Chapter 24 – Can’t Rely on Anybody

Misty Morning by the Water

The Index Page for the Book (all chapters will be there as they are published)
Standing in the suburb on the south shore Robert could see the city proper across the river, low buildings and houses. Charlottetown had never been very built up, he guessed it never would be now. In between him and the city was a small island with a shopping complex, nothing else. A couple of zombies wandered between the shops, aimless and confused. Not enough to worry him. The shopping complex was exactly what he was looking for, a place he could ambush Jasper and his people, maybe even find some relative comfort. The river might not be the best water in the world, but he was confident that if he boiled it they would be fine.

As they walked through the shops they started to attract a following. More and more zombies were heading toward them, coming from both sides of the river. Robert found an open door in the shopping complex. It was a Reebok store. Apparently, they weren’t the first to shelter there. Inside there was clear evidence of people, but it looked old, like maybe someone had sheltered there months ago, and it had been empty for a long time since. The large glass doors had rough cloth hung over them, as did the large window. The glass was still intact, and the window had a steel cage covering it. Robert locked the door once he got inside.

A little human nest had been built out of coats and other clothing, most of the items of clothing still had tags on them. There was a door at the back of the retail area, again not locked. Robert went through and found a stock room with a set of stairs at the far end. Robert went up, nerves on edge. The stairwell was dark, just a hint of light peeking around the edge of the door at the top. He made it to the door, listened, ear pressed to the thin wood veneer of the hollow core door. When he didn’t hear anything he opened the door, slowly, cautiously. The space was a hallway, cloaked in shadows, a small window at one end letting in grey winter light. There were doors on either side, one was slightly ajar, dim light leaking around the edges. Robert went for that one first, since any zombies would have likely already made it out to the hall, meaning it was far more likely to be empty. Inside was a small staff lounge. It was comfortable a comfortable space, lots of sleek black furniture including some couches. Robert guessed whoever had made the nest downstairs hadn’t made it up here. There was also a large window. He looked out and realized that where he was was even better than he had thought in terms of setting a trap. The island had roads leading on and off, but the island itself was just the shopping complex. A narrow channel that offered no cover and no alternate routes this time of year. Swimming was not a viable option in December. He would have a clear shot at Jasper from the moment he came in view.

The one thing that was a problem was heat. Robert scouted the ground floor, leaving Mona and Trevor in the employee lounge. Mona was useless, too weak to do much of anything except provide for his needs, sometimes he wondered if liberating a fleshlight from one of the stores would be just as good, and Trevor needed to guard her, make sure she was safe for him. He found an entry to the next store and the next. Apparently, they were all connected inside, a series of passages at the back of buildings. Most of the doors were locked, but a solid kick changed that. Near the centre, there was a set of stairs leading down to a basement. It was clean and dry, and there was a gas generator, shiny and new. He fired it up. The lights came on around him.

He made his way back to where he had left Mona and Trevor. As soon as the lights came on they had tried the sink. The taps were working. Best of all, after a few minutes, the water started to flow hot. Mona was naked, scrubbing her emaciated frame with a dripping cloth. Robert took a moment to appreciate her body, maybe she was better than a fleshlight after all.

They spent days there, getting cleaned up, gleaning food from the stores around them. There was nothing fresh of course, but there was a restaurant in the complex, with plenty of canned food. The stoves didn’t work, probably out of propane, but they had a microwave and a toaster oven in the upstairs staff room, an electric kettle. It was better than they had lived in a long time.

Things went bad after the rain started. It was pounding down, tropical force, but cold – barely above freezing. Enough above to melt the snow though, the river was rising fast.

Robert spent most of his time looking out the window at the south shore, scanning with his rifle scope. He didn’t want to take a chance on missing Jasper. Finally one day his diligence paid off. He spotted Jasper, Naomi following close behind. Apparently the bitch had survived too. At least it was just the two of them. The rain made vision hard. He saw them approach the bridge, just out of the range he could manage in that weather. He saw them turn, he saw them walk the other way. He had no way of following them. There were no good vantage points in the direction they headed, and he didn’t know their route anymore. He scanned the ground and realized why they had turned. Fuck. The river was now above the bridges, flooding over the ground. It would be minutes at most before the basement started to flood. No more lights, no more hot water.

