Music echoes through the woods, the beats low and quiet. Some singer called Bruno sings along to the melody. I swear, the world better prepare.
“For when I’m a billionaire!” I finish the lyric, stood high on our freshly cut logs. The scent of wood and damp dirt lingers heavy in the air, a breeze rustles the low branches of trees and twists my hair.
The beat plays on but I’m interrupted by a deep “Ahem.” I spin on the log, keeping my arms spread wide for balance. “I know your voice is beautiful, but we really need those logs.” Harvey gestures to my unsteady stage.
I hop off with a frown. “I was on break.” I mutter, wrapping my arms around Harvey’s shoulders. “You should go on one too, we can chill, sing together.”
He quirks a brow but doesn’t shift the smile from his face. “And finish building the house when?”
“If I’d have known building a house would take this long I would’ve resigned myself to our fate dreaming about glamour while living around puddles of questionable liquids!” I pull my arms away and rest my forehead on his shoulder instead.
Harvey laughs and pats my back. “We could’ve gotten that glamour if you’d let me get the money.”
“Steal the money. No dude, that’s dangerous and you’re better than that.” I pick my head up, tap his cheeks with a smile.
“Mhm, let's at least get these logs fitted and then we can break.”
I look down to the logs, back up at Harvey’s soft features. I let out an extended groan. He’s almost impossible to say no to with those shining leafy eyes of his. Unless he’s doing something stupid. “Fine, grab one end.”
Time ticks by to the beats of the music playing from our found phone. Not stolen. Not that there’s a use for mobiles in this age – aside from music, photos and writing messages in the cute little notepad apps.
The sun begins to set as we take a seat inside the shallow walls of our unfinished cabin. Orange light drips onto us through the branches of the trees, shadows of pine needles sparkling all over. The thinning clouds of the recent rainstorm are dyed a rainbow of warm hues, dipping us into a world so serene and magical. Somewhere far away from the reality of our lives.
Harvey leans his head against my shoulder, taking sips from his bottle. We plug the earphones in, a treasured find in a place where noise can be lethal, and rest a bud in an ear each.
“I can’t wait til we finish this. Til we barely have to see the city again.” Harvey says wistfully, his voice drifting far into the depths of his relaxed tones.
I hum in response, trying to keep my tired eyes from closing. The air has a spring chill to it, the wind dusting our cheeks, but I’m relaxed. Soaking up the little heat radiating from Harvey’s toned body.
I can’t sleep. Not here. We might be high on the hills of the English countryside, but that doesn’t make us safe. Safer, but not out of the grasp of danger. There could be people with malicious intent wandering the woods, or a zombie or five following the scent of some injured animal.
We won't be out of harm's way until we complete our house, equipped with the protective perimeter. It’s already been a year, might take a second. But we’ll get there – I heckin hope.
"You want a refill for the walk back?" I ask, holding a hand out for Harvey's water bottle.
He nods, handing it to me with a soft "Thanks."
I pull myself up, drag my feet across the mossy forest floor. I pass by broken branches, piles of browning needles and carefully step from one shakey rock to the other once I'm at the stream.
It cascades down the stones, spraying into the air upon impact. I'm not sure if you can call this short drop a waterfall, but the water sure is falling. It creates a gentle showering sound, nothing too overpowering.
I dip our bottles into the pool of water right before the drop, being careful of the muddy bottom. I don't want to stir up the dirt and collect that. Our general hope with this mountain-tethered water source is that it's fresh and, most importantly, there are no breathing dead people contaminating the water up here. They have no reason to be–
I finish scooping the water and twist the caps back on, slowly rising to my feet.
In the very edge of my peripheral, I spot a figure laying on a bed of dirt. It's distant, between two trees, but I can make out just enough. They're human.
Why would a human be out here? They aren't moving so I can only assume that they're dead. Why would a dead human be out here?
With the nauseous feeling of dread prickling in my gut, I look around to scan the area. Nothing but a peaceful pine forest, untouched by human hands. My eyes float back to the figure.
I take a breath and cross the stream, slowly approaching the man on the ground. He's big, probably taller than Harvey. His clothes are a mess of grime and tares and blood, his skin grey and purple with bruises. Definitely infected.
I straighten up, ready to turn back with the assumption that he lost his path, followed the smell of meat from an animal or something, but I do a double take. This fucker was shot square in the head. A deep bullet hole ripping through his skin and skull.
Someone with a gun had been here, near our house, near our dreams. What were they doing?
I turn my back to the deceased, sucking in my shaking breaths. It takes me a few seconds to get my legs moving, unthawed from their anxious position. I pass the stream, eventually breaking into a run before I'm back at the cabin.
Harvey's laying on his back, legs still crossed. He's staring up at the clouds in silence, a thoughtful look on his face. A quiet moment that my heavy puffs of breath shatter.
"Woah, what happened?" He asks, sitting up.
I hand him his bottle, calming my brain. This isn't that big, I'm making it sound worse than it is. Totally. But, no matter if that person–or people–were here with malicious intentions or not, they brought a zombie up here. What if more people did?
"People have been here." I finally say, my tone cutting serious.
Harvey's eyebrows furrow. "What?"
"They've been here, shot one of them not far from the stream. We'll have to keep an eye out." I clench my bottle, hating how nervous I sound, how scared I am.
We can't lose this house.
"Nas, breathe. Slowly." Harvey's on his feet, on the ground in front of me. He rests his calloused hands on my shoulders, rubbing my jacket with his thumbs.
I do as he says, steadying myself. "I'm okay. We just – we'll keep a lookout."
"We will." He reassures me, bending to meet my eye, his green gaze unbreakable.
Seconds go by as I breathe and he stares. His hair is a mess from the wind and work, long strands of dirty blonde hair dancing around his head, free from the loup he tied them into. That, along with the roundness of his eyes, make him look playful. A childish look, despite the speckles of hair growing along his jaw – something he wishes would give up growing.
I can't help the smile overtaking my cheeks, that turns into a laugh the moment Harvey's face contorts into confusion. He slowly loses his grip on his seriousness, stumbling into laughter with me.
"Dude, what the hell?" He questions. When I don't reply, he turns back to the cabin to retrieve our bags. "I've worked you too hard, you're going insane. Let's go back before it gets dark."
We'll be okay. I have to keep a cherry of optimism otherwise I really will go insane. We'll be fine.
"Aye sir!" I snap my fingers and point a cheery finger gun at him. Not what I heard army men used to do, but this is cheerier.
We secure our bags on our backs and set off for the city – a good hours walk in the morning when we're refreshed. Maybe closer to 2 in the evening. But at least we have our music.
"Shit, we'll need to charge the phone when we get back." Harvey mutters, tapping the screen.