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AaW Chapter 36

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Tim pulled his chain deeper into the double sleeping bags he was cocooned in. No matter what he tried the chain always created a tunnel that seemed to funnel cold air deep into the bag from outside. He was still warm, but always had an uncomfortable cold spot to deal with.

“Would a tent have been too much to ask?” he muttered angrily. He had his head tucked down into the bags and was wearing a thick woolen cap that kept the worst of the cold air at bay. When they got to Iowa and safety Tim was planning to unleash a whole world of hurt onto Dora and the other council members. Mary would get off scott-free, he knew that, she was a doctor, but he was equally certain the others would not be so lucky. They would pay alright; he would make sure of it. Deep down he didn't want to face the fact that he might be as big of a coward as the others said he was. He was just tired, that is all. He had faced zombies before, killed a few maybe. In his mind Tim thought of himself as having shell shock or combat fatigue, not as being afraid. He had put his sleeping bag up against one of the unfinished bits of flooring that was going to make up the great hall when it was finished. It acted as a bit of roof, in case it rained, and Tim felt better having something solid at his back while he slept.

A gentle thump sounded on the plywood above him and he stiffened, listening closely. He could hear nothing more after the initial noise; it must have been a branch or a leaf from one of the many surrounding trees falling onto the plywood. He pushed his head out of the bag until he could look up at the edge of the plywood and see the stars, blazing coldly in the night. It was not all that cold yet, not really, he thought sleepily as he drifted off looking at the stars...abruptly his heart lurched into his throat, above him a small, dark head moved to block out the star light.

“What are you doing out here?” came the quiet child-like voice.

Tim said nothing, only tried to shrink into the beam blocking his way from going completely under the plywood flooring.

“I can see you.” said the voice softly.

“Don't hurt me!” Tim finally gasped out.

“I don't want to hurt you silly!” said the still dark blob above him, “I just want to talk.”

“I...I know who you are!”

“I don't know you. What is your name?”

“T-Tim.”

“Don't be afraid Tim, I am Andi, it’s short for Andrea. Not a lot shorter, but it only uses an 'i' instead of an 'ea'. Why are you out here Tim, instead of in a house where it is all warm?”

Tim lifted his handcuffed arm into the girl's sight, she studied the chain for a moment and shrank back. “Oh, you’re a bad man. My mommy told me about bad men, they get handcuffs and have to wear orange clothes. Are you wearing orange clothes?”

“N-no! I am not a bad man, they just don't like me.”

“Oh, like Tommy Sandburger! The other boys always push him down at the playground, he just wants to play with them, but they’re mean to him for no reason. My mommy says just to be nice to him, because he doesn't have any friends. Do you have any friends, Tim?”

“Not really, no.”

“Well I can be your friend, okay? Like Tommy.” she leaned forward and put her face near his then took a long pull of air in through her nose, “You don't smell too good.”

“I, um, I’m sorry.”

“Not like Tommy, he smelled like dootie, I think that is why no one liked him. You smell a little bad, more like my daddy on a summer day after he cut the grass. You should take a shower.”

“Andi, why are you here?”

“Me? I just want to see what is going on. I miss people, mommies and daddies and barbeques. I come here to get close and see what people do. They do a lot of strange things together. I can watch people through walls if I try hard, my eyes are different since that night my mommy died. I saw you and wondered if you would talk to me.”

“I’ll talk to you.”

“Good. Why don't you like me?”

“You, are... You know what happened to you? That you died and came back?”

The face bobbed around and Tim realized the girl was nodding to him. “Well we don't want to be like you, we want to stay the way we are.”

“You can't. Not all of you, we need you. Just a little of you, sometimes!” said the girl with some anxiety in her voice, “I am breaking the rules. Sam Waller says you don't talk with your food.”

Confused Tim said, “Sam Waller? Sargent Waller?”

“That is the name he told you. Sam Waller dresses up to talk with the food so we do not have to. Sam Waller says 'do not play with your food Andi'. Sam Waller says 'eat to be strong'. When he is alone and thinks no one can hear him“Andi's voice became even softer and harder to hear, “Sam Waller says 'I will kill those two little bitches someday.' Only he didn't kill me or Mo, he got killed by the food man, Jeff.”

“How do you know Jeff's name?”

“Jim Tiller says you always ask your food what it knows before you eat it. Jim Tiller didn't kill food man Jeff right away, he played with it first. Sam Waller wouldn't have liked that.”

“Oh God, poor Jeff!”

“Sam Waller says 'the food is not poor, it lives a good life, we protect the food'!” the girl said sharply, “Sam Waller says to kill all the really slow, stupid zombies and keep the smart talking zombies away from the food. Sam Waller says our food will reproduce if we can protect it long enough, then we will always have food.”

“I am tired now, Andi. Don’t you ever sleep?”

“I pretend to sleep during the day. The others like that. Do you want me to leave you alone now?”

“I would like to sleep, yes. If that’s okay.”

“That is okay.” The little girl pulled her head back over the plywood out of Tim's sight. He didn't hear her leave, but was too scared to climb out and look to see if she was actually gone. Twenty minutes must have gone by and he had just convinced himself that she was gone when her little head popped over the edge again, “You’re not asleep.”

“No, I have a hard time sleeping with you up there.”

“Did you see me? I was behind the board. Can you see through the board like me?”

“No, Andi, I cannot see through the board, I just didn't hear you leave.”

“Oh.”

“Why are you still here?”

“Sam Waller says 'never leave food that sees you alive to tell other food about you.'”

Tim felt his bladder let loose inside his sleeping bags as he babbled, “No, no, don't kill me! I can tell you things if you keep me alive! Please don't kill me!”

“Sam Waller says not to talk to your food. Jim Tiller says to ask it questions before you eat it.” said Andi leaning in closer to Tim's face and shrugging her tiny shoulders. She put one hand on the top of Tim's head and the other under the base of his chin and held him as effectively as if he were in a vice. Tim could not open his mouth and it felt like his teeth were going to break.

“Ewww!” said Andi shoving Tim back and pulling away from him, “Now you smell like Tommy Sandburger! You made yellow and dootie in your bag!” She laughed at him quietly for a moment and then pressed a barely visible finger against her lips, warning him to silence. A moment later Tim heard a couple of people talking in the street out in front of the house, they were not being very quiet, but their voices barely carried to where he was at. For just a moment Tim considered screaming out for help, one look at the girl's pale face and he gave that idea up and cowered back into his sleeping bag.

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