The Fast and the Dead - Day 26

Several thoughts flashed through Ben’s mind all at once. The lit camera light; the presence of people in an area of town that seemed long abandoned; the apparent presence of canned food, for there was no other possible way to get beef stew or anything similar these days that he knew of.

“Stew. I haven’t eaten all day. You don’t suppose there’s any more around, do you?” Ben was irrational even to suggest they stop when they knew there were dead in the area and following them, but neither of them had eaten all day, and eventually they wouldn’t be able to keep moving if they didn’t eat. He still had his condiments from the coffee shop, but he didn’t have much and it wouldn’t do much for them.

He couldn’t see Claire’s face very well in the shadows of the building’s interior, but he thought she was biting her lip. “We need to eat something more than ketchup and relish.” She looked back to the broken door they’d entered through; nothing had followed them inside yet.

Ben was checking out the reception desk. He climbed on top, a little clumsily thanks to his ankle, and down again to the other side. A few seconds of searching in the dark turned up a new find. “There’s more dishes here,” he said, a note of hope in his voice. “Maybe they keep the food near by?”

There was a dark hallway deeper into the building behind the desk. Claire eyed it. “Yes,” she finally replied. “I think we need to check it out, at least a quick check.”

He started his own quick check of the rest of the space behind the desk. They needed not just food, but something solid and heavy they could use to protect themselves if and when the dead got close. There was lots of trash and debris, but nothing with enough heft to be useful. He regretted the earlier loss of the shotgun Claire had had at the pub when they’d met.

He was about to give up entirely when his hand closed around the handle of an old solid metal wrench. It was a big one, and plenty heavy. It was also awkward, and while big for a wrench, using it would require being closer to the dead than he wanted to get. But it felt reassuring in his hand, and was far better than nothing.

“Okay,” he said, showing her the find. “No more than a couple of minutes though. Those things are still behind us, and we need to keep it that way.”

She wasted no time replying, instead ducking into the dark hallway silently. He followed behind her, moving as quietly as his limp would allow. He was the only source of sound, which both bothered and reassured him; if there were any dead inside, they weren’t near enough for them to hear at least.

They hadn’t gone more than maybe 10 feet down the hallway when they found the door to another room in the blackness. It was open, and Claire was already inside when Ben reached it. “Here,” she whispered. She shoved a bunch of what felt like cans into his hands.

“Hang on, wait, wait,” he said. “I need to be able to use the wrench if I have to.”

“Pass me your bag then,” she said, and he did. She stuffed as many cans in as she could, working blind, without even knowing what was in them. She’d found stacks of them inside an old refrigerator that hadn’t seen power in ages.

She was grabbing a few last cans when they heard the snap-tinkle of breaking glass back the way they’d come.