"You would not believe what I had to go through this morning," Sarah exclaimed as she sat on her blanket beside Robyn the following day. Robyn was sitting against the wall, her eyes growing bags under them from the restless night she'd had to endure after the class.
"I think have an idea," she said somberly, staring off into space absentmindedly.
A look of concern appeared on Sarah's face when she examined Robyn. "Hey, are you feeling okay?"
"I'm fine," she replied, rubbing her eyes. "Just tired. I didn't get much sleep last night. And when I finally did and woke up, I thought I was back in the Scenario. I almost attacked my dad this morning."
"That's exactly how I felt!" Sarah exclaimed. "I woke up in a cold sweat like three times last night because of what happened in that thing. The things I saw, it just...it haunted me in my sleep. And then I woke up, and like you, I thought I was in the Scenario again. I really couldn't even tell the difference the first time."
"I know exactly what you mean. I honestly don't see myself benefiting from this dumb program or taking anything from it but a crap load of trauma."
"I hear you," Sarah muttered with worry, taking a snack out of her bag to eat while she waited for class to start.
The classroom was only half-occupied and students were still arriving little by little. Several minutes in, Ross entered the class and gazed over by the blanket closest to the door to see Louis leaning back against the wall, sitting with his legs folded and his arms crossed, fast asleep. Ross nudged him on the arm to get his attention. He opened his eyes quickly and blinked twice before realizing where he was.
"Hey, Louis right?" Ross asked him as Louis looked up at him questionably.
"Yeah, that's me. Who wants to know?"
"My name is Ross. I know Royce. You're friends with him, right?"
"Yeah, we've known each other for years. Why?"
"Have you seen him around? He wasn't in my English class today and I wanted to talk to him about what happened yesterday."
"No man, I haven't seen him all day. I wanted to talk to him too, but I don't think he came to school today. I wouldn't be surprised if he got fucked up from what happened yesterday."
"That's what I'm thinking to," Ross nodded, swallowing hard before turning to walk to his side of the room. "Well, nice talking to you."
"Yeah, same to you too."
There was a strange atmosphere in the air, not unlike the one before class the day before, but with an added mixture of caution and the desire to avoid entering this hellhole of the mind all together. It was on a subconcious level of course, which meant the majority of them weren't going to back down, not when a perfect grade for the semester was on the line. With that in mind, they sat patiently, waiting for everyone to occupy the class so that Mr. Glass could set up the FEVAR Machine in order for them to survive another day in the ruined version of Ocean Valley.
"I'm telling you, DJ Bleu is a total satanist," Sid explained to Gustavo and Jonah. "We got hold up at the The Fire Radio Station before class ended and he's got a whole ritual room in the back of the place. Unless that was some random glitch they put in the Scenario, I'm willing to bet that's what he's really got back there."
"That's really fucked up if that was real," Jonah said, shaking his head. "I mean this whole Scenario thing can pretty much tell where everything is, anywhere. So damn, I mean, you wouldn't have any privacy. People could find out your deepest darkest secrets through this thing."
"Yeah," Gustavo agreed. "I don't think the creators of this program really thought that through. Or maybe they did and just didn't care."
"I'd bet my money on the latter," Sid said suspiciously. "You know the government doesn't give a shit about anybody but themselves. It's been that way for decades. It's already an idiotic move for us to have to get in contact with them for relief during a zombie outbreak in the first place. What SHOULD happen is the government should be providing relief or sending in the National Guard as soon as they hear about it, not nuking it 15 days in. If that's how it's going to end up happening, I'm putting a fucking bullet in my head at the very start of it."
"I hear you," Jonah said somberly. "Believe me, I'm the farthest a US Citizen can possibly be from political, but the idea that the government is using this shit to turn us into soldiers or something sounds like it may be about right. Seems like the only reason at this point. It's not like it makes any sense for it to exist anyway."
"Really," Sid said, shaking his head pathetically. He turned around on his blanket and looked at his watch to see that it was nearly 2:30, which meant class was bound to start in a matter of minutes. After waiting, the class was completely occupied with all of the students that had been around the day before, meaning that they all had the heart to return and see this thing through, at least for another day. With no further problems, Mr. Glass stood up and addressed the class for another session inside the war-torn land of the Scenario's Ocean Valley.
Day 1 - Wrap Up
Midnight struck. When Phillip opened his eyes, he found himself back in the classroom with the headphones of the FEVAR Machine still stuck to his head. He lifted them off and sat up quickly, surveying the classroom just as the rest of the students were getting up as well. Most of them were yawning, as if they'd just experienced the best sleep they'd had in years, others were completely dazed, and some, like Phillip, were quiet and taking in their first experience inside the Scenario.
Mr. Glass leaned on the whiteboard casually and smirked at them. "Session is over, guys," he said quietly. "How do you all feel?"
"I don't want to do this anymore," Cecillia muttered loudly, shaking her head. A tear was sliding down from her eye and she covered her face as she began to unleash the flood gates. "I...I can't handle this."
When she began to bawl, Gustavo, who had been on the other side of the room, leaned up against the wall he sat by and rolled his eyes. "Suck it up," he said loudly.
Cecillia turned to him in offense as her make-up began to run down her face.
"I actually agree with Gustavo on this one," Mr. Glass said sternly. "You can back out now and let your virtual self die in the Scenario or you can take this in stride like the thousands of other students in the United States who take this class every semester. This is a difficult course. It's probably the most difficult one you'll ever have to take in your entire lives. But it's necessary. I suggest you go home, get some sleep, and be prepared for tomorrow, because it only gets harder from here. And that's the God's honest truth."
"Um, Mr. Glass?" Louis called, raising his hand for him to see. He spoke when he was called on. "Where's Royce? He was lying right over here by me."
The eyes fell on Mr. Glass, who pushed himself up from the whiteboard and shoved his hands into his pocket, taking a deep breath before he spoke. "He didn't make it."
The students muttered amongst each other nervously while Ross and Latasha were gazing disparagingly at Austin, who sat, staring at Mr. Glass intently, absent of any remorse.
"This is the real reality of the situation, guys. You all need to get your game faces on and plow your way through these next fourteen days or these ghouls will tear you apart, limb from limb. I believe in you guys. Now, let's take some time to discuss some of the aspects of the infected that you noticed so that everyone can be aware of what to expect from them based on the first day."
Mr. Glass turned to the whiteboard and grabbed one of the markers, making the first bullet point from the top of it.
"Would anyone like to start us off?" he asked, turning back to the class. Everyone looked around at each other, waiting for one of them to speak up. Ross was the first person to do so.
"They're fast," he said loudly. "Faster than you said they were."
"No, Ross, you're just slower than you thought you were," Mr. Glass joked, as he noted it on the whiteboard. Only a few of them laughed. Most were still numbed by the Scenario and were only half-listening. "The truth is, most are slow, while some evolve into their infected state with more function over their bodily actions than others, meaning some can run faster and more human-like. That's why I said that every zombie is unique. Anything else?"
"They're irritated by sound," Phillip mentioned from the back of the class.
"Exactly right, Phillip," Mr. Glass said, noting it on the board. "Zombies are irritated by loud sounds and are often drawn to the source. They aren't stupid though. They know when it's a threat and they know when to stay away. That probably brings us to our next bullet point. Anyone want to call that one out for me?"
"They're adaptable," Gustavo stated. "Crafty."
"Perfect," Mr. Glass muttered, noting it down. "They are practically as adaptable to their surroundings as normal humans and quicker at reaching that point too, making them more dangerous than any wild animal you've ever encountered."
"Mr. Glass," Jonah asked, raising his hand. "This doesn't exactly pertain to the zombies or anything, but when I got infected in the Scenario, I sort of....changed."
"You did, I saw," Mr. Glass said, putting down the marker momentarily. "The thing about the Beelzebub Flu is that when you are infected with it, it starts off by shutting down your nervous system, so you no longer feel pain. It then begins to send out a powerful hidden hormone in the human body, known as Fortigen, that is released from your adrenal gland and into your blood stream. It stimulates your muscle capacity and brain activity, giving you more endurance, strength, stamina, and spikes your alert level. How much Fortigen it releases in a human being has yet to be determined, but it varies from person to person. In your case, it sent close to the maximum amount of Fortigen into your body. By a certain hour or time, the Flu stops the Fortigen from being distributed to each organ of your body. Except for your stomach. Soon afterwards, so much Fortigen floods your stomach, that it creates a massive craving, but without the erroding of Stomach Acid to accompany it. Instead, Fortigen replaces Stomach Acid as the stomach's content, eventually intensifying the hunger to the point where the brain literally finds itself obsolete and shuts itself down, almost like a computer. As a result, the stomach takes over as the organ that controls the body, but with the brain still there and functioning, it acts as a secondary organ that only uses basic functions, thus the shift to primal instinct. As the Flu would progress, however, the brain would take on a more important role in the human body, allowing them basic decision-making abilities, which is the first mutation to develop from the Flu and it happens almost immediately after the infection ravages the body. It's enough to make them as smart as an somewhat intelligent animal. You were simply feeling the effects of the Flu on your body and because you used the Flu Deterrent, you stopped it just before it reached the Replacement Stomach Acid Phase."
"Ah," Jonah nodded, taking in all that he'd been told.
"So, more stuff about zombies?" Mr. Glass said, turning back towards the board.
"They also do some type of molding armor shit that I've never seen before," Louis interjected. "I learned that the hard way."
"Yeah, I've been eager to talk to you guys about that," Mr. Glass said, addressing the class. "This is the number one rule when it comes to your general zombie individual. NEVER decapitate them. I stress that to the fullest extent of its meaning because it can create problems that you won't ever be able to solve. Here is the scientific classification of your general zombie. It'll make things a bit clearer."
Mr. Glass turned back to the board and put the fourth bullet point up, following it with what he was about to state for the class. "Homo Sapien Maxillopoda," he muttered slowly as he wrote the words on the board. "The Barnacle Zombie. It's the second mutation of the Beelzebub Flu after the spike of intelligence. When a Zombie's head is detached from its body, its head, which acted as its secondary mainframe from the very beginning, can function on its own. As a result, it tries to find a new host in another creature, making it equally, if not more dangerous than if it were still attached to a body. When it finds an already-infected host, i.e. another zombie, it attaches itself to it and, due to the infected host already having a mainframe, recycles itself into a powerful exoskeleton that covers a large portion of the host's body, forming a symbiotic bond with the infected host."
"So zombie heads can grow on each other," Sid said slowly, trying to understand. "Like barnacles."
"Exactly. Thus the name. And for the record, from here on out, the zombie mutations that follow are similar to that, in that they resemble the genuses of other aquatic wildlife."
Mr. Glass closed the cap on the marker and laid it back down, turning to address the class directly. "That's all you need to know about these creatures for now. But I have something that I need to warn you about." Mr. Glass took a deep breath before continuing and when he did, his expression turned dark. "There's something in the Scenario. A Wild Card. It's like nothing I've ever seen before. It's, by far, the most dangerous thing ever conjured up in any Scenario and it shouldn't even exist, but the Scenarios have ways of creating zombie mutations that are unique and could actually develop in real life."
"So what is it?" Lamar asked anxiously.
Mr. Glass sighed again and hesitated in speaking. "A sentient zombie."
"You mean, like a zombie with a human mind?"
"Not a human mind. A madman's mind. A zombie with the hunger for human flesh but with a fully functioning brain. I can't tell you anymore, I could already lose my job for revealing this much."
"But what if he does something crazy?" Jeremy interjected with worry. "Like assemble an army or"-
"Like I said, you never know what to expect from the Scenario. Your best bet is to just go at it with a positive attitude and do your best. That's all I've got for you guys today. Have a nice afternoon and I'll see you all tomorrow. Class dismissed."
A strange atmosphere was in the air. None of the students moved immediately when Mr. Glass dismissed them, but his attitude was visibly edgy when he moved back over to his desk. Slowly but surely, each student got up from the blankets they'd been laying on, grabbed their things from the back of the classroom, and headed out the door in a single-file line, as if waiting their turn to walk straight through the gates of hell.
"Man, I could have sex with this weather," Jay said casually, leaning out of the open window adjacent to where Woodrow and his rifle were set up.
"It does feel pretty nice," Woodrow said, looking up towards the cloudy sky as it began to grow darker from the setting sun behind them. "If it hadn't rained earlier, the sun would be out and it would have been scorching all afternoon. The sun kept the temperature warm but the clouds gave us a nice breeze. It's almost hard to believe none of it is real. It seems so much like it is."
"Yeah," Jay nodded, rubbing the back of his head as he leaned against the window's border. Suddenly, he stiffened and squinted his eyes, zeroing in on something outside. "Are you seeing that, Woody?"
"Got it in my sights," Woodrow said. He swung his rifle around and aimed it at a passing figure on the ground below, crossing the street in front of the park.
"No, wait," Jay protested. He surveyed the figure closey. "That's a human. A student, I recognize her. It's Francine Griffin, that freshman."
Woodrow looked up from the scope of his rifle and examined her. It was indeed Francine. She walked across the street in somewhat of a daze, as if she had no purpose or destination in her step. In the shrubbery of the forest, a zombified figure began to creep in her direction. Woodrow pulled back the round on the rifle, leaned back into his scope, and fired at the zombie, causing Francine to jump in shock.
Phillip, who had been watching closely from across the room, jumped up at the sound. "Did he just shoot her?" he asked frantically.
"No, there was a zombie creeping up from behind," Jay answered. Phillip, accompanied by Dylan, walked over to Jay's side of the window. There were more infected headed in her direction and for some strange reason, Francine wasn't making an effort to run away from the scene. She just continued to walk, jumping in surprise with each shot that Woodrow used to dispose of the zombies chasing after her.
"What the hell is she doing?" Dylan asked with confusion. Without notifying the others, Phillip turned around and headed straight for the door. "Whoa dude, where are you going?"
Phillip didn't answer. He moved the equipment out of the way and burst through the door, sprinting down the stairs a step at a time until he emerged into the Receptionist's area and rushed outside. Sniper rounds were still going off around them, blowing apart the heads of the zombies that emerged from the park. In a swift move, Phillip grabbed hold of Francine and pulled her away from the scene, yanking her along as the two headed back into the Parks and Rec. Woodrow was still providing cover fire from the floor above but now the horde was growing and following right behind the two. They numbered in a group of six or more.
