Author's Note: This is set in the 2014 that Dean saw, inspired by "The End." Hopefully, it's a little different from the others you might have read. If it is, let me know. If it's not, let me know. If it absolutely made you sick to read, let me know. Review please!!! =)
Her body was aching from her head to the tips of her toes—especially her toes. She couldn't recall the last time she had awoken without that ache—it had been years, at least. But at least she was alive—though perhaps death was preferable at this point. No, she had to live; there were people counting on her. She pulled her tired body off the hard, cold ground and sat up to face the day. Ironically, the sun shone brightly and there was not a cloud in the sky.
The night before, she had settled herself on a rock ledge about ten feet off the ground to go to sleep. It kept her protected from most animals and from the evil zombie monsters of death, and though it wasn't comfy, it was safe. Pulling her binoculars from her bag, she scanned the area around her, searching for potential threats. Seeing none, she threw on her pack and climbed down from her perch.
The minute her athlete's foot ravaged feet hit the ground, they hurt. It was like fire tearing through her with each step. She hadn't changed socks or taken off her shoes in three days—too dangerous. If she didn't have gangrene in her feet by the time she returned to camp, it would be a small miracle. She had two miles to go to where she had stashed the Jeep, and then a drive back to camp. It was a long day she had ahead of her—a long, painful day—and so she soldiered on.
The chance of running into anyone—zombie-folk included—in the rural woods was very slim, but she wasn't taking any chances. She had her pistol at the ready, and another tucked into the waistband of her pants. Her machete was tucked into a sheath attached to her thigh. Five years ago, had she run into anyone looking like this, they would have thought her insane. Now anyone who didn't look like they were ready for war was either suicidal or infected with whatever the hell that virus was called.
She trudged on through the forest, taking her time to get to the Jeep. If anyone was stalking her, they weren't zombies. Zombies couldn't sneak up on a deaf man. They were more the charge in guns blazing type. No, if someone was following her, it was far more likely that they were going to kill her once she reached the Jeep and then run off with her supplies. Either way, it was unacceptable. She had people waiting on her—mouths to feed.
Two hours later—two hours that would have been cut in half had her feet not ached so horribly—she reached her destination. It was an old banged-up Jeep, well-equipped for off-roading. She pulled the branches off of the car and scraped the mud off the windows before double-checking to make sure that all the supplies were still in the backseat where she had left them. Finding them just as she left them, she breathed a sigh of relief. Everything was untampered with—the canned goods, the crackers, the canned meat, the vitamins, tampons, toilet paper, antibiotic cream, cough syrup, and everything else they could possibly need for quite some time—it was all still there. Relief flooding through her veins, she climbed into the car and cranked it.
Immediately, the Jeep roared to life and she began her journey out of the woods—dodging trees and roots the best she could. Some branches just couldn't be avoided, but thankfully didn't damage the car. On the sun visor, there were several tattered and wrinkled pictures. One was of a little girl; she had chubby cheeks and curly red hair. She was smiling a snaggle-toothed grin as she clutched a stuffed animal mouse to her chest. Beside that picture was another one of an older couple holding up a large fish. She studied the pictures with a small smile as she pulled onto a country back road and headed for home.
Even though the camp was only two hundred miles away, it would take her all day to get there. She had to avoid towns—no matter how small. There was too high a chance of running into trouble in towns and cities. She had been damn lucky to get in and out of this one with as little trouble as she had. There had been three or four zombie men, but she had quickly put them down with a clean gunshot to the head. There was always a chance that there were more—they tended to run in packs—and she wasn't going to run the risk of leading them back to the others.
The landscape rolled by her as she kept an eye out for anything out of the ordinary. She avoided the highway—too many accidents had happened on the highway, and there were too many potential booby traps. Supplies were in too great a demand these days, and raiders from different survivor camps would booby trap the highways to steal supplies. And the broken down cars on the sides of the road offered far too much cover to potential threats. No, she would stick with her back roads.
She wished that she could play some music, but music would cover the sound of any approaching threats or distant noises, and she needed to be as aware of her surroundings as possible. When she finally got home she would be able to bathe, lie back on her bed and listen to some music—assuming that the batteries in the CD player hadn't died. Batteries were in short supply and she wouldn't be able to spare any from this raid to power her CD player. They were needed for the broadcasting radio—not that they ever managed to pick up others on the radio, but they tried every day.
