"Is it really safe? To drive in the dark?" Laura asked.
"Is it really safe to stay?" Chris responded.
"It could be, if we find the right place," Sebastian pointed out. Maria nodded in agreement.
"I’m for driving," John chimed in. "You’re both right, but we need to move out of here anyway, so it might as well be tonight."
"I want to keep moving, too," Nick added. Chris nodded. Laura grasped Nick’s hand and looked at him, half worried, but said nothing.
"I’m not sure," Olive said. "But I’m okay with moving on, I think."
"That settles it, then. Load up and we’ll head off," Chris yelled, excitedly.
"Dude, keep it down!" Sebastian reprimanded him. "Any louder and we’ll have a mob on our trail." Chris looked sheepish and jumped into the driver’s seat of the station wagon. Olive chucked her bag into the boot and slid into the passenger seat.
John took the driver’s seat of the van, and Nick and Laura sat themselves down against the side in the back, next to a pile of supplies. Maria and Sebastian joined them, closing the doors behind them.
Chris revved the engine of the station wagon, and John shook his head.
"God, he’s an ass," he said, turning the key in the ignition. The van shuddered to life, and John followed Chris out of the lot and onto the road. Nick grinned, and Laura chuckled quietly.
"It’s been like this the entire time," Nick explained.
"To be fair, Chris really is an ass," Laura added.
"What’s the deal with that gun?" Sebastian asked.
"Dunno, he had it when we met him," Nick responded.
"Same," called out John. "But I bet it didn’t come to him honestly."
"Using a gun in a situation like this is pretty stupid, don’t you think?" said Maria. "I mean, the zombies are essentially human, right? Who’s to say that they can’t hear? Who’s to say that they won’t react to a loud noise? I mean, it’s not like the other dead are capable of making guns go off, are they?"
"Good point," Sebastian agreed. "How often does he use it?"
"Not often," John answered. "Though I think it’s just because he wants to save ammo. I doubt he even has the ability to think ahead."
"Kinda harsh, isn’t it?" Maria asked quietly.
"He’s not far off the mark," Laura told her. "You’ll see, just spend a bit more time with him. He’s definitely not the smartest of the bunch."
"And yet we agree to his idea of leaving town tonight?" Sebastian queried.
"Just because he’s an idiot doesn’t mean he can’t have a good idea every now and then," John replied. "And although his South Auckland remark was intended as a joke - a rather prejudiced one, at that - he’s right, just for the wrong reasons. If any part of the city is going to get violent and rough, it’ll be the south first. I don’t wanna hang around here too long."
"Makes sense, I guess," Sebastian mused.
"Anyway, some of you, at least, should sleep. I’ll wake someone up when I need to rest; take turns driving," John suggested.
"I’ll keep you company," Sebastian offered, climbing into the passenger seat.
Maria shifted into a corner and slumped down, exhausted. She wouldn’t fall asleep for hours, but at least she could try.
Nick and Laura leaned against each other and silently closed their eyes, faces expressionless. If you were to look closely, you would see the white of Nick’s knuckles as he grasped Laura’s hand.
Sebastian and Maria became acquainted with the rest of their new group in brief conversations with shortened breaths. Aside from Chris, who seemed to be the natural leader, and Olive, who was apparently the designated improvised medic, there were three others; two who were unmistakeably a couple, late teens, sticking together like glue, as would be expected. The third was a middle-aged man in a suit, looking extremely out of place, running down the motorway, hair and clothes scruffy.
The couple were Laura and Nick. The suit was named John.
Laura and Nick had come into the city for supplies and information after coming across a lone zombie in their street. Certainly not the smartest decision, but they had limited information and assumed it was a localised, isolated thing. Didn’t stop their friends falling to the masses of dead they encountered, though. The loss had left them quiet and introspective. Sebastian and Maria were only able to glean a few scarce details from them.
John had been working in his day-to-day cubicle-worker job when the sirens rang out. He had holed himself up in the office building while most of his co-workers left for home. He didn’t know whether they made it or not, but to be honest, he didn’t particularly care. Working for years in the same office had left him jaded and cynical to the point where seeing co-workers – people he had known for a long while – die in front of him didn’t affect him as much as it probably should have. He seemed to have no problem discussing their deaths. He was less open about any family he had in the city.
“You haven’t heard from your family?” Sebastian had asked. John simply didn’t respond. “Wife? Kids?”
