The night passed without incident, Amoc and Simon both managing to get some sleep after securing their conjoined rooms. It had been a cold night, as they were getting quite far north now, and it was getting quite deep into Fall. It was October 15th according to Simon’s iPad, assuming it still had accurate time. Jade was awake, sitting and reading a book in front of the room’s window. She looked up when Amoc wandered by on the way to the door.
“Bon matin” Jade said to Amoc.
Amoc paused to regard Jade. She seemed to be in a much better mood this morning, but he supposed actually getting sleep after several days without it was bound to improve anyone’s mood.
“My French is pretty bad.” Amoc admitted. “Bonjour.”
“I suppose this means it’s unlikely I was hallucinating.” Jade began. “And that I really am in the company of a loup garou and… he is human, Simon?”
“As human as they come.” Simon offered from the other room, apparently awake now as well.
“I wasn’t sure what I would wake up to, after yesterday. Two people I don’t know, letting my guard down and going to sleep…”
“We’re not like that.” Amoc quickly cut in, realizing where Jade was going.
She was a woman alone with two strangers she had just met. Stories that start like that often don't end well.
“I hoped so.” Jade resumed. “I continue to do so.”
“He would rip me into a dozen pieces if I tried anything.” Simon offered from the joining door’s opening, and then quickly backpedaled. “Not that I ever would. That kind of dumb shit is for the movies. We survivors have to look out for each other.”
“Smooth.” Amoc commented on Simon’s verbal fumbling.
Jade looked at the two of them as if she was trying to figure out just what their comedy duo routine was supposed to be. Amoc understood that. He wasn’t quite sure what their dynamic really was some days. Not boring, that was certain.
“I need to pee.” Was Amoc’s blunt statement as he opened the door to exit the room.
The truck was as they had left it. Amoc still couldn’t get any hint of a horde on the air, though it was possible some wolves had been through during the night. Those were good signs that there was likely to be little activity on the road ahead. The undead did tend to stick to cities, but there were a few unpredictable roaming hordes; those had likely been the demise of small towns like this, as they simply wouldn’t have had the resources to defend against a horde of ten thousand or more undead. Towns like this had survived for weeks or even months after the big cities fell, but so far Amoc hadn’t found any still among the living a year on from the dead rising.
After relieving bladders and consuming a breakfast of dried rations, they piled into the truck and headed north. Amoc took turns driving with Simon, and Jade seemed content to read. Northern Quebec didn’t offer the kind of landscape most people probably thought of when imagining rural Canada. It was rugged and rocky, with evergreens covering much of the land. Beautiful in its own way, Amoc thought. It was some of the most unspoiled land in the world, and it kept him coming back this way every year. He was definitely a city wolf, but out here just felt… right. Now it might become home.
The road was generally easy going, with only a few cars occasionally blocking the way. They were far beyond any major population centers at this point, so whatever had happened up here had been small compared to down south. Amoc idly wondered just what had happened in areas so remote. Had they tried to head south to the cities? Had they escaped further north? The cause for the fall of major cities was fairly easy to guess; what happened in these remote places was harder to figure.
Their last brush with any form of civilization would be at Lake Saint-Jean, where they stopped to stretch, get more diesel, and eat another meal of rations before carrying on. As with so many places Amoc had been, no signs of the living were found.
How many of the living are still left in the world I wonder? In a year’s time I’ve seen twenty, maybe thirty living humans? Have I just been really stupidly unlucky with the path I’ve chosen to travel? Or have I just been really wrong about how the undead came to be? Is there any way left to know for sure? Does it even matter?
The dirt roads got rougher the further north they went, and after some time they were going entirely by Amoc’s memory on unmarked paths. At this time of year and this far north, the days were relatively short, and it wasn’t long before they were running out of daylight. They were well and truly beyond any civilization at this point, and Amoc realized he hadn’t really given much thought to where and how they might stop if they needed more time to reach Logan’s compound. He figured they were still at least two hours away, and it would be deep into full darkness by the time they got there.
They decided to press on with Amoc at the wheel, as he knew the route and was the best equipped to see at night. Amoc almost missed a glint of white reflecting in the darkness, and slammed on the brakes jolting Simon and Jade forward.
“What?” Simon asked.
“Saw something on the trail.” Amoc reported. “Wait in the truck.”
Amoc exited the truck and walked to the front to inspect what he had seen. It was a nylon string, strung tight between two trees about six inches off the ground.
A trip wire. We’ve got to be close. Logan uses these as early warning systems to alert him of… Amoc realized that Logan had never really told him what he used these for.
Amoc traced the string back to its end and found the transmitter.
Do I trip it on purpose? Probably should. He’ll hear the truck coming, he’ll realize it’s not the undead. Better than trying to sneak up on the compound.
Amoc pulled on the string. It pulled the trigger out of the transmitter… and nothing happened. The status light that Logan had shown him should start blinking when it was triggered failed to turn on.
Fuck. That’s not a good sign.
“Amoc?” Simon called from inside the truck.
“Trip line early warning system.” Amoc explained. “I tripped it on purpose… but it didn’t turn on.”
“Whoa, you want to warn us next time?” Simon reasonably asked. “Could have been a claymore or something.”
“You played too much Call of Duty.” Amoc shot back. “Logan wouldn’t use explosives or anything dangerous. It’s just a simple radio beacon. Except it’s dead.”
