It’s been six days since I’ve proposed my plan to Matt. I’m afraid it’s worthless now. What are the chances we’ll be able to find the infected leader now that six days have gone by? I was planning on heading back to the ranger station to look for its tracks. A herd of that many infected would leave behind a lot of traces. It didn’t rain or snow, so the tracks should still be in place. But that’s not the issue. The longer we wait, the further it’ll have traveled. The further it travels, the more food we’ll need, and the more amount of time we’d spend away from the Breakfast in Bed. Sleeping outside with predators around, it wears down on a man psychologically. Buildings are safe. Beds are safe. No one wants to sleep out in the open to hunt down a threat that may or may not exist.
“Bern, you still with us?”
Matt’s voice came from the other side of the door. They didn’t tie me up, but the door is locked from the other side. Even if I did turn into an infected, they wouldn’t be daunted. When you’re wearing thick clothes that are nearly impossible to bite through, an unarmed infected isn’t scary at all. You can let it grab and bite your arm to steady its head, then plunge a knife through its eye. “Yes, I’m still here.”
The door swung open. Matt paused in the hallway, inspecting me before letting out a breath. Then he stepped inside, bringing with him a tray of food. “Today’s your last day of quarantine.”
The tray didn’t have much: a can of peaches, a bottle of water, scrambled eggs. The people here are raising chickens, another reason why they can’t leave the place alone for a week to go hunting for a smart infected. “Any news on the herd?”
“Joey hasn’t heard anything on the radio about it. There’s only been a few things,” Matt said, setting the tray down on the sliding bedtable. He took a seat on the edge of the bed. “The Truck Stop spotted a herd of deer heading south.” Matt took off his helmet and scratched his head. “What else was there? I think the Fortress was sending out a group of ten hunters east towards the city; they wanted to raid a pharmacy I believe. Oh! The Lake House lost their goats. There were cat prints around; they suspect it was a lynx or bobcat.”
“There really wasn’t anything about the herd?” A herd of two hundred infected. It’s hard to believe no one’s spotted it. Did it not leave the ranger station? Or it could’ve left, heading back in the direction of the Log Cabins. There aren’t anymore camps heading east. If the herd went any other direction, someone’s bound to have noticed. Would it really head back to the Log Cabins?
Matt shook his head. “Nothing. It’s like it vanished.” Matt grinned. “Didn’t you have a bunch of tripwires and noose traps? Maybe you caught them all as they were leaving.”
I don’t believe it. While I was fleeing, I hadn’t seen a single noose trap in the forest. I set up a lot of them, but it was as if someone took them all down. The infected herd had wooden stakes tied to their hands with rope; I suspect it was the rope from my traps. There’s no way that herd died to the tripwires I had lying around, and they were even less likely to die from the caltrops. “It’s easier to believe that the herd went east again.”
Matt shrugged. “So what’s your plan? Still thinking of killing the smart one?”
“Ideally.” I nodded. The scrambled eggs were bland, lacking salt. “I was thinking of going back to the ranger station. If the infected herd is still there, I’ll kill it. If it left, I’ll track the way it went. If it went east, I’ll loot the ranger station and come back. If it went any other direction, I’ll track it down.”
“You’re holding a pretty big grudge, huh?” Matt asked and frowned. “Are you planning on rebuilding the station? Or are you going to integrate with our group?”
“I suppose that’ll depend on how much damage has been done to the place. But you know fixing a place isn’t the hardest part of running a camp. Without anyone else, I don’t think I can bring it back to its former glory. I’ll probably join your group, if you’ll have me, of course.”
Matt chuckled. “Who wouldn’t want a wise old man? I’ll send some hunters with you to the ranger station. Having more supplies can’t hurt.”
Having people come with me, even if it’s not the whole camp, is reassuring. A herd of infected that large can’t move very fast. It took me a couple of days to get here, traveling at full speed. I’m not the fastest around, but I’m still spry enough to compete with others despite my age. Even if six days have passed, I’m not sure if that’s enough time for the herd to have made contact with any camp even if they headed in the right direction. But it’s hard to believe a hunter hasn’t seen it and radioed back in to their home to let them know.
If, by chance, the herd happens to be heading west, towards us, we wouldn’t know. The hunters here don’t travel far to look for food, only setting a few noose traps here and there for rabbits. They have chickens that lay eggs and a few butchered deer preserved for the winter. If I encounter the herd with the hunters while heading to the ranger station, that’s the worst-case scenario. Out in the open with no fortifications, we’ll get overrun. But if we run fast enough and escape back here, there’ll be a chance to fight back. But the Breakfast in Bed isn’t as fortified as my place was. Even if we do make it back here, isn’t that just asking for this place to be destroyed? But the thing is, if the herd is heading west, it’ll end up here sooner or later. It’s better to find out earlier, so at least some preparations can be made.