Colt sat on a cold bench with a rifle laying across his lap, as he looked out the window scanning for wanderers. He had been sitting for over an hour and his thoughts were starting to wander. How had his life turned from a happily married, high paid I.T. network administrator that managed a group of ten people to simply surviving day by day.
Colt’s mind let the memories take over when Jessica’s face materialized in his thoughts. Jessica handed Colt a cup of coffee, she smiled at his grimace. “Honey, I know it’s early but I am really worried about all the stuff in the news. I just want to make sure we have supplies.”
“Jessica, it is just the media, I told you that already. They love to scare people. This is just a modern version of War of the Worlds. Course when it is all found out, they will claim it was a test on America’s readiness or some shit like that,” Colt said.
Colt took a couple of drinks before setting it aside, “But if it will make my wife happy I will go brave the stores.” He held his hands over his heart, “It’s because I love you so much, not to mention it earns me points for tonight,” he wiggled his eyebrows when Jessica giggled.
Colt re-lived that memory almost every day; that was the day Jessica was bit. He had left her to go to the store, never believing anything that the media had warned them about.
He had stayed with her even after Jessica turned, doing everything he could to take care of her. Colt had boarded up the house, scavenged for food and even killed some of the diseased. It was funny how he looked that the wanderers then, Colt saw them as sick. Part of him knew if he thought of them as simply sick, that meant there could be a cure. In the end, he had no choice but to end her undead life.
Colt had left his home then, got on the road in hopes of finding something, anything… normal. His faith in God was shaken, in Colt’s mind no loving God would allow anything like this to happen. Colt was on the road over a month, with no direction in mind, going north for a week. Then he would switch because a road was blocked or the wanderers were too much. The fact that he was going in circles really never bothered him. It wasn’t till he saw the sign for Mark Twain Park that he had some sort of plan.
Colt shoulder his rifle and went to the window to watch a wanderer cross the yard below. Colt tugged on a rope that was tied to a bell somewhere below. Within a couple of minutes the wanderer dropped and Tabitha jogged out to retrieve her arrow. She waved to Colt and returned inside. Colt relaxed against the window frame to rejoin his memories. Mark Twain Park was where he met everyone else.
Beth was out of gas at the entrance to the park, she was the first person Colt trusted. They had found a group of cabins and began to try to make some semblance of a home. Life was okay for just a couple of weeks before they had to venture out again. Colt tried to remember why they choose to go out but couldn’t.
They had been surrounded by wanderers, no way to make it out, when they met everyone else. Alden maneuvered his group to surround them and take down the wanderers. Beth trusted the group from day one, but not Colt. Colt thought they would just use them and move on. Their group consisted of Alden, Charlie, Ceara, and Tabitha.
Colt smiled at the thought of that group then and now, then the army hardened Alden took no shit and demanded people follow his orders or leave. Both Charlie and Ceara were no more than kids, naive to everything in the old life much less this life. Tabitha, Colt had been the most leary of. She was so hard and such a smart ass that didn’t give a damn about anyone but herself. Colt knew she was a live wire.
They had all been through so much, since that day. The group had come together creating a halfway decent life. There had been ups and downs. Colt thought about the night a group of bikers decided that their group was easy prey. Two of that group tried to kidnap Ceara, bad move… Alden had the group attack the bikers and ensured they would never attack any other groups. Not long after that they found Heath. Heath was a former forest ranger trying to get to his son.
Colt looked off into the distance in memory of Heath. The man had lost his life in a battle after the move to New Mexico. Heath and Tabitha had fell in love, they didn’t really like it known to everyone, but that didn’t stop everyone from knowing. Colt smiled at the thought of Heath and Tabitha doing their best to downplay their relationship. Heath was a very giving man, never a harsh word, and always willing to teach. He gave the ultimate when he gave his life to save Ceara. Ceara had lost her dog, Maximus, that day too.
Glancing to the bench, Colt scanned the yard again then dropped to the bench. New Mexico seemed to be the answer to their dreams but it turned into a nightmare for Colt. He had let himself fall in love with Beth. She was his heart, and kept him going day after day. Before the outbreak, Beth was a CDC scientist, which was a blessing to have when people were hurt or sick. Beth never questioned people, she just trusted. Her heart was bigger than Colt had ever seen in anyone. She had stayed up for days doctoring Niz.
Colt sighed, Niz was another they had met and lost. They had lost too many.
Colt rubbed his hands together trying to get them warm, the wind in the tower was whipping through him. If Beth were still here, she would have brought him a blanket and coffee, but she wasn’t. Once more memories overtook him.
