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.