Quietly I muttered, "Carp."
Kevyn looked at me and sighed. "Infecteds?"
I lifted my nose to the wind but didn't smell anything. "No," I
told him with absolute certainty. "Better call your boys over.
I'm not sure what this is but it isn't infecteds. Not a bear
What surprised me is that the boys had already picked up on something not being
right. They were all street smart in a way I never was when I was little.
I found out most of them had gone into Z-Day having some street smarts;
it's how they survived those early days.
The watchers had waited too long. If they had done the shock and awe
thing they would probably have taken us but they let curiosity and caution put
them behind the eight ball.
No sense in going through all of the details; I'm not sure I could explain it
in the right order with the right words even if I tried now that time has
passed and other things have taken place. All I know is that I thought I
was stone cold when it came to surviving and killing ... not like Mo but
certainly pretty cold for a kid. Found out that day that I still have a
ways to go before I'm really as hard as I've measured myself out to be. I
still haven't decided how I feel about that.
Kevyn and those boys flat out blew the holy living snot out of the patrol of
eight men that had tried to take us; Kevyn with his gun and Ralphelito using
mine. Two of the men rushed in from the side and got closer than was
comfortable; one of them grabbed me but then three of the boys jumped him and I
don't know how many times he got stabbed before they were finished with him ...
and him with this earth. The other I got with my bat. I continue to
try and tell myself it is war and no different than putting an infected down
but somehow it is and I know it is just all adding up like an unpaid bill that
someone is going to present me with one of these days. Only this isn't
from overdue library books and what I'm going to have forfeit is going to cost
a whole lot more than my allowance.
When it was over and we were sure there were no more hiding in the surrounding
forest ... the animals had come back out of hiding ... the boys had those eight
men stripped and burning in the pyre in less than a half hour. Two of the
boys had gotten hurt from ricochets and Kevyn busted his lip on his braces when
one of the dead guys proved he wasn't so dead ... but he was soon thereafter.
Then it was over and only the clean up was left. Getting irritated I
snapped, "Sit still."
Miguel complained, "Aw, I don't need no girl being my mama."
I grabbed the boy's ear and yanked.
He yelled, "Ow! What you do that for?!"
"To show you I'm not trying to be your mama ... I'm trying to clean this
cut out so it doesn't get infected and make your arm fall off."
Instead of putting him in his place Miguel gave an unrepentant grin and rubbed
his ear. "Hah! Mi madre could pull ten times as hard as that.
Lucky I still got an ear after all the times she grabbed it."
I rolled my eyes and muttered, "Geez. Boys."
That set the rest of them laughing and something tells me when they get to be
bigger boys they are going to be trouble big time. When I was through
Kevyn came over and said, "You mind if we make camp here?"
"Pick a tree, any tree." When I saw he didn't get it I said,
"Makes it harder for things bigger than you are to get you. Have you
got hammocks or something in your kits?"
Kevyn looked at the boys waiting excitedly and then nodded. They were
then off climbing trees like a bunch of monkeys let out of the zoo ... only
quieter. While they were picking the best spots out Kevyn sat beside me.
He told me, "Those men had good stuff in their packs. I'll
probably piece the guns and ammo out to my crew unless you want one."
"No. I'm good so long as Ralph gives me back mine ... and he better
because I signed for the doggone thing and am responsible for it."
Kevyn nodded and started putting the stuff from the packs in different
piles. I helped him once I saw he was trying to break it down so that
everybody got something. Turning to him I said, "Can I ask you
"How come your boys were squeamish about the puss brains but were willing
to take on grown men with sticks and knives without ... you know ... freaking
In mild disgust he explained, "Because I'm still breaking them of being
superstitious. Most of them come from families or gangs that ... well,
they hang onto the old ways is what I call it. I swear, in some places
they got a story going around that the infecteds started when some people got
bit by a rabid chupacabra." He put all the food in a pile and asked
me to see what could be done with it then he continued, "They act like
they want to be modern but there isn't a lot of follow through ... like a bad
habit kinda thing. But men? They know they're real and what they'll
do to them if they get caught. This group all came from the San Dimas Pen
... used to be a prison for LA ... and before that most of them were probably
just fodder for local gangs. Heck most of them were already being recruited
from what some of them say."
"Then if they ... I don't know ... are so ... so ... whatever it is they
are ... feral maybe ... If they are like that how did they get recruited for
the militia? The militia and the regular military are all bears for rules and
stuff from what I've seen. You'd figure you'd have more problems with boys like
them than not."
"You'd think ... and that's what the adults used to think too. And
on some things that's right. But out here? Man, you want a bunch of
little savages like this. My LT says they see things real black and
white. There's the enemy and the not-the-enemy. Once they've got it
in their heads who or what the enemy is they pretty much stay that way.
And they don't jack around about it. Besides, they like
"The West Coast is running out of food and water ... and it ain't real
plentiful in any of the western states from what I've seen. As many
people as has died since Z-Day there's still too many for what is easy to get.
And it is too dangerous to try and have a garden of any size 'cause the
infecteds can sniff 'em out for miles. It's been worse since those
government idiots tried to take the pressure off the East by repatriating ...
whatever the hell they call it ... the infecteds into areas that didn't have
them before. Groups like I run are a way for boys ... and some girls if
they prove they can hack it ... to get out of the cities and get fed at least
two squares a day, sometimes three. You work your butt off but you do
eat. The food might not be great but it’s better than the one meal
they're getting in the pens ... and that meal they have to fight off others
from taking away."
I think I've finally learned to keep my mouth shut when there isn't anything
good to be said ... or most of the time and that was one of those times.