Chapter 1: The Road to Wolfe: Sanctuary Series Book 4
You know that that old motto, life is a b***h and then you die? Yeah, that about sums it up. This is my life, in my words... and sometimes Wolfe's words. If you don't like it, you can walk away now. If you think you can handle my most-of-the-time bad attitude, then stick around, because this is going to be a wild ride.
I was born on August 15th, 2045. Twenty-three years after the Great Fall. I lived a happy life in Old Canada with my family until I was eleven. Then mom, dad and my little brother died from the flu. Not Necrotitis Primeval but something else. Something just as deadly but with less zombification. After the death of my parents, our home was no longer viable and I travelled with my sister, Taran, and my grandparents to the Nevada Sanctuary. We tried to build a new life, but flu and the f*****g zombies killed that idea. When Nevada fell, I was unfortunately still inside. I got separated from my family and had to find my own way in the world.
Fast forward about twelve years and I finally set eyes on my sister again. Life was much different. She was married to a Warlord and I was living in a harem, married to my own reclusive Warlord. I got to live in a palace, eat until my belly was full, wear beautiful clothes and bend the ear of the most powerful man in the city. Things should've been awesome, right?
Awesome turned to ashes when the f*****g zombies figured out how to make nuclear meltdowns happen. I mean, how much s**t needs to go wrong before we all just give up, lie down and die? I was forced to flee my Sanctuary and my husband by our head of security, the badass warrior and zombie hunter known as Wolfe. A man who terrorizes anyone and anything that comes near him. Except me. He took me back to my sister, where we would have had a joyful reunion if it weren't for the massive horde of Primitives that followed us into the Tucson Sanctuary.
If you think more s**t couldn't possibly go down, you'd be wrong. Again.
We fought that horde for months, pushing them back over and over, only to be confronted with even more waves of them coming in from the east, chasing and picking off survivors searching for Sanctuary. Eventually we were able to come up with a solution; use my sister's and my magic virus-immune blood to kill the horde and vaccinate the survivors.
The year is now 2075. Wolfe left, and I continued to live in the Tucson Sanctuary. Along with a group of warriors, I've been deployed to distribute the vaccine as far and as wide as we can get it, in an effort to eventually eradicate the disease that brought our civilization to the brink of destruction.
And we lived happily ever after....
Buckle up babes, this story is just getting started.
Year: 2068, 7 years earlier
Location: Somewhere in the Mojave Desert
I flinch as a gun goes off over my head. Adrenaline surges through me and I have to fight the urge to climb out of the hole where I'm hiding and help. I've been tasked with keeping the children safe. I curl as tightly as I can, wrap my arms around the four terrified, clinging children and pray for the attack to be over.
I'm hidden beneath the floorboards of an old farmhouse we'd been using as a temporary shelter on our way to Sanctuary. I've been travelling with the same group of people for the past several months. There is a war happening above me, human versus zombie. The same fight we've been engaged in since the dawn of a virus that turns people into Primitives, terrifying zombie-like creatures. I long to sink my own blade into the enemy, to take my revenge for every loss I've been forced to endure, but I don't have the skills necessary to fight like a warrior.
As I hear the screams above me, I wonder if anyone is skilled enough to fight them off. Zombies move fast and attack without thought. No one is immune.
Six years ago, when I was living in the Las Vegas Sanctuary I discovered that I was in fact immune. I found out in the worst possible way, at sixteen years of age, with a zombie's teeth buried deep in my throat. I'd closed my eyes, relaxed my muscles and waited for death. When I finally opened them again, the zombie was gone, my family was gone, and I was lying on a deserted road. I was terrified and confused, but I wasn't a Primitive.
Now, I am one of several survivors travelling from Sanctuary to Sanctuary. Searching for my family, I've been travelling for six long years. Every time I reach a Sanctuary, search the city and come up empty-handed, I leave with the next group of travelers as they head out. Most people who leave Sanctuary are in the same boat as me, searching for lost family members.
We travel together, occasionally mixing up our group as people discover their families or give up the search. Right now, we are between Sanctuaries, in a dangerous no man's land, where hordes of Primitives can easily get to us. We thought we'd be safe in this town. There's no gas here, no people, no reason for the Primitives to be hanging around. Yet, here we are, under attack.
