It’s been a while since my last update as you can tell. Let’s just say that circumstances prevented me from being able to do so. Girl and I remained at the cabin for 4 days after my last post. Thankfully I don’t have much to report about our stay there. Like I mentioned earlier it was downright peaceful considering the circumstances. We both ended up getting some much needed rest. I was really tempted to try my hand at some hunting but that would be like trying to piss up a pole. I can just imagine myself sneaking through the forest trying to pick off some wildlife with my peashooter. It would be comically pathetic. The extent of my “hunting” goes as far as a rod & reel. I lacked the proper equipment to do that either. When the MREs ran low it was time for us to hit the road once again.
She was in good spirits and looking better than she has since I first met her. She’s still hobbling about so getting her out of the forest was a bit of a task. She’s a little thing but my God, after a few miles she gets to be quite heavy. We’ve bonded a great deal over the time we’ve been together though. She still hasn’t spoken a word yet but she listens to everything I blabber on about. Maybe I’ll get her to do some entries here. Might help her to cope with what’s going on. It’s amazing how much her eyes can convey. So much compassion. So much concern, attention, conviction. It’s unfortunate that this ordeal has forced her to grow up so quickly but she knows she can trust me.
Nothing like a bit of pressure, huh?
I really should name her. Listen to me. I’m starting to sound like the kid who found a puppy on the way home from school. Am I really that awful for wanting to “name” her? It’s getting really weird referring to her as Girl or “hey” all the time. You know what? Screw it. I’ll call her Anna. That’s the first name that popped into my head so that’ll be what I call her from now on… unless she tells me different.
I’ve lived in Minnesota all my life and had never been to Grand Rapids. I know. It goes against everything I’ve been saying about avoiding large cities but we have to get there. We started seeing a disturbing pattern as we came across some of the smaller townships. They were either completely ransacked or transformed into makeshift forts. Let me tell you this, they aren’t accepting new residents either. We got our first taste of that in Aurora. I suspected something was afoot when I didn’t see too many active deadheads in the area. Much like Two Harbors you can tell where people are holed up by the amount of dead bodies lying about. I don’t know if they’re somehow learning and staying away from these areas or if these hunkered down trigger happy yokels are simply laying waste to everything in sight. Either way I knew it wasn’t good news. We approached at night. I had Anna take cover inside what remained of pizza shop while I scouted area out. It was safe enough for her and I wasn’t going to be long so I headed out.
Many of the main streets and buildings were barricaded with an assortment of debris stacked two men high. Cars, mailboxes, signs… basically anything they could get their hands on it looked like. I noticed however that they weren’t secured with much more than just some ropes and chains. It’s obvious that these fortifications aren’t meant to keep the living out because with the exception of a sentry or two stationed at key spots a child could easily scale them. I broke into the side entrance to place called Dino’s Bottle Shop. I dunno why that name sticks in my head. Apparently a locked door is as good as a barricade when you’re dealing with the undead because there wasn’t anything else blocking my way in. From inside I was able to get a glimpse of what was going on behind the walls. The smell of beer and arrogance was rank in the air. It even overpowered the ever present stench of the dead. I guess these boys had a bit of overconfidence. Aurora is comparable in size to Two Harbors so I doubt they had much of an onslaught to contend with. Heck I betcha half these chicken-humpers had guns anyway and were looking for a reason to shoot something.
I can’t believe I said that. I don’t like what this whole situation is turning me into.
Anyway, I wasn’t about to press my luck and silently left the same way I came in. Course I broke the lock to get in… I hope that doesn’t cause problems for them down the road…
We stayed off the main roads for a long while and headed West. The activity seemed to pick up quite a bit so once again we tried our best to stray away from populated areas. After a few miles though I decided we needed some transportation if we were going to make any headway so we made our way back to the 169. The highway was choked with vehicles but finding one that not only had keys and gas but a drivable path out of the clutter took some time. I did eventually come across a Mazda 3 that was still in pretty good condition. It managed to stay clear of the many fires that had apparently spread from car to car. There were several charred remains outside of it though and a body inside. It looks as if whoever was driving smacked into the guardrail and got swarmed. As I pulled her corpse out I was anxiously waiting for the eyes to pop open and her to come at me. She didn’t have any open wounds that I could see. In fact the car wasn’t even breached until I smashed through the driver-side window. Her eyes were sunken and tongue swollen. Sadly enough she looks like she died of dehydration… too frightened to even leave the car. As I laid her on the ground I couldn’t help but think back to the old man and his child that I saw in front of the hospital. A chill rocked me to my core as I began to wonder if that was the fate I had in store for myself and this little girl by getting in this car.
