The Infinite Sea (Page 14)

“We can’t hide in a city, Zombie,” Ringer said. “Any city.”

“Why?”

“Because it isn’t safe. Fires, sewage, disease from all the rotting corpses, other survivors who must know by now they’re using human bodies. If we want to stay alive as long as possible, we have to keep moving. Keep moving and stay alone as long as possible.”

Oh, boy. Where did I hear that rule before? My head felt light. My knee was killing me. The knee shot by a Silencer. My Silencer. I’ll find you, Cassie. Don’t I always find you? Not this time, Evan. I don’t think so. I sat on the bed next to Ben.

“She’s right,” I said to him. “Staying anywhere for more than a few days is not a good idea.”

“Or staying together.”

Ringer’s words hung in the icy air. Beside me, Ben stiffened. I closed my eyes. Heard that rule, too: Trust no one.

“Not going to happen, Ringer,” Ben said.

“I take Teacup and Poundcake. You take the rest. Our chances double.”

“Why stop there?” I asked her. “Why don’t we all split up? Our chances quadruple.”

“Septuple,” she corrected me.

“Well, I’m no math whiz,” Ben said. “But it seems to me splitting up plays right into their strategy. Isolate, then exterminate.” He gave Ringer a hard look. “Personally, I like the idea of someone having my back.”

He pushed himself from the bed and swayed for a second. Ringer told him to lie back down. He ignored her.

“We can’t stay, but we have nowhere to go. You can’t get to nowhere from here, so where do we go?” he asked.

“South,” Ringer said. “As far south as possible.” She was looking out the window. I understood—a decent snow and you’re trapped until it thaws. Ergo, get somewhere where it doesn’t snow.

“Texas?” Ben said.

“Mexico,” Ringer answered. “Or Central America, once the water recedes. You could hide in the rain forest for years.”

“I like it,” Ben said. “Back to nature. There’s just one little flaw.” He spread his hands. “We don’t have passports.”

He watched her, holding the gesture, like he was waiting for something. Ringer looked back at him, expressionless. Ben dropped his hands with a shrug.

“You’re not serious,” I said. This was getting ridiculous. “Central America? In the middle of winter, on foot, with Ben hurt and two little kids. We’ll be lucky to make it to Kentucky.”

“Beats hanging around here waiting for your alien prince to come.”

That did it. I didn’t care if she was holding an M16. I was grabbing a handful of those silky locks and slinging her out that window. Ben saw it coming and stepped between us.

“We’re all on the same team here, Sullivan. Let’s keep it together, okay?” He turned to Ringer. “You’re right. He probably didn’t make it, but we’re gonna give Evan a chance to keep his promise. I’m in no shape for a road trip anyway.”

“I didn’t come back for you and Nugget so we could be the featured guests at a turkey shoot, Zombie,” Ringer said. “Do what you think is right, but if things get hot, I’m out of here.”

I said to Ben, “Team player.”

“Maybe you’re forgetting who saved your life,” Ringer said.

“Oh, kiss my a*s.”

“That does it!” Ben boomed in his best quarterback, I’m-the-guy-in-charge-here voice. “I don’t know how we’re making it through this unholy mess, but I do know that this is not the way. Stow the crap, both of you. That’s an order.”

He fell back onto the bed, gasping for air, a hand pressed against his side. Ringer left to find Dumbo, which left Ben and me alone for the first time since our reunion deep in the bowels of Camp Haven.

“Something weird,” Ben said. “You would think, with ninety-nine percent of us gone, the two percent would get along better.”

Um, that would be one percent, Parish. I started to point that out and then saw him smiling, waiting for me to correct his math, knowing it would nearly impossible for me to resist. He played with the stereotype of the dumb jock the way someone Sammy’s age played with sidewalk chalk: in broad, clumsy strokes.

“She’s a psycho,” I said. “Seriously, something’s off. You look in her eyes and there’s no one there there.”

He shook his head. “I think there’s a lot there. It’s just . . . real deep.”

He winced, hand tucked in the pocket of that hideous hoodie like he was doing a Napoleon impression, pressing on the bullet wound that Ringer had given him. A wound he asked for. A wound so he could risk everything to save my little brother. A wound that now may cost him his life.

“It can’t be done,” I whispered.

“Of course it can,” he said. He laid his hand on top of mine.

I shook my head. He didn’t understand. I wasn’t talking about us.

The shadow of their coming fell upon us and we lost sight of something fundamental within the absolute dark of that shadow. But simply because we couldn’t see it didn’t mean it wasn’t there: My father mouthing to me, Run! when he couldn’t. Evan pulling me from the belly of the beast before giving himself up to it. Ben plunging into the jaws of hell to snatch Sam from them. There were some things—well, there was probably only one thing—unblemished by the shadow. Confounding. Indefatigable. Undefeatable.

They can kill us, even down to the last of us, but they can’t kill—can never kill—what lasts in us.