secret_history: (NaNoWriMo)
[personal profile] secret_history
November 8th, 06:13

The day had dawned rainy, dark grey clouds gathering in the sky. Unlike the torrential downpour of the previous days, this rain was more of a thick drizzle, enough to make everyone wet and miserable, and to obscure the countryside from sight under rolling banks of fog. Michaela sat on the brown sofa in Rob's living room-turned-headquarters, one leg tucked under her, a mug of tea balancing on her knee, and stared through the water-streaked window at what little could be seen beyond. Apart from the two guys out on patrol, no one else was awake yet, and she was relishing the time to herself, at least for a little while. Left too long on her own and her thoughts inevitably drifted onto memories she didn't want to revisit just yet, but for now she was content to watch out the window, letting the morning slip by unheeded.

A flicker of movement by the treeline half a kilometre away caught her attention, and she leaned forward, trying to make out what it was. A moment later the figure came into focus, and she found herself smiling. Deer were plentiful this year, after the relatively mild winter of the past year, and it wasn't rare to see them walking about, even this close to the house. The deer paused, one foreleg raised, and seemed to stare straight at her, although she knew it couldn't possibly see that far. Then with a flick of its white tail it sprang delicately across the field, past the small row of hastily-dug graves, which they had placed far from the house, but close enough that they could still be seen. A moment later, the deer disappeared from view into another grove of trees.

Rob had already been out a couple of times to shoot at the deer, joking about no longer needing deer tags in that overly-jovial way they'd all adopted when talking about mundane things like doing dishes and other chores. It seemed important, somehow, to make everyday things seem fun and enjoyable. He'd brought home a young doe the day before, and then they'd been faced with the rather daunting task of dressing and butchering the animal with no outside help. Field dressing was one thing, but even Rob had never butchered an entire deer by himself, and the end result, while effective, hadn't exactly been pretty. Still, it had kept their minds off things, and they'd spent part of the time in fits of giggles as things went wrong in ways they hadn't expected. Michaela found herself smiling at the thought, and blew on her tea to cool it before taking a sip. Rob had a large store of tea bags, but she knew it was a luxury that wouldn't last forever. Best to enjoy it while it was still available.

She started as she heard the creak of floorboards behind her, then relaxed with a laugh. “God, you nearly gave me a heart attack, Seb.”

Seb looked sheepish. “'Scuse moi.”

“Don't worry about it. I'm just jumpy.”

Sebastien was the latest arrival at what some of the more militaristic among them had taken to calling the “Compound.” Rob's house and five-odd acres of land were pretty far removed from anything resembling an actual compound, but it didn't seem worth arguing over. Most of the men who'd joined up with Rob in an effort to keep the zombies at bay from their small patch of rural Ontario didn't have much in the way of imagination or a sense of humour, and there were enough of the bunch who took themselves seriously enough that having a woman tell them they were being ridiculous would be tantamount to the worst insult she could come up with, and so she simply bit her tongue. Michaela had only been there for a few days herself, although she could claim prior friendship with Rob, and was a better marksman than many of them.

Seb was neither a friend of Rob's nor a local. He was a francophone from just past Sault Ste-Marie who had stumbled across them as he returned from a trip in the midst of the crisis. He'd arrived the day after she had, and as a result she hadn't spoken much to him. She hadn't spoken much to anyone up until the day before, for that matter, which hadn't done much to endear her to the locals until Rob had explained the reason for her silence to them. As though he was reading her mind, Seb sat carefully beside her, clearing his throat nervously.

“I'm sorry about your friend,” he said, not quite meeting her eye.

There was no question he was talking about Randhir. She tightened her grip on her mug. “Thank you,” she managed finally. Working as a 911 operator at least had given her the ability to keep functioning even during times of the worst possible stress. Of course, now there was no safety to be had staying behind a telephone, but it helped keep her tone even. “He was a good guy.”

“Did you know him for long?”

She shook her head. “A few days. We met on the metro.” How to explain that you could experience a lifetime of friendship in four days, when you didn't even understand it yourself? Foxhole bonding, they called it, but it felt like so much more than that. “He's the reason we made it this far.”

“You and the little girl?”

“Kitty,” she confirmed. “He helped carry her most of the way. If he hadn't, we never would have made it. Even when we knew... he still helped carry her.”

“He was already?” Seb made a vague questioning motion with one hand, and she nodded.

“Yeah. Early in the morning. We were tired, and none of us heard it coming. The next thing we knew there were three zombies grabbing at us, and by the time I was able to get Kitty out of the way and help Randhir, it was too late. We killed them, but... he'd already been bitten.” She felt her throat constrict, and swallowed hard. She'd already done all the crying she intended to for Randhir, for what they'd lost, for what might have been. She had been the one to pull the trigger, although he had asked her to do it, unable to bring himself to do it on his own. Not an hour had gone by since then that she hadn't replayed that moment over and over in her mind, unable to make it end any differently than it had.

“Hey, shit, j'suis désolé,” Seb said, sounding genuinely sorry.