I cringe as I hear another high-pitched scream that cuts off abruptly, probably because the screamer's throat was just ripped out. Another of our group has gone down. This horde is big, with far more zombies than I've ever seen in one place. At first, they were taking us out one at a time as we headed down to the creek for water or hunted for food. Then, as our defenses became weakened, they attacked en masse, swarming over us like a cloud of mosquitos. Now here I am, hidden away under the loose floorboards of an old abandoned house, with four children.
I squeeze my eyes shut tightly and wrap my arms around the little bodies clinging tightly to me, their frail arms gripping my clothes as we wait for the verdict above. It doesn't take long, maybe five more minutes, then an eerie silence falls. The battle is over.
I know without looking that we've lost. If the humans had won, we would hear them mourning the dead and calling out to each other. We emerge slowly from our hiding place, looking for any signs of life, but the humans are either dead or turned. I'm forced to comfort the little ones as they cry against me. What are we going to do now?
I try to organize the children, calm them down so they don't attract any straggling zombies, but I'm battling my own grief. Not over the people we've lost here. I don't let myself get close to anyone anymore. No, I'm battling my grief because once more my path back to my sister and my grandparents has been destroyed. Without the protection of other people, I won't be able to travel. We're sitting ducks out here.
My last thought is confirmed when I hear a growling sound from behind me. The tiny hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I slowly turn my head to the side, looking out of the corner of my eye.
Just inside the broken door of the broken house is a Primitive lurching drunkenly inside and sniffing the air. I silently beg the children to keep quiet, to stand still. While some Primitive senses are sharpened, sight it is not one of them. If we don't move, the Primitives might not see us.
"Run!" Lisa screams, untangling her hands from my skirt and rushing to the opposite side of the room. The other children scatter while I remain frozen to the spot.
Stupid, I think to myself with numb dismay as I watch helplessly while the zombie takes down an eight-year-old girl. I look away, squeezing my eyes s**t tight while my stomach lurches painfully. There's nothing I can do for her. Children don't survive the Turn, so this one will die a bloody heap in the corner. I want to feel something, anything, but I feel nothing. Only anger. My sorrow died many years ago, along with any sense of contentment I might have been able to find. Everything died when I realized we can't win this fight. There's no way to find any semblance of peace in this world we've been forced to endure.
I hope the other children are running away as fast as they can. Once the zombie finishes, he'll start looking for his next meal. Of course, there's a good chance the Primitive's brethren are just outside the door where the children ran. I won't be able to help them any more than I could help Lisa. As soon as the zombie is done with her, I'm next.
I hope he tears out my throat, kills me. Death is more common than turning anyway. And since I can't turn, I want my death to be a quick one.
This is as close as I've ever come to killing myself, just standing and waiting to die. Truthfully, I think about it all the time. It would be a release from the daily hardships and the constant pain of losing my family. So, instead of running, I close my eyes and brace myself, waiting for death in the form of sharp teeth and claws as they sink into my flesh. I've earned this. I have travelled for too long, lost too much, and now I'm done. I want to go to sleep and never wake up.
Eventually, the god-awful sounds coming from the corner stop and I know that the Primitive has finished his meal. Which means I'm next.
I feel a shift in the room, the air rushing around me as the zombie launches itself at me. I hold still, though the instinct to run is still strong. There's no point in running now. I can't outrun a zombie and there's no one left to save me.
Something whistles through the air and I hear the dull, wet thunk of something sharp sinking into flesh and bone. I frown, feeling nothing. Is this death? Should death feel this empty and painless?
I open my eyes and the sight before me makes me gasp out loud and stumble back a step. Standing between me and the zombie is a huge man with dark, bushy hair, an unkept beard and piercing aqua eyes. An Outsider. At his feet is the body of the Primitive, its head severed from its body.
My heart speeds up in trepidation and gratitude. This man saved my life, but he's also an Outsider. Outsiders can be nearly as dangerous as Primitives. They take what they want, even if it means killing a settlement of people to get it. I've been in groups that were attacked by Outsiders, and it's never a pretty sight. We have enough problems with Primitives, without adding human on human violence.
I try a conciliatory approach, assuming he's helping out of kindness. "Th-thank you," I stammer.
He turns swiftly, facing me directly. He's a large muscular man with icy dead eyes. His gaze travels up and down my body in an impersonal survey that makes me want to sink back beneath the floorboards.
He jerks his head to the doorway and grunts, "Come on."
