This is an idea I had in association with "Zombieland Rules 1-31". Columbus is called Austin here, as in "Austin, Texas"; this seemed like the best way to harmonize with the movie. I will be using this new story in part to develop a few ideas about different effects of the virus.

I'm adding a few song excerpts as I finish this, from "Growing Young" by Rich Mullins.

I've gone so far from my home
I've seen the world and I have known
So many secrets
I wish now I did not know
'Cause they have crept into my heart
They have left it cold and dark

And bleeding,
Bleeding and falling apart

Week 6, Day 1.

Location Tuscola. Solo again. Reports of outbreaks in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah. No news from Austin. No news from Ohio. Wireless service intermittent. Observed light armor units of the US Army, direction west. Course of action: Resume progress north, east.

Austin had no interest in a new partnership. Indeed, his last addition to the rules had been, One is safer than one of two. But he could not bring himself to move on when he heard the shots, and cries for help. He ran toward the motel. As he approached, he heard loud talking and shouts. Then more shots rang out, from three different weapons, including a shotgun and a submachine gun. It was clear that the shooters were firing at each other. He almost turned around, but then he heard a woman cry out, "We haven't hurt anyone!" He ran nearer, staying under what cover there was. There were two shotgun blasts, and an answering volley from the other two weapons. There was a strangled male cry, and an anguished woman's scream.

The vehicle in the parking lot was a marked police vehicle, a fact which meant very little in Zombieland. It gave him pause to see that the two men moving in had official insignias sewn onto their uniforms, but his course of action was settled in his mind. "Halt!" he shouted. One turned, but hesitated to shoot. Austin didn't. He dived behind a car as the man's partner opened up with an MP5. Then there was a shotgun blast. He peered over the car, and saw a woman coming out of the room, stepping over a dead man. Her profile could have been beautiful. He stood up and stepped toward her. "Stay back!" she shouted. As she spoke, she turned, and he saw the other side of her face- and the lesion on one cheek.

"Thank you," she said as he backed up. "Now go."

15 minutes later, with the hotel well behind him, he stopped to write:

Rule 17: Don't be a hero.