"No, no no no NO!" Woodrow exclaimed in frustration. "He's leading those fuckers right into the building!"
As soon as the two entered, Phillip motioned for Francine to take the door to their right, which held the staircase leading to the second floor. When she was out of view, he turned his attention back to the horde that was bursting through the entrance. They were moving much faster than the quick staggerers they had encountered before, almost they're staggering leading into more of a run than usual. He needed them to all get a glimpse of him before he fled so they would all be drawn to follow him instead of chasing Francine upstairs. When they were all inside, Phillip took off in the opposite direction, allowing them to tail behind him by a few feet.
He was headed down an empty hallway with no plan in mind whatsoever. He had to improvise. Dipping into another hallway, he spotted an indoor pool from the outside of a long window that ran along the wall. At the end of the hallway was the entrance, where Phillip burst in and headed to the edge of the water.
He turned around and watched the first zombie charge after him, tackling him back into the pool. The water shot into the air as they sunk. Several more splashes erupted around them and the bubbles of oxygen scattered from the figures that were diving in. Phillip held the zombie's head at bay and grabbed it by the throat, closing it off. The dumb creature refused to hold its breath and inhaled forcefully as it growled its way to the bottom of the pool with Phillip. When it finally stopped moving and its orange eyes grew dark, Phillip swam away from that side of the pool. The zombies that had jumped in did not know how to swim and could not get any closer to Phillip than he was to them.
When he reached the end of the pool, he shot out the surface, taking a large gulp of air and wiping his face exasperately. He quickly picked himself up from out of the water and turned around, surveying it from its edge. There were several inanimate figures floating on the surface. The room was dead quiet with the exception of Phillip's heavy breathing and the swaying of the waters. That was too close.
"Get out of here," Woodrow declared in a near whisper. "Now..."
"What?" Phillip said with confusion, walking into the exercise room where Francine was being comforted by Dylan and Jay. He was still dripping wet and he had grabbed a towel from a rack in the corner of the room to dry himself off with when Woodrow confronted him.
"You're not welcome here anymore, okay? You nearly got us killed just now and for no fucking reason! Not to mention you're probably infected from being in the same pool water as the zombies. Get the hell out of here, now."
"Who died and made you anything important, huh?" Phillip retorted, stepping up to Woodrow. "I'm not going anywhere, so deal with it."
"You know," Woodrow laughed humorlessly. "Even though I would have failed this class, I deeply contemplated putting a bullet through your torso while you were out there. That's how pissed I was. I would have put it right into your stomach instead of your head so you could feel the pain of that while those zombies tore into you. In a way, you freaking owe me your life."
"Right," Phillip nodded with sarcasm. "But for the record, in case you forgot, I made sure those fucking zombies out there followed me farther into the building while Francine got away so they wouldn't follow her up here and tear you all to pieces. So I think we're about even. And if you EVER flaunt that 'I'm better than you' attitude to me again, I'll rip you to pieces the same fucking way."
"Are you threatening me, Slybourne?"
"In every way, shape, and form," Phillip responded sternly.
"All right, you know what?" Jay stated, walking in between the two opposing forces. "I think you guys need to separate for a little while."
"No," Phillip said simply, shaking his head. "I'll do what he says. I'll be the bigger man and give him what he wants, since he refused to do the same for me. I'm stocking up and I'm leaving."
Phillip turned away and moved efficiently as he gathered his things. He picked up one of the duffle bags he'd been given earlier and laid it on an excercise bench before walking across the room and reaching into the refridgerator.
"Come on, Phillip," Jay protested as Phillip pulled several water bottles out and carried them to his bag. He returned to the fridge to grab one of the Donut boxes and the energy bars, shoving them into the bag as well.
"I'm taking this box since you guys can just go across the street and get more," Phillip replied calmly to Jay and Dylan with no signs of hostility towards either. "Is that all right?"
"Yeah man," Jay said quickly. "But you don't have to play"-
"There's more First Aid Kits in the back, right?" Phillip said, pointing to the back room where they'd gotten the Kit for Jonah. "I'm going to take one, just in case."
Phillip rushed to the back room and opened the door, flipping on the light. It was relatively small but was stacked to the brim with unused and broken equipment, with the exception of the First Aid Kits stacked in the corner. He went over and grabbed one, examining it quickly before he turned around. As soon as he did, he nearly collided with Jay.
"Dude, you don't have to play into his game," Jay said in a near whisper, as Dylan accompanied them, leaning against the doorway. "If you leave, you're just doing what he wants."
"I am so far beyond him right now, Jay," Phillip said, giving off an exhausted vibe as he shook his head. "I'm honestly beyond caring what he wants at the moment. I only care about what I want and what I want is to get the fuck out of here. I am so sick and tired of dealing with his bullshit on a constant basis. I absolutely refuse to let him order me around like some guard dog. I'll be damned if I let that happen again. You never realized it, but he's always been the self-proclaimed leader of our group. He would order us around to do stuff for him like he ruled over us or something. I didn't even notice it until I picked up on how he acts around here. He's always been this way, we just overlooked it. Any girls that were around us, he would be the first to make a move on, even if we told him we were interested. Beatrice was far from the first girl he stole from me. I'm so done with his twisted sense of friendship. He's a selfish, arrogant, horrible person that forces me to use every inch of mental self-control I can possibly muster to stop myself from throwing him out of that fucking window. I'm sorry, but I just can't deal with it anymore. I want to do whatever it takes to get the hell away from him right now. I also want you and Dylan to follow me out that door, but I know that's not going to happen, so I'm only handling what I have control over at the moment."
Phillip slipped past Jay and Dylan moved out of the doorway, allowing him to get through. He shoved the First Aid Kit into the bag and slung it over his shoulder. As he turned to head for the door, his eyes fell on Francine, who was sitting in the corner by herself in thought. He'd nearly forgotten exactly why he'd risked his life in the first place. He walked over to her and she stood up at the sight of him.
"Listen, Francine," he said sincerely, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Jay and Dylan are going to take care of you, okay? They'll have your back."
"Okay," she muttered weakly as he nodded and turned back to the entrance.
"I'll see you guys later," Phillip nodded, heading for the door.
"Find somewhere to store up for the night, man. It gets extra dangerous out there in the dark."
Phillip nodded at the two of them and unblocked the gym door, disappearing down the stairs and out of sight.
"Where is he going to go?" Francine asked innocently.
"Fuck if I care," Woodrow muttered heading back over to the sniper rifle. "Just glad he's gone."
Jay turned to Woodrow slowly, a scowl forming on his face. "Did you ever think of Phillip as your friend? Did you ever think highly of him at all? Because he has every reason to be pissed at you."
"What, so you're taking his side now?-"
"I'm starting to!" Jay shouted. "I used to be neutral because I didn't want to be split between friends but now I'm starting to notice that you're being nothing but an asshole about everything."
Woodrow stood up from his chair and walked towards Jay slowly. "I haven't changed, okay? I've always been this way, it's not my fault if you're being brainwashed by his nonsense. Sure, okay, I made a mistake and fucked his crush, but to be perfectly honest, I sort of had feelings for her too. He didn't even care to know how I felt about him and her together-"
"Maybe if you had just told him, you two could have talked about it instead of keeping it from him and making moves on her behind his back," Dylan interjected.
"Really? Knowing Phillip, you think he would have wanted to sit down and talk about my feelings? Phillip only cares about himself!"
"That's awfully hypocritical of you, Woodrow," Jay said, shaking his head pathetically.
"You know what, Jay, if you've got a problem, you can follow his ass out there."
"I'm starting to consider that option," Jay said in a near whisper with his teeth gritted in anger.
Woodrow scoffed, shaking his head. "Right." He sat back down by the rifle and Dylan put his hands on Jay's shoulder to direct him away from the area. When they were across the room, Jay turned to Dylan with a look of underlying rage slowly growing.
"My mind..." Jay whispered, flushed with frustration. "It's freaking on fire right now. I hate when I get like this. All that fucking therapy and it's about to all go down the drain because of that bitch."
"Calm down, bro," Dylan said, patting Jay on the back lightly. "Deep breaths. Inhale...Exhale...Inhale...Exhale..."
Jay followed Dylan's instructions and began to calm himself down. "I'm sick of all of this drama. I just want it all to end."
"It will, bro," Dylan nodded. "Soon enough."
Hymon pulled a book off the shelf and examined its front cover. "Oh man, I've always wanted to read this one."
He slipped it under his opposite arm, where five other books were stashed. He continued along the shelf, scouring its contents for more works of literature but he saw no more that interested him, he brought his books to an empty corner of the Young Adult section. The sky could be seen from this side of the Book Store and the darkness was swelling over the entire city as if a blanket of night was slowly covering it. When Hymon had reached the corner, he passed a shelf where Kurt suddenly came into view in a tank top, sweating profusely as he pumped himself up and down with sharp Diamond-handed push-ups. His large muscles were inflamed, his skin was bright red, and veins were protruding from his neck. He breathed rhythmically with each push. Hymon was amazed at the sight.
"Dude, you are killing them," Hymon said in wonder. "What number are you on now?"
Kurt pushed himself up to his feet and smiled. He wasn't a large guy in stature but when his muscles were displayed, his curves and creases were incredibly impressive. "More than you could do in your life," he said arrogantly grabbing a towel that he'd laid over one of the five-foot high book shelves. He wiped his face off with it and let it sit over his head. "I never make my cadets do what I can't."
"Awesome," Hymon said, heading back over to the corner. "Well, I plan on spending the night over here with these books. I'll see you in class when midnight hits."
"Yeah, whatever," Kurt said to himself, turning away and heading deeper into the store. "Nerd."
Hymon slouched down and leaned against one of the taller shelves, which was fixed against the wall. He picked up the book he wanted to read the most and stared at the cover with an excitement, then turned it briefly and read the back cover before opening it, only to be sorely disappointed. There was a blank page in the middle of the book. Hymon turned each page and saw that every one of them was empty. He put the book down and picked up the next one, turning each page only to see that it was void of words. He threw the book away from him in frustration. Because they were in a fictional version of their own city, it was impossible for the FEVAR Machine to accurately display the content of every single book in a Book Store. When it was designed, that must have been overlooked and/or skipped in favor of detailing more important designs.
Hymon picked up the last book, which was a book that he'd read several years earlier and wanted to take a look at again. He examined the contents of this one and found that each word and passage was where it should have been. It was Hymon's prior knowledge of the book that allowed his brain and subconcious to supply the book with all of the content he'd previously read. Hymon made a note to find the books he wanted at the Book Store on the surface and spend a second looking at each page so that they could be stored in his subconcious for later use here in the Scenario.
With this in mind, Hymon closed the book, stacked them all together at an angle, and laid them to his side, using them as a pillow to rest his head on. Within a matter of seconds, he found himself slipping off into dreamland.
Kurt had taken a bottle of water from Hymon's bag and opened it up, pouring its cold liquid over his face and body. The water in his own bag was lukewarm, so he took one of Hymon's, which was in a bag that kept its contents refridgerated at a colder temperature. Kurt wiped his face off with his hand and saw the slightly blurred image of Tammy through his wet eyelids leaning against one of the shelves casually.
"Hey," was all she said.
"Hey," he replied just as simply.
"What'd you say your name was again?"
"McCormick," Kurt answered smoothly, wiping his face with his towel and wrapping it over the back of his neck. "Kurt McCormick."
Tammy snorted with laughter. "Was that supposed to be impressive?"
"Trying to say your name all cool like you're James Bond or something."
"Trying? Honey, I don't need to try to be cool. I just am."
"Conceited too, huh?" Tammy said with a smirk.
"Now you're just being mean," Kurt responded, returning the half-smile.
Tammy moved in closer to Kurt, putting a hand on his shoulder. She lifted her chin and licked her lips seductively. "I like confidence in a man. You give it off well. I like that."
Kurt shrugged. "What woman doesn't?"
"You mean, what woman doesn't like confidence in a man or what woman doesn't like that in you?"
"Both," Kurt said slyly, pressing his lips against Tammy's, who hadn't even gotten the chance to lean in for it. He grabbed hold of her face and pushed her's against his as he filled the air with unneccessary sucking and fleshy sounds. Tammy caressed him softly as she kissed him, trying to match his furiousity but Kurt was handling her like a wild animal.
Suddenly, Tammy forced herself forward and Kurt began to back up. It seemed as though they were only so deep in the moment that they were beginning to blindly search for a harder surface to relinquish their clothes on and prepare to do the deed, but when Tammy began to increase her speed, Kurt could feel himself losing his balance before the back of his head met the side of a shelf. Kurt collapsed to the floor, completely unconcious.
"God Damn," Tammy swore, wiping her mouth furiously. She left him lying on the floor and crept around the library, picking up all of the supplies the three of them had accumulated together and stuffing them into her Duffle Bag. When it was nearly full of food, resources, and weapons, she crept over to the corner of the Young Adult section to see that Hymon had been completely knocked out in a matter of minutes, his head placed awkwardly over the books that he lied it on. Tammy made her way back to the center of the library and headed straight for the exit.
"Oh and by the way," she whispered to Kurt's unconcious body before leaving. "You're a fucking horrible kisser."
Lamar was alone in the inside of an empty gas station convenient store. His stomach growled in hunger but he was too shaken to even grab a snack from one of the racks. The white noises of the background kept him put where he sat, behind the counter of the store in fear of the unknown. Every little sound made him jump and nearly put pressure over the trigger of the gun that his finger should have been beside instead of directly on.
Lamar slowly leaned up across the counter and edged out towards the now broken door, which left him out in the open as night began to slowly approach. In the distance, he could see a figure running across the front of the gas station. He started to dip down below the counter again, until he recognized that the figure was running with a posture different from the other zombies. Its stride was almost human. As it drew in closer, Lamar recognized exactly who the figure was. Jonah.
Lamar hopped over the counter quickly and walked to the broken entrance. "Hey Jonah!" he bellowed out to get his attention.
Suddenly, the grotesquely eroded face of an infected figure slid into view from the wall in front of the store and right in Lamar's line of sight. Lamar jumped in horror and aimed the gun at the creature's skull, pulling the trigger. Its head spilled dark-red blood over the pavement behind it and it fell straight onto its back.
