June 14th, 2008
T.Rex almost felt sorry for any zed they came across trying to escape Hillenbrand. Beard, having just shot his childhood friend being ripped apart by zombies, was a man on the edge just looking for a target for his anger.
It was Cowboy T.Rex was worried about. Nursing a head wound and clutching his wrist, the weaponless Fool was trying to keep up with the others but was constantly wincing in pain.
"Just hang in there, buddy," Ryan said quietly, scanning the area for threats. "We're almost out of here."
The trio of Fools backtracked through the kitchen area and back into the lobby area to find a small mob of zeds waiting for them.
T.Rex narrowed his eyes. Not in the mood, he thought, and joined Beard in attacking the shambling creatures. In under a minute they'd taken care of nearly a dozen zombies with no incident. Beard no longer screamed with rage, but once he started moving he didn't stop until every zombie head in sight was separated from its body.
"Great work, Beard," T.Rex said, hesitantly. Beard just stood over the fallen corpses, breathing heavily and staring off into the distance.
Is he gonna be like this the whole time? T.Rex thought. "Move out!" he said, taking the lead as they headed towards the elevators and the bright daylight.
Fresh corpses littered the ground outside, amongst the fallen enemies from before. Arrows and bullet holes were the telltale signs, but fortunately no zeds were waiting for them as they exited the residence hall. T.Rex raced for the stairwell of the parking garage and held the door open, ushering Beard and Cowboy inside. "Second floor!" he whispered, following them up the stairs.
The three Fools burst from the stairs and out into the second level of the parking garage. T.Rex glanced around quickly - some cars at the far end, and a loose collection of bodies where he last saw Rubble, Angel Hair, Kamikaze, and Jenny.
"You have got to be fucking kidding me," T.Rex said to nobody, throwing his crowbar to the ground in frustration. Beard jogged forward and knelt by the bodies, poking them with the blunt edge of his hatchet.
"Nobody we know here, Captain," Beard said curtly. "They're all grey and ragged."
Cowboy let out a sigh of relief. "Well thank god for that," he said quietly. Maybe they got overrun and had to leave? Ryan wondered. He was pondering their next move when a quiet voice called to them: "T.Rex?"
There was a pause. "Did anybody else hear that?" T.Rex asked, looking around for the source of the voice. Cowboy shrugged, and Beard stopped checking bodies to listen.
"T.Rex? Is that you guys down there?" said the quiet voice again, from someplace nearby. It had a slightly nasal twinge to it.
A broad grin broke out on T.Rex's face. "Angel Hair? Is that you? Where are you?" he said at a volume he hoped would carry just far enough for the voice to hear, but not attract any zeds to their position.
"We're up on the fourth floor!" said Angel Hair.
T.Rex felt a wave of relief. "Be right up!" he said, and motioned his team back to the stairwell. They climbed two more flights of stairs and joined the rest of the group.
As they exited the stairwell, T.Rex ran to Jenny. Nothing else mattered at the moment- he was simply happy to have reunited with his friends. A wave of exhaustion hit him as he collapsed into her arms.
His happy reunion was interrupted when Kamikaze spoke. "Where the heck is Peace?"
Everybody looked at T.Rex.
He rubbed his eyes and sighed heavily. "Peace didn't make it. There was an accident and..." T.Rex's lip quivered as his voice trailed off, searching for words. "He's dead. Not a zombie, thanks to Beard."
Cowboy bowed his head and Beard balled his fists in anger. Rubble and Angel Hair looked at each other in shock, while Kamikaze just shook her head. Jenny threw her arms around T.Rex and started crying into his shirt. For a few moments nobody spoke as the news set in.
"It was a freak accident," Cowboy said, clearing his throat.
Kamikaze folded her arms. "I don't think you should have gone in there in the first place."
"We were trying to find more food," Cowboy replied.
Rubble stepped between them. "Guys, look, I know they were trying to help but-"
"but WHAT?" Beard said, suddenly. "Look. Peace is dead and it's my fault so let's fucking drop it, okay?"
Angel Hair stared off into the distance. "Nobody blames you," he said softly.
"Well maybe you guys should've waited for T.Rex!" Kamikaze.
Cowboy stepped towards her, only to be blocked by Rubble. "Then maybe YOU can think of a way to feed all of us once our Pop Tarts run out!" Kamikaze lunged at Cowboy, and Rubble held them both at arm's length.
"ENOUGH!" Ryan yelled, startling Jenny and the rest of the group into stunned silence. "I've had enough of this. Zombies converging on our position and we're all yelling at each other? Everybody shut up, gear up, and get ready to move. Beard, you're on point."
T.Rex fumbled through his equipment and found some aspirin. He tossed the bottle to Cowboy, who quickly devoured a pair of tablets. T.Rex packed the rest of his belongings and tried to will away his fatigue.
Jenny knew him all too well. "Sweetie, do you want me to carry some of your stuff?" she offered.
A weak smile crossed T.Rex's face at the concern. "Thanks, honey, but I'm fine. Besides, you have your own backpack to carry! Just stay close to me, stay quiet, and help keep an eye out for zeds."
Despite their bickering, the group was drilled in survival by now and wasted no time. With the group assembled and ready to move, Beard laid out their plan. "We'll escape out the North West stairwell to avoid the bulk of the zeds in the parking garage - the stairs are more than they can handle. From there we backtrack through Purdue West more or less along 26 until we make it to the woods.
