Home > The Burning World (Warm Bodies #2)(2)

The Burning World (Warm Bodies #2)(2)
Author: Isaac Marion

The team manager, whose name I’ve forgotten again, looms over her, gripping his rifle. “Are you okay? Did you encounter any Dead?”

“I’m fine.”

“Rosso ordered you a twenty-four-hour escort. Why do you keep doing this?”

“Because we’re trying to remind them they’re human, and a bunch of guys pointing guns at them isn’t helping. I keep telling Rosy but he—”

“Julie.” The soldier leans in, adding more gravity to his question. “Did you encounter any Dead?”

It started with an E …

Julie gets out of the car and throws a bag of painting supplies over her shoulder. “Yes, Major, I encountered some Dead. I stopped and talked to them for a minute, they stared at me like lost little kids, I told them to keep fighting and went on my way.” She waves at the bullet-riddled bungalow across the street, its door gone, its windows shattered. “Hi, B!”

A groan emanates from the shadows inside.

“I meant hostiles,” the major says with strained patience. “‘All Dead.’”

“No, sir, I did not encounter any All Dead, Boneys, bandits, or Burners. Your concern is touching, but I’m fine.”

He nods to one of his men. “Check the trunk. They hide in trunks sometimes.”

Julie gives up, waving him away as she backs toward the door. “You watch too many horror movies, Evan.”

There. I rope it down and lock it in my vault before it can escape again. Evan Kenerly. Muscular arms. Pockmarked brown skin. Seems to enjoy pretending he’s still in the Army. Evan.

“When you’re done cavity searching my poor car,” Julie adds, “would you mind grabbing those paint cans for me? Oh and watch out for the coffee table in the trunk, it might be hostile.”

She turns her back on the soldiers and finally sees me, and her annoyance melts into a smile. I love to watch her transition from their world to ours. It’s a change as profound as a spring thaw.

“Hi, R.”

“Hi, Julie.”

“How’s it going in here?” She drops her bag of brushes and rollers and examines the hole in the wall, then turns in a circle, looking for signs of progress. She’s been gone all day, combing the neigh-bourhood for supplies and household items—the whole world is a yard sale—and I’ve been here, diligently doing nothing.

She looks at my right hand and all its purple fingers. Her smile turns sympathetic. “Still having trouble?”

I crack my knuckles. “Numb.”

“Two months ago you didn’t even know how to breathe, so I’d say you’re doing pretty well.”

I shrug.

“Why don’t you hold the board and let me handle the fine motor skill?” She wiggles her fingers in front of me. “I’m a famous painter, remember? My work’s hanging next to Salvador Dalí’s.” She picks up the hammer and a handful of nails. I hold the board over the hole while she squints one eye and places a nail.

Julie swears better than anyone I’ve known. She can draw from a vast vocabulary of filth and weave complex structures of inventive invective, or she can say what she needs to say using only variations of “fuck.” She is a poet of profanity, and I suppress an instinct to applaud as she stomps around the room, squeezing her hand and spewing colourful couplets. I also can’t help noting the difference in our reactions to the hammered finger experience, and it makes my smile fade a little. Julie is a floodlight and I am a candle. She blazes. I flicker.

She flings the hammer through the hole and collapses onto the couch. “Fuck this day.”

I sit next to her and we stare at the ruined suburbs like the hole in our wall is a television. Cratered streets. Tyre-scarred lawns. Houses caved in or burned to the ground. Opening titles for a very dark sitcom.

The door opens and Evan Kenerly enters, but he offers no quips or catchphrases. He drops the paint cans in the entry and turns to leave, then pauses in the doorway.

“Thank you?” Julie says.

He turns around. “Julie, listen …” I can’t recall him ever addressing me or even making eye contact. I’m a figment of Julie’s imagination. “I know you’re trying to make a statement by living out here. You want to show people the plague is over and everything’s fine—”

“We’ve never said that. That’s not why we’re here.”

“Your neighbour ‘B’ is a flesh-eating corpse. You’re sharing this neighbourhood with hundreds of flesh-eating corpses, and you don’t even lock your door.”

“They don’t eat flesh anymore. They’re different.”

“You don’t know what they are. Just because they’re … confused right now doesn’t mean they won’t suddenly remember their instincts while you’re sleeping.” His eyes flick toward me, then back to Julie. “You don’t know what they’re going to do. You don’t know anything.”

Julie’s face hardens and her spine straightens. “Believe it or not, Evan, you’re not the first person to tell us the world is dangerous. We’ve heard about a million reasons why we should be afraid. What else do you have to offer?”

Kenerly says nothing.

“We know it’s not safe out here. We’re aware of the risks. We don’t. Fucking. Care.”

Kenerly shakes his head. The door bangs shut behind him.

Julie’s steely posture softens and she sags back into the couch, arms crossed over her chest.

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