Sequel: Static Screams
Status: bloody

White Noise


The next several days passed right over my head, only slowing enough for me to catch a glimpse of our new group banding together in so many strange ways. Logan teaching Seven how to handle a gun, James and Darren scouting for gas together, Cosmic and Nat bonding over their craftiness. Sawyer and Peter handling our food and water with precision, Sasha fussing over all of us in her own motherly fashion. Scarlett is distracted, but still carrying this group forward. And I spent all of my time watching, scouring our surroundings and paying extreme attention to what is going on around us.

You don’t get a free pass from heartache in the apocalypse. It doesn’t stop just because the dead are walking, the survivors are unpredictable, no future is certain. Heartache continues, and it continues deeply. Some people can turn it off, lessen the impact by not becoming attached and remaining apathetic.

One night, back in the early days of the end, Ryan didn’t come home. I paced the hall for hours, burning a candle in the window in case for some reason he forgot how to find us. Holland argued at first, stating that it would be so easy for someone to see us up there with a bright candle burning in the window. But I guess I wore him down pretty quickly, as I seemed to do. He coaxed me to the couch, where we sat and he talked for hours about so many insignificant things which now are remembered as anything but insignificant. Ryan came home after the sun rose, and after some yelling, the incident was forgotten.

It’s amazing the things you remember when all you want to do is forget.

Holland leaving might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, but I’d picked up a thing or two from Scarlett’s prior callousness. Although I knew I needed to feel this pain, because I could only hold it back for so long, the time wasn’t quite right just yet.

In a murder investigation, or the case of a missing person, the first 48 hours are crucial. After that first 48, the chances of finding the killer or finding the missing person alive diminishes greatly. I held out a great deal of hope for the first 48 without Holland. I watched and waited for any sign of him, a sign that he’d come back, but I didn’t see any.

We started first by going north, driving a good deal through Kentucky before ditching the truck and taking to our feet. Sasha was against walking, for my sake mostly, but I needed the movement, needed to have the blood pumping. We hopped on I-64 once we hit Elizabethtown. It took over a week to hit the border for West Virginia, and though we’d run into a few stragglers, most of the dead seemed to be elsewhere, which was fine by me.

The farther we walked, the more I noticed how little Scarlett was talking. Not that she’d ever been incredibly talkative, but even the orders she’d typically bark out only came through as seemingly passive statements.

If it bothered anyone else, nobody said anything. In fact, none of us had spoken too much. Part of me wondered how much of our silence was fueled by missing Holland and the constant background noise his voice provided. It seemed unfair for so many strangers to be mourning the loss of someone I cared about the most, but I’d never say that out loud.

“We could stop here for a day or two.” Scarlett’s voice was jarring. She sounded so sad, so drained, and it really stopped us all short. She cleared her throat, “Lila could use the rest. We’ve been going non-stop.”

I looked at where we were – a small town, standing in front of a few storefronts that looked as though they’d been abandoned for years; way before the apocalypse, anyway.

“You don’t speak for me, you know,” I mumbled. She gave me a sharp look, but let it slide. The first verbal interaction we’d had in days, and I’d pissed her off – great.

“It might not be a bad idea, actually,” Sasha mused. “Especially since we have some younger ones with us now, too.”

Scarlett nodded. “They’d be a great place to stay for a day or two. Windows big enough for us to see out, but small enough that we won’t attract any unwanted attention.”

I looked closer at the buildings, which really favored the old kind of store that also looked like a house, or maybe that there was an apartment above. “I mean, if they’re empty...I guess...”

“I’ll check,” James and Darren volunteered simultaneously.

Scarlett nodded, mumbling a quick okay. “Check this one,” she pointed to the one directly beside her. The derelict sign indicated it used to be a furniture store.

Over the last several days of being around James, I learned that he could pick any lock there was. He had an amazing, if not incredibly niche, talent that was extremely useful in the apocalypse. He was fast and, more importantly, quiet. In just a few moments, James and Darren were bouncing through the door and into relative darkness.

It was growing darker earlier, and it had been incredibly overcast for several days. Today wasn’t an exception, except now the wind was picking up. Thunder had been following us for hours, but I was kind of thankful that we were stopping. Walking while pregnant in a thunderstorm just didn’t sound appealing.

We got an all clear from Darren and James and carefully entered the old store. I was partially delighted to see that some old furniture still remained. Nothing exciting, just a few loveseats, two couches, and a stack of mattresses (wrapped in plastic, thank god). Dusty and gross as it may be, it would beat sitting on the cold hard ground. Or sleeping with a rock under my neck.

Everyone settled back into the routine they’d had over the last several days, splitting off into little groups to catch their breath, relax for just a moment. I sat down on an old wooden chair, testing it to see if it would hold my weight. It was positioned in the corner, a distance away from everyone, but I could see out of the window and distracted myself with watching the storm that had been following us finally roll in.


I turned my head and met Scarlett’s gaze. I nodded in acknowledgment, then turned my attention back to the window.

“Do you...should we talk about it?”

I shook my head and chuckled bitterly. “I’m so pissed at him.”

“Me too,” she mumbled.

“I just feel so helpless. I keep losing people back to back and it just makes me angry and tired.”

She nodded, turning to watch as a gentle rain tapped against the window. “I don’t have an answer, Lila. I wish I did.”

I sighed in frustration. “He was right.”

“About what?” she cocked her head to the side, looking at me.

I smiled, though it probably appeared as a scowl. “One night, soon after he saved you guys, he said to me ‘I just can’t get a read on Scarlett. I see so much going on there, and it kills me knowing that I can’t fix it. She’s just too emotionally hidden.’ And he was right.” I stood, facing her, and placed my hands on her shoulders. “But he also saw you changing before you did. He saw you opening more, caring more, and it made him so happy. ‘She talked to me a little bit more about real stuff today!’ or ‘She almost hugged me!’...Scar, you’ve been carrying a lot of this all alone for so long. I trust you. I actually kind of like you now. But, for my sake, I need you to be open with me, too. What are you feeling?”

I let my hands slip down her arms, almost as though I was holding her against herself and keeping her from running away all at once. Her eyes were wide.

She shook her head and looked down to the floor. “Lila,” she said with shuddering breath, “I feel everything.”