what’s out there past the parched acres? Too many questions were circulating his rapid thoughts, they could try to search for shelter, for food, for a new “home” even, but at the end of every scenario and possible solution stood the same fact snuffing out the metaphorical light bulb; with any path taken the night would definitely come. And with it all hell would be released, out in the open would be a fool’s dream to think it would be safe.
He shuffles downstairs and absent mindedly peeks in on Gabby and Kirk. She lay facing the wall with one arm pushed under her head for support, like a thin pillow. Kirk sat on the other end of the bed, cautiously rubbing his wrists. The cuffs were beginning to leave raw rings around his skin. Jack continues to the well lit kitchen and opens the cabinets. Stacks of canned goods sit idly in rows lined down the shelves. Choices were slim, but at least it was food. Lima Beans, Mixed Vegetables, and canned Peaches in light syrup. None of it seemed appealing, but it would drench the gnawing flame in his belly. Rotating a wobbly can opener around a rim of peaches, Jack pops the top and steps out the back door.
The sun gleamed onto his bare back, glistening sweat began to glide down like tears removing traces of dry blood stuck to him. Digging his paw into the can of warm syrup, he pulls out a soggy peach and s***s it down, wiping his hand back and forth on his pants afterwards. Canvassing the area while eating, he looks for wear and tear of the home. Boards jutted out on the back end giving an illusion of a half peeled orange, the snagged wood being the rinds hanging outwards, ready to be picked off. Ditches and half created holes burrowed under the edges of the house sunk inwards, not just on one side like he previously thought. Rubbing his hand through his truffle of stiff hair it became apparent that the house would not stand another night. Eyeing the sky he looked at the sun dangling in the sky, taking a educated guess he figured they had about half a days worth of traveling if they were to pack up and leave.
Gabby groans and rolls onto her back, her mouth felt as if she bit down on a blender and dared someone to hit the power on it. Sliding her tongue through the cracks and newly formed baby teeth, she whimpers and allows pain to greet her. “Hey, hey it’s okay.” Kirk’s thick voice cuts through the air.
She slides her elbows back on the sheets and leans her upper torso upwards at an angle. Her legs have the ghost instinct to do the same, to help slide her body into a sitting position. But alas they lay, numb and immobile. “My face,” Gabby groans. “Did I fall?” She looks down to see her shoes off, socks still on but her pants adjusted differently than she remembered. “You took a hit, I carried you to bed and laid you down. I had to check for bruising, don’t worry I didn’t look at the goods.” Kirk says bashfully. Gabby feels embarrassed for asking out loud about her pants and places a reassuring hand on his back. Not sure how to bring it up again she asks, “Could you help me to the restroom, please?”
Kirk gets up without speaking and slides his burly arms under her legs and around her back, lifting her up he takes her to the restroom and sets her down on the toilet. “Thank you, I can take it from here.” She says, with half a smile. Partially from embarrassment, she never had anyone but her husband do such private deeds. Now a near complete stranger was doing so. She then wiggles her pants loose while leaning backwards against the seat.
Kirk stands outside the door when he hears, “Kirk, we need to talk.” It was Jack standing outside, slouching against the crooked doorframe with a can in one hand. Kirk follows him to the sides of the house and takes notice of the holes. “This ain’t good. What’s the plan?” Kirk mutters.
“Don’t know yet. I’m thinking we leave, and soon.” Jack replies.
“To where? We’re in the middle of nowhere, got no way of getting anywhere except by walking. Do you know of any places to go?”
“My wife used to,” he stops for a moment when he mentions her. “She used to shop in a town near here, said it’s only a few miles from here. Got dry goods and supplies when we needed em, I stayed home and tended to the crops. So don’t ask how far it is on foot, or if we’ll beat the sun. Did you see anything from the direction you came?”
“Yeah, dead bodies and lots of em. I was running for my life, I didn’t stop until I was in this sun glazed land and bumped into your house.” Kirk looks up to the sky. “Whatever we do, should choose quickly. Sun ain’t gonna be in our favor for too long.”
“Kirk,” Jack starts. “Do you remember anything else? Like how this started? Or what they are?”
Kirk leans against the house and crosses his arms while staring ahead. His forehead wrinkles as he turns towards him and responds, “I was on a bus. Prison bus, obviously. We crashed, or did we stop for some reason?”
Jack continues to eat the peaches while staring toward the horizon.
“It’s kind of blurry. I just remember running, then I ran into you and Gabby. S**t, I don’t know how my memory is warped already it’s not like it was long ago.”
“Funny thing is I don’t remember much of anything either.” Jack responds. “Just here with Macy and my wife. Then it was you with us. Gabby came after they…” He turns his head to cough, covering a tear that tried to run loose. “Point is, I don’t have memory of what life was like before. That bit about the grocery store, I’m not sure if that’s really true or just a thought that I want to think is true. I feel like it is, but what if it isn’t? Tending to crops, it felt right to say,” he turns his hands over exposing his soft palms. “But these don’t look like the hands of a farmer.”
Kirk twist his lip as he did when concentrating too hard and scratched his head. The chain from his wrist dangled next to his cheek. “I don’t know what to say. This whole situation doesn’t make sense. I know once the sun goes down it means you better get your a*s out of sight, but have you seen what exactly it is that comes out?”
“No, just a glance here and there. I’ve seen what happens if you get their blood in your mouth or inside you though. It turns you into something else. You lose your senses and who you loved no longer matters. That’s all I know for sure. Like an infection.”
Kirk stares upwards towards the overbearing sun then whispers, “Jack, where are we?”
Before he can think of a response, he steps inside when he hears Gabby’s soft voice, “Jack, could you help me?” Knocking on the wooden door he hears, “Come in.” Gabby sits in her chair when she whispers, “Where is he?”
Jack closes the door and replies, “He’s outside?” Looking at the swollen bridge of her nose he begins to apologize for not being there, for sulking in his thoughts. She cuts him off before he has a chance to talk, “I think something happened. When I was asleep.”
Jack arches his eyebrow with curiosity.
“I’m not sure, so don’t say anything yet, but just now I went to the bathroom and there was blood, a small amount.”
“Are you sure it’s not, well you know your-”
“I’ve had my period this month, I thought maybe I got scratched or something in the middle of everything. But I just wanted to ask, what did Kirk go to prison for? We’ve been together for a while. I don’t think that question has ever even come up? Has it?” She whispers.
“No, I don’t think it has. We were just outside talking, I’m not sure if he even knows what he was going to prison for. Before we go on, can I ask you something?”
At this point Gabby was positioning her legs into the footrest. “Of course you can.”
“What do you remember before coming here?”
Gabby stops as if something just poked her thoughts with a hot needle, it was something she hadn’t thought of. Playing a game of survival was all she focused on, but now that her memory reel was given a twirl it was coming up blank. “I don’t know,” she whispers. She looks up at him with a confused expression, “I remember coming here and it only being you and Kirk. I can’t remember anything before that.” Shaking her head with her eyes closed she says, “My mind is blank. Why haven’t I noticed that? Do you remember anything?”
Jack shakes his head lightly, “Just remember meeting Kirk and being here with Macy and Lyla.”
“Something about him is starting to make me wonder though, do you trust what Kirk claims happened that night?
Jack feels a sick feeling twist in his belly, and suddenly reflects on the night Macy was taken from him, the night Lyla turned, and who was the last person to see them alive.