At the sound of the gunshot, Jonah jerked around in horror, accidentally firing a shot from his own pistol into the gas station. The bullet hit one of the gas pumps farthest from Lamar, causing it to erupt in a golden inferno, the force of which knocked Lamar back into the store and caused the windows of the station to shatter immediately. The blast was bright and Jonah threw up his hands, shunning it. Lamar could feel the heat nearly singeing his skin before it died down to a dull roar of flames. Jonah ran his way towards the station, avoiding the embers that flew in his direction. Lamar got to his feet and staggered to the doorway, where Jonah was waiting for him.
"Lamar," Jonah said in surprise, approaching him.
"What the hell was that?" Lamar said, breathing heavily, doubled over. "You trying to kill me?"
"I'm so sorry, man, it was an accident, honestly."
"Don't worry, I believe you. But right now we need to move. That explosion probably drew their attention."
"Right," Jonah said, looking around as Lamar led the way around the station. A lone zombie was waiting for them by its side and Lamar made short work of it with his pistol from a fair range. When it was down, the two sprinted across the street, where a long strip mall with a large grocery store in the center was dormant a few feet up hill. The parking lot was right ahead of them when they made their way across the street, but out of the corner of Lamar's eye, he spotted a horde converging around the gas station and sprinting in their direction. "I don't think we can out-run them," he shouted through breaths after each step.
"No," Jonah said but with a strange sense of confidence in his voice. "But watch this."
Jonah stopped suddenly and handed the First Aid Kit he'd been carrying to Lamar, allowing him to run ahead a few feet. When he realized that Jonah had stopped, he slowed his stride and looked back at him in with worry.
"I discovered something incredible earlier," Jonah said excitedly. He turned back to the horde that was charging directly at him. One was closing in. Jonah reared his fist back and jerked it forward, punching the closest zombie in the face. Its head burst immediately and Jonah's fist blew right through its cranium, sending blood, bone fragments, and brain juice to the ground behind it. Lamar's mouth hung open in amazement.
As another zombie approached menacingly, Jonah turned his opposite fist around and swung it upward with an uppercut into the stomach. The zombie propelled high into the air and flew back towards the gas station, landing through its roof cover and slamming onto the pavement below. At the sight of this amazing feat, the zombies that were charging toward him slowed down and began to back away.
"What the fuck?!" Lamar exclaimed in absolute shock. In response, Jonah stepped to the curb that led into the parking lot of the grocery store, right next to an abandoned Honda that had been parked by the side of the road. He bent down and wrapped his hands under the bottom of it, lifting it with abnormal ease. With very little effort, Jonah miraculously brought the entire car up onto his shoulders and turned towards the loitering zombies. In one quick movement, Jonah hurled the vehicle through the air and watched as it collided with the infected, crushed them like ants, and continued to roll into the area in front of the gas station until it skidded to a stop.
Jonah smiled brightly at the result of his actions and turned back to Lamar, only to see him sprinting up towards the grocery store several yards away. As he began to approach it, a zombified creature cut in front of him from behind one of the abandoned vehicles and crept slowly after him. Jonah spotted them and sprinted towards the spot, taking long conquering strides that had him reaching the location in a matter of seconds. He hopped over entire vehicles with no effort and reached the zombie and Lamar, just as it grabbed hold of Lamar's body. Jonah hopped into the air and brought his leg across the zombie's head, sending the entire creature smashing into the front windshield of a parked van where it lay dormant as the van's alarm began to blare.
"How the hell is this happening right now?" Lamar shouted in disbelief when Jonah landed beside him.
"I'll tell you later," Jonah said sternly. "Get on my back, now."
Jonah bent down to one knee and turned his back on Lamar. "Do what now?"
"Hop on my back, fast!"
Lamar looked around embarassingly. "Cecillia would so leave me if she saw me doing this."
Lamar mounted Jonah's back and in an instant, Jonah took off, stepping at a speed that Lamar had only experienced through sports vehicles or roller coasters. Within seconds, Jonah had charged to the entrance of the grocery store, the doors of which were currently boarded up with a large shelf. Jonah hopped into the air and brought his legs forward, smashing through the glass entrance and sending the shelf straight to the floor in the interior of the grocery store. Jonah landed expertly in front of the fallen shelf as Lamar continued to hold tightly, his eyes closed.
"It's over, dude," Jonah said simply. Lamar opened his eyes and let go of Jonah, staring at him in shock and wonder.
"What the hell?!" shouted a female voice from deeper inside the grocery store. From one of the aisles, Robyn came into view, staring at the wreckage in surprise. "How did you guys break our barrier?"
"Ask this freak?" Lamar shrugged, pointing at Jonah.
"Freak?" Jonah said with offense. "This freak just saved your life. Can I get some gratitude?"
"Stop arguing!" Robyn shouted. "We've got to fix it now before the zombies get in!"
Jonah turned to the fallen shelf and reached down, sticking his fingers right below it. He took a deep breath and brought it up with ease. Just as he did, someone shouted from deep within the parking lot. Jonah looked up and watched as Gustavo sprinted in their direction with a horde right behind him. Despite this, Jonah knew that if he didn't close the entrance soon, they'd be fucked.
As soon as Gustavo reached the entrance, he stepped up the slop of the shelf while Jonah steadily lifted it into the air. He nearly fell several times at the shift of the weight but kept his balance, his focus inpenetrable. Jonah shoved the shelf up one final time and placed it against the entrance, just as Gustavo jumped off. He flew into the air and gravity began to pull him downward, but Jonah hopped back and collided with him as they both collapsed to the floor. Jonah pushed Gustavo away and sprinted back for the shelf, as the horde tackled it with force and sent it back several feet. He pushed it forward quickly and crushed the limbs of several zombies that were trying to wiggle their way into the building. When the infected were at bay, Gustavo, Lamar, and Robyn raced to move more of the store's contents in front of the shelf to keep it back.
"Did you do it?" Robyn asked Gustavo frantically.
"I did," he said, pulling out a small device with a button directly on top. He pressed down on the it and a loud, floorshaking explosion could be heard from a distance. In an instant, the rumbling and activity subsided and Jonah was safe to walk away from the shelf without worrying about it being overpowered.
"Okay," Gustavo said in between breaths as they began to calm down. He held on tightly to the spot where the gunshot Lamar had given him earlier had grazed his rib. It was covered with a bandage. "What the hell did I just see you do?"
"Yeah," Jonah said, breathing just as heavily as he grabbed the First Aid Kit from Lamar. "About that..."
"You've got super powers," Lamar shouted, pointing at Jonah accusingly. "He must have found some way to activate some kind of cheat code in this thing or something."
"That's impossible," Robyn countered. "Don't you think there'd be a more fool-proof way to stop that from happening? I mean this is something that's used across the country. Wouldn't it make sense that someone would have prevented that after all the years this program has existed?"
"Guys!" Jonah shouted, lifting his hands to calm them down and get their attention. "I don't know what the hell is going on with me. I was just minding my own business a few hours ago and some infected zombie snuck up on me so I had to fight it off. When I did, I ended up knocking him halfway across the block. I started experimenting and then I realized I could do all of this amazi"-
Jonah was cut off by a sudden coughing fit that caused his cheeks to puff as he put his hand up to his mouth. He doubled over from the force of it and Lamar rushed to his side, patting him on the back. When Jonah leaned back up, he wiped his hand on the back of his jeans.
"Wait a minute," Robyn said suspiciously, noticing his movement. She walked up to Jonah and grabbed his arm forcefully, looking into his palm, much to his protest. There was blood residue all over it. "You're sick, aren't you?"
Jonah swallowed hard and his eyes darted back and forth between them. Lamar began to back away slowly.
"Look guys," Jonah said, holding up the Kit hopefully. "I have medicine that's helping me deal with it."
"So you are infected," Lamar stated loudly. "You can't stay here."
Jonah turned to Lamar with a look of protest. "I said I've got medicine."
"It doesn't matter, you've got to leave."
"Hey," Gustavo snapped, turning to Lamar. "You just got here. That means you don't call the shots. I've got this."
Lamar shrugged and rolled his eyes. "All right, fine, go ahead."
"Look," Jonah explained, pulling out the First Aid Kit from his bag and opening it on the floor. "For some strange reason, this infection is giving me these abilities. That's a good thing, I can help you guys. I'm like a machine right now, I can protect you. You need me. I've got enough Flu Deterrent to keep the Flu at bay for at least two more days. There's bound to be more somewhere around here also."
Gustavo sighed and thought for a moment. "Well Jonah, I know you from way back. I guess I can trust you."
"You can trust him?" Lamar protested. "Can you trust that Flu in his body as much as you trust him?-"
"The pros outweigh the cons, Lamar, so deal with it."
Lamar smacked his teeth and turned away from Gustavo in annoyance. "You have no idea what you're doing," he muttered under his breath but loud enough for everyone to hear.
"Don't know what I'm doing?" Gustavo repeated with offense. "That explosion you just heard from around the corner was me knowing what I'm doing, okay? I set up a bomb in a building down the block with some C5, so that it would draw those fuckers away from our location when they caught wind of where we are. There are more in other buildings too. So don't tell me, I don't fucking know what I'm doing, because I probably know more about how to survive in this shithole than you do about the lifestyle of a jock with no balls to do anything. And that's really saying something."
"Okay, you need to watch your mouth!" Lamar shouted, stepping up into Gustavo's face antagonistically. Robyn and Jonah rushed to separate the two and Lamar glared at Gustavo dangerously.
"Look, you two need to calm down and get yourselves sorted out," Robyn said patiently. "The last thing we need to be doing in a situation like this is fighting with each other. We need to save the anger for those decaying bastards outside."
Gustavo turned to her and nodded. "I'm going for a walk," he said, heading in the opposite direction, near the Deli section of the grocery store. Jonah followed after him quickly.
"Dude," he said in a near whisper. "Did you really use C5 on that building? Where the hell did you get your hands on that?"
Gustavo chuckled softly as he continued to walk. "My uncle...he's an interesting guy, to say the least."
"Sarah," Louis called softly, entering her quarters from the deck. He closed the door behind him.
"What?" Sarah said, slightly irritated, eating from a plate she'd brought from the kitchen quarters, where Kristina had just made them a delicious dinner straight from a recipe she'd brought over from her country.
"I need to talk to you."
Louis rolled his eyes. "All right," he said in annoyance, turning to exit the room.
"Wait," Sarah said, rolling her eyes. Louis closed the door and walked back in. "Sit down."
Louis took the bed that was directly opposite hers and sat down as she took another fork full of her food, waiting for him to talk. "I'm going to keep eating. Keep the conversation one-sided until I finish, will you?"
"Okay," Louis said anxiously, rubbing his hands together. "I'm having this...weird feeling lately-"
"It's called puberty. It passes. Now get out."
Louis glared at Sarah. "For your info, I've had puberty already. Twice."
"It's not important. My problem is, I've got this thing going on. It involves Kristy."
"Mmm," Sarah said, with her mouth full, nodding with somewhat of an understanding.
"Yeah. I think I might love her."
Sarah coughed aggressively as she swallowed hard, pounding on her chest. "What?!" she exclaimed.
"That's just it. I think I might be in love with her."
"You love her or are you in love with her?"
"Is there a difference?"
"Yes. If you're in love with her, that means you're in a state of mind known as love, where you see yourself and her together. Its like the equivalent of being in love with the thought of being in love with her and that can just be a phase. If you love her...well that means a hell of a lot. That's a pretty big deal."
"I know," Louis said, getting flustered. "That's why I'm struggling with this. I don't know what to do. Why in the world would a girl like that want a guy like this? She is WAY too far out of my league."
Sarah shrugged and slid her plate away from her momentarily. "I don't know. I've seen weirder. Granted, the chances are low, but she's not American so she doesn't have that narcissistic, condescending, superficial attitude towards different people like most girls do. At least, I don't think. I don't know her like that. But she seems like a well-rounded person, you should go talk to her. Just don't mention any of that love stuff or you won't get anywhere."
"I know that much," Louis said, shaking his head. "But what do I say? I don't have any way to break the ice. I can't just go in and ask random questions. I want to date her, not interview her."
"It's called casual conversation, like you and me are having right now. First off, I think you'd get her attention a little more by calling her by her full name, Kristina. Kristy is like a pet name everyone else calls her. Calling her Kristina is almost like you're addressing her as a woman. And try not to think about going out with her so much. Think about the fact that you're having a conversation with a friend."
"An insanely hot friend."
"Yeah, try to block that out too," Sarah said, getting up and patting Louis on the shoulder. She then pushed him towards the door. "Now get out. My food is getting cold."
"Whatever," Louis said with a smile heading for the door. "Thanks, Sarah."
He closed it behind him and looked out across the Deck. The waters were completely still. The cloudy skies of the morning and afternoon were trailing away in the distance and the setting sun spilled an orange shade down on their surroundings. As a result, everything around them was tinted with orange, like the eyes of the undead, as if the coming night was sending a foreboding message, the seizing of the infected, an epic testimony signifying that the city now belonged to the zombies. These dark and disturbing thoughts were trailing their way into Louis' brain, but he tried his best to enjoy the environment he was surrounded by instead of resenting it. The city of Ocean Valley was in view just in front of them but it was dark and would remain that way for the remainder of their time in the Scenario.
"Nice night, yeah?" a voice called out from along the Deck. It startled Louis momentarily, before he recognized it to be Kristy. She was leaning over the rail and staring out onto the same broken city that he was.
"Oh," he said, not knowing exactly what to say at first. "Yeah, yeah it is. It's beautiful out here."
"You carry ze Sickle Cell, no?" Kristy said with a bit of concern. "Because ze flies are plentiful out here."
"Oh yeah, yeah, I have the trait. Sarah doesn't, that's why she's staying inside."
"Ah," Kristy said, nodding and looking back out towards the sea. Louis was extremely hesitant, but he wanted desperately to walk down by her side. He was talking to her from several yards away and it was getting hard to hear her over the sounds of the swaying waters. He decided to disobey all of the thoughts disuading him from doing it and headed down the Deck in her direction. "So are you with her?"
"With Sarah?" Louis asked, continuing down the Deck. "You mean like, are we dating? No, no, she's just a friend. We had a few classes together back in the day. She's a Junior and I'm a Senior, so we don't get to spend much time around each other anyway; usually you have to be in an elective course to get to hang out with people of different grades and I've only got core classes this semester. She's cool though. A better friend than most of the people around here. Everyone else treats me like shit."
