I started for the closest house. I moved fast and kept low. I didn't check to make sure Andy was keeping up. If he really wanted to team up with me he would keep up on his own. The house was a white, two-story building with boarded up windows. The grass in the front lawn was wildly overgrown and came up to my knees.
I walked up the narrow stone path to the front door and paused.
Andy came up beside me and reached for the doorknob. I grabbed his wrist, stopping him.
"Are you trying to get us both killed?" I whispered fiercely.
"No?" He said.
"We have no idea what's in there and you think it's a good idea to just go waltzing in?" I threw his wrist away from the door. I didn't care that I was being harsh.
"Sorry," he muttered stepping back.
I rolled my eyes. 'How the hell did I end up with the stupidest person left alive?'
I turned my attention back to the house. All of the windows were almost completely boarded up, save a single missing board on the bottom of the right-most window.
I walked over to it. Hidden amongst the weeds were a board and a pile of rusted nails. Around the nails was the disintegrated remains of a cardboard box. Whoever had boarded the windows must have been interrupted right before they had been able to finish. I crouched down to peer inside. Behind the wood and glass was the interior of a living room. A set of brown leather recliners sat on either side of a table with a lamp, the leather of the chairs was starting to dry out and crack.
Pictures both hung on the wall and sat on the mantle above a wide fireplace, each one portraying the smiling faces of people probably long since dead. Everything was coated in dust.
It didn't look like it had been looted. Aside from being extremely dusty, it still looked like a room someone might come back home to, tidy up, and go on living in. A looted room would be practically destroyed. People aren't usually concerned about neatness when they're starving and desperate to find supplies.
I tried to see more of the house, but a sliding door blocked my view of anything outside of the living room. From what I could see, the house seemed relatively safe. Of course, I couldn't speak for anything that might have been outside of the living room. After a while, I stood up and walked back over to the front door. Andy had sat down with his back against the door.
"Alright, let's head in. I didn't see anything dangerous from the window but that doesn't say anything about what's really inside. We need to make sure every room is clear before we can start searching for supplies. Understand?"
He rolled his eyes. "I'm not a child you know. I know how to loot a house."
"And yet you tried to walk inside without checking if it was safe first." I countered.
He dropped his eyes and didn't say anything.
"Exactly," I said. I turned back to face the door of the house.
I felt a mixture of excitement and fear as I stood in front of the plain, white door. I had no idea what might be inside the house and I loved the uncertainty of what I might find. Looting houses was one of my favorite things to do. Someone had once lived in each one, someone with a life and a story to tell. To me, exploring each one was like reading a book, each room had something new to say. But as much as I loved to do it, I would never loot a house if I didn't need anything from it. It had always felt almost disrespectful to search someone's house for no other reason than to find out what was inside.
I placed my hand on the cool doorknob hopping silently hoping that it wouldn't be locked.
"Ready?" I asked glancing back at Andy.
I twisted the doorknob and it miraculously opened, the door swinging inwards. I quickly reached back, pulled my katana from its sheath before stepping inside. Despite my curiosity and excitement I never forgot the danger and unfamiliar house might contain.
Once I was inside, it took a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the dim lighting inside the house.
The front door opened into, hallway-like space. The end of the hall ended with a stairwell that led up to the second floor. The floor was carpeted and covered in almost an inch of dust that swirled up into the air, performing a hypnotic dance in the ray of light let in from the open doorway. Three doorways with doors shut tight broke the smooth expanse of wall on either side, two on the left and one on the right.
I cautiously smelled the air. I was searching for any traces of the sickly sweet smell of rotten flesh that always came from the living dead, but the air only smelled musty and stale.
"You take the room on the right I'll take the room on the left. Yell clear once you're sure that the room's safe." I told Andy over my shoulder.
"Got it," he said. He headed for the first door on the left. As he walked, he slung his shotgun over his shoulder and casually started humming a tune.
"Cocky son of a bitch," I muttered just loud enough that he would be able to hear me. He didn't turn around but he did give me a brief thumbs up before he disappeared into the room.
I paused, looking back at the open door. I considered leaving, walking out of the house and never looking back. Andy didn't exactly seem like the sort of person who would be difficult to lose, but something held me back. It might have been that, deep down, I was tired of being alone. It's true that it was safer and easier to stay alive if you're alone but spending every night alone with nothing but your own thoughts can drive anyone to insanity.
