"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art....it has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival." - C.S. Lewis
She removed her knife from its sheath and stole a quick glance over the trunk of the car, before crouching to safety again. The sun glinted off the car, not nearly overhead yet. A slight breeze provided some respite to the living present on the street.
She was able to make out two walkers across the road, with their backs to her. She turned around to signal the little boy crouched behind her to hold his position.
She slowly got up, stealthily approaching the walkers from the back. There was a glint of silver followed by a squelching sound as the knife found its mark through the first walker's head. The second walker, just beginning to turn towards the noise, was swiftly kicked in the knee. It collapsed and with a second flash of the blade, met its demise.
As she sheathed the knife, she whistled to the boy, their pre-arranged signal for the all-clear. She wore a red jacket and what once used to be, a white T-shirt. Her jeans looked like it had been through better days, now, just a medley of blue and faded blood. She wore a baseball cap, splattered with dried blood along one side and a hole on the other that showed her dark brown hair. The cap was with her more so for the sentimental value than anything else. She also carried a backpack containing all their essentials.
The boy appeared from behind the car and walked to her side, an empty gas can in his hand, his eyes scanning the area for any other signs of danger. He wore a white full sleeves T-shirt, with brown and orange stripes along the arms and grey pants. His gun sat safely inside the holster she had made for him. Teaching a child to fire a gun would seem ghastly in most scenarios, even maybe in the current world, but she had taught him to use one, nonetheless, to protect himself, just like she had been taught early on.
The girl surveyed the street. Her name was Clementine. She had survived the early years of the outbreak with other survivors but, after inevitably losing several of them to the dead, had opted to survive on her own, along with the little boy. His parents had named him Alvin Junior, AJ for short, before they both succumbed. It had been over three years since she decided that life on the road was much safer for them. She believed that groups were a problem in themselves and would usually end in tragedy, as they always had for her.
There were a few buildings along the street, one of them being a store. The street was strewn with a few cars, most probably abandoned in the days after the outbreak. Gas was still a precious commodity, allowing them to move from place to place in search of other resources. It was difficult to stay in the same area for more than a while as people usually ran out of food and water, unless they resided in a community engaged in agricultural activities and close to a water source.
Clementine looked at the store and wondered whether they would find any food in there. Most places had already been raided by survivors through the years, but they did manage to find the untouched ones from time to time.
"What do you think we should do, AJ?" she asked, turning towards him. "Find gas or check out that store over there?" She pointed towards it.
"Well, we could get gas for our car first and then try the store." He paused. "Maybe we could find a place to stay here?" he asked, already knowing the answer to his question.
"You know that's not viable. Staying in one place for a long time has never served us well. Other people almost always find you. It's just better for us if we keep moving."
AJ nodded, disappointedly. "I know. It's just that...... I'm tired of being on the road. We barely stay more than two days in any place. All we're doing is moving. What if we had a place to stay? Maybe, with other people?"
Clementine crouched in front of him, bringing her face level with his. "I'm sorry you have to grow up in this, kiddo. Even I'm tired too. But what else can we really do? Most places have been bled dry by survivors and we don't grow our own food either. We need to keep moving."
"But then why don't we find a community? Won't we get food and water and.. a house to stay?"
"Communities aren't that simple. It's safer to be on our own and on the move. They never end well." She noticed his dejected face and sighed. "You don't remember, but when you were at McCaroll Ranch, the night I came to take you away, it was a massacre. Someone attacked and destroyed the whole place. They didn't spare anyone. Not even the children. It was a nightmare." She took a deep breath, remembering the night. "I had to kill a lot of people to get us out of there. And I don't ever want to put us into that sort of danger again. Big groups never end well."
"Okay," he said dejectedly, his head hanging low.
Clementine wrapped her arms around him. "As long as you and I have each other, we'll be okay. Come on now," she said, getting up. "Let's see if any of these cars have gas remaining. We can try that red van."
They walked over to the van and looked it over. It seemed relatively undamaged, which was usually a good sign that probably no one had siphoned the gas from it yet. There were no walkers inside.
She knelt beside the van and pulled off her backpack, putting it down in front of her. Unzipping it, she pulled out 2 hoses, one short and one long, a cloth and a long screw driver. She inserted the flat blade inside the fuel lid and pried it open. She unscrewed the fuel cap and put the longer pipe into the tank and pulled it out to check whether there was any gas. The pipe came out with its end wet.
"Looks like we're in luck," she said to AJ, inserting the pipe all the way in. She put its other end into the gas can. Reaching for the second shorter pipe, she inserted one end into the tank and left the other end open to air. She tied the cloth tightly around both the pipes at the fuel tank entrance, completely covering any other open areas into the tank.
