Fighting to Survive Page 2

Beyond the walls of their little fort, the world was still dying and the dead were walking, but all Juan wanted was a moment when all would feel alive and good. Maybe it was too much to hope for.

Perhaps this moment, listening to Jenni breathing as she slept peacefully, was all he could truly wish for.

With a long sigh, he tightened his deadened arm around her waist and held onto her tightly.

3. The Lurking Past

Katie sat on top of the city hall roof in a plastic chair with her arms folded over her breasts and her head tilted back to stare at the stars.

She was done with sleep for the night. One more nightmare about her dead wife and she would start screaming and never stop. The ache in her chest hurt so bad; she didn’t want to see her loved one’s mutilated form rushing her with clawed hands anymore.

The cigarette dangling from her fingers was burning down slowly.

Raising it to her lips, she took another long drag, then exhaled slowly.

She watched the smoke unfurl against the backdrop of the stunning black sky with pinpricks of stars. She had quit smoking when she had met Lydia. Lydia had hated smoking with a passion. Her fiance at the time had been a chain smoker and she had never even thought about quitting until she had met Lydia. After one look into Lydia's amazing eyes, Katie would have done anything for her.

A tear slipped free from her eye and traced down her temple as she stared up at the sky. Sniffling loudly, she took another drag on the cigarette, desperately seeking some sort of satisfaction in the process.

Lydia was still out there, one of the many undead hordes. Katie had barely escaped with her own life while on the way to work.

Thankfully, she had been rescued by a man who had been dragged down by the zombies. She had raced home in his old battered white truck only to see her beautiful wife gorging on the body of a fallen postman.

Her life with Lydia had ended in that terrible, brutal moment. She would never hold Lydia's soft, delicate hand, kiss her sweet lips, or feel her gentle caress ever again. It had ended just like that.

Another tear slipped free and she blinked hard.

How could she love Lydia so much and yet feel drawn to Travis?

How could she betray Lydia's memory like that?

Nearby, the guard on the roof coughed and stretched. It was Bill, the cop from a little town where she and Jenni had taken refuge. He was watching the street for any sign of the zombies. They had cleared out a majority of them from the town, but many still lurked out there.

Caught in bushes, trapped in buildings, wandering through the hills…

Who would have ever imagined that the dead would walk the earth outside of a George A. Romero film? She never did. Ever. She had dealt in a real world. She had worked hard as a prosecutor, doing her best to bring justice to the world while living a simple life with Lydia.

And then it had all ended.

This new world confused her. It was full of the walking hungry dead. Surviving from one day to the next was everyone's top priority.

But beyond that, there seemed so little time to mourn before making new connections, new friends, and even new loves. She saw it all around her. Families torn apart by the first day of the zombie rising were forever gone, but new families were being born all around her.

Strangers were becoming brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles to each other. The elderly in the fort were now everyone's grandparents. At the thought of the elderly, Old Man Watson came to mind, bringing a smile to her face. Although he could barely hear, he was everyone’s great grandpa now, one who hugged and kissed, who always smiled, always happy to be part of the survivors.

Jenni was her new sister. Jenni's stepson Jason felt like a nephew, Juan was her annoying new brother in law, and Travis…

She rubbed her nose with irritation and sighed.

Travis was the man everyone loved. Everyone listened to him.

Everyone believed in him. He was calm strength in the midst of chaos. He was handsome, but didn't know it. And, sometimes, he was a bit of a nerd. Despite herself, she smiled at the thought of him.

From the moment she had met him, she knew he was important to her life. To the lives of all the survivors. She had believed in him instantly. And as they grew to know each other, it had become more than apparent that he had fallen in love with her.

But as far as Travis knew, it was a lost cause. Katie had a wife in her old life and he saw her as unattainable. And she had encouraged that belief. She was afraid if he realized she was actually bisexual, he would immediately pursue her.

Despite herself, she knew in her heart that she would not resist him for long. She hated this new world where everyone seemed to be living at an accelerated pace. Life seemed so precious and short now that there was no real time to mourn the world they had lost. They had to survive and find their own small moments of happiness, or else the life they had now was meaningless.

