You know, if you ignored the fact a part of her face was rotting off, and the pale cloud over the pupils of her eyes, and the yellowing teeth behind peeling lips, she was almost passably alive.
Zach shook his head slightly and simply lit his cigarette as he watched her shuffling aimlessly around the heavy concrete block she was chained to. It'd been just over three years since the infection had first hit, and boy, had it hit fast.
Everyone has had that discussion in the past, right?
What would you do in a zombie apocolypse?
Turns out the vast majority of people were utterly full of shit.
Turns out the vast majority were utterly unprepared.
Turns out the vast VAST majority simply, you know, became zombies.
Not Zach though. Although, to be fair, he had also had some luck. Turns out 'trust nobody' was actually pretty good life advice, since that aforementioned 'vast majority' is usually only out for themselves. They don't think twice about throwing you under the bus to insure their own survival. Best not give them the chance.
By some fortunate roll of life's dice, he'd stumbled upon a countryside house which had a petrol powered generator. It was well decorated, with plush wide sofas and comfortable beds. In the basement, once he'd finally managed to find the code hidden behind a picture frame that unlocked it, was a well stocked treasure trove of a pantry, full of tinned foods and pastas and dried fruits and jerky. A little freshwater stream full of small fish snaked through the forest nearby.
It was everything he could've hoped for; but, like anything, it had a cost.
He'd also found a girl in a corner of the living room, tied to a stone block next to the family dining table. Upstairs, in a bed, were two corpses he'd assumed were her parents, both sporting matching gunshot wounds to the head. It was anyone's guess what had happened - he could only assume the daughter had been bitten and the parents had taken their own lives instead of being able to take hers - although the matching bulletholes seemed extremely odd for a double-suicide. However, it was simply a better alternative than the more sinister lines of possibility -he'd just rather not think about it.
Zach exhaled, sending a stream of cigarette smoke up into the ceiling. "Kinda chilly today, huh, Laura?"
Laura, of course, didn't reply. Zombies couldn't talk, although she turned her head to stare in his general direction, as she always did. At first, she'd been obsessively trying to get to him, snarling and wild, straining against the straps of the full body brace that wrapped around her shoulders and midriff. Now, she seemed to have accepted that she could not move far, and simply stood there aimlessly, barely moving.
See, that's another thing you don't think about when it comes to a zombie apocolypse. If you can't trust anybody, then eventually, the crippling loneliness is enough to make you want to simply swap sides. Zach had always figured he'd been fine, that he didn't need company. He didn't really enjoy being around others that much anyway, preferring solitude and video games.
Turns out he'd been wrong.
He'd found photo albums in the home with the names and ages of the family, placing Laura Miller at about 23 years old, close to his own age. Her parents were happily married, still holding hands in even the most recent images. Mr Miller had worked nights as a security guard and Mrs Miller had been a well beloved teacher. Thank you cards and children's drawings had littered the fridge in the kitchen.
Laura herself was a ray of sunshine in the photos, with ringlets of auburn hair and sparkling brown eyes. She had previously won several medals for horse riding in their small community, and she'd volunteered regularly at a local animal shelter. Her family had been trying to save up enough money to send her to veterinary school. She had been popular and well liked, and particularly enjoyed rock music. Her favourite colour was green and she loved chocolate. Her best friend was called Isobel and they'd known one another since high school.
When he'd buried her parents in the backyard, he'd even found Mrs Miller's mobile phone in her pocket. On that, he'd found several videos of the family that made his heart feel full. One of his favourites was of them all excitedly talking and enjoying themselves as they helped themselves to a full table of delicious looking foods during what appeared to be Christmas. It was easy to imagine himself there, joining in with the easy laughter. It would have been just weeks before news of the infections.
Now, tied up to the block in front of him, Laura was unnaturally skinny, her frizzy hair brittle and unkempt. She still wore the long sleeved green dress that he'd first found her in, although it was looking much worse for wear these days. Patches of skin on her face had been lost to the rot, revealing shrivelled tendons and the dull white gleam of her skull underneath. She looked like every other corpse that shuffled the streets in the bigger cities.
But Zach wanted to believe she was still there. That this girl that he had gotten to know so well via the frayed photos still existed. She always turned her face in his direction when he spoke, and he was almost certain she remembered her name. Sure, she smelt a little funky, but honestly, so did everything these days. Nobody's perfect, right?
"I'm gonna have to go out today, Laura. I gotta go scavenge a little fuel. The gen's running low, and we gotta keep the power running, don't we?" He looked directly into her eyes. "Can't live in darkness, that ain't no fun."
She continued to stare in his general direction, unblinking.
He pushed himself up from the plush sofa he'd been languishing on, brushing himself off. "I'll see if I can find you some chocolate!" He nodded toward the small pile of untouched chocolate stacked next to the block she was tied to. "Won't hurt to add to your little stash, huh? Can never have too many favourites!"
"I'll leave you here to guard the house. You'll do a great job, as you always do." He smiled at her encouragingly. "I'll be back by this evening, and if I'm not, well.. wait a bit longer!"
He shrugged on his backpack, moving toward the front door. He was armed with a bow - arrows were much easier to craft than bullets, and a hell of a lot quieter. Somehow, nobody had ever raided this little house while he'd lived there, although he could not be sure if it was luck or simply because no one else was left alive. He hadn't seen another living soul for at least a year. He wasn't sure what reality he preferred.
"Bye Laura, see you in a little bit!" He waved at her, whirled around and began marching off in the general direction of the nearest gas station.
As the door closed behind him, Laura slowly opened her mouth. A muttering, gritty, rasping voice that struggled and spluttered, a wheezing noise of dust and dirt.