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Tepper’s Mill

Tepper’s Mill

By Terrin Jarrell

 

            I hefted the club in my hand and only hesitated for a brief moment before smashing it against Clara’s head. The sickening wet whack echoed throughout the buildings surrounding them and her groaning and moaning was silenced immediately, the dead hand reaching for me moments ago dropped to the ground with a thump. She had turned; it was obvious from the start but we all ignored it, wanting to believe it was over and that she was completely fine, that the bite was no more menacing and dangerous than a simple mosquito bite on a summer’s night. We wanted to believe the infection was over. But it wasn’t. And I stopped trying to convince myself of this very fact once Clara died, though I never said this to the group. I tried to keep myself as numb as possible, iced to the pain and loneliness of the fallen world I moved as their unspoken leader. She was dead twice over now as kneeled down beside her lifeless body, examining the bruised and bit forearm of her lovely cream colored skin, slightly burned from the blazing sun. I brushed her blond bangs from her forehead and gazed once more at the beauty of the group, her blue eyes shutting forever in peaceful oblivion. The brave one of the group. I snatched a tarp off of an old 73’ mustang, a car I would’ve drooled at before the end of times and covered her corpse as best I could with the lack of materials on hand. A proper burial was out of the question but we all knew that and it didn’t change the level of respect we had for her.

“Stupid bitch, she knew better than to go out there alone,” yelled Mary through a few sparkling tears. Mary picked at her scabby arms, fingers jabbing at nothing as her body forever waited for the next great fix.

“That ‘stupid bitch’ risked her life to get you food. It was more than any of us should have asked for so I’d damn well shut my mouth if I were you,” I said raising my voice.

Mary said nothing and I grabbed my bag off the ground. It was only moderately heavy, a few cans of food, a bottle of water and a few memento’s from my past life. There was a rip in the bottom and I tried to remind myself to have Jenni sew it for me at the next rest point. No sense in having a useless bag in times as hard as these.

“We move. We have to get off the street before nightfall or we all end up like Clara,” I said more sympathetically, one more glance at her tarp coffin. I lifted off the ground, tugged my bag around my shoulders and strapped the metal bat to my hip again.

“She was truly a spirit that one. You can’t blame yourself for what happened to her. You did the best anyone could have in this crazy scenario,” said Aber coming up next to me, dragging his ax in front of him like a cane. I couldn’t let the tear that threatened to fall show so I patted him on the shoulder and let him make his own peace in private mourning as I moved away.

Once the funeral was over for Clara and we all made what little peace we could muster, we moved out trying to get away from the city. I had time to examine the behemoths that surrounded us as we trudged along. Long lost buildings already aging in the short absence of the human population looked like sad giants as the sun danced across the dirty windows and weeds sprouted from the cracked, unattended roads of old. Shattered windows opened random holes up in the buildings and a few computers hung from stretching cords. Though the somewhat sparkling shine of the glass in the buildings provided a small hopeful memory of what used to be, I knew they were also the most dangerous. The buildings created too much nostalgia for the group and it allowed each individual to lose his or her guard. Not to mention the dead found it quite homey. I couldn’t wait for the rolling hills and the smell of farm country, the escape to the future. I looked back at the group behind me, shuffling their feet slowly in the eerie quietness that should have been filled with the noises of busy cars going by and vendors selling newspapers on the street corners. There were seven in total but the group was once much larger. The group consisted of two small children who had been adopted by Jenni, a child herself. Only sixteen but she had taken the responsibility when no one else had. Mary, the junkie. Before the disease she was just a waste of life, begging on the streets of Toronto until she could scrounge up enough money for her next euphoria of dope. Though everyone in the group had changed from what they used to be in some way or other, she was always able to hold onto that tiny piece of herself still. Aber was an older man but he had his wits about him and he knew when to back me up. Finally my eyes rested on Sevina and Cable. They were lovers and had come to us in a gas station when we were a bigger group then. They only kept to themselves but that was fine. Having less people to care about made the world a bit easier. That was something we all started to realize. I thought about Clara again and instantly regretted it. Why did it always came back to her?

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