Peggy sat nearby. She looked tired as she clutched her notepad. “We’ll need space for another garden and the sooner the better. We need to plant soon.”
“If we bring in some of the surviving livestock, we’ll need that big empty lot behind the Dollar Store,” Bill said.
“Another reason to build a new wall back there,” Eric interjected. “That will make sure that the area is secure.”
“We definitely need to think about our food supplies.” Peggy looked up, her expression one of worry. “We got enough for now, but what about the future?”
“Do you think having multiple entrances into the fort is wise? We already have the Panama Canal and the loading dock on the side of the hotel,”
Eric added. “If we expand, maybe we should consider that as well.”
“We don’t want to be trapped either,” Nerit answered. “Should something go wrong.”
“I think I have a headache,” Travis said with a wry smile.
“No one ever said recreating Eden would be easy,” Katie responded.
Nerit cleared her throat and said in a steady, firm voice, “Look, the zombies are not smart, nor are they that fast anymore. But they are dangerous when in a large group. They are persistent. They don’t give up.
If there is any weak spot in our defenses, we better get it shored up now before we have something more to worry about.”
“I agree with what she said,” Jenni piped up, ignoring Juan’s look of disapproval.
“I say we expand while we got the chance,” Juan ignored Jenni’s look of disapproval.
“I know the fort defenses are very important. But so is food. We need to build up our stores. We need a garden. We need livestock,” Peggy said worriedly.
“She’s right. I was working on the food inventory with Rosie. We have to make long term plans,” Katie added.
Calhoun raised his hand high over his head.
“Yeah?” Travis looked at him bleary-eyed. He hated being Mayor. It wasn’t easy making the tough choices.
“I got chickens,” the old man offered. “Automatic feeder and water probably have them doing just fine.”
Everyone laughed. Travis knew they had all been expecting something crazy. He had been ready for some insane conspiracy theory.
“Got my whole place rigged up on timers and thermal detectors.”
“Fresh eggs would be great,” Peggy said with an almost desperate tone in her voice. “We could all really use the protein in our diets.”
Travis stood up and wandered over to the rail. Looking across the empty lot in front of the hotel, he saw a zombie staggering down the road. It had its hand out, reaching toward the fort. Another stumbled into view further down the road.
The undead never stopped coming, did they?
“Inner wall first, then we need to move fast on the expansion. Can we really afford to not make sure we’re completely secure?” Travis decided aloud. He had to admit to himself he was thinking of Katie and the baby.
The new fort council took this in, then everyone slowly nodded.
“Well, I’m going to go ahead and send out more supply missions,” Bill decided. “Juan, we’ll need a complete list of building supplies and we’ll pull some of those construction trucks out.”
Peggy shook her head at Travis’ question. “Not within a fifty mile radius.
And people beyond that are going quiet. No one is reporting heavy zombie activity, but everyday it seems like less and less people are on the horn.”
“Okay then. Inner wall it is.”
Travis watched as the first zombie disappeared from view behind the outer wall. Silently, he watched as a guard walked over with a long spear and got into position. The guard brought the spear down hard into the head of the out-of-sight zombie and gave it a firm wiggle to make sure.
When he drew it back up, gore decorated the end of it.
He hated the violence of this new world.
She tossed out a bag of garbage from the second floor window of the old movie theater into the dumpster below. She was clad in jeans and a tank top and sweat was pouring down her face.
Katie swept more debris into a dustpan, then dumped that into another garbage bag. Her hair was pinned on top of her head with blond tendrils poking out at odd angles. Her face was flushed and she was breathing hard. The ice and cold were gone. It was eighty degrees outside.
Leaning out the window, Jenni craned her neck to look over the new wall that cut off the street just after the theater and stretched across to a clothing store on the other side. A block in every direction from the fort was reclaimed territory, and their world suddenly seemed much larger.
They weren’t necessarily spreading out, not yet. The hotel was comfortable and safe, but they needed to have more leeway in defending their home.
Meanwhile, the restoration of the theater was purely for entertainment.
Peggy and Rosie, Juan’s mother, worked hard to put on social events every week to help the fort’s inhabitants blow off steam and relax. But there was an awareness that people needed something closer to the world they had once lived in. A place to walk, a place to hang out, a place to go to the movies, and the such. It would be an enormous stress reliever to get the theater up and running. People needed a diversion from the day in, day out stresses of surviving in a world infested with the hungry dead.
The theater was a mess and needed a lot of work. When the owner had died, his wife had shut up the theater, leaving it as it was. She then pretended he wasn’t dead, just busy at work. The fort people had found everything just as he had left it, including the upstairs room they were cleaning out. It was full of the old man’s porn mags and fetish gear. Jenni almost died laughing when she found the secret stash.
“Can you imagine this old guy hanging out here all the time with all this stuff while his wife thinks he is working?” Jenni grinned at Katie as she shoved more fetish magazines into the trash.
Katie blew a strand of hair out of her eyes and looked around the room at the piles of trash bags. “I would hate to know what all he was up to.”
Jenni dangled some shackles and handcuffs in front of Katie and tossed those in a box for Bill, the police officer, to look at. “And who with?”
It had taken awhile to clean out the room. Now they were bagging up the trash. Downstairs, they could hear people talking as the theater was cleaned thoroughly.
Jenni looked out the window again. “Hey, that nurse is still up on the roof across the street taking notes.”
“Yeah,” Jenni adjusted her gloves, then grabbed another bag and hurled it out the window. “Do you like her?”
Katie pondered this, then shrugged. “She’s different. Very...methodical.
She’s kinda abrupt during my examinations, but she’s thorough.” So far Katie was in good health and her pregnancy was going well. She leaned down to pick up a full, black trash bag.
Jenni lifted the big bag, shooing Katie away. “You’re pregnant. No heavy lifting.”
“Yes, Mom,” Katie said, rolling her eyes. “I swear, between you and Travis, I don’t know how I am allowed out of bed.”
“You’re just lucky we don’t use those shackles on you!”
Jenni looked out the window to see the Reverend Thomas pulling up to the front of the building on a power mower with a large cart attached to the back. The cart was loaded up with sacked lunches. Jenni liked the Reverend. He was always smiling and laughing. Plus, his sermons were actually good and not at all boring.
“People need God in times like these,” he had said to her at lunch one day.
“We’re in the new Eden...just got more than that damn snake to deal with.”
Jenni yanked her gloves off and tossed them onto a pile of cleaning supplies. “Let’s go eat. I’m hungry and need a break.”
“Sounds good,” Katie answered. “I’m pretty tired, too.” She rubbed her swelling belly absently and chunked her gloves into a corner.
Together, they trudged down the narrow staircase. The fading black and white pictures of old movies stars were strangely comforting. Jenni blew a kiss at Cary Grant as they passed his photo. She tried not to think about the fact that Hollywood was now gone and movies were now relics of the past. Maybe someday humanity would get control of the world again, and new movies would fill old theaters.
Outside, the workers gathered around the cart. They were cleaning their faces and hands with damp hand towels. Jenni grabbed one from a laundry basked and pressed the moist cloth to her face. It felt amazing and refreshing. After cleaning her face, she ran it over her hands and arms, already feeling much better.
Katie tossed her used one into another basket for the dirty towels. “That felt good, but I’m dying for a shower.”
Jenni nodded and draped the towel over the back of her neck to cool her down. She was starved and when the Reverend Thomas handed her a lunch bag, she clutched it gratefully.