As I sat with Zeke, eating macaroni and cheese—seriously, how did they get this stuff? I could never get food this good when I was running—I thought about Ben and his brother, Jason. I felt bad for bringing the subject up with Ben, but there wasn’t really anything I could do about it now. When Zeke first told me that Jason was Ben’s brother, I obviously needed to know more. Zeke wanted to get something to eat first, but I talked him into telling me the story. I can be pretty convincing when I want to be…
I dug my heels into the ground. “Pleeease!” I cried. “C’mon, Zeke, just tell me about Ben’s brother!”
“Later, Nicole.” He protested. “Right now I’m starving!” Zeke continued to walk away, so I sat down, still holding onto his wrists, attempting to keep him from leaving. He looked down at me, snorted at my stubbornness and threw me over his shoulder with a resulting “oof” from me. He started walking towards the mess hall.
“Zeke, long nails hurt a lot more than you would expect them to when stabbed into a person’s back. Now, you have exactly five seconds to put me down and tell me about Jason or, so help me God—“
Zeke stopped, set me down and looked me in the eyes. “Nice try but, you have your nails chewed off.” Dammit! Why did he have to notice everything?! I thought.
“You really want to know about Ben’s brother, don’t you?” I nodded. Sighing, Zeke sat down against the wall. “Fine. But promise me we’ll get food after.”
I raised my right hand. “Scout’s honor,” I replied, sitting across from him.
Zeke rolled his eyes. “Alright. So me, Ben, Jason, Floyd, and Neil—you’ll meet them later—were on a raid.”
“A raid?” I asked.
“You know, a raid. When we run low on food or supplies we go and raid some houses.”
“Oh.” Well don’t I feel stupid, I thought.
“Anyways,” he continued, “we had already been gone a few days and were just about ready to come back. We were just going to stop at one last house. What we didn’t know was that the Seekers were expecting us.”
I shuddered. It didn’t matter if you were on your own or with twenty armed guards. The Seekers—they’re basically parasite cops who hunt down humans—scared everyone.
“The house was dark and the parasites that lived there had left a few hours ago, so we made our move. Ben and Jason were keeping watch outside. Floyd, Neil and I went into the house—the back door was unlocked—and headed straight for the kitchen. We were filling up our satchels with food when we heard a loud bang outside. I was the first one out the door. I saw Jason on the ground by a gun, lying in a pool of blood, and Ben trying to fight off three Seekers at once. Floyd and Neil came outside and we easily killed the Seekers. I told the guys that we had to book it out of there before more Seekers arrived, but Ben was in hysterics. He threw punches at anyone who tried to get him away from Jason’s broken body. We tried to calm him down enough to get him out of the yard, but we couldn’t take Jason with us, and Ben wasn’t going to leave without him. I could hear sirens coming, so I panicked. I knocked Ben out and we carried him back to the Jeep, leaving Jason’s body behind.
“It was months before Ben spoke, or even looked at any of us again. I felt horrible for doing what I did, but we couldn’t lose both guys in one night, and we didn’t have time to get Jason’s body out of there too. Ben spoke to Floyd and Neil long before he spoke to me again. He only just started talking to me about two months ago.”
I was still speechless.
“Nicole, you haven’t said one word since I told you about Jason. Are you okay?” Zeke asked me.
“Yeah, I’m fine. It’s just…I don’t know what to say. Poor Ben. I can’t even begin to fathom the amount of pain he must be in.”
Zeke raised an eyebrow. Seriously?! How does he do that? “Fathom?”
“Yes, fathom. It’s a good word.” I sighed. “I just feel horrible now. I shouldn’t have brought up Jason.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Zeke assured me. “Ben won’t hold it against you. You didn’t know.”
“Listen. Ben will get over it. He isn’t mad at you for not knowing about something...are you finished eating?”
I handed him my empty bowl and he brought it over to the dish bin along with his own. When he came back he said “Come with me.”
“Where?” I asked.
“We’re going to find you somewhere to sleep tonight. Unless you want to sleep in the infirmary…”
I jumped up and grabbed Zeke’s wrist, pulling him out the door.