She stopped only once, to use the bathroom, and that was only when she couldn't hold it any longer. Any stops were dangerous, no matter where she was, and it was even more dangerous to be caught with her pants down—literally and figuratively. She did her business quickly and was back in the Jeep within minutes. It didn't matter that she had been sitting down so long that her butt was numb. What mattered was that she reach camp early in the night. This would give her time to stash her car under the cover of darkness and be back to her cabin before the hustle and bustle of the morning. Of course, she couldn't guarantee that people wouldn't be up waiting for her, but at least she would be able to get some sleep without throwing off her schedule too much.
The sun was sinking in the sky as she neared her destination. It took every ounce of strength in her body to keep pushing onward. She glanced at the pictures once more and reminded herself that she could rest in just a few more minutes. The Jeep bounced along through the woods back to where their camp was hidden. She pulled up to the gates just as the sun dropped below the horizon. Two men pulled the gates open and motioned her inside. She pulled up in front of the large house that served as their base of operations.
"Cason, darling! It is good to have you home," an older woman said, emerging from the workshop and wrapping her arms around the newly returned scout. It was the same woman from the picture in the Jeep.
"Thanks, Faye. It's nice to be back. Where's Kendel?" she asked, grabbing supplies from the Jeep and carrying them inside to be put away in their proper places.
"She's already in bed. Why don't you let all of us put these away. You've been gone for days now, and you deserve the sleep."
The younger woman shook her head. It didn't matter that she had never in all of her twenty-seven years of life been more exhausted than she was right then. These people counted on her; they looked up to her, and she was going to pull her weight, no matter how tired she was. "I'll go over and check on her, and then I'll be right back."
Quickly, she headed across the camp to the tiny shed that she called home. Before everything had gone to hell in a hand basket, it had been a small supply shed. It was only just big enough for the double bed and table inside it. To go to the bathroom, they had to walk to the community toilet they had put up shortly after they had formed this place. Clothes were in small baskets stowed under the bed because there was no space for them anywhere else. They had a window unit for air conditioning and a tiny space heater for heat. In the winter it wasn't enough, and they just had to add more blankets.
Pushing open the door as quietly as possible, she saw the tiny form of a little girl huddled under the eight blankets that were piled on the bed, clutching a stuffed animal tightly to her. Cason smiled and crept inside to get a closer look. The girl's breathing was deep and even, a small smile on her face as she slept. Pressing a kiss to her forehead, Cason grabbed a change of clothes and crept back out of the shed and back to the main house, where everyone else was putting away supplies. Someone had moved the Jeep back into the workshop where it belonged.
"Cason, you look dead on your feet. Go to bed," Faye told her, seeing her fearless leader carrying a box of vitamins inside and setting them with the rest of the medical supplies. "You should probably take a shower first, though."
Cason stood and stared at the work being done right in front of her. All ten people who lived in the camp—Kendel being the exception—were gathered in one place putting away supplies as neatly and quickly as possible. They would be done in the next five minutes. There really was no point in staying, other than to remind everyone just who exactly was in charge. But they already knew that. No one was going to challenge her authority.
"If you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of anyone else," Faye reminded her. Cason nodded and headed for the bathroom, grabbing a towel out of the community basket on the way. It was a quick, cold shower, which didn't really provide much in the way of relief. It was a chance to get out of her shoes for the first time in days, though, which was quite the relief. She took extra special care in cleaning her blistered and cracked feet. Some of the blisters had blisters and were oozing. She really didn't want to think about what that meant, and she was too tired to get it looked at before bed.
Cason quickly dressed and checked back on the supplies. They were put away, and everyone had headed to bed. It was freezing as she made her way from the house back to her bed, where Kendel was snuggled warm under the covers. She slipped into bed beside the little girl, trying her best not to wake her. The girl didn't wake up, but instead snuggled closer to Cason, who smiled and wrapped her arms around her. Closing her eyes, she was asleep in minutes.
She wasn't asleep for long. A few hours later, she was awakened by someone pounding on her door. She sprang from the bed, grabbed her pistol, a machete, and a com set and opened the door. Standing on her doorstep was a young man—boy, really—who had stood guard.
