Home > The Burning World (Warm Bodies #2)(6)

The Burning World (Warm Bodies #2)(6)
Author: Isaac Marion

They nod to us as we pass. Julie nods back with an earnest smile, but the look in their eyes makes me shrink inward. Respect. Even reverence. Somehow, they’ve gotten it into their rotten heads that Julie and I are special. That we ended the plague and are here to usher in a new age. They can’t seem to understand that we did nothing they didn’t do, we just did it first. And we have no idea what to do next.

• • •

Despite my distaste for stadium life, I have to admit the place feels a little less grim under its new management. Rosso has scaled Security back to pre-Grigio levels, reassigning some personnel to largely forgotten community services like education. Former teachers are dusting off their books and teaching arcane knowledge like history, science, and basic literacy. With fewer infection patrols and fewer guns aimed at the old and sick, the city feels a little less like a quarantine camp. Some areas have an atmosphere that could almost be called idyllic. I smile at a young boy playing with a puppy in the green grass of his front lawn, trying to ignore the scars on his face and the pistol in his pocket and the fact that the grass is Astroturf.

Anytown, USA.

“Hey Julie,” the boy says when he notices us.

“Hey Wally, how’s that beast of yours?”

He ignores the question and regards me nervously. “Is he … still alive?”

Julie’s smile cools. “Yes, Wally, he’s still alive.”

“My mom said …”

“Your mom said what?”

The boy pulls his eyes away from me and resumes playing with his dog. “Nothing.”

“Tell your mom R is a warm and wonderful human being and he’s not going to stop being one. And neither are the others.”

“Okay,” Wally mumbles, not looking up.

“What’s your dog’s name?” I ask, and he looks startled.

“Um … Buddy.”

I crouch down and slap my knees. “Hey, Buddy.” The pup runs over to me with his tongue lolling. I ruffle his face, hoping he doesn’t see me as a carcass to be gnawed. He sniffs my hand, looks up at me, sniffs my hand again, then rolls onto his back and offers his belly, apparently deciding I’m Living enough.

“We’ve got to go,” Julie says, touching my shoulder.

“To the meeting?” Wally says, and it’s our turn to look startled.

“You know about that?” Julie says.

“Everyone knows. They announced it on the speakers and told us all to listen. Is it about those helicopters?”

“Um … yeah …”

“Are we going to war again?”

Julie looks at me, then back at Wally, who can’t be older than twelve. “Slow down, kid,” she says. “And quit playing with your pistol.”

He glances down at the gun in his jeans, realises his fingers have been caressing it, and clasps his hands behind his back, blushing.

“We don’t have any idea what’s going on,” Julie says. “For all we know, those choppers are an aid convoy from Iceland with crates full of candy bars. So don’t be such a hawk.” She grabs my hand. “Let’s go, R.”

I release Buddy back to his owner and we continue into the city, a little more apprehensive than before. Leave it to a child to shout what we’ve been whispering.

“WELL IF IT isn’t Post’s biggest celebrity couple!” Nora calls to us from across the warehouse. “Rulie? Jar? Have you picked a name yet?”

She’s in full nurse regalia: baggy blue scrubs, latex gloves, a mask and stethoscope around her neck. She has attempted to make the scrubs more flattering by tying a thin belt around her waist, but the effect is lost amongst all the black gore smeared down her front. Her thicket of curls is tied back in a tight bun, but a few locks have come loose and fallen into her work, hardening into scabby dreadlocks. And yet somehow, she pulls off the look.

“Will you stop it?” Julie says, but she’s smiling. “Things are weird enough.”

“I bet they are.” Nora stops in front of us and glances me over. “You’re looking good, R.”

“Thanks.”

“How’s life in the suburbs? How’s life? How’s being alive?”

“Um … good?”

“How’s your kids?”

I squirm a little. “They’re … staying with their mom.”

“No progress?”

I shake my head, growing sombre.

“When are you going to tell me what happened, anyway? I thought the airport was the base of the revolution. I thought you were out there spreading the cure.”

“It didn’t go … as well as we hoped,” I mumble.

“I know you had a few incidents—”

“Nora,” Julie says. “Can we talk about something else? The airport’s not a fun subject for him.”

Nora holds up her hands. “Sure. Sorry. Just excited to see you. I’d hug you, but …” She gestures to the mess on her scrubs.

“What is all that?” Julie says. “Do these ones still get violent?”

Nora cocks her head. “Have you not seen this place yet? Is this the first time you’ve visited me at work?”

Julie glances away. “It might be.”

“Well, I’m sure being a suburban housewife doesn’t give you much free time.” Before Julie can respond to this, Nora turns and starts walking. “So anyway, come check this out. Patching R up was fun but that was just a few broken bones and knife holes—excuse me, superficial puncture wounds. We’ve gotten some much more interesting cases since then.”

   
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