It didn’t take long for Hannah to get a fire up and back down to hot embers. Many years hunting with the family provided her with a surprisingly useful skill she hadn’t thought practical outside of the wilds of Kansas.

“Alllllrriiiteee … let’s get cooking … what do we have?” She laughed. They kinda just dumped the pantry into the back of the truck so it wasn’t like anyone took inventory. The only thing she knew was that she had packed camping gear for this exact situation but that was it!

Rafael dug into his sack and produced a couple cans of baked beans he lifted from the houses back in Kiryas Joel. “I have these, if you’d like to cook them now.” He figured that offering food was the best way to ingratiate himself with this new group.

Devin rifled through the bag of goods she and River grabbed from the truck when they were looking for the rope for Bandit. “Using up the perishables, we got dogs and what looks like pork chops, I say we cook ‘em both before they go bad. “

“We may want to save the canned goods.” Rio added. “They’d go great, but they travel better than this fridge food will. Ration it just in case we have to make another run for it.”

Rafael understood that logic, then after returning the cans to his sack, he produced a handful of cliff bars and tossed them out to the group. He only had two left after distributing nearly the entire box. “Well this could hold us over for a little while. Should we need to walk, the calories will be invaluable. 10 miles on foot is no easy task, especially not with at least ⅓ of the New York City population trying to eat us.”

“And all the people that bite in the camp … oh and the highway …” River shuttered.

“Yea whatever it is they don’t move fast but they’re relentless.” Saint said fishing out stuff that LOOKED like a thing something camping would use to cook. Pan ...check … a rack thingie ...maybe? He dragged it over to Hanna to figure out.

“Pork chops and dogs it is.” Hanna declared assembling the cooking grill.

“They closed off the whole fucking city.” Devin added with a shrug. “Like - closed. All the bridges, all the tunnels, no way in or out of the city or the Island, but we seen enough of them outside the city to know whatever they were tryin’ to contain didn’t work.”

“I’d have to agree with you there. My trainer and I made it out of the city early, and stayed in the town of Kiryas Joel for a couple nights. Then those things swooped in and turned the entire town into a Stephen King novel. I barely made it out with my life, my trainer didn’t. Whatever has happened, I doubt it will be ending any time in the near future. Perhaps all we can hope for is a sanctuary to ride it out.” Rafael chimed in as he munched on his protein bar.

“What were you doing in Kiryas Joel?” Devin asked, quirking an eyebrow. The new guy looked like he could be some sort of athlete, but what the hell kind of sport did they play up that way?

“Well I was at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in NYC for the Manhattan Chess Open when this all started. My chess trainer used to be a cop, so he picked up on the odd behavior of the city and the military pretty quickly and told me we needed to leave. We drove as far out of the city as we could before eventually the military stopped us and stole our SUV. Then they forced us into a camp outside of Kiryas. I stole all of this stuff from one of the looted stores in town while the riots were happening. An hour or so after that, I guess the noise attracted the… cannibals? Yeah… Well the rest is history.” Raffy attempted to explain his situation as best as he could.

Devin nodded along, listening. “I didn’t know they had chess trainers, that’s some… saving Bobby Fisher stuff right there.”

“Indeed they do,” Raffy reaffirmed, “most professional competitors have a trainer. Mine was a great guy, though we’d only known each other for about a year. Still, sad to see him go like that. We weren’t close, but he was still a friend.”

Soon enough Hannah had the smell of cooking meat being carried on the wind. How long since they had a real hot meal?

River couldn’t help but edge closer. Dang it smelled good!

“Yea heard folk in that neighborhood … you know ... “ Saint said letting it hang as he kept rummaging looking for something that could pass for plates and knives. Maybe he had news on what was going on. They had gone from a 24-hour news cycle to … nothing. Overnight! “I’m just saying the one time I been through that town it was like Children of the Corn! There I said it.”

Rodrigo shot his nephew a quick reprimanding glance.

“What’s that?” River asked. “Do the kids grow corn there?”

“No, chica, it’s a poorer neighborhood moneywise. Lotta religion though, not a lotta crime, just not much money, you know?”

“But what does that have to do with corn?” River asked

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