Her dad had stayed an individual. He thought every issue through like he was the first man on earth. The past decisions of others or expected norms meant nothing to him. He made every move his own way, the way he believed to be best. Someone else might call him stubborn or ego driven.
But maybe that was why they were all still alive.
Case in point. Instead of her father and Jewels making a run into northern Tucson and leaving the siblings behind, her father insisted that they always stay together…always. He had told her once that having her and her brother along on all the raids kept him from doing anything too risky and that alone might have helped keep him alive.
Emily had just turned thirteen and her once thin form had begun to show the first signs of womanhood. Spencer teased her about it and she couldn’t wait until he was a teenager so she could return the favor. She sighed as the moved through the giant saguaros. That would take three more years and she wondered if there was any hope that they could somehow live that long.
Her rifle lay heavy over her shoulder and the sun felt like it already roasted her flesh, but she wasn’t about to complain. She left that to Spencer.
“Damn, maybe we should just do this at night. It’s so hot, I feel like I’m walking on lava.”
“Don’t be a moron. The dead are more dangerous at night. We’d have to be-”
Her father made the sign for them to stop and he and Jewels crouched down behind a large prickly pear tree. Her dad whispered something into Jewels ear and the woman dropped back to them.
She said, “Emily, your dad wants you to move up to his position carefully.”
She did as he asked, without question, keeping low. Upon reaching him, she saw that the desert opened up into a sun baked park below them. Maybe a half dozen of the walking dead lingering there.
“Em,” he said, looking her way. “We need to cross through this park. It’s safer because we can see them in every direction for hundreds of yards. Yes, the gunfire attracts them, but I think it’s worth the risk to have our path cleared and more importantly give you some more target practice.”
Keeping her thoughts in check, she replied, “Okay dad and leaned the barrel of her rifle against the top of one of the cactus. Taking aim she dropped the first one.
That’s the easy one, she thought to herself. Once they heard the shot, the others began to move her way. Lurching and stumbling through the brown grass. She dropped another one, but it took two shots. The next one took three.
“Dad, I don’t want to waste too much ammo.”
“I’d rather waste every bullet we have than not have you know how to shoot. We can find more ammo. I can’t find another you.”
Biting her lower lip, she took out the next one in one shot. They moved closer.
“You need to shot faster, honey.”
She missed the next shot, but then put a bullet between one’s eyes. Two remained, but they were too close. She went to fire, but her rifle was empty. “Dad?”
“Don’t panic, you know what to do. Draw your pistol.”
She did and killed one with three shots, but the last one was only feet away.
Her father put a bullet through its head. “Come on,” he said and motioned for the others to follow. “That was great shooting, sweetie,” he said as they hurried across the park.
“But you had to kill the last one.”
“Yeah, but you could have done it, if you needed to. I would never take any risk with your life.”
He drew out the last words as he halted. Before then the southern side of the park had been converted into farmland, but had three spaced out walkers chained to the ground.
“Why would someone put walkers in the middle of a place they’re trying to grow food?” Jewels asked.
“I think they’re using them for scarecrows,” his father said, just before gunfire broke out.
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