After the initial attack, things at Shadowood calmed down. Lauren, however, wasn’t happy when she heard that Evan had left my side. In fact when I told her the story after getting back to the fieldhouse she slapped him. I remember Evan holding his hand to his reddening face, and I got the sense that even before the apocalypse, Evan wasn’t used to being hit.
She walked away afterwards, and Evan said to me, “Are you sure you two are twins?”
Her anger didn’t last long though, and soon we went back to our regular routine. Although now Evan decided that we should definitely use Shadowood as a home base. At the time, the fence seemed secure and it was the safest I felt sense the day we left the basement.
If you forgot about the world outside falling apart, life around Shadowood was pretty boring. Although, it was much better than constantly running for my life, and sleeping in trees to keep from being eaten. The students had a routine down by the time we showed up.
There were several chores that had to be completed every day. Each day firewood needed to be processed, and with no power tools, or gas-powered equipment, gathering the supplies took most of the morning. Two of the larger boys, Travis and his partner Russell, chopped the wood, and sawed it into useable chunks.
Each day also meant gathering water. The kids had to go the river in order to fill cleaned out garbage cans. Afterwards it was brought back to a central location near the field house where it was boiled. Several of the students, under the watch of the nurse, made trips to the river to wash clothes, and each day they were hung on a clothesline between two trees. It was so strange to see these mundane chores going on in the middle of such a situation. For so long I was running from place to place, and yet here was this golf course, a place where the madness seemed to stop.
They even had their own rudimentary security protocols, a leftover from the soldier’s that stayed there. Half of the students tended to the domestic duties, gathering water, cooking, and laundry, but the other half were spread through the camp. From what I saw, there was little switching between the roles. Sam, Levi’s son, was always stationed on top of the field house, with his hunting rifle, and after Evan reprimanded him he hadn’t shot anything since.
Two people were also stationed near the main gate to watch for incoming cars. In our travels, we had seen a couple roving bands moving through, and the main gate was vulnerable to anyone who truly wanted to get in. Those with the security duties generally hung out around the main camp and escorted people to the river.
They were not well equipped. That was the first thing I noticed. Only a few of them had guns, and most of them didn’t look like they could handle them. The majority of them used hand weapons, mostly sharpened garden implements.
The first night we came to Shadowood, there was a girl that pretty much ran all of the security details. She was young, with long brown hair that she kept in a ponytail. I later learned that this was Emma, Sam’s sister, and Levi’s daughter. We had been at the camp for a little while when she found me sorting through the notes I had been keeping. Lauren and Evan were getting ready for a hunt, and I was trying to get ready when she found me.
“If you’re looking for something productive to do, I can find something for you,” she said. She wasn’t much shorter than me, and even though she had the air of someone older, we were the same age.
“I think we leaving for a hunt,” I said.
“Ah, the hunters are going on a patrol,” she said. She was one of the few students who carried a gun, and she gave the impression she knew how to use it. “When the soldiers were here, they used to go on patrols,” she said.
“Yeah,” I said. I didn’t know why she was telling me this.
“They would go for a while at least,” she said, “until some of they stopped coming back.”
I definitely didn’t get where she was saying. After the zombie infiltrated the camp our first night here, Levi put Evan in charge of security, and there was some tension since Emma felt she was demoted, but she had never been openly hostile.
“Just be careful,” she said, and turned to leave.
As she was leaving, Lauren showed up. I was a bit mesmerized, but Lauren shook me out of it. “What was that about?” she asked.
“I have no idea,” I said.
She looked at my writings, “Jeez, Hemingway can you put the pencil down and maybe help us do something useful.”
“This is useful,” I said, “I’m trying to keep a record of what happened.”
Her face twisted in disgust, “Why on Earth would you want anyone to know what happened?” she said. She folded her arms, “who do you think would read it anyway. You going to round up some zombies. Have a little story time? We’ll be lucky to make it to winter. I mean, come on,” she said.
While I folded the paper I felt Lauren folding some of the sheets. “I’m sorry,” she said and she kept picking up the notes. I had a small leather case I found in a store we raided. Throughout the weeks, I had been writing down the things that happened on scraps of paper, and the pile was growing. I knew Lauren didn’t like it because she hated remembering anything from before, and since we had left Evan’s camp in the cemetery, neither or us spoke of our parents, or any of the other people we had lost.
Once, we passed an abandoned school and I caught Lauren staring at an old rusted swing set that creaked as it swung back and forth in the breeze. She watched it for more than ten minutes, silent, just staring. Evan sent me to get her and before I was next to her she said, “It’s never going to be the same, is it?” She didn’t wait for my reply and headed back to our camp.
