When Jill came to she had no idea where she was but one thing was for certain: she hadn’t driven herself there.
She sat up and winced, one hand going to her head. She was surprised to note that it was bandaged (she didn’t realise she’d hit the ground that hard when she was zombie-tackled). The bite on her arm was wrapped in a similar fabric.
Jill swung her legs off the side of the bed and examined her surroundings. She was in a large, rather magnificent bedroom. Her hands went to rub against the soft, silk sheets. She didn’t think she’d ever felt comfort like this. It was surreal.
She stood up, swayed and promptly sat back down, trying to swallow a feeling of nausea. She closed her eyes and tried to focus on her other senses. Hearing was the simplest; Jack was yelling.
“She’s not going to turn!”
“How do you know that? And don’t just say ‘because you know’. Survival isn’t based on faith,” said an unfamiliar voice.
Jill gasped at the sound. People other than Jack! It was a miracle! She’d almost given up hope of finding others (Jill hadn’t considered the option of finding civilisation a genuine one; she’d never been that naïve).
“My father taught me that,” the stranger added, a note of pride in his voice.
A quiet grumbling came from the other room, followed by a muttered and rather insincere sounding apology.
“What do you know about survival?” Jack retorted. “I doubt ‘daddy’s boy’ has ever left this place.”
“Watch your mouth!” snapped the stranger. “This is my -”
“Daddy’s,” Jack corrected.
Jill could hear the smirk in his voice.
“- house and I won’t let you ruin everything by bringing her into its midst!” the stranger continued.
“Midst?” Jack exclaimed. “What kind of a twenty year old uses that word seriously?”
A soft chuckle came from the other side of the room and Jill’s grin was instantaneous. More than one person other than Jack?
“He’s not twenty but you’ve got a point,” said the second voice, this time female.
Jill decided to try standing again. It felt significantly less vomit-inducing on her second attempt. She walked towards the open bedroom door where her shoes had been placed. Someone obviously didn’t want to dirty their duvet.
“Father, what do you think?” said the first voice.
“Well,” The new voice was deep and gravelly. “if God has -”
Jack groaned loudly.
“One father at a time please. I’m starting to get confused.”
Despite herself Jill’s grin brightened. She’d never like Jack but she appreciated snark.
“I think Andrew has point,” said a fourth voice quietly. The others fell silent. “Your word isn’t good enough.”
Jill picked up her sneakers and moved into the open doorway. She could see that the room was ready to erupt into another argument. She’d seen Jack posturing before and she doubted that this would be the last time. Posturing by Jack usually meant danger for anyone around him. Then again, a cheeky smile could mean just the same. Jack was unpredictable in unnerving ways. It was one of the many reasons why she didn’t like the idea of leaving him alone with people who weren’t used to him. It was time to step in.
Jill toned down her smile a bit, so as not to freak anyone out. As far as they knew she had no reason to smile.
“Hello,” said Jill. “Where’s my gun?”
The room went quiet and the tall, lanky man who’d been arguing with Jack backed away. He was younger than Jill thought and looked to be in his late teens. The man who stood opposite him, on the other side of the sofa, made no movements but his expression was far from friendly. She wondered if perhaps she should’ve introduced herself first.
"Our gun, you mean,” said Jack.
Jill’s lips twitched. His eyes were teasing. She could tell that he was happy to see her and sometimes she wished that she could say the same.
“I think you’ll find it’s got my name on it,” she retorted. “Where is it?”
Jack rubbed his neck and ducked his head. Jill looked at him expectantly, continuing to ignore everyone else in the room. That gun was their only defence against those things. Plus it was her father’s. This mattered.
“Your name Barnes?”
Jill turned to look at the speaker and saw that the woman was giving her gun a practised once-over. Judging from Jack’s sheepish silence, Jill guessed that she had probably manhandled it off of him.
The stranger stood in front of a large flatscreen TV. Once again Jill was struck by the luxury of this strange home that she found herself in.
“Yeah. Jill Barnes,” she answered.
The woman glanced up at her.
“I’m Sophie. Nice gun.”
Jill decided that she didn’t like her. It may have been the paranoia from being stuck with only Jack for a year but something about Sophie set her teeth on edge. Perhaps it was the fact that she was holding something that didn’t belong to her.
“It is,” said Jill.
She made the mistake of nodding and was overcome by a brief bout of dizziness. Jack stepped forward to offer her a hand but she pushed him away and gripped the door frame instead.
“I’d like it back.”
“I don’t think there’d be much point in that,” said Sophie, flicking a strand of blonde hair out of her eyes. “I don’t think the recoil would do you much good right now.”
Jill frowned. What did she think she was going to do? Fire it inside? Nonetheless, she tried to keep her expression neutral. Jack’s clear admiration for the woman didn’t particularly help. His eyes looked ready to pop out. Honestly, take a gun off a guy and you think you’d get some peace.
“All the same -” Jill began.
“There’s a test I can do.”
Jill blinked and redirected her eyes to focus on a short woman with mouse hair. She was the only person in the room sitting down. Although, now that Jill saw the sofa, it didn’t look like such a bad idea.
“Sorry?” she said.
“There’s a test I can do to check if you’ve been infected.”
“You mean a bullet to the brain?” Jack snarled.
The woman on the sofa seemed to shrink at his tone.
“It tests for adrenaline,” she said quietly.
She had a faint accent but Jill couldn’t
determine of what kind.
“People who are infected have abnormal amounts of it,” the woman added.
Jack still glared.
Jill was surprised by his defensiveness. If there was a test that could get these people on her side, or at the very least, stop them from killing her in her sleep, she was willing to give it a try. She knew that she wasn’t infected but was also aware that her words alone would never convince them.
“Yes, the lady who’s been patching up your girlfriend is totally going to shoot her,” said Sophie, rolling her eyes.
Jack’s demeanour instantly changed. He shuffled uncomfortably and glanced at Jill.
“She’s not my girlfriend.”
Fortunately, Jill had only latched onto one part of the sentence.
“Are you a doctor?” she asked the woman on the sofa.
She nodded shyly.
“My name is Lisa,” she said.
“Thanks for helping me.”
Sophie looked slightly bored.
“’Don’t bother with that test Lis,” she said. “Bites don’t turn.”
The tall, lanky man looked at her incredulously.
“And you know this how?”
Sophie smiled grimly, leant the gun against the sofa and rolled up the long, purple sleeves of her top. The group let out a collective gasp at the sight of her blemished skin. Her arms were littered with bite marks and scars.
“I just do,” she said.