Day 962 - Afternoon
It had been eighty-seven days since they had found the list; Vince had been counting.
The tiny piece of paper Wyatt had shown him three months ago had been a beacon of promise and hope. On that day they had gained a list of settlements in the midwest, prompting them to set out on a journey to find a new home.
Things were not steady to begin with. After they had solved their immediate problems Wyatt and Vince realised they still shared some scorn for each other. Deep down Vince still blamed Wyatt for what had happened to the group in the past and the events that led up to a bandit attack. Wyatt resented Vince's bitterness towards him and they went without speaking to each other for a while. During this time Becca and Annie had to push them together before the group fell apart and their common goal eventually led to them re-establishing their friendship.
During that time the snows of early January had faded and given way to ice, which later melted and Spring rolled through. While Vince thought it to be late March or early April, it was still chilly enough for him to require the heavy coat he'd picked up back at the Eastland Mall – a location which happened to be their back up plan if all else failed and all of the settlements on Wyatt's list were a bust.
Which, so far, they had been. That was why Vince counted the days. Eighty-seven days of driving around in a truck on a wild goose chase. They kept running low on supplies, had to stock up and once they made it to a settlement they'd find it abandoned or empty. That meant they'd have to stock up somewhere again and try the next settlement on the list.
And that was exactly what Vince and Wyatt were doing that day; stocking up. They had left Becca with Annie in the truck while the two adults ventured into the Ohioan landscape to find anything of value. So far they'd only succeeded in attracting the attention of a group of skinny walkers – another thing for Vince to count – and all the regular buildings worth scavenging had been cleared out, which meant Vince and Wyatt had to settle for a museum.
The building was big and brown on the inside, the walls and ceilings covered with polished wood. As Vince and Wyatt strolled through a main aisle and admired the exhibits, the former noticed that a second floor crept around the upper half of the hall, almost like a gantry from which people would have been able to stare down on history from above. Though it would have been nice to see that many people again, Vince guessed that it was easier to see the exhibits if there weren't hundreds crowding around them.
All of a sudden, Wyatt stopped next to him and adjusted his glasses, a tiny shaft of light bursting through a hairline crack in the right lens. Vince squinted and scratched his chin as he waited, his facial hair messier and thicker than he would have liked.
"What're you doing?" He asked, no emotion audible in his voice.
Wyatt didn't instantly respond to the question. His head slowly tilted to the right as he stared down the hall and saw a counter at the end. "If we're gonna get anything here, it'll probably be in the gift shop, dude."
Vince looked down at his right hand, his fist closed around the handle of a machete. The thing had gotten him through a fair few scrapes, and he'd been able to reclaim it every time he'd been parted from it, forcefully or otherwise. He would have preferred to hold it in his left hand, but that appendage still pained him from an injury he'd procured during an all-out brawl against a particular bandit leader.
He slowly stepped down the hall after Wyatt, his feet making worrying echoes as they hit the cold wooden floor. "You know how these places are laid out, right?" he asked his companion, "I don't want to have to look at all the exhibits before we get to the gift shop."
Wyatt chuckled, "I'm in as much of a hurry as you are, dude." His head turned to look out of one of the tall windows that looked out onto the road. "I trust Becca to look after Annie and everything, but leaving either of them alone worries me."
"Gotta start treating Becca like an adult soon," Vince replied, "She'll be one in two or three years."
"Really?" Wyatt replied, "How old is she?" He turned and lowered his head in confusion, "No track of time... how old am I?"
"She was fifteen last time I checked." Vince confirmed as he found his way up to a counter at the end of the hall. Wyatt climbed over and looked around for any supplies on the other side. "I don't know when her birthday is, though." He smirked as something caught his eye. Light reflected off of a rack of watches with the museum's name printed on them. Vince picked up one of the devices and squinted as he looked at the numbers. "Shit, man, these things still work – and they have the date on them. Is it April already?"
Wyatt called to him from behind the counter. "I don't even know what year it is any more, dude. '05? '06?"
Vince paused in thought as Wyatt shuffled some more and spoke again. "Hey, dude, can you pass the bag over here? I've got some stuff but nowhere to put it."
Vince had forgotten that he was in possession of a backpack. He pulled it off of his shoulder and passed it absent-mindedly to Wyatt, his attention still invested in the watch. "I don't even care, I'm keeping this watch," he said, wrapping the thing around his wrist. "You want one?"
"I'm good, man." Wyatt replied. "Might wanna get one for Annie if they have a green one."
"What, is that her favourite colour?" Vince asked, finding a watch that was close enough to being the specified colour.
"Yeah," Wyatt strained as he climbed back over the counter, running his hand through his dirty blonde hair. "A lot of kids are annoying with that; changing what they like and don't like all the time-"
"Becca." Vince grunted bluntly.
"But if there's one thing Annie is," Wyatt continued, "She's consistent. She knows what she likes and what she doesn't, and that doesn't change."
"What did you get, anyway?" Vince asked. "From the counter, I mean."
"Not a lot. Energy bars, water, enough to keep us going until we reach the next place." Wyatt replied, handing the backpack to Vince and pulling a piece of paper out of his pocket. "That would be..." he drew out the last word as his eyes passed down the list. "...Fort Recovery."
"I don't know why we're still doing this." Vince admitted. "Fort Wayne was burned down by the time we made it there, Wellington wouldn't let us in because they were 'full'..."
"What's your point, dude?" Wyatt asked.
"Well," Vince replied, itching one of his eyebrows with his forefinger, "If those guys cleared out of the Outpost and left that list behind in the first place, were they planning on clearing off and going somewhere? And if so, where? I'm just sceptical about this whole thing."
"There's gotta be..." Wyatt started to speak until Vince cut him off, lifting his left hand, his eyes darting around the room. "Hear it?"
Wyatt was about to say no until a thumping and a rasping echoed through the hall. "Is that..?"
Vince looked to his right as he heard a creaking. About ten metres to their right a set of double doors was bulging out of place as walkers banged on it from the inside. Vince and Wyatt stood still for a few minutes until the creaking became too worrying to bear. As they turned and started towards the main doors of the building and the road beyond, Vince heard a worrying crack and a thump as the walkers knocked the door off of its hinges. He looked at Wyatt who returned a worried stare. Feeling his grip tighten around his machete, Vince took a quick glance over his shoulder and saw a concerning amount of walkers about to bear down on them.
"Shit," he gulped as he and Wyatt broke into a run. "Time to go."