They passed through the town of San Jon, refilling their water and searching the residences for supplies. Despite most of the homes being picked over, one of the houses contained what seemed to be nearly a full case of canned tuna, which the group added to its stockpile.
“I hate tuna,” Zach said as the pushed their way up the ramp back on to I-40.
“Well, we have enough now that you can learn to like it,” Julie said.
“Shh,” Peter held up his hand, signaling everyone to stop.
Peter slowly pulled the shotgun from atop his cart and slipped into a crouch, sighting alongside its barrel.
It took a minute, but Zach finally spotted what had drawn Peter’s attention.
Peter pulled the trigger, killing the large hare that had stopped to sniff the air further down the road.
“Good shot.” Brian said, running toward the fallen animal to retrieve it. He got there right before Rocky did and managed to keep the hare out of the dogs jaws. He brought the creature back and slumped it over his cart.
The sun beat down on them as they made it further into New Mexico. The rabbit was tough and gamy, but no one complained as they settled down for the night. Peter pulled the first shift for guard duty.
“At this pace, we’ll actually make it to Boulder City,” Amy said, coming out of the tent they shared.
“I hope so, it feels like we’ve been on the road forever.”
“Yeah it does,” She sat down beside him, resting her head on his shoulder. “Why us?”
“What do you mean, I don’t know what you see in me, but you’re quite-“
“No, I mean all of us. Why are we the ones still here, still fighting for survival?”
“Because we were smart and we stuck together.” He said wrapping an arm around her and pulling Amy closer to his side. “And we had you to patch us up,” He kissed the side of her head. They sat in silence for a while, like that, and soon Amy was asleep, keeping Peter warm as he scanned the horizon.
He shook Amy awake when it was time for him to get Brian up, and then helped the still groggy woman to bed. She was asleep again the moment she lay down, and Peter kissed her forehead, whispering “thanks.” She mumbled something that could have been ‘Your welcome,’ or ‘I love you.’ Peter thought about it as he lay there, staring at the ceiling of his tent and decided that he would take either answer.
A vulture was perched nearby when they exited the tent the next morning. It only stirred enough to hop a few feet back before it resumed eyeing what was left of the cooked hare.
“New friend?” Peter asked Brian.
“Bah, he showed up about an hour ago, wasn’t causing any problems so I let him stay.”
“Some guard dog,” Peter said, nudging the sleeping Rocky with his foot. The dog opened it’s eyes slightly and then was darting forward, barking at the bird. The bird squawked and flew to a nearby tree, chased by Rocky.
“What’s all the noise?” Zach asked from within his tent.
“Nothing, go back to sleep.” Peter told him as Rocky continued to bark. He then called after Rocky, who ignored him.
“I wish I could with all this racket,” Zach said as he joined them beside the fire.
Soon they were joined by Kyle and the woman.
“Can’t someone shut him up?” Sarah asked, rubbing her eyes.
“Rocky,” Kyle called out, and the dog stopped barking and looked at the group wagging his tail.
“Well, I’ll be,” Zach said as the dog came and sat beside the boy.
They made it to the outskirts of Tucumcari by mid day and ate lunch in the shadow of the Quality Inn. By nightfall they were almost through the town. Having stopped twice to scavenge through buildings, turning up a few days worth of canned goods.
The next day was much the same as they trudged on toward the next big city, which according to the map, was Santa Rosa. After a few days, the hills had begun to grow and the mountains did not seem as distant. It was atop one of these hills that they stopped to rest.
“There’s got to be an easier way to do this.” Brian complained, wiping sweat from his brow.
“I’ve kept my eye out for some bikes, but haven’t had any luck yet. Maybe Santa Rosa will be our city.”
They shot another hare as they descended the hill and caught sight of a small heard of deer that delayed them for nearly an hour while the men stalked and managed to kill two of them. The going got easier for a few days and soon they found themselves climbing up the side of another hill.
As they reached the top they saw the first dwelling they had come across since leaving Tucumcari, a large farm set back from the road.
“We’ll camp there tonight, provided it’s safe, maybe in real beds.” He winked at Amy.
As they approached the farm from the east, Peter called for a halt and signaled to Zach and Brian to grab their weapons and follow him. It proved unnecessary, as the whole property, at least the part that contained the buildings, was vacant.
“Enjoy the night. There are three beds on the first floor, I call one of them. We’ll search this place in the morning.”
They pushed their carts into the farms garage and shut the door.
“I’ve got watch tonight,” Zach volunteered.
“Yeah, I’ll take the second shift,” responded Sarah.
“Ok, just make sure you walk the perimeter a few times.” Zach said.
Amy discovered clean sheets in a closet in the hallway and went about making the master bedroom’s queen bed, finding the act completely foreign.
Peter came in and laughed as she struggled with the fitted sheet. “I was never good with these either,” he said, grabbing a corner. They had to turn the thing twice before the elastic finally made sense. They both laughed as the sheet finally settled into place, allowing them to pull a thick blanket onto the bed.
“Those pillows look heavenly, don’t they?” Peter said.
Amy smiled, “I hope you don’t fall asleep too fast.”