Colt had been out and when he got back to the ranch wanderers had attacked their safe zone. Beth had been bit. Beth had told him to accept her decisions and her decisions were to go through the illness till it would almost kill her, then if that wasn’t hard enough on Colt, she then wanted to sacrifice herself to kill as many wanderers as she could.
It wasn’t hard to understand her need as a doctor to document anything she could, nor was it hard to understand a selfless woman sacrificing herself to save those she loved. Colt understood, but that didn’t stop the anger. He had shut down after that, he would love no more, would never trust that life could ever be normal.
After Beth died Alden had wanted to leave the ranch, he said it was because they had stayed in one place too long. Colt thought Alden hated being there as much as he did.
Alden had decided on the foothills of Colorado for several reasons. Forest meant deer, foothills meant ranches with cattle, and forest also meant hunters with guns and ammo left behind. Biggest reason was the cold. Alden was sure that the cold would slow the wanderers down. So far he had been right about everything since getting here.
Colt saw Charlie and Alden cutting across to the fence line. They waved up to him, Colt sat back down. He knew they were trying to secure the fence line. When they found the insane asylum Colt thought Alden was joking about staying, but no such luck. That day was one for the books, Colt shook his head drawing up the memory of the trip here.
They had been on the road for almost two weeks, stopping to search small towns for supplies. Never staying longer than a night or two. Colt had wanted to stay in a small town of Wetmore that was totally deserted, but Alden said no because it wasn’t close enough to the any hunting, and it wasn’t very well protected. They had moved on bypassing any larger towns. Colt had talked to Tabitha and she agreed with him, the bigger towns were probably deserted too. Problem was that none of them wanted to argue with Alden when he had his mind set.
After a couple weeks Alden had come back to camp sitting down to his usual cup of coffee, “Cupcakes, I found our new home, but it will need cleared. I want to leave at first light.”
Tabitha tossed a cigarette in the fire, looking to Alden, “What makes it home?”
Alden smiled, “You’ll see.”
The next day they pulled up to a long forgot building that was surrounded by a wrought iron fence. On the outside hung an old rusted sign, “Asylum for the Criminally Insane Deer Mountain, Co.”
Everyone got out to just stare at the sign, Colt looked to Alden laughing, “I would have sworn you lost your sense of humor a long time ago.”
Alden cocked an eyebrow, “I did.” He got back in his truck driving up the entrance, calling out the window, “Last one through get the gate!”
Colt looked to the others, Charlie shrugged, and Tabitha grinned, “Kind of fitting, we are all kind of fucking nuts.”
Ceara looked terrified, but followed Charlie back to the van. Colt through up his hands, and went to get in the Rover. Alden was already going through the front door when everyone else pulled up. As they got out each looked at the area. The building looked like an old colonial, three story house, but the bars on the windows and added on guard towers let anyone know it was more.
Tabitha whistled, “I wonder why this hasn’t been claimed by anyone yet? This is great!”
Alden leaned out of the door, “Get your asses in here, daylight is fading and there are things to do.”
The room Alden was waiting in was what looked like a meeting hall, in the case of an asylum for criminals, it was probably more for visitations. Alden sat at a desk, everyone pulled up folding chairs around him.
“Ok, I’m not going to sugar coat this, we have our work cut out for us and not a bit of it will be pleasant. The rooms are more like cells and when the shit hit the fan, it looks like the people that ran this didn’t think these people mattered. Almost half the rooms had two inmates to a room. Notice I said had… That is because the stronger, or quicker, or whatever, ate the other. If that isn’t bad enough they ended up dying and turning themselves. Now we have several rooms holding turned criminals with badly decomposed bodies with them.”
Ceara turned from terrified to white as a ghost, “How many? Do you think they will be more dangerous because they were insane?”
Alden shook his head, “No, I think they are just like any others, but to be truthful I would rather kill them more humanely. They got left behind for no other reason than they didn’t matter. I know a few of them were probably really nuts, but there were a few I would imagine that weren’t that bad.”
Tabitha nodded, “You think some got railroaded? Wouldn’t surprise me.”
“Who cares if they were or not, they are dead now and lived off their roommate. Do we really want to stay here?” Colt asked.
Alden looked to the stairs and back to Colt, “Yes we want to stay here, there are two entrances, bars on every window, fence somewhat around the yard, and best feature are the two built in watch towers.”
Colt was pulled from his thoughts when the trap door open and Tabitha came through, “Your shift is over. Come on down for dinner.” Tabitha looked curiously at Colt, “What’s up?”
Colt swung his rifle over his shoulder and headed to the trap door, “Nothing, just thinking back over the last year.”
Tabitha led the way back down the ladder, waiting for Colt at the bottom, “Leave the past where it belongs Colt, just makes us think of things we will never have again.”