Monday, November 6, 2017
Jeb watched as Grit grimly tossed the last shovel of dirt on the graves they’d been covering up. Grit nodded to him, his anger just as evident as Jeb’s, as he met Jeb’s eyes with his own brown ones. Neither one spoke, moving as one away from the graves. They’d led the funeral for their people, but neither of them had enjoyed the harsh reality that they were losing the battle bit by tiny bit. Jeb ran his eyes over the grave yard where they buried their people with a jaundice eye. Forty-nine graves were dug into that hard earth just on the outer edge of the compound, and those were just the ones they’d dug inside the walls. When the first bodies hit the ground at the beginning, they’d buried them in a graveyard about two miles away.
Jeb and Grit had known for a long time that they were all going to die. Whether it was to the disease, or the crazies of this new world, the results were the same and one day there wouldn’t be anyone left, because the world was dying—it was just taking its sweet damned time about it. It wouldn’t stop him or Grit from fighting till their last breath, but it was their inevitable end without a cure for the disease. That cure was never going to happen, because no one knew enough about the disease to even work on a cure, and when the CDC fell, humanity lost any chance at recovery. Jeb let out a sigh and leaned back to look up at the sky. As Jeb watched the sun rapidly fade on the horizon, he couldn’t help but hope that its absence would cool things off, because the summer months were brutally hot here in what had once been Utah.
He could feel his t-shirt sticking to his chest like it was glued to him as sweat coated his skin. Damn, he would kill for air conditioning right about now, but it was too hard on the generators to run the central air, so they only ran a few small window units in the clubhouse main room. If Derick’s plan worked out, they might have better options for power soon. Before the deadheads showed up, Derick was a scientist studying clean power and he was working on setting up both solar panels and a wind station to harness power for the compound. Jeb knew that the very first thing he was doing when they got reliable power, was making sure his cabin had central air.
Rubbing the sweat off his brow, he stared out towards the hill-top where they were setting the station up. It was outside the walls, but they were working on making a similar set up for the power station. They planned on building walls around it that wouldn’t interfere with the working of the wind mills. Jeb hoped that spreading out like they were wasn’t going to cause issues with security because their manpower was limited these days. Grit was brilliant when it came to security, but even he was limited when he didn’t have the men he needed to make his plans work. Jeb knew they had to work it out, because the idea of having power again was bringing hope for a normal life, and that was something they all needed.
Jeb tossed the shovel into the golf cart and grabbed some warm beer from the cooler, handing one to Grit. Taking a seat, the two of them sat in companionable silence, neither one wanting to talk about the truth they were both struggling to face.
An hour later, Jeb was sitting on the porch at the clubhouse with his head resting back on the support behind him with Grit. They’d played poker with Davie and some of the boys until Davie had gotten tired and left, heading to the infirmary where he was staying. Having anyone who’d been bitten stay in the infirmary was a precaution they’d started a long time ago in order to keep the illness contained. It was safer for everyone if the infected person was in the infirmary with two guards who were both prepared to put down anyone in order to prevent the infection from spreading and taking over the compound before they could get it under control.
“Poor kid.” Grit muttered, as he pulled a cigarette out, placing it in his mouth before holding them out to Jeb.
“Yeah, it’s a damned shame.” Jeb answered, reaching out to grab the pack of cigarettes from Grit. He took one out and lit it, inhaling deeply before blowing it out, creating a long line of smoke in the darkness surrounding them. Grit took his cigarettes back and lit his own smoke, staring out at the quiet night before them. The nights were cooler than the days and it was much more comfortable to sit outside at night, which was why several people could be seen sitting on their porches with little lanterns or candles sitting beside them.
“Harrison says he started the fever last night.”
“Yeah, I noticed when he was leaving tonight that he’d started sweating.” Jeb replied, his heart squeezing a little to know that the boy hadn’t gotten away from the infection like they’d hoped he would. None of them had really believed it was possible, but they’d wanted the boy to make it.
“Won’t take long before he’s in the comma and we’re putting him down like a rabid dog.” Grit grunted, anger in his tone. To some, their conversation would seem heartless because putting the kid down sounded wrong, but it was better than what happened if they didn’t. Killing Davie before he became a deadhead was their only option once he entered the comma.
“Did you ever think we’d be here two years ago when those reports started coming through?” Jeb asked Grit after a long pause.
“Nah, I thought they’d get that shit under control. They seemed to have their shit together at first.” Grit snorted, his foot swinging back and forth between two railings as he spoke.
“I didn’t either. I never thought they would be as good at handling it as they thought they would, but I never thought it would overtake them completely. I mean hell, they had a fucking army of men.” Jeb took another long drag on the smoke and shook his head.
“True, but it was a venerable army. When your army can become your enemy, I guess it’s hard to win the fight.” Grit’s words were ones Jeb had never considered, but he could see the logic in that argument.
“I just wish they’d figured out something to combat this disease before they went to hell in a hand basket” Jeb muttered, his voice hard as he thought of all the things that had happened over the past two years. He couldn’t help dwelling on all the friends they’d buried. Jeb lifted the cigarette to his mouth taking another deep drag as he gazed out at the porch across the way, where Gretta sat with her two boys—Thomas and Leroy Jr.—remembering the day they’d come back from a run to find Leroy Sr. trying to get into the bedroom to eat Gretta and the boys.
That had been about a week after the outbreak and he’d been the first of the club to turn—but he hadn’t been the last. At the time, they hadn’t realized that anyone with a symptom needed to be kept separate and in a contained environment. It hadn’t taken them long to learn that lesson. Jeb was glad that Gretta had realized something was wrong with her old man and gotten her kids to safety. Dutch—Leroy’s road name—wouldn’t have wanted his old lady and kids to be hurt by Dutch himself or anyone else. Gretta and the boys, and all the others like them, were the reason he and Grit were still fighting. They couldn’t let their people down, even if it meant fighting a war they knew they couldn’t win.
“You think we will make it?” Grit asked, his gaze on Gretta and the kids too.
Jeb glanced at Grit wondering if he was the only one who felt the inevitable end to this fight bearing down on them, but from Grit’s expression and tone, Jeb knew he didn’t think they would survive any more than he did.
“I don’t, but we have to try—for them.” Grit’s eyes clouded with darkness and he nodded once, his eyes cold and his face determined.
“Yeah, for them.” Grit said, and Jeb knew it was a vow.
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