They finished their bottles and stashed the empties back in the bag in case they found clean water elsewhere to fill them with. That done, they reluctantly moved on, trying not to sound too much like the dead they were avoiding as aching muscles protested.
Ben kept an eye on the street as they progressed up the block. They were traveling across the roofs of a series of low single-storey buildings that gave him a very good view, but made him very nervous. He wasn’t at all sure how good a zombie’s vision or hearing was, or from how far away they could otherwise scent, or sense you, or however they found you. His arms and legs weren’t looking forward to the next climb upwards, but the rest of him definitely was.
While he was keeping an eye out though, he found himself noticing other details that had escaped him from higher elevations. Just little things, like a certain order to the chaos of the debris, an arranged quality to the abandoned cars. “Claire.”
She stopped. They backed away from the edge of the roof aways to make themselves less visible to the dead below. “What is it?”
“Is it just me, or do all of these shops have cleared entrances?”
She squinted down at the street, looking more carefully at the scene below. “Yeah. What do you think it means?”
“I’m thinking of the highway, the moved cars.” Those had been very obviously placed for a specific reason. Maybe these had too, though the reason was apparently different.
“Now that you mention it … and it’s more than that. There are no zombies stuck in any of the cars on these streets. None in any of the cars we’ve passed that I’ve seen. I haven’t seen a single set of remains in a vehicle anywhere.”
“Let’s get to higher ground.” He hadn’t picked up on the bodies or lack thereof, but it was true as far as he could recall. It made him uneasy, walking into a situation they didn’t understand. Things were chaotic enough as it was.
He tried to shake the feeling off, concentrating on crossing the next several roofs to the next two-storey building. The climb was painful, but every exertion got them further from the street and he felt that much better for it.
Once up higher, they took another look around. “It really does look like someone’s moved cars to clear paths around here. None of the streets are blocked off, everything’s accessible. All the buildings too.” It wasn’t like everything had been cleaned or maintained. The roads themselves were just as bad as in the Core, maybe even worse; the pavement was broken, shattered by age and the elements, and that was where it was visible at all.
This far out from the city the effects of time were becoming even more obvious. More dirt had blown in and settled over the streets, the roofs, every available surface. Grass was growing in patches everywhere, and even some larger plants. They’d found several saplings as they crossed the roofs on their way to this vantage point.
They’d seen it before on the highway, but the pattern of it here reinforced the uncomfortable feeling Ben got. “The roads look like they’re still being used. Not much, but enough to keep as many plants from growing, at least down the center.”
“You think someone lives out here?” Claire sounded more tired than surprised at the thought.
“I don’t know what else to think. But they’ve never shown anything like that on the broadcasts, have they?”
“No, they’ve always told us we’re the only survivors anywhere near here.” Which meant that if Ben was right, the leaders of the Core were either ignorant or liars, and of more immediate import, that they might have more to be cautious of than the dead out here.