I finished packing my notes and Evan rode up on Knight, the large black beast snorted when he saw me. Except for Evan, and Red, no one touched Knight, and even the other horses let him be, and this suited Evan. Except for Red, Evan rarely interacted with the students. He spent most of the day checking the fence for any sign of distress. Most days he found a zombie stuck, although he wouldn’t say so he would just make a mark on a tree with his knife when he got back. In the two weeks we had stayed they the marks piled up.
He went outside the boundary too. For the last week Evan would disappear for hours, returning just before darkness fell. That day I would find out what he had been working on.
I followed Evan and Lauren on horseback, because they were the better riders the two of them were ahead, and I let Samson pick his way along the trail. Shadowood Golf Course was a new development next to the highway, but the area around was not developed. Once I left the fences, I was immediately in a large expanse of forest, and with the exception of a few trails, it was hard to move through.
After a twenty-minute ride, Evan led us to the first of his projects. The smell caught me first. After weeks of living through hell, the smell of rotting meat triggered a strong response. A few months ago, I would have recoiled; the smell would have overwhelmed me. Instead I immediately reached for the hatchet on my side and prepared to fight. The smell did the same thing to Lauren. As I reached for my weapons, I saw her slip her machete from the sheath on her hip, and whirled Lady in a circle looking for the incoming threat.
Evan had to put us at ease, “Relax,” he said and pointed to the cause of the smell. Strung up in between a group of trees, there was a large chunk of rotting meat, with flies buzzing around it.
“I found a dead deer,” Evan said, “it was too far gone to eat it, but it gave me an idea. I strung parts of it between trees. It should attract them.”
“Attract them?” Lauren asked, “why would you want to attract them. We deal with enough of those things already. And now you’re going to bring more of them?”
Evan cut her off, “Hear me out,” he said, “I’ve been seeing more and more of the along the fence. Shadowood is so big, there’s just too much of an area to defend. I’ve been building traps out here. If I can lead them away from the camp, then I don’t have to deal with so many at a time.”
“Seems like a lot of work to me,” Lauren said.
“I think it’s a good idea,” I said.
“Trust me, it’ll be better in the long run,” Evan said, and he slipped off his horse to explain this trap. The rotten deer leg hung in the middle of three trees, and Evan had tied a rope to enclose the area inside the them. Because the rope was tied just above where a person’s ankles, it made it very easy to trip over. Evan had also tied an old wind chime to the deer leg, so the noise would attract them too. To complete his trap, Evan drove several wooden stakes into the ground, and from the dried blood on them, it seemed that the traps worked.
“Sometimes the trap doesn’t kill them, so I finish them off. That’s why I come out here all the time,” Evan said. “I’ve got quite a few set up. I figure if we can keep them over here than they wont attack the fences as much.”
Throughout the rest of the day, Evan showed his traps, and most of them were similar to the first one we saw. One even had a zombie stuck in it. It was wiggling and trying to get free, but one of the stakes poked through its thigh. Evan used it as an opportunity to practice firing an arrow from horseback. It took him three arrows to put the zombie down, the first wasn’t close, almost three feet from its head, the second closer, and the third one found its mark and buried itself in the zombie’s head, stopping the struggling monster. Evan retrieved his arrows and wiped them off with a rag from his belt.
“Works like a charm,” he said.
“I see that,” Lauren said. I didn’t think she was sold on the idea yet.
We rode deeper into the woods, to the point where we crossed an old dirt road. It was strange to see a road that deep into the forest, but I assumed it was used by the forest service to get around. Before the attack, the area used to be national forest, so at one time people maintained the trails, and checked for poachers, but now no one lived here, and I looked down both stretches of the road until the ends disappeared back into the woods. No one had been here in a long time.
I led Samson across the road. At first the old horse was reluctant to move but with some persistence, I got him across, and Evan and Lauren were already waiting. Lauren rode next to Evan and was about to ask something, when Evan stopped. “This is what I found,” he said. 15 feet up in a tree was a small cabin looking building. There was a ladder leading up to the structure.
“It looks like an old hunting blind,” Evan said.
“Why would there be a hunting blind here?” I asked, “you can’t hunt in a national forest.”
“Some farmer’s land must run up next to the national land,” Evan said, “we must be on it right now. Not that anyone will care now.”
The blind was old and it creaked when I stepped on the old ladder, and I wasn’t sure that it would hold me, but I made my way up to the blind. It was a tight fit for the three of us, but I could see why Evan liked it. It was high off the ground and it had a decent field of vision.
“This is cool Evan,” I said, “but why are we here?”
“I wanted to show you where we would be spending so much time tomorrow.”
Lauren looked as surprised as I felt, “What are we doing tomorrow?”
Evan cracked a rare smile, just the corner of his mouth curling as he said, “Get some sleep tonight, because tomorrow we’re going hunting.”