"Really?" Kristy said with a bit of surprise. "Everyone I've met haz been nice to me."
"That's because you're beautiful," Louis said without hesitation, leaning on the railing right beside her. "That's the way this country works. We idolize the pretty and alienate the ugly, but try to work towards 'preserving the beauty of humanity' without realizing that it's that immoral view of our own people that's slowly destroying it. The worst part of it is having some of them pretend like they appreciate you for who you are, only to have them stab you in the back when you're most vulnerable. Can't tell you how many times that's happened to me. Like a wise man once said, 'Fake friends are like shadows: Always near you at your brightest moments but no where to be seen in your darkest hour.'"
Kristy nodded in acknowledgement. After some thought, she giggled softly. "Back vhere I come from, if someone is ugly, zhat is ze first zhing you mention vhen you greet zhem."
Louis chuckled at the remark. "Well honesty is a lonely word around here."
Silently, Louis had taken note of her comment in his head. If he was ugly, she would have told him to his face. He couldn't tell if she was just joking or if she was serious about it, but either way, it meant that she didn't think he was ugly, at least not enough to tell him directly. That meant there was a slim chance of interest. It still wasn't enough. He was a handsome fellow and he knew it, but he also knew that he was average to most girls, compared to the muscular white guys that populated his school and stole the hearts of the majority of his crushes. He indirectly despised most of them, with their stylish side-swept hair, slim bodies, and their unlimited parental funds that made sweeping a girl off their feet with presents and shiny cars an easy task. Being a short, heavy-set, black guy made it nearly impossible to get any of the shallow girls at Thomas Quick High's attention, despite being handsome enough to woo many girls if only he possessed the confidence to do so.
But this is what he liked the most about Kristina. She wasn't hypnotized by the money or the muscles or the side-swept hair. The same guys Louis had seen with the women of his dreams that were confident enough to approach her were instantly turned down, leaving the rest of the boys as Thomas Quick High too afraid to even try. This included Louis, who only had the luxury of surveying her from afar like everyone else. But due to a stroke of fate, he'd found a way to ally himself with her in the mind-melded city formed by the Scenario. It was a coincidence, he thought. Coincidences are God's way of remaining anonymous.
"So what are you thinking?" Ross whispered as the fire crackled on the floor in the center aisle of City Hall's Conference room. The infected at the door had finally given up and there was silence in the entire building aside from the fire. Austin lay a few feet from the fire they'd started, using the Confederate Flag that had been hanging at the podium as a blanket to keep himself warm as he laid in one of the many pews running along the City Hall interior. Because City Hall had been unoccupied for the day, it was colder than usual, thus the need for the fire and the blankets with the central air still circulating around the building. An argument had sparked when Ross had moved to use the State Flag as his covers and Latasha started to use the American one. Austin refused to let Latasha use the American Flag as a cover, since letting it lie on the ground would defame the flag's purpose. Latasha exclaimed that the flag wasn't real and accused Austin of being racist once again, believing that he was using it as an excuse for Latasha to not be warm for the night and reinforced this with Austin's quick decision to use the Confederate Flag as his own blanket without a second thought. Austin dismissed this and went to sleep away from the two, while Ross let Latasha use the American Flag as her cover when Austin had drifted to sleep. Now they were sitting around the fire with the flags over their shoulders and discussed deeper matters: Royce. "Do you think he left him out there on purpose?"
"You really asking me that question?" Latasha said, her hands out in front of the fire. "I think he's capable of anything at this point. Of course, I think he did it on purpose. Probably pushed him down those steps himself."
"But wouldn't he get punished by Glass for that?" Ross asked, giving it some thought. "I mean if he did do it, he would have blatantly killed the guy."
"Not necessarily. He would have killed him without actually killing him. He would have knocked him into the zombies and they would have ended his life. He might get away with it too. We don't have enough evidence against him to get him kicked out of class. Mr. Glass said that as long as we don't kill each other, everything else is fair game. He also said that trusting someone is stupid and smart. In this case, trusting that racist bastard was stupid. Still is. He might end up getting all of us killed. I say we ditch him by morning."
"I suppose," Ross said nervously, rubbing his hands together over the fire.
"What do you mean, 'I suppose.' As much as your ass keeps arguing with that fool"-
"No, it's not...It's just...I'm an honest guy. Trust me, I wish to God I could just leave him, but a part of me won't let me do that. I can't leave a man out here to die alone, that's just not right."
"He can handle his own better than any of us," Latasha whispered harshly, leaning forward towards him. "You know this. He might actually be happy that we left him alone. We need to go and make sure he can't follow our trail."
"I'm sorry, Latasha. I just can't do it. If I do, I'll never let myself live it down. It's just immoral. If we do it, we'll be stooping to his level."
Latasha sighed and rolled her eyes in annoyance. "Fine. But when you wake up tomorrow and he's gone with all our supplies and leaves the damn door open for the fucking infected to get in here, I hope you think about how fucking stupid you being right now for staying here with his ass. I swear, when I get back on the surface, my boyfriend, Tyrekis, is going to tear his ass up. Damn, why is it so cold in here?"
"Austin broke the air conditioning while it was on high," Ross said lazily. "I didn't know how to turn it off."
Latasha turned her head and looked over to the spot where Austin was sleeping. "Let me rephrase that. Tyrekis is going to tear his ass ALL the way up."
In the pew near the back, Austin had been lying with his face facing the back of the pew. His eyes were wide open and he sat fully awake, listening to Latasha and Ross' conversation from start to finish.
Outside City Hall, on its blood-spatter painted steps, the ragged carcus of what used to be Royce Ferguson was lying still, decaying against the dried blood that surrounded it. Its legs were gone and its torso consisted only of the chest and bony arms that had been ripped of most of its skin and flesh. The most intact portion of the corpse was the head, which, despite having part of the skull ripped off from its socket, a missing eye, and ripped lips, was still somewhat recognizeable.
Out of the death and rotting decay that made up and surrounded it, the moon was stretched out across the sky, illuminating the entire block with its magnificent light. And in the midst of this beauty, the body began to move, its fingers inching slowly back and forth.
Suddenly, the body of Royce Ferguson shot forward and inhaled forcefully with an inhuman shriek following it. It weezed and grunted wildly as it gazed down at its own grotesque lacerations and its dismembered body. Its one orange-pupiled eye zipped back and forth across the area before it lifted itself up with its crumbling arms.
It laid still for several minutes and looked forward out on the sea of infected that staggered across the street on the block ahead. They took heavy steps and gazed at each other aimlessly, bumping past one another, searching for something to satisfy their hunger.
Royce's corpse stared at them but not with an eye of absence. An eye of purpose.
"I think," Royce's corpse croaked weakly, surveying its body once more. "It's time for a little remodeling...."
When Phillip opened his eyes, he was met with the sight of bright orange eyes and rotting teeth: not exactly the prettiest sight to wake up to. He jumped in surprise, flailing around the backseat of the car until he realized that he was cut off from the creature. The car was surrounded by infected. They were clawing and trying to pry their way into the vehicle that Phillip had chosen to rest in after the trauma hours ago. Now he was approximately 87% fucked, stuck with no sign of salvation in sight.
Except one. Phillip climbed into the front and landed in the driver's seat. He bent down below the wheel and pulled off the cover, yanking out some of the wires tangled beneath it. Without a key, he needed to hotwire the car. He took the red and blue wires he needed and gently touched the two ends together as he heard the car respond. After a few tries, the engine ignited and the zombies backed away slightly in surprise. Phillip smiled to himself and leaned up from below the wheel, pulling the gear back and flooring the vehicle through the crowd of zombies in front of it. The bodies went flying through the air as he plowed onward.
Continuing down the road, Phillip drove the car, but didn't get far before he found himself in another bind. The car slid across a row of traffic spikes that had been left in the road, most likely left behind by authorities that were trying to maintain the chaos of the night. As soon as the tires drove over, Phillip could feel them pop and the car bounced violently. Before he knew it, the wheels had shifted and the entire vehicle lifted into the air and tumbled across the street, stopping at a nearby light pole. Phillip was tossed into the backseat of the car from lack of a seat belt but he was fortunate enough to walk away with only a few scrapes and bruises.
The car was upright and it had traveled far enough down the street to escape from the horde that had been left behind. Phillip staggered out of the vehicle and surveyed his surroundings carefully. There was a strip of buildings and stores across the street from him but on the side that he'd crashed the car on was a large park. He turned and ran directly into it, sprinting with all his stamina could muster. While he was lost in the shrubs of the park's forestation, his eyes darted back and forth in every which way, wary of any infected activity. There were a few in the area; most were minding their own business, some slowly heading in his direction but as long as he kept moving, he wouldn't be in any immediate danger. He kept running at full speed, looking back briefly to see if any of them were coming up from behind, when suddenly he collided full force with another figure.
The blow devastated the both of them, knocking Phillip through the air and sending him crashing hard onto the grass several feet off from his path. He held his shoulder tightly in pain as he leaned over onto his opposite side to see what he had collided with. He recognized him immediately. It was Jonah Thao, the break dancer. He was wearing nothing but a t-shirt and jeans, which reminded Phillip that he was still in his hoody and it was slowing him down in this heat. As he stood up and walked over to Jonah, he unzipped it and pulled it off quickly.
"You all right?" Phillip asked, throwing it onto the grass, now wearing a black t-shirt.
"I'm fine," Jonah answered with a strain. He rubbed the spot on his chest where he'd collided with Phillip. "You were running pretty damn fast, eh?"
"Yeah, trying to find a place to lay low. We need to get out of this park before a horde catches wind of us."
"Right. Let's go." Jonah led the way as Phillip followed him and after a few minutes they reached the end of the park, emerging onto the sidewalk just outside of the entertainment district of Ocean Valley's downtown area.
BANG! A gunshot went off and Phillip heard a thud on the grass right behind him. He ducked as quickly as possible.
"Whoa!" he exclaimed, crouching down and heading behind a vacant bench.
"What's going on?" Jonah shouted in confusion, still standing out in the open.
"Get down, somebody's firing at us!"
Jonah obeyed and crouched down on the other side of the bench just as another shot went off and hit the grass a few feet behind it.
"Why the hell is somebody shooting at us?" Jonah shouted frantically. "Do you think it's a student?"
"Has to be. They must not know we're uninfected."
"That was probably a fucking sniper rifle. Who got their hands on a sniper rifle and knows how to use it this well in a freaking day?"
"Somebody who had prior training," Phillip said, with his back to the bench. "In fact, I think I have an idea of who it was too."
Phillip slowly peaked out from behind the bench and cautiously walked out from cover with his hands in the air. He walked slowly out into the street looking up into the buildings that towered above him. Another gunshot sounded, making him jump, and when he felt the force of the bullet piercing the ground next to him, he began to get angry.
"STOP SHOOTING, WE'RE NOT INFECTED!!" he yelled up at the buildings furiously.
"Phillip?!" Shouted a voice across the street from where the sniper was perched. Two people were stepping out of the Donut shop across the steet from them. When they ran in Phillip and Jonah's direction, Jonah stepped out from the cover as well and walked up to greet them. It was Jay and Dylan.
"Thank God we ran into you, dude," Jay said enthusiastically, carrying a stack of donut boxes under one arm when they reached them. "We're in that Parks and Rec building right there."
"Somebody's been shooting at us, do you know anything about that? I can't tell where the shots were coming from. I hope it's somebody you know."
Jay's smile disappeared and he turned, exchanging anxious looks with Dylan. "Yeah, you can say that."
"Seriously man?" Phillip asked with a humorless smile. "You're seriously resorting to this now?"
"What?" Woodrow shrugged, holding the rifle in his hand tightly as he sat by the window of the Parks and Recreational Center that he'd been sniping from. Phillip had had a feeling it was Woodrow, as he'd been taught how to handle a sniper rifle by his older brother, an Iraq war veteran, years earlier. "God, I was just messing with you. I wasn't going to actually land a shot. I'd fail the class. Learn how to take a joke, jeez."
"Learn how to take a joke? In case you haven't realized, we're not exactly on 'joking' terms right now, okay? So forgive me if I don't laugh at your tasteless means of joking around with your friends. I fail to find any humor in pretending to shoot people you're supposed to care about."
"Whatever," Woodrow said, rolling his eyes and rubbing the back of his head. He turned back around and peered out of the window, surveying the park with his rifle.
Phillip stood there staring at Woodrow in disbelief that he had even able to establish a friendship with such a heartless inconsiderate human being. Finally, he turned around in disgust and addressed Jay, Dylan, and Jonah. They were in an exercise room on the second floor of the Parks and Rec, which was filled with weights stacked up across the room and various equipment arranged around the area, most of which was blocking the door. The three of them were lounging around on the equipment when Phillip walked up to joined them. Jay and Dylan had brought enough donuts to fill all of them up for the day and with Phillip's energy bars and gatorades that were cooling in the refridgerator in the corner of the room, they would be able to lay low in this building for the rest of the afternoon.
The four of them sat around each other eating and conversing amongst themselves. This was the first time in the past few months or so that Phillip, Jay, and Dylan had actually gotten the chance to have a decent conversation. The days of spending time hanging out at the mall and at each other's houses were long gone, but they at least had the luxury of using these next few hours to catch up on old times. In all honesty, this was the first time Phillip had really engaged in much of a conversation with anyone since his departure from the Team and this turned out to be very therapeutic in easing his usually sour loner attitude. Jonah, being a Sophomore, didn't know the Team personally since they were all Seniors, but he knew of their reputation. He also shared a class with Phillip the semester before and they were well-aquainted with each other. The four of them were getting along very well, laughing and conversating as they ate as much as they could and saved the rest for later.