Navigating the highway was a task. Whenever we had to slow down and work our way through blockages I was anticipating an ambush. I even had to have her drive at some points while I moved debris from our path. She seemed to enjoy the little tastes of freedom.
There wasn’t much left of Buhl or Chisolm. I didn’t even bother stopping. Didn’t seem worth it. Somehow it seemed to me as though we were chasing the storm. My fears were confirmed when we approached Hibbing. It was a town under siege. You could hear the screams and gunfire a mile away. The road was bringing us right towards the center of town and as we got closer, we saw them. Hundreds upon thousands of zombies flooding the horizon. I immediately veered off the main road and tried to find a way around. It’s not easy driving in the backwoods, in dark with no headlights with no roads to speak of. We were literally creeping by at a snail’s pace. It was unnerving. After a while the brush was so dense that we couldn’t go any deeper. Luckily we stumbled upon a trail far from the main road. It was probably a walking trail or something. The car could barely fit on the unpaved road but we followed it as far as we could until it brought us to the outskirts of town.
We were on Brooklyn road – wherever the hell that was – when from out of nowhere two people came dashing out from a nearby supply store and began banging frantically on our car. I reached for my gun as Anna clung tightly to my arm. I was so focused on trying to spot the deadheads that I never saw these people approach from my blindside. I fired a shot blindly. I’d become so paranoid of the living that I didn’t even hear their pleas for help until after the bullet splattered the old woman’s brains upon her companion. She slumped down in slow motion as time seemed to freeze for a moment. I looked on in horror as the older gentlemen, shocked by what just transpired stumbled a few steps back, his eyes locked on the gore that now covered him. I was aghast at what I had done. I dropped the gun and it fell between the seat and the door. My mouth quivered as I tried to utter something… anything. The moment seemed to last forever. I didn’t know what to do.
The sound of approaching moans snapped me back into reality for an instant. I unlocked the back door and yelled to the man “Get in!”. He hesitated momentarily until he heard the same thing I did and quickly jumped in back. I put the foot on the gas as I saw them starting to emerge from the darkness, striking a few as I flew down the road. I was insanely nervous. This man was sitting behind me and I feared what he may do. I kept one eye on the road and another in my rear view. He sat there motionless looking down at his hands, weeping ever so inaudibly. I felt sick to my stomach. My head started to swoon as I felt like I was going to pass out. I fumbled around trying to get at the gun I dropped. I couldn’t reach it. Anna squeezed under my arms as I drove and managed to use her wirey little arms to fish it out. She laid it on my lap and looked back at the old man. He wasn’t even paying attention to what we were doing in the front. She fiddled around in the little Hannah Montana backpack we picked up a while back…
God I hate that little tart. I hope she didn’t survive this ordeal. Oh my God… that’s just awful. I can’t believe I’m saying these things…
She pulled out a towel and a bottle of water and cautiously offered them to the elderly gentlemen. He didn’t seem to notice her gesture for a bit but when he did he begrudgingly accepted them. She flashed a comforting smile at him and despite how distraught he was forced himself to return the gesture. I still had no idea what to do or say. I just kept driving…
I don’t know how long I drove. Seemed like forever. I watched the sun rise and set. We somehow managed to find the 169 again and took it all the way down to Coleraine before the vehicle said “no more”. The plume of smoke emanating from the hood and knocking in the engine told me we were going on foot once again. Unlike every other towns I’d come across this one was different. It was completely abandoned. A ghost town if you will. It bore the scars of traumatic event but no one remained here. Aside from a couple of stragglers I had to dispatch the town was empty… or so it appears to be. We managed to set up shop inside an old pub a few blocks from the main road. It was easy enough to secure and there was a few provisions left inside that we quickly made use of.
I’m a more than a little uneasy about the way this man has been tagging along. He just follows us blindly as if he’s just doing it by instinct alone. I haven’t turned him away – God… how can I after what I’ve done but I can’t help but have that uncertainty around him. I mean seriously… what would you do? I don’t know if that was his wife, sister or whatever. I could very well be signing my own death warrant by keeping him around. Who knows what’s going in in his head?
I guess only time will tell. For now it’s just another person who won’t talk to me…