"We move fast and light, avoiding combat until we're hidden in the trees. Once we have concealment we can slow to a brisk walk, and hopefully put some distance between us and them. Don't get too cocky, though. Just because they can't see us doesn't mean they can't smell us."
T.Rex nodded and pulled a map from his pack. "It's about 10am, sun will set a little past 9, which gives us approximately 11 hours of travel time. Average human travel speed is about 4 miles per hour, so we can make it about 45 miles with no stops or problems. We're heading West, so that'll put us over the Indiana border and into Illinois. If we stick near 26 for navigation, we'll pass Green Meadows, Pine Village, and eventually hit Hoopleston. Somewhere along that path we'll be looking for a place that's deserted and easy to defend, and scrounge as we go. Move."
On his command the Fools plus Jenny set out, following Beard's lead. As Beard led them to the woods, the bulk of the zed combat was handled by himself and Rubble, although nearly everybody had some work to do as they pushed through dense zed crowds. T.Rex was fiercely protective of Jenny, aggressively attacking any zed that came remotely close to her.
When they passed Purdue West they crossed open field at full sprint, drawing the attention of hundreds of nearby zombies. Seeing Angel Hair struggling to keep up, Rubble slung him over his shoulder and carried him the last third of the way at a full run.
They reached the trees without incident, panting and wheezing, with a trail of destruction in their wake. The group paused only to catch their breath, and after a short while Beard ordered them to keep moving.
Marching in silence, the Fools met sporadic resistance. They stayed hidden in the forest as much as possible, sticking close to the road and seeing signs of destruction all around. Homes burned to the ground, cars wrecked or abandoned in droves. The sun rose and the temperature soared, and even in the thinning forest shade the Fools could not escape the humidity.
As they reached a clearing, Beard held out his fist, signaling for the group to hold. Jenny, who was not familiar with such signals, kept walking until T.Rex grabbed her bookbag and stopped her.
The edge of the forest gave way to a large cornfield. A small sign near the stalks featured an ear of corn saying "We proudly grow Beck's Hybrid corn here!" T.Rex looked around and saw nothing of interest.
"Beard, what gives?" T.Rex whispered. "Why did we stop here?"
"Binoculars," Beard called out. T.Rex and Angel Hair both fished out the only binoculars the group had. T.Rex couldn't see over the stalks, so he stood on a rock until he could see over the corn stalks.
Far in the distance a nondescript brown barn stood alone in the middle of several acres of crops. "I don't see any signs of life anywhere nearby," Angel Hair said. He shared his binoculars with the other Fools who took turns observing. Kamikaze broke off a few ears of corn and inspected them before tossing them to the ground in frustration.
Beard shrugged as a bead of sweat ran down his temple. "Thought it might be a decent place to explore, maybe rest a little bit," he said, looking around at the ragged group.
Once more, all eyes fell on T.Rex. His mind raced as he worried about zeds hiding in the tall golden corn stalks. "Do it," he said, led more by his body's exhaustion than anything else.
They crept through the corn field in a two column formation, stopping every time a breeze rustled the stalks. A single moan kept following them, and the sound seemed to always come from just a few feet away. Ryan constantly turned every direction, paranoid that a pair of grey arms were going to drag him away from Jenny, from his friends. Just past midday, the sun poured almost directly down onto the Fools between the walls of corn.
Between the heat and the tension, T.Rex was sweating profusely and starting to feel a little woozy. "Are we almost out of this?" he said quietly, trying to hide his panic.
"Hang in there little buddy," Rubble said from the rear of the group. The Fools kept marching until at long last they reached a clearing. In front of them loomed a massive wooden barn.
"Seemed so much smaller from back there," T.Rex said to nobody in particular.
Beard sauntered up to the door as the rest of the Fools formed a loose perimeter. "Looks like there's an old lock guarding this one, T.Rex."
The lock made Ryan immediately think of Peace, and it felt like a punch to the gut. He tossed Beard his crowbar. "Break it," he said, resting his hands on his knees, shaking.
Beard popped the latch holding the lock from the door and gently slid it aside. Everybody waited for a few moments, listening. Nothing sounded, so Beard motioned three of the Fools in to check things out.
Kamikaze, Angel Hair, and Rubble ducked into the barn. A minute later they sounded "All clear!" and everybody went inside.
Angel Hair led the Fools up a ladder to the loft as they looked around in disappointment. The barn was almost entirely empty. A few rusty and broken farm tools hung on the wall, and a few piles of straw dotted the floor. Still, the barn had shade and was somewhat cooler than outside.
T.Rex set his pack down on the loft floor and curled up on a small patch of hay. "Just tell the guys...I just need to rest just a little bit," he said to Jenny and let out a large yawn.
Within moments he was fast asleep.
"T.Rex!" a quiet voice called out to him. "T.Rex wake up!"
In a sleepy daze T.Rex ignored the voice. It was only when Cowboy placed his good hand on Ryan's shoulder that suddenly everything seemed real. T.Rex sat up and looked around - everything was dark.
A flashlight shined into his face and T.Rex blinked his eyes furiously, swatting at the beam of light. "Ack, what's going on? Why is it so dark?"
"You were out of it all day, man," said Angel Hair, "and now we have a problem."
T.Rex felt a shiver travel up his spine. "What's wrong?"
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