Jake allows me to follow him up to the room that has been deemed mine. I’m glad to be able to have a room, with an actual bed and a sink and a bathroom, even though I won’t have it for long. One of their first rules is to not hurt anybody, and I think killing falls in that category.
Then I might have some time to find my family.
He gestures around the room. “All of this is yours now, just don’t abuse it and we won’t have a problem. Okay?”
Jake still talks to me like I’m a mature friend of his and not ‘5’ years younger than him. I like it, which makes me feel even more guilty.
I walk around the room, circling the bed. I place my bags onto the bed with a heave, my eyes scanning the room. The entire room is white, with a few splashes of color around the walls. It looks like a hospital and puts me a bit off, disturbing me. I was never a fan of hospitals.
I notice a needle on the nightstand and walk towards it, shielding it with my body so Jake doesn’t see. The element of surprise is incredibly important, and I don’t want to waste a second. It could be the difference between life and death.
I wrap my fingers around the base of the needle, the point facing away from me, and turn towards Jake with my hands behind my back, smiling.
“I love it!” I tell him excitedly, but quietly, and his small smile returns to his face.
He turns away from me. “I love the little splashes of color in this--”
I stab him in the head with the needle, right in his temple, and there is a spurt of blood. He falls to the floor, his eyes rolling back in his head, and I want to scream but I know I can’t. They’ll find me.
I’m grateful that he didn’t make any noise. I check for a pulse and feel a faint beating under his chin. Opening my bag, I grab a clean knife of mine and stab it up through the bottom of his chin, killing him for sure.
I grab my bags, not knowing if I’ll be coming back to this room with enough time to grab them, and head down to the lobby. I see a few signs leading to the staircase, and they state that I’m on floor 2.
As I’m walking down the staircase, a few people walk in the opposite direction. Their speeds differ, but all of them look very depressed and sad. I try to mimic their facial expressions, not wanting to look like a murderer or like I’m pumped up on the adrenaline that I can feel coursing through my veins.
All of a sudden I hear an alarm go off, a loud, blaring noise that echoes through the staircase. I bend to cover my ears and hear footsteps banging. I know that I have to run.
The second floor seems relatively clear, so I head back up the stairs quickly, taking the steps two at a time.
I head into a room and crouch down behind the door, trying my best not to make any noise. Thankfully, it happens to be empty, but it looks like it was recently occupied - the sheets are wrinkled, there are objects that look sentimental all over, and there are shoes next to the bed.
There are pounding footsteps that pass by the room I’m in, and I relax. I want to head downstairs to the lobby - chances are they keep records there. I stand up slowly and look out the window of the door and, upon seeing nobody, I walk calmly to the stairs.
Peering around the corner when I reach the first floor, I see a crowd of what looks to be guards opening the doors forcefully to check. There are shouts and they crudely apologize with each scream. The receptionist gets up from her desk, her face contorted in a grimace of fear, and I take my chance.
I run over to her desk and crouch behind it, opening a drawer to find the records they keep. The third drawer I open has lists of names and dates, in alphabetical order, and they’ve been rewritten many times, shown by the wrinkles in the page and the obvious eraser marks.
I flip to ‘W’ and find two names listed under Wilson - Mike and Theodore. My family. They’re listed as being on floor 3. I place the record back into the drawer and crouch-walk back over to the staircase, praying to not be noticed. I make it without a flaw.
Running excitedly, I reach floor three, my mind buzzing. They’re okay, they’re alive, they’re together, they’re here. My family is here and I found them, and we’ll all be safe together.
When I reach floor 3 I am hit by a wall of disinfectant smell - it’s so strong it can only mean a death, but I have a feeling that they’re alright.
Some doors are ajar, and I peer into them, but to no avail at first. The fifth one I find is closed and I knock, hearing a masculine voice call for me to enter.
When I open the door, it’s almost in slow motion, and I freeze. On the bed is my dad, sporting a brown beard, with tattered clothes on. Teddy is on the ground coloring, but they both look at me, mouths hanging open. I can’t tell if it’s terror or relief on their faces, so I smile, and my dad jumps from his bed and embraces me, a warm hug that envelops me in feelings. He is laughing, and I can feel tears streaming down his face.
Something grabs on to my leg, and I hear Teddy laughing in his high-pitched voice.
“Ebony, you’re okay!” he shouts.
I hush him up, not wanting to call attention to us, but I laugh. When my dad lets go of me, I bend down and hug him tightly as well.
“We have to hide. The high school nearby, it’s cleared out. We can head there if we can get out of this place.” I explain, and my dad nods grimly. “There’s bound to be a crowd in the staircase and on the first floor, but we have to get by without being noticed. How? How can we do that?”
I’m thinking aloud, but my dad pipes up, “Ted could go and ask for people to help him. I doubt they’d just ignore a little kid like him, he could lead them away and we could get out. Then he could say he sees me, head back upstairs, and run back down and out. It’s confusing, Ted, sorry, but it might just work.”
I smile and nod, a genuine smile that feels a bit wrong on my face. “Okay, we might as well try.”
They grab the few bags that are in their rooms, Dad taking Teddy’s bags, and we start to head down.
Teddy runs first, hugging us before going, and puts a terrified look on his face. I hear his footsteps, tiny little clicks, and Dad and I follow behind. I hear his miniscule voice asking people shakily if they can help him, and we take that as our cue.
Dad and I run down the stairs and crouch behind anything we can - plants, desks, other patients. We eventually make it very close to the door and Teddy and I exchange glances. We run out and dart left, heading for the trees nearby so we can hide.
I can see Teddy miming, and he wipes his ‘tears’ away, running back up the stairs. The few people who were helping him turn back to the throng gathered around the computers at the edge of the room, and Teddy follows our lead, hiding behind objects carefully to make it to the door.
He takes his bags from Dad and we start to head towards the school.
“How did you get here? Where were you? Are you okay, infected?” Dad asks, very concerned for me, and I laugh.
“I don’t know where I really was, actually. Somewhere near our old house, but that’s gone now, collapsed. I’m not infected, I’ve got some gloves and coverings in case. I found a map for the camp and a friend helped me along the way. She’s gone now, too. How’d you guys get here?”
He’s nodding along. “We found a map, too. Then we just kind of walked here. They told us that they hadn’t seen you but would keep an eye out. I’m pretty sure they forgot, so eventually we stopped asking. And we’re alright, neither of us are infected.”
I hear Teddy cry out, a small cry, and I turn to where he’s pointing to see an Infected hobbling towards us. I take his outstretched arm and lead him away, us running a bit to stay out of its path. We run ahead, and I turn to my left to see three or four more heading our way.
To our right, four more walk out of the treeline. I turn around again and see a throng of about a dozen or so Infecteds coming towards us. Teddy screams and my heart skips a beat as I turn to him. He isn’t caught, though, and I sigh.
“My shoe! I lost my red boot, Ebony!”
I look back and see it being kicked around by the throng.
“It’s okay, Eb. He’s got a pair of sneakers in his bag,” Dad tells me calmly, but I know that those shoes were his favorite.
“Look, Ted, we’ll get you your boots back someday. But for now, we have to just go, okay? We can’t stay. We have to run.” I tell him calmly. He nods, sniffling and wiping his tears.
Luckily, he had his name on his boots, so if somebody was to find it, they might be able to trace his records. I don’t know what good that will do, but maybe it’ll be able to help us someday.
You’d be surprised at the lengths people will go to nowadays to hold on to a little shrivel of hope. I can only wonder if that little, red boot with a little name scribbled on it will be able to give someone that little bit of hope.