Episode 4 – A New Companion

Episode 4 – A New Companion

Rania wakes with the first light of dawn filtering through the cracks in the wooden walls. The sleeping quarters are quiet, the rest of the group still lost in sleep. She turns to see Mireya, curled up with the kitten nestled close. The sight brings a rare, soft smile to her face.

Rania sits up, stretching her sore muscles. Each day poses its own challenges, and today is no exception. She needs to keep moving, keep planning, but for now, she wants to spend a moment with Mireya, to teach her, to bond with her.

“Mireya,” she whispers gently, reaching out to touch the girl’s shoulder. “Time to wake up.”

Mireya stirs, blinking sleepily. The kitten stretches and yawns beside her, tiny paws reaching out. Mireya sits up, rubbing her eyes, and smiles when she sees Rania.

“Good morning,” she mumbles.

“Good morning,” Rania replies. “Come with me. I want to show you something.”

They slip out of the sleeping quarters, careful not to wake the others. The settlement is just beginning to stir, a few early risers moving about their tasks. Rania leads Mireya to the edge of the settlement, where the forest looms, its dense foliage offering both danger and protection.

They find a spot on a fallen log, sitting side by side. The air is cool and crisp, the morning light casting a gentle glow over the trees.

“Before all this,” Rania begins, her voice quiet, “the world was a very different place. It was busy and noisy, but it was safe. We didn’t have to worry about zombies or raiders. We had homes, schools, parks… things you’ve probably never seen.”

Mireya listens intently, her wide eyes reflecting the curiosity and longing of a child who has seen too much of the world’s harshness. “What was it like? Did you have a family?”

Rania nods, a sad smile tugging at her lips. “I did. I was in the military, stationed in a big city. My days were filled with training and missions, but I always made time for my family. My parents… we used to spend weekends playing games and having get together with other relatives. It was… it was good.”

Mireya’s gaze drops to her hands, her voice trembling. “I had a family too. My mom and dad. They tried to protect me, but…”

Rania places a comforting hand on Mireya’s shoulder. “It’s okay. You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”

Mireya shakes her head, tears filling her eyes. “No, I want to. They got taken by the zombies. We were running, and I fell. They stopped to help me, and… and…”

She breaks down, sobbing quietly. Rania pulls her into a gentle hug, feeling her own eyes sting with tears. “I’m so sorry, Mireya. I’m so, so sorry.”

They sit there for a while, Mireya crying softly into Rania’s shoulder. The kitten mews, as if sensing the sadness, and curls up next to them.

When Mireya’s sobs finally subside, she pulls back, wiping her eyes. “Thank you,” she whispers. “For everything.”

Rania smiles, brushing a strand of hair from Mireya’s face. “We’re in this together now. We’ll take care of each other.”

Mireya nods, a small smile forming on her lips. “I’d like that.”

Rania stands up, retrieving a small knife from her belt. “I want to teach you something useful today.”

She leads Mireya to a small clearing just inside the forest. The ground is soft, covered in fallen leaves. “This is a snare trap,” Rania explains, kneeling down. “It’s simple but effective. We use it to catch small animals like rabbits for food.”

She shows Mireya how to set up the trap, using a piece of string and a bent sapling. Mireya mimics her movements, her small hands working carefully. “See? It’s not too hard,” Rania says, smiling encouragingly. “You just have to be patient and careful.”

Mireya’s face lights up with pride. “I think I can do it.”

“I know you can,” Rania replies warmly.

They sit back, watching the trap for a moment. The forest is alive with the sounds of birds and rustling leaves. It’s almost peaceful, a stark contrast to the chaos they’ve been living in.

As they sit in silence, Rania feels the weight of her past pressing down on her. She looks at Mireya, who has lost so much at such a young age. She will protect this girl, no matter what.

The conversation drifts back to the past, to memories of a world that no longer exists. Rania shares stories of her time in the military, of the missions she went on, the people she met. Mireya listens with rapt attention, soaking in every word.

Eventually, Mireya opens up about her own past, her voice trembling as she recounts her story. “My mom and dad were good people. They always took care of me. When the outbreak happened, we tried to stay together, but it was so hard. They… they did everything they could to protect me.”

Rania squeezes her hand, offering silent support. “You’re so brave, Mireya. Your parents would be proud of you.”

Mireya nods, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I just miss them so much.”

“I know,” Rania says softly. “I miss my family too. But we have to keep going for them. We have to survive.”

Mireya takes a deep breath, wiping her tears away. “You’re right. We have to keep going.”

As they finish their conversation, Mireya notices a faint light through the trees. She squints, trying to make it out. It flickers, like a campfire or a lantern.

“Rania, do you see that?” Mireya asks, pointing towards the light.

Rania follows her gaze, nodding. “Yeah, I see it. It could be more survivors. Or it could be something dangerous. We need to be careful.”

Mireya frowns and begins nibbling on her lip in worry. “What should we do?”

“We’ll go back and talk to the others,” Rania decides. “It is important that we decide our next steps together.”