"There's a group of people at the gate, and they've brought company with them?" he said in hushed tones.
"How many people?" she asked.
"Any idea just how much bad company we're going to be receiving?"
"A lot. Like, swarms," he answered tersely.
Cason nodded and took a deep breath, preparing herself for the orders she would have to give. It was risky, but if there were swarms of infected monsters coming their way, they would need all the help they could get. "Okay, let them in—"
"They could be infected—"
"It's not like the monsters aren't coming, anyway. Get those who can't fight into basement and lock it down. Tell them to use standard lockdown procedure. I'll be out at the gates in just a minute," she said, already heading back inside. She took Kendel by the shoulder and gently shook her awake. "Kendel? Wake up, sweetheart."
Before the child was awake, Cason already had her in her arms and was grabbing things she might need. An extra blanket, a change of clothes, her favorite stuffed animal. When Kendel was finally awake enough to realize that something was wrong, she began to cry. Cason ran her hands through the child's hair, trying to comfort her.
"I know you're scared, sweetie, but I need you to be brave for me. I'm going to take you to the basement with Mrs. Faye, okay? And you're going to stay with her for a little bit. Like a sleep over," she explained, trying not to frighten the girl. Kendel nodded, eyes wide and full of tears. "Now don't cry. You'll have fun with Mrs. Faye."
Cason hurried to the main house and made her way down into the basement, where Faye was waiting. She gave Kendel a final kiss on the forehead and sat her in Faye's lap. But when she turned to leave, Kendel clutched at her sleeve, desperate to keep her there.
"Mommy! Stay, mommy!" Kendel cried. Cason hugged the little girl tightly against her one last time.
"I can't. Mommy has to go fight, okay? Remember, Mommy loves you more than anything else in the whole world, okay? I love you bunches and bunches. How much do I love you?"
"Bunches and bunches," Kendel answered, smiling a little at the silly question.
"Now give Mommy a kiss," Cason said. The little girl complied immediately, throwing her arms around her mother's neck, trying to keep her there. It was horribly hard for Cason to pull away, but battle was calling and she needed to be there. Trying to keep the tears from spilling down her cheeks, she pulled away and left the room.
Just inside the gate, people were waiting for her. As soon as she arrived, she was no longer a loving mother, but a hard-hearted commander, telling her troops where to go and what to do, weighing lives and calculating risks. She sized up the new people standing before her. One was a tall heavier-set man who looked fairly solid and was carrying the largest knife that she had ever seen. One was a woman with olive skin and brown hair pulled back out of her face; she had a pistol in her hands and a wicked set of split knuckles. There was a wobbly looking man wearing a trench coat over jeans and some kind of ugly sweater; he didn't have a weapon and was appeared to be drunk. The last one appeared to be the leader. He was fairly tall with light brown hair and green eyes. He was armed to the teeth, and Cason couldn't help but wonder just how many times he had done this.
"Cason Butler," she said, extending a hand. The leader grasped it in a firm shake.
"Dean Winchester," he answered. "We've got a horde of croats on our tails. They're only a few minutes behind us."
"The infected people, zombie-men?" he clarified.
She nodded. "Do you have any idea about their numbers?"
"There's a lot of them."
"Right." She turned to her watchman. "Frank, I need you to tell everyone that we have a code red and that we're using plan A-9, so stay the hell away from the fences." He nodded and tore off across the property at top speed. She then repeated the order into her radio.
"Plan A-9?" Dean asked.
"We've got several electric generators around the property. We can connect them to the fence, and it will deliver a shock strong enough to kill. All the housing and supplies are set up far enough away from the fence so that if push comes to shove, we can set off our explosives that are just inside the perimeter. This place used to be a hunting cabin, so there are deer stands and tree houses all over the property. They're perfect sniper perches," she explained.
"Have you had to use this plan before?" he asked, staring as the croats approached. They took several steps away from the fence, quickly moving out of range of any explosives that they might have to potentially use.
"Not exactly. We've never seen this many before," she answered, staring in horror at the crowd before her. "Why?"
"Because things are about to get crazy," Dean answered, and Cason could have sworn she saw a small smile on his face.