"So this kid," Dylan started, licking his fingers clean of the donut's cream. "This ugly wannabe Struckcore Kid sparks up a conversation in Civics when we start talking about riots of the 1960's and the Freedom Riders and what not along with the laws for the right to Free Speech that were violated during that period. So we got on the conversation of hippies and the Struckcore Kid starts trying to draw parallels between the Struckcore Movement and the Hippie Movement. Now I've already told you guys how I feel about Struckcore but I started to hold my tongue because I thought about how Phillip was into that stuff. But then I remembered that he came to his senses and abandoned it, so I knew it was fair game. So this kid is all like 'Yeah, Struckcore is basically the Hippie Movement of the Digital Age. And I'm like, 'dude, you don't know anything. Struckcore is nothing like the Hippie Movement. Struckcore Kids didn't do shit for this generation except separate and classify everybody that hasn't already been labeled into something and for absolutely no reason'. So the kid retaliates saying 'Dude, you can't possibly even understand Struckcore with that attitude. Struckcore is unique, it's about independence and we've done a lot for this generation. We've defined the pop culture of today.' And of course, I'm like 'Pop culture of today sucks ass so that's not saying very much. When I say they haven't done anything for this generation, I mean anything to help, like protesting violence and war, o rmaking a difference in society other than coming up with another way to alienate people without purpose. And by the way, your so-called 'independence'? That's an indication that your sub-culture's already been done. It's called Hipster, it's been around for decades, and even though its just as bogus, it makes a shit load more sense than your bullshit lifestyle'."
"Damn," Jonah chuckled with surprise. "Brutal, man. Just flat out shut down his whole lifestyle."
"Hey, I was just telling the truth. So long story short, this idiot is willing to fight over this shit. I mean, I was very obviously insulting the whole Struckcore crap, not him, and he takes it personal like the douche he is. I mean, I'm the only one out of the Team that's not really into Parkour even though I like to watch you guys do it and everything, but if I were to insult Parkour or something about the lifestyle, I highly doubt you guys would get into a fight over it."
"No, I wouldn't," Phillip said, shaking his head. "I like Parkour, I'm passionate about it, but I won't fight over it. Parkour is what I do, not who I am. That guy was taking things way too seriously."
"Seriously," Dylan continued. "But this is where it gets good. The guy gets up screaming at me, "SHUT UP, SHUT UP, YOU DON'T KNOW JACK SHIT, YOU DON'T KNOW JACK SHIT!' And I felt like it was the perfect opportunity to fill him in on the information I do hold on Jack Shit in specific detail. You see Jack Shit is the son of Awe Shit, who married Oh Shit. In turn, Jack Shit married Noe Shit. The couple had six children: Holie Shit, Giva Shit, Fulla Shit, Bull Shit, and the twins, Deep Shit and Dip Shit. Deep Shit married Dumb Shit, a high school drop out. After 15 years, Jack and Noe Shit got divorced and she re-married to Ted Sherlock, becoming Noe Shit-Sherlock. Meanwhile, Dip Shit married Lota Shit and had a child with a rather nervous disposition named Chicken Shit. Fulla Shit and Giva Shit married the Happens brothers in a double wedding, which the newspaper invited in an article entitled "The Shit-Happens Wedding." Bull Shit traveled the world and returned home with an Italian bride named Pisa Shit. So after filling him in on all of this, I told him 'You can't tell me I don't know Jack Shit, because I know his whole fucking family'."
All three of them were in stiches after Dylan's monologue. "Did you really tell him all of that?" Phillip asked, still laughing as he wiped the joyful tears from his eyes and shook his head.
"Something along those lines. Anyways, he got pissed again and the teacher dragged his dumb ass out of the classroom. His reaction to the whole deal was absolutely priceless."
"Man, I was so relieved to find out that you weren't in that mess anymore, Phillip," Jay said with a sigh after he finished laughing. "Like, none of us wanted to tell you what we really thought because we were your friends. We just hoped it was just a phase and you'd get out of it eventually. Thank God you did. At least that was one good thing to come out of the uh...you know...incident."
Phillip nodded and smiled. "Yeah, I know what you mean. I don't even know what I was thinking."
"So, uh, Phillip," Jonah started cautiously, exchanging quick looks with Jay and Dylan. When he spoke, his volume began to lower gradually. "I don't mean to wade back into the swamp or anything, man. I'm just curious...where exactly do you stand right now with Bea, after the whole thing last semester?"
"It's going around like that, huh?" Phillip asked nonchalantly. He took a deep breath. "I don't even know. I've hardly even talked to her since it happened so I can't even say. I know it's been awkward as hell around her lately. Apparently, she didn't know I liked her until after the incident. I don't even know if that cunt over there was telling the truth when he told me she liked me. I'd bet against it, so I'm pretty sure any possibility of something happening between us is nonexistent right now."
"That's too bad, man. I know this is kind of fucked up, but I actually had money banking on you guys still getting together."
"Oh yeah?" Phillip said with a smirk. "I should kick your ass for that. Making bets on my social life, what the hell is wrong with you?"
"I'm sorry, man," Jonah said with a smile. "But hey, I have another question. Sorry if this strikes a nerve, but do you know exactly where Bea stands with uh..." Jonah jerked his head in Woodrow's direction.
Phillip sighed. "Probably just a one-night stand. I honestly don't know, I don't keep tabs on him like that."
"We talk, that's all," Woodrow said loudly, his head still turned out towards the window. "I hit it and quit it."
There was silence after his remark until Woodrow turned and looked back at the group. "What? I could hear you guys from over here. You're not exactly whispering."
Phillip continued to stare at Woodrow, a smirk appearing on his face as the others darted between the two of them, waiting for something to happen.
"You're still mad about that, aren't you?" Woodrow said, shaking his head pitifully. "That's pathetic, bro, grow up."
Phillip sprang up from the equipment he'd been sitting on and walked very quickly over in Woodrow's direction. The boys behind him stood just as quickly and pulled Phillip back before he got within proximity of him. Phillip's eyes burned with hatred when he laid eyes on Woodrow.
"Grow up? Grow up?! YOU FUCKING GROW UP!" Phillip screamed, the veins protruding from his neck as he unleashed his anger. "You went behind my back and stole her from me! You want me to just brush off my shoulders and forgive you? Fuck that and fuck you!"
"'Stole her from you?' She was never yours in the first place. It's not my fault if she was having feelings for me and not you."
"You fucking lied to me to my face and told me she liked me! You actually led me to believe I had a chance with her then you went and fucked her behind my back. The worst thing about it is that you didn't even apologize or admit you were wrong. You are the scum of the fucking Earth, you worthless piece of shit. The very thought of you makes me sick to my stomach."
"Yeah, yeah, I heard it the first time," Woodrow muttered nonchalantly, waving him off. "When you're ready to pull your dignity back around your waist, talk to me."
Jonah turned his head as he held onto Phillip and hacked a dangerous cough. He exhaled several times and finally let go of Phillip, turning around to unobstruct his throat. He coughed loud and hard, gasping in between breaths.
"Dude, are you all right?" Jay asked, pounding his hand on Jonah's back.
"Yeah," Jonah struggled to say, as he cleared his throat and rubbed his chest. "Don't know where that came from."
"That almost sounded like Whooping Cough or something," Phillip said with concern. "Are you sure you're all right?"
"I'm fine guys, don't worry," Jonah said turning around with a reassuring smile. Just as he did, Woodrow jumped from his seat quickly, leaving the rifle by the window, and power-walked over to Jonah. He grabbed his face aggressively by the cheeks. "Hey, what the hell?!"
"Open your eyes wide," Woodrow said with authority.
"What the hell are you doing?" Phillip said loudly.
"Shut Up!" Woodrow snapped quickly as he examined Jonah's face. After a few seconds, he let go and turned around. "Get out of here..."
"I said get out of here! Leave the building before I turn this rifle on you!"
"Over my corpse, you asshole," Phillip said with a slight tinge of disbelief at Woodrow's bold move. He stepped in front of Jonah defensively.
"Fine, I hope he bites you on the back of the neck then. The guy is infected, I can see it in his pupils. They have an orange tint like the rest of the zombies and soon they're going to turn bright and he'll become a savage like them too. Did your report say you carried Sickle Cell Traits, Thao?"
"No it didn't," Jonah said, his expression filled with fear. "I was clean."
"Yeah, you got infected by a fly bite. Probably didn't even feel it. Those fuckers are inconspicuous. You need to leave or we have the choice to kill you."
"Are you seriously that cold-hearted that you're willing to kill a fellow classmate in cold blood just like that?" Phillip asked in protest.
"Listen," Woodrow said quietly, stepping into Phillip's face. "I'm looking out for my own ass here. He's infected. He's going to turn any time soon and kill us all. If you want to stay with him, fine, but you leave with him too because he's not staying here. And if he does, I'll be happy to plant a bullet in his head like I did with the other infected. I barely know this kid anyway, you should be happy that I'm even letting him leave. Hell, you should be happy that I'm looking out for your ass too."
"Don't act like you're doing me a favor," Phillip said threateningly. "I didn't forget that you tried to kill me."
Woodrow scoffed and turned, smiling humorlessly. Dylan stepped up to speak. "Phillip. I don't know about this at all, but I'm thinking Woodrow is right on this one. Jonah can't stay here if he's infected. But we won't let him leave empty handed."
"Yeah," Jay said, pointing behind him towards a door at the back of the exercise room. "There's a First Aid Kit in the back. All First Aid Kits are outfitted with some Flu Deterrent. It should keep the Flu at bay until you can make it to a hospital or something and fill up. I've also got a pistol that I brought from my house that I can let you have."
"Wait, you're going to give him your only weapon?" Woodrow asked in surprise. "That's ridiculous!"
"No, it's generous," Phillip snapped. "It comes with having a conscience, something you wouldn't know shit about."
"We're safe here, Woodrow, Jonah will be out there on his own," Jay said, walking to the other side of the room and digging through his bag, pulling out a 9mm pistol. "He needs something to defend himself with."
Woodrow shrugged. "Whatever," he responded, walking back to his spot near the window and grabbing hold of his rifle again. Dylan walked to the door at the end of the exercise room, entered and pulled out a white First Aid Kit with a large red cross on the front of it, bringing it back and handing it to Jonah. Jonah put it on the ground, opened it and saw that there were several vials, one attached to a syringe, that was labeled "Flu Deterrent." After reading the instructions, Jonah administered the syringe to a vein in his forearm and felt its effects immediately. His previously pale skin was now returning in color and closer observation from the others told him that his eye color was returning to normal as well.
"That should keep the virus at bay for at least four hours," Jay reassured as Jonah closed the First Aid Kit and held it under his arm. Jay handed him the pistol, which he lodged between the back of his pants and his back, covering it with his t-shirt. "You can have a few donuts to go if you want."
"No thanks," Jonah replied, walking towards the door. The three helped him move some of the equipment out of his way so he could exit. "I can probably survive without it. This Flu is just going to ruin my appetite anyway."
Phillip smiled. "I can go with you if you want, man. Keep you company or something."
Jonah shook his head. "I'll do fine on my own. If I make it the rest of the day, I'll see you guys on the surface."
"No problem, man," Phillip said as the three of them waved. "We'll be seeing you."
"Take it easy." Jonah stepped out of the gym's doors, taking the stairs to the bottom floor and out of the building. The others moved the equipment back in front of the door.
Phillip turned around and walked over to the window, standing directly behind Woodrow with his arms crossed as Woodrow stared outside with his rifle. After a few minutes, Woodrow turned and glared up at Phillip.
"What the hell are you doing?" he asked with irritation, when he saw that Phillip was staring at him with a burning intensity.
"Making sure you don't shoot him while he's out there. If you do, I'll strangle you to death, I don't care if I fucking fail the class."
Gun shots were ringing out in the distance. Kurt traveled up the sloped parking lot, firing into the crowd of zombies and landing headshots like a trained professional. He was equipped with a traditional double barrel shotgun, which he was expertly reloading in a matter of only five seconds, along with two Pump-Actions fixed to his back and four pistols across his torso, all strapped against a Kevlar vest.
Kurt fired, dropping the zombies one by one. He stepped forward a few feet at a time until he knew there was room between himself and the zombie horde. They weren't in a hurry to attack him; most had been wandering across the parking lot minding their own business when Kurt came out nowhere and filled them with lead.
After a few minutes, Kurt ran out of shells for his shotgun and threw it aside. He reached behind his back and pulled out one of the Pump-Actions, aiming intently at the remaining zombies that were headed toward him. There were only five remaining and when they all hit the ground, Kurt hustled his way up the hill once again, breathing steadily, his cheeks inflating quickly with each breath.
"Move, move move!" he shouted to himself as he continued up the hill, acting as his own drill sergeant. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that near the mall itself, the parking lot of which he currently stood in, there was a sidewalk that ran along the side of it, sloping down the hill. On it, a figure was zooming down on a skateboard at a tremendous speed. He carried a bat in his hand and passed by a wandering zombie, cracking it against its skull without losing momentum in his stride. He was already yards away when the infected figure hit the ground and continued down the sidewalk. Kurt was so engulfed in the strange sight, that he didn't see the zombie that was slowly sneaking up behind him from the sidewalk by the lot. Fortunately, he could hear it. He swung around and fired into it like a machine, sending it flying back onto the damp ground behind it.
When he turned back to see the figure, he noticed that it had stopped and was lying in the bushes that ran along this side of the mall. Curious as to what had happened, Kurt walked over in its direction. As he came up on it, he saw that the skateboarder had fallen off of his board, which was still rolling down the sidewalk, far out of sight by now. The figure pulled himself from the bushes he'd bailed into and turned around. Kurt sighed under his breath at the sight of him. Hymon Knapp. He was wearing a button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up, a necklace with a ring attached to the end, blue jeans, and skater shoes. It heavily contrasted with Kurt's attire, which were professional ROTC Camouflage Fatigues along with combat boots.
"The hell was that, soldier?" Kurt asked with authority, approaching him with a sour attitude.
"Oh, hey McCormick," Hymon greeted with a bright smile. "The bank of the sidewalk caught me off-guard and the lurch from it made me overestimate its force. I shifted on the board and it flew out from under me. But nevermind me, what've you been up to? How's this Outbreak treating you?"
Kurt scoffed pathetically. "Fine, thanks," he said with sarcasm. He turned and began to head back up the hill. "I've got to go."
"Where are you headed?"
"Into the mall for supplies."
"Dude, there are probably lots of zombies in there. You sure you want to go at that alone?"
Kurt turned around and gave Hymon a threatening look. "Look at me and ask that question again."
Hymon surveyed Kurt intently for a few seconds. He looked away and then back at Kurt in confusion. "You...sure you want to go at it alone"-
Kurt rolled his eyes and continued up the hill. Hymon followed after him, jogging up to his side. "You know, I can help you out."
"You don't have any weapons."
"I have this bat. I can cover you from behind....Heh...cover you from behind. That's funny."
Kurt gave Hymon another questionable look before shaking his head and dismissing it. "I can cover my own ass."
