Beach Picnic

„It’s getting dark, we should find a place to rest.“ Aaryad seemed tired from walking in the sand for so long. It was harder to walk when the ground gave way ever so slightly with every step. Saif felt the same.
“We’ll get back on the streets over there. Maybe we could rest in that diner.” She pointed forwards.

They had removed their shoes, to keep the sand out of them. It was also nice to let the cold ocean sweep over their feet. It reminded Saif of vacations.

Aaryad fell back, so Saif stopped.
“Should I carry you? It’s only a little more.”
“No…” her child gasped.
“It’s no problem.”
“I’ll have to get stronger. I can’t stop when it gets harder anymore.”
Saif knew he was right. He will not always have the time to rest. But in those cases, the will to survive would give him strength.
“There are no ghouls in sight, we could take a break and have a beach picnic. Walking those two kilometers won’t help you all that much. Let’s have a nice moment while we can.”
Aaryad fell into the sand. Saif placed down the sword to her left and opened her bag.
“Would you like a carrot?”
“I want cookies.”
“The end of the world is no reason to eat unhealthy food, young man.”
“Why not?”
“…A cookie and a carrot, alright?”

Saif gave Aaryad the food. He ate the carrot first, but took his time with it. Saif just ate a cookie herself. Aaryad was still growing, so he could use the carrots more. She’d be fine. She had been quite athletic before the end but now she had to walk and run, climb and fight ghouls throughout the entire day, every day. Though getting fat was the least of her concerns. Maybe she could take a carrot too. To stay strong and defend her son.

“Do you think we could’ve done something?” Aaryad asked while picking shells out of the sand with one hand and holding the cookie with the other.
“Done what?”
“I don’t know. Do you think?”
“What do you mean?”
“For preventing all these people from going bad.”
“No. I don’t think so.”
“Do you think… he is still alive?”

Saif knew Aaryad never said ‘my father’ or used his name. Because he had never heard Saif do it.
Saif didn’t want to say she didn’t hope so, so she said nothing.
“I hope not.” Aaryad looked down, guilty, “Because he hurt you. I hope he is dead, so that he can’t hurt more people. There’d be nothing to stop him now.”
Saif didn’t know what to say.
“Do you love me, mama?”
“More than anything, Aaryad.”
“Then there’s at least that.”

Saif felt like crying. Aaryad still looked guilty, like he said something really bad. Saif laid her arms around him and kissed his cheek.
“I’m ready to go on.” Aaryad stood up and offered Saif a hand. Saif took it but stood up herself. Aaryad was too small to pull her up. She took her sword and told Aaryad: “Stay close.”
“What is it?”
“Are you sad?”
“No, I’m alright, sweetie.”
“That makes me happy then.”
“Did the cookie taste good?”
“And the carrot?”
“Mama can we play?”
“No, when we’re there.” Aaryad pointed at the diner.
“Maybe. We’ll see when we get there.”

When leaving the beach, the two put their shoes back on. Saif could see the diner windows had been barricaded. There could be people inside. Or their remains.
“Aaryad, can you hide behind this wall? I’ll make sure everything is safe.”

Aaryad knew what he had to do. He jumped down the stairs to the beach and hid behind the short wall separating it and the street. Saif snuck to the door of the diner and listened for voices. She heard footsteps instead. She stepped behind the corner as the door opened. An asian woman stepped out.

“Hello?” she shouted out.
Wouldn’t be the first one that could speak to confuse its prey. Saif readied her sword and stepped forth.
“Wha- oh shit, come on!” the woman put her hands up instinctively. She had a hammer on her waist. Clean.
“I’m friendly if you are.” Saif said.
“I am!”
Saif trusted her instincts here, and her instinct said she was trustworthy. She put her sword back.
“We cool?” the woman asked.
“Yeah. What’s your name?”
“Tora Akamatsu. Nice to meet you.”
“I’m Saif El Hashim. Aaryad, you can come out.”
Aaryad hopped back up the stairs.
“Hey, a kid! Now I trust you! The Monids are terrible at imitating kids!” Tora smiled. “Hey, buddy!”
“Is she our friend now?” Aaryad asked.
“I think so. Is the diner a safe place to sleep?”
“Yeah. Do you want to stay? I’ve got enough food too. If you promise to stick around. I could use someone who’s good with a sword.”
“For what?”
“Safety. This hammer is more for nailing boards before windows than bashing zombie heads in. I have to get way too close to them too. Glad most of them crawl around inland.”
“Alright then, deal.” Saif offered her hand.
Tora took it and shook it. She had a strong grip. “Deal.”