Seb’s persistence had been met with glares. He eventually gave up.
Chris seemed to be equally as enigmatic. He didn’t give any details on his job, and when Maria asked where he got the gun, he simply grimaced and said it didn’t matter.
“So, what’s the plan?” Maria asked after at least half an hour’s jog.
“We find transport. Jack a car or two from a dealership. Maybe a van. Something that’ll fit all of us,” Chris explained.
“Seems reasonable,” Sebastian agreed. “But will the roads be clear?”
“We can only hope,” Chris responded. “At least we can hope that the roads further out will be clear.”
Sebastian nodded, and they kept jogging.
It was well into the evening before the group came across a car yard that corresponded with a patch of motorway that was reasonably clear enough to drive on. They had spent five minutes while it was still perfectly light testing how long it would take to move one car, in case they had to later on. With all of them working together, it only took a couple of minutes, and they would surely cut that down in time.
Chris seemed to have intricate knowledge in the details of car theft. He swore it was innocently-gained, but neither Seb nor Maria were sure whether to believe him or not.
After a few minutes’ deliberation, the group settled on one van; the standard utility vehicle, white, two seats in the front and an empty back, and a station wagon. Some argued for taking another wagon, but in the end the expectation of limited petrol cut down their points.
“We have a decision to make,” Chris announced, gathering everyone together in the lot. “We have to decide between driving through the night or finding a place to stay. I’m personally for driving, because I don’t think we can make any of these places safe for the night. Too many variables.”
The rest of the group didn’t look so sure.
“And besides,” Chris added. “I’m not exactly comfortable with staying in South Auckland in the best of times.”
A loud noise reverberated through the tunnel. Be aware that “loud” is an understatement, and “noise”, while strictly true, is not very descriptive. To Sebastian, whose eyes were involuntarily closed, it was as if the entire world had compressed into a single, deep, all-encompassing BANG. He briefly wondered if this was what happened when you died.
He opened his eyes. They were shaking; he could feel them. Everything seemed silent. There was a dead man inches from his feet – double-dead, really.
Seb was vaguely aware of a muffled noise coming from above and behind him. The muffled noise was rather drowned out by the rest of the world’s noise slowly returning, but he turned nonetheless.
There was a man, nothing particularly special about him, standing on top of the bus. A more focussed look revealed him to be holding a handgun of some sort, and that he was young, perhaps a year or two older than Sebastian. He was yelling something incoherent at Seb, and Seb stood. The man nodded and gestured for Sebastian to come behind the bus. Sebastian turned to see the gap had been widened just enough for him to fit through.
Once he was through, he stood still for a few seconds, trying to regain his senses and his balance. The universe had different ideas, and another person grabbed his arm and started pulling. He was aware of someone yelling in his ear: “Are you okay? Are you hurt at all?”
Sebastian looked up to see a teenaged girl with a worried look on her face. He didn’t respond, still shell-shocked.
“Look, if you’re not hurt, then we need to get going!” she shouted, loud enough for him to hear her. “There were more following you anyway, and that shot will only attract more! We don’t want to get trapped in here!”
Sebastian nodded to signify that he understood.
“Maria?” he shouted back. The girl pointed. Maria was standing a few metres away, looking just as worried. Sebastian grinned foolishly to show her that he was fine, before taking a proper look around.
They were an eclectic bunch – for they were a bunch, not just the man with the gun and the girl with the worried face; there were three others. Just as assorted as people one would normally find in the city.
The man got down from the bus by sliding down the wall. He walked quickly up to Sebastian, talking as he walked: “Chris. And you are? Tell me while we walk. Olive, keep an eye on him, make sure he’s okay. Everyone, let’s go before we get stuck!” he addressed the last part to the other three, who were huddled next to Maria.
“Sebastian” Seb yelled, keeping up with Chris.
“No need to yell, mate, we can hear you perfectly fine!” Chris yelled at him. “And the girl?”
“Maria,” Sebastian answered, lowering his voice to a more normalised level. They reached the group of the others and continued walking. The others followed.
“Right, then. We’re leaving. Headed south, hopefully in a car or two. Will you be joining us?” Chris asked. Sebastian looked at Maria. She nodded, unsure.
“For now, at least,” Sebastian responded. Chris nodded grimly and started jogging. The group followed suit, and they began to run out of the CBD, down the south-eastern motorway.