I sighed and slowly shut the front door. There was no going back now. I crossed over to the left-hand room. The room itself was a small study of sorts. Bookshelves filled with books covered every wall from floor to ceiling, a large desk with a chair sat in the middle. Before all of this, I might have taken the time to walk over and browse the literature for a few hours. Now, though, I didn't even give them a second glance. Books weren't food, weren't supplies. They couldn't keep you alive and spending several hours reading wastes time that could be spent finding supplies.
I left the room I could have searched the drawers of the desk, but I didn't think I would have found anything useful in them. Outside of the room, I sheathed my katana and leaned up against the wall.
Andy stepped out of his room a few heartbeats later. "That room is clear," he said.
Like myself, Andy had also put his weapon away. He had fastened some sort of strap to the side of his pack that held the gun in place.
"Wasn't that the room you looked into from outside" He asked "I could see the missing board on the window."
"Yep, it was," I replied.
"But if you knew that there wasn't anything in it, then why did I have to check it?"
I shrugged. "I never forced you to," I replied. In truth, I had asked him to check the room to see if he was smart enough to figure out, on his own, that I had already looked into it.
He opened his mouth as if to say something, then thought better of it.
'Smart kid.' I thought.
I pushed off from the wall, headed for the other room beside the stairs. Unlike the other two rooms which had had doorknobs, this door was bare, with a long, thin sheet of metal where the knob would have been. Inside was a white and tidy linoleum kitchen. The kitchen was the one room that I wanted to check the most. It was where most people kept their food. The fact that it wasn't completely trashed made me hopeful that I might actually find something in it.
I gave the kitchen one last glance around. As much as I wanted to, I wouldn't be searching the kitchen right away. There was still an upstairs to check through.
I turned around to leave the kitchen and ran straight into Andy who must have been looking into the room over my shoulder.
I roughly pushed him aside. "Watch it asshole!" I yelled at him.
He backed up a step, confusion clear on his face.
I glared at him, "Stay out of my fucking way! It's bad enough I let you convince me to letting you tag along. Don't make me change my mind."
"But all I did was stan-" he started to say but after a fierce glare from myself, he closed his mouth.
I turned away and stormed up the stairs. With each step, my anger faded away into confusion. I didn't honestly know why I had yelled at him. He hadn't done anything wrong, and I had let my temper get the best of me. I instantly felt bad about it. I wasn't a mean person, I never had been. Before the outbreak, anyone who knew me would say that I didn't have a mean bone in my body, but I guess that might have partially been because I didn't often associate with people.
I sighed and turned around. Andy was standing at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at me.
"Look... I'm sorry I yelled."
He paused a second before answering. "It's fine."
"No, it's not. I was a dick and I'm sorry."
Andy nodded. "I accept your apology."
"Alright then," I said. I turned around and walked up the rest of the stairs. The hallway at the top of the stairs looked a lot like the one on the first floor only this hallway ended with a doorway and only a single door that on sat each wall. Andy came up after me.
"You take the right I take the left?" I said.
"Are you sure you didn't already check that room too?" He joked.
I turned back to glare at him. "Don't push it," I said.
He held up his hands. "Alright, alright."
I walked over to the left side room. It was a bathroom, small and simple it contained only a toilet, a shower, and a simple ceramic sink with a mirrored cabinet above it. The white curtain of the shower was closed so I walked over and quickly ripped it open.
Nothing. There was a small bottle travel-sized shampoo sitting on the edge of the tub, which I grabbed. You never know when you might need something like that.
Next, I checked the mirrored cabinet above the sink. There wasn't much in it. A can of shaving cream, q-tips, a bottle of antidepressants, and a tube of toothpaste. Nothing I particularly needed. I closed the cabinet and started to turn away, but the reflection in the mirror caught my attention. I stared at the girl I saw reflected back at me. Her eyes were a light hazel and her eyes looked wild and dangerous. Her black straight hair was roughly, and unevenly cut and barely reached past her small ears. I scowled at her and she scowled back. I suddenly felt extremely angry. Like the girl who I saw in the mirror couldn't possibly be me. I grabbed my knife from my belt and stabbed her right between the eyes. The mirror shattered and she was gone.
With a huff, I exited the room. As I was returning my knife to my belt, Andy ran out of the room he had been checking.
"What happened?" he asked.
"Nothing," I snapped. "Did you find anything?"
He shook his head. "No, it's just a bedroom. Nothing special either, besides a lot of dust."
I sighed. "Let's just finish checking this last room, I'm hungry and I want to see if there's any food in the kitchen."
"Alright," Andy replied.
The door to the last room was locked. "That's strange," I thought. "Everything else had been unlocked, so why wasn't this door?"