The only bright side was that the approaching zombies were washed away. It was a short trip to the ocean, and they were headed that way quickly. Provided the water receded soon they would be okay. Sure, the comfort was over, but it was nothing worse than they had endured so far… and sure enough at that moment the generator failed. The room was cast into half-light, the rain beating down on the roof.

It took a while for the place to get cold. They had moved some of the coats and stuff upstairs to use as blankets. They huddled under the mounds of coats most of the time, exhausting their meager supplies. The waters finally stopped rising after 3 more days. The flooding was 4 feet deep downstairs, and the building was showing signs of strain. Tree branches kept washing past. By day 5 the water was only ankle deep. The bridge to the south was washed away, but the one into Charlottetown proper was still mostly intact.

Robert thought to himself “Well, nothing for it now. Just find a spot to set myself up. Deal with Jasper if I see him.”

It was probably the most rational thought he had had in months, although he didn’t realize it.

The journey into town was hard. Charlottetown was the most heavily populated place on Prince Edward Island, and that meant it was the most zombie heavy place as well. Surprisingly though, the numbers weren’t all that high. Sure, there were clusters, but Robert and company discovered that by moving cautiously they were largely able to avoid them. The odd individual zombie didn’t prove to be much of a challenge.

They traveled through low density neighbourhoods, made up of single family homes. It seemed like that was pretty much what Charlottetown consisted of. It wasn’t that the zombies were no threat, they were still around, still trying to kill them. It was more that so long as they kept moving the numbers were low enough that they were able to stay ahead of them. Robert knew however that even he would run out of physical reserves eventually and the zombies wouldn’t. The zombies would win unless he figured something out. Mona and Trevor were already starting to flag.

One downside to Charlottetown: single family homes didn’t make for great fortresses. They needed someplace that could be secured. They passed a couple of hotels. The first one looked like a no go, there were dozens of zombies clustered inside the front door, trying to break it down, trying to get out. Somebody had jammed a bunch of junk in front of the door, which was preventing it from opening. It was straining under the weight of the bodies trying to push through it. Robert didn’t want to be there when it finally gave, so he continued on. The next one only had a couple of zombies visible in the lobby. The door wasn’t locked, which probably accounted for it. The undead had pushed against the door and had managed to get out, in fact that was happening again, with the two that were left.

Robert took out Jasper’s sword. He didn’t have the smaller man’s skill with it, but he was getting better fast. One of the zombies was a Japanese tourist, fulfilling the stereotypes nicely by having no less than three cameras hung around his neck. Robert took his head off with a clean blow and turned to the other one. A hotel maid by the look of things. She was badly decayed, her face and body showed many, many bite marks. Robert closed and thrust his sword into her open mouth, aiming slightly up. The resemblance to fellatio excited him, and then the tip of the blade came through the back of her head and she fell to the ground, limp and finally motionless. Mona and Trevor rushed to follow him into the hotel.

A few zombies followed, but they couldn’t figure out how to pull the door open, so they were pushing against the frame.

The inside of the hotel was cold. The place hadn’t been heated in a long time. This wasn’t going to work long term, but for now it was okay, if they could get enough heat going.

Robert checked the cubbies behind the counter, looking for unoccupied rooms. The place had been doing a decent business over the summer, a lot of the keys were gone. It seemed likely that many of the rooms would still have guests in them, but there were a few vacant. He picked one on the second floor and headed up to it.

The lock was of course not working, a safety feature if the power went out, but the door was latched and when he entered the room it was empty. Cold as hell, but empty.

The next priority was warmth. He left Trevor and Mona in the room, wrapped in blankets, and went in search of something he could make a fire in. Eventually he found a large steel drum in the furnace room, near a bunch of loose cinder blocks. If they were careful it was possible they wouldn’t burn down the hotel. The smoke would be a problem of course, but so long as they left the window open a bit they could vent some of the smoke outside.

It worked better in theory than in practice, but it did work. In the end they took the mattresses off the beds and put them on the floor, throwing the beds out of the room. That way they were under the worst of the smoke and could still breathe. It wasn’t going to last them long, but it was a place to recoup their energy and start to plan. There were maps of the city in the lobby as well.

Robert thought the golf club was his best option, but he would have to see conditions on the ground. There were very few apartment buildings, and one of those might make a decent spot as well. There were also a number of options downtown.

One last blessing. There was a fair bit of canned food in the kitchen. The hotel was set up to serve a large number of people, so it was enough even just in tins for them to eat well for an extended period.
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