"Well, honestly, I was just saying that because you're pretty freaking strapped and uh....I don't know, I mean, I've just got this bat and I don't know what else is out there-"
"If you tag along with me on this, you'll owe me 20 laps on the surface."
"20 laps?!" Hymon exclaimed.
"For each day that you're with me too," Kurt said, looking over his shoulder with his eyebrow raised. "Is that clear, soldier?"
Hymon grimaced at the very thought, but contemplated it for a moment. He finally nodded. "Yes sir," he said with faded enthusiasm.
"Alright." Kurt turned around and continued up the hill with Hymon by his side.
"Hey, where'd you get all of those weapons anyway? From your house? I bet you've got a crap load of guns and stuff at your house, huh? My brother is the same way, he's got an arsenal at this lock-up downtown and he said if he ever died, he'd let me inherit it, but he sounded like he was just kidding. I don't think he thinks I can handle weaponry like that, but I know I can. I do it all the time in video games. I've got that one First Person Shooter game called Perfectland. I've got this huge collection of weapons that I've collected all around the city. If they existed in real life, my brother would be so jealous. I'm like such a monster on that game. Like this one time, I was playing with some guys online and we came across a gang in the alleyways of the downtown area, I forget what they call it. It's like the Instant District or whatever. Anyways, the gang came out of no where and killed everybody on my team except me and all of them were still alive after they massacred my men. So I just took them all down one by one with the last few bullets I had in my shotgun, but there were still like seven left by the time I ran out so I had to take the rest out with a metal bat. Like three of them had guns and were shooting at me, but all I did was just take one of them hostage, whack out the rest and get close enough to take out one with a gun, jack his weapon, and floor the last two. I freaking dominated. Everybody died in that confrontation except me. I felt like such a beast. Of course a second later, a guy dropped a piano on me from the top of the building across the alleyway but I still lasted the longest..."
After a few minutes, Hymon continued to talk and Kurt was only half-listening, until he realized that Hymon rarely took time to stop or even give Kurt a chance to speak. It was repeatedly one-sided and Kurt began to zone him out. Even then, he couldn't keep himself from blocking out his voice. A few minutes into his continuous rant, Hymon's voice began to sound like nails on a chalkboard and by the time they'd reached the top of the hill and could see the strip mall which led straight to the entrance, Kurt had had enough of it.
"Hey," he shouted, turning to Hymon with wide angry eyes. "Shut up."
Hymon blinked awkwardly and looked around. "Uh, why?"
"Because I fucking said so, that's why. You're getting on my nerves."
Hymon smiled. "You wouldn't be getting so agitated if you were actually listening to what I was saying."
"I wouldn't be getting so agitated if you were actually saying something interesting."
"I think that's a matter of taste, Kurt."
"What the fuck did you just call me, soldier?" Kurt said in a near whisper, stepping up into Hymon's face threateningly.
"Sorry, sorry, sir. I meant to say McCormick."
Kurt reared back and sent a fist into Hymon's gut as he grunted and doubled over in pain. "Wrong again, asshole. It's Lieutenant McCormick or Lieutenant from now on." Kurt leaned down and came face to face with Hymon, who's expression was filled with anguish. "Let me explain something to you, Knapp. We are the farthest from friends anyone on this Earth can be, do you understand me? When you talk, it's like your words are throwing out a fishing line. The line then hooks onto my fist and as you continue to talk, it slowly reels it in towards your face. I'm sure you don't want my fist to reel into your face because that can be a very unpleasant experience for you. So I advise you to shut your mouth before your teeth end up swimming around in it, okay? Do we understand each other?"
Hymon nodded weakly and Kurt tapped him on his back playfully before turning and heading across the large courtyard that led to the mall's entrance, Hymon following behind silently. There were still a few wandering infected scattered across the area, but there were too few for any of them to pose a threat. Every so often, Kurt would pull out his shotgun again and plug a round into a zombie that he walked up on as he continued across the abandoned courtyard. The couryard itself was populated with outdoor tables with colorful umbrellas covering them and benches located under the walkway by a row of stores where patrons would sit to be comforted by shade during better times. Most of the zombies in this area were wearing maintenance clothes, most likely janitors and technicians that were working around the area the night before. They were easily dispatched by Kurt, who didn't give them a second look as he and Hymon, who was visually disturbed by Kurt's inhuman ability to nonchalantly kill another human being, infected or clean, progressed along the courtyard.
Several yards up ahead, there was a collection of dancing fountains spouting up from the pavement, originally used to entertain and/or cool down the mall's customers. Kurt surveyed them intently and noticed that between the streams that shot into the air, he could see a young woman defending herself from what looked to be a horde. Without warning, Kurt burst into a sprint, leaving Hymon behind in a state of confusion. After a while, he quickly followed after him.
Kurt dashed through the dancing fountains and emerged on the other side, guns blazing. He fired into the crowd, dropping each zombie with a headshot from the pistols by his side, primarily to narrow his aim and avoid accidentally hitting the young woman. The woman, who Kurt recognized to be Tammy Camacho, a Junior he'd seen in class, was using a rusty axe to spill the blood and brains of her enemies onto the pavement. When all of the zombies had been terminated, Kurt strolled over to her casually.
"Nice work," he said with a smirk as he sized her up. Tammy was wearing a skirt and a button-down blouse that had gotten soaked by the dancing fountains and now revealed much more than Kurt could handle without acting on his impulses. "Tammy, right?"
"Yeah, that's me," Tammy said with a sigh of relief. "Thanks for the help."
"No problem. My name is Kurt. You scavenging around here too?"
"Yeah," she said, walking towards a duffle bag that was located by one of the stores. "I was trying to get some supplies and refill on my bug spray but I riled up a bunch of these creatures and they got the best of me. I appreciate the assistance though."
"You're working on your own out here?"
"For now. Why, do you want to team up?"
"That seems like a good idea in this mess. This place is a wasteland, it'd be good to have someone to have my back."
"I thought you said you didn't need anyone to have your back," Hymon said as he approached Kurt from behind. Kurt turned to him with a deadly stare that had consequences written all over it. He then turned back to Tammy.
"We can benefit from each other if we work together. You can trust us. Well, you can trust me. I wouldn't trust this guy with my life if I were you."
Tammy chuckled warmly. "All right, let's get inside and see what we can find."
Now accompanied by Kurt and Hymon, Tammy led the way inside the mall and the trio scoured for as many useful items as they could carry at one time. When they were fully stocked with food and beverages, they discovered a Book Store close to their location and dropped all of their things there. For the most part, the mall was completely empty with the exception of a few fallen bodies torn apart by the zombie infestation and the various piles of trash and debris that was already littered across the floor. When they entered the Book Store, they dropped their new belongings inside and pulled down the half-open cage that had been used to prevent theft during the night. They traveled to the back and blockaded the entrances with some of the shelves. Now that they were secured inside, they began to wind down.
"I think this is a good place to lay low for a while," Kurt said with a sigh. "There's a coffee shop upstairs. I can whip us up something if you like."
Tammy nodded. "That sounds nice."
"Cool." Kurt left them and took the winding stairs up to the small cafe on the floor above, which was once a popular gathering place for many hipsters and ordinary people who liked to relax and listen to the various mellow artists that would use it as frequent venue. When Kurt was a few feet away, Tammy went to her duffle bag and began to dig through it. Hymon approached her cautiously.
"Hi," he said nervously. She looked up with a raised eyebrow which only intimidated him more. "M-My name is Hymon-"
"Get your ass over here," Kurt said loudly, grabbing Hymon by the shirt collar and pulling him away from Tammy. Together, the two climbed the winding stairs and disappeared on the second floor, out of view. Tammy got up and surveyed the top floor closely to make sure they couldn't see her. When she was assured, she ran towards her duffle bag and took it with her to the Young Adult and Manga Section of the Store. In the back was a door that led to a staff room. She disappeared through it, her eyes darting back and forth as she stayed aware of her surroundings and found an empty office with a rolling chair, a microwave, two file cabinets, and a television on the desk beside them inside. Tammy moved quickly and efficiently, pulling out the Blu-Ray Player she had acquired earlier. She tore open the box, pulled out the cords, unwrapped them, and plugged them into the TV respectively. Finishing off with the power plug, which went into the wall under the table, the Blu-Ray Player was set to go. She leaned back over into her duffle bag and pulled out a small Blu-Ray disc in a case that was specialized for the Blu-Ray Player. She took it out of its casing, turned on the Blu-Ray Player, opened the BD compartment, and put the BD in. After waiting a few minutes for it to load, she turned on the TV and there was an option to view the video on the disc. She pressed the play button on the Blu-Ray Player and the image of a young Hispanic man flashed on the screen in a tank top and jeans, looking directly into the camera from the comfort of his plush couch.
"What's up, sis?" he said warmly, hunched forward so that he could be seen better in the video. "If you're watching this right now, you've followed all of my instructions. You got the BD from under my bed, got the Blu-Ray Player, and found a suitable TV to play it on. Good job. You're half-way done. The rest should be a breeze. Don't worry about your teacher seeing you do all of this. Blu-Ray Players and their activity don't show up in their monitoring feed, so you're good. I trust that if you're with a group, you're going to jack their stuff when they least expect it just like I taught you. Make sure you're stocked up on all you need, especially that Bug Spray. The bugs become more frequent when the zombies are around but they usually only come out at certain hours of the day. That's from 10am to 12pm, 1pm to 3pm, 5pm to 7pm, and from there it varies so just keep spraying that shit. For all the times in between that, you're good. The real deal zombie mutations don't start getting out there until Day 2, so be wary of that. I've got a list of each one and their weaknesses right here, so listen closely...."
Tammy leaned over and pulled out a pen and pad of paper, taking notes as her brother provided her with all the information she needed to truly master the course.
Kristy's motorcycle had ran out of gas shortly after arriving near the docks. Fully stocked on supplies, she and Louis abandoned the vehicle and went on foot, looking for a place to lay low and figure out their next strategy. They'd spent the majority of the morning collecting what they could and dispatching of any infected individuals that got in their way. That was mainly Kristy's job, as she had the weaponry, while Louis watched on in awe at her unbelievable ability to wield such a powerful weapon with ease and still look as beautiful as she did doing it.
She has to be some kind of spy, he thought to himself as he held on to her from the back of her motorcycle. She's got to be KGB or something. There's no other explaination for that kind of skill to be present in such a gorgeous girl. Or maybe all kids in Russia are just badass like this, he thought. Whatever the case is, he was eternally grateful that she was on his side for the remainder of this course, Russian Spy or not.
When they reached the Docks, they could see the row of large vessels that had been left behind by the infected and the cloudy sky above them reflected off of the waters of the lake under it. They looked on into the distance, admiring the majestic view of the island across from them as it lay against the backdrop of the sky and the lake in perfect sequence.
"So what do you have in mind, Hot Stuff?" Louis asked as they continued along the wooden walkway by the boats. "I mean Kristy."
"I zink ve should take one of zese boats," she said, intently inspecting each vessel they walked past. "Ze biggest one. And take it out into ze middle of ze lake. You know, for isolation."
"Right, right," he said, nodding. "That's a good idea. Pretty, smart, and dangerous. You are the whole package."
"Vhat vere you saying, Louiz?" she asked, turning to him. She'd momentarily blocked him out while on her search for the perfect boat.
"Oh nothing. I was just saying the biggest one will give us the most room."
"Zhat is zhe idea, yes." Kristy and Louis climbed aboard one of the largest ships, a medium sized yacht, in the Docks and pulled out their weapons vigilantly, Kristy holding tightly to her Pump Action Shotgun while Louis held a machete at the ready, given to him earlier by Kristy. They crept along the ship slowly, exploring every cabin, container, and quarters that they came across. When almost every nook and cranny of the ship had been explored and no sign of infected activity had been detected, they began to relax. They took their last peak of the ship in the Helm, where the ship would be piloted. There were several windows surrounding the control panel, steering wheel, and the pilot's chair. It was cozy and inviting, which was almost enough confirmation to let them know that this was the perfect choice.
However, before walking out of the Helm to untie the boat from the docks, they heard a sound coming from the wall behind the Pilot's chair. Kristy exchanged looks with Louis who nodded and turned back, creeping towards the wall. Closer observation showed them that there was a small four foot high compartment sealed into it which was where the sound was coming from. The two readied their weapons as Louis stuck his fingers in between the opening of the compartment and pried open the small space. With their weapons up, they looked in threateningly. The girl inside screamed at the sight of them. The two calmed down when they recognized her. Sarah Lowe, from their class back in the real world.
"Oh thank God, it's you guys," she exclaimed, climbing out of the confined space. "I'm so happy it's you. I thought I was done just now."
"How'd you find your way here?" Louis asked curiously as his adrenaline level slowly returned to normal.
"This is my dad's yacht. I figured it'd have all I needed to survive until I found somebody to team up with but then I ran into my dad and his girlfriend. They were both infected obviously. They nearly got me-"
"Wait, infected?" Kristy asked with authority. "We inspected the whole ship. There weren't any."
"Really?" Sarah said with a bit of surprise. "Maybe they left."
"Highly doubt it," Louis said in thought.
"Did you check the Lower Deck?"
"The Lower Deck, below the cabins?"
Kristy and Louis exchanged worried looks when they realized their mistake. On cue, the sound of bumping could be heard on the Deck. Louis headed for the door, peered outside, and could see one lone female zombie strolling up the Deck in their direction.
"I've got this," he said to Kristy confidently as he walked quickly down the Deck towards the creature. When in range, he reared back with the machete and swiped it across its neck, sending its head falling to the floor and blood gushing up from its body as it hit the ground. "Easy Squeezy. It's all good guys."
Kristy and Sarah walked out onto the Deck slowly and stared down the walkway to make sure that they were rid of the infected threat.
"There were two of them on the boat," Sarah said with worry.
"Maybe one of them snuck away. Could happen."
"Um, Louiz," Kristy said, pointing past him with a look of horror written on her face. Louis whipped around and saw the infected male counterpart walking up the walkway several yards down the Deck. But this wasn't the threat in question. It was the head that lay at his feet that was creating cause for concern. It was rolling. Rolling its way down the Deck towards the newly revealed zombie that was staggering in their direction. As soon as it approached, the zombie reached down and allowed the infected head to bite down on his fingers with all its might. The zombie stood upright with the infected head holding on to his hand by its teeth. In the blink of an eye, as the zombie held his bitten hand up, the infected head began to dissolve into an orange translucent liquid and drizzled down over the zombie's hand. Louis gagged several times at the grotesque sight but stood his ground.
