Father Gregory Matthews skulked to the end of the alleyway, the street quiet. No people. No zombies. He lingered on every window for sign or movement. His eyesight deteriorated enough to make him uncertain of the shadows. The bag under his cowl cinched tight around some mushrooms and squirrel meat for Amila.
Gregory was starved and shaking, the cord of the bag painfully chafed his arm, breaking the skin. Years of prayer and fasting held him steady, holding on to the food for his sister. Most men would kill just for the mushrooms.
Praying for deliverance, he dragged himself across the street into another alley, then slipped into a door barely hanging from its hinges. The door came loose and crashed to the ground, and the priest darted across the abandoned clothing store, into a back room and hid behind a desk.
The strained groans of zombies arose, but they were off a ways. He scurried from behind the desk and followed his usual way through back rooms, stairs and hallways until he reached a skywalk, still intact. He was halfway across when a young boy, maybe fifteen, came around the corner on the other side. Clean and healthy. Gregory’s hunger overwhelmed him for a moment, inciting him to violence, his stomach burning as if it held sharp edged coals, but he pushed it down, ready to defend his sister’s meal.
The boy yelped and ran.
Fr. Matthews tried to cry out, “It’s okay! I won’t hurt you!” but he choked on the words, his throat still shredded from his screams just a few days before. Shit. He may bring others. The priest started into an awkward trot, his legs weak and in pain. He knew the temptations of this loathsome time, and disaster would find him if he didn’t hurry. Zombie snarls grew louder. He had to lose them before they caught his trail and followed him to Amila.
He took the long way, rounding a block and dodging in and out of building husks, finally waiting a few doors down from their hideaway until he was certain the zombies wouldn’t find him. Father Matthews didn’t know if his broken body could manage running to find a new refuge for them. He slid down the walkway, entered their building, and wound through the passages to their room—a defunct meat freezer that he had fitted with a lock on the inside. He prayed she was safe inside as he tapped their secret knock. The familiar thunk of her unlocking it.
In the back Amila looked up at him with her almond eyes and smiled, a hint of reticence. He tried to smile, but he couldn’t feel his lips. He reached under his cowl and produced the parcel, pulling the string to open it, mushrooms and meat squished together. She came to him and hugged him, kissing his cheek, enduring the carrion stench of his decaying flesh. For love of her brother she endured his repulsiveness, as he endured the pains of his desire for the love of Amila. The intense desire for fresh brains.