Carolyn has had a tough time of it lately. As I have said before, it’s her fault; she’s the one telling me the story; I just write. Regardless, I think that there are two parts after this one. Things, believe it or not, seems to be tying themselves together and fighting for a finish. I cannot quite see it yet, but I have faith in Carolyn. Thank you for reading. Enjoy!
Carolyn took Billy’s hand and guided them both down the woodsy path. They had not seen any night crawlers in almost two weeks and it was getting a bit easy to think, imagine they were all gone. She stepped, for a moment, into her own personal time machine in her mind. It was so simple to just imagine Billy’s hand as that of her daughter’s and how it had felt to sit in their car as it drove through the tree trunk at that wonderful national park. What was the name? Yosemite? It had been a gloriously wonderful day, full of joy and surprises of the grand variety. That little hand in hers…
Her mind came back to reality. Her daughter had died of Cancer and this young man was Billy, whose father was now in that same place with her daughter, all because she…no, it was not her fault. Those things did it.
“You okay?” Billy asked. She nodded, hoping that was enough to stop the questions.
The road ahead was ominous, darkness closing in and the sinking sun a hazy light through the fog. Carolyn was being alert and exceptionally quiet, so different from the last few days. Since having met Jordan and Billy her life had been nearly transformed from one of depression and no hope to one filled with promise and joy. Now, half that joy was devastated and not just for her. Billy had to deal with the loss of his dad and the acceptance of a new mother he had only known for a few days. As if knowing her thoughts, his hand squeezed hers tightly.
The night crawlers came out of nowhere and headed straight toward Carolyn and Billy as they walked down the dirt road toward the next small town. Since the death of Jordan, Billy’s father, Carolyn had sworn protection to the boy and two of the infected were not going to change that; however, when two more stepped out of the bushes, she was less sure of the outcome.
Carolyn ran with Billy in tow, but the boy had fallen earlier that day and could not move fast enough and Carolyn could not carry him more than a couple dozen yards. She decided to save her strength and face them now, so the hunting knife flashed and flicked as three attackers dropped to the ground.
Carolyn turned to face the last attacker and sparks flew as she saw the fourth night crawler on top of Billy, its mouth open and moving toward the child’s throat. Carolyn felt the icy shivers of destiny crawl into her stomach as she watched the night crawler going for Billy’s throat. She covered the distance in two strides and tore the thing off the boy. Even as it was continuing upwards, she stuck her knife into the infected monstrosity. It fell to the ground with a sickening thud, lifeless and unmoving.
Carolyn then turned her attention to Billy. She grabbed at him, looking for marks and bites. He was scared, shaking horribly, but not as scared as Carolyn was when she saw the tiny tear on his neck. It was not much, just a scratch, but it had broken the skin; there was a tiny rivulet of crimson streaking down, just a drop or two. Was it enough? She didn’t know. She held Billy in her arms, the bodies of the four night crawlers in heaps around them. She cried. Now, only time would show if Billy truly escaped.
Losing Jordan had been horrible, especially the manner in which she knew he had died at the paws of the night crawlers, however, to lose Billy also would be nearly more than she could, mentally, handle; her emotions were frozen. Her mind refused to deal with the situation. She could only think of the boy. Billy, dear little Billy, lay on the cold road with his head in Carolyn’s hands, shaking and she could only wait for the allotted time to pass and see if first symptoms developed.
They had remained still for about two hours when Billy’s joints grew stiff and his head became hot with a few drops of blood running from his nose; Carolyn knew those symptoms well; the boy was infected. She began to cry and continued to do so for almost half an hour before acknowledging she only had about thirty more minutes to act like a responsible adult and caring mother.
Carolyn slipped the hunting knife out of the holster, brought the tip to bear under the ribs toward the heart and with a deep breath did what needed to be done out of kindness before returning to a full hour of wailing the call for the Ferryman to take this beautiful, loving child across the Styx.
Carolyn spent the morning burying Billy’s body. She accomplished the act through a combination of love, guilt, and the feelings one might have after a car crash. She could not dig into the cold, frozen ground. All she could do was cover him with all the larger rocks she found in the area. It was a lonesome and unforgiving chore. She finished the task and created a headstone from a large rock she found. It was shaped somewhat like a star and she considered Billy a bright shining star in her life.
Kneeling beside the grave brought her many different thoughts. In that mental eye she could see her great aunt phoning her grandmother to tell her Carolyn, a new driver, had been in an accident.
“The car is in much worse shape than I am,” the squeaky voice had whined out.
When Carolyn had taken the phone, her grandmother had soothe her and made her feel all important before ending the call to go back and continue fixing supper for grandfather and her own daughter, Carolyn’s mother. Caroline was not certain why she had that memory, but it brought her some joy. That was something she could use right now.
She struggled back from the kneeling position she had taken and with great effort made herself turn away from the grave and go back to walking, now alone, down the country road.
She had covered several miles when she realized the sun, continuing across the sky, was about an hour from being down and allowing the darkness, and danger, to return to the Earth. She looked down the road and saw a sign marking a shop of some sort just off the road. Her beaten, ragged body dragged itself toward the front door.
Carolyn, eyes not quite over the tears of the recent past, broke the glass pane in the door of the workshop. It was quite cold out and she needed somewhere to stay the night. Since, now, it was only her, the eyes began again; she was not as picky but still hoped the wood shop would provide something other than just a place to sleep.
Walking in, her eyes first centered on the saws and blades and other tools scattered about. She could see this place had been active in its day. No bodies lay about. She realized that she had never seen more than a couple of bodies in all of her travels. Of course, most did not quite die; they simply began walking the path of disease laid out before them. The ones who were luckier, if that could be said, were eaten pretty thoroughly, the skeleton pulled apart and gnawed on as well. She supposed she would find the bodies if she looked harder. It was not like the movies; people made it to their houses or their places to work most of the time. It was there they found their fates, not out in the open somewhere.
Noises in the other room brought her to the moment.