As the liquid had stretched its way up to the zombie's shoulder, the right side of its face, and nearly covered part of its chest, it began to harden into a rock-like form that resembled some type of bone or armor. When the metamorphesis was complete, nearly half of the zombie's body, specifically it's right half, was covered in a hard white unknown material.
"This is some crazy X-Files shit, man," Louis said anxiously. He dashed forward and swung the machete at the zombie's left side, the opposite direction of the white material, but the zombie shifted its hardened hand in the direction of the machete's blade and stopped it in mid-air. It hit the surface of the material with a clink, signifying that what had grown onto the creature was indeed some type of bone-like exoskeleton. The zombie shifted its weight foward, swiped its arm upward, and knocked Louis off his feet, the machete flying in another direction away from him. He had been easily overwhelmed by this creature's newfound power.
The zombie crept closer to him but a deafening gunshot sounded, knocking the zombie back slightly. Louis turned behind him to see Kristy holding her shotgun and pumping lead into their newest enemy. Sarah pressed her hands against her ears in anguish from the ear-splitting sound. The shot barely had an effect. When the second round went off, the zombie was ready for it, shifting its armored side in the direction of the bullets. They ricocheted off with ease. The zombie started to rush Kristy as she continued to fire at the oncoming figure to no avail. It was futile. As the zombified human reared back to strike with his armored hand, the blade of the machete sunk down into its back and protruded from its chest.
Louis whispered in its ear hoarsely. "Forgot about someone, you mindless fuck?" He put his foot up onto the zombie's back and kicked off, pulling the machete out from it. The blood of the zombie flew onto Kristy's face as it collapsed forward from the kick, but Kristy pushed the zombie aside, preventing it from toppling her over, and shoved its body over the railing of the yacht, down into the murky waters below. Kristy turned back to Louis nearly covered in blood, shaking and flailing her arms to get most of what was dripping off as best as she could.
"Sorry about that, precious," Louis said, shrugging sincerely.
"Right," she scowled, wiping the blood off of her hands and onto her jeans.
The smoldering pile of zombies outside the Pool House was the first indication that Sid, Siobhan and Beatrice had come out of their confrontation victorious. They spent the rest of the morning sleeping their eyes out until Sid woke up to notify the others of the need to move out.
"We've got to get busy on the objective," he explained, pouring himself a glass of wine to officially start his day. "Getting to a radio or dispatcher and contacting Uncle Sam."
"Right," Siobhan said, her eyes squinted from the bright light of the sun behind the cloudy skies outside. She now had a part of her torn sleeve wrapped around the side of her right arm, which had only been grazed by the bullet Sid delivered earlier. "Anybody got any ideas?"
"There's a radio station that's pretty close to here," Bea said, leaning against the wall in the corner of the room. "I pass it every day on my way to school. That's probably our best bet."
"Probably," Sid said, throwing back the wine and letting it slide its way down his throat. "I don't know a damn thing about operating the radio station equipment but we can try."
"So when are we heading out?" Bea asked curiously.
"Why are you asking me? You're the leader. It's your call."
"I'm flattered," Bea said with sarcasm, rolling her eyes. "I say we get out of here as soon as possible. The quicker we get this shit done, the better the chance we have of passing this class and getting those A's for the semester."
"Yeah, I need that shit," Sid said, placing the cork back into the wine bottle and putting it back into its case. "I'm failing Geometry right now."
"All right. Grab everything you need and get it all together. I'll go scope for a car or something to travel by."
"Hold on," Sid said, pulling out the pistol he'd acquired earlier from the back of his pants and handing it to Bea. "Just in case."
"Thanks," she replied, unblocking the Pool House doors and walking out of the cage that surrounded the pool. She surveyed the neighborhood, which was fortunately vacant of any activity. The smell of torched corpses was still heavy in the air and Bea stepped over several of them as she made her way across the street. She stepped on a few fingers on her way over and felt the bones and flesh crumble under her feet. There would never be a chance of her ever shaking that feeling ever again, but she tried her absolute best to dismiss it and keep her mind on her objective.
Bea discovered a lone minivan over by someone's abandoned house and headed over to it, examining every inch. She made extra precautions to check the back seat, as it has always been a common and often fatal mistake to miss. The van checked out, so she picked up a brick lying by the sidewalk and smashed open the driver's window. With it open, she unlocked the door, climbed inside, ripped off the cover below the steering wheel, and hotwired the car manually, listening to the van hum when she stepped on the gas pedal. She backed the van out of the driveway it was parked in and stopped in front of the Pool House where Sid and Siobhan accompanied her, bringing a mass of snacks and beverages from the Pool House lock-up. Now that they were all set, Bea floored the gas pedal, sending the van charging down the main road.
When they arrived at the station, Bea parked the van directly in front of its entrance, the radio tower shading the ground from high above where it was illuminated against the bright clouds. They exited the car and infiltrated the front offices which were painted with blood across the floor and walls. The three of them took a hallway beside the receptionist's desk; Bea had given the pistol back to Sid, who was leading the way with it pointed ahead vigilantly. The logo for the station, WKRB1-The Fire, was plastered across the walls of each hall they passed through. By the time they reached the Studio Room where the transmissions were broadcasted, a lone zombie could be seen standing by himself in the room with a pair of headphones on his head, absent-mindly drooling across the table profusely as he stared off into space. Sid spotted him through the window in the door, nodded to Siobhan and Bea, and opened the door carefully.
At the sound, the zombie jerked its head around and growled angrily. Compromised, Sid raised his gun and fired two shots into the zombie's head as it flailed about loosely and collapsed onto the floor by the chair. The three of them walked into the room, examing the place for anything else that might pose a threat but it all seemed to be clear with the only threat neutralized.
Siobhan walked past him and headed for the microphone that was set up on the DJ's table, accompanied by a collection of desktop computers and a turntable at the end of it. Sid walked over to the dead zombie DJ, pried the headphones from his head and handed them to Siobhan, who slid them on and could hear a humming sound in them. She leaned down and spoke into the Microphone.
"Hello," she said, as it echoed into her headphones. The microphone was on. There was an "On Air" sign posted above them glowing against the glass window that separated this room from the opposite one, used for the consultant of the Radio DJ who was obviously long gone. A switch was displayed on the soundboard by one of the computers and when Siobhan switched it off, the On Air sign light went dark. "Shit."
"What's wrong?" Bea asked with worry.
"That stupid zombie was just breathing into the mic for probably hours on end. Nobody's going to be listening to this radio station right now or ever if they had been. They'll think this place was compromised."
"Maybe the government officials will hear it when you get on."
"Doubt it," Sid said, thinking it over. "Unless we can change the frequency or something. I don't know how this thing works. Damn it. Let's just try it out for a little while and see where it gets us. We're safe in here, might as well try it out."
Siobhan nodded and took the chair by the DJ's table, sitting down, flipping the On Air switch on again, and addressing the microphone. "Hello? Is there anyone out there? This is WKRB1-The Fire Radio Station. This is a safe area. We are survivors of the Beelzebub Flu outbreak and we need help immediately. If there's anyone out there please call..." Siobhan scanned the table and saw a stack of business cards for the station lined up against the glass in front of her. She grabbed it and read the number written on it aloud. "Please call this number if you can hear this. We need help. If anyone from the US Government or the US Military can get this transmission, please help us. The city has been ravaged by the Beelzebub Flu and we need help. Please call so we can provide you with our location."
As Siobhan continued to broadcast on the radio, Bea and Sid walked to the end of the room and saw a door that led into a hallway opposite the one they'd just entered from. They walked down this corridor and began to explore the station more thoroughly. Sid held the pistol ahead of him to prevent any unwanted surprises from attacking them unexpectedly. There was one door at the end of the hallway that wasn't labeled. Sid turned the knob of the door but found that it was locked.
"Do you have a bobby pin or something?" Sid asked Bea. She responded by reaching into her back pocket and pulling one out, handing it to him. "Thanks."
He stuck it into the socket of the knob, manuevered it a bit, and felt something slide forward inside. He turned the knob and the door opened slowly. Smiling back at Bea, he looked into the dark room, feeling his hand across the wall adjacent to him for a light switch. When he turned it on, his eyes went wide and he backed out of the room quickly.
"What is it?" Bea asked with worry, not able to see into the room from where she stood.
"See for yourself," Sid said in a daze as he continued to stare in awe. Bea leaned in and saw the reason why. The room was painted a bright red. There were human skulls hanging from the ceiling, demonic signs written in black on nearly every inch of the back wall, bones arranged in various patterns over the black carpeted floor, and a large painting of a sabbatic goat integrated into an upside-down pentagram on an old towel hanging on the wall by the horns of some deceased animal. The symbol was surrounded by upside-down crosses painted in a pattern of black ink. Below it were burnt out candles on what looked to be an altar with an ancient book lying against a small metal pedestal in front of the sabbatic goat.
"You thinking what I'm thinking?" Bea asked with obvious shock in her voice.
"Yeah," Sid said with the same look on his face as they gazed around the room. "I could have a hell of a high smoking in this room."
Bea hit Sid on the arm and pointed at the walls. "Look at that."
At the sight of where she pointed, Sid was just as surprised as when his eyes laid on the demonic presentation before him. The walls were coated with hanging medieval weaponry. Battle axes, knives, swords, spears, and metal stakes were neatly organized against the red wall for an unknown purpose and they were all visually authentic. Sid realized what Bea was thinking.
"Melee weapons," he said aloud, smiling to himself.
Gustavo and Robyn had returned to the garage some time ago and now they had completely distanced themselves from the rest of the group. Lamar, Cecillia, and Jeremy were sitting closer to the garage entrance on the exact opposite side of Gustavo and Robyn, who were leaned up against the wall in the back. The two had spent the majority of the afternoon conversating between each other, mainly on the different possibilities and options they should take when the time came to leave the garage behind.
"I'm just concerned about going to the hospital, you know?" Robyn said, staring off into space as she thought about it. "There were people stuck there during the start of the infestation, so its bound to be dangerous. We should make sure that's exactly where we need to be. If there's no way to contact the Army or the Government from there, we're screwed."
"I see what you mean, but the pros outweigh the cons," Gustavo said casually. "It may be dangerous now, but in a few days, the mutation is going to get worse and that's the prime location for that to happen, given the environment. We need to get there and explore the area before it gets that bad. Even if we don't find a way to contact the Government, we can still find a stash of Flu Deterrent somewhere in there for later use, not to mention other medical supplies."
Robyn stared at Gustavo as he spoke and when he finished, she smiled. "You think a lot, don't you?"
Gustavo shrugged with a smirk. "I just like to examine all of my options before I go about doing something. That's how I was raised. Strategize, Prepare, and Execute. Just can't go wrong with that."
"Sure," Robyn said with a bit of playful sarcasm, to which Gustavo shook his head smiling.
A few minutes passed and Lamar got up from where he'd been sitting with Cecillia, comforting her as they waited. His patience was wearing thin. He walked across the garage and approached Gustavo.
"Listen," he said with authority, pointing in the direction of the dead body in the office area across the garage. "That body is starting to attract flies. If you or Cecillia get infected, we could have a real mess on our hands. I need you to help me move it outside."
Gustavo gave Lamar a dirty look and turned to Robyn, who shrugged with sympathy. Gustavo turned back to Lamar and stood up. "All right, I'll help."
Gustavo led Lamar to the back of the office area where the body was laying, its blood still oozing farther away from its body. Gustavo walked past it and headed for the front door, taking a peak outside. There was nothing out there, particularly nothing near the garage door itself, which was a relief. Gustavo closed the door and picked the body up by its torso while Lamar grabbed it by its feet. The two hauled it up and walked carefully back into the garage, dropping it by the garage door button, which was close to where Cecillia was currently sitting.
"What the hell are you doing?" she shouted at the sight of the body, jumping away from it and spraying her can of bug spray violently.
"Relax," Gustavo said nonchalantly, jamming his fist onto the garage door, which slowly began to rise up towards the ceiling. He went back over to the body and helped Lamar carry it a few feet from its entrance. They swung the body back and forth a few times before tossing it farther from the garage and walked back inside, closing its door quickly.
"All right, so what's the plan?" Lamar asked anxiously, hoping to get a reaction out of Gustavo. Gustavo glared at him and began to walk back over to Robyn's side of the garage. "Gustavo, come on. We're supposed to be looking out for each other, making sure we're all safe"-
"That's funny, coming from someone who was willing to let someone else die so that 'we're all safe'," Gustavo snapped. "'All' sounds like a very loose term coming from you."
"This isn't even real!" Jeremy shouted with frustration as he lounged on a stack of tires he'd taken from the wall. "Why are you so hung up about it?"
"Because it shows me how you all would act if it was real!"
"We wouldn't, that's just it. Because it's not real, we don't have to take it seriously."
Gustavo turned around and gave Jeremy his full attention. "So you mean to tell me that none of this FEELS real to you guys? You mean to tell me that if you died here right now and you felt the sensation of what it was like to die, you wouldn't give it a second thought?"
Jeremy shrugged apathetically. Gustavo glared at him for a few seconds before walking directly up to him and suckerpunched him square in the face with all his might. Jeremy screamed out in pain.
"Hey, hey!" Lamar shouted pulling Gustavo away from him.
"What the hell did you do that for?!" Cecillia exclaimed, running over to Jeremy, who was holding the side of his face tenderly.
"Oh it's okay, guys," Gustavo said with melodramatic sarcasm. "Because I didn't REALLY hit him, you see. Because it's not real."
"It fucking felt real!" Jeremy shouted with shaking anger, holding on to his cheek which was quickly swelling up.
"Fucking exactly," Gustavo said with force. "And it would have felt just as real for those zombies to tear Robyn apart. And you guys were going to let that happen. Maybe now you understand why I'm 'so hung up about it'."
The three of them softened, understanding Gustavo's point. Jeremy looked down somberly. "I'm sorry."
"Don't tell it to me," Gustavo said, pointing his thumb back at Robyn. "Say it to her."
Jeremy reluctantly got up from the stack of tires and walked past Gustavo over to Robyn, Cecillia following him. He stopped in front of her and looked her in the eye.