"You remember how to do this?" she asked him as she stood up.
He nodded and moved to the open pipe to complete the final step. He placed his mouth around the pipe and blew into it. This would cause any gas in the tank to be forced out through the other pipe and into the can.
Clementine slightly lifted the end of the longer pipe inserted into the can. "It's working. Well done," she told a beaming AJ. "Hopefully this gives us enough for a while. We can do a longer run then. We haven't had too much luck just heading north. Maybe we can try going west."
He considered that and thought back to the time when Clementine had taught him to identify directions. "The sun is there...." he said, pointing at it. He ran his finger across the sky to other side. "...so that means west is that side?"
"Roughly, yes. Good, so you were paying attention after all that day." She smiled.
AJ looked pleased with himself. "Yeah. It's helpful."
"I'm glad you see it that way." Clementine eyed the can. "Looks like the fuel is over," she said. "And we're at half capacity. That's pretty good." She pulled out the hose from the can and shook it to draw out any excess from the hose. She removed the apparatus from the tank, wiping the longer hose's end, and looked for the next car.
"Want to try that one?" She pointed at a blue sedan.
"We can," he replied.
She placed the hoses and the cloth in his hands. As she put the screwdriver back into the backpack beside her gun, she momentarily stared at it, before zipping up the backpack and putting it on. There was no need for a gun this instant. It would only draw walkers if she used it. She picked up the can and they both started walking to the car.
"I wonder what happened here," Clementine observed as they passed an RV full of bullet holes across one side.
"That's a lot of bullets," AJ said. "Were they made by a pistol? Like the ones we have?"
"Most probably not. Looks like some assault rifle." She considered the scenario. "I definitely don't want to be on the receiving end of that."
"Are those the big guns? Like the ones those men were carrying in the forest?"
"Yeah that's the one," she replied. They had come across a couple of heavily armed men travelling through the forest a month ago. Clementine and AJ had hidden in the bushes till they had passed, avoiding any contact lest they were hostile.
They reached the car and Clementine put down the can. She quickly glanced inside the car for any walkers and then pulled off her backpack. Removing the screwdriver, she waved it in front of AJ's face. "Want to try?"
He nodded eagerly. He passed her the hoses and cloth and took the screwdriver from her and inserted one end and tried to pry it open, grunting in the process.
"What happened? Not strong enough?" she teased.
"Give. Me. A. Second," he said, emphasising each word as he tried his best to open it. The lid finally swung open to reveal the fuel cap.
"Good job, kiddo. Here, give me the screwdriver and take this." She handed him the longer hose. "See if there's anything in the tank."
He repeated what he had seen Clementine doing. The hose came out dry. "It's empty," he said.
"Damn it. Let's try another then."
They made their way to the next car, before prying open the fuel lid and repeating the process.
"This one looks like it has some," he said.
"Well, go on, I want you to try this one on your own."
He inserted the other hose into the tank and tied the cloth around them.
"Your knot is loose," Clementine observed. "Tighten it... that's right.... and... there you go. Now you know how to get gas from a car all by yourself."
"It's not that difficult. It looks, but it really isn't."
"It isn't," she agreed. "It's something you should know, anyway. It always comes in handy."
"When did you learn to do this?" AJ asked.
She thought about it for a second. "Kenny taught me, back when it was the three of us. He taught me how to drive too."
AJ stood in silence for a few moments. "Do you miss him, Clem?"
She thought of the last time she saw Kenny. He'd sacrificed himself to the walkers so Clementine and AJ could escape. "I do. And he loved you. A lot."
"Yep. He would throw a fit whenever you left his sight." She smiled, remembering Kenny's outbursts. "He had a huge temper. But underneath all that, he loved us both."
"I wish I remembered him. But I don't."
"You were too young, goofball," she said. "You know, we used to make hand shadow animals for you," she remembered, her thoughts drifting back in time.
"I had fun with that?"
"You were a baby then," she reminded him.
"Right. Babies get entertained with anything."
"I don't know about all babies, but you did. You were actually easy to handle."
"Yep. You didn't cry much. And hugs really seemed to calm you down," she chuckled.
"They still do." He checked the hose. All the gasoline had been moved into the can, filling it to about a little over halfway. "Is this enough?" he asked.
Clementine knelt and checked the can. "This seems good." She screwed the cap back on. "You want to go check that store out now?"
"Yeah, I do."
"Let's pack up here then," she told him, looking at the store.