“Yeah, me too.”

“So, I don't get what you're doing here. All of you, I mean,” Seb gestured expansively. Between his slightly choppy mastery of the English language and an exuberant personality, Seb appeared to talk mostly with his hands and arms, which made existence dangerous for people and knick-knacks that got in his way while he was talking. He was tall and lanky, all gangling limbs and smiles, and it was next to impossible not to like him.

Michaela shrugged. “I'm not sure we know what we're doing, either, other than holing up and waiting for a better idea to come along.”

“So why are you here, then? It's pretty far from where you started, non?”

“It was the best place to go, out of all possible options. I've known Rob for a long time, and he said we'd be welcome if we could make it out here. These guys,” she jerked her head in the direction of the living room, “have been waiting for something like this for years. Maybe not this, exactly, but something like it. The end of the world as we know it,” she laughed bitterly. “I don't know that they're all that thrilled that it's real now, but at least they get to tell the whole world —or whoever's left alive, anyway— 'I told you so,' and I imagine that's some consolation.”

“C'est cynique.”

“I suppose. I'm sorry, I'm not very good company.”

“Nobody is, now. We've all lost people.”

She nodded. “I know. I'm sorry. You haven't heard from your family at all?”

He shrugged. “It's only been a week. Communications are still down. I have hope, but I am trying to be réaliste, you know? Probably they are dead, but maybe some of them get out, and if that's what happen, then maybe I hear from them later, right?”

Michaela wasn't feeling nearly as optimistic, but it didn't seem like a good idea to burst his bubble. “Yeah, maybe.” She tried to put some enthusiasm into the statement. “You never know.”
To her surprise, he snorted with laughter. “You are a terrible liar,” he informed her, and in spite of herself she grinned back at him.


“In some people, it's considered a virtue. You want breakfast? The others will be up soon.”

“Sure. I'll help,” she offered, and when he nodded followed him into the kitchen, setting her mug of fast-cooling tea on the counter.

Breakfast was always something of a production at the Compound, moreso than any other meal, for some reason. Maybe because it was the only meal that they all took together, and so it took on rather chaotic proportions. The consensus was that whoever was up first cooked breakfast, and whoever was up last took care of the clean-up. So far it had worked out to be a pretty fair system. Michaela pulled out a bowl and began mixing the dry ingredients for biscuits, while Seb began heating up a pan for sausages, and they worked in silence for several minutes. Finally, he spoke up again.

“So what are you going to do after?”

She began adding water to the biscuit mix. “I haven't given it any thought, to be honest. It's enough of a challenge just getting through the day right now. What about you, since you're the one bringing it up?”

He shrugged, poking at the sausages with a fork. “I don't know either. I kind of hoped you would have some ideas,” he said, looking a bit sheepish. “Rob is doing okay for now, but I don't know if he can keep all this up,” he waggled the fork in a circle, indicating their surroundings. “We are a lot of people living in the same place. In a few weeks, we're going to get... tanné? How do you say it in English?”

“Fed up. And yeah, I can imagine we'll all start to get cabin fever sooner rather than later. That's why Rob has us going out on patrol on rotating shifts. Keeping busy is the best way to prevent that for now.”

Seb grinned. “What does he call them? Tactical squads?”

She returned the look. “TAZS. Tactical Anti-Zombie Squads. Because everything sounds cooler if you tack on the word 'tactical,' right?”

“Of course.”

“We haven't talked about it much, but I think the idea is to start building up what we have, to create some safe zones. Or safer zones, anyway. Put up some high fencing, keep the zombies out.”

“And us in.” Seb said grimly.

“That too.”

People started drifting into the kitchen a few moments later. Jack and Don, local hunting buddies of Rob's, followed by Rob and his wife Catherine with six-year-old Kitty in tow. While everyone else was already dressed for the day, Kitty was still clad in a pair of pink cotton pajamas donated by a family down the road whose own daughter had outgrown many of her clothes. Michaela herself was dressed in hand-me-downs from Catherine and a few neighbours, she and Kitty having escaped from Montreal with little more than the clothes on their backs and a few stray bits of gear they'd managed to pick up along the way.

“Good morning,” Catherine's smile illuminated her face. “Did you sleep well?”

Michaela nodded. “Yes, thank you,” she lied. At least the bed was comfortable. She just didn't think she'd ever sleep well again.

The door burst open as they sat down to breakfast, and the early-morning patrol wandered in. Erik, whose family had originally come from Sweden three generations before, was bleach-blond, clean-shaven, and at six foot four towered over everyone else. He was accompanied by a shorter, stocky man with balding pale brown hair and wearing a red flannel hunting shirt, whom Michaela recognized as another local whom she knew only as “Chuck.” Erik was looking uncharacteristically excited as they came in, divesting themselves of their gear and hurrying into the kitchen.

“Rob! You have to come right now.” He motioned toward the door.

Rob looked up from where he'd been about to take a bite of biscuit. “What's going on?”

Erik grinned. “Your father heard something on the radio, finally. There are more people alive out there!”
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