[Note: If you are new to oasis, you should probably start with Chapter 1: The Last Shift. Also, this chapter is likely to be chock full of typos. Feel free to let me know if you see any. -Bryce]
Munitions Transport Convoy
Carl narrowed his eyes a little. “Not after what he did to Bill.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Bill?”
Beth pointed back to the crumpled body. “Bill was one of them! He had the virus and he was going to kill me!”
The other two brothers glanced at each other nervously.
“How do you know? How do you know we couldn’t have helped him? And how do you know he’s not… One of them?” Carl took a step forward.
I was already sick of where this was headed. I stepped around Beth.
“Look, I know it must hurt. But consider this. How did you know that the people you just shot were after you? How did you know you couldn’t help them?” I pointed to the trail of broken corpses the brothers had left. “I’ll tell you how. Because they were infected, and you don’t come back from this infection.”
Carl lifted his rifle again. “And how do we know you’re not one of them?”
Beth tried to get back around me.
I held out an arm to hold her back. “Me? How do you know about me? Well, for one thing, I’m talking to you. For another, I don’t have that glossy look in my eyes. And to really drive the point home, I’m not currently trying to bite anyone.”
“I wasn’t talking about you being infected.”
“How do we know you’re not mixed up with those the ones who caused all this?”
I was dumbfounded. Dumbfounded. I tried to wrap my brain how someone so successful and respected in the community could jump to the same racist conclusion as Andy. I struggled to come up with a response.
Fortunately, Beth didn’t.
“Uncle Carl, don’t be an idiot.” She pushed my arm and stepped back in front. “He’s an old friend of mine. I met him more than six years ago at the university. Besides, just because he has darker skin than you doesn’t mean he’s from the middle east and he’s a terrorist. There’s already enough trouble going on in Oasis. We shouldn’t fight amongst ourselves.”
The three remaining brothers nodded.
I took a deep breath and found my voice. “On a different note, all that commotion is bound to attract more of them. We should get moving.”
Carl lowered his weapon and motioned with two fingers from his eyes to me. “Fine, but I’ll be watching you, kid.”
Somewhere deep inside, I felt an urge to laugh. I fought it back. Now probably isn’t the time to mock his melodrama.
Beth’s dad finally spoke up. “He’s, uh, right though, we’d better get moving.”
Carl looked lost in thought for a moment, then walked for the storage shed that had belonged to Bill. “Let’s get the stuff.”
I leaned over to Beth. “What stuff?”
“The reason Bill came here in the first place. He’s got a bunch of old guns and stuff in there.”
Carl turned his head back over his shoulder. “Max, you watch the street.”
The youngest brother nodded.
As we crossed the courtyard to the shed, Beth’s dad walked up to me. “Thanks. If it weren’t for you, my daughter would be dead.”
I nodded. “Sure.”
“I’m Paul Cooper, by the way.”
“Corbin St. Laurent.”
We entered the dim storage shed.
“Looks like Bill already got it out for us.”
In the cluttered mess I could make out a pile of ammo boxes and gun cases.
Carl pointed at me. “You got room in that backpack?”
I was pretty sure that he really meant that as a command, so I pulled out the water bottles and the few extra snacks.
He then handed me an ammo box. “See if you can fit all this stuff in there or your pockets.”
The ammo box was full with little boxes of .22 shells. I crammed as many boxes as I could in the backpack and shoved the rest in the pockets of my cargo pants.
Max appeared in the doorway. “We got to go. They’re coming.”
Carl turned to him. “How many?”
Max shook his head. “Don’t know exactly. They’re coming from both directions. Probably two dozen.”
“Couple of blocks.”
Carl bit his bottom lip. He closed the lid to the box he had been repacking. “OK. Beth, you take those gun cases. Paul, you take those ones. Max, you help me with this big box. And you,” he pointed at me, “what’s your name?”
“Corbin, you take those four ammo boxes.”
I slung on my backpack and grabbed two boxes in each hand.
Everybody else was in motion as well.
Not a moment to waste, we headed out into the street.
Max was correct, there were at least two dozen headed for us. We turned right. That way had fewer infected.
The closest group consisted of three of them, and was about a block away.
If we could turn it to the corner before they reached it, we hoped we would be in the clear. Trouble was that we were loaded down fairly heavily, and we couldn’t move much faster than them.
Carl was first in line in our little convoy. He led as briskly as he could carry his half of whatever was in the big box.
When he reached the corner, the three infected were only about fifteen feet from entering the intersection. He stopped dead in his tracks.
It only took about two seconds for the rest of us to see why.
Coming down the road that intersected were another fifteen or so infected. We must have made plenty of noise to attract this many.
I turned back. Infected people had already reached the storage sheds.
No time to wait for commands.
Two blocks beyond the three infected was a group of five more. It was our best shot.
“Come on!” I moved toward the three. “Get around them!”
We all picked up the pace as best we could.
Our path traced a wobbly “C” through the intersection as we went around.
The three had been tightly grouped, so it was easy enough to get around them.
My hands already ached. The heavy boxes pulled at muscles I wasn’t used to using. I hoped I wouldn’t drop anything.
And we were not even close to out of the woods yet.
There were now at least thirty five of them spread out in the street behind us. There were five up ahead.
As a group, we were constantly losing speed as our heavy loads tired us out.
I look over at Beth. “How far?”
“Turn that corner then up two blocks.”
I felt a tiny wave of relief knowing it was close.
We marched on.
So did the infected.
We made the corner first and turned right. About halfway down that block, Max tripped.
The jerking motion of the fall ripped the box from Carl’s hand. Max and the box hit the ground with an echoing thud.
Carl and Paul went white and stared at the box. They looked as though they expected it to explode.
Carl reacted first. He grabbed for the box handle again. “Get up. Get up. Get up.”
Max scrambled to his feet and snatched his handle.
Behind us, I could hear the shufflings of the infected.
Beth looked at me and then pointed up ahead with a nod. “There it is.”
Up ahead and to the right, set back from the street, was an enormous warehouse.
We walked on, and by now I was certain the infected were gaining on us.
The older guys were sweating profusely and gasping loudly for air. Beth looked like she was doing alright.
I was certain that I was about to drop my boxes.
We had no choice. We had to push on to survive, and that’s what we did.
We came up to a small set of stairs that led to a door next to the loading bays of the warehouse.
Carl and Max set down the big box as gently as they could. Carl fumbled in his pocket for moment and brought out a large set of keys.
I sat down my load, and it hurt to uncurl my fingers. I looked back at the way we had come.
Fifty yards out, the first of the many infected were visible shuffling toward us.
A terrible though occurred.
I looked back up the stairs. “Hey, wait. We can’t go in yet.”
Carl scowled down at me. “And why exactly not, may I ask?”
I only hoped he would listen to reason.
Keep on reading to learn all about Corbin’s terrible thoughts in “Chapter 21: Wild Geese“