Jessica set the pace and Mike was content to follow along.
She seemed remarkably calm from his perspective. Determined to find her family, or at least find out their fates, while not being reckless or impatiently in a hurry.
Mike didn’t have much of a family anymore.
His Dad had an affair when Mike was younger and it split his parents up. Then his Dad started a new family. Mike got the occasional card and financial assistance but there was a distinct lack of familial love there.
His Mom on the other hand had been amazing, so amazing that when she was diagnosed with cancer, he’d given up on his initial college plans to stay with her. She’d passed six weeks before he actually stated freshman semester at his new second rate junior college destination.
In a state that could be described as shock, Mike had applied for campus housing the next day.
Almost two years later he was still paying rent on their old family apartment because, even though he wasn’t comfortable living there alone, it had too many memories. Luckily it was rent controlled and his Mom had had a decent life insurance policy.
Not that any of that mattered in the new world.
Walking in the shadows of buildings they made good time.
Zombies were everywhere, but they seemed to lack the horror movie zombie’s drive to form enormous herds. Rather than herds, they kept to packs between three and ten in number, and lone wanderers.
Mike and Jessica made it a point to pick off as many of the smaller groups as they could. Steadily their credits were rising ten at a time and there was no end in sight to the bankroll. Though, truthfully, Mike had actually expected to see considerably more zombies than they were. It was almost like the majority of them were still stuck in the various buildings they died.
It made sense to a certain extent. the basic level one zombie was relatively weak and slow. It reacted to noise and not much else.
Without the pressure of a herd at their backs, they would find it difficult to bust down locked doors.
It was a blessing for them. The lower number on the street meant that as long as they kept moving they really weren’t in danger from zomies.
Mike made them take it carefully anyway. Jessica didn’t seem to have any complaints with his way of doing things..
Keeping their heads on a swivel, they looked around every corner before turning it and if they stopped for any reason, they found a spot behind some doors before they let their guard down.
They’d been slowly traveling that way for several hours when Jessica finally spoke up.
“You know, we’re doing pretty good, making decent time and everything. I even hit level four a few stray zombies back. But if we keep moving like this we’re not going to find any survivors.”
Mike looked a bit guilty as he admitted, “I wasn’t really planning on looking for them. Not actively or anything.”
“So you’re okay with ignoring the fact that every building we pass could have a dozen people in it who desperately need our help?” She pressed, but the question didn’t sound malicious coming from her. It felt more like she was feeling him out.
What answer did she want to hear?
Did she want him to be practical and say even if he saved them he couldn’t keep them safe so it was wasted effort? Or was she looking for him to be callous and simply claim they weren’t his problem? It was even possible she wanted him to give voice to an empty platitude like, “I wish I could save them all.”
Mike didn’t know what she wanted. He wasn’t sure he could give it to her if he did know. If she wanted to be comforted that it wasn’t wrong they were ignoring others potentially in need, she’d come to the wrong man.
Mike had been thinking about how many people he was indirectly sentencing to death for quite some time when she openly asked her innocent sounding question.
His only conclusion was that he hated himself. He was a bastard. But he was a bastard that intended to live through this hell.
Somewhere in the back of his mind he still held hope the government was working on the problem.
If they were, then they’d decided to concentrate on uptown’s residential areas not downtown. But that would make sense. They’d save far more people that way than otherwise. And in time, they’d make it downtown too.
Everything didn’t have to be on his shoulders when he looked at it like that.
Mike didn’t realize it but he’d already developed something of a hero complex.
Not a justice man thing. Or a desire to save everyone. It was a lot less childish. He simply started considering problems from the angle that he had to be the one to solve them, without ever realizing he was doing it.
Jessica didn’t look at things like that.
Neither did Troy.
Only Mike himself thought everything ultimately came down to him.
It was super arrogant but he didn’t openly give voice to his thought process, so no one could have pointed it out to him. His motivation seemed far less dramatic looking from the outside in.
Finally in answer to Jessica’s question Mike shrugged as he said, “Am I okay with it? Not really. Would you be okay with it if I told you our mission had changed and we were going to go building to building looking for survivors instead of finding your family?”
Jessica smiled, a quite little smile, as if she’d expected him to turn it on her like that.
“No. No I wouldn’t be okay with that at all. But if that’s what you need to do, then give the order. I’ll follow you anywhere.”
The honestly in her words shocked Mike and he stopped walking for a moment as he stammered for a reply.
“You act like I just told you I love you and you already have a girlfriend. Relax. I don’t mean anything by it. I just think you’re doing a good job at stepping up. I wanted you to know that. That’s all.”
As she turned around to keep walking ahead Mike almost swore he heard her mumble the words, “cute and flustered.”
But his mind was too busy playing catch up to put it all together. Which only made Jessica laugh again. Considering she was blasting a hole in the head of a nearby zombie with her plasma pistol at the same time, she looked more than a little crazy.
Mike liked her brand of crazy.
Deciding to focus on level grinding, not emotions, he charged a group of three zombies.
A quick shoulder into the first, with a kick to the shin of the second and ax to the skull of the third. Then two more quick ax chops to the felled dead squirming to get back up, and his little skirmish was over.
Simple, effective, and far quicker than he’d been the day before. Mike’s progress could only be called shockingly impressive.
Author : The Steve