The once clean swimming pool had been converted to a rain catchment area. The main problem, it was dry. Like a dirty eye, covered with dirt and filth, it stared up at him as if mocking his dehydrated state. Being without water within the mid-summer Sonoran Desert was a fate even the animals couldn’t survive, but not only did he need water, so did everyone else. Not just some water, a gallon a day would be good, but they had nothing.
Rollie squinted up into the blazing sun and felt like his mouth chewed on sandpaper. A layer of sweat covered him like an extra set of clothes. He was just wondering if they should try to clean the pool on the off chance it might rain one day, but he hadn’t even seen a cloud in weeks. Turning, he reached for his straw hat and then froze in mid-motion.
He heard the scrapping of clumsy feet grinding through the sand, which covered the road. Gliding toward the wall that surrounded the back yard, he saw a dozen zombies shuffling along the road that ran in front of the house.
He crouched down and remained still. The owner of the house barely tolerated their presence at the best of times and had laid down many rules when they had arrived. First and foremost of these was to never let any of the walking dead discover that living people remained inside of his place. Travis called it his ‘hide first and hide second’ policy. Rollie didn’t knock it, for it had kept them alive through the first year of the zombie apocalypse. But as the undead continued on his way his eyes gazed back to the pool and realized that zombies had lost their status as his group’s chief concern.
His head jerked when he heard the sliding glass door open behind him. His lover Will stepped out into the back yard, but stayed in the shade under the ramada. Rollie moved to join him. He wanted the assurance of physical touch, however the look on Will’s face let him know his boyfriend had other things on his mind.
“Jack’s called for a meeting. He wants us all to be there.”
Rollie didn’t have to ask what the meeting was about. A minute didn’t go by without the torture of not having water plaguing him. “When?”
“Now, I guess.” As Rollie passed him, Will touched his shoulder. “Whatever happens, I want us to be on the same team.” Will had gone through many changes over the last year. The pretty boy Latino had been replaced by a tougher no nonsense warrior. Muscles bulged under his camo pants and shirt, and long gone were his pink shirts and cute hair cuts. Rollie didn’t mind the muscles, but he often missed the easy going nature his lover had once possessed.
“I’d want that too,” Rollie said. He might have said more, but Will headed inside and he followed him.
Jack, Sammy, Travis, and his girlfriend, Barb, already sat at the main table. Inside of the house the heat was stifling and the air smelled ripe and stale.
Jack tilted his head toward them and indicated the free chairs. His sideburns had stayed sharpened to points. At least some things remained consistent, apocalypse or no.
Sammy looked tired and concerned, but still beautiful. She had left her blonde hair stay long despite the potential dangers. No one had been surprised when she and Jack had quickly become a couple.
Travis appeared as grumpy as always. His ratty beard might have made a homeless man wince and his dark eyes darted from one face to the other.
His girlfriend had somehow maintained a plumpness through the horrors they faced, but both she had Travis had been medieval enthusiasts before the outbreak and their stash of weapons had come in quite handy over the last year.
Jack started talking as soon as they sat down. “We obviously all know what this meeting is about. If there was water around here easy to get, we’d already have it. We could get lucky and find some cache somewhere and that would be fine, but the way I see it we have to strike out toward the closest water source we know of and that would be Sabino Canyon.”
“Don’t be so sure,” Travis said. “I’ve seen some summers like this where the river completely dries up.”
“We’ll just have to hope that the rising water tables have kept that from happening,” Jack said. “But I’m not here to talk about where the water is, I’ve gathered us to talk about who’s going to go get it.”
Everyone grew silent, so the former bouncer continued and looked at him as he did so. “I’d rather not bring Sammy and Travis has already assured me that he and Barb will keep her safe while he guards the fort. So I guess that leaves one of you or both.”
Will spoke for them. “I think we’d prefer both.”
“I probably would too. Normally I might just take my Harley out, but with the need for water, I’m going to have to take Travis’s truck.”
“And you had better bring it back in one piece,” Travis grumbled.
Jack eyed him for a moment but then looked back at Rollie and Will. “So if you guys are down, I suggest you gear up and make any preparations you need, because with the lack of water we will only be getting weaker. I’d like to leave in an hour.”
Will and Rollie met each other’s gaze and they stood up to get ready. From the road the sounds of moaning could be heard again.
I hope you enjoyed the first part of Rollie’s dangerous journey into the second year of the Eternal Aftermath. Come back next weekend for the next part of the tale.