“Oh, God, Lydia,” she whispered, wiping tears away.

“Huh?” Bill looked toward her.

“Nothing, Bill. Just talking to myself,” she answered with a forced smile and sat up. She put out her cigarette on the roof and sat with her elbows resting on her knees.

“Gotcha. I find myself doing that, too.” Bill's big round face grinned at her, then he returned his gaze to the street.

Katie stared down at the hunting boots she wore. They had been given to her by the sweet old man who had run the hunting shop were they had taken refuge in that first terrible night. Clad in jeans and a tank top, she felt far away from the tailored and perfectly-coifed prosecutor persona she had worn for years. But, she had to admit, the jeans and tank top fit who she really was; a no-fuss girl with wavy blond hair and big green eyes who liked to wear comfortable shoes and casual T-shirts.

Standing up, she pulled the tank top down over her belly and walked toward the edge of the roof. The hotel loomed over the construction site that was full of makeshift blue tarp tents. The elderly and the few surviving women with children were asleep in the city hall, but the younger people were tucked into tents. The nights were growing warmer and warmer as the summer unfurled.

“Got one down on the far corner, but I can't get a bead on it,” Bill said to her.

She looked to where he pointed and caught sight of a figure swaying back and forth near an empty building on the far side of the fort walls. A lamppost and tree partially blocked it from view.

“I think it got its foot caught in the sidewalk cracks. It's really uneven there.” Bill sighed and stared at the zombie sadly.

Katie didn't say anything. There wasn't much to say. A lone zombie was usually a pretty sad sight from a distance. The mutilated form always spoke of a terrible ending to a human life. But the second it saw you, it was the most horrible thing you had ever seen. Its eyes would flash wide and its mouth would open to reveal terrible teeth as it reached toward you and let out a horrible shriek.

“Hey,” Travis' voice said from behind them.

She turned to see him walking from the stairway. He was wearing a dark T-shirt and jeans. She felt an inward pang of desire that she tried hard to ignore. She couldn't help herself, but his broad shoulders and curly hair made her want to touch him. Setting her lips tightly together, she looked away from him. She couldn't betray Lydia's memory.

“Hey, Travis. What's up?” Bill stood up and tugged his shirt down over his beer belly.

“I think we're going to go ahead and take the street next to us tomorrow. It's getting hotter and with June hitting soon, it's only going to get worse. We need to get into the hotel, but we need our people safe and out of the way.”

“Taking the Dollar Store over?” Bill waved toward the side street that they had yet to claim into the fort.

“Yeah. Can't put it off anymore. 'Sides, with the Panama Canal working, we can risk closing off that street.”

Katie could feel Travis glance toward her. She folded her arms over her breasts to try to steady herself. She felt so lonely tonight. She wanted him to hold her, but she feared what that may lead to.

“I figure you'll wanna go in, so if you want to go get some sleep, I can take over,” Travis said to Bill.

Bill thought this over. “Did you get sleep?”

“Yeah. I'm good. We'll head in around nine or ten.”

Bill glanced at his watch. “I could use about four hours of sleep.”

He handed the rifle to Travis.

Travis took it awkwardly. He wasn't very comfortable with guns, but he was trying.

“Catch you later, Katie,” Bill said, patting her arm as he headed off.

“Sleep well, Bill!” Katie called after him.

Then she was alone with Travis.

“Did you sleep?”

She finally looked toward him and nodded. “Did you? Or did you lie?”

“I slept enough,” he answered, and shrugged. He took Bill's place and immediately saw the tangled up zombie. He frowned when he realized he didn't have a clear shot. “Is everything okay with you?”

“I'm fine,” Katie assured him.

“Ralph dying and Nerit coming here seems to have shook you up,” he said. He looked at her worriedly.

The two elderly people who had taken her and Jenni into their home above the hunting store that first night had come up against ruthless men that had killed Ralph before Nerit, his wife and former sniper for the Israeli army, took them out.

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