He leaves and I don't have much choice but to follow him out. There's nothing left in the room except for the body of a child and the body of the Primitive. Outside I see the other three children safe and well. I attempt to walk over to them where they sit huddled in a group together, but the Outsider catches my arm and forces me to his side.
I look up at him, my brow furrowing in question.
"You're coming with me." His voice is cold and impersonal.
I spot a car on the road and assume it must be his. Excitement blossoms inside me at the possibilities. Having a vehicle is so rare that I've only been inside one a few times in my life. My family never owned one, and the groups of travelers that I've gone with have only ever managed to get their hands on a few. Vehicles make travel so much faster and safer, but they're extremely hard to come by and they break down easily. Very few people know how to fix them anymore.
"I'll get the children," I say hopefully.
I know better though. What would an Outsider want with three traumatized children? Still, I have to try. If they're left here unprotected, they won't live through the night. Though I'm a long way from feeling empathy for anything anymore, my conscience still pricks me. If there's something I can do for them, I will.
"No children." He opens the passenger side door and shoves me in then slams it shut.
My heart starts pounding in fear and another adrenaline spike hits me. I'm about to be kidnapped by an Outsider and there's nothing I can do. In the space of one day I've been attacked by a horde of zombies, watched a young child die, nearly died myself by zombie attack and now I'm being kidnapped.
Still, this isn't the worst day I've ever had.
I throw the door open and try to climb out, but he's faster. He gets in the driver's side and reaches over to yank me back. Without a word, he reaches into the dash box, pulls out a pair of metal handcuffs, loops them through a bar in the dash and snaps them over my wrists.
I frown at him. What does he want with me? I'm not completely naive. At twenty-two I've had my fair share of male attention, violent and otherwise, but this man doesn't seem interested in me in a physical sense. He hasn't touched me more than absolutely necessary. Maybe he's taking me somewhere more private, away from the children and any straggling zombies, before he rapes me.
I watch with regret as he turns the ignition, reverses the car and heads out of the town. I twist in my seat to watch the frightened faces of the three children as they fade into the distance. Even with rape on the horizon, I'm in safer hands than they are.
Maybe I should have fought harder, but this is reality and I'm weary of fighting the inevitable. If this Outsider hadn't come along to pick me up, I'd either be dead or grabbed by someone else. The odds of a friendly group of people finding us was slim anyway. At this point, the best hope those children have is going to be a swift death, similar to Lisa's. Such is the horror of life, and death, in the Primitives' world. A grim thought, but truthful.
"Where are we going?" I ask him, assuming he must have a camp nearby. Outsiders are nomadic, but they do often set up camp for weeks or months at a time as they travel.
He doesn't say anything, so I settle back into the seat and watch the passing scenery. Though I haven't been in a vehicle in ages, I think he's driving way too fast. The car bounces wildly as it hits holes and ruts in the road, but I don't say anything. I don't know this man; he could be quick to anger. I'll save my bad attitude until I get a better sense of who he is.
Two days later, mile after endless mile, it becomes quite apparent that this Outsider has no intention of stopping. Not even to rape me. He's on a mission and I am his captive. He hasn't spoken to me other than to grunt rude commands. Sit down, stand up, get out of the car, eat, go to the bathroom, get back in the car. This has been my life for the past 48 hours and I'm getting sick of it.
Familiarity has made me feel less afraid of this man. He hasn't touched me other than to put the cuffs on or off. I've gotten the feeling that he sees me as more of a commodity than a woman. Originally, I'd thought that he was taking me because I was old enough to be a companion to him. Now, I think otherwise.
Finally, I ask the same question that I tried two days ago. "Where are you taking me?"
This time, he answers. "Sanctuary."
My heart leaps in anticipation. My odds of survival go up exponentially inside of a Sanctuary. "Which one?"
Santa Fe. I've never been there, but I've heard it's a thriving Sanctuary. I wonder why an Outsider would want to go to a Sanctuary. They usually avoid them like the plague (Ha! Zombie reference) since city security forces are just as willing to kill Outsiders as they are Primitives. Outsiders are notorious for attacking Sanctuaries, or convoys headed in and out of Sanctuaries, in search of food and supplies.
"What's your name?" I ask, pushing my luck now that I've finally got him talking.
He lifts his shaggy head and gives me the same icy stare he's been treating me to for two days.