The fire is ironic, and she would have laughed at the imagery had it have been on a Saturday morning cartoon, but with the glass broken and the charred corpse of the driver lolling in the seat, she stayed silent. The heat, which creeps out of the fire engine like a murderer, is unbearable, and she gives it a wide berth as she approaches the sign, feeling the asphalt change to dirt and then back again beneath her feet.
The sign is three times her height, and she stares up at it with a furrowed brow. Marshall was the only city in Trumbull, and if she was to find survivors it would be there that she had the best chance. No doubt there are a few, hiding out in the solitary buildings surrounded by the open fields, but surely the attraction of supplies, as well as wholly familiar territory, would appeal to someone besides simply her?
‘What do you think about the city?’ She asks, only half expecting Lily to respond. ‘There’s gotta be some survivors there, surely?’
‘I’ve not got any signals from Marshall,’ the weak voice replies, ‘but if you can find a car, at least, you might be able to get back before sunset.’
Gabriella swears loudly and looks at the sun. It has only felt like minutes to her, but the celestial orb has crawled across the sky like another dead thing. The very air seems to have turned red around her, and her shadow, that cadaverous, long-legged parody, has stretched out like an urban legend in a misty forest.
‘Alright, I’ll see if I can find a car and head up Main Street, if I can’t I’ll just find somewhere to hole up for the night and head back in the morning; that a plan?’
She is already when walking along the road again when Lily agrees, mindful of the clicking of her boot heels against the asphalt. The road stretches out before her, empty, but the distant bridge is a crush of vehicles; burnt out wreckages designed to keep people out; or, as she fears, to keep the dead things in. The fires here abated some time ago, not enough the scent of smoke still hangs in the air. She thinks it strange that the fire engine was still aflame, whereas those vehicles are blackened husks.
Beyond them, on the other side of the bridge, there is a gas station; a Bronto, if she remembers correctly. She thinks about all the times she complained to her friends at the price of gas, about the loud agreements and gentle mockery of rolling eyes. She’d have killed to be able to moan about the rising cost again, to have the worry of a few extra cents wasted on fuel over the sheer silence of the wheat fields, or the never-ending moaning of those creatures as they tried to steal a few hours sleep.
‘How’re you feeling Lily? You doing okay for meds?’
‘Yeah, I’m fine,’ she lies, trying to force a little energy into her listless tones, ‘we’ll have to go on a run in a few days though.’ Gabriella knows she’s lying, just as she knows that the ‘we’ will inevitably mean, ‘you’. She didn’t begrudge Lily her illness; if she hadn’t fought to let Gabriella in when she first arrived at the church she could well have been dead by now, and if occasionally having to search for a little extra medicine was the price for her survival, she would happily pay it.
‘Cool, we’ll head over to that vet place when I get back tomorrow, yeah? They might have something we can use.’
‘Sounds like a plan,’ the voice crackled, and she hears a yawn breaking through, ‘if I grow fur and my nose goes wet, you bet your ass I’m blaming you.’ Gabriella laughs, picking her way through the burnt-out cars with her blade heavy in her hand.