“That’s… not great is it?” Simon asked. “How far out are we?”
“No, and another twenty, thirty minutes I think.”
Jade looked profoundly uncomfortable with the situation, but didn’t offer any input. Amoc wasn’t feeling great about the situation himself. They were hours from anything, and their first sign of Logan was a dead beacon. Amoc got back in the truck and they continued driving down the path.
“Wood smoke.” Amoc stated after several more minutes of driving.
“How can you smell anything over this truck?” Simon asked.
“I just can.”
A few more minutes passed, and then a dim light crept out of the woods. It grew brighter as they got closer.
“Someone’s definitely up there.” Simon stated the obvious.
Amoc kept a steady speed. He started hearing voices, shouts that he could make out over the clatter of the truck’s motor. Whomever was up there had to have either heard the truck or seen their headlights.
“We’ve been spotted.” It was Amoc’s turn to state the obvious. “Whatever happens, we’re just three survivors. My name is William Savage. Got it?”
“Got it.” Simon confirmed.
“Yes.” Jade also acknowledged.
Amoc’s memory hadn’t failed him. The main house, Logan’s house, came into range of the truck’s headlights. There were half a dozen people on the porch, some of them armed, but nothing being pointed at them. The porch was too backlit to tell if any of them were Logan. He stopped the truck at what felt like a respectful distance and turned the engine off.
“Wait in here.” Amoc ordered Simon and Jade, and proceeded to exit the truck.
Almost as soon as Amoc stepped out, he was blinded by a powerful flashlight.
“Incroyable!” A French accented voice exclaimed.
I know that voice!
The flashlight was lowered and he could see again. Logan Demers came down the house’s stairs two at a time, looking exactly as if nothing had changed in the last year. He covered the distance to Amoc in a few long strides and embraced him in a bear hug, which Amoc returned. The reality of finding Logan alive hit him in that embrace. All the pain of the last year, losing everyone he knew… except Logan. Logan was still alive.
Do not cry. Do not cry. For fuck’s sake do not cry.
“You are the last thing I expected to see come out of the woods tonight.” Logan began, still hugging him. “I didn’t think I’d ever see you again!”
Logan’s voice faltered on that last part. He clearly was fighting his own battle. He finally released the hug and they stood there, oblivious to the onlookers on both sides.
“Why?” Amoc shot back. “I’m only a couple months late for my annual trip up here.”
Logan grabbed him for a hug again before releasing him a second time, but this time he had to quickly wipe away some tears. Logan loved him like a brother, and while Amoc didn’t show it as extravagantly as Logan, he felt the same way.
“I found one of your trip wires, but the beacon didn’t turn on when I set it off on purpose, I was afraid you hadn’t made it.”
“Bah, garbage, those things.” Logan explained. “They keep failing. Completely useless. But you should know some little undead apocalypse wouldn’t get me. How did you make it here?”
“I had help.” Amoc motioned to the truck behind him. “Come on out you two.”
Simon and Jade excited the truck.
“Simon, Jade.” Amoc introduced his two traveling companions in turn. “Logan.”
“Bonjour.” From Jade.
“Hi.” Simon’s usual eloquence.
Logan gave Amoc a questioning glance, then greeted them both. Amoc knew what he was probably thinking. That question was coming, but he wasn’t going to ask it in front of a bunch of humans.
“This is William.” Logan addressed the people gathered on the porch. “He’s a very old friend of mine.”
Amoc had his answer. The old ways die hard it seems. Logan hadn’t revealed himself to these other people, and that conversation was going to be a hard one. Amoc’s presence here was going to upset things.
“Well let’s not stand out here in the cold all night.” Logan stated, motioning towards the house. “Come inside.”
There were six other people on the porch. Amoc didn’t get any unusual signals from any of them, so they were all human. Logan introduced them in turn.
“This isn’t everyone, we have a number of people out on supply runs and long hunting trips.”
“Out here, overnight?” Amoc asked.
“We’ve become quite good at avoiding the odd roaming horde up here.” Logan explained. “Winter is still the cruel mistress of the North, and still more dangerous than that occasional threat, so we are now preparing for it.”
They proceeded inside Logan’s house. The temperature was indeed much warmer inside, with a strong fire going inside the hearth. Much like Logan, it looked as if nothing had changed. The house was not at all ostentatious, just rugged and utilitarian. Designed to survive the harsh Winters of northern Canada while providing modest comfort, and nothing more.
“You must tell me everything that’s happened, but I won’t force you to do so tonight.” Logan stated his request, likely knowing Amoc couldn’t say what the real story was, until they had a private conversation. “You look exhausted, and it’s late, so that can wait until the morning. You know where the bedrooms are, go.”
Amoc did. The house had been built to accommodate a large number of unrelated people, so there was a long upstairs hallway lined with small, but private bedrooms. Amoc often felt it was like one of those old Western saloons, with rooms for rent upstairs. He showed Simon and Jade to a couple of available rooms, as well as the toilet and shower. There was hot running water, courtesy of the systems Amoc’s business had given Logan some years back.
If this is home now, I could get used to this. First I need to have that talk with Logan, but that’s a problem for tomorrow’s Amoc. Tonight’s Amoc is just going to get some sleep.
Amoc fell asleep for the first time since the apocalypse started feeling that the world had improved a little bit.