The gas ran out somewhere around the 157 km marker on… Which highway was this again? I really couldn’t remember. I thought that I’d crossed the border somewhere around New Brunswick, but I’d been driving so long that I wasn’t sure where I was anymore. It really didn’t matter. All that really mattered was that it was time to walk.
“Time to go, buddy,” I whispered to the sleeping child in the back of the SUV. As I undid the straps from around the little boy’s chest and legs I lamented that I was going to have to leave the baby seat behind. It was just too heavy to drag along, so I strapped the baby into the carrier that barely fit around my chest (Do they even design these things for men?) and snatched up the blood-spattered diaper bag before I went.
It was hours before I finally came upon a town again, and with the town came the dead. I glared warily at the bodies that lay strewn throughout, rotting in the sun. It had been almost a month and a half since the undead had suddenly collapsed and finally become dead dead, but I still felt like they were going to jump up and tear into me at any moment. I didn’t think I would ever be able to trust a dead body ever again.
The baby was starting to squirm and squeal so I quickly mixed up the last of the formula and placed the bottle in his tiny hands. He sucked away greedily, and I sincerely prayed that I would be able to find more formula in this town before he got hungry again. This little guy had been through enough. I still had nightmares about the moment I snatched him from his stroller, mere seconds before his bloody-eyed mother had snapped her fleshy jaw down on top of him. I didn’t think I would have been able to go on if I hadn’t made it in time. And so now he was mine, for better or worse, though I hadn’t been able to bring myself to name him yet.
I was pondering this, this most simple of parental decisions, when I saw her: a woman walking toward me in the street. My heart stopped as quickly as my feet as visions of torn flesh and missing limbs flashed in front of my eyes. But in that second moment I realized that she had stopped and was staring at me as well. She was very clutching a young child in her arms and was very clearly pregnant, and I honestly didn’t think I’d ever seen anyone so beautiful in all my life.
We moved slowly toward each other at first, then more quickly, and though we hadn’t moved enough distance to be out of breath we were both breathing hard.
“You’re a survivor,” I said foolishly, my heart hammering.
“You too,” she replied, grinning ear to ear.
And that was the first time that I genuinely believed that, somehow, some way, it was going to be okay.