"I'm sorry we tried to abandon you, Robyn. It was fucked up, I know. We were being selfish and stupid. Please forgive us."
"Yeah, we're sorry," Cecillia repeated sincerely.
"Sorry, Robyn," Lamar called, nodding from where he stood.
Robyn was a little dazed at how quickly Gustavo was to jump at her defense. "It's okay, I forgive you guys."
"Thanks," Jeremy said with a smile, putting a hand on her shoulder.
"Okay," Cecillia said with her usual bossy tone, suddenly switching gears. "Now that that's settled, what do we do now? Are we headed for the hospital?"
Gustavo took a deep sigh, exchanging looks with Robyn before speaking. "Yeah. We need to move soon. It's going to be dangerous there but it'll be more dangerous if we let the Flu mutate. We need to get there and pick up that Flu Deterrent as soon as we can. Hopefully, they have a radio or dispatcher that works as well."
"Right," Lamar said with assurance. "How many weapons do you have?"
"Just two," Gustavo said, reaching into his bag and pulling out the pistol he'd brought with him. "I've got a Shotgun and a pistol. Anybody else besides Lamar and me know how to use a gun?"
"I do," Robyn said, standing up from the side of the wall. Everyone turned to her in surprise. The former cheerleader and all-around homely girl knew her way around a pistol. "My mom used to be a cop. She took me to the range a few times when I was younger."
"Awesome," Gustavo said with a smile, turning the gun around to its handle and handing it to Robyn. He went over to his duffle bag and headed for the garage entrance. "We should head out now."
Gustavo headed over to the garage door button and hit it once again, letting the door rise into the ceiling. As soon as they were hit again with the bright light of the cloudy sky, they all felt something churn in their stomachs when they gazed outside.
The body of the dead zombie was gone. The only thing left was the blood streak that seeped from it onto the parking lot pavement. This was most definitely not good.
Cecillia moved in closer towards Lamar, who gripped her tightly. "I've got you, baby," he whispered to her, but partially to himself. The five of them stepped out onto the wasteland in front of them that in some ways resembled a ghost town, especially with the evaporating mist of the rain water on the pavement which was swaying in the wind from the breeze. It was eerily silent. All of them were afraid to make the slightest move.
A heavy weight fell directly on top of Gustavo. Zombie. A gunshot went off and a scream rang out into the heavens with a sound almost as deafening as the shot itself. The body and Gustavo fell to the ground, Gustavo holding his side as tightly as he could as blood began to leak from it.
"LAMAR!" Gustavo screamed in pain.
"I-I'm sorry, I-" Lamar stuttered, looking down at Gustavo in utter shock. The body they'd left outside had fallen from the roof onto Gustavo and Lamar, who with fragile vigilance, was startled and fired a shot that went directly into his colleague. Robyn leaned down to Gustavo's side.
"Oh my God," she said under her breath, pressing a hand on his rib to cut off the pressure.
"Those motherfuckers used the body to scare us!" Gustavo screamed out. "They knew we were going to come out, they waited, and they dropped it on us to drop our guard! They're smart! How can we possibly compete with this?!"
Suddenly, they all grew dead quiet when they heard the sound of growling close by. A look of terror appeared on Gustavo's face.
"We've got to go," he said softly. "NOW!"
Robyn helped him to his feet and the group sprinted away from the garage. There was no time to get into the Challenger, even with the windows already busted out. They had to keep moving. Zombies were hopping from the roof and from out of the crevices beside the garage, staggering recklessly after them. The students sprinted in a group across the street with Robyn desperately carrying Gustavo along.
As soon as they reached the building on the opposite side of the street, they turned, heading for the alleyway beside it. In an instant, a large group of infected shot out from the alley. Cut off from their escape, Cecillia and Jeremy stopped in their tracks and charged in another direction. Gustavo lifted his arm from around Robyn's neck and fired the shotgun into the crowd several times, dropping them all. He put his arm back around Robyn and turned back to Cecillia and Jeremy, who were still running.
"Guys, it's clear!" he shouted in their direction, but he couldn't be heard. Seconds after they disappeared around the corner, Lamar swore under his breath and followed after them. "Where are you going?"
Lamar didn't answer. He sprinted in the direction that the others had taken and soon disappeared around the corner as well.
"Come on, let's keep moving," Gustavo said urgently as the two proceeded down the alleyway, past the dead bodies that they'd just disposed of. They emerged on the other side and could see a strip mall in the distance, accompanied by a large grocery store in its center. That was their new destination.
"We're here," Austin said, walking on the gravel driveway and across the yard to his father's house, a relatively large trailer surrounded by pine trees.
"Fina-fucking-ly," Ross shouted. "We've been traveling through the forest for like hours. And it's a damn trailer. Who would have thought? Where's the rest of the park?"
"I'm seconds away from slapping you sensless, Ross," Austin said threateningly, reaching the front step of the house. Royce and Latasha were several feet behind them, as they wanted to stay as far away from the bickering couple as possible. Austin and Ross were the only ones with weapons, a .45 and a 1911 pistol respectively, collected from Austin's pick-up truck, although Royce didn't particularly feel safe even with the weapons in their hands. "We've only been walking for maybe two minutes."
Austin walked up the wooden stairs that led to the front door, reached into his pocket, and pulled out his father's house key. He opened up the screen door, unlocked the main door, and pushed it open.
The zombified figure of a bald bulk man in a tanktop and torn jeans tackled him swiftly, sending the two flying off of the stairs and slamming hard on the rotting grass in front of it. Ross pointed the pistol at the zombie's back and fired three shots until it keeled over to its side. Austin stood up quickly and fired his .45 into the zombie's head four times to make sure it was dead. He breathed heavily as he stood over its body, waiting for it to make a move while the others stood nervously.
"It's done," Austin said confidently, spitting a loogie off by his side.
"That fat hick is your father?" Ross asked in surprise as the tension died down considerably. "Not surprised."
"Say what you want about this ass," Austin responded, heading up to the now broken door. "He's my Step-daddy. I don't give a high-flying fuck about him. Been waiting to do that shit ever since he put his hands on my momma."
"Happy times," Ross replied, following Austin into the trailer as the others accompanied them. The group, led by Austin, explored the area until they discovered the box in the kitchen that held Austin's stepfather's gun cache. There were six weapons in it: two shotguns and four pistols. He took out one of the shotguns and handed it to Ross, as he was the only one, besides Austin, out of the group who knew how to handle weapons like the ones they were using. Ross inspected the shotgun, checking it for ammunition before cocking it back casually. Austin did the same with each of the pistols before he fit one in the back of his pants, handed one to Ross, and gave the last two to Royce and Latasha.
"I know ya'll don't know how to handle those things too well but you need to have it just in case," he said with assurance as he collected the ammunition from the compartments on the side of the cache. "Just point, shoot, and watch for the kick back. I broke plenty noses in my day from that. Also, the safety is off so make sure you actually see and process what you see before you shoot because you could fuck up and kill somebody."
Royce nodded but Latasha looked unsure of herself. Austin noticed and spoke up. "There a problem?"
"Yeah, I don't feel comfortable having one of these," Latasha said, handing the gun back to Austin. "I'll be fine without it."
"Oh, come on," Austin said with frustation. "You need something, if not to save your ass, to watch our backs."
"I said, I'll be fine without it," Latasha said anxiously, beckoning for Austin to take it back.
Austin sucked his teeth and rolled his eyes. "You all should be a natural with that thing."
Latasha flinched with a confused look. "What?"
"You know what I mean."
"No I don't, can you clarify for me please, sir?" Latasha asked with an offended tone, cuffing her ear. "What exactly do you mean?"
Royce and Ross looked on intently. Ross leaned over to Royce with a smile. "It's on now," he whispered.
"Why exactly should I be a natural? Because all black people use guns? Is that what you're trying to say? That all black people are criminals that use guns?"
"That's not what I said"-
"I know that's not what you said, I can fucking hear, okay? I'm asking you if that's what you were trying to say? Because that's what I got from that statement."
"Listen, you are reading way too much into that. Here, I'll take the gun back"-
"No, I think I'll keep it now, thank you," Latasha replied, glaring at Austin and slipping the gun into the back of her pants.
Austin sighed under his breath. "All right, whatever. Let's get out of here."
The group abandoned the house fairly quickly and in minutes they were back on the road. Unfortunately, they were forced to walk the path, as the pick-up ran out of gas on the way to the house. Back out by the truck, they could see a gas station at the corner of the street just out of reach from the vehicle. Royce had been holding the red gas canister from Austin's house that they were going to use to fill the pick-up. They thought about splitting up into groups of two momentarily back at the spot where the truck had stopped, but decided against it, knowing that it was a frequent horror cliche` and it meant certain death for one of the groups left behind.
The group began to approach the gas station, where they would syphon the gas from one of the pumps and take it back to the pick-up. In the middle of the street adjacent to the station was a lone zombie, feeding on a fallen carcus. As the group got closer to the pumps, Austin stopped in his tracks. His eyes went wide at the sight of the zombie. The others looked at him curiously.
"Uh Austin," Royce called. "Everything all right?"
"No," he said in a near whisper. "That zombie...that's my father."
"What?" Ross said in confusion.
Austin began to walk in the zombie's direction with a shocked absent-minded look on his face, staring intently at the infected creature. Royce and Ross ran up and pulled him back by the shoulders.
"Hold on, man," Royce said with worry. "What do you mean that's your father?"
"Just that, it's my damn father. I'd recognize his face anywhere. I know it's him."
"Your father is dead though," Ross stated.
"I know, that's why I'm freakin' out right now."
"Well, Mr. Glass did say that the Flu revives some dead tissue," Royce explained. "How long has your father been dead?"
"Like maybe a month or two."
"That sounds about right."
"I can't let him stay like this," Austin said with anger in his voice. "He wouldn't have wanted to be like this, even if this ain't real. I've got to put an end to it."
"All right, but make it quick," Ross said, letting go of Austin's shoulder. "We're burning daylight, we need to find a place to bulk up before nightfall."
Austin didn't respond but walked as quickly as he could across the street toward the zombified figure that was still in the ragged, torn, and dirt-covered tuxedo that he had been buried in. It looked up slowly just as Austin began to approach. Austin reached the zombie and lifted his gun, aiming right between its eyes. The zombie growled but was cut short by the sound of the gunshot that sent its brains splattering onto the pavement behind it. It fell to its side and Austin took a deep breath as he examined its body.
Suddenly, in the distance, several shrieks rang out in an echoed harmony. And like the thunder following the lightning, the sight of what could literally be described as an army of infected began to rush out of the corners of each building surrounding them, including the gas station. Austin couldn't believe it. It was an ambush. Possibly a planned ambush. These fuckers weren't controlled by their stomachs. They had stalled their need to satisfy their hunger long enough to corner them in a vulnerable position. Unbelievable, he thought.
"Run!" Austin shouted as he took the only route down the road adjacent to the gas station that wasn't filled with hungry infected zombies. The others followed behind him just as quickly. They were sprinting as fast as they possibly could, the adrenaline almost literally oozing out from each step. None of them fired their weapons at the army, knowing that they would only be wasting their bullets with no clear shots available because of the crowd. They needed to find shelter and a place that could hold back this large of a horde without prior preparation.
The place was apparent as soon as it came into view. City Hall. It was a block away and when they finally reached it, it seemed like the last glimmer of hope from the horrifying sight of pale-skinned hands stretching out behind them. As soon as Austin reached the first step, he turned, aimed his shotgun, and began to fire into the crowd of zombies, now that he could get a clear shot at them. Ross and Latasha continued past Austin to the top of the step, where Ross began to try and force the door open. After a few minutes of struggling, Latasha moved in to help him. The brown wooden doors were large and heavy, not to mention locked, but they were also old and decripit, which meant they could be forced open. Ross tried shoving and kicking but, with Latasha's help, they could feel the door's hinges giving way.
Meanwhile, Royce had pulled his pistol from the back of his pants and fired it into the crowd as best as he could, doing an excellent job, being that it was his first time handling a real gun.
"You're doing that pretty well over there," Austin complimented over the sound of gunfire and the guttoral symphony of the zombie army's roar.
"Yeah, all the FPS work I've done got me familiar with it for the most part," Royce said, keeping his eyes on the crowd as they began to drop like flies. He could see the end of the horde in the distance but knew that their bullet capacity would soon run out, even if they borrowed Latasha and Ross' ammo. There would be no time to reload with this many after them and this close. Royce hoped that they could get the door open in time. He looked back briefly to see if they were close and noticed at that very moment that Austin was leaning over into his direction, while looking out onto the sea of zombies. In an instant, Austin had bumped into Royce, causing him to lose his balance and fall viciously, rolling down the stairs by the zombies that were climbing up.
At that very moment, the doors flew open and Ross and Latasha ran inside. Ross turned back and called after the two of them. Austin turned around and headed back up the stairs without another look down at Royce, charging through the first set of doors and disappearing behind a second set, which was quickly locked shut behind him. Royce had gotten to his feet and was headed back up the steps when he felt a hand on his shoulder that pulled him back forcefully. At the feelof its grip, his terror officially sunk in.
Another zombie had gripped the side of his abdomen from behind, pulling so hard that it broke through the skin. When Royce was whipped around by the pull of the first zombie, his face collided with one of them, its orange-tinted eyes glaring into his own. It growled angrily, showing its teeth and leaned forward, taking a bite out of Royce's lips, which were ripped off with abnormal ease. Royce was already screaming from the pain of the bite and part of his cheek was torn off with his lips. Royce fell onto his back, his spine cracking from the cement stairs under him.
The zombies piled on. They ripped at his shirt, pulling off his nipples and breasts as they clawed into him. One drove the point of his hand directly downward, piercing straight into his abdomen and spread its fingers inside. Royce's screams became deeper and more sporadic as he felt the zombie's hands pressing against his lungs. It pulled violently while others followed suit, shoving his innards into their mouths. Soon, Royce could see his own intestines being ripped out and in seconds he couldn't see at all, as the zombies began to claw into his face, their fingers shoving into his eyes. When he felt them pull at his skull from within the eye sockets and it cracked from the pressure, he could feel himself slipping, his life beginning to flash before his eyes. One of the zombies had wrapped its hands around his heart and he finally slipped away when it was pulled from his chest and devoured by the infected creature that possessed it. And just like that, Royce Ferguson was gone.