For the second time that day, I let my curiosity get the best of me. I knew it was stupid to try to force a locked room open. I had no idea what might be behind the door. Someone might have locked themselves in after being bitten. I'd seen it happen before. Unable to kill themselves, some people choose to lock themselves away, where they wouldn't be able to hurt anyone.
Even though I knew it might be dangerous, I really wanted to know what was in the locked room. I didn't have a key and I didn't particularly want to search the house. So, I decided that the only way I was going to get into the room was by busting through the door. I backed up a step and kicked the door, hard. There was a loud crack of splintering wood, but the door didn't move. I kicked the door again and it flew inwards.
"Holy shit," Andy whispered.
I boldly sauntered into the room but what I saw inside made me stop in my tracks and made my heart clench.
"Andy wait outside," I called out to him.
He ignored me came in anyway.
"Why? What is- oh," he said falling silent as he took in what was in the room.
In the middle of the room was a large, king sized bed. On the bed were two skeletons, still clothed, with their hair wreathed around their skulls. It was obvious, from the clothing and hair of each of the skeletons, that the one on the right belonged to a woman and on the left, a man. Their skulls lay close together and the man still had a gun clutched in his skeletal hand. Long-dried blood covered the pillow where the skeletons laid. I'm sure if I had inspected them closer I would have found a bullet hole through both their skulls.
It probably didn't happen too long after Day Zero. As sad as it was it wasn't uncommon. People saw the world falling apart around them and felt that death was the only real way to escape.
The couple of bones on the bed had probably seen death as a way to escape and never be apart.
"Let's go," I said pushing Andy out of the room and shutting the door. I started walking without looking back. I didn't want to think about what I had seen. In my opinion, it's cowardly to kill yourself just to escape the world. So many people had died when they wanted to live. To just throw your life away is one of the most horrible and selfish thing you can do out here.
I walked back down the stairs building up yet another emotional wall with each step, blocking out the sadness, the fear, the pain, and just focusing on staying alive. My life is filled with these walls. Whenever I was scared, or lonely, or sad I would push all of those emotions deep within my mind and build a wall to keep them in. It's how I learned to cope and it's one of the only reasons I was able to survive these past five years.
I didn't stop to see if Andy was following me or not. At that time, I could care less about what he did. I pushed open the door to the kitchen and pushed the memory of what I had seen in that bedroom out of my mind.
I didn't bother with the fridge, past experiences taught me that. Checking the fridge was an option during the first month or two. After that, almost everything that could be found in the fridge was spoiled. And when the power started to go out everywhere, the fridge became meaningless.
I headed straight for the cupboards. Cupboards were where people kept the food that lasts. Canned things, bottled liquids, even simple seasonings could be useful if you knew how to use them. I went straight for the first cupboard I saw and pulled it open. Inside was a mix of dishes, bowls, and cups... nothing useful. I moved on to the next cupboard which turned out to be empty. The next two cupboards were similarly bare. I started to get frustrated. I was sure that this house hadn't been looted before, so where was all the food. Had the couple upstairs used it all before killing themselves?
By the time I got to the last cupboard, I was starting to lose hope. But when I pulled it open, I almost smiled. It was packed full with cans of food. There was enough canned food to last two people a good week if it was rationed well.
I turned around, expecting to see Andy, but he wasn't there.
"Andy?" I called out. No answer.
'Did he run off?' I wondered. I doubted it, not after all the trouble he had gone through to follow me and get me to team up with him. So if he hadn't left, where was he?
I pushed open the door of the kitchen and looked out into the hallway, but he was nowhere to be seen.
"Andy?" I called again. The front door was open so I went towards it. When I stepped outside, I finally spotted him.
He was standing a few yards away with his bow drawn back. As I watched, he released the arrow. It flew straight and landed dead center into a clump of already fired arrows in the trunk of a tree on the other side of the yard.
Because we were outside, I didn't want to risk attracting any zombies by yelling to him so instead, I walked over to him. "Andy?" I said.
He jumped at the sound.
"What?" he asked his voice strained.
I was rather shocked at his change in personality. Earlier he had been lively and positive to the point of annoyance. Now he seemed defeated and drained.
"I found some food in the house," I said watching him carefully. "It's getting late and the sun will be setting soon. We should get inside. If you still plan on sticking around, that is."
He just nodded, slung his bow back over his shoulder, and went to retrieve his arrows.
I watched him for a few moments before turning away. "Why did I have to get involved in this mess?" I muttered before walking back into the house.