I imagined a shooting star leaving a streak in my vision as I stared up at the night sky. I lay spread-eagle on a rooftop, the stars reminding me of a distant past that left me feeling empty.
I heard the low groans below me, the Draugr were just wandering, for now. I was thankful that we had found this gas station, otherwise we’d be in another cave or worse for the night. I heard the faint breathing of my two companions and stared at the sky again.
“You know the best place to go in a zombie apocalypse, Magnus?” My mother asked. We’d camped in a spot by the river in the new wilderness park she’d found. We were getting bored, so we’d resorted to weird late-night questions.
I thought about it for a while, tapping my chin and pouting dramatically, my mom laughed. “A mountain?” I said uncertainly, bringing my eyes up to meet hers.
“Well, yeah,” she rolled her eyes, “but it’d get cold, don’t you think? Try something closer to the ground.”
“Uh… Target?” I asked again, trying to think of a similar conversation I’d overheard at school.
“Hmm… that would be good…” she paused as if mentally making a battle plan. “But what about the IKEA near the highway in Boston? Lots of high places and furniture to barricade with right?”
“Oh yeah, that would work!” I nearly shouted, my mom placed a finger to her lips, smiling at me.
“Do you wanna go and survey it before I go to work on Monday?” She said quietly. Her face was full of mischief; this trip wasn’t going to be the most legal of things, I could tell.
I nodded enthusiastically. She laughed again and stroked my cheek. My eyes immediately felt heavy. I curled up on my sleeping bag and bedroll before saying, “Love you, Mom.”
Her eyes twinkled, “I love you too, Magnus.”
The next morning I stretched my back and groaned as I felt the sunlight peek through my eyes. Normally, I’m a morning person, but when you’re walking for miles each day trying to find something you don’t even know you’re looking for gets exhausting.
Don’t think about what you’re doing, Magnus. Don’t hesitate, or you’ll fall. Just keep going. My mom had said. Granted, that was what she had said when I was learning to ride a bike, but now I used it as my motto. Which was what I was chanting under my breath when I forced myself to rise.
When I looked around, I saw that Hearth had already risen. He had his back to me, rifling through his pack for what I assumed was food. My eyes then landed on a heap that was still snoring like all hell and I couldn’t help a small smile at him. It was a mistake to try and wake Blitz in the morning, only Hearth could really make him get up. It was weird to me that Blitz could just sleep, I always kept one eye open, have done since the Beginning and maybe even before that, I can’t really remember. Point is, I haven’t relaxed properly for about three years.
So, seeing as I couldn’t do anything else, I walked over to Hearth and stood in front of him. He looked up. Do you need help? I signed, scrunching my eyebrows and tilting my head in question.
Hearth’s eyebrows knitted as he signed, Our food supply is dwindling. There isn’t actually a sign for dwindling in ASL, but I took creative liberty when he made a sign with both of his hands jerking towards each other three times; lessen or decline. I’m worried, he glanced at Blitzen, who had not moved from his spot.
Make the best with what we have, I signed back once his attention was back on me. We’ll find more. Then I crossed both of my fingers, the sign for hopefully.
He did the same, before turning to Blitzen and making an exasperated sign to me. Then he stomped over and all but kicked him awake.
“WAAHH!” He yelled, grabbing his small knife and slashing where Hearth had been standing moments ago. Seeing that he hadn’t stabbed anything, Blitz rubbed his eyes and looked up at Hearth with an unreadable expression. Then he descended into sign language so fast I couldn’t decipher it quickly enough and Hearth replied with the same rapid signs.
From what I could work out, Blitz was pissed at being woken up by kicking and Hearth was adamant that it was necessary. I almost laughed at their antics before remembering my dream about my mom. Man, that’ll put a damper on anyone’s mood. I turned away from them and looked out on the vast fields that were left unchecked since the Beginning. Mom hated fields, she hated that something as beautiful as nature could be cultivated into ugly rows that were exploited by farming companies that had no respect for the plants themselves, just the profit.
I wish I could go back to before all this happened and somehow prevent it, or prevent her death. I wished I had her with me for the millionth time since she was gone. My throat felt dry and my eyes started to well up. I clenched my fists and wiped my eyes furiously. I focused on a decapitated Draugr in the middle of the road thanks to Hearth and his makeshift double-edged spear currently strapped to his back (if the foreshadowing and indirect mentions have gone over your head, the Draugr are zombies. What? I think it’s a cool name for them, makes it seem cool). The masses of blood made me less inclined to think about her. I know repressing feelings isn’t healthy, but it’s not as if I can afford to, because I can’t, not when we’re living as we are.
I turn back to see Blitz and Hearth staring at me, concerned. I gave them a reassuring smile and gestured to the food bag, then patted my stomach. Then I thought of a brilliant idea (yes, I have those, shut up). Could we go downstairs and poke around? I signed. Blitz wasn’t deaf like Hearth, so I could’ve spoken, but I figured being silent was best.
They glanced at each other wearily, I knew that the place had probably been looted and was crawling with Draugr, but that didn’t stop me from getting excited about it. Come on, please? I stuck out my bottom lip to gain a sympathy vote. I know Blitz has a soft spot for it.
Said person rolled his eyes and signed, Fine. Hearth gawked but didn’t argue, content to say I told you so later if things went wrong. Which, knowing us, they definitely would.
Once we hopped down, there was no Draugr to be seen but we didn’t let our guards down. I had a baseball bat I stole from my school when I was running from Boston initially. Thanks to Hearth’s suggestions I hammered some nails into the top to do more damage since I definitely wasn’t strong enough to kill a Draugr with my swing alone, in fact the day I found that out was the day I met them both, so, silver lining I guess.
We had to wrench the doors open, which gave me hope that no Draugr had gotten in. I kicked myself as soon as I thought it because a black shape hurled itself at the door from the inside once the doors were halfway open. Blitz yelled and dropped the doors, they slid shut quickly enough to almost completely crush the Draugr in half. At the sound, another stirred, it was right next to me and grabbed onto my arm and neck. I cursed myself for being too excited to check our surroundings.
Hearth whirled when he felt my hand leave his arm, he grabbed his double-edged spear and motioned for me to duck. Let me tell you, when Hearth is holding that spear, you’d better do what he says. So I did.
It took a lot of energy to yank my head out of the Draugr’s grip, but I managed it and, boom, there’s another decapitated Draugr head for Hearth’s resume. Blitz had made quick work of the one inside-and-outside of the station as well.
Hearth then snapped his fingers to get our attention. We are not going in there. Too risky. I raised my hands to argue but he stopped me. His face was scarily devoid of any emotion. No, he signed.
And that was the end of it.