A flash sparked across the sky.
The ragged group looked up in disbelieving unison. It was the first man-made sound they’d heard in a month.
“What the…” Herman trailed off.
They stood dumbfounded for what seemed like eternity. Skeet, the first to tear his eyes away, looked around at the others. “Does anyone know what that was?”
They shook their heads.
Bob offered, “Flare?”
Gina said, “Naw, looked more like a rocket. They used to shoot them off down at the military base…before…” She trailed off, not even wanting to name what had happened.
They stood silent for a minute. Bob was the first to say it.
“We should follow it. It could be more survivors.”
Dylan shook his head, his long greasy hair swinging in emphasis. “Nuh-uh, no way. What if it’s a trap? Looters who want our guns? Or worse, someone with those little vials who wants to finish off the war with some mutant Anthrax? I don’t want to get into a gunfight with people who got rockets.”
“But what if it’s a signal? Maybe the military? We have to at least check it out!” a wide-eyed Kisha exclaimed. Everyone knew she was thinking of her missing husband. They shuffled their feet uncomfortably. They had all lost people during the epidemic, but Kisha seemed to think she was the only one suffering. They were getting a little tired of it.
Herman agreed, though, slowly nodding his head. “Kisha’s right. We don’t have to go in there all friendly-like and offer ’em our weapons or nothin’. We can sneak up on ’em. Do a little recon, then decide what to do.”
The group nodded, with the exception of Dylan, who pursed his lips and shook his head again. Knowing he was outvoted though, he kept silent.
“So, do we tear down camp then, load up the trucks?” Gina asked.
The group looked around them. None of them were attached to the place, a smattering of tents thrown up in the shadow of an abandoned warehouse. It had been isolated enough during the epidemic, but the worst of it was over. The radio had been silent for weeks.
Everyone decided they had been waiting a long enough time to know that no one was coming for them. The war was over. They had to move on some time.
Slowly, they started rounding up the gear, gathering supplies of canned food and bottled water.
Despite their certainty that they were doing the right thing, they couldn’t help but feel that this would be how it ends. None of them admitted this to each other, though. In a world with nothing but unanswered questions, the opportunity to solve at least